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Showing posts with label narcissism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label narcissism. Show all posts

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Confirmation bias: When self-confirming becomes self-righteousness or self-loathing.

I previously wrote a post that touched upon what I refer to as negative narcissism (Positive narcissist vs. negative narcissist vs. balanced view).  Anyway, the upshot of it was that what people see as narcissism is someone who believes his or herself as beyond real criticism.  They are so focused on presenting a positive image of themselves to themselves and others that they cannot engage in legitimate self-reflection.   The idea of a 'negative narcissist' is someone who is so stuck on the idea that they are a bad person or devoid of positive value that they cannot or will not be able to legitimately be able to self-reflect either.

I decided to take this a step further based on another concept: confirmation bias.   I understand that to be taking events or circumstances and using them to further or confirm your point of view, even if it is not an accurate reflection.   Most of the time, I think it is used to confirm our thoughts on others.   That is, we have an opinion or take on someone(s) and something happens surrounding or involving them and that just confirms what we already 'know'.  For example, say we had a conversation with a friend that doesn't end on a good note (or at least that's what our perception is).   Say we don't hear from the friend for a few days, we might take the lack of communication as our friend being mad at us.  The reality might be a little different.  The friend might have just been venting and had to get off the phone abruptly.   In the meantime, he or she might legitimately be overwhelmed with work or family.

However, I thought about it the other day and realized we confirm our biases about ourselves too.   If we are a classical narcissist we notice an investment of ours is doing well.  We might already think of ourselves as very smart and savvy, warranted or otherwise.   Our observation that our investment is doing well is just a further confirmation to us how brilliant we are.   The reality might be that it is an up market and most everyone is doing well, but why bother us with the pesky facts.   Effectively we would be using confirmation bias to support our self-righteousness or self-praise.  Likewise, with a 'negative narcissist', a person thinks so little of his or herself and isn't inclined to entertain any positive feedback or point of view about themselves, that her or she will use circumstances or situations to 'confirm' how awful or irredeemable they are.  For example, we may be involved in an accident and the evidence points to the other driver being largely at fault, but we may have such a negative view of ourselves that we may decide independent of the evidence if we had just left earlier when we 'should have', the accident would have never happened.  In a way, we are blaming ourselves for the accident.   Effectively we are using confirmation bias to support our self-loathing.

My takeaways are the following:
  • Confirmation bias is not always directed outward, though most of the time I believe people think of it as such
  • Confirmation bias, whether directed inward or outward, is never a good substitute for proper reflection on circumstances.
Just my thoughts.  As always, if someone or someone(s) can get something from my posts, I feel like I've accomplished my role.

- Rich

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Relational Awareness: Being Aware of Your Relationship Surroundings.

Time and time again, I've heard that one of the keys to a successful marriage is communication.   It sounds good as an open line of communication is good in any relationship--friendship, professional, parent/child, sibling etc.  However, what does that mean in practical terms?   I've thought about that from time to time as I have explored or considered ways to improve the various relationships in my life.  I never could find the words to express it however.   I finally stumbled upon a phrase which captures it for me: Relational Awareness.

What I am talking about is: how to be yourself, but also be a good partner, friend, parent, sibling, etc.   I'll start by exploring (from my perspective), what I consider the unhealthy relationship personalities.

  • Co-dependence 
    • It can look like selflessness or thoughtfulness, but in reality it may be anything but that.
    • The co-dependent may truly and actually sacrifice, but often for the wrong reason or motivation.   Often the difference is subtle.
      • The codependent may truly be sacrificing, but it is hopes of gaining approval or in some cases just keeping the peace.
      • Behaviors/actions may be guided by a desire to keep (or make) the other party happy, not because it is the best course of action.  In other words, minimizing yourself in hopes of being approved of.
  • Ambivalence
    • Expressing mixed feelings or sending mixed messages.
    • Caring about the other person, but not necessarily being fully invested.  
    • It can at times appear one partner doesn't care about the other, but in some ways it might actually be caring too much, just not always showing it do to being in a conflicted state
  • Narcissism
    • Can play out in a few ways.
      • Obvious indifference to the other.
      • Actions/behaviors undertaken are taken without regard to what is important to your partner.
      • To the extent it seems like a narcissist cares about the other, it is usually based on subtly manipulating them for advantage.  Examples can include:
        • Being the 'helpful' or 'generous' one, when the real goal is to gain allies in quest for position.
        • Offering to buy a home security system or installing security on electronic devices when the goal is to monitor or keep track of another.

I'm sure this is not a complete list, but really my larger point is this: What characterizes good communication.  When I speak of communication, I don't just mean things spoken, but things unspoken too.   Each relationship personality type, is an example of what DOESN'T lend itself towards good communication.  


It occurred to me, a couple can best succeed if they have what I call relational awareness.  Some of the characteristics I see in relational awareness.
  • Being willing to step outside yourself and be willing to see others through a filter not your own.
    • Thinking of an alcoholic as a selfish jerk who doesn't care about others, when he may be a broken man who lost his family.
    • Thinking a kid who doesn't do their homework is just lazy, when the truth is the kid is struggling and is too embarrassed to ask for help.
  • Taking into account the other's circumstances/background in how you relate to them.
    • This doesn't mean letting relating to them completely on their terms as that can diminish your own self/needs.
      • Adopting their point of view (POV) or way might in some circumstances be beneficial anyway.
      • In other circumstances, adopting their POV or way may not be beneficial, however, being respectful of it can be helpful.
    • What it means is finding a way that respects both people's needs.  Your need to be 'heard' and their need for a type of communication which is healthy for them.
    • For example, a partner who grows up in a household beset by yelling and fighting.  That partner may respond poorly to yelling and fighting.
      • You work to see if the partner can unpack what bothers them.  
      • That doesn't mean never show displeasure at the them.  Instead, you might consider different ways to get the same point across before losing your cool and/or you might consider whether the issue is really worth losing your cool.  In other words, reserve or limit your 'loud' hostility to really important 'battles'.
  • Being willing to accept that there people have a way that works best for them and respecting that instead of trying to 'fix it'.
    • That doesn't mean you never provide or show an alternative way.  It can mean putting it out there, but not insisting.
    • It means that they may not be open to an alternative way at this time and considering whether it is an important enough point or issue to conflict on.
    • Realize that sometimes people come to the same conclusion in different timing.  It may just be they need to internalize another way as their own before they embrace it.
  • Being willing to consider that people have different ways of communicating and learning to accept it in many cases and work with it in other cases.  For example...
    • Some people need to talk it out as they process.
    • Some people need to heavily process before they talk it out.
    • Some people talk out only what they consider the important things.  When the 'important things' are agreed upon, the little things will tend to fall into place better.
    • Some people like to talk out what could be deemed as less important.  The 'big picture' is made up of countless 'little pictures'.

In short, it doesn't mean just conceding to the other person, but it does mean 
  • Accepting that other points of view can and often do have legitimacy.
  • Accepting that even if your way may look better objectively, their way may be better for them or better for them at this time (in other words, it may be something that can be worked on, just not forced upon them).
  • Accepting that some battles just aren't important enough.  In other words, you can disagree without being disagreeable, especially if their intent is good.
  • Accepting that a relationship is a work in progress.  Like any journey in life, the moment you think you've arrived, you stop growing.

If communication was easy then the country would not be awash in marital counselors.   If it was easy then people would never fight.  If it was easy the divorce rate would probably not be as high.

To me this is really an extension or expansion of my prior post about 2D vs. 3D relationships.   It is important not just knowing things about the other person, but really having a sense about what makes them tick and trying to work with that knowledge.

Jut my 1/50th of a $1 for the day.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Motivated to write thoughts on motivations

I am political by nature, but I normally attempt to refrain from politics in my blogs.  To me, when you are trying to reach out and share what you think are helpful 'self-help', 'introspections', 'observations', etc., the worse thing you can do is antagonize those who might be in your audience. In that vein, I've noticed a number of years ago that people will double down on views that are at best dubious if they perceive you are attacking them personally vs. sharing a different perspective.

I mention all this because I think this blog & the follow-up one because it includes the idea of political correctness.  This blog post will be the first of two, the second one will be about biases called: Biased about biases.

All that aside, I have pondered motivations.  What motivates us to do or not things and/or exhibit certain behaviors?  From my perspective, it usually falls in one of these categories (which I don't think are necessarily completely separate from each other).
  • Fear
  • Face
  • Faith
  • Full of self
  • Feeling good about self

FEAR as a motivator, is pretty obvious.  When your back is up against the wall & when you are afraid of the consequences of your actions or inactions, it can be a powerful motivation.  Some examples.
  • Studying for a test because you are afraid of failing it.
  • Avoiding someone who threatens you or who is threatening to you.  That is fear of getting bullied.

FACE can be a powerful motivator, especially within certain communities.  Sometimes people bravely say things like I don't care what others think, but their actions put lie to the words.  Anyway, trying to 'keep face' is actually based on a specific type of fear.  That is the fear of ridicule, humiliation or being shunned.  Some example:
  • A family to trying to hide a 'family issue', like a spouse's drinking.
  • Parent(s) threatening to cut off their children if they get involved with someone whom they don't approve of.  Especially, if it causes 'shame' in the parent(s) circle or community.

FAITH to me is doing the right thing, even when it is not the easiest or popular choice to make.  It can be tied to a certain 'religion' it is an acquired sense that a certain set of choices are the right thing to do.  In a sense it is adherence to doing the 'right' or 'honorable' thing to do AKA the golden rule.  Some examples:
  • Helping a person stranded on the side of the road change a tire or helping a stranger jump their car even when we are tired and want to be somewhere else.
  • Standing up for an unpopular kid at school.

FULL OF SELF to me means you're motivation is to do what you want because you think you deserve it or are owed it.  Essentially it is a narcissist's motivation.  I don't believe that trying to save face is narcissistic, but I believe that it can be a characteristic of someone who is one.  Some examples:
  • Being demanding due to your status because you believe you are entitled to it.  We've all heard of stories of famous athletes, actors, singers, politicians, authors, etc. treating people around them poorly because they believe that due to their importance, they shouldn't have to be bothered in any way and should be catered to.
  • Shutting others down and showing an unwillingness to entertain another point of view because your so smart or so important that the point of view of others doesn't inherently matter.

FEELING GOOD ABOUT SELF as a motivation can have overlap with faith.  If you are acting on your faith, you will likely feel good about yourself.  That being said, I am talking about political correctness (left or right) and the desire to present or see yourself as a 'good person' because you are thoughtful enough.  As a disclaimer, I think just because something is deemed 'politically correct' doesn't mean that it is wrong.  I just may mean the motivation for it might be off.  Some examples:
  • Pushing what can sell to yourself  is 'thoughtful' agenda to prove you are a thoughtful person.  
    • The agenda itself might be appropriate, but the desire to prove yourself as being the more thoughtful person could be too self-centered.   
    • It could be on the left trying to show how 'tolerant' you are (as compared to others).
    • It could be on the right trying to show how 'patriotic' you are (as compared to others).
  • Pushing extreme tolerance or extreme righteousness to overcompensate for your failings/feelings when the best thing to do would just be to work on yourself or come to terms.
    • This could look like pushing tolerance to the extreme to overcome your discomfort with yourself.  In other words, if I push to make everything acceptable, then I can 'normalize' to myself what I'm uncomfortable about.
    • This could look like pushing extreme religious piety to compensate for your hidden failings.

There are a number of black and whites in life, but there are also many shades of grey with regard to motivation.  To wit: one's motivation(s) may be off, but their actions (or inactions) might be appropriate.  In politics, that can lead to what we call strange bedfellows or people who arrive at the same point coming from a different motivation.  Similarly, people often have mixed motivations that is to say, they may have a more altruist motive for an action, but they also may have a selfish motivation for the same action.  For example, setting up a play date for your kid with a neighborhood kid.  On the one hand, you are giving him or her a great opportunity to socialize.  On the other hand, it can free you up to catch up on your sleep or run an errand just for yourself.


I guess my takeaway from this whole post would be:
  • For people to make sure their motivations are healthy.
  • For people to be honest--especially to themselves--about their motivations.  
  • For people to accept that selfish motivations can be okay from time to time, especially if it doesn't infringe on others and/or if there is a non-selfish motivation tied to their actions as well.
  • For people to not let their hangups guide their motivations, especially if their motivations impose their one-sided view on others.
  • For people to understand that it's okay to have mixed motivations such as trying to help others while feeling good about yourself in the process.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

All you need is love...

Admit it, now you are thinking about that song.  It's contagious.  But, perhaps it's nice to think about the things that make you smile.  Today as I write this, it would be my late brother's 49th birthday.  He didn't feel loved enough.  I hope he feels it now, but perhaps in the meantime, I can show love to those still here...

I was at a Wednesday evening bible study at my church and our head minister was leading the class.  I don't remember the exact breakdown of the topic matter, we talked about different types of love.

As we know English doesn't do justice to the concept of love.  The same word is used to describe happy feelings towards ice cream vs. romantic feelings towards your significant other vs. warm/selfless feelings towards your kids, etc.  Context is everything in this regard.

I believe the ancient greeks had a good fix on the concept of love

  1. Eros: Love of the body.  That is to say sexual lust or erotic love based on sexual attraction.  In other words a sort of 'tension'.  This can be an important part of a relationship, but in a healthy relationship it is just one aspect.  In an unhealthy relationship, it can be mistaken for a deeper love.  That's why it is important that this type of love is not explored at too early age as it can warp one's view of 'love'.  It can cause a focus on the body being the source of love.

  2. Philia:  Love of the mind.  When you share values, disposition and interests, this type of love exists and can flourish.  This is type of love you have for a brother or a really good friend.  This can be a strong component of a healthy relationship.  Where feelings of eros towards a spouse may fade in time, philia can keep a relationship going strong.  Philadelphia is the "City of Brotherly love" and its name is partially derived from this word.

  3. Ludus: Playful love.  It is child-like in nature.  Think of the joy you feel when you dance or laugh.  Think of the love that is associated with it.  It's fun love.  The way I see it this love flourishes when you have moments of "Lightness of Being".  I see this type of love being a connecting type of love in a relationship.  That is to say the type that when times are tough we can remember the good times and remember why love our spouse.  It is also is a type of love if we let go with our spouse, can break the tension.

  4. Pragma: Longstanding love.  This is the highest form of love in a relationship.  It develops over time.  It is a mature love.  It is commitment or a give and take in a relationship.  It is important to build and nurture this type of love as it can come in handy when your spouse needs you.  Times such as seeing them fight cancer.   In a sense, it is a pragmatic type of love.

  5. Agape: Love of the soul.  This is the type of love that God has for us and showed through Jesus.  It is love of humanity.  It is the most selfless type of love.  This is the type of love that can help us sympathize, empathize and connect with people we don't know.  I think this is why when we read or hear about a 'touching' story, it moves us.  We can related on some level.

  6. Philautia: Love of the self.  It is said that before you can truly love others, you have to love yourself on some level.   So, this love has to be present to love others.  However, it has to be the right form of Philautia. This can either be a healthy regard you have for yourself--one that allows you the space to love others. Unfortunately, it can be narcissistic--which is a consuming selfish type of 'love' of yourself which doesn't allow the space to love others.  

  7. Storge: Love of the child.  This is the connection or bond in which you have with your child(ren).  It is a natural sort of love.  When this love is present we forgive, accept and sacrifice.  Where pragma takes work, storge is natural.  Ultimately, I see pragma approaching storge in intensity or commitment with a lot of work and time.  I see pragma as the grown up type of storge that we would have for our spouse.  In a way, storge is what God displayed for us when He gave us His only begotten Son to atone for us.
My takeaway:  philautia or love of self has to be present to some degree to give us space for the other types of love.  But, if we have the other types appropriately present in our lives, it can help enhance our love of self.  Alternatively, if we 'love ourselves too much' aka narcissism, it can smother our ability to love others properly.  But, as I see it narcissism is not necessarily an authentic love of self, but can be a fragile 'love' of self requiring our attention to constantly feed it.  Finding the balance of self-love is I think the key to being able to show/feel/display love properly in all its forms.  And the key to finding the balance I believe is seeing ourselves as the Father sees us.

Love your spouse, your children, your fellow man, but don't forget to love yourself or don't completely indulge yourself in your own love.  

The final takeaway: On this Christmas season, I think it is important to remember to love others as the Father has loved us.  


All you don't need is hate... is a blog about the opposite idea.