Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

Prejudice Against People Who Get In Our Way

Of course, we prefer the company of people who help us over people who get in our way, but we take that preference a step too fare by treating helpers as good people and thwarters as bad. Why do we do that, and what is the name for that prejudice whereby those who thwart us are automatically deemed jerks? Read More

Quote: A man wrapped up in


A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel.

Really? ....

It is part of human nature.
Efficiency and effectiveness. Call it non-efficivist.
As we all strive to be effective and efficient.

"We all"? I can think of

"We all"? I can think of vast swaths of humanity who have no interest in being effective and efficient (and may even have no comprehension of the concept).

Quote:Besides, narcissism is

Besides, narcissism is still treated as a rare pathology. I’m talking about something so natural to all of us that it could hardly be called a rare pathology. Its effects are bad for us but it’s not rare -- Dr. Sherman

Have you noticed that we only invent English words for bad behavior when it is abnormally bad? Instead of thinking of it as a rare problem,I suggest you think of narcissism as a common human characteristic, varying within us all as a matter of degree.

I prefer to call the same characteristic ARROGANCE; theologians would probably call it VANITY; philosophers would likely call it EGOTISM; and there are dozens of other words for it in common usage.

Joe, I agree that people

I agree that people often use narcissism as though it were a common, even universal characteristic, not just as a rare pathology. I also agree that that same quality goes by other names, but wouldn't you say that arrogance and vanity are invented English words for bad behavior that we don't consider abnormal?

The prejudice I'm describing in this article drives us I think to use pejoratives to describe rare pathologies we don't have. For example, it's rare to hear someone say "My ex turned out to be a narcissist" while keeping in mind their own capacity for narcissism.

I've written more about the promise and peril of psychological terms here:

I like thinking of selfish as like bluish--kind of blue. Very much in line with your sense that self-ishness is a universal (I'd say beyond humans--all organisms have to be someone selfish).

Thanks for writing.


On the need to feel superior...

...but wouldn't you say that arrogance and vanity are invented English words for bad behavior that we don't consider abnormal?

Jeremy, if we think of a range of value, from low to high, I think ARROGANT and VAIN are words like NARCISSISTIC, commonly reserved to describe people with problems that rank at the high end of the range. I think of these words, and dozens of others, as synonyms describing behavior which seems intended to satisfy a need to feel superior to others.

I keep telling myself “assume different, not wrong,” but it’s so hard to remember. Someone gets in my way and I quickly assume they’re wrong, stupid or bad, not just coming from a different perspective.

The more time, effort and emotion I have invested in an opinion, the easier it becomes for me to reject evidence against it and accept evidence for it. As I see it, even low to medium levels of arrogance-narcissism-vanity create an ownership bias which makes it difficult to keep an open mind.

From your other article ---But a term like narcissist roaming wild on the tips of our tongues is as likely to be abused as used insightfully. It gives us an easy way to sound like a high-minded and neutral psychologist while cutting each other down.

We think mostly in words. I have found that keeping the language plain works for me.

Dan Dennett, the philosopher, pisses off his colleagues by rejecting the jargon of Philosophy when he writes. He claims that even philosophers get misled by it.



I would call such a prejudice as 'anti-selfless vision'! If analyzed, we are only keeping ourselves at the center and viewing people's behavior that might be even unintentional. Most of the times, when we feel that a person is blocking us, he or she may really not even know that! Even if that person is doing intentionally, he or she is just making us strong to reach our goal. No pain, no gain!

Therefore, I believe that prejudice is just a vision fallen short for the good of one's own sake! Before forming a prejudice, one needs to analyze 'why so' and 'who is the real benefactor/sufferer'. To answer this, just a single reminder is enough - 'What comes to you is what you have given to this world!

Isn't such

Isn't such suspicion/paranoia/hypervigilance the result of childhood experiences? If we have been badly treated in childhood, we will either cave to it and be blobs, look for danger/opposition everywhere, or become criminals/bullies ("get them before they get me"). All degrees along the spectrum. IMO.

Oh So Many Ways

While I’ve no names to suggest, I do have a few wrenches to toss into the mix.

[Note, please: I understand that your reference to "my way" is philosophical/political; I shall approach it from a concrete standpoint which I think will apply equally to your reference.]

Wrench #1, a memory: I recall grocery shopping (many years ago), in a hurry. The store was especially crowded, filled with shoppers and stockers, adding to and subtracting from shelves. “Why are all these people in my way?” I silently shouted. As soon as the thought entered my mind, I went into internal-dialogue land:

“What makes you think it’s your way?” asked Voice of Reason.

“By virtue of the fact that I’m here.”

“Since they are, too, it must also be their way.”

Ever since, I find it amusing whenever I get proprietary about what I perceive to be “my way.”

Wrench #2: The above raises the issue of who, then, has the right of way? Coming to an arterial stop sign, while driving, it’s the person to the right. However, at a 4-way (there’s that word again), stop sign, everyone is to the right of someone. We could sit there all day and well into night.

Wrench #3: I know you relate to Taoist philosophy. That’s also referred to as “The Way.” A Taoist might say, “It’s good to be in The Way.”

Ultimately, I would say that thinking of “way” as yours . . . or theirs or belonging to anyone . . . is setting up the problem. After all, if it is your way, then no one else should have right of way; and all should back off until you have cleared the way.

And lest you wonder: None of the above prevents me from frustration when I’m blocked by others in “my way.” I merely see the irony in thinking of any way as belonging to me.


It's pretty specific (we resent people who don't agree with our opinions, priorities, way of life, whatever), yet general enough (it's not just about opinions, or about situations; it can be about anything). It also has the "automatic" quality of a true prejudice: "You disagree? You're bad!" The content, or context, or other qualities of the dissenter become instantaneously irrelevant compared to the fact that they just, right now, dissent with us.

More generally: great article! Lots of food for thought, as usual.

A 'knee jerk reaction' but

not everyone experiences this 'instant rage'. It is very simply immediate anger and not always in a minor way. For those who do not suffer from this affliction it can be startling, and even frightening behavior to observe. Unless it is all mental on the thwarted person's part of course; usually not the case in my experience. My point is that it already has a name - irritability, irritation. Some of us are just that way.

I don't see my children often as we all live in different parts of the US. No matter how long it has been since I've seen her the first thing my daughter says on reaching the car at the airport is, 'No yelling, Ma!'

My son and I however, yell the same things at the same time! It can be jarring to ride with us. Peaceful people have a hard time with the off the cuff hostility and rage.

I hate to tell you Dr. Sherman, you're just grouchy! The only solution is for everyone to just 'MOVE, you idiot!!!' 'What was THAT for cryin' out loud?' and 'Where did YOU learn to drive, fool???!!!'

Sorry, Doc. No fancy new name. Cranky. Chocolate helps. (Until the sugar crash, of course! Timing is everything. Try to crash alone!) ;>)

Bottom line: people do things

Bottom line: people do things "for a reason." They do what "works" (or what they think works, for them). They do what they want/choose to do. There is a payoff in it for them. If there weren't, they would stop doing it. So what is the payoff? venting of frustration? a sense of control based on its being someone else's "fault" that I am frustrated? a sense of superiority over "jerks"? It reminds me of the "terrible two's" throwing fits (but they do not have the maturity to manage their feelings). I have lived quite a while, and can easily think of many people I respect who do not "fly off the handle" over the minor frustrations of life. So what am I missing here?

I guess if it works for you (whoever), continue to do it.

Prejudice Against People Who Get In Our Way - Name

I would like to suggest work "Wedge" for this

Prejudice Against People Who Get In Our Way - Name

I would like to suggest word "Wedge" for this

Thank you for these comments

Thank you for these comments and suggestions. I'm still hoping for a term that absolutely nails the particular behavior. Wedgism and cranky are broader than I'm looking for.

I started to think it would be best if it rhymed with a commonly named form of prejudice. Sexism, classism, racisism.

I've got clashism (prejudice against people you clash with)
and Paceism (prejudice against people who don't move with you).

I'm also looking for an adjective or simple descriptor.

My way or you're evil
Vilifying all impediments
Hexing the vexing

None of these blow my socks off. I welcome more ideas if you have them. Not that I'm the final judge on the right name. I'm just grateful for a chance to brainstorm.


Probably not helpful; but fun playing

How about placism; as in: prejudice against people who are out of place (don't belong) in your world?

Or complacism: prejudice against those who are complacent?

Or reflexism: prejudice against those who are reflexive?

Or simpletism: prejudice against those you consider to be simpletons (as in: those who are blind to complexities)?

Or cashism: prejudice against those who are obscenely wealthy?

Or trashism: prejudice against those who refuse to recycle?

Or use “ism” in the sense of philosophy/ideology and call it “Need-to-eracism.”

Now, I’m just getting silly.

As to your slogan:

I don’t know if this was your intent, but using “impediments” brought Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 to mind, beginning:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove

Since it’s a love sonnet, you could play with turning everything around; something along the lines of:

Dissolution from the false minded [from your prospective].

Happily admitting impediments . . . altering when alteration finds . . .

I would like to see the focus

I would like to see the focus changed from dreaming up more "isms" (terms for attitudes that divide us). How about focusing on actual practical ways to further understanding of, and tolerance for, those with whom we share the world, who have as much right to take up space here as we do. All of the "isms" you mention are just facets of the attitude that "(I am) the center of the universe." "How many narcissists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one; he stands there holding the bulb and the world revolves around him."

Level 3.2 Narcissism

Anon,I like your thought on this question, but it isn't practical to put a positive label on a negative attitude. Besides, I don't think creating another word is necessary. I think the problem is that Dr. Sherman, possibly because of his training to think of narcissism as a clinical diagnosis, has not yet put his behavior in that category.

Using a scale of five, if consistent 4.7 narcissistic behavior would rank high enough for a clinical diagnosis of the problem, the kind of behavior the article describes would rank at a 3.2. It's pretty much average. That's why it's so common.


Anon, on a second reading,I realize that you were not suggesting a positive word but a positive response instead of another negative word.

How many narcissists does it take?

Since an “ism” refers to a bias in favor of something; and since, in common lingo, we’ve extended that to include a bias against all that does not fall within the favored scope; and since no one here knows any specifics about what you are biased toward, I initially thought:

Jeremism, figuring Shermism might be too broad a category. Second thought, however: Even Jeremism may be too broad. There are probably many named Jeremy, with whom you’d disagree. I settled upon:

JerShermism. A bias unique to you. And all others named Jeremy Sherman.

Of course, if you wish to extend that to those with whom you do not share a moniker, perhaps: PersonalPreferencism.

Kidding aside, I kind of agree with the comment suggesting that the syndrome falls along the spectrum of narcissism. And we might all fall along that spectrum to varying degrees.

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Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.


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