Is Narcissism Taking Over Mindfulness?

Enjoy the Ride Trucker HatGood news, everybody! You can now order “A More Mindful Burger” at Epic Burger in Chicago. Or a mindful trucker’s cap from Mindful Supply. Authors stand ready to sell you books on every flavor of mindfulness you can imagine: pregnancy, parenting, politics, teaching, and spirituality. Oh, and of course, mindful eating is an especially hot ticket. Unfortunately, though, Thomas Joiner is here to tell us that narcissism has swallowed up mindfulness.

He says most of what you’ll find on the web is hopelessly loud and self-indulgent. And hype has made some of the best research on mindfulness into nothing more than a tool for hucksters.

Mindful Eating: A Work in Progress

Mindful eating is a concept that many nutrition professionals have found extremely useful in clinical practice. And yet, the research literature on mindfulness is a bit messy. A recent meta-analysis found the largest effects for mindfulness on eating behaviors. Effects on BMI were small by comparison.

Late last year, a randomized, controlled trial of acceptance-based therapy for weight management found impressive results. But such results have yet to be replicated by other investigators. So advice to beware of inflated expectations is probably sound.

An Epidemic of Narcissism?

The idea that an epidemic of narcissism has overtaken mindfulness raises further questions. The first question is, do we really have such an epidemic?

Jean Twinge certainly thinks so. She’s monetized her concept with two popular books: Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. Writing in Emerging Adulthood, she describes five datasets to support her thesis. She says emerging adults today are more “generation me” than “generation we.”

Other researchers have disputed the trend. Brent Donnellan and colleagues called it “much ado about nothing.” Christopher Barry and Lauren Lee-Rowland found no evidence for such a trend among adolescents between 2005 and 2014.

All in all, we have plenty of fodder for pop psychologists, book publishers, and podcasts. These are appealing ideas that rapidly turn into urban legends.

Bringing It Home to Obesity

In Medical Hypotheses last year, Bruno Lemaitre completed the circle. By connecting narcissism to social stress and adverse childhood experiences, he suggests that the supposed narcissism epidemic may be fueling the obesity epidemic.

So if mindfulness is supposed to hold answers for obesity, but narcissism has swallowed mindfulness, what shall we do? We have a modest proposal. Take a break from the pop psychology and tune in later for more definitive research.

Click here for more on how narcissism has warped mindfulness.

Narcissus, painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio / WikiArt

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August 29, 2017