Necessary Narcissism?

NARCISSISTS II

Almost everybody knows someone who meets this definition of Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD). But many of us have past abuse, neglect and humiliation at the hands of someone with an NPD that left us with deep wounds. We then had to become our own cheerleaders, and developed a self-absorption to fill in what was missing or damaged and to counter feelings of unworthiness. Some of us also created a constant need for approval from others to prop up and maintain a fragile sense of self-worth, fractured by our past. We developed our own “necessary narcissism” as a coping mechanism. It also created a war within, because that necessary narcissism was in constant conflict with our natural tendency of empathy towards others.

For many of us, that road of self-absorption led to alcohol or drugs as an escape from this turmoil – to numb the pain and silence that internal voice that told us we’re not good enough. If we were fortunate enough to get on the road to recovery, we were required to engage in significant self-focus and again returned to that necessary narcissism to fix what was wrong. Then once we made repairs, we were feeling good about ourselves for the first time in our lives. It was an intoxicating feeling in and of itself, and it became a need, often dependent on a steady validation by others to keep this newfound self-esteem going, which then kept us in the prison of what other people think of us and stuck in the tar pit trap of that necessary narcissism.

But once we’ve traveled far enough down the road of recovery, we unhitch ourselves from what once was a necessary narcissism. Now we’re just content with the work in progress we are. We disconnect from that need for approval and validation. We compare ourselves only to who we were in the past, and not to others. We can just be ourselves without thinking we are better that anyone else. We hook ourselves up to a new train that heads down the tracks of pure empathy towards others, with contentment and deep appreciation for what we have in the moment, including ourselves.

NARCISSISM III

 

 

Pessimists, Optimists, Realists – Are they right? Are they wrong?

PESSIMISM IV

Most people, in general, have attitudes that fit into the category of “pessimist”, “optimist” or “realist”. Some might consider themselves “idealists” or “opportunists”, but as a whole almost all fall into one of the other three categories and display the attributes of one or more of these three in their lives,  sometimes all three. In reality, there may be some merit to all three of these, but none are right (or wrong), just in and of themselves.

Here are very generalized, extreme, metaphorical examples of how pessimists, optimists and realists might view a blind date:

THE PESSIMIST“I just know they’re going to be a dumpster fire or they’re going to hate me. If by some bizarre fluke we both like each other and get married, it’s going to end in divorce and, as usual, my heart will get broken, so why bother going on this date in the first place?” In this example, they would find it difficult to envision love or being loved because they are always living the worst possible future in advance before it even happens. The pessimist prefers to swim in the murky pond of assuming the worst because that way they’re either going to be right or pleasantly surprised. But is it wrong for anyone to prepare themselves for the possibility of bad things so they’re not taken by surprise if they happen?

THE OPTIMIST“It’s going to be love at first sight. We’re going to get married, have 2.5 children, live in a farm house in the country, surrounded by flowers with a white picket fence, and a dog, maybe a cat and a horse too, where nothing bad will ever happen, and we’ll live happily together ever after” In this example they would jump into love head first, but if it went south, they may be unable to cope with it, and crumble like a cracker, because they never took into consideration the possibility that things wouldn’t workout in the Hallmark Channel manner they thought it would. They would be completely unprepared for anything bad happening. But what’s wrong with making positive assumptions and having a bright outlook on the future?

THE REALIST“There’s at best a 50/50 chance we’ll find each other mutually attractive. If we do develop a relationship and get married, there’s less than a 50 percent statistical probability of that marriage surviving. Therefore I should proceed with very guarded optimism in this statistically unlikely and illogical pursuit of love.” In this example, they are so wrapped up in the actual consideration of the exact likelihood of success that they can’t really enjoy the present. Plus they can end up with such a surgical precision approach to everything where things like love can become just a surface feeling without much depth. But doesn’t it make perfect sense to look at things with a realistic view of the possible outcome before pursuing it?

In all three of these examples, everything is being played way forward with little consideration for the reality of the present. By themselves, each of these miss the mark, because only an extreme future is considered, under specific all-or-nothing anticipation, while the present, with all it may have to offer, is overlooked. But if positive elements of each of these are cherry picked and combined, they can provide a healthy view.

THE PREPAREDIST

DCIM100GOPRO

“Preparedist” is a word I made up but it accurately describes my approach to life. I blend positive elements from pessimism, optimism and realism with a healthy set of ideals while I look for new opportunities for growth, even in the face of difficulties. I’m a Preparedist. I’m married, so my ‘blind date’ days are luckily in the rear view mirror. Instead I’ll use my cat as an example, for lack of a better one.

BB

His name is B.B. – he’s 8 years old with probably no more than another 8 years at best. When I got him as a kitten, his entire body fit in the palm of my hand. Today he’s a 14 pound bruiser who kicks my ass when I rough house with him (and I have the scars to prove it). He is my pal and was my only friend, at my lowest point of despair, when I was abandoned by everyone who knew me, because of addiction. Now I could lament the fact that he’ll only be around for maybe another 8 years. Or I could just pretend like he’ll live forever. I could also precisely determine exactly how long he is likely to be around and always count the days. But instead, I just have a deep appreciation for him being with me today, and I think how fortunate and grateful I am that I may still have another 8 years with him, especially vis a vis how it would be without him. I also have plans to maybe get another kitten (or two) when he is no longer with me, which will give me new opportunities to form a brand new love for brand new friends. I have a plan of action in the event of bad things, I’m anticipating only good things in the future, and I’m fully enjoying a happy present, deeply rooted in reality. A Preparedist.

We don’t ever want to be overly prepared or prophets of doom about things we have no control over. Nor do we want to be cloud heads floating along, oblivious and unprepared for the possibility of anything bad ever happening. Full attention should always be given to the present and enjoying the moment, in gratitude for where we are and what we have right now, totally engaged in reality. When we’re prepared for and have a plan to deal with the worst, but always positively anticipating and hoping for the best, while fully enjoying and appreciating the present, and on the lookout for new possibilities, we are living life to the fullest and best, all while protecting our well being, as Preparedists.

preparedist

All Right Then

CRITICISM IV

I hated it when someone disagreed with something I did or said, and I felt resentful when they criticized me. But I exploded into orbit when someone actually disagreed with and criticized MY OPINION, usually hosing that person down with a golden shower of sarcasm. But if they backed it up with logic, facts, figures and a better argument? Well then I felt compelled to respond by providing that person with my speculation on the past and/or present sexual activities of their mother.

CRITICISM MOM SLUT

As children, when we were publicly criticized by a parent, teacher or other adult, we felt humiliated, defeated and shunned from the herd. We wanted to either lash out, or escape to a place where we were safe and free. So a neural pathway, or ‘mind road’ was paved as a negative response to criticism. As adults, we are our own worst critic. We’re usually engulfed in a fog of self-criticism, and when other people criticize us, our minds automatically jump onto that old mind road from childhood and we get that familiar feeling of hurt, humiliation, resentment or anger. So we either defensively respond in fight mode or we want to run and escape in flight mode.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT

When someone disagrees with us or criticizes us, we can consider the criticism, learn and grow from it, or leave it alone if we determine it’s just a differing opinion from ours, particularly opinions on politics, religious views or addiction recovery. We can consider that every person is a singular blend of inherited genes, inherent personality traits, childhood experiences and adulthood encounters that are unique to them. We can accept that this gives them very specific values, points of view and things that are important to them and different from what’s important to us.

CRITICISM II

But when we get into recovery, we’re faced with owning our mistakes that have blown up in our face and exploded our lives into pieces. This part of recovery is difficult because we’ve already spent the last few years putting ourselves down, criticizing ourselves for our mistakes and our addiction, or blaming others for it. It’s important to separate the events that were catalysts for our addiction into two categories – (1) those events where we were truly a victim and (2) those events where we could have made better choices. More important is to sidestep the mind road that compels us to negatively respond to criticism, whether it be from someone else, or from ourselves, and/or to run and escape with our drug of choice. Progress is impossible if we’re stuck on the road where we defensively respond to criticism, put ourselves down in defeat for our mistakes, or run. But the growth begins when we actually start to change and approve of ourselves.

CRITICISM

Whatever we do in life, there is probably always going to be someone who wants to disagree with it and/or criticize it. The only way to avoid criticism is to never do anything, say anything or be anything. Criticism is often just someone else’s opinion that we don’t agree with. A true sign of inner peace is simply allowing people to disagree with us, even criticize our opinion, not react to it, and let it float by like scenery on a train. In the end, freedom isn’t being able to do whatever we want – freedom is the absence of ego, resentments and guilt. If people disagree with us, which they are certain to do, it just means that we’re in action, noticed and relevant.

CRITICSM IX

Us Black Sheep

BLACK SHEEP IV

We desperately struggled for self-esteem as kids. It seemed nobody listened to us or took us seriously. We felt like we were considered a disappointment because we didn’t live up to someone else’s expectations, with their constant negative comparison of us to others. Some of us were the “runt of the litter” and brushed aside in favor of siblings who seemed to do everything right, while we seemed to do everything wrong. We often reacted by acting out, in desperation of someone paying attention to us, even if it was negative attention. We started to become the “black sheep” of the family.

BLACK SHEEP V

The low self-esteem we had as children, coupled with a black sheep stigma, became a recipe for disaster as adults. Many of us ended up in relationships with people who continued to keep us down, because that’s what we were accustomed to as children. Our feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and failure grew, picking up baggage of shame heaped on us by others and by life, which started to over-inflate a balloon of sadness and isolation. We found relief with alcohol or drugs, which we were drawn to like sad moths to a black light. Inevitably our substance abuse blossomed into full blown addiction, which just seemed to fulfill the destiny we felt that we were given as children. The crushing weight of addiction got added to the black sheep stigma stamp from childhood and soul-sucking people and events of our adult lives. When our self-esteem sunk to some low critical mass of isolation and despair, we collapsed, crushed under an oppressive blanket of failure and fault. And the balloon of our life exploded.

Death of Pilatre de Rozier, 15 June 1785.

Euphoria from alcohol/drugs is magical instantaneous relief, and the creation of addiction to it goes from 0 to 100 mph overnight. But becoming non-addicted often feels like a slow, physically and mentally excruciating and draining exercise. It takes courage, resolve and strength to overcome it, much greater than normal people possess. A fuel of propulsion for recovery and self-esteem comes from the realization of how strong and courageous we are as recovering alcoholics and addicts. Retracing our steps back into childhood gives knowledge and understanding of what happened, and why we became what we became. All of this provides the necessary armor and ammunition to win the great battles between what we know and what we might feel. Every battle we win gives us increasing strength of character, which strengthens hope and creates or recreates the self-esteem we lost, or never had.

ENDURANCE

Every single person who goes into recovery from substance abuse, gains and maintains sobriety, is truly deserving of self-respect and high self-esteem. To carry a heavy weight from childhood, through the storms of adulthood, swim with it across an ocean of despair from addiction, and stand up on the other side is a miraculous achievement, worthy of high praise and self-love. As far as being the black sheep – consider that every single person out there is a black sheep who went astray – the ones who appear white are those who are good at pretending to appear white, and are content with their life of illusion.

BLACK SHEEP VIII

But as black sheep in recovery, we are the real deal, admitting our mistakes and working to correct them. We have genuine sympathetic and empathetic hearts that truly care about other people. So when we show our true shades of white, it’s authentic and something that’s unique to all of us “black sheep”.

ALCOHOLICS BECOME BETTER II

I Am My Friend

ACCUSED

“You are such an ugly pig – you’re fat, you disgust me and nobody wants you” – how many people would stay with a spouse or partner who said that to them from sunrise to sunset? How about a best friend who said to you, when you’re feeling down, “Nobody likes you and everybody talks shit about you behind your back” – would you keep that friend? What about a boss who always said to you, from the time you started in the morning until you went home, “You are an idiot – you never do anything right!” – would that motivate you to do better? Maybe some of us actually have people like this in our lives. But unless someone is a glutton for punishment, not many people would want to be around anyone who constantly puts them down, humiliates and insults them in every way like this. Yet that’s how many people, particularly those in recovery, tend to treat themselves. It’s always this constant, judgmental voice, always accusing and forever criticizing. We would NEVER treat someone we loved the way we treat ourselves. We would NEVER be that insulting or demanding.

FULL METAL JACKET

When I first got into recovery, my self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect were at zero. I was carrying around 100 pounds of shame on one shoulder, 100 pounds of guilt on the other and another 100 pounds of blame on my back. I would engage in humiliating self-deprecation immediately followed by self-pity and despair. I started in recovery with learning to treat myself in a positive and uplifting way with any situation in life that arose. To encourage myself the way a loving parent would talk to a child who is sad. To counsel and support myself the way I would a best friend who is feeling down and struggling. Doing all this with reactions to my thoughts that were positive and interactive instead of just feeling sorry for myself. This really worked. It started to change my attitude towards myself, and life in general, and rapidly created positive growth.

Beautiful teenager girl worried and a boy comforting her

There is enough pressure and demands put on us by other people, we don’t need to turn around and kick our own ass, especially when we’re down. Life can be enough of a bitch as it is, we don’t need to be a bitch to ourselves. We DO NOT deserve that. It’s easy to learn to be a comfort and a friend to ourselves, because that friend is always going to be with us. We need to be our own best friend – we DO deserve that!

YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND