Monday, December 31, 2007

Transcending Narcissism

Narcissism is the postmodern psychological disease. It basically means we see life and all of our experience through the prism of the separate ego. The way narcissism works is that the event of experience itself automatically creates, at a subtle level, the sense of being special—any experience at all. The experience itself, whatever it may be, is not a problem—the problem is what the ego does with it. Around very intense experiences, the identification with and focus upon the separate self-sense becomes exaggerated. For example, when we experience pleasure or pain, desire or fear, the feeling of being a unique, separate individual becomes accentuated to a very profound degree as we withdraw into that isolated, alienated sense of self.

Why do we feel special when we suffer? I'm not saying suffering isn't very unpleasant and deeply challenging. But I'm just saying that we tend to feel special when we suffer. In a similar way, we tend to feel special when we experience pleasure or happiness. That's what the ego does. Is it possible to experience pain without feeling special? Is it possible to experience pleasure without feeling special? The truth is that there is only one human experience, and you are having that experience right now. It's a singular event; it's one process unfolding. When we make ourselves special, we create an illusory wall between ourselves and the rest of life. But when we break this compulsive habit, liberation is found in the recognition that whatever any one of us is experiencing is simply an impersonal expression of the vast field of our universal human potential.

Andrew Cohen

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