Narcissism, demagoguery, and modern American politics

According to Greek legend, a young man was so fascinated, awestruck, and enraptured by his own image reflected on the surface of a pool that he sat lovingly gazing at water’s edge for so long that he succumbed to his own vanity and eventually transformed into a flower that carries his name, “Narcissus.”

In the age of psychology, the American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II (DSM) from 1968 lists “Narcissism” as an emotional problem and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) with a number of characteristics.

These include excessive preoccupation with personal competence, power, prestige, and vanity; difficulties in maintaining gratifying personal relationships; deficits in psychological self-awareness; severely impaired empathy for others; problems differentiating the self from others; hypersensitivity to all criticism and insults – imagined or real; arrogant body language; flattery toward people who admire or praise them; tendency toward bragging and exaggerating personal achievements and qualities; claiming expertise in a number of areas; and inability to view the world and issues from other peoples’ perspectives. In summary, this condition results in the over-inflation of one’s self-importance.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder falls within the overall category of “sociopathology,” in which a person’s antisocial behavior demonstrates a lack of a sense of moral concern or responsibility or a deficit of social conscience. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM classifies this condition as “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD), which it defines as “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

Psychologists diagnose individuals as having APD if they manifest three or more of these symptoms: repeatedly violating social norms related to established laws and performing acts that result in frequent arrests; deceitfulness, dishonesty, and lying; impulsivity; irritability and repeated aggressiveness; reckless disdain for personal safety or the safety of others; consistent irresponsibility in work settings and frequent failures in honoring financial commitments; or lacks sense of remorse.

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