Narcissism in the Political Arena
By Dr. H. Lawrence Zillmer
A Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by many behavior patterns, including superficial glibness and charm, a grandiose sense of self worth, pathological lying, cunning manipulative practices, lack of remorse or guilt for problems created, a callous lack of empathy, and a failure to accept responsibility for their own actions. (Hare Psychopathy Checklist) NPD is a pathological condition, a sickness which affects both the individual and their entire social setting. It is a psychotic condition with a very low rate of the individual changing fundamental behavior. Since many affected with NPD become leaders, they represent a very serious threat to community well being. Let us examine the characteristics one by one.
Those exhibiting NPD patterns often have a very superficial manner of presenting themselves. They are often glib talkers, presenting themselves as the answer to human needs, especially in a leadership capacity. In a social setting they stand out as having ready answers, easy solutions to problems, appearing to be able to solve complex problems by their glib proposals.
Persons with this behavior problem have a grandiose sense of self-worth. They believe they have the answers to problems. They often exhibit a kind of messianic belief in themselves. Glib solutions are presented with a certainty gained by their own sense of self worth. They do not accept criticism well and are not able to work with others as equals easily. They are solipsists, believing what they believe is true because of what they perceive themselves to be.
NPD patients are usually pathological liars because of their solipsist view of themselves. Since they believe they are the truth, there is no room for anything that could challenge that belief system. They have little sense of the wrongness of lying since the lie supports and is the truth as they perceive it, which serves to reinforce their sense of themselves. Since a lie will serve to save the individual from criticism and will further the cause, it is serves a necessary end.
Since these individuals need to have constant affirmation and will not tolerate criticism of themselves, they are experts at manipulating people to serve their own purposes. They see nothing wrong with lying or misrepresentation as long as it furthers their agenda. Others exist to further determined ends, Therefore whatever means are needed to get people to further those goals is justified. Others are tools to an end by whatever means needed.
Persons with the NPD sickness exhibit little remorse or guilt for mistakes, or failures under their leadership or for whatever they proposed. It is always someone else’s fault. If “they” hadn’t done so and so, if “they” had done so and so, the desired goals would have been achieved. In consort with their grandiose ideas of themselves whatever failures or disasters occur, it in not their fault. They simply will not learn through criticism of themselves or their actions.
Since NPD persons are so self-centered, they have little tolerance or feelings of empathy for whatever damage they do to others. Others exist to serve the programs and purposes of the individual regardless of what it may cost them. Whatever it costs another, it is the price they must pay for whatever this sick individual says must be done. There is zero tolerance for the opinions of others if they differ from what this solipsist believes to be the truth.
Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions is endemic in persons with the NPD illness. Since they cannot tolerate the idea that they might have made a mistake, whatever happened must be the fault of another, it certainly isn’t theirs!
People develop NPD because of a childhood of poor parenting. Every child is self-centered of necessity. They will cry until they get what they want. The big people exist to serve their needs. Good parenting helps the child to learn the pleasure of sharing, of caring for others, of responding to the needs of others and of respecting the person of others.
Childhood narcissism should develop into the ability to build and sustain relationships based upon a healthy sense of self-worth. In order to have healthy relationships one learns a true sense of self-worth.
People suffering from NPD have a warped sense of their own self-worth. They are manipulative and self-centered. They are willing to use people for their own ends. Learning how to share, to respect the other, and to work together with others is a skill that is never learned as the early child-hood concept of the role of others does not change. Because of their grandiose idea of their own self-worth, they often go up the rungs of leadership very quickly. Coated with a veneer of the superficial, with a disregard for truly learning the skills of real leadership, they find themselves in roles of leadership for which they are not truly qualified but which their glibness and self-assurance make them seem the idea person for such leadership.
Leaders lead people. Who responds to NPD personalities? Amazingly enough, many people. On the one hand they seem to promise real change, seem to have the right ideas, and can certainly speak the language people in trouble want to hear. Most people are not aware of NPD behavior patterns so they perceive the false for the ideal reality.
On the other hand, research shows that many people in a democracy are uncomfortable with casting a reliable ballot. See Dr. Erich Fromm’s book “Escape from Freedom.” When in doubt cast the ballot for the one who looks good, seems to assume leadership, and speaks reassuringly. Promise people entitlements and non-threatening economic situations and too many people will look no further.
The danger in this situation is the weakness of those with the NPD disease. Skilled manipulators can flesh out the desires of that individual, seemingly offer a road to the achievement of the individual’s sick needs, and use them to their own ends. If those afflicted with this disease recognize how they have been manipulated they often commit suicide, believing to the end that the world is unworthy of them!
What can a society do when they have such an individual for their leader? First of all recognize the symptoms for the NPD disease. We are not dealing with a normal person but a sick individual. Programs and reasoning do no good. Medicine and therapies will not help as the individual does not believe they are sick. Electing to not follow, whether by the ballot or by people support, is essential as it plays to the core of the fear which they have in their deepest persona—I may be worthless!
History records a parade of NPD leaders, Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Mao, to mention some of the obvious, but every social body must thoroughly examine whether they have allowed a smooth talking, self-serving, willing to lie and maneuver for their own power, person to win by the ballot of naïve and trusting people, and who is manipulating them!
“..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds..” – Samuel Adams