“Is our negative branding of narcissism a defense against a demanding call of the soul to be loved?”
Thomas Moore – Care of the Soul
Narcissism is the egotistic sense of self-importance, but paradoxically underneath this attitude, the narcissist is simply a victim of a fragile low self-esteem. It is the underlying sense of inferiority that is the real problem of the narcissist, and their pretense is just a disguise used to cover their deeper feelings of inadequacy. Since narcissists are often incapable of asserting genuine self-meaning, they seek admiration from others because they desire acceptance and approval (as we all do) but lack the ability to find any from within.
In looking at the story of Narcissus, I was so inspired by the new translation and meaning given to it by Thomas Moore. By denying our narcissistic tendencies and by labeling this part of our shadow as negative, we our only stifling the growth that our soul desires. The further we push narcissism away from us by disowning it, the more self consumed we actually become. Narcissus longed to love, and not until he “discovered” himself was he able to do so. When he was able to clearly see himself in the pool of water, he than experienced a life transformation. Bob Keagan, as discussed in class, would better explain that Narcissus was in a state of transition.
“Narcissism is a condition in which a person does not love himself.” (Moore, p 71) In my own life, self-love was one of the greatest and most valuable lessons learned through very difficult circumstances. I discovered that the importance of self-acceptance must first be established from within if I was ever to sincerely receive love from another. Thomas Moore explains that the greatest “curses” in our lives are actually blessings in disguise because not until we are in a state of need, do we desire change. I love the description that Moore gives of Narcissus at the pool. He explains that what is taking place is a “transforming, and life-threatening, psychotic episode” (Moore, p 59). His narration is such an accurate depiction of how we all feel while in the state of transition. As we have discussed in class, we often must become uncomfortable before growth will occur.
Although Narcissus discovered the outward appearance of himself, the pool identified the depth and core of his person. His reflection was much deeper than the surface, and he was able to see himself for the first time as an “object”, and only then was he able to love himself (Moore, p 63). For me, this was a profound statement because seeing oneself as an “object” means shifting from an egocentric and shallow mindset to a much deeper and heartfelt state which is much greater than the surface person we tend to embrace. “Love of a new image of self leads to new knowledge about oneself and one’s potential” (Moore, p 63).
Our potential does not create our attitude, but our attitude creates our potential. When people change their perception of self, then their lives will inevitably display an outward change as well. Embracing our narcissism simply means that we pay attention and learn from it. When we display narcissistic behavior, or when we find ourselves offended by narcissistic people, we must pay close attention to what our soul is telling us. For if narcissism is an outward display of our lack of inward love, than our soul is merely seeking to be nourished and needs greater acceptance and approval from within.