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Monday, March 2, 2015

Is Introspection Narcissism?

Recently I've been mulling over a few things - things about myself and my life and unprocessed junk I thought I'd processed.  Guess I'll have to continue processing.  When do we say "I'm done!" with sorting out our experiences and journey in life?  I thought I'd come to the end of that.  So then I mull over things and memories and messages from my earlier years ring in my ears and I wonder, "Were these things true?  Did I buy into these messages and incorporate them into myself and live with the results of half-truths?"  Maybe, I don't know.  You tell me.

You see, I have felt that in writing - especially writing for the random public - though I don't really write for you, but just to unload it into cyberspace - I burden readers with too much about me.  Somehow I picked up on messages of:  Writing or talking in the first person means you're self-focussed.  It means you're self-absorbed.  This was a great message to get me to shut up.  And I did - I took it to heart and quit going into what I was thinking and feeling all the time.

Another message I got one time was when I was a young teenager and seriously depressed.  A very dark cloud hung over me for about two years.  It was miserable - deep depression that wouldn't go away.  I also had a woe-is-me approach to almost everything during that time - not uncommon for people whose outlook has become dragged down by depression.  And a friend got tired of my drama and misery and was just a little fed up.  (I don't blame her - she had every reason to be, and being a peer was no expert in how to deal with a depressed teenage friend).  She finally one day just blurted out to me, "Look Sarah!  No one really cares!  Don't you see that?"

This was harsh, to be sure.  It took me a lot of thinking time to take in those words.  As a 38 year old now I recognize they were not the worst or most damaging words ever.  They just were.  I'm sure she'd take it back now.  But those words affected me.  I took them to be true.  The message was: You are wallowing in it and no one has time or patience or care for this kind of thing.  Get over it.

Sometimes people do need to be shook up.  Maybe harsh honesty is helpful, to someone, somewhere, sometime... I don't have that in my experience - as in, it hasn't been that helpful to me.  But I have been on the other side too - where I am harsh and direct and tired of another's drama.  I say this to my own shame - because I don't think it's the best way to be.

These twin messages: "No one cares about your drama" and "speaking in 1st person all the time is narcissism" have coloured my writing and relationships.  I have feared to open myself up to others - if I talk about myself that must mean I'm self-centred, right?  But how do you develop relationships without sharing yourself with others?  You can't.

Someone recently encouraged me to reject these messages.  I had held onto them as true.  What hogwash!  So what if some people don't care?  There are so many who do care.  So many potential friendships out there - people who love and give and welcome a hurting friend.  That's the kind of friend I want to be to others.  Will I allow others to be that kind of welcoming, warm, nurturing friend to me?  It sounds possible!

The second issue I've had is with being introspective.  Navel-gazing is what I call it.  There is no end to self-analysis and soul-searching.  I have shied away from doing the hard work of cultivating my soul - for fear of becoming a self-absorbed hermit.  Well, I guess I'm not really afraid of that - I'd quite like it actually.  (I could be a Rock, an Island...and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries...)

Apparently introspection can be helpful.  But how much is too much?  How much until we get wrapped into a pretzel psychologically speaking and can only see things through lenses of labels and identity categories?  I don't know - I'll toss it out there.  Maybe you have opinions about this.  I don't have an answer for it...yet.


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