Interview with Thomas Avant, Author of Damaged People: Narcissism and the Foundation of a Dysfunctional American Society

Author Thomas Avant’s book, “Damaged People: Narcissism and the Foundation of a Dysfunctional American Society,” published in December 2020, masterfully combines personal memoir and scholarly analysis to delve into the pervasive issue of narcissism. Avant examines the far-reaching impact of narcissism on individuals and society as a whole, explores the root causes and various manifestations of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and highlights its role in the prevailing lack of empathy in America. This book also delves into the historical, sociological, political, and economic implications of narcissism, offering readers a comprehensive perspective on this pressing societal concern. More details check this website:

"Interview with Thomas Avant, Author of 'Damaged People: Narcissism and American Dysfunction'

1. If you had to describe your writing style or philosophy in a few words, what would they be?

My objective is to be genuine, open, and honest in my writing. I try to dig deeply into my own psyche, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Hopefully, the end result is something that connects viscerally with the reader, but it must be authentic. I don’t shy away from controversial topics that I feel need to be examined and discussed.

2. Can you tell us what inspired you to write “Damaged People: Narcissism and the Foundation of a Dysfunctional American Society”?

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced narcissism and gaslighting in multiple settings – work, childhood, society. I sought to conduct research to better understand the motivation and behavior of narcissists and also how to cope with narcissists in my orbit. I found writing the book therapeutic, because it forced me to open up about the difficult aspects of my own past, particularly regarding the struggles within my own family.

3. In your book, you discuss the idea that narcissists fear self-awareness and truth. Can you elaborate on why this is the case and how it relates to the issues you’ve explored?

With a narcissist, evading truth and blindly defending themselves from any guilt is a constant focus. Since narcissists tend to have low self-esteem at the core, admitting truth – particularly when the narcissist is at fault – opens the narcissistic wound that they constantly try to conceal. Instead of understanding that personal accountability and humility build intimacy with others and make us all more human and pleasant, the instinct of the narcissist is to always maintain control and defend oneself to maintain their false sense of self – the grandiose and superior self – to cover their narcissistic wound. Self-analysis leads to self-awareness, which ultimately leads to the truth about oneself. The narcissist’s goal is to hide from the pain of the truth. As quoted by James Baldwin in Going to Meet the Man,“ It is astonishing the lengths to which a person, or a people, will go in order to avoid a truthful mirror.” For malignant narcissists, truth can be fluid, not concrete. Inconvenient truths are denied and dismissed, and blame is continually shifted to others. Apologies are rare, if not extinct.

3. The book highlights that damaged people tend to damage others. Could you share some examples of the ways in which narcissistic behaviors can harm those around them?

Gaslighting, role reversal, and victim blaming are several tactics used by narcissists to completely shut down the other party, which can make it virtually impossible to resolve issues and reconcile with a narcissist. Interactions are a constant competition – one party wins, the other loses – with a narcissist. In many cases, a narcissist isn’t even willing to allow the other party to speak, nor will they acknowledge or accept valid points raised by the other party. These narcissistic tactics can lead others to question what they know to be true and doubt their own feelings and sanity. If this behavior is displayed by a parent, the child’s feelings will never be validated. The child won’t develop self-esteem naturally and may always doubt the validity of their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Every disagreement for the malignant narcissist can tend to be a competition, with an attempt to shut down the opposing party in the conversation instead of respecting the other side’s points or views.

4. You mention that some victims of narcissism may, in turn, become narcissists themselves. How can individuals break this cycle and heal from their experiences?

The first step is understanding the nature and the truth of the situation in which one has been reared. If one understands what occurred to them and is willing to accept it, they have the ability to break free from the instinctual bonds that have shackled them since childhood, being raised by a narcissist. If raised by a narcissist, one may live in denial of their situation to attempt to feel “normal” and that nothing was different about their childhood. When we deny our own feelings and emotions, we tend to instinctually develop the same mechanisms employed by the narcissistic parent or abuser. Only through understanding, acceptance, and, ultimately, reversing the narcissistic instincts can we break free from the chain that binds us with the narcissistic abuser.

5. You argue that narcissism is a widely misunderstood personality disorder. Could you share some common misconceptions about narcissism that you aim to clarify in your book?

While only a small portion of the population meets the criteria for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), most people have experienced narcissism in one or more aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, psychology isn’t a topic that most people have studied or are well informed about. In fact, psychological disorders such as NPD or anti-social personality disorder (APD or sociopathy) aren’t easily accepted or acknowledged by those who are afflicted, so discussion on the topic is not commonplace. As a result, many people may be negatively affected by narcissists at home or in the workplace, but they do not necessarily understand what they are experiencing and may just think it’s a difficult or bizarre personality they are seeing in a narcissist. Since many narcissists aren’t willing to admit or accept that they have a problem at all, it’s difficult to resolve issues with narcissists or achieve any type of reconciliation with them.

A common misconception about narcissism can also be that narcissists have a high sense of self-esteem. While they may present that outward appearance to the world, the false self actually hides a deep inner wound of self-pity, self-doubt, and minimal self-esteem. Their actions and grandiose presentation of self is a façade to hide, at all costs, their true feelings, fears, and pain.

6. The book touches on the connection between narcissism and white supremacy. Can you delve deeper into how narcissism has contributed to racial inequalities and discrimination in the United States?

While individual narcissism entails a grandiose (false) sense of the individual self, collective narcissism is a grandiose false sense of the group to which individuals belong, whether it’s a political, racial, ethnic, religious, or other group. Collective narcissism involves the unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s group – the in-group’s superiority over another group (i.e., the out-group). White supremacy is the belief that those born into the white race are inherently better and more valuable than someone else, simply because of the race to which they were born. The collective narcissism of white supremacists has led to brutality and inequality throughout our American history, from the preservation of slavery to Jim Crow segregation to modern day issues such as mass incarceration.

There is a certain narcissistic quality to a group attempting to subjugate another group simply because the out-group does not share the same characteristics as the in-group. While individual narcissism can lead to aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism can lead to aggression toward other groups. Racial violence, inequity, and discrimination have always been justified by white supremacists by their distorted narcissistic view that the white race is somehow superior to other racial groups and should, therefore, hold a privileged position over others.

7. In your book, you discuss the rise of anti-intellectualism and its connection to narcissism. Could you explain how these two phenomena are intertwined and their impact on American society?

Anti-intellectualism is hostility to and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectualism and is commonly expressed as deprecation of education and philosophy and the dismissal of art, literature, and science as impractical, politically motivated, and even contemptible human pursuits. The anti-intellectualism prevalent in American society plays into collective narcissism and confirmation bias, as education and a pursuit of factual information and knowledge may lead to an epiphany that one’s long held views and beliefs are not based in truth. Beliefs and views contradictory to those of the individual’s collective social box – family, friends, religious, or other social group – may cause friction within the social grouping. Any epiphany may shake the individual’s foundation to the core and be an inconvenient truth. As a result, it’s much easier for the narcissist to ignore facts that are contrary to their view. As I mentioned previously, narcissists tend to dismiss and deny inconvenient truths to blindly defend their positions (individually) and their group’s position (collectively) and to maintain control and preserve the false self.

8. What research methods and sources did you use to support your claims about narcissism and its impact on American society, particularly in the context of history and politics?

As someone who has been affected by narcissism throughout my life and interactions with others – in society, family, the workplace – I have always been interested in learning more about the behavior and motivations of the narcissists I’ve encountered. I conducted extensive research from a number of scholarly articles, publications, blogs, books, and online sources. I also attempted to interweave anecdotes and my own experiences and views with the research to make the content more personable and relatable for the reader.

9. Your book seems to take a critical view of the societal consequences of narcissism. Are there any positive aspects or potential solutions you see in addressing narcissistic tendencies on a broader scale?

While we all hope for a positive ending, unfortunately, there isn’t much of a positive note for those that fall victim to the narcissist – particularly the more malignant narcissists, who usually do not have the ability to change their behavior and reverse course. The best approach is to sever ties with the narcissists in your life, or, if not possible – such as in the case of immediate family – to limit your contact. There is a positive note to the realization and understanding that what you experienced is real, that the narcissist is the problem in the relationship, and that you must remove yourself from the situation. The victim can certainly gain a sense of relief and freedom when they make the decision to step away from the situation.

10. How do you envision your book contributing to a broader dialogue about narcissism, its effects on society, and the potential for positive change?

I attempted to connect narcissism, specifically, and psychology, generally, to the broader sociological and societal context and state of American dysfunction, currently and historically. While many books discuss the current political dysfunction, very few, if any, connect the psychological dots of individual and collective narcissism and how narcissistic behavior and motivations, coupled with a range of other factors, have led us here. I attempted to connect psychological factors to the current fragile state of our democracy and the historical oppression of marginalized populations. I also attempted to bind narcissism to a number of societal institutions – family, business/industry, government, and religious. I also speak to the plague of narcissistic leadership in business/industry and couple my research with examples I’ve experienced and that, I believe, others can relate to from their experiences in the workplace. Narcissism is rampant in the leadership realms of the workforce.

11. Intersectionality is a key concept in your book. Could you explain how you used this framework to explore the impact of narcissism on marginalized populations and how it intersects with other forms of oppression?

The oppression and marginalization of certain social groups is by nature narcissistic, as it implies that one group is superior to another. I focus more on the American history of oppression of African Americans, but the overall message speaks to an intersectional approach to social justice for all social groups, ensuring no one is left behind in the fight for social justice and equality. I point out how gas lighting and narcissistic behaviors, impulses, and motivations have compounded systems of disadvantage for underprivileged minorities but also for most Americans, as we are falling behind significantly as a nation as a result of failing to provide adequate social safety nets for our citizens, such as healthcare for all. Chapter 6 –Damaged by Ignorance and Hate: Racism, Politics, and Anti-Intellectualism–outlines the historical trauma and the cumulative intergenerational effects of slavery, racism, and other forms of violence and oppression inflicted upon African Americans. In addition to delving further into America’s history of racism and collective narcissism, I discuss how anti-intellectualism and an uninformed and gaslit electorate. have played a significant role in many of the societal problems we face as a nation.

Hopefully, the book helps raise awareness about intersectionality and will motivate others to engage in difficult conversations about intersectionality, privilege, and oppression. My hope is that I’ll stimulate understanding for those who have tended to see American history through a whitewashed lens that racial injustice still exists in modern American society, regardless of how far we have come to date.

12. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?


13. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? What are common traps for new authors?

Tell your story. Follow your analytical and creative mind where it takes you. Don’t shy away from controversial topics for fear of criticism. For every individual who completely shuts out your message, there is another who can relate and open their mind to your message. You may even inspire someone. Be authentic.

Discover a profound exploration of narcissism in ‘Damaged People’ by Thomas Avant, and gain unique insights into its impact on American society. Order your copy now on Amazon and delve into this essential examination of a pressing societal issue.

Also Read: Book Review: Damaged People: Narcissism and the Foundation of a Dysfunctional American Society

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