The Real Clear Politics Podcast with Dr Lucas Klein is the in-depth analysis and commentary on current political events through a psychological lens. The Real Clear podcast covers a wide range of topics, from the latest election results to policy debates, to exploring the impact of current events on the political landscape.
Good morning, folks. For today's reflection we're going to talk about something that is a growing concern across the United States, especially in recent times, and that is pathological narcissism. I've been on a few shows and it seems like the requests keep coming from it to be a guest on other shows, to talk about this matter, and I'll try to do so here this morning in a consumable, useful way, also a concise way. So before we talk about disorders, let's talk about personality organization. There are three general levels neurotic or normal that's what most of us have. Borderline, where there's a fair amount of distortion, and then psychotic, where the person has a very limited capacity to assess reality. We're going to be focusing on the borderline level of personality organization this morning. That's where most personality disorders many of them, I should say the more notable ones are located at. Think of it this way Personality organization is like the engine of a car it's how it's built, it's what it's capable of. The disorder or the personality pattern that anyone has is where the car tends to drive the scenery, the roads and so forth. Okay, so a personality organized at the borderline level typically has immature defenses, as opposed to intellectualization or humor or some obsessive overthinking and perseveration, which can be indications of neurotic normal levels. Borderline organization tends to include things like denial, splitting people into a vision of good or bad, demonizing people when they fail to supply a narrative of the self that goes against one's passionately held desires for an ideal self. They often tend to have a very insecure and turbulent relational pattern, and so people will find you may find, as I say this that you can think of people who are always polarizing others, or often are, and then you find yourself, after various interactions with them, having to go over a conflict or a problem they've developed with you and reassess the reality of the situation on the ground, so that you don't buy into full stock what they've said to you and how they've recreated a dramatic theatrical recapitulation of what's transpired between the two of you. In other words, they can make people feel crazy during conflict and they will weave an idea of what's happened so as to make themselves appear perfect and the other person as being needlessly critical or hostile or unjust, and that's typically an indication of someone who is struggling with fears of abandonment, buick and organized at the borderline level. Ironically, it tends to cause abandonment, because who the hell can take that for too long? Okay, well, let's get into actual personality disorders. We'll forget about the organization for now. I think I've described that. Obviously, people are talking about narcissistic personality disorder very much these days. And what is that? Well, let's just break it down into a few bullet points. We don't really know if there is any kind of biological, constitutional or maturational accelerant there for that. We do know that they are very preoccupied with an inflated sense of self-esteem, but they also vacillate between that and deflation and a sense of internal deadness. They have a very limited capacity to develop a self-identity and that's why they're constantly clinging onto almost faux personalities that they grab from the environment as they pass through. And that's one of the reasons why they're very anxious about maintaining attachments to loved ones and fear abandonment, despite their ironic tendency to be smirch and really be fuddle and disrespect the person that they see as supplying them with self-esteem, in other words their loved one. Central emotional states revolve around shame and contempt and envy. See, it's very hard for people who are narcissistically situated to experience any kind of self-reflection or a need for change without associating that with shame, as though they have something wrong with them deeply and embarrassing and shameful for needing to change and grow. They're often experienced by loved ones as being very hard to grow with, being very hard to mature with across time. Because of this problem, they also are organized by contempt and envy. Anytime someone in a relationship with a severe narcissist tries to bring forward to them elements of how they live their lives that they need to change, they will become contemptuous about that feedback because they experience it as producing this agonizing shame. As I'd mentioned, they also envy other people who they perceive as having personality traits and capacities that they don't. They tend to view those people as having those traits out of an unjust scenario of being thrown into life differently. Therefore, they automatically feel justified in trying to pursue that other person for the purposes of destruction. Okay, all right, they need to feel perfect and okay. If you deviate from that, you're usually going to be split upon after not too long. In other words, you're terrible for bringing up anything that is other than perfect. And they tend to have beliefs, as I'd mentioned about others, that others enjoy wealth and prosperity unjustly. If someone has more power or fame or beauty or attributes, they will tend to become agonizingly focused on the difference between themselves and those people. And does that sound familiar? A power structure. That's postmodernism, that's the woke culture. Anyone with power got it unjustly Okay, so weaving a little bit of politics there. And there's a couple different types of narcissism. There's the arrogant, entitled kind, and that's what most people are talking about in public, and they tend to be thick-skinned, they tend to not care, they tend to or appear that they don't care. This is what we call overt narcissism. But it's only one part of the pie. The other side, which is much more frequent in my view, is the depressed, depleted narcissist. They're constantly hyper-vigilant, looking for any kind of insult to their character. They're monitoring the environment very, very closely and anything that they intuit to be an indication that they're not perfect and somebody else's eyes will be internally brooded upon and then will turn into resentment and that usually turns into passive aggressiveness. That's the thin-skinned kind of narcissist. Something that's closely related to narcissism I think it's in the same basket, if I could put it that way is sadomasochism, sadistic personality disorders, as well as masochistic personality disorders. Those usually go hand-in-hand. In fact, I see a very common pattern, which is that you have narcissistic men marrying borderline personality women. That's a huge, very, very frequent combination that I see in my practice across time. It usually lasts a very long time and is agonizing for both. And then when the two people resolve their personality traits we'll call them over time, usually in the late 50s, early 60s. Then they either settle down and find a way to go along together or they split at that point and feel quite demoralized about that path. But sadistic personality disorder tends to focus around a preoccupation with indignity and inflicting suffering on others, and you can see why I think that that's related to narcissism, because the idea that you're entitled to do that to somebody else requires you to have a lack of differentiation between your own reality and someone else's. If you respect the idea that someone else has a unique internal state, is replete with feelings and a history, you would humanize them and you wouldn't view them as appropriate objects for infliction of suffering. Sadism centers around hatred, contempt, as well as sadistic glee, otherwise called pleasure in evoking a kind of elongated suffering in others, and they usually believe that they are entitled to hurt others and humiliate people. I think simultaneously they vacillate into a position where they view themselves as being vulnerable of that very same thing and that others exist as objects for torture and domination. You'll find these people being very power driven in the workforce, being very demanding and almost scary in the way that they come up with ideas and ask others for consignment. They tend to be quite detached and difficult to connect with, almost like they live in an ice castle and are brooding behind a veil where they're working through elements of how they plan to manipulate others. Now this goes hand in hand with masochism. As I mentioned, masochism usually is followed along with sadism. As we know, sadomasochism is a term. There's two types of masochism in general. There's the moral masochist and the relational masochist. The moral masochist has self-esteem that depends on suffering and they carry a neurotic, unreasonable sense of internal guilt that really gets in the way of having the ability to experience satisfaction as well as normal progress in life. The relational masochist unconsciously tends to go along in relationships by being very dependent on their own suffering and victimization. Now you can see how that one usually attracts narcissistic personalities for a partner or sadists. If your self-esteem depends on a masochistic sense of suffering or victimization, you're very vulnerable to being taken over and directed by someone who enjoys taking over and directing, by definition, and who would do that usually narcissistic people or sadistic people. Okay, so these are initial thoughts for this morning. I hope you enjoy this kind of reflection. I'll be coming to you just about every day with something along the lines of the psychological and the political, and sometimes one, sometimes both. And as a reminder, as I said in the beginning, this takes some thought, it takes some energy and I'm coming to you with this content that I hope you enjoy. I hope you'll show me your support by going to realclearpodcastcom and signing up for a paid membership. Thanks, folks, talk to you soon.