An Inconvenient Introspection about Narcissists

“So here I am, just another a narcissistic blogger looking for ego-boosting hits, and happy to get some by writing a controversial piece that suggests that you, dear reader might be a narcissist among narcissists, in an increasingly narcissistic culture.” – Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D

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The quote above comes from an excellent article – A Possible Sign That You’re a Narcissist by Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D –  about the trending hot topic of the stretched out moment, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

It’s not your typical article on the subject, and that’s what makes it excellent in my view. It spins the issue around and asks the reader to pause, introspect and self-reflect.

It’s easy to look at others.. See their faults, flaws and personality disorders. Not so easy to look at ourselves. To see our faults, flaws and possible personality disorders.

To really look at ourselves without using others to buffer the impact of an inward focused stare which asks us if perhaps we’re projecting our own darkness, faults, flaws, personality disorders onto to others so that we can see ourselves as bathed in light, faultless (or just not as faulty as someone else), flawless (or just not as flawed as someone else) and personality disordered (disordered personality… who me? Not me! You!).

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“The diagnosis “narcissism” cuts both ways too.  Surely there are people who are universally self-absorbed, though not as many as currently get pegged as narcissists.

Many people are misdiagnosed simply because they are more interested in themselves than in us, which can be really frustrating to us, especially if we feel that their attention is our God-given right, in other words, especially when we’re narcissists.

Hence, one possible sign that you’re a narcissist, is a pre-occupation with ways to label others as narcissists with self-certain authority.” – Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D

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When we accuse someone of something, of being something… are we sure we’re seeing them as they are or are we seeing them as we are?

When we don’t like what we see in someone else… are we seeing our own reflection in them, are they mirroring back to us the parts of ourselves from which we have disassociated?

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This article is not saying – If you accuse someone else of being a narcissist that means that you’re a narcissist.

So don’t go there, unless you want to.

It is simply saying that when you diagnose someone else with something, being something, when you accuse someone else… take a look at yourself too. It could be informative.

An important element of relationships is that our relationships with others helps us to get to know ourselves better, and getting to know ourselves better helps us to know others better.

It’s difficult to be compassionate towards someone else if we’re being hard on ourselves, but if we’re compassionate with ourselves… if we cut ourselves some slack… then cutting other people slack, being compassionate towards them, becomes easier. Maybe… just a little less difficult.

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Empathy… is as overused a term as ‘projection’ and ‘narcissist’. And we tend to use it to highlight our pros and spotlight someone else’s cons. They lack empathy – a sign of a narcissist!

But if we’re really as empathetic as we have diagnosed ourselves as being… wouldn’t we understand why the other person, narcissist or not, is being unempathetic towards us according to us?

Tricky to ask… tricky to answer.

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Ego is always waiting in the wings to trip us up. Ego isn’t a villain, but it is when it only sees itself (us) as the hero and can’t perceive its heroism as someone else’s villainy.

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This article isn’t saying that if you’ve diagnosed someone as being a narcissist… they’re not a narcissist. They may well be exactly that. But what happens next?

You can’t change things, other people (would you want someone to change you just because you’re not who they want you to be for them?), solve the problems you’re having with this other person by informing them that they are a narcissist. If they are a narcissist telling them that they are will make things much worse. If they are not a narcissist… it will also makes things worse.

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If you don’t like someone the way that they are… the problem is yours, not theirs. They may like themselves that way, and even if they don’t – that is not your problem, it’s theirs.

And if they don’t like you the way that you are… that is their problem, not yours. If you don’t like yourself the way you are… that is your problem, not someone else’s.

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All of this is problematic… where are the solutions?

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If we have a problem… usually we also have the solution. Most problems contain the solution within them. The wound contains the healing. Our problems with others… we contain the solution within us. What that solution is… requires introspection and self-reflection, which may be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and may reveal things which we don’t want to know about ourselves.

Sometimes we’re afraid of what we’ll find if we look at ourselves. Really look at ourselves. Not just a quick glance in the mirror. With flattering lighting. So we don’t look at ourselves and we look at others instead. We contrast and compare. We judge and label. We tend to favour ourselves when we do this, flatter ourselves by unflattering others, use others to make ourselves feel good… sometimes we make them feel bad to make ourselves feel good, we make them look bad so we can look good… but what is our real look, and what is theirs? What is real and what is just a perspective of a version of real?

Sometimes they’re doing that to us, and we end up feeling bad so that they can feel good about themselves.

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Does Your Pursuit of Self-Esteem Damage You?

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Does your pursuit of self-esteem damage others?

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The Daily Post recently asked – How are you at receiving criticism? Do you prefer that others treat you with kid gloves, or go for brutal honesty?

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What if the person you consider to be a narcissist, thinks you’re the narcissist in the relationship?

Is one of you right and the other wrong? Who is which?

Could you both be right? Could you both be wrong?

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“One culture’s expectation is another culture’s narcissism. An American of low-to modest income expects running hot water–feels entitled to it in ways that would look narcissistic to the Sudanese.

It’s no wonder that our culture’s side-effect is a whole lot of us writing off our fellow men and women, as un-satisfying social products who fail to meet our justified “needs” (an inflated term for wants) because they’re narcissistically flawed.

Indeed a reasonable assessment of the world right now is that we have squared off as dissatisfied factions quick to diagnose our opponents as narcissists.” – Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D

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If my mother had known about NPD when she spent hours upon hours, day after day, year upon year, telling me all the brutally honest truths about my father (which she told me she didn’t want to tell me but told me anyway)… she would have probably accused him of being a narcissist. But that term was not trendy, a hot topic, in those days.

Never once did it occur to her how what she said to me about him affected me, she claimed to consider this… but she didn’t, especially when she used her favourite verbal weapon – you’re just like your father – when she was sharing a brutally honest awful truth to me about myself and about him. Where was she in all of this brutally honest truthful awful truth sharing light… hidden in the flattering shadows.

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My father, just like my mother, had he known about NPD, and the accusation of ‘You’re a narcissist”, had that been a trendy hot topic in those days, would have accused my mother of the same thing of which she accused him.

Both of them would have been thoroughly convinced of their righteous diagnosis of the other – they, of course, would be the angel versus the devil. Not a drop of narcissism in their blood.

But what about my blood?

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I sometimes come across people who claim that all narcissists are evil, those who claim this have often had a child with a narcissist… so what does that make a child of a narcissist?

Are they half-evil, as they would be half-Italian if one parent was, say, Italian?

Are they always on trial, with the good parent being judge and jury whose judgement is always pending, moment by moment… if the parent sees the child as good (as long as the child is behaving as that parent wants them to, making that parent feel good about themselves as a parent and person), like them, then the verdict is not guilty… but should the parent decide otherwise… guilty as charged with no recourse to an appeal.

You, the child, live from moment to moment, trending hot topic to trending hot topic, hoping for a reprieve… but never getting it.

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Most people tend to give us compliments when they feel good about themselves around us. When we make them feel good about themselves. When we smile because they are there, seem happy when in their company, when we compliment and complement them.

And most people tend to criticise us when they feel bad about themselves around us. When we make them feel bad about themselves. When we frown because they are there, seem sad when in their company, when we criticise them.

You can’t make anyone feel anything… but you can perceive things that way and so can they.

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“Once we face squarely into the possibility that diagnosing others may be a work-around to avoid inconvenient introspection, we dull the double-edged sword a bit, and become a little more self-reflective.” – Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D

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I have diagnosed both of my parents as being narcissists, as having NPD. Sometimes I see them as malignant narcissists. I have yet to make the leap to calling them sociopath narcissists… labeling them narcissists was enough for me, for what I needed.

And that is all the diagnosis is about for me… it is for me. It is my view of my relationship with them… a view which I needed to clarify my own confusion, to work through my own issues. Whether they really are/were narcissists… ?

Considering how others perceived them… sometimes the views of others confirm our views, and sometimes they don’t.

I’ve been through many stages while writing about this for my blog… or more accurately, I wrote about my story and my view of it for myself and shared it on my blog, for very selfish, self-indulgent, self-reflective reasons – doing it publicly meant I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t said what I said, didn’t think what I thought… I’ve spent a lot of years worth of time lying to myself, silent, keeping schtum, then feeling sorry for myself because of those lies, that silence,… that delusion… illusion.

Enough…

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“Diagnoses help us cope confidently with the people who trouble us. If we know that people have a condition, we can make more confident accommodations to them (“I shouldn’t take it personally; he’s got an illness”), push them more confidently (“Look, you’ve clearly got a condition and you need treatment”) or walk away from them more confidently (“Why did we divorce? It turns out my ex is a narcissist.”)

Diagnoses are in this respect very useful, but they’re also dangerous which is why we’re cautioned not to “psychoanalyze” each other. Diagnoses are double-edged swords, great for cutting through uncertainty, but also great for machete-cutting each other down thereby freeing each ourselves from the inconveniences of self-reflection.” – Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D

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My blog gets a lot of ‘hits’ because of some of my posts on narcissism.

Sometimes it gets ‘hits’ because I happen to be a Sun sign Capricorn which many people who are into psychology/astrology, pop versions of it or otherwise, perceive like this – “are all capricorns narcissists” – that’s a recent search term which led someone to my blog. Whether what they found on my blog answered their search query…?

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Most of the feedback which I get on my blog is what would fall under the label ‘positive’. My ‘positive’ label may be different from yours.

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Someone once called me a narcissist in a comment… they did add ‘heh hehe heh’ to it… signalling that they were baiting me and doing it humorously. That comment made me take a self-reflective, introspective look at myself.

What I found while looking within was… you know, I could be a narcissist as far as someone else is concerned… and strangely enough the idea that I could be a narcissist according to them didn’t and doesn’t concern me. It informs me.

It’s their problem, not mine. They have the solution to their problem… ignore me or dump me because I’m ‘toxic’. Do what you have to do… don’t expect me to do it for you.

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This is who I am… don’t like it? Then don’t put up with it, don’t put up with me.

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Don’t expect me to change for you because you don’t like who I am… I don’t expect you to change for me because I may not like who you are.

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Just accept the fact that we can’t like everyone even when we would like to do so (and would like others’ help us in doing so, in liking them, so we can like ourselves for liking all others… if they’d only change for us so we could like them)… perhaps who we are, as is, isn’t the kind of person who likes everyone, as they are, as is.

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Anthony Hopkins philosophyvia Anthony Hopkins [Capricorn]: Darkness Visible/Oxford Astrologer