I Am A Narcissist. That's A Good Thing.
Too little narcissism is just as bad as too much.
Posted Oct 13, 2015
I have created an education program for people with depression or bipolar disorder that produces better outcomes than anything else out there addressing the lack of functionality with these mental illnesses. The outcomes are so good that many people think it's impossible and it must be some kind of a con job. I think that eventually it will become the new paradigm and I will have changed the world. That sounds pretty narcissistic even to me!
Because I am so open about my goals I get a lot of pushback. As a result, I have been called every derogatory name in the book. It comes with the territory. And although I used to be quite hurt by such comments they no longer bother me so much. The one that used to bother me the most was when people called me a narcissist. That pejorative term no longer bothers me at all. In fact it makes me proud.
I have to admit that this new attitude is a huge change for me. And the credit goes to Craig Malkin's new book “Rethinking Narcissism” that I recently finished reading. It is among the best books I have ever read and literally changed my life. It would've been much easier to just live by the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." But, since I must admit some of the words are true, I need to come to terms with that reality.
The basic premise of Rethinking Narcissism is that there is a bipolar nature to it. The pole of too little narcissism is just as bad as the pole of too much, so we need to find a middle ground where just enough narcissism is healthy for us.
Dr. Malkin says that someone too far toward the low end (2 or below on a scale from 0 to 10) has a list of problems just as drastic as those on the high end (8 or above). He calls people on the low end ‘echoists’ because they have no voice of their own and are so obsessed with not calling attention to themselves that they cannot even accept the help that they need. I know that side very well from the times when I was overwhelmed with depression.
I know the other end of the narcissist scale from when mania was out of control: so self-absorbed that I was oblivious to the people around me. When we approach 10 on the scale we are so narcissistic that we become what Dr. Malkin describes as clearly in disorder - “In their minds, they cease to exist if people aren’t acknowledging their importance. They’re addicted to attention, and like most addicts, they’d do anything to get their high, so even authentic love takes a backseat. At 10 our humanity collapses under the weight of empty posturing and arrogance.” Excerpt From: Dr. Craig Malkin. “Rethinking Narcissism.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/S_jz3.l
But thankfully as I got my bipolar condition in order I no longer go too high or too low on the narcissism scale. I still get fully manic and deeply depressed, but my awareness and understanding of how to function keeps me in the healthy middle where just the right amount of narcissism is healthy. That middle ground of narcissism gives me the confidence that I can change the world if I put in the effort, but to do so with the kindness that comes from balancing my narcissistic traits with my echoist side.
I’ve devoted my career to helping people recognize the gifts that come with having bipolar disorder, and that certainly includes the moments of adaptive grandiosity—bursts of creativity and seeing connections that others might fail to see. What I love about Rethinking Narcissism is that it helps us recognize how human this need is: to see ourselves as special, to strive beyond the ordinary; and it does all that while still teaching us how to nurture the kind of genuine empathy that makes us all better human beings.
Chock full of eminently practical advice on how to cope with the dangers of narcissism, in ourselves and others, Rethinking Narcissism brings much needed compassion and clarity to one of the most vexing problems in mental health without ever resorting to false hopes or naivete. In that way, the book itself is special. I consider it a ‘must read’ for anyone who wants to better understand themselves, but especially for those who suffer from bipolar disorder and are looking for something that will help save and deepen their relationships.
Dr. Malkin’s book is available through his website at http://www.drcraigmalkin.com/the-book
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