Only a very small fraction of so-called psychopaths land in the asylum. The overwhelming majority of them constitute that part of the population which is alleged to be “normal.”[i]
~C. G. Jung
Malignant narcissism is an aspect of the higher-dimensional disease I call malignant egophrenia. Malignant narcissism is to malignant egophrenia as the shadow on the wall─cast from a globe hanging from the ceiling─is to the globe. The shadow on the wall is a two-dimensional re-presentation of the higher, three-dimensional entity of the globe. The shadow on the wall is the globe’s projection of itself into a different dimension of space. Studying the shadow (malignant narcissism) is a way of understanding the object casting the shadow (malignant egophrenia).
Psychologically speaking, Mr. George W. Bush is what is called a “malignant narcissist.” A narcissist is someone who has become hypnotized and entranced by their own inflated self-image. They have become so self-absorbed, that not only are they not in genuine relationship with others, but they relate to others (including the environment) as objects to satisfy their own need for self-aggrandizement. Hence, the term ME disease is quite appropriate. A “malignant” narcissist, however, is a narcissist who reacts sadistically to others who don’t support and enable their narcissism. For example, instead of self-reflecting and taking in critical feedback, the Bush administration reacts with ruthless contempt for anyone who disagrees with them. Like a mean and cruel-spirited malignant narcissist, Bush and Co. deny the accusation and try to destroy the messenger. Ultimately, a malignant narcissist wants to annihilate anyone who in any way threatens their illusory self-image and self-serving agenda.
Malignant narcissists can be very charismatic, and are very adept at charming and manipulating others. They are clever at camouflaging their malevolent agenda, even to themselves. Malignant narcissists can appear to be very normal, regular, and seemingly loving people. And, I might add, that many of these so-called seemingly “normal” psychopaths are drawn to positions of power. Malignant narcissists are very skilled at entrancing others, at putting others under their spell. They are master hypnotists, like “black magicians,” in that they are very talented at hooking and controlling others through fear by using “mind control” techniques such as lying and propaganda.
The narcissism of a leader such as Bush resonates with the narcissism inherent in his supporters, who identify with Bush’s seeming certainty and lack of doubt. It never occurs to them that someone can be certain and wrong. This creates a very dangerous and pathological situation called “group narcissism,” in which a large group of people have dis-connected from their critical faculties and entrusted their power to their narcissistic leader. This is a perversely symbiotic, co-dependent relationship in which all members of the group collude with and enable each others’ narcissism. For example, George Bush, in his utter narcissism thinks that God speaks through him. Instead of being seen as deluded, his supporters invest in Bush’s delusion and reflect back to him that they, too, think that God speaks through him. This, of course, just confirms Bush’s narcissistic delusion. Seeing Bush as God’s instrument concurrently fulfills in the Bush supporters their adolescent fantasy of having someone playing the role of divine leader to protect them. This mutually interdependent and reciprocally reinforcing delusion is what is called a “collective psychosis.”
By playing with people’s fear, Bush hypnotizes them to give their power over to him. Unfortunately, by doing this, he has hypnotized himself as well, deceiving himself in the process of his deceiving of others. Malignant narcissists are pathological liars who are very adept at both lying and then believing their own lies. The conviction they carry in their act of self-deception can easily “entrance” people. A malignant narcissist plays on people’s fears so as to gain their trust and then control them, which is based on the abuse of power over others─the signature of a true dictator.
At their core, a malignant narcissist’s desire is to dominate and have power over others. The perverse enjoyment of complete domination over another person(s), which involves transforming a person into an object (a “thing”), in which their freedom is taken away, is the very essence of the sadistic drive. Their sadism is a way of transforming their feelings of powerlessness and impotence into an experience of omnipotence.
A malignant narcissist is the incarnation of the separate, alienated self spinning out of control to a pathological degree. They are unconsciously identified with and will protect at any cost an imaginary “separate self” that is alien from the rest of the universe. Paradoxically, at the same time they experience themselves as separate from others, the malignant narcissist lives in a state of “unconscious fusion” with others. To a malignant narcissist, other people don’t truly exist as autonomous beings. Other people only exist as disposable pawns to feed and support their narcissistic, masturbatory fantasies. A malignant narcissist hasn’t developed a sense of their own authentic self, which is why they are unable to be in genuine relationship with others. Psychologically, malignant narcissism is a very primitive and un-evolved state, one totally lacking in eros (relatedness).
Because they don’t relate to other people as independent and separate from their own inflated, narcissist self, the malignant narcissist doesn’t respect the boundaries of others. Etymologically, the word “evil” is related to the word “transgress.” Their self-serving illogic allows them to justify, even in the name of God, transgressing other’s boundaries, be they an individual’s civil liberties or another nation’s sovereignty.
Malignant narcissists are not conscious of the interconnectedness between themselves and others. Emotionally underdeveloped, they are unable to feel empathy for others and have an overwhelming lack of genuine compassion (so much for compassionate conservatism). Concerned about nothing other than themselves, malignant narcissists are indifferent to other people’s suffering, all the while, though, professing their compassion. Malignant narcissists are unable to genuinely mourn, for they are ultimately only concerned with themselves. They will feign grief, however, just as they will try and appear compassionate, if it is politically correct to do so and, hence, to their advantage, as they are master manipulators. Malignant narcissists are truly crazy-making to others.
Malignant narcissists play the role of the “victimizer disguised as the victim” so as to absolve themselves of blame. They perpetrate abuse and violence on others, while hiding behind the façade of being victims themselves.
Malignant narcissists are unconsciously possessed by the power-drive of the archetypal shadow. Being possessed by an archetype means that they have lost their freedom, as a more powerful, transpersonal, archetypal force has so overtaken them that it unconsciously and compulsively acts itself out through them. They themselves are being used and manipulated like puppets on a string by the more powerful archetypal force. Becoming possessed by an archetype like this, Jung said, “…turns a man into a flat collective figure, a mask behind which he can no longer develop as a human being, but becomes increasingly stunted.”[ii] Jung continued, “Since nobody is capable of recognizing just where and how much he himself is possessed and unconscious, he simply projects his own condition upon his neighbor, and thus it becomes a sacred duty to have the biggest guns and the most poisonous gas.”[iii] Nowhere is this more obvious than in Bush’s war on terror.
Malignant narcissists can seem confident and self-assured, but are, in reality, covering deep insecurities and fears through an inflated self-image. Intense feelings of revenge, fury, and rage verging on insanity manifest when their fear is exposed and their narcissism threatened. This rage is not just a defense against their vulnerability and wound, but comes from a perverse desire to punish those who they perceive are the cause of their rage.
Mythically, the phenomenon of going berserk in rage is related to the ancient Germanic God “Wotan,” the God of war, storm, and frenzy. Interestingly, Wotan has to do with being “seized.” This God is related to the ancient Scandinavian cult of the “berserkers,” who would become possessed by blind, violent, out of control rages as they channeled the spirit of wild animals run amok. This is related to the modern-day psychiatric diagnoses called “blind rage syndrome,” and “intermittent explosive disorder.” White House staffers are supposedly terrified of giving Bush bad news because of their fear of him flying into a profanity-laced temper tantrum. Etymologically, the word “fury,” in addition to being related to the word “Lucifer,” is related to the word “rabies.” A person so afflicted is like a deranged, rabid animal.
At the core of their process is self-hatred, as malignant narcissists split off and dissociate from a part of themselves. As Jung pointed out, “…a habitual dissociation is one of the signs of a psychopathic disposition.”[iv] Jung talked about this condition by saying it may even result in:
“a splitting of the personality, a condition in which quite literally one hand no longer knows what the other is doing[v]…. Ignorance of one’s other side creates great insecurity. One does not really know who one is; one feels inferior somewhere and yet does not wish to know where the inferiority lies, with the result that a new inferiority is added to the original one.[vi]
A malignant narcissist falls into an infinite regression of being in denial about being in denial and hiding from their own lies. A malignant narcissist such as Bush is continually hiding from himself.
Malignant narcissists have contempt for and flagrantly violate the rule of law, which, in their inflation, they believe themselves to be above. “International law?” Bush arrogantly smirked in December 2003, “I better call my lawyer.” Like a true bully, malignant narcissists abuse their position of power and privilege simply because they can, which is morally indefensible. They can endlessly “talk” about taking responsibility, but they never genuinely face up to and become accountable for their actions.
Malignant narcissists are unwilling and unable to experience their sense of shame, guilt or sin, as their narcissism doesn’t allow these feelings. This inability to consciously feel their “negative” feelings is at the root of the dynamic in which they dissociate from their own darkness, blaming and “projecting the shadow” onto some “other.” This splitting off and projecting out their own evil results in always having a potential enemy around every corner, which is why malignant narcissists tend towards paranoia. Malignant narcissists continually “need” an enemy and will even create new ones to ensure that they don’t have to look at the evil within their own hearts. They react with aversion to the reflection of their own evil, going so far as to want to exterminate evil from the world, or as George Bush would say, “…to rid the world of evil-doers.”
Ridding the world of evil is an act that can never be attained, however, as by “projecting the shadow,” malignant narcissists themselves become the very evil-doer they see “out there” and are trying to destroy. Bush has become possessed by the very thing he’s fighting against. Caught in an unending vicious cycle, malignant narcissists create more of the very evil that they are fighting against, as is evidenced by the way Bush is fighting terrorism. Bush has become the world’s greatest terrorist by virtue of the way he has reacted to terrorism. In essence, Bush is at war with and trying to destroy his own shadow, which is not only a battle that can never be won, but is a form of insanity. And he’s acting it out on the world stage.
Thai intellectual and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa likens Bush to two other malignant narcissists, Hitler and Stalin, pointing out that Bush’s “axis of Evil,” Hitler’s “Final Solution,” and Stalin’s “pogrom of peasants” were actually analogous attempts “to perfect the world by destroying the [projected] impurities.” Interestingly enough, another modern day malignant narcissist is none other than Saddam Hussein.
If left in power, malignant narcissists ultimately destroy themselves and everyone around them. Malignant narcissists are what are called “necrophiles,” in that their impulses are perversely directed against life─the spontaneity of which they are afraid of─and towards death and destruction, which they are secretly attracted to. To quote psychologist Eric Fromm, this “…severe mental sickness…represents the quintessence of evil; it is at the same time the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.”[vii] The “force” used by malignant narcissists to achieve their ends, to use Simone Weil’s definition, has the capacity to turn a man into a corpse, literally. Eric Fromm also said, “Just as sexuality can create life, force can destroy it. All force is, in the last analysis, based on the power to kill. I may not kill a person but only deprive him of his freedom; I may want only to humiliate him…behind all these actions stands my capacity to kill and my willingness to kill.”[viii] Malignant narcissists have a sadistic “willingness to kill” so as to protect their own self-serving delusions, which makes them particularly dangerous, as they will literally stop at nothing to hold onto the position of power in which they find themselves. War and an atmosphere of violence is the situation in which they feel most themselves. Malignant narcissists are murderers (whether it be physically or psychically) who are criminally insane.
A deadly illness, malignant narcissism deserves our genuine compassion. However, it is an extremely dangerous situation when a malignant narcissist, like George Bush, is in a position of power where he can create endless, unnecessary suffering and destruction. If we fall under Bush’s spell and unquestioningly follow him as our leader, we would be in a situation similar to the Germans in WWII, who, to quote Jung “…allowed themselves to be driven to the slaughterhouse by their leading psychopaths like hypnotized sheep.”[ix]
Bush is embodying what it is to be criminally insane, and needs to be treated as such. He is inflicting untold damage not only onto all of us, but onto future generations as well. Malignant narcissists literally poison their field of influence, whether it be with depleted uranium or psychic toxicity, which is just as real and just as deadly. It is our responsibility, once we wake up to how dangerous our situation is, to creatively act. Bush deserves our highest compassion, but he also needs to be put in a safe place where he can do no further damage. One day he might even become a “functioning member of society.” It is time to wake up from our spell.
George Bush himself is merely a symptom of the field. Getting Bush out of office is important, but it is only superficially dealing with the underlying problem. Once Bush is no longer in office, the deeper, more fundamental corruptness of our system needs to be dealt with. If not, someone else will be dreamed up to pick up the same malevolent role that Bush is playing. Both individually and collectively, we need to look inside ourselves and shed light on what it is within us that would dream up a malignant narcissist to be our leader.
To quote Jung, “Only a fool is interested in other people’s guilt, since he cannot alter it. The wise man learns only from his own guilt. He will ask himself: Who am I that all this should happen to me? To find the answer to this fateful question he will look into his own heart.”[x]
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. Paul is also a visionary artist and a spiritually-informed political activist. He is the author of The Madness of George Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis,which is available on his website www.awakeninthedream.com. (See the first chapter, The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of our Collective Psychosis). Please feel free to pass this article along to a friend if you feel so inspired. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections. © Copyright 2010
[i] Ibid., par. 477.
[ii] Jung, Two Essays in Analytical Psychology, CW 7, par. 390.
[iii Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 463.
[iv] Ibid., par. 476.
[v] Ibid., par. 424.
[vi] Ibid., par. 425.
[vii] Fromm, The Heart of Man, p. 37.
[viii] Ibid., p. 40.
[ix] Jung, Civilization in Transition, CW 10, par. 432.
[x] Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12, par. 152.