Existential Psychology

Narcissism And Existential Isolation

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One of the most common hindrances to healthy human relationships can be boiled down to narcissism. It’s the unspoken expectation that the people close to you should be moved by your same interests and passions, have your same values and beliefs, see the world from your same vantage point.

It’s natural to want to share the experiences you find powerful with the people you care about. It’s a deep human need actually, meant to combat the existential isolation that results from being a separate entity whose thoughts and feelings are trapped within the confines of your own skin. Consciously or unconsciously you want the assurance that others are moved by the same things, that they think and feel the same way, that what’s important to you is equally important to them, because you believe that with this assurance your sense of existential isolation will dissolve. Your thoughts, feelings, and experiences will become substantial, will mean something, will become undeniably real.

The result is a bunch of narcissists stumbling around, butting up against one another, believing everyone else can and should see the world just as they do. And in the process a strategy taken to lower existential isolation actually magnifies it. When you’re unwilling to accept that others have the right to be moved by different interests and passions any chance at authentic community is stillborn.

One of the best ways to break through this deep seated narcissism is to do a simple thought experiment. What would life actually be like if you got your wish and everybody thought and felt just like you do, if they were moved by the same exact interests and passions, if they saw things in exactly the same way? Most people conclude that it would be hell. It’s exactly the fact that we’re all unique that makes life interesting, that lets us challenge one another, that helps us grow.

If you place a high value on having the right to your own opinions and values, your own interests and passions, then you’ve got to extend that same right to everyone else because they’re human beings just like you are. When you stop trying to force others into a personality box constructed out of your own need to lower existential isolation you find that the result is more authentic human connections not less, that although you might not see the world in exactly the same way you still feel fulfilled by these relationships.