Monthly Archives: October 2019

The Spiritual Dimension of Narcissism (& Narcissism in Relationships)

selfishness.jpg
Spiritual Ignorance—

What we call “spirituality,” in all its many guises and paths, is really all the same thing… getting closer to God. Or, better, realizing that we were never separate, in the first place. Hence the expression, “self-realization.” We can also call this “vibrating with source,” or “being twice born,” or “satori” … it doesn’t much matter what we call it, as it’s all about overcoming that sense of separation, which Buddha called avidya.

Although avidya translates as ignorance, it is not ignorance in the usual sense, rather it is the state of being unaware of the abiding connections between all of us and between everything (‘though there really are no “things”) in the universe. We can experience the feeling of connection in myriad ways, for example, through any creative endeavor, through deep encounters with nature, and through authentic connections with other people and animals.

Every spiritual path is built around the need to overcome ignorance and cultivate a sense of deep connection with all that is.

Why is it so important?

Because without it, we will have an ego-driven world, devoid of considerateness, and full of self-centered behavior.

Sounds a lot like narcissism.

Disclamer—
I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that the only difference between garden variety ego and diagnosable Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the location of where it falls on a spectrum, as there is still much to be learned about the brain and genetics and whatever else may be at work, physiologically and chemically, in producing psychological disorders. So, I will speak as an interested scholar, as a lifelong spiritual student and teacher, as well as someone who has been in relationship with others who embody and display narcissistic behaviors.

Narcissism and the Spiritual Path—
If the spiritual path is marked by the extent to which we become aware of our inherent divine nature, which the unchecked dominance of ego blocks out, then narcissism may be seen as a kind of chronic disunion. This is displayed as lack of empathy, which is always listed as its telltale, defining feature.

Without self-awareness, the narcissist will be oblivious to his/her behavior and how he/she is “coming off” to others. Thus, the narcissist will speak and act in offensive ways, and will be chronically lacking in thoughtfulness, due to the unchecked hyper-focus on his/her own needs, moods and whims.

This tendency may be displayed through disrespectful or inconsiderate communication styles, as well. For example, through a lack of ability to listen to the other, or persistent tendency to interrupt. This comes from either a conscious or an unconscious belief that his/her commentary is more important than anyone else’s, or a childlike lack of self-control.

Vulnerability—
The ability to be vulnerable is inextricably connected up with overcoming ignorance because without it, there is no true human connection being made. And without connection, there is no empathy.

A relationship with a narcissist is always described as one which entails unavoidable feelings of neglect and disappointment, since your needs, as the narcissist’s partner, will not be recognized. The lack of empathy bars this. This is why, besides “lacking in empathy,” the narcissist is often described as acting out of a “sense of entitlement.” This manifests when their need for comfort predominates, to the extent that the narcissist expects others to always accommodate them, eg, food choices, etc., without the genuine desire or ability to reciprocate and sacrifice for others, in turn.

In reflecting on the notion of vulnerability and its importance in cultivating authentic and safe-feeling relationships, I believe that the absence of it is an effect, rather than a cause of the existent narcissism. A narcissist is too afraid to ever let himself/herself be open and vulnerable.

And if vulnerability is by nature a spiritual quality in that it enables true closeness and connection, then without it, a relationship with a narcissist can never be spiritually fulfilling in an enduring and ever-maturing way.

In Summary—
The relationship with the narcissist will be chronically impaired because of the inability to compromise, make concessions and sacrifice for another.

Spiritually, if connection is our ultimate purpose and source of fulfillment here on earth, then the ability to be vulnerable is requisite. It entails the capacity, courage and emotional maturity to be truly open with another and further, to be in touch with others, in a way that reflects a true sense of concern about the other’s needs, comfort and well-being. The narcissist’s lack of maturity and insecurity, which lies below the gruff facade, keeps him/her stuck at the level of his/her own needs. This is avidya.

 

The Indian Woman at the Coffee Shop

What follows is an excerpt from a book that I have been compiling notes for, throughout the last few years. It chronicles many true stories of synchronicity and divine blessings. This story is my own and from my own experience.

~~~
When I arrived at my local coffee shop, to write on the topic of prayer, I parked next to a car identical in year, make and color, to the car I had just before this one. I glanced through the windows and saw that it was loaded with clothing, as well as various and sundry random stuff, including a dog bed. It was this last item that moved me the most. It was as if someone was living out of the car, and they had a dog.

As I gathered my computer, and started toward the door of the coffee shop, I saw a thin thirty-something, Indian woman, walking near the parking lot with her senior dog. It touched my heart because the dog was arthritic. Then after a few moments, I saw them turn around and go toward the parking lot and toward the car that was identical to my old car — it was hers!

I paused for a moment, wondering about her situation. She left her dog in the car… it was a cool morning, so there was no problem with that. I could tell that she took good care of him, by the way she placed him in his little doggy bed, among all the other stuff, which was piled high all around him. And then she walked into the coffee shop before me.

I was moving slowly that morning, and ended up entering just as she was exiting. She asked me if I knew a lawyer. It was indeed, an unexpected, and out of the blue request, to be sure, especially, since we had not already spoken or been introduced in any way. She must have felt an openness about me. She then proceeded to give me the run down of her current life situation and challenges. She was in the middle of a difficult divorce and in transition, and without a stable place to live.

(As an aside, I couldn’t have known, that less than two years from then, I would also find myself in the middle of a stressful divorce.)

Through her rushed and frazzled words, I could sense her stress and fear and anger. And I could tell she had been crying. I told her that unfortunately, I knew of no lawyer. But I could feel her frazzled energy and I told her to breathe… and I breathed with her. And finally she stopped and breathed in a moment of calmness. It was likely her first calm moment in many days.

I told her to take her power back with that breath. And I told her that while she googled attorneys, I would pray for her. I gave her a hug, and after she apologized for being “gross” and un-showered, she went to drink her coffee outside, while I set up my laptop in my usual spot inside, by the window. I did pray for her, heartily… at that very moment, before ordering my usual bagel & tea.

Interesting that after going to this local coffee shop for 10 years, I never saw her there.

About a half hour later, I looked out the window and saw her engaged in a big conversation with a man, who I never saw before. This conversation went on for the next 45 minutes. As I was leaving, I stopped next to them, and said, “I see this man is helping you.” To which she said, with obvious relief and gladness in her tone, “yes!… it’s an incredible coincidence! He’s an attorney and he just happened to walk by and talk to me and he’s been giving me wonderful suggestions.”

She thanked me as I left, but I was thankful too. What really mattered was that she now felt that she had options and hope. A prayer had been answered… just like that.

I never saw either one of them again.