"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Narcissists I've Known

The good thing about growing older is that we can look at our experiences to date and analyse them, with a view to making wiser decisions in the future (well ... one would hope, anyway). This particularly applies to our choice of intimate partners.

Looking at my past relationships, many are people who interpret and judge the world - including people around them - according to whatever point they themselves have reached in life, or philosophies they associate themselves with, at any given time. For example, their current realisations are the ones everyone else (especially you!) should be adopting; the food they have decided is the best for them is the best for everyone else; their knowledge and perspective, to date, is the most relevant etc. etc. They move through life constantly justifying their own actions and habits, whilst judging those of other people, inadvertently revealing a very deep and hopeless insecurity. For them, the notion of empathic understanding - an interest in and sense of how others may experience or feel things - is an impossibility. It is a notion that simply doesn't occur to them. They feel no responsibility in regard to how they may affect the feelings of others. It is as if the world exists for themselves only and if everything else doesn't fit into place around them - including people - then it is an obstruction, an antagonism. I have learnt, through years of therapy, that these people are narcissists.

Disturbingly however, I have been noticing that many people become more narcissistic as they age and am starting to think that it is almost inevitable - perhaps a 'side effect' of the individualisation of a society in which self-centredness rules. Yet, on saying this, I suspect that mothers are probably far less likely to be narcissistic, though I'm not sure whether I'd extend this exemption to women in general. Surely, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to try and understand what the concerns of others are - how they feel, what makes them tick, what might be of benefit to them and how we can perhaps help? However, given the way the world is going right now, including attitudes, in general, towards 'the other' in situations of conflict and the greed and selfishness of those of us living in affluent societies, I don't feel particularly optimistic.

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