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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Withdrawn and Self-absorbed 1…2…3…4…5…6…7 Connected, Collaborative, Supportive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.