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Confessions on Narcissism.

I used to be terrified of becoming a narcissist. 

When we grow up around, or are in relationship with, someone who features heavily on that spectrum it's not uncommon to begin to internalize some of those qualities. And they're not all bad. We need a little narcissism to function. But we can become unbalanced by becoming collapsed as well, and that too, is actually narcissistic dysfunction. 

People who are empathetically dysfunctional could use a little more self interest. People who are overly self absorbed could notice the impact they have on others a little more. Both need to adjust their boundaries. 

My dad features heavily on the toxic side of the spectrum. I was so afraid of becoming like him that I Iived in various states of freeze for years. As I've thawed my anxiety skyrocketed and with it some regressive tendencies, like an intense need for attention and self focus, which at times can come off as a bit narcissistic. 

The thing is, narcissism is part of our developmental phases. We're most narcissistic as toddlers and then again as teenagers. If we're abused or neglected during those times that can create developmental dissociation. 

We will regress to the ages we were when we were violated or didn't get what we needed. It's 4 and 14 for me. So, yes, when intensely triggered with anxiety I may fall back into those age frames. I have a hard time taking care of myself and I will feel very needy. 

However, having narcissistic tendencies does not make us narcissists. NPD, as a diagnostic disorder, is about dehumanizing people not about feeling freaked out and needy. And it's certainly not about taking selfies. 

It's about using people as means to ends rather than relating with genuineness and vulnerability. 

If we are being honest, introspective, and taking accountability for our feelings as well as our impact on others--that is inoculate against malignant egophrenia or what people think of as pathological narcissism. 

And it's not black and white; there's all kinds of nuance in narcissism. What people don't understand is the clinical diagnosis of it isn't that common but it occurs in everyone on scale from healthy to toxic. Weak healthy, strong heathy, weak toxic and strong toxic. These inclinations lead to passive, passive aggressive, overtly aggressive and controlling behaviors on the toxic scale. On the healthy side we get assertiveness, security, integrity and leadership. 

We're all a little narcissistic. And that's okay. What we need is a more conscious relationship with it.

How we can tame and tend narcissism: We look for ways that we can show up that are mutually beneficial. We maintain healthy boundaries and a positive regard for ourselves and each other. We learn to care without giving ourselves away. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for our behaviors and we use discernment. 

See how the solutions to it are interdependent and cooperative? 

We need each other. Malignant egophrenia--like shame--thrives in darkness and isolation. 

The more we look at and understand this particular shadow, the less we have to fear from its bite.

Justice Bartlett