Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Open letter to Narcissists* (part 1)

“If I cared to study physics, I know that I would see clear of the morass of silly theories about ‘spooky action,’ strings, and ‘a universe from nothing.’ I already know that these physicists are self-indulgent nincompoops, actually mistaking their flawed and uncertainty perceptions for the reality that they poorly perceive.

“If I weren’t turned off by the fact that the heart of a novel is an artificial arc and plot and that its characters must be false adults instead of the children they really are, I would write one of the greatest stories in the literature. Every reader would stop, stunned to be so found, so undermined. I wouldn’t be surprised if this planet, struck by the power of new truth, tripped into a different evolutionary orbit.

“My mind may seem normal. I use common words. But I have – or rather, I am – the capacity for deepest, timeless understanding. I don’t have every insight, of course, but the ones I care about and the ones that matter. It occurs to me there’s likely to be only one most perfect thing in this world of bigoted, shallow, blind and ego-filled people and the chaos of matter and the dumb mystery of the cosmos (the joke’s on you, universe: You can never, in your total mystery, tell your greatest secret to anyone!). That is the perfection of my mind, my sight. Like God, I grasp all, and rightly, because I Am. But God is bored – quite a flaw – and I am not. I feel good.”

Narcissists – There is something in our childhood that strips us of humanness and leads us to grow a substitute. It is the way we get value, otherwise described as the way we exist. There is only one natural way of being human, and many created and consolation ways. One of these is the Narcissistic self.

Either a child feels secure pride in himself when his parents made him both separate (they cultivated his separateness) and loved, or their neediness took him away from himself. They may make him a part of them: their ideas, their rightness, their approval and disapproval, their control. If their neediness is a very weak kind (where the parent-child dependency is reversed), with no center of power that pulls him in, he will recede to his lonesome, may self-soothe with tension-releasers and rituals: Tics and obsessive-compulsive behaviors become his substitute Self. Without them, he’ll feel he cannot exist, does not exist.

Narcissism, one form of the damaged self, may be planted when praise replaces love. That was my scenario. This was a family without warmth and love, but I was praised for my piano playing, which was unremarkable. Inside this praise was poison: My anxiety and immaturity were unacknowledged, so I was in essence complimented for being invisible, for not being myself. It was my parents’ own need to see me incorrectly (to protect their emotional balance) that they were adulating. But invisibility is depressogenic. Depression is the loss of the child’s real self. Praise – the limitless reflection lost between two mirrors, self and other – replaced it.

If you look back to your own childhood, aim a flashlight that searches for love. I believe it will cast its beam and not find any of it. You may have been elevated above reality, like me, and never touched with care. Or the atmosphere – possibly what our new president lived – was predatory and ego-heavy, with the leitmotif to feel one way about winners and losers, not to be a boy with his own feelings and sights. Like me, you may see that you did not actually grow with the other children – you over-grew them or under-grew them. And you may realize that, come age fifteen or so, Narcissism saved you from a state that none of us wants to think about: the failure to escape a failed childhood.

Narcissism saved us, though that’s not the reason we love it. It is, sadly, its own reason, its own love. It is self-trapped, imperiously and angrily so, because no one saw us, only themselves.

There is a method to question, to deeply deflate this disorder. Its first tool is to want to, as perverse as that sounds. To want to just be, not be perfect. To want to just feel, not feel ego; to feel the world, not the self. To risk non-being, for the sake of merely being part of the world, a regular person. This is all quite possible. I’ve tried it. I recommend it.

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* I intend to address the question of why a Narcissist needs to be not only excellent or one of the best, but the one best, in the next post.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.