Archive for the ‘narcissism’ tag
In just a few hours after this is posted, I will be on a plane heading south to a warmer place. I have booked a studio suite in Puerto Morelos just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea. Actually, the studio is located about two kilometres north of the town, a more secluded location, a quieter location. I’ve packed my snorkel gear, beach wear, a few books, camera and laptop. I have packed light even though I will be gone for three months.
I wonder what changes will occur in me over these months away from my home in Canada. The photo above taken on Friday, hints that the forces of transformational change, alchemical change, will be at work. How will my relationship with my wife be transformed. This is a shared journey, not only to a winter get-away, but to a continually changing future of relationship.
I have been writing on the relationship between the masculine and the feminine within the psyche of a man, about the journey of individuation for many years. That is the nature of working, thinking, and living in a Jungian context. But there is more than attention to the “self” that is needed. It is rare to find someone who is so isolated from others that it becomes unnecessary to focus on relationships with real people, relationships that touch the outer masculine and feminine that are found in those “others.” At what point does attention to self become narcissism rather than individuation?
And so, with these thoughts swirling through my head, I say, “Talk to you next from Mexico.”
This is a scene I see almost everyday at the campus. I can’t read it and likely never will due to laziness in trying to learn how to read Chinese characters. This colorful chalkboard sits in an outdoor hallway protected from rain for the most part and it has looked the same as far as I can tell, for five years now. Possibly some of the characters have changed, but certainly the boat, the fish, the flowers and the titles seem to be the same as when I first say this bulletin board in August, 2006. I took this photo this morning, likely inspired by the book I have been reading on the Tang Dynasty, the golden age of China. This scene evokes some of that history, a sense of golden times, of pride.
As I travelled through various Asian countries this winter, I encountered a lot of “proud” people and it gave me a good feeling. Their pride was of the moment, not of a past – for the most part. Yet, that pride soon shifted to something a bit uncomfortable. The pride somehow became something that “set apart” rather than “joining together.” It made me rethink my own sense of “pride.” And needless to say, that wasn’t something I wanted to peer at in depth.
Pride is narcissistic on an individual level which often leads to a level of hubris that effectively becomes a barricade between self and others. On a collective level, it becomes ethnocentrism, or hyper-ethnocentrism. I am seeing too much hyper-ethnocentrism in the world and seeing how it is causing us more problems that building a healthy sense of community. In my own country which is on the edge of heading into an election, the darkness of hyper-ethnocentrism is visible to anyone who can stand outside the dynamics. As I read various news articles and the public comments, I wonder at the “heat” and the “hate” that comes out at a deafening volume. Where will it all end?
In an individual, it ends in a fall.
I’ve chosen a different photo today, one that is decidedly more messy, more full of life. When I first came to China in August of 2006, I took a stroll down this street. The left side was much like the right side, jam-packed with small shops and apartments that hugged a narrow street, a stark contrast to the city area in which I live which has wide streets with boulevards filled with grass, roses and sculpted bushes. My first taste of street food was on this street in a little tarp-covered stall that sold noodle and dumpling soup to construction workers for the most part. It still remains, at least in this small section, a messy place bursting with life.
Understanding all of this “life” that I encounter in China is problematic for me, and probably everyone else as well. How can I really be expected to understand a foreign culture, let alone my own culture when I struggle with understanding myself. It is a rare person who can say with honesty that he or she truly understands him or her “self.”
“Understanding oneself is difficult enough; understanding others is their responsibility, if they are inclined to do so and have a mind for it. What one can know of another is just the tip of an iceberg; the far greater part of anyone’s personal identity is beyond the ken of an outsider. For that matter, those who have worked on themselves enough to be comfortable with who they are – as opposed to those arrogant souls who are simply narcissistic – do not need, nor do the ask, to be understood by others. I am what I am; take it or leave it..
The appropriate attitude for a long-term relationship is not understanding, but acceptance. Each accepts the other, to the extent one can, and makes no issue of the rest. This is not easy. It means accepting not only the loved one’s persona, but also his or her shadow and other complexes. It certainly requires empathy, but it also involves a mutual acknowledgement that one is responsible only for oneself.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, pp 74-75)
What I am learning to apply to my relationship with those I hold closest to me in my life, I am learning to use here in China as I build relationships with a country, a swirling mass of conflicting cultures, and the few individuals who see me and are willing to allow me into their orbit of relationships whether as friend, colleague, teacher or simply “laowai.”