Sunday, December 31, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Essence of Narcissism
As the material on the Main Website has grown, it has grown out of shape. So, I am reshaping it to eliminate repetition and better organize. I have updated the base piece, "The Essence of Narcissism" in a way that seems to make what is going on more clear, partly through the following illustration...
Friday, December 22, 2006
Recent comments have given me an idea that may add to the discussion. A well known literary character in much the the predicament as the victims of narcissists was Hamlet.
Notice that, whenever we see him alone and free to be himself, he rages. It's easy to understand why if you you put yourself in his shoes. To act like it didn't happen is unthinkable. How could he wink at the murder of his father and king? Not to mention the dishonor of his mother and queen. Not to mention stealing the throne from Hamlet as the rightful heir.
Hamlet could choose to do nothing about the throne, but he isn't morally free to act like his father wasn't murdered and his mother dishonored. It would be wrong. Very, very, very immoral. The wicked crime cries out to the top of Heaven for justice, and, as Prince of realm under a usurper, the buck stops at Hamlet to do justice.
He naturally wants to run off like Laertes and rouse the rabble for a revolt or to just murder Claudius. But instead, he bides his time. He waits for an opportunity to expose Claudius before the whole court. That is not only the way to go about it most hazardous to his health, but for all those months it looks like Hamlet is going belly up. What an incredible dishonor! people think he's just taken leave of his senses instead of dealing like a king with what has happened.
That, on top of his natural hurt and anger, is what makes the situation so excruciating for him. It is abjectly humiliating to let people think he's caved in and nuts, to even encourage them to think so, so that he doesn't have to talk any nicer than the average "crazy" court jester did with sarcastic remarks at everyone who spoke to him. So that he can keep yanking a conversation wildly off track every time somebody tries to catch him out saying something treasonous.
We see, in his famous raging soliloquies, that Hamlet is being torn in two. These aren't natural thinking: they are like the speeches people make into a mirror. Which is why they are so contrary to what he actually does in the story.
Shall he just have done with it and do like any other prince would (assassinate Claudius) or take the high road and prove what Claudius is before witnesses?
His self esteem is so assaulted that he doesn't even trust himself. He suspects that his choice to take the high road is just procrastination out of cowardice.
But in the end we see that he is no coward. The moment he has his chance, he seizes it to expose Claudius before the court (which actually was the high court of the land) for the dirty, lowdown, rotten, scheming, venomous snake and TRAITOR that he (Claudius) was, giving his life in the deed of executing justice as an honorable man. Hamlet was dying and had nothing to gain by it any more: he just did it because it was justice (the greatest good people believed in that day).
So, what about all that anger? Was it a sin?
I say no. I say it just makes him more a hero and saint - to be that outraged and that much in pain ... so much in pain that he wished he were dead ... and still risk his life and suffer terrible dishonor and anguish till he had an opportunity to set things right in a principled and honorable way.
What do you think? Were his emotions themselves sinful? Or is he to be judged by his deeds? I won't have time to debate much, but I am interested in a variety of viewpoints.
Some people can be amazingly obtuse. Just because NPD is classed, not just as a character disorder, but also as a personality disorder, they think narcissists are just poor, suffering victims who just can't help what nasty things they do to people.
So long as they do it to OTHER people, that is.
People like this are half the problem.
Has it never occured to them why narcissists let Mr. Hyde out only in the dark? Only behind closed doors in secret where there are no witnesses? Why do narcissists dream up ways to abuse that leave no evidence or take great pains to conceal the evidence or get somebody else blamed for the deed, preferably the victim? Just because they have a diabolical sense of humor, or what?
Why do they take such pains to carve out a false image of themselves? one that's the very antithesis of their true selves, with a halo and wings and an angelface? Why do they behave like angels when there would be witnesses? and only attack when the coast is clear? Why do they attack only those who cannot just get or stay from them? Why do they never attack anyone who can fight back?
Because they can't control themselves? Give me a break.
Why are they angels one minute in the light of day and devils the next when there will will be no witness? If they know enough to hide their behavior, they know it's wrong, hateful, and shameful. They just do it anyway. If they can control themselves when there would be witnesses, they can control themselves, period. Duh.
That's why NPD is no defense in a court of law here in the United States. Such people are not insane. Psychopaths and narcissists go to jail, whereas the truly insane are not held responsible for what they do.
Indeed, the law classes NPD as a CHARACTER disorder for the same reasons I cited above = wickedness. There is still a substantial debate about whether NPD should be classed as a character disorder or a personality disorder.
Narcissists hurt you to make themselves feel good. Because you don't count. You are a bug. You exist to be used by them to make themselves feel good. Since stomping you makes these mental three-year-olds feel mighty, they stomp you. And boy do they then feel grand.
They can't help what they feel, but they CHOOSE not to grow up, and they CAN help what they do.
If you consider the facts I mentioned above, you will see that they prove two things beyond all doubt: that naricissists know that what they're doing is wrong and that they can control themselves.
So, they are no better than some drug addict who murders you for five dollars to buy his next hit and feel good.
Not suffering victims. And I wish the obtuse would file down their pointy heads on this matter and see that already.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Predators Among Us
The jury is still out: not all narcissists may be psychopaths, but all psychopaths are definitely narcissists. In view of the disappearing distictions between NPD and APD in the literature, you should find this article in Psychology Today, Predators, by Dr. Robert Hare helpful. It is so valuable that I quote extensively from it (adding a couple inline comments, followed by my initials - KK), but I urge you to read the whole article because of the examples it gives:
There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming—but always deadly—individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person's expense.
Not surprisingly, many psychopaths are criminals, but many others manage to remain out of prison, using their charm and chameleon-like coloration to cut a wide swathe through society, leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them.
To put it simply, if we can't spot them we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society.
Psychopaths are often voluble and verbally facile. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a clever comeback, and are able to tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves in a good light. They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likable and charming.
Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their own self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, justified in living according to their own rules.
Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the effects their actions have on others, no matter how devastating these might be.
Many of the characteristics displayed by psychopaths are closely associated with a profound lack of empathy and inability to construct a mental and emotional "facsimile" of another person. They seem completely unable to "get into the skin" of others, except in a purely intellectual sense.
They are completely indifferent to the rights and suffering of family and strangers alike. If they do maintain ties, it is only because they see family members as possessions.
With their powers of imagination in gear and beamed on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility—or even by the certainty—of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they seldom appear perplexed or embarrassed—they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie. The result is a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener.
And psychopaths seem proud of their ability to lie.
Psychopaths seem to suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feelings. At times they appear to be cold and unemotional while nevertheless being prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. Careful observers are left with the impression they are play-acting and little is going on below the surface. [Yup - KK]
Psychopaths are unlikely to spend much time weighing the pros and cons of a course of action or considering the possible consequences. "I did it because I felt like it," is a common response. These impulsive acts often result from an aim that plays a central role in most of the psychopath's behavior: to achieve immediate satisfaction, pleasure, or relief.
Besides being impulsive, psychopaths are highly reactive to perceived insults or slights. Most of us have powerful inhibitory controls over our behavior; even if we would like to respond aggressively we are usually able to "keep the lid on." In psychopaths, these inhibitory controls are weak, and the slightest provocation is sufficient to overcome them.
As a result, psychopaths are short-tempered or hotheaded and tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline, and criticism with sudden violence, threats or verbal abuse. But their outbursts, extreme as they may be, are often short-lived, and they quickly act as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Although psychopaths have a "hair trigger," their aggressive displays are "cold"; they lack the intense arousal experienced when other individuals lose their temper. [I bet that's why they can turn it off like a switch if you surprise them by getting right back in their face instead of backing down -- KK]
Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement—theylong to live in the fast lane or "on the edge," where the action is. [Reminds me of Hitler unable to keep himself from provoking war with Great Britain, while terrified of the risks at the same time - obviously tempting fate for nothing but excitement at Munich! - KK]]
Obligations and commitments mean nothing to psychopaths. Their good intentions—"I'll never cheat on you again"—are promises written on the wind.
Horrendous credit histories, for example, reveal the lightly taken debt, the loan shrugged off, the empty pledge to contribute to a child's support. Their performance on the job is erratic, with frequent absences, misuse of company resources, violations of company policy, and general untrustworthiness. They do not honor formal or implied commitments to people, organizations, or principles.
Psychopaths are not deterred by the possibility that their actions mean hardship or risk for others.
But not all psychopaths end up in jail. Many of the things they do escape detection or prosecution, or are on "the shady side of the law." For them, antisocial behavior may consist of phony stock promotions, questionable business practices, spouse or child abuse, and so forth. Many others do things that, though not necessarily illegal, are nevertheless unethical, immoral, or harmful to others: philandering or cheating on a spouse to name a few.
The most important part of this article is the last part, the "survival guide":
Know what you are dealing with. This sounds easy but in fact can be very difficult. All the reading in the world cannot immunize you from the devastating effects of psychopaths. Everyone, including the experts, can be taken in, conned, and left bewildered by them. A good psychopath can play a concerto on anyone's heart strings.
Try not to be influenced by "props." It is not easy to get beyond the winning smile, the captivating body language, the fast talk of the typical psychopath, all of which blind us to his or her real intentions. Many people find it difficult to deal with the intense, "predatory state" of the psychopath. The fixated stare, is more a prelude to self-gratification and the exercise of power rather than simple interest or empathic caring.
Don't wear blinders. Enter new relationships with your eyes wide open. Like tile rest of us, most psychopathic conartists and "love-thieves" initially hide their dark side by putting their "best foot forward." Cracks may soon begin to appear in the mask they wear, but once trapped in their web, it will be difficult to escape financially and emotionally unscathed.
Keep your guard up in high-risk situations. Some situations are tailor-made for psychopaths: singles bars, ship cruises, foreign airports, etc. In each case, the potential victim is lonely, looking for a good time, excitement, or companionship, and there will usually be someone willing to oblige, for a hidden price.
Know yourself. Psychopaths are skilled at detecting and ruthlessly exploiting your weak spots. Your best defense is to understand what these spots are, and to be extremely wary of anyone who zeroes in on them.
Unfortunately, even the most careful precautions are no guarantee that you will be safe from a determined psychopath. In such cases, all you can do is try to exert some sort of damage control. This is not easy but some suggestions may be of help:
Obtain professional advice. Make sure the clinician you consult is familiar with the literature on psychopathy and has had experience in dealing with psychopaths.
Don't blame yourself. Whatever the reasons for being involved with a psychopath, it is important that you not accept blame for his or her attitudes and behavior. Psychopaths play by the same rules—their rules—with everyone.
Be aware of who the victim is. Psychopaths often give the impression that it is they who are suffering and that the victims are to blame for their misery. Don't waste your sympathy on them.
Recognize that you are not alone. Most psychopaths have lots of victims. It is certain that a psychopath who is causing you grief is also causing grief to others.
Be careful about power struggles. Keep in mind that psychopaths have a strong need for psychological and physical control over others. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't stand up for your rights, but it will probably be difficult to do so without risking serious emotional or physical trauma. [See the example of the Game Player on the main site -KK]
Set firm ground rules. Although power struggles with a psychopath are risky you may be able to set up some clear rules—both for yourself and for the psychopath—to make your life easier and begin the difficult transition from victim to a person looking out for yourself.
Don't expect dramatic changes. To a large extent, the personality of psychopaths is "carved in stone." There is little likelihood that anything you do will produce fundamental, sustained changes in how they see themselves or others.
Cut your losses. Most victims of psychopaths end up feeling confused and hopeless, and convinced that they are largely to blame for the problem. The more you give in the more you will be taken advantage of by the psychopath's insatiable appetite for power and control.
Read the rest.