(and why everyone is so unhappy)
I think when most people think of narcissism, they think – egotist – someone who thinks they are greater than they really are. While on the surface the two seem the same, they are in fact quite different. It’s all about perception. You got the egotist right, they really do think they are great, but you’ve got the narcissist all wrong.
Narcissism is in all of us, to varying degrees. A little of it is a good thing; too much of it can kill, literally. It’s the “too much” variety that you need to be aware of.
The best description I’ve ever read was: to a narcissist, reality is a movie where they are the main character and everyone else is just playing a side role. (paraphrased)
What does that mean?
They think they are the main character in a story that is all about them. The character part is important. They aren’t playing their real selves in the movie, they are playing a manufactured identity. The character is who they expect everyone to see them as and they will go to great lengths to protect this identity.
Narcissists also have an inability to appreciate that others exist outside of themselves. Everyone else is playing a supporting role. They have reduced others to a “type” as it relates to their character. They fail to recognize that other people have their own stories.
The other characteristic of a narcissist is that they don’t feel guilt, only shame. Feeling guilty is an internal process where you feel bad about something you’ve done. Shame is an external process where you feel bad about what other people think of you. Guilt causes people to do what they feel is right. Shame causes people to do what they think is right for the identity they want others to believe they have. Shame causes people to protect their identity at all costs.
All this might sound a little crazy (because it is), but it is also fairly common. Like I said, everyone has a little narcissism in them.
So what does this have to do with being unhappy? Glad you asked! Narcissism wrecks your whole world view. Nothing is based on reality anymore. How are you supposed to be happy when all your time is spent trying to get others to think you are someone you are not. How are you going to be happy if you don’t even realize you are doing it. How little sense will the world make if everything isn’t going along with your movie?
Maybe I’m not explaining this well enough…
Go read Part 2