The Confusion of Narcissism

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“A narcissist’s criticism is their autobiography.”– M. Wakefield

There is a lot of confusion on what narcissism is exactly, and if you yourself have narcissistic tendencies or people in your life with narcissism. Probably the best way to think of it is to understand it as being on a spectrum, like most anything. But how does this relate to sobriety and addiction? Well…the more focused you are on yourself, the less connected you are and able to empathize, the more you feel entitled and have expectations…eventually the less happy you will be.

Excessive focus or obsession on yourself and your own feelings and suffering eventually just creates more and more unhappiness. And moreover, you will begin to project your own inner unhappiness with yourself onto others. For example, a common narcissistic tendency is gaslighting or projection. In part this means the criticism or negative commentary the narcissist gives to others, is actually partly a reflection of how they really feel about themselves. They have too much shame, guilt, and inner pain to look at themselves and so it spills out onto others. For example, if they say you are fat or stupid. It may be that they actually secretely feel that way about themselves.

This is important with recovery because narcissistic tendencies are absolutely a trigger for addiction or relapse. The ability to think of and empathize with others…as well as have meaningful, genuine, authentic connections with little or no intention of manipulating or using others for your own benefit, is an important part of happiness and authentic living.

Another issue with narcissism is that if you’re not living authentically and you’re not being genuine, it can become so second nature you don’t even know it. There is a mask or a role like an actor would play, that a narcissist wears in order to obtain the things they want. They may not even consciously be aware of what they are trying to obtain from others it’s so automatic. But the main thing a narcissist wants is attention and control, and they will do all kinds of things to get it. They may play the role of someone who is extremely knowledgeable or an expert on a topic…or maybe the role of someone who is hyper sexual and gets attention by being sexy….or someone who is gorgeous and entitled to attention because of their looks….or possibly even the lesser recognized victim where someone plays the victim role in order to obtain as much attention and control as possible.

There are many ‘hats’ that someone with narcissistic tendencies can choose to wear. These hats are not even necessarily obvious and may take time for someone to see through. Underneath the mask or the role they play, is someone that oftentimes feels empty, depressed, anxious, inadequate, disconnected, alone, hurt and most of all shame.

Again, since this is on a spectrum, the tendencies and genuine feelings of the person underneath vary. However, the underlying truth across the spectrum is that someone with narcissistic tendencies is not their genuine self. They take on a certain mask or persona to survive or feel better in life, however, the person underneath has a lot of unhealed shame, pain and feelings of emptiness.

Narcissism at any level puts someone at risk for drug and alcohol abuse. It means they are in their own way trying to heal themselves by attaining more and more attention (or whatever they are after), from others. BUT it’s a black hole, a bottomless pit…and until you confront the shame, emotional pain and whatever you aren’t looking at underneath…you will continue to grow and increase your narcissistic habits. This is true if you display narcissistic tendencies only some, or much of the time.

Facing your authentic, genuine self and what is actually going on with you…your pain, your shame, your guilt, your anger…all of it…is the most effective way to overcome the narcissistic mask. It is also the most powerful way to impact drug and alcohol use you may be using to cover up painful emotions. So… love yourself enough to face the ‘real you’.

It may seem very scary in the beginning, but ‘the real you’ doesn’t go away with covering it up. There are caring mental health professionals, support groups and (when needed) addiction rehabilitation facilities to address co-occuring concerns. You are worth recovery and you are worth facing difficult things in order to be happy and have peace within yourself. You are worth a better, happier life and a fully-healed authentic you.

Learning how to honor your authentic self, feelings and experiences is an important part of recovery. Learning how to confront challenging aspects of yourself such as self-centeredness or narcissism can be extremely difficult. Silver Lining understands that you have spent a lot of time dealing with difficult emotions and triggers during your time using drugs and alcohol. These experiences impact your sobriety and a treatment plan for living your best life in recovery. Our policy of treating small numbers of people in each group allows us to get to know you and the exact type of help you need to learn to be kind to yourself and achieve your goals. We help you flourish now and in the future. Let our Huntington Beach location be where you begin again! Call us today for more information. (866) 448-4563.