The term narcissist comes from Ovid’s myth of a vain young boy Narcissus. To make a long story short, one day the teenage boy happens upon a lake where he sees his reflection and falls in love with the boy whom he sees. At some point later, he learns that the image he sees is actually himself. Becoming tormented because he can’t act upon his love, he literally beats himself up in rage and some versions of the story have him killing himself. His vanity, his “narcissism,” turned into self-repudiation and a hatred of himself.

One of the common teachings of traditional religion and many other spiritual disciplines is that to connect with your higher being or begin to understand your life’s purpose, you must dedicate your life to the service of others. So when I say that I believe in order for you to connect with your inner guidance, your pure potential, your higher spirituality, your life’s purpose you must dedicate your life to servicing yourself many cringe and suggest I am teaching selfishness and narcissism.

You see, though, the true narcissist does not like themselves and needs the constant service (attention) of others. A narcissist is always on the prowl for what others can and should do for them. Narcissists are not dedicated to servicing themselves, but interested in being serviced by others. Additionally narcissists look for what they can get from someone else in order to make themselves look or feel better. All along they proceed in this fashion because of an inner sense of vulnerability.

Selfishness has a similar impression when viewed from afar. Few people would want this label cast upon them. In fact, the tape, “You’re being selfish,” often plays through our brains when we try to do for ourselves. The fact is, as with all intruding negative thoughts, this tape has its origins in our automatic, primitive brain (AB). Moreover, since our AB looks only to protect us, it usually generates this thought pattern to protect us from the potential threat of losing the love of a narcissist, generally one of our parents. A narcissistic parent will withdraw love from a child who is acting in a confident or independent manner. As I explained in Brain Drain, the threat of lost parental love is an intense danger trigger for the AB; hence as an adult the intruding thought, “you’re being selfish,” likely arises from the childhood nerve connections of the AB.

So here I am a doctor that many are now labeling a personal growth or self-help expert. And guess what? Whoever gives me this label is 100% correct. I have become a self-help expert: I have become an expert in helping myself. I am an expert in personal growth—my own. Many a family member and friend have chuckled at the proclamation in the subtitle of my book—The Breakthrough that Will Change Your Life. After all, this is a typical sounding promise in this genre of book. However, the fact remains, the process of writing my weekly messages and Brain Drain has changed me. Through my writing, I have looked deeply into myself, much through meditation, and I have brought up to the level of awareness and consciousness, my (AB). I have learned to recognize its self-sabotaging nature as it attempts to keep me safe from things I need no protection. Everyone has an AB and everyone, including narcissists, is capable of bringing to the level of consciousness and awareness the action of this primitive brain, which controls most of our behavior. Therapy for some may be useful, others may resort to meditation, or others might derive this self-knowledge from other introspective disciplines.

My belief is that if we were all dedicated to taking care of ourselves—deeply and authentically—then helping others would take on an entirely different meaning and would be much more honest.

What I suggest to begin taking care of yourself is ask yourself when you wake up, “What am I going to do today to help myself?” Resist searching for an answer. Understand that any answer comes from your AB if it relies on someone else, even if it means doing for someone else—self-sacrifice, in my opinion, without first committing to self-help, never results in authentic self-help. For example, when on an airplane, the flight attendant tells you to put your mask on first, in the event of lost pressure, and then upon the child or infirmed passenger. Sometimes we believe and it is taught that helping others will help us. But does the motivation to “help others” come from our true nature or from our AB. Do we want to help others because it looks good, or we fear God, or so we don’t derive the wrath of others who might be envious of us? These are typical AB “protective” mechanics and actually stand in the way of true divine service, which I believe starts with helping ourselves, first and foremost.

When the tape begins to play, “I’m being selfish,” acknowledge it and complete the sentence with this affirmation, “Yes, that’s right, I am being selfish, because I know that when I am selfish and help myself, I am better prepared to honestly help others.”

In the coming weeks, I will expose this idea of self-help as it relates to judging others, blaming parents, receiving good fortune, among other nefarious sightings of our AB. Understanding the difference between taking care of oneself and narcissism is a good place to start. As you succeed at doing this, then you will begin to see why Brain Drain is the breakthrough that has changed MY life.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Glassman began distributing a weekly motivational email message to patients and friends in January 2007. By May 2008, his distribution list had grown so much—as people on the list told others about it—
and interest in his messages had become so high—Dr. Glassman decided to turn his philosophy and advice into a book. That’s how Brain Drain came about. Starting in May 2008, his weekly messages—now distributed to an even larger audience—formed the basis for chapters of this book.
To date, Brain Drain has won in the Spiritual category at the 2009 Los Angeles Book Festival and received honorable mention at the 2009 New England Book Festival. Brain Drain has also been awarded the 2010 Pinnacle Achievement Award for best Self-Help book by NABE and is an Eric Hoffer Award winner.

Through his book, private practice, public appearances, continued weekly messages,and Coach MD (medical coaching practice) Dr. Glassman has helped thousands realize a healthier, successful, and more abundant life.

He lives in Rockland County, NY with his wife and their four children (and dog, Ginger).