Excerpts from my book (in progress)
Conceited persons often behave as if their Bible reads:
The rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to you. In particular, even the structure of reality has special rules where you are concerned. And where people other than you are concerned, the rules differ. Consider the man who steals an apple from a neighbor: he has stolen, he has committed an act of theft, and so, obviously, he is a thief. In those four simple words, his action becomes a statement about who he is and what he is. But those same rules don’t apply to you: If you steal an apple from a neighbor, it must be because you were hungry, and because the neighbor left his gate open, and because your neighbor never told you you couldn’t have an apple. :^)
— J. E. Brown
I once changed my answering machine message to say,
“If you’re a friend or family member, press 1 now.
(pause) If you’re a drug dealer, prostitute, or telemarketer, press 2 now.
(pause) I’m sorry, no one is available to take your call. Please leave a message.”
One day a telemarketer called. He seemed really worked up. He left this message:
I am a telemarketer. I am not the enemy. I am not the enemy!
That’s a perfect example of what “conceit” means: Being blind to what you are.
— J. E. Brown
So much of guilt is the process of looking for ways to salvage one’s self-esteem, even in the face of absolute proof of one’s worthlessness or selfishness. Sometimes conceit becomes the replacement for goodness, and enables the recovery of some sense of rectitude, however false and self-serving and delusional that sense may be. This version of the guilt process is very much analogous to the formation of a scab, under which a scar forms, a kind of a self-protective, false, pale, numb replacement for what ought to be there. When lessons are not learned, guilt only produces armor against future conflicts.
Thus, the Guilt Process becomes a way of hardening oneself against feeling guilty for the same crime a second time. It becomes a way of saying “I’ll never apologize for that behavior again. I will find a way to rationalize the wrong I did; I will find a way to spin it. The real crime here is that I was accused. The real tragedy is not that someone else got hurt, but that I was caught without this great explanation.”
For narcissists, the guilt process becomes a way of convincing oneself that “I’m innocent, everyone else is guilty, everyone else is the problem.” For narcissists, guilt is a growth process. Guilt gets twisted into a time for developing rationalizations, not for behavioral change.
If you’re going to relieve yourself of guilt, just be careful who you relieve yourself on.
— J. E. Brown
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2nd edition 16 Aug 2009
1st edition 20 Nov 2005
about the author
J. E. Brown, relationship activist, decided in 1987 that verbal abuse will be wiped off the planet.
He has been working on it ever since.
While writing a book on relationships, he occasionally designs online surveys and writes educational materials for this web site.
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