Narcissism and PMS
by Leslene della Madre
Challenging a narcissist on his
or her behavior is like trying to interact with a bucket of tar. The more you try to get at it, the more you become stuck in it because all they know how to do is take.
Yesterday I went to see my doctor, and when I put down the book I was reading, she noticed the title and asked me if it was good. The book is Narcissism, Denial of the True Self by Alexander Lowen. She said she thought denial of the true self is counterintuitive. I wholeheartedly agreed and said to her that it was a good book about narcissism, and she
told me her mother was definitely a narcissist. I said I felt that
narcissism is an epidemic, to which she agreed with nervous laughter. I
also told her I was doing research on narcissism because I am writing a
book about it from a feminist perspective.
This column is not about the usual PMS we hear about. I am
writing about PMS -- the patriarchal mind-set -- and its relationship to
narcissism. I see this mind-set as a 5000 year-old invasive virus, a
dis-ease of the soul we have all been suffering from, including the
planet, for a very long time. All the ills I see come from this virus. In
shamanic terms, an invasive energy is causing a deep soul loss, resulting
in horrendous physical, mental, emotional, environmental and spiritual
sickness (when I went to type the previous word, I accidentally typed
"dickness" instead. I couldn't help but notice this unconscious
connection to what I am saying). PMS is a view founded on male domination
and control, absent of love and full of hate. It is one we have all
internalized, because we have all been living inside of it for 5000 years.
And now it lives inside of us. Because energy follows thought, the deep
gorge carved by this fear-based thinking exists inside our collective
unconscious, our subconscious and our conscious mind. And, we are held in
this deep abysmal gorge of the patriarchal mind, surrounded by steep
slopes of isolation and fear. This grinding energy cuts and shapes our
hearts and those of our children. We are dry, lost and covered over with
the dust of ignorance, starving in a parched wasteland, desperate to be
seen and heard as the loving beings we are and want to be.
Because we are caught and bound in this painful reality, very
often our only survival is to become narcissistic -- desperate for the
attention that we deserve but never got, and devoid of feelings and
empathy. We spend lifetimes searching for a way out but creating karma
instead, because we don't know what we are running from and why we are so
scared. In the process, we have managed to create an image of ourselves we
hide behind -- one that is only good. Therefore, all the rest of us, the
not-so-good parts, are projected outwardly, and we blame others for our
pain. We deny the true self in order to survive. This situation makes it
nearly impossible to have truth and magic, the threads necessary for
weaving transformation. We are too busy defending ourselves and striving
to be right, to be good. Meanwhile, our normalized addictions grow out of
control, and no one notices because we are all in so much pain, and it
feels not quite so lonely to suffer in company.
Lowen writes it is the denial of the true self that creates
narcissism. What is our true self? If our parents denied their true
selves, how could we possibly learn about our own? As I see it, like the
invasion of the body-snatchers, the PMS has taken over our true self --
that which is rooted in love, compassion, justice, equality, cooperation,
beauty, ecstasy, joy, presence, kindness, creativity, and celebration.
These are the practices of the Goddess. We have lost the connection to the
Goddess within. This is why narcissism exists at all. The Goddess is
anathema to the PMS because Her energy threatens the constructs of
domination and control. Our egos have become hard and rigid and we
identify with our pain. We become our pain. The Goddess energy, like a
loving and caring mother, seeks to heal the wounding of the reality of the
PMS, but this love is not passive. It is fierce and active, and therefore
scares the egoic structures of delusion. Challenging a narcissist on his
or her behavior is like trying to interact with a bucket of tar. The more
you try to get at it, the more stuck you become in it, because all
narcissists know how to do is to take. That is how devoid a narcissist is
of love and feeling.
In Euro-Western society, I feel we are all on this continuum.
Some of us are more devoid and self-centered than others, but we all
suffer from the same condition. I believe this condition is directly
caused by a lack of respect for women and our power to bleed, birth and
give milk. Without connection to this energy, this very sacred life-giving
and life sustaining energy, narcissism grows, because there is no choice.
The human being experiences this absence as a deep betrayal and from this
betrayal comes a consuming rage -- a healthy response. But because this
rage is not identified early on as the reaction against the denial of
love, it can only fester into a murderous rage when what it really needs
is to be transformed. Hence violence, war, destruction, wanton hatred and
the general non-caring and disrespect for life that we see all around us,
which males perpetuate more than females. Why is that?
As I see it, all narcissism is not the same. Male narcissism has
the component of entitlement and privilege that female narcissism does not
have. While it is true that the undifferentiated ego claims privilege in
its rage, the conditions of patriarchy and its effects on people and
culture play a profound role in how narcissism develops in men and in
women. Because women are the oppressed in a male dominated society, the
narcissism developing from their experience does not have the same
sanctified position and acceptance as male narcissism. Women generally do
not rape. Some, yes, but most certainly not like men do. Male narcissism
is supported and encouraged by the use and abuse of women as objects and
pornography. Female narcissism is not supported at all. If we are not the
good servers of patriarchy, we are condemned and demonized. It is male
narcissism that is the father of narcissism. Any woman caught in this trap
-- this "dickness" -- loses her soul, becomes male identified
and her self-centeredness becomes a struggle for survival in a male world.
The male already has privilege in a male world. His narcissism is
cute. Television commercials abound with such things as the husband waking
up in the night with a cough while the pert and sweet wife jumps up out of
bed, heads to the medicine cabinet to find just the right syrup, runs
back, and pours it in a spoon and feeds it to him -- to this grown man. He
is just so cute sitting there in his bed, completely unable to do anything
for himself, in total and complete expectation of being taken care of. She
then comforts him so that he can go back to sleep.
Women have to become more like men in order to be seen. It most
certainly is not the other way around. Because of this, women lose
connection to a deep sense of self. For in patriarchy, our choices of who
we may become are limited to either being virginal or "whorific".
Narcissism from either of these two realities is still defined by the PMS.
Male narcissism and female narcissism both stem from the patriarchal male
point of view, but female narcissism is a direct result of being
oppressed, abused and dominated. Male narcissism rules. In a "kingdumb"
where male narcissism rules, all are subjected to the influence of this
out-of-control, disrespectful, insane perpetration/penetration.
A male psychiatrist diagnosing a female as narcissistic would
really need to know the depth of her pain and the depth of her
colonization and assimilation and have empathy with the total and complete
loss of her culture in order to understand her as a narcissist. A
narcissistic male psychiatrist can sit in his privileged position and
diagnose a woman while his own narcissism goes completely unnoticed. Freud
could manipulate his findings of sexual abuse of women, blame them for it,
call them hysterical, and come up with penis envy as a viable insight, all
because he was too afraid to tell the truth and be criticized by the PMS
of his day. His own narcissism went completely unchallenged, and yet we
have a whole system of "healing" based on his work.
From my perspective, our only hope lies in the restoration of
women to sacredness and respect, since life flows from our wombs, and all
that is birthed by us is therefore sacred. When women reclaim this truth,
the culture created from that wisdom will create beauty and peace. Women
must exorcise any and all male identification in order to be free from
this virus. Women's culture is vastly different from the current
patriarchal paradigm we are agonizing in. Women's culture is based on
love. Patriarchy is based on domination and hatred. Love is not a word. It
is action. It is being. It is vital and alive. It soothes the parched
hearts and souls of our narcissistic imprisonment and restores the
wellness of our being. If men were to become more like women who have re-membered
our culture and dis-identified with the current ruling paradigm, things on
this planet would be very different indeed.
How do we begin to become part of the solution? We begin by
loving ourselves. How do we do that? By looking closely and directly at
any and all of our addictions and freeing our energy to access our love.
By giving space to our pain, and understanding it with compassion and
self-forgiveness. By looking in the mirror and noticing all the negating
self-talk and changing it to loving talk. By refusing to be a slave of the
PMS and holding a space that can create something very different. This
change that is so necessary is huge. It will not be possible to shift
things overnight. But we can begin with ourselves, and take to heart the
changes we need to make in ourselves. I do not think it is of much value
to be a political activist when one isn't an activist of the heart. Things
will continue to spin around and around with very little movement until we
understand the deep roots of the PMS and how all life everywhere on our
planet is profoundly and grievously affected by it.
Is it possible to heal narcissism? Some say it is not. I feel
that it is, because where there is courage (meaning "to take
heart") there is infinite possibility.
Feminist shamanic healer Leslene Della Madre is a contributing
editor of Awakened Woman. Leslene's book, Midwifing Death: Into
the Arms of the Mother is due to be published very soon by Plain
View Press. She is now working on a second book, about
Reprinted by Wellness Goods under expressed permission of the author.