Here is my Part II to understanding Narcissism. The reason why I am breaking this up in three parts is because narcissism is the ONE THING THAT PROBABLY EVERY ONE HAS ON SOME LEVEL OR ANOTHER AND NO ONE GETS THERAPY FOR. 🙂 So, we need a lot of information on what Narcissism is and how we can heal ourselves from Narcissism. Narcissism and Perfectionism are closely related, but are not the exact same thing, but for simplicity purposes, I am just going to use Narcissism in this blog, however if you struggle with perfectionism you may as well benefit from learning more about narcissism.
Narcissism is a wound and/or a trait and if we developed this trait in childhood it is because we either received “too much praise and no accountability” in our childhood or “not enough praise and too much criticism” in our childhood. I am using the word “praise” in substitution for the word “love.” Because too much praise is actually poison for our children, and it should never be disguised as love.
However, I would probably say that its fair to say that a lot of people did not pick up Narcissism in their childhood, but rather picked up Narcissism as an adult. As an adult, if someone does not receive healthy love in their life for a long period of time, they will naturally become narcissistic. Narcissism is mostly caused in adults because over 90% of adults live lives where there is little accountability, discipline, and correction in their life. You see, we all need way more accountability in our life in order for us to remain healthy emotionally and mentally. If someone lives their adult life unaccountable, they will naturally become narcissistic.
In our jobs, careers, churches, schools, government, etc, there needs to be way more accountability, correction, structure, and checks and balances. All of this is lacking SO MUCH and because of this we are all narcissistic and feel defensive and upset when anyone calls us out and/or expects anything from us. Truthfully, we all need to save ourselves from our own narcissism.
What is Narcissism? Narcissism is complicated, I have came up with 7 forms of Narcissism, but there are probably many more as well. Covert Narcissism, Spiritual/Religious Narcissism, Overt Narcissism, Perfectionism, Career Narcissism, Mental Health Clinicians’ Narcissism, and Parenting Narcissism.
Covert Narcissism is much harder to treat because no one else can see it, except the spouse of the covert narcissist. Overt Narcissism needs no explanation and most narcissistic books are written about this type of narcissism. Perfectionism is the belief that you need things to be perfect, which is just a different flavor of narcissism. Career Narcissism is where someone can develop Narcissism because of their career, because they may be excellent at their particular job.
with career narcissism its really important to realize that while you may be excellent at your particular job, do not let this narcissism bleed over into other parts of your life. In order to keep your career narcissism in check, you need to know how to yield and submit to other people in their positions of authority who are experts at their particular field. Frankly, the word expert and specialist can also create more narcissism. Now, let me talk about this last type of Narcissism, this is a phrase that I made up on my own and its called; “Mental Health Clinicians Narcissism”. Anyone in the Mental Health field is especially prone to developing “Mental Health Clinicians Narcissism” because we think that we can solve everybody’s problems. We are so proud of our degrees, trainings, specializations, awards, credentials, etc. and because we are so busy trying to build our repertoire of skills, we are failing to notice that WE ARE NOT PROVIDING EFFECTIVE THERAPY FOR OUR CLIENTS. If we were providing effective therapy for our clients we would be seeing far less addictions, affairs, divorces, and suicides.
But the truth of the matter is, all of these are at an all time high in our world. Something is not right. If we are going to heal our “Mental Health Clinicians Narcissism” we will start asking more questions, soliciting real feedback, letting our clients talk about deep pain, hurt, rejection, jealousy, pain, insecurity, etc. without instilling a fear in our clients that if they talk about these things that we will be diagnosing them with a slue of disorders. Truthfully, music is far better at doing therapy than most therapists are at doing therapy, because music does not diagnose people, music lets people talks about hurt, pain, insecurity, etc, without instilling a fear into people that talking about those such things will equal a diagnosis of a disorder. This is what I would call “Mental Health System Abuse.”
The next type of Narcissism that I would like to touch on is Spiritual/Religious Narcissism. If you struggle with spiritual narcissism, you may feel that you are “better off spiritually” because you go to church 7 days a week, but you fail to notice that your frequent church going just creates ugly self-righteousness and this “holier than though” syndrome. However, there are also a handful of people that go to church every day and are the most humble people around. If you struggle with spiritual narcissism you may also use spiritual language as a way to overcompensate for feelings of insecurity and inferiority. You may talk a lot about God, faith, spirituality, or use the word “Lord this” and “Lord that” like you are talking about your best friend. This type of language creates superiority where you feel like you are better than other people because you have a “closer relationship” with the Lord because you talk about god like he/she is your pet or sister. People around you who do not talk about God in that manner are made to feel less then because they don’t talk about Yahweh in that manner. If you do this, in reality, you are simply using spiritual language to foster your own sense of self and ego as an overcompensation for insecurity.
Evangelical Christians struggle with this sin a lot, way more than other denominations/religions in my opinion. I went to an Evangelical Christian University in which I loooooved for many reasons and disliked for just as many other reasons. But there was a sense among the campus that the men who used the most “lords” in a sentence were the most spiritual ones, it was and is 100% non-sense. Catholics typically have much more humility in this arena and protestants have a lot to learn from Catholics in this way. But nuns and priests struggle with spiritual narcissism as well because they think they have a closer relationship with God because their a priest/nun. Also, I think the wardrobes that priests and nuns wear probably also foster a little spiritual narcissism, etc.
The reality is, when most people are talking about God, they are talking about God to bolster their own ego. Because of this reason, we can not judge somebody else’s faith by their words, only Yahweh knows someone’s heart. When someone has a genuine faith, they talk very little about their faith, (unless their a rabbi or teacher of religion.) because their faith is simply lived by their life. For this reason, I think many non-religious people and agnostics have a much more pure faith than the so called devouts do.
I think this is EXACTLY what Jesus meant when he said; “The first will be last, and the last will be first.”
…..The people that think they know me, have NO CLUE WHO I AM, the people that don’t think they know me, they know me quite well, they just don’t know that they know me.”
Spiritual Narcissism is an entity all to itself and there has not been many books, research, etc, done on this area, up until recently. Because I am a Therapist by trade and I love learning about all aspects of human behavior and because narcissism is one of my most favorite topics to treat, I have developed a special liking for treating and understanding all forms of Narcissism, including Spiritual Narcissism. Additionally, because I went to an Evangelical Christian College, I saw spiritual Narcissism in its fullest colors, however I did not realize it was Spiritual Narcissism until 6 years after I graduated from there and I started studying Narcissism.
Parenting Narcissism is the last type of Narcissism that I would like to talk about. Parenting Narcissism is a type of Narcissism where parents are narcissically blinded to their own childs’ faults and issues and because of this bias and blind spot they can not parent effectively. Parents that have Parenting Narcissism are typically parents who will be more apt to point out flaws in other parents and talk negatively about other parents, but fail to see their own flaws. Another trait of Parenting Narcissism is that these parents think their children are so much better off than they actually are. Behind their parents back, the child may be manipulating, lying, cheating, bullying kids, and doing other activities such as these and the parents are blind to all or some of these activities going on
Well, this post is getting long enough so I am going to break this post up a bit. In my next post I will be finishing up this Narcissism series with providing you with a worksheet that you can use as a tool to help you heal your own narcissism called the Emotional Safety Spectrum.
Goodbye for now 🙂
Kelly Johnson, MA, LPC