Monday, November 06, 2006

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.
President Bush is anything but glib. With him, like it or not, what you see is what you get. He has faults of course, but narcissism is definitely not one of them. In fact, his character is a FOIL to that of a narcissist. So, anyone who diagnoses him as a narcissist knows nothing about NPD.

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.
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At 12:42 PM, Blogger Louise said...

Well, one thing in Lil Sis' favor- she's 180 degrees NOT Mr Bush!

Seriously, this all rings true and she gets worse every week. There are now protection orders taken out against her by both her landlord (Sept) and boyfriend (Oct), neither of whom knew her before August (when I also threated a PO to stop the harassment). She's ping-ponging around her state, trying to find a safe place to hide and live without lawsuits; still has multiple pending cases.

I have never been so damned glad of ANYTHING in my life than finding out about NPD, NC and hiding myself on the Internet from her. These steps probably saved me and my family decades of pain, or worse.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Dandelion said...

I disagree about Bush. He sets off my N-radar every time I see him. I have to admit I voted for him the first time, but have been disappointed too many times when his statements haven't matched up with reality.

To address some of your tests, not all narcissists are smooth-talking. I've seen one tremble and fall apart when having to speak in front of a group. Couldn't the "mis-speaking" and such be part of a down-to-earth persona that has proven useful to get the average person to identify with him? Likewise, knowing he's on camera, why wouldn't he engage with kids, to have exactly the kind of impression he's having on you? The same N I mentioned above also bends down to address kids and engage them...only for about the first minute she sees them, because she's trying to make an impression--what a good grandma.

As for Bush flying into rages, I haven't heard that in particular, but I have read at least two articles over the years that have talked about his impatient, irritable manner behind closed doors, especially with those below him, or when things aren't going his way. It seems his mother (Barbara Bush) is also like that. (Sorry I can't cite the source--I didn't save the articles, but they weren't written in a smear fashion.)

As for fidelity, it doesn't necessarily relate to lack of narcissism, as the other N in my life shows.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

An experienced politician who trembles and falls apart when talking before a group? Bush doesn't tremble and fall apart in front of a group. He just stammers, and mainly only before a hostile group = the press. I can tell when somebody is faking to put on a show of paying attention to children, and I can tell that Bush doesn't do that. Watch White House events on C-SPAN to see for yourself. Getting irritated isn't the same thing as flying into an inexplicable rage that makes people think you're going to fire them and then acting like it didn't happen. Infidelity is a hallmark of NPD. Infidelity in relationships of all sorts = betraying people in one way or another. There is no malice in Bush. And Bill Clinton is the first to say so. In fact I just heard him say it in a speech yesterday, for about the third or fourth time.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous liz123 said...

Naturally we must have a political discussion on election eve. I am in politics and it attracts a fair share of narcissists.

It is uncanny to watch the politician N's shrivel and die without the attention.

You have to be self confident for sure to be in politics, but a little humility and honesty goes a long way.

Bush doesnt seem like a narcissist to me.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Fighter said...

Kathy - have you read Dr. Frank's BUSH ON THE COUCH???

frankly - Bush is pathological, perhaps sociopathic - but N? probably not.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Fighter, Got a reason for saying that?

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One story about Bush that I found very disturbing was that when he was Governor of Texas there was an inmate awaiting execution who was considered mentally retarded. The report at the time was that Bush immitated the inmate's style of speech and tears while denying the plea for clemency. I cannot find the reference, but there are many references that he made fun of Karla Faye Tucker's appeal before her execution.

And Karla Faye Tucker would not have been let free ever, but her sentence would have been commuted to life in prison. She was a model prisoner, she'd never get out, she'd never hurt anyone again, so where was the harm in sparing her life. Even the Pope asked Bush to grant clemency and he just mocked the whole thing.

None of us like criminals, especially violent ones, but I'd think most compassionate people would find an execution tragic and not funny, particularly if there are circumstances like mental retardation.

That doesn't make Bush an N by any means, but it does worry me, especially in light of this violent costly war. Someone can be light on compassion and not necessarily be N. But he also seems to have no self doubt and will claim to have never said things he said, so...

But I know, you are a Republican so your statements here are colored by your political leanings.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

And yours aren't?

Actually I'm a lifelong Democrat who voted against Bush in 2000. The ONLY Republican I had ever voted for to any office was Reagan. But I have been sickened by that vicious assaults on President Bush's character. When people like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton feel compelled to speak up in his defense and say that he isn't a bad man, I take that seriously. If what you say about him is true, it would mean something. But there is such a blizzard of outrageous lies and speculations about inner intents and motives, that I won't believe stories like that unless I see reliable evidence that they are true.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Louise said...

My suggestion is to go back through the entire checklist, not just the 5 examples here, if the question still exists- George Bush may be many things and guilty of many failings, including completely unable to admit mistakes, misguided beyond belief, and a dangerous embarrasment to our country and our long-term standing in the world- but the guy is NOT an N. Nope.

Being an insensitive jerk doesn't make one an N. People are multi-faceted, and I think we ALL know someone who is a jerk, yet not an N.

Getting irritated in a high pressure situation is very normal. Look in any inner-city hospital ER in America- you'll see VERY STRESSED, irritated residents and others. (side: Barbara Bush is a very nice woman in person and first to admit when she's said something she shouldn't have- she tends to watch herself more carefully now, as it got her in trouble unexpectedly in the past)

Not having a grip on reality can just show bad judgement. That it's our PRESIDENT is damned unfortunate- FOR US. But he really BELIEVES that he and his cadre know what's best, and that we shouldn't question his judgement.

Others in that cadre? Possible Ns. But not Bush.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Well, we needn't opine further here, because we shall soon know for sure. Now that the Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives, it MUST impeach the President if they believe even a fraction of the accusationas they have made against him. For, it's unthinkable that they could really believe him guilty of such high crimes and misdemeanors and NOT impeach him. Failing to would be indefensible.


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