Narcissism, Compulsion and the Soul.

There were once two psychiatrists. The one invites the other for dinner. The guest arrives, asks to use the bathroom and disappears for an hour. Eventually he emerges with a knowing look.

”You have a serious obsessive compulsion,’ he says to his collegue, ”there are 542 bars of soap in your bathroom. I know, I counted every last one.”

Of course psychological conditions are bound to overlap but Narcissism and OCD seem to have a special relationship.


I was watching a Ted Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘ Eat, Pray, Love’. She made the point that people who became very successful had a tendency to go mad and top themselves because they confuse themselves with the ‘Genius Loci’ who served as their muse.

The solution, she said, is to remember that ‘genius’, is its own thing. Not-me.

Very Interesting, but what is your point?

The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves. ~Carl Jung.

Narcissism notoriously lives out only one corner of (an idealised) life. Both the dark Brother, the less than salubrious aspects of himself, and the unlived potential, The Self, have to be projected…

and then come banging at the castle gates again and again.

And because the contents projected are always the same…

the banging is also the same…

and so interpersonal scenarios are endlessly repeated..

as are ritualised patterns of behaviour behind closed doors.

We live in a time of relative spiritual malaise. We also live in a time of marked obsessiveness and compulsive behaviour.

Could there be a connection?

Its curious that the definition and symptoms listed by DSM5 for a diagnosis of OCD (which includes praying!) sound distinctly like the ritual contents of religious ceremony. These include,

”repetitive behaviours, according to rules that must be rigidly applied.”DSM5

like a church service….

Precisely. Sacramental acts are also, ‘aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dread event.’

What’s the connection with Narcissism?

Waaal, Narcissism is particularily prone to OCD not just because the dark brother is eternally projected, but because the ego is identified with the Self. This means that there is no real spiritual life.

I don’t get it.

Spiritual life necessitates a relationship with God..


but if you are identified with God then there is no relationship. Instead of having a religion, the religion has you…

By the scruff…

And marches its children off to war….

or down to the supermarket for a dozen bottles of bleach and a pack of toothbrushes so you can purify the pelmets of your appartment at 4 in the morning…

or out in the rain to buy cigarretes while every bone in your body is screaming, ‘DON’T DO IT!!’.

or muttering shameful babble to appease the fates whilst not realising that the person next to you on the bus is lookin’ at you strangely…

or washing endlessly in lieu of a genuine cleansing.

”It is not a matter of indifference if one calls something a ‘mania’ or a ‘god’. To serve a mania is detestable and undignified. But to serve a god is full of meaning and promise.” CG Jung

Narcissism won’t share, has no story, nothing to be a part off…

because there is no relatedness or participation in that which transcends it.

And for the want of partness in the greater whole we have compulsive patterning instead.

Like a stuck gramaphone record doing the same thing over and over. Round and round. Instead of meaningful sacrament we have chaotic excrement.

Instead of being drawn we are driven.

The fantasy that we are the captains of our own ships beckons the raven’s claw.

”Whoever sets himself up as judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.” A Einstein.

For want of having a story to belong in we are caught eternally on the same page.

And more than that, for want of the Principle of Relatedness that gifts us with both belonging and the internal flexibility of a conversation between I and me, we are robbed not just of meaningful context but of our own humanity..

which is perhaps why the DSM5 definition of OCD uses the language of automation, describing the phenomenon as ‘the brain’s junk mail.” Though it significantly acknowledges that OCD is responsible for, ”communication errors among different parts of the brain.” Ie. there’s a problem with internal dialogue.


That without the capacity for self-reflection we are driven along like leaves in the wind.

The legacy of Western Civilisation is effectively the deification of consciousness. Having cast out the divine feminine, the principle that mediates between Logos and ego, the two are bound to get confused…

like when you don’t have a soap dish and so you leave the soap in the bath and it gets all mushy and your mum yells at you?

Exactly, ego gets ‘god-almighty’, which is all very well for a bit…

until the mush begins..

and soon starts behaving as though there were no limits and as if nothing mattered save itself.

The psyche responds with a big fat neurosis to bring about some sense of proportion in lieu of actual awareness. Instead of the cleansing renewal he was hoping for the bath room hero finds himself compulsively feeling about the teensy yet glorified space into which he’s soaped himself.

…pretty sure he’s in there somewhere.

Fleeing the Dark Brother.

Whilst slagging off Jacob for fleeing his dark brother I conveniently forgot how I did the same not so long ago.

like a bitch..

thank you yes, and came to England having supported oppression and disinheritance of my own dark brother, ripped off for centuries by kind men who wanted to help them come down from the trees…

whils’ stealin’ de lan’.

look, you put one foot there,… and, shall I speak more slowly..?

and you thought you were very cool and politically correct ‘cos you bought yourself out of  the Commandos for a lousy $125 and hung out with separatist lesbians on a council estate in Ladbroke Grove.

And landed a nice little head start from Grampa Lawes once he’d been appropriatly chaperoned  from his hill of beans.. fat of the land we’d all just departed.

And I was good with that. My conscience was clear, I could live with the split of a bohemiam lifestyle funded by the booty of Empire. No problem.

You can suppress guilt for decades,

or at least the feeling of guilt…

…whilst it all mushes out of the bottom of the box, a goopy ooze of blind determination not to succeed, never to enjoy the fruits of your labour, never to tell yourself, ‘well done’ , or, ‘you made it’.

Everyt’ing all in a state of emergency alla time, drowning out…the voice of…inmost


to the point where even my muse seemed to have a nagging fishwife app.

I wanted therapy to get rid of it for me. That’s how I got into this game in the first place. Everyone knows guilt is negative, right?

Wrong, and its just more hiving off of the dark brother to say otherwise. Feelings are just feelings. Trying to divvy them up just creates more internal splitting, more idealisation of the self, a still narrower modus vivendi.

Guilt is good…?

good…bad, your options are just so limited. Sometimes guilt is just to be faced, like anxiety and depression. Not much fun I know but sometimes authentic and therefor appropriate to their context.

But we still gonna fix them , right?

More St George…  what you can’t seem to get is that when we talk about increases in consciousness its not just about some wizard prang idea that might pop into your head that wasn’t there before. Sometimes increase is precisely about paying attention to stuff you really don’t want to hear and letting yourself squirm with it.

… you pay money for dat?

Ask yourself, what does it mean to increase consciousness? To know more stuff? To write and do math? To go to one altar rather than another?

being a frien’?

thats closer, all this debate forgets that consciousness is also about conscience , being intrinsically connected to what you know in your heart as the right way to be.

Increase in consciousness is not some rarified threshold you cross having cleverly established the relationship between fancy conceptual ideas. Its about connecting experiences to the truth of our Being when we’d really rather not. Its about the cold light of day. Its about the, ‘oh bloody hell, what have I been doing/beleiving/ perpetuating all this time?’ and passing up the good news feed from your busy PR machine.

Of course, we don’t have to get all get wound up like tin soldiers and sent off to die for gold and diamonds in order to question the automatic pilot. If you are less fortunate you’ll have to find ways to be with the dark brother in your own backyard; feelings that are spurned, memories that are dismissed, responses to life that seem inferior. The shadow.

If we have the courage to tell our stories then we’ll find our way back to the dark brother because stories connect us to others and to ourselves. When stories cease to be told and get acted out instead then we’re all in trouble.

”The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.” C Jung.

What I notice about the pivotal tale of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, one in which the Principle of Relatedness is shattered before Greed, Abdication and Passivity is that no-one gets to tell their story. There is no protest or discussion anywhere. The silence at the end of the telling is like a child who’s cried himself to exhaustion.

Isaac particularly has seen it all before. And like any abused child who has had  no witness to his misery he sits quietly, unable to refer to experience that has already been hived off to his own dark brother, Ishmael…

who he hates…

I was not abused….!

You were bound and gagged…

I don’t hate!

And dragged up the mountain, pissing yourself with fear..

It wasn’t about me!

Unable to breathe….

He was doing the lord’s work!

Big knife, you shat yourself with the horror.

An angel saved me!

No, the angel saved Abraham. You were neither saved nor spared.

The angel was moved by my plight, by my innocence!

Nop, just taking care of business once Abe had  crushed the Principle of Relatedness sufficient to butcher his own child and God was done with his test. Game over.

Ah, okay.  .er, well, all’s well that ends well, what?

But it hasn’t ended well has it? All this passive acceptance of God’s sadistic use of you to test a third party and having to subvert your own truth has left you full of untold hate which then had to be siphoned off onto your own dark brother..


….and afterwards.. sacrificed relatedness with Esau and Jacob in a compulsive repetition of childhood horror and betrayal beyond belief sufficient for them to become so split that power assumed more importance than people.


And this is our increase in consciousness…    I don’t think so.

red team blue team

Our most ancient stories are full of brothers who lack respect or don’t get on. These stories are more than quaint tales. They are archetypal patterns that can run us from within, default positions that we are patterned for like an old pair of comfy shoes that can, nevertheless, dance you to death.

Tell de story, mon.

I see a lot of people grappling, not with this issue or that, but the fact that we keep doing the same thing over and again. It suggests to me that the repeating stories we find at our earliest beginnings might shed some light on the compulsive repetitions of our own time.

De story…

The theme we find over and again is the one of divided brothers. One of the most fascinating and relevant to our time is the story of Isaac, Esau and Jacob.

I want to ask what this story is doing in such a prominant place, at the birth of a nation-rooted-in-one-God, and what the psychological consequences might be for those who inherit it.

tell de frikkin’ story, for cryin’ out loud…

I’m getting there, shuttup. The story of Esau and Jacob  moves the older story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu on a notch. If you recall, our earliest ever recorded tale is from Sumeria and describes the fate of a king who would not be bound by natural law, who caused the death of his dark brother, Enkidu and built the first city walls to separate himself from the natural world.

Him come to a bad end…

Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac are likewise divided, light/dark, hairy/smooth, with Esau clearly personifying the natural man, the dark and primitive brother who gets it in the neck.

But dis time with a twist, mon.

A thousand years have passed since Enkidu had to die. And in his absence, the golden boy imago has had the stage more to himself and we find that he has deteriorated quite badly.

De split mo’ subtle…

The demise of the dark brother is now ontological. Esau has his birthright stolen by Jacob who pretends to be his brother by covering himself with the wild skins that Esau wore, then goes to his father Isaac who is almost blind and ask for the blessing that would confer the family inheritance on him…..

So Jacob get de land…

But there’s more. The main piece of this is that despite this awful desecration of natural law and the wicked deception involved, Yahweh sanctions Jacob’s claim rooted in the fact that he was the one to be blessed by Isaac their father.

How he went about it was not material to de case…

Jacob gets to be big boss of twelve tribes and Esau gets…. Edom, you know tucked in there by Moab, washpot thingy..

The significant thing in terms of collective existential security is that you can now no longer count on anything. A blessing is more important than a birthright under even the most deplorable circumstances. Doing now has precedence over Being, and trickery is fine so long as it is sanctioned by authority.

… days of natural law are over…

and Yahweh will hand over the whole of Israel into the hands of a callous cheat simply because he punctuated his betrayal of everything you might hold dear, with submission to the patriarch. The submission is more important than the deception and of greater weight than the Principle of Relatedness which is sacrificed in the process.

But what does this have anything to do with anything…?

Because its the forge in which the Western psyche was shaped. We’re already strapped with the double bind of original sin:

carrying god’s shadow:

but this is a new and different landscape of depersonalisation.

Him get worse…

The way you behave is no longer of any account, for good or ill. Your personhood and character are no longer of interest.  And if I have to stamp all over the ageing bones of my loyal servant to do it I will. Without noticing that I have just emancipated myself from my Conscience…..  and caused the Chosen to Doubt…

God’s mental state is deteriorating. He’s not even trying to justify it by pointing and shouting, or roaring about sin. The ignominious betrayal of Isaac is just shrugged off. He seems less able to give feeling responses to situations, cannot reflect and seems less present as though he were preoccupied with something or some one


I wasn’t… no…. . sorry…. I was just saying, you look a bit… off colour,… bit peaky..


Something particular keeping you awake?


Nothing,.. its just that ….sometimes our conscience keeps us awake, perhaps something you might have… regretted.


….or perhaps inuited, in a sleepy kind of way,  that you just gave us permission to destroy the planet provided we do it in your name.


and that because of  your centre-stage-for-eternity-caper you’re lonely and going a bit mad,


and that without Her we’re all going a bit mad…


and it matters, Oh jewel of my heart, because this is all a bit borderline now.


and as the split grows in you, Oh bounding deer of the Verdant Meadow…


it grows in us.


Doing unto Others

I very nearly lost my son. He was taken away from me by the authorities who decided that a man could not possibly be a primary carer. He was sent away. I almost let him go.

Some horrible, semi-human construct inside me, barely audible, began to canvas for his demise, my own child, a demise that would have had all the hallmarks of , ‘I told you so’, beginning with his academic collapse, progressive dishevilment, through self harm and cutting to…  what?

I nearly let him go.

Why should he have you? Who did you have? Does he deserve better? What about your needs? Its not fair! You are a victim of the State!

The inner 12 year old in me that had been sent away, rejected and violated, came screaming to the rim of consciousness, demanding congruence, demanding my son suffer at least his fate if not worse… and for just a brief moment, I capitulated. I hung my head and gave up.

A friend of mine once told me that stuff doesn’t change in life until you hear ‘the Voice of Noyt’. Noyt was a slang term at Uni for ‘no’. Only, its a capitalised,’No.’  and emphasised,’NO!’ and then screamed from the gut like a banshee..

On the way home from the court, having been given two days to comply with the judge’s ruling or be arrested for contempt, I heard the Voice of Noyt, made the Sound of Noyt, had to pull the car over, choking, and wrestle like a bitch with whatever it was inside me offering me an easy way out.

Compulsive repetition. Do unto others, particularly those you love. Again and again. One of the reasons that abuse is so pernicious is that the child is compelled to idetify with the abuser, paradoxically so as not to feel the pain of his wound. He steps into the shoes of his assailant so as not to have to experience what that other is doing. And then does that horrible.. thing, to some other poor bastard.

My default position, my automatic pilot, my deferential yes-man, so wanted my child to be sent away. What happened to me could then be ligitimised, I could forgive my father for sending me away and compulsively repeating what had happened to him, and, in the fullness of time, my boy would betray his child and forgive me for abandoning him..


To defy the judge meant much more than the prospect of 3 months in jail (and how would you look after him from prison, smartypants?) It meant, after years of analysis and being trained as a psychotherapist myself, that we would now find out what I was actually made of and whether I could bear the rapidly condensing memories, the abuse, the abandonment, the terrible under-resourced desolation of being sent away myself that was bound to claw for the surface if I refused the path of least resistance.

When Dracula tells his Igor to stop torturing the poor beast left in his charge, he turns and says, ‘Its what I do, master. I do unto others as they do unto ME.’

Not to ‘do unto others’, means stripping what the others have done… of their legitimacy. Suddenly an inner court is in session, and all kinds of unpleasant shit offered up for exhibit.

So, the enemy was not the judge, who I politely wrote to declining his kind suggestion, nor the coppers who came round and dragged my boy away, nor his mother who drove him half crazy with her bullshit, nor the corrupt CAFCASS officers grinding their double headed axes, nor the collusive court officials who lied and cheated, nor the expert witness whose report made me look like jack the ripper, but my own quiet… ‘do unto others.’

When I decided to forgo the luxury of being the state’s victim and risk detention at her Majesty’s Pleasure I found that I now had two kids to look after, my boy, whom the Universe quickly restored,( the Voice of Noyt carrying far in the halls of the psyche) and the neglected 12 year old in myself who was actually battered way beyond what I had remembered.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘There’s what happens to us and there’s what we do with what happens to us.’

What happens to us is difficult enough, but most things can be survived and actually used as impetous to create and acheive, if only we will refrain from identifying with the aggressor or at least bear in mind that we are, strangely, liable to collude with the ills done to us and pass them on wholesale to others as a trade off with destiny not to have to feel any of it. The hot potato doesn’t burn if you are quick enough….

I see a lot of people questioning how to deal with narcissists. The trick, having protectively scooped up the child you once were, is to disable the narcissist in yourself.