Recognizing how narcissism blocks the uniqueness of our Being.
Recently, the theme of narcissism has foisted itself into our collective conversation. According to Webster, it is defined as: “Excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.” We can perhaps come closer to understanding the term by delving into its synonyms: self-absorption, self-love, self-obsession, self-centeredness, conceit, egoic … But we can’t stop there, because, wrestling with narcissism is part of the human condition.
There is an in-depth book about “Transformations of Narcissism in Self Realization” by A.H. Almaas called “The Point of Existence.” In it, Mr. Almaas discusses narcissism as identifying with a part of our experience and not being able to connect to the fullness of Being.
Mr. Almaas points out that there is a spectrum of narcissism that ranges from what is deemed healthy to pathological, and that being human, we are pretty much all subject to being on that spectrum. So, it’s possible that, at any given point throughout our day, we can over-identify with the thoughts we are having, with our social status, with our current emotion, with our body image or a pain that we are experiencing.
Narcissism can make life, “all about me” and in doing so, it ironically robs us of experiencing who we really are, as well as diminishing the richness we are offered in each moment.
Over the weekend, my wife Julia witnessed an interview with a young man who had just written a book and given a TED talk. In the interview he was trying to explain that “he did not believe in” and “wasn’t looking for” inspiration. He stated that he was his own source of inspiration. He explained that everything essentially originated with him, that things weren’t interesting in themselves but it was the way that he looked at them that made them interesting.
Julia and I discussed this last declaration, turning it over and over, examining what drives us to feel we are the source of everything we see. Life is often a game of semantics. For example, inspiration and intuition are concepts that can be intertwined. If we are creatively prompted from within, our ego will often want to take credit for everything. Could all of us find ourselves, at times, doing a high-wire act between wisdom and delusion?
The paradox, for me, is that wisdom can be found both by going within and trusting our intuition, as well as being able to listen and honestly observe what is taking place around us. Thinking that we, as separate individuals, have it “going on” above everybody else, is a form of delusion, whether we acknowledge it or not.
I wasn’t there to hear the above-mentioned interview, and cannot presume to know what is in the artist’s heart. I can certainly relate to artists who are so tuned into the process of creating, that everything around them becomes interesting because they have an internal commitment to wonder.
I believe that we each have a unique perception of the life-force that flows thorough all things. If we lose sight of the fact that we are that life-force, currently inhabiting a body, then it becomes very easy to become convinced that we are separate from everything else. Because we are aware of the life-force that is connected to all things, our ego can convince us that we alone are the source of everything we see. When that happens, our unique take on things usually gets blocked by our need to be “special.”
We recently enjoyed an interview with the world renown cellist Yoyo Ma, who refers to himself as a Citizen Artist. He told host, Krista Tippet, that playing music wasn’t a competition but an opportunity to share and create a moment between the artist and the audience with the objective of making that moment special.
Most people would agree that Yoyo Ma is successful and at the top of his field. Yet, Yoyo Ma considers the moments shared by him and his audience to be the real goal. In fact, making those moments as special as possible, for him, is the point of playing music in the first place.
I would say, beyond his incredible dedication to his craft, it is Yoyo Ma’s ability to be present as presence that makes him both unique and universally appealing.
Perhaps inspiration comes to us as we let go of our over-identification with our experience or our need to be special. Perhaps, it is in allowing ourselves to be here fully, and be fully with what is, that what we are able to share becomes worth sharing.
This is a moment to moment dance that we get to choose, both individually and collectively. As human beings, we wrestle with narcissism. Still, we all have immediate access to the presence within this present moment that invites us to be fully who we are, and which opens the door to an infinite variety of uniqueness within every interaction.
Recognizing that our ego is a part, but not the whole of our existence, we can begin to open up to the wonder this moment affords us, even on the high-wire.