Grandiosity and the Fall of Icarus
I’d like to take a moment today to offer a word of advice for the year to come – advice that my inner mentor often needs to give me, and for which I am always grateful.
The advice is simply this:
Keep to the middle way, do not dramatize your life.
Dramatize your life?
The most obvious way we do this is “horriblisation” where we blow up the slightest setback in our life into a major catastrophe with thoughts such as, “it’s terrible… I can’t stand it… I’ll die !!!!!!!”
We become addicted to the intensity of crisis
There are good neurological reasons why this happens which you can read about in hundreds of places on the internet. Google “amygdala” if you are curious. What interests me more is what is going on at the level of the soul. Invariably, the inner child (usually our immature inner feminine with her tendency to overwhelm) is involved, but at a deeper level, I believe we become addicted to the intensity of crisis. Crisis makes us feel important. Crisis makes us feel real. It is not so different to the adrenaline junkie on the theme park rollercoaster.
Grandiosity – another form of dramatization
This leads me on to another form of dramatization – grandiosity.
I think we all know the myth of Icarus who flies too high, so the sun melts the wax of his wings and he tumbles to his death. Icarus is the classic archetype of grandiosity – The immature masculine, puffed up with his own importance, pushing the boundaries and setting himself up for a fall.
Grandiosity is there in all those moments where we idealise, go into our heads, go into our stories and fantasies and lose touch with what is real.
I’ve heard grandiosity described as “Zeus Syndrome”. We start to relate to life as if we are a god (or goddess or course, but grandiosity tends to be an expression of the masculine).
There is a lot of grandiosity in the self-development world – “I can be/do/have anything I want if I dream enough…. (or If I sign up for this $5000 programme!)”
There is a lot of grandiosity in both the mainstream and alternative spiritual scene. Perhaps we have some small and transient experience of realisation and we cling to it thinking “Wow, enlightenment here I come…. I am a channel for universal love… I am on the next level of evolution… I have just met my twin flame and we are in divine union…”
Inevitably, the wax melts, our wings disintegrate and we have a painful landing. After all, Icarus’s wings are just a fabrication of wax and feathers. I’ve seen this happen so often. I’ve been there myself so often. It saddens me, because with a little perspective, you can see it coming a mile off.
Sometimes though, we need someone to bring us back down to earth. Kalyani, for example, can bring my out of my own grandiosity with just a glance… no need for words.
Most so-called inner child work is in fact inner parent work!
Behind grandiosity, we usually find lurking the fragile self-centred ego structure of the inner child craving adulation. This is the shadow side of the Golden Child archetype. The inner child’s journey toward emotional and spiritual maturity is, by and large, a process of building a strong ego structure based on resilience and awareness of others. A firm but loving inner parent, who can restrain our grandiosity, is essential. Most so-called inner child work is in fact inner parent work!
To put it more crudely, stop believing your own bullshit!
The Stoics teach us to recognize the transitory nature of life and the insignificance of the individual self in the vast interconnected web of time and space. Zen, teaches us to recognize the sacred in the mundane aspects of life. Both are excellent antidotes to grandiosity.
I often like to quote the Country and Western song Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places (It’s not a great song but it is a great title!). Perhaps we could say that grandiosity, where it colours our spiritual life, is “Looking for Enlightenment in all the Wrong Places.
Enjoyed this blog. Check out our workshop programme here.
Self-cultivation inspiration in your inbox
Each week a quotation, a commentary and a challenge
Who Am I?
I am Nicholas Hudis an author and mentor dedicated to the path of self-cultivation. After 25 years as a therapist/coach, I see that the need is not for therapy but for cultivating the skill to live wisely, ethically and purposefully. I am no "sage" but the wisdom of Confucius, the Buddha and the Stoic philosophers guides me on a daily basis. My desire is to share this inspiration, through my writings and personal mentoring, and make a difference to your life too.