Body/mind (material realm)
Narcissism is both a natural step in everyone’s human development, and a way of indicating a particular kind of dysfunction some [many?] express. This natural narcissism is the ordinary process of ego development. The Red [CP] values system comes online in direct correspondence with ego development. Natural narcissism is the process of developing the individual self. Mature, healthy CP forms a personal container, the boundary that binds an individual together into a healthy, ego-driven worldview. This ego, this personal container, is a necessary but insufficient aspect of human development. We’ve talked before (Know thyself) about Martin Buber’s I-It relationship—it’s native to mature, healthy Red. Arrested or Closed CP embodies, “No one tells me what to do!”
Values associated with Red, the third values system include:
…power; ego-centered; decisiveness; control; passion; independence; testing self against others for dominance; winning; exploitive; I-centered; expression; tyranny; instinct; champion; self-referential; self-preserving; emotional; and impulsive values
Pathological narcissism describes a continuing over-emphasis on the self, an overreach of Red [CP] in post-Red contexts—e.g., Blue [DQ]; Orange [ER]; etc. I feel this pathological narcissism is always a matter of degree, variously expressed, and dynamic in relation to Life Conditions [LCs]. Every self truly begins as a narcissist, and even those who grow a sturdy, healthy ego must vigilantly maintain an appropriately balanced relationship with self in the midst of new opportunities, challenges, and changing LCs—recall the confirmation bias.
Sin || Red [CP] overreach || pathological narcissism
You may choose your preferred designation, or frame—sin | Red [CP] overreach | pathological narcissism—, but, I feel we’re talking about the same thing. We make note that designating the expression of a particular value system as ‘naïve’ is not an indictment of pathology because naïve expression simply betrays an immature, underdeveloped relationship with the mature version of any particular values system. So, it’s important that we remember that ‘naïve expression’ is not intrinsically sinful.
‘Made to grow’
We are made to grow into the fullness of Christ [Ephesians 4.15], however, being underdeveloped is not a sin. Trauma, and other factors, may make development difficult or problematic. Perhaps it would be helpful here to offer Strong’s definition of what ‘sin’ means in the biblical context. The ancient Greek term ἁμαρτία, hamartia: a sin, failure (in an ethical sense), means a loss, or failure, e.g., to have no-share for missing the mark or not hitting the target. Biblically, and in Wesleyan terms, sin is a dysfunctional emphasis on, and relationship with, one’s own self. Missing the mark in favoring the self with regard to balancing the relationship of self and community—justice for both the many and the one.
Soul (spiritual realm)
Wisely, in On Loving God, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) begins his four degrees of love where we all begin, the love of self for one’s own sake. Again, trauma can effect this as we all know of people who do not appear to love themselves. At the very least, Bernard’s developmental schema declares that love of self is the beginning and basis of growth in Love. The first degree is a gift from G-d—otherwise how could we experientially know how generous, faithful, gracious, encouraging, and hopeful ‘Love’ is? Bernard’s first degree of Love identifies a mystical reference point that scripture had previously leveraged, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18; Matt 22:37—39]
Remedial work (healing)
As control is a lynch pin of the Red [CP] values system, it’s also a tell on the dysfunctional narcissism of overreaching Red. The spiritual dimension of healing the overreach of CP has been likened to Falling Upward. The ‘control’ dimension of one’s overreaching Red can make healing feel about like this:
Providence often reveals the necessity of our losing control—and it feeling like jumping/flying off a cliff and getting our stuffing knocked out on the way down. In my life, having life-threatening cancer served a good example of this.
Discovering the gifts in our shadow
Some Christian expressions of Blue [DQ] values project sin, or overreaching Red [CP], as a ‘demon’—a control spirit. In an enumeration of the gifts handed out by the “one Spirit,” Saint Paul writes, “…to another the discernment of spirits, …” (1 Corinthians 12:10). In my experience, that’s like saying, “It takes one to know one.” A few months back I wrote about widespread ‘demon possession’ in The United Methodist Church [UMC]. [Being a Wounded Healer…] I argued that persons, leaders, and groups on all sides of UMC divisions were expressing the demon possession of a ‘control spirit.’
Empathy only comes the hard way sometimes. Next week, more overreaching Red.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?