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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Still talking about a favorite subject

By Dick Hirsch
Sure, I enjoy talking about my favorite subject, but only in a limited way.
My favorite subject isn’t business or current affairs, sports or music, food or travel, art or chocolate chip cookies. No, while I believe I maintain a lively interest in all of those topics, they aren’t my favorite. My favorite topic is me.
Let’s be honest. It’s the same with you, too. Somebody once said “If I am not for me, who will be?” or something like that. I don’t know who it was, but it has always been an accurate statement with a universal application.
But some people carry it to an extreme and it is very obvious. They are happiest when they are talking about themselves. Endlessly. I am not going to name any names here, but I can assure you that I have come in contact with several people over the years who fall into that category. I have been fortunate because I do not have one friend who thinks he or she is absolutely the most intelligent, interesting, vivacious, compelling person in this part of the state.
My friends don’t really dwell on themselves. They admire themselves, I’m sure, but they don’t dwell on it, at least not with endless elocution about themselves. They understand that no one is as interesting to the rest of the world as they are to themselves. Probably the reason we get along so well is that all of us are willing to answer questions about our lives and activities, but we don’t consider an inquiry to be an invitation to embark on a length declamation.
You may be wondering about why I have chosen this topic. That’s a semi-interesting matter. I never feel impelled to bore readers who ask about the source of my ideas by explaining my methods. In this case, however I raised the question myself because we’re dealing with a personality issue.
I usually carry a small notebook into which I occasionally write messages regarding possible topics. Some of those notes never are acted upon. The particular note that prompted this subject has been in that notebook for at least three years. It says: “ppl tlkg abt slf.”
I remember the precise time I wrote that down. It was after being exposed to a person who finds himself extremely brilliant, irresistibly attractive, exceedingly well-coordinated, a remarkable conversationalist, a professional of renown in his chosen field as well as a variety of other areas. He considers himself a person to be admired.
I had known him for several years, so I knew what was in store for me when we met at a social event. He gave me the full treatment. It probably lasted only 20 minutes before I was able to escape, but it seemed much, much longer.
”I’ll be right back,” I lied. “I want to get a drink.”
Of course I had no intention of ever returning to that spot. But it wasn’t a complete lie because after what I had endured, I needed a drink. My departure didn’t matter to him. As I moved quickly away, I wasn’t watching, but I’m sure that he was scanning the room, looking for another potential listener.
Whenever I see him---hopefully it is at a distance---I think of the punch line I heard years ago. It went like this: “That’s enough about me. What’s new with you? How did you like my latest movie?”
There is a word for people like that. It is called narcissist. Such people adore themselves above all else. They love themselves. They are examples of egomania carried to an extreme.
The tale of Narcissus from Greek mythology is relevant in these cases. There are some minor variations, but the accepted story is of a handsome youth, Narcissus, the son of the river god, Cephissus, and the sea nymph, Liriope, who saw his own reflection a fountain and, having previously spurned a maiden who loved him, soon fell in love with his own image. He pined away for the reflection with such intensity that his condition eventually deteriorated until he perished and was transformed into the flower that bears his name.
I provide this brief story concerning “ppl tlkg abt slf” primarily to express my support of and sympathy for those trapped in some kind of relationship with a narcissist. It also sends an alert to readers about the presence of these individuals, who can be found lurking in the most unlikely places. When encountered, think of an exit strategy and excuse yourself as quickly as possible.



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