I always thought it would be great fun to start a bent and twisted amusement park along the lines of Toys R Us, but we’ll just call it Narcissists-R-Us. We’ll have a tilt o’ whirl and a fun house hall of mirrors that distorts everything. Don’t forget the giant clowns with really big heads, because they’re kind of scary.
I jest here, in truth narcissists have a whole lot to teach us about the issues around pride, ego, and how that sense of self can get so damaged. Narcissism can be a hard thing to pin down, because we all have aspects of narcissism within us, moments of self-absorption, but I speak of the outright personality disorder marked by “self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects.”
Pride is an issue for all of us, but for narcs it is a state of being, one they might not even be aware of. It’s kind of like those fish swimming in the sea and asking, what ocean? Narcs seldom see the nature of their own selves, because they project themselves onto the nature of everything else around them.
For the rest of us, pride is actually really painful stuff. That shy, withdrawn kid, hiding in a hoodie, that’s pride, just as the arrogance of bullies is also pride. Those are both distortions of our own perceptions of ourselves. Those who are hiding fear the whole world is staring at them, and those who are bullies are making sure the whole world is staring at them.
There’s a really wise quote that applies here, “you’re never as important nor as unimportant as you think you are.” When we get too tangled up with our own selves it’s often very painful, because it distorts our perceptions. We often either feel worthless or we have a falsely inflated perception of our own importance. They are both deceptions. Pride and shame tend to go hand in hand too, flip sides of the same coin.
My mama suffers from narcissism, deeply rooted and ingrained. She’s a sweet little thing, more of a covert narc, so you never really see her coming. As she grows older it becomes more challenging trying to deal with her. To understand my mama, you have to understand that everything is personal and that an offense is an attack on her very sense of being.
So, many years ago Ma Bell offended her and to punish them, she has refused to use a telephone for decades. She also frowns upon those who do and takes it as a personal insult, as if the masses are siding with Ma Bell and not with her. It’s somewhat amusing in the sense that so much time has now passed that Ma Bell has long since disbanded and most people have no idea who she even is. The world has moved on, my mother has not.
The grocery store is one of her primary social activities, so that often becomes a real pain in the neck. The other day a clerk told her she was on the wrong side of the counter and helped her to come around to the right side, but now she is totally humiliated, greatly offended, and is going to teach him a lesson by refusing to ever eat food ever again.
Bah, Narcs-R-Us indeed. Naturally you cannot stop eating because you will die, and I have a feeling that clerk who was genuinely trying so hard to be kind and helpful, is not going to take it personally if you do. I cannot take it personally anymore either, but in another sense it is personal because it is now my job to make sure my mother does not starve herself to death in the name of pride.
So, reason rears its ugly head while I try to explain to her that nobody cares, that people at the grocery store probably don’t even know who she is, that it wasn’t all about her. Now she is truly bent out of shape because I have just implied she is invisible. Sigh.
But, good news! We actually have fish from the ocean and vegetables from the garden for the invisible woman to eat, therefore she need not starve while she punishes and rebukes the grocery store for this great personal offense.
You can probably understand why I am now trying to lose myself in my amusement park fantasy, eating cotton candy and laughing at the clowns with big heads.