We are so busy monitoring the Princess Complex in others that we miss the invisible crown on our own heads.
If you, like me, have been moaning about everyone in your life being a narcissist, perhaps it is time to harbour that littlest, tiniest doubt for the very, very first time that perhaps, maybe, hypothetically speaking, it is, er, we ourselves who are the problem.
‘I am living with a narc,’ is a commonly heard cry, but rarely does one man up and say, ‘Listen, it’s not you, it’s me. I am the narc here.’
We are so busy monitoring the Princess Complex in others that we miss the invisible crown on our own heads. While previously reading up on narcissism, we happily attributed some or all those qualities to spouse, sibling, parent, pet... A boss was a narc, a domestic help was a narc, a neighbour was a narc and an in-law was definitely a narc. Not us, never us. We were well-adjusted, responsible citizens of the world, full of sympathy and sunshine, composing poems and busy finding a cure for cancer. Babies know us by name and old-age homes pre-book us at birth – so loveable are we that mirrors blow us kisses.
So there we are in our little garden of Eden where we are Adam and we are Eve, too - so intense is our love affair with ourselves. We just know that anyone lucky enough to marry us or work with us or be born to us will feel immediately and permanently blessed.
Of course, we are soon martyrs. Roomies, classmates, colleagues, boyfriends, better half.... no one understands us! They are so paranoid, so bipolar, so manic, so neurotic, so clinically depressed. Our lingo is bang on, but it is only our word against theirs, who have their own jargon for us.
The thing is, even if we are not narcs to begin with, associating with one teaches us that turning into a narc is the best revenge when it comes to dealing with a narc. Therapists tell us we have no choice, anyway, that in close relationships we mimic each other, give what we get. So either we infect our partner with a healthy dose of selfishness or they infect us. It doesn’t matter who contaminated who; in the end we are all looking out for ourselves, crying sorry tears for self, and generally ruing that the end of life is nigh and whither is the Nobel Prize we should have won by now already?
No one’s exempt from entitlement, from privilege. I could be a covert or overt narc about this, that or the other – it’s only human to crow about something, to cry about something. We really are the only ones capable of obsessing over ourselves – who else will do it?
Once you accept that a mild case of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) could be applicable to one and all, there is a sudden shift. You can let the inner toddler come out to play. Have that fit, throw that tantrum, sulk, sneer – everything is somebody else’s fault. So liberating to finally come out of the closet as The Victim!Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.