Between the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, a fundamentally fascist (i.e., a nationalistic socialist) movement; and with the second wind that has been given to the remnants of the 20th century's failed socialist and communist 'experiments' (in which millions of people were slaughtered by the compassionate and progressive left), we have truly entered a golden age of narcissism where, as Wretchard has commented, "....it is this single-minded pursuit of the irrelevant by the self-important that constitutes the greatest catastrophe of our time." In this "golden age", personal responsibility has been trashed; reason and truth trivialized; and the celebration of victimhood is the pinnacle of self-empowerment and self-actualization.
In a book titled WHY IS IT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, authors Hotchkiss and Masterson identify what they call the "seven deadly sins" of narcissism and their origin:
1. Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.
2. Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.
3. Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.
4. Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.
5. Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.
6. Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.
7. Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.
The ideology of the political left in all its various iterations--socialist, communist, radical environmentalism, progressive; call it what you will-- is, at its core an essentially narcissistic and self-indulgent pursuit of power, with all the unhealthy psychological attributes that implies
This is not to suggest that narcissism or sociopathy exit merely within the political left. Clearly it does not. But, having made that qualification, today's progressive leftist is steeped in and encouraged by an ideology that rewards only feelings and not critical thinking or truth; fantasy and not reality; and good intentions instead of actual outcome in the real world. The seven deadly sins of narcissism outlined above lead the the poor, innocent and unsuspecting lefist into cognitive dissonance in his thinking patterns and wreak all sorts of misery and spiritual destruction on the people who are the targets of the leftists' supposed goodwill.
But they neither care nor notice, since the primary determinant of why they do what they do is to make themselves feel good; to escape for one brief moment the emptiness of their own individual souls and the self-hatred and rage that motivate them.
Let's discuss these psychological 'sins' one by one and see how they accurately describe the psychology that is the basis of modern leftist thought.
EXCESSIVE SHAME AND SHAMELESSNESS
I have written about shame extensively in connection to the Arab World, a culture that is primarily a shame-based. In the case of the Arab world, I explained, they were plagued by an excess of shame, which was the underlying root cause of their societal dysfunction.
OTOH, utter shamelessness, the flip side of excessive shame, is highly characteristic of those who think themselves superior to others and not governed by the rules that ordinary mortals subscribe to.
To understand how related these two extremes of shame are, we need to discuss exactly what shame is and why it is necessary for both individuals and society as a whole.
Shame itself, is often an underappreciated psychological state. Particularly in the modern world, but also throughout history, shame-- in limited quantities and small doses--has facilitated civilized conduct and made both individuals and cultures behave more appropriately.
Healthy shame, in fact, keeps us in touch with reality, and reminds us of our limitations, faults, and humanity. To quote Dirty Harry on the subject, "A man's got to know his limitations."
When an individual experiences healthy shame, he or she may not be very happy to have embarrassing weaknesses and defects made obvious, but this awareness can be both insightful and humbling. As long as an individual is capable of self-doubt and self-reflection about his behavior; he is able to remain open-minded and willing to search for a better understanding of himself and others.
The key point, whether you are talking about excessive shame or shamelessness--that is the absence of shame even when shame would be appropriate, is that the emotion that drives both states is identical. Like the two sides of the same coin,excessive shame and shamelessess are inseparable. Individuals very often flip-flop between the two extremes when they cannot process the reality of their own unacceptable feelings or behavior.
It is for this reason, the political left shares with the Arab world a basically ""shame culture and why each are fascinated with, and admire (and emulate) the other's behavior.
One way that the shame culure plays out on the political left is in their response to ethical and moral challenges.
Next time there is a huge scandal in the news (sexual or otherwise), note the underlying mental gymnastics that permit the media to "forget" to report ethically inappropriate actions by Democrats compared to Republicans. If such actions go unreported--or only make it to Page 6 of the news, it is as if somehow the behavior is minimized and/or trivialized.
This almost never happens when it is a Republican who has strayed or had a broken moral compass--a topic that can stay on top of the national headlines for weeks on end. And note, that if a Democrat's unethical or scandalous behavior DOES make the front page, you will be unable to discover which political party he or she is actually a member. It may be mentioned, but farther down in the lede; more often it is not even mentioned at all.
Now, ask yourself how a typical Republican responds to scandal. Generally, he or she is capable of feeling both shame and guilt about the behavior in question, whether it is in the public or personal domain; and frequently this acknowledgment of his behavior leads him to resign from office sooner, rather than later. Often, he will retreat entirely from public life. The conservative tends to have high moral standards that he expects not only of himself, but of others and is ashamed when he violates them; even more so when the knowledge of his violation is made public (which Democrats can always count on the press to do). At this point, psychological denial about the behavior cannot be maintained.
This reality is also twisted by the left, who pounce on the supposed "hypocrisy" of conservatives who, for example, preach family values but then have affairs or behave badly. Indeed, this is precisely my point. When a Republican or conservative behaves counter to his standards, he experiences a healthy dose of appropriate shame.
Democrats and those on the left HAVE NO MORAL OR ETHICAL STANDARDS TO BEGIN WITH (that's what moral relativism is all about), hence when their reprehensible behavior is exposed for all to see, they are utterly shameless about it. They have managed to convince themselves that they are, on the whole, morally superior to the common riff-raff (and certainly compared to evil Republicans and conservatives they perceive themselves to be virtual saints; champions of the poor and oppressed and leaders in goodness). For such a person how can any traditional rules of behavior apply? When you subscribe to an ideology that emphasizes how loving, compassionate, and caring and "reality-based" you are as its central theses, then you are home free! So, even when your reprehensible behavior is made public, then you are not mandated to feel any shame--shame is for losers.
And, as a last resort, if you begin to feel too uncomfortable, you can always play the victimhood card--because, after all, if you did something bad someone or something else must have made you do it.
In this regard, I will cite only two recent examples--John Edwards and Barney Frank. Both of whom created a three ring circus proclaiming their innocence and purity endlessly ad nauseum, despite all evidence to the contrary, knowing that they would be defended by the ever loyal useful idiots of the left for as long as possible.
After all, they are better people than the rest of us and this entitles them to behave badly.
Many Democrats and certainly most leftists are completely shameless in the sense that they will never ever, for as long as they can possibly get away with it, going to admit to bad behavior. And in those rare cases where they simply cannot wiggle and maneuver and lie and deceive; or self-righteously tell you how wonderful they really are and all the wonderful things they have done for the 'little people'; they will simply pretend they are still virtuous and have been victimized in some way. What's sad is that they often believe it themselves.
Vanderleun recently wrote a piece about "Democrats and socialists gone wild". In it, he describes the exploits of three of the latest acts of shamelessness by those on the left. In both instances, there are rants and rages against those who accuse them (often by the intellectuals of the left); and for as long as possible they will pretend they are victims of bad behavior by others (this is psychological projection). Note John Edward's latest rant, for example. And how can we ever forget the "I did not have sex with that woman" moment during the glory days of Bill Clinton's victimization by Monica Lewinski?
Let's face the truth here. We all sin and engage in reprehensible behavior from time to time. We are all certainly capable of it. But the shamelessness about it that I am describing is really only typical of those individual with significant narcissistic defects in their personality. Again, without a doubt, narcissists and liars and cheats exist on both sides of the political aisle. But a narcissist in a guilt culture behaves somewhat differently than a narcissist in a shame culture (see the link on shame cultures vs guilt cultures for a discussion of this).
In general, Republicans and conservatives believe they have better ideas. But Democrats and leftists believe they are better people.
This makes all the difference in their experience of shame--or their lack of experiencing it.
MAGICAL THINKING, or Fairy Tales Can Come True.
The second deadly sin is "magical thinking". In psychiatry, this phrase describes a pervasive belief that one can control things or persons or events with one's thoughts or feelings (that's where the "magic" comes in). There is ofter a considerable amount psychological distortion going on, as well as psychlogical projection (see also here). These creative psychological maneuvers serve to maintain the magical thinking and obscure reality and truth, which is far too threatening for the fragile ego of the leftist.
How are these maneuvers manifest in the behavior of today's left?
In general the postmodern political left, which touts itself as "reality-based" is far from it. They emphasize the acendency of feelings over reason--and, as witness to this, they are primarily concerned about feeling good about themselves. They care little about the actual outcome of the social programs that they support, it's all about them and their supposed "compassion". They blindly perpetuate the victimhood mentality since creating and nurturing victimhood and perpetual grievance expands their base and brings in new recruits for their ideology. But let anyone one of those 'victims' from an approved victimhood group break away and empower themselves and you will begin to see the sometimes rather vicious hatred that underlies their loving compassion for the oppressed.
Any who oppose their anti-poverty schemes must "hate" the poor; any who want to empower minority groups to take responsibility for their lives and fortunes are described as 'racist'; any who think that the content of a person's characteer or the qualifications for the job trump race or gender or sexual orientation, are by their definition racist, sexist or homophobic--take your pick.
The highway to today's hell is paved with all their wonderful intentions. They mean well, and therefore if you oppose them by presenting better ideas, you must, by definition, be evil.
In order to preserve the fantasy that people with leftist beliefs are "better people" than those evil righty conservatives we see repeated instances of psychological projection (externalizing their own feelings onto others) and distortion of reality.
Further, we can witness even more of their political "magical thinking" in the foreign policy initiatives of the Obama Administration; as well as in the parallel fantasies that have characterized most of the economic policies of the White House and Democrats. They have the strange notion that reckless spending can go on forever on any program that they deem "essential" and for a "good cause" (when that is determined by the left it becomes sacrosanct).
First, let's take a look at current foreign policy.Bruce Thornton has written about the magical thinking that seems to dominate Obama's thinking:
Worse, however, is the magical thinking that lies behind the mantra of “diplomacy.” This faith in talk is predicated on assumptions about human nature and state behavior difficult to validate by the historical record. It reflects a Western Enlightenment idea that force is an outmoded relic of our primitive past, to be replaced by rational discussion in which give-and-take dickering, negotiation, respect for the other side’s position and demands, and a mutual, sincere desire to adjudicate grievance and avoid conflict can resolve disagreements. The key assumption is that in the end all people are rational and want peace and comfort more than any other good.
Obama has pushed the "reset" button on a number of fronts, but surprise! We are still hated, only now we are also routinely mocked because Obama is perceived as weak and uninvolved. Over the past two years we have routinely thrown our friends under the Obama bus; while appeasing and bowing to our enemies. We have routinely focused on the less important (to our national interest anyway) issues like Libya and Quadaffi; rather than take a strong stance on Iran, a major and imminent threat, not only to the region, but to our national interests in the region. Time and again, Obama has resorted to his supposedly "magical" rhetoric, as if words without the necessary backbone to stand behind them. When he actually does something like give the order to go in and take down Bin Laden (and, I still believe that all the psychological evidence suggests that Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming into that action, but when it turned out ok was perfectly willing to take all the credit) many on the left had a hissy fit and rushed to condemn it as somehow being "inconsistent with our values."
It's hard to be consistent with one's values when those "values" change on a daily basis depending on which way the wind blows. Remember, the goal is not reason or truth or consistency to values, but promoting a particular ideology. That is why there the left demonstrates "subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next."
For them, their magical thinking is absolute...magic. It makes all those unpleasant realities simply go away when they do not fit into their philosophy
Meanwhile, on the economic front it is undoubtedly clear that there is a considerable amount of magical thinking going on on both sides of the political spectrum when it comes to the economy, but recently there has some attempts to start a rational conversation that could address the serious problem with debt and spending this country is faced with. The Ryan Economic Plan, which calls for both tax cuts AND decreased spending is a case in point. Yet, far from using this as a starting point to discuss reality, it has instead been used for the purpose of villifying Republican who now stand accused of wanting to push granny off a cliff.
This new ad put out by the Democrats could just as easily been produced by a grossly psychotic individual, completely out of touch with reality; so severe is the distortion and deception it demonstrates. Meanwhile, in keeping with the magical thinking, the left seems to believe that doing nothing is a safe strategy (and it might well be from a political or ideological perspective; but reality probably isn't going to agree with them for very long; but hey, "In the long run we are all dead", right? So only think in the short run and imagine that all these problems will go away; meanwhile grab as much power as you can now.
Narcissists just know that their fairy tale can come true. They believe as fervently as any religious fanatic that their wishes and feelings are more powerful than reality.
Unfortunately for all of us, what those wishes and feelings actually create is usually a freakin' mess for others to clean up.
In Part II, I will tackle the narcissistic sins of Arrogance, Envy and Entitlement.
UPDATE: Vanderluen notes in the comments that he has a related post on the left and the Seven Deadly Sins (you know, those Biblical ones: PRIDE, ENVY, WRATH, SLOTH, LUST, AVARICE and GLUTTONY. Check it out.