I have had a long and winding parade of narcissists in my life. Their presence has actually been one of the themes of my existence. My mother was the first and continues to be the most maddening of the ever-present narcissists. After having suffered through the masochism that was a three-year stint on a therapist’s couch during my early thirties, I’ve come to accept that the narcissists in my life (other than my mother, which was the roulette wheel of biology, rather than psychology) are as attracted to me as I am to them. We are like magnets that are drawn together and not easily pulled apart. The narcissist needing to be complimented, pumped-up, promoted. I, always needing to self-deprecate because I’m all too uncomfortable with praise or recognition, always believing I somehow have not earned it.
I’m not a psychologist, but I do possess what I’ve come to think of as a working knowledge of narcissists. I’ve experienced a lot of different types … the mother who “won’t apologize for loving her children,” the best friend from high school who seduced my boyfriend just because she could, a boss from my early career who once asked why I would ever consider taking a promotion and leaving since “he took such good care of his baby.” The list goes on. I’m always on the lookout for narcissists because I understand I am attracted to them, that I enjoy standing in the light that they so often emanate, that I am comfortable doing so because it is a light for which I can easily take no credit. I understand this is not healthy for me.
I’ve struggled these last two months to get some perspective on my vexation over Sarah Palin. The obvious reasons brought no explanation or resolution. The obvious reasons are valid enough, but this is something way deeper … guttural, in fact. I have referred to the “awesomeness that is Sarah” in a few of my writings about her. I have used this phrase to describe how I perceive she feels about herself. This morning while thinking about my use of this phrase to describe Palin, a dawning realization occurred. I believe Sarah Palin to be a narcissist.
Palin is not an exact type of narcissist of which I’ve ever become entangled. She is not the type that I would be overly attracted to if I knew her in person. All of her talk about “God making a way” and “showing her open doors” would be red flags enough to keep me from getting too close. However, I do believe all the signs are there. And for this reason, I believe her to be very, very dangerous indeed. I told my husband a few weeks ago that I thought Palin had the potential to be the most dangerous politician of our generation. When he pressed me for why I believed this, my response was less than articulate … more of something that I just knew rather than could explain. Being a lover of words, I hate it when that happens. But alas, the word came … narcissist.
Narcissism is an actual personality disorder. It has definable and observable characteristics. The following is a list of those characteristics from the Web site narcissim101.com. The Web site indicates that a person suffers from narcissism if they exhibit at least five of the following characteristics:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Foreign policy experience equals I can see Russia from my house?
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
$150,000 shopping spree?
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
Believes “God will show her an open door” to run for the Presidency?
4. Requires excessive admiration.
Continues to give exclusive interviews with the press a week after the election has concluded?
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment, or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
Expects the press to not ask hard questions and is offended when they do?
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
Troopergate? Abused of her power as Governor?
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
Expected to make a speech prior to McCain’s concession speech—on the night that was perhaps the most painful of John McCain’s political career?
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
Believes people from inside her own campaign that are now criticizing her are doing so because they are jealous?
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Raises the Bill Ayers issue during the campaign without the consent or prior knowledge of John McCain?
Does Palin truly suffer from narcissism? I think if we watch very closely, we will soon find out. And if she indeed suffers from narcissism, we must be very wary. Narcissists in any position of power are very dangerous because their sense of entitlement and of being ordained knows no limits.