Narcissism Week, Day 3

by stephenpalmersf

Further consequences of narcissism

Authoritarianism is another major consequence of narcissism. This social structure is the method by which power (the unreasonable power of the narcissist, not the reasonable capability of the human being) is exercised.

For the narcissist, controlling reality and the people in it is an essential procedure, and within patriarchal authoritarian structures this is made easy. The consequence however is acceptance of the power of others higher up the hierarchy. For the narcissist, there are various ways of coming to terms with this situation. The future can be considered, when the narcissist hopes to be in a higher position. Or the narcissist can be wholly immersed in the hierarchy’s philosophy and desires, accepting submission, which happens within the narcissistic group. Or the narcissist can be so lacking a core of human identity that submersion in another is required to stop the self falling apart – hero worship.

Authoritarian structures – operating by and large through hierarchies, though they can be simple, brutal domination – are based on narcissism. The wishes and needs of others, not perceived as worthy, or even real, are ignored by those at the top. The self and the self’s created world becomes everything at the dictatorial summit. Because of this, all authoritarian structures operate at the expense of reality, attempting to forge it into whatever the desired shape happens to be – fascism for example. And at the top of every authoritarian structure stands a figurehead, usually a lone person – king, leader, priest – though it can be a group, and it can sometimes be a concept.

In general, the more revered the figure the more intense the narcissism and the resulting authoritarianism, as evinced by the situation in North Korea. The reason for this comes again from the dynamics of narcissism. Placing less emphasis on individual humanity means placing more emphasis on the guiding figure, since that figure has so much more to achieve and to control. The amount of freedom lost by the controlled is proportional to the veneration of the figurehead and the intensity of the authoritarianism. As a result, weakly authoritarian systems tend to have less important, less revered leaders, or less dogmatic ideologies, whereas strongly authoritarian systems tend to have glorified, lone leaders and harsh, often fundamentalist ideologies, such as Communism.

As another example, it is noteworthy that during the 1980s the economic systems of Britain and America, both of which were markedly authoritarian and conservative, actually acquired names: Thatcherism and Reaganomics. This peculiar need to bestow a name suggests the strength of the authoritarianism embodied by those systems.

Figurehead status in an authoritarian system suits individual narcissists very well; it suits ordinary, humane people very poorly. For the narcissist, a world distinct from reality is created, in which a life can be led. There are opportunities for power and for exploitation. For humane people there are no opportunities, and, worse, such systems go some way to blocking the overcoming of their own narcissism. Humane freedom is required for that task.

Narcissism can also lead to isolation and remoteness. The rejection of, withdrawal from, or attempted moulding of reality means the narcissist does not fully exist in reality. From the point of view of others there is sometimes an emotional gap, which in human terms can be experienced as remoteness, or coldness. And it is sometimes the case that the narcissist has a reduced sense of humour, or even none. This is most often apparent when the humour concerns themselves. Narcissists have to be self-deceiving, since the truth of the self and of the real world would bring into focus the true relationship between those entities, and thus destroy the mechanism of narcissism. Humour, with its natural mechanism for deflecting pain that at the same time points to a truth, cannot be tolerated by the narcissist because they are so sensitive on the matter of their selves. The narcissist’s self, assembled by a force which has to disregard reality, is so fragile they cannot face the truth. Even the underhand truth of humour is too much.