When Narcissism Becomes Lethal

There is probably too much armchair psychoanalysis of political figures, which leads to overemphasizing the role psychology plays in politics, there are times when a politician’s psychological dysfunctions do have a real-world effect. Needless to say, that effect is rarely good. In the case of Il Trumpe, as some asshole with a blog has been noting from day one, he is a narcissist, and that narcissism does have consequences for the rest of us:

Just like the addict’s primary goal is to get that fix, the narcissist’s primary goal is to maintain the fantasy. They will construct elaborate mechanisms to deny unpleasant realities. Plainly put, they turn everyone around them into liars. You have to lie as a self-defense mechanism in order to fend off and manage the impulsiveness, the bouts of inadequacy, the hare-brained ideas, and the laziness and ineptitude. If you are a reasonably honest person, this is soul-crushing.

The narcissist is often not very good for the organization’s mission. While he often rose to his position by selling a five-star sizzle on a one-star steak, he’s often underprepared and unskilled, and very dependent on others–essentially, he’s an Illustrious Name on the Door. Unfortunately, leaders, on occasion, do have to lead–and that does involve work, knowledge and experience, and relevant skills. The dishonest climate is another massive problem. Problems will fester and multiply because the narcissist doesn’t want to hear about them–the show must go on. Then things reach a crisis point, as the lies collapse on each other. At this point, the narcissist swings into paranoia and rage. Why did all of these awful people lie to me? (Can’t imagine why…). Then the impulsiveness kicks in. Needless to say, this isn’t the optimal environment for crisis management.

Echidne describes how Trump’s narcissism led to his recent slander of healthcare workers, whom he accused of hoarding and stealing masks and other protection (boldface mine):

Trump is a narcissist. This means that he doesn’t have certain moral senses most of us share. He can intellectually understand empathy, and he can even mimic it, but he doesn’t know how empathy feels.

He lives in a world centered around his ego. The crucial part of understanding this is not that he is selfish (though he is) or that he sees himself as the Sun God of this century (though he does). The crucial part to understand is that for him his ego, his very self, is like a soap bubble, hovering in a dark world full of sharp objects. It is extremely fragile…

It must be defended! Anything piercing that soap bubble would burst it — pop! — and then there would be no Donald Trump. And the things which threaten that soap bubble consist of everything which threatens the greatness of Donald Trump.

Once you understand this, you can predict almost everything he will say or do. He will judge all news on the basis of how they make him look, and he will deem the news fake if they make him look bad. He will vigorously attack all criticism and all critics, and he will punish the critics with all means available to him. He. Must. Win.

Winning, for him, equals keeping the iridescent soap bubble intact. If he doesn’t win, the bubble will burst. That’s why he never gives up in his stupid email fights, and that’s why those fights so often seem to be about little personal things which a president should not care about. But for Trump the personal barbs are the worst barbs. They threaten his very existence, and must be fought.

If it looks like he is not winning a particular debate, he will convert it into a different debate, one which he cannot lose. All narcissists are masters in that game, and this is one instance where, indeed, Trump might be the greatest of all.

A theory that purports to explain everything typically explains nothing. Trump’s bigotry, for example, really isn’t a byproduct of his narcissism. But so much of his behavior is stereotypical. Unfortunately, his pathology will lead to the needless deaths of thousands of Americans.

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1 Response to When Narcissism Becomes Lethal

  1. jo(e) says:

    Yes. Exactly.

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