All Narcissists Go to Heaven
I think I watch too much Netflix. I don't know if consuming all that content makes me more narcissistic or more codependent, but it's a fact that recently, my nine-year-old daughter changed my Netflix profile picture to this guy.
I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or horrified that my daughter identified me with the Devil himself - yes, Satan - rather than choosing any other character from any other show that I watch. To be fair, most of my "Continue Watching For Nicole" list is pretty full of narcissistic and psychopathic characters; I like that sort of thing, even though it's probably not the best idea to watch Peaky Blinders before bed when you have high blood pressure.
The funny thing about the Lucifer TV series is that, despite being the Lord of Hell, Lucifer is actually the hero of the show (this is not a spoiler, it's immediately apparent, and anyway, like most reasonable people, you probably watched the series years ago when it came out). Lucifer is vain, self-centred, sinful and clueless, but he never lies, he is always curious, and he is capable of feeling love and empathy. He always tries to do the right thing, even though he falls short. He's not a narcissist. But he DOES present a very, very interesting view of what Hell is.
Hell is a choice
In the Lucifer TV series we see hell not as a place of eternal torture imposed on humans by cruel divine beings as punishment for their unrepentant earthly sins, but rather, as a place for people who choose to stay because believe they deserve it. These citizens of hell spend eternity caught in a loop of endlessly recreating their own suffering because of guilt and shame. Sounds a lot like codependency and CPTSD.
Lucifer is nice enough to even inform people that they can stop being tortured by demons at any time if they wake up to the fact that they don't actually need to be there. They are free to move on anytime they choose, but because they feel so bad about what they've done, they don't listen. They keep on punishing themselves, recreating the moment of their death and experiencing the pain they have caused others as though they've no choice at all - the damned are only down there because they deserve the punishment. Sounds a lot like BPD.
Can a narcissist ever accept responsibility and escape?
It would seem, then, that there are no narcissists in this TV version of hell, because narcissists are never able to accept blame for their mistakes, even when those mistakes are egregious and deliberately harmful to other people. We know they exist in a fantasy space, with impaired reality testing that does not allow them the grace of introspection and remorse because these would crush the narcissist's fragile false self and basically cause them to no longer exist. Wait...that sounds a lot like Lucifer's hell!
These are the kind of mind-bending questions that keep me up at night: Do all people, irrespective of narcissism, struggle with self-examination, humility, and seeing their blind spots? Are some people, like narcissists, incapable of feeling guilt and remorse at all, or do they just suppress it? Is there a literal hell or just the one we make for ourselves on earth? And, can we really break the cycle? What do you think?
A recent conflict with a friend (that I don't for a moment feel is worthy of sending me to hell) has made me examine to what extent I'm truly capable of taking responsibility for my own wrongdoing. In the Twelve Step program we are trained to relentlessly search out our own part in our problems, which can lead to its own pathology - that of assuming responsibility for things that aren't ours, and thinking we must be at fault for everything. That kind of practice has the potential to be a path to hell as much as its opposite.
I think we need to learn to look at things objectively rather than swinging to extremes of blame and shame. I know I struggle to recall a person's good qualities when I believe they have hurt me, so my tool for finding that balance is writing things down. On the page I can be completely honest with myself and admit where I have been passive-aggressive or just aggressive-aggressive, or not treated others with compassionate understanding, or pointed fingers when I'm guilty of similar sins.
When in doubt about your own wrongdoing, I say, write it out. It might just be a way to keep you in Heaven where you belong.
As always, stay curious.