Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Narcissist's View

Today on the phone you described your lack of success in developing a long term relationship (or unwillingness to do so) as a form of selfishness. You told me you could tolerate imperfections in others but not in anyone close to you. Fair enough.  But what you said provoked a memory for me. There was a story that I heard on NPR - perhaps it was one of those American Stories that you love, or maybe (more likely) it was fictional.  Anyway, I'd like to summarize it for you because I think there's a point that you should consider.

The story is narrated by a neurotic and narcissistic man in NYC - he's affluent so he's been going to a Psychoanalyst every week for over ten years. His analyst is a woman about our age. The narcissist prattles on about the various meetings with this woman, always interpreting any behavior on her part as evidence that she really loves him and wants him in her life.  For example when she loses weight and changes her hairstyle he interprets it as her attempt to make herself more attractive to him. In fact she's got cancer and is losing weight because she's losing the battle, the new hairstyle was a wig.

One day he arrives to be given a note in which she apologizes that she can no longer treat him, referring him to someone else.  It also says that her husband (who he had imagined did not exist) would stop by during his next visit with the new analyst and give him a gift from her to commemorate their long time 'friendship'.

He meets the husband and naturally fails to notice that he's subdued and downcast from worry. He tells her husband of how much he has suffered by not having his analyst there to serve him. The husband says very little and gives him her gift which he denigrates and ignores.

By the by she dies and the narcissist is invited along with a few other long term clients to her memorial service.  His narrative up to and during the service is a long series of complaints of how hard her dying has made his life.  He rages at another narcissist who had the temerity to write and perform an overlong and quite inappropriate song at the service. All about him.

But at the end the author shows the narcissist noticing (but without comprehending) how utterly devastated the husband is by his wife's death.  And through that device he ties all of the other pictures that we've seen of this woman that have been interspersed with the narcissist's rants.  And suddenly a picture comes into focus and we see this woman for who she really is: a deeply committed professional who sacrificed her domestic relationships to focus on helping those with psychological problems deal with their lives.  A woman who finally found deep and fulfilling love very late in her too short life and how that transformed her and gave her joy.

You see the story really wasn't about the narcissist at all. It was about his analyst and how her  years of sacrifice and commitment laid the groundwork for love and joy, if only for a short time.  It's an astonishing story and one that has a moral for you.  You talk about your selfishness but I don't see that.  I see someone that has refined her soul through sacrifice and the deliberate choice of difficult paths of service to others who just might find that all of that was just the prelude to the things that she thought she'd sacrificed for good.

Please don't read into this any self serving by me - although I am self serving.  I assume our relationship is at best quite episodic. But  I urge you to consider the possibility that one who is inwardly as beautiful as you will find someone or ones worthy of your beauty to complete your journey with.

And I Will pray that comes true for you.

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