Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

October 27, 2011—November 21, 2011

October 27, 2011
When I began to understand the signs of narcissism, I was startled to recognize that many of the women I have been drawn to were narcissists. Michael Maccoby’s book on narcissists in the workplace helps make it clear. Narcissists have a compelling need to make others see the world through their eyes, and sometimes they project beautiful and valuable visions, which they then have the energy and determination to help others to see. In the work of women’s liberation, we spent our days inspired by our visions of a more humane, more spiritual world free from patriarchy—we were all vision makers. Not surprisingly, the most powerful vision-makers drew them to us, almost erotically, to partake of their vision of a woman’s world. And speaking of the erotic, confidence is one of the most erotic traits, one that narcissists exude.

Even when their visions are less beautiful, that confidence can be a magnet in itself. In our admiration of the narcissist’s apparent self-sufficiency, sureness, engagement with life, we feel that by being around them we might learn to be like them, to discover their secret. This may be especially true for women, whose confidence has often been tamped down. However, the last thing the narcissist wishes is for someone else to be perceived as her/his equal or to surpass them for even an instant. So paradoxically, we find ourselves less, not more secure about ourselves after we have spent time with the narcissist. That is actually his/her (unconscious) intention—to hold us down so that s/he can never have to glimpse his/her own insecurity that s/he works so desperately to hide from him/herself.

November 3, 2011
Bettina says it’s the Little Person within us who wants so much to be seen, who wants the mirror held up so she can see her value, that energizes both of us in our chosen work of enabling others to see themselves, allowing ourselves to be their mirror. We love this work because it satisfies a deep hunger in ourselves, though because it meets that hunger, we often carry it on too long until we reach a point of exhaustion.

I can see now with my sister and myself that the work each of us does in the world is the reflection of our childhoods. My sister works out of righteous anger, a sense of injustice that comes from my father’s domination and exploitation of her. As Bettina perceived, I work out of the child-who-was-not-seen, who inspires my insistence on creating the possibility for others to be seen and valued. (Of course my sister was also a child-who-was-not-seen but in a very different way—she was seen and focussed on as the reflection of my father.)

It becomes clearer that if we are to allow our gifts that were developed out of childhood suffering to be used in the service of the universe, it is important to purge them of the childhood urgency, the ego needs—through metta toward our Little People, through therapeutic release of our child’s pain, through mindfulness training, through all the Buddha’s tools for developing equanimity, whatever is required to help us release the past and be grounded in the present.

November 19, 2011
When we suffer we are always going back to childhood—I see this ever more surely, in the hospital work, with myself, with Bettina, with friends.

When we create a litany about our sufferings—this isn’t right about my life, that is wrong, I don’t have any of this, I have more than I can bear of that—the litany recreates the child’s need to be heard by the parent. She is presenting a case, piling up the evidence to our adult selves for why she deserves attention. When we have come to a place in life where we have satisfied the child’s insistence that we know her suffering, we no longer need the litany, even when we face a myriad of life challenges, because we have become the caregiver. When the child is satisfied that as an adult we see her, we can afford to know that there is no parent there (in a sense there never was), and we no longer need to prove to someone else that we are suffering. We are free to care for ourselves and our own needs, to acknowledge our difficulties and attend to them.

When we create our litany, we are actually intensifying our suffering. We are reproducing in our spirits the little girl in the dark bedroom calling out when nobody came. So not only have we sprained our ankle on the day the divorce papers came on the day we are trying to move. We are lying in bed in the dark and nobody cares.

November 21, 2011
Sande asks, “what’s so great about growing old?”

If I have to answer in one sentence:
Feeling myself closer to the heart of death brings me closer to the heart of life.