Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Me Me Me: On Narcissism and Yoga

Interesting article about narcissism in today's New York Times. A new study links boastful song lyrics from the '80s through 2007 with the self-obsession of the youth of today. One 50-year-old friend of mine used the article as fuel for his ongoing tirade that the young have too much damn self-esteem. However, the piece was nuanced--it suggested that the middle-aged may be just as narcissistic as the nubile, but the data on the middle-aged doesn't exist.

I had an uncomfortable feeling while reading the piece. Especially when the ubiquity of the word "I" in lyrics was mentioned as a narcissism red flag. Hmmm. During my brief "career" as a song lyric writer I don't think I composed a single song without the word "I" in it. Me and the word "I" are really good friends. Years ago, during a conversation about psychotherapy, my friend Dan said something that I never forgot: "Nothing is more interesting than oneself." I love the first person. It's my go-to point of view for basically anything.

And what is more narcissistic than writing a blog? Or writing anything, really. The very act of writing is an act of ego. If you're a writer, you think (or hope) that people care about what you have to say.

I started this blog partially because I felt that the person I was before becoming a stay-at-home mother had ceased to exist. I wanted her to have a place to live. If that's not narcissism, I don't know what is.

I was contemplating all of this (does worrying whether you are a narcissist implicate you right off the bat?) when I went to yoga class this morning, to attend to the needs of my soul (more narcissism?). Halfway through class, I helped my yoga friend Dina into a middle-of-the-room handstand. Dina is a practiced yogi with a generous spirit. When she told me she was ready for me to let go, I did, and she fell over onto her back and hit her head. I stood motionless, too horrified and lightheaded from my own handstand to act. Dina lay there on the floor, half-laughing. People gathered. Water was brought. "What happened?" asked the teacher.

"She told me to let go, so I did," I said weakly. "When your friend asks you to let go," she announced to the very full room. "Make sure she's really ok first." I hadn't done that. I trusted that Dina knew what she was doing. Dina was still lying on her back at this point. "It's not your fault," she said, looking up at me. But I felt like it most definitely was my fault. I am a terrible spotter, and handstands are really scary for me. I went out to the lobby and lost it, bawling like a little kid.

Another friend came out and comforted me. "People get hurt," she said. "It even happens in advanced teacher trainings." I wanted to leave, but Dina, ambulatory by this point, convinced me to stay and finish the class. "You need to deal with this," she said. "That is why you are here." So I did. At the end of class, I got hugs and kisses and love from my fellow students.

"That's quite a yoga community you have," said my husband when I called to tell him the story.

I sure do.


  1. Ah, yoga handstands with partners, fraught with potential disaster. I once got paired up with a handsome young man in yoga class for handstands. As I supported him during his handstand, I realized his crotch was in line with my face. I nearly lost it. I'm not sure what great yogic lesson I learned, but I suspect my yoga teacher was also trying to be a yenta*. So maybe that's the lesson: if you are a yoga teacher, try not to be a yogi and a yenta simultaneously. Separately, ok.
    *for those of you not fluent in Yiddish, that's a matchmaker.

  2. The definition of narcissism contains a relative statement:

    >inordinate fascination with oneself

    So, maybe older people are just as narcissistic as younger people, but younger people have upped the game across the board. What we might see as "inordinate" looks normal to them.

    I've just blown my own mind.

  3. I was just going to repost that story about the narcissistic song lyrics! Buy it really doesn't add up to anything conclusive. And blogging is totally narcissistic, why else do it? And nobody even reads mine, but I still like doing it.
    But that was quite a bit of drama there at yoga. I miss it.

  4. The amount of drama that goes on in a yoga class - or a yoga studio - is tremendous and shocking. I'm sorry about the handstand thing, its a terrible thing to have happened. I'm glad you had a strong community around to support you.

  5. Thanks guys. Off to narcissistically work on my tennis game now. Hope I don't smack anyone in the head with a racket!