One of the thoughts that I have been with in the recent past is the thought of self obsession (and I am a master at it :-) . Self obsession is quite a funny thing, it creates a make believe world which tells you all kinds of things about yourself, good, bad and ugly, but the one thing that remains constant is the delusion that you are the centre of the universe not only for yourself but also for others.
One of the ways this delusion works with us is in creating our image of ourselves in myriad shades and hues. One such image is that no matter how much love or affirmation or assurance we receive, there remains a nagging doubt that we were not really welcome into this world either at the time of conception, or birth or to the people we were born. Obviously this image is totally subjective; there can not be any argument about this being right or wrong nor can there be any moral judgements about its desirability, etc. People who have a self perception like this do not really enjoy it, nor do they go around showing these off as medals to the world.
So then what is my point? My point is that this alleged dislike of self is actually a deep love for oneself and it is so intense that this negative perception is next to impossible to give up. People so deeply care for this image of the unloved and uncared for self, that they find it very difficult to give up irrespective of the way their lives turn out to be or the innumerable acts of courage, passion love and commitment that they may display. The belief here is so absolute that it becomes imperative to crave for more love for this "unloved and unlovable self" hoping that at some point of time this need will be totally fulfilled by someone somewhere; but it never does. For this need to be fulfilled, one has to feel satiated, and in order to feel satiated, one has to accept the notion that one is lovable. However, this acceptance will then destroy this well nurtured image of the "unloved and uncared for self" and a new "self" would have to be created. This new self then will have to give up all the old habits, all old longings and and all old ways to be and for a while one has to live in a vacum of not knowing what is next. This is the most difficult path for most people to trade, the fear of loss of the old self and old ways to be and most of the time, this is where we stop and become stagnant and get caught with a frozen image of ourselves.
The other kind of delusion that I often experience is when people talk about being in love. Some people talk about being in love with someone special and they describe how the other person becomes the centre of their lives; how without the lover their world will become bleak, meaningless and empty! How without the person, they would not be able to live even for a day and the world would lose it meaning! I have often wondered whether it is the love for the other person, or is it the love of the idea of being in love with the other person? Aren't we in love with the "self which is in love with the other"? Often when I hear lovers killing the other, I doubt whether the killing was for loss of love or was the killing for loss of status in the lover's eye? This is also another form of self absorption when everything else and everyone else cease to exist except the image of "self" as the centre of the universe.
the third kind of self absorption that I come across is when people talk about sacrificing their need, their desire, they wants for others and when it has become a steady pattern of their relatedness with others. I am of course not talking about extreme situations here nor am I including instances when people sacrifice their needs for others in dire need. I am talking about people who have made this into a steady pattern of relating to the world and who firmly believe that this is what is expected out of them by others. In other words, their sense of self worth is derived from the extent of "sacrifice" they make for others, irrespective of whether it is needed or not. Often the others are helpless spectators or are unwilling victims to this blackmail as the "sacrificing' one has to be given his or her dues and would almost always have the superior position in the relationship. This too is an intense self absorption where the others are merely entities in a drama that are needed for the drama to be enacted over and over again.
How does one deal with this? well, perhaps the first step is to accept that life exists as sets of opposites, i.e. we are simultaneously good and bad, loved and not loved, accepted and not accepted, liked and disliked, courageous and cowardly, loving and despising, efficient and incompetent, and many many such contradictions. Life is but a set of contradictions and these contradictions are what make life worth living for self and for others. If this is accepted, one may then can look forward to move out of self absorption and relate to the world afresh and anew.