Day two: Narcissism – is therapy just ‘all about me’?

Yesterday we introduced the idea of ‘healthy selfishness’; but isn’t this a narcissistic way of thinking, believing that life is ‘all about me’? In fact, selfishness, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “…concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others”, is not to be confused with pathological narcissism. This condition is characterized by self-inflation, grandiosity and lack of empathy, which are ways of coping with very low self-esteem. Narcissistic traits include self-serving attitudes and behaviours that exploit others. By contrast, therapy aims to help clients become less fearful and more accepting of their own feelings, which in turn fosters the capacity to build self-esteem, and relate more openly and fully to others through increased empathy, compassion and intimacy.

So, if ‘healthy selfishness’ actually promotes self-respect as well as respect for others, how can it be achieved? Our experience suggests the following:

* honest self-reflection, especially after setbacks

* taking responsibility for yourself

* self-care and self-respect

* acknowledging what you need and what brings you joy and meaning

* celebrating your achievements

* connecting with your authentic self

* learning to tolerate differences between yourself and others

Tomorrow, we look at the tricky issue of how an ‘unhealthy unselfishness’ can develop – can we ‘blame the parents’?

Author: Wendy Bramham
Editor: Briony Martin
April 2015

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