Narcissism finds its roots in Greek mythology. Narcissus was a man who fell in love with his own image when it was reflected in a pool of water. In today’s terms, narcissism means to derive gratification from vanity or egotistical admiration of one’s own attributes. It is seen as a form of self-defeating pride. But I, for one completely disagree with this view of narcissism. There is nothing innately wrong with a Narcissus. Adoring one’s own reflection, deriving gratification from admiring oneself is in fact healthy. It is much healthier than being critical of oneself or striving to be self less (which is actually not possible). But our culture, which has been heavily influenced for thousands of years by biblical Christianity, recognizes self-love as vanity and ultimately as pride, which is one of the original seven sins. And so, sadly, narcissus has become the poster child not only for self-love, but also for pride. As a result, we confuse self-love with selfishness, when they are drastically different things.
The most important thing when it comes to understanding narcissism is to first separate self-love from selfishness in our minds. Most people think that narcissism is an extreme form of self-love. It is not. In fact, narcissism has nothing to do with self-love. It has to do with someone who perceives an extreme lack of self-sustaining resources, like love.
Self-love is defined as deep devotion or affection for yourself. You committed to your own identity upon coming into this life. In the end, the only person who will always be there for you is you. So you should be your number one priority. Selfishness is defined as concern only for ones own welfare, benefit and interests regardless of the impact on others. Selfishness is not a natural state. It only occurs when a person is focused on and convinced of the lack in their life. We often confuse self-love and selfishness. But there is a big difference between the two. Selfishness, is created when a person who does not know how to love themselves and meet their own needs, feels that internal deprivation and then spends their lives trying to fill in that hole externally. It is very uncomfortable to spend time around a selfish individual because it will constantly feel as if that person is taking and taking from you. They do not know how to get or create what they want without taking it from someone else. They do not know how to love themselves, so their life depends on getting you to give them those things. If you don’t, they are at a loss of what to do, they feel powerless and they get angry because they are scared. But when we take a step back, compassion will show us that they come from a space of internal starvation. Expecting them not to jump at the opportunity to take what they are starving for is like expecting a starving child to not steal food. People who are considered selfish such as the narcissist and people who are considered self less such as those who self sacrifice, are both coming from the same mentality of lack. That is why they seem to always find each other; they are a perfect vibrational match. They see the energy in the world; especially love, as a finite resource that can be used up. They do not recognize it for the eternal stream of energy that is infinite and always flowing. The self less person feels as if they must surrender love and other resources because of the belief that giving it to themselves means that they are depriving someone else of that love and those resources. As if there is only so much to go around. The selfish person also thinks there is only so much to go around, but they feel no deep connection or affinity with other people and so, they think they must take love and other resources from them; otherwise, they will not have enough to survive. When you are completely in alignment, there is no way for anyone to take enough of your energy that you would feel a deficiency because your own source stream, is an infinite stream.
Honestly, narcissists are not likely to identify themselves as narcissists or seek healing. The reason is, to recognize the problem in themselves and to seek help, they have to remember the deeply repressed trauma within them and re experience the pain of their early lives. The two most crucial steps for a narcissist to take is:
changing their thoughts about the hostility of the world and themselves, so they can develop the capacity for intimacy. This enables them to have a connection with and relate to others others deeply enough that they begin to care about the wellbeing of others as well.
- Developing an abundance mindset about every resource in life, from love to money, so they do not feel the need to take resources from others.
Even though there are always exceptions in this world, narcissists are created in a very specific way. The narcissist was a child who was unable to conform to the fantasy that one parent or another held for the child’s personality or behavior. They could not figure out how to please the adult. As a result, the child was treated as if they were willful and difficult. They were “the problem child”. The parent personalized the child’s behavior, developed resistance to the child and punished the child for it in covert or overt ways. It is very likely that this child was called selfish and ungrateful growing up. The primary caregiver resented the child on a deep level. As a result, the adult saw the child as a threat on a subconscious level. The environment between the child and this primary attachment figure was therefore a hostile relationship on an emotional level and perhaps even on a physical level. As a result, this child cannot attach to his or her primary attachment figure. They do not attach to adults because they don’t trust adults. They develop a selfish and hostile worldview because they feel unloved. They believe that the world is the same way as their relationship with their parent is; that the world is without warmth, acceptance and love. They close down emotionally. They believe that the world is unsafe and that everyone is out for their own. The lose hope for being lovable. They feel completely unworthy and embark on a mission to feel good about themselves. Shame, distrust, rage and neediness accumulate over the child’s life into adulthood. In an unloving world, where they do not deserve love, they cannot get love and they cannot get their needs met freely from others. They have to manipulate people to get what they need. This is what creates the foundation of narcissistic personality disorder. A lot of people who seek fame, seek it because they grew up in environments like the one I have just described and their lives have become nothing but a perpetual search for self worth. And the real reason that so many people in Hollywood can’t make relationships work long term is because this is their life story when it comes to love. Narcissism is not a disorder, it is an adaptation. Narcissistic parents (whom are in denial about their own narcissistic tendencies) breed either narcissistic children or powerlessly co dependent, self less people. Compassion is necessary when interacting with narcissists. Narcissists hold some of the most painful beliefs and therefore live some of the most painful lives you can find on this earth. People often think narcissists have a high level of self-esteem. They do not. In fact, their life is a perpetual search for self worth and self-view gratification because they are very insecure. But what should we do if we have attracted a narcissistic person into our lives? If we attract narcissistic people into our lives, it is time to look at our own personalities and past traumas.
Many people who attract narcissistic people into their lives, just like the narcissist, had self-centered parents or caregivers growing up. They felt unloved by their parents because they grew up feeling like their parents were constantly trying to take from them instead of give to them. Narcissistic parents tend to treat their children like extensions of themselves; as a result they use their children as a self-gratification tool. Their children are used to achieve something for themselves. Pageant moms are a very good example of this. Their children do not feel seen and valued for who they really are. As a result, this becomes a trauma. The mind and heart desires to heal trauma and so, when this child grows up, they will find themselves re-creating the relationship with their parents either with friends, bosses or significant others. They do this in order to try to solve the original trauma. If they can get someone like mommy or daddy (who is just as selfish) to love them, then in a way, they can heal from their past because they conquered that trauma. They can feel like mommy or daddy loves them. If they can’t get someone like mommy or daddy to love them, then it means they really are unlovable and that their parents were right about them.
We attract people into our lives that are on the same emotional level that we are. This is why narcissists and selfless people are such a perfect vibrational match. That is good news though. It means the more we heal, the more we attract healthy people that are capable of reciprocal love into our lives. Now you are probably wondering how to tell if you have attracted a narcissist into your life. In order to determine if you are dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there reciprocity in the relationship? Or is one person always the giver and the other the taker?
- Are you able to be yourself in the relationship? Do you feel like you have to play down your talents to make them feel less threatened? Or does this friend celebrate you and allow you to shine in your own right?
- Is there a sharing of vulnerability on both sides, meaning that you can both discuss your real feelings with each other?
- Do you trust this person with your feelings or do you find yourself on guard? Have they ever used your feelings against you?
- Can your friend give you empathy and understanding, or do they give you sympathy which makes you feel less than?
- Does this friend bring out the best in you? Do you feel good about yourself in the presence of this person? Do you get to be your real self both in good times and bad times?
- When issues come up that need to be discussed, is this friend accountable for their own behavior? Are they capable of self-awareness and self-evaluation?
- Are you allowed to have healthy boundaries with this person? When setting boundaries, does it cause problems between you? Do you feel like setting boundaries would mean losing them? Or are your needs and wants understood and easily worked through between you?
- Do you care about each other for who you are as people, rather than what you do in your accomplishments?
- Does the friend exploit you for his or her own ends, or value what you bring to the relationship? If you find that you have the tendency to attract narcissists into your life, it is time to learn healthy boundaries. The most important thing to understand about boundaries, is that you can very easily develop healthy boundaries by honoring what you feel. To learn more about boundaries, look up my video on YouTube called “Personal Boundaries vs. Oneness, (how to develop healthy boundaries)”.
You’re not going to be able to cause a narcissist to heal. They need to desire healing on their own, for themselves first. So all we can do is focus on healing ourselves. But beware, when you begin to honor your own boundaries, you will see much less of the narcissist. True narcissists have become energy vampires out of necessity. If you do not let them feed off of your energy, they will leave to find another person to feed off of out of necessity because they do not yet know how to generate energy within themselves. You do not want to be fed off of by an energy vampire, so let them go and let their place in your life be filled by people who have the capacity for love and intimacy and reciprocation. If you are dealing with a narcissist who has recognized their problem and has initiated their own healing, the best thing you can do for them, is to help them change their worldview. Changing their beliefs about love and, their own self worth and relationships is crucial. Unconditional love does have the capacity to rehabilitate narcissism, but we need to be honest with ourselves about whether it is self-loving for us to practice unconditional love with a narcissist right now, or whether it is self-loving to set our boundaries by instead surrounding ourselves with people who can reciprocally love us. If you are a person who attracts narcissists, it is crucial that you figure out your own needs and wants and begin to honor them. It is also crucial that you examine your own outdated beliefs about selfishness and self-sacrifice. Learn to have realistic expectations of a narcissist. Think of them like a starving child. Asking a starving child to share food is an unrealistic expectation. But this is what we are doing when we are expecting reciprocation for a narcissist. If you adjust your expectations of them and get your needs met elsewhere, it will be easier to let them be how they are and not take their behaviors so personally. Remember that you cannot love a narcissist enough to love them out of their narcissism. Do not expect to be able to please this person. Their belief is that there is never enough for them. This means, no matter how much you give them, they are still stuck in scarcity and are unlikely to wake up to the abundance of love they have as a result of you.
The other crucial thing is that we recognize what the narcissist is mirroring in us. To do this, assess the emotions you feel relative to them. Do you feel worthless, invisible, used or exhausted? If so, we need to get into an attitude of pre-manifestation by understanding that this person is nothing more than a mirror for those feelings, which were already inside us. Those feelings were what attracted this experience with this person into our lives in the first place. Where did those feelings really begin? We need to make it about ourselves instead of about the narcissist and realize that if we find improvement in those areas, they will not reflect into our life experience. We will stop attracting narcissistic people to mirror the issues within us that need to be healed.