If narcissism were a disease, it would be considered a pandemic.
Our culture not only condones selfishness, but celebrates it as a virtue. Materialism, driven by corporate interests and advertising, reinforces the focus on accumulation for self. The media is suffused with a focus on individual success, beauty, celebrity, fame, and status. The rugged individual is held up as a model of excellence, alongside the ultra-rich CEO, the celebrity sports figure, the bad-boy artist, and the soldier of fortune. Even the online culture supports our need to be “friended,” noticed, and popular. Public narcissism is the latest result of our self-focused social structure.
Both men and women are selfish, but in general, men are more deeply programmed to look out for #1, to get their own needs met, and to do whatever it takes to get ahead. It’s more difficult for males to climb out of this deep self-hole and finally grow up into truly loving, caring human beings.
Women, on the other hand, have traditionally been programmed to care for, and care about, others. As a generality, they learn early to be collaborative and generous to others (sometimes to their detriment). In the extreme, they may bend themselves around another person’s needs, becoming codependent or self-sacrificing.
Where are you on the Narcissism Spectrum? Measure yourself from 1 to 7 on each of these parameters. Ask yourself: “How much time and attention do I spend on either side of this range?” Circle the number that is closest to where you function most of the time.
|Thinking about Myself||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Thinking about Others|
|Caring for My Needs and Desires||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Caring for Others’ Needs and Desires|
|Seeking Approval and Admiration||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Admiring and Praising Others|
|Feeling Superior to Others||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Celebrating Others’ Accomplishments|
|Treating Others as Objects||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Treating Others as Sacred Beings|
|Being Right & Proving I’m Right||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Learning from Others|
|Doing What I Want To Do||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Doing What Others Want To Do|
|Cold, Intolerant, Judgmental||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Warm, Caring, Compassionate|
|Withdrawn and Self-absorbed||1…2…3…4…5…6…7||Connected, Collaborative, Supportive|
Your answer for some questions may be, “It depends on the day.” We move from one side to the other depending on our mood, our circumstances, and the people we’re hanging out with. Overindulgence in anything (i.e., drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.) can drive us to the selfish extreme. Spiritual pursuits usually inspire us toward the warm, caring side of life.
If you find yourself mostly on the narcissistic extreme, you’ve probably seen the effect your behavior has on others. Perhaps you go into angry tirades, dumping your unprocessed feelings on others. Or you may suddenly leave, or withdraw into yourself, ignoring the feelings of those you left behind.
If you’ve ever worked for a severe narcissist, or been in relationship with one, you know how awful it feels. You feel ignored, abused, diminished, or uncared for. You consider walking out the door and never returning. And if you can’t walk out (because you’re a child, or an employee), you feel trapped.
Narcissism is especially damaging to children. Kids can’t develop healthy self-esteem when they have narcissistic parents. If it happened to you, you developed strategies to work around the deep ego wounds that resulted. You may have even developed your own form of narcissism as a defense against theirs. (Read “Children of the Self-Absorbed,” by Nina Brown, for an eye-opening essay on this syndrome.)
As I studied my own narcissism, and sought a cure, I found the deeper causes in my family upbringing, my psychological development, and the social programming and indoctrination I received throughout my growing years. As with any addiction, awareness is the first step of the cure. Understanding is the second step, and changing your behavior comes next.
Take it from one who is recovering: it’s possible to heal.
At the age of 60, I’ve finally achieved success in loving. I have a brilliant partner who brings out my best virtues. We have an agreement to help each other out of our periodic ego storms and self-absorbed reactions. You have to do your inner work, but the ultimate healing of narcissism comes inside of a healthy relationship. We use compassion and forgiveness to restore and repair breaks quickly. We’re committed to learning to love better, and love more.
The ideal state is not just a balancing act between Self and Other, but a state of inclusion, where both my needs and desires, and her needs and desires, are taken into account.
Love is a condition in which everyone feels cared for, respected, and honored. Extend this idea to your colleagues at work, and your workplace will improve. Extend it to your children, family, and community, and you have the foundation for a civilization based on love, otherwise known as Heaven on Earth.
AnonPosted at 21:35h, 05 June
Thank you so much for writing this. My ex is a diagnosed narc/sociopathic. I tried desperately to save the marriage and was bullied so hard and gaslighted so much I ended up with severe CPTSD to the point my teeth would chatter uncontrollably trying to talk to him or I’d throw up after a round of his bullying. He’d tell me my reaction was my fault. I still feel guilty for not being emotionally strong enough to react more calmly to his tirades against me or my young son. The therapist who saw us is the one who diagnosed him and told me that he was unreachable . Yet now he has a new woman who he says “adores” him and claims I never did. They don’t have kids together and that seems to be the trick with him. He’s insanely jealous of his own kids or anyone you focus any attention on besides him. Five years later I’m still hurting . 🙁 I read articles about women who can actually make these men feel safe enough that they are somewhat cured. I feel like a failure for not being able to do so. Was your current partner able to get through to you when all others weren’t? What was her secret? Or was it something you realized on your own? Did you ever go back to those women and apologize? I hoped my ex would see the error of his ways and our family back together but now he just feels justified because she “worships and adores” him so much. I was his fourth wife but he claims he finally got what he wanted with her. Meanwhile the children and I suffer the life long consequences of divorce while he feels none of it. 🙁
Lion GoodmanPosted at 06:31h, 14 January
We are so sorry to hear of your travails. People on the extreme side of the narcissism spectrum are dangerous and toxic for most people. Your healing will come when you look deeply into what hooked you, and what made you put up with all of that abuse for so long. This is NOT blame or shame. You were truly victimized. However, now that you’re free of the relationship (our advice to those who have a similar story is “GET OUT!”), your job is self-healing, and healing your children. This comes slowly and steadily with inner work through therapists, trauma specialists, and studying yourself and the phenomenon. A true narcissist can never be convinced that there is something wrong with them. They usually have to suffer a severe wake-up call to even recognize they need help. Our work is with people on the light-to-medium part of the spectrum – people who know they are hurting people, and want to stop doing so. That’s someone with some narcissistic tendencies or traits, not someone who is diagnosed with NPD or another disorder. You have our best wishes for your healing and recovery.
Beverlee Marks TaubPosted at 19:50h, 02 July
Lion. Thanks for a brilliant article on a needed topic. I have at least 3 Narcissist males in my caseload right now and each presents a truly remarkable challenge. Since they are all seeking change, progress is being made in all three cases. Their wives, girlfriends are seeing steady progress, but the process is often one step forward and two back. The key seems to be the degree to which they can truly empathize with the plight and feelings of others, and the degree to which they really want to seek a change. I agree with you in observing that deep spiritual practice tends to modify narcissistic traits, except for those who use their spiritual prowess to feel superior. I have missed speaking with you and connecting professionally and personally. With fondness, Beverlee Taub I just finished the 17 week Finder’s Course, which provides a deep reflection pool into unfinished spiritual business. PS with these couples I often combine individual work with couple’s sessions. B
Spirit DancerPosted at 16:49h, 10 September
My mate was super narcissistic, to the point I was ready to leave. I called several of my spiritual friends and we grounded ourselves to the earth and started working on a heavy duty dark force on him that was making him so angry. When it left, it attacked me. It is gone and he has become more tender and compliments me now instead of criticizing me all the time and even brings me little gifts home which he never does or a kombucha and has been hugging me and telling me he loves me. who would have ever thought it was an evil spirit.
Katherine Minette BryantPosted at 15:56h, 10 March
Quick question about the scale though…I added up my numbers, but I don’t see what they mean. Usually with a numbers scale, then there will be a legend that says’ If you fall between x and x, then that means…”
George NoblePosted at 16:09h, 07 April
This is a very important topic, I agree.
Spirit Dancer, I appreciate your story and perspective, which is sure to raise questions and comments about responsibility and various therapeutic approaches. I agree, that those of us who are natural trance mediums, often due to trauma we’ve experienced, can be taken over, or influenced, even without our knowing, by dark spirits. It can take outside help and / or a great deal of self purification and spiritual awareness, sensitivity, knowledge and practice to rid ones self of these parasitic influences. A strictly psychological approach can be insufficient, As a trained mft myself though, I’ve always found psychological concepts and approaches helpful when working with my own or anyone else’s “lower self” or personality. This is, imo , a good place to start.
David S BenderPosted at 15:13h, 25 August
Thank you it helped me to evaluate my relationship with others; average 4