Confusion about the nature of narcissism and struggles to understanding whether narcissism is a sign of vulnerability or of grandiosity has grabbed the attention of many studies in the field of psychology, over the past decades. For the same reasons, trying to understand the nature of narcissism and what causes narcissism, inspired me to conduct my research for my Master Theses. However, in contrary to other previous studies in this field, which focus on finding ways of classifying narcissism into different categories, in my study I tried to provide an explanatory framework that would describe the nature of narcissism by offering a theoretical model of The Self integrating this way the three previous definitions of The Self by Freud (1923), Jung (1959), and Sullivan (1953). This theoretical model of The Self, which I would like to share in the future posts, I believe is the key to understanding narcissism as an error that occurs during a self-evaluation process that each individual performs quietly in their mind, each time new information is received from the outside sources. Once the information is received, our self then withdraws information from previous algorithms and templates which are saved in our permanent memory, due to life experiences in the past, knowledge accumulated, and any belief system or values that each individual follows, in order to appraise his or her worth. Errors that occur during this self-evaluation process lead to narcissism as a coping mechanism, in order to protect The Self from diminishing its own values. Therefore in my Mater Theses I concluded that classifying narcissism as vulnerable or grandiose in order to understand its nature seems quite unnecessary, because either one is only the end result of the error that occurs in the self-evaluation process, that we all perform without being aware of this process.
It is this knowledge that I drew through my own mistakes that made me realize that satisfaction in life must be measured from different standards than success is often measured. In the eyes of the society a successful person must be famous, popular, have lots of money, luxurious vacations, expensive clothes, and must hold a high position at their job place. However, one can have all these and not be happy or satisfied in life. One can feel used for his or her money, constantly doubting whether their partner really loves them for whom they are or for the money and connection opportunities that they present. One can go on luxurious vacation but not enjoying the vacation while their mind constantly wonders to a secret lover that they miss. Satisfaction with life occurs deep inside our brains, and only our self is the best judge of it. However, we are constantly judged by others of how successful and satisfied we are with our life. In order to avoid being judged by others we try very hard to hide the truth.
In one of my psychology classes I had a really interesting debate going on one day when I asked my students whether they had any idea as why questionnaires about the level of satisfaction with life, must be kept anonymous. The reason for this anonymity is simple: No one wants to be judged as a looser. If one is unhappy with life we immediately draw the conclusion that one is not successful; however, these two things are completely different from one another. Hence, we put a fake smile and pretend that everything is going well in our lives, even when we are not happy about anything, because we know that the automatic conclusion that others will draw about us is: “Something is wrong, this person is not smiling. If not smiling then the person must not be happy; if not happy than he or she must have failed to accomplish something. Hence he or she is a looser.”
Living day by day in a society that encourages fake smiles and fake happiness, especially through media, I decided to be as original as possible. Every time I see a smile on someone’s face I try to read the body language and see beyond their words and their fake smiles, and expensive clothes. I hate deception and always did since when I was a little child, but soon in life I learned that it was not my position to go around the neighborhood and slap every little kid who was lying to their parents, because as they went home complaining to their mothers, my mother then slapped me for slapping other children. I slowly, slowly learned that the truth hurts more sometimes. Every time I told the truth people were getting hurt, and that was not my intention. For example when I was in grade two and I was playing with my friends in a certain closed area in the lobby of our building, kind of separated from the rest of the lobby, this young boy in grade 8, known by everyone in the neighborhood as the trouble maker, stood there blocking the narrowed entrance. He then asked everyone to live except me. He said that I could go only if I allowed him to give me a kiss. I was terrified, but I decided to lie to him, and so I told him, “Of course I will let you kiss me, but first I got to go upstairs take all my books off the floor so my mom will not yell at me. I am coming back immediately, just wait for me here.” And I said these words by whispering at him, making him believe that I was really going to do what I said. I am not proud of lying, and especially not proud of what happened next, but I lied to survive. I felt terrified and sorry at the same time when I asked my mother for advice on the next day on what to do and how to behave in case I see this boy again, and she told me that I did not have to worry anymore. This boy wasn’t going to bother me because my dad took care of him by beating him up so badly that it is a miracle that this boy was still alive. Now, was I supposed to feel good about what she told me? No, I was not feeling good. I felt like a horrible person for telling my mom about that boy, I felt responsible for him being hurt because of me. Three years later, when I was ten, again I decided to tell the truth about my dad’s stepfather. Again, someone got hurt but it was not the creepy pervert old man always biting on his nails; instead it was my grandmother the one who I loved the most, when she learned that she had been living with a monster, and worst of all, everything I told was then confessed by all the female cousins that he had sexually abused. I asked myself, “Why? Why telling my grandmother about this when she was still depended on him, as she was in her bed, completely paralyzed on one side of her body. I told the truth of what had happened to all those people to my mother, hoping she would make a wise decision and not hurt anyone. I told her what my dad’s stepfather told me about how he had sexually abused for years, all the female cousins on my dad’s side of the family. He shared those stories with me to convince me to do the same, because that was OK according to him, others did it too. I was only seven years old when he started talking to me about certain secrets, and I asked him, if that was OK and all my cousins did it too, then why was he asking me not to tell my dad about these secrets? Why was he saying that if I would tell these secrets to my dad, my dad would kill us both? But, I was only seven, and my dad and my mom were both very angry and unhappy people. I started to feel scared, and I distanced myself from both of them and truly believed that my dad could actually kill me for allowing a man to talk those secrets to me. After a year of constantly being talked about feeling guilty and how my dad would kill me too if I told him what I learned from Lala (dad’s stepfather), I gave in and agreed only to let him use my hand occasionally in exchange of taking me to the park every time I wanted, push me on the swings until I was completely satisfied or tired, and buying me ice cream every time I wanted. Soon I started feeling even guiltier, and two years later I told my mother about it. I felt guilty because I allowed him to use my hand, knowing that obviously that was wrong since he asked me to keep it a secret, but I allowed that not because I was curious of what was he doing with my hand, or because I liked it. It was totally gross, but I looked away and managed to distract myself thinking of the future benefits of visiting all the theme parks, of unlimited swings, and ice creams. For many years later I hated myself for allowing it to happen until I learned to forgive myself and that was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life; forgiving myself.
It is because of all the experiences that I went through in life that I learned that humans hurt themselves and others because of the self-evaluation process that goes on inside the mind. When we start feeling guilty, and feel bad about ourselves and our actions, concluding that we are very bad people, we start hating ourselves. At that fraction of the second when we judge ourselves so harshly for our own mistakes, our self-defense mechanism’s task is to act like a security system to protect us from self-destruction and to make sure that we continue to live and love our existence. Because of the self-defense mechanism, we immediately shift the blame to others, and we start acting like victims, feeling sorry for ourselves.
If we really want to live in peace and have peace worldwide we must first learn to live in peace with our own self, and not worry about other people’s judgement, because the hardest judge of all is our own self. However, in order to face the truth, accept mistakes and then forgive ourselves, we must first learn to love ourselves as to accepting ourselves, to accepting our imperfection; to love ourselves as a working master piece not as a narcissistic self-love full of pity for ourselves that only triggers the defensive system. Therefore, instead of teaching our children that they are perfect just the way they are, it would be better to teach them one simple truth that, No One is Perfect. When we tell someone, “You are perfect, and no one has the right to put you down,” this sounds right at first but it encourages anger and allows us to put the blame on others. Hence, narcissism becomes a legitimate self-defense tool for everyone in the human society. In contrary, if we teach our children that they are not perfect, and that they can make mistakes like everyone else, and that it is OK to make mistakes for as long as one learns from these mistakes, then it becomes easier to treat others with the same respect we treat ourselves. My mother’s motto on teaching me humility was, “Do not expect to be served, or feel entitled of any special treatment in this world, because to me you are the only child but for the society you are the 20th or hundredth person in the raw.” Her expression, which was constantly repeated to me, pretty much encouraged me to be myself and stay true to myself, because I concluded that no matter how much I would try to fit in a group or society I would always be overlooked; I would be invisible for some and a target for others.
The only problem that this specific type of thinking brought for me over the years was the fact that I became afraid of making final decisions. I developed that sense of insecurity by always asking “What if?” What if is a very good attitude when it comes to discussing certain matters and understanding everyone’s point of view, but it is never a good strategy for matters that require some closure. I constantly doubted myself and my decisions. What if I am wrong? What if I my decisions will hurt someone? Pretty much I was like a story teller that never ended her story in the movie Kobo. Tonight after watching this movie with my younger daughter, I came to realize that even a good story must come to an end. What will live forever is the passionate and true love of the main characters, their sacrifices to save their love that has nothing to do with self-pity.
Even though I may seem to many people as this logical and cold person, scientifically driven person that is never touched by romantic gestures, that never watches romantic or drama movies, but only likes action movies which is quite the opposite of the first impression I make on others, even though I may seem very hard to figure out, full of opposites and contradictions, I was conquered 10 years ago. One man, did figure out how to make me fall in love, and for him too, this may have come quite as a surprise because he conquered me not with his gorgeous eyes, or his strength, or because of all good things he had in him. He conquered me with his humbleness and spontaneity, things that I value first before everything else on my list. And so, tonight, I decided to end my story that I kept repeating in my mind for years. Tonight, the man of my dreams has a face, a beautiful face, which was not so important compared to what he really did for me; he made me see my worth through his eyes. I was totally blind before, and always doubted myself, constantly asking, “What if I am not supposed to feel this way? What if my love hurts someone? What if the truth hurts someone?” I needed his love to end all my self-doubts, and that is why I finally put a face on this love character that I created in my mind years ago when I was still a child. The story that I kept repeating to myself that was a strong profound love but unfortunately the boy had no face, because he had a mask covering it, I finally realized that this imagination was because I was afraid of making commitment and ending a story that I loved. However, I finally realized that 10 years of feeling so strongly for this boy, and not because of his face which I totally forgot, as in my story, after 10 years of wishing day and night for this love to become real again as it was in those moments we were together, then this pretty much convinced me where my heart, my mind and my soul is. I was afraid of putting a face on my mask lover boy and end my love story because all we hear in the media is about breakups and heartaches, and I did not want to make another mistake. However, in the last year, through all the events that occurred quite rapidly in my life and by analyzing my past experiences very carefully, I finally realized that there is nothing else that would satisfy me more than being with the one that my heart, soul and mind long for. The face did not matter to me, that is why I could not remember how this boy I met 10 years ago looked like, because what mattered was how he made me feel, how me made me see myself through his eyes and the love that his eyes poured on me. That was the only thing that mattered to me then and it still matters now, his true, pure, sincere love for me. Who he was, or still is, or will be? That does not matter, to me matters what Hanzo said to Kobo’s mom, “You are my quest,” and how I replied to him the last day I saw him ten years ago while I was looking him straight in his eyes, “I am all yours.”
To me the story is now finished and I am truly satisfied with my experience. I am truly satisfied with my life and all my lessons that I learned in this life, I feel no more regrets, and especially I feel completely satisfied with the love that I experienced in this life that was so profound that words cannot explained it. I feel spoiled, loved, and blessed at the same time. I am satisfied with my life even though I was never considered a successful person by some standards. I feel happy to be myself because I learned to live in peace with myself, accept that I am not perfect and aiming of becoming a better person by forgiving myself and others, but all became possible because of this brave boy that loved me so deeply and that enabled me to see my worth through his own eyes. I would not have done it through self-love as self-pity. Only when I saw myself through his eyes I realized my worth and then I accepted the happy ending of my story. Love truly matters, because when one lacks such love, as Freud concluded too, one becomes narcissistic using self-love as a self-defense mechanism.