Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Narcissist Archetype

I wanted to share some information regarding a certain type of individual who is the outer cause of a lot of suffering in the world.  The name for such an individual is a "Narcissist".  This type has also been previous called "the Psychopath", "the Sociopath", and "the Hasnamuss".  The term "Narcissist", as well as the other terms, with the exception of the term "Hasnamuss" (from Gurdjieff), needs to first be clarified, as the terms are not used consistently in literature and in several models of psychotherapy and spirituality.

For instance, in the literature of Greek mythology, the character of Narcissus is a person who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.  This became the archetype for the idea of a Narcissist and became linked with any person who is preoccupied with themselves to the point where they are not aware of others except as "echoes" (in the Greek story, Echo is a being who falls in love with Narcissus and ends up only being an Echo of him) of themselves.  In other words, they project their unconscious contents on other people and do not really see other people as they truly are.

Later on, Freud wrote about "primary narcissism" where children tend to naturally be preoccupied with themselves and their own needs, and only later on in life begin to experience other people as different from themselves and as distinct individuals.

The terms "Psychopath" and "Sociopath" came later on and referred to a person who does not socialize the way normal people do and is only concerned with their own fulfillment and does not care about the feeling of others, and is even willing to exploit people and even kill them if they get in their way.  They do not feel a need to play by the rules of society, do not need to be polite, kind, and considerate of others, but will often pretend to be so that they can prey on others to get what they want from them.  The term from Christianity "wolves in sheep's clothing" comes from this kind of awareness, with sheep being the docile members of society who are willing to follow ordinary social rules, be a basically good responsible human being, and fulfill one's religious and social duties, and treat their neighbor the way that they want to be treated.  The wolf in sheep's clothing is a person who disguises themselves to fit into society, but who preys on the ordinary "sheep" that normal people are.

This "wolf" type sometimes calls normal people "sheeple", implying that they are blind followers of a dogmatic religion.  Whether or not this label is appropriate of the nature of the religion, most normal people have a kind of conventional religion and believe in being good people, taking care of family and friends, and have some sense of responsibility to what they understand as "God" or a "Higher Power".  This conventional level of spirituality is important and does help people to get along with each other.  This conventional level of spirituality is what Gurdjieff would say is the "Exoteric Circle" of humankind.  When one goes deeper and understands spirituality psychologically, then one becomes a member of the Mesoteric Circle.  When one awakens directly to an awareness of the spiritual dimension of life, one then becomes a member of the Esoteric Circle of humanity.

This wolf in sheep's clothing type of person is more in alignment with how the terms Psychopath, Sociopath, Narcissist, and Hasnamuss is used.  The first two terms are often used for certain types of criminals and does not fully fit the archetype that I am choosing to write about here.  It would be, however, possible to say that all Psychopaths and Sociopaths are Narcissists, but not the other way around.

The term "Hasnamuss" is actually more precise than the term "Narcissist" with Gurdjieff mentioning for different kinds of Hasnamuss individuals.  The Hasnamuss type, too, is mentioned along with a typing system that includes the Good Householder, the Lunatic (Fanatic), and the Tramp (a Dysfunctional Being who is not able to live in society and hold down an ordinary job, or master certain basic responsibilities).  This typing system is not the only system of types of people that Gurdjieff taught about.  This particular one was related to which people could be "candidates" for spiritual work in the "Fourth Way", the path that Gurdjieff taught people was possible to grow within.  This path is the path through "consciousness" and involves centering in consciousness and developing your mental, emotional, and physical sides of your being simultaneously, rather than one at a time.  This would be different from the path of a philosopher who just develops his mind, a devotee of Bhakti Yoga or Christian Contemplative Prayer who just develops emotionally and, hopefully, through love, and a Hatha Yogi or Tai Chi practitioner who just develops physically.

According to this system of typing, only the Good Householder has a real chance to develop themselves in the Fourth Way.  It is because they have already become "life effective".  They know how to be conventionally responsible, hold down a job, and how to be in a mature loving relationship with a married partner.  In Freud's terms, they know how "to love and to work" (this is what Freud said the goal of psychotherapy, to produce what may be called a Good Householder in G's terms).

The reason why G gave the teaching of these four types is because he did not want people to waste too much of their time on three types that were not already Good Householders.  A Lunatic or Fanatic has "false values" that are strongly fixated in them and very hard to change, and this type does not want to change them, but instead to convert you to their religious or political cult.  They are false, because following what they are fanatical about will make you less life effective.  A fanatical religion or political party will make people less able to function as normal, law abiding, and peaceful citizens.  The normal citizen or Good Householder is the basic unit of a healthy and functioning society.  The crystallization of these false and extreme values prevents them from being able to "do the Work".

The Lunatic or Fanatic does have a theoretical chance to grow along the lines of the Fourth Way or any advanced model of human spiritual growth, and sometimes a skillful therapist who organizes a healing group within some program can gradually help these people become functional and even mature citizens.  But it takes a lot of energy to do so and most Good Householders who find and commitment to a Higher Growth Path cannot afford the time and energy to help these people.  They often need all their energy to help each other within the Higher Growth Groups, both spiritually and economically.  G was a very practical down to Earth teacher who wanted people to use their time wisely on what was possible, and to avoid what was practically impossible.

The Tramp type does not have any values.  They have a certain kind of laziness that does not want to be responsible.  They find fulfilling the requirements of ordinary life, holding a job, and learning to keep one's agreements with their married partner, learning how to talk with a person, understand them, resolve issues with them, and function within a committed relationship (again, Freud's "to love and to work") to be a chore that they do not want to do.  They do not like to be told what to do.  They do not want to "pull their own weight".  They do not care if their lack of self responsibility makes them a burden on others.  They are happy to be taken care of and taken into a household, but when they do so they do not do the "little things" that make a household work, like doing their share of the chores, even when they are fully capable of this.

When G said that the Tramp has "no values", the Tramp will probably say that they do.  Everyone values something.  Tramps value no one making them do anything and resist nearly all chores.  A mental set of "values" that one thinks that one believes that one has is not what G is saying that they do not have.  For something to be a "real value", it has to energize you to act.  If you value kindness, then you will immediately move into action when someone drops their groceries in the parking lot outside the grocery store and help the person.  If you value a craft, you do the craft well even if you do not get paid for it.  A real value is part of you and will motivate you to do things naturally.  Thus a Good Householder wants to have a job, take care of their own needs and the needs of others, especially their family and their friends.  Even if there is a part of themselves that is like the Tramp, a part of themselves that resists getting up in the morning and going to work, they will do so anyway, because they value the job and getting paid well for good work.  It allows them to truly love and care for the people that they care about.

There are also some forms of clinical mental illness where a person ends up having no values and become like a "vegetable".  These people are relegated into wards where they are given their basic physical needs.  Sometimes these people get healed enough so that they make some strides to become Good Householders or High Functioning People who are able to live in the world as Good Householders.  Sometimes a good therapist working under the right conditions and with a good program can transform a number of these types into functioning adults and good citizens.  But again, it takes a lot of time and energy that GH's within the 4th Way or some other growth system do not usually have.  G's advice is to let them go and let them find their own way.  Sometimes the suffering involved in trying to survive in modern life does make a few of them rise up to becoming a responsible adult.

This leads to the Hasnamuss type who is different than the Good Householder, the Fanatic, and the Tramp.  What makes this type different is that this type is predatory.  This type actively targets Good Householders to exploit them, to at least take away their hard earned money that they need to pay their bills, take care of their family and friends, and keep their life on track.  This type is more intelligent than the Fanatic and Tramp.  They do not target these types, though some of the criminal Hasnamuss types will enlist the Fanatics and use them to do their bidding.  In a similar way, they can sometimes exploit the Tramp by threatening them, punishing them, and forcing them to do things.  The Hasnamuss type does not have a "conscience", which to G was a sacred organ that when activated can guide use to fully develop ourselves into a mature and balanced individual who lives from their mind, heart, and body in a living functional unity.

There are different sub-types of this Hasnamuss type.  One is called the "covert narcissist" which I am going to concentrate this writeup upon.  The other sub-types, like the Grandiose Narcissist, are more overt and more obvious.  My feeling is that these subtypes will be rarer as human history unfolds and societies learn to purge themselves of these sub-types.  At present, they can only really be found in "niches of power" in the corporate world (as CEOs and despotic managers, or in any entrenched position of power), the religious world (as leaders who generally do not mind commanding people into a holy war or the killing of "unbelievers"), or the political world (who can be tyrants and poison their rivals).  In general, even these more obvious sub-types are still "covert" in the sense that they are pretending to be someone they are not.  They may present themselves as some kind of savior, hero, and reformer who is willing to "do what it takes" and make "the hard choices" that is needed to make life on Earth work.  Where you can identify this type is that they like the feeling of having people get tortured by them or even killed by them, and it gives them a feeling of power to have these things done to people by them or by people who are under their power.

The first trait of this type is that they have "two selves".  One is the presenting self that is their mask or disguise.  The other is their "core self" which has their "real feelings" (though in higher teachings, everyone has Buddha Nature, and their "core" is ultimately not real either).  The core self is like the ordinary self of the Good Householder and is as real as the ordinary self of the Good Householder.  This mask is necessary to prey upon Good Householder, who they pretend to be like.  They do not hold the values of the Good Householder at all, but will pretend to.

In order to maintain the mask, the Covert Narcissist (CN) will lie.  What many researchers have found is that this lying is different from the lying that Good Householders sometimes lapse into.  Good Householders have some capacity to self correct.  When they recognize they have lied, they regret it, self correct, and return back to their integrity.  There are also pressures that tempt a Good Householder to lie, like lying on an application to get a job that they feel that they need to get food on the table to feed their children and pay their bills.  In other words, the lying arises from a conflict of values that is always energizing the Good Householder to act.  When they get less confused about the value conflict, they will self correct and clarify the confusion, and become even more solid citizens of whatever society they are in.

The CN will lie as part of their way of functioning.  They may seem to tell the truth in that their mask self must present a story close enough to social truth to be believable to the Good Householders around them.  They will look and see if you are "buying their story" and they will make up a cover story for what they are doing from their core which is sizing people up to see if they are exploitable.  The lying is often "gratuitous" in that the lie often seems completely unnecessary.  It is "unnecessary" in the sense that a Good Householder, when under certain pressure and certain temptation can understand why it might be tempting to lie, will feel it is unnecessary.  In other words, GHs, when trying to understand others, will refer to their own bank of experiences and try to make sense of why a person might lie and want to lie, and will not find any reason which makes the CN lying even remotely necessary.  This is often the initial lies of the CN fall below the radar of a GH and are believed because they automatically believe the mask self is who the CN really is.

The lies of CN are not consistent.  The pressure of the two selves makes it almost impossible to be consistent.  GHs will find the contradictions confusing and when they point out the confusion, the CN will DARVO the GH.  They will Deny, Attack the GH, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender.  They will plead Victim and try to make the GH feel guilty and can very often get the GH to apologize, with the GH often confused about he or she has done wrong.

The goal of the lying is "power over" the GH so that they can control and manipulate him or her.  The goal of power over is to secure "narcissistic supply", which can be as tangible as getting money or getting praise, or as weird as "getting negative attention in terms of people getting upset or worried around them when they feel they are "under the thumb" of a CN.  Because a CN does not have an internal feeling of self worth in their core, they rely on getting this from the outside, by feeling superior to others by being the one in control and dominant, or by getting people to believe their mask and getting praise for what they present.  They like to feel people squirm under their grip, because it validates that they are superior and they are the ones who are really in control.  If they feel that they can kill a person and get away with it, then they must be superior to the people that they can kill.

I want to go deeper into the CN in a later writeup and this one is only an introduction.  The Hasnamuss is mentioned by G in the context of the three other types, because they, too, do not have a realistic chance to really use the Work to evolve themselves into a Higher Mature Being.  Theoretically, everyone does, including the CN.  But it takes a lot of time and energy, and G also felt that the ordinary suffering of normal life can help break down the crystallized attitudes of the CN, the Tramp, and the Fanatic, but that it takes more suffering than usual for this to happen and it takes a very special kind of help to also be present as well.  This is way beyond the capacity of the usual GHs that are involved in the Work.

What makes the CN more dangerous is that the other types are not pretending to be other than what they are.  Most Fanatics know that they are Fanatics, they just believe that they are Fanatics for the Right Cause and everyone else is wrong.  They have the wrongly formed values that they are fixated on and this fixation takes a lot of energy to break down.  It takes a lot of suffering under the right conditions to break free of this fixation.

In a similar way, the Tramp can suffer in such a way that they come to a place where they must "value their life" and "step up" to take care of themselves.  This value, being energized inside themselves, can become a nucleus to develop the "pearl of enlightenment" around.

But the CN can form a mask and present themselves as a GH or even an advanced individual in the Work.  They are good enough liars to fool people and know how to punish and banish people who figure out their lie.  They are, in short, dangerous to the Work and actively like hunting people in the Work as a kind of food that they can feed off of.  Therefore groups need to learn how to filter out this type in order to "make progress in the Work".  They also need to filter out this type from their life, because they are not merely harmful for people in the Work, but can even destroy an entire society or cause one country to invade another country, or to wipe out people of another race or religion.  They know how to condition people to a kind of hatred and anger, and how to direct this anger in others to hurt other people.

To be able to filter out these people, it is important to understand this type very thoroughly so that one can see through the mask.  And when the person is "unmasked", they will attack your awareness until you do not see what you saw or impair you so that no one will believe you.  There is something demonic about this type and sometimes these people are "possessed entities" or "oppressed by entities" or may even be an entity itself who has found its way into a human birth.