I was recently called a narcissist and, initially, I had taken it personally. My feelings were hurt, and the word "narcissist" would not stop repeating itself in my mind. As if being called a narcissist wasn’t so easy to accept, it was said to me by someone that I admire and adore. As a result, I felt extremely minute and unattractive. I had internalized a word and had begun to see myself in a negative light. I had begun to dislike myself and think of ways that I could shut out the “narcissistic” parts of myself in order to become more attractive to someone else. This seemed all too familiar – shutting out parts of myself to appeal to others.
I am noticing the many ways that I am like my mother. Some of the things that I would criticize her for are some of the exact same things that I catch myself doing. How is that possible? Could it be that I’ve been projecting the things that I dislike about myself the whole time? Looking back, as a child, I remember looking at my mother the way most children typically look at their mothers – with infinite, unconditional love and admiration. I also remember feeling punished during the years of my childhood that my mother did not have an active presence in my life. The feeling of guilt transitioned into feeling lonely as I began to perceive that I did not belong anywhere. In my mind, no one wanted me. Opportunities to spend time with those I considered to be my immediate family (my mother, my grandmother, my uncle and my grandmother’s current ex-husband) felt like a reward for doing well in school or some other special occasion.
Fast forwarding from grade school, the way I would look at my mother shifted drastically. As a child, I would experience heartbreak time and time again whenever I was told that I was not allowed to live with my mother. As a teenager, I experienced heartache from either wishing my mother was not my mother at all or from wishing that I never even existed. I’d look at my mother and wanted to be nothing like her and that has been one of my greatest motivators in life.
The relationship between my mother and I has come a long way since then to where I can now, once again look at my mother with infinite love and admiration. Our relationship has been a key component to why I found it necessary to choose a path of inner work. I had suppressed so much pain that I could not hold space for anymore. I figured finding a way to heal from my past would require me to learn how to forgive others. What I didn’t know was that I’d eventually learn to have forgiveness for myself and that in doing so, I would need to accept the things about myself that I did not like.
Learning to forgive others has not been as hard as learning to forgive myself. By granting forgiveness to others, I am usually aware of what I am forgiving. Forgiving myself, however, has been challenging since I had not considered that there was anything at all about myself that needed forgiveness. Certainly, I am no saint! Regardless, I’ve only known and/or experienced myself as a victim of my circumstances and, with this perspective, doing the inner work has been a great challenge – a tapas.
One of the greatest blessings of doing inner work for me is the shift in perspective from “I” to becoming an “eyewitness” of my thoughts, my beliefs, my words, my actions and how I employ all of these within the world around me. The burn of doing inner work, for me, is what I’ve observed through my perspective as a witness. The author of The Yamas and Niyamas, Deborah Adele, paints a clear picture of this by comparing the ability to simply observe the ego without creating an identity from what we perceive with the process of unpacking from a vacation. I love traveling and when I do, I love to bring home the best memories from my experience. Despite the chore of unpacking and re-organizing after a trip, pulling items out of my luggage is not so hard to look at when unpacking each item invokes a wonderful memory of my vacation. Conversely, inner work has required me to unpack and observe memories that are not so wonderful. I’ve also had to observe parts of myself that I've constructed as a result of the unpleasant memories.
I’ve found that my initial reaction to my own constructs has instinctively been denial. The jewel of svadhyaya, however, is an empowering way of accepting the parts of myself that I’d rather shut-out and to do so with a loving awareness – the same loving awareness that I impart when forgiving others. Deborah Adele states, “We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside of us first.” It seems impractical to believe that all things, by the decree of the Divine, are of one accord and yet still not perceive projections as mere reflections.
With this point of view, I believe it is rational to say that being called a "narcissist" does not actually mean that I am a narcissist, but that what has been projected onto me is merely a reflection of what’s going on inside the other person. My reaction, however, to being called a narcissist provides me with clues of my own interior landscape. Through self-study, I comprehend that it is not what was said about me that had disturbed me, but instead, it was a belief that I had already upheld to be true about myself. With this understanding, I can observe with a loving awareness as I "unpack" to find the root of my own disturbance.
Like physical recoveries, what goes untreated emotionally rarely heals. Healing is usually a result of persistent progressive treatment. Svadhyaya happens to be one of the many modalities that are available to all of us and, in my own experience, has been a highly effective sentiment to my growth. With all this being said -or written- I have much more work to do.
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.
I call upon the divine teacher of light and dark
that is within me to guide me through darkness into light.