In Greek mythology, Narcissus was known for his beauty. According to Tzetzes, he rejected all romantic advances, falling in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. #March4Justice #EnoughIsEnough
He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, when he was trying to get still closer to his reflection, he fell into the water and drowned. In his place sprouted a flower bearing his name.
In Freudian psychiatry, narcissism is an excessive degree of self-esteem or self-involvement, a condition that is usually a form of emotional immaturity (Read my Thread: ‘Why I switched from self-esteem to self-compassion?’).
Narcissus’ story is a cautionary tale about the catastrophic effects of excessive self-esteem; the danger of narcissism. A lot of people have asked me to make a thread on this topic. I have hesitated for several reasons:
I’m not the biggest fan of labels. However, they certainly have a place to determine what is what and to assess risk of harm. Often we all share the full gamut of psychological symptoms; differing in their intensity, duration and impairment or harm.
I’m also mindful not to tweet specific diagnoses so that readers do not diagnose themselves or others. I also do not want to unnecessarily trigger anyone. That’s why I’ve focused on classical pieces, contemporary approaches, trauma more broadly and tools for wellbeing.
However, I do see a benefit to exploring this topic within the context of #March4Justice. If you want a textbook definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) then you can Google search the DSM-5 classification. I will steer away from that approach for this thread.
So what’s the point of this thread then? A taste of narcissism and some respite. In her book, The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free, Julie Hall describes twelve unspoken rules that dictate family interactions in narcissistic homes:
‘Acceptance is Conditional’: children must comply with the family narrative and value system. Differences are rejected and pathologised;
‘Submission is Required’: to the dominant authority, no matter how ignorant, arbitrary, cruel, or destructive;
‘Someone Must Be Blamed for Problems’: typically a family scapegoat made to bear the burdens of the family’s problems, frustration, and unhappiness;
‘Vulnerability Is Dangerous’: Mistakes, accidents, and weaknesses, even ones you take responsibility for, are cause for shaming treatment that can persist for years;
‘You Must Take Sides’: Just as there is blame and shame, there are sides, and if you are not on the dominant narcissist’s side you are wrong;
‘There Is Never Enough Love and Respect to Go Around’: love and respect are limited to whomever else is deemed worthy, usually a favoured “golden” child;
‘Feelings Are Wrong’: Only the narcissist has free rein to express feelings, have emotional reactions, and make demands;
‘Competition, Not Cooperation, Rules the Day’: One-upmanship, favouritism, and constant comparison create a harshly competitive environment that undermines trust and breeds hostility and betrayal;
‘Appearances Are More Important Than Substance’: Even if everyone is suffering, they must smile for the family photo;
‘Rage Is Normalised’: Everyone is expected to swallow and endure the dominant narcissist’s irrational, explosive, and perhaps also violent rage;
‘Denial Is Rampant’: abusive incidents; continual atmosphere of fear; ongoing mistreatment of scapegoats; and routine forms of neglect;
‘There Is No Safety’: Although the scapegoat is the target of abuse, everyone’s on hyperalert because no one’s safe from blame and rage.
The classic feature of the narcissistic family is that it looks perfect from the outside. When outsiders are looking in, it smiles back like nothing’s wrong. Everything seems perfect. But if you look deeper you will eventually find all the problems that it actively hides.
Now for the sake of justice, imagine that in Australia we are all one big family. If these unspoken rules do not apply to our big family then we can say we have justice. However, if they do apply then perhaps we do need urgent change. That is a decision only you can decide.
Can a narcissist change? People with NPD rarely seek therapy because they may neither notice nor care about their impact on others. However, they can and do change, but only when they have insight and are willing to.
Because of this resistance, their loved ones often seek treatment to cope themselves: to live with their loved one/s or a work colleague/s; for protection and/or safety planning; to work on their own associated trauma; for grief and loss when they finally have no contact.
Essentially these loved ones want three things: justice, validation and reparation. In other words, they’re being treated inappropriately and want to make things right; they want this injustice acknowledged (seen and heard); they want to repair the fractured relationship/s.
Unfortunately, this often cannot occur because their loved one’s participation is required. However, a good therapist can remind them that ultimately we must give these things to ourselves: make things right for ourselves, validate ourselves, repair and heal ourselves.
When we do we will find the pillars of trauma informed practice within our own recovery: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment. This may (or may not) require leaving our loved one/s behind. Safety is primary.
When we do we will have recognised how the negative operation of power (i.e. families, educators, employers, government, or religious institutions) triggered our threat defences and the subsequent meanings we made that shaped our entire lives.
When we do we can ensure our own wellbeing by recreating our own lives and meanings grounded in vital protectors: our body, mind, social connection, culture, country, and spirituality.
When we do we will remember that we do not need to be more: prettier, handsomer, smarter, faster, wealthier, popular, or more powerful.
Is a baby born half or whole?
Every baby, ant, butterfly, tree, rainbow and the entire sky is already enough as it is. We too are a piece of the whole of existence already enough as we are.
When we do we can stare trauma in the face and see it for what it really is: Not feeling safe, loved, accepted or a sense of belonging. As long as our environment is safe, we can love and accept ourselves and we do always belong.
When we do we will have switched from self-esteem (i.e. wanting to be special and above average) to self-compassion (kindness, common humanity, mindfulness).
Knowing this is: justice, validation, reparation. Always was, always will be. Whole. This empowerment, seeks to empower all.
Trauma is disconnection; empathy fuels connection.
Australia is one big family really.
That is why I #March4Justice.
“The 2021 March 4 Justice (also styled Women’s March 4 Justice) took place on 15 March 2021 across Australia. Protests occurred in 40 cities in Australia; organisers estimated 110,000 people were in attendance, including the federal opposition leader as well as other politicians from the major political parties.
The protests were made organised following the perceived lack of response by the Australian federal government to the reporting that a political staffer, Brittany Higgins, was allegedly raped in Australia’s parliament house in Canberra, and that historical allegations of rape were made against the country’s Attorney General, Christian Porter during his youth.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered to meet with the protest organisers in a private meeting. The offer was refused on the grounds that the Prime Minister should be addressing the matter publicly.” – Wikipedia
Now you know the power of trauma informed care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong
Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist
#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong
Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo
You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:
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