Saturday, January 04, 2014

The narcissist loves the body of the other as a reflection of his own ...


I came across the post header quote in an essay on the art of Lani Irwin, a female painter I've often admired.  I don't usually 'read' the paintings of others, preferring rather to experience them as one might do with abstract expressionism.  I think that might make me 'self-referential' :).

Be that as it may, while reading the essay I was referred to this and that article on the subject of narcissism and recognized how large a role that condition plays in the life of gay men.  I only speak about gay men because I know very little about gay women, much less normal women.  Just last week I had to ask someone what a vagina was.  On one level, I was being facetious, but I have to admit I wasn't entirely sure of what the difference is from camel toes, and to be sure, I had no idea they could yawp. 

More seriously, I think a great deal of the problem with gay, especially in contemporary culture, is a problem of charity - love of God and neighbor - the first neighbor being ourselves.  Yet our self-love is inordinate, which to some extent is natural and grace is needed to overcome it.  Left unattended, it becomes disordered.

Years ago someone once left a comment on a post I wrote citing evidence of narcissism on blogs.  My critic remarked on how ironic it was for me, a man with 3 blogs, to be calling out others for what most of us consider a character defect.  She was right of course.  I'm a big narcissist.

Narcissism becomes a sort of impediment to not only friendship, but to love of God.  Indeed it is excessive self love which leads us to satisfy our every inordinate appetite and desire.  What heals that is surrender to God's love.  All traditional spiritual writers make that clear, so I have nothing to add.  I'm just sharing a light that dawned for me which helps me understand an aspect of what may be going on with younger gay men - be they the New Homophiles or just gay and happy with it. 

Just some thoughts ...
... to say my body is myself is to say that to love my body is to say I love myself. The narcissist falls back on what Freud called the “body ego,” and in a sense can never get beyond it: the narcissist loves the body of the other as a reflection of her own body. Self-love— narcissistic curiosity about, even fascinated concern with  the  female  body and with that the female self ... - Source
Men do that.  Porn is a staple for gay men.  Idolizing the male physique - addicted to the gym.  Fantasy romances with hot actors.  Gay is very much about idolatry and narcissism.  (Disclaimer: Before you hit me for generalizations... This does not apply for the perfect, well adjusted gay man of course, and certainly not ALL gay men, and to be sure NOT ALL gay Catholics.  Oh, and this is so not about clinical narcissism - the disorder.  What?)
As Arnold Hauser points out, narcissism, at its most serious, involves “self-observation, in the sense of self-examination and the acquisition of self-awareness.” - Source

And isn't that what all the writers end up doing?  Navel/crotch gazing?

Maybe not.

For me, the essay is somewhat provocative - here's another thought to mull over ...
The narcissist is peculiarly “self-alienated”: without her reflection—and Hauser, following the lead of Valéry’s “interpretation,” notes that the Narcissus of the legend is as much female as male—she feels incomplete and insignificant. She needs that reflection to be herself, even though the reflection is an illusion, a sort of false self. For Hauser, mannerist art is quintessentially narcissistic, suggesting that Irwin’s narcissistic art is quintessentially mannerist. Her use of mannerist “postures and movements” to “fetishize” the figure into static perfection, along with the mannerist view that “all the world’s a stage”—a sort of “costume” party in which everyone is playing a role, in which everything is artificial, however natural it may look—confirm the mannerism. Are Irwin’s roses artificial or natural? They must be artificial, because they do not decay. - Donald Kuspit

Narcissism can be healed of course - that's the Good News, in fact therein lies the secret of freedom from unwanted same sex attraction.  (If you want to be gay and same sex attracted, that's a different matter.)  The ordinary way of healing is pretty much a maturing process - yes, a self-acceptance - although not of what we project ourselves to be, or what culture dictates we must be.  As a Catholic it is found in and through the ordinary means offered through the Church, sacraments, prayer, ascesis, and going out from self to serve others.  It doesn't always mean one must join a group or an organization or even volunteering at church.  We go out of ourselves through self denial.  We can serve others through prayer and the ordinary fulfillment of our duties in our state in life.  That is the greatness of ordinary life.  The narcissist cannot tolerate ordinary life ... The narcissist needs to be exceptional and clings to that which makes him so.

Think about it.

If we have charity we cannot sin against our brother or his body.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces. -GMH


  1. I was talking to someone about what makes a kid gay & he told me about all this mirroring stuff - well I mean - it's never-ending. I'm totally baffled. Anyway one of my kids has a friend who had 2 moms. Well things moved on & they seperated. Then one of the moms got a boyfriend. i used to be bothered - now I just say whatever - err.

  2. Terry, I can only hope the vagina thing was your weird sense of humor : )

    "Men do that. Porn is a staple for gay men. Idolizing the male physique - addicted to the gym. Fantasy romances with hot actors. Gay is very much about idolatry and narcissism. (Disclaimer: Before you hit me for generalizations.."

    Im not going to hit you for generalizing..but I am going to hit you for conveniently not mentioning that straight men in general like porn are visual and are stimulated by the visual, much more then women are. Havent you ever seen SI and the swimsuits, calendars with babes bouncing out of their tops, etc. Ever walk down the street with a friend and they nearly trip on a fire hydrant they are so busy check out the rack on some girl walking by?

    Besides those issues I think your right that there is connection between narcissism and gay, though I don't think that it is something spiritually inherent because of their sexuality. I think you mentioned it in your post, "immaturity." Gay people (at least in the past) had no role models for healthy sexual maturity like straight people do. Constantly being told they are freaks or worse, and having to hide it I think stops many of them from maturing past high school or college.

    I just thrink its freaky that someone would date someone who looks, dresses and acts just like themselves....believe me I have better taste then to date someone who looks like me!!!

    1. The vagina reference was about a comment I made on another person's blog - it appears she is something of a ventriloquist. JK.

      Yes, straight men seem to like porn - but it is opposite sex attraction and lust.

      It's always lust.

      It's a kind of idolatry.

      Same sex stuff - seems to me to me - to have a lot to do with narcissism. In our day and age.

      I may be wrong.

    2. Oh1 Oh! And it isn't about finding someone just like me, it's finding someone just like I would like to be, or maybe even, someone I can make like me. Unconsciously of course.

      Or not.

  3. A...ventriloquist???? I thought I have seen it all.

    And what kind of blogs are you on Mr. Catholic Boy???

    1. Haha! The Anchoress did a post about vaginal fury. What?

    2. Reminds me of a favorite scene from "Priscilla." :)

  4. +JMJ+

    The Last Psychiatrist writes mostly about narcissism in heterosexual men, but this post reminds me a lot of one of his posts. (I'll link it up after I find it again.)

    Basically, he says that a narcissist will be attracted to someone not because he (or she!) actually likes the person, but because that other person fits the image of the kind of girlfriend/boyfriend/friend/acquaintance/fill-in-the-blank whom The Person Whom The Narcissist Thinks He Is would have. (Yes, I know that sentence is convoluted, but it's also an accurate paraphrase. =P)

    In other words, a narcissist has no idea what he really wants, because he has no idea who he really is. But he does know how he wants to appear. To borrow your word now, Terry, he wants to appear exceptional. Yet since he has no proper sense of self, his "exceptional-ness" must come from external things, such as having the right girlfriend/boyfriend/etc. Or maybe even the right shoes. To a narcissist, there is no difference between a person and a pair of shoes, inasmuch as both can be reflections of his imagined self.

    1. I always forget about that blog - must revisit it.

  5. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Just to let you know, Mr Nelson, that I've nominated you for a Sunshine award from over here in England - in the hope that my few followers might hop over to your blog, which I very much enjoy reading. Happy New Year!

  6. Terry (and Enbrethiliel), thanks for drawing out the bizarre paradox of the narcissist: closed in upon himself yet becomes ever further from himself as his narcissism deepens. It brings back memories. It's really a taste of Hell--an alienation from love and being.

    I was a narcissist for almost twenty years and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Even in my early 30s--despite my success as an academic and with women--I would timidly take semi-nude photos of myself like a 16 year old girl. I wanted to make sure I looked like the guy on the cover of GQ. Sad. I also remember staring at my face in photos and feeling a deep estrangement--like, 'Who are you?' Perpetual self-love wounds us and we remain in a state of adolescence.

    1. "Perpetual self-love wounds us and we remain in a state of adolescence."

      You got it. Look at the culture.

      Thanks Scott.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.