Saturday, October 29, 2011

Narcissus: fear of inadequacy

For the MZ womb twin survivor, a deeply-felt fear is of being weak and inadequate, unable to cope.  The only way to be safe is to be utterly strong, to the point of omnipotence.  Basically, it is better to be the dominant one, the No 1 in any given situation, than to be No 2.

I observed two people in conversation - if you can call it that. It was more of a duel than an equal sharing of ideas.  The first, a man, mentioned a terrifying experience involving snow in late May in the mountains of southern France. At once, sooner than acknowledge that snow at that time of the year would be unexpected and doubtless alarming, the other, a woman, was quick to point out that on her recent trip to Colorado there had been snow in July, three feet deep.

I was conscious that this was combat, not conversation. This kind of "How deep is your snow?" competition can be readily observed, as it morphs readily into " How clever is your child?" between parents or "How painful is your back?"  among older people.

I wondered why such competitive behavior was chosen, and what  pay-off there may be.  But then I thought about MZ womb twin survivors, who carry somewhere in the back of their minds a memory of half of them being so weak and inadequate that they were  unable to survive at all.  Then it was clear to me that this kind of competitive behavior is not just a little light-hearted banter, but a matter of life and death.

The sole survivor of a monozygotic pair was always the stronger one, The Alpha. Meanwhile the Beta twin was too weak to live for long. This was due to developmental failure; lack of sufficient nourishment or oxygen or chromosomal abnormalities.  A mismatch of abilities feels wrong to the sole survivor, for the ideal - and safest - situation is  for both parties to be  equally strong.  So  in the " How deep is your snow?" competition described above, the two combatants were able to reach a stalemate, with both parties equally strong.  Everyone remained friends, despite the constant, moment by moment jockeying for pole position.

Here is another reflection on the grandiosity that is so much a part of being narcissistic.  This is not so much about being No 1, as a great fear of being No 2, the inadequate one.

This is reasonable enough, for the No 2, the Beta twin, did not survive.  Equality is fine, in fact it is to be desired. To be No 1 is safe, because you will certainly survive, but to be No 2 is to sink without trace, just like your own lost Beta twin.

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