May 20, 2006

Narcissus

Posted in mythology, psychology, religion at 1:27 am by Jerry

Is it wrong to say I enjoy reading my blog? I just read through it from beginning to end, including comments, and I enjoyed it.

I can see somewhat of a progression of thought throughout my blog. I'm glad because I wanted to reveal my changing perspectives. Besides, don't you love the portrayal of evolving thought in a person, just like the journey of a developing character in a novel?

Now, before I give the impression that I am ridiculously high on myself (or is it too late?), and the word "Narcissist" pops in your mind, I'd like to address in a possibly over-simplified manner a common misconception of Narcissism. Narcissism doesn't have to be a derogatory term. My Webster's dictionary defines it as "excessive interest in one's own appearance." But from what I've read here and here, there are a number of different understandings of Narcissism.  

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as Healthy Narcissism. Healthy Narcissism is a love of a true understanding of oneself. Unhealthy Narcissism is love of a fabricated understanding of oneself (most often seeing others as less in value).

Narcissism is important to me for a number of reasons. I grew up in a Mennonite community for most of my life. This community looked the same as any other small town community, including the people. However, I often found myself bumping into an interesting cultural no-no called "pride".

Though it may not be stressed as much today, 20-30 years ago I was a witness of adamant concerns to prohibit the complimenting of one's self. There seemed to be so much effort in not behaving in a prideful manner, that eventually I could recognize subtle expressions of people's pride in being "humble".

Humility is a strange word. Does being aware of one's short-comings have to exclude an awareness of one's achievements and praiseworthy attributes? By definition, I don't think so. However, I've witnessed again and again, humility being understood as this. I think it's sad, really.

I personally think humility is being realistic, acknowledging the low and the high, the limited and the potential. To me, watering down healthy pride in our achievements is counter-productive and devolving into a mode of apathy (which is pathetic).

Now, if there are any fellow Mennonites that read this and say I shouldn't bash my Mennonite heritage, "it's disrespectful," you should know that I still have an appreciation for my heritage. I'm willing to believe that all these good traits like "modesty" were foundational in the creation of Mennonite culture, and maybe the true meaning got lost by some along the way. (Another example of a virtuous Mennonite characteristic that may have also been misinterpreted by some along the way is "Pacifism". I struggle to think that our forefathers, and foremothers, understood pacifism to be a passive-ism.)

Here's the mythological story behind the Narcissus name, if you're curious. Just for fun, can you find any Christological parallels in the story? (Falling in love with his created image so much so that he immerses his self in the image's realm and dies within it only to be resurrected as a new creation.) 

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4 Comments »

  1. jeff said,

    This is a subject now that I could spend a little time dwelling on. I am immediately intrigued with the pacifism discussion. I like the pride discussion as well, especially because I believe many Mennonites to be some of the most proud people I know. But the pacifism one is close to my heart and is so connected with Anabaptist theology that it deserves better thought. Stanley has helped me understand my own thinking on the subject, at least thus far, it is a journey afterall. Here is one perspective: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1295/is_4_67/ai_99818481

  2. Jerry said,

    Sounds like Stanley is saying pacifists should be activists. Isn’t that what I said?

  3. Shuana said,

    Yes, my husband is from a Mennonite background and cringes whenever I tell people how great our kids are! You are not supposed to do that! But, I think that there is a place to speak truthfully and positively about yourself and yours …yes, healthy narcissism.

  4. […] I’ve mentioned near the end of a post of mine, awhile back, that there are similarities between the myth of Narcissus and the Christian God. What I didn’t mention is that what we understand as “Malignant Narcissism” today was originally referred to as “The God Complex” (a derogatory label for us image bearers, but not so much for God). I did, however, say that there are healthy and unhealthy narcissistic traits. And I’d like to expand on that further. […]


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