Self-absorption can be a good thing

Self-absorption: the root of all (psychological) evil?

Source: Geralt / Pixabay Public Domain

If you've ever received a call self absorbedYou can be sure that you have not received a compliment. The root definition of the term is not only negative, but also saturated with unfavorable connotations. As is commonly understood, the concept is synonymous with self employed, egocentric, self-obsessed-and even selfish and selfish.

Dictionaries unattractively define self-absorption as "preoccupied with oneself or in one's own business" and often add that it is "to the exclusion of others or the outside world". That said, selfish people usually don't show great concern about anyone or anything outside of their (close) self-interest. As such, they usually make little effort to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. And if they focus too much on themselves, they can easily miss the mark if they try. They generally don't make the best of friends.

Obviously, paying attention to our wants and needs is appropriate, even necessary. But whether we are feeling extremely bad or nervous, worrying about how others perceive us, or indulging in grandiose thoughts about our "specialty", we get into a state of toxic self-absorption. And as a personality, a trait that overly cares for ourselves - and at the expense of almost all other considerations - is typically viewed not only as abnormal but also as unethical. Because such behavior shows almost the opposite of altruism.

When self-absorption is examined in the literature, it is generally in contrast to self-reflection, self-awareness and introspection - personality traits are valued much more positively as they are related to maturity, sensitivity and the achievement of valuable personal insights. And they're also seen as a way for individuals to treat others more thoughtfully.

But I haven't seen any discussion from authors on the subject how many Mental dysfunction can be understood precisely as "diseases" of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments to many depressive disorders, to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder, and To most personality disorder, self-absorption can be viewed as an important role. Hence, any effective treatment for these dysfunctions must involve substantial to reduce these obsessively self-centered tendencies.

Experts in pathological narcissism routinely speak of self-absorption as perhaps the most "identifying" trait of this personality disorder. And her descriptions of such an intense self-focus are anything but flattering. Narcissists' self-absorption reveals their grandiosity, their sense of entitlement, and their lack of empathy and exploitative relationships. Borderline personalities are also characterized as being absorbed in themselves -so Immersed in themselves that these individuals often cannot see what is going on around them and not only interpret what others are saying and doing, but routinely come to wrong conclusions about how others are looking at them.

While all narcissists and boundaries are self-absorbed, not all self-absorbed individuals justify that they represent either personality disorder. And as I said, many other Personality disorders can be viewed as self-absorption (histrionic, paranoid, avoidant, dependent, and compulsive).

What psychiatrists sometimes fail to take into account are:

  • The key role self-absorption plays in mood disorders - and a host of other non-personality disorders as well
  • How best to understand self-absorption as a key strategy that vulnerable people use to protect themselves from immediate mental and emotional threats.

Self-absorption and fear

Let us first consider self-absorption, which alleviates nervous, helpless, or shameful feelings in anxiety disorders. According to Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT, "Beneath their selfishness, they are likely to be afraid of feeling flawed, powerless, unworthy, or out of control" (as quoted by Laurie Sue Brockway, P & Geveryday). And I would add something to that threatened, susceptible, and unsure- which is at the core of why self-absorption is such a common trait in people who have deep doubts about themselves that it interferes with their daily functioning.

In addition, people with an anxiety disorder are “affected” by self-absorption, not because they are selfish or insensitive to others (like narcissists), but because they are caught up in disruptive, repetitive thought processes that reflect fears both in terms of personal adequacy and like others they could (disadvantageously) see.

Undoubtedly, their destructive habit of analyzing self-critical rumination is compulsive and very different from the self-congratulatory inner meander of narcissists. However, the anxiety sufferer's introspective efforts represent attempts to engage in something that bothers them. And by at least fully aware of their fears, they divert the perceived danger of being complete obsolete through these (mostly irrational) fears.

Write for New York MagazineMelissa Dahl humorously observes:

Nerves have a way of getting you to fold in on yourself and obsess over every unpleasant thing you said or did in front of someone you want to impress. They talk, but they are also very focused on it youtry to find out the impression you are making. In the meantime, you've missed the last five minutes of the conversation, which makes it very likely that the impression you're making is that you are an idiot. [!]

Such rumination is less able to accurately identify another's perspective and has significant relationship costs. And while this self-focus in and of itself does not indicate an anxiety disorder, if constant or exaggerated, it is undoubtedly characteristic of someone suffering from such an illness.

Another study (2012) cited by Dahl, two Canadian researchers, looked at whether fear makes people focus on themselves, or whether such focus actually existsleads to Afraid these experimenters found evidence to support the latter hypothesis. And this is certainly a rich food for additional scientific consideration. Because the literature rarely, if ever, values ​​the possibility that self-absorption is possible precipitate Anxiety, depression and other mental disorders - rather than just being one of their undesirable effects.

Self-absorption and depression

Think how this description of depression complements the discussion of anxiety above:

Depressed people are constantly dealing with self-accusations about how bad (stupid, ugly, worthless) they are; There is a continuous, critical inner voice that tears the person down, questioning every move and questioning every decision. . . . People with major depression seem completely self-absorbed and involved. This incessant, negative internal dialogue is an intense shame for those affected.

And if you specifically look at depression from an ego-disapproving Buddhist perspective, here is an insightful entry on the web forum:

I believe that self-centeredness is the root cause of depression. And not just depression, but every disease in the world as we know it. The irony is, I can only retrospectively NOW looking back at my state of mind when I was depressed: "Ego all the way, me, me, me, my problems, my depression, my past, my my mine. "This very selfish, egocentric fascination with my own ego and its agenda has kept me trapped in this depression for so long. . . . I was just feeding my ego. . . and pity me. . . This is selfishness in its highest - or should I say lowest - form.

For me this is an impressive example of the tunnel vision that can characterize many people who are burdened by compulsive rumination. And as with so many other mental disorders, there can be no inner peace or contentment for anyone plagued by such endlessly recyclable thoughts. This reversed mental focus can also be understood as actual Create-and sustainable- That painful state of mind and mood is not just one of the unfortunate side effects.

The high cost of self-absorption

Listed here are just a few of the adverse effects of such sad self-involvement:

  • According to Catrina McFate, the Dalai Lama, based on a lecture he attended at a New York symposium on Buddhism and Buddhism, meditation found that “people who tend to use more self-referential terms (me, me, myself ) tend to have more health problems and previous deaths. "
  • As many writers have noted, our relationships are sometimes irreparably damaged by a self-activity that undermines closeness, or intimacy that all relationships require if they are caring and resilient.
  • As indicated earlier, constant self-immersion undermines our ability to empathize and truly understand the thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires of others. It is extremely difficult to clearly see the world that exists outside of us when our focus is inward most of the time.
  • As long as we go on pretty much daily to become obsessed with all personal matters, happiness, satisfaction and stable wellbeing will be impossible to achieve.

There are practical things we can do to overcome what may have become a lifelong habit or "curse".

© 2016 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All rights reserved.