On overcoming Narcissism

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Pondera » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:24 am

Admittedly, I view my self as narcissistic. A term that was used a lot not too long ago; has gone out of style, and seems to denote much less than it nowadays does. Perhaps we are - in general - an extremely vain culture and narcissism isn't any longer a useful way to describe things. - the preamble

But. I recognize my own preoccupation with my self out weighs my concern for others. It is a destructive habit. I believe it may stem from childhood insecurities. I may simply be so wrapped up with how I failed to become a mature person through adolescence, that my ability to look past my own nose is really discouraging my relationships with people. I'm at the stage where I'm willing to go on welfare - go homeless - just to escape people and socialization. I've always dreamt of some kind of "going-forth" - but this certainly wouldn't count as a good reason to do so. Here nor there, it might just be the next thing I do.

I appreciate modus.ponen's concern and willingness to speak on this topic. I hope the idea of narcissism can be understood in this discussion and hopefully a way to dismantle it can be suggested as well. Thanks in advance for everyone's views and comments.

- Pondéra
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Mkoll » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:59 am

Pondera wrote:But. I recognize my own preoccupation with my self out weighs my concern for others. It is a destructive habit.

No, it's not. It's 100% completely natural and you share it with every other living thing. Of course, mindless self-absorption with no thought of others is evil and unbefitting of a human being. The Buddha even agrees on this point.

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta's Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika's monastery. And on that occasion King Pasenadi Kosala had gone with Queen Mallikā to the upper palace. Then he said to her, "Mallikā, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

"No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

"No, Mallikā. There is no one dearer to me than myself."

Then the king, descending from the palace, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, "Just now, when I had gone with Queen Mallikā to the upper palace, I said to her, 'Mallikā, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?'

"When this was said, she said to me, 'No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?'

"When this was said, I said to her, 'No, Mallikā. There is no one dearer to me than myself.'"

Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:

Searching all directions with your awareness, you find no one dearer than yourself. In the same way, others are thickly dear to themselves. So you shouldn't hurt others if you love yourself.
-Ud 5.1

I'm at the stage where I'm willing to go on welfare - go homeless - just to escape people and socialization. I've always dreamt of some kind of "going-forth" - but this certainly wouldn't count as a good reason to do so. Here nor there, it might just be the next thing I do.

If you were at this stage, you wouldn't be posting on this forum.

Don't be too hard on yourself, mate. One step at a time.

Metta.

:anjali:
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James
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Anagarika » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:53 am

Narcissism is a personality trait. There is healthy narcissism, and unhealthy forms of narcissism,which in extreme forms can be a personality disorder. Unhealthy narcissism stems from, among other reasons, unhealthy circumstances in childhood, ranging from overexpression of attention by parents, to neglect by parents. People with unhealthy narcissism sometimes have deep insecurities, a sense of shame that is easily triggered by perceived criticism, and a tendency to "split" people, or see people in black and white terms.

There is nothing that is "evil" about having negative narcissistic traits. Some people become professional athletes or politicians, for example, by virtue of an inner drive to excel and validate themselves. Others can have a difficult time with relationships, as the false superiority that is projected as a defense mechanism is seen by others as narcissistic or offensive. The goal, if one is having problems with relationships or work due to these maladaptive behaviors is to seek cognitive behavioral therapy to address the underlying causes. The therapy can help one see others in a different way, perceive themselves differently and in a more healthy way, and cultivate empathy and emotional intelligence. Certainly, meditation and Dhamma study can be very helpful in cultivating these skillful mental qualities. The remedy is not to run off and isolate yourself as an ascetic, but to work to become more skillful and aware of one's behaviors.

So, Pondera, don't run off to be a homeless ascetic, nor plan to win the lottery and run the world, but try to get some counseling to deal with these very common behavioral traits (there are degrees of narcissism in the public in high percentages), and see if you can integrate, say, Metta meditation with cognitive behavioral therapy. I'll bet in six months you'll look back on your posting today and not recognize the same person....you'll be more mindful, more empathic, and less upset with yourself. It's all fixable, and with some help from other trained counselors, it gets a lot better. Give yourself a high five and pat on the back for writing about this, and go see what therapy options are available to you.
Last edited by Anagarika on Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Modus.Ponens » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:53 am

Hello

Thank you. :)

Yesterday I thougth I had good advice on this. Things changed a lot today. But I'll try to give my two cents anyway.

Narcisism is born from a fundamental insecurity, imo. It can be reinforced through negative life experiences, but the cause is this fundamental insecurity. You form this ideal version of yourself that you want to become. The thing is that this ideal version is unnatainable. You will never be satisfied with how smart you are; how rich you are; how many women you have; etc. An unfortunate truth is that even if you were to attain this ideal, you wouldn't be happy and fulfilled. But what's really a gigantic and unbearable burden is having to live up to your own expectations for yourself. It causes a lot more pain than it solves. I know I set the bar so high that I would prefer to not even try, than to try and fail. What would failing imply? To become aware of something that we already know deep inside us: we are not as excelent as we think we are.

Why do we form these ideal characters? I think, because of that fundamental insecurity, we are more fragile in face of such things as failure, bullying, and rejection in general. One apparently good strategy is to form an internal representation of ourselves that is unatackable by the outside. That way criticism seems to be completely overcome. Even if this worked, there is a part that definitely doesn't work: our selfcriticism, our judgemental attitude towards ourselves. We keep ourselves on our toes to mantain this defense. Even to the point of serious self sabotage.

The good news? That fundamental insecurity is unfounded. It's not that we already are these ideal versions. It's that we are not nearly as bad as that insecurity made us feel. We have good talents, and other good qualities. This insecurity comes from a lack of affection during childhood, something that has none of our fault in it.

To overcome this I think a combination of samatha and vipassana is important. The Goenka method is very effective at bringing emotions to the surface. I think that being mindful of the insecurity sensations you feel, even with the subtlest of insecurities, leads to the deconstruction of this unnattainable ideal. Everytime you doubt yourself, try to catch that doubt and locate it in the body. Then observe the sensation objectively and mindfuly. Not much more can be said, I think. The rest is work.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Pondera » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:36 pm

Thank you for the input everyone. There was some good insight there.

I fall under the pathological narcissistic sub-type of low-self esteem with extreme self defence mechanisms against any form of guilt or shame. Maybe the condition derives from my parents. It very likely has a lot to do with my friends growing up. Anyway - I'm not going to tell my life story. Just one comment on how I imagine my self recovering this.

In vajrayana or Hindu chakra-ideology, smell is associate with root chakra - and root chakra associates with self-preservation. Recently I learned that whenever I attempt to relax my nose it goes out of control and turns into a snarl. The only way for me to undue the situation is to relax the area around the "Muladhara". So, ie. I am almost like a "fear aggresive" animal.

I am fortunate in that I have learned from this that the I am over coming the hinderances, IMO. My attempts to relax sensuality reveal great amounts of ill-will. My successful overcoming of this reveals what I personally think is access concentration for the first jhana. I don't recall too much about the ins and outs - but I'm fairly certain. Anyway.

What a psychologist could not do is help me work through this particular fear response. It's so deeply rooted in my thinking that its merely a physiological phenomenon at this point. Ie. I still avoid social situations because of this annoying draw back (however, I've known how to trust people for a while; I enjoy socializing as long as I can relax).

Anyhow. Thanks again for listening. It's always refreshing to find examples of rationale and compassionate people. Sometimes hard to come by these days. Thanks for the suggestions also. But I don't know --- go to a psychologist or become an ascetic? One costs money, forces us to place trust in potentially disinterested folk, and establishes a division among wealthy "listeners" and poor "science projects". The other is veritably cost free, forces me to rely on only my self, and is an escape (or "escapism" at the least) from an establishment that I can no longer endure in good faith. ---

We'll see. Time will tell.

Appreciations,

- Pondéra
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Anagarika » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:20 am

Pondera, it's really not something that you can overcome by yourself, in my opinion. Becoming an ascetic may feel like a temporary solution, but removing yourself from people won't fix what is going on inside of your mind. Being isolated may aggravate your feelings of isolation and inability to healthily connect with people. I still suggest that you at least talk with a counselor or clinician about this, and see if some good guidance can be obtained. In tandem with that, find a teacher that can instruct you on meditation techniques that might defuse the sense of insecurity, inner turmoil or shame, and allow to to value yourself (most importantly) and others.

The Muladhara and jhana references you wrote of were confusing to me; I will confess that these descriptions struck me as somewhat unusual. Again, see if you can locate a good Bhikkhu/Bhikkhuni teacher and get some input on this issue. Work as well with a counselor and see if working on the mechanisms of mind that create anxieties, shame, and narcissistic tendencies can be abated by guided meditation and some cognitive therapy. Stop "relaxing your nose," and work on calming your mind. Things can only get better engaging with people that can help you vs. removing yourself from others as a hermit.
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Dec 05, 2013 1:04 am

I think therapy is very important. But I get what Pondera is saying. Some things are so deeply ingrained that only by mental discipline (ie, meditation) we can access them. I think it's partly because they aren't even on our memories. These deeply ingrained things were created before we could have clear memories. This is an area were meditation is needed, namely, mindfulness of body and feelings _ together with a tension loosening strategy, aka, samatha. I'm speaking of meditation purely in the perspective of its usefulness to mental health.

Anyway, I realy don't know what would be the best course of action. One thing I know for certain: keep seeking help with these (and other) issues.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby kmath » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:25 am

Pondera wrote: I don't know --- go to a psychologist or become an ascetic? One costs money, forces us to place trust in potentially disinterested folk, and establishes a division among wealthy "listeners" and poor "science projects". The other is veritably cost free, forces me to rely on only my self, and is an escape (or "escapism" at the least) from an establishment that I can no longer endure in good faith. ---

- Pondéra


Hey Pondera,

I don't recommend becoming an ascetic as of way of running from your problems. You will only end up with more suffering -- trust me. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is seek help from wise people, as others have recommended. That might mean therapy or something else. Maybe joining a local Sangha.

Metta,

kmath
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Pondera » Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:55 am

I have deeply rooted issues that I must overcome. Unfortunately, councellers charge a lot - i do not have money to lend a person for a sympathetic ear. And from the people i've seen i am hearing, "so, tell me; what I can do for you" - and I've said too much.

... at my age it's becoming humiliating to sit down with a person and tell them my story as they nod their head thinking, "everyone's got problems, buddy."

My honest opinion is that cognitive therapy does not work for me. I need to address issues from childhood; that have stuck around in the form of physiological "reflexes". The thinking that once caused these "reflexes" is delt with. The trick is to undo the pattern of response. And it comes down to relaxing my sensitivity to my environment.

my nose; my sniffer; my schnozz is my "olfactory system". I pick up normal smells - and also some subtle pheromones that make me "lustful", and others that cause me internal anger. Thus the snarl of the fear aggressive dog. That is the response I am making attempts to calm and rectify. Mulhadhara relaxation helps.

The importance - for me - is acceptance of all external stimuli - And, like DN 1 expresses - Nibbāna is reached when all five senses are stimulated - This is then noted as being expressly "wrong" - but then so are the next 6 or 7 views.

At the least, accepting my whole environment is an improvement on my habitual attempts to ignore sense media that my fearing inner child cannot cope with. So this for me is insight. And I cannot, as I mentioned, afford the services of a psychologist. In any event. There is much to be said. And I have said enough - I believe.

Watch out for narcissists - they have a knack for saying far too much about their selves - even if its confessional - it still feeds the ego. No. I don't mean that. I appreciate the responses. I appreciate speaking. I just wish to end my part in it. Out of respect for my self and others. Thanks

- Pondéra
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Re: On overcoming Narcissism

Postby Mkoll » Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:01 am

Good luck, Pondera. And I'll repeat what I think is my most relevant piece of advice: don't be too hard on yourself! A little bit of contentment goes a long way.

:anjali:
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