Missing the Boat About What Malignant Narcissism Is
One problem with social workers diagnosing and treating NPD is the culture of social work. It is almost like a creed: There are no bad people, just misunderstood people. People are the product of their environment; they are abusers by accident because of being abused in childhood. The poor things don't mean to hurt people - they just can't control their anger. They are poor victims we should feel sorry for.
This attitude is not only wrong; it's condescending as hell.
In Conceptual Clarity, I pointed out one social worker's effort to correct this misconception about batterers. It links to a paper by David Garvin, a social worker for the Catholic Relief Services. He tries valiantly to make the point that "saying that a batterer has an anger control problem is like saying Lucciano Pavorotti needs vocal lessons." The batterer's anger is no accident. It's a tool. He summons it (or any emotion) as a "coercive means establish and maintain or regain control" of other people. His anger is premeditated, in other words, an act.
How can we know this for sure? Because he can turn it on and off like a light switch. You can't do that with genuine anger: it needs time to warm up and cool down. Take a narcissist who flies into a narcissistic rage. It always explodes suddenly, without warning and for no understandable reason, taking you by surprise. If you move forward, instead of back, and rage right back in his or her face, presto chango ... rage off. The Transfiguration has occurred. Standing before you is a meek and suddenly reasonable little child who wouldn't hurt a fly and is wondering why you're being so mean.
That's proof that the rage is phony. Just a mask. Proof that raging is calculated, diabolical behavior. No accident. Nothing he can't control.
True, over the life of a person who has been pulling this stunt since he or she was seven years old, the rage tantrum act does become habitual. Habitually he reacts this way whenever you digress from his script. So, he needn't consciously think, "Okay, time to throw a rage tantrum at her." But a habit is still voluntary, purposeful, learned behavior, not something that happens by accident.
We have so many people pontificating on NPD who have completely missed the boat that there are books promulgating the theory that the American people are narcissistic. Duh! You cannot BE more wrong about something! Americans are the one people in the world who can't be narcissistic, because (a) we are no breed and never have been and (b) we have no nation to envy.
How can these authors be so far off? They are so ignorant about narcissism that they they think being exalted causes narcissism. Wrong. Being BROUGHT LOW causes narcissism. It's SHAME in denial, not high self esteem. It grandiosity, not greatness. These big mouths are oblivious to the malignance, the ill will, in NPD. They are so ignorant they don't know that narcissists go around tearing others down to exalt themselves. Try the French people, you idiots.
Similarly we have idiots diagnosing President Bush as a narcissist. That's ludicrous.
- TEST: Put a narcissist in front of a crowd and he glows, milking all the attention and admiration he can get. Put President Bush in front of a crowd and he stammers, obviously uncomfortable (as most of us would be) at being the center of all that attention.
- TEST: Put a narcissist in the presence of children and he acts like they aren't there, trying to keep all the attention on himself. Put President Bush in the presence of children and he forgets the cameras, bending down to give them all his attention.
- TEST: President Bush is NOT the prominent politician with a legendary reputation for having a "terrible temper" and mysteriously flying into a rages at people and then acting the next day like nothing happened. No one has reported this red flag of narcissism in President Bush's behavior.
- TEST: President Bush is NOT the politician with a history of grabbing media attention by making outrageous accusations that attack the character of opponents or whole groups of people.
- TEST: President Bush is NOT a politician with a track record littered with instances of infidelity in every sense of the word. In fact, he has a reputation for the opposite.
Yes, politics attracts more than its share of narcissists. But those who diagnose President Bush as one should check out the profiles of some prominent Democrats for signs of NPD before opening their yaps. And, if they are determined to accuse only Republicans, they should at least aim at the right ones.
These are egregious errors in judgment. Ironic errors. In other words, they are not just a little off - they are 180 degrees off. They are the result of completely missing the boat about what malignant narcissism is.