If you start thinking that only your biggest and shiniest moments count, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure most of the time.
—Chris Hadfield in An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, page 267, Little, Brown and Company, 2015
By Scott Miners.
What is narcissism? Do you know someone who has acted this way? Have you?
The dictionary states that narcissism is a variation of selfishness; it usually involves a sense of special entitlement. It is always accompanied by feeling little or no empathy for others. The narcissistic actor needs admiration, and empathy for others is a distraction.
As an undergraduate psychology student, it was enlightening to find that most, if not all, psychology scholars discovered they had, to one degree or another, psychological traits less than the ideal. The classic textbook was Abnormal Psychology, in the sense that the behaviors in it were not ideal for a high-functioning human society. Narcissism is one of those behaviors.
Your personality is the identity you present to society. It can consist of many different thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. What is it about narcissistic behavior that is problematic?
Those who display narcissism demonstrate that their thoughts are predominantly self-centered. They don’t see themselves as part of a whole world. There is a strong identity as a separate and special being.
Most likely all humans have experienced thinking or acting in such ways in one degree or another. One might find that at times one was not very empathic such could have been. There’s an inflated ego that fears being connected in a narcissistic personality presentation.
Narcissism “surfaces,” writes David Hawkins, MD, “in society as the personality that expects its whims, wishes, inflated self-importance to be catered to. It characteristically feels ‘entitled.'” It may convey to you that you made it feel uncomfortable. It is sensitive and assures you it is the victim of slights and injustices. It “seeks redress by protest, drama, and hand-wringing self-pity.”1
At some point in most all an innocuous form of narcissism has played a role. There are the years where one wishes to establish a separate identity from parents, family, and friends. It’s natural for a 7-year-old to begin to want to do so.
However, by teenage most begin to reject their families and its lineage. That’s a mistake. It’s correctable when the personality matures, but painful while it happens. Why? It does not honor the gift of life from one’s ancestry.
Creating and exhibiting an ego-identity is not necessarily negative. It can be seen as an experience providing wisdom. However, to the point: What follows are a few questions posed by those who have analyzed narcissistic behaviors.
Questions to Help Identify Narcissistic Characteristics
• Do you use others to accomplish your goals? Or do you cooperate because you see all as equal even if different. Do you have empathy for them?
• Do you truly understand what love is? The realization of wholeness, unity, interconnectedness?
• Do you need to impress others with what you do, own, or whom you know?
• Do you fantasize about being the best (man, woman, leader, neighbor, family member, groupie, artist, lawyer, politician…)?
• Do other’s differences feel threatening to you?
• Is it alright for someone’s opinion to be valid if different from yours?
• How do you need to change and expand and grow?
• Do you repeat things over time to explain to others your frustration with people or events in your life? Why?
• As you repeat things, if someone says, “You know, we’ve talked about this before,” how do you feel?
• Do you have any time to examine your mistakes?
• Do you try to control others?
• Are you open to know someone else’s perspective?
• Do you think others are less intelligent than you?
• What was your last mistake?
• Are you willing to have no expectations of anyone?
• Do you have empathy for others’ feelings? Your own? Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes regularly while in relationship with them, even if only for a passing meeting with someone? Or, do you fear being that vulnerable, even for a minute?
• Do you shift blame to others, judge, or condemn?
• Are you willing to let others define who they are?
• Do you allow yourself to have soft, gentle feelings or compassion for yourself, others, animals, the earth, the Plan and put that into action?
Giving and Receiving as One
Living a life with more ideal thoughts and actions is preferable. Relationships involve giving and receiving as one, in unity. Narcissistic tendencies, such as a lack of empathy for others, are opposite to giving and receiving.
All have the same needs. Everyone has different wants. Needs include relationship, being understood, filling hunger, having shelter and safety. Needs are shared with all others.
As Love is a realization of life’s unity or oneness, giving and receiving are one. Empathy understands another; it knows their basic needs are the same as all. It doesn’t mean one has to act as others or think the same way. It does mean one comprehends and honors one’s own feelings and theirs.
To empathize feels good. It’s a gift of listening by putting self in the other’s shoes. It takes courage, focus, and patience.
It necessitates letting go of fear and being in love. It requires compassion for self and others. It demands presence.
Knowing life and growth are challenging for all provides the best reason to be compassionate for self and others. Once experienced one has it for others. Compassion is the surest way to happiness in society.
Consciousness & Spiritual Practice
Much is happening in this world of mirrors. Understanding and moving through it with grace requires being vulnerable to the subtle but pervasive waves of the one universe of electric interconnection with all. Vulnerability is the innate quality often abandoned in childhood that opens the personality to this unity.
Now is the best time to remember what one knew as a child. It takes practice. Hawkins: “To undo the complex mind/ego/experiencer/self” requires the inspiration of a spiritual discipline.” The personality must be deprogrammed to a degree.
Traditional ways include meditation, yoga, and time for contemplation. A discipline of conscious practice with such leads to a transformative energy that “changes the physiology and dynamics of the brain, including hemispheric dominance…. Consequently there is a shift in brain hormones and neurotransmitters.”2
Coherent energy moves through the endocrine centers. There emerges a transcendence accompanied by right brain dominance. More peace and non-linear thinking unfold. There is a grace and ease with the oneness of life. 
1. David Hawkins, MD, in Discovery of the Presence of God, pp 112-113; Veritas Publishing, 2007; veritaspub.com
Scott Miners is editor emeritus of Well Being Journal. His previous publications include A Spiritual Approach to Relationships (Quest 1984); Thoughts, Attitudes, and Your Health (Turning Point Press, 1991; digital version on this website); and in German paperback as Deine Gedanken, Deine Einstellung, Deine Gesundheit (Crotona Verlag, publishers, 2019); Beyond Common Thought (with Jacqueline Snyder), Windsor House Publishers, 1990; and The Healing Effects of Energy Medicine: Memoirs of a Medical Intuitive (with Shannon McRae, PhD) Quest Books, 2015; Indian version published by New Age Books, 2017; additional translations published in German (Aquamarin Verlag) and Spanish (TPH) editions.