The Selfishness of Others

The Selfishness of Others: An Essay On The Fear of Narcissism by Kristin Dombek

I read this book with the intention of diagnosing every person (man) who has ever hurt me, but ended up coming to the conclusion that I myself might be an actual narcissist.

Dombek writes humorously but clearly knows what she’s talking about. I think that 140 compact pages were the perfect amount for this essay. She focuses on (you guessed it) narcissism – what different psychologists speculate it originates from, how it is growing, how it manifests, why we’re so afraid of it, and what we can do to combat it. The one thing that hasn’t been conclusively decided upon is whether narcissism stems from a deep, deep lack of self-esteem or whether it comes from a true belief that one is incredibly superior to all others. Sometimes it is a combination of both. (For me, it’s the former.)

Dombek references Ovidian tales quite often and I felt grateful that I spent four hours a week during my final semester of college in an intensive seminar on Ovid’s tales. I didn’t think that that seminar would ever come in handy, but hey! I’m one year out of school and already it’s been of use. Who knows how much my knowledge of forest nymphs will come into play in the future!

The book also often references a test called the NPI (which I immediately Googled and took) and am now having an identity crisis over whether or not I’m a self absorbed monster. One of the things about narcissists is that they are incredibly insecure but low-key love attention (me?!) and that they regularly display empathy in traditional ways (volunteering, social media posts, general activism/protesting) but also think that everything bad is happening to them (me?!! x 2)

Another thing she pointed out was how much the use of “I” has grown in fiction/non-fiction and the rising prevalence of memoirs. Maybe we’re all becoming narcissists? Anyway, below are a few quotes that I underlined in my late-night frantic reading. 

In the Greek, apocalypse means a tearing away of a veil to reveal the truth.
We’ve made a shorthand of it: violent cataclysm, the end of the world,
as if the real truth will always be a disaster.

In Gay Telese’s book Thy Neighbor’s Wife, he reports that in open marriage groups in 1970s Los Angeles, sometimes, upon the first time a husband or wife would go to another room to be with someone else, their left-behind spouse would lose control and wail. Even though the spouse had chosen to participate in this scene, he or she would shake and even scream, like a small child torn from a parent, crying Echo’s tears.

…the main thing I’ve learned from reading all this psychology: the future is always trying to feel like the past.
When it does, it feels like selfishness, hurt, loss at the hands of others. The trick it to let is empty.
Maybe this is another way to come unstuck in time.