Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A tutorial on narcissism

Last night, an old school friend came over for dinner and we ended up talking until 2 AM about -- of all things -- narcissism.

The topic was so interesting that we sat down at the dinner table at about 8 PM, and when we next looked at our watches, it was 2 AM.

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I'd come straight from a weekend at a Batangas beach as well.

In fact, I was still driving out of Punta Fuego and we'd been on text, when I'd decided to invite her for dinner back in Manila so we could talk about a trip she was planning to one of my favorite places in the world.

Of course I could give her tips and advice. In fact, I can talk about this destination all night.


But instead we ended up talking about narcissism mostly, and alluding to a friend with an imaginary seat at the dinner table.

We talked about two people in particular. And without even discussing it, we'd both just given one of them a place at the dinner table. Everytime his name came up, we would both look at the empty table setting across us, as if he was there.

At some point, I finally burst out laughing. Then I said: "If he isn't asleep at this time, he must be biting his tongue."


Such an enjoyable dinner, even if it meant I'd lost my blogging time as a result.

As soon as she'd left, I went online to answer emails that had been pinging all night while I studiously kept away from my Blackberry to discuss narcissism in detail.

And when I was finally finished and ready to call it a day, it was 4 AM.


For last night's dinner, I'd decided on a menu of healthy Mediterranean food.

On the way home from Batangas, I passed the Tagaytay market to stock up on vegetables for dinner -- fresh tomatoes and greens to chop up and go into a tabbouleh salad, cucumbers for an eggplant and cucumber dish, and carrots and squash for a tagine.

I was so surprised with the prices as everything was a fraction of the cost in Manila.

At one stall, I found eight pineapples being sold for PhP100 because the vendor wanted to get rid of them already. Of course I bought them, thinking I could juice some, eat some more, and grill whatever else was left.

On Sunday, in my friend N's beach house for lunch, we'd had grilled pineapples as one of the starters, and they'd been absolutely amazing.


Happily, my friend last night loved the food. As for me, I loved the conversation. I gave her a tutorial on narcissism to begin with.

She said, after hearing part of my discourse: "My god. You should charge tuition. And I should be taking notes."

I just smiled and replied: "Ask me anything. I've had lots of experience with these kinds."

Yes. Any industry with "superstars" such as the financial industry, politics or the media, for instance, is bound to attract a lot of narcissists because they gravitate towards high-profile positions and tend to do very well.

Most of these people are perfectly nice, highly intelligententertaining and extremely charming -- at arm's length.


Almost always, being a narcissist is not their fault; it's something that happened to them as a child.

They're not aware of themselves as narcissists, and they're also not aware that they're hurting other people close to them by their lack of emotional intimacy.

Then I felt I had to explain: "We all have some element of narcissism in us. This need for admiration is what gets us up in the morning and helps ensure that people do a good job at school or at work. It's one of the things that prompts you to dress well, look good and keep yourself fit.

But narcissists have an overdose of this need for admiration so everything -- literally everything -- is all about them."


She asked: "But isn't narcissism curable?"

I shook my head sadly. I'd seen so many hopeless cases that had only resulted in broken hearts for the other party. Many psychologists, too, have pronounced narcissism as incurable.

So I said: "Don't go there. Real narcissism is generally incurable, even if everyone who becomes involved with a narcissist somehow believes he or she is the one who will be the person to change everything."

Then I added: "But it usually just ends in tears. Narcissists will tire of their partners and seek other sources of admiration, just because it's in their DNA to do so. At the same time, they will never be able to give the other person enough of what he or she wants or needs."

My friend turned serious at this point -- we were having something akin to a clinical discussion on a pyschological disorder after all -- and said: "What a sad story. What a sad life."

I nodded. Thinking about some people in this situation always left me heavy-hearted but there's almost nothing to be done. So at this point, I simply said: "Now let's get back to talking about a Travelife instead."



  1. Well documented dear! "We all have some element of narcissism within us!" Till the next Mediterranean treat! : )

  2. Sigh. We should really discuss this in a more surreal setting. Like amidst the temples of Sri Lanka. Are you coming along?? :)