More and More Less and Less Narcissistic Despair the Desire

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					 “More and More, Less and Less”
Narcissistic Despair, the Desire for
More, and the Paradoxical Discovery
  of Buddhism & the Question of

       Elizabeth Rovere, Psy.D.
           The New School
            New York, NY
               4 Major Points
1. Narcissism is rampant and increasing
2. There is an increasing interest in Buddhism in
   popular culture and in the mental health field
3. Buddhism, a practice based on selflessness and
   altruism is on the rise in our narcissistic culture
4. Perhaps Buddhism offers the potential to meet
   needs unfulfilled in our narcissistic culture and
   transform that culture in the process
     Narcissism is rampant and
• Increased feelings of despair

• Epidemic of depression in every industrialized
  nation in the world

• Material wealth does not provide sustained
  happiness, joy or fulfillment
          What is Narcissism?
• Libidinal cathexis of the ego- Freud
• False self generated by inadequate parental
   mirroring- Kohut
• Narcissistic personality (DSM) defined by:
a) grandiosity b) fantasies of power, brilliance,
   success c) exhibitionism d) difficulty responding
   to criticism e) entitlement f) exploitativeness g)
   relationships over idealized or devalued h) lack of
Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism. Names like
MySpace and YouTube encourage attention-seeking.
  Buddhism is on the rise in the
         United States

• Number of Buddhists in the US rose by
  170% between 1990 and 2000
• Dalai Lama frequent speaker to sold out
  audiences in major US cities
• Prominent in self-help literature
• Mindfulness incorporated into
  psychotherapy theories and practice
        Why is it so popular?
• Its non-dogmatic
• Meditation practices backed by science
• We can be free from suffering
     How do we understand its
   popular appeal to Narcissists?
1) It’s a fad.
(Is Buddhism just another narcissistic achievement
   to parade around?)

2) God like attributes are in each one of us
(but, not just one of us)
Can Buddhism Help Narcissists?

• In what way does Buddhism offer the
  potential to meet the needs unfulfilled in our
  narcissistic culture and transform that
  culture in the process?
Bodhisattva holding a mirror
              • Buddhism provides a
                mirror and
                shows us the
                impossibility of
                satisfying our
                narcissistic cravings.
The Hungry Ghost Realm in The
        Wheel of Life

• An image of narcissistic desire: emaciated wraith like
  beings with thin necks. The more they try to eat, the more
  craving is produced.
• Note the image of the Bodhisattva in the second picture, he
  holds a bowl of spiritual nourishment.
  Buddhist Conceptualization of Self
• Buddhism reconceptualizes our way of thinking about the “self”. It
  deconstructs the individualistic sense of self and redefines self as
  relative and interconnected.

• There is a relative sense of self, not an absolute sense of self.

Western perspective                       Buddhist perspective
1. Absolute Self                          1. Relative self
2. Fixed image of self                    2. Impermanent image of Self
3. Individualistic                        3. Interconnected
4. False sense of security                4. Security comes through coming
5. Grandiosity and Humiliation                to terms with change
                                          5. Awe and Humility
 Threefold System of Change
1) wisdom (reading/analysis)
2) ethics and lifestyle change
3) contemplation (meditation/internal
     Four Guidelines to Living Life
• Self improvement is a social service
• Taking on society and improving it
• Compassionate discipline: an inner
  revolution against one’s own negativity
• Non-violent non-cooperation with one’s
  own misery and craziness
• Current economics and psychological
  research demonstrate that altruism makes us
  happy. Mayr’s study (Science, 2007) found
  evidence of pure altruism- giving for sake
  of other.
• For the narcissist, experiencing altruism and
  joy through connection is a developmental
• Belonging is one of the largest markers of
  what brings personal satisfaction and
  happiness (Kahneman, 2006)
• The gaining of wisdom or knowledge
  through internal/intuitive experience
• Numerous studies show meditation
  enhances self-regulation, feelings of well-
  being, compassion, & altruism. Meditation
  decreases the fight-flight response,
  increases memory, attention-span and
  enhances neuroplasticity.
  Buddhist influences in mental
• Jon Kabat-Zinn- Mindfulness Based Stress
• Marsha Linnehan- Dialectical Behavioral
• Zindel Segal- Mindfulness Based Cognitive
  Therapy for Depression

If we can use the Bodhisattva's mirror to see our condition,
 utilize that insight to reconceptualize our discrete individualized
 constructs of self and other; we maybe able to internalize ourselves
 as related, altruistic, compassionate and contemplative members
 of communities and forge a path out of emptiness and towards a
 more present, kind and connected way of living.
Buddhism offers a “cure” for
   modern egocentrism
To study Buddhism is to study the Self
To study the Self is to forget the Self
To forget the Self is to become one with
           -Zen Master Dogen
  To forget the self is to become
         one with other

Al Gore’s new logo for his campaign to save the
  environment, illustrates this transformation of
  “me” into “we”. A transition from an
  individualistic to a connected way of living.

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