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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Positive narcissist vs. narcissist narcissist vs. balanced view

A while bac, I was having a conversation with a person whose kid sees himself negatively.  While I don't necessarily think what I am writing below applies directly to the kid,  the conversation did remind me of a theory or view I had developed on narcissism.

We all have ran across someone who behaves as if their stuff doesn't stink.   Similarly, we all have run across someone who is like  Eeyore who is gloomy, negative and often rates his or herself no good.  I call the first type a 'positive narcissist' (or simply a 'narcissist') and the second type a 'negative narcissist'.  I will elaborate on why I see both types as narcissists.

I don't know when, but it occurred to me that both types actually have a lot in common:
  • Each type of person is being emotionally, intellectually, mentally and/or spiritually lazy.
    • It is easy to label and/or rationalize to yourself that you are either just good or bad.   If you decide that you are either 'perfect' or 'rotten' by nature then you don't have to continually evaluate yourself.
    • It takes much more work to actually dig and effectively evaluate yourself.  It takes much more work to separate the flaws from the virtues. 
  • Each type is disconnected from his or herself.  
    • Once again, labeling yourself as just a great person or horrible one or the other frees you from having to process or evaluate yourself.
    • You can easily stay at the surface level and find an example or two to support your contention.
  • Each type disconnected from others.
    • A narcissist by his or her very nature has hard time has accepting anything that could be seen as criticism.  By itself, this shuts down much of the conversation that is possible with others.  Furthermore, the self-focus drowns out the ability to see ability to see past oneself and really see others.
    • A negative narcissist by his or her nature has a hard time accepting anything that could be seen as a compliment.  Once again, this shuts down much of the conversation that is possible.  Once again, the self-focus gets in the way of being able to really others.
  • Each type has issues with humility.  
    • A narcissist lacks humility.  He or she may feign humility, but it's usually pretty easy to see through the false humility.
    • A negative narcissist in a way lacks true humility too.  He or she may come across as not wanting to be egotistical, but what I see it as is really a defense mechanism.  To accept praise or to self-praise requires one to step outside his or her predefined role as a 'no-good' or 'worthless' person.  In a way, in the deflecting praise is not being modest, but rather a way of avoiding the shattering the 'negative self-portrayal'.
  • Each type gives a way of freeing the individual with the given personality of culpability or responsibility.
    • A narcissist will tend to think of his or herself as being incapable of making a bad decision or failing.   When they actually do make a bad decision or fail, he or she will either:
      • Push fault on another (scapegoat).
      • Push fault on the cosmos (it was beyond me control, even if it wasn't)
      • Spin the poor decision as a good decision (or intentional) and the failure as insignificant or really actually a success.
    • A negative narcissist will portray themselves as fatally flawed and incapable of doing anything but making bad decisions or failing.
      • In their mind and heart this frees them.  After all, if I am destined to fail, in a way what does it matter how I got there?  In other words, since I am going to fail anyway, I can choose the 'selfish' option as it will end up bad either way.
      • If I blame myself for everything, then in a way I am blaming myself for nothing.  In other words, I am not really evaluating my role, but rather just sticking a label on myself and the situation.  Just like sticking a label on a batch of cookies that look good without actually sampling them to make sure it is good.
  •  Each type has esteem issues.
    • Narcissim is often a way overcompensating for insecurity.  A narcissist, in buying into their inflated sense of self, often is trying insulates his or herself from the effects of their insecurity.  After all, if I buy my own hype, then I can suppress and otherwise ignore my deeply buried insecurity.  Thus anyone who poses a threat to bring them down to earth, threatens their cushion against insecurity.
    • A negative narcissist in a sense has bought into his or her own insecurity or low esteem.  When assessing his or herself, a negative narcissist has effectively conceeded that their insecurity or esteem problems are legitimate.  In other words, they've decided that they are implicitly bad and/or a failure and therefore will tend to focus on that which 'supports' their contention.

I think most people have an element of each--positive and negative--narcissism in them.  It is healthy to think of oneself as inherently good.  But, it is also healthy to think of oneself as having the ability to make mistakes.  It is when a person doesn't attempt to balance out the ledger--see the good and the bad--that a person is not really mentally, emotionally, or spiritually healthy.