In the Greek myth, Narcissus cannot look deeply into his reflection or he will encounter the truth that he wants desperately to avoid. He is caught, pushed and pulled, and mesmerized. He becomes enamored of the mirrored surface (it is the only way to feel loved). I am what I do. I am what I have. I am what others think of me. The mirrored surface is what Eckard Tolle calls the level of “form.” Narcissus focuses here, afraid of seeing beneath.
As a therapist its not helpful to presuppose anything, but my experience suggests that obsessive self-centeredness is energized by fear. More about fear in later posts.
Trying to get some people to acknowledge fear can be a long and winding process, not always successful. Especially with high-achievers who are not readily willing to say something frightens them. They will identify “some stress” maybe. They might say they have some worries, but nothing they can’t handle.
Of course there are degrees. We can all show up in this way, self-preoccupied, focused on successes and uneasy about our failures, self-contained. But there are extremes, some folks who seem to live in a Narcissistic part of their psyche most, if not all, of the time. Maybe in this age there are more and more who show up in this way? Folks who can’t drop it.
You know those folks? Its the only energy on stage.
I director a Heart-Drama every week, one day all day group at Pavillon in Mill Spring, NC. The members are addicts in treatment but most are quite successful as we often define success. Many are doctors and lawyers or well respected professionals who also have an addiction that has progressively upended their path.
Most of the time this therapeutic work is immensely rewarding and purposeful. But there’s a percentage of the dramas that are difficult. When the person chosen to do the work does not shift because the Narcissistic center holds despite a loving group, seemly unimpacted by all the attention and skill I can bring (stretched out over much of a morning or an afternoon), its draining and hard not to be discouraged. I need to self-regulate afterwards, remind myself that I have done my best. Find a kind face. Speak to myself lovingly and affirm that the distain and resistance I have just encountered is not personal, really, because what do they know of me?
If you are in relationship with such a force, seek out resources. The Narcissistic ego-state wrecks individuals, intimate relationships, families, workplaces, communities. I think it is the problem of our age. Though I am not excited about pathologizing anyone or sticking on labels, I would recommend everyone watch some of the Youtube offerings. Doctor Ramani has some that are excellent and to the point.