There is a difference between self reflection and being self absorbed, and its a key insight that those who tend to have a more pathological kind of narcissism tend to be incapable of self reflection, seeing themselves as victims of events of an evil world out to do them wrong. The truth is we may have been very hurt in childhood and suffer real scars from that experience which then go on to limit us in all kinds of ways. We may, in later life, cause both ourselves as well as other people much suffering.
For some of us that suffering serves to wake us up. This issue is something I was reflecting upon earlier this week when I came across a book by Paul Ferrini called Embracing Your True Self. I didnt buy the book but I did find some quotes from it on a website online. The quotes I read were these :
Why are we wounded? What is the purpose of the wound? What is the reason for suffering? These are important questions. The wound enables us to obtain knowledge of Self, to know the part of God that is us. Once we know the part of God that we are, we can see the God-Self in others.
The wound is a tool of consciousness. It creates separation and with it understanding of oneness. How can you understand what oneness means if you have never felt separate?
The wound causes us to believe that we exist as separate entities, that we are born, that we suffer and that we die. Yet, as we learn to heal the wound, we discover the truth about ourselves and each other. We discover that there is a Core Self within us that is beyond birth and death.
I would add to this that at the level of core self we are connected to all that is. We can see our pain and suffering in our fellow man or humans. We dont judge them or us as much, as we recognise the implicit feeling of being separate is a result of core wounding. Some of us may not be all that comfortable with the idea or word God in that extract, I would prefer to use the word unity, wholeness or connection. When we suffer unconsciously from early wounding and most especially attachment wounding it can sever our connection to a sense of unity and connectedness.
I was in the middle of writing another post on some charactertics of self absorption yesterday and noticed when I shared some of the core chacteristics from Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed that one of the most prominent ones is that we carry a profound feeling of emptinesss or disconnection. At the deepest level we never got to connect to our True Self and so we cannot connect to others either. This sense of separation can cut us of from sense of grounded power in life and a balanced sense that all humans are equally related if not all capable of equal and open relationships both to themselves and to others. Others also have all kinds of wounds and defences against the core self and may end up projecting them on us. It’s complicated!
As we recover we have a lot of inner work to do to look inside honestly. I have shared before that some of my favourite words from the AA Big Book are “many of us suffer from grave emotional defects, but we do recover if we have the capacity to be honest.” Honesty requires a balanced humility too as an antidote to shame. Another core wound in narcissism is the sense of an isolated shame bound self who fears coming out of hiding and so erects defences. We see ourselves and others in global terms instead of seeing that we can be both strong and weak, needy and independent and that both are reasonable natural sides of and expressions of what it means to be human.
Self reflection will allow us these kind of insights if we can keep a sense of empathy and self compassion. We will also be helped in this process if we find those working along similar pathways. They can give us a more grounded sense of our true self when we may nearly be swallowed up with shame. Being self reflective does not mean we have to become totally self absorbed although at times others may accuse us of this if we are breaking out of old patterns. But self reflection may show where in hungering for a real connection we can sometimes get a bit trapped in our own desire and view when we reach out to those not able to be in that place. Does that make them all ‘bad’? No they just can give us what we need. Does that make our need wrong? Not necessarily. The point is we dont make demands for reality to be another way. We ‘accept life on life’s terms’ as they say “in the rooms”. We dont argue with that reality but take it on the chin and look for another way to get that need met.