Grandiosity and its ups and downs

Again, I´ve realized a couple of things about myself over the last few days.

1) I have a strong sense of specialness, uniqueness. (No shit, Sherlock.) I was reading in an NPD forum when I came across a post that suggested the fundamental problem of narcissists might be that they believe they are different from others, not like any other human being. It was only then that I understood what is meant by “believes he is special”. Believing you´re “different” sounds innocent enough, after all, it happens to pretty much any teenager. Narcissists need and and want to believe they´re different. They don´t want to be like everybody else. Yes, that sounded familiar.

This feeling of uniqueness is not tied to anything concrete, not deep down. While it might be attached to a certain attribute that allegedly makes me unique, it can also move on to something else. On its own, though, in its purest form, it feels like a warm, glowing light in my heart. It is a quiet confidence that whatever happens to others won´t happen to me, whatever limitations others have I don´t, it is an optimistic skepticism towards what allegedly is the way things/life work(s), a silent belief that I can bend the rules and do the impossible. It is a very happy feeling, a bit like what flying must be like. I can´t believe it´s foreign to others.

Sometimes, though, like when I originally read that post, that feeling goes away. “You´re nothing special!” makes me feel depressed. Life seems pointless. I used to think that this is all about pride and self-image and I thought I was pathetic for feeling so low. I thought I was just vain, and that´s why I needed to believe I was special, and I loathed that idea. How shallow! But it´s not that simple. It´s about motivation, drive, confidence, euphoria, flow. It´s the loss of those I feel depressed about. While “you´re nothing special” does hurt my pride, that´s not what makes me feel low, that´s what makes me feel angry and ashamed. When I lose the feeling that I´m special it seems to me like I will never achieve anything, like I´m worthless, and remembering my previous confidence and belief makes me feel conceited and dumb, which adds to the shame.

The post in question went on saying narcissists have to learn they are just like everybody else. To me, that sounded as if I should let go forever of my confidence and euphoria. Like I should resign myself to being unable to achieve what I want. To the depressed state of mind. Now, though, I think that it´s a bit of a win-win-situation: Either I really am like everybody else, in which case everybody has this “megalomania” and nobody can judge me for it without being a hypocrite, or not everybody has this “megalomania”, in which case I´m special. Well, I´m not taking that entirely seriously. I just find it kinda funny.

Still, I don´t think “healing” would be to put me into a permanently depressed state. Here´s something about “healing” I´ve realized: In many theories it does not so much seem to be about feeling good, but about having a grasp on reality and being oriented towards it. Which kinda makes sense, we´re talking about “crazy” people after all. Now, if putting me into a permanently depressed state would correspond to that goal it would mean that I really am worthless and that I really cannot achieve anything. That is not the case, as I have achieved things. Even quite difficult things. Still, though, it doesn´t seem to correspond to reality that I can bend the rules and do the impossible, right?

It is funny, but you really only have to give me a rule (such as: “People can´t write a novel overnight!”) and declare something impossible and I´ll want to do it. Whenever I succeed with that I feel like I´ve won. It feels like a victory in some invisible war. But here it is: “Whenever I succeed…” It is possible to do things most people don´t think of as possible. A football team that goes 3-0 down can actually end up winning the game. And this confidence, this secret belief is exactly what enables people to do such things. I´ve been following football for a while now, and teams or players who lack confidence don´t perform well, however skilled they objectively are. So, declaring that my fantasies are not reality-oriented could turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than a truth. So, I´ll agree that you don´t need to be objectively special to do great things. But it sure helps to feel special.

2) Feeling special can be a burden. You´d think that all narcissism is necessarily self-serving, but it actually isn´t. Thinking you´re special can result in you believing you can and need to live up to higher standards than others. When you fuck up, people try to comfort you, saying: “Everybody makes mistakes!”, and you want to reply: “Well, but I don´t!” It simply mustn´t be. You. Must. Not. Make. Mistakes. Errors, weaknesses and being misguided might be forgivable in others, and you´re more than willing to forgive them, but you, being special the way you are, should definitely have avoided the mistake.  The result is an elaborate self-torture that can last for years if not forever over whether or not you could have avoided the mistake, and whether or not actually someone else is to blame, and whether or not you´re really special. The funny thing is that this kind of thinking seems to be fairly wide-spread, and whether people sympathetically label this as perfectionism (“the poor girl is sooo hard on herself”) or call you out on your hubris seems to depend on their mood more than anything else. I think being hard on yourself and being arrogant are twins, just like sadism and empathy.

If “everybody makes mistakes”, then making mistakes is something that cannot be avoided. But aren´t you special? Shouldn´t you be able to do the impossible? We´ve seen under 1) that the belief that something seemingly  impossible is possible can enable people to do it. So how do you know if avoiding the mistake was truly impossible or if there would have been a way to do it, if only you had been more thoughtful, less selfish, more… The question here is: Have you tried hard enough to avoid the mistake? And people who think they have no limits can never answer that question with a “yes” without feeling like they are lying to themselves. They could always have tried harder.

3) A promise of greatness is a demand to achieve – but what?

This confidence/narcissism thing (I need an expression for it that really captures it) is also a burden in another sense. It feels like a promise of greatness. I´ve been confident all my life that one day I´ll be something great. It´s carried me through my suicidal phases, it is, in fact, the ultimate thought that always inhibited me when I sat there with a razor blade near my wrist. It´s just that to this day I don´t know what the great thing is supposed to be, and I cannot seem to get started doing anything at all.

The closest thing to something great apparently seems to be to prove to myself that normal rules don´t apply to me. I know fully well why I haven´t started on my paper yet. Too much time left. I´ll wait until my growing discomfort turns into full-blown panic, my brain will spring into action and as the whole thing slowly grows and develops there comes a point when I realize I´ll make it. And then I will get very tired and bored again, and I´ll struggle to finish it, but I will. At least that´s how it´s always been. That moment when everything falls into place and I realize I´ve cheated an impossible deadline again is so – euphoric! It´s pure energy! But each and every time there´ll be the nagging doubts before, “you won´t make it, this one is different, you can´t make it this time”. And I even try to oblige them and get started, and I might take some very small little baby-steps, but my brain simply doesn´t snap into gear. I cannot focus for the life of me. I become apathetic and restless at the same time. It is extremely unpleasant. Then comes the moment of complete terror, like: “Okay, now you really need to get started, you won´t write a good paper but you need to hand in something!” It´s a pretty humbling moment, a moment when I know I´m so deep in the shit that I don´t even have time to hate myself, I can only try to make the best of a bad job – and I write and scribble just something, and after a while I realize it´s starting to make sense because somewhere in my head I must have been working at the problem all the time. All the time while I´ve been working on it I´ve been telling myself that next time I´ll start early and go by the rules, but as soon as I´m done I slip back into apathy. I think three quarters of my life I´m actually bored to death, and anxious because I let things head towards desaster once again. Although I´m such a slacker my life is remarkably stressful.

I guess it´s pretty much proven that I function best under high pressure. When we had to write graded essays in class and only had two hours for it, I underwent all those phases outlined above very quickly and I felt refreshed afterwards. High. My essays were usually pretty good. Or when I tried to participate in the NaNoWriMo (had to stop because I was moving) – I still love what I scribbled down then. It is better than some of the stuff I thought about for ages. And it makes me feel good to just let loose and write whatever comes to my mind! And while I was too apathetic to clean up my room for two years, I managed to move the entire furniture into my new place within two days when I finally had to.

There is, of course, a downside to this. If I should ever fail (and I have failed), my entire self-confidence is shaken. I go from god to worm. I know I cannot fault anybody else for my failure, because I was the one who chose to ignore the rules, common sense and everybody´s good advice. It doesn´t mean that I won´t blame them, but I didn´t really see through my procrastination and rebelling before now, so maybe I´ll find a better way to deal with it. Sometimes I even feel relieved when I fail, I realize I actually do have limits and that can be liberating. It allows me to say no and focus on just a few things instead. But that never lasts long.

Since I´m so scared of failure, I´m also scared of challenges. I´m scared of trying. I´m scared of competitions. I´m even scared of watching my football team. I feel less anxious after we lose, ironically. Trying to do something only ever feels safe when I absolutely have no other choice and when it would be a major achievement to manage the task at all, like with meeting deadlines last minute. Then again, there was one big exception in my life: When I learned for my high school graduation. I knew which GPA I wanted (the very best), and I made sure I was prepared for each and every single lesson. Yes, I really pulled this through. Sometimes I can´t quite believe it, it´s so out of character. I wonder how that happened, and how it might have affected my development at uni. It was extremely stressful, too, by the way, but also rewarding.

***

So, I guess this confidence/grandiosity thing is a fundamental part of me. It might well be as fundamental as the “little differences” I described in my last post. It is something I need to consider when trying to understand myself. It might be the missing variable, the one thing that always makes me feel like a hypocrite when I point out other things that influence my life.

It might sound weird to make grandiosity one of the fundamental things about me. Shouldn´t it be something I go to therapy about? Something I should aim to overcome? Something for which I should find a reason and then it all dissolves into nothingness and I´m cured? Grrr….well. I don´t think I want to be cured. My grandiosity is very ego-syntonic. Besides, maybe that is what, in an ideal world, and if I was really omnipotent and limitless, I should do, but can I? I´ve tried before, and, no, it doesn´t look like it. Yeah, I know I´m being a smartass.

The thing about grandiosity is that, while it is momentarily out of touch with reality, it appears to have the power to actually shape reality. Whether it really is craziness or rather an amazing vision is something you never know for sure. Most people with visions get laughed at, but sometimes they are the ones who laugh last. My problem, of course, is that I don´t really have a vision I could work on, and if I did I probably wouldn´t dare. Every project I start makes me think: “This is it, this is the big thing; it will give meaning to life, the world and myself, but which project could ever do that? Even a cure against cancer wouldn´t give life a meaning, it would just prolong life. Not that it wouldn´t be damn good to have, but still… Maybe I never finish projects because I realize my project isn´t so grandiose after all and right away I lose interest. It doesn´t mean that my project is not a good idea. It just means that it can never give me that over-the-top thing I´m looking for.  Unfortunately, it also means that I have real trouble staying motivated.

Gah, I need to sleep, but I´ve been working on this for two days now and I´m finally going to post it. As if any post was ever complete and fit to solve all my problems anyway!

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