Thursday, March 27, 2008
Okay I'll drop 'meism' and just call it narcissism. Susan asks, 'Honestly, is there such a thing as a politician who is not a narcissist?' But then admits she can't 'warm to' Hillary. This is my point, Susan, narcissists are incapable of empathy, nobody can warm to them. It is certainly plausible to say that all politicians are egotists and it is certainly possible to warm to them - many speak of Bill Clinton with nostalgic affection. He may, politically speaking, be as bad as her, but he had the one thing she, as a narcissist, cannot have, charm. There are, in politics as in life, very few narcissists but they are usually very prominent. I always notice them - I seem to have a very accurate detector, I spotted most of the narcissists I know within a few seconds of meeting them - and become, for a time, gripped by their absolute remoteness. A psychotherapist I knew set out on her career convinced she could crack the narcissist's complex dance of denial and auto-justification. But, finally, she gave up, concluding they were untreatable; they just danced away whenever she got close. This is, I think, because unlike, say, depression, narcissism is not an affliction or accretion of the self, it is the self itself. People are born narcissists and die narcissists; to cure them would be to destroy them. Many years ago, I remember interrupting one narcissist to point out that what he had just said was factually incorrect and, in fact, absurd. He just waited for me to stop and then carried on. What I said didn't matter because it did not reflect back his own self-image. Since that self-image does not include the statement 'I am a narcissist', in the unlikely event that he reads this he won't recognise himself. Anyway, I am letting my obsession show so I'd better stop.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:03 am