New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Sam Roff, modified 3 Months ago.

New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

Posts: 16 Join Date: 9/18/20 Recent Posts
A popular peer-reviewed paper was recently published titled:  An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self-Enhancement.
You can read a curated version of the study here and the full study here if you want to look into it deeper.  Following this link will take you to where the article was published where you can see the questionaires they used to gauge Spiritual Superiosity, particularly file 'sup-0002-supinfo' under supporting information.

They conducted 3 moderately sized studies (N=533, N=2223, N=965).
The TLDR of their findings is this: Spiritual training — such as energy healing, aura reading, and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation — correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority.”

Although there are some things I disagree with in the study methods - (such as some of the questions they used for spiritual superiosity) for me, the article was mostly well written and tended against bias.
My biggest takeaway was to make sure investigation of all sensate reality, ESPECIALLY egoic responses around spiritual superiosity are kept under close supervision.  I think pre SE practitioners (however definitely not excluding awakened practitioners) are especially susceptible to Spiritual Superiosity, particularly in A&P.
Was very much worthwhile reminder for me toward doing some serious inquiry as to whether spiritual superiosity has been creeping into my life.  Always nice when studies come out backing age old wisdom to watch the f*** out for the spiritual ego.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Thanks for this Sam. I have a narcissistic personality and in retrospect I can see that I was partly drawn to spirituality as an ideal arena in which to further my narcissistic tendencies. In general narcissists are very unlikely to recognize they have a problem or be motivated to change. Narcissists are experts at exploiting people, which makes them particularly dangerous in the spiritual arena where people are opening themselves up and looking for direction.

If anyone reading suspects they might be narcissist (you know who you are) then I would highly recommend reading Malignant Self Love by self-confessed narcissist Sam Vaknin. I was shocked by the degree to which I felt he was giving me a guided tour of my own mind. My personality will probably always be narcissistic to a certain degree, but being aware of that and understanding it definitely helps to prevent me acting out on it as much. 
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

Posts: 1261 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Before I really understood what narcissim was (and realized I was one), I thought that being a narcissist must be quite a good gig - loving yourself and having a "great life". But the reality is that narcissists hate themselves and everything they do is an attempt to mask their deep-seated self-hatred and shame. It's a miserable existence for themselves and for their numerous victims. It's a tough nut to swallow admitting that you are a narcissist, but you will be doing yourself and the world a big favor.
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Sam Roff, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Thanks for sharing the book recommendation and your history emoticon I'll definitely have to check it out to see if I have any correlates at some stage, added to the list.  It's definitely well documented to be a sneaky hindrance to practice. 

I also listened to an excellent podcast by Michael Taft and Stephan Bodian recently which delved into this very thing for those who are more on the fly and don't have time for a full book reading.

I think just being aware of the possibility of Spiritual Ego is an antidote in itself like you alluded to, so I think studies like this are really valuable.  Nice to have the reminder.
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

Posts: 1261 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Just to be clear Sam, I'm not suggesting that you are a narcissist! I don't know anything about you, but posting on here about it and being aware of the possibility doesn't sound like the kind of thing a narcissist would do. Most people have some element of narcissim and spiritual superiority, but for the narcissist it's a pathological condition. I hypothesize that Buddhism could be particularly attractive to western narcissists because a) it marks them out as different and b) they don't have a secure sense of themselves and others so when they hear the magic words "not self" they think "oh yeah I'm already pretty enlightened". emoticon

EDIT: the narcissist reading this is probably thinking something like "of course that's not me, how sad these little people are with their earnest discussion of narcissim, I'm way above that". If it makes them uncomfortable enough they might even think about replying with a joke or sophisticated reply, something to draw attention to themselves and place themselves beyond reach of the discussion.
agnostic:
Before I really understood what narcissim was (and realized I was one), I thought that being a narcissist must be quite a good gig - loving yourself and having a "great life". But the reality is that narcissists hate themselves and everything they do is an attempt to mask their deep-seated self-hatred and shame. It's a miserable existence for themselves and for their numerous victims. It's a tough nut to swallow admitting that you are a narcissist, but you will be doing yourself and the world a big favor.


Agnostic, thanks for your thoughts here, and for the reading recommendation, I will add that one to my list.

From reading your logs and other posts here, it seems evident to me that you have found ways to get a handle on this, and to some degree unlearn/better recognize these behaviours through your practice.  And you seem to have done a good amount of research, much more than I have, so please forgive my ignorance on this.

I know that you think of yourself as a narcissist, and you also seem to make a distinction between 'narcissistic tendencies' that we all have (normal narcissism) and being an actual narcissist (like having a personality disorder).  Would you say there is a sort of psychological shift that comes from thinking of yourself as a narcissist? How would you say that affects your approach towards practice, do feel that you would doing anything differently technique-wise? 

Any additional reading you would recommend on this?  Thanks again.
agnostic, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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It seems there's a spectrum and lots of people have some narcissistic tendencies, but I do think it's worthwhile drawing a line somewhere and calling it Narcissistic Personality Disorder where a person's primary way of relating to the world is narcissistic. If someone seriously thinks they might be a narcissist then I would suggest reading Vaknin's book Malignant Self Love and see if they recognize themselves in there. I’ve read some more academic stuff on narcissism but none of it had nearly the same resonance that Vaknin’s book did because he actually is a narcissist and he is giving a searingly honest insider’s perspective on how a narcissist’s thought processes actually work. It’s very wide-ranging and also seems fairly scholarly and professional, although I’m not an expert. Unfortunately it is quite expensive, but if you do read it I would recommend the Kindle version (free on Kindle unlimited) because it is very well cross-referenced with digital links which helps jump around from one topic to the next relevant topic of interest.

Before I read the book I thought that being narcissist just meant that you were a bit pleased with yourself and tended to show off little. On that basis I did think that I was a bit narcissistic, which is why I was reading about it and bought the book. As soon as I started reading the book it was like a bomb going off: "oh my god, this is totally me, this is exactly how I think about myself and other people". I had no idea about the scale and scope of the personality disorder. It was shocking and I felt like I had been given a life sentence (“there is no hope for me”). Partly the shock was because I thought that spirituality was making me a better person, more compassionate and empathetic etc., so there was some serious cognitive dissonance there. Although we do live in a narcissistic culture, once someone understands what a significant disorder NPD really is then I think it's going to be hard for them to admit that they have NPD because it makes them sound like they are a pretty terrible person. Narcissists tend to view themselves as victims, which is how they justify their awful and outrageous behavior.

Getting a proper therapeutic diagnosis of NPD is probably best, but the problem is finding a suitably qualified therapist. Lots of therapists have experience with people that exhibit some narcissistic behaviors ("healthy narcissism" as Vaknin calls it), but few will have experience diagnosing full-blown NPD in a patient because most narcissists don’t realize they have it and so won’t seek treatment for it. If they do go into therapy for something else they will probably try to use the therapist as a source of narcissistic supply (just like they do to everyone else). The therapist might buy into their tale of victimhood or even if they do suspect NPD, they might be reluctant to diagnose it too soon for fear of losing the client. Narcissists are incredibly good at presenting whatever facade is necessary to keep getting attention and when the facade starts to crumble then they usually move on to find a new source of narcissistic supply.

Any therapists on here care to comment?

I would say the number one external indicator of a narcissist is this constant moving on from situations (relationships, social circles, jobs, projects etc.) Narcissists tend to make a big impression when they enter a new situation in order to get the most attention they can, then as their faults become evident and the attention starts to dwindle they start to hunt for the next situation to get their fix. Sometimes narcissists find a captive source of narcissistic supply (such as codependent partner or subordinates in the workplace) which keeps them going for longer periods. Spirituality is very appealing to narcissists because there lots of vulnerable people looking for direction and willing to abandon common sense and do things they wouldn’t normally do. As narcissists get older their lives tend to become increasingly chaotic and complicated due to this constant moving on, but even when things fall apart they can usually still find someone to buy their story of victimhood or else they can become “the villain” and get attention that way.

Narcissists are unwilling to recognize their problem because there’s always a source of narcissistic supply somewhere and the cost of securing it is less than the psychological cost of admitting that they are the problem. Realizing I had NPD felt like my whole personality structure was collapsing and there was nothing inside to take its place. I saw that it had determined the course of every relationship and job that I had ever had, the way I interacted and talked with everyone, my thoughts about myself, the past and future etc. This is where it gets tricky with the concept of not-self, because the narcissist can use it to legitimize the way they are constantly “fabricating” their identity and so avoid the realization that they are a narcissist. They might even appear to be enlightened and start “manifesting” in ways which look like they are designed to help people but are in fact just furthering their narcissistic agenda. The only way you can really tell is paying close attention for signs of the wreckage they might be leaving behind – broken-off friendships, disgruntled former followers and associates, complaints, scandals, unexplained behavior etc.

For me personally I basically ran out of narcissistic road in my 40s. My career had fallen apart (due in no small part to my inability to relate to my colleagues and constant moving on), my business dreams were going nowhere and I was married with young kids. My wife and her parents are good people and there were tensions around my work and parenting, basically because they had known me long enough and weren’t willing to buy in any longer. I recognized that my divorced parents were narcissists and didn’t want to repeat the same pattern with my kids, so it was time to face the music.

Practice-wise, after I figured out I was a narcissist I shifted from pure insight practices to looking at the bigger picture (with the help of a spiritually oriented therapist). A big change was giving up my work in order to look after our kids (we had a nanny before). That basically forced me to become less selfish. It’s definitely been a challenge because I am pretty impatient and find it very tiring to pay attention to people for extended periods of time! On the plus side, I no longer hate myself or think of myself as a terrible person and am no longer driven as much to do things I later regret. I feel like I have taken a big risk because I’ve given up the narcissistic ambitions which used to fill my horizon, but practice is all about living in the moment and embracing uncertainty so it’s mostly fine. At this point I recognize that I don't have much choice any more, life is unfolding mostly according to prior conditions. I will sometimes find myself imagining fantastic and grandiose scenarios for myself, but it's easy enough to recognize that I'm in a narcissistic daydream and avoid taking steps to actualize it.
Hey a,
Thanks again for your thoughtful responses here. It takes great courage to confront this stuff internally and even more to speak about it publicly in any way. I rejoice in your virtue.

I feel like I notice some of those behaviours you listed in myself, others not as much.  Regardless, this has inspired the intention for more honest thought about this for myself.

-John
agnostic, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

Posts: 1261 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thanks for your questions JW (and Ben), it's been helpful for me to work it out a bit further. Being able to admit it to myself and others and talk about it openly is actually a big relief. It doesn't feel any longer like I have terrible big secret mystery problem. At times now I sometimes even catch myself thinking crazy thoughts like "oh wow, so this is what it's like to be a normal human being!" emoticon

Sorry Sam to hijack your thread ... but I am a narcissist after all. emoticon I hope at least that it might prompt other people to consider whether they or their partners/friends/teachers/etc. are narcissists.

I might be wrong JW, but it doesn't sound like you have full blown NPD from reading your log. Here's a more personal example to give you a better idea about how true narcissistic thinking works.

The first time instance I can remember of being a true narcissist was about age 10 or so. I had been sent to an all-boys boarding school aged 7 and the only communication we had with the outside world was via letters, so when the mail was handed out at breakfast it was a big deal to see who got what. And it was the biggest deal of all on valentine's day, when we got to learn who might have a "girlfriend". I was still on the very young side for that, but visiting home one weekend the idea just spontaneously occurred to me to write myself a love letter (S.W.A.L.K. and red lips on the back) and send it to myself at school. I can still remember how excited I felt when the letter got handed to me breakfast and all the other boys started getting curious and asking me who it was from. I pretended to be all embarrassed and stuffed it in my pocket saying "it's nothing", which of course made everyone even more jealous and convinced that I must have a real girlfriend. Of course I knew it was a fake but I didn't feel guilt or shame, rather I kind of felt proud of myself that I was getting all this "positive" attention.

You can only imagine what this kind of behavior turns into once you are in your teens and 20s. I was constantly embellishing the truth or making up stories in relationships and social situations to get more attention. Once I had made an initial strong impression in a situation then I would slowly lose interest and start looking around for the next one. I thought it was a bit callous but I didn't think there was anything seriously wrong with it because I told myself that's just what you needed to do to be "successful" in relationships, society and work. Obviously that kind of behavior starts to catch up with as you get older and you've burned through a few relationships, social scenes and jobs.

Due to their high turnover rate, there must be many more victims of narcissists than there are narcissists themselves. It seems more likely that someone reading this is a victim of a narcissist rather than a narcissist themself, or if they are a narcissist they are unlikely to change whereas if they are a victim they are more likely to be able to fix the situation. What I would say to the victims - people in any kind of seriously problematic relationship with a narcissist (be it lover, spouse, teacher, boss) - is JUST LEAVE. Obviously you should seek change first, but if it's not happening then you should at least wield a credible threat to leave. The narcissist is highly unlikely to change their behavior while they still see you as a captive source of narcissistic supply. Some victims might themselves be narcissists (so-called co-narcissists or inverted narcissists) and will need to address that problem for themselves, but that is a whole new subject (also admirably covered in Vaknin's book).

The last thing I would say is that if someone looks "to good to be true", whether it's on a date, job interview or satsang, then seriously do your homework and check out the back story before getting too deeply involved. Narcissists' prime hunting grounds are situations where people are willing to give up their independence and cede control and power to another ...
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Sam Roff, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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agnostic:
Sorry Sam to hijack your thread ... but I am a narcissist after all. emoticon I
hope at least that it might prompt other people to consider whether
they or their partners/friends/teachers/etc. are narcissists.

emoticon
Don't apologize, I'm fascinated by your replies!  It's both educational and warming to see your own vulnerability (and others) regarding this topic.

One thing I've noticed, if you don't mind me prying a little Agnostic - is you seem to be using a lot if 'I' terminology toward Narcissism in this discussion so far (obviously acknowldging communication limitations).  That NPD is something that is really part of you.

I wonder, how do you reconcile the relative vs the ultimate no-self perspectives?  Part of me wonders if such a vivid awareness of NPD only serves to strengthen/solidify the behavioural tendency and makes something of it that could have otherwise been let go if a more dry insight approach was taken.  For the sake of discussion - is this difficult terrain to navigate day to day in your experience?

For those interested, Stephan Bodian wrote a great blog post on narcissistic teachers.  In it, he talks about how teachers (but this could be appled to 'non-teachers') are so difficult to identify because "Their lack of emotional turmoil can seem like unshakable equanimity, until it becomes apparent that it's merely the reflection of a limited capacity for empathy and attunement."  He continues "Narcissists are undisturbed not because they don't take themselves to be a separate self, but because they really don't care what others think and feel, at least, that is, until others threaten their sense of self-importance"

It also appears that Narcissim occurs along a spectrum.  This ranges from 'healthy' confidence, self-regard and normal neurotic tendencies that any trace ego will exhibit.  This not considered a condition, rather an agent of birth.  NPD on the other hand takes that further:  an exaggerated sense of self-importance; a sense of entitelement; limited or no empathy; and the exploitation of others.  The root of this is a well-hidden sense of their own inadequacy and vulnerability that they aggresively avoid feeling (according to Bodian).

Would highly recommend checking out the article.
Tommy M

Re. narcissism: It's worth remembering that this disorder of personality arises as a self-defence mechanism. Narcissists rarely even know that they have this disorder, and even more rarely admit to the horrible, painful inner world of self-loathing that it's built upon. Outward projections are fabricated to present "a face to the world" which we imagine that we're in control of, but in actuality is a genuinely sad and tragic attempt to reinforce our delusions about ourselves and our ability to cope.

For this reason, having sincere compassion for those who are afflicted by this disorder can be a very powerful practice and can help us to avoid being dragged into their psychodramas. Moreover, as narcissists we can find great comfort in accepting that, contrary to what the conditioned mind would have us believe, we are actually allowed to be happy, be loved and to love others. ou

Couldn't agree more Tommy.  Having the ultimate perspective in mind is so helpful.  Even the most narcissistic person in the world is just trying his/her best to be happy, acting out conditioning from parents/teachers.
agnostic, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Sam Roff:

One thing I've noticed, if you don't mind me prying a little Agnostic - is you seem to be using a lot if 'I' terminology toward Narcissism in this discussion so far (obviously acknowldging communication limitations).  That NPD is something that is really part of you.

Yes you are right - narcissists are quite easy to identify once you know what to look for! Other tells of narcissistic posters are:
- Excessively long posts relative to others in the discussion and/or replying to their own posts (attention seeking)
- Bold assertions, lots of drama (looking to get a reaction out of others)
- Inappropriate emotional tone, lack of empathy, excessive self-concern (genuinely empathetic posters tend to be low key and directly address the OP’s concerns, narcissists tend to veer off topic because they just like to hear the sound of their own voices)
- Meticulously prepared posts and/or frequently editing posts after they have submitted them (excessive concern with how they appear to others - this is a message board not a book!)
 
Another example occurred to me which might have been obvious to others. When I talked about giving up work to look after my kids, I omitted to mention the most important reason, which is that it was better for my kids. That was a big part of my decision but not an instinctive act - I discussed it in detail with my therapist beforehand and it was a conscious decision to act against my own instincts. When I came to write about it that reason just didn’t come to mind, it was all about the impact on me again. I always have to remind myself consciously to think about the needs of others. Sometimes I find myself instinctively doing something for someone else, but if I look closely enough there is usually an element of “does this make me look like a good person?” I do actually feel genuinely good if I help the other person, but I always have to question my motives.

I wonder, how do you reconcile the relative vs the ultimate no-self perspectives?

Well ultimately everything is empty so no real problem right?! emoticon In relative terms it’s completely wrong that there is “no self” (I’ve fallen into this trap before). You have to work with the personality you have and see it for what it is, using the right tools for the job. Decomposing everything into vibrations is great for a certain kind of insight but ain't going to help you with your personality problems. If anything it could lead you to overlook them and make them even worse. There are many teachers who seem to be quite enlightened in one sense and total narcissists in another. If enlightenment is defined as "seeing things as they are" and you can't see that you are a narcissist then it seems you aren't fully enlightened. That Bodian article was excellent thanks.

Part of me wonders if such a vivid awareness of NPD only serves to strengthen/solidify the behavioural tendency and makes something of it that could have otherwise been let go if a more dry insight approach was taken.  For the sake of discussion - is this difficult terrain to navigate day to day in your experience?

Actually it's the opposite - being aware that I am a narcissist has freed me from the worst manifestations of the condition. If I do/say/think something narcissistic then instead of repressing it due to the fear that deep down I might be a terrible person, I just note to myself "oh that was quite narcissistic" which takes the pressure off and gives me space avoid worsening the situation. My day to day experience is much less problematic now I'm aware that I'm a narcissist. If I find myself or someone else getting upset in an interaction then I'm much more likely now to consider the possibility that I'm the problem rather than looking for convoluted reasons why it's the other person's fault. Also when other people actually do cross my boundaries now then I'm more likely to push back immediately in an appropriate fashion. Because I was so worried about being perceived to be a bad person before, I wouldn't say anything and instead would internalize the transgression, which of course would then grow into a much larger feeling of having been wronged and lead to some spectacularly reactive behavior at a later date.

The other impact is that my meditation goes deeper because I'm not repressing certain aspects of my experience and I'm more aware of my feelings. Narcissists tend to repress their feelings because they're much more concerned with how they appear and how other people are reacting. Narcissists feel this huge pressure to be perfect and not admit to mistakes or faults (which of course causes them to make more serious mistakes). I can't emphasize enough how taking that pressure off yourself is a huge relief - for you and for everyone else around you.

Personally I like the tantric approach where the way forward is through rather than around. By shining awareness on my narcissism I feel like I become more transparent to myself. In tantra the idea is that "negative" emotions are not inherently bad, rather they manifest in a distorted form when one is unaware of them and become "liberated" when one is fully aware of them. I'm not sure how legitimate it is to apply that approach to something as complex as personality type, but that feels like what am doing in being open about my narcissism. Ironically narcissists are actually very sensitive to the emotional state of the people around them - they have to be in order to be able to detect and secure narcissistic supply and manipulate people. If you stop the narcissistic behavior then that emotional sensitivity could be put to good use, but only if you are really clear about your motivations and have the right checks and balances in place (such as letting people know that you are a narcissist before entering into any kind of meaningful relationship with them). Sunlight is the best disinfectant. 
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Agnostic

"Getting a proper therapeutic diagnosis of NPD is probably best, but the problem is finding a suitably qualified therapist. Lots of therapists have experience with people that exhibit some narcissistic behaviors ("healthy narcissism" as Vaknin calls it), but few will have experience diagnosing full-blown NPD in a patient because most narcissists don’t realize they have it and so won’t seek treatment for it. If they do go into therapy for something else they will probably try to use the therapist as a source of narcissistic supply (just like they do to everyone else). The therapist might buy into their tale of victimhood or even if they do suspect NPD, they might be reluctant to diagnose it too soon for fear of losing the client. Narcissists are incredibly good at presenting whatever facade is necessary to keep getting attention and when the facade starts to crumble then they usually move on to find a new source of narcissistic supply.

Any therapists on here care to comment?"

Ben:

As a therapist, I agree with you. For many of us therapists, patients with NPD are a difficult challenge. First, as you say, it is rare they seek therapy, so many of us don't have a lot of experience with them. But there are other reasons that I suspect. Therapists tend for a large part to have depressive personality structures, which means amongst other things being "people pleasers", afraid of rejection and/or of being seen (mostly by themselves) as a "bad person". When a Narcissist patient will seek attention and admiration, the reflex of the depressive is to give others what they want (out of fear of rejection or of being seen as "a bad person") so they will give it to the patient. Now of course if the therapist is well trained he or she will notice this transference-counter-transference dynamic, and know what to do with it.

As therapists, we feel like a non-entity in the consulting room with Narcissists. The narcissist comes in, gives a one-hour show, then leaves the office. The more consdescending ones will put down the therapist becasue they feel from the get-go that the therapy situation puts the therapist "above" them in terms of power, which is very unpleasant for Narcissists. The therapist feels unimportant, although there will be moments of idealization of the therapist, but in a idealizing-devaluing cycle. 

There are two authors and therapists who are famous for their expertise in treating Narcissism: Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohuts.
What can be confusing at first is that they have very different approaches. Kohuts is all about empathy, to over-simplify his model, whereas Kernberg has a more confrontative approach. There is little consensus about which approach is better. 

One theory is that both approaches are for two different types of Narcissists: Kohut is for a more depleted type Narcissist, the one that feels victimized. Kernberg's approach is more for the overt, condescending type one. 

Most therapists are more skilled at treating obsessional personalities (the anxious, overly consciencious and overly self-controlled patients) and depressive personalities (overly afraid of rejection and seeing themselves as morally inadequate) than other types of personalities. 

You need to shop for the right therapist.


agnostic, modified 2 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Hi Ben, Thanks for your reply. I agree 100% with you and it's nice to have the honest perspective "from the other side of the room". When I went into therapy it was for things like addictions, anxiety, anger and depression. Looking back I can now see that those conditions were all as a result of my basic narcissism, but at the time I was an eager and willing client looking to cure my problems and I did indeed find substantial relief from many of them. But the recurring depressions eventually got to me and this pattern of never seeming to be able to find "the right therapist". It was only when I quit therapy and started meditating that I was able to get enough mindfulness and self-awareness and ask myself the hard questions in isolation that I managed to figure it out. I can now see that subconsciously I found the situation of therapy basically humiliating - seeing the therapist as "above" me - and was alternately trying to woo them, idealize them or devalue them. I eventually managed to persuade my last therapist that I was a narcissist (or maybe he was just being coy), but he doesn't seem to think that I need therapy much at the moment. Still he's there as a backstop in case I should fall off the wagon.

I really do wonder whether it's possible to treat narcissists in therapy. Vaknin is of the view that narcissism is an incurable condition and I'm inclined to agree with him - "once a narcissist, always a narcissist". It's the foundation of how the whole personality structure has been built up and it's hard to see how that can effectively be dismantled. Obviously you can meditate the fuck out of it and see how it is dependently originated on the cushion, but once you are in a guru position and have attractive disciples competing for your tantric favors ... well you get my point. I think the best that narcissists can hope for is to understand their condition, understand the risks and avoid putting themselves in situations where the temptations are too great.

It's pretty sad that narcissists cause so much damage when it's often so obvious to a lot of people around them what the problem is but there's no way to get them to seek help. In my crazier moments I've actually thought it might be interesting to try something like "Narcissists Anonymous" - a safe place where narcissists can let their guard down and be honest with themselves and others about just how awful their thinking and behavior can be. The narcissist actually thinks their stratagems are effective and would be astonished to realize how many people can see straight through them and laugh at them behind their backs. If they can learn to laugh at themselves a little then it's hard to imagine them being able to take themselves so seriously again ...
Agnostic,

Do you find that meditation, or paths, have had an impact on the Narcissism? I would imagine that a noting practice must be difficult for a narcissist, who would find noting things such as ''itching'', ''shame'', and other ''non-lofty'' experiences as banal, or even non-attractive as a practice because it brings attention to ''non-grandiose'' experiences. 

I rememeber discussing meditation with a few people in the past who seemed narcissistic, and they were not able to answer any questions as to the basics of meditation experiences such as whether they could feel their breath. It gets even worst when it cmes to reporting emotional experiences in meditation. They had to say something that made them look special about their meditation. Knowing whether they could even feel their breath was ''bellow'' them.

Success at noting the most basic of body-mind experiences in a self-honest way seems in itself anti-narcissistic.

Thoughts?

Ps. The very fact you can talk about it in such a humble way seems to at least in part answer my question. I imagine the practice must have helped you with this?
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Hi Ben,

Interesting questions! I didn't figure out that I was a narcissist until somewhere around "second path", i.e. after I had some results with noting/insight and had started to broaden out the investigation into broader aspects of personality. When I first read MCTB my thinking went something like: "Great, it's actually possible to become enlightened, all I've got to do is start noting and investigating!" So I was really willing to throw myself into heavy noting practice because I saw it as the entry cost to the grandiose domain of enlightenment. In a way the more banal the experiences the better as it kept the focus off my grandiose ambitions. It was like I had decided I wanted to become a concert pianist and was willing to play scales all day while I fantasized about performing at Carnegie Hall.

I knew there was something off about myself because my life was a bit of a mess and I had been in and out of therapy for 10 years and gotten seriously depressed. I knew that I would have to face it eventually and figure it out, but I wrapped the problem up in the warm blanket of enlightenment and put it on the back burner while I focussed on the serious business of noting sensations. After I had some perceptual breakthroughs then it was no longer possible to ignore the problem. I guess I had been unhappy enough that I was willing to do the work and I also recognized that I couldn't keep blaming other people or the world for my problems.

I'm going to do something totally narcissistic here and make an artificial distinction between "shallow" narcissists and "deep" narcissists ... and place myself in the latter camp of course! Shallow narcissists are like the people you mention - they don't have much reflective self awareness and just seek out narcissistic supply instinctively. They are very uncomfortable with any kind of openness about their emotions or inner life. Deep narcissists have some self awareness so they have to play the game on a deeper level. They can be open about some of their experiences and emotions, so long as they control the process and are still receiving narcissistic supply. If you look at my logs you will see the way I make a big drama out of my practice and story, basically to make me look special and get attention. It's a classic case of if you can't get enough good attention then at least you can still get some bad attention. Don't be deceived by my apparent humility! (I am actually open to getting help, which is the main reason I log.)

It seems like shallow narcissists are very unlikely to go into therapy or stay long because it's too threatening. Deep narcissists seem like they are willing to go into therapy and open up because they recognize that they have problems, but they will subconsiously try to secure narcissistic supply from the therapist. This makes them very hard to treat unless the therapist recognizes what's going on. I had 5 therapists over 10 years and not one of them brought up narcissim. Mostly I got them to sympathize with my problems and self portrait of a "wounded genius who wasn't recognized by a cruel world".

How does narcissim relate to my practice now? Being open about it has definitely helped. I can see how my narcissistic reactions and thoughts arise in real-time and avoid acting out on them. In a sense it's "just personality" and can be oberved functioning within its own domain like anything else. But I feel like I must always be vigilant because the potential for spiritual bypassing is especially high for a narcissist. It's a real problem - how do you recognize the fabrication of the self when you don't have a secure inner self and your outer self has always been a self-conscious work of fabrication? I guess I just recognize it for what it is now - a shaky inner self + an extra layer of grandiose outer selfing.
Thanks! 
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Tommy M, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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A thoroughly useful concept to share, especially in a community so commonly focused on attainments! I've been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion, so I can understand the paradox painfully well. A cursory glance through my old threads on here will show what I mean...hahahaha!

It takes strength, courage and self-honesty to confront that "spiritual ego" and it can be very painful and difficult. Many see 4th Path as being the end of the road but the reality is that there is still much to be done. Pride and clinging still arise whether we are able to acknowledge it or not, and whether we even want to accept that this is the case.

Re. narcissism: It's worth remembering that this disorder of personality arises as a self-defence mechanism. Narcissists rarely even know that they have this disorder, and even more rarely admit to the horrible, painful inner world of self-loathing that it's built upon. Outward projections are fabricated to present "a face to the world" which we imagine that we're in control of, but in actuality is a genuinely sad and tragic attempt to reinforce our delusions about ourselves and our ability to cope.

For this reason, having sincere compassion for those who are afflicted by this disorder can be a very powerful practice and can help us to avoid being dragged into their psychodramas. Moreover, as narcissists we can find great comfort in accepting that, contrary to what the conditioned mind would have us believe, we are actually allowed to be happy, be loved and to love others.

Thanks for sharing!
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Tommy M:
Many see 4th Path as being the end of the road but the reality is that there is still much to be done. Pride and clinging still arise whether we are able to acknowledge it or not, and whether we even want to accept that this is the case.

I see this as a good reason to distinguish "technical 4th path" from the fetter model (pride = 8th fetter), which may not be fully attainable but presents a useful ideal (with all the usual caveats that go along with ideals and repression)
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Saying there is much to be done after 4th path isn't the same as saying the fetter model is valid  emoticon
agnostic, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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Do you think there are any valid models post-4th or is it a free-for-all?
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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The honest answer is - I don't care. I just pursue the practice as it plays out.
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Tommy M, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: New 2020 study on Spiritual Superiosity, a good reminder for practice.

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agnostic:
Do you think there are any valid models post-4th or is it a free-for-all?
Yes. emoticon

I know that's probably not the answer you're looking for, but I'm inclined to agree with Chris. Partly because I don't know enough about a lot of the other models, and partly because my own practice made it quite clear which route was appropriate according to my own karma.

It's not a free-for-all by any means, but it may be helpful to experiment with a few different practices and see which fits you best. If you've been fortunate enough to hear the Buddhadharma in the first place, then it's highly probable that your personal karma inclines you towards specific practices or models.

Not meaning to be cryptic or anything, but one thing that's become very clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all option on the Path.
Sam, thanks for sharing this and providing the opportunity for discussion. Many good points here already made which I very much agree with. As someone with a history of narcissistic behavior, I find that I still have much to overcome regarding those behavioral patterns, it is very much something that needs to be constantly monitored especially if you feel that you have particularly strong narcissistic tendencies. I agree that it can be a very difficult thing to address, I am still very much working out a lot of this stuff, and to be honest it can still be quite difficult for me to talk about but for that reason, it’s important to have spaces where this can be openly addressed.

To chime in with a little bit my own personal experience with this - I do sometimes wonder, and am open to the possibility, that I may have some sort of clinical personality disorder like NPD or something similar, or at least am somewhere on the spectrum. This might be misinformed but I tend to think of it as a complex phenomenon which is variable to conditioning (having narcissistic parents or other family members) and also systemic in as similar way to how racism/sexism is systemic. (Insert The Joker meme here: “I’m not the clown, you’re the clown!”). There is also the added complexity of the stereotype and the sort of cultural fixation on the trope of the narcissist. Though, I have noticed recently there has been effort in film to present a more nuanced and realistic view of this disorder (whatever that indicates).

Of course, the primary component - at least the only one we have any direct control over - is our own minds and our own behaviors. So my belief is that there must be an attitude of personal responsibility when facing these delusions, but with the understanding that these behaviors are the result of causes and conditions just like anything else therefore there is some element that is outside of our control.

I have found that many people in the Pragmatic Dharma space seem to share the belief that there is a way for us to better understand this, and overcome it, both on an internal level and from a systemic standpoint. On a macro level, contributing to the development of systems of knowledge which allow for better understanding and treatment of various mental health issues. Supporting systems which do less to reward narcissistic behavior.

Internally, by following the eightfold path, practicing the three trainings, with the goal of eliminating the delusions of self-grasping ignorance. Speaking from my own experience, I do believe that this behavior can be unlearned to some extent, though it may take great effort and require much dedication and persistence to change. This very conversation is evidence of that possibility, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this discussion, I hope it is helpful in some way.

I guess mostly why I’m writing this is to say, I support spaces where this can be discussed openly, because I have felt at times even very recently that I couldn’t really talk about narcissism, or my various other ‘-isms’ even to my very close friends. Turns out, I probably could have talked about it, because after speaking about it with some friends, I came to realize that they were asking some of the same questions about themselves that I was asking about myself. Not knowing how to, or not having a way to talk about it can create anxieties and delusions which only make it worse.

I would also encourage anyone who has difficulty with these issues to consider talking with a therapist. I talk to my therapist about narcissism all the time and I feel like there is real value in having that relationship.
Great discussion! This week the guys on the Very Bad Wizards podcast took at a look at this study. They had a good time with it. 

https://www.verybadwizards.com/202

We in the meditation field can be rather self-punishing, can't we? Sure, there is narcissism and toxicity, but name me a field of human pursuit devoid of those things! We've discussed this before on DhO with regards to materialism and bypassing around spirituality. Again, show me a field of human endeavor that lacks these behaviors. Investment banking? Check. Academia? Check. Pro sports? Check. The arts? Check. Even suburban family-rearing? Check.

At least in the meditation field, many of us are striving to better understand these traits in ourselves and others, bring compassion to it, and seek breakthroughs or learnings that will help us better cope and do less harm. That is all laudable even with the inevitable failures and setbacks in some quarters. Then along comes a study which is questionable to say the least. A general criticism to point out: the study admits it focuses on those who do thoroughly woo-woo energy-related practices and then extrapolates it out to include those who do somewhat science-based mindfulness practices. If the problem isn't obvious yet, consider the self-selection of people who choose to do energy practices because they believe in woo-woo and therefore think they must be special and then ask them questions like 'Do you think you know/perceive things most other people don't?' Predictable results. As the podcast professors above suggest, there might be a bit of ressentiment in there. I don't suppose there's ever been people who dabbled in meditation, decided it wasn't for them, and then became critical of the whole enterprise. (Ironic tone of voice)

If you're not already a fan of the VBW, I hope you enjoy the introduction...

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