In my personal and professional life lately I’ve become aware of this ‘phenomenon’. I therefore decided to throw some of my thoughts onto the page with the purpose of sharing and clarifying them, hoping it may be useful to me or the reader.
What I’ve written below are personal thoughts, non scientific truths, just some suggestions without any pretence. Whoever is reading can agree with them or not, it’s fine in either case.
My first observation
comes from a group that I work with monthly from one of the Contesta Rock Hair shops. The question arising within the group was as follows: are you willing to not take things personally in order to grow up and thrive?
Let me explain this better. If I am taking everything personally, any objection or critique will cause me an unbearable pain. In common language I think that we could associate this with being touchy. A touchy person (we are all a bit touchy, some more than others) can be described as someone who “takes it on him/herself”, someone who “does not play”, someone “taking himself too seriously”. How many people do I know, including myself, who, when facing a critique, react with curiosity and not switching into defensive mode? Nobody. The point being that narcissism has to do with being and not with doing. Any critique thus affects what I am. The image that comes to my mind is that being is like a sphere like the one below. If I put a drop (or critique) on the sphere, this goes everywhere, permeates the entire surface (= unbearable pain).
I think that this is an illness of our days, because apparently staying focused on being does not cost us a thing. I don’t need to take time to learn to do something, I don’t need to develop the humility that it takes to learn. Everything is about the here and now, apparently. I say apparently because the price we pay is a high one; not thriving, not enriching ourselves with other opportunities; merely staying safely in our positions. If something doesn’t work it can therefore be a huge problem.
We can see this in a couple’s daily life, where it’s very easy to say “you, you, you.” For instance one of the two comes back home and is nervous and angry, and the couple fights. It’s impossible to look at the other and say: “I see that you’re angry, in trouble, etc…what has happened to you today?” At first it’s easy to attack to defend myself. In this scenario the other person stops existing and I become the only one. The latest evolution in a couple’s relationship might therefore be: to not defend myself immediately, but to look at the other with authentic curiosity; this is not easy.
Another domain where I acknowledged a prevailing narcissism is professional sport, and being more specific, motorbiking. A rider falls and his confidence is knocked, he is not able to ride fast for some hours, for a day, for the racing weekend.
What’s going on? There is an exclusive investment in the performance, he thinks “I am my performance. Therefore if I am my performance, the very moment when I don’t succeed , I become a total piece of garbage.” To go back to the sphere, the drop permeates, its impact comprehensive. What can we do when facing such a pain?
The other image that came to my mind is this one. If I am a polyhedron, then the drop is confined to one face only, not my complete self. The pain is not so unbearable any more because is limited. Here we are getting to another fundamental point: exclusivity of the narcissistic investment.
If I put 100% of me into one area and I get some signal that this area is not as fine as I thought, it’s the whole of me not being fine, my complete self. That’s why it is very important to differentiate. Exactly in the same way as a good stock exchange trader will invest in different companies’ stock, we have to try and diversify our sources of narcissistic nourishment.
The last example I want to make is one regarding love and falling in love. Falling in love, allow me, is narcissistic; sight-veiled, everything looks rosy. It has an ethological meaning, for the continuing of the species, and it’s also very pleasant. Then comes the moment, after some time (weeks or mnths), when falling in love evolve into actual love. Love is about daily choice; its not something that happens, we make it. Many people I know, when the sparkling phase finishes, give up. I called this phenomenon all-is-beautiful, therefore either everything is beautiful, or I don’t like it. Once again it’s a question of narcissism, because I just want to invest in what is beautiful without even considering ‘b’ sides. What I am saying is probably nothing new, it’s about yin and yang, dark and light, masculine and feminine. In everything there is a part of it’s opposite, but in narcissism this is not a given perspective. I could go on and keep making other examples, but that would only be an exercise in nourishing my own narcissism (!!!), therefore I will stop here.
I was talking to Paolo Quattrini, Director of the Florence Gestalt Institute, one of my mentors, his opinion on this matter, and he pushed himself as far as to say that monogamy is a question of narcissism, I couldn’t quote his words but the gist was exactly this, given that we are investing ourselves in just one person. I am thinking that this is maybe true, and I am not yet ready to accept it!