| 30 Sep 2003 @ 13:02, by Letecia Layson|
Challenging a narcissist on his or her behavior is like trying to interact with a bucket of tar. The more you try to get at it, the more you become stuck in it because all they know how to do is take.
Yesterday I went to see my doctor, and when I put down the book I was reading, she noticed the title and asked me if it was good. The book is Narcissism, Denial of the True Self by Alexander Lowen. She said she thought denial of the true self is counterintuitive. I wholeheartedly agreed and said to her that it was a good book about narcissism, and she told me her mother was definitely a narcissist. I said I felt that narcissism is an epidemic, to which she agreed with nervous laughter. I also told her I was doing research on narcissism because I am writing a book about it from a feminist perspective.
This column is not about the usual PMS we hear about. I am writing about PMS -- the patriarchal mind-set -- and its relationship to narcissism. I see this mind-set as a 5000 year-old invasive virus, a dis-ease of the soul we have all been suffering from, including the planet, for a very long time. All the ills I see come from this virus. In shamanic terms, an invasive energy is causing a deep soul loss, resulting in horrendous physical, mental, emotional, environmental and spiritual sickness (when I went to type the previous word, I accidentally typed "dickness" instead. I couldn't help but notice this unconscious connection to what I am saying). PMS is a view founded on male domination and control, absent of love and full of hate. It is one we have all internalized, because we have all been living inside of it for 5000 years. And now it lives inside of us. Because energy follows thought, the deep gorge carved by this fear-based thinking exists inside our collective unconscious, our subconscious and our conscious mind. And, we are held in this deep abysmal gorge of the patriarchal mind, surrounded by steep slopes of isolation and fear. This grinding energy cuts and shapes our hearts and those of our children. We are dry, lost and covered over with the dust of ignorance, starving in a parched wasteland, desperate to be seen and heard as the loving beings we are and want to be.
Because we are caught and bound in this painful reality, very often our only survival is to become narcissistic -- desperate for the attention that we deserve but never got, and devoid of feelings and empathy. We spend lifetimes searching for a way out but creating karma instead, because we don't know what we are running from and why we are so scared. In the process, we have managed to create an image of ourselves we hide behind -- one that is only good. Therefore, all the rest of us, the not-so-good parts, are projected outwardly, and we blame others for our pain. We deny the true self in order to survive. This situation makes it nearly impossible to have truth and magic, the threads necessary for weaving transformation. We are too busy defending ourselves and striving to be right, to be good. Meanwhile, our normalized addictions grow out of control, and no one notices because we are all in so much pain, and it feels not quite so lonely to suffer in company.
Lowen writes it is the denial of the true self that creates narcissism. What is our true self? If our parents denied their true selves, how could we possibly learn about our own? As I see it, like the invasion of the body-snatchers, the PMS has taken over our true self -- that which is rooted in love, compassion, justice, equality, cooperation, beauty, ecstasy, joy, presence, kindness, creativity, and celebration. These are the practices of the Goddess. We have lost the connection to the Goddess within. This is why narcissism exists at all. The Goddess is anathema to the PMS because Her energy threatens the constructs of domination and control. Our egos have become hard and rigid and we identify with our pain. We become our pain. The Goddess energy, like a loving and caring mother, seeks to heal the wounding of the reality of the PMS, but this love is not passive. It is fierce and active, and therefore scares the egoic structures of delusion. Challenging a narcissist on his or her behavior is like trying to interact with a bucket of tar. The more you try to get at it, the more stuck you become in it, because all narcissists know how to do is to take. That is how devoid a narcissist is of love and feeling.
In Euro-Western society, I feel we are all on this continuum. Some of us are more devoid and self-centered than others, but we all suffer from the same condition. I believe this condition is directly caused by a lack of respect for women and our power to bleed, birth and give milk. Without connection to this energy, this very sacred life-giving and life sustaining energy, narcissism grows, because there is no choice. The human being experiences this absence as a deep betrayal and from this betrayal comes a consuming rage -- a healthy response. But because this rage is not identified early on as the reaction against the denial of love, it can only fester into a murderous rage when what it really needs is to be transformed. Hence violence, war, destruction, wanton hatred and the general non-caring and disrespect for life that we see all around us, which males perpetuate more than females. Why is that?
As I see it, all narcissism is not the same. Male narcissism has the component of entitlement and privilege that female narcissism does not have. While it is true that the undifferentiated ego claims privilege in its rage, the conditions of patriarchy and its effects on people and culture play a profound role in how narcissism develops in men and in women. Because women are the oppressed in a male dominated society, the narcissism developing from their experience does not have the same sanctified position and acceptance as male narcissism. Women generally do not rape. Some, yes, but most certainly not like men do. Male narcissism is supported and encouraged by the use and abuse of women as objects and pornography. Female narcissism is not supported at all. If we are not the good servers of patriarchy, we are condemned and demonized. It is male narcissism that is the father of narcissism. Any woman caught in this trap -- this "dickness" -- loses her soul, becomes male identified and her self-centeredness becomes a struggle for survival in a male world.
The male already has privilege in a male world. His narcissism is cute. Television commercials abound with such things as the husband waking up in the night with a cough while the pert and sweet wife jumps up out of bed, heads to the medicine cabinet to find just the right syrup, runs back, and pours it in a spoon and feeds it to him -- to this grown man. He is just so cute sitting there in his bed, completely unable to do anything for himself, in total and complete expectation of being taken care of. She then comforts him so that he can go back to sleep.
Women have to become more like men in order to be seen. It most certainly is not the other way around. Because of this, women lose connection to a deep sense of self. For in patriarchy, our choices of who we may become are limited to either being virginal or "whorific". Narcissism from either of these two realities is still defined by the PMS. Male narcissism and female narcissism both stem from the patriarchal male point of view, but female narcissism is a direct result of being oppressed, abused and dominated. Male narcissism rules. In a "kingdumb" where male narcissism rules, all are subjected to the influence of this out-of-control, disrespectful, insane perpetration/penetration.
A male psychiatrist diagnosing a female as narcissistic would really need to know the depth of her pain and the depth of her colonization and assimilation and have empathy with the total and complete loss of her culture in order to understand her as a narcissist. A narcissistic male psychiatrist can sit in his privileged position and diagnose a woman while his own narcissism goes completely unnoticed. Freud could manipulate his findings of sexual abuse of women, blame them for it, call them hysterical, and come up with penis envy as a viable insight, all because he was too afraid to tell the truth and be criticized by the PMS of his day. His own narcissism went completely unchallenged, and yet we have a whole system of "healing" based on his work.
From my perspective, our only hope lies in the restoration of women to sacredness and respect, since life flows from our wombs, and all that is birthed by us is therefore sacred. When women reclaim this truth, the culture created from that wisdom will create beauty and peace. Women must exorcise any and all male identification in order to be free from this virus. Women's culture is vastly different from the current patriarchal paradigm we are agonizing in. Women's culture is based on love. Patriarchy is based on domination and hatred. Love is not a word. It is action. It is being. It is vital and alive. It soothes the parched hearts and souls of our narcissistic imprisonment and restores the wellness of our being. If men were to become more like women who have re-membered our culture and dis-identified with the current ruling paradigm, things on this planet would be very different indeed.
How do we begin to become part of the solution? We begin by loving ourselves. How do we do that? By looking closely and directly at any and all of our addictions and freeing our energy to access our love. By giving space to our pain, and understanding it with compassion and self-forgiveness. By looking in the mirror and noticing all the negating self-talk and changing it to loving talk. By refusing to be a slave of the PMS and holding a space that can create something very different. This change that is so necessary is huge. It will not be possible to shift things overnight. But we can begin with ourselves,and take to heart the changes we need to make in ourselves. I do not think it is of much value to be a political activist when one isn't an activist of the heart. Things will continue to spin around and around with very little movement until we understand the deep roots of the PMS and how all life everywhere on our planet is profoundly and grievously affected by it.
Is it possible to heal narcissism? Some say it is not. I feel that it is, because where there is courage (meaning "to take heart") there is infinite possibility.
Feminist shamanic healer Leslene Della Madre is a contributing editor of Awakened Woman. Hotflash! is her new column. Leslene's book, Midwifing Death: Into the Arms of the Mother is due to be published very soon by Plain View Press. She is now working on a second book, about narcissism.
Note: Check here if you want to read more on narcissism.