Friday, February 09, 2007

Battles against self-centeredness

At Living Room today we had some very interesting discussion. One thing that had the most impact on me was when someone said how she feels best during depression when she can get away from thinking about herself. When she tries to reach out and show an interest in other people's lives, it's easier to forget her own misery. There is something powerful in the act of giving - and that does not only mean giving things, but giving our attention to other people and their stories.

When we're depressed it's natural to be self-consumed with the misery we feel. In fact people who suffer from almost any illness are in danger of becoming self-absorbed. It's natural for that to happen.

Interestingly, it's not only a depressed mood that will make us self-absorbed. The same holds true for high moods. I know when I'm high and I'm with friends, I'll talk their heads off about all the "wonderful" projects I'm engaged in. I totally forget that they have lives too. I forget to ask how they are doing. I'm so full of myself.

But, when I consciously try, and succeed, in asking my friends about themselves: how they're feeling and what they're doing, something happens that makes me feel better about myself. I've come to appreciate having people trust me enough to tell me their troubles. I like the sense of connection it gives us. It feels good to forget about myself.

It's hard, but I must try constantly, to be more other-centered. The payoff is huge. I feel stronger when I reach out. I feel more well. I don't feel so much a consumer or victim; I'm then a contributor and supporter.

17 comments:

Amateur Dancer said...

hi marja,

that is an interesting post. my sister has recently told me that people with bipolar are "narcissitic" (self centered).

she was not angry when she said that to me, she was just listing signs and symptoms that frequently go with bipolar.

i had not heard that term, but she was telling me that i seem "less" narcissistic than i always was (oh, the humiliation of reality).

and, i never meant to be...because, the center of me, is very loving and giving....but, the me that people know is the me that has been impacted by the moods...exactly as you described...

either way (depressed or manic) driven to talk about me...self focused.

i think that the meds and the therapy, support, etc.. are all helping me be more aware. i am trying so hard to be outside of me, outside of my feelings now.

dancer

marja said...

Thanks, Dancer. I know that being self-centered is an awfully hard thing for us to hear about ourselves. Yet, even though we might be very loving people, caring for others, it's hard not to be self-centered. It's part and parcel of what our moods do to us.

I often cringe when I look back on a social situation and I can see that I did all the talking and found out nothing about the person I was talking to.

Can striving for othercenteredness actually help our moods improve? I think when we are aware and we make a real effort to listen to others, we may actually be helping our own wellness.

I wonder if that's possible.

Dream Writer said...

It is funny how people have their own opinions about things: Narcissism and Bipolar - I don't think so :)

I am the most NON-Self-Centered person that you will ever meet!

I am always there for others...it is what I do best!

To be honest, and I don't know why I am like this, but I feel "Guilty" to be there for myself..The Disease To Please as they say:)

I enjoy being there for others, listening to their problems and being a friend.

However, when I am down and depressed...I have every right to be there for myself...we do have to take care of ourselves.

I think that "Society" has to stop being so hard on themselves when they take time out for themselves!

And the "Narcissitic" term is so overrated.

marja said...

I'm like you, Dream Writer. I do a lot to help other people too. Like you, I write in an effort to help others. But I do say, when I'm depressed I tend to talk a lot about myself. I'm not one of these people that avoids friends when I'm low. In fact, I search them out in an effort to hang onto something. I need their love and lean on them...and then I tend to talk about how awful I'm feeling.

And when I'm high, I get so involved in creative projects, I can't stop talking about them, I get so excited.

I don't know if you'd call that narcissism. It's the result of a mood. Not the way I normally am. And I certainly don't want to be that way. I don't like myself that way. It's the thing I dislike most about myself.

Dream Writer said...

Hey Marja - When anyone is depressed I think that it is so normal for people to talk about themselves - they are in pain and WE have every right to VENT.

I don't think that self-centeredness and Bipolar go hand in hand...Per Se...

I think that Depression and self-centeredness goes hand in hand and LOADS of people are depressed and not necessarily Bipolar :)

Think of those people that we are helping...who are able to vent..who are getting the support that they need.. Are they self-centered? No.

WE need support, too:) We need to vent as well:)

And I know you do with your friends and that is great:)

I just feel that Society really needs to stop feeling about and thinking they are selfish when they want to have "Center of Attraction" sometimes.

Narcissism is very real and very serious. I have someone very close to me that could have a Narcisstic Personality Disorder - Narcissism is WAY beyond self-centeredness...It is a Serious Disorder - way beyond the Normal Selfishness.

I don't think that Bipolars have Narcisstic Traits...I think that we are just normal wanting to be taken care of, too:)

And there is nothing wrong with that.

You always bring forth a great topic...something to talk about:)

marja said...

Hey Dream, I love discussions like this too. But it was Dancer who said her sister said it was narcissism was a bipolar thing. That wasn't me.

Yeah I think it's normal to vent. But don't you think, as this lady at our group said yesterday, that when you're depressed and self-absorbed (now I'm not saying that's selfish, it's just a natural way to feel when you're in pain)- when you feel like that - if you make a real effort to reach out and show an interest in others - then you start feeling a bit better.

When you give - even when you're depressed - you receive something back. It's therapeutic.

Dream Writer said...

Yes, I do think that it is a normal and natural way to feel when you are depressed or in pain...I wanted to say that, but I had a brain cramp:)

Sometimes, when I am depressed thoug, I am depressing..LOL!! To others, I think...I am very negative and that is why I stay away...and I could irritable.

However, I agree that if you are depressed reaching out is Great medicine and very theraputic...I usually do reach out to friends when I am down, but it depends how bad the Bipolar Mania is...Irritability and all:)

I know that it was Dancer that brought up Narcissism...I just thought that it was a great discussion and being I know so much about it...I thought I share a little Insight:)

I have Diarrhea of the Mouth - can't you tell...I Guess the Lithium is kicking in!:)

Love You Marja!

marja said...

Love you too, Dream Writer. Have a great day.

Sarah said...

that post is SOOOOOOOOOOOO true.
They say:
JOY
Jesus
Others
You.

I indeed feel better when I'm doing things for others than myself. very very true.

TayMachelle said...

Hey Marja,

It is difficult to be anything BUT self centered when you aren't doing well. When you are sick with bipolar- it can be very draining for your friends and you family- emotionally and even financially. It can be very difficult to love someone who is bipolar when they are not well. One thing I try to remember, when I have a friend battling depression- or any other illness is something that a preacher once told me:

"Those who need our love and support the most- are usually those to deserve it the least."

marja said...

Thanks, Machelle. But I think you must have misunderstood that pastor or you're using the wrong word when you say "deserve". Yes, we are hard to love but EVERYONE "deserves" to be loved, though they may be hard to love.

I think what he would probably have meant to say was that those who are the hardest to love also need our love the most.

TayMachelle said...

Your probably right: sometimes when I'm a bit hypomanic my eyes sort of skip...or skim- re-reading that I see what you mean.

Polar Bear said...

Marja,
It's great that you feel good when you are more "other-centered".

But I find that a lot of people I know are very full of themselves. I don't know if it is the culture of this country, or the culture of a small town in this country, but people talk and talk all about themselves all the time, and to be honest, I am really sick of listening to people who are so full of themselves. They don't ask me how Im doing, what I'm doing, etc.

I always come out of a conversation knowing much much MORE than the other person than the other person knowing about me.

It's very frustrating. These days I prefer to be by myself.

Polar B.

marja said...

Polar Bear: Thanks for dropping by. I guess maybe I'm one of those people who tends to talk about herself a lot - but after I do, I'm not happy about myself.

Guess it depends on the friends you've got. I have some friends who draw me out, wanting to know "what I did today, what I'm going to do tomorrow, how my day was." They ARE terrific people. But I have to make such a big effort to turn the tables once in a while and ask THEM those things.

Wouldn't it be great if we could all live in balance: friendships that include an equal amount of sharing, an equal amount of give and take.

Dream Writer said...

There is no equal give and take or equal amount of sharing in any kind of relationship... That is why relationships and friendships are so unique...So special...

We ALL need eachother and in every relationship be that a friendship, marriage, or "relationship" there is always ONE who is more giving, more emotional...that is what draws us to each other.

A lot of "Relationships" stems from "Emotional Attachment" If someone is there for us Emotionally...That is the true core of our being, I think. :)

I am very giving, a care taker - a lot of people are drawn to these traits of mine...that's what makes me a "Good Friend."

I have a friend who is very giving and always there when I need her - that is a Trait that I am drawn to in her. :)

I know what I am TRYING to say - it just isn't coming out right -

Michele said...

How well put and such an important thing for us to remember. I was delighted that you visited my blog. It is nice to meet a bipolar of similar age and interests. I see we share an interest in Dostoevsky, faith and its role in fighting this disorder, and writing. I might just have to order your book. michelecampbell@kingwoodcable.net

marja said...

Dream writer: You're so absolutely right in everything you say here. I have friends for whom I'm mainly a supporter, and I have other friends who mostly support me. Dream, I think there's a whole book to be written on this topic and we're well on the way to writing it. A project for you maybe? Are you writing down your thoughts while you're in this slump? You know, my "Riding the Roller Coaster" was mainly written during a 1 1/2 year period of depression. We can use our depression for good. Not saying it's fun, but to have a purpose for it is a good thing.

Michele: I'm so glad to have met you. We'll have to keep in touch.