The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Friday, April 24, 2009
Al Gore can't stand "The Heat" (what Narcissist Can?)
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. ....
.... Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence or strong self-esteem, it's not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence and self-esteem into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal. In contrast, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.
When you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may have a sense of entitlement. And when you don't receive the special treatment to which you feel entitled, you may become very impatient or angry. You may also seek out others you think have the same special talents, power and qualities — people you see as equals. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — the best car, athletic club, medical care or social circles, for instance.
But underneath all this grandiosity often lies a very fragile self-esteem. You have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make yourself feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and efforts to belittle the other person to make yourself appear better.
Clearly all of the above apply to Al Gore; but let's get real here--does not the language above also describe someone else we've been "inundated' with lately?
Hint: we've covered this ground before (emphasis mine):
People with Narcissistic pathology never recognize their own culpability for problems. It is too painful and intolerable. The Narcissist has a damaged self. When the environment (esp other people) support his self esteem, he does relatively well. He may be charming and charismatic and appear to be self assured and in command of himself. However, should the other fail him the pain of the assault on his self esteem is destabilizing. The Narcissist reacts to failure with terrible shame which evokes rage. The rage, if held within, leads to despair; suicidal depression is a danger at those times. When the rage is directed at the object who is imagined to have caused the humiliation (or has actually caused the humiliation, as by a lover's rejection) the outcome can be murderous. Often enough the rage is inchoate and the objects include those who have caused his pain (America, the Jews, women, and the police as symbols of the frustrating society) and murder-suicide is the outcome. The most severe form of Narcissistic pathology is Malignant Narcissism, which I described in a series on Narcissism, Malignant Narcissism, and Paranoia: Part III:
In more severe cases, the existence of the other person’s mind and life is simply of no consequence. For the Malignant Narcissist, other people are mere props in the pageantry of their lives. A tyrant can throw someone into a shredding machine without a second thought because the victim only matters in relation to how he can support the grandiosity of the tyrant; beyond that, he is faceless, nameless, worthless. It was no accident that Saddam Hussein was surrounded by sycophants who all grew mustaches to look just like him.
As might be apparent from the descriptions of narcissism, the attitude of the other is extremely important (narcissists are very sensitive to slights from others and almost anything that is not supportive is felt as criticism or attack One can see how, as you move down the spectrum from the healthy narcissist who has a concern and regard for the best wishes of others, to the more pathological narcissist who is intensely needful of being aggrandized, to the malignant narcissist who demands obeisance just as he can not trust anyone to really think well of him, you are moving down a spectrum from sensitivity to paranoia.
Further complicating the situation is that the Narcissistic Character is extraordinarily sensitive to humiliation and equally intolerant of it.
Jim Lindgren wrote a chapter in his PhD thesis on a relevant question:
It is sad that Willis would point to Republicans as particularly angry or vengeful, when those who strongly favor income redistribution (a central position of the current Administration) are more than twice as likely as strong opponents of leveling to admit that they responded to their anger by plotting revenge.
I would suggest that it not that those who favor income redistribution who are most prone to anger and revenge fantasies but that those who most readily deny their own responsibility for their circumstances and tend to externalize, ie blame others, who are most likely to respond with anger and revenge fantasies to perceived or real frustrations. I suspect that those who externalize are more likely to look to a presumed benevolent (toward them) Other (ie, the government) to make things right and will be attracted to redistributionist ideas. That does not, of course, mean that people can not come to such ideas from different and healthier psychological organizations and favoring redistribution is hardly diagnostic.
Finally, to return to Dr. Helen's comments; the combination of "a lack of personal responsibility combined with a sense of entitlement" is indeed a combustible combination. We see this combination on a daily basis in Adolescents, who often develop a hostile-dependent relationship with the parents whose support they they need and whose limits they resent. Needless to say, most Adolescents remain within the bounds of what we loosely refer to as normal and negotiate the trials and tribulations of adolescence without resorting to murder, though their rage when frustrated can be quite daunting.
We are now a Nation filled with overgrown adolescents used to getting whatever we desire. Perhaps the most worrisome problem is that, at last, we are going to have to learn to live within our means.