The other night we watched part 1 of an old video series about C. G. Jung. I hadn’t realized before what a nutcase he was, a little like Jesus in that his hallucinations became the basis for turning him into a cult figure. Just goes to show that if your ideas are crazy enough, and you can write about them eloquently enough, you can have a lot of influence in the world. I don’t know if we’ll get around to part 3, which goes into his theories. (Part 1 tells his life story; part 2, about his adventures with Native American spirituality, seems eminently skippable.) For some reason I find these documentaries from the ’80s and ’90s depressing; maybe it’s all the huge-framed eyeglasses reminding me of how much narrower our range of vision is these days.

 

 

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I’m supposed to write “a page” every day. Not sure how that works in blogland. Not sure what I’m supposed to be writing about either. K first said I should focus on self-compassion; then, true to her waffly nature, she said I could write about anything I want. I really don’t have much to say, but I’ll bite into this stream-of-unconsciousness task. I may, however, have bitten off more than I can chew.

Now this is just getting silly. I don’t even agree with the notion of forcing people to write every day. Too many people do too much writing already. Just ask Eudora Welty. (Or don’t, if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing. Dead people don’t usually have much to say anyway.) It’s all part of the narcissism epidemic, though I must say that the further I got into Twenge and Campbell’s book, the more they seemed like alarmist fuddy-duddies. I was reminded a bit of Sherry Turkle’s fretting about how machines are keeping us from connecting with people (she sees people glancing frequently at their phones during dinner and assumes they’re disconnected when in fact they’re probably just checking the time, now that no one wears a watch). T & C bemoan the lack of discipline in child-rearing, lack of respect for tradition, and overemphasis on self-esteem; they even ridicule churches that encourage people to develop their own religious practices. All of this leads to narcissism, they say. I agree that we are way too full of ourselves these days, but I’m not sure that spankings and catechism are the best antidotes.

I did a little more reading about narcissism at the Ed/Psych library today. Most of the books on personality disorders are way too Freudian/Jungian for me to take them seriously; I don’t even have the patience to try to understand them. Which makes me wonder: Is the very concept of personality disorders so closely linked to psychoanalytic theory that it doesn’t even make sense in a non-Freudian context? Maybe I’m not a vulnerable narcissist after all, because there’s no such thing. Maybe K is right to be skeptical of the idea that finding the one true diagnosis will lead to the one true cure.

Near the narcissism books were a few shelves of books on eating disorders. I checked the indexes in a couple of anorexia books and found nothing about narcissism. So whatever ails me clearly needs further investigation.

OK, I’ll call this a page. Not a lot of self-compassion in it, but not as self-bashing as some of my earlier oeuvre.

I continue to lose confidence in K. This could be due to one of the following reasons:

  • I give up too quickly.
  • I’m way too skeptical of everything.
  • I don’t really want to get better.
  • I can’t stand parting with hundreds of dollars a month.

Or it could be because she really isn’t very helpful. Symptoms of unhelpfulness include:

  • Drawing one conclusion and then switching to another one when I disagree.
  • Taking several different kinds of behavior and lumping them all together as one bad habit: I “undo” the good stuff, whether I’m really denigrating myself and my accomplishments or merely clarifying a statement.
  • Having certain go-to conclusions and recommendations that she repeats tediously, fitting them into my situation even where they don’t make a lot of sense.
  • Continually telling me that whatever symptoms I have are perfectly normal.

Today I told her about my lifelong disappointment in so-called professionals who ask me what I want instead of using their years of education and experience, plus knowledge of my specific situation, to tell me what’s best for me. Cases in point: hairdressers and psychotherapists. She was amazed that I would expect a hairdresser to suggest ways that I would look good, rather than just following my instructions. She couldn’t believe that at the age of 59 I had no idea how I want my hair to look. About therapy she said, “I can’t give you your subjectivity. I can’t give you what feels good to you. Unless you’re willing to … respond to your own distress and want it to be different and also know what makes you feel good, I can’t help you.” What part of “I don’t know what makes me feel good” doesn’t she understand?

You win, I lose

Today’s lesson in narcissism comes from a study that looked at the correlation between narcissism and competitiveness. It found that the overt, or grandiose, form of narcissism was positively correlated with both general competitiveness and hypercompetitiveness, while the covert, or vulnerable, kind had a positive correlation only with hypercompetitiveness.

That is, we covert narcissists don’t care much for competition, but if forced to compete, we take it very seriously. “This negative relationship fits with conceptual and theoretical notions of covert narcissism as covert narcissists do not consciously desire competitive situations since they are invested in protecting a view of themselves as empathic, responsive, selfless, and helpful.” I’m not sure I buy this explanation (though I might if it were written and punctuated better). I think it’s more that our self-worth depends entirely on comparing favorably with others, so we are crushed by defeat. “Instead of finding competition enjoyable and satisfying, covert narcissists tend to view competitive situations as exploitive and hostile social interactions.” That explains why I took losing at Risk so personally, and why I tried to kill myself after losing at poker.

Hiding in plain sight

I love the fact that even though my real name is attached to this blog, and it’s open to the public, no one who knows me will ever see it. The Internet is such a great place to hide, thanks to all the narcissists like me who think they have something to say that’s worth reading.