Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

The Downward Spiral of Narcissism

From the time we are in the crib and examining our own fingers and toes, our fascination with ourselves spans the ~8 decades of our lives. What we call pride, and others wouldpsa_5 call narcissism, is expressed in the adulation for our early drawings, oh-too-cute vocabulary and our initial attempts at physical skill and stamina.

This sets in motion a lifetime of striving to bask in glory whether that is self-aggrandizement or the applause from family, friends and coworkers. We need recognition, need to be unique, need to achieve, need to be respected, accepted, admired and praised.

An injury curtails that. We enter into failed narcissism wherein our attempts to see ourselves as complete and vital is now fraught with warding off pain and taking direction from others. Where we were once financially solvent, we have now had to sell off (and fail to replace) the symbols of our success; symbols we used for even more admiration.

As much as it is a wound to our body, a work-related injury is a wound to our pride, our image, our reputation, our sense of worth and our access to public respect. Finances plummet, physical appeal becomes compromised by weight gain, lack of restful sleep, side effects of medications intended to manage pain and accountability to numerous, and often contradictory, sources.

The work-injury becomes an emotional insult, a narcissistic tarnish on the social presentation we have learned to covet.

With the inability to recover that self-loving and social reward system, we grow impatient, then futile-feeling and ultimately lose motivation. What we least expected of ourselves, and most disrespected in others, now characterizes us.

If this is not detected during the course of care for an injury, it becomes that which guides us as patients from that point forward.

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