Finding Your Inner Narcissist

Sylvia-Plath-wanting everything and nothingAll or Nothing?

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We need narcissism. It is a natural part of the human psyche. It helps to develop our ego. We need the ego too. It too is a natural part of the human psyche.

Narcissism and ego are good for us, for our development, our evolution. They help us to define ourselves, to know who we are. Without them we might not be able to have a sense of self.

Every trait which is a part of being human has a purpose for existing just as we do, but we don’t always know what that purpose is, just as we don’t always know what our purpose for being alive is. Narcissism and ego help us to find a purpose for our lives.

When I was younger ego was the bad guy. The general consensus was that ego was the cause of all human problems, and the solution to all our human problems was to eradicate ego. That kind of reasoning is an ego-driven ideal and the biggest supporter of getting rid of ego is ego itself, because it viewed transcending ego as being a means to an end which had self glorification as a goal. Transcend ego and you transcend being human, transcend being human and you become super-human.

These days ego has been replaced as the villain by narcissism. We still don’t like ego, but we hate narcissism. We hate narcissism so much that we love it. We’re obsessed with it, we can’t stop thinking about it, we see its face everywhere, smell its perfume, hear its voice, feel its touch… in everyone else but ourselves, which is rather narcissistic. Which makes me wonder if perhaps it is narcissism which is behind this obsession with narcissism. Narcissism which is at the wheel of this drive to get rid of narcissists (The Line between Victims and Abusers).

Is it perhaps the natural evolution of a trait to want to kill itself, eradicate itself, eat its own tail until it becomes nothing. If you look at the symbol for the snake eating its tail, it is in the shape of a zero. Or maybe its shape represents wholeness, two sides, two extremes, which have finally joined and become one.

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Ying_yang_bos_by_jaunty_eyepatchYin-yang-bos by jaunty-eyepatch

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Are ego and narcissism really bad guys, would we all be better off without them?

Chances are, if we could kill off ego and narcissism, we’d find a new bad guy to fill the void. Maybe that bad guy would be Empathy. It’s been placed on a pedestal in recent years, humans like to place people, things, traits on pedestals, we also like to topple them at some point because the much admired becomes an impossible ideal which eventually starts to look like a collossus who is going to crush us, our survival instincts kick in and we crush it before it gets us.

Empathy used to be a simple word describing a simple trait. Now the word has so many meanings it has become a complex structure which is losing all shape and stability. It means everything and nothing. Empathy is no longer just something which we do naturally, without thinking about the fact that we’re doing it, just doing it because it helps us to understand others which aids us in our relationships. It is now so much more than that, and it is beginning to become un-empathic in the way that it is used. It is becoming all talk and no action, something which we talk about rather than do. Used as an accusation, a justification for an accusation and all the rhetoric which follows.

“So and so has no empathy, therefore it’s okay for me to call them a narcissist and assassinate their character, they don’t care about me, aren’t empathic towards me – they always talk about themselves when I want to talk about myself!”

I had a friend who was always telling me that they were an Empath, how super-sensitive they were, how much they suffered because of it, how engulfed they were by the emotions of others and how they couldn’t tell what emotions were theirs and those of others, how the reason they kept discarding people was because of the toxicity of others to their system, on and on and on each time we talked. As though I hadn’t heard them the first time they said it and understood them. I had because I could empathise. I had also been there and done something similar. I tried to offer them the tactics which I used to deal with it, but… they always had an excuse to stay stuck in their suffering and I began to wonder if perhaps their pain nourished them. They said they wanted to heal, but they kept stabbing the wound to keep it from scarring over and healing itself. I gave up when I realised that their empathy was not empathy at all. For all the time we knew each other, they rarely if ever picked up on what I was feeling, the only times they did were when my emotions happened to be the same as theirs. They were indeed confused about which emotions were theirs and which were those of others, but not in the way that they viewed it. The toxicity which they saw in others was their own, something which they didn’t want, and by discarding others, they hoped to cleanse themselves of what they had projected into the other person, the festering of their own wound.

I could understand what they were doing, just as I understood what led up to and caused the ending of our friendship. It was my fault as much as it was hers and we mutually discarded each other, although our stories of what happened are probably very different, yet also very similar. We both behaved like narcissists. My understanding only came later. At first I was a tremendous bitch. I was angry, hurt, obsessed with my pain – my pain was the reason that things came to a head. Because she was so hyper-sensitive, I was considerate towards her to my own detriment. I suppressed myself for her. Or at least that’s how I saw it. I had just learned of my father’s death, and that death caused a ripple effect, the ripples became waves, and to spare her the empathic overload I asked her to keep her distance from me. But she instigated a conflict between us… and instead of holding back, I exploded. I was angry that she hadn’t respected the boundary I had delineated, a boundary I created for her benefit. And things escalated from there.

Eventually I decided that she was yet another narcissist whom I had attracted into my life, and she decided that I was yet another toxic person whom she had attracted into hers. We went our separate ways.

I stewed and brewed over this, over her and how she had behaved. I fumed and ranted. In my mind she began to merge with my mother. She was just like my mother, a covert narcissist, the eternal victim, damsel in distress who turns all the heroes who try to save her in dragons from which she needs saving by another hero who will eventually become another dragon. The way she had behaved was almost exactly as the way my mother behaved. Bloody narcissists! And stupid me for yet again becoming their little stupid puppet and servant!

After I got a huge amount of stuff out of my system… the process of which launched a new path for me. I grew calmer and gained some perspective. That’s when understanding began to dawn. That’s when I beheld a doorway to insight.

There is no magical elixir for healing your pain. No miracle cure. You have to be your own archeologist, and dig, dig, dig, finding fossils (fossilised parts of yourself), treasures (gifts which you thought were lost or crap), relics (those ancient bits and pieces which when put together with others create something old and new), idols (statues which you’ve built to worship some strange deity, often a symbol of some twisted inner desire), and keep digging until you find your self buried underneath everything else.

Excavation work is exhausting, grubby, uncomfortable, and contains many perils. There are cave-ins, curses, the fear of madness, suffocation due to inhaling who knows what in the millions of dust particles which are stirred up. There are triggers everywhere which are a part of a loaded gun with only one bullet.

And when you do find your self, then what?

In my case, you want to keep digging, only you’ve hit bedrock.

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keep-calm-and-diggy-hole

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When you find yourself there isn’t a Hollywood ending, where you find perfect love which is flawless (that kind of love is a narcissist) and ride off into a gorgeous sunset to live in your ideal home and have ideal children, and live happily ever after in perfect bliss. You have reached the end of your destination, welcome to Nirvana, paradise, a limbo where you can’t move because if you do it might all vanish, your movement causes a draught which blows it all away.

Besides, if you attracted narcissists before when your world wasn’t perfect, imagine how many will flock to you once it is!

Too much of anything, even in a time when it seems like there is never enough of anything, overwhelms us with its presence until we react by not wanting anymore of it. The power of attraction turns into the power of repulsion.

Look at celebrity, for instance, a new media obsession which at first was fascinating but is now getting old and beginning to be tiresome. When we’ve seen too much of someone we begin to accuse them of being overexposed, an attention seeker, a publicity hound, a media whore. But when they first caught our eye we couldn’t get enough of them… then we got too much of them.

Too much indulgence in chocolate and… that whole belief in the cure-all effects of such a nectar of the gods makes you wonder if perhaps it is the devil in disguise. Too much better than sex chocolate and you’ll be considering the joys of abstaining. Too much and life by chocolate becomes death by it.

When something which once fed us begins to feed on us… our instinct is to kill it before it kills us.

Narcissism used to feed us. Greed is good… Gordon Gecko said, and we all applauded him and that became our motto, the motto of a generation, and the next generation found other mottos which were similar. We all became a part of the Me Me Me generation, whether we wanted to or not, approved of it or not, and a lot of it was good, felt good… because it does feel good to pay attention to yourself, follow your dreams, your heart, your mind’s inspiration. It just tends to go a bit sour when other people are doing the same thing and they’re not paying attention to us, to our dreams, our heart, our mind’s inspiration.

Why aren’t others as obsessed with us as we are with ourselves? Especially when we do them the favour of paying attention to them and their stuff. We made the effort (an effort which they probably didn’t acknowledge and thought wasn’t enough to satisfy their need for attention). If we made the effort, we want them to make the effort too, pay back our favour, make good on an IOU which perhaps they did not know they were signing. What if they feel the same way about us as we feel about them? That’s when you get to play a round of spot the narcissist in the blame game.

If it weren’t for you, I’d be…? (Games People Play by Eric Berne)

And we say that to things as much as we say it to people. Spot the narcissist and the blame game can be played with inanimate objects, ideas, issues, and all sorts, as well as people, who sometimes become a vessel for the things about ourselves which we don’t want to face within us, so we face them in those people.

When you’re dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself what part of yourself is in their face. The question and the answer may be uncomfortable, you may prefer to disassociate, yet disassociating consciously doesn’t mean that you do it subconsciously and unconsciously. The people who attract us, do so because there is something inside of us which relates to them.

Take any of the traits which are used to diagnose NPD and you’ll find a bit of it in yourself, perhaps even a lot of it which is why most diagnostic tools for disorders warn you to be careful, that just because you have 3 out of 5 traits does not mean you have that disorder. Remember you are human, and so is a person with a personality disorder such as NPD. Sometimes we don’t like the cognitive dissonance which a thought like that creates, so we turn humans into something less than human – a monster, a demon, evil, etc. If they are that, then what does that makes us? Sometimes we turn people into a villain to turn ourselves into a hero.

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hero:villain - damien carrion

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That doesn’t mean that we are wrong about them, but does being right about them mean that there is no wrong in us and no right in them?

Seeing things in black and white, right and wrong, hero and villain, is helpful. It has a purpose and we all do it because it serves a purpose, one which can help us to simplify something complex. However if we overdo it, we will not only turn others into black and white equations, but do it to ourselves too, and we will lose the shades of grey which make us 3 dimensional. Things and people, including ourselves will become flatter than they are. (There Are Two Types of People In This World via BuzzFeed)

You do have to respect your process, and flow with the process as it is part of your path to healing what needs to be healed.

If it helps you to see the person who has hurt you as being a narcissist, then do it. If it helps you to see the narcissist in your life as evil, a monster, then do it. If it helps you to rant about all the wrong which they have done to you, then do it. Get it out of your system, but be aware that your system will at some point need to evolve, and it may do it by redressing a balance just as what you are doing – labelling someone as a narcissist, labelling the narcissist as evil, and ranting about what they have done to you – is also redressing a balance.

Most victims of narcissists lose themselves, and to recover themselves they need to lose the narcissist. The form this takes depends a lot on the individual and how the loss of self occurred.
Some victims of narcissists let their pain and the process they are pursuing to heal turn them into activists against not just their own personal narcissist but all narcissists everywhere. This is also a part of the process, one which may feel very empowering to someone who has felt powerless for a long time. However it can come across as being very narcissistic, as I observed in myself during my own process (which is still ongoing, only now I’m in a different phase of it – one which may be making those who found me via my earlier posts uncomfortable and perhaps a bit confused).

Some victims of narcissists, can leave you wondering if perhaps the person they are accusing of being a narcissist is actually not a narcissist at all, and the real narcissist is the person masquerading as a victim of a narcissist. Those with NPD, particularly covert and vulnerable narcissists do that. That’s their M.O. But not all victims of narcissists who leave you wondering if they’re the real narcissist, are narcissists, they’re just redressing a balance.

There is a reason why those who are abused sometimes become abusers, why those who are victims sometimes become victimisers. It may be an unhealthy way to do it, but it is nature redressing a balance of power, perhaps in the only way it knows how to do it.

Most people who do this, usually reach a point where they see what they are doing, and they graduate to the next levels of the lessons which life teaches us. They can sometimes become some of the most powerful healers and philosophers because they’ve been there on both sides of the equation, experienced both sides of the scale, both extremes, and now they are whole. As whole as any human can be, we’re always pupils even when we become teachers.

Victims of narcissist, one way or another, need to get in touch with their own inner narcissism. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is through the natural narcissism of intense pain and suffering. The unhealthy route is sometimes the path which leads to a healthier expression and understanding of a natural trait which we all have and which is good for us, once it stops being bad for us. And it will be good for others too once it stops being bad for them.

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wounds into wisdom

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If you’re one of those people who has experienced rejection from your friends and family when you want to talk about your pain and suffering, their eyes glaze over, they’ve stopped listening, they keep telling you to get over it… it hurts, but that hurt is part of your path, part of the learning curve of your experience. You see, they are experiencing you the way that you experienced the narcissist in your life. Conversations with you always lead back to you, all you want to do is talk about yourself… and they may see you as lacking empathy as you aren’t acknowledging the fact that they may want to discuss something other than you and your pain and suffering, they may want to discuss their own pain and suffering – pain and suffering is universal, and we all have problems. Or they may want to discuss something else, something happy, but their happiness might make you feel bad, and that would make them feel bad, feel guilty for being happy when you are unhappy. And that would give their happiness a sad. Happiness can be fleeting and we need to enjoy it when it visits us with its blessings… and be careful with whom we share it as it is a much coveted and envied gift.

Perhaps that is why it is therapeutic for victims of narcissists to create a blog into which they can pour all of their pain, and express what they feel they can’t express anywhere else. The knock-on effect of that is that those victims of narcissist who have retreated into silence can find their voice, and clues, words, to their own story in the expressions of others. If you read enough blogs by victims of narcissists you may begin to wonder if they are stealing each others stories… we’re not, the stories are just very similar, because humans experience similar experiences as a part of the human experience of life and everything in it. Although if the blogger does actually have NPD, they may well be stealing other people’s stories, especially the ones on ‘popular’ blogs because that’s what narcissists with NPD do. And even then… it could still help someone else, so even the worst kind of narcissism has a beneficial side to it.

Life hurts, we all feel the pain of it, no one is immune (as far as I know). Some pretend to be, they’re pretending to be immune to pain because they’ve probably suffered so deeply if they felt more of it they might give up and we all need to keep going. That’s a natural human impulse, instinctive and primal, don’t try to reason with it. When one person gives up, it has a ripple effect on the rest of us which can be very disturbing, maybe because it makes us question why we keep going when we could just stop. End of. (Why Riding the Wave of Discomfort is Good for You via Psychology Today)

That’s why those who keep going inspire us so much, but even they need to rest sometimes, and sometimes they need us to inspire them with our keeping going spirit.

When we hit bedrock we may find a narcissist within us… we need to see that not all narcissism is bad, otherwise we may end up hating ourselves more than we may already do (self-hate is normal, and there is nothing wrong with it, it balances out self-love, keeps it sober).

Healthy narcissism in its most basic form is simply self-love, self-appreciation, a wondrous joy in just being you – unique, talented, hopeful in a slightly magical thinking manner, wanting to express your self and gift the world with your individual take on life.

It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad either. Ego is your friend as much as it can be a foe. (Don’t Drop Your Ego via Zen Warrior Training)

When you find your inner narcissist, don’t kill it, hate it, try to pretend it doesn’t exist (that’s what someone with NPD would do), just introduce yourself, and then take some time to get to know it, perhaps it has some news for you which may be good and make you happy. And your happy may infect someone else… but be careful, not everyone wants to be happy, nor do they like it when others are happy.

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sadness - John Green

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Narcissism is self-love. Self-love is a part of self-esteem. Self-esteem is… something else which has been placed on a pedestal. Recently I read an article which suggested that the quest for self-esteem can be harmful to your self-esteem. Sounds like the pedestal is rocking. (I couldn’t re-find the article I mentioned as I forgot to bookmark it, however I found another article expressing an intriguing view on the matter – Self-Esteem Doesn’t Makes Better People of Us via Psychology Today).

We are not meant to be perfect, we’re just here to be who we are, and that evolves, changes and doesn’t change, learns and doesn’t learn, and so on and so forth. We experiential beings living and experience, and everything we do is an experiment… to see what happens if…?

Remember when looking at others… you may be looking at yourself. That is an intrinsic element of relationships, the way we relate to others… the way we relate to ourselves. We get to know ourselves through others, and vice versa. We get to know our inner narcissist when we get to know an outer one.

Find the gift in the curse and see what happens if…?

Someone recently commented on one of my posts, not to comment about what I’d written, they ignored that, but on one image I had used.

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Lefthemisphere:righthemisphere - brain body

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They informed me that it was wrong. Can you see why? And their comment was made to redress a wrong with a right, their right.

When I looked again at the image again, I could understand what bothered them about it, but what seemed wrong to them seemed right to me, because our perspectives for viewing the image were different. I was placing myself outside of the image, looking at it (as though looking in a mirror), the same way that I place myself within my self when I look at people, seeing the other person as another person (who may mirror certain aspects of myself, but is a person in their own right and needs to be seen that way). They, on the other hand were placing themselves inside the image, therefore the image was incorrect to them… I wonder, do they place themselves inside of people when they look at them, and therefore they don’t see the other person at all but are inside the other person looking at themselves? Are they both actor and audience, and a reluctant audience member at that, preferring to be on stage, the centre of their own attention.

We all do that a bit, switch sides, perspectives and roles. But we have our preferences, our default settings… which sometimes clash with those of others. clashes are part of the process of relating. Sometimes we learn more about others and ourselves and life and being human from conflicts than we do from the other side of things, where everything is nods, yes’, likes, and agreement.

We’re all in this together, even if it doesn’t always feel that way, and no, we can’t all get along, but we don’t always suffer because we don’t. And sometimes we do get along, and sometimes that can cause suffering.

Thank you for sharing your lives with me, whomever you are… be it someone I’ve known like my Empath friend whom I did not experience as being empathic at all, or my NPD parents, or those of you who comment on my blog and do it in your own particular style (and can make sense of my replies – very grateful for that, I know it’s a challenge sometimes). I am grateful for all of you… you help me to appreciate me, as is… even when I don’t want to… and that helps me to appreciate you, which I hope helps you to appreciate yourself.

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mexican proverb - seeds

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I’ve talked too much, again… over to you… hope this walkie-talkie still has some battery life left in it and that I haven’t eaten it all, that there is still some nourishment for others in it.

What do you think and feel?