Narcissus Is Us

Call To Act
I am going to ask that before you read the below, pause, go for a walk, make a beverage and do something that is you centred. My sister Edwina Hawkridge advised once she gleaned what the blog was to interrupt. Whether that pause is taking a nap, meditating for a few minutes, reflecting over something recently heard, tapping out a rhythm, sketching something, scribbling, or just staring out the window. What follows below attacks the very thing we are communicating on right now. So leave. This piece will remain, and you can laugh at it’s offering whence you return.

Suprise
The pursuit of happiness has many of us duped. Caught inside an ever decreasing trap of our own making. A few years ago I wrote extensively about Narcissus. He who fell madly in love with his own reflection. His admiration of himself causing his eventual death by the river Styx.

Reflection Can be Golden

Addict
Some of us look at our computers/laptops/tablets or phones infrequently? Some of us believe that we casually gaze upon mobile devices once every half an hour to every couple of hours. The truth, we regard devices as many times as 10 – 40 times in an hour. That’s as often as once every 1.5 minutes in an hour. If we were to ask ourselves, if like Narcissus we have fallen in love with our own image? We would possibly answer with a resounding – NO! However the attraction to longingly, lovingly, looking at our internet savvy tech has me questioning. Are we doomed like Narcissus?

Brain on Notice
For a few years I have attempted to keep a regular meditation practice. There are a few reasons. Firstly, for overall brain health. Another consideration for me is to maintain a consistent level of focus. Our world now, demand’s a renewed level of awareness. At the top of my priority for improved concentration include; Raising emotionally literate children, my work with counselling or coaching clients, listening to podcasts or radio programs, reading bathing in the knowledge of others and enjoying insights. The benefits of focusing would be positive outcomes relating to meditation practice.

Infuriation
The constant challenge is the mind drifts. This is experienced at an exaggerated degree when I am sat in repose meditating. It is like my mind finds ways to literally run away with itself on the most errant of ideas worries and imaginings. Last nights meal, conversations to be had, arguments lost, items found, children to picked up or dropped off, client considerations, relationship concerns, family, health (relating to MS and aging) fitness, financial worries, ongoing world crisis (Climate, War, Water, Energy), elections, study, travel and the list continues. All of the above thoughts and considerations flood in when a moment is created for internal reflection. It is like brains wired for activity, our minds attached to them are unable to fully let go of the high functioning operant level. Problem solving, solution focused finding is a goal to be reached. To down gear into an experience of relaxing calm seems like an impossibility.

Eye Glasses
Perhaps we should be happy for Narcissus? He found the subject of his desire, and was content enough to waste away with his beloved by a river and die. Knowing the story from a position of the outsider looking upon Narcissus’ folly we notice his short-sightedness. His inability to find anything other than his own image reflected back at him. A totality of all that was beautiful, beguiling, attractive and yet ultimately unobtainable. Zeus presented Narcissus with a cruel curse then. A tale of woe for all who cannot hear or see the message therein.

Enchanted
Like Narcissus what our devices are able to do, is show us our interests in ever more increasingly captivating presentations. Whether the service is delivered by Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the appeal is to be amongst, playing, adapting, creating, uploading and engaging with an audience that reflects an individual back unto themselves. Devices offer an echo chamber, a self-fulfilling feedback loop. Being away from the ‘mirror’ then invites fear, revulsion, envy, jealousy, self pride, pity, fleeting experiences of happiness and momentary collections of learning. I have been with all of these emotions and thoughts throughout my time creating a virtual footprint. The feelings that are legion, arise either through producing content or accessing information. Being away from the device and the virtual world has many experience the idea of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Not being online at the right time and place all the time. I imagine the virtual footprint anxiety steals something from us.

Like Narcissus – Really?

Handling Fire
At a new years party 2019 -2020, when the crisis that is the global pandemic was nascent, I shared an idea about mobile phones. I said to another party goer ‘It is like the mobile phone has replaced the fire we all used to share our stories, whilst sitting around its warmth. The phone is our camera, telecommunication device, and connects us to the world in a way that fire did and could not.’ In the days before we would throw our imagination against the fire. Fire would help us see and describe what we saw amongst our group. These imaginings could then be made manifest. Manifestations of our imaginations happened at first with interpreters, then scribes and with paper, then books, then radio, cinema then TV we have moved from the communal and shared experience to the insular and the individual.

Heat
What has been replaced by a communal warmth and sharing is a blue cooler light. There are uncountable gains for those who value and learn as individuals to absorb information in an singular way. The loss for me, is being aware of how learning by self is passed on? As a global community with a small handful of members holding knowledge for themselves, how can we all grow and learn similarly? Is there a need for Ubuntu? The idea of the Zero-Sum game is made manifest here. Could individual isolated learning be an example of flaws in a solo learning monoculture, potentially leading some towards fundamentalism and radicalization over and above collective reasoning, reflection, awareness of self, group, community and growth?

Urbanized Reflection

Minimise
With self interest held at a premium does the web of interconnectedness fail with a system that has a few sclera’s enmeshed amongst it’s organisation? I am taken to my own faltering nervous system, the scourge that is MS. Within a weakened system like the nervous system of a person with an auto-immune disease like Multiple Sclerosis, electrical messages are not passed easily along damaged nerves. The message either arrives late, in a delayed or garbled fashion or not at all. With relapsing remitting MS (RnR) a relapse can be caused by heat, stress, tiredness and by the over defensive mechanism of the body’s immune system confusing food particles as harmful pathogens that should be attacked and destroyed. Thereby damaging formerly healthy cells and creating scars and lesions along nerves.

Corrupted
I am also mindful of Cypher in the Matrix, who as a component attacks and betrays the system the rebels have asserted. As a node Cypher attempts to corrupt all – for his own gain. If a web like the human nervous system, the microorganisms of the soil and the systems that support plant life, can and often do find alternative paths to carry information, then the organism can survive and often finds ways to do so well. With the invention of mobile technology our ability to function well, beyond a virtual world appears hampered, affected – infected.

Juggernaut
Attention spans have been decreasing ever since the Information Age became the mental onslaught it now is! Our minds have become a much sought-after real estate upon which a number of material battles are fought for. Those who win get to earn our first 2nd and 3rd purchasing choices. They earn our belief and own our loyalties. Any other choice is seen as untrustworthy, valueless, having inferior quality and simply does not hold our interest. Reading a long read like Whiteness on The Couch by Natasha Stovall or a book that challenges long held ideas about the world in which we live such as The Origin of Consciousness in The Breakdown of the Bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes, or True Believer by Eric Hoffer helps to improve focus and builds a newer understanding of what we all experience and offered chance to re-evaluate. Even a blog as lengthy, wordy, wan and as wildly speculative as my blogs tend to be, can grow attention spans and generate a nonlinear perspective that could be useful in topics of discussion at personal or professional settings. Make what is read, listened to or watched personally meaningful. Even if the subject material is used as a catalyst to spark ridicule or laughter for a moment allow self to be altered.

Intelligent Light Trappings

Options
What we tend to gain when we step away from the banal, simple, pre-digested material often fed through news and media outlets, snap chat feeds, Instagram lives, TikTok videos, Youtube viral finds, Facebook campaigns, twitter links, LinkedIn broadcasts, can be a step closer to genuine rich honest communicative ideas that challenge and create space for new thoughts and ideas to emerge. The intention behind writing this piece was ultimately for the reader – you; to answer a simple question. If you realise that you, like Narcissus, are soon to bring about your own end through mindless neglect what steps do you take?

Resources
An inspired evening of conversation, food and drink, with friends and new acquaintances can provoke discussion that offer chance to catch new ideas. If the pandemic has robbed us of anything it is the freedom to meet, and have chance to come together and talk, share ideas and laugh at the folly of our lives. I thank Dave, his wife Emily and family for hosting a truly entertaining evening that birthed the idea of the fire in our hands – mobiles.
I have shared in previous Blogs Natasha Stovall’s article of Whiteness on the Couch. The article is a prime example of a sustained effort arriving at difficult conclusions. Whiteness on the Couch is a long read. My advice take time to absorb the information shared.
The Origin of Consciousness sounded like a great book to spend time with. My niece Portia suggested I read it if I wanted to gain understanding of what we perceive as psychology. The book has helped me appreciate the complicated awareness we have understanding our minds.
The link to Cypher is in essence prophetic in relation to how he attempts to swing events in the 1999 movie The Matrix, to his favour.
After Skool offers a wonderful philosophical and practical understanding of what we are experiencing being a sentient being on the planet now. I was attracted by the title ‘MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL’. I believe the authors of this beautifully drawn argument offer a useful and updated understanding of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.
Elite Content Marketer brings the article Screen Time Stats as a useful observation of our human trend in relation to the other screen we used to spend hours watching – TV. I also enjoyed reading about the impact of picking up our phones. We become enthralled with what we have seen. Narcissus whisperings.
The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary was a perfect film to highlight the challenge facing humanity at the height of the Pandemic. I found the documentary useful to hear from those involved with the information age industry, state clearly, if a service is free YOU ARE THE PRODUCT being exploited, used and largely manipulated.
The True Believer YouTube video is an insightful look at Eric Hoffer’s book. Academy of Ideas shares understanding of what the book discusses. I offer True Believer as a counter argument to A Killing of the Mind video. Mass movements come and go, we determine their impact.
A Killing of the Mind After Skool
Screen Time Stats Elite Content Marketer
The Social Dilemma Netflix
True Believer Academy of Ideas

To answer the question above, as an Artist my medium du jour is writing. It is my small act of creating, imagining and bringing to light from another place ideas that engender hope, resilience, humor and balance. These ideas are what keep me up at night and get me up in the morning. If writing can open doors that lead to corridors of wonder – the attempt – tether lightening to my leaden ideas…

Images
Cover photo Glee by Glen Anthony on Unsplash
1st photo Inlay Golden Tree image by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
2nd photo Train Viewing by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash
3rd photo White Shoes by Redd on Unsplash
4th Mirrored Man photo by Imani Bahati on Unsplash

Compadre

Together until hats and
Sabres, scarves and
Ammo belts tilt and
Fall or thrown
Down! Bullets
In psychological
Psychobable we blew
Others away
Like Chaff!

You dashing and
Daring and me
Quiet, dismissive, assessing.
Our foes dodging and
Careening to get ‘way
From your shots.
My warnings.

Balance Power And Poise Personified

Sparing none. Killing
With kindness and
Flare. Tragedy and
Trauma. Both lived
Brushed off, scarred
A little, and so knew
Our enemies
Well.

Not versed and
Unable to battle
Similar. Spat ‘n
Cursed ‘n had to
Let us
Pass undeterred.

But harm they
Did. Blatantly. Traps.
Audaciously, withering with
Lies and supported by
Cavalry and legions of
Followers, sheep, braying,
Stinking others who
Thought we were
Outgunned by seniority.

Pseudo superiority. They
Shot down, we battle
Weary. Back to back.
Butch and Sun
Dance. You slim and
Deft and defiant. Confident.
Me heavy and
Slow, somber looking.
Attached to thinking.
Acting mute.

Throwing all, silent
Fingers of vengeance and
Despised eyes of
Demise, a Phoenix rises
From ashes and
So warned they
Burned. Mightily. We
Still laugh at their
Moxie and
With our children tell
Of bravery in
Battle, little big stories.

Inspired by your tracings of invisible marks and rememberings of days past EK.

Resources
Seven is the Wind by Menahan Street Band – this song frames this poem
Sketches in Spain by Miles Davis
Pecking Order Margaret Heffernan T.E.D. Talk
Fugitive – Indigo Girls
This is Love Podcast The Wolves

Images
Cover photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash
Inlay photo by yoo soosang on Unsplash
2nd inlay photo by Matt Noble on Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 3

Recalibration
The challenge for them (Narcissus) is in the invitation to begin deconstructing and decommissioning a world view that has enabled their Narcissistic behaviours to win at life.

For their self-interested behaviours be victorious against a past that could have been annihilating for them. Surviving and sharing their history with another would be a closer assessment of their truth if they could trust others enough for it to be heard.

Dismantling their coiffed well-presented image of themselves takes courage. The dark side of themselves is a perspective that has them as a person beginning to see that the vision they had held was askew is risky. The final scene in Dorian Gray is a perfect depiction of Narcissus seeing himself almost for the first time. The grotesque in themselves is an unbearable concept.

Staccato
As Jill Scott sang in Love Rain ‘the vibe slipping off it’s axis’ is a useful analogy to describe the destabilization for Narcissus. Slippage is necessary to enable a nobler sight of realism to be perceived and understood. Perhaps the task is not for us to save, but to stand at a safe enough distance. Allow Narcissus to recognise that the image before her/himself is illusion. A visual echo of what once was. The mirrored and always elusive self is unable to be experienced – much like A Picture of Dorian Gray – the perfect imperfect.

*Humorosity
A cataclysmic explosion would be necessary for the change to begin in earnest for Narcissus. To make a change of such import the intervention has to be brutal and honest. Perhaps…

The offer here is, with curiosity and doses of humoured inquiry make an attempt to be interested in what happens for Narcissus’s now. Do not rush. If you can, pose loose questions. With a sense of genuine wanting to peer behind their curtain/wall. Inviting Narcissus to do so too. For though the subject appears to be laid bare and low -unprocessed material lies here.

In part due to their exposure of a little known truth they dimly knew of themselves. Mainly because of the expansion caused by the explanation of their inner truth. Be careful as this could either be their first introduction (genus) to humility or the hard pressed kernel of defiant resistance. Only time will tell which route they will take. One that leads to re-connecting with their humanity. The other continues following a path to more pain for themselves and for others.

More Walk London

Honouring
What lies at their centre? (Have you wondered?) The aim here is to open up chinks in a well-oiled, well maintained Armour. The chinks let out as well as let in opportunities for scents of change. The process can be slow. What is to be noted is Narcissus’ recognition of empathy and warmth from themselves to another. Observing fealty and connection for themselves and also what being in honest communication is like. Where, if any differences are felt and what that may be like? Rather than them hearing the familiar self-recriminations of blame, of anger, disappointment and fear. Letting themselves out of their prism they shielded themselves from the world – cautiously. See earlier

What next
There are a number of choices that could be made in relation to Narcissus. Leave them to attend to manage themselves by themselves.
Stay and learn to manage life with them.
Leave and attend to the holes that they pockmarked your life with.
Stay but be emotionally detached.
Leave and heal and be aware of narcissistic tropes.
Stay and support them through change.
Leave and live well.
Stay and enlist others to support their change growth and development.

I recognise these are not easy choices. It is about what resilience is like for you and what resources you have at your disposal. Always hold the gas mask analogy with you. This is about you not them.

Attractive
The intriguing factor for me as a therapist is the attraction to Narcissus. Narcissus who brings some emotional pain, self doubt, a devalued sense of self, experiences of elation and happiness to the person(s) they are with.

Magnetic
Is there a part of their character that appeals above ones own although this particular aspect is often harmful and hurts?

If personal harms are the case, what does being with Narcissus offer? Someone who is wicked with their humour. They are able to bring together a group of charming and attractive friends? They are able to offer you the delights of social mobility and acceptance? They provide you with an undeniable sense of  responsibility “If I don’t, who will?”

Does superiority, defiance, charm and wit with moments of crushing lows also become experiences of the person who has fallen for their attraction to Narcissus?

I would advise you to evaluate with time away from them. Look at your life with them and life without them in it. There was a time before when they were not. How was life then…?

Support
A number of therapeutic models may be of use to support someone that has narcissistic traits and close others. Dialetical Behavioural Therapy, Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Therapy, Cognitive Analytic Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

The want to be better, as in the joke above ‘How Many Psychotherapists.., is to come from them.

Always.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one
Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work
Understanding the Mind of a narcissist
*Humorosity A Michaelism see No 37

Cover Image by https://unsplash.com/@marcojodoin
More Walk Photo by David East on Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 2

Pain
The pain of being held accountable,
of being made to feel perpetually wrong,
of shame and embarrassment,
of being made vulnerable and seen as weak or lesser than,
is a fear
for a person who may have narcissistic traits
to hold on to their distortion
that little bit harder and for far longer.
Than is healthy/necessary
The threat of being made small again is too great.

Because once, a few years ago, perhaps when they were infants they had been made to feel all of the above by valued loved ones, friends, teachers, frenemies.
So they, Narcissus, erected a wall. Keeping all the bad out and locking in all they perceived as good.

Tactics like division, fear and threatening behaviours are used to enable self-aggrandizement and remain with a sense of strength (Omnipotence), being right, whole, good, beautiful and powerful, employed at other people’s expense and often their suffering.

The right of Narcissus’.

Hand Holding Crystal Ball

Narcissistic personality?
Narcissism produces a distorted self-image, an oversized ego, and a presumption of superiority not based on any real-world accomplishments. Narcissists reveal their feelings about themselves and others through their actions, which are often manipulative and self-centered. Despite the depth of feeling narcissism generates, and the deep-seated insecurity it compensates for, people diagnosed with severe narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder) can learn to manage humanity, their symptoms, and reduce the disorder’s influence over their lives. That is if they recognise that change is beneficial.

This is a BIG if…

Past
Narcissus may have had a number of experiences that threw their idea of self and the world in which they live into disarray at an earlier developmental age.

Experiences such as loss through bereavement or loss of home, war, poor relationships with caregivers, poverty, bullying, emotional neglect could support the development of narcissistic traits. The personhood of Narcissus may have been negatively affected by the environment that they were raised in.

Developing traits that support a positive view of themselves always, and a lesser view of anyone and everyone else around them. Projecting a view of all that hurt them, into and onto all others and everything else in between helps to protect a fragile self. The act of denying others their humanity and not recognising their own robs Narcissus of intimate contact with another/others.

Therefore Narcissus can remain perfect and invulnerable: Always.

Gas Lighting
The term gaslight was coined after the 1944 film of the same name. Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. In the movie, a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. Illustrating the destructive power of gaslighting.

Gas Mask at Altitude
Due to the human capacity for finding purpose and wanting to support others to attain fulfilment and happiness it often occurs that partners, family, friends and colleagues often want to rescue a person that appears to have narcissistic traits. The joke of how many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb fits here. “Ah but the light bulb has got to want change.” For any person engaging in therapy they must see the benefits of change. For someone with narcissistic traits if the problem is with all others then there is nothing to talk about and nothing that therapy can offer… Until…

Resources
Gaslighting – Two Guys on Your Head
Understanding the Mind of Narcissus

Cover Photo Serrah Galos@serrah Unsplash
Crystal Ball Dawid Zawiła@davealmine Unsplash

REFLECTION Reviewed pt 1

Last year (2018) I wrote an impassioned piece in support of a friend who wanted to know a little more about Narcissistic personality types. I wanted to re-touch the blog a little and help make some of the concepts discussed a little more accessible. Maybe. Just a little.

Working with service users that have spent time on probation or in prison, a few have reminded me with traits of the below story. With transparency a number of people I have met and know display some of the traits explored below. It could be that in some way we all have narcissistic traits.

Peace
You may have met people who may have narcissistic traits or display an inability to empathise with another, or view an experience from another perspective other than their own. My aim with this blog, is to offer insight to the history of Narcissus and provide an understanding of what can be done to reduce the harmful effects of coming in to contact with personality types that have narcissistic traits. I use the name Narcissus throughout this piece of writing to aid personalising narcissistic personality types.

Oppositional

Photo by https://unsplash.com/@ms88

The Greek Myth Of Narcissus
According to Conon, Aminias, a young man fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Aminias was also spurned by Narcissus. Narcissus gave the unfortunate young man a sword. Aminias killed himself at Narcissus’ doorstep praying to the Gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he had provoked.

Mirror
Narcissus was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow. According to the myth Narcissus is still admiring himself in the Underworld, looking at the waters of the Styx.

Reaction
The story above presents a number of uncomfortable ideas.
1 Narcissus refuses love and adoration from suitors.
2. The best that Narcissus can offer is a sword with which Aminais can do what he likes with.
3. Aminais chooses death and the wrath of the Greek gods to punish Narcissus for his intolerant self worth opinion of himself.
4. Narcissus falls into complete adoration of himself and dies alone and happy?

Inner Turmoil
The aspect that I find interesting about the story of Narcissus and narcissists is that their self-image is the one that they protect and adore above all others. The mirrored self is not real. The unreal self is only a reflection. The unreal self is a mirrored image of perfection that is ultimately flawed as it cannot be attained nor possessed. Thus the mirrored unreal and perfect self is as such, wanted all the more by Narcissus.

Pitiful
I hold a degree of pity towards Narcissus. Ideas about missed opportunities flit behind my consciousness and understanding of a narcissistic personality type. The idea of what they could be or come into contact with is an interesting twist of fate. Observing my compassion about working with someone who may have a distorted view of their reality, helps to maintain my connection with personality types.

Strangle Hold
By their holding so tightly to their view of reality – Narcissus.Imagine this if you will: arms, legs, teeth clamped over the reality they desperately hope to maintain. And with their eyes firmly unequivocally shut – holding themselves from new information that their view is misguided. The world as a whole by Narcissus is considered wrong, bleak, threatening, offering little that can shift perspective.

The strangle hold Narcissus may have on what they feel is rightfully theirs we hope would/could change. Providing logical, referenced, evidence as to why their way may not be working any longer is useful for us. Speaking with others about what difficulties we are experiencing can be useful to hear another perspective and context check that our thought processes are fully operational.

Resources
Dr Dwight Turner Narcissism of the other one
Psychology Today 6 Ways to Make it Work

Cover Picture by Photo by Thomas BRAULT on Unsplash

A Poem for Narcissus

Educating Narcissus

Show a distorted
Image almost
a picture of
Dorian Gray.

Display in good enough 
Light, invite 
Introspection.
The image pointing
Through the grotesque,
The distended
Wanting horror
To shock 
And drama and 
Show no mercy.
Never – invite in
Pain.

Wanting the subject to
Ask, is that how 
People see me? 
Is that How 
You
See me? 
Is that really 
Me? The answer 
always 

Yes!
To me
As horrible as the image you see
And more
And worse
Bloody and bleeding
Seething knot
Weeded seedlings
Killing, tangling
Feeding a never.

They in handsome 
Refrain, now 
Strained fighting to 
Escape change in 
Small things, notice
The armaments, denial 
Shame, angling to 
Reframe, growth may 
Arrive next and
Demand sought to 
End Pain, transgress 

Frustrate this
No more.