A Note on ‘Narcissism’

For God knows how many months now Donald Trump has been denounced in liberal media and by public figures for his narcissism. He is a narcissist, says Michael Moore, for example, who makes feature documentaries where he is the central character.

Well, maybe he is. I am intrigued though about where this preoccupation with narcissism comes from. I’m no expert on psychoanalysis but from what I recall narcissism was a term that described a tendency, or maybe a striving, inherent in everyone but one that could prove destructive if it could not be somehow transcended. So there is something that sounds a bit wonky to me when someone in particular is identified as a ‘narcissist’.

To me (yes, to me) what seems more important is the fact that Trump is the ultimate incarnation of a greedy capitalist pig (with apologies to pigs). So I wonder why It is self-regard, and not greed, that seems the more deplorable characteristic.

One possibility is that the charge of narcissism is one of the few things you have left in a world where greed is taken for granted. If everyone is compelled to be greedy then no-one needs to be, as they say, called out on it.

Once you assume that the capitalist market is a fine invention then you can view greed in instrumental terms, the way Adam Smith did: who cares if he wants to make as much money as possible if by doing so he contributes to the greater good?

This is a viewpoint shared not only by the likes of the Heritage Foundation but also by someone like Barack Obama. But Obama and the like are able to present this as an endeavour in the service of the greater good, and anyway it seldom gets challenged by whoever is interviewing him or writing about him.

What must make Trump so obnoxious, in this regard, is how he does not play along with this game and instead boasts about how rich he is. It also appears that quite a lot of people like him for it. Maybe they feel a sort of inner liberation from having someone say: I’m really rich, I do whatever the hell I need to to get even richer, and no, I don’t give a shit about anyone, and neither should you if you don’t feel like it.

Then it comes as a shock to people who believe in the magic of representative democracy that so many people in the privacy of the polling booth, where no-one is ever going to judge you as a narcissist, think to themselves: I’m having some of what he’s having.


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3 responses to “A Note on ‘Narcissism’

  1. Yes, allegations of Narcissism, like of Fascism, abound with Trump, and yes it is easy to toss terms about. In the case of Trump, however, I believe the allegation of Narcissism is true. In psychological terms, Narcissism is an extremely dangerous mental disorder. It is grouped as one of the ‘Dark Triad’ of Cluster B disorders: the others being Sociopathy and Psychopathy, so, believe me, Narcissism does not represent merely an excessive sense of self -regard. It is a very real abnormality, characterised by an extreme lack of empathy, an inability to accept others’ points of view as valid, a desire to label others, and a desire to diminish and bully others. To hide these motives, a facade of normality, perfection, charm or reasonableness is adopted. The origins of the disorder lie in extreme parental bullying of the child, whose emotional and ego development stops at about the age of 6, or earlier. The Narcissist is an adult child who lacks the ability to see detail, nuance, and who views others as threats or victims/idiots. The Narcissist only fears other authoritarian characters, whom they also admire.Narcissists are often failures in life who regard themselves either as a success or as unfairly put upon and maligned. If they are insulted they react very badly, retreating into a self-pitying, feral shell. The often made comment that Trump appears to be a kind of toddler, hints at what people can sense about him. Ironically, Trump may or may not be a Fascist in a political sense, but he is one in a personal and psychological sense. So a bully who lacks empathy and hates and fears or diminishes others has his finger on the Nuclear button and helms the great war machine! This is not a political term, but a word often associated with Narcissists is the word ‘demonic’. So this is grim. One light at the end of the tunnel is that the Narcissist, as a poor performer in real terms, will abandon a life, family or career, if it threatens to expose him as the mediocrity he is, so maybe he’ll cry pressure of his business interests and fuck off, or quit after a single term, pretending to have done great things. Or maybe things are going to get very, very, very bad.

  2. masocent

    Thank you. I think Ken Knabb at Bureau of Pubvlic Secrets has a good analysis http://www.bopsecrets.org/recent/trump.htm

  3. thanks, its one of the simplest and well thought out pieces i have read in a good while. thanks again

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