What Everyone Needs To Know About Narcissism
Narcissism is a scale and everyone exists on it. Those at the top end of the scale may qualify as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD. Less than 2% of the population suffers from NPD. Think about how many people you know with green eyes. It’s the same distribution. So no, not that many people are narcissists in this context, and definitely not as many as some instagram narcissistic abuse accounts or spiritual articles about the narcissist/empath dynamic would have you believe.
Some individuals are highly narcissistic (read: extremely self-centered or extremely codependent) without actually having a diagnosable disorder.
Both of these types of people become narcissistic as a result of attachment trauma, or through a cycle of emotional abuse. Their parents were unable to provide appropriate emotional care and boundaries during their formative years, resulting in the child learning to get its needs met in unhealthy ways.
People often refer to teenagers and children as being self-centered, but this is totally normal behavior that they eventually grow out of, if they have the proper nurturing and emotional regulation. Teens and kids’ prefrontal cortex (the area that governs decision-making in adults) is not fully formed until they are approximately 25-years old. Until then, they use a different part of the brain to make decisions than adults that doesn’t have the capacity to fully grasp the consequences of their actions.
In addition, certain cultures are more prone to narcissistic behaviors than others. Western culture and it’s idealization of Individualism is highly narcissistic, so narcissistic traits and values are reinforced on top of actual attachment trauma, resulting in a cycle of ever-increasing self-centeredness that seeps out into the systems that underpin society, particularly in our economic, political and social systems.
When I discuss narcissism, I am talking about it within all of these contexts and I try to be pretty specific about which context I am referring to: psychological, or social, or both.
When I talk about traits of narcissistic spiritual teachers/coaches, I’m talking about people with potential personality disorders who may engage in abusive behavior.
Other times, I’m talking about people who are steeped in narcissistic culture (and probably a little higher on the scale, themselves), but may not be NPD, who perpetuate abusive ideas and behaviors, such as spiritual social media influencers and coaches.
I don’t want to contribute to the melee of people who think their ex is a narcissist because they couldn’t meet their emotional needs. The hard (research-backed) truth is, if you’re labeling your ex a narcissist, you’re probably one, too. We all are, to some degree. We live in a narcissistic society.
My goal is to bring an awareness to this so that we can be better.
Where does narcissism come from?
Underneath the personal and cultural self-centeredness that is narcissism lies an inherent sense of shame.
Narcissistic tendencies are simply over-compensations for areas where we feel as though we are not enough, where our pain is so unacknowledged that we believe no one hurts as much as we do, and where we’ve shut ourselves off from that pain for so long that it’s made it impossible for us to empathize with anyone else.
How do you heal narcissism?
To heal your own narcissism or narcissistic tendencies, you have to explore some form of the following:
1: Find a therapist that specializes in treating narcissism (if you think this is huge problem for you).
2: Stop avoiding your pain, get back in touch with your shame and learn how to meet it with compassion.
3: Stop looking for self-worth/validation from external sources (supply).
4: Perfectionism is your enemy. You have to stop worrying about what other people think of you (so long as you’re not HURTING them).
5: Take radical responsibility for your emotions and better understand what belongs to you and what doesn’t (this may involve exploring a victim mentality).
5: Learn healthy boundaries. Understand where you’ve crossed them and where you’ve failed to set them for yourself with others.
A lot of this is going to involve looking at the attachment trauma created from abusive (or neglectful) relationships with parents and lovers, understanding our own codependency and enmeshment, and ultimately, humbling ourselves (taking off the mask/false persona we’ve created to compensate), and then finding our authentic self and understanding its inherent worth. That involves a whole lot of reparenting and, at the end of the day, SELF-COMPASSION.
Some folks will tell you, “If you think you’re an narcissist, then it means you’re not a narcissist.” which is accurate for people with actual NPD, however, people who are high on the narcissism scale DO have the capacity to self-reflect and may still have highly narcissistic behavior.
Obviously there’s so much more that can be said about this and it won’t all fit here, so please use this as a guide, not as a rule book.
Here’s a few more posts on how narcissism infiltrates spirituality:
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