The difference between : reflections on narcissism and self love

These are some thoughts prompted by another blogger blogging on her own narcissism and coming out of hiding as a covert narcissist.

My therapist says to me often.  We are all somewhere on the spectrum of narcissism. And narcissism in later years has become a kind of demon diagnosis, something we blame others for and hope we wont ever have to admit to.  Some associate narcissism with being in love with one’s own reflection but part of our healing from narcissistic injury or abuse is to fall in love with our reflection and more importantly with the deep true self who lives behind it.  I am thinking about this at the moment as a few months ago a book by Louise Hay called MIrror Work jumped out at me in the local bookshop.   I had heard this kind of work spoken about on another blog by someone who has recovered from being raised by narcissistic parents a while back.

To my mind narcissism of the negative kind has more to do with hiding the vulnerable self behind defences or feeling such shame that the true self never gets to fully live.  Narcissism of the damaging kind has much to do with a lack of empathy for others feelings and an inability to place ourselves in their shoes, also an aversion to emotions and emotional realities that in some way may make us face vulnerabilities of any kind on physical or emotional levels.

We are probably all guilty being trapped in our own perceptions and projections to varying degrees.  Just today in discussing the way my brother is with a therapist she pointed out to me that some of his difficult behaviours seemed to be associated to emotional defensiveness as well as a lack of empathy.   Thinking about it on the way home it occurred to me that as a small child he was both hurt by the Christian brothers and also punished by my father in very cruel and heartless ways.  Dad wanted to teach him a lesson firstly by just throwing him in the deep end of the swimming pool alone,  secondly by making him smoke an entire packet of cigarettes after being found smoking lighted butts left in the  kampong in Indonesia by the freedom fighters when he was no more than six.  After the later incident he was violently ill.   These are just some incidents I know of.

Was it any accident my Mum says he turned into a quiet child who learned to keep himself to himself and invest his energy in cars and work.   What the therapist said to me gave me a shift of perspective and I saw how my own self centred perspective centred on the pain his lack of empathy causes for me at times I now saw as being a  trifle narcissistic myself even though now I know these things I have so much empathy for what he went through when young.

Anyway my point is that a healthy narcissism to my mind lies in becoming more aware of the painful impact of critical abandonments, deficits, woundings or injuries from our childhood and in seeing that the cure for this rest in self compassion, insight and self love.  We absolutely must learn to love our true self.  If we have learned to hide behind the reflection of an ideal rather than a real self that we were taught we had to show to the world we need to come out of hiding and go on the at times painful journey to find and love that true self within.  We have to learn to know our own heart and our own truth, we need to learn what hurts and what heals.  We need to understand the impact of the past and how it has informed our present.  We need to know all of this before we can be open to healing and change.  And its a long process.

Louise Hay shares in another book about the effects of her own sexual abuse.  She tells of her own healing journey which led to self acceptance and self love.  She spent a lot of time standing in front of a mirror and telling herself she was loved just as she was.  Ideally this is what we should have received from parents but so many of our own parents never got it themselves.  Louise also shares about how she had to make friends with her inner child and give that child love from within herself.

We should feel no shame in finding and expressing a healthy narcissism and no shame in owning the way in which past wounds may have limited our own capacity for empathy and compassion both for ourselves and for others.  That process is all part of our healing.  It may seem a bit of an ask for some of us to stand before a mirror and love what we see there, but to my mind it is a good healing exercise if at the same time we also learn through self love and self compassion to extend the same to those in the world around us.

 

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