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Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism

Posted by Mark H. on June 17, 2002, at 17:45:05

In reply to Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism, posted by Mark H. on June 14, 2002, at 20:32:28

Thank you Phil, Beardy, Wendy, Dinah, Mair and OmegaMan for your thoughtful responses.

I can almost always be reached with logic and reasoning. At times of thinking ill of myself or projecting threatening intentions on others, someone with the skill to take me through a sequence of questions-and-answers can usually help me back away from the more inappropriate aspects of self-hatred and fear.

Humor helps as well, as does pattern detection. Part of having a cyclical illness includes being able to predict when I will feel paranoid and persecuted. For instance, I mark mid-August on my calendar to remind myself that for several years I have perceived things to be worse than they actually are in my work-life around that time, and I can even predict (somewhat more generally) who will seem to be "out to get me."

Yet it still takes me by surprise. One year, for instance, I said to a colleague, "I KNOW this is my time of year to sense plots to get rid of me, but how does [this person I worked with at the time] know when to start acting like such a jerk??" I can laugh about it now, but I know that in another couple of months, the threat will likely seem quite real once again. The ability to predict helps me to compensate [note to self: cut so-and-so extra slack during August], but it doesn't change my interior experience.

I chose the example of the woman in a restaurant primarily because it rises to the level of parable so economically. Yet Wendy's comments invite us to look below the surface at how much "common knowledge" and even "reality" are phenomena of consensus and not universally shared.

For instance, the woman in the story suffers from intermittent schizophrenia, not depression. She enjoys months of relative remission at a stretch, succumbing to the violent chaos of her illness as a result of increased stress in her life, stress she usually invites out of an inappropriate optimism about her long-term prospects during remission. She can't hold a responsible job.

Her Sisyphus-like cycle of illness is not only the organic source of her negatively grandiose concerns, but also the reason why she doesn't grasp what may seem obvious to others: that "most people" get an hour for lunch at noon and need to be back at work by one. The more we know, the less distance we feel from her.

On reflection, I agree with Mair that depressive grandiosity and narcissism are different and distinct. I have known very few true narcissists. Most people, in my limited experience, need encouragement to love and nurture themselves, to be a little more selfish in healthy ways, to have their egos strengthened through pointing out the positive in them. Narcissists seem to be the exception. I think narcissism deserves an entirely separate discussion.

I keep a list on my computer screen at work:

1.) Speculate less; ask more.
2.) What's best for the organization?
3.) What is the right thing to do?
4.) Does this benefit everyone?
5.) How can I help?
6.) It's not about me.

These items overlap and certainly won't help everyone, but each reminds me of something I forget when I fall into depressive grandiosity.

Again, my thanks to each of you who responded for sharing your insight and compassion.

With kind regards,

Mark H.




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