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All Right, Be That Way

New York's "self-enhancers": difficult but tough

It's official: Being a narcissistic pain in the neck can be good for your health.

At least, that was the signature attribute of the most emotionally resilient survivors of the World Trade Center attacks, according to several studies by George Bonanno, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, and doctoral students Courtney Rennicke and Sharon Decal. The researchers focused on a group they call "self-enhancers," whom they describe as both exceptionally resilient and difficult to get along with. One of the studies, "Self-Enhancement Among High-Exposure Survivors of the September 11th Terrorist Attack: Resilience or Social Maladjustment?" was published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Self-enhancers score high on measures of narcissism, and the research shows pretty clearly that they are annoying to be around," Bonnano says.

Self-enhancers in the study exhibited a capacity for greater enjoyment and happiness and reported more positive emotional experiences than other participants. They also displayed less fear and anger.

In a related study, Bonanno's team found that a significant portion of a representative sample of 2,700 New Yorkers showed signs of resilience.

So are most New Yorkers self-enhancers? "Self -enhancement is not that common," Bonanno says. "So there will be some self-enhancers in New York, but not only self-enhancers." Perhaps, he adds, New Yorkers are just "tough."  

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