“What kind of a person would cheat on his wife just because he thought he could get away with it?”
“A hungry blind man,” I said.
I went on to explain how I see narcissism. It happens to people, I said, who didn’t get what they needed in childhood. This left them emotionally hungry, painfully and chronically so. And their hunger makes them preoccupied with feeding themselves and blind to the needs and feelings of others.
That, as I said, is how I see narcissism.
Here’s the thing, though:
We’re all a little hungry and a little blind.
Most people enter adulthood having not received enough of what’s called narcissistic supplies – attention, acceptance, approval, affection, acknowledgement. The five A’s.
Our need for these supplies is built into us, and non-negotiable. We can’t not need them. We need what we need because we need it.
Our only choice is how we go about feeding ourselves. Narcissists do it by putting themselves first. Codependents do it by putting others first. But both act out of the same hunger.
Narcissists and codependents have three other things in common:
~ They’re externally focused — i.e., intent on getting other people to feed them. Among other things, this makes them not very skilled at self-care.
~ They have an either/or view of relationships. “Either you’ll get what you need” they reason, “or I’ll get what I need. But we both can’t get what we need at the same time.” This logic forces them to approach relationships as a sort of competition.
~ The either/or view also sabotages their chance for healthy relationship, which is rooted in the idea of mutuality: that what’s good for you is ultimately good for me, and vice versa.
So what to do about all this?
We can start by becoming more aware of two things: how hungry we are for narcissistic supplies, and how we go about trying to get fed.
What’s not helpful?
Pretending we don’t need what we need.
Denial doesn’t make needs shrink or go away. It just invites them to take over our lives.
We need what we need because we need it.