It’s Narcissist Friday!
We live in an age of fantasy. Magical powers, superpowers, evil powers—there seems to be a fascination with having special power, something to make you better than others. We have probably all been asked what we would do if we had special powers, perhaps lots of money or high authority or persuasive abilities. Most of us would consider such a question to be playful. If we were serious at all, we might decide to stop some evil or fill some need. But that kind of fantasy is a game for us.
Fantasy about having power is not a game for the narcissist. If you look through the list of nine characteristics that define narcissism, you will see that nearly all of them have to do with power. The narcissist wants power over others. The narcissist wants others to see him/her as powerful. The narcissist believes himself to be powerful. The narcissist thinks he has a right to power. The narcissist wants you to respect her power.
If I were to ask you what you would do if you had the power, your mind might go to self-serving things. But after more serious thought, you would almost certainly want to use that power to help others. For most of us, power would be about what we could give or do for others.
For the narcissist, power is about what you can get, rather than what you can do. The narcissist isn’t going to think about all the good he can do to solve the suffering or struggles of others. The narcissist is going to think about what he can have on the basis of his power. In fact, he will consider that power to be a tool for achieving the fantasies he has always had.
We often wonder about those who misuse the trust of others for their own gain. Politicians and entertainment industry people have been in the news lately, not just because of their sexual escapades but, because of their abuse of power. They take advantage of people who come to them for help. How can they do this? Well, it is no secret that narcissists are drawn to these vocations because of the opportunities for power.
If you see a position of power, watch for narcissists. Whether it is high-level politicians, or wealthy entertainers, or pastors of churches, or even leaders in your own small organizations—wherever power seems present, there will be narcissists.
In fact, you might be surprised at the places narcissists find power. Small organizations, church groups, neighborhood associations, even (as we know) the family. If the narcissist cannot achieve power in a big place, he/she will seek it in a small place.
Power gives control. Power brings privilege. Power provides attention. All of these are things the narcissist craves. The fantasy of the narcissist is to be surrounded by servants fully yielded and very generous. The narcissist wants love, but will take groveling. In fact, groveling will seem better than real love, because the narcissist doesn’t understand real love.
We have talked before about how the narcissist sees people. “Tools, toys, or obstacles.” In other words, “Serve me or get out of my way.” There is no time for the needs of others, no time for treating others as real people. The narcissist only has time for meeting his/her own needs.
But… you say. Some narcissists have organized great charities and have authored great legislation and have given great speeches in support of good causes. Even your narcissist is kind and generous at times. If all they think about is themselves, why do they do these things? The answer is in another question: What does the narcissist get out of it? If the narcissist uses power to give to others, it will always be to get something for himself.
We are shocked and amazed when the great charity effort doesn’t quite reach the people it was meant to help, when the leaders prosper instead. But we shouldn’t be surprised. We notice the adoration and attention the generous narcissist gets, even though he hasn’t really given anything that cost him. Loyalty can often be purchased through kindness, as can admiration. It wasn’t about the giving, but the getting.
Good people are often shocked by the abuse of power. We are disgusted to see how some use others. But we should not be puzzled. That’s the way of the narcissist.