in psychology, traits like arrogance and narcissism are described as misjudgements of value, meaning you're confusing your sense of self-worth with competence, talents, skills or some other external measure and try to overcompensate for your insecurities by becoming very competent or knowledgeable. do you agree? if so, what is the best way to break this deep-seated and powerful illusion/coping mechanism that many people have been unconsciously practising since early childhood?
I think that insecurities are very difficult to live with and people will do all they can to create a sense of security. I think arrogance and narcissism are degrees of self absorption, which run the psychological spectrum from healthy to harmful.
Zen can be extreme on the subject of self as it promotes the concept of no-self and recognizes the self as an idea that is at the root of suffering. From that perspective narcissism and arrogance are different expressions of the same illusion of a real and separate self. That is specifically what is known as ignorance in Buddhism.
The best remedy I know to break up long-held, socially reinforced unconscious assumptions is mediation and group practice. Having a skilled teacher is also essential to help each person confront their own unique and ingenious ways of protecting their unconscious beliefs. Meditation helps you to see your mind and how you interpret the world without getting carried away by your interpretations. Group practice creates a framework to support your practice and reinforces the idea of an interconnected life experience. It is hard to break a selfish habit by yourself.
Faith in basic goodness, in the idea that you self-worth is not based on accomplishments or specific traits can break up the habit of always checking and comparing yourself to others to see if you are good or not. Because of our habit of relying on external markers to determine if we are good or good enough, having a simple test such as asking yourself if you would you rather suffer or not demonstrates a basic level of goodness. If you would rather not suffer, that shows that you care something for yourself and you are good.
Of course we all want to be good and kind and smart and pretty and rich and liked so just being good often doesn’t feel good enough. Wherever we compare ourselves we create insecurities. The Zen remedy is to stop comparing. When we come to see ourselves as interconnected our left foot doesn’t need to compete with our right foot as we walk.