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I Feel Pretty: Narcissism as the Road to Happiness

I love the first sentence of the first chapter of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. “It’s not about you.”

This sentence is in complete contradiction to the media’s rather strident assertion to the contrary. In order to find happiness, the media claims that it is all about you — your needs, your desires, your wants, and your rights. The media explains that all of these things must be fulfilled — needs, desires, wants, rights — in order for you to be truly happy. It obligingly communicates what you have to do to get your needs, desires, wants, and rights filled and how to battle against all those forces arrayed against you achieving them.

Life, then, and happiness are not so much a pursuit as they are a struggle. People in your life are either for or against you in your struggle.

For a narcissist, people are either friend or foe.

The media is the opposite of Rick Warren. The media tells us, “It is all about you. You have a right to have every need, desire, and wish granted. Whatever you must do, whatever you must sacrifice, whoever you must coerce and cajole, is open season and justifiable. After all, it (fill in the blank) is your right. Happiness is an unalienable right promised to you in the Declaration of Independence as a part of your birthright as an American and as a human being, so whatever you need to do to get it is reasonable and understandable. Put yourself first in order to be happy, and don’t take a backseat to anyone until you’ve attained the happiness you seek. It’s your right. You deserve it. Nobody else is going to do it foryou.”

The single-minded focus of the narcissist is very much akin to the single-minded focus of many I work with at The Center, the anorexic. Both are absolutely absorbed with forcing the shape of the world into their own box. For the anorexic, it’s irrelevant that drinking diet sodas and eating only a banana a day will cause irreparable physical and psychological damage. That reality doesn’t fit into the controlled world they seek.

Reality is irrelevant; intent is everything.

For the narcissist, it’s irrelevant that a total focus on self-seeking behaviors will cause irreparable social and relational damage. That reality doesn’t fit into the comfortable world they seek. Again, reality is irrelevant; intent is everything. For both, everything that happens around them, to them, for them, about them is only ever about them. AndI can tell you, tragically, happiness doesn’t enter the picture.

SOURCE: Chapter 1, “Detours On the Road to Happiness,” in Happy for the Rest of Your Life by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc.

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