Pandora Unboxed (The Inverse of Narcissism)


Reflections on Chapter 1 of The Pandora Problem by E. James Wilder

The opposite of a narcissistic individual
Is a redeeming community

Full-time narcissists, like sociopaths, maintain an identity that leaves no room for other people’s pain. Call it “empathy-deficit disorder.”

But pathological disorders are the extreme version of a “personality type”, which just means we “typically” use a particular “style” of relating.

We are all part-time narcissists.
Whenever the pain of our shame is too great to bear, we must redirect it into others.

At some level, this is adaptive. Because otherwise our “crippling shame” would render us unable to function.

And if we are in secure attachment with a strong “father figure”, they can absorb and sublimate that radiated shame. Like a grandmother with a cranky toddler.

The deeper problem is that most of us — especially our “sin management institutions” like church, counseling, and culture — are only setup to handle specific kinds of shame.

If you fit that box, we can help you.
If you don’t fit that box, we will try desperately to shove you into that box.
Because if we fail find the right box for your shame, it will spill over.
And flood our own boxes,

The last box is “denial.”
And we viciously — even heroically — defend this one.
Because after that, the only option is “dissolution.”
Death. Divorce. Decay.
Box bankruptcy.
Letting everything (and everyone) fall apart.

So at a deeper level, the problem with narcissism really isn’t “their” lack of empathy.
It is “our” lack of the right box.

Or maybe boxes aren’t even the right metaphor.

Maybe we need a processor.
A system that actually eliminates shame. Not just a box to hide it away.
Or a pipeline to dump it on those Outside.

Or maybe: shame is like entropy.
It can never be destroyed.
It must be transformed.

Like thermonuclear fusion. Nucleosynthesis requires a gravity well deep enough — creating pressure and heat intense enough — to “nake” away our outer layer of electrons,
drive us together into identity-defying intimacy, and remake us into something new.

Something bigger than our Self.
Where we gain a new Identity.
Not as solo atoms, in chains of molecules.
But interdependent nucleons, strongly bound together.
Eventually a neutron star, pulsing together in perfect synchrony.
That absorbs and transforms all infalling shame into a harmonious unity, that becomes a beacon of hope to the galaxy.

Right now, this is just a metaphor.
Not a process, or prototype, or plan.
I only have the barest of hints how to make this happen.

But THIS is the “thing worth doing.”
This is how we solve the metacrisis.
This is how God’s kingdom comes, when we finally learn to “take up our cross daily.”
This is how we lose our life to save it.

This is my quest.
This is how I cure my own narcissism.
By aligning my identity — my shame and sublimation — with its own undoing.

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