This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Amorality & Narcissism: Requirements for Individuation?

This post is a response to a few of the comments received from Part 2 and Part 3 of my series The Midlife Journey: Understanding, Accepting & Embracing the Outcome.

Orwhatyouwill
Amorality and narcissism seem to be the requirements for individuation to occur (I’ve gotten this message loud and clear from the Jungian books I’ve read).

Ouch, be still my Jungian heart! Okay, melodramatics aside, I disagree and yet I can understand how people can misinterpret and thus misuse Jungian messages—MLCers are sure great at twisting them! I also must admit that this comment and the comment on Judgment were my favorites to consider! I could say so many things, but I will attempt to stay on task.

Following Your Bliss

The directive to follow your bliss came from Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth series on PBS and it is perhaps one of his most popular and yet misunderstood sayings, though I must admit I was saddened and surprised to see Michelle Weiner Davis—who I think is a great author and I admire her work—referencing it negatively on facebook.

“Follow your bliss”- decidedly bad advice for marriage. While marriage can feel blissful from time to time, like anything else in life, it can also be very difficult. And when it is, you have to do things you might not feel like doing. Swallowing your pride, realizing you need to change, putting your spouses’ and children’s needs before your own, and….. What you FEEL like doing isn’t always as important as what you need to do to be a good spouse, parent, friend, son/daughter….Anything worth having is a thing worth working on. When do YOU do what needs to be done rather than just follow your bliss. -MWD

So what does follow your bliss mean?

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”[1]

What is Bliss?
As you may know by now, I like to define my terms, but I think of bliss like I think of Grace. To me it feels more poetic—left-brained—than prosaic. That means that the idea is perhaps more subjective and thus harder to define, or at least the definition is not so linear. But then, being a poet at heart, it is a more beautiful thing than something which is more easily defined. Merriam-Webster online defines bliss as complete happiness or paradise/heaven. Those are both good, though I prefer joy to happiness. But here are some more subjective and poetic ideas of what it is.

  • The song or calling of your soul
  • That thing which makes your heart leap (Wordworth’s rainbow in the sky)
  • The joy within
  • A state of joy
  • That which is meant for you by God
  • Harmony in life; that point where all things come together to form beauty or grace

Selfish
An action that is taken for personal gain or desire at the expense or harm of others and without consideration for the well-being of others.

Self-Centered
To be balanced (centered) within Self—well-adjusted.

Bliss is something divine and thus it cannot be selfish. It is not about desire, but true nature. It does not strive for fame and fortune, but for joy and communion. Taking the path of bliss is a process of self-centering, becoming balanced in relationship with Self, God and others—the world. God gives to each of us our unique talents and our individual paths of bliss are those which utilize those God-given gifts. Bliss comes with Acceptance of who you are and Joy in who you are and it is a celebration of the surging of life within and through you. It creates an attractive force which enables harmony—the congruence of all things coming together to form beauty and grace.

MLCers think that they are following their bliss. They are certainly hearing a call, but they fail to understand and instead misinterpret what they are supposed to do. Their Shadow is calling and they run away and fall in fear, landing in the arms of temptation. Addictive highs may feel like what they think bliss should feel.

Campbell did not say that bliss is an easy path. He talks about life falling into place—synchronicity—but that does not mean easy. MLCers take what is in some easy the easy path. It’s not truly easy, but it feels easier than facing their Shadow.

Narcissus

Narcissus fell in love with his reflection.
Mother’s look into the face of their newborn and fall in-love.
If we are made in the image of God, He sees himself when looking upon us.
When considering our unity and how I recognize myself when looking upon you and feel love…is that not also narcissism?

Narcissism—the disease—is about lacking a sense of Self. Narcissus did not look upon others and recognize himself reflected in them. He pined away focusing on his physical reflection in water and in so doing he [missed out] on relationship with others which could have lead him to a deeper knowing of his Self.

NPDers lack a sense of Self. They mimic and yet their inability to empathize prevents union with others. In knowing you I come to know my Self, but a narcissist cannot do this; they know neither you nor their own Self. Narcissus did not fall in-love with himself; he fell in-love with his reflection—or rather he became in-fatuated with it. Had he looked away and given his attention to Echo, he could have found himself. Had he looked into her eyes he would have not only seen himself reflected, but he would have also peered in to her. But perhaps he would have needed someone other than Echo; she had no voice of her own and could only borrow—mimicking like narcissists. So Echo is to sound what Narcissus is to vision—though not quite since Echo repeated the sound of others rather than pining upon her own voice.

MLCers, in narcissistic Replay, are afraid of their true reflection—the reflection they see when looking in the eyes of others. They instead find an Echo, someone who will spout empty praise and faun over them.

Narcissism—the disease—is mutually exclusive from individuation which is an act in service of Self—so yes, it is Self-serving. But it is not about meeting desires or even needs at the expense of others. It is about Self-discovery and coming into one’s authentic or core Self. It is a state of harmony and since harmony is the congruence of all things coming together to form beauty and grace, it is about union. The more I discover my Self, the more I realize that we are not separate beings or even separate objects; we are one.

But we are flawed human beings and the ideas of individuation are easily twisted. MLCers who think deeply often use such an excuse.



[1] Campbell, Joseph. Reflections in the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

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Comments

Following Your Bliss & Narcissus4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Following Your Bliss & Narcissus | Love AnyWay | Love Advice

  2. Narcissism, and personality disorders (PD) are something to take very seriously, a MLC is one thing and a PD is quite another and very serious and as it becomes more pronounced, it may well be a form of sociopathy. There is no saving such a person, only the acceptance of long term abuse or constant hyper-vigilant boundary enforcement. A sociopath has no empathy for you, does not care about your pain, is only interested in his or her source of supply and if that supply comes from causing you pain? Then they will happily destroy you – research the symptoms and protect yourselves and your children. In particular, look out for the confusing language patterns, decoys, lies, manipulations – and skill, cunningness and lack of conscience in relation to these traits. If you can see this – be very weary, it’s a slippery slope and it only goes in one direction.

  3. Thanks, RCR.

    "MLCers think that they are following their bliss. They are certainly hearing a call, but they fail to understand and instead misinterpret what they are supposed to do. Their Shadow is calling and they run away and fall in fear, landing in the arms of temptation. Addictive highs may feel like what they think bliss should feel."

    "MLCers, in narcissistic Replay, are afraid of their true reflection—the reflection they see when looking in the eyes of others. They instead find an Echo, someone who will spout empty praise and faun over them."

    I agree, and I also think that the narcissism of MLC shows itself in their withdrawal, inward focus, inability to show empathy…. at least with my MLCer, I think he was actually unable to consider anyone's feelings but his own. He was/maybe still is totally focused on himself.

    Re follow your bliss. My WS and I were interested in Joseph Campbell long before his MLC began. Here's an irony for you. We were actually watching the Power of Myth on video the night before I found out about OW#1 which was the first inkling I had of anything going on. It came out of the blue. We were watching the Power of Myth and I caught him the next morning (literally a few hours after we'd been watching it together!) on a tryst, lying to me about where he'd gone.

    He seemed repentant at the time and I remember asking him how on earth he could have just been watching Joseph Campbell and not seen any conflict with what he went out and did the following morning. He didn't see any conflict. I watched the Power of Myth again by myself a few years later… long after all hell had broken loose in our lives and my WS was long gone… and I thought wow, that was another example of my WS really not "getting" something in the right way… or at least what I think is right. He had a twisted take on everything during MLC. I could see how an MLCer or narcissist would take Campbell's words to mean something they weren't intended. And then Campbell himself later said that he wished he'd never come up with that phrase because of how it had been misinterpreted. He might as well have said "follow your blisters." LOL

    As far as amoral… I still see it that way. The psyche is amoral. I think that morals are cultural. They are things that human beings create. Right/wrong is a judgement call and open to interpretation and context.

    MLCers don't show much in the way of conventional morals, generally speaking. As you put it, "Their Shadow is calling and they run away and fall in fear, landing in the arms of temptation. Addictive highs may feel like what they think bliss should feel."

    If an MLC is one path toward individuation, I would call it amoral. Morals are not part of the equation on that road to individuation.

    But not everyone has an MLC and I think an MLC is not a requirement on the road to individuation, right? So maybe a person can follow a path toward individuation while maintaining some kind of moral compass… i.e., not breaking marriage vows, not hurting people (including themselves), not falling into the addictions/"fun" replay behaviors we often see with MLCers…

    I'm not sure psychoanalysis (with or without an MLC involved) involves much consideration of conventional morals. It seems like a pretty narcissistic (and I don't mean it in the sense of the personality disorder) process… very inward-focused/naval-gazing. I don't have first-hand experience with it, so that's just my impression.

    Thanks for putting so much time into these posts, RCR. I'm enjoying the discussion.

  4. Thanks for the information RCR. I would add that labelling is not always helpful. Not everyone who behaves follows the pattern can necessarily be called 'narcissistic.' Actually, people with very low self esteem can 'appear' to be this and yet they are the opposite. I think we all have Narcissus in us somewhere.

    I agree about the blindsided bliss though!

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