Sunday, August 11, 2013

Healthy Narcissism and Abuse

We can imagine ourselves to be the best and greatest existence in the world. Many feel uncomfortable doing so. I propose that we need a small ``transitional'' space around us, a little extension of the imaginary world to the real world, in which we act from the conviction that we are the best and greatest thing in the whole universe. I call this the ``healthy narcissism'' because having this space around us protects us against shame and the resulting need to prove ourselves worthy of our being.

I suggest that abuse, specially the psychological and emotional abuse, happens to us when we allow someone to invade and intrude this space and try to change our basic sense of worthiness. Therefore, the abuse victims are identified by a damaged sense of self-worth and a deep and threatening shame that runs through many aspects of their lives.

When the abuse is severe, specially if it's physical or sexual, dealing with it is an important step in any meaningful life improvement. The inherent problem is that most adults enter an abusive relationship in search for a safe and reassuring environment because they have grown up in similar abusive relationships. Setting oneself free from a familiar and yet abusive relationship is one of the hardest challenges in life.

I think of my previous job as such an abusive relationship, not with an specific person but with a situation (or even with myself, if that makes any sense!) I forced myself into situations that would end up hurting my sense of worthiness. I felt ashamed of pretending to be someone else, someone with different likes and priorities. Maybe if I was stronger, I could transform that abusive relationship into one that would respect my basic sense of worthiness. I tried to do that but I was not successful. I had to terminate it, at least temporarily.

Notice that for an adult an abusive relationship is a partnership that is partially created by the victim. In milder forms of (emotional and psychological) abuse, the best approach may be to grow within the relationship and establish that healthy narcissism, that tiny space around us, extension of our imaginary world, in which we are the best and greatest. In fact, there are therapists who believe that ``finding, creating, establishing and maintaining yourself in a difficult relationship'' is the best and surest way to self-knowledge. Yet, this process only starts when you consider and mentally open the ``exit option'' (i.e. the option to terminate the relationship) for yourself.


On hearing voices, abuse, and self-discovery:

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