Narcissism in Western Culture
All humans are self-absorbed to at least some degree. Problems occur when the individual spends so much time focused on themselves that it starts to negatively impact their life. It can lead people into addiction, and interfere with their ability to build successful relationships. Those who are always thinking about themselves will tend to suffer a lot more. It is suggested that western culture encourages people to develop narcissistic tendencies because of focus on individuality. Self-absorption is far less common in eastern cultures where the focus is on the community.
Self-absorption occurs when the individual is so preoccupied with themselves that they lose touch with the outside world. Most individuals will spend a significant amount of time thinking about themselves, but some people spend almost all their time trapped inside their own narrow concerns. Such a person will be so caught up in their own thoughts and feelings that they ignore the thoughts and feelings of other people. This mode of thinking is also referred to as self-centeredness. However, self-absorption tends to refer to behavior that is a bit more extreme than self-centeredness.
Dangers of Excessive Self-Absorption
Excessive self-absorption is like being trapped inside a prison. It prevents people from getting the most out of life. It can lead to dangers such as:
* The more people are focused on their problems the more they will tend to suffer. Thinking about personal difficulties excessively is not beneficial in any way. Those individuals who are less self-absorbed tend to be a lot happier.
* Excessive self-absorption is an unattractive character trait. It can be hard for people who are so focused on themselves to make genuine friendships. It can also make it difficult for people to establish romantic relationships if they appear too needy.
* It can be really difficult for friends with because it can feel like their own needs are always being ignored. If people are overly self-absorbed they do not really care about other people’s feelings and perspective. It is all me, me, me .
* Those individuals who are self-absorbed are more prone to becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. This obsession with self is one of the characteristics of the addictive personality.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissism is another way of describing self-absorption. The name comes from an ancient Greek myth that tells of how a young man named Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissistic personality disorder is an extreme form of narcissism that is classified as a psychiatric problem. The symptoms of narcissistic personality include:
* A feeling of being superior to everyone else
* Inability to recognize the feelings and emotions of other people
* A need to exaggerate achievements, skills, or talent
* The narcissistic individual will expect other people to follow their plans
* A need for constant attention and praise
* Fragile self esteem
* Grandiosity and self-importance
* Inability to handle criticism
* Easily offended and hurt
* Setting goals that are far too high and becoming disappointed when they are not achieved
* Uncaring about the problems other people experience
* Looking down on people who are considered inferior
* Inability to maintain relationships
* Jealousy of successful people
* Spending too much time fanaticizing about power and success
* Willingness to take advantage of other people
* Attention seeking
Self-Absorption and Addiction
Addicts tend to be overly self-absorbed and this tendency usually continues into sobriety. It is even suggested that it is this proneness to self-absorption that leads the individual into addiction in the first place. Self-absorption is also one of the characteristics identified as part of the addictive personality. If the individual fails to reduce their level of self-absorption they may find it impossible to find real happiness in a life away from alcohol or drugs.
How to Reduce the Obsession with Self
There are different ways that people can combat self-obsession such as:
* Helping other people is probably the most effective way of reducing the obsession with self. By focusing on other people’s problems the individual is able to see beyond their own narrow concerns.
* Maintaining a gratitude journal where they keep track of all the good things in life. This will discourage people from becoming overly obsessed with their day to day problems.
* Meditation may seem to be a selfish activity to those who have never practiced it but it is quite the opposite. Loving kindness meditation can greatly increase the amount of compassion that the individual feels for other people. Meditation techniques such as mindfulness are wonderful at moving people away from the obsession with self.
* People can train themselves to think more about other people. It becomes a habit and eventually the individual will be more outwardly focused without even trying.
* Most spiritual paths have a move away with self-obsession as a primary goal.
* Empathy is the ability to understand how the other person is feeling. It is possible to develop more empathy by just practicing it.
* Learning to listen is a vital skill for anyone who wants to reduce their focus on self. This means being fully attentive when the other person is speaking. A good idea is to silently count to ten after the other person has stopped talking before giving a reply. Narcissists are too busy thinking about what they want to say to really listen to the other person.
* It is sometimes claimed that you have to fake it to make it. Deliberately paying other people compliments can be beneficial. Looking for something nice to say about other people can become an attractive habit.
* Asking other people questions shows an interest in their life. It can also provide plenty of interesting answers. There is a lot more to be learnt from hearing what other people have to say than by talking.
* Those individuals who are prone to narcissism need to be careful not to dominate conversations.
* Rejoicing in the success of others is also highly beneficial.