Narcissistic infatuation is a unique kind of relationship captivation. And it can engender considerable passion. In fact, the person(s) involved can seem nearly irrational in their interest in one another. And one reason can be because the adulation typically involved is so powerully seductive. (See also: Adulation is Seduction Not Love and Mistaking Interest for Regard in Relationships.) As a result, narcissistic infatuation can eventually lead to addiction – addiction to a person. And as most of us know, addictions, while powerful, are inherently destructive. So, just what is this phenomenon I’m calling narcissistic infatuation? And how does it happen?
We can become enamored of someone for a variety of reasons. But sometimes we’re particularly (and in some instances, unconsciously) drawn to:
- An aspect or aspects of ourselves that we see in the other person
- Hidden or as yet undeveloped aspects of ourselves that we find more solidly in the other person and desire to more fully incorporate into our own lives.
Ultimately, therefore, narcissistic infatuation is a misguided attempt at self-love.
Ego-inflated characters, incapable of genuinely positively regarding another, can unduly sway the ego-impaired. Their flattery can indeed build up a sagging ego. But it can’t lay the foundation for a lasting, healthy relationship. You don’t realize it at first, but when narcissists say: “Wow, you’re really fantastic!,” what they could actually be meaning is: “I love the me I see in you!” They could also be saying: “I see something(s) of value in you I really want to possess. And possessing it would make me even greater than I already am!”
So many relational problems these days stem from an unhealthy sense of self. Some folks think entirely too highly of themselves. Others don’t think enough of themselves. And it seems that getting the balance right is harder than ever. We get so many mixed messages about how to love ourselves properly. And, sadly, too many of those messages encourage narcissism as opposed to genuinely positive self-regard. That’s why I’ve written so frequently on this topic.
See, for example:
- Toxic Self-Love
- Healthy Versus. Unhealthy Self-Regard
- The Spirituality of Self-Esteem and Self-Respect
Genuinely positive self-regard (i.e. healthy self-love) requires emotional, character, and spiritual maturity. To love yourself in a healthy way, you have to deeply understand not only what your true worth is but also from whence it truly derives. And in our character-disturbed age, that’s no easy task.
Self-admiration is not healthy self love. Similarly, idolizing another, for whatever reason, is not good for either the party idolizing or the one being idolized. Sadly, too many folks these days equate admiration or adoration with love. Feeling adored can sweep you off your feet. But you’re destined to fall flat on your face. What we all really need is positive regard. Genuine, selfless, well-wishing – that’s true love. And it has to be given freely and without strings to be the real deal. Certainly, we desire it from others. But we mostly need to afford it to ourselves. And if we haven’t learned to do that properly, we can’t possibly give it to another.
I’ll be talking more about these matters in the coming weeks.
I’ll have an announcement soon on the Character Matters page about the new podcast-format program. I’ll also have an announcement in the next few weeks about the Spanish Language Edition of In Sheep’s Clothing. And finally, before the end of the year I’ll have an announcement about the complete re-write I’ve been doing of the manuscript originally titled “The Ten Commandments of Character,” based on the section of my book Character Disturbance of the same name. The re-write provides a much broader and deeper exploration of the essentials of emotional, psychological, and spiritual health that underlie sound character.