Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Two Spheres of Action

The ancient Gnostics used to say that there is both an inner and an outer aspect to things. They called the outer aspect the "visible" world or the "seen" world, and they called the inner aspect the "invisible" world or "unseen," "hidden" world.

If in this terminology you hear an echo with early Christian theology, that's because there is one. The first Christians were Jews, of course, soon followed by Gnostic Greeks, who had always appreciated the ancient Hebrew scriptures like the Creation Story, which they viewed as sacred myth - important for its MEANING but not necessarily literally true. The fourth Gospel (probably the oldest) is essentially a Gnostic work and is very different from the other three (synoptic) Gospels.

A simple, well known example of "the two worlds" is a tennis match. In the 1970's, W. Timothy Gallwey wrote a monumental book entitled The Inner Game of Tennis that addresses the inner aspect of game and how we learn to play it.

The Gnostics said that everything happening in the outer, or visible, world has an impact on the inner, hidden world. They recognized two spheres of action - an outer (material/physical) sphere and an inner (moral/metaphysical) sphere.

Well, they were just stating the obvious, weren't they? For example, let's say you're my doubles partner and you score for us with a great shot. I give you a little head pat - literally (if you're a child) or verbally (if you're an adult).

To all outward appearances, that was a friendly act on my part.

But it wasn't friendly at all, was it? In the moral sphere of action it was a blow. In was an act of condescension. That patronizing little head pat was a put down. It It diminished you with respect to me.

It was an act of narcissism.

So, you need a real partner. Someone on YOUR side. Not someone pretending to be an ally and actually working against you.

In fact, I am more of an adversary than the players on the other team. Unlike them, however, I'm a snake about it.

Which is why in war they take prisoners and shoot traitors.

So, everyone is well aware of the two worlds. Even little children. Notice how by the age of three they are acting out in ways that have moral implications. They haven't learned any subtlety yet, so you can't miss it. For example, they stick their noses up in the air to signify that their little playmate is beneath their notice. They demand attention to signify that they are important - and you'd better not forget that, Mother! They refuse to share, and if they're the biggest kid in the room, all the toys get piled up behind them in a corner so that none of the other kids can have any.

It all has moral implications. It all is an act of value judgement.

Yet people act as though they are unaware of this dimension in the actions of themselves or others. Go figure.

The ancient Gnostics ran into this obtuseness as well. People's eyes glazed. They got all fuzzy looking as though they couldn't understand what the Gnostics were talking about. They saw a journal of the first six days, not a lesson about willfully believing lies and playing God/Judge in the Creation Story. They saw a miracle, not the old bartender's trick of making (out) water to be wine for the drinking crowd at a wedding who certainly needed no more alcohol at that point. They just couldn't see that their patronizing little head pat was NOT a friendly act.

I get a kick a out of the ancient Gnostics. Like Jesus of Nazareth, they never argued with the willfully blind and obtuse. "So, you have eyes but do not see? Okay."

Hence the play on words like "hidden" and "unseen" and "invisible." Some folks see, and some folks don't.

I appreciate a sense of humor like that wherever I find it.

Narcissists operate in this inner world, the moral sphere of action, mainly. This doesn't mean that their abuse doesn't often include physical abuse or other crimes. But they don't do things they think they can't get away with. So most of the time their abuse is couched between the lines. It is emotional and psychological abuse.

It's sneakier. They can get away with it. Much of it they can get away with even before bystanders. Because the bystanders go willfully blind and get all fuzzy looking if you try to tell them that that patronizing little head pat was an act of moral abuse, not an act of affection.

This is where the whole world shares some of the blame. The bystanders permit it by making nothing of it. So, that narcissist may take a sledge hammer to your self esteem in front of God and everybody without anyone crying "Foul!" But if he took a sledge hammer to your old beater, they'd say he damaged something valuable and therefore was liable to pay for repairing it.

So, any material thing that you can put a price on is more valuable than you, right? Bashing it counts; bashing you - the inner you, the person inside you - is equivalent to bashing a bug = no harm done. Right?

Wrong. Very wrong. Very, very wrong.

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6 Comments:

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I truly don't think they think of what they do as abusive either. I really think they see themselves as so far above us pee-ons that they convince themselves that they are managing us for our own good, our good being to their benefit. I remember one post here that said manipulation wasn't wrong if the person being manipulated didn't know it was happening. Arrrgh! That is the abuse right there, not acknowledging the humaness of another but seeing them only as objects. That's what people don't get is the damage that can be done to you when you are continually treated as an object and never acknowledged as a human being.

 
At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've been mulling it over for a while: we spend an awful lot of time analyzing these people. they spend time stratagizing, but i don't think necessarily feeling, at least in the way we do. we feel, try to think about what we feel, try to change what we feel, try to repair our feelings and those of others- but out of care and concern and -love-(which takes time) they SEEM to do those things but maybe the twist is they breeze right past the deep emotional stuff and make a quick drive by DECISION about what just happened cuz they don't want to understand their feelings- feelings are bad, feelings hurt.we see that and relate and stop to help, but they are like hurry up, get past it, drive away fast, don't look.you can't really get a person like that to slow down. they are going too fast and don't have the desire to look at the wreckage. (kind of weeanie of them, since they caused it). people like us can examine our consciences. people like them don't dare.
and that's what may be a little dangerous for us- we believe (i can't speak for others, i'm just pondering) that that is "bad" for a person, that we all should examine our consciences and make repairs. and if we CARE about this individual we are willing to help them do that because well- it's right or good for them or something!
i'm angry and going soft at this juncture and
it's very hard to differentiate at this point. i have fuzzy feel good training at this point and to shut that off makes me feel cold. that's where i need help.setting up boundaries at this point is very hard. jt

 
At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jt--The boundaries are good for them too. It isn't mean to protect yourself and it never helps anyone to enable them in any kind of addiction. If you set boundaries, they may also choose just to cut you off. In that event, they have chosen their addiction over you just as many drug addicts or alcoholics do. I think what happens in our relationships with them is that we end up carrying their emotional responsibility. You just can't do that. It doesn't help anyone.

 
At 2:52 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

I think some N's do spend a lot of time strategizing, like my mom does about ways to get me closer to her. But she has such a distorted view of who I am and what I might be thinking, that it makes me feel getting close to her would be a big pretense (not to mention an invitation to lash out at me again once she gets comfortable, as has happened repeatedly in the past).

On the other hand, N-husband doesn't seem to spend much time thinking or strategizing at all--at least at home. He pretty much responds instinctively and then says anything he can think of to justify what he just did (emotional thinking). Now that I think about it, though, he does strategize quite a bit about the goings-on at his work, where things aren't quite going his way.

Maybe that's the key--they save their mental energies for what they feel like giving attention to at the time.

As for that fuzzy feel-good thing, I get that, too. It's a residual survival mechanism from a childhood where I couldn't afford to see things as they were. Some degree of it we should keep, because it translates to giving people the benefit of the doubt...but not so much that we get taken advantage of.

 
At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you guys rock! love jt

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger frankiefoghorner said...

Reading these comments i think some simplification is required. There has been talk of stratagizing by Narcissists. This just doesn't happen. There has been comments of a Narcissist having a stratedgy to get someone back close. Again this might seem to be happenning with phone calls and fake appologies and thankyous (used cars salesmen like stuff that makes you sick in the heart) But there is no stratedgy.

I say this after having tried to plan or prioritise things with a Narc...phew impossible.

I admit that when the main source of Narcissistic supply disappears or wakes up and moves, the narcissist panics and will try to get that person back in range for abuse. This may mean that a few lies are told and a lot of acting comes into play. This however, roles off the tongue so easily and requires no plan. It is supconsciously driven. There is no planning or strategy. This is situation normal.

If all of the sources of supply wake up to themselves and leave, to the Narc, this is their death. For the pain and the reaction of the loved ones to the narcissitic behaviour is all that there is of this creature. When it disappears, there is no narcissist.

If these victims do it right and they vanish with non contactable new place and so fourth, the narcisist will have to dig himself back up by finding new victims.

In the mean time he will be preoccupied in crazy activities, that will stop any internal thoughts or reflection. Suddenly embarking on a new career, back to Uni or what ever..a new place to create a new ghost or morror.

 

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