Monday, March 20, 2017


“Slimy Colonies” is the phrase often used to describe biofilms of bacteria.  Little bacterial lifeforms are different when they’re floating round separately (planktonic) than when they attach and stick together (sessile).  Humans are much evolved from their original bacteria life form but they likewise are different when individual, free-floating, from when they are anchored in a group.

“A biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other and often these cells adhere to a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS).”

“According to the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University, biofilms form when bacteria adhere to surfaces in aqueous environments and begin to excrete a slimy, glue-like substance that can anchor them to all kinds of material – such as metals, plastics, soil particles, medical implant materials and, ...May 26, 2008”

One of the fascinating but scary psych concepts is narcissism.  This idea started out to describe people who admired themselves and is now used to describe people who are control freaks demanding others admit how wonderful they are.  Beyond that, premises are developed about whole societies who believe they are the most wonderful and demand compliance to that opinion because they share the belief in the splendidness of the narcissist.  These loyal and compliant people are called “co-dependent” and that becomes a new category by itself.  So far, it appears that the co-dependents are better at forming into social biofilms than are the narcissists or the people who treat narcissists, most of whom tend to be arrogant and feel superior to others.

A class of "helpers" has developed around these folks.  My fav of these “narc” treaters (the confusing nickname is provided by co-dependents) is Sam Vaknin.  I think he should not have called his theories “Cold Therapy,” which is a term he used to get away from the “warm” therapies full of talk about love and embracing and fuzzy reassurance — what I sometimes call “hot tub therapy”.  Rather, I think Sam should have called his theories “Dry Therapy” with the same goal but emphasis on clarity, a bit of humor, a long perspective through human history and society.  But that’s just a quibble that explains why I prefer his ideas, esp. the early versions, over most of the others.

Ross Rosenberg lost me as soon as he talked about Alice Miller and wanted to tell all about his own childhood trauma.  When I was in UU circles EVERYONE seemed to claim that Alice Miller accounted exactly for how brilliant they were and how traumatic their childhood was because of deficient parenting.  Earlier, in seminary, it was Henri Nouwen’s idea of “The Wounded Healer” that so popular that one of the dangers for seminarians was being “insufficiently healed healers,” people who had finally found enough relief to leap to the idea that they could now seal their value by helping others, but still didn't really have the needed skills.

Richard Grannon “Spartan Life Coach” put me off with his athletic club enthusiasm for what rather sounds to me like a roomful of people madly pedaling on stationary bicycles.  He is younger, good-looking, and I’m sure attracts co-dependent women like flies.

His opposite might be Ollie Mathews  with his knit cap and readings of mailed-in indictments from victims.  He talks a lot about “flying monkeys”, those co-dependents who do evil deeds on behalf of narcissists.

Indeed, the flying monkeys who seem to see competition between Grannon and Vaknin and who want to “help” Grannon have made so much fuss about Vaknin with accusations against him that Vaknin’s Facebook website was removed.  (Facebook has a hair-trigger in this regard and doesn’t seek confirmation or defense.)  These coach/guide/ consultant/therapist guys make their livings with speeches, books, and clients that are often dependent on Facebook as a marketing device.  Indeed, that seems to be the main function of Facebook: advertising.  So being suddenly blacked out can hurt.

The female co-dependents, who in their most toxic form are flying monkeys, are the main constituents of the biofilm culture that begins to be a cult.  With some innocence and a  little value, the idea that was originally meant to describe the dynamic of an individual in a particular (and painful) situation becomes a label for a culture that takes an obsessive view.  Amazon lists pages of books. Pretty soon it is a morality, a command, an accusation, the basis for divorce -- and impeachment.

The flying monkeys pose as enforcers, insulting people in social media, demanding that people be fired, and becoming a political force full of toxic vitriol.    Sometimes they are secretive and use some hapless narcissist as a sock puppet.  Must I name names for you to recognize them?

Over the years I’ve had a lot to do with narcissists and I dearly love some of them.  Not the pitiful whingers, but the ones who use the energy to achieve something remarkable.  We hear about malignant narcissists, psychopathic narcissists, and other nasty kinds.  Not much is said about the achievers who have a narcissistic dynamic, who are achieving in reaction to perfectionist, overwhelming, punishing parents who drove them and who are passing on that drive to be better, to live up to what is sometimes an impossible demand.

The problem for the faithful co-dependent -- who joins the narcissist in the creation of something worthy -- is deciding just how worthy it is.  One weighs one’s ability to overlook callousness against the value of the end product.  The problem for the narcissist whose achievement depends on collaboration with co-dependents becomes how to keep that help.  Some have the erroneous idea that insulting, punishing, limiting will make people stay, but people are not like most dogs, who will accept punishment even for not coming when called.  Even among dogs there are some who stop coming, some who run away, and some who attack.  

A few co-dependents go crazy, or are they co-dependent because they were already crazy?  Like Camille Claudel or Zelda Fitzgerald.  The relationships are confused because our gender-role assignments are narcissist/male and co-dependent/female.  And then there’s the confusion from hierarchies, which privilege high-status people with the right to be narcissists (indeed, even justify their boasting as part of their status) and oblige lower status people to accept co-dependence.  This is also economic.  One way to survive as a low-status person is to attach to a driven narcissist.  

Eventually, the most empowered narcissist ages or drifts out of sync with the supporting milieu.  It’s hard on everyone.  Except that the media loves it.  Another juicy media subject.  And flying monkeys love to chatter.

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