A friend bought me what looks to be a great book on Vulnerability by Brene Brown, called Daring Greatly. As I sat enjoying the view from my breakfast table enjoying my coffee and reading her first chapter about Narcissism, I had a great desire to blog, and coalesce my thoughts on the topic.
As I have dated, I hear others refer to ex-spouses as narcissistic, and if I am honest, I probably have used that label from time to time in my dealings with others. However, as I have given this topic more thought, it really is my belief that Narcissism is not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, I would argue that we are all Narcissistic. It’s just another way of saying selfish. And as a fundraiser, I can assure you that the world is a selfish place. And thus narcissistic, in nature.
Of importance, is that people don’t “become” narcissistic. Its just that in our dealings with them, if they are giving us what we want, due to influencing our giving them what they want, we don’t notice their narcissism. It is only when our needs become incongruent, that their narcissism shines through.
For as we know, as a human setting foot on this earth, we have a right to act however we want.
Of course, actions have consequences that a wise person will take into account, but that doesn’t change our innate right to action. (For those who assert that God has limited this right, such as murder, I would point out that it is the right to follow God’s word through action remains the foundational right.)
So narcissism is just a reflection of not wanting to give up ones happiness at the expense of anothers, which is what selfishness is really all about at its core.
It could even be argued that those that are not selfish, just prefer the happiness they receive through giving or by not feeling guilty about being selfish more than they value the happiness from not sharing. (The old conundrum of is there such as thing as an altruistic giver.)
Further, I’m not so sure that narcissism isn’t good, at least from a person’s personal perspective. I have seen just as much damage done to an individual by being a martyr, than by being a taker. So really it comes down to balancing ones narcissism (the world is mine) with ones martyrdom (I am here for the world). But we knew that already. 😉
So, I would argue that in our culture of insufficient resources narcissism is actually the more natural state of man, and it is through training that one finds balance.
OK, that was all academic, so lets make this a little more pragmatic, as it applies to relationships.
In a relationship, we want to seek out those people who through their social environment were taught to give since life will be nicer with them, than with the narcissist.
However, for those of us who were taught to give, there is a natural tendency 1) to assume everyone is like ourselves due to projecting and 2) we are taught not to take from others, in the process of being taught to give, both of which create a natural tendency for us to be in relationships with a narcissist. In truth, it creates a symbiotic relationship. Which works for a while, until we 1) get to know the other person better and 2) get tired of giving at which point the relationship strains.