Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sexual attitudes help explain narcissists’ relationship problems

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Robert Browning wrote “grow old along with me, the best is yet to be,” he had no inkling of a future University of Florida study showing that narcissists are more interested in sexual pleasure than lasting intimacy.

The new study found that narcissists are more likely to philander and dump their partners than people who view closeness and commitment as the most important parts of a relationship, said Ilan Shrira, a UF visiting psychologist.

“Narcissists have a heightened sense of sexuality, but they tend to view sex very differently than other people do,” said Shrira, whose study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. “They see sexuality more in terms of power, influence and as something daring, in contrast to people with low narcissistic qualities who associated sex more with caring and love.”

As a result, narcissists tend to go through a string of short-term relationships that don’t last long and are usually devoid of much intimacy, he said.

“Even when they’re in a relationship, they always seem to be on the lookout for other partners and searching for a better deal,” Shrira said. “Whether that’s because of their heightened sexuality or because they think multiple partners enhance their self-image isn’t entirely clear.”

Although narcissism and sexuality have been linked since the psychoanalytic writings of Freud, researchers have paid little attention to the connection, he said.

Shrira collaborated with Joshua D. Foster, a University of South Alabama social psychologist, and W. Keith Campbell, a University of Georgia social psychologist and author of the 2005 book “When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself.” They did two studies with a total of 485 undergraduate students at the University of Georgia.

In the first study, participants who scored high on a narcissism personality inventory test, as measured by strong agreement to such statements as ‘I will be a success’ and “I find it easy to manipulate people,’ considered physical pleasure to be much more important in a sexual relationship than emotional intimacy. The highly narcissistic were 50 percent more likely than the more humble to view the primary purpose of sexual intercourse as enhancing their own physical pleasure, rather than increasing emotional intimacy with their partner, he said.

In the second study, which involved only undergraduates who were in a romantic relationship, those with high narcissism scores expressed considerably low commitment to their partner.

Typically, males are more narcissistic than females, who are known to place greater priority than men on personal relationships, Shrira said. “Narcissists tend not to value relationships unless it’s for self-serving purposes,” he said.

In a separate cross-cultural study the researchers conducted on people ages 8 to 80, they found that narcissism peaks at about 15 or 16 and then steadily declines as people get older, Shrira said. He attributed this partly to the “reality principle.”

“When you’re in high school or college, you’re at the peak of your physical condition and the world is your oyster,” he said. “But when you get out in the world you realize you’re not the best at everything and it sort of humbles you.”

Narcissists often make a good first impression because of strong social skills that make them appear charming, and sometimes even empathetic, but this is usually only a ploy to attract attention, Shrira said. “Once you get to know these people, you realize they’re very self-focused and are always bringing the conversation back to themselves,” he said.

Shrira said he believes narcissism is on the rise partly because of the prominence of the self-esteem movement over the past quarter century. When the movement began in the ‘80s, an improved self-concept was credited with helping students perform better in school and resisting the temptations of premarital sex. But now people are starting to realize that unlimited positive reinforcement may not necessarily be a good thing, he said.

“If all you get is positive feedback as a child and your success is not based on any sort of real accomplishment, you’re not going to be motivated to work hard,” he said.

Seth Rosenthal, a post-doctoral research fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University, said Shrira’s study “adds to an accumulating body of evidence that narcissists often aren’t playing by the same set of interpersonal ‘rules’ that most people are.”

University of Florida News

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Narcissistic Paradox

By Giles Burch, University of Auckland, New Zealand

As occupational psychologists we have an interest in identifying the personality traits most associated with success in the workplace, in particular those associated with effective leadership. For example, Nicholson (1998) identified how entrepreneurial leaders are higher in conscientiousness compared with mid-level managers. However, more recently there has been a growing interest in those traits or 'dysfunctional dispositions' that may ultimately result in the leader's derailment (e.g. Hogan & Hogan, 2001). One such disposition is that of narcissism. In this context we consider narcissistic personality at the sub-clinical level, where narcissism is defined as having an inflated sense of self-importance, grandiosity and entitlement, with weaknesses such as sensitivity to criticism, poor listening skills, a lack of empathy, a dislike for mentoring, and an intense desire to compete (Maccoby, 2000)

The notion of the 'narcissistic manager' is not new and recent publications in the management literature have served to raise the prominence of this concept. However, what becomes apparent from this literature is the 'paradox' of the narcissistic personality in relation to leadership success, whereby narcissism appears to facilitate the rise up into more senior managerial positions, yet as narcissists take on more of a leadership role, these dispositions may become increasingly associated with subsequent derailment. It is likely that this paradox is not limited to narcissistic personality, but rather a number of dysfunctional dispositions. Indeed, Paulhus & Williams (2002) highlight the overlapping relationships between the socially aversive personalities of narcissism, Machiavellianism (manipulative personality) and (sub-clinical) psychopathy. However, narcissism in particular appears to be typical in respect to this paradox, with arrogance and an over-inflated sense of self-importance appearing to be important determinants in the rise of the narcissist. Whilst Hogan and Hogan (2001) suggest that many people rise in the organisation due to their political savvy and luck, others suggest that it is the narcissist's ambition and charisma that facilitates their rise (see Lubit, 2002; Maccoby, 2000). This therefore raises the question as to the point at which these narcissistic traits may become more of a negative disposition. It seems most likely that the narcissist's asocial personality will become problematic once they take on more of a leadership role, when, as the literature on emotional intelligence suggests, effective leadership is characterised (at least partially) by self-awareness and empathy (for example, see Goleman, Boyatzis & McKee, 2002).

So where does this leave us in practical terms? Maccoby (2000) suggests that getting the narcissist into analysis can help, but highlights that their need for control makes them unlikely to engage in any kind of insight therapy. In my own experience of working with socially aversive personalities, it (not surprisingly) proves increasingly difficult to get the individual to recognise the need for change, particularly if at this stage they have become successful, with a lifestyle characterised by an indiscrete display of power and wealth - which only serves to reinforce the narcissist's sense of self-importance. Even when gross errors are made, e.g. poorly brokered deals, which may turn out to cost the organisation dearly, it is difficult to bring the narcissist back to a sense of reality. Alternatively, Lubit (2002) suggests that it is more an issue of 'managing' one's relationship with the narcissist, rather than trying to address issues directly with them, thereby highlighting the possible futility of any direct intervention with the narcissist.

So, what can you do as a consultant, coach or diagnostician? Given that the narcissist's arrogance is coupled with a contempt for people around them, except for those who can facilitate their rise further, one approach is to try to address these asocial traits earlier on in the manager's career through coaching, when the narcissist is perhaps more likely to take note of the coach, who paradoxically, they may perceive as being able to help facilitate their desired rise to the top! At this point, at least, there is an opportunity to condition them to recognise strategies that support their achievements and behaviours that are likely to impede their sustained success.

From my own experience and the wealth of literature that is now growing in this and related areas, organisations are all too painfully aware of the darker side of leadership (think of the boardroom and CEO embarrassments that were publicised in 2004 alone) and its cost to them. The value of what we can offer is easily recognised when organisations consider the shareholder or political impact of a flawed leader or senior executive.

Monday, January 29, 2007


The New York Times

THE drives that lead powerful men to self-destructive sexual encounters have little to do with sex, according to psychiatrists and other mental health experts.

Instead, they cite an explosive psychic combination of unhealthy narcissism and a grandiose sense that normal rules do not apply to oneself. At work are the narcissist's desperate need to prove himself and, paradoxically, a deep urge for failure. When these forces of self-betrayal encounter the temptations brought by power, the results can destroy even the most prominent, with the inexorable logic of a Greek tragedy.

No one can say from afar what motivates a given public figure; psychotherapists cannot diagnose at a distance. And a single incident in a person's life - no matter how notorious or consequential it becomes -may not indicate a lifelong pattern in personality.

Still, many experts see patterns in the well-publicized difficulties of Gary Hart, whose Presidential campaign ended amid allegations of ''womanizing''; Jim Bakker, the television evangelist who left his pulpit after an adulterous affair, and Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. of Washington, who has said he will change his behavior in response to criticism of his drinking habits and late-hour visits to private homes.

The sexual nature of the indiscretions is, no doubt, partly due to the opportunities for dalliance that power and fame bring. ''Some women love to be involved with men of power; it's a mutual seduction,'' said Judd Marmor, a psychoanalyst in Los Angeles. ''The trouble begins, though, when that is combined with the arrogance of power, the feeling that the rules are made for other people, not for oneself.'' It is excess beyond the normal arrogance because it summons people to such unrealistic heights and suspension of judgment that by any definition it seems to indicate a pathology at work, in the view of many of those interviewed.

Psychologists say the syndrome can lead to other kinds of abuses of power unrelated to sex - even to debacles like the Iran-contra scandal or Watergate.

''There is a terrific seduction of the spirit that takes place when you are surrounded by admiring throngs, when the red carpet is laid out for you,'' said Dr. Marmor. ''Unless you are aware of the blinding effect the adulation can have, your judgment can be impaired so that you begin to feel that you are immune to normal limits and penalties. You see it in Gary Hart, and you see it, too, in the arrogance that lies behind Irangate.''

Ann F. Lewis, national director of Americans for Democratic Action and former director of the Democratic National Committee, said: ''From the moment you enter the world of a Presidential campaign, the normal rules no longer seem to apply. You're in a vacuum-sealed universe where everyday concerns no longer exist. It's easy to forget the rules of the real world.

''But they are neither expired nor suspended - they're waiting for you right outside the door.''

That feeling of grandiosity is one of the appeals of power in the first place, particularly for the character type known to psychoanalysts as the narcissist. The hallmark of the narcissist is a sense of entitlement, of being special and outside the rules.

''Hart wanted to feel he led a charmed life,'' said L. Jolyon West, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the medical school at the University of California at Los Angeles, who has friends among Mr. Hart's important supporters. ''He had a self-deceptive sense of invulnerability; he seemed to believe he would not be found out, no matter the risks he took. In that way he seems similar to Ivan Boesky,'' the Wall Street figure involved in an insider trading scandal.

''Gary Hart had a blind spot,'' said William Schneider, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. ''He thought his passions and foibles were irrelevant; he did not sense how important the character of the President is. The word around Washington was that Hart felt special and invulnerable.''

Mr. Hart, who has consistently resisted efforts to delve into the private aspects of his life, has made himself unavailable to reporters' questions since his withdrawal from the campaign, and his press office turned away an effort to elicit his thoughts about political and psychological characterizations of him.

Healthy Variety of Narcissism

There is a healthy variety of narcissism, a feeling of excellence that is the natural companion of true accomplishment. Indeed, a certain degree of healthy narcissism is thought to be a prerequisite to success in politics, as in other fields. But the pathological form of narcissism impels people to achieve for neurotic reasons.

''Most of us get enough sense of self-worth in childhood that we don't need to rely on constant praise from others for it,'' said Robert Michels, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College. ''But if as a child you have a sense of being unloved, then you can go through life like a child forever seeking love and approval; you need to have praise simply to feel merely adequate.''

Closely linked to the striving for achievement in unhealthy narcissism is a need to fail. The unconscious need to fail was noted by Freud, who said men who ruined their own success were commonly seen in psychoanalysis.

''If your self-esteem is so fragile, you are unable to believe the applause,'' Dr. Michels said. ''You feel guilty and conflicted about the praise, because you don't believe you deserve it. Such people vacillate between a sense of undeserved success and a feeling of worthlessness.'' '

They Devalue' Success

''When they finally achieve a great success, they devalue it or even undermine it,'' Dr. Michels added. ''Their success is destroyed because it had built into it the seeds of defeat.''
People who seem to undermine themselves may have ''many strong motives that they do not know about,'' said Mardi Horowitz, a psychiatrist at the medical school at the University of California at San Francisco. ''And they often don't know what their unconscious moral standards are. They get themselves in trouble as punishment for having gotten something that, deep down, they do not feel they should be allowed to have.''

Such people may invite discovery. ''The circumstances of Hart being found out and of Nixon taping the conversations that undid him both suggest people who, at some level, want to be caught,'' said Lester Luborsky, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. ''Each, in a way, invited discovery. You can't know for sure, but you can assume an unconscious guilt. It's a combination of narcissistic grandiosity and self-delusion.''

One political analyst said he felt Mr. Hart's problems resulted from ''ambivalence about the Presidency'' -both wanting it and not wanting it, as Mr. Hart himself has said - ''rather than a political death wish.''

Another hallmark of the narcissist - and it often dooms their relationships - is a preoccupation with their own gratification, in combination with a lack of regard for how others feel.
''Such people come to feel they can do no wrong, and should be allowed to do whatever they want,'' said David Spiegel, a psychiatrist at Stanford University Medical School. ''It is only an educated inference on my part, but Gary Hart seemed to be so taken with himself and his accomplishments that he could not empathize. And he was so divorced from a sense of being involved that he could not consider the cost to his wife and to his supporters of not controlling his own impulses.''

The Public's Reaction

The psychological experts suggested that there may be factors that would lead the public to react strongly to transgressions that would have been forgiven in less elevated figures - or in an earlier time.

For example, the extramarital sexual encounters of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were well known by their immediate circle and even by some members of the press. But things have changed since then. Some experts point to changes in the status of women since the early 1960's. Others point to heightened concern over the President's role in the fate of the world.

''Now, more than ever in history, our personal welfare depends on the moral fiber and judgment of the President,'' said Milton Greenblatt, a psychiatrist at U.C.L.A., who has made a study of the Presidency through history. ''That makes us more critical of that fiber than before.''

Dr. West of U.C.L.A. said: ''There is a special meaning to sexual indiscretions in someone like a Presidential candidate, or a minister, for that matter. Why are we preoccupied with the old-fashioned image of an ultra-pure, loving couple - the Harts or the Bakkers? With the family so threatened and fragmented today, we want our leaders to reassure us that the ideal is still viable. We want them to symbolize that for us. When they don't, we feel a betrayal, because they have destroyed our idealized image of the family.''

'An Idealized Good Parent'

Dr. Greenblatt likened the President to ''an idealized good parent,'' saying: ''He's supposed to be pure, monogamous, fatherly. If he betrays that ideal, we're outraged, like small children whose parent lets them down.''

Bill Hamilton, a political consultant at Hamilton, Frederick & Schneiders in Washington, agreed. ''People cannot forgive things in the President they would in a governor,'' he said. ''He's the last man between them and nuclear war, economic instability, world turmoil. They want to know the guy is solid and knows himself.''

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dangers of Narcissism in Your Relationship

"The narcissist is an emotional stalker who plays on the emotions of their partner until they are beat down and ready to give up."

You think you are in love. And you may well be. As the relationship progresses it becomes apparently clear to you that, unfortunately, the one you love is not reciprocating those feelings toward you. Your partner is, in fact, in love...only it's with themselves. This can be very disheartening, especially after years of loyalty to your relationship. The struggle can become too great. You may find that your significant other has been recording your phone conversations, secretly following you around, placing listening devices on your person, putting spy-ware into your personal computer, and/or placing spy camera and video equipment throughout your home. The narcissist is not capable of trusting others because they know they themselves can not be trusted. They are obsessed with knowing your every move because they can't imagine that you could have any interest in the world besides them! They also hope to obtain enough information throughout the relationship as to use your personal activities as blackmail or for your character assassination later if you pose a threat to their ego. For instance, if you tell them you are leaving them they may threaten to show the world the video they obtained, unbeknownst to you, of you in the shower. If you are strong in spirit, you may decide to escape from the madness regardless of the threats.

During the years you and your partner were together you may recall that he spent much time telling you that there was something wrong with you, that you were crazy, or needed help. In one woman's case, Darla spent 13 years with a man who repeatedly told her she needed to seek psychological help, that she was weird and crazy, and needed medication. In fact Darla did need help. She needed help in escaping from the clutches of her narcissistic partner. Most often, the narcissist revels in their mind games with others. They like to stab at the emotional well-being of others with their antics and pranks. They bask in the aggravation, anger, or sadness of others. When it comes to their partner, they count on the instability they cause so that they feel needed when their partner gets so down they do need help. It can take years for some to realize that they are involved in this unhealthy setting. These are precious years that will be lost to this disgraceful sickness.

Let's delve a bit more into this personality. It is a true disorder. This person can be an incessant jabber box or a man of few words. The jabber box can command all of your attention while denying you any by never letting you get a word in edgewise. The woman I spoke of earlier, Darla, tried to get a word in edgewise and when she did, she tried to share her feelings and thoughts. To this, her partner told her that what she said she was feeling, she actually wasn't. He also told her that what she thought wasn't what she was really thinking. When she realized that he even had to control her thoughts and feelings, she knew she was being emotionally abused and must get out. The man of few words holes up somewhere, denying you the grace of his presence. Some narcissists can have both qualities. Either way, it is just pursuing the same end by different means.

You may be surprised to learn that narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) isn't just having a big ego. It is low self-esteem, self-hatred in denial, caused by ignominious defeat, not aggrandizement. This disorder is not taken seriously enough. It isn't just obnoxious behavior. People with this disorder are predators and are not harmless. They are set apart from the rest of the human race. NPD is the usual diagnosis for your typical pedophile. These people are very dangerous! Darla talked of the time when she thought she saw her partner being inappropriate with her son. He had her 1 1/2 year old son in his lap. When she walked down the hall and saw them sitting there together on the bed, he stood, placed the boy on the floor, and quickly zipped up and buttoned his pants. Being the smooth talker he was, he and his equally narcissistic mother convinced Darla that she had been mistaken in what she thought she may have walked in on.

Throughout the years he showed and verbally admitted to jealousy over the children they had and even jealousy over the family cats, who he claimed got more attention than he did. He opted to step on Darla's favorite cat's tail whenever possible. Animal abuse is also typical for the narcissist. People narcissists victimize need to know what hits them. Society needs awareness of this disease among us, so that people who behave this way no longer pass for normal and are no longer free to abuse to their heart's content so long as they never lay a hand on anyone or commit character assassination so long as they whisper to one listener at a time, leaving no willing witness to finger the assassin.

f you recognize this behavior as the behavior of your partner, seek all the support you can get and get away quickly. Darla had to spend a month in a crisis intervention safe-house with her children. She is currently going through a divorce that is 9 months long and far from over due to her tormentors continued success at assassinating her character and his greed in not wanting to share with Darla what state law gives her - 50% of the monetary assets. She and he will soon undergo psychological evaluation, which he is procrastinating and fighting against. Darla remains as stable as she can considering he has increased her life insurance policy and has hundreds of dollars unaccounted for, which leaves Darla to fear that he may have a contract out on her life.

Until the justice system and society as a whole wakes up to this very serious disease, people's lives will continue to be destroyed at the hand of the narcissist who is held to no responsibility to their actions. It's criminal.

Sophia Moon

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Female Narcissist

"Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones." - Charles Caleb Colton

Abusive behavior in men or women can be a function of many underlying issues. Personality disorders or their milder counterparts (i.e., "traits" or "features") are one underlying etiology. This article tries to help the reader understand the mindset of the female with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or with narcissistic features.

Like her narcissistic male counterpart, this lady harbors deeply held and undisputed irrational underlying beliefs that affect her feelings and behavior. Most of these beliefs are never questioned and are only dimly realized, if they are realized at all. While we all harbor irrational beliefs, those with personality disorders harbor belief systems that are deeply embedded and intertwined.

A real charmer

Dana is an extremely pretty 23-year old young lady. A delight on the surface, she has an uncanny knack of presenting herself extremely well to the target audience she wants to impress. She has a corresponding almost magical ability to make people feel verrrry good.She can WOW you! You'll be gushing (or panting if you' re a guy), and there just isn't anything you wouldn't do to please her. She will continue to reward your good behavior as long as she needs you. After all, it is very hard work to be "on" so much of the time.

If she's accomplished her mission and you are no longer useful, she spends less and less energy being perfectly charming and engaging. In most cases Dana has no real desire to be disrespectful, but as she "relaxes," becoming more "herself," she becomes quiet or mildly disrespectful.

A typical narcissist

The problem is that the only person Dana cares about is Dana. You are no more than the object who provides her with whatever it is she wants and needs: love, admiration, money, encouragement, support, etc. While she pretends to care, and indeed wants to care, the reality is that she doesn't. Her world starts and stops with herself. She hides that fact pretty well from most people; especially those who are consistently meaningful to her (i.e., parents, husband, siblings, boss, etc.). Most of these individuals would be shocked to hear this, and in fact would think you' re crazy!

Dana is typical as pretty female narcissists go. She relies on her beauty and her charm. She feels good about herself as long as she "has it over" anybody she considers "the competition."

Few real friends -
Parents are parents and too often love unconditionally, but friends and acquaintances don't. As a result, while new people Dana meets like her, the more they got to know her, the less interested they are in her company. Except, of course, for the young men, most of whom vie for her attention.

Other than a childhood best friend with virtually non-existent self esteem, there are no friends. There are acquaintances and those who share her environment as well as the many men who surrounded her — all of whom she refers to as "friends," but there really are no friends.

She explains this deficit by rationalizing that her peers disappoint her in one way or another. This one uses drugs, that one you can't trust, the other one is jealous of her, etc. There is virtually no recognition that the reason people who are not closely related to her, or have no sexual interest in her, do not like her, given how she treats them!

I' m the best! -
Dana is not content unless she feels she has it over her peers, especially female peers. She believes she has the prettiest face, the nicest hair, and the best figure — which she flaunts with her form-fitting, sexy, and hip wardrobe. She is always well-dressed, even when lounging around. "Studied cool" describes her style. While giving the impression of having thrown together any old top and pair of jeans, the trained eye can discern the hours and hours spent trying the outfits on, making up to appear not made up, etc.

Jealousy -
Jealousy is a huge issue. Her own envy is as cut off from her consciousness as Wisconsin is cut off from the Atlantic Ocean. While she has no clue regarding her pervasive jealousy, it is sadly evident to the sensitive observer.

One year Dana didn't get her cousin a birthday present. While Stephanie routinely bought Dana beautiful and expensive gifts, Dana couldn't say why she didn't get Stephanie anything. When pressed, annoyed, she provided a series of senseless answers.

"I made a deal with my friends that we were not to exchange gifts."

"Did you made that arrangement with Stephanie?"

"No, but I' m not getting any gifts. We' re going to lunch. I'll pay."

Not only did she not end up paying, Stephanie paid for both Dana, as well as for Dana's boyfriend!

The "problem" was that Stephanie, her peer, had gotten her life together. Also beautiful, she found her calling and was pursuing an advanced degree with straight A's — a feat Dana couldn't hope to accomplish. Stephanie also had a rich boyfriend who adored her. You get the picture. When asked point-blank if she was jealous of Stephanie, Dana replied too quickly and with an affected laugh, "Jealous of Stephanie? WHAT is there to be jealous about?"

The price she pays -
Part of the price Dana pays to manipulate others is the exhaustion required to be "on" much of the time.When caught with her vigilant guard down, she is not nice: often impatient, short, arrogant and condescending, reflecting her near chronic bad mood. Shopkeepers, boyfriends who try too hard, and all the not-too-important people in her life who will put up with it, are the unwitting victims. This is subtle. For example, one day she walked into her compulsively-clean mother's house and saw a leaf on the sparkling floor by her feet. Instead of picking it up, she asked, "What's that?" Her mother, almost on cue, dropped what she was doing to pick up the leaf by her daughter's feet.

Every asset she has, she flaunts. One weekend, invited to spend it with some new friends at their family's home in a poor section of a neighboring town, she found reason to make a 30-mile detour to her parents' upscale, gorgeous home — to show it off — as though announcing her supremacy. Of course, she would never admit that's why she came home. Her reasons are always framed in wording that casts her in a positive light such as "It's my dad's birthday," or, "I have to pick up something important I forgot." Never an honest reason like, "I wanted to show off the house to intimidate them."

The Devil in disguise

The apparent angel is the devil in disguise. -
A compulsive liar who needs to mislead to maintain her unblemished facade, Dana is not a mean or cruel person. This young woman really wants to do the right thing. While she derives a measure of immediate satisfaction from her cruelty, when forced to face her behavior, she is not happy she mistreats others. After all, a misbehavior is not in keeping with her perfect image of herself! When reality occasionally hits her and she is confronted with her condescending acts, she becomes upset with herself, often in tears.

For a short time.

Soon all is forgotten. Time heals or she takes solace in blaming others.

When she presents her selectively-presented view, it sounds compelling. Until one realizes nothing ever seems to be her issue. Someone or something else is to blame — or the entire topic is dropped. No matter how much she has vowed to correct these behaviors, she does not.

She cannot because she will not.

Why, why, why? -
She cannot because she chooses not to face the truth about herself. She cannot face that her nature is in fact dark and very imperfect. She cannot face that she is no more special, no more unique, no more perfect than anybody else.


What can she possibly fall back on if she were to simply enjoy her many assets as well as accept and work around the impact of her many deficits?

She believes special rules apply to her, and she is not willing to give these up without a struggle. She's secretly glad others haven't figured out how to be as special as she is. Giving up her specialness is unthinkable. It does not feel good.

How, how, how? -
Keep in mind that narcissism is a lifelong pattern developing from childhood and believed to have a biological basis. If deception and pretense have provided a lifetime of comforts and esteem supplies, why mess things up? Isn't it more satisfying to concern herself with gratification in the moment? Why work when you can instead do just enough to get by? Better to spend that energy cultivating one's external assets and targets. These yield immediate rewards.

After all, the only thing she compromises is her Self, her integrity, her relationships. All the things she has never known or understood, but thinks she knows well.

Trustworthiness -
With all these issues, the narcissistic woman (or man for that matter) cannot be trusted. They are not trustworthy — unless they are expending energy pretending to be trustworthy. So, at best, their trustworthiness is inconsistent. Like the male abuser, her moods are unpredictable. When frustrated, the energy demands of being "on" are too great. Her frustration slips away from her — and spills onto anybody unfortunate enough to be in the way.

In a nutshell

To feel whole, a woman like Dana needs to be the center of attention, be the prettiest, the most fortunate, the most talented, the bestest. She cultivates others who will be manipulated by her to admire her, adore her, inflate her, love her, and overlook her pretense, lies and half-truths.

If she is questioned, she distances. This simple yet effective technique invariably affects the codependents in her life. On cue, they lay low and let the issue drop or chase her, thinking they must have done something wrong, worrying that she won't want to be with them. Should an admirer truly believe in her specialness, and try too hard to win her, they are treated with contempt instead of charity. These people represent that which she despises: only the weak and common permit themselves to be demeaned.

The bottom line is that this very beautiful, very charming (and extremely manipulative) young woman has absolutely no concern for others apart from those who are in a position to provide her with narcissistic supplies.

Does anybody know a Dana? Even worse, have any men out there fallen in love with a Dana? (May God help you...)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beyond the Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism

Beyond The Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism is organizational psychologist Alan Downs's provocative exploration of high-profile corporate leaders (such as Al Dunlap and Robert Allen) who literally have only one thing on their minds: profits. Such narrow focus actually may yield positive short-term benefits, Downs writes, but ultimately it will drag down individual employees as well as entire companies. Alternative thinking is proposed, and some firms now utilizing these options are examined.

Beyond the Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism
by Alan Downs
ISBN-10: 0814403433
ISBN-13: 978-0814403433

How can you cure a sickness when you don't know its cause? Many of today's corporations are exhibiting the disturbing symptoms of a hard-to-define illness. You see signs of the malady in numerous ways: irrational decision-making, massive downsizings, excessive executive pay, low morale, and a sense of isolation among employee. At some companies there's an even odder symptom: workaholic managers who seem indifferent to what they're working so hard at. What's going on here? Alan Downs, a noted author and organizational psychologist, has identified a root cause of this baffling and destructive ailment and given it a name. He calls it corporate narcissism. In Beyond the Looking Glass, he diagnoses this syndrome and explores ways to cure it. With dozens of vivid, real-life examples, Beyond the Looking Glass uncovers destructive cases of corporate narcissism and describes healthy companies that have resisted this negative force. Downs points the way to some powerful solutions for overcoming narcissism. If you are at a high level in your company, the book shows you how to create an organizational environment that doesn't tolerate extreme narcissistic behavior. If you work for or with a corporate narcissist, Beyond the Looking Glass shows you numerous self-defense techniques for survival. Ultimately, Beyond the Looking Glass poses the central question: What is the purpose of an organization? For companies like Levi Strauss, Starbuck's, Nordstrom's, and others cited in this book, the purpose goes far beyond profits. Making money is important, certainly - but equally critical are producing excellent products and services as well as providing a satisfying and rewarding place to work. In such a place, employees reward the company with their creativity, loyalty, and energy. That's profitable for all.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Emotional Blackmail

"If you really loved me..."

"After all I've done for you..."

"How can you be so selfish..."

Do any of the above sound familiar? They're all examples of emotional blackmail, a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.

Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You
Susan Forward, Donna Frazier
# ISBN-10: 0060928972
# ISBN-13: 978-0060928971

This book does a very clear job of defining emotional blackmail so you can begin to easily spot emotional blackmailers in your life. It then concludes with telling you specifically how to deal with emotional blackmail, that is, how to keep your energy, resources, and sometimes your very soul, from being stolen by them.
Something that was particularly important for me personally in the book was the part at the end where she talks about not emotionally blackmailing *yourself*! What an insight! I realized that even when rigid, controlling people are not around to inspire guilt, fear and shame in me to get me to do things that are hurtful to me for their selfish benefit, I have a "voice" in my head that does the job for them, telling me that whatever I do that doesn't fit the world view of past and present blackmailers is "wrong," "selfish," or even "evil." So I beat myself up on behalf of my blackmailers even when they are not around to do it.
I also was impressed by the insight that not only does it "take two to tango," that no one can blackmail me if I don't let them, but that it is also possible for me to actually "train" people to blackmail me. This is particularly, true, I think, for those of us raised in rigid, controlling homes with emotionally blackmailing parents. Thereafter, we are, so to speak, fertile ground for any future emotional blackmailers.
I had rather been realizing these sorts of things the past few years now that I'm in my 40s (the middle years when we suddenly reevaluate our whole life), and gradually eliminating emotional blackmailers from my life, without exactly using that term. (The term I used was ridding myself of people whose presence felt like "being nibbled to death by ducks.") This book has validated my innate human "right" to not be eaten alive by the selfish demands of others.
Kudos to Ms. Forward!
Kate McMurry

I am an emotional blackmailer, I just had no idea until I read this book. It was suggested to me by my soon to be ex- husband who couldn't take it anymore. I thought I was being strong and standing my ground and this book helped me to see that I was emotionally bullying other people. I beleived I was always right and no human being can be. It also helped me to see that it doesn't matter if you are wrong or right, making another person feel as if they must agree with you or they are "bad" is not OK. I was using the behaviors descibed in the book to protect myself from being hurt and have hurt sooooo many others in the process. If you're a person who always feels like a victim or have no idea why so many people don't like you when you think you're such a wonderful person READ IT!!!

This book hit the nail on the head for me. It helped me extricate myself from a life time of having to deal with my mother's emotional blackmail, PLUS confront my own maladaptive patterns that were equally bad. Uncannily enough, I had saved photocopies of a pile of letters I had sent to a long-term past boyfriend with whom I had a dysfunctional relationship. I went through all of those letters and underlined all my blackmailing tricks and named which category they belonged to. What a revelation and how wonderfully freeing. I then prayed that God would give me the courage to overcome these ways and replace it with courage and insight to be honest. Wow! I've never looked back ... only to consult the book every now and again for a booster! And to re-read those letters for a laugh.
The book is also hilarious in places. Humour is just what the emotional blackmailee and 'er' need!
Cyber Gypsy

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Let's Play Pretend

When a narcissist is abusing you, he or she is playing Pretend. It's like a play. It has a script.

Some children try to control a game of Pretend with their little friends. They are always stage directing and bossing the others around, because they want everyone to follow their script. They are constantly stamping their foot and yelling, "No! You're not supposed to do that! You're supposed to do THIS!"

"THIS" is always something that aggrandizes that bossy child, probably at the other kid's expense, which is why he doesn't want to play along with her script.

When you are interacting with a narcissist, that is what's going on. He is that bossy child who insists that you play along with his script in this little game of make-believe.

You trigger the narcissist's rage by not playing along, by departing from his script.

This is how it usually plays out: The victim reacts naturally to the narcissist's devaluing treatment. She might insist on having his attention for a moment. Or she may complain about some put-down. Or she may ask him to stop some obnoxious thing he's doing. In fact, she may do nothing more than just try to avoid the impending assault by leaving the room when he starts treating her like this to pick the usual fight. In doing any of these things, she is not following his script. So he attacks.

I think these attacks are just his way of herding you to behave the way he wants — making you follow his script. In other words, you're the steer, and he is a cowboy He is really just a little child mad at you for not playing along with his little game of Pretend. He's stamping his foot and yelling at you, "No! You're not supposed to do THAT! You're supposed to do THIS!"

Of course a grown narcissist must be subtle about it, so he can't come right out and tell you what to do. Therefore, he herds you in the direction he wants, like a cowboy herds cattle — riding on a big horse at you, yelling and waving his hat..

Another way of looking at it is that he trains you like you train a dog. When doggy pees outside, you praise him. When doggy pees inside, you get mad at him. In other words, you train him with positive and negative reinforcement, by waving carrots and sticks at him till he just prefers to behave the way you happen to want him to.

In the narcissist's script, his wife is supposed play Pretend-that-he-is-God-Almighty too. Which means that she supposed to bend over for it from God Almighty with a smile. She is to NOT insult him by acting as though she is his equal. NOT to act as though she is here to serve her interests instead of his. NOT to act as though she deserves consideration or respect from him, let alone appreciation and gratitude for her services. According to his script, she is NOT to upstage him by getting any attention or regard. She is to act as though she is as insignificant and flawed and intolerable as he portrays her.

By not acting out his fantasy for him, she is making his delusions harder to believe, and he hates her for making his delusions harder to believe. He hates her for this with the sudden, hard-wired hatred that flares up in us all at anyone physically attacking us.

What do I mean? Here's an example. If you are driving and someone crashes their car into yours, what's your first reaction? Come on, be honest. It's instant rage, isn't it? Embarrassing, but true — BOOM — it's right there. It's caused by a perceived violent act against your life. It lasts but a second, because we instantly quell it, knowing that it is uncalled for in a mere accident.

This explosive raw emotion flares up so suddenly because it's involuntary, genetically hard-wired into the brain. It's a reflex originating in the animal brainstem as part of the instant fight-or-flight response that kicks in with a general firing of the sympathetic nervous system and an adrenaline rush. This primitive, instinctive reaction is adaptive in the wild world, where it fits an animal to deal with sudden attack.

In civil society, however, it is usually inappropriate. This is why we must sit still a moment, telling ourselves it was an accident, not an attack, and to behave civilly when we get out of the vehicle to talk to the other driver.

Narcissists are mental three-year-olds who don't exert this self control.

Your failing to divine and follow his script a narcissist views as an attack. And, though nothing could be further from this woman's mind than attacking him, she IS attacking him! Make sure this part sinks in: by failing to divine and follow the narcissist's script, you are ATTACKING him. And he will react like a man desperately fighting for his life. Count on it.

For, does the Pinnacle of Creation have any consideration for a relative ant? Does he have any regard or feelings for an ant? Does he think an ant is important? Is it not an insult for an ant to regard itself as worthy of his notice? That's how his wife behaving as though she deserves respect attacks him: it attacks that mirage he identifies with. His godlike fantasy image of himself.

Remember, he identifies with it. He thinks it's him. So, if you say or do anything inconsistent with it, you attack it = you attack him.

It takes little thought to see that interaction with a narcissist is a dance in a minefield. For, virtually any normal thing a normal person does can disrupt this mirage. For example, a customer service representative unwittingly disrupts it by not offering the narcissist special treatment. A co-worker unwittingly disrupts it by expecting the narcissist to listen and cooperate.

Ants, ants, ants...thus "provoking" God Almighty all the time.

Kathleen Krajco

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Learning Theory of Serial Murder

As an alternative to the idea that serial killers are driven by "fantasy", at least one criminologist (Hale) has proposed that they are driven by humiliation or embarrassment. They perceive the world as full of "attacks" or "challenges" that cannot go unanswered. This acute need to reassert power is drawn from early childhood experiences where the offender felt powerless to control events. This need, combined with an arrested social development which includes problems at demonstrating mastery and at social comparison, results in the use of a victim as an audience to "set things right." In this view, serial killers are seeking approval from their victims.

Like all people, even the personality disordered are motivated to seek the approval of others. For various reasons, however, they experience feelings of frustration at finding ways to conceptualize how they would go about obtaining this approval from others. They actually anticipate failure without even trying. This is because they perceive the original person who humiliated them as superior or more "powerful" than they are. They then seek out vulnerable and less threatening persons as victims, who become scapegoats for the person who initially thwarted their needs for approval.

The diagnosis of "malignant narcissism" may be more apt for serial killers than "antisocial personality disorder" because it better exemplifies the connotation of evil that hangs over this domain of personality. A malignant narcissist is someone who exhibits antisocial personality traits combined with unrestrained aggression, a more pathological than deviant conscience, a strong need for power and recognition, distrust of others, and certain elements of sadism. Kernberg says that malignant narcissism develops as a defense against feeling of inferiority and rejection.

All criminals tend to have problems understanding social norms. They are more self pre-occupied than concerned with obeying the law. Serial killers, like many criminals, are driven more by the expression of their internal needs than a rejection of external forces. To maintain this schedule of "conditioning one's conscience", two things are necessary: alienation and isolation. Fromm said that alienation can be handled by ritualized behavior. Isolation simply limits exposure to societal sources of social control. Serial killers often engage in ritualistic behavior as a substitute for socialization. They are socializing themselves, and providing their own sense of security, predictability, and order. In this sense, they are acting volitionally and learning to attend to their own needs in the only way they know how.

Dr. T. O'Connor, Dept of Justice Studies, NC Wesleyan College

Monday, January 22, 2007

Narcissism, wealth, extravagance, fraud

Outrageous Fortune
The Rise and Ruin of Conrad
and Lady Black
By Tom Bower, HarperCollins

Reviewed by Cecil Johnson

Baron Black of Crossharbour, a.k.a. Lord Black, or simply Conrad Black, may soon have to suffer some of those "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" to which William Shakespeare referred in Hamlet.

That will depend upon the findings of a jury in Chicago in March, when Black stands trial on eight counts of fraud. And based upon the blistering account of Black and his wife offered by London-based historian, journalist and broadcaster Tom Bower in his new book, Outrageous Fortune: The Rise and Ruin of Conrad and Lady Black, there is little doubt what verdict the author expects.

Should a life behind prison walls be in store for her husband, Lady Black, a.k.a. Barbara Amiel, could have some wrenching decisions to make about what to wear when she visits him there, given her love for exquisite and expensive attire. Bower quotes a writer in the Globe and Daily Mail about Mrs. Black's sartorial tendencies:

"Only a few hundred women in the world can afford to dress like Mrs. Black, and Mrs. Black may not be among them."

In Bower's much-less-than-flattering portrait, her taste in clothes, jewelry, cars and homes, as well as her fondness for traveling in high style and entertaining lavishly, contributed to the shady wheeling and dealing to which Black resorted to live a billionaire's lifestyle.

But Bower asserts that Lady Black's extravagance, which by her own boasting knew no bounds, was not the root cause of Black's behavior.

Bower portrays Black as a rich, spoiled, narcissistic man living substantially beyond his means and pursuing a lavish, social-climbing lifestyle by tapping the resources of companies he partially owned long before he met and married the serially married and sexually adventurous Amiel.

Black made his reputation as something of a business wizard by buying and selling numerous newspapers, including the London Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Jerusalem Post. He bought scores of smaller papers and, as Bower tells it, raked off profit to support his lifestyle by having a hatchet man cut staffs to the bone and imposing draconian restrictions on the use of supplies, equipment and time.

Indeed, Bower shows Black as doing little or nothing in the way of managing any of his companies; rather, he borrowed, moved around, and skimmed off money to support his empire-building, his social-climbing, his homes, his jet planes, and his expensive second wife.

One image that fits the book's theme is a picture of the Blacks' arriving at a fancy dress picnic in 1999 at Kensington Palace costumed as Cardinal Richelieu and Marie Antoinette.

The high point of Black's social-climbing came when, after renouncing his Canadian citizenship, Black was made a British peer. It was also a psychological milestone for Mrs. Black. Bower speculates about her thoughts on that occasion:

"As she sat in the gallery of the House of Lords on 31 October 2001 watching Conrad Moffitt Black swearing the oath to become Baron Black of Crossharbour, Barbara Amiel could have been forgiven for thinking of how the shop assistants in London, New York and Paris would thereafter address her as Lady Black, and how the butlers opening the front doors of their four homes would ask, 'Do you wish to see His Lordship or Her Ladyship.' "

Unlike Lord Black, who was born into wealth and prominence, Lady Black rose from a hardscrabble background and clawed her way up with her wits, her audacity as a journalist, her physical beauty, and her sexuality.

Barbara Amiel started out as a parlor communist, Bower discloses, only to wind up as a conservative and champion of the causes of the rich. Bower wrote that she came, like Conrad Black, to hold the lower classes in contempt, and to view anyone who criticized their behavior or values as merely envious.

Black's reported disdain for ordinary people propels this speculation from Bower about what lies in store for Black during his trial in Chicago:

"On 5 March 2007, this modern-day Houdini expects the curtain to rise on his greatest performance. Fate determined that Lord Black's life would be judged by a jury of common men and women, rather than his peers."

To classify Outrageous Fortune as an unflattering biography of a famous pair would be to carry understatement to its extreme. No, this is not a warts-and-all book. It is all warts and fascinating reading.

This review originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

You Say You Know It All

"Duping ourselves into overclaiming. How people overstate their knowledge, through an unconscious process of familiarity."

We've all met these people: They've seen everything before but get it all wrong nonetheless. So why do people overstate their knowledge? It's not necessarily a calculated effort to impress others. Some people may just think that everything they encounter is familiar to them, even if it's entirely fabricated.

Canadian researchers asked 211 students to rate their knowledge of cultural referents such as The Lusitania or Pygmalion, as well as non-existent items such as "El Puente" or "1966 Glass Animal." Students with narcissistic character traits (as determined by an earlier personality test) were more likely to express familiarity with all items, including the fake ones. Subjects then viewed the same items and new ones, and indicated their certainty about what they'd already seen. Subjects given more time to reflect on the items were just as likely to falsely claim familiarity with them, leading Del Paulhus, Ph.D., to conclude that overclaiming is an unconscious process.

Paulhus, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, believes that such behavior results from personality traits such as narcissism as well as a memory bias.

"People who overclaim are likely not aware of their behavior," Paulhus states in a paper presented at the American Psychological Association annual meeting. "Perhaps [the behavior] becomes more habitual over time and thus becomes a default reaction in relevant situations."

Kaja Perina

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Big Egos in Business

"Narcissists are considered a liability in business. But sometimes their lack of empathy and inherent selfishness helps them rise straight to the top."

Donald Trump is known for an ego the size of a New York City skyscraper—all of which has been well-documented on his reality TV show The Apprentice. It's easy to label New York's most famous real estate developer, with his flair for self-promotion and his gold-plated sense of style, as a narcissist. And traditionally, the narcissistic personality—marked by a grandiose sense of self and lack of empathy for others—is considered a liability in the business world. Their arrogance, tendency to envy others and reluctance to take blame or share credit does not recommend narcissists as "team players."

But not all narcissists are bad, says Michael Maccoby, author of The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership. Maccoby, a psychoanalyst, argues that some who fall into this personality type are natural leaders. "These people have freedom from internal constraints," says Maccoby, "and this gives them the ability to change the world."

Maccoby says Trump clearly fits the description of a productive narcissist. In a past example of power and chutzpah, he managed to convince New York City officials to permanently close an exit ramp into Manhattan from the West Side Highway to accommodate his $3-billion construction project.

Successful narcissists possess "strategic intelligence," Maccoby found. That means they exhibit foresight, are "systems" thinkers who don't get hung up on details, are good motivators, and partner with people who complement them. "The most successful ones know to partner with a more obsessive type to keep them out of trouble," Maccoby says. An egotistical real estate mogul who lacks strategic intelligence, for example, may just buy, buy, buy—without executing a comprehensive long-term vision.

Narcissism also works well in situations where big changes are necessary for growth, says Ben Dattner, organizational psychologist and president of Dattner Consulting. "Narcissists can make tough decisions without being distracted by empathy, sadness or guilt," Dattner says.

As for the reality TV hopefuls vying for a one-year contract at Trump's corporation, Dattner points out that "we never hear about anyone else in Trump's organization, so it's unclear what the real role of people under him is."
If Trump picks a fellow narcissist as his apprentice, it will be interesting to see how that person takes to being an underling, since narcissists often get knocked down while climbing the corporate ladder. "They don't take orders, they are not bureaucrats," says Maccoby. "They can be too arrogant and too grandiose, which is why a lot of them are entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates and Martha Stewart."

The narcissist's strength is also his weakness, he warns: "They don't listen to others, and that can do them in. They can also be very greedy." The challenge of keeping the spotlight on Trump should come to him quite naturally.

Carlin Flora

Friday, January 19, 2007

Without Conscience - The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

Most people are both repelled and intrigued by the images of cold-blooded, conscienceless murderers that increasingly populate our movies, television programs, and newspaper headlines. With their flagrant criminal violation of society's rules, serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are among the most dramatic examples of the psychopath. Individuals with this personality disorder are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and know the difference between right and wrong, yet they are terrifyingly self-centered, remorseless, and unable to care about the feelings of others. Perhaps most frightening, they often seem completely normal to unsuspecting targets--and they do not always ply their trade by killing. Presenting a compelling portrait of these dangerous men and women based on 25 years of distinguished scientific research, Dr. Robert D. Hare vividly describes a world of con artists, hustlers, rapists, and other predators who charm, lie, and manipulate their way through life. Are psychopaths mad, or simply bad? How can they be recognized? And how can we protect ourselves? This book provides solid information and surprising insights for anyone seeking to understand this devastating condition.

Without Conscience:
The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us
Robert D. Hare
ISBN-13: 978-1-57230-451-2

"A fascinating, if terrifying, look at psychopaths....Hare makes a strong case for the view that psychopaths are born, not made....A chilling, eye-opening report--and a call to action." -Kirkus Reviews

"A brilliant, in-depth handling of a most complex subject." -Hugh Aynesworth, author of Ted Bundy: Conversations with a Killer

"Fascinating, chilling, and accurate....The world's most renowned psychopathy researcher has leavened sharp scientific insights with page-churning case descriptions in a rare publishing feat: a book that is both highly readable and highly reputable." -John Monahan, PhD

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The death of the American gentleman


It would not be asking too much for America's most famous businessman to simply behave like a gentleman. With great wealth and fame come responsibility, the foremost of which, for a man of power, is the proper treatment of women.

For weeks America has been riveted by the nasty public dispute between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump. O'Donnell, commenting on Trump's ownership of beauty pageants, called him "a pimp," an unnecessarily harsh term which obscures an otherwise important point - that beauty pageants exploit women as cheap meat to entertain lecherous men.

There were many ways for Trump to respond. He could have ignored her, debated her, or simply said that he is prepared to respond to legitimate criticism, but not when it is vented with venom.

Instead Trump, who like many narcissistic men has a very thin public skin, erupted like a bile-filled volcano. Refusing to respond to any of O'Donnell's points, he instead called her a "slob," "disgusting," and "an animal."

Now whatever provocation O'Donnell might be guilty of, one recoils at the spectacle of America's best-known businessman betraying unbridled misogyny by hating a woman for being overweight. Why undermine a sound moral argument by using names?

Indeed, Trump represents a completely new paradigm in the evolution of male honor, with grave repercussions for those who aspire to be gentlemen.

Men begin life with superficial dreams: to make money, to be powerful, or to be famous. But as we get older and wiser, that dream hopefully evolves and matures into something more wholesome. Bill Gates crushed competitors and became the world's richest man. But then his passion was transformed from selling software into giving away his billions.

A similar transition occurred on the part of his good friend Warren Buffet. Bill Clinton aspired to power and influence. But after his reputation was sullied through impeachment, he wished to be respected and launched an impressive array of international initiatives to help the down-trodden.

Trump, however, has never outgrown his obsession with unbridled self-aggrandizement. Indeed, he has not evolved, but devolved. His narcissism and boastfulness scrape the skies, just like his buildings. Enlightenment seems utterly beyond Trump, who continues to believe that self-glorification is life's only purpose. If wisdom's highest manifestation is discerning a cause greater than oneself, then Trump is mired in an abyss of self-absorbed darkness.

Normally, such monumental flaws would be no one's business but the subject's. The difference, however, with Trump is that his success-through-boastfulness augurs ill for the rest of us.

Ancient codes of honor dictated that a while man should aspire to greatness, he should do so with a whisper. Let others speak of his feats of daring. A gentleman is not crass, and is certainly not a braggart.

Indeed, boasting of one's achievements undermined them, seeing as it betrayed insecurity rather than confidence, and weakness rather than strength.

Troubadours and minstrels could create your legend, as Homer did for Achilles and an unnamed bard for Beowulf. To crow of oneself, however, was the height of vulgarity.

But Trump has built his brand name through sheer and unending braggadocio, and, as such, has made it challenging, and perhaps impossible for the rest of us not to follow suit. After Trump, if you want to build your brand, you have to brag - humility be damned.

When one shouts above the din, then those who seek to live modestly will forever be dwarfed by those who seek success at any cost.

Moreover, the ancient code of male honor dictated that a gentleman was judged first and foremost by his treatment of women. Trump's nauseating attacks on O'Donnell's body mass betray a man who denies women an independent identity and creates them solely in a man's image.

Who determines how women should look? Trump and his testosterone-filled friends. O'Donnell, who lacks an hourglass figure, fails to entertain and is therefore a primate. He had every right to criticize her words, but not her weight; her opinion, but not her shape.

But the hallmark of the misogynist is the conviction that all women belong to him and that he therefore retains the right to pass judgment on every aspect of his servants. During slavery, black women were put on the block and studied for the health of their gums and teeth.

Trump's beauty pageants are slightly more sublime, focusing instead on the shapliness of a woman's breasts and the length of her legs. Beauty pageants are really nothing more than the respectable man's pornography, and their existence in the year 2007 undermines the American nation's claims to societal sophistication.

What Trump has invented is a new kind of rich man: The man who has money, but is bereft of class. The man with a million bucks, but impoverished manners. The man who lives in high society, but whose behavior is in the gutter.

Trump is also proof that one can be immensely rich but feel extremely poor. Nothing will fill this man up. All the money in the world will not grant him the self-esteem that has permanently eluded him, and for which he must compensate through boasting. Character, rather than money, is the real currency by which we are meant to purchase self-esteem.

Trump is a billionaire businessman. And yet you and I own him. We are his masters. He lives in our small pockets. Everything he does is calculated to impress us. If he buys a building, he needs us to know of it. If his show has high ratings, he needs us to read of it. He does not crave our approval, he is utterly dependent on it. Amazingly, he is worth billions, and yet is a slave of the public.

There is good in Trump. He seems to be a loving father and he recently praised Israel and announced a major development in Tel Aviv. And there is hope that perhaps one day he will take his responsibility as a public role model seriously and aspire to be a more refined gentleman.

The writer hosts the television program Shalom in the Home on TLC, and is author most recently of Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children (

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quiz: Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

The standard clinical test for psychopathy, Robert Hare's PCL-R, evaluates 20 personality traits overall, but a subset of eight traits defines what he calls the "corporate psychopath" -- the nonviolent person prone to the "selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others." Does your boss fit the profile? Here's our do-it-yourself quiz drawing on the test manual and Hare's book Without Conscience. (Disclaimer: If you're not a psychologist or psychiatrist, this will be a strictly amateur exercise.) We've used the pronoun "he," but research suggests psychologists have underestimated the psychopathic propensity of women.

For each question, score two points for "yes," one point for "somewhat" or "maybe," and zero points for "no."

[1] Is he glib and superficially charming?

Is he a likable personality and a terrific talker -- entertaining, persuasive, but maybe a bit too smooth and slick? Can he pass himself off as a supposed expert in a business meeting even though he really doesn't know much about the topic? Is he a flatterer? Seductive, but insincere? Does he tell amusing but unlikely anecdotes celebrating his own past? Can he persuade his colleagues to support a certain position this week -- and then argue with equal conviction and persuasiveness for the opposite position next week? If he's a CEO, can he appear on TV and somehow get away without answering the interviewer's direct questions or saying anything truly substantive?


[2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?

Does he brag? Is he arrogant? Superior? Domineering? Does he feel he's above the rules that apply to "little people"? Does he act as though everything revolves around him? Does he downplay his legal, financial, or personal problems, say they're just temporary, or blame them on others?


[3] Is he a pathological liar?

Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light -- for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he's exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he's a liar or whether he deceives himself and believes his own bull?


[4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?

Does he use his skill at lying to cheat or manipulate other people in his quest for money, power, status, and sex? Does he "use" people brilliantly? Does he engage in dishonest schemes such as cooking the books?


[5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?

Is he concerned about himself rather than the wreckage he inflicts on others or society at large? Does he say he feels bad but act as though he really doesn't? Even if he has been convicted of a white-collar crime, such as securities fraud, does he not accept blame for what he did, even after getting out of prison? Does he blame others for the trouble he causes?


[6] Does he have a shallow affect?

Is he cold and detached, even when someone near him dies, suffers, or falls seriously ill -- for example, does he visit the hospital or attend the funeral? Does he make brief, dramatic displays of emotion that are nothing more than putting on a theatrical mask and playacting for effect? Does he claim to be your friend but rarely or never ask about the details of your life or your emotional state? Is he one of those tough-guy executives who brag about how emotions are for whiners and losers?


[7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?

Does he not give a damn about the feelings or well-being of other people? Is he profoundly selfish? Does he cruelly mock others? Is he emotionally or verbally abusive toward employees, "friends," and family members? Can he fire employees without concern for how they'll get by without the job? Can he profit from embezzlement or stock fraud without concern for the harm he's doing to shareholders or pensioners who need their savings to pay for their retirements?


[8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?

Does he always cook up some excuse? Does he blame others for what he's done? If he's under investigation or on trial for a corporate crime, like deceitful accounting or stock fraud, does he refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even when the hard evidence is stacked against him?



If your boss scores:

1-4 Be frustrated
5-7 Be cautious
8-12 Be afraid
13-16 Be very afraid

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

Odds are you've run across one of these characters in your career. They're glib, charming, manipulative, deceitful, ruthless -- and very, very destructive. And there may be lots of them in America's corner offices.

One of the most provocative ideas about business in this decade so far surfaced in a most unlikely place. The forum wasn't the Harvard Business School or one of those $4,000-a-head conferences where Silicon Valley's venture capitalists search for the next big thing. It was a convention of Canadian cops in the far-flung province of Newfoundland. The speaker, a 71-year-old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia, remains virtually unknown in the business realm. But he's renowned in his own field: criminal psychology. Robert Hare is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. The 20-item personality evaluation has exerted enormous influence in its quarter-century history. It's the standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths -- the 1% of the general population that isn't burdened by conscience. Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life "games" they can win -- and take pleasure from their power over other people.

On that August day in 2002, Hare gave a talk on psychopathy to about 150 police and law-enforcement officials. He was a legendary figure to that crowd. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice. He created the P-Scan, a test widely used by police departments to screen new recruits for psychopathy, and his ideas have inspired the testing of firefighters, teachers, and operators of nuclear power plants.

According to the Canadian Press and Toronto Sun reporters who rescued the moment from obscurity, Hare began by talking about Mafia hit men and sex offenders, whose photos were projected on a large screen behind him. But then those images were replaced by pictures of top executives from WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded only months earlier. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers and Enron CFO Andrew Fastow.

"These are callous, cold-blooded individuals," Hare said.

"They don't care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse." He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life's savings. Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide, he said.

Then Hare came out with a startling proposal. He said that the recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs were screened for psychopathic behavior. "Why wouldn't we want to screen them?" he asked. "We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?"

It's Hare's latest contribution to the public awareness of "corporate psychopathy." He appeared in the 2003 documentary The Corporation, giving authority to the film's premise that corporations are "sociopathic" (a synonym for "psychopathic") because they ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests -- "shareholder value" -- without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage.

Is Hare right? Are corporations fundamentally psychopathic organizations that attract similarly disposed people? It's a compelling idea, especially given the recent evidence. Such scandals as Enron and WorldCom aren't just aberrations; they represent what can happen when some basic currents in our business culture turn malignant. We're worshipful of top executives who seem charismatic, visionary, and tough. So long as they're lifting profits and stock prices, we're willing to overlook that they can also be callous, conning, manipulative, deceitful, verbally and psychologically abusive, remorseless, exploitative, self-delusional, irresponsible, and megalomaniacal. So we collude in the elevation of leaders who are sadly insensitive to hurting others and society at large.

But wait, you say: Don't bona fide psychopaths become serial killers or other kinds of violent criminals, rather than the guys in the next cubicle or the corner office? That was the conventional wisdom. Indeed, Hare began his work by studying men in prison. Granted, that's still an unusually good place to look for the conscience-impaired. The average Psychopathy Checklist score for incarcerated male offenders in North America is 23.3, out of a possible 40. A score of around 20 qualifies as "moderately psychopathic." Only 1% of the general population would score 30 or above, which is "highly psychopathic," the range for the most violent offenders. Hare has said that the typical citizen would score a 3 or 4, while anything below that is "sliding into sainthood."

On the broad continuum between the ethical everyman and the predatory killer, there's plenty of room for people who are ruthless but not violent. This is where you're likely to find such people as Ebbers, Fastow, ImClone CEO Sam Waksal, and hotelier Leona Helmsley. We put several big-name CEOs through the checklist, and they scored as "moderately psychopathic"; our quiz on page 48 lets you try a similar exercise with your favorite boss. And this summer, together with New York industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, Hare begins marketing the B-Scan, a personality test that companies can use to spot job candidates who may have an MBA but lack a conscience. "I always said that if I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do it at the stock exchange," Hare told Fast Company. "There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You'll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one's position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something."

Tere's evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years. In pioneering long-term studies of psychopaths in the workplace, Babiak focused on a half-dozen unnamed companies: One was a fast-growing high-tech firm, and the others were large multinationals undergoing dramatic organizational changes -- severe downsizing, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. That's just the sort of corporate tumult that has increasingly characterized the U.S. business landscape in the last couple of decades. And just as wars can produce exciting opportunities for murderous psychopaths to shine (think of Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic), Babiak found that these organizational shake-ups created a welcoming environment for the corporate killer. "The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it," Babiak claims. "Organizational chaos provides both the necessary stimulation for psychopathic thrill seeking and sufficient cover for psychopathic manipulation and abusive behavior."

And you can make a compelling case that the New Economy, with its rule-breaking and roller-coaster results, is just dandy for folks with psychopathic traits too. A slow-moving old-economy corporation would be too boring for a psychopath, who needs constant stimulation. Its rigid structures and processes and predictable ways might stymie his unethical scheming. But a charge-ahead New Economy maverick -- an Enron, for instance -- would seem the ideal place for this kind of operator.

But how can we recognize psychopathic types? Hare has revised his Psychopathy Checklist (known as the PCL-R, or simply "the Hare") to make it easier to identify so-called subcriminal or corporate psychopaths. He has broken down the 20 personality characteristics into two subsets, or "factors." Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the "selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others" category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions. Sound like anyone you know? (Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints "chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle," the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.)

This view is supported by research by psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at the University of Surrey, who interviewed and gave personality tests to 39 high-level British executives and compared their profiles with those of criminals and psychiatric patients. The executives were even more likely to be superficially charming, egocentric, insincere, and manipulative, and just as likely to be grandiose, exploitative, and lacking in empathy. Board and Fritzon concluded that the businesspeople they studied might be called "successful psychopaths." In contrast, the criminals -- the "unsuccessful psychopaths" -- were more impulsive and physically aggressive.

The Factor 1 psychopathic traits seem like the playbook of many corporate power brokers through the decades. Manipulative? Louis B. Mayer was said to be a better actor than any of the stars he employed at MGM, able to turn on the tears at will to evoke sympathy during salary negotiations with his actors. Callous? Henry Ford hired thugs to crush union organizers, deployed machine guns at his plants, and stockpiled tear gas. He cheated on his wife with his teenage personal assistant and then had the younger woman marry his chauffeur as a cover. Lacking empathy? Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley shouted profanities at and summarily fired hundreds of employees allegedly for trivialities, like a maid missing a piece of lint. Remorseless? Soon after Martin Davis ascended to the top position at Gulf & Western, a visitor asked why half the offices were empty on the top floor of the company's Manhattan skyscraper. "Those were my enemies," Davis said. "I got rid of them." Deceitful? Oil baron Armand Hammer laundered money to pay for Soviet espionage. Grandiosity? Thy name is Trump.

In the most recent wave of scandals, Enron's Fastow displayed many of the corporate psychopath's traits. He pressured his bosses for a promotion to CFO even though he had a shaky grasp of the position's basic responsibilities, such as accounting and treasury operations. Suffering delusions of grandeur after just a little time on the job, Fastow ordered Enron's PR people to lobby CFO magazine to make him its CFO of the Year. But Fastow's master manipulation was a scheme to loot Enron. He set up separate partnerships, secretly run by himself, to engage in deals with Enron. The deals quickly made tens of millions of dollars for Fastow -- and prettified Enron's financials in the short run by taking unwanted assets off its books. But they left Enron with time bombs that would ultimately cause the company's total implosion -- and lose shareholders billions. When Enron's scandals were exposed, Fastow pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to pay back nearly $24 million and serve 10 years in prison.

Chainsaw" Al Dunlap might score impressively on the corporate Psychopathy Checklist too. What do you say about a guy who didn't attend his own parents' funerals? He allegedly threatened his first wife with guns and knives. She charged that he left her with no food and no access to their money while he was away for days. His divorce was granted on grounds of "extreme cruelty." That's the characteristic that endeared him to Wall Street, which applauded when he fired 11,000 workers at Scott Paper, then another 6,000 (half the labor force) at Sunbeam. Chainsaw hurled a chair at his human-resources chief, the very man who approved the handgun and bulletproof vest on his expense report. Dunlap needed the protection because so many people despised him. His plant closings kept up his reputation for ruthlessness but made no sense economically, and Sunbeam's financial gains were really the result of Dunlap's alleged book cooking. When he was finally exposed and booted, Dunlap had the nerve to demand severance pay and insist that the board reprice his stock options. Talk about failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions.

While knaves such as Fastow and Dunlap make the headlines, most horror stories of workplace psychopathy remain the stuff of frightened whispers. Insiders in the New York media business say the publisher of one of the nation's most famous magazines broke the nose of one of his female sales reps in the 1990s. But he was considered so valuable to the organization that the incident didn't impede his career.

Most criminals -- whether psychopathic or not -- are shaped by poverty and often childhood abuse as well. In contrast, corporate psychopaths typically grew up in stable, loving families that were middle class or affluent. But because they're pathological liars, they tell romanticized tales of rising from tough, impoverished backgrounds. Dunlap pretended that he grew up as the son of a laid-off dockworker; in truth, his father worked steadily and raised his family in suburban comfort. The corporate psychopaths whom Babiak studied all went to college, and a couple even had PhDs. Their ruthless pursuit of self-interest was more easily accomplished in the white-collar realm, which their backgrounds had groomed them for, rather than the criminal one, which comes with much lousier odds.

Psychopaths succeed in conventional society in large measure because few of us grasp that they are fundamentally different from ourselves. We assume that they, too, care about other people's feelings. This makes it easier for them to "play" us. Although they lack empathy, they develop an actor's expertise in evoking ours. While they don't care about us, "they have an element of emotional intelligence, of being able to see our emotions very clearly and manipulate them," says Michael Maccoby, a psychotherapist who has consulted for major corporations.

Psychopaths are typically very likable. They make us believe that they reciprocate our loyalty and friendship. When we realize that they were conning us all along, we feel betrayed and foolish. "People see sociopathy in their personal lives, and they don't have a clue that it has a label or that others have encountered it," says Martha Stout, a psychologist at the Harvard Medical School and the author of the recent best-seller The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us (Broadway Books, 2005). "It makes them feel crazy or alone. It goes against our intuition that a small percentage of people can be so different from the rest of us -- and so evil. Good people don't want to believe it."

Of course, cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That's probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It's easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want. The obvious danger of the new B-Scan test for psychopathic tendencies is that companies will hire or promote people with high scores rather than screen them out. Even Babiak, the test's codeveloper, says that while "a high score is a red flag, sometimes middle scores are okay. Perhaps you don't want the most honest and upfront salesman."

Indeed, not every aberrant boss is necessarily a corporate psychopath. There's another personality that's often found in the executive suite: the narcissist. While many psychologists would call narcissism a disorder, this trait can be quite beneficial for top bosses, and it's certainly less pathological than psychopathy. Maccoby's book The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Perils of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books, 2003) portrays the narcissistic CEO as a grandiose egotist who is on a mission to help humanity in the abstract even though he's often insensitive to the real people around him. Maccoby counts Apple's Steve Jobs, General Electric's Jack Welch, Intel's Andy Grove, Microsoft's Bill Gates, and Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher as "productive narcissists," or PNs. Narcissists are visionaries who attract hordes of followers, which can make them excel as innovators, but they're poor listeners and they can be awfully touchy about criticism. "These people don't have much empathy," Maccoby says. "When Bill Gates tells someone, 'That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard,' or Steve Jobs calls someone a bozo, they're not concerned about people's feelings. They see other people as a means toward their ends. But they do have a sense of changing the world -- in their eyes, improving the world. They build their own view of what the world should be and get others recruited to their vision. Psychopaths, in contrast, are only interested in self."

Maccoby concedes that productive narcissists can become "drunk with power" and turn destructive. The trick, he thinks, is to pair a productive narcissist with a "productive obsessive," or conscientious, control-minded manager. Think of Grove when he was matched with chief operating officer Craig Barrett, Gates with president Steve Ballmer, Kelleher with COO Colleen Barrett, and Oracle's Larry Ellison with COO Ray Lane and CFO Jeff Henley. In his remarkably successful second tour of duty at Apple, Jobs has been balanced by steady, competent behind-the-scenes players such as Timothy Cook, his executive vice president for sales and operations.

But our culture's embrace of narcissism as the hallmark of admired business leaders is dangerous, Babiak maintains, since "individuals who are really psychopaths are often mistaken for narcissists and chosen by the organization for leadership positions." How does he distinguish the difference between the two types? "In the case of a narcissist, everything is me, me, me," Babiak explains. "With a psychopath, it's 'Is it thrilling, is it a game I can win, and does it hurt others?' My belief is a psychopath enjoys hurting others."

Intriguingly, Babiak believes that it's extremely unlikely for an entrepreneurial founder-CEO to be a corporate psychopath because the company is an extension of his own ego -- something he promotes rather than plunders. "The psychopath has no allegiance to the company at all, just to self," Babiak says. "A psychopath is playing a short-term parasitic game." That was the profile of Fastow and Dunlap -- guys out to profit for themselves without any concern for the companies and lives they were wrecking. In contrast, Jobs and Ellison want their own companies to thrive forever -- indeed, to dominate their industries and take over other fields as well. "An entrepreneurial founder-CEO might have a narcissistic tendency that looks like psychopathy," Babiak says. "But they have a vested interest: Their identity is wrapped up with the company's existence. They're loyal to the company." So these types are ruthless not only for themselves but also for their companies, their extensions of self.

The issue is whether we will continue to elevate, celebrate, and reward so many executives who, however charismatic, remain indifferent to hurting other people. Babiak says that while the first line of defense against psychopaths in the workplace is screening job candidates, the second line is a "culture of openness and trust, especially when the company is undergoing intense, chaotic change."

Europe is far ahead of the United States in trying to deal with psychological abuse and manipulation at work. The "antibullying" movement in Europe has produced new laws in France and Sweden. Harvard's Stout suggests that the relentlessly individualistic culture of the United States contributes a lot to our problems. She points out that psychopathy has a dramatically lower incidence in certain Asian cultures, where the heritage has emphasized community bonds rather than glorified self-interest. "If we continue to go this way in our Western culture," she says, "evolutionarily speaking, it doesn't end well."

The good news is that we can do something about corporate psychopaths. Scientific consensus says that only about 50% of personality is influenced by genetics, so psychopaths are molded by our culture just as much as they are born among us. But unless American business makes a dramatic shift, we'll get more Enrons -- and deserve them.

Alan Deutschman is a Fast Company senior writer based in San Francisco.