September 8, 2014
For those perplexed by Barack Obama’s often inexplicable behavior, wonder no more.
An individual with narcissistic personality disorder exhibits extreme self-importance, has a constant need for attention and admiration, is secretive and controlling, cannot empathize with others, and has a heightened sensitivity to criticism. To get the attention he craves, a narcissist may try to create crises or diversions that return the focus to him. The narcissist feels entitled that the world owes him, regardless of whether he makes a contribution.
Narcissists are selfish and self-centered people, who are capable only of thinking about their own issues regarding power, prestige, and personal adequacy. They cannot understand the problems of people around them, and are not aware of other peoples’ feelings. Although they act superior and confident, this actually hides the fact that they have very fragile egos. They live with the illusion that they are perfectionists and that people revere them. The slightest disrespect or challenge can quickly lead to the development of “Narcissistic Rage,” a term coined by Heinz Kohut in his 1972 book “The Analysis of the Self.” The fuming rage the narcissist exhibits is different from the anger that people usually feel; it is either irrational or severely blown out of proportion from an insignificant remark or action. According to Kohut, this rage impairs a narcissist’s cognition, therefore impairing his judgment.
A narcissist needs to sustain the illusion of being bigger, larger, smarter, and more successful than everyone else in order to feel stable. Narcissists need constant admiration, attention, and compliments, not to increase their self-esteem but to prevent a feeling of instability that could lead to dysfunction or breakdown. Narcissistic rage occurs when that core instability is heightened. In essence, the reason narcissists are so self-centered is that their grandiosity-based personality needs to be constantly reinforced to remain stable.
In the present context, narcissistic rage can take two forms:
I. Explosive – The narcissist attacks everyone in his immediate vicinity and is verbally and psychologically abusive.
II. Pernicious or Passive-Aggressive – The narcissist sulks, gives the silent treatment, or is vindictive, plotting how to put the transgressors in their proper place. They can sabotage the work of people whom they regard to be the sources of their mounting wrath.
As described by Ernest Istook, Obama’s behavior matches the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of passive-aggressive behavior, “a habitual pattern of passive resistance to expected work requirements, opposition, stubbornness, and negativistic attitudes in response to requirements for normal performance levels expected of others.” Often, such persons see themselves as blameless victims, projecting fault onto others. Commonly, they follow erratic paths and cause constant conflicts.
Obama is cautious and dithers even on perilous issues like confronting the ISIS threat, not as a result of campaign promises but because to make any decision risks the reassuring adulation of his political base and a fawning media.
And nothing the narcissist says is ever what he means. Language is simply used as a tool for deception–and manipulation. Everything they do is for show, or only meant in the moment. That’s why everything around them seems so chaotic and confusing.
Obama’s vindictive and illegal use of the IRS results from his perception that critics are enemies, seeing Republicans as a greater threat to him personally than terrorists. When you are a narcissist, the world looks like it should approve, adore, agree, and obey you. Anything less than that seems like an assault, and a narcissist feels justified in raging back at it.
No one should expect a significant change in Obama’s behavior because narcissists demonstrate an enduring pattern of inflexibility that is pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.
Nevertheless, even narcissists eventually have to be held accountable for their actions.