It falls upon all our minds at one time or another, the built-up feeling that something isn’t right — in the back of our mind beckons the question of should I stay or should I go?
We have all faced the undaunting question with regards to whether we should leave a job or tough it through, but what if the problem was larger than just a work place environment, or the marriage/domestic relationship you were in? But what if the problem is a toxic community?
Do we live in an age where pathological narcissism has become the accepted norm for our culture and society?
Since World War II, the post-war North American culture has produced a personality-type consistent with clinical definitions of “pathological narcissism.” This pathology is not akin to everyday narcissism, a hedonistic egoism, but with clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. (The Culture of Narcissism, n.d.)
In 1955 it was noted that a change was coming to our overall societal mentality, we were becoming a throw away society not only in what we purchased, but in our relationships. The throw-away society is a human society strongly influenced by consumerism. The term describes a critical view of overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items. (Throw-away society, n.d.)
Each of us lives in one place or another, but how do we know or begin to appraise the true health of our community? At which point do we admit to and recognize there is a systemic failure, an overall toxicity in the way our community relates one to another? Has a narcissistic mentality become the “new norm”, the “acceptable as healthy” standard by which we measure a community?
In Sigmund Freud’s 1922 study Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, he noted how every little canton (small territorial district, i.e. city, town, village, neighbourhood, administrative or policing branch within a community, etc.) looks down upon the others with contempt, as an instance of what would later to be termed Freud’s theory of collective narcissism. (Collective narcissism, n.d.)
Collective narcissism in a community is often characterized by the members of that community holding an inflated view of their city, town, village, or neighbourhood, and it can include an inflated view of their role within that community (such as policing, ministerial, educational, or political roles), but it also goes much further.
On a societal or cultural level (collective level), narcissism can often be found in an underlying pattern of discounted or lost human values, such as a lack of concern for our immediate environment, or a lack of concern for the quality of life of the individual citizens and/or neighbours living within a community.
In a narcissistic community, the focus on and proliferation of material things becomes “the true” measure of success or a person making progress in living, and in their attempt to survive man is pitted against woman, worker against employer, and individual against a community.
When wealth begins to occupy a higher position than wisdom, when we see our young families taking on massive debt to outfit their homes in a manner which took their parents decades to achieve, when notoriety, be it small or large within the community squeezes out personal dignity, and when success is arrived at by sacrificing self-respect for the sake of advancement, it’s then that a community as a whole overvalues “image” and must be considered as toxic…narcissistic.
When we wake to the reality that we are living in a toxic narcissistic community, at what point do we step back and ask ourselves, should I stay or should I go?
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
In the late 1970’s, I frequented the Los Angeles area and was somewhat dumbfounded by the vast number of people who moved to L.A. only to get lost in the crowd. Arriving there on the heels of an innocent youth, what stood out the most to my urban virgin eyes, was the way people could rub shoulder to shoulder, never looking each other in the eye and never saying hello. It was a vast sea of co-existing strangers, where you didn’t dare let the other person into your space or life. Los Angeles was my wake-up call…not all communities are friendly, and relationally healthy. Yet, from within the confines of that societal prison, people emerged to arrive at my college, and I was so thankful to discover that the individuals were not necessarily a reflection of the overall society. Sadly, the same cannot be said of all communities.
Currently I reside, in the incredibly beautiful community of Kelowna, British Columbia. Kelowna is located in one of the most beautiful regions on the face of the earth – vineyard country complete with all the elegance and societal tapestry one might expect from such a region, but lately…if we could compare Kelowna to the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo one might say societal cracks are beginning to form in the art work that is Kelowna.
Kelowna is no different than many other communities, and certainly I have lived in communities far more severe in their degree of dysfunction, yet what is it about Kelowna that’s causing an increasing number of individuals to quietly ponder, should I stay or should I go?
At what point do we determine we are living in a narcissistic dysfunctional community, and decide it’s time in the interest of our own self-health to move on.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go – Signs It’s Time To Leave
Here are 14 signs that can help you answer the question of should I stay or should I go? These are signs that your community may no longer be a healthy place for you to live anymore, and help you identify possible changes that would enable for you to remain or further enhance your need to give serious thought to leaving. If multiples of these signs apply to your situation, then it’s likely time for your own health and well being, to leave as soon as is possible.
- You’ve lost sight of your core life passion.
- You wake up each morning dreading the day ahead.
- The quality of the community of people you continually rub shoulders with is getting worse and not better.
- You find yourself continually stressed, negative and feeling unhappy about being where you are at this point in your life.
- You feel trapped, and the longer you stay the more your life is being sucked out of you.
- The stress of “trying to hang in there” is affecting your health.
- You recognize you are living in a toxic narcissistic community, so deeply entrenched in it’s dysfunction, that you find yourself no longer “fitting in” unable to believe in what your peers wish you to accept as being normal and healthy.
- Your professional performance is suffering.
- You’ve lost a healthy work-life balance.
- You are no longer able to contribute positively due to the devaluing nature of those around you.
- The demands on you have increased while the ability to earn an affordable living has decreased.
- Your unique voice as a contributing member of society is no longer being heard, or given an opportunity to be heard.
- You are bored and feeling stagnated, as if life is simply passing by.
- Your insistence in “hanging in there” means continually exposing yourself to other people’s harassment, bullying, destructive gossip, and toxic uncaring peer pressure.
Should I stay or should I go? Once you realize you can no longer contribute to positive change in your community, it might be time to consider leaving. Before you jump ship, you should take time to write down the pros and cons of leaving your community, and bounce them off one or two trusted friends or family members so you can gain a broader perspective.
Should I stay or should I go? First, you’ll want to set goals for yourself detailing what you are looking for in terms of new community. Second, you’ll want to create a game plan – your exit strategy. Third, make a list of what you “must have”, and would “like to have” in a new community. Fourth, do your research and take a year to scout out new communities, making sure you are moving into a healthier community than the one you are leaving. Finally, pull the plug in as polite and professional a manner as is possible. Burning bridges is sometimes necessary, but should always be done as a last resort.
Writer: James C. Tanner