Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 341

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Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism

Posted by Mark H. on June 14, 2002, at 20:32:28

I find a theme running through my own experience of mental illness that I call depressive grandiosity, which seems similar at times to narcissism (though I assume one could experience both at the same time). It's something that is easier for me to see in others than in myself.

Here's a fairly extreme example offered by a friend. They go into a local restaurant close to one p.m. for lunch, and most of the people eating there soon get up from their tables, pay their bills, and leave. The woman leans across the table and asks quietly, "Did they all leave because of me?"

That (to me) seems to capture in a single short question one of the great curses of mental illness and of depression in particular. I call depression "the selfish disease," because my world closes down to a sphere about six feet around my head, and it seems like EVERYTHING is about me, even when I know better cognitively.

So how do we help others (and ourselves) when we feel paranoid and take everything as an unbearable criticism or affront? Any suggestions?

Many thanks,

Mark H.

 

Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H.

Posted by Phil on June 15, 2002, at 7:27:08

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

I thought I had posted something on this subject but can't find it.
When I saw my supervisor in a bad mood one day, I mentioned to a co-worker that I thought it was about me. She said her husband said the same thing at his job and a friend said,"Don't flatter yourself." That helped me.
Another phrase I like,"Your opinion of me is none of my business."
I still have the problem though. Definately, a childhood shame based reflex. What to do, what to do?

 

Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H.

Posted by beardedlady on June 15, 2002, at 9:05:33

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

"You're so vain. You probably think this [post] is about you, don't you, don't you?"

Although I probably have felt this way at one time or another (I think we all have), I don't think I'd ever say it out loud. The world does not revolve around me. And I have to say that I have little patience with this kind of thinking.

You'll notice a post from Iso on PBA in which she talks about the board being quieter without certain posters. In the post that follows, Dinah says she's well aware that the board is quieter without her and that she is one of those posters to whom Iso is referring. I have to say that Dinah's name didn't cross my mind then, and when I tried to tell her that, she didn't recall ever having thought the post was about her!

What to do to help, indeed! It is as frustrating for those witnessing it as it is for those feeling it.

And isn't this a rather fancy name for what I have always known as paranoia? I mean, the feeling that everyone is out to get you seems akin to the feeling that everyone is leaving the restaurant because of you.

Thanks for your post, Mark. Maybe you can tell me what causes you to feel this way. Is it the depression itself? Low self-esteem? The likelihood that a whole restaurant is clearing out because a person enters seems ridiculous, don't you think? Doesn't logic ever come into play in this situation? Or is a person thinking this way too depressed to use logic?

I'm sorry for being so clueless, but I really do want to understand. I would also like to know how to treat a person who is suffering from this. Phil said it helps when folks say things that seemed to show how unimportant he was in the grand scheme of things. I tried that with my post using other people to whom Iso could've been referring--just to show that the likelihood that Iso meant Dinah was very slim. But she was already coming from a bad place, and I didn't think I could say anything after that to help.

beardy

 

disclaimer to above post

Posted by beardedlady on June 15, 2002, at 9:09:32

In reply to Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H., posted by beardedlady on June 15, 2002, at 9:05:33

Although I used two posters' names and a recent situation to talk about this subject, I was in no way judging either of them, nor was the post specifically about them. Rather, I wanted to know if I should have handled this differently, how it could be handled in the future, and how to understand this aspect of mental illness.

beardy

 

Re: guilt and defense mechanisms Mark H.

Posted by wendy b. on June 15, 2002, at 10:36:06

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

...and then one of the people getting up to leave says to her lunch-friend:

"Sheesh, I wish Florence hadn't come in! Let's leave!"

Which goes to show.. What?

1) That the paranoia on the part of the depressed person is justified? (Sometimes paranoia is actually based on fact, right? We do know people who are might actually get up if we came in! or at least I do!)

2) That the people leaving are the depressed ones, because they get so irritable when some harmless person from their circle comes near them? (Turning the equation around... Sometimes I have done this, like: I just can't stand to be in a room with someone who is probably harmless, but I can't stand the person, so I'll leave rather than be around them. Irrational, but it does happen.)

3) That we're all a little depressed?

4) That only some of us are depressed, or only some of us sometimes, and that occasionally we just have big egos because this is the human condition?

Mark, I totally get what you're saying. It does us no good to wonder or worry about other people's motivations, and to put ourselves in the middle of other people's behaviors is surely a mistake. But I do think we're hard-wired, as humans, to care about what others feel, about how they feel about us, and about why other people may be feeling poorly. When it happens around us, and we're sensitive people, I think we tend to bring it around to being about ourselves. I think it's only human. It's just that we depressed types are a little MORE human than the rest of humanity.

************

This has been a big issue for me in the past year or so, too. I'm 42 and I'm finally figuring it out...and then I am hard on myself that it took me so long! We talked about this in group once: what does it mean to be "sensitive"? Why do we take things so strongly, so badly sometimes? What was it in our past that made it hard for us to just let things slide past, without thinking it's me, or it's my fault? I guess that's the jist of my thinking on the subject... that it's guilt. We're guilty somehow for things that go badly. And then it becomes a defense mechanism: it's to deflect having to ponder some event logically and without involving the self.

I think this may especially be true of someone like me, who was blamed and scapegoated a lot in the family hierarchy. And in my case, too, my siblings and I were the children who had to take care of, or look out for, the adults, and thus were always fearful of upsetting the applecart: "Don't get (step)dad mad, or don't upset Mom! You know what'll happen then!" So in a household like that, where there IS blame going on, blaming children for things that are really the ADULTS' responsibility, there is that major dysfunction. It's upside-down land, and we had to find a way to survive emotionally. We had to figure out how to get along in that environment. And we go around scared for the rest of our lives until we start to understand why.

But rather than label ourselves "self-involved" or "narcissistic," and feeling badly about ourselves because of it, we could just think that we're sensitive to others, and try to catch ourselves in the act of "over-reacting." Just being cognizant, in general, of the moments when we self-blame, or feel others are reacting to us negatively, and ask ourselves: "Why am I feeling guilty in this situation?" I can usually locate it in some pattern echoing down the corridors from my childhood...

However, I wouldn't go so far as to do the Don Miguel Ruiz thing from his book, The Four Agreements, where he says: "Never take anything personally," because we do interact with our worlds, and sometimes we hurt other people (intentionally or unintentionally). Or sometimes we act out of love, or altruism, or forgiveness, toward other people, and they respond to THAT in US, as well. So I wouldn't go as far as Ruiz does. But we do need to come to better self-understanding of the truth of our interactions with others, without becoming self-absorbed, AND without self-blame. At least, that is the goal, for myself...

Best,

Wendy

 

Re: very sensitive and articulate post wendy b.

Posted by Dinah on June 15, 2002, at 11:04:56

In reply to Re: guilt and defense mechanisms Mark H., posted by wendy b. on June 15, 2002, at 10:36:06

With so much of your customary wisdom, Wendy. I hope you don't mind if I print it out and keep it handy.

 

Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H.

Posted by Dinah on June 15, 2002, at 11:22:34

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

Hi Mark,

I am certainly guilty of that kind of thinking at times and I know the best answer is to learn to challenge our own distorted beliefs. But short of that, I think the woman did very well in requesting a reality check. And if her companion calmly, compassionately, and nonjudgementally provided one, what more could he have done?

And as was pointed out, childhood experiences (and adult experiences too) can give someone a reason to believe certain things that don't appear logical to someone without those experiences.

 

Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism beardedlady

Posted by Dinah on June 15, 2002, at 12:04:18

In reply to Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H., posted by beardedlady on June 15, 2002, at 9:05:33

As to what you could have done differently? Nothing whatsoever. You did nothing wrong. You responded to what I wrote. You had no way of knowing that I would have no clear idea of what on earth you were talking about. You had no way of knowing that my OCD was acting up, leading to loss of sleep and cognitive abilities. You had no way of knowing that I was having trouble with concentration and that I would have trouble understanding a long post touching on several topics. You had no way of knowing that my OCD and scrupulosity would cause me to panic at the thought that I had done something wrong causing me to have a grand panic attack and regress. How on earth would you have known any of those things?

That won't help you in your general question of what to do in those circumstances I suppose. But in the particular example you posed, I just wanted to let you know the fault was with me, not you.

That may not be of much use to you, since I perfectly understand that you will probably never wish to address another post to me (that's not paranoia, that's embarassment), and what is true about this one incident with me certainly can not be generalized to all circumstances, but you expressed frustration and I merely wished to explain.

Please, if I have expressed myself badly, realize that I harbor no ill will towards you, blame you for nothing, and am merely attempting to explain what you requested an explanation for.

One little clarification, though:

> , she didn't recall ever having thought the post was about her!

I realize my sentence clearly said I did, but that was an error in my sentence, which should have read that my feelings were influenced by the fact that I recognize that the board was quieter when I wasn't around and that I identified with the type of posters referred to. Which I suppose was grandiose in one way, but still is different than thinking that IsoM's post referred to me specifically. So if you meant the former, I plead guilty, if you mean the latter I plead innocent, and hope you will respect the fact that I know what was in my mind, while I respect that you saw what I wrote. I take full responsibility for the fact that what I wrote did not reflect what I meant. And just in case you were wondering why I wrote that at all, it was because I wanted to be scrupulously honest in admitting that my feelings and ideas may be biased. You don't have to believe it, of course, but since I didn't express myself too clearly yesterday I thought I'd give it one more shot. :)

 

Re: very sensitive and articulate post

Posted by mair on June 15, 2002, at 12:44:56

In reply to Re: very sensitive and articulate post wendy b., posted by Dinah on June 15, 2002, at 11:04:56

Wendy - that was all so well put and thoughtful. Like Mark, I ocassionally recoil at what I perceive to be self-absorption and selfishness. I can't seem to help interpreting events, occurences, and interactions in relation to myself and how I react or respond to them. My therapist thinks that my father is a narcissistic person who turns everything into something "about him, sometimes depersonalizing those around him." If I think of myself as doing the same thing, I can become pretty seriously self-critical because I so abhor this trait of my father's.

I'd like to think, more positively, that there is a difference. I think some of what goes on with me feeling so self-absorbed, is the natural result of engaging in therapy. I spend so much time analyzing things from my perspective. No one else's side of the story is ever aired, and my therapist mostly wants to hear about how I've reacted to an everyday occurence. So maybe therapy is a piece of this equation also.

Mair

 

Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism beardedlady

Posted by omega man on June 15, 2002, at 23:16:40

In reply to Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism Mark H., posted by beardedlady on June 15, 2002, at 9:05:33

>Maybe you can tell me what causes you to feel this way. Is it the depression itself? Low self-esteem? The likelihood that a whole restaurant is clearing out because a person enters seems ridiculous, don't you think? Doesn't logic ever come into play in this situation? Or is a person thinking this way too depressed to use logic?

I recovered from ten years of Shizo-affective..the paranioa was all very positive..Anyway to answer that question..many facets of what we are belong to evolutionary ideas..

While hunting for food one has already hit a reduced state of awareness (hunger )..it's ideal for a paranioa bit of the brain to kick in and tell you theres more happening concerning you than really..the survival advantage of thinking every branch lying round could be a snake is enormous.

Similiar to the "god spot" in the brain which is kind of opposite, perhaps paranioa and the god spot are two way signal systems of the same bit as they do seem so opposite in action as to be the same ..Many people with paranoid problems find it gets reversed by religious or musical activities.

I'd risk a theory right now that the paranioa spot exists on the left side of the brain and mirrors the god spot on the right side..

either is advantagous in times of hunger with the opposites of sharing and killing.

Anyway even if you do possess logical regions, their use is limited when awareness is reduced by the need to get what chemicals or higher living process achievements needed for the transmission state you remember you want to get back.


 

okay; I could buy that. (nm) omega man

Posted by beardedlady on June 16, 2002, at 5:36:43

In reply to Re: Depressive Grandiosity and Narcissism beardedlady, posted by omega man on June 15, 2002, at 23:16:40

 

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.

 

Re: Dinah!

Posted by wendy b. on June 24, 2002, at 9:25:12

In reply to Re: very sensitive and articulate post wendy b., posted by Dinah on June 15, 2002, at 11:04:56

> With so much of your customary wisdom, Wendy. I hope you don't mind if I print it out and keep it handy.

I'm sorry, I forgot to thank you for your embarassingly-sweet response. (I do try hard.)

How have you been feeling? Better, I hope.


Yours,
Wendy


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