A few months ago, I said I would be revisiting the topic of narcissists. It might have been Phillip Zimbardo’s book, The Lucifer Effect, that lead me to read more on narcissism and malignant narcissism. Or maybe it was one of those moments that we all have from time to time when something we see that is out of focus suddenly snaps into place. I had interactions with many narcissists last year in every possible area of my life. The one at work was particularly awful. But whatever it was that finally clued me in, I realized how narcissism has been allowed to run amok.
We all have the capacity for narcissism. Most healthy human beings have to be somewhat narcissistic to survive. In this economic environment, we have all been pushed a bit further on the spectrum because a false sense of scarcity has been created and we are all competing for the same piece of the pie. It pays to be more selfish, to project more confidence and talent than we actually have, and to adopt an “every woman for herself” attitude. But most of us do not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a way of seeing the rest of the world as merely actors in the play we wrote ourselves and are directing.
Here are the characteristics of people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):
- A grandiose sense of self-importance (may be shown as an exaggeration of abilities and talents, expectation that he or she will be seen as superior to all others).
- Is obsessed with him- or herself.
- Goals are almost always selfish and self-motivated.
- Has troubles with healthy, normal relationships.
- Becomes furious if criticized.
- Has fantasies of unbound success, power, intelligence, love, and beauty.
- Believes that he or she is unique and special, and therefore should only hang out with other special, high-status people.
- Requires extreme admiration for everything.
- Feels entitled – has unreasonable expectations of special treatment.
- Takes advantage of others to further his or her own needs.
- Has zero empathy – cannot (or will not) recognize the feelings of others.
- May be envious of others or believe that others are envious of him or her.
- Behaves arrogantly, haughtily.
Based on the number of politically tone deaf statements from the plutocrats about how the rest of us envy their success, it has become painfully obvious that there is a surplus of narcissists at the top. But you might be surprised by how many people with NPD hide behind religion. A very religious person is very hard to criticize and our social structure gives them a convenient cover screen. How could a person who praises the lord and loves Jesus (and lets you know about it all. the. time.) be selfish, manipulative and malicious? It’s a brilliant place to be if you want control but want to come off looking sweet and pious while simultaneously believing that you are superior to others because you have The Truth. Many cult-like and high control fundamentalist religious organizations encourage this kind of narcissism in their converts. The Duggar family is a perfect example of this mindset.
And then there is the right wing noise machine that seems to encourage a base narcissism in its target audience. The unlucky “deserve” what they get while the rich “deserve” what they’ve gotten. And what’s wrong with saying things that are racist? You’re allowed to be a racist if you want to be. (I’m just paraphrasing the incredible things I’m hearing from the Fox News crowd lately. Personally, I think racism is revolting in thought, word and deed.) Putting people down to make yourself look superior is a hallmark of a narcissist, although I doubt that these same Fox News watchers would be as comfortable saying it’s Ok to be anti-semitic. Just a guess.
The relationships that develop in a family poisoned by a narcissistic parent illustrate on a micro scale what can be projected to a wider audience in the political sphere. In a family when one of the parents has narcissistic personality disorder, the children in the family are frequently pitted against one another. The NPD parent designates one of the children as the scapegoat. The role of the scapegoat may rotate but it’s usually one particular child that is targeted. This child is usually the more sensitive child, the one who doesn’t play the game and flatter the narcissist, the truth teller. When the NPD parent injures this child using emotional manipulation and encouraging the others in the family to “mob” (bullying by group), the NPD parent gets a whiff of narcissistic supply. They get off on control and their ability to make someone else feel inferior, to sabotage and limit their success. The goal of the NPD parent is to make the scapegoat bend to her will by using ostracism, mockery, malicious gossip and alienation. Yeah, imagine living with that.
The golden child, on the other hand, can do no wrong. No matter how much the kid screws up, the NPD parent will make excuses. It’s not his fault. The problem started before he came along. He needs time to mature. He will never suffer the consequences of his behavior nor will there be any criticism of his limitations. Indeed, any minor accomplishment is made to look magnificent.
And then there are the flying monkeys. Flying monkeys are the siblings, and others, who act as the hit men for the NPD parent. They are sent on missions to obtain information from the scapegoat that gets reported back to the NPD parent. The parent then uses that information to spread rumors, gossip and malicious mockery through his or her own actions or the actions of the flying monkeys. The gossip may contain a hint of truth but this is usually blown out of proportion. The more voices that propagate the gossip, the greater the negative effect on the scapegoat.
So, here’s my leap from micro to macro and what we will be subjected to for the next two years until the presidential election. The narcissists are in charge. They control the horizontal and the vertical. All the moneys are belong to them and they are determined to extract every penny of what they think they are owed. They will do this by conscripting the US government to cover their debts even if it means impoverishing the tax base. They don’t see labor as consisting of real people. Labor is a resource to be used when it is needed and discarded when it is not.
I’d like to use the term exploitative profit mining to describe the effect of unfettered narcissistic capitalism on the general public and predict that this will continue to result in economic instability and eventually, the dangerous undermining of democratic governments. The early and mid 20th century saw the negative fallout of this kind of behavior with WWI, the Great Depression and WWII. I’d hate to think we are going to have to live through those kinds of upheavals again but the rise of ultra right wing and nationalistic parties in Europe in the wake of austerity, as well as the political chaos caused by the Tea Party fanatics here in the US have me very worried that we’re headed for trouble.
Over the past 6 years, we have become all too familiar with the typical behaviors and attitudes of narcissists. Do not look to them for any sense of empathy. They do not possess it and the only mechanisms for keeping them in check have been abandoned at this point. Check out any review of Tim Geithner’s book, Stress Test, if you want to know what he, the lieutenant of the narcissists, did on their behalf. Keep in mind the characteristics of narcissists as you read it.
Their most significant triumph to date has been to get their golden child elected. The scapegoat is Hillary Clinton. Look at any comment section of a left leaning blog and you will find this is true. Obama inherited the financial crisis. That’s why the economy sucks. The Republicans hate Obama. That’s why the ACA is FUBAR. Obama didn’t start the war in Iraq. So, it’s not his fault if the void we left when we pulled out of Iraq has destabilized the country.
(Sidenote: Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker was interviewed on Fresh Air yesterday. In the last 4 minutes of the interview, Filkins lays out the culpability of the Obama administration with respect to the current crisis in Iraq. It’s not pretty. Expect Filkins to suffer some scapegoating for truth telling about the golden child’s “accomplishments”.)
Hillary can do nothing right. Everything she says is scrutinized in order to put the worst possible spin on it. She’s not perfect, that’s for sure, and right now, unless I see her move to the left boldly to take on the exploitative profit miners, it will be hard for me to justify voting for her. But, golly gee, nobody is as bad as the left seems to think Hillary is. According to the left, she and her husband wrecked welfare and imposed an unconstitutional piece of legislation on gay people while single handedly destroying Glass-Steagall. Then they wickedly danced around the fire while chanting incantations, laughing evilly at the suffering of others and killing the bees. It’s an image of the Clintons that completely cuts out the crazy Whitewater scandal, the crazy Monica scandal, the hours of congressional hearings and special prosecutions over billing records, and the millions of dollars that they and their friends and everyone who ever worked for them were forced to spend on what turned out to be harassment suits. This during the Newt Gingrich years. Remember Newt??
But it doesn’t matter. Hillary Clinton is facing flying monkeys on the left as well as the right. And while we can’t do anything about the flying monkeys on the right, I just have to wonder if the flying monkeys on the left have thought this through. The books I’ve read say that the flying monkeys are not always aware of what they are doing. The narcissists controlling them make them feel included, like they’re one of the club. And it’s fun to get that sip of narcissistic oxygen that comes with watching the scapegoat flailing and not succeeding.
There’s a danger to this though. If Hillary truly is the last great hope of the left in 2016, and she sees that the narcissists and flying monkeys on the left are determined to see her fail, then her only choice to win the White House is to appeal to the disaffected voters of 2008 who abandoned the Democrats for the Tea Party. That wouldn’t be me. I’m still in exile. I’m talking about the more socially conservative Democrats who felt snubbed by Obama and his supporters writing them off, calling them religious, gun toting, bitter knitters. She’s got to get her votes from somewhere and if the crunchy lefties and snobby lefties are going to get prodded by the narcissists to go after her non-stop from now until 2016, then she’s going to have to appeal to the Reagan Democrats. At this point, the left is all but conceding that she is the inevitable candidate (why they say this is anyone’s guess but it’s out there). And if it is true that the left is finally, reluctantly, going to get behind Hillary, it’s going to be undermining its own candidate if it keeps telling the world how loathsome it thinks she is.
That’s something to think about.
On the other hand, Hillary has to come to terms with her scapegoat role. Once you have become the scapegoat, there is virtually nothing you can do about changing it. Defensiveness doesn’t do much good. The scapegoating will continue until the narcissist dies or the flying monkeys get a clue as to how and why they are being used. As long as the flying monkeys are getting off on what they’re doing, finding it successful, and the golden child remains protected, don’t expect anything to change. The scapegoat has a choice. Go along with it or divorce the whole family. You can never appease the narcissist enough to be your own person.
Filed under: General | Tagged: exploitative profit mining, flying monkeys, golden child, Hillary Clinton, narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Obama, Philip Zimbardo, scapegoats, The Lucifer Effect | 35 Comments »