As a psychotherapist, the real world for me has always been the therapy hour. During this time, the challenges and wounds of fellow human beings are deeply observed and processed. It’s my arena of realistic living. Nobody in that hour long stops to celebrate my own productions for here they are all making productions of their own.
Self-seeking Narcissus often visits my real world. The old Narcissus sat by the pool to praise himself. The modern Narcissus is an activist addicted to self approval and admiration of others. Egoism can be so all-consuming that there is just so much need for affirmation. Traumatized or hurt individuals can turn the therapy hour into a pool for Narcissus.
I had a married client, Kenny, who engaged in mischief for years, visiting and spending millions for prostitutes. He was egged by friends and business associates to go ahead: “Your wife will not find out–no one would ever know. Keep it secret- enjoy.” These were major affirmations and appetites that lured him enough to go deeper into his addiction. These drives were surely narcissistic to the core.
Here, at the therapy hour with me after hitting bottom, I discovered that a most valid role I may play as a therapist for Kenny is to “tame his Narcissus.” To witness him trying to pick up his broken pieces means to give him true affirmation and create in him a sense of true worth. If I can help him see his illusions and heal his self’s wounds, or find the true meaning of his life, my own life will have served him well.
Taming Narcissus requires the habits of mental discipline and life balance. It involves a proper and realistic view of self, even when under the outpouring of personal praise. It calls for total honesty and avoidance of false channels of happiness, such as flattery or sticky compliments. It also demands letting go. Relinquish. Abandon. Narcissus is a liar. You cannot get the best things of life or reaching your highest, whole self by grasping.
As Walt Whitman said, “If you want me, look for me beneath the soles of your feet, for that is where you will find me.