THE CONVERSION OF A NARCISSIST


Deep in the heart of Florence, the city that is the jewel of Tuscany, there once was a certain Father Hippolitus.  He strove to cultivate the virtue of piety and had a painting executed of Our Lord pierced with thorns. He displayed this fine work of art in his room near a window that looked out onto an open street.

Before this painting he often stood and meditated upon the Divine Love of Our Lord that led Him to offer His Blood for us, so much so that it ran from his scalp down His Face. Hippolitus had a neighbor, a lady who lived right across the road from him. She was a narcissist in the most traditional sense, classically vain and she derived narcissistic supply by admiring her own appearance and making herself feel special by obsessing over her looks.

When she looked across her street and saw Hippolitus stare at the painting of Christ's Face stabbed with many thorns, she thought he was looking at a mirror and admiring his reflection as a way of self-worship. In this way she looked to see her own image in Hippolitus - she assumed he was just like her - and that he gratified his ego by preening before a looking glass. The narcissistic lady became insanely curious as to the type of "mirror" that the priest looked upon for such long periods. And so she summoned the nerve, and went and asked him to show it to her.

Hippolitus agreed to show it to her - but first he did not disabuse her by telling her it was not a mirror per se - rather he just handed her the painting to behold. When she beheld the "mirror", she was astonished to see the Face of Christ look back at her. She felt a sudden narcissistic injury, she was found out as the one so vain she craved a mirror, but she could not take her eyes off the Face of Our Lord, Who had allowed His aspect to be assailed by a circle of thorns like barbed wire which had punctured his scalp.

She saw in Him, her opposite, the willingness to have His skin ravaged for our sake. Hippolitus saw his opportunity, "Behold here the mirror in which you, too, should daily contemplate yourself. See our poor Savior, for love of us so basely maltreated. Will you, too, remain cold as did the Jews to whom Pilate presented the lacerated Jesus, crying out, "Behold the Man!"? As this Countenance of our Redeemer is disfigured by wounds, so is your soul disfigured by sin. Wash your soul with tears of compunction, and instead of this sad and disfigured image, you will one day behold and admire the glorified Countenance of the Divine Savior eternally in Heaven."

In that instant, the lady accepted Hippolitus's words of admonishment, that her soul was "disfigured", which is truly the proof that she had been healed of the toxic narcissism that will broke no breaking of the delusion that the entire self is to special as to be beyond reproach. She was converted from self-worship to worship of Christ, and thereafter she led a penitential life where she repented of her old self-absorbed ways.

Our Lord created in us a need to adore, to worship the Holy Trinity, and I would like to proffer that narcissism is self-adoration which supplants adoration of God. To remedy narcissism, the narcissist may get the grace to abandon worship of self, and replace it with worship of Christ, and they may forfeit narcissistic fixes or "supply" in favor of seeking to do all for Christ's glory, and not their own. Our Lord's Sorrowful Passion, where He subjected Himself to the foulest insults and the most vicious abuse is the counter to narcissism, it puts to shame the self-destructive fawning over self, where the ego has to be protected at all costs, because He Whose Face we adore gave Himself up to be lacerated for our sins. It is impossible to adore He Who suffered for our sins, and to adore our sinfulness simultaneously, and I posit that narcissism is excessive love of one's sinfulness.

It is no exaggeration to say I have read most of the major psychological literature on narcissism, and it pains me to admit that someone who manipulated me so hideously had all the signs of covert narcissism. In the solemn books on narcissism, the experts often conclude that most extreme narcissists do not change or become better through treatment. As Christians we believe true transformation only comes through Christ. I humbly submit that to adore Our Lord's Face may be the first catalyst in the conversion of a narcissist, who like the Florentine lady we have just encountered, will see in Christ their opposite, and may change so as to be like Him.

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One book where readers may find the account of Hippolitus and the narcissistic lady is Devotion to the Holy Face which I heartily recommend. I am researching a book on Hippolitus - written in Italian by an Italian author - who may also have been a spiritual son of Padre Pio's.

Comments

  1. My 90 year old neighbor smokes a cigar twice a day and can see easily to my bedroom window. He is a self-proclaimed athiest, although, he grew up Catholic. I am going to put this photo of Christ in my window looking out and he will have to look at it everyday! God can do the work!

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  2. Hi Mary, I Tried 3 different internet browsers using a PC and your blog writings don't render properly. For example, the St. Christiana image is covering up a few paragraphs of "THE CONVERSION OF A NARCISSIST." There are no problems while using phone or tablet. Keep up the great work! --Anonymous guy with time on his hands from NY.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Guy from NY - Thank you for your comment. Other readers have fixed this issue by going to the zoom function / the magnifier and reducing the text of the page. I hope this works for you, too. Thank you for your encouragement. God bless you

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  3. Please remember to come back in the future and comment about your experience.

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  4. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. When we seek to understand that we exist because of God, not because others approve of us or we approve of ourselves, then we can have peace of heart. St Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

    (My advice to any readers: pray to understand the difference between humility and humiliation, which can be opposites, people often think they are the same thing; also politely avoid narcissists and sociopaths and be honest to yourself when someone is that way. Don't accept gifts from them, throw away what they've given, they only give to spiritually "own" you. Put them in God's Hands and don't dwell on them or their abuse. Forgive them. God will heal you of narcissism and abuse from narcissism if you go to confession every so often, like monthly, and pray.)

    Litany of Humility copied from EWTN
    O Jesus, meek and humble of heart,

    Hear me.

    From the desire of being esteemed,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being loved,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being extolled,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being honored,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being praised,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being preferred to others,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being consulted,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the desire of being approved,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being humiliated,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being despised,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of suffering rebukes,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being calumniated,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being forgotten,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being ridiculed,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being wronged,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    From the fear of being suspected,

    Deliver me, O Jesus.

    That others may be loved more than I,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may be esteemed more than I,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may be chosen and I set aside,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may be praised and I go unnoticed,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may be preferred to me in everything,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

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  6. in my thoughts prayers are the most important to get relief from the side effects done by a narcissist

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