Posted by: terrapraeta | August 26, 2009

Narcissus, Go Home


.. you’re no good for me
Thank God its over
You make believe that nothing is wrong until you’re cryin’
You make believe life is so long until you’re dyin’
You make believe that nothing is wrong until you’re cryin’, cryin’ on me
You make believe that life is so long until you’re dyin’, dyin’ on me!!
you think everybody is the same
I don’t think that anybody is like you
You ruin everything and you kept fuckin’ with me until it’s over and I won’t be the same.

Limp Bizkit, Re-Arranged

Narcissus is a character from Greek myth… a young man of incredible beauty that one day caught his own reflection in the surface of a pond – and became so enamored of his own face that he stayed there, gazing at himself, until he died.

Modern psychology has taken this mythology and applied it to human psychology. Narcissism is a disorder wherein an individual is so wrapped up in themselves that they have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with other persons. Psychologists believe that narcissism develops in early childhood when there is dysfunctional interaction between mother and child during the individuation period. Let’s break that down a little.

During infancy, a child sees mom as a part of themselves. Gradually they become aware of mom as a separate person, but in the process they go through a period where they see her and the entire world as extensions of themselves. They are the world and everything around them is merely a reflection of themselves. Healthy development involves recognizing themselves as a discreet person and empathically coming to recognize others as discreet persons, as well. This is when children develop healthy boundaries for themselves and others. But with a narcissist, these boundaries and individuation never occurs.

American culture, as a whole, has distinct narcissistic tendencies, each generation a little moreso than previous. We are encouraged to always think of ourselves and our own needs first and foremost. “Individuality” is a national obsession, less so in the way of self expression, but rather in the sense of individual rights with a decreasing emphasis on personal responsibility. It is a national dysfunction. Perhaps as a result of this, the incidence of true narcissism is on the rise.

I’ve had occasion to read up on this recently because I have been living with a full on narcissist for the last couple of years. While I’ve been happy to discover that my own narcissistic tendencies are minimal, that is because I fit the classic model of an enabler. Bully for me. Not. Or, really, to be fair, I am probably not a true enabler, because I have been able to stop and walk away. However, my personality matrix leads me into enabling behavior patterns any time that I am around someone that is inclined to take advantage of my nature.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these last couple years trying to understand how I got myself into this mess, why I allowed things to continue, why I excused behaviors that are absolutely inexcusable. The experience has made me not like myself very much, some times. And it has left me ashamed of myself. I’m over it – understanding the things that happened and the role I played has washed it all out of my system.

What I have come to realize is that I am a strong believer in leading by example, in the old adage “you get what you give” and so forth. As a result I was continuously trying to lead him into different behavior patterns simply be being who I am. And at the same time I could not honestly believe that the things I was seeing in him: specifically, the selfishness, self-centeredness, the hypocrisy, and his objectification of everyone around him was real. It had to be alcohol, or it had to be depression or it had to be any number of things that were fundamentally correctable. But it’s not. It’s a disease with no cure and virtually no treatment.

I have also come to realize that I don’t need to change who I am, after this experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have changed because of this experience, but I don’t see any reason to consciously change the parts of my character that were responsible for my downfall. Because while narcissism is rampant in this country, I now know it, I can see it coming and I can walk the other way. No other course correction necessary.

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