Laura Dern, Mike White, Diane Ladd, and Luke Wilson are back for another season of HBO's "Enlightened"—and I'm thrilled to have one of my favorite casts of narcissistically-challenged characters return. So much material, so little time!
In just the first three episodes of the season, Amy (Laura Dern's character) has already manipulated the hapless Tyler (Mike White) to hack into the computer system where they both work, with the goal of stealing emails from the CEO of their company, proving his corruption, and "taking him down"; has met with and become attracted to an investigative reporter from the Los Angeles Times and asked him to guarantee front-page coverage of the scandal at her company (he makes it clear that it's not Amy's call); and made her pregnant former assistant's medical emergency into her own drama. She means well, but in the end, Amy's all about Amy.
Tyler, in his attempt to get Amy to value him, has covered up their hacking activities by switching Amy's hard drive with another worker's, who is subsequently fired during an investigation into the system security breach. He may be a drone, but he's got his own little sociopathic streak.
Helen, Amy's mom (played by Diane Ladd, Laura Dern's actual mother), snoops on Amy, and tries to get Amy to read a letter from Amy's ex-husband aloud to her, as if Amy is a young girl who would want her warm and supportive mother's opinion, a description that doesn't fit Helen at all! When the investigative reporter picks up Amy at her mother's house to discuss Amy's progress in getting the CEO's emails, Helen meddles in her usual hostile and inappropriate way to humiliate Amy.
Levi (Luke Wilson), Amy's ex-husband is at the New Age-y rehab Amy got him into for his substance abuse issues, and he is finding fault with the staff and other patients, in an adolescent Holden Caulfield kind of way, thinking they are all phonies. Like any good narcissist, including his ex-wife and her mother, he cycles between feeling humiliated and above it all.
We tend to think of narcissists as thinking overly well of themselves, and they do—except when they are feeling completely insignificant and humiliated. Narcissists get their information about their self worth—good or bad—from the outside, so their self-esteem is always fluctuating. They haven't learned to regulate their self-esteem by handling themselves well. They are involved in positioning (who's better or worse), rather than relating. It's as if all the people who matter in the world are rank ordered, and the narcissists must always protect their position, by one-upping others, always being right. And that's how it works with narcissism: no one's having a good time, because whenever a person leads with narcissism, things aren't going to end well.