THE BLOG
11/29/2014 06:48 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2015

Do We Live in a Time of Narcissism

juanljones via Getty Images

No, we don't live in a time of Greek Mythology but we use words of past historical and mystical figures and gather images of centuries past. "Narcissus fell in love with his own image in a pool of water and finally changed into a flower." This flower bears his name "Narcissus" to this day. Many stories have been written about Narcissus throughout the ages; he was a tragic figure.

It is said that healthy narcissism exists in many individuals and is an essential part of normal development. It is either a search for self-worth or self-esteem, sometimes to counter an inadequate self-perception or overcoming an emptiness within. We have to learn to understand this boundless need to self-expressing as we see today. Technology quickens the "me-myself-I" theme. Many tasks once considered uniquely human are now driven by personal technology. These tools also bring change to all that we hold dear or important. There is a shift in perception, fewer people work in jobs thought important at one time, education, medicine, manufacturing, law-professions, servicing homes, these and more are constantly changing. Education above all guides people into the next stage of ingenuity and technology. This is optimistic and positive.

With all the speculations and visions of the future we are living in the "now" and need to learn to adjust. Technology is part of our everyday life and we are learning to deal with these intense challenges. Hands-on labor will never be obsolete. Learning, building a productive life, tilling the fields, feeding the billions and enjoying a precious, healthy life is still a gift. Maybe innovation and entrepreneurs have found substitutes for human labor yet all these new inventions and ideas also compliment life and bring new understanding.

Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis, an Australian Psychologist, writer and presenter, now living in New York, is affiliated with major psychological and counseling associations, and a specialist in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) with a doctorate in alternative medicine, is saying:

Sadly, many people are taught to value themselves according to any talents or material goods they possess. The danger of identifying with what we have or do is that if we lose abilities, looks, wealth or possessions - there can be a tendency to feel lost, empty and worthless. When we work on accepting ourselves and our fallibility unconditionally - knowing that we have worth, simply because we exist, we can lead wholesome, happier and healthy lives. Each human has worth, whether he or she succeeds or fails at attaining their goals. It is beneficial, given that we are largely social animals, to make an effort to show kindness and compassion to others as well as to ourselves. Some cynics may say it is 'selfish' to do for others in order to make ourselves feel good. Self-interest, and showing interest in the well-being of others, is key to creating healthier communities, healthier societies and ultimately a healthier world.

That brings the age of narcissism to foreground. Our tools for communications are fine and helpful, yet they also provide an alienation process, a virtual life versus a real one. For example seeing art or great architecture, travel to far-away places in real time enriches our human understanding, brings a new dimension, and teaches us to respect or honor those who give or gave us these great gifts and made them possible. Yes, automations are part of our daily lives, yet we still enjoy looking into the eyes of a human being, hearing a real voice, sharing feelings and emotions. It is of endless value, machines don't offer that. We can choose to be part of this 'loving-my-tool' society, choose taking selfies every moment of our lives, always with us in the picture, masterpieces of self-importance, positively or negatively, joyfully or obnoxiously. Our choice! Yes, there are masterpieces by great painters of the past in self-portraits, like Goya, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, the selfies of their time, are great and precious gifts to us today and will be for centuries. We are fortunate to enjoy them and to live in a Nation of open minds and possibilities with our open systems.

The consequences of this brilliant new technology is positive and predictable... yet we must remember that it is not always well-intended. Warnings about cyber-attacks, personal and institutional, have become an often occurrence. No matter how well protected we think we are in our privacy. Genuine tension exists between our ability to know more or feel protected --but so do others and know more about us than we envisioned. Selfies are a mirror of ourselves! Sometimes these mirrors are broken and we cannot stop it.

We live in a time of abundance, have an endless choice of smartphone cameras for selfies... now even provided with selfie-sticks. People wandering through the great spaces we know from history or travels yet often are totally unaware nor paying attention to these great visions. These stick -- extensions are intrusive and show also the disrespect, not only to the people sharing the space but to the accomplishments of the past. It has nothing to do with technology but a way of feeling entitled. Narcissism is all around us! Of course the right to pose for selfies is each person's choice, unless posted otherwise. Today's travelers have the great joy of seeing art and architecture of the now and the past by taking photos or selfies, but should remember that there are others who have as much interest and the same right to see these treasured surroundings without being blocked or intruded upon their reverie.