It’s important to define one basic feature of human nature. The default characteristic of all human beings is narcissism.
Narcissism means Self-centeredness or extreme selfishness. One can see this in all babies in their infancy. Their world revolves around themselves and all their natural behavior is aimed at fulfilling their immediate desires. We start to develop our personality when we are babies. We call the burgeoning personality the “ego”. The ego is, for all practical purposes, the part of ourselves that stands as the link between our minds, our bodies and the external material world. The growing ego, if not limited by social constraints, would create a mind controlled exclusively by the urges of the body. It would treat everything and everybody around it as its possessions to do with as it pleases. Luckily, our egos are limited by both our environments and by the social constraints of the ambient civilization.
In children, narcissistic behavior diminishes over time as the parents teach the babies how to order priorities and get what they want in socially acceptable ways. Unfortunately, this training does not, in itself, diminish or otherwise modify the natural underlying narcissistic mindset of the child. It simply overlays it. As the layer of socialization thickens, the child learns to modify his or her behavior to get what they want or need in a way that conforms to the limits placed on their behavior by the parents or others in the society.
The key to actually modifying the underlying narcissistic nature of the child is for the socialization process to offer the child socially acceptable but satisfying ways to fulfill their underlying animal desires. For instance, if the child learns that loving behavior nets love in return, the need to exhibit loving behavior becomes an end in itself and actually begins to reshape the child’s psychological landscape.
This process continues throughout the life of the individual, and as the child leaves the nest and enters into contacts outside of the family, other social organs begin to reinforce and expand on the parental teachings. This includes (perhaps “included” might be a better term to use today) interactions with the expanded family, churches, schools, social functions, and (unfortunately) in more modern times, the established media, social media, and the internet. If all goes well, as the individual grows into adulthood, he or she develops into a high functioning and moral person. (The internet, and especially Twitter with its trolls and generally amoral character is actually a good indication of what happens when a society abandons its moral foundations.)