I’m currently reading the psychology classic The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller- which takes a comprehensive look at the psyche of those afflicted by Grandiosity (present in Narcissism and Mania) and Depression. She is able to delve deeply into the psychological past of those who have developed these symptoms (Bipolar/Narcissistic Personality/Borderline Personality amongst other disorders) and- as a very basic summary of her theories- attributes it to the following:
1. Not being able to freely feel our authentic emotions, feelings, needs.
We have repressed our feelings, needs and emotions as children due to insecure parenting. Theses authentic emotions and needs in the negative, such as despair, anger, loneliness, jealousy, helplessness,etc were threatening to our mother’s sense of security, inconvenient and anxiety-provoking. (This is due to our mother’s insecure parenting during her childhood. Secure mothers are able to deal more effectively and skillfully with these needs in their children).
Children need the love of their parents to survive, so shut off these anxiety-provoking emotions.
2. Furthermore the child develops an assigned family role to boost the insecure family.
To boost the family’s social standing/insecurities, the child is “assigned” a role, using their talents, achievements, special abilities, beauty or behaviour (good, mature, pure, virtuous, helpful, perfect- strong link with Christian families I think!).
So not only are we forbidden from “bad” behaviour, some of us also become “achievers”. Self-respect is therefore now dependent on qualities, functions, achievements and performance, all variables that can ultimately fail us.
Because of theses expectations that have been ingrained in us, and the lack of being able to experience our authentic self (therefore love), we seek ADMIRATION as a substitute for LOVE. However, as admiration is aimed at the achievements, beauty or behaviour, this is NOT our TRUE SELF. Our true self is whole and encompasses all those needs and emotions and inconveniences. It needs love not admiration.
My Own Issues.
Looking at my life so far from the viewpoint of Alice Miller it is so easy to see where I have developed my highly vigilant people-pleasing. I’m still living like this- terrified to feel rage and grief and jealousy for the fear of “God” (the old, childish view of God I used to have), my parents and even now, my boyfriend. I am terrified of being abandoned and deep down do not believe I am capable of taking care of myself.
Due to Bipolar I have “lost” my gifts of achievement and am now living as an underachiever. I guess I am now on the journey to loving and accepting myself as I am and allowing myself to be average.
Even though I’m trying to tell myself it’s safe and OK to be average, inside I’m screaming no it bloody well isn’t! I have to be the best at everything otherwise what’s the damn point!!! The only point in drawing something or performing or behaving “well” is to secure approval from other people. If what I do is crap, there’s no point in doing it!! I HAVE to be the BEST!!!!!! I can’t be average – Mum & Dad will just trample all over me. They see no point in the arts except for enjoyment, so maybe if I can be the best at them, they’ll let me have a career in them?! I’ll show them!
Woah! I didn’t know I felt like that! Rationally I know the point is enjoyment, fun, creativity and fulfilling my artistic needs, or in the case of emotions- expressing my anger etc to keep me emotionally healthy. I can logically see the point, it just hasn’t internalised yet, I guess it takes time. How weird that things your parents have said to you as kids still linger so deep in the memory.
For some great perfectionism therapy try listening to Perfect by Alanis Morisette