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Ask HN: How did you fix your narcissism?
358 points by zuzuleinen 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 384 comments
I had an epiphany this year that I focus too much on myself and came to the realization that I might be a narcissist: I tend to talk too much about myself, I don't enjoy listening to other people, I tend to judge situations only from my perspective, I have an inflated ego and take things too personal.

These traits have affected my personal and professional life and would really like to fix them.

I did some search on Amazon but it seems that all the books are written for people who were affected by narcissistic people. Couldn't find any book for people who are narcissistic themselves and want to fix that.

Did anyone here had the same issues and can recommend me some tips/books on how to deal with this?

Seeing a therapist might be infinitely better than reading a book, and not just for narcissism. We're all broken in our own wonderful and unique ways.

I've been seeing a therapist for 5 years now, and the positive impact this has had in my life and on my general self-awareness can't be overstated.

As engineers and tech people we have one tool that has proven incredible useful in our careers: our brilliant rational minds. So we tend to think that we can solve any problem in life with this tool. Turns out we can't; thinking that therapy is somehow beneath us is pure hubris.

I also resisted therapy for a long time as a matter of principle. In high school I learned about the id, ego and super-ego, and in my 17 year old wisdom I thought "This is all bullshit! Did the guy open someone's head and see three parts? No! This is all made up!" Being unquestionable older and hopefully wiser now, I've understood that "all models are wrong, but some are useful"[0]. And therapy happens to have some useful models to offer.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_models_are_wrong

> As engineers and tech people we have one tool that has proven incredible useful in our careers: our brilliant rational minds. So we tend to think that we can solve any problem in life with this tool. thinking that therapy is somehow beneath us is pure hubris.

To add to this: we also tend to think we can correctly assess any problem without external help, but especially when it comes to the "self" this fails. It's kind of inevitable: being able to analyze a problem requires some distance, but taking distance from yourself, especially your problem areas, fundamentally goes against that. The result is blind spots.

That had been my excuse for ignoring my own problems for years so I’d add:

If you think you’re insane but also thinking it could be self-mis-diagnosis, no, you are not sane.

There is no such inherent contradiction in an ability for a logical system to detect its own anomaly were you one.

If it had been a false positive, the fact that a false positive is occurring itself is an anomaly, and an issue.

Can you elaborate on this? This reads okay but it's at a higher level of abstraction and I don't know the specific phenomena to which it's referring.

How do you distinguish these thoughts from the intrusive ones?

You go look for external help with figuring that out. Which brings us back to...

This is for me, so far, HN comment of year.

100% agree about seeing a therapist. I also resisted for years because I thought it was a waste of time and money. Now that I see one once a week I've come to realize how useful it can be to have a person you can go to who is paid to be laser focused on your mental well being for an hour at a time. One thing mine has encouraged me to do is journal. It helps air out the negative thought patterns that infect my behavior and also serves as a good way to synthesize ideas. I set aside 10-15 minutes at lunch to write in a moleskine notebook.

My problems are more related to anxiety and depression, but the same concepts apply. I also think that you get out of therapy what you put in. It sounds like you are in a good frame of mind because you want to improve yourself. That's probably the best attitude you could take going into therapy.

People say this a lot, but it never seems very actionable.

How do you do find someone good that you trust? How do you find someone worth the time? The couple of times I've tried to find someone you end up making a lot of unreturned phone calls.

Maybe I have an unfairly negative impression of therapists - I both think that it's incredibly valuable to introspect and have someone smart and thoughtful to work things out with, but also suspect a lot of therapists are neither of those things?

CBT and growth mindset seems helpful, what's the process to actually find someone successfully? How many people actually are doing therapy vs. just recommending other people do it? It seems a lot more people are recommending it than actually doing it themselves (which would explain the vague advice).

> How do you do find someone good that you trust? How do you find someone worth the time?

In my experience the best way to find someone is through recommendations. Find someone with a good therapist, and contact the therapist for recommendations. They usually know other people in the field that work with a similar approach.

I feel CBT only works with simple issues. For trauma and deep running issues I would suggest finding someone who looks into the root of issues and doesn't just try to change behaviours. See psychotherapy for example.

Otherwise it depends on where you live as well.

In Australia, and definitely for NSW:

- look for a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist. With a psychologist you get 10 sessions for free by the government, but then you have to pay the full fee yourself. This ends up being around $150-$250 per session from what I have seen. With a psychiatrist the medicare safety net kicks in, and after $2000 of out of pocket expenses you get 85% of the session fees back. In my case I end up paying ~$40 for my $350 therapy sessions which makes a huge difference when therapy can be going for years.

Happy to help out with recommendations in the NSW Australia area.

I'm in the bay area - this seems like the best option.

The difficulty is either I don't know anyone my age that has one or it's still taboo for men to talk about so people don't. I'd guess it's a combination of both. The only people I've known personally who see a therapist are women (and from that small sample they don't want you to see their same person).

I think men tend to rely entirely on their SO which is probably not a great thing for either party.

> The only people I've known personally who see a therapist are women (and from that small sample they don't want you to see their same person).

Which is fair enough. That's why I'm suggesting to not get their therapist's details to see the same person, but to get a recommendation from the therapist. Hopefully that would alleviate their concerns.

AFAIK a good therapist will not see people who are too close to each other anyway as there can be a bias on the therapist's side due to the close relationship. For example doing both couple and individual therapy with the same therapist is not a good idea.

It's already hard mustering up the courage and desire to go to therapy. Then I spend hours filling out forms, making cold-calls, completely blind -- reading Yelp reviews on therapists, man. Then I don't get callbacks and am told doctors aren't taking new patients. OK.

But everyone is happy recommending therapy. Oooh, it's sooo great! Yeah. Only if I could find some.

I'm assuming therapists designed their funnel this way, somehow, there's something about me that puts me in this category of people that can't get over the initial barrier of finding them.

This largely matches my experience too - I can’t really imagine how anyone actually having a tough time could make it through the necessary hoops to get help.

This 100%.

I feel the stupidly stressful process of trying to find a therapist itself has increased my need for therapy.

Unrelated question : do you Habs this out of pocket system applied to all medical fields? Do you need to co-pay for, say, a general practitioner?

I am asking because here in France it is either a medical field (reimbursed, an example would be a psychiatrist) or not (a psychologist for instance)

It's challenging to give specific advice on this while respecting privacy. On a site like Reddit with PM you might be able to discern that someone has an issue, is located close to you, you know a therapist, and then create a throwaway account to PM them.

These challenges are deeply personal, so finding the right person is challenging. There are lot of therapists with different qualifications and experience. People seem to study psychology, do whatever qualifications they need, and start as a therapist, but the experience part is a challenge.

I don't think this challenge is much different from finding mentors. In fact, it's probably better because it's a discrete financial transaction and the conversations are protected. Finding mentors during your career, if you don't have them directly in your workplace, can be really problematic. You have few protections, and little ability to build up trust, until you've invested time building up trust.

When it comes to men (probably the majority) on HN there are also a number of specific issues which affect take up of therapy. That's after the cost issues which affect everyone. If someone is in some countries they may have little, or no availability of certain kinds of therapy.

> How do you do find someone good that you trust? How do you find someone worth the time? The couple of times I've tried to find someone you end up making a lot of unreturned phone calls.

But it's the same with Doctors. Some doctors won't listen to your symptoms, some doctors might have old information, or brush you off.

Would you put off going to a doctor because of those problems?

It's not really the same with doctors.

With doctors there are places everyone goes where you can sign up and get a doctor which is relatively easy to schedule. From there for routine stuff there's less variability, you just do your routine checkup, and you'll be referred to experts if necessary.

There's also a higher minimum standard to get an MD.

It's both way easier to find one and easier to determine they're qualified/actually know what they're talking about (though obviously there's still variance in quality just not as bad).

With therapists there's no clarity around any of this really.

> There's also a higher minimum standard to get an MD.

If you see a psychotherapist, they have to be certified as an MD and then they get therapist training.

No. Psychologists can be psychotherapists. Psychiatrists can be psychotherapists too, but most aren't.

Ahh, sorry yes you're right. 'Psychiatrist' was what I was after.

I've had a fair number of terrible therapists and a couple of good ones. The only real solution that I can think of is to try several. Generally, you know early on. To me, it's a worthwhile endeavor.

"Find a therapist" is not vague or unactionable advice, any more than "find a doctor" or "find a mechanic" is vague or unactionable.

Find a mechanic.... for your mind

I'm actually attending therapy, on a regular schedule, and struggled to find a good therapist.

Shop around? You're inviting someone to perform online brain surgery on you. Fortunately, you can undo the operation if you don't like it (sort of). If you don't like what the therapist is doing, keep looking for a different therapist that works for you.

I've heard a story where a therapist got upset with their client because the client said, during a therapy session, they were going to find someone else.

Simple point of order: I don't need to tell my therapist if they're fired. I just walk away.

> I've heard a story where a therapist got upset with their client because the client said, during a therapy session, they were going to find someone else.

That would be a clear sign of a bad therapist. There very much has to be room to discuss seeing someone else, and whether the therapy relationship is working.

Yes, obviously, that was my point.

But an additional point is worth making, the kind of thing that a good therapist would help you see.

> I don't need to tell my therapist if they're fired. I just walk away.

I am stating that as clearly as I can there. If my therapist starts acting in a way that makes me uncomfortable, no more talk. No need to talk. I don't need my therapist's permission to walk away.

I just. walk. away.

> I just. walk. away.

Though you might want to get in contact with your insurance if they are paying for it, since having it on your record as aborted for no reason could cause issues when convincing them to pay the next one.

I go by recommendations, but I'm initially looking for chemistry - does this person jump to conclusions based on initial statements, is there an urgency in their tone (as in, getting to it rather than getting to know you), and most importantly, being able to verbalize their process and walk you through their methods. It shouldn't be smoke & mirrors or duplicitous, like asking you open ended questions and letting you blow off steam for 45 minutes, it should be a 'conversation' with them drawing you back to the central issues you identified & they've diagnosed.

Like all relationships, it's predicated on trust, and that means finding the right professional. There are shops that make their retirement letting people talk about themselves for an hour once a week, and there are others genuinely engaged in the art of helping people heal themselves.

So true! I do a dbt skills group and as a RULE i am the only make, ever. Men just don't do therapy well.

Honest question, really trying hard not to word it in a standoffish way: what do you get out of a therapist that can't be obtained from thought or general conversation outside of therapy?

I don't think a "brilliant rational mind" is a prerequisite for coming to the conclusion that you're spending money to lock someone in conversation with you - someone that would not associate with you otherwise. To me, the relationship is artificial and the lessons learned can be obtained for free. Therapy seems to be conversational prostitution, more or less.

But you and others affirm that therapy has a positive ROI, and some people recommend therapy with such vigor you'd think it was the only (or the best/most efficient) way to get that return. I just don't see it, and to date I haven't met a sufficiently elucidating explanation.

A therapist is trained to spot things you miss.

It's like asking, "what does a junior engineer get out of being mentored by a senior engineer that they couldn't just figure out by coding or reading blogs?" A therapist brings things like context, breadth of knowledge, and honesty. I felt like the therapist wasn't incentivized to sugar coat things to spare my feelings, something close friends and family might do.

I am not sure about seeing one for 5 years, though. The point of a therapist is to make themselves unnecessary, in my opinion - they're supposed to give you the tools needed to do exactly what you're saying people should do - understand their behavior and change it.

I agree that seeing a therapist for 5 years may indicate they're not actually helping you progress.

I could offer a different data point, but since it's all subjective experience anyway, just make your own call. I've enjoyed long-term therapy because I found more things I wanted to work on. Ironically, it is my therapist who reviews things on a regular schedule and asks, "why are you coming to therapy now?"

(If your therapist isn't doing that, maybe that's a red flag that you are being taken advantage of?)

> I agree that seeing a therapist for 5 years may indicate they're not actually helping you progress.

It may also indicate you really need the therapy. That's the conundrum.

You need sometimes assess (reflect), possibly with your therapist, how they are aiding you effectively. In The Netherlands, there are waiting lists for psychiatrists (and a shortage), as well as waiting lists for specialized psychologists; hence they get paid either way. They'd rather have a client who benefits from their therapy.

If you think of a therapist as less "surgeon for the brain" who exists to fix issues and more like "personal trainer for the brain", then it makes more sense to have one long-term.

It's less about fixing things that are profoundly broken and more about incrementally trying to make the most of the brain you're given.

> I just don't see it

That's half of the point right there. You only know all the thoughts you will come up with. You go to a therapist because a good one will tell you things you never would have considered at all. Your mind has ruts so deeply worn you don't even know they are there. A therapist will nudge you out of them.

I've had a number of therapy sessions where my therapist said something about myself or my past that I literally had never considered in my entire life.

The other half is that good therapists have a lot of training in how the mind works and the tricks it plays on itself. They know to look for patterns where when you say X the problem is really Y, which is a connection you yourself have never made.

It's like asking "Why should I read this book? I'm not aware of anything in it that I don't already know." The point is that you don't know what you don't know that's in it. You can't accurately simulate a therapist in your head because your simulated one only knows the things you already know. An actual therapist will provide novel insight.

You are not a rational being. You are a bundle of emotions, patterns, habits, and semi-randomly locked-in sensitivities and responses.

Talking to a therapist does two things: it makes you interact with a human being, not an abstract concept or idea. This uses different areas of your brain, different cognitive and emotional pathways than does reading a book or simply "thinking about it"; and it allows you to receive the benefit of trained expertise in detecting what patterns, triggers, traps, and skills you have or need to have exposure to.

Calling it 'conversational prostitution' isn't really an accurate analogy; or rather, it shouldn't be if you're taking the therapy seriously, though a lazy therapist/patient couple could certainly devolve into something more like that. A prostitute provides a luxury service; a therapist is more like a business consultant, as you are both expected to put in work to understand the problems and work together towards solutions. So, sure, you could try to find the solutions yourself, but you don't know what you don't know, or even if you do generally know what your problems are, there's still an opportunity cost in building up the psychological domain expertise to fix them 'in house', when you could expedite the process by bringing in an expert.

A therapist can confront you as a human being in way that no book, friend, or family member ever can. There are often truths about being human that one has difficulty accepting on the basis of logic. A trained human being can find a way to make those truths acceptable.

The point of therapy is not to teach you, but to heal you.

The problem is we all carry around a lot of subterranean shame, fear and guilt, and your mind has a way of blinding you too it because those feelings are too intense to handle on a day-to-day basis. As a result, we all have blind spots and dysfunctional habits that we will defend at all costs. Haven't you met brilliant, highly rational people that keep acting stupid over and over again because they refuse to acknowledge their own problems?

We're all a little broken for emotional reasons, not rational reasons. Everyone knows they shouldn't smoke, and drink too much, and spend too much. But lots of people have problems with that, because it's not about a lack of knowledge.

A therapist, over time, gets you to open up, accepts you, and thus shines light on those dark places. When you accept them instead of reflexively rejecting them, you can actually see yourself with more clarity and thus behave more rationally.

So yes, you could learn whatever a therapist could teach you from reading books. But the benefit of a therapist is the relationship. You could also go through the same process with a good friend, but most people are bad at listening and being accepting, especially when you're sharing your deepest secrets. And sadly, most people don't seem to have the time. Haven't you ever tried to share something with a friend, but then they say something judgmental and you never show them that again? A therapist is trained not to do that.

There’s an interesting statistical observation that the kind of therapy seems to matter less than the relationship between therapist and patient. We are social animals a neutral experienced observer helping us identifying current problems and behaviors is much more impactful on an emotional level than a book. Narcissism is not an intellectual construct it is an emotional construct.

Here is another helpful idea, hasn't been mentioned explicitly: a therapist has (or has had) many clients. For that reason alone, even if they had no more skill at coaching than your average friend, they have valuable insights.

You might think that you are very unique, but often that's not the case. Or, at least, your behavior can be decomposed into patterns, and a therapist can often forecast where that behavior leads (and, if they're skilled and/or lucky, where it's coming from).

One example: we have our unconscious and sometimes we hide things from ourselves and strongly resist any attempt from ourselves or other people to expose that stuff.

Psychologists are experts in defusing such resistance and helping us work with that unconscious content, content that most people probably aren't very skilled in helping with.

Is not that a therapist will say or make you see or provide with a new angle to see things.

What a therapist does is to help you to ask and answer questions by yourself. Sometimes just the fact that putting things into words to a stranger is enlightening. A therapist might ask "why do you think you need to reason in terms of money, ROI and investment when talking about relationships?"

How I know this? I'm seeing a therapist too! I see her everyday. I've been married with a psychologist for 15 years now. I've been hearing these kind of questions forever!

> conversational prostitution

Do you grow your own food? If not, you are partaking in prostitutional farming.

Do you make the write the books you read? If not, you are paying for prostitutional authors.

"Conversational Prostitution"?

Are you saying if you were more attractive/deserving/whatever, people with therapeutic skills would go around sharing their insight with you for free?

I believe that's called a "friend". They might not necessarily be as good at it but they are doing it out of genuine concern for you

Sure a therapist is better than books but it’s not true that everyone is broken, that’s the equivalent of saying everyone is sick and should be on medication. Everyone has issues but having a balanced life with lots of social interactions is enough for the majority. And sometimes if you don’t have that the therapist become a substitute but that does not mean you are broken. It’s interesting to see a therapist like a doctor for a check up though.

What are examples of problems you couldn't solve with your mind?

  Broken heart
  Broken leg
  Losing a child
  Having a low (or too high) IQ
  Having severe mental disorder(s)

This is what happens when you run country music through lossy compression.

Needs a "Broken truck" line.

Ok, this was funny.

There's no such thing as an IQ too high. This is always some other problem like anxiety.


In this situation one can use her high IQ to ham her IQ test.

Ever been in a relationship? There are a lot of problems you can’t just solve with rational thinking.

Problems which can't be expressed as a ratio.

So the real problems.

And complex ones.

Are you saying all problems are imaginary ?

When you get to the root of them, yes.

Emotional intelligence and empathy are still part of the mind.

The original comment mentioned rational minds, which is relying on neither of those things.

Rational was an adjective. If you think that "rationality" is some objective feature that humanity can separate from emotions, you are deluded.

This reply somehow gets and misses what I was trying to get at.

No, of course I don't believe rationality is like that. The implicit point was that many people in tech do have an attitude like this. They overvalue their "objective" rational reasoning, ironically due to irrational needs.

Any that involves interaction with multiple people; you cannot predict others, especially since most people don't always act fully rationally.

I think people say that others dont act rationally, when really they just don't understand the other person's goals and how their behaviour contributes to their goals.

If i pass up $100 to get a burger, am i acting irrationally? It depends if i'm hungry. It depends how much $100 means to me (Am i bill gates?). Its impossible to say from the outside. I'm convinced much behaviour is basically the same except much more complex with multiple conflicting priorities.

No, people really just don't think rationally. Read Daniel Kahneman. It's been studied extensively.

No one always acts fully rationally

-Job loss -Romantic losses -Self compassion -Self care

Conceptually, think about how many times your friends have an issue that seems trivial for you (on the outside) to fix. Surely the same applies to you. Especially if you're high functioning, by definition anything left to work on is relatively outside your awareness and can't be solved from the "inside".

You need blank lines for the pseudo-bullets to not combine together like this.

(Caught my eye quickly scrolling down because they look like java command-line options)

Some 80% or so of worlds’ problems are human interfacing problems than mathematical-engineering challenges, and its best to exploit native ability to handle it that we all received when born.

World peace.

I'm going to counter the "therapists are great" theme that I'm seeing here. I think they're a waste of money. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a great tool. With practise and courage you can use it to reform the way you think. It won't fix something like schizophrenia but it might be useful for a narcissist who wants to change.

> It won't fix something like schizophrenia

Your comment is terribly unhelpful. Therapy isn't about "fixing" someone, but to help individuals with issues that negatively affect their life find opportunities to manage those issues. CBT is not something you can start doing by yourself without an external catalyst.

I have ADHD, OCD, and bipolar II along with recurring bouts of PTSD from a terribly traumatic childhood. Without therapy, I would have considerable more issues integrating with my peers and navigating the emotional turmoil that is the battlefield of my brain. Therapy has assisted me in shifting my perspective and enabling me to live my best life despite the demons that seem to constantly want to drag me down.

> CBT is not something you can start doing by yourself without an external catalyst.

I disagree strongly with this part. The "Feeling Good" book by David D Burns, which is essentially a fantastic primer on CBT, single handedly helped me conquer my depression in college and helped me graduate with high scores, just when I was on the verge of dropping out. It was god send to me because I couldn't afford to go to a therapist. (And depression was just one of the psychological problems that I had, which later therapy helped me identify).

> CBT is not something you can start doing by yourself without an external catalyst.

Sure it is. Self-therapy is useful, getting a therapist is useful.

Why is everyone shitting on other people's vibe?

> Why is everyone shitting on other people's vibe?

Because people provide horrible advice like this that prevents people from getting the help they need. Stigma is a real thing.

> I think they're a waste of money.

This is a valid opinion, but it would be better presented with some evidence to support it.

When someone says "A therapist really helped me." then their opinion carries its own evidence. They are a living evidential proof of their claim. (At least, to the degree that you accept that the commenter is honest and able to correctly measure their own quality of life.)

But when you say "therapists are a waste of money", your claim shows only absence of evidence, not evidence of absense. It may be that therapists aren't good for you, or that you haven't had a good one, or simply that you have no experience with them at all.

>When someone says "A therapist really helped me." then their opinion carries its own evidence.

that's only true for individuals which you do not believe to be affected by choice-supportive bias[0], which is , more-or-less, non-existent as far as humanity is concerned.

If someone buys therapy, and they feel as if their quality of life has been improved by the purchase, great, but that's not a quantifiable justification of much without normalizing out inherent bias in the decision making process; a process that isn't as simple as 'an opinion as evidence'.


If the goal of therapy is a subjective increase in quality of life, then whether it comes from bias or objective change doesn't really matter. If the happy pills make you happy, it's sort of an implementation detail as to whether or not they are actually just a placebo. Perception is reality when the goal itself is subjective.

Plenty of clinical psychologists use CBT in practice.

Perhaps the closest opposite to narcissism is humility. One way to really experience humility is to inject yourself into something truly foreign where money is an insufficient remedy.

I don't know what that humbling experience will be for you. For me it was living in Afghanistan for 2 years, of which one of those years I traveled frequently and spoke with many people there. It doesn't matter how much money you make as travel there is rough with great inconvenience and your housing is tiny and drafty. In this circumstance any self-serving attention would not improve the situation. You learn patience and comfort in the face of minor imperfections.

I can promise you this: its the experience, whatever that is for you, that will fix your narcissism. A book won't do it. You have to live it without escape.

IANAN, but living abroad when I was about 25 really improved my humility. I'm used to being quick-witted, knowledgable, and generally good with people. When I got to a place where English is not the default language, I was essentially an idiot---I was confused a lot, unable to make jokes, and little kids laughed at my attempts to, say, order a gyro.

It all clicked when I was lamenting it to my girlfriend, who said (with real affection), "well, how much of what you say is actually valuable?" Right then I realized how much of my time I spent trying to convince people how quick-witted, knowledgable, and easy with people I am.

Now I talk less, let jokes (even good jokes!) go unsaid, and am better with people.

A lion doesn't have to tell anyone he's a lion.

all lions are lions , so it doesn't apply in our case.

I've heard it phrased as "a rich man doesn't have to tell you he's rich".

Same with "new money" vs "old money" - the richest guy on our block drives a Hyundai because he likes it and says they are good little cars. Meanwhile our other neighbor with 5 cars (Mercedes, Tesla SUV, a dune buggy, a truck to tow his boat and some classic car that's under a tarp) has a tax lien on his house.

Don't Rob the world of your good jokes, friend, I always appreciate a laugh.

Don't worry, there are still plenty of jokes.

I just realized that my jokes were shutting off other people who might be saying something, or redirecting the conversation away from something interesting. So now I just stifle them if I can tell that someone else (especially someone less talkative than me) has something they want to say.

Usually I explain them to my wife hours later, and at least _I_ get a kick out of them.

On the contrary, I sort of dislike how normalized being quiet and keeping thoughts to yourself has become IRL. I find solace in cracking somewhat absurd jokes and being somewhat absurd. That's what I have to do to make it through the day. If that makes me bad with some people, then maybe that's their problem.

I think the most important thing I never realized is that not everyone will like you, and it is a complete waste of time to try to get people to like you. It is better to be hated by some and loved by some, then to be liked by all.

I think you misunderstand me. I'm not afraid to let my freak flag fly. I just realized that I wasn't leaving a lot of space for other people in group conversations.

Jokes are great if they make people laugh, think you've overthought that part!

Did that in Mali. It did give me perspective after 2 years, but it didn't fix my narcissism. Just made me more tolerant to incomfort, and made me enjoy civilization more.

I've also experienced physical hardship which helped me to become far more patient and tolerant of physical hardship, but not at all more patient or tolerant with people.

I think it's a mistake to treat 'humility' as if it was one thing.

Woahhh you lived in Afghanistan? That’s really cool! Is there anywhere I can read about your experience there / contact to talk more?

Its easier if I just write it here.

From July 2009-2010 I deployed to a unit in Kuwait and forward deployed to Afghanistan as part of a 2 person information assurance review team. We traveled around the country and visited the major, and some minor, US Army bases to perform friendly audits to improve the information security posture of the installations on the ground. We were constantly traveling. I think I went on 25 assignments while there.

When I wasn't traveling I was living at Bagram Airbase about 40km north of Kabul. As a Texan this was the most beautiful place I had ever seen as Texas is generally very flat. There were mountains visible on 3 sides of the base and the tallest of them appeared to jump sharply a mile into the sky. Its like a quarter of the way from flat horizon to straight up was a view of mountains on the west side. This was perhaps the cleanest and driest air I have ever experienced. On a perfect summer day I remember being able to see hundreds of miles away because there was minimal atmospheric distortion and the mountains were so damn tall. This is hard to explain because on a flat surface the sky meets the horizon at only 30 miles away.

Most of the housing there was something called B-huts which were shacks composed of half-inch particle board and then internally subdivided with particle board walls to create 8 rooms. In the corner was a desk composed of a particle board triangle nailed to the walls. I had space for the twin bed, a dresser (also made out of particle board) and a walking path between them. Due to warping from the weather there would sometimes be gaps between the particle board exterior panels where all your heat would leak out.

The most beautiful base, hands down, was Camp Eggers. It no longer exists. This was downtown across the street from the US embassy. It was essentially an urban neighborhood sectioned off with tall walls. The residences were transformed into offices. The office buildings were transformed into barracks. Some two-story commercial shopping properties were transformed into multipurpose buildings. This base contained beautiful tall shade trees with well manicured lawns and grapevines on terraces. It also contained an elaborate rose garden. Some of the buildings were an urban maze. It was weird that this was a military base with a little slice of heaven right in the middle of a busy civilian urban city.

Travel was interesting. Unless you were a VIP you were always space available. VIPs were colonels, sergeant majors, emergency leave personnel, and CW5s. Once your name goes on a list its good for 10 days before its scrubbed off. On the larger bases it would sometimes take 3 days to get to your name, so we would show up at the terminal will all our gear hoping they would call off our names and it wouldn't happen. Also there would be times when your name did get called, but you would get bumped from the flight, even as you were already sitting on the aircraft. As an example special forces doesn't wait on lists so they would just show up and bump people off a flight.

You could see amazing, and I mean absolutely stunning, things while flying. Afghanistan is an exotic place that's really isolated and hard to get to. I remember flying over villages that were in small impossibly isolated valleys. I remember flying over a blood-red hill. I was later told that red color was a high concentration ultra valuable form of copper. I remember flying in a Chinook from FOB Salerno (about 1200ft elevation) to FOB Sharana (about 7200 ft elevation). It felt like we were just going straight vertical and somehow the ground was stalking us.

There is no FAA or other aviation regulation limiting US pilots in Afghanistan which can make for some unique adventures. There was one time we hopped on the short US civilian flight from Jalalabad back to Bagram, but the pilots wanted to take a scenic detour through a tiny canyon. The canyon was deep but narrow, maybe only 2-3x wider than the aircraft's wingspan. Every time there was a canal or tributary feeding into the canyon the plane would immediately lift vertically into the air and then would immediately drop to the prior altitude as that gap was passed. This was the only time I have experienced motion sickness, but it was an amazing adventure.

There was another one where some senior Taliban leaders were captured and awaiting transport from Bagram to Kabul. I had the fortunate treat of making that flight. The pilots wanted to shock or frighten the Taliban personnel, who may have never ridden on an aircraft before, so they attempted some wild turns and dives. Keep in mind that a C-130 is a giant bus so it can only maneuver so much, but that was also an interesting experience that I will likely never experience in the US.

Some of the most interesting people I talked to were the translators. The US census of 2000 identified that there were just over 8,000 people living the US who fluently spoke either Pashtun or Dari. That is every man, woman, and child. By the time I was there in 2009 5,000 of these people had or currently were back in Afghanistan working as translators. These people had amazing stories about the culture and history that I couldn't find in books. I suspect many of these people had returned to Afghanistan partially because they felt a patriotic duty after the 9/11 attacks, but the primary reasons were the high pay and some yearning to help US military provide increased security in a country that was now destroyed by decades of warfare.

Towards the end of all this I remember developing some minor combat fatigue after getting stuck in the transient barracks in Kandahar. The air in Kandahar was everything that Bagram wasn't. It was humid, dusty, unclean. Kandahar Airfield (KAF) has this giant cesspool about the size of 4 football fields. It is jokingly named poo-pond. You can find photos on the internet. It started out on the far west side of the base, but because of civilian land property boundaries the base could only grow in one direction and so over time poo-pond became the center of base and the smell was extremely foul. The transient barracks were directly adjacent to the pond. The transient barracks were actually a giant 500-person circus tent. Because of the high traffic of transient personnel these tents were rarely cleaned and because outside smelled like an ripe toilet people tended to stay inside with minimal circulating air. With that many people living in a super giant tent a different kind of foul air like aging foot smell seemed to permeate. I remember having to go outside to the shit smell because I had grown so tired of the foot smell. Because of the high people traffic it was really challenging get off that base to something further downrange and so there I was stuck.

Just wanted to say that that was a really enjoyable read. Thanks for taking the time to type it out.

Thank you for sharing these stories of your travels. I enjoyed the rich details of your personal experience in that part of the world, things I would have never heard or read about otherwise.

I'll echo other replies and state that was an excellent read.

Now the prickly part: do you see any way to extricate ourselves from this effort which has no path to victory?

I don't think anybody envisions a desirable exit path. This is a subject I am not an expert in and not willing to dive into in this larger discussion.

There's a book in this.

Wow that all sounds so amazing! Thank you very much for sharing!

I've not read your reply, and acknowledge that others say it was on excellent read. Do you not though think it ironic that in a thread about narcissism you have the longest blog post about someone's life (I've seen on HN) after they've essentially alluded to having been humbled.

However when you read it, you find that the writer talks not at all about their own accomplishments.

I think the problem is that those with narcissistic tendencies avoid anything they aren’t good at doing. They don’t like learning new things, being a noob is unbearable. Or so I’ve read.

It's the "without escape" part that's important. It's like the song "Common People" (by Pulp, made famous by Mr Shatner). Nobody likes a tourist.

As long as you can call your dad (or your broker, or your brother, or whomever) and get reliably bailed out, it's just tourism.

This is interesting advice. To add on to it, hiking the Appalachian Trail might accomplish a similar goal. The combination of endless alone time for self reflection, the simplicity of the task at hand, and sleeping on the ground every night will inject a dose of humility into anyone.

Sorry but no. This will not fix narcissism.

Narcissists are broken people incapable of self-reflection and everything centers around them.

They see everything in the world as being put here for their enjoyment. They thrive off of attention (negative or positive) and it's the only time they feel alive.

And yet normal people can still act narcissistically at times, and can do this more or less often at different stages of life or in different circumstances.

The OP could very well be a person just realizing that they want to focus more on others and this is a completely normal stage of life that different experiences or perspectives can help with.

Your definition is so simple. So clear. So absolute.

Nearly everyone is capable of self reflection. To think that an individual is categorically incapable of it is to deny them their humanity.

Have you ever met a person described as being a narcissist by the DSM-V?

a lot of people's sense of self-reflection is skewed, i've seen people very close to me with an entirely broken sense of self reflection which usually just manifests as self-victimization

it has dumbfounded me at times because I, as you, thought everyone has some sense of it and if they saw it they might change; but alas not always the case

I agree that the quality of self reflection, and the quality of the outcome, varies.

There is difference between having the ability to self-reflect, and having a proclivity to self-reflect. Neither is the same as doing so effectively, and neither speaks to the question of having a motive to make further personal changes as a result.

The comment to which I was responding categorically denied certain people from having even the ability. Ever.

It might fix what the OP has, whether or not you call that narcissism. I'd say they've already shown self-reflection by posting their question

> Narcissists are broken people

I would add that Narcissistic Personality Disorder, like all personality disorders, is essentially unfixable [0]. However it's unlikely that OP has NPD, since someone who actually has an NPD would not be aware if it.

[0] According to my psych friend.

Smart people with narcissistic/dark-triad traits can practice self-reflection and seeing things from a less self-centered POV. It's just less natural to them, but they can learn to do it. They "just" have to convince themselves that it's a good idea - which is where the "smarts" factor comes in.

In that case [1], I can recommend a psychosis or a psychoactive drug (such as LSD). With both (though not LSD but another one which I acquired legally),

I was able to self-reflect very well, and criticize myself to obliteration. The thing is, normally, I already feel like I do as well (regardless of whether I do, regardless of how other see that). It hurts too much. In the two examples I mentioned, no such pain was felt. None whatsoever.

Obviously, I don't recommend one getting a psychosis, but there are benefits to it (FWIW, I had multiple, mostly short ones, and one long one).

([1] For the record, I'm indifferent and unsure about your case.)

Sociopaths and psychopaths are extreme narcissists with broken brains. In the case of the sociopaths it's a learned behavior while for the psychopaths its broken hardware. This is an extreme and clinical form of narcissistic personality disorder.

Aside from that the term narcissism just means self-loving. It comes from the Greek after a person named Narcissus who fell in love with the sight of his own reflection. People can experience and express variant degrees of a selfish nature without being mentally broken. To call somebody a narcissist literally means the targeted person is primarily selfish.

Have you ever seen The Good Place?

Yes, love it!

you should read the op

I just created an account to post a comment. I was raised by a narcissist, and over the years I've, like you, come to realize how narcissistic I am too.

Narcissism has a terrible negative taboo associated with it, and rightfully so, because it can drain the living shit out of the people close to the narcissist. But you have to be careful not to be even harder on yourself about it. Because that's how a narcissist would understand a character defect (i.e. "oh I'm a terrible person worth scum"). For me I've found the very first thing I had to understand was yes, I'm a narcissist, and that's terrible, and I need to fix that ASAP, but, forgiveness is not only possible, it's necessary.

With that out of the way, I cannot recommend Alexander Lowen enough. After years of research and self-exploration I've now landed on this guy and his thoughts. Check out his book Narcissism: Denial of the True Self.


One of the reviews on that page summarizes it very well: "Narcissism develops when children are made to feel rejected, humiliated, and powerless, at the same time seduced to feel special"

Edit: If that specific book doesn't appeal to you, see if any of Lowen's other books resonate with you more

There's a confusion about being "narcissist" and having Narcissitic Personality Disorder. They are worlds apart.

My impression is that the OP does not have NPD, but perhaps, you were raised by one. As for whether you have NPD or not, I don't really know.

I just bought this book per your recommendation. Thanks so much!

Awesome! Makes me happy

I'm not surprised that the literature on narcissism isn't helping you, because looking for books to help overcome your narcissism is the last thing a real narcissist would do. In their world view, the problem is always everyone else. It sounds more like you're growing, and learning something about how your ego operates, which is a good sign.

The question is how to grow further in this direction. In my life, the thing that has helped the most with this so far is the practice of self-observation as taught by certain spiritual traditions. Here's a brief summary: when you observe how you react to things internally, especially if you can observe it neutrally and without judgment, you begin to see a lot about how you've been treating other people and why. The magic is that it then changes on its own, without you having to do anything extra. Self-awareness and self-honesty are the only ingredients you have to add. That's fortunate, because self-honesty is already a lot. We have a strong tendency to lie to ourselves, rationalize, and excuse nearly everything. On the plus side, the more that dissolves, the easier it gets to be with yourself. Self-observation is the solvent.

If this approach interests you, one thing you might take a look at is the books of Vernon Howard. (Don't be put off by their titles. The contents are serious.) If you're sincere about self-work, they provide the clearest explanation that I've run across. Self-observation is, of course, a classical spiritual teaching, but Howard distilled it into modern language in a way that is extremely direct and does not ask you to take on any belief (e.g. any religious belief). The main thing that makes his writing different from so much other self-help material is that he does not flatter or coddle the reader. He gives it to you straight.

I also agree with the commenters who suggest working with a therapist, because the ego behaviors you're asking about are typically rooted in past painful experiences that created a need in us to armor ourselves against future pain. Self-work seems to require journeying back into those realms in order to heal. Then you can let go of your selfish behaviors because you just don't need them anymore, just like you wouldn't wear a heavy suit of armor once you no longer feel it's necessary. What doesn't work, in my experience, is trying to be less selfish only in a rational or ethical way. That approach amounts to imposing a censorship layer on top of what you actually feel, which is a form of self-deception which only puts more weight on you and eventually collapses.

The thing to watch out for in finding a therapist is the personal connection between you and them. The method matters less than the personal connection.

More generally, there are so many good suggestions in this thread that you should probably pick the ones that have the most energy for you and give them a try. Your sincerity is really the thing that will change this for you, so do what feels most inspiring.

I went to my therapist once and said "I have terrible news, according to this book on narcissism, 8 of the 13 symptoms apply. I'm totally one. How can I fix it? Is it fixable?"

And she smiled and said..."a real narcissist would never ask that."

That's the snarky wit of a great therapist healing you of your worry in a single sentence.

Yeah, but it's not a binary thing, it's a continuum. It's perfectly possible for someone like you, the OP, myself, others reading this to have strong narcissistic tendencies but to be self-aware enough to want to change and not be a complete malignant narcissist, the kind who destroy lives and end up on true crime podcasts.

I wonder if improv classes might help? I've been taking improv recently and I've found it to be extremely interesting from the POV of learning to pay more attention to other people.

The core to learning improv is learning how NOT to be the center of attention. Everything is about supporting your team-mates: you have to pay extremely close attention to what they are doing and look for ways to give them further opportunities and make them look great.

Our improv instructor keeps on giving us exercises where if we take the lead, we're losing. I can already feel myself becoming better at paying attention to what other people are doing. One of the books we are reading for the class even makes the case that improv can help people become better at remembering each other's names.

I have no idea if improv classes are a useful way of combating narcissism, but maybe they could help?

Funnily enough, back when I was doing improv at school/university, I've found a great portion of the people there to be among the most self-absorbed people I've ever met. A lot of them were genuinely funny people, but there was a lot of ego, tribalism, people wanting to be stars, etc etc. It was actually one of the reasons why I got scared out of continuing in a local league after graduation, even if I'd done it for four years and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Same happened to me. I was deeply involved in the local improv community for a few years, and it was great at first, but a few toxic people drove me away for good.

My theory is it is a gathering place for people with narcissistic traits -- I mean, part of the appeal is being the center of attention and having everyone think you're brilliant and hilarious.

(Again, though, we all have narcissistic traits, but few of us are actually full-on narcissists.)

Improv is like an adult hack to learn teamwork skills if you never got serious about a team sport as a child. The idea of playing a role, using the tools available to your role to help make the other roles successful, and counting on teammates to do the same for you. Being part of something bigger than the sum of the parts, and being able to truly take vicarious satisfaction from the success of the whole as opposed to any individuals, especially oneself.

A good roleplaying game might be have a similar effect in a more comfortable setting (for some).

This is fascinating, thanks for sharing. Which book is the thing about remembering names from?

That was from "Improv Wisdom" by Patricia Ryan Madson.

You seem like a fairly well adjusted fellow, if you've caught yourself being a jerk and want to make positive changes. Maybe you're more of a minor league egotist rather than an actual DSM narcissist. If you like keeping fit, it's difficult to be that kind of a jerk if someone's beating the shit out of you on a regular basis in a dojo. Sports in general are good for people living a life of the mind (aka HN nerds); it chips away at common character defects that come from being a disembodied brain waddling around. You'll expose yourself to people from all walks of life who will give you immediate feedback if you display bad character, and it will get you moving around and make you humble.

If you enjoy history and literature, maybe Plutarch's parallel lives of Alcibiades and Coriolanus; or Christopher Lasch's "Culture of Narcissism" could provide some perspective. And as someone said below, Dale Carnegie's book on winning friends and influencing people, 100 years later, is a really useful, life changing book.

I loved this line from Eric Weinstein's conversation with Garrett Lisi: "A good scientist is engaged in a dialectic between arrogance and humility." A dash of narcissism can be good, when contextually appropriate, and kept in balance.

To that end, cultivate micro-habits, and pay attention to your emotional responses. Whenever I feel a sting to my ego, publicly or privately, I now try to embrace it, "take it on the chin", to be grateful for the lesson, to explicitly choose to let someone else (or the Universe) win. It's difficult at first, but it gets easier.

It's taken a long time to truly appreciate the line from Desiderata: "Listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story". Think of it as a matter of interpersonal respect first, and "correctness" second. The human always has their reasons, right or wrong; when they feel respected and heard, they're much more likely to be receptive to new information or another point of view.

My secret meta-hack? Using narcissism to curb narcissism. From the Tao Te Ching: "All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them."

I went down this rabbit hole a long time ago and saw a therapist about it. I would suggest you do the same.

That said, they basically told me that if you're worried about being a narcissist or trying to change it then you probably aren't a candidate for NPD diagnosis. Simply put people with NPD don't even consider that they might be wrong or flawed.

That doesn't mean you don't have something to fix, but it's worth seeing a professional.

I agree with this one hundred percent. However, I would add that in my interpretation the users was likely talking about trending towards having narcissistic traits, and they weren't necessarily referring to NPD.

For a little context, my mother is the most narcissistic person I've ever met and she constantly told the people around her, "I like myself just the way I am I have nothing to change". She was emotionally and psychologically abusive and ruined every relationship she ever had, if there was ever a person that needed to change it was her. So anyone that thinks to themselves that they may be too narcissistic is way further ahead than a lot of people on the more extreme end of narcissistic personality traits.

I think other hallmarks of being narcissistic, which these are things she also did, accusing others of being narcissistic, creating and believing elaborate scenarios where other people are ruining your life or goals, consistently villainizing groups of people, the inability to maintain personal relationships, and most of all deflecting all responsibility for negative circumstances.

I think you could do any or all of this stuff and still not have NPD but a life long pattern of these things are a good indicator. I'm not a licensed psychologist or therapist just trying to share a bit of my experience.

I think there are better definitions that more precisely define certain traits:

Jerk -- that view that you are surrounded by idiots, don't have anything worth saying, and does not deserve respect. See: https://aeon.co/essays/so-you-re-surrounded-by-idiots-guess-...

Asshole -- a kind of disconnection with relating to other people, by being "untouchable" by the feelings and concerns of other people. Paradoxically, there is often a great yearning to connect inspite of that isolation. The best book I have seen on this subject is specific to the masculine archetypes, in the book, Trickster, Magician, and the Grieving Man by Glen Mavis.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder can get confused for narcissism. The way to differentiate is that people with BPD have an incredible fear of being rejected or abandoned.

Look at how he frames the question -- "I talk too much...", "I don't enjoy...", "I tend to judge...", "I have an inflated ego..."

He doesn't think about his behavior in relation to other people. To the narcissist, other people are simply background actors in the movie that is their life. Why does this matter? Well, if you were living on a deserted island, would it matter if you were a narcissist?

When he talks about the negative impact, he again frames it as it impacts him: "These traits have affected my personal and professional life...". Nothing about how it might have impacted other people's lives. We can therefore be sure this post is an act of defense against change.

Further reading: https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/01/can_narcissism_be_cu...

I understand, but the whole subtext is that he's taking responsibility, and not blaming other people, something narcissists can't do.

That's the trick: it seems that way, but really it's a trap/defense against change. Narcissists are very, very good at seeming to others like they want to fix something about themselves, all the while digging themselves in deeper because deep down they don't really think something is wrong.

He says "I tend to judge situations only from my perspective" -- and then proceeds to write this very public post completely from only his own perspective. In another context we could call that lack of insight but for the narcissist it's a feature, not a bug.

What would you have him do, though? Voluntarily posting about it to try to improve seems like the best choice. If he hadn't posted at all and just continued being a narcissist, that'd also have been wrong. It's not right to set up a judgement system where someone has no correct action at all.

Like other disorders NPD lies on a spectrum.

From a clinical perspective (I'm not a clinician but have been treated by them btw) my understanding is that untreatable NPD presents as basically no remorse and no introspection at all. What would be called a "sociopath" which isn't itself a diagnosis.

So while yes I totally understand what you're talking about, that the attention seeking of the post itself could be considered narcissistic I am taking it at face value and saying there might be a possibility of some rehab. So my suggestion og talking with a mental health provider is the right option here.

Im not saying he’s attention seeking although that could be the case. I’m saying the form and content of his post shows his inability to see his world from the perspective of other people - the people affected by his narcissism - which is like I said before a feature of the disorder and the reason it is so treatment-resistant.

None of this is to say I don’t think he should see a professional - he absolutely should.

High use of the first-person in writing is hardly a sign of NPD. "I" is one of the most commonly used words in the English language.

You've misunderstood the point, in the whole post he didn't say how anybody else was affected by his behavior. If nobody's negatively affected, the behavior can't be bad.

"I've hurt people by being too egotistical" is an example of an "I" sentence that would have made me believe he could see that something was wrong.

It was a short post, focused on the information most relevant to the purpose of the post, without being overly intimate.

Meditation + psychedelics? If you have a strong intention to change, it's pretty left field but I'd consider taking that intention to peru and drinking ayahuasca at a retreat. The effort poured into meditation will help you become aware of your behaviours and why they are there, which is the starting point - accepting that you have the problem rather than pushing it out onto people around you. I believe that's a great place to start and that from there you can make some progress.

There is often anxiety or fear underlying many pathological traits, and there is lots of new research showing lasting changes from a single moderate to high dose psilocyn administration for example https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/

A friend of mine had a couple great experiences with psilocybin, and then a bad trip. Interestingly, it was the bad trip that broke them out of their narcissistic mindset.

I know some narcissists that are deeply into taking a variety of drugs. Drugs are definitely not helping them at all.

Yes! Anecdotally, I have known people with similar issues who were helped by mushrooms or mdma. They seem to experience some fundamental change in their perspective. However, that benefit came with one or maybe a few trips, not ongoing consumption.

> deeply into taking a variety of drugs

The enormous range of drug-effects, motive, and context surround drug use renders this statement near meaningless.

So many are reductive when it comes to drugs, it's a disservice.

Despite the goofy name of the site, I found this article to be really eye-opening and helpful for me a few years ago when I had a similar realization: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/the-art-of-conversat...

It has tips for changing conversation patterns to avoid conversational narcissism.

Thanks so much for linking this - for a long time, I've been observing all of these various types of responses in the conversations I've had over the years, but never consciously named/categorized them to this extent. I've only ever mentally filed away bits and pieces about correlations between someone's responses and their personality. I really like how this article breaks it down.

Glad you enjoyed it :)

Actively listen to the people in your personal and professional life as if you were a scientist. Think about what they are trying to say to you beneath the words. Do they want praise, recognition are they feeling stressed, happy? People will tell you these things almost unwittingly.

When its time to respond try to frame what you say in the context of their needs and what they have communicated. If you can't think of anything immediately rephrase and confirm what they said and you can think about the meaning of it later when you are post processing the interaction, again like a scientist. You aren't going to be good at it at first. Experiment. Even if the interaction turned out negative don't take it personal it's still another data point to help you learn how to do it better.

By doing this procedure you can learn about how your emotional system works and how human dynamics work and when its appropriate to talk about yourself in conversation. It takes time and it has a lumpy reward curve, but it is very satisfying.

I'm not sure if using the word "narcissism" is helpful in this context. We are all self-absorbed to some extent and it's good to maintain a practice that keeps this at bay.

I found these two things particularly helpful:

1) Developing a practice of meditation

This helps to notice the self-absorbed thoughts and recognize them for what they are. I'd recommend in particular attending a silent retreat in Vipassana tradition https://www.dhamma.org/

These retreats are organized all over the world and are donation-based, so you can afford them regardless of your financial means. It only takes time and dedication.

2) Developing interest in other people

I was surprised that this can be learned, but it certainly can. I've often heard things like "assume everybody knows something you don't know" or "everybody can teach you something". I've found this advice to not be particularly helpful. It didn't offer a process for developing this interest.

The advice here offers a more practical approach: https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-become-genuinely-interested-i... (tdlr; it's an exercise of writing down things that you appreciated about the people you've encountered).

My personal experience with this practice: a) I notice what I appreciate and find interesting about the person I am speaking to more frequently and sooner into the conversation. b) I notice afterwards that I derived far more satisfaction from conversations in which I was interested in the other person rather than when others were interested in me. However, during the conversation I still crave attention. I am starting to notice these cravings as they happen. It's a little like eating a healthy meal vs. eating a cookie.

As for your (2), ...

Maitrī (Sanskrit; Pali: mettā) means benevolence,[1] loving-kindness,[2][3] friendliness,[3][4] amity,[4] good will,[5] and active interest in others.[4] It is the first of the four sublime states (Brahmaviharas) and one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism.


There's a few psychotherapy podcasts with episodes on narcissism. It's rare for malignant narcissists themselves to seek out therapy to help themselves so most resources are organized with how to deal with the narcissists in your life. But you should read them because if you can empathize with the other side and reflect on yourself, that would bring down your narcissistic tendencies. In general you should practice empathy, perspective taking and develop genuine curiosity in other people.

A true narcissist is by definition someone who wouldn't care or think anything is wrong or want to change, so you may have strong narcissist traits that you can work at reducing them.

Narcissists are people who are addicted to or are dependent on feeling special. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqV_QIvDeqA

Also the book, "Rethinking Narcissism" is probably worth reading.

Can you name any of those psychotherapy podcasts? Would love to know.

Great, thanks!

I don't think something like that is fixable; maybe another way of saying it is, most basic animals are built like this by design - it's a feature, not a bug. We evolved to become the biggest and strongest, and a very effective part of that is "fake it until you make it"; be bold and have confidence! Developing a more global and rational perspective is super expensive and our ape brains already consumed way too much energy until we (just recently) learnt to cook food to save our stomachs the digestive energy. (At the risk of being [rightly] accused of scraping the bottom of the optimism barrel: I actually think we're doing alright given the tools / monkeybrains to hand. Unfortunately you see what happens with populist rule / mob mentality, but on the other hand, Euler, Gauss, Newton, Riemann, von Neumann, Noether, Ramanujan etc suggest that we apes can approach basically godhood with our normal metabolic system.)

Transcending this self-centred existence requires logical and relative consideration. It is ~certain that YOU, the very person reading this right now, are not the smartest or strongest or richest or <any weighted success metric you'd like to choose> in the world. So, as a vaguely smart functioning person, you are aware of others who are better than you at various things, and you need to intelligently deal with it.

In any case, we're all going to be a bit nacissistic until we join some kind of posthuman Borg, probably in some Gaussian distribution about a mean same as our heights.

Oh, it is very much fixable. A lot of what we think are animal instincts are actually subject to a lot of influences and can be tweaked any number of ways.

It's "fixable" at the surface level of course, and this is expected of anyone in a basic functioning society.

In another thread about how it's legal in Germany to try to break out of jail because it's human nature (literally this is the legal justification!), I made the point that it's also sometimes human/animal instinct to murder, rape or steal. We are expected to overcome these instincts in daily life, and so IMO it should be no different in jail...

As "normal" humans we will always have these animal natures talking to us. It's nothing to be "fixed", it's something to be accepted, understood and managed. They called this being a Gentleman (for men) and being a Lady (for women), given the values of the time.

No, I mean it is fixable at a deeper level, and not just through things like behavioral conditioning. The techniques may not be wildly available or accessible. To give you some examples --

- Changes taking place with use of psychedelics, including traditional shamanic methods

- Use of acupuncture on something called the "extraordinary meridians". Similarly, internal alchemy methods that messes with that

- A phenomena called Kundalini (which describes a large spectrum of psycho-spritual changes).

- Breakthroughs from certain kinds of realizations on the nature of being, such as those resulting from Zen or Vipassana

Animal instincts are just that. They are more like firmware. Difficult to change if you don't know how, but very much possible if you are a hacker -- have the will, knowledge, and skill to do so.

The good news is that you are more selfish than narcissistic. A selfish but honest person would say "I do not't care about other people getting hurt until it affected me." A narcissist says "It is all their fault that I got hurt and they deserve their suffering!". Call mere selfish narcissistic and "true" narcissism capital N narcissism if you like rather than fight a losing battle as a pedant vs a colloquial tide but keep in mind the personality disorder is a different animal in spite of resemblances.

As others advised empathy is likely a better area of focus. The approach there varies from person to person and for a variety of reasons even unpacking the types of "empathy" cobflated together. Higher functioning sociopaths are good at reading people's emotions but don't necessarily care about them. A well socialized one does the right thing for "wrong" reasons. Someone autistic may not be in sync with sending or receiving emotions and signs but they will be upset to learn they inadvertently hurt someone. Anyway that tangent aside from someone on the spectrum here are some techniques.

I tend to try to "universalize" my perspective as a view from outside. It has its own frustrations (knowing that even if you are right there is no way to outright prove that will trust) admittedly and I am not an expert in human interaction. My coping methods are more "sociological" than personal interaction level. Pitfalls include probably not being very good for your confidence - I say probably because of being uncertain what is preexisting and sample size of 1.

For book suggestions I would suggest the old classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

Talks about active listening, and remembering things about others.

As for generally not being as narcissistic, I think you’re already on the right track. 90% of being aware of other people, is being aware that you’re sucking up the airtime. Conversations are dances, both parties need to be engaged

IMO it's really obvious when someone's applying the strategies in that book without addressing their underlying behavior. One of my bosses had the dark triad traits, and it was painfully obvious that he was following the book's advice to the letter. Referring to people by name often and the like doesn't mask narcissistic behavior, it just makes a narcissist appear dishonest.

I grew less distrustful of the book when I read in it that, in the author's view, the key ingredient to its advice was sincerity. Carnegie even makes the point that the advice is useful whether or not you are sincere, and calls out its danger.

Put another way: people are extremely good at detecting inauthenticity.

This is a great recommendation, but if a person with narcissism were to pick up this book, they could easily turn into one of those slightly creepy & very transparent "overly nice guys". It's a great start, but if overdone, you can push people away even more.

M'narcissist. tips fedora

Considering the core symptom involves thinking your own problems are either nonexistent or caused by someone else, it makes sense why the shelves aren't overflowing with self help book for narcissists.

Things that did not help: -Books about people who were affected by narcissistic people. -All reddit groups about narcissism. -Writings of Vaknin and other famous narcissists.

Things that did help: -Reinventing Your Life by Young (general audience). -Schema Therapy by Young (professional audience). -Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations by Greenberg (professional audience). -Learning how to be aware when I'm splitting others or myself into black and white. (Much harder than it sounds. It's like trying to stop time.) -Regular appointments with a therapist. (Don't go expecting an 'atta boy'--expect to be pushed outside your comfort zone of false invulnerability and expect to resent your therapist with every cell in your body while this is happening. If you find them just giving you 'atta boys' you should get a different therapist). -Daily exercise. -Cutting ties with family of origin.

I'll second the recommendation for Schema Therapy, it's likely to help understand yourself and others (don't forget others...)

I used to be narcissistic but now I'm perfect.

Are you sure - there's levels of narcissism, some is healthy. Someone with full on Narcissistic Personality Disorder doesn't see a problem with it from my readings and sees no need to change, and would never ask this question. As @kstenerud a bit of empathy training could help, good on you for trying to change. Listen to people, learn to see the good in everyone etc.

Not sure if you're being intentionally ironic about "not a narcissist but perfect" :).

I'd echo the rest of your comment with my MD friend's "narcissists can't be treated, they think there is no problem and pointing out what they are doing only makes them think that their behaviour is actually good...".

IMO, you're looking at the wrong symptoms.

What you're describing is just being inconsiderate and I'd imagine that you're probably young. Simply paying attention to those bad behaviors is a good start on addressing them. Attempting to be kind, curious, and attentive is a strong strategy. I mean, on some level, that behavior selfish and "narcissistic", but it's not a personality disorder. IME it's not what people are talking about when they are talking about "narcissism".

As to NPD...

You might look at how well you respond to criticism, and what kinds of criticisms cause you to become upset.

The reason that you "couldn't find any book for people who are narcissistic themselves and want to fix that" is that NPD is an issue where people have a fragile sense of who they are so they develop a lot of strategies for not having to encounter personal criticisms; by definition they aren't looking for those kinds of books. Any suggestion that change is necessary is something that feels harmful.

Get yourself diagnosed by a mental health professional if you don't just mean "egotistical" or "self-absorbed". You might be able to fix egotism and self-absorption. You won't be able to fix actual narcissism for yourself.

Good luck!

That's a good point, but I don't OP is describing full blown narcissistic personality disorder. He just has plain all full of himself disorder, something that so many of us have (and it's probably getting worse).

I’ve been listening to Fierce Intimacy by Terry Real and he calls what you have grandiosity. He also says some people go the other way and feel shame and inferiority. Both are on the same spectrum and both destroy interpersonal relationships. Your self worth should be from a place of I’m worth the same as tHe person next to me, not better or worse. He recommends taking a journal about what your triggers are every time you start thinking others are worth less or more than you. I have both which balances me out somewhat but I agree with the author - feeling totally at peace with yourself and your place as “good enough” will improve your life and relationships in a profound way. Mostly your relationship with how you treat yourself, not needing the aggrandisement will take a huge burden off you and lead to the things you want. Acknowledging it’s become a problem is something people find incredibly hard to do so I’d say you’re probably not as narcissistic as you think. Good luck!


I would like to urge you to consider that maybe there is nothing to fix and maybe people are actually not interesting around you. I realized that I had the same"symptoms" as you did, but only sometimes. I started being worried just like you, but then I looked closer into how I communicate and with whom.

There are people who have a very different life, which I deliberately choose to avoid. Talking to these people diverges into talking about myself as there is always something exciting happening somehow, and they do ask about it (maybe out of politeness, but I'm a bad judge for that). These people sadly form a majority of people around me.

However, there is a much smaller number of people who I can listen to for hours and I genuinely care about what they have to say, so I ask a lot too. These people are really excited about their lives and have stories to tell. In my experience, not a lot of people have that. Also, they tend to care about things that I can say least imagine someone caring about.

So overall, maybe there is nothing to fix on your side here. At least, I think, there is a possibility of this.

For books I've always recommended in a broad scope of character building: How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie.

But that's just a book and its like just reading a book for programming. You have to find a way to put it in practise.

I firmly believe that every society needs to embody some type of short term service for youth to strip away the idea of individualism, and allow them to rebuild only after experiencing working and helping out others. Doesn't need to be the armed forces, just something to hammer into them that you need to work together and look after buddy.

For me I think joining the reserves at a young age (16) cured me of a lot of selfishness. That might be unrealistic to you but sports teams, volunteer groups (Rotary, Lions Club, heck even Toastmasters) help garner this dynamic.

Have you lived in a small community before? You might think you don't like people, but you might realize you don't like people in big cities/companies/stressful environments.

All the best

Honestly, having kids fixed my personality in a thousand significant ways. I was never a raging cerebral narcissist, but I had patterns of responses to situations which were incredibly self-centered. My children didn't change my perspective, that would be too convenient and easy. Having children just gave me more outlets to be the caring, nurturing person that I wanted to be deep down. I enjoy expressing my personality as a dad more than any other persona I've ever tried on.

I'm glad that's working for you, but for anyone else reading, if you think you have some sort of uncontrolled pathological narcissism, please do not have children.

A majority of the people I know who have mental health issues as adult are in that situation at least in part due to narcissistic abuse by their parents. /r/raisedbynarcissists/ has over half a million subscribers for a reason. If you want to have kids, get yourself straightened out psychologically first, or set aside funding for the therapy they'll need ahead of time.

"I'm glad that's working for you, but for anyone else reading, if you think you have some sort of uncontrolled pathological narcissism, please do not have children." Thank you. This is a wonderful, pitch-perfect example of the type of insanely arrogant thing I would have posted in a forum before I had kids.

In Germany a book about narcissism[1] rose to popularity after there has been a documentary[2] on national television in which the books author was featured prominently. I cannot comment on the book because I haven't read it but the documentary was interesting[2]. Unfortunately it seems to be available in German only.

One funny thing for me was that the author runs a self-help group for narcissists. On Facebook. I thought this must be as if the anonymous alcoholics would meet at the local pub.

[1] https://www.amazon.de/Ein-Narzisst-packt-aus-gesellschaftlic...

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPUBuFqo9dU

>a self-help group for narcissists

While this sounds like a comedy I would think that the group would dissolve early since everyone would think everyone else is a loser. The best outcome would be that the members would realize that everyone only talks about themselves and nobody listens to them except to trump or talk over another's story. That would be an interesting ah-hah moment.

You actually see this in real life in some kinds of support groups. There are plenty of folks who had something tragic in their life but want to continue reliving it b/c they have narcissistic traits. My wife says that she wants to be in these groups because they are the only people who understand but all I see are groups with a few narcissists. The groups continue usually because there are enough empathetic folks involved to keep the narcissists entertained. The only solution I see is for a strong group leader to force the group to listen and try to practice empathy.

I don't know if I would say I'm a narcissist, but I have realized that I'm very prone to interrupting people mid-conversation, because it's just what my family does. When I'm with them (or other interrupters), it's totally normal and not rude at all to interject when you have something to say and someone takes a breath, but obviously it's problematic elsewhere. Doubly so when I'm dealing with someone from the South or Midwest who tends to speak more slowly with pauses.

I don't have any brilliant thoughts, I just focus very hard on not interrupting. If I'm on a call, I'll jot down the things I want to say, which helps, but in real life it's just constantly reminding myself that just because someone is taking a breath doesn't mean I should start going.

It sounds like you've _had_ the epiphany.

The important thing now is to remember it, and apply it to your daily life.

This is much less fun, and much harder work. But basically, whenever you're about to do something, ask yourself if you're doing it for the right reasons.

After a while you'll have internalised this to the point where you're not having to correct course hardly at all, and it will be near-zero effort.

And then you can move on to the next thing ;-)

As stupid as it sounds, yoga, surfing, working out and writting helped me.

Narcism is a defense, a self preservation strategy. I have it when I am not feeling well. So I do things that make me feel good (yoga, surfing, workout). As an introvert with narcistic tendencies it helps when I write my thoughts, so I can shelf them instead of thinking the same things over and over again.

Oh yeah, a good therapist is also a fine thing.

"All the books on Amazon are about other people, I want to read a book about me."

That is not at all how you phrased it but in spirit of self-awareness and improvement I reworded it as crass as possible to make the following point- maybe books focused on people dealing with narcissistic people is a great place to start.

*I have zero qualifications in mental health/psychology.

When I show this kind of behavior it’s usually because of a lack self confidence or depression. My Buddhist teacher told me that depression is literally a selfish thing because you are so busy worrying about yourself and don’t have capacity to think about others or to be generous.

Besides seeking professional help I think it helps to review the day in the evening and see if you did any of the behaviors you want to improve on. That way you slowly develop awareness and can start catching yourself from time to time when you do it. And be kind to yourself. Changing deeply ingrained behaviors is very hard.

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:

  Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  Requires excessive admiration
  Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Please refrain from self diagnosis.

Drinking alcohol doesn't make you an alcoholic. Talking about yourself "too much" doesn't make you a narcissist.

Quite to the contrary, it's often said that alcoholism is a self-diagnosed disease. Certainly combating it is much harder without that acknowledgement. Likewise, I can't imagine a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist berating someone in the same way you have for simply wondering if they have manifestations of negative social behavior. Surely many people would miss out on opportunities to reflect and change were they to take your advice.

First, really cool that you are trying to work on you. I am sure that path will lead you to something good.

Concerning your disinterest in people... approach everyone as if they were a teacher. Not only contentwise, but in any regard. Even people at the bottom of society can teach you something about their life by merely looking at them or by exactly analyzing how they talk. See human interaction as a way to learn and not primarily as some humility. Learning makes YOU better, which, in some way, caters to a narcissist trait.

If I had that feeling, I'd probably look for a professional to help me figure out whether narcissism is a correct diagnosis, and if so, what would be the right way for me to deal with it.

Narcissism is a popular armchair diagnosis these days but you haven't really listed anything that makes you abnormal. I don't know who you are but chances are you're not really in need of treatment.

So, if you feel that there are areas where you just want to improve how you interact with people, try ordinary coaching. You can learn how to become interested in what other people do. You can develop habits that demonstrate that you honestly care.

Find a good life coach, counselor or therapist :)

There are other good tips here. The tip I'm about to give should be used supplementary:

Buy Search Inside Yourself (it's a book about meditation written by an early Google software engineer that invited scientific and Buddhist experts to help him out).

Train your compassion by doing the exercises that lead up to Tonglen. Tonglen itself might be too extreme, but he has a milder version of that, that I think is a very good exercise.

I think it was something along the lines of: visualize someone's love flowing into you, then feel that you're multiplying that love by 10 and then give it all back to the person you just got it from.

The second exercise is to look at random people (or known people) and wish them the very best, but be specific about it, make it as personal and specific as possible.

What these 2 exercises do is that they create habits, habits to think about others. When you go about your daily life, you'll notice yourself doing this automatically at a subconscious level at some point.

There's a reason I named my username after this.

Disclaimer: I'm a lazy meditator :( but it does work! And it did have lasting changes.

> I tend to talk too much about myself, I don't enjoy listening to other people, I tend to judge situations only from my perspective, I have an inflated ego and take things too personal.

Isn't that 95% of us?

If there were ten attributes that particularly define a narcissist (wide disagreement on that, so I'm just using an example number), I think most people would have four or five of them by default of humans by nature being normally self-interested.

The narcissist will have a few more critically elevated attributes that are missing or quite weak in your average person: lacking in empathy and caring thoughts of others (narcissists feel like users when you're around them, they use people as tools for how they can feed their narcissism); very aggressive inability to recognize their own wrongs (they'll do everything to avoid this); methodically blaming everyone/everything else for things that go wrong (goes with the last one as a requirement); extreme and sharp turns against others in cases of being blamed or having mistakes & flaws pointed out (even casually; this can't be tolerated, it opens up a personality collapse risk); often a very elevated obsession with image, how they're perceived (often including beauty, but not required); you'll usually see elevated levels of lying and manipulation, often related to maintaining the other items such as image and or getting what the person wants/needs to maintain the ecosystem of narcissism (it's a whole system that has all sorts of requirements, each of which cause other consequences); they will believe they're very, very special, with typically little in the way of supporting life results to back that up (it's an inherent impossibility, as the inflation of image is always far beyond the results, no matter what the results are; and they will have excuses to cover the lack of obvious supporting results, calling themselves lazy for example, for why they've accomplished nothing, while simultaneously proclaiming they could conquer the world if they wanted to).

Maintaining narcissism is its own form of hell for most narcissists. It's a never-ending treadmill of lies, deception, abuse, losing friends, self-torture, unhappiness. They will often not understand why they're so miserable, they offload that on others via blame as well.

True narcissism almost feels like dealing with a sociopath when you're near it. Like you're dealing with a robot or alien.

Religion could help you here, especially Christianity, since a fundamental insight is, as GK Chesterton puts it: "What's wrong with the world? I am."

Without realizing there is something fundamentally wrong with me, i.e. the narcissism aka pride, it is impossible to break free. This is the insight that allowed Dante to leave Hell in the Divine Comedy.

Oh yes.

Believe in this thing that you don't believe in so that you can become a better person. Except that believing for that reason is simply telling yourself a lie. And professing faith based on a lie will make you a worse person. And yet this type of argument is often used by those who seek to spread the Gospel.

See likewise Pascal's Wager.

That said, there is no evidence that I am aware of for Christianity actually making people into better people. I have seen a number of attempts to prove it (for example to support faith based programs in jails), but when the same data was analyzed using normal statistical methodologies (for example not excluding people who left the program because of problems), the evidence disappeared.

Also I personally know people whose lives have been completely changed after believing in Jesus. For example my uncle who used to be part of Hell's Angels. One day he decided to believe in Jesus, and now he runs a drug rehab, is a deacon at his church, and runs missionary trips to preach the Gospel to drug lords in Columbia. Or take my own parents, normal college kids from middle upper class non believing households. My dad chose to follow Jesus while in the Navy, and then he and my mom devoted the rest of their lives to missionary work. Or my wife's mother who grew up living with people doing drugs and living promiscuously, and generally not going anywhere. She and her siblings chose to follow Jesus, left their situation, founded a church, all attended college and some gained advanced degrees and PhDs, and my mother-in-law ran a lab at John Hopkins. My perception is Christianity can certainly change lives for the better, in dramatic ways.

See the western civilization you live. Largely the product of Christianity.

OP can look into Christianity to see if they find it plausible. I am suggesting it is a good place to look, as the premise of Christianity is there is a greater reality than the self.

My understanding of the history is that Christianity took a free ride on a freight train caused by other things that in turn were not helped by Christianity. For example the early history of science shows that science took off exactly where and when conflict between different Christian sects left no religious authority with sufficient power to stop people from exploring dangerous ideas.

And to the tired old argument that our society's cultural values are founded in Christianity, they are not. As a demonstration compare the many, many comments from Jesus against acquiring material wealth with how deeply established Capitalism is in our society. (Mark 10:25 on how hard it is for rich men to get into heaven comes to mind. Note that virtually all Americans are rich by world standards.) Our society, like all others that I know of, cherrypicks from religious texts to find support for what it wants to believe is true, rather than following those texts to the conclusions that are clearly there. (Whether those conclusions are good is a different story.)

In fact most of our most cherished cultural values either predate Christianity (eg the Golden Rule) or postdate the Enlightenment (eg our rejection of slavery). It is hard to point to many that clearly were introduced by the Bible and have become adopted. (Note, just because it is in the Bible does not mean that it was introduced there. Again, see the Golden Rule as an example.)

Those are certainly interesting claims!

There are a number of arguments that science came about in western culture because of Christian belief in an intelligible and orderly creator, at odds with the other philosophies of that time (and arguably our own).

I've also heard that the original invention of capitalism came about within the monastic university system that generated our modern university. Jesus does disparage seeking after material wealth, and the early church held all possessions in common to help the needy among them. But, he also tells the parable of the talents, which encourages people to make the most of what they have, and the one guy who doesn't is punished. So, I would say Jesus is anti-greed, not anti-capitalism. The apostle Paul goes onto say those who don't work should not eat, and that hardworking pastors should be financially rewarded.

Jesus' golden rule is part of the beatitudes, which I understand to be unique among moral teachings. Foundational is the idea that all humans are created in the image of God, and should be loved accordingly. My understanding is chattel slavery came about after the enlightenment, perhaps due to the elimination of belief that all humans are created in the image of God. Instead we have the Darwinian view that humans form a continuum with animals, and thus implying humans can be treated like animals.

I do believe the relationship between Christianity and western culture is more than you propose. If you want some interesting secular books to read on the topic, check out anything by Rodney Stark.

Those are certainly interesting claims!

I believe that they are true ones.

There are a number of arguments that science came about in western culture because of Christian belief in an intelligible and orderly creator, at odds with the other philosophies of that time (and arguably our own).

I have read _Meditations_ by Marcus Aurelius. It is obvious that the idea of an intelligible and orderly creator is very much part of the pagan tradition that he is from, which predates and is not of Christian origin.

Furthermore the intellectual roots of empirical science are in ancient Greece. And when it flourished again starting in the 1600s, religious communities (famously including what happened to Galileo) suppressed the dangerous new line of inquiry. Christianity does not seem to have been of assistance.

I've also heard that the original invention of capitalism came about within the monastic university system that generated our modern university.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_capitalism#Origins_... lists many theories about the origin of capitalism. The idea that it was invented in monastaries is notably absent.

Jesus does disparage seeking after material wealth, and the early church held all possessions in common to help the needy among them. But, he also tells the parable of the talents, which encourages people to make the most of what they have, and the one guy who doesn't is punished. So, I would say Jesus is anti-greed, not anti-capitalism. The apostle Paul goes onto say those who don't work should not eat, and that hardworking pastors should be financially rewarded.

And are these attitudes part of our culture?

Jesus' golden rule is part of the beatitudes, which I understand to be unique among moral teachings. Foundational is the idea that all humans are created in the image of God, and should be loved accordingly. My understanding is chattel slavery came about after the enlightenment, perhaps due to the elimination of belief that all humans are created in the image of God. Instead we have the Darwinian view that humans form a continuum with animals, and thus implying humans can be treated like animals.

If that is your understanding, then you truly do not know the history. Chattel slavery existed from ancient times. Tying chattel slavery to race was religiously justified by the claim that blacks were descended from Caine and therefore cursed and inferior. The development of the Darwinian view of evolution happened in the same general time frame as the ABOLISHMENT of slavery, not its increase.

Compare. England abolished most slavery in 1833. The Origin of the Species was written in 1859. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was 1863. Its actual adoption took place not many years after.

The view that humans form a continuum with animals coincided with a more humane treatment of humans, not less.

An amusing legal note supports this. Read the case of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ellen_Wilson to find that the principle that we should not let children be too badly mistreated by their parents was first enforced in the USA using laws that were intended to prevent undue cruelty to animals. This is a literal case where treating humans as animals lead to humans being treated better!

I do believe the relationship between Christianity and western culture is more than you propose. If you want some interesting secular books to read on the topic, check out anything by Rodney Stark.

I have a counterproposal. Why don't you read https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1185/1185-h/1185-h.htm instead?

And take seriously one of its opening points, namely, "The antagonism we thus witness between Religion and Science is the continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began to attain political power. A divine revelation must necessarily be intolerant of contradiction; it must repudiate all improvement in itself, and view with disdain that arising from the progressive intellectual development of man. But our opinions on every subject are continually liable to modification, from the irresistible advance of human knowledge."

Looks like the conflict thesis and Draper's work have been discredited.


So you ignore all the things that you were clearly wrong on to pick a particular item you could criticize for. That doesn't sound exactly fair.

Furthermore your criticism is itself weak. You drew a parallel between what I said and a discredited version of the history. Well fine. But that discredited version of the history was not at all what I was saying.

What I was saying is that Christianity can't validly claim credit for the progress of science, and that as science progresses there will inevitably come to be conflicts with religion. A short list starts with the fact that the Earth moves around the Sun, the fact that there never was a world flood, the fact that the Earth is much older than the Bible accepts, and evolution. As well as many more minor conflicts.

This is not to say that there aren't people of good will on both sides. It is also not to say that religious people did not contribute to science. From Isaac Newton on down, they did. However the relationship is one where science continues to expand and eventually creates new conflicts with religious faith.

Also the early history of modern science is complicated by the fact that it coincided with the Protestant Reformation. A period where people were killing each other in large numbers over what should have been minor disagreements on faith. (As an example in the 30 years war, something like 1/3 of people living in what is today Germany got killed.) In this atmosphere it was very, very easy for what should be innocuous intellectual inquiry to draw the ire of local religious leaders. And it was also easy for people to self-censor if they got scared. This was not a permanent state of things, but it was a real problem in the 1600s.

To support your view your cite Draper's book, which proposes the conflict view of science and religion. Both Draper's book and the conflict view are discredited.

I, on the other hand, refer to Stark's work, which is state of the art as far as I know.

Most of modern science was founded by religious people. This seems very odd if there is an intrinsic conflict between religion and science.

To avoid a lot of back and forth, what credible modern scholar can you cite to back up your point of view?

But that goes against the current popular mantra of "I am great just the way I am and other people are the cause of my suffering."

Isn't that still narcissistic?

I guess the idea is that since I'm not so great, best to look for something greater.

Well known narcissism-obsessed psychiatry blogger "The Last Psychiatrist" has discussed this a lot, most relevantly in https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/01/can_narcissism_be_cu... and https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/02/the_other_ego_epidem....

Here's (his version of) the tl;dr answer:

> "Help me, please, I think I'm a narcissist. What do I do?"

> There are a hundred correct answers, yet all of them useless, all of them will fail precisely because you want to hear them.

> There's only one that's universally effective, I've said it before and no one liked it. This is step 1: fake it.

> You'll say: but this isn't a treatment, this doesn't make a real change in me, this isn't going to make me less of a narcissist if I'm faking!

> All of those answers are the narcissism talking. All of those answers miss the point: your treatment isn't for you, it's for everyone else.

> If you do not understand this, repeat step 1.

"Laws of Human Nature" by Robert Greene (ironically, also the author of 48 laws of power, which is often criticized for advocating machiavellianism) is an extremely powerful book.

It has two chapters that are especially relevant for you: "Chapter 2: Transform self-love into empathy: The law of narcissism", which might be self-evident in its value from the title, and "Chapter 4: Determine the strength of people's character: The law of compulsive behavior", which discusses toxic personality types, how to avoid them, and what to do in case you notice those patterns in your own behavior. I think you'll find both of those chapters extremely illuminating.

The whole book is worth checking out too. And a relationship with a good executive coach or therapist works wonders too!

First and most important learn to be sincerely grateful for this experience to yourself and the others that make it possible.

This is difficult for at least 2 reasons. First, many (most?) are familiar with gratitude only as a concept but not that much as a feeling. Second, your attention is focused on frustration caused by your awareness of your narcissism as it makes you suffer.

In order to get that genuine feeling of gratitude the focus on your suffering must be dismissed first. Once you caught yourself in this state, notice what your body feels. Pay attention to your eyes, tongue and throat. Relax these while exhaling. You may notice that slight tension behind your forehead caused by keeping focused goes away. Now you're unfocused.

Next, it is necessary to train yourself to be grateful in such situations. As you're suffering from narcissism that is a form of attachment, sort of greed in other words, which naturally blocks gratitude, this will most likely require some effort. Finding your personal trigger for that may be a good way. For instance, some situation in the past where you were truly grateful to someone or something. Once you find that you got the antidote.

This way you may learn that your narcissism isn't something that needs to be fixed but rather your way to learn something about the world and yourself. And maybe it's not even narcissism anymore? It just needs some gratitude. And maybe someday it will be exhausted as there's nothing more to learn, but that won't matter anymore. I personally haven't gone that far yet with mine :)

Lots & LOTS of reading. LOTS of writing (look up journaling CBT). Distancing myself form people who actively engage in those behaviors & enable me to do so. Distance myself from social media (I haven't posted a selfie or personal life update in six months).

Focus on people close to you that engage you on an intellectually or emotionally inspiring way. Find projects that bring you joy (or at least pass the time fairly well).

Make jokes about yourself, to yourself. Take moments to pause & internally acknowledge when you feel you've done something you regret. Force yourself to apologize if it is necessary (but be wary that you may be trying to apologize to facilitate someone else coddling you: ask yourself if your apologizing improves THEIR life, not if it will assuage your guilt).

Good luck!

That's indeed true. A massive amount of writings (noise) are about victims. And rarely good at explaining how to evolve if you are on the other side of things.

As a semi narcissist, I have two things to say:

- you are your nature, take a deep look into it, try to balance it to avoid damaging pitfalls for you and others; after that let yourself be. Trying to distort yourself can be ultra-damaging.

- depending on the case (and you seem, if at all, a soft one since you publicly admit questionning and willing to change) even a deep bred narcissist can change and love other deeply, but beware, love is an emotional exchange and when your brain start to live on mutual affection, you're now subject to the pain that goes with it when bonds fail. Another ultra-damaging scenario.

Best of luck

Introspection is the most important first step. You can get a psychological evaluation to determine if you actually have a clinical disorder or you are high on the narcissistic spectrum.

In the meantime, do you recognize yourself in any of the listed traits on the following website? https://outofthefog.website/personality-disorders-1/2015/12/...

I found it enlightening to learn about the term 'narcissistic supply' (search for Sam Vaknin, he has a website and a youtube channel).

I wouldn't use the word narcissism to describe this. I'm worried about suggesting too many things, so maybe just consider these two:

1. Your traits and actions, both good and bad, what are they? Can you describe them, in other words, can you describe yourself through them? Try to do it, and do not use the word "am." Try to write down as many as you can.

(In other words, never "I am a fisherman", only "I fish.")

2. Spend time trying to consciously improve other peoples lives. Work through the barriers you have to doing this and your life will improve, too.

Practice these. If it's not immediately obvious why both of these are necessary, give it time.

It might not be full-blown psychiatry-diagnosed narcissism. It just might be inflamed ego. I really resonated with a book called Ego Is the Enemy. It's fast to read, and I've read it a couple times. It's improved my vigilance against my own ego gaining too much control over me.

I'm certainly not ego-less, but I definitely improved my happiness significantly by making an attempt to weaken the impact of my own ego.

Also, understanding how ego tries to work is a great reference frame for interpreting my own and others' behaviors. That's first step to dealing smartly with them.

Be careful about self-diagnosis. Everyone has narcissistic traits, and everyone has personality glitches. You're probably not a narcissist because you worry you are one -- actual narcissists just think they're great all the time.

But yes, learning to be more considerate and focused on others is worthwhile. The easiest and most immediate solution to what you're dealing with is to put more energy into focusing on others -- approach conversations as an attempt to understand where other people are coming from.

Just that simple fix will make you less focused on yourself.

It seems to me that life in most forms are self-centered by nature and necessity, and it takes conscious effort to develop empathy for others.

Human society might be the worst (and best perhaps!) in terms of sacrificing the whole world to glorify the self, or vice versa.

Motherhood (or parenthood) is a clear exception, dedicating oneself for another - but it could be argued that is also in "self" interest, a larger sense of self over generations.

Altruism might be the antidote to narcissism. Paying attention and caring for others as one would for the self. I think it's also about having a larger sense of self, encompassing the whole of creation.

If you were a narcissist, you probably wouldn't notice or didn't want to fix it. I think this is part of the definition.

But being egocentric is probably normal for some parts of the population.

I fixed this by only hanging out with people who interest me. So I would genuinely hear what they have to say. This also led to most men disappearing out of my life. Somehow I don't find men interesting.

Also, I started being an interesting person myself, so people would be actually interested if I would speak about me. I mean, it one thing to bore everyone around you, but if they want you to talk, why not do it?

This question seems like a trap... asking people who have overcome narcissism to talk about how much better they are now. Wouldn't that be narcissistic?

With that said, I'll agree that talking to a mental health professional might be the best thing, if you can afford it. Autistic spectrum disorder, for example, sometimes looks like narcissism... if you can't sense other's emotional states, it makes listening to them instead of talking about yourself more difficult, mimicking narcissism. And I'm sure there are other diagnoses that might also have the same effect.

Overcoming narcissism doesn't mean never talking about oneself. Thinking it does may be a sign of black and white thinking.

The biggest and most important step is realising you have a problem and wanting to change. I was a bit like what you describe during high school and late teens, but I saw it not only affects my personal relationships - it doesn't align with my moral code. It's very hard to recognise narcissism in yourself, but you have done it. I'm pretty sure from here the way to overcome it is straightforward. And don't beat yourself up too much, everyone has a bit of narcissism in them, you just have a bit too much. You will work through this - I'm sure.

Finding a critical thinking best friend from the gender you are attracted to really helps here. Not being offended to harsh criticism will be the hardest part but it is definitely worth it. As you can imagine, this requires blind trust towards that friend, which is fine. Such friends will be responsible for your sanity check, especially if they are not afraid of telling you "Dude, WTF?" when you are at your worst. Making yourself lovable to others (not artificially) is a good motivator to accept the fact that you can love yourself less and still survive.

In a Taekwondo dojang I used to attend, the instructor had a sign on the wall that listed four rules one of which was to accept humility, the opposite of narcissism. And that is what you need to learn, accept humility. Perhaps join a martial art gym and get your butt kicked a few times.

I also did some boxing and it was incredibly intimidating stepping into the ring with some seriously scary dudes who knocked me around like a rag doll. But you take the lumps and learn from them. I took a lighthearted approach when boxing. Most of the dudes going there really wanted to be prize fight winning boxers whereas I wanted the exercise and fighting experience. So I'd spar with some welterweights and do my own commentary as I had my ass kicked. "And Ramirez comes in with a quick right... thwomp... followed by a jab... thunk..." I had fun. I didn't get mad, upset or take it personally. After a while I got better and could land shots as my focus and speed improved. Then the gym closed and I didn't bother to go somewhere else.

And I practice similar at work. I've learned to point out and laugh at my mistakes to coworkers which eases the frustration. I accept that I'm not perfect yet I have confidence in my skills and I always tell myself there is more to learn. Bragging is just hot air. Brag through your work. And I have had a lot of excellent compliments through my career and that keeps me being the best person I can.

Narcissism can be driven by a lot of factors, so it depends on why you are narcissistic.

If you feel that your life is not going right, that you aren't taking care of yourself and your responsibilities properly, this can drive you to focus your attention on yourself and be less curious about others.

If you feel that other people do not care about you, that you are entirely on your own, this can drive you to focus on yourself and be less curious about others.

Of course ideally you would use a temporary state of self-focus to put yourself back on a positive track and achieve a greater level of security that then allows you to broaden your concern to embrace others. If you do that, you are not a narcissist; you just took some time to get yourself straight. You put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

If, on the other hand, you get stuck in the mode of focusing exclusively on yourself, without making progress on the factors that drive your self-focus, possibly even making the negative factors worse and making your isolation self-reinforcing, then it becomes pathological. You might need therapy to help you focus more on others and solve the underlying problems another way.

The issues driving your narcissism might be different, but no matter what they are, I recommend a double-pronged approach: actively practice caring for others in defiance of whatever dynamic is causing your narcissism, and at the same time investigate the underlying problems in psychotherapy, because the better you address those issues, the less unnatural it will feel to care for others.


It seems like narcissism requires the subject to be unaware of their self-absorption and/or antisocially putting their needs always above those of others, especially with a lack of guilt and/or remorse. Furthermore, there is an opposite extreme: considering the needs of others always above self, e.g., giving everything away and not taking care of oneself before taking care of others.

Perhaps there are several general potential sources of dysfunction in this realm:

0. Mood/physiological disorders like depression and anxiety, which can be managed and occasionally cured.

1. Personality disorders including clinically-relevant psychopathy which cannot be cured but only managed and coped-with.

2. A desire to seek-out victimhood or conditions by self-diagnosing symptoms that don't rise to the level of clinical/life impairment.

3. Realization (or lack thereof) that there is almost always a non-zero sum game to life, e.g., living is predicated on, and necessitates, hoarding scarce energy and resources.

I don't think it's a good idea to self-diagnose or offer unsolicited advice on the internet to others. Ask a professional in the real world who is a) not you and b) has a more objective/dispassionate perspective. Also, there are many existential questions and dilemmas that are good to ponder, but ultimately have few perfect answers or resolvable conclusions.

Stress, especially without robust coping mechanisms, can make you withdrawn.

That can show up as lack of empathy and selfishness. You can be selfish and not be a narcissist.

The oxygen mask rule applies here. You can’t take care of anyone else while you’re floundering. Counterintuively, making a conscious effort to take care of yourself may free up energy for helping others. Right now you might be choosing you by default. And since it’s undirected, the costs are higher and the benefits lower.

What helped me the most was reading the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and following the instructions. It's cheesy, it's old school, it's a classic, it's outdated but darn it the (outdated) advice in that book really does work, and it really did help me turn my personality around and even improved my outlook on life/humanity. I didn't really take an interest in others that much beforehand, but once I started being more extroverted and chatting with others, more people became my friend and I feel more engrossed in my community- I even know my bank teller and sandwich guys names now and realized I'm downright cheerful at times. I take more of an interest in others and keep getting promoted at work due to what seems solely on my personality... I mean, my quality of work is good, too. For example, a recent award I won cited, "your positive energy is contagious and especially welcome tackling tough projects."

But yeah... that book brought me from a depressed cynic to someone who takes an interest in others and basically the whole world is my friend- even people I haven't met yet, they are just friends I don't know yet.

My former partner behaved in narcisstic ways from time to time.

I didn’t even know what narcissism was until after we broke up after 8 years.

But dealing with narcissistic behavior was absolutely awful. It left me mystified about all sorts of things to do with us, as well as hurt and feeling abused.

She’d never ever acknowledge her narcissistic behavior so even recognizing it puts you in the right path to addressing it.

And for those people who suspect they have close relationships with narcissistic behavior, run if you can.

Yup, same. Was in a 10 year relationship with a narc. Took about 4 years after to figure out what happened. It felt like walking out of a thick fog.

Most of the advice in this thread to cure narcissism is completely useless. People are posting things like go to church, join a group, have a family, etc, but they don't understand the truth that narcissists are truly broken people on the inside incapable of any type of self-reflection.

OP likely isn't a narc because narcs can't see anything wrong with any of their behavior. Everyone in their life could tell them that their behavior is toxic and they will spin it in their heads that they are the victim.

> And for those people who suspect they have close relationships with narcissistic behavior, run if you can.

Best piece of advice in the entire thread.

>> She’d never ever acknowledge her narcissistic behavior so even recognizing it puts you in the right path to addressing it.

It's a core narc trait to not acknowledge their own behavior.

The narcissistic dynamics is a bit different: a narcissist pretends he is perfect and everything that is wrong is in or caused by the outside world and other people. (Deep down he is not sure of that, but is terrified to even consider that it might be possible to think to have a real look.) Now, if you're not satisfied with yourself this is very non-narcissistic. Selfish and/or autistic perhaps, but it's different. (Plus, all these are words that try to delineate rather vague concepts anyway; it's not that important to find the "right" label here, it would actually obscure the real picture.)

I cannot suggest a specific approach, but I'd recommend to trust your guts on this and watch out for serendipity moments. Like picking a book that "looks at you" even if it is doesn't fit your idea of how it must be done (e.g. picking a religious book if you're not religious). Or bypassing a book store and going to a dance studio instead. I'd say it's not that common to want to change yourself like this and if you have come to this, then you have something in you that might guide you.

I ran into a couple people who are just hands down better than me in every aspect that I can think of. And that made me realize that I'm just a normal person.

Learn about and practice meditation. There are scientific studies proving that the practice increases empathy. Narcissism is also related to a low level of empathy.

Frankly, I've thought a lot about narcissism and I'm beginning to think it's a bit nonsensical, as in some ways I think it can be used as a term to demonize others to justify the cognitive dissonance of treating them poorly. Similar to any kind of generalization... you assign a label to dehumanize them.

For example, some commonly associated traits ascribed to narcissism are a desire of power, status, or admiration from others; the the self-perception of being unique, and a lack of empathy for others. Now why would someone psychologically end up fixated on these traits? Well perhaps, they've been treated poorly and are dejected from others. They are on the receiving end of lack of empathy, are downtrodden, and abused. If they had power, status, admiration, or generally were treated well they wouldn't feel like their ego's were so fragile. So they exaggerate their importance to try to gain what they're lacking, and lash out if they feel they are wronged.

So, to me, people with these traits seem to be concerned about what others think of them. Sure the "them", at the end of that last sentence makes it seem they're being self-centered. But read it again; the words "concerned about others" co-exist in that sentence - words that describe altruism. Why would someone be concerned with their appearance? Perhaps they've been treated poorly by others... and are worried they're unacceptable to society... So they focus on themselves.

I'd say don't worry about it much, it's easy to beat yourself up. I know that's not much help, but for me thinking this way helps me realize I'm not perfect nor no-one is and that there are many grey areas in life that are subjective. In all, you might not actually be narcissistic...

Yeah its a vicious cycle, many people how have encountered a narcissist can spot another one easily. If experienced, usually they will seek to distance themselves from that person. Usually the discussion goes something like: "oh he's the kind of person to do x" or "she's said y can you believe it? why are people like that?"

The person has little clue they are pretty different and wonder why it is so hard to make friends or get close to anyone. An acquaintance of mine once lamented about how she never was able to keep close friends for more than 2 years, I kinda knew why but I wasn't in the position to tell her how selfish/narcissistic she can be.

The thing is, people who avoid narcissists, have their justifications for doing so, no one wants to be in a one sided friendship/relationship. They aren't making excuses to treat them poorly because they don't like that person, they've seen the person take and be selfish without giving and it drains them and they distance themselves as a result.

You are already making progress or you are not a narcissist after all. Narcissists never accept that they are narcissists or come to that realization.

Actually most narcissists will tell you they are a narcissist. The thing they won't do is do anything about it.


There are various forms of subconscious emotional healing work that can vastly improve the way you interact with others, as well as your own emotional balance and self-regard.

I've been undertaking this kind of work for about 7-8 years and counting.

Some examples are Holotropic Breathwork, Ericksonian Hypnosis, and kinesiology-based practices like Psych-K.

There are many, and it's worth trying different ones until you find one that you connect with.

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