In the last post we talked about narcissistic wounds as a counter to the ever- popular concept of the wounded child. We are not, in fact, the walking wounded. We are simply not yet grown up. Being grown up means that we whole-heartedly embrace the fact that we can’t live out our romantic fantasies about love and that our hurt feelings are not even close to the important things. There is so much else to be had in our relationships than the sense our partners can (or cannot) meet our needs. In fact, if we’re focused on getting our needs met, we ensure that the juicier experiences of love and life will never happen. Why? Because most of our needs are narcissistic and narcissism is not a precursor to intimacy.
(If you haven’t read the last post, please do. It’s important to understand what I mean when I refer to narcissism here. It’s not a disease, it’s who we are.)
The antidote to narcissism is humility, which asks three things of us. First, is accurate self-reflection vs. self- (and other-) deception. Second, is admitting our deceptions to loved ones. Third, is to stop yourself from continuing to act out of your narcissism.
Accurate self-reflection can be quite a trick. It means acknowledging the aggressive things we do when we don’t get our needs met – like criticizing, complaining, withdrawing, withholding, and twisting the truth. Do you know how to throw your partner in the wall? Do you know how to cut him or her off at the knees? If you said no, you’re lying to yourself. Dr. David Schnarch calls it normal marital sadism – normal meaning we all do it. Dr. Terry Real calls it normal marital hatred. He says he’s never had anyone ask him what that meant.
Accurate self-reflection also means acknowledging that our needs are narcissistic. Needing to get our spouses to make us feel important or special or valid is narcissistic when we don’t have a solid ability to settle ourselves down and deal with the existential reality that we are not special or important. The irony is that when we accept our insignificance, we can get on with the business of living our lives (and our marriages) more generously, having freed ourselves from being ruled by the pain of our need to be so stinking important. The deeper irony is that when we live our lives from this place, the intimate moments we share with our spouses (assuming they stop with their “neediness too) and others become monumentally important – and so do we. They become the most meaningful memories of our lives and of our loved ones’ lives when we get out of the way.
Just a quick update here a year later (it is now Dec 2013). Please take a moment to read the comments and my responses below, particularly my response to “Louise.”