Views on narcissism

Narcissus by Caravaggio

Narcissism depends on our view, and there are always truth in the reversals as well.

For instance, it is perfectly understandable when it is seen as narcissistic to reveal ones life online, often in intimate and detailed ways… with name, video, images, daily journal entries, and more. (Obviously far beyond what this blog reveals, which is not much.)

Yet, from the view of those comfortable with revealing their life in detail, of having nothing hidden, it is narcissistic to hold back, to hide, to not want to reveal everything. That need to hide is seen as coming from seeing oneself as special, of not realizing that everything personal is also universally human. To hide is the ultimate conceit.

Beyond this, we see that until Ground awakens to itself, narcissism is inevitable – and even beautiful.

There is a belief in the story of I, and this separate self then inevitably becomes the star in this production created by stories and beliefs. There is an inevitable fascination with this separate self. What will happen to it? Will everything go well? What should it do next? How will it deal with its past? What is its role, and how does it play it?

The belief in a separate self is a knot (as is any belief, temporarily hiding Ground from itself), and attention inevitably goes to this knot. And this is an invitation to explore it more fully, to see what is really going on. Often, this invitation is not noticed. The fascination becomes a way to refine and recast the separate self. But when the invitation is taken to explore a little further, it can ultimately lead to Ground awakening to itself.

Of course, within this larger picture there are all the conventional forms of narcissism. We can be self-absorbed in relatively harmless ways, in our daily life. In ways that harm others, if we leave out a consideration for the effects of our own actions on them. In ways that help others, if we act on beliefs and identities of being of service. Or… in ways that leads to Ground noticing itself, if we explore this sense of separate self in more detail.

So here too, it all depends on view.

For instance, from the view of someone caught up in certain beliefs and identities, it may appear narcissistic to take time to explore this sense of separate self in detail. Yet, from the view of someone taking the time to investigate in that way, not investigating can appear narcissistic, because it means a blind indulging in and continuation of unquestioned beliefs and identities, including the story of I.

Personally, I don’t use the word narcissism very much as it seems most useful either in service of projection or in the context of clinical psychology or psychiatry.

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