Australian author, Esther Hunter, presents the idea that narcissism can be a precursor to personal-development, self-confidence, and ultimately spiritual awakening. We interviewed her regarding her latest book, From Narcissism to Nirvana.
Why did you become interested in the topic of narcissism?
I experienced narcissistic abuse. As a result, I have been attracted to narcissists, and I also developed narcissistic traits myself. Sharing information about narcissism is my way of making all the abuse and loneliness I used to accept as normal in life count for something positive.
Why did you title the book ‘From Narcissism to Nirvana?’
When you let go of all your baggage; trauma, stories, limitations, and fears, there is a sensation of peace, acceptance, and oneness with everything which has its own momentum and takes over you in the most beautiful way. It feels sacred and holy. Some people describe it like coming home to themselves. I simply felt like all was well in the world, and I fully belonged to myself. I want other people to experience this, too.
Why do you think most people are taught to avoid narcissists?
Narcissistic behaviour is very confusing and harmful if you are not educated about personality disorders. A quick internet search will bring you up-to-date on what to look out for. The current advice for how to handle a narcissistic situation generally amounts to leaving and cutting contact. There is a huge need to provide help for people involved in a narcissistic dynamic who would like to stay and completely work through their issues. We generally avoid anything we don’t have the skills to deal with safely.
Are we experiencing an epidemic of narcissism?
In places that have become more materialistic, I believe so. The nuclear family structure is fragile. Young children need a community of attentive caregivers surrounding them. Unfortunately, children have come to be viewed as the individual property of their parents; possessions which they can do whatever they want with instead of simply being extra humans for the world. We have created a number of generations now who have had to vie for the attention of one or two caregivers. This does not provide enough shock absorption whenever something affects the parents’ ability to show up properly for the child. As a result, many people now struggle with relationship problems caused by deep abandonment issues. Attachment trauma can developmentally-stunt a child at an age where they have not learnt how to healthily communicate, regulate their emotions, take accountability for their actions, or be responsible for making decisions. Narcissism makes a lot more sense when viewed through the lens of arrested development. Without a healthy example of how to mature into a stable adult, narcissists remain children into adulthood and develop unhealthy coping strategies to deal with how frustrating that is.
Is narcissism possible to heal?
Of course! There is a huge difference of opinion about this. I have personally witnessed many journeys of recovery. Narcissism exists on a spectrum, so there may be more of a chance for those lower down the scale of pathology to be open to looking in the mirror at themselves and developing the strength to change. Change can often be instant. I go into detail in the book about the fast way it can happen (where they experience a band-aid rip which simulates traditional ‘initiation’ practices to kill off the child/ego), and I discuss how we can slowly and compassionately heal ourselves by consciously resolving triggers (which polarise us and thus make us prone to addiction).
What are you hoping readers will take from your book?
I want to help everyone experience contentment and freedom in their lives, let go of fear and hatred, and look at themselves and each other with unconditional love. This book offers hope about challenges a lot of us would rather avoid. Many of us are realising we will continue encountering narcissists until we heal. Being vibrationally matched with a narcissist cannot be brushed aside. There is this unconscious magnetic pull which drives us to keep going back until we’ve ‘learnt the lesson’ which is embedded inside the struggle. This can be confusing, because contemporary advice by many Psychologists and Therapists unintentionally adds shame to the situation by insinuating the right thing to do is to avoid narcissists. This will occur naturally when the lesson is learnt because there won’t be unresolved trauma inside you becoming activated by them. Avoidance and unnatural suppression are issues I have a whole chapter dedicated to in the book. They cannot be manually applied. Similar to a chicken having to crack through its own shell, we have to develop a robust identity and an ability to take care of ourselves and others responsibly. Nobody else can heal our abandonment issues, low self-esteem, insecurity, and shame.
What are the signs someone might be experiencing narcissism in their life if they haven’t heard about it before?
You may be manipulating others to get your needs met, or being easily manipulated to meet others’ needs. This can be done overtly with violence and intimidation, or covertly with guilt and lying. There is an underlying feeling of powerlessness. The key is to understand that there is no need to feel ashamed if you recognise that you have been partaking in this sort of behaviour. Then you can practice accountability, which is the first step towards giving and receiving apologies, forgiveness, and moving on for a fresh start.
When we are young, we are not in control of our emotions. This makes us incredibly vulnerable. If we are not guided to develop a strong sense of Self, healthy boundaries, or emotional maturity by a loving caregiver, we either continue being taken advantage of by others into adulthood, or simply flip the script and perpetuate the cycle by exploiting people to meet our needs. This is mostly done unconsciously, stemming from early beliefs formed surrounding how to value human beings. Having the courage to acknowledge patterns of thinking and behaving which need to be changed is the beginning of the most fulfilling journey from narcissism to nirvana.
From Narcissism to Nirvana, by Esther Hunter, is available to buy directly from the website www.fromnarcissismtonirvana.com and most other major booksellers.