This relatively not well-known word is getting quite a work over in this pre 2016 election season. A few hardy and fearless folks are suggesting that perhaps the word should be changed to ‘trumpism’.
Not only is Trump himself a walking-around definition of extreme narcissism, but it turns out that there are also several well researched and written books in the last few years which illuminate the subject very well starting with the spectrum of the condition [nearly everyone to some extent], the problems associated with the condition [antisocial disruptive behavior] and what, if anything, can be done about it [little except ignore and avoid]. [See Amazon for titles that appeal to you if you want to dig deeper than this piece aims to go.]
First, like most psychological conditions, narcissism exists to some extent in most people. Some of it is good and necessary, such as healthy self-esteem. Some of it creates irritating and difficult problems in everyday human interaction and in marriages and families. And some extreme cases can become seriously sociopathic.
It is not clear how, where, when and why it develops [being fawned over and spoiled in youth is common]. It is even less clear how to deal with it in average situations [personal or institutional leverage sometimes helps].
The normal symptoms that are relatively easy to see in people who are afflicted are lack of empathy for other people’s sensibilities, thoughts and feelings in such a way that is very corrosive to normal comfortable relationships.
A second symptom is that a person afflicted has very little room to take on board other people’s ideas and positions. The enlarged ego of the afflicted person does not welcome challenges and thus bristles when engaged.
At the same time the afflicted person sees himself becoming a victim of his surrounding social environment and thus sees any form of push back as an effort to victimize him.
When a narcissist is challenged, a normal and immediate reaction is to fightor flee. They flee sometimes to avoid the pain they feel from the challenge. Or, they tend to fight when their hormones get aroused to try to squash the challenge which, of course, is counterproductive to normal social problem solving.
Granted that this very short summary of the essence of narcissism has not and cannot go very far in explaining and solving all the problems in society that result from narcissism.
But, hopefully this piece can help enable ordinary folks/voters to visualize what a super extreme narcissist like Trump would likely become in the office as President.
We need not prove that Trump has zero political experience. That is a given and perversely is his calling card.
The tragedy today is that politics –which has long been well known as the art of the possible—has not been very artful in recent years, perhaps in part because there may be too much narcissistic behavior throughout all of society and our political system as well.
Trump with his skyscraper ego, now presents himself as the anti-political solution to spark anger about our political process and elect his hip-shooting business style to solve our political problems.
Perhaps the best thing to find in what Trump now offers is the prospect that an aftermath of a Trump Presidency, which in all events would be extremely turbulent, or worse— catastrophic—might finally wake us up from a terribly bad dream and finally inform our political process how to work productively for the greater good of all the people, all the time.
That could be a salutary ultimate outcome.
But, what happens, if the whole world, as we know it, effectively blows up in the process?
We simply cannot stand by and be entertained by the show and not worry about outcomes. Forest fires do grow exponentially as they grow. And elections fueled by emotion and anger have be known in the last 100 years to get out of hand and lead to dire problems for the world.