Narcissism gets a bad rap these days. We need a certain amount of narcissism to survive and thrive in life and get our needs met but when that striving gets out of control it can potentially mean we start looking outside of ourselves for any evidence that we are loved, needed or even idealised.
So how does this happen? As you can imagine we have to look back to the way we were treated as infants and workout what the experience may have been like that created the way we relate to others now. Some children may have been given everything they needed straight away, all their parent’s attention on tap, whenever it’s cried out for. Other children may have had nothing at all – completely ignored and left to cry. So which child would you think turns out to be narcissistically wounded?
These are obviously two extreme examples but the research shows that both scenarios can lead to narcissistic disorders. In the first example, the child that never has it’s needs denied may find it harder in adult life to deal with reality, always unconsciously believing the world owes him something, always feeling hard done by rather than being able to self soothe and take the knocks of life and move on. The child becomes an adult, but the child inside is still expecting to be treated like royalty.
The second example of the child who gets no attention can also lead to narcissistic wounding. Children who are ignored have to find a way to survive in the world and so they go about proving they are are worth something. Usually these kind of narcissists rise to the top of their professions and find ways to have power over others, believing (unconsciously) that if they can reach the top then perhaps they will be loved.
It can be helpful to think about narcissism as a place on a spectrum when looking at ourselves and how we relate to others. If we are ready to look at these aspects of ourselves it can lead to a deepening relationship with the the people around us and ultimately help us develop true self-esteem and integrity.
In psychosynthesis psychotherapy we work with aspects of the self we call ‘sub-personalities’ which are masks or defensive parts of the psyche that develop to help us survive as we grow up. The process of therapy can help us meet these internal selves and step into a conscious relationship with them thereby becoming the directors of our own lives. When we meet the narcissistic aspects within us we realise narcissism is not the enemy, narcissism is invitation to love ourselves authentically.