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Narcissism and Buddhism

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Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby Goddesss » Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:46 pm

I consider myself a Zen Buddhist, which does NOT mean that I'm calm in the face of all adversity. I'm not that evolved, yet.

I'm wondering what people think about the relationship between narcissism and Buddhism. In Buddhism, the "self", the ego, is seen as inherently false. Does this mean that self-aware narcissists who recognize that they have a false self are ahead of the rest of us? Buddhism emphasizes compassion...how is this different from empathy? Just from the definitions, compassion seems like it could be a bit more "top-down" to me, while empathy implies more equality or fellow-feeling.

I am mainly familiar with the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki (who wrote "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"), although I did take a couple of meditation classes in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. For me, the connection is that both traditions emphasize direct transmission, from enlightened teacher to enlightened student, all the way down from the Buddha, rather than just someone who hangs up a shingle and decides to become a guru.

I may be understanding this all wrong, and I'm sure that many of you have done more research and reading than I have, but it's an interesting topic.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby Esquire » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:35 pm

I have never been attracted to Buddhism, Communism, or any philosophy that attempts to make everyone equal, promote selflessness, or sacrifice the wants of the individual in favor of the needs of the community. I have always been attracted to philosophies that attempt to promote, enhance, and empower the individual will. When I was younger I was very attracted to Ayn Rand's philosophy, for example.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby katana » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:43 pm

The way I see it, even if you are a not a buddhist or attracted to it, is that narcissists "need to learn to transcend the self" more than healthy people do. Which essentially makes sense if narcissism is a childhood stage you can get stuck in (or lack of handling of self-esteem can hold you stuck in it.) In cases where narcissistic traits/defences aren't tied to that self-esteem issue it can be more of a simple case of becoming able to "transcend the self" at least to the level the average healthy-ish person can. As I've mentioned before, I've had some narcissistic defences, so I'm talking about that side of things from experience - "existing through an image of yourself instead of through an experience of your life". Nothing necessarily massively spiritual about the concept though, depending how you choose to interpret it or connect to it.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby narcbolan » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:21 pm

Buddhism has definitely played a large part in my general recovery, although I don’t actually consider myself a Buddhist. The thing about it is that although it has a lot of parallels with psychotherapy it is in fact much more concerned with ‘the whole picture’ than therapy is.

The comparison between empathy and compassion is one example of this, empathy is in fact a branch of compassion.

Similarly with the idea of ego versus the false self, the flase self specifically with NPD is a twisted branch of development of the ego. The difference being that the development of the ego is a part of development that is unavoidable, it’s the ‘tapes’ our parents and wider society put into us, and the idea with Buddhism is to get to a point where we are able to objectively see it in ourselves in operation and learn not to over identify with it.

It can be thought of in this way, when you use a pc and it is in ‘word processing mode’ for example, what you see on the screen is the word processing, what you don’t see is the word processing program in operation – the commands and codes that tell your pc how to spell check, do a space or a new paragraph, in fact, the program that makes your pc’s keys function differently. Buddhism encourages us to look at the 'program', to get to the heart of our truth, so it therefore throws out the idea that reality is subjective.

The ‘false self’ idea in NPD is much more specific in that it is the end result of a defence psychic mechanism against damaging incoming emotional data endured at an early age and is more and more maladaptive as we get older. So although it can be looked at as a root problem to be tackled in therapy for NPD, it’s still not the whole picture because it is a specific and slightly more mangled version of what happens to everyone anyway! That’s why therapy on it's own it can be a very difficult or lengthy thing.

However Buddhism, in conjunction with therapy and other things, such as inner child work, have a much more powerful and accelerated effect when working through a personality disorder.

So my answer is that in my opinion it is a very useful thing as far as recovery is concerned – certainly in my experience.

-- Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:23 pm --

There you go, Katana has said pretty much the same thing, using less paragraphs! :lol:
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby Goddesss » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:56 pm

Thanks, katana and narcbolan...you cleared up a lot of things for me.

I am a crappy meditator...really, anyone could do better. After a minute and a half I start thinking that I really, really need to go do something useful, like starch and iron all of my socks. But part of what I don't like is that it scares me to death...every once in a while I'll get a momentary flash of what it's like to be another person I know. Like my bitchy secretary. Her inner life totally sucked. No matter what anyone did or said, she felt attacked. Maybe once a week she'd get a glimmer of a clear view, then it would all cloud over and she'd feel attacked worse than ever, because now she had a sliver of doubt that she was right to feel that way.

Same with my husband, who is not diagnosed as anything, but who is at least narcissistic-ish. Before I moved back with him, I got this glimpse of his inner world. It was very cold. He felt a very calculating type of doubt that I would be happy without him, so he asked me to come back, because if he didn't, it'd be tough to explain and my parents might call and bother him. But he felt very generous to be doing it and thought that I'd probably be so weak that I wouldn't even be able to appreciate the opportunity I'd been given. His world was just very cold and calculating, with a focus on well-educated guesses about how people would behave and react in different scenarios. And under it all, it was just...sad. Not that he felt sad. His feeling was more just like, "it is what it is; what matters is what you do with it". Which made me feel sad.

As I said, it was just a momentary glimpse, but I can't see him the same way now. I can hear the gears turning in his head and see that there's a half-second of a pause before he chooses what to do in various circumstances. He doesn't just do things without thinking, ever. And he definitely doesn't get why anyone would.

Anyway, I was interested whether narcissists have tried meditating. Personally, I'd rather run a full marathon in snowshoes, but I still try, because it made me think that maybe there's a bit more to all of this than what I'm seeing. Plus it makes me calm, so I can remember I have to get a present for my aunt's birthday or where I put the car keys. I realize that's very petty, but it's useful.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby katana » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:21 pm

narcbolan wrote:he difference being that the development of the ego is a part of development that is unavoidable, it’s the ‘tapes’ our parents and wider society put into us, and the idea with Buddhism is to get to a point where we are able to objectively see it in ourselves in operation and learn not to over identify with it.


That sounds.. horrible? Being trapped in an internalization of what parents and society have told you you should feel and that perception being internalized as your self.

It also helps me explain maybe one reason I had some narcissistic defences was because I didn't internalize that stuff, so I had to at least appear to, find something that resembled that enough. Maybe that's why my self would be a combination of likes, dislikes, feelings and logic, but be missing the things which most people would label "normal" and talk about as if they were very important. Its also the reason I seem changeable in everyday situations. I can't just turn round to half the stuff people say or do and just say "#######4".. well maybe I could. That's an interesting thought/question :lol:
The thing about it is that although it has a lot of parallels with psychotherapy it is in fact much more concerned with ‘the whole picture’ than therapy is.


Exactly. If you really want to make changes you have to treat life as the "therapy experience". Its not about sitting on a couch, its a lot more like what a small child does in developing them self, but with a lot of defences to work through to get there.

narcbolan wrote:There you go, Katana has said pretty much the same thing, using less paragraphs! :lol:


Nah, you said stuff I didn't say. :)

Goddesss wrote:But part of what I don't like is that it scares me to death...every once in a while I'll get a momentary flash of what it's like to be another person I know. Like my bitchy secretary. Her inner life totally sucked. No matter what anyone did or said, she felt attacked. Maybe once a week she'd get a glimmer of a clear view, then it would all cloud over and she'd feel attacked worse than ever, because now she had a sliver of doubt that she was right to feel that way.

Same with my husband, who is not diagnosed as anything, but who is at least narcissistic-ish. Before I moved back with him, I got this glimpse of his inner world. It was very cold. He felt a very calculating type of doubt that I would be happy without him, so he asked me to come back, because if he didn't, it'd be tough to explain and my parents might call and bother him. But he felt very generous to be doing it and thought that I'd probably be so weak that I wouldn't even be able to appreciate the opportunity I'd been given. His world was just very cold and calculating, with a focus on well-educated guesses about how people would behave and react in different scenarios. And under it all, it was just...sad. Not that he felt sad. His feeling was more just like, "it is what it is; what matters is what you do with it". Which made me feel sad.


Don't forget those "insights" are your interpretation, not likely a literally telepathic insight, lol. You are using empathy (trying to put yourself in other people's shoes) but even if those experiences feel very profound and sudden, remember what you interpret is "I reckon this might feel something like..." or "this seems to be my first impression of how this person must feel/experience life" - don't take that insight too literally, lol.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby Goddesss » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:31 pm

Right.

: )

But it's always interesting to see things in a different way.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby margharris » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:34 am

Hi Goddess,
I am a fan of Buddhism myself. I think there is a lot about life we really do not know. There is a lot about ourselves that we do not know. Human issues of judgement, perception, delusion and resistance to change all can be addressed without any hurdle of belief in a deity to master. I prefer to read rather than meditate as my mind is rarely calm enough. It helps me to create a positive vibration by freeing me from negative reactions.
This line of inquiry would have you possibly stay with your ex to see things through. I suppose the belief would be based on, ' I belief I can make a difference so I will make a difference.' You would be leaning heavily on Hope and Tolerance. You would be learning a lot about your own inner strengths.
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby Virgo » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:04 am

The Chair of my department Dr. Isaac Catt. I actually wrote a paper on communication and Buddhism and he was intrigued. He and his wife was run out of the college. Here's his take on the philosophical side on narcissism.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.102 ... 269#page-1
We are dying. But we won't all die. Just enough so you all die. Then we will come back. That is the plan.
Best wishes,
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Re: Narcissism and Buddhism

Postby jkimbo » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:27 am

Interesting thread, but I'm willing to bet most of us lean towards secular humanism more then any thing else regardless what we claim. I agree more with VirginiaEsquire. But whatever works for you, go with. I never been in to new age stuff. I personally do not want to be ONE with everyone. I just want to be me, and you can just get off my cloud :)
You've stolen my heart, but that's okay because I have three more back home in the freezer!
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