narcissism: art & authenticity

a public morning page is something like publishing a page from your private journal on the web for everyone to see.  i suppose in some ways it is courageous, but for some of us, narcissist public exhibition is something that we crave not something to shun.

The watercolor photos that accompany this morning page are quick sketches done primarily in pen and ink and then washed over with watercolor.  I find that engaging in art and art-related activities for my pleasure rather than art for public consumption gives me a sense of serenity and calm.  It is a form of meditation for my A.D.D. mind and brain.  Plus, I like it when somebody likes them.  By extension I feel liked as if the appreciation is for me.  It is not unlike the five year old who constantly says, “Look Ma, look at what I can do!”

Well, here I am to tell you that narcissism despite having some hilarious quirks, also has a very serious side that deserves positive attention. When I began working as an analysts some years back, I was aware that there was a particular type of client that I especially enjoyed working with.  At first I was not sure how to recognize these people except that when I ran across one, I would feel very comfortable.  I would feel that I was working at my best capacity and I would feel that I was enjoying myself and the patient.  In short order, I discovered that what I loved was narcissism, and what I loved about loving this category of person, was that I did not have to be a blank slate on which to let the client write whatever they wanted.  Instead, i could just be myself.  What a novel idea for a psychoanalyst.

After a life long career of clinical experiences, I still feel exactly as I did when I did not understand what it was that I was liking.  I love to be in the company of narcissist.  In the first place, narcissism is just not what Bob Newhart or the Soprano’s psychiatrist would have us believe. Narcissism is anything but self-love.  It is actually the very opposite of that.  The narcissistic defense is one in which the patient will protect the object of his love rather than protect himself/herself first.  In psychoanalytic terms this is called object-love.

In my life as in my practice life, people who came in struggling with a desire to find themselves were always people that I respected.  This is in juxtaposition to those people in my life who always pretended that they knew exactly what they were doing and what they wanted.  In fact, narcissism is such a free-floating condition of anxiety that the last thing that a narcissist loves is himself, and the most important thing to a narcissist is to find himself in the melange of all that the ego and and the super-ego has created for him/her to comprehend.  People who do not like themselves are very easy people to be with.  They stammer, they may even stutter and they look to everyone but themselves for the answer to to life’s most basic questions.  As such they are always in a state of longing to make a connection with another person. Unfortunately, when the narcissistically oriented person is successfully treated they sort of lose there pleasure in seeking out other people and instead will often find artful kinds of activities that they can give themselves to.

This brings me to the subject of this essay.  I am convinced after 40 years of studying this condition that the best art in the world is created by narcissist.  Once a person abandons the idea that joy is found in the “Other” object, they become involved primarily and selfishly with what it is about our world that they love to enjoy.  Once finding love is not the preoccupation, creating art through self expression becomes much more available.

When my former wife and I were first married there is nothing that we wanted more than to “not-be” dull normal.  If there was a curse that we would avoid at all cost it was to live life out of an authentic instinct rather than out of a set of prescribed rules that society had so nicely ordered for us.  Here I am some forty plus years later and the instinct to be authentic is alive and well and the dull neurotics on my world are still just as stultified as ever.  Neurotics are boring.  When I run across somebody who describes themselves as gloriously happy, filled with a sense of knowing and allowing all the wonders of the world to enter their lives in the form of abundance and prosperity–i look the other way, put my finger in my mouth, depress my tongue and pretend to gag.  Why?  Simple.  I just do not believe them.  What I hear instead is a massive mouthful of denial and delusion, based on a wish that life was something other that what it is.

Life never gets to that point where we understand it all.  Life remains forever at the extreme edge of the mysterious.  Without this edge we can only pretend to understand.  The universe according to spiritualist who pretend to have the answers is nothing more than a state of propaganda that they may or may not believe themselves; but for sure, it is not The Answer.  At best it is a guide post toward self-understanding about where the human condition fits in with the mysteries of the universe.

Back to authenticity for a moment.  Please indulge me.  What I have observed of life, both in myself and in my professional world of psychoanalysis is more simple than an algebraic equation.  The multitude of words found in science and in art and in literature serve to connect us through chemistry and sensation to the world that we were made to enter–reluctantly at best.  Discovering an authentic connection with the experience of life is the be-all and end-all of our time here.  If we will have a different time in an elsewhere, then whatever that experience becomes will have its own mysteries to contend with.  But, for my purpose–here on earth, I find clarity and authenticity  to be the greatest gift that the universe provides.  Through the authentic experience of life here, and the mysterious qualities that we sit next to, we become aware that sensational experience in the moment is what is real.  And we register what is real by knowing the thoughts and emotions that emerge in us as we wander through life on earth.

The decision to paint my world dull or saturated is about the extent to my free-will. My destiny is to both enter and exit the world reluctantly. In the long run, if I love life, I love life because I have chosen to love life in its multi-fascinated dimensions.  I love the ups and I tolerate the downs.  In between the alpha and the omega, my decision to be authentic takes priority over deluding myself that if i try hard enough everything will always be alright .  Everything will not always be alright. Everything will be, but not necessarily all-right.  Some people who I love will die–they already have.  Somedays I will be cold and some days I will be warm.  There are emotions that are manically positive and others that are depressively negative.  The authentic is what guides my emotional experience.  The authentic is really the only prayer we have, the only shot at getting it right, is getting it the way it is.

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10 comments on “narcissism: art & authenticity

  1. Colleen says:

    So glad to have you in my life and to benefit from your wisdom. Keep writing!!

    • aldussault says:

      thanks, writing keep me sane..it allows me to focus on what is important and brings me back to a center piece of activity that i can respect….
      Thank you al d

  2. Geraldine Torf says:

    Is it possible to Email your blog to others who would be interested in your love of narcissists? My desire to be authentic leads me closer to satisfactions I would have found to be only savored by the boring. I am looking forward to spending 10 days near my six grandchildren starting tomorrow. My involvement with art. writing and other satisfactions are taking a back seat to just being authentic in a place where I hope it can be welcomed.

    • aldussault says:

      of course you can e mail my blog to any one—i have two grand children that i do not see nearly enough, enjoy them and please send me something
      you have written

  3. Harold G. Neuman says:

    Life never gets to the point where you understand it all. Couldn’t have said it better. Are you familiar with any Zen parables? I like the one about the ruler, the sage and the foundations of the world. It is turtles—all the way down. If you have not heard or read it, I’ll do my best to reconstruct it from memory—in the comments section of this post. Best wishes, Al.

  4. Harold G. Neuman says:

    Well, the parable is a little like a Zen koan—a riddle which has no solution, used by masters to confound young acolytes, showing them that they know nothing and that nothing is ever as it seems. The wording is paraphrased because I cannot recall where I read it and memory is the second thing to go:

    A wise ruler once asked his trusted sage: Upon what does the world rest? The sage replied: Why, it rests upon a lion, my lord. The ruler thought about this for a moment and then asked: upon what does the lion rest? The sage, growing weary, replied: the lion rests upon an elephant, my lord. The ruler, ever inquisitive,asked: upon what does the elephant rest?
    The sage, growing frustrated, replied: the elephant rests upon a turtle, my lord!

    Unsatisfied, the ruler began: but what, then—and was interrupted by the sage: it is turtles, my lord—turtles all the way down.

    We do not know if the sage survived this encounter, but we would like to hope so (this last thought is my own.)And so, life is a riddle, the metaphor goes. But we all get over it, sooner or later.

  5. aldussault says:

    Discerning the real from the delusional is no small task. I too have friends who are stuck in an existential mind fuck that has them seeking ideals while their lives are in shambles. The pressure they put on themselves to somehow solve these mysteries never allows them the time to appreciate the mysteries for what they are. We are beings who never got over being separated from nature and whose nature has somehow separated from itself. What? In peace, Ray PS loved your rant.

    comment by: ray v

  6. Harold G. Neuman says:

    Well. The royal wedding is over. Mostly. The media is still milking this story for every second of narcissistic angst; pomp and pagentry and comparative drama it can manage. I thought Barbara Walters would fairly swoon this morning when she reported back to her desperate housewife associates at ‘The View.’

    One would have thought that Grace Kelly had arisen from the grave and that Camelot had come fast-forward into present time. Speaking of The View, I thought Goldie Hawn looked, at once, beautiful and embarassed to be there. Well, it is over. Mostly. But, I already said that, didn’t I?

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