Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Dragon of Grandiosity (Part 2)

Continuing on from yesterday's post, unregulated grandiosity is a disaster relationally. The real person you are relating to will intrude into your grandiosity. They might not worship you, or then again might not want you to be their slave, and our grandiosity won't like that at all. However, the best location to deal with grandiosity is to relate to others, so that where we can find healing for our grandiosity is exactly that place where we can be undone by it. There is nowhere else to go to be healed other than relating to real people (and a real God, but more on that later).

No one is ever fully healed of grandiosity. It must be confronted and worked with, intelligently. Relating to real people is essential, as are two other techniques. We need to keep in contact with our real humanity, which includes particularly what the Christian tradition calls our sin. We are not the centre of the universe. The other tool is prayer. Prayer enables us to direct our own spiritual energies, and those we receive from others, onto the one who is able to carry it, namely God. These two techniques of connection with our sin and prayer are important especially for those leadership professions where people transfer their individual grandiosity onto the leader. For example, teachers, priests, politicians,and counsellors are all susceptible to this transferred grandiosity, and it can be disastrous. Look how much ego there is in politics, secular or ecclesiastical, for example. It also goes part of the way to explain the moral failure in these professions. When a priest, politician or counsellor has an extra-marital affair, Moore is suggesting that it is, at least partly, an attempt to ameliorate excessive grandiosity by human failure. (There's a better way to do it, of course.)

Facing the Dragon is an important book, and while the Jungian language can get a bit too much at times, it is worth it for the deep insights into being human.

Some quotes:

When we consciously face our hidden superiority complex, our preening sense of entitlement, enlightenment, and self-righteousness, then we can escape our delusional claim to be helpless victims and our anxieties mysteriously begin to diminish. (p. 207)

Spiritually speaking, you don't ask, "Am I a sinner?" You ask, "How am I a sinner?" So psychologically speaking, you shouldn't ask, "Am I carrying any narcissistic pathology?" You should ask, "Where is my narcissistic pathology? How am I acting it out? Where is my continuing residual unconscious, unregulated grandiosity possessing me and destroying my relationships?" (p. 147)

I love to teach comparative psychotherapy , because all therapies are trying to help you do that same type of thing, to be more realistic, to be less totalistic in your claims, to do less exaggerating, to do fewer behaviors based on some sense of entitlement or special exemptions, and help the individual to face limitations. All therapies tend to address these issues in some form or another. (p. 144)

Sometimes people think if they just prayed enough, or went to enough masses, then their grandiosity would stop being seductive. Or if they became a cardinal, or a bishop, or a mother superior, it would not be seductive anymore. The truth, or course, is just the opposite, because the more successful you get, the more seductive grandiosity gets. The more traumas and tragedies you have in your life, the more grandiosity will attack you. It can tell you how impressive it is that you are still alive, or it can chide you into depression by suggesting you might as well go ahead and commit suicide. Many suicidal thoughts come from a grandiose perfectionism. (p. 136)

(On the need to pray if you are in a profession of archetypal transference of grandiosity from others onto you, e.g. priest, politician, teacher)
If you are in one of those helping professions where you get a lot of archetypal transferences, you do not pray because it is pious or sweet or nice ... You pray to stay alive, to get help in dealing with your grandiosity... You can take that energy that is coming toward you and, through your prayer, pass it on. "Here," you say, "this is really yours, Lord. Take it. It belongs to you." (p. 95. See also p. 93.)

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