We sometimes referred to the narcissistic wound as the "emptiness wound.” This wound opens us up to emptiness, to nothingness. It opens us to the nothingness of the dissolution of the self. No wonder it evokes such terror, which sometimes we feel as the fear of death. It is the ultimate fear of disintegration and disappearing. The vague sense of dread that we felt before we were directly aware of the wound becomes an immense terror, as the wound opens up to emptiness. It is here that we understand the existential dread and terror unique to narcissism. However, when we understand the situation accurately, appreciating that we are opening up to a deeper experience of ourselves, and have the empathic support of the teacher, it becomes easier to surrender to the process. The dissolution of the shell is actually a surrender of the self, letting go of our concept of self. The opening can then become an entrance into vastness, and into the fundamental presence and truth of the self.
The Point of Existence, pg. 315
Revelation of an Emotional Wound of Staggering Depth and Profundity
Some students never clearly discriminate this feeling of dread because it is so vague and apparently unwarranted. In all cases, the consequences of the loss of narcissistic supplies are revealed more in specific object relations. When the student feels not seen or appreciated, not admired or treated in a special way by a particular important person in her life, she will experience the effect of the loss of mirroring on her sense of self. The first feeling is usually a sense of hurt, insult, betrayal, or loss. She is very sensitive at this point. The slightest indication of not being seen will evoke deep pain, intolerable anguish, endless tears about a bottomless grief. When investigated, rather than reacted to, this hurt reveals an emotional wound of staggering depth and profundity. It is difficult to tolerate at first, and she will tend to fight it off, to react to it and out of it. However, the presence of empathy and understanding, and especially the presence of kindness and compassion, make it possible for her to tolerate the hurt and thus feel it more directly and fully.
The Point of Existence, pg. 310
The Narcissistic Wound Seen as Indistinguishable from Narcissistic Emptiness
The narcissistic wound that arises has all the characteristics of the wound of alienation from the Essential Identity, but feels more profound and has other differentiating characteristics. The wound feels like a deep hurt, a very teary sadness, but we do not generally experience this sadness and hurt as differentiated from the deficient emptiness. We feel an emptiness permeated with sadness, a vast nothingness that pervades the whole world. This nothingness is pregnant with hurt. There is hurt, a sense of wounding, a sadness, but also a compassionate warmth that pervades the emptiness. Thus, when we experience the narcissistic wound at this level of narcissism, it is indistinguishable from narcissistic emptiness. It is as if the wound opens up and pervades the emptiness, inviting the quality of loving kindness, which we experience now as boundless and infinite. This allows the sadness to become deep and profound, as if the wound goes through the depth of the universe. We feel as if tears drown all of reality. The wound feels like a very deep and boundless emptiness, filled with tears and pervaded by compassion. These phenomena hint at the specific properties of the true self which is about to manifest, but also show that the narcissistic wound at this level is the same as the chasm that separates the self from this dimension of Being. Remaining in this emptiness, and not resisting or reacting to it, clarifies the nature of the sadness and loss. Sometimes the sadness becomes a deep longing for the dissolution of our separateness from everything. We feel what seems to be the deepest and most expanded longing, from the depths of the universe, a longing to lose our personal boundaries and to be part of the whole.
The Point of Existence, pg. 404
The Pain of the Narcissistic Wound
So we learned to pretend, to be like them, to join them in their world, the world of lies, the world of the shell, the conventional world. We became what they wanted us to be, what they paid attention to in us, what they preferred in us, what made them relate to us. Through this process of accommodation, we abandoned and rejected what they could not see, the parts of us they did not relate to. Since our essence was the element they recognized or understood least, our essence was the central element we disowned. We ended up abandoning and hiding our most precious nature. We hid it finally even from ourselves; most of us eventually forget it altogether. As we begin to penetrate this forgetting, we see that we betrayed ourselves, just as the people in our environment betrayed us. We chose their company and approval over Essence. We recognize that this betrayal is the deeper one, at the very roots of our disconnection from our essential nature. We feel the hurt now as more terrible, the wound a bottomless abyss of pain. There is great sorrow, regret, and sometimes shame, guilt, and self-hatred. Sometimes we realize that we have sold out in other situations, apart from the experience of the narcissistic wound, but this realization may then reveal the narcissistic vulnerability.
The Point of Existence, pg. 319
The Severing of Our Connection to Our Essential Identity
Typically, the narcissistic wound arises when we feel not seen or appreciated for who we are; we feel the absence or loss of mirroring for who we take ourselves to be. This wound is connected with the original childhood hurt about not being seen or admired. At the deepest level, however, the narcissistic wound results from the loss of connection with the Essential Identity. The wound first appears as a rip in the shell, in the structure of the self-identity, reflecting the loss of a certain way that we recognize ourselves, often involving the dissolution of a certain self-image. As we experience the wound more deeply, we come closer to an awareness of the deeper loss, the severing of our connection to our Essential Identity.
The Point of Existence, pg. 313
The Unique Quality of Narcissistic Hurt
The unique quality of narcissistic hurt is that when it is allowed—that is, not resisted—the rip in the shell will spread, and the hurt becomes deeper and more extensive, until the whole shell dissolves, which brings about the loss of the sense of identity. The student doesn’t just feel pain; she feels that if she experiences this hurt more deeply, she will disappear. This threat of destruction is what makes it so hard to tolerate, especially when it is first encountered. Because this narcissistic hurt is a very difficult and sensitive place for most people, at this juncture the student needs great empathy from the teacher. This is when the student most needs the “emerald mountain,” the aspect of Loving Kindness in the dimension of the Diamond Will. She needs then the greatest empathic support, the greatest empathy, the greatest attunement, and the greatest sensitivity from the teacher. The slightest thing could close down the student’s experience of this wound, or could bring in a reaction that closes it. The slightest lack of understanding, lack of attunement, or lack of consideration, and she will close down with some kind of reaction.
The Point of Existence, pg. 314
Understanding the Genesis of the Narcissistic Wound
As we work with the narcissistic wound, we begin to understand its genesis in our lives. Feeling the emotions associated with the wound, and seeing its meaning, we begin to experience this hurt as a great betrayal, the betrayal of the self. Not being seen for what we truly are has led to a betrayal of this preciousness that is our essential core. We come to understand that we became false because the people in our early environment not only did not see and support our true self, but wanted us to be something else. They conditioned us to fit their idea of what we are or what we should be. The feeling of betrayal that accompanies our realization of this development is one of the ways we experience the narcissistic wound. We may experience the betrayal whenever we feel not seen or appreciated for who and what we are. As this betrayal becomes conscious, we first see it as betrayal by the idealized or mirroring self-object. This can be a teacher or friend, spouse or children, in the present time, or we might feel it connected to the past, to parents, teachers in school, or others. The realization of the significance of the betrayal may deepen the hurt, or it may lead to anger and rage. We feel let down, treated unjustly, abandoned, and left alone with our terrible pain. We experience the disruption or absence of mirroring as a terrible betrayal, the most fundamental betrayal. This is why we call it the “great betrayal.” The most fundamental truth of the soul has been betrayed and abandoned.
The Point of Existence, pg. 318
What is Needed to Experience the Narcissistic Wound
If there is to be any possibility of working through the narcissistic constellation, with its impressive array of defensive reactions described here, we must empathically understand these reactions of narcissistic rage, hatred, and jealousy. We must appreciate their defensive function, observe the situations that occasion such reactions, and explore their significance. This process can make it possible to fully experience the narcissistic wound, and thus to open up to the emptiness that leads to the realization of the core of the soul. We may experience the narcissistic wound before the rage, but can experience it fully and understand it completely only when we experience, understand, and metabolize the narcissistic rage.
The Point of Existence, pg. 327
Working Through Narcissistic Hurt
The typical process of working through narcissistic hurt is different from that of working with the losses of other essential qualities. Working with the disconnection from any aspect of Essence, we first encounter an emptiness—what we have called a hole—and after the emptiness we find a hurt; experiencing the hurt opens us up to the essential aspect. Not so with narcissistic hurt; it’s the other way around. First, there is a wound which leads to emptiness. This makes the narcissistic wound more painful, often intolerable. When we allow the wound, we experience it as a hurt with vulnerability. It’s a vulnerable kind of hurt. When we are in touch with this vulnerability, we are sensitive to any lack of attunement; it actually seems that we are vulnerable to the destruction of our structure; we can be devastated. This is a very difficult place for the student; she is dealing with the most sensitive of all psychic wounds. The more narcissistic she is, the more untouchable is this place. We can’t go near it without her reacting very strongly with rage or isolation or devaluation. She might be able to tolerate feeling deep hurt and rejection, but when it comes to the narcissistic hurt she will balk.