A shortened version of an excerpt from a book by A.H.Almaas: The Point of Existence: Transforamtion of Narcissism in Self-Realization.
The narcissistic constellation proves to be the most central, deepest, most sensitive, and frequently most difficult, part of the personality to work with. The student increasingly discovers that the issues he confronts now, in these deeper dimensions of realization, are the most painful ones. These issues are more emotionally sensitive involving feelings of vulnerability, hurt, and reactivity. Other issues arise at this level of spiritual work, but narcissistic concerns usually dominate the student’s process.
Narcissistic issues are extremely difficult to go through by ourself, because it is very hard to see one´s own narcissistic issues. Clearly, these issues are the closest to our sense of who we are, for our very identity is in question. At this level a teacher can be helpful, even indispensable. The student needs the teacher at these times more than he did for other issues, because the narcissistic issues make him feel lost and disoriented. The states and issues that arise at this point are similar to those of pathological narcissism, but at this phase of development they do not generally reflect pathology. Rahter, they reflect the increasing awareness of the fundamental weakness and emptiness of the normal identity.
What are specific manifestations of central narcissism?
When narcissistic constellation approaches consciousness, the way it manifests depends on how resolved our narcissistic issues are. Here, we will discuss general characteristics that indicate the presence of these issues.
Self-esteem and essential value: A major concern is the question of value, which manifests as preoccupation with self-esteem, and various manoeuvrers meant to gain more of it or avoid losing it. The student becomes sensitive about his sense of worth, obsessively evaluating himself and his actions, and is unusually sensitive to the evaluations of others. He cannot help but try to gain value from others through his actions, expressions, utterances appearances, accomplishments, and so on.
These developments express the student´s growing awareness of a deep sense of low self-esteem. When he explores and understands these manifestations, he sees that the state underlying them is a sense of being deficient and worthless. Often this sense of worthlessness simply alternates with the inflated state.
The issues of self-esteem reflects the loss of contact with our intrinsic values.
Need for mirroring: The normal need for mirroring becomes exaggerated at this point. We become more aware of our fundamental need to be seen, recognized, admired, appreciated and so on. This need has two elements: The first is the need for someone outside us to see us acccurately, understand what we are about, how we feel, what we thing, and so on. It is a matter of another person functioning like a mirror for us, thus shoring up our sense of identity. The second need is that the mirroring feedback has to be not only accurate, but extremely positive. We need to be seen with admiring and appreciative, even idolizing, eyes.
The need for mirroring reflects the insecurity and instability of sense of identity. This insecurity reflects the fundamental weakness of the ego identity, which is due to alienation from the essential identity, it is and expression of a deeper need. This deeper need is for our true self to be seen and appreciated, simply because it is not seen, by anyone – ourselves or others.
Specialness and uniqueness: The need for external mirroring feedback typically becomes focused on the need to be recognized as special and unique. This need reflects and exaggerated belief in one´s specialness, which in turn reflects and underlying feeling of being insignificant. So the student feels either and exaggerated sense of specialness, importance and uniqueness, or painful feelings of insignificance and unworthiness, or the two sets of feelings might alternated, depending on the adequacy or absence of narcissistic supplies.
Grandiosity: The needs of specialness and importance are qualities of central narcissism. These needs manifest at some point as unrealistic and grandiose beliefs about who one is, what he can do, and what he has accomplished. He may believe he is the best, the most powerful, the most irresistible, the most intelligent, and so on. He may feel he has capacities or qualities or accomplishments far superior to his actual abilities.
Idealization: Grandiosity may alternate with, or be hidden by, and inordinate need to find persons to idealize. The need to idealize someone specific is normal, but it is a more desperate need for the narcissist, and is needed for the normal individual when the narcissistic constellation apporaches conscious experience in the work of spiritual development. The idealization becomes more extreme, and one tends to believe that one´s idealized figure possesses unusual perfection and power. He uses the relationship to the idealized figure as a support for his sense of identity, to gain a sense of power and perfection from the association with the idealized figure.
Deficient emptiness: One of the most characteristic manifestations of narcissism is the painful state of emptiness, in which one feels a deficient inner nothingness – a vacuity, as if one has nothing inside, no substance. This poverty of inner life, experiences as and actual phenomenological nothingness, is usually accompanied by feelings of unreality, meaninglessness, pointlessness, and insignificance. He feels his life has no meaning or sense, his existence has no significance, and his action no point or real aim. These feelings reflect his alienation from essential presence, which is, in the deepest sense possible, the true significance and meaning of his existence, for the presence is his true existence.
Narcissistic rage and envy: The narcissistic individual, or the normal individual at this phase of development, is prone to intense anger, and irrational rage, which may take the form of acute explosions or be chronic and vengeful. This narcissistic rage is provoked by the slightest – real or imagined- narcissistic insult, such as not being seen, understood, or appreciated, in the way one feels he deserves. Narcissistic envy may arise: one hates anyone who has (or seems to have), a rich inner life or external acclaim and feels pain about not having what the other has.
Fakeness: A singularly defining manifestation of narcissism is the feeling of being fake, unreal, lacking authenticity. This may first appear as the fear of being found out, without knowing what is going to be found out. When the person goes deeper into this fear he may discover that he is afraid to be found out to be phony, that it will be seen that he is not for real. This sense of phoniness is a reflection of the fact that the normal identity is devoid of the real self – the essential presence.
Depression: For some individuals the emptiness and meaninglessness may manifest as a certain kind of depression: heavy, hopeless, and helpless. One feels meaningless emptiness, a heavy and sluggish lack of enthusiasm about life, an absence of joy and excitement about oneself, one´s work, and one´s prospects. It is not a matter of feeling guilty and sad, but of feeling a heavy emptiness, a dry and arid inner life.
Lack of support: The person increasingly feels a sense of lack of support, as if he is unable to stand on his own feet, psychologically. He might feel a lack of balance, even physically. This lack of support appears initially as a strong need for external support, which may manifest as various manoeuvrers to gain it. The growing awareness of the need for support indicates not only the inadequacy of external support in his past or present, but also, and more significantly, the absence of his own inner support for his sense of his true identity.
We are working with this theme in a group lead by Bhagat: