Tuesday, July 20, 2010
What's Not Different
I was at a party this weekend and had two different conversations with two different people about narcissism. We talked about the way people will talk endlessly about themselves with no interest in anything else and think they're having a conversation. (The con part of that word means with). Then there are the folks who refuse to see beyond their own noses. You may have a friend who has an annoying habit or destructive behavior. When you bring it to their attention, they fight you in a self-righteous way or walk away, ending the friendship, sometimes returning after a month or two as if nothing ever happened. There is a level of non-reality present in these types of actions. I have to admit to having talked a lot about myself when I was younger. At times I didn't know what else to talk about because me was all I knew. I've also been guilty of looking for some link from whatever conversation I was a part of to my own experience. I think that's natural, too, but it showed me that I wasn't really seeing the speaker. They weren't asking for my experience with whatever it was, they were sharing theirs. It's easy to go through life seeing only as far as our own noses. After all, we experience life as ourselves and that's our frame of reference for everything. But if you've ever sat with someone who really sees you, someone who is totally present with you and what you're saying, you will know that there is no greater gift than presence with another. I've spent nights with friends when we were focused on my life and where it's going. This was not a narcissistic time, it was a time when I was in need of guidance or advice and my friends saw that and had a lot to offer. They shared stories of their similar experiences and thoughts on what I wasn't seeing. The thing we forget when we're so focused on me is that we don't have the whole picture. True objectivity is impossible but we have to strive to attain some willingness to see ourselves and the world through the eyes of others. Or to understand the points of view that oppose ours. If we can't see the whole picture and the reasons people are disagreeing, we don't have all the facts. We can only see that the "other side" is different. That becomes a basis for everything. Different is a lie that breeds fear and hate. Yes, we are all different and thank Goddess and God for that! It would be a dreary world indeed if we all loved to write and had one daughter and two cats and dreams of saving the world. It would be a sad place to live if there was nothing to disagree on. But when will we learn to do our disagreeing with respect? When will we all step out of ourselves and into real life? If a conservative, republican fundamentalist meets a liberal, democratic atheist, odds are they won't have much to talk about. You would think. But lets take a step back. Lets look at these people from a different angle. Let's imagine that they are both fathers of pre-teen girls, they both work as engineers, they both love to watch hockey and play poker. They both love having cook-outs with family and friends. They both hope to travel to Ireland one day. Are they still so different? Now these men might have something to talk about. And that's the thing about narcissism and judgment. When your world is very small, it's easy to believe that your way is the only way simply because it's all you are comfortable with. It's easy to fool yourself into believing you do nothing wrong. When you allow yourself to be the center of everything, some things are going to fly out of orbit and you'll have no knowledge of those things. If you don't look up from your own life, you won't see how much there is out there to experience and learn. None of us has it all figured out. If someone had all the answers, the world would be a different place. Clearly not a single person has the power or the knowledge necessary to bring balance to this world. So what would happen if we started to listen, I mean really listen to one another? What could we do if we stopped fighting, stopped looking for the "different", and started agreeing on anything. Can we agree that a large percentage of people would like all wars to end? Can we agree that it's not ok to allow people to starve? Can we agree that domestic violence is NOT ok? Can we agree to protect one another and stand up for what's right? Can we agree that what's different is what makes beauty and what's the same is what holds us together? Can we say that whatever we are told we're fighting for is not worth the lives lost to the fight? Can we agree to re-evaluate our priorities? Can we agree that we all want to be seen and feel loved? Can we agree to stop hating, stop fearing that which is outside of ourselves? Can we agree to start loving what is inside ourselves? It might be a lot easier to love ourselves if the whole world wasn't so busy telling us what's wrong with who we are. We're too fat, too frivolous, too gay, too honest, too intelligent, too pretty, too ugly, too funky, too adamant, too lazy, too busy, too serious, too sure of ourselves, too insecure, too human. Seeing everything as other-than is like an insidious mental illness. It's our need to make sure we're "in the right" and somehow better-than. What prize do we think awaits us for being right? Will we feel good at the end of our lives knowing we kept all that seemed to be different at bay? Will we be glad that we never let anything new in? Will we feel big knowing how small we've made others feel? Will we want to sit and listen to our own stories when others have heard them all and tire of them? Will we learn to forgive and to be open? How have you been narcissistic? Where is the line between self-exploration and narcissism? Does your self-reflection help others? Are you willing to admit when you've been wrong? Where is the path to 'different is good'? Will you sit with someone and really listen, become transparent for them so their story comes out whole? Will you feel the gift in that?