Few things appear more perplexing than a someone aware of and seeking recovery from narcissistic abuse in full-throated support of “unpresidented” Donald J. Trump, a man that a significant number of psychologists have been compelled beyond usual ethical constraints to point out the pattern of malignant narcissistic behavior of (behavior that could also be explained by drug use, dementia or syphilis). After all, wounded healers that we are have sought answers that we’ve sacrificed for to move beyond the suffering we happened to find ourselves in and many of us share what we’ve learned so that others might do the same. That any of us could or would become enamored with a prime textbook example of the very thing we struggle to liberate ourselves from seems beyond the pale. And yet it happens.
A LOT is being made of narcissism as deliberate evil as symbolized by charming vampires, merciless terminators and wicked witches orchestrating hoards of flying monkey minions. “They know what they’re doing,” we say. “They just don’t care how it affects who they’re doing it to.” But how aware and, more importantly, in control of themselves are they really?
To err is human. To forgive is divine, but to repeat is stupid.
For those of us estranged from our families during the family fetishized holidays shoring up the end of the year, the pressure to forgive and forget can be especially pronounced. Society at large tells us that – to borrow a turn of phrase from the poet, Alexander Pope – to err is human; to forgive, divine. And that the victim is the perpetrator, the betrayer, the pariah should forgiveness be withheld — to be pitied, subjected to public scorn and, ironically, unforgiven for being unwilling to forgive. Rather than emphasis on understanding and compassion, this is institutionalized blaming of the victim that I think most of us were raised to believe, wrongly.
No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Mencken’s famous quote continues to resonate in Donald J. Trump’s case – arguably the bloviating presumptive billionaire’s modus operandi – and has once again borne fruit for the consummate confidence artist in the office of president overseeing one of the most powerful nations in the modern world. Though, whether Trump holds his most recent acquisition as a reward is yet to be seen — the presidency rapidly ages those who occupy the office, something Trump’s fast food diet can only exasperate (I’m half this asshat’s age and I can’t eat that way!), he is already the oldest president ever elected and, so far as I can tell, this will be the first actual job this daddy’s boy is expected to show for up in the seven decades since he began his creep on the world that he now holds in his stumpy hands.
The narcissist exhibits an intuitive, almost preternatural awareness of who we are and what buttons to push in order to elicit the responses they want. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and diagnosed NPD, labels this sense “cold empathy” — that is to say, a dispassionate, more strictly cognitive form of empathy. But I don’t think it’s any kind of empathy.
As a black hole is a failed star collapsed under its own gravity into an inescapable singularity, the narcissist is a failed child reduced to a single function: the insatiable acquisition of attention to feel special (narcissistic supply). We can’t see black holes but for the distortion of space and effect on objects surrounding them. Similarly, narcissists hide in plain sight belied only by the social disruption left in their wake.
In Greek mythology, Pandora is the first woman created and given, among other gifts from the gods who created her, a jar containing all the evils of the world. Curious, she opens the jar and inadvertently lets the evils escape, leaving only hope remaining at the bottom of the jar before she manages to close it again.
Pandora is a scapegoat, set up to be blamed for all that is ill or wicked while the gods who planted the jar of evil on her and to whom she owes her very existence wash their hands of culpability. Similarly, narcissistic abuse survivors are saddled with toxic shame “gifted” to us by the narcissist that we obediently if not gratefully bottle up and tuck away deep in the dark recesses of ourselves out of sight and mind where it continues to linger, poisoning us, long after the narcissist no longer does. We don’t acknowledge this growing reservoir of pain deep within our being much like the narcissist fails to acknowledge us and for much the same reason: to do so would undo the comfortable illusion, the lie we’ve invested in and grown accustomed to.
But the pain will not be denied. It takes the taste out of life. Bleaches the colors. Numbs the ecstasy of awe. The sheer weight of it drags on us, leaving us spent before we even begin. No, for there to be any hope of recovery then the pain cannot be ignored. It must be freed in order to be free of it. Pandora’s jar must be emptied.
Mother’s eyes grow round with horror as she looks upon me transformed into a monster. I must be terrifying but I feel nothing. Nothing but an endless serenity disconnected from the chaos playing out before me on the big screen in a darkened theater. The movie being shown feels unreal, strange like a dream. Only, it’s not really a movie.
The term scapegoat is derived from the Book of Leviticus 16:8
And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.
Azazel, meaning “for complete removal” in Hebrew, has become translated to scapegoat in English over the millennia since. The sins of the people would be given to this animal and banished to the wilderness. The other “for the Lord (the Hebrew god, YHWH)“ goat, I think, can reasonably be interpreted as the favored Golden Child in the narcissistic family dynamic. It bears mentioning that both goats are sacrificed but only the scapegoat has a fighting chance, albeit a very poor one.
I see the terms “narcissism” and “narcissist” tossed around a lot, often used as an insult but also trending in the media. It’s a very popular topic on Psychology Today, for instance. As I write this, psychologists are going on the record to call 2016 Republican presidential nominee and presumptive billionaire, Donald J. Trump, out as a narcissist – not that any overt narcissist would care, Trump being no exception. But not just anyone who behaves badly or even happens to come off narcissistic is necessarily a narcissist.