Are narcissistic protecting their supplies

Lies, Self-Deception, and Malevolent Narcissism

Source: Wikimedia Commons by Caravaggio.

We now have a bestselling book called The dangerous case of Donald Trump (here) on President Trump's Suspected Psychiatric Condition, composed of 27 essays by prominent and respected psychiatrists, psychologists, and other psychiatric professionals. Contributors include the likes of psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton and Stanford psychologist and PT blogger Philip Zimbardo. Do they have the right, or perhaps even the professional responsibility, to join the political process as they believe, by remotely diagnosing the president? As they claim in the book, is there a "duty" to warn the American public and the world of the perceived potential danger of Donald Trumps? Personality and presidency? (I already got some of these key questions in the previous post.)

According to a fascinating 2006 psychobiographical study by Duke University Medical Center of the lives of 37 former US presidents, a staggering 50 percent of them suffered from diagnosable mental illness, including major depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders - many manifesting symptoms during her tenure as president. (See this PT blogger's post.) The list includes some of our greatest presidents, such as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. So just manifesting a mental disorder does not in and of itself disqualify someone from serving as president. Or of doing well. Rather, it is the various particular psychopathologies that are cited collectively by the authors of this book and other affected clinicians - narcissistic personality disorder, disorder, delusional disorder, dementia, etc. - and remotely attributed to Mr. Trump, who are at stake here.

Narcissistic personality disorder - which I believe exists on a spectrum whose heavier pole is sociopathy, or what I previously called psychopathic narcissism - is one of the more popular and prevalent diagnoses Donald Trump made by mental health professionals in the book here at PT and by others who observed his behavior both before and during his presidency. Assuming that Mr. Trump, who had enough support and popularity to win the presidency, meets the full diagnostic criteria for this personality disorder - which is somewhat speculative in the absence of a thorough personal assessment by a skilled diagnostician - this begs the questions: What makes the narcissistic personality so irresistibly attractive to certain people? What makes some people particularly susceptible to the considerable stimuli of the narcissist? And why do those who fall under the spell of the narcissist support whatever he or she says or does without question?

Pathological or malignant narcissism manifests itself to some extent and ranges from the relatively harmless narcissism of self-absorption and self-enlargement to the extremely toxic narcissism of predatory psychopathic narcissism. Narcissists who are not dissimilar to psychopaths or sociopaths and who know how to manipulate people effectively through flattery, lies, deceit, and deception can be legendarily charming and make them very attractive to the worship of others. Narcissists desperately need such devotion from others and go to great lengths to ceaselessly seek out such "narcissistic supplies". And those who actively revere them, fill the narcissist's voracious and nourish appetites for attention and adoration, need the narcissist as much as the narcissist needs them. It's a symbiotic relationship. So who are they

Such fanatical followers suffer from deep feelings of inferiority, frustration, emptiness, futility, and powerlessness. You feel small and insignificant. In the success, fame, and grandiosity of the narcissistic personality, they perceive someone who expresses and embodies the exact opposite of those negative feelings about themselves. They absolutely need to lionize, admire, and revere the narcissist, and this is exactly what makes them so ready to be deceived and manipulated by the narcissist. These individuals live vicariously through the narcissist and indulge in his celebrity as if it were their own. These people need the narcissist to make themselves and their own seemingly insignificant existence feel better. For them, the narcissist fulfills the psychological (sometimes) spiritual) role of a savior or a messiah.

Psychologically, we are all consciously or unconsciously looking for a Messiah. This archetypal tendency can be seen as an expression of what existential therapist Irvin Yalom calls universal hope for an "ultimate savior": an almighty force or being who similarly unconditionally loves us and protects us from the whims and vicissitudes of existence those of a good parent. Someone who will save us from the burden of our existential loneliness, freedom and responsibility. Belief in and blind allegiance to such a Messiah figure enables us to lose our freedom and personal responsibility and place them instead in the hands of the Savior. It's a way of warding off our feelings of despair, helplessness, and hopelessness. It also allows us to feel better because of the chosen association with the grandiosity of messianic authority and to become a kind of vicarious narcissist defense mechanism.

Malicious narcissists are messianic precisely because of their massive grandiosity. It is important to note, however, that this narcissistic grandiosity provides compensation and massive defense against the same deep-seated feelings of inferiority found in the followers of narcissism. The narcissist has almost always been deeply wounded, betrayed, abandoned, neglected, rejected in childhood and spends his adult life fending off such feelings by constantly acquiring narcissistic supplies, just as the addict seeks substance despite the negative consequences. They seek, long and often achieve success, fame, wealth, status and power - not least because of their drive and sometimes also native talents. These are the drugs on which the neurotically narcissistic person is totally dependent. These "drugs" are used to treat and numb the narcissist's underlying feelings of failure, inferiority, despair, rejection, and unpleasantness.

In this sense, the narcissist - or we could technically say the ego - has found a way to defend himself against such feelings, or in other words to defeat and overcome them. He has succeeded in transforming painful feelings of inferiority into grandiosity, which the average person only does in fantasy. However, such compensatory defenses are neurotic by definition. Pathological. Grandiosity serves to keep feelings of inferiority unconscious and in check. In extreme cases, such grandiosity becomes psychotic and expresses itself in the form of paranoid delusions about being God, Jesus, the Savior, or the Messiah. Paradoxically, however, this chronic oppression makes the narcissist extremely vulnerable to such unconscious feelings of inferiority, especially when altered by various forms of narcissistic hurt or wounds such as disregard, insult, or prevention. Some might say "thin-skinned". When these feelings of inferiority are inevitably stimulated by such daily events, the narcissist fails to respond by acknowledging and accepting such "negative" effects, which, as at least one recent at U.C. conducted study has confirmed. Berkeley (here) would be mentally healthy, but would directly or indirectly experience narcissism and express anger and so on to defend ourselves against becoming aware of those uncomfortable feelings of inferiority that we all sometimes experience.

For this reason, narcissists compulsively create and perpetuate their own version of reality by twisting and distorting information to suit their own purposes. To preserve and protect their own person, as C.G. Jung called it. Not only to maintain their self-image in the eye of the public but their own grandiose image and inflated assessment of themselves. And therefore, those who admire it or seek their own narcissistic supplies by being around them also participate in this particular reality. All of this requires significant amounts of self-deception.

Folie a deux is an idiomatic French expression that means "madness of two". This syndrome was earlier diagnostically mentioned in the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV-TR as Shared Psychotic Disorder, one of the different types of psychosis. (It is no longer viewed as an independent psychiatric disorder by DSM 5, but is grouped under Other Psychotic Disorder.) It is essentially a delusional disorder. How common is this condition, what causes it, and what can it teach us about the nature and dangers of self-delusion?

By definition, a delusion is a psychotic symptom: a firm, false, irrational belief that is not compatible with objective reality, but nevertheless vehemently clings to it. Shared psychotic disorder refers to the onset of such a delusional state in someone as a result of a close relationship with another person who is already suffering from psychosis. Yes, in this sense, psychosis can be transferable. This relatively rare mental disorder illustrates two important truths: Contrary to the conventional mainstream view, psychosis is mostly not just the manifestation of a biochemical aberration or a "broken brain", but a fundamentally psychological phenomenon. And as such, it shows the dangerous extent to which the human mind is capable of massive self-deception. It proves the incredible power of psychology. None of us can deceive ourselves. We do it all the time. Such self-delusion, which we believe to be delusional in its most extreme and pathological forms, is more widespread than most imagine.

Consider the common example of a heated conflict with a spouse, lover, relative, or close friend. How is it that each participant can retrospectively have a completely contradicting version of what happened? Objectively speaking, A happened first, then B, then C was said, D followed, and so on. But what if the objective facts or our own behavior do not agree well with our self-image? We distort the facts to support our particular point of view and to maintain our belief in the kind of person we are or want to be. When the objective facts threaten the ego and its integrity, we experience what social psychologists call "confirmation error," a type of cognitive dissonance more recently known as "Morton's Demon". We reject certain facts that are inconsistent with our myth of ourselves in favor of other less threatening and corroborating facts. We twist the truth. And we are convinced of the correctness of this twisted truth. And we do all of this unconsciously. We don't even know we are! This goes beyond the mere "cognitive distortion" and leads to a radical rewriting of history and reality in order to preserve our precious self-image or our personality. In its most extreme form, such self-delusion can lead to certain delusions that are symptomatic of psychosis. This clearly shows the strong unconscious cognitive component of psychotic disorders of various kinds. And those that play in the pathologically narcissistic personality.

While such cases are extreme, this type of symbiotic dynamic is present to some degree in most relationships, with the partners regularly stepping into and supporting the other's subjective reality. Even if it is necessary to deceive yourself to do it. Evidence of this can be seen broadly in codependent relationships, in which the severity of abusive behavior or substance abuse or mental illness in one person is minimized by the other person. This insidious self-deception occurs not only with couples, but also with families, friendships, groups, religious cults, political parties and entire countries. Cognitive dissonance causes us to ignore or negate anything that contradicts our cherished self-image or offends our personal or collective narcissism. So the truth that we see is very selective and primarily serves to enhance our experience of ourselves as good, kind, honest, religious, spiritual, loving, etc. Or, in some cases, biasing as an affirmation or Morton's demon can even lead to the rejection of positive traits that seem incompatible with the ingrained negative view of oneself, thereby destructively perpetuating them.

In particular, when the individuals are eventually separated in a folie a deux, the person who accepted the other's delusions typically no longer exhibits psychotic symptoms, while the original and more dominant delusional partner (the "inducer" or "primary case") remains psychotic. Why is that? This is partly due to the fact that the person taking on someone else's delusional system is somewhat more intact psychologically than the inducer. Therefore, when removed from the direct influence of the delusional inducer, they no longer fully participate in and no longer support its distorted subjective reality. Indeed, for the sake of solidarity and support in his or her delusional version of reality, they may have bonded passively or even lovingly with the other so as not to be abandoned or abandoned by the other.

A concrete example of this dynamic are cults of various kinds in which passive followers fanatically internalize the charismatic leader, grandiosis and paranoid delusions. As susceptible followers leave the cult, these symptoms tend to decrease over time. With the ability to influence and motivate the masses through the power of speech, manipulation, and apocalyptic vision, such leaders, as psychologist Henry Murray notes, become the "incarnation of the unspoken needs and desires of the crowd". Such inflated individuals see themselves as prophets, saviors, messiah. But they are false prophets. At the same time, like the mythical figures of the Antichrist in Christianity, Armilus in Judaism and Masih ad-Dajjal in Islam, they are not only false prophets, but, even more pernicious and fateful, the embodiment of evil and perpetrators of grotesquely evil deeds. Think Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, and others. Refusing or refusing to acknowledge this insidious form of evil, an existential psychologist of self-delusion, Rollo May referred to as pseudoinnocence, makes one very susceptible to manipulation.

In truth, we are all mistaken about a variety of things, from bad behavior to our emotions to the ever-present existential fact of death. Such self-delusion is fundamentally associated with Freud's broad conception of the unconscious - the unknown aspects of our psyche - and especially Jung's concept of the shadow: we hide these unacceptable qualities and tendencies in ourselves from others as well as from ourselves. Denying our own selfishness, fears, cruelty, and complicity in evil - unconsciousness - is itself an insidious form of self-deception. This is why it becomes more and more conscious as the year progresses. Psychotherapy can be a shocking, painful, and sobering process. Jung noted that it is therapeutically important to consciously tolerate the "tension of opposites" that we now call "cognitive dissonance", and that such an unadulterated confrontation with the truth about oneself is almost always initially seen as an insult or defeat Ego is experienced - a devastating blow to our narcissism. No wonder we are so passionate about resisting this process. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to be brutally honest with yourself. But it is precisely this willingness to stop our chronic self-delusion and face the truth that ultimately sets us free.