Being ‘The Grandiose Self in Everyday Life’ means never having to say you’re sorry

The below-this post about the cancellation of our fundraising event had me thinking about apologizing.

Yesterday a friend named Tobey sent me a fascinating article on Narcissism and mirrors from The New York Times which is relevant to everything, of course. Then I had a scintillating conversation with another friend about much of the same and so I obsessively ponder and google. It seems we have very distorted senses of self and will pick our own faces out of an array faster and with higher familiarity when they are airbrushed or photoshopped, yet when picking out our friend’s faces we choose the realistic and untouched ones. This would explain a lot about narcissistic tendencies, the perception of self and grandiose notions.

fabulopus Photo by Vivienne Flesher, lifted without permission from the NYT.

Fabulous Photo by Vivienne Flesher, lifted without permission from the NYT.

This made me think about how I am currently apologizing to already contacted media people about the postponement of our VFR fundraiser, and about apologizing in general. Apologizing is not so bad – I find it freeing. I think I actually feel more confident for offered apologies because there is perhaps a confidence in not owning a delusion that I cannot be wrong (which no one is buying anyway) and presenting a humble, and thus realistic front. I admire humility and realistic self-perceptions in people. I think about this a lot, and had a conversation yesterday with a friend in Canada about it, which I wish was in person but those gas prices…. Oh my. I have even been siphoned. This shit is dire.

Narcissivision, by me

Narcissivision, by me. Property of Veronika Travis and Molly O'Brien

Anyway-my aforementioned friend tends to always end up in relationships with non-apologists and thus she is always apologizing to them for even looking for an apology or for expressing that she is hurt, thus threatening their rightness. She calls them Narcissists. In my work and in my travels in life I am fascinated with Narcissism. I made a piece called Narcissivision in which my modern take on the myth of Narcissus involves a television with a mirrored backing inside and a neon ring reflecting endlessly to suggest the eddying effects of self-perception and mimics the ripples in his gazing pond, to which he was psychologically adhered. You have to look closely into Narcissivision to see yourself but the image of yourself is not real, it is fragmented and distorted; it is delusional.

So I googled and I found the Dr. X Free Association blog and he writes:

The Narcissist’s Inability To Apologize Or Express Thanks In Everyday Life

I just stumbled on an excellent, brief article by Nancy McWilliams and Stanley Leppendorf on everyday manifestations of narcissism. I read it a number of years ago and misplaced the only hard copy I had, so I was pleased to run across it online today. The authors examine the everyday implications of the narcissist’s need to protect an internal sense of grandiosity. They explain why the narcissist finds it difficult to apologize, show gratitude, admit error and experience or show need. They also comment on the experience of the person who is chronically subject to the defensive maneuvers of the narcissist. As one patient describes it, the narcissist leaves you feeling ‘mind-fucked.”

We have put particular emphasis on the psychological encumbrance borne by the objects of essentially narcissistic transactions, whose usual response to the prolonged substitution of other behaviors for expressions of sorrow and thanks includes confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, and diffuse irritation – an overall sense of having been, as one of our patients put it. “mind-fucked.” The state of confusion induced by narcissistic defenses may say something about why it took so many years for psychoanalysts to develop a rich and specific literature about narcissism, comparable to that on the more “classical” psychopathologies.

So I sent this to my now twice-aforementioned friend and she wrote back, “Having been raised by Narcissists who were never wrong, I have spent my life seeking out the company of other Narcissists because they are familiar to me. My childhood was a mind-fuck, as are my relationships with other Narcissists (they are everywhere) and I have perpetuated that. Yes, I have those confusion, self-criticism, and diffuse irritation issues as a result – good to know it’s not only me that suffers low self-esteem as the result of overexposure to narcissists. Thanks for sending me this. I am canceling therapy this week and will send you the $100 dollars instead. Buy yourself some decent shoes, for god’s sake.”

So I am waiting for my check, although I think I’ll buy sushi instead. Or get a membership in AAA because my car is sort of mind-fucked and otherwise compromised by narcissistic curbs. And I found this article Dr. X sent me to so fascinating that I am posting another excerpt here:

The Grandiose Self in Everyday Life

The earliest psychoanalytic depiction of a grandiose self-representation is probably Ernest Jones’ 1913 paper on “The God Complex,” describing what would now be considered a narcissistic disorder. The same year, Ferenczi published a seminal paper on the child’s gradual shift from fantasies of omnipotence to the acceptance of reality, thereby implying the normality and universality of a developmental stage characterized by grandiose fantasies. Freud’s famous essay on narcissism, published a year later (1914), integrated both perspectives: that of narcissism as structured character pathology and that of narcissistic preoccupation as a universal adult residue of a normal phase of development. (Note: i.e., arrested development?)

Considered as character pathology, narcissism is rather easily delineated. Reich’s (1933) “phallic narcissistic character” is overtly or subtly arrogant, exhibitionistic, vain, manipulative, and greedy for admiration. The description of the narcissistic personality in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is largely compatible with this picture. It is increasingly well known however, that such observably self-aggrandizing narcissists represent only one manifestation of a syndrome that can take many forms, all of which have in common the effort to support a grandiose self-representation. Tartadoff (1966), for example, has described much more subtle forms of narcissistic pathology in ostensibly healthy people. Bursten (1973) has delineated four common types of narcissistic characters: the classic phallic narcissist, the craving type, the paranoid type, and the manipulative type.

Recently, there has been considerable psychoanalytic attention to more depressive manifestations of underlying narcissistic preoccupations. In the tradition of A. Reich (1960), who detailed self-esteem disturbances deriving from a failure to attain grandiose ambitions, Miller (1979) has demonstrated how people with preponderantly depressive features should be understood as narcissistically troubled if the source of their depression is a sense of failure to live up to impossibly ambitious goals. Stolorow (1979a) and Cooper (1978) have related certain kinds of masochism to unconscious omnipotent fantasies. Meissner (1979) has noted the propinquity of narcissism and paranoia.

4 Responses to “Being ‘The Grandiose Self in Everyday Life’ means never having to say you’re sorry”

  1. Anon and anon (ymous) Says:

    This explains a lot. of people.

  2. mo
    given where we have come to in our post-modern society, where as philosopher Ken Wilber says we have a “high cognitive pluralism mixed with low emotional narcissism.” I don’t know who among us can claim to not be wrestling with our own degree of aggravated narcissism. for a more recent take on the narcissistic impulse as it manifests itself particularly within the boomer generation, see the article on the site below and watch the video. (It refers to a book written by Ken Wilber, “Boomeritus”) Among other insights it reminds me explicitly why in 1979 I had had all I could take of living in California where among my peers I had the reputation of being a very aggressive guy because I dared to ask others what exactly it was that they meant, something that passes for general conversation every day in the cafés of Montreal.

    thanks for raising the issue mo


  3. Wow, the confusion has lifted and I am enlightened!

    still waiting to be less irritated……but I guess recovering from Narcissist
    exposure can take a while…………kida like post tramatic stress disorder.

  4. Me too Dwight on the aggressive front. Speak the truth with a person hell bent on never being wrong and that person who is merely asking for clarification is named an aggressor.

    I too was raised in a family of people who were never wrong, with the exception of my Dad and I. It has attracted me to similar people in adult life – go figure! Well, no more being ‘mind fucked’… I just don’t take people who can’t genuinely express remorse seriously. Narcissivision, is a really good piece of ART and the accompanying ‘story’ text stunning. I needed to read that just then when I stumbled across it. Thanks.

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