Monday, January 4, 2010

Insight

After a fairly infuriating conversation earlier today I've had a bit of a revelation: Narcissistic people by default interpret other people's actions and motives as being narcissistic too. And words or actions which are not narcissistic make little sense to them.

And now that I've actually typed this out it doesn't seem like such a big revelation. Only maybe it has some interesting applications.

Like maybe this can tell us something about privilege. Maybe a part of being privileged is that it makes you a bit narcissistic, in the self-centered, entitled, lacking in empathy kind of way, and in the sense that you have a hard time understanding anyone else as doing anything differently from what you're doing. Just as narcissistic people tend to understand the words and actions of others as mere performance, and lacking in sincerity, since this is their default mode, it seems that privilege renders us blind to the fact that others have an understanding and experience of the world that is profoundly different from our own. Because of this, we can only interpret their words and actions through the lens of our own experiences, and this leads to some very fundamental misunderstandings and injustices. And overcoming this form of narcissism to the point where we can be perpetually aware of and sensitive to these profound differences in experience and outlook is an ongoing project. And maybe it's only possible to a limited degree. To whatever extent this is possible, it seems like truly developing empathy for those with whom we don't share many experiences, and with whom we don't really share a common worldview, requires a constant struggle against the myopia and narcissism that results from living a privileged life.

3 comments:

  1. *ahem* At the risk of revealing how narcissistic I am: after I read this post I was like "uh-oh, is this about a conversation she had with me?" Then I realized I haven't talked to you since last week. So...yay, it's not me!

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  2. Anonymous1/05/2010

    This seems like a more complex way of saying "blinded by privilege." Interesting...

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