Narcissism appears to be thriving amid the hardships of the pandemic and the overall challenges of 2020. Are we, in addition to Covid, experiencing an unfortunate epidemic of narcissism?
It is normal when bad things happen, to become “I" focused as we adjust to personal loss, confusion, and disappointment.
Our heaviest sorrows burrow deeply in the heart and mind. When life really falls apart, we might obsess about the “bad” things for a period of time as we work through a broad array of emotions, try to re-adjust, or simply begin problem solving.
To a narcissist, when bad things happen, emotionally heavy objects land in an already crowded sphere of me, myself, and I.
My worries, my problems, and my fears are on greatest hits list of the narcissist to begin with. The era of COVID has added to the pile of woes for the narcissist, leaving little space for anything or anybody else.
Navigating the Epidemic of Narcissism: Understanding Inward and Outward Manifestations
The narcissist can’t comprehend that we are collectively more scared, more exhausted, lonelier and generally struggling.
During these difficult times, we seek a compassionate person with whom we can share our worries, loss, and fears. If you have a partner, parent, child or colleague in your “inner-circle”, that is a narcistic proceed with caution! Do not be confused and hope for compassion, understanding and generosity. If you do, you will be disappointed, and you probably don’t need any more disappointment right now.
Not all mental health professionals would agree with this, but I acknowledge two expressions of narcissism, the outwardly focused and the inwardly focused. There is a great deal of overlap between the two, but the intense focus of “me, myself and I” manifest quite differently.
Outwardly Focused Narcissism – A self-centered perspective forcefully imposed on others, often persisting even when presented with new evidence supporting a different viewpoint.
- Friends, family, lovers, and colleagues have little to no space in the relationship. Most energy is siphoned to the narcissist. This includes conversations, activities, focus, and attention.
- If you feel like your presence is disregarded in the relationship, it's because, from the narcissist's perspective, you barely register or exist.
If you have experienced a great deal of loss or problems during the pandemic, please, do not make the mistake of trying to find comfort with a narcissist in this epidemic of narcissism. Understand their nature. They are not capable of more than obsessive selfishness.
If you have a dog or cat, your pet has a specific nature. You do not expect your cat to bark, or your dog to fetch. We have right expectations with our pets because we understand their nature. We have wrong expectations with narcissists because we are clinging, hoping and grasping for a nature that they do not possess. Why do we keep insisting that the narcissist see, understand, or consider us?
We cling and grasp to the hope that the narcissist will run out of things to say about “me, myself, and I”. We are clinging and grasping to the hope that the narcissist will acknowledge that maybe what I am going through right now takes up more band width in the field of pain than what you are going through. Yes, annoying colleagues are a pain, but it is not as bad as losing your job. Yes, a pulled muscle hurts, but not as bad as COVID.
Perceived Disproportion: When My Problems Always Seem Larger Than Yours, Even When They're Identical
Do not go to the well. The well is dry. My client Sue was grieving the loss of her father from COVID, but also trying to understand why her sister Amy, could only focus on her own loss, unable to acknowledge that the whole family was grieving. Two sisters needed compassion and healing, but only one’s pain was recognized.
Once we truly accept the nature of the narcissist, and release the expectation of reciprocated compassion, the resistance and struggle eases and we feel better.
Let it go, and let it be.
Inwardly Focused Narcissism
The idea of inwardly focused narcissism is where I part from Western psychotherapy. And please note there is NO formal distinction between inward and outward directed narcissistic tendencies. This is strictly an observation.
When bad things happen to the inwardly focused narcissist, various manifestations of self-pity and self-destruction manifest. The manifestation of inwardly focused narcissism lies on a continuum. Think of self-pity at one end of the spectrum, victim hood somewhere in the middle, and violent self-destruction at the other end of the spectrum.
There are endless opportunities for the inwardly focused narcissist to isolate, separate, and wallow in their pain.
The incredibly addictive voice of victim hood makes inwardly focused narcissist feel as though their struggles are universally unique. No one else has been though what they have been through. No one could possibly understand. Inwardly focused narcissism is miserable. The inner voice is constantly judging and is a pathological critic. The lens of awareness is hyper-vigilant in attempts to recognize the next failure. If we begin to pay attention to our own narcissism, I think we will find that the focus on the self is quite pervasive.
Keep in mind, we are much more alike than we are different. Your pain is much more similar to my pain than it is different. During a time when compassion and support is more important than ever, may we all be able to let go of the instinct to protect the ego and instead, act in a more loving and compassionate manner.
Be in peace - diane