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Revealing Yourself, Avoiding Narcissism Published: Sunday, May 7, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

During the seventies Christopher Lasch wrote an important book, the Culture of Narcissism. He made a profound criticism to an emerging social psychology mode, that liberated from the superstition of the past, was embracing new cults of individualism, only to eventually discover that the emancipation from ancient taboos was not going to bring neither sexual nor spiritual peace.

In their emotional shallowness, those profiles showed their fear on intimacy, their hypochondria, their pseudo-self-insight, their promiscuous pansexuality, their dread of old age and death, bearing the stamp of a culture that lost interest in a constructive social future. Their outlook on life pointed to weak consciousness movements and therapeutic remedies, including pseudo-confessional autobiographies and fictions. This led to a kind of replacement of figures of wisdom and knowledge by the happy hookers as symbols of success. A key statement was that in the superficialities of everyday life, in the degeneration of sports, in the collapse of authority and the escalating war between men and women, people and institutions, was the world view of the cynic and resigned.

Thus, retreating from politics, professions, organizations, or work is not the solution. The possibilities are in the transformation of public and organizational life. Lasch called for new politics, new disciplines, new solidarities to replace the selfish, narcissistic self-absorption. The invitation was for revealing yourself, daring to change and transform work and institutions, avoiding narcissism or any other kind of escapism.

Sharing personal feelings, information, knowledge and perspectives is a hallmark of a significant relationship. It is a mayor process through which understandings develop between people and institutions. One can equate the development of relationships with the increasingly difficult task of coping effectively with huge institutional and social challenges of our times. Healthy and constructive self-disclosure within organizations, and among people, can act as a facilitator of agreement and the galvanization of productive psychological contracts between individuals and institutions of all sorts. As a matter of fact, a lack of self-disclosure could be a signal of the fragility of the relationship. It appears to decrease as relationship move through stages of deterioration. Revelation is always balanced against concealment in an organizational relationship.

Within organizations people are expected to place a high degree of emphasis on various functions of communication and/or conversation in maintaining the quality of the work environment. So, people, be alert, because new organizational settings are requiring skills and competencies for establishing and maintaining productive and healthy conversations. Work is a dialogue. Conversations serve five basic functions that may require competing message choices within working relationships. These interrelated and potentially contradictory functions are

  • to foster favorable impressions,
  • to organize relationships,
  • to construct and validate a vision, mission or worldview,
  • to express feelings, thoughts and ideas, and
  • to protect vulnerabilities.

These core functions of communication can affect the direct expressions of feelings, thoughts and ideas. Additionally, self-disclosure to a partner takes places against the social background of self-disclosure to others in the network. Traditional people are expected to have a low to moderate levels of self-disclosure. Independents are expected to express openly their personal feelings to another as a sign of intimate bond and their commitment to expressivities. Separates are expected to have the least open communication style as the function of conversation for these people is to organize the interaction rather than open expression of emotions and feelings.

Authenticity develops from how one chooses, not from what one does. Results are in the process not in the product. Joy and happiness are related to the will to be that self which one truly is, in interaction with others…


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