Tag Archives: survival

Dealing With Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I came across a post on Facebook last night which I thought very clearly laid out the personality traits of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, specifically one Donald J. Trump. It had been copied from elsewhere, and the friend who posted it passed on the suggestion that the text be copied and pasted, rather than “shared.” I’m not entirely certain why, though I suspect it is shared a little more pervasively with one’s friends if it’s seen as an original post. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. Several of my friends commented on how useful it was and suggested publishing it, which I think is a good idea.

Trump admires himself

“Who Loves Me, Baby?”

At any rate, there are some very astute observations and insights in the text and we would do well to understand how things are likely going to work. Here’s the money quote for me:

“Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.”

Here’s the post in its entirety:

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.
  2. He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.
  3. You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.
  4. Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.
  5. We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.
  6. It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.
  7. People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as “enablers” when they allow or cover for bad behavior and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.
  8. People with NPD often foster competition for sport in people they control. Expect lots of chaos, firings and recriminations. He will probably behave worst toward those closest to him, but that doesn’t mean (obviously) that his actions won’t have consequences for the rest of us. He will punish enemies. He may start out, as he has with the NYT, with a confusing combination of punishing/rewarding, which is a classic abuse tactic for control. If you see your media cooperating or facilitating this behavior for rewards, call them on it.
  9. Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and tortuous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.
  10. Whenever possible, do not focus on the narcissist or give him attention. Unfortunately we can’t and shouldn’t ignore the president, but don’t circulate his tweets or laugh at him — you are enabling him and getting his word out. (I’ve done this, of course, we all have… just try to be aware.) Pay attention to your own emotions: do you sort of enjoy his clowning? do you enjoy the outrage? is this kind of fun and dramatic, in a sick way? You are adding to his energy.

Focus on what you can change and how you can resist, where you are. We are all called to be leaders now, in the absence of leadership.


Sometimes It Feels Like Borrowed Time

Today marks, if not a special day on my calendar, at the very least an interesting one in my mind. Today is the fifth anniversary of the day I became older than my father was when he died. Does that seem like a strange thing to be commemorating? I suppose it is. Maybe a little context will make it more intelligible, if not less silly.

For most of my life, up until his somewhat untimely, if not surprising, death I had been told “You’re exactly like your father!” Frequently as an admonition for some behavioral trait I had exhibited. All-too-frequently it was something my mother found neither amusing nor endearing. I also looked like and was built like my father, adding to my perception that I was somewhat predestined to follow in his footsteps. This was exacerbated by our culture, which is based on and continues to exhibit vestiges of primogeniture. Being the first-born son of a Conservative Jewish family, I know I was doted upon and received far more attention than I’m sure I deserved. It also added to the perception of inevitability I both relished and rebelled against.

When my father died in 1984 I had just turned 37. My metabolism, which is now obviously quite unlike my father’s, had yet to change and I was still pretty thin; still physically similar to my father when he died. He was less than two months shy of his 60th birthday and you can bet there were lots of conversations with my mother and my brother over what that turn of events might mean for my and my brother’s future health.

These conversations continued occasionally throughout the years and, as I grew older, it became more and more apparent I was not really “exactly” like my father. Not the least of these revelations was when I reached the age he was at his first heart attack (around 50) and not having one myself! I’m sure that moment was made more important by the memories I had of being the one to recognize the symptoms and driving him to the hospital late at night at over 80 miles an hour, running lots of red lights in the process.

The Last Supper by Arum

Friday the 13th Can Be Very Scary For Some Folks!

So, what anxiety I felt slowly dissipated over the years. However, I had done one thing that set a landmark and, having done so, it was  impossible for me to ignore or deny it. I had entered my father’s birthday into an electronic spreadsheet and subtracted it from the day of his death. By formatting the result as a number I had the exact number of days (give or take ~ 24 hrs) he was here and alive on this planet. I then added that number to my birthday and converted the result into a date. Ironically, the day on which I would match the total time my father had lived occurred on a Friday the 13th. Though not superstitious, I have to admit the date had a little extra “spice” attached to it.

As it turned out, that date – April 13, 2007 – coincided with the first night of the In2:InThinking Conference I was attending. Since the weekend’s classes, seminars, etc. were to take place in the Woodland Hills Hilton’s conference rooms, many of the out-of-town speakers and leaders, as well as all the people who were working on the conference and its many ancillary activities, would stay at the Hilton beginning on Friday night. In addition to being an attendee, I was a co-presenter that year for one of those ancillary activities, but that’s another story.

As part of the package the In2:InThinking Network had negotiated with the hotel, we occupied the Presidential Suite where there was traditionally a big party. The suite was open to all the participants and there was food and drink; a merry time to be had by anyone who wished to show up and be a part of it. Fortunately, partying has always been one of the things I do quite well, thank you very much, and I spent the evening until well past midnight. I was gratified, as were my friends, I didn’t drop dead at the stroke of midnight and, since that day passed, I haven’t thought much about it.

I spent the evening (after which I would be older than my father when he died) drinking and eating and enjoying myself immensely. It was, for me, a two-fold celebration. I was happy to get what was a bit of a monkey off my back and I was happy to have known my father as long as I did. I was happy he and I had squared away our mostly rocky relationship and were well on the road to being friends when he died. I was happy he was my father and I celebrated his life, knowing that he would have wanted me to have a good, long one. I intended then, and continue to expect, to do just that.

Today is five years to the day and, as a special treat – a lagniappe, if you will – it’s also Friday the 13th; just like it was on that day. Even though it became obvious long ago I wasn’t “exactly” like my father, the realities of genetics and the similarities in our personalities always kept the limit of my father’s time on Earth in the back of my mind. It was never an obsession, but it was a bit of a pastime for a while🙂 I do, occasionally, feel like I’m living on borrowed time which, in many ways, makes every day just that much sweeter.

ADDENDUM: I have long known of the word triskaidekaphobia, which means “fear of the number 13”, but just discovered the existence of a word for “fear of Friday the 13th”, paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is far more specific.


%d bloggers like this: