Monday, July 02, 2007

Narcissism: Living in a Hall of Mirrors

The hardest thing to get used to about a narcissist is that everything she or he does is for effect.

So, for example, you may think it's about the business proposal you're discussing with her. Wrong. In her world it's all about the effect her actions are having on you, as reflected in your response to her -- everything from the look on your face and tone of your voice to your posture and gestures.

She lives in a hall of mirrors, and you are just a mirror she's posing before, to see her reflection.

This is why she may well suggest an utterly stupid idea for this business proposal: the proposal itself and what's good for business hardly enter her head. She's too consumed with looking good in that mirror. Yes, even if "she" is a "he," because we're not talking about just physical looks here. The narcissist is playing for a reflection of what kind of person she imagines herself to be.

Unfortunately, because narcissists love rejecting people and are heartless, they are often hired as managers and administrators by a business that wants a hatchet man and views them as "tough." That business gets what it deserves: a manager or administrator who keeps the (obsequious) dead wood, axes the green wood, and makes utterly stupid business decisions.

When we are playing to the mirror of another person's face, the broadest strokes of the image we're carving are portrayed by how we and the other party relate to one another.

For example, if we relate to another person condescendingly or patronizingly, we portray an image of ourselves as superior. Of course, on the other side of that coin we are portraying an image of the other person as inferior. Both appear in the shadow that comes over that other person's face. Narcissists need to see it. (Hence, the Teeter Totter Game.)

Again, for example, if the other person lets us relate to him as his judge, we succeed in portraying ourselves as his God. Most people don't realize this until they ask themselves what a God is and what is the essence of a person's relationship to a God.

So, narcissists are not the only people who portray a false image of themselves in mirrors. Everybody likes to see a flattering image of themselves reflected in the responses of the people around them. But narcissists are the only people permanently fixated on doing so, to the exclusion of all else. They live to keep up appearances.

Kathleen Krajco