The saints and great spiritual leaders give us the answer to inner balance, peace, and the healing of narcissism. The answer has been discussed on my old blog for years-death of the ego. As long as the ego runs the imagination, understanding, memory and will, self-aggrandisement will win the battles which daily face the narcissist and his or her co-dependents.
Death of the ego comes in the Dark Night of the Senses and the Dark Night of the Soul. If you read my other blogs, you will recall that the death of malicious self-will occurs in the process of purgation. But, if a Catholic fights God, defending old bad habits and refusing to look in the mirror of truth, this purgation will not happen until after death, in purgatory. And, in my opinion, the worst consequence of not facing self-will and bent self-love is the weakening of the Church. How can the Church be strong if Her members are caught up in the me, me, me world of self-satisfaction and the pursuit of pleasures?
Even the seemingly holy, who are abstemious, can skirt the reality of self-knowledge so essential to holiness.
St. Augustine, whose feast we celebrate today, may be called the Saint of Self-Knowledge. Here is a snippet on this subject from this great man. He addressed God and wrote:
Noverim te, noverim me: “I would know you I would know myself.
Knowledge of self brings one to humility, the realization that one is a gross sinner, that one falls daily into the old habits of even venial sins which separate one from union with God. The ego thrashes about, running away from the goal of self-knowledge, and for the narcissist, this journey must be like poor Eustace the Dragon in the Narnia tale, whose scales had to be scrapped off painfully by Aslan, the Christ figure. Such is purgation, such is the breaking away from self-love, self-deceit, self-will.
But, the narcissist, like many other sinners, may be afraid to face both his or her real self, and find God, find the Indwelling of the Trinity given as gift of gifts in baptism.
The pain of letting go of the fantasy world built up over the years may seem too difficult, a psychological and spiritual mountain too high to cross.
When we truly give our lives to God, something wonderful happens. God takes us at our words and takes over our lives, slowly, perhaps, but surely.
One must remember that merit cannot be earned on this earth, one cannot become a saint, without this purgation which comes when God takes us seriously as we turn to Him and beg Him for healing and freedom. For freedom to choose God over all else, including ourselves, is the goal of all Catholics, in theory. St. Ignatius wrote this:
Experience proves that in this life peace and satisfaction are had, not by the listless but by those who are fervent in God’s service. And rightly so. For in their effort to overcome themselves and to rid themselves of self-love, they rid themselves of the roots of all passion and unrest.
Overcoming self means finding the true self hidden in God. Most people do live in a kind of restlessness, not maintaining peace for a moment, not being able to rest in God, not being able to trust in Divine Providence. The narcissist becomes a control freak, because he or she cannot rest in God, as that person cannot let go of the world they created around them in order to feel and be superior to others. Of course, like a sand castle, this world will collapse into great sadness and loneliness, once others either are banished out of envy from the narcissist’s presence, or by removing themselves after becoming burnt-out trying to sooth the beast of self-preoccuption in the other.
St. ignatius gives the sinner the way out-daily Examen, daily gratefulness, for an honest person does become more grateful for God’s mercy, love, creation, and the love of others. Gratefulness marks the saint, not the narcissist, who only thanks himself or herself for accomplishments.
Passion can be destroyed in the Dark Night of the senses. The Dark Night of the Spirit destroys pride and one’s predominant fault, be it greed, sloth, pride, deceit, anger, gluttony, lust or malicious self-love. Once one gets throught the scrapeping off of the scales of the sensual sins and tendencies, God begins with the destruction of the vices within, the intellectual vices, which are actually worse than the sensual ones. The narcissist excells in cultivating pride, vainglory, a critical spirit, and harsh judgementalism in his or her effort to be and to think he or she is superior to all others.Perhaps, besides rage, the second most common sign of the unrepentant narcissicist is lying. Often, compulsive liars are defensive and manipulative narcissists.
Again, St. Ignatius comes to our aid in this battle against sin and death of the soul:
…if we consider such a call of the temporal King to his subjects, how much more worthy of consideration is it to see Christ our Lord, King eternal, and before Him all the entire world, which and each one in particular He calls, and says: “It is My will to conquer all the world and all enemies and so to enter into the glory of My Father; therefore, whoever would like to come with Me is to labor with Me, that following Me in the pain, he may also follow Me in the glory.”
St. Ignatius is not merely referring to his chosen men who were and artill called to go out and spread the Gospel in dangerous lands, or in secular places, but to all Catholics, who wish to find Christ now, in this world, through suffering and working for God’s Kingdom, not one’s own. Each person, each one of us, all sinners, are called to do the Will of God now, through the pain of the death of self-love, in order to show forth the glory of God now and in heaven.
Perhaps, if children learned this lesson early on, the society would no longer be full of those in various stages of rage, but holy ones. The lesson is quite simple. Let us teach ourselves and our children well this simple message from the old Baltimore Catechism:
Why did God make me?
God made me to know Him, to love HIm, and to serve Him, and to be happy with HIm in the next.