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Little Town: A Meditation on Narcissism

 

Belle: 

Little town, it’s a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town full of little people

Townsfolk:
Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question
Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell?
Never part of any crowd
Cause her head’s up on some cloud
No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle
 
Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she’s feeling well
With a dreamy, far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

Now it’s no wonder that her name means “Beauty”
Her looks have got no parallel
But behind that fair facade
I’m afraid she’s rather odd
Very different from the rest of us
She’s nothing like the rest of us

Belle:
There must be more than this provincial life!

Townsfolk:

Look there she goes
The girl is strange but special
A most peculiar mademoiselle!
It’s a pity and a sin she doesn’t quite fit in
Cause she really is a funny girl
A beauty but a funny girl
She really is a funny girl
That Belle!

Belle: 

He asked me to marry him! Me! The wife of that boorish, brainless… Madame Gaston, can’t you just see it? Madame Gaston, his little wife. No sir, not me, I guarantee it. I want much more than this provincial life. I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand: I want so much more than they’ve got here. 

* * * * *

Narcissism says: my situation is different. I am not like other people, who are merely automatons, shuffling towards oblivion.TLP, Can Narcissism Be Cured? 

* * * * *

[Redacted] was one of the hugest narcissists I ever met. She had cause to be – but everyone now who is a certain way has a reason for being that way. And the reason is in the past, unchangeable. What is changeable is the present.

So. What was her present? At the time that I knew her, anyway. It was marked by a remarkable lack of empathy and false emotion. None of this was conscious. Without going too much into personal details, all I can say is that she avoided intimacy – real intimacy, uncomfortable in-your-face intimacy, not the intimacy of poetry and the honeymoon period.

And that Beauty and the Beast was one of her favorite movies.

* * * * *

I loved this movie growing up. And perhaps even just several months ago I’d have said there was nothing wrong with the ideals it promotes – particularly the ones about yearning for a life other than the one you have.

Here’s what’s wrong with all of that.

1. It requires a deliberate denial of reality. 

“Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell?” Yes, of course I can tell. Everyone can tell.

2. You reduce the people around you to characters. 

Bit players, two-dimensional characters in the movie of your life.

3. There is a strong belief that someday, somehow, great things will happen to you – without doing anything in the present that builds towards them. 

The frantic activity keeps the rest of reality away.  You’re not your job – you’re something else.  You’re not your family, you’re more than that.  Things have the potential of possibly happening someday, and no work will have been necessary to accomplish it.  Just you wait. – TLP

The perfect recipe for narcissism, and eventually depression.

This is what I’m so worried that my generation is falling into. This is the mentality I’m working so hard to combat, and paid for with being thrown into the basement of a hospital for three weeks with everyone saying I’d lost my mind. (Totally worth it.)

I have a friend working in healthcare, and she has told me that there was a recent explosion in mental health problems. Even if she hadn’t told me that, the long line of all kinds of people in my psychiatrist’s waiting room would tell me that. Things didn’t used to be like this. And nothing is working. The problem is only getting worse and worse.

I believe with all my entire being that what we really need isn’t more platitudes or pills, but instead this bitter medicine: to realize that our lives aren’t good. We could be less selfish than we are. We could create more. We could help other people more. We could take more joy in the simplest things in our lives.

We could love more than we do.

And it has to start with acknowledging reality – that this little town sucks, but it’s YOUR little town. And the people might suck, but it’s still your job to get along with them and take care of them. Your life might suck, and you might want more than this, even feel that you deserve more than this – but it’s still YOUR life.

And only you can change it.

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