Magnetic Narcissists: Pathological Charisma

Uploaded 5/10/2024, approx. 28 minute read

He enters the room, hush falls, all conversations cease.

Heads turn, often involuntarily, as if he were some kind of magnet, and people around him were mere metal filings.

He becomes the center of attention without investing any effort.

He defines the environment with his mere presence.

He is the magnetic, charismatic narcissist.

You strain to hear every word he says, because there is an air of cosmic mission and significance to his every move.

My name is Sam Bagnin.

I am the charismatic author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, a former magnetic visiting professor of psychology, and currently, charismatically and magnetically, teaching in CEAPs, Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge and Birmingham, United Kingdom, Ontario, Canada, and an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Having traversed this introduction, let us delve right in the charismatic magnetic narcissist.

The narcissist's charisma is pathological charisma.

Healthy people, normal people, empathic people, kind people, compassionate people, affectionate people, can also have charisma, but that's a healthy sort.

As I said, the narcissist's charisma and magnetism are sick, like everything else about the narcissist.

But to understand exactly how and why and what leads to what and how did the narcissist come to acquire the gift of charisma, we need to go back a bit.

There are three types of narcissism.

There is post-traumatic narcissism.

This is the narcissist who seeks to reenact early childhood conflicts in adulthood.

In a way, he's in search of closure, a way to solve his wounds.

This is the post-traumatic clinical condition of narcissism, also known as secondary narcissism.

And then there is the reactive type of narcissism.

These are people who seek attention.

They need to be seen at any cost, escalating their behaviors as they go along in order to stand out.

And finally, there's a societal type of narcissism, which has to do with conformity to cultural and societal mores, conventions, and norms.

In our Western civilization, for example, it pays to be a narcissist.

They are rewards attached to possessing narcissistic traits and adopting narcissistic behaviors.

The charismatic magnetic narcissist is the only form of narcissism that combines all three.

There is a clinical stratum, clinical level, which involves trauma.

The magnetic charismatic narcissist broadcasts, signals his trauma.

He bonds with people via the trauma.

It's not traumatic bonding, but it's bonding via a common trauma.

So many, many charismatic magnetic narcissist in history came from traumatized, underprivileged childhoods where they've been abused by father or mother, where they've lived in poverty, where they were denied access to education and healthcare, and so on and so forth, and overcame all odds to become leaders, for example.

So this element of trauma, which is in the background, is very important.

But the magnetic, because it allows the narcissist to bond with similarly broken, damaged, hurt people.

People in pain, people in need of sympathy and empathy and sympathy.

The second layer has to do, as I said, with reactive narcissism, charismatic magnetic narcissist seeks attention.

Is the life of the party, is the focus and center of attention always needs to be seen, emphasizes visibility, ostentation, and is sometimes defiant and antisocial about it in your face, kind of.

And at other times, he plays the modest, humble person.

This is known as pseudo humility, and is much more common among covert narcissists.

The third layer is social conformity, conforming to mores and norms and so on and so forth.

And this is where the charismatic magnetic narcissist latches onto societal expectations, dreams, fantasies, scripts, mores, norms, and so on and so forth, and renders himself, unilaterally, the keeper of the oath, the person who is in charge of preserving, for example, traditions or reviving them, of regulating society or regulating his inner circle.

And so on.

So he's the keeper of the flame.

He is the normative gateway, the portal through which people can regulate their interpersonal relationships, their environment, and gain reality testing filtered via the magnetic charismatic narcissist.

So all three layers coexist in this confluence of three types of narcissism in a single person is utterly irresistible.

It's indeed magnetic.

There's no other word.

There is unity of various strands of narcissism in charismatic magnetic narcissist.

And very often, this kind of narcissist plays the underdog, the underdog that makes it against all odds and against the elites and the establishment.

He fights on behalf of the common people in a more limited setting, more minimum setting, like a family or an extended family or a neighborhood or a church and so on and so forth.

The narcissist is still the magnetic charismatic narcissist still plays exactly these roles.

Of course, adapted to size and to context.

The charismatic magnetic narcissist is a blank slate.

He allows his followers, his fans, his subscribers, his family members, his colleagues, he allows his friends, people around him, he allows them to project onto him everything they want, basically.

So projection is limited usually to negative aspects of the personality.

We project onto other people things inside ourselves, which we reject, which we find unacceptable.

So projection is a very bad word in this sense, but he allows them to attribute to him.

He encourages attribution errors.

He allows people to attribute to him.

For example, positive traits.

He fosters and encourages the formation and dissemination of a personal mythology, which later on becomes a personality cult.

And again, this cult doesn't have to be that of a political leader.

It could be that of the Pate of Familias, the father of the family.

It's always a cult structure constructed on mythological foundations.

And this blank slate that encourages attribution is magnificently described in a book allegedly by Yezhi Koshinsky titled Being There.

There was a movie also with Peter Sellers.

Now the charismatic magnetical narcissist presents himself as extraordinary, as unusual, an aberration, an exception.

He may be, for example, inordinately lucky because he's divinely blessed by God, by faith.

He's supernaturally superhuman.

He's infallible and so on and so forth.

The charismatic magnetic narcissist encourages everyone around him the belief that something in his constitution, something that is essential to him, sets him apart from other people in a variety of ways, which all lead to the realm of accomplishment and victory, triumph.

Of course, this involves a lot of magical thinking.

Charismatic magnetic leader gives the impression that nothing is beyond his skin and reach, that he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to, that he can make miracles happen, impossible, and his tutelage becomes merely the difficult.

So fantasy is, in the case of the magnetic charismatic narcissist, is unbounded and unbounded, but it's also presented as a reality all wishes can and do come true.

There are no limits.

It's up to you as a follower of the charismatic magnetic narcissist to merge with him and fuse with him inside the shared fantasy so as to benefit from his aura, from his access to higher dimensions and possibilities, and thereby better yourself and achieve much more than you would have on your own.

The charismatic magnetic narcissist elevates his followers.

He makes them feel seen sometimes for the first time.

They don't feel transparent with him.

They really believe that he is into them, that he cares about them, that he is intimate with them, that they are somehow part of a much bigger story, a much bigger picture maybe of history itself in the making.

They feel special, they feel chosen, they feel needed, they feel indispensable, and it's easy then for the charismatic magnetic narcissist to collude with his followers, to conspire with them against others, the enemy, those who are ignorant and ill-informed, those are outside the magical circle of the chosen one, the in-group versus the out-group.

And to accomplish all this, of course, the magnetic charismatic narcissist fakes empathy, fakes humility, claims the role of an eternal victim.

Everyone victimizes him all the time. He's never done anything wrong to anyone and yet he keeps being victimized. He's empathic, he resonates with everyone. He offers mass intimacy and a cult of the shared fantasy and this is an irresistible proposition.

As Blohland noticed in 2000, there is a dark side to charisma. There's a self-destructiveness and Blohland suggested that charismatic leaders or charismatic people have been abused as children. They have been parentified and this we know in many cases leads to pathological narcissism.

I want to read to you something about the connection between narcissism and charisma in general, why it seems that most cases of charisma and charismatic leaders or charismatic people involve pathological narcissism.

It's an article by Christopher Bonovitz, a psychology doctor published in 2015 entitled "Kavism in Self-Destruction, a Developmental View." It was published in contemporary psychoanalysis, volume 51 and some excerpts from this excellent article.

As a theoretical starting point in understanding the origins of charisma, Kohut Heinzkod returns to childhood and the abrupt and unpredictable frustrations in which the child is forced to take over prematurely the functions of the archaic self-objects, functions that the parental self-object fails to provide.

It's a convoluted way of saying that the child becomes parentified, assumes the role of a parent and continuing to read from the article.

In assuming these functions, the child becomes reliant on being able to control the other person with an insatiable need for admiration and praise, dependent on that person as a regulator of self-esteem in order to ensure psychic survival.

Alternatively, the seeds of charisma also have their origins in the kind of mirroring from the parent that inflates the child's grandiosity and sense of power, a sustaining gleam in the mother's eye, said Kohut in 1968.

And this gives the child the feeling that the limits of reality and the normal constraints do not necessarily apply.

In this case, the child is the prince, the hero or the rescuer, who in some situations is preferred by one parent over the other, an emotional confidant of sorts who becomes adept at reading the parent's wishes and needs.

The boundary that separates the adult from the child is overturned, said Weiner in 2005.

In 1953, Sullivan speaks of the child's growing ability over time to manage anxiety, which includes knowing how to deceive authority figures, to conceal what is going on so as to avoid punishment.

And from this point of view, charisma develops out of the child's interpersonal agility to ingratiate in ourself, to win the person over.

And this kind of social agility involves an intuitive sense of what the other person is feeling and thinking, a capacity for constructing a theory of mind wherein the child can read the motivations and intentions behind the parent's behaviors, said Funaji and Target in 1998.

The child has a mental flexibility, an interpersonal repertoire to make the necessary internal adjustments depending on the parent's emotional needs.

The child becomes a kind of seismograph, reading the tremors and the tremblers and the earthquakes in the parent's mind.

That's my text.

Okay, back to the article.

Blohland in 2000 advances the theory that the experience of feeling desperately needed by a parent, a parent on whom their emotional survival most dependent leads to the development of charisma.

The charismatic child is made to feel extremely important, a specialness that breeds a striving for public success and notoriety of one kind or another in order to maintain a glim in the parents, in the other person's eye.

So this is very important distinction.

This is me now.

This is a very important thing because it means that this kind of children convert everyone into a parental figure and according to quote, into a maternal figure, which sits well, it sits well with my work and my dual mothership concept.

Okay, back to the article.

There is a desperate need to maintain this feeling of specialness, cultivating a kind of attractability as part of the character.

And of course, the praise, the accolades, the sense of being critically important to the other is never enough to fill the internal void, which is what makes the charismatic patient so dependent on the other's adoration, an adulation that is akin to food being necessary for survival.

Because of this intense bond with a parent in which a charismatic child feels critical to the well-being of the parent, there is an immediate quality of intimacy that one experiences when in the presence of charisma.

The charismatic patient has the ability to make the other feel a sense of importance within the cocoon of the diet for as long as the moment lasts.

Quote, in 1978, described the charismatic personality, the characteristic features, he said, consist of the desire to be admired and idealized, to be the omnipotent idealized self-object for the parent.

What quote is referring to here in lay terms is the power and sense of importance that the child experiences in playing such a pivotal role in the parent's emotional life, a role that the child relies on to maintain his own or her own self-esteem, according to Fiskelini and Gray in 1993.

The child becomes more fully identified with his or her grandiose self.

And similar to Sullivan's ideas mentioned above, has a keen grasp of even the subtlest reactions in other people that are related to their own narcissistic requirements.

That's called in 1978.

In moments of crisis and severe anxiety, the child may convey a sense of security and solidity so as to allay the parent's fears, knowing what to say and how to convey it in order to make the parent feel more grounded.

Self is a responsibility for the well-being and mental health of the parent.

It's very bad.

The article continues, along with the pivotal role that the child plays in the parent's emotional life, there also comes an underlying guilt the child may feel at times for perceived disappointment in the parent.

With the parent dependent on the child for emotional well-being, there is the anxiety in the child of not living up to the parent's expectations and always having to be one step ahead in order to not let the parent down.

In situations where the child has done so, the child's guilty response may be disproportionate to the actual act itself.

The persistent feeling of guilty until proven innocent is part of what motivates the deep-seated need in the charismatic patient to be well thought of in the eyes of others, to anticipate the other's narcissistic needs in order to remain in their good graces.

Today, it's known as people-pleasing.

There is an intense desperation to do so as the patient lives with the chronic threat of being rejected.

The patient overcompensates as a result, showering the other with charm and humor that partially functions to allay the patient's internal guilt.

The patient not only derives satisfaction from making the other feel good about him or her, but in the process also assuages guilt for perceived misdeeds from child.

In other words, the close attention to the other's self-esteem and needs is a form of atonement for past interactions.

And these never go away.

End of quote.

I mentioned the multilayered etiology, causation, and psychology, psychodynamics of the charismatic magnetic narcissist.

This has been the description of a typical childhood of such a narcissist who later becomes charismatic.

There's the element of charm.

But I think it would be a mistake to isolate the charm and to say the charismatic magnetic leader is charming and charm is a kind of power and he uses his charm to exert influence and to draw people into his orbit.

So charm is a kind of gravitational pull.

Yeah, this exists.

But charm goes hand in hand with such otherworldly, outlandish, extreme self-confidence that put together they generate authority.

Now, American Psychological Association dictionary defines authority as the capacity to influence others.

Formal authority enables an individual to exert influence as a result of either high legally recognized office, legitimate authority, or high rank in long established but not legally codified hierarchy, traditional authority.

Informal authority is based on the individual having either attributes that facilitate the achievement of a group's goals.

And this is known as rational or expert authority or an attractive and authoritative personality serving to enhance the group's credibility.

And this is charismatic authority.

It's time maybe to delve a bit deeper into charisma in interpersonal relationships or in group dynamics.

We discuss charisma on the individual level and the reactions of people to charisma in individuals to this magnetism, inexorable magnetism, it draws you, you can't resist, we discuss this.

But let's talk now about group dynamics.

Charisma is a special quality of personality that enables an individual to attract and to gain the confidence of large number of people.

It is exemplified in outstanding political, social, religious leaders, and so on.

So charisma is intimately linked to leadership.

You could be, the magnetic, charismatic narcissist could end up leading just his wife or his children.

But the zone is always an element of I'm first.

I'm on top.

I know best.

You should trust me.

I will tell you how to behave and what to do.

And my decisions will be far superior to yours because for some reason I'm more endowed than you.

And so there's all these elements go together.

The self-confidence, the charm, which lead combined lead to a sense of authority, which then translates to a power asymmetry, also known as hierarchy within a group, however large it is or have a small it is.

Charismatic leader is the type of political or social leader who commands high levels of devotion, enthusiasm, and commitment from followers.

Let's first describe by German sociologist Max Weber.

He defined charismatic leaders, he lived in the 19th century mostly.

He defined charismatic leaders as the leaders who are widely admired and respected by their followers.

But the term is not popularly used to mean leaders that owe success to personal charm or magnetism.


Charisma therefore is about presence.

It is presence reified.

It's like unadulterated presence.

And it's a huge irony that most charismatic people and leaders definitely are narcissistic.

Because narcissism is about absence, not about presence.

We could therefore suggest that charisma and magnetism are compensatory.

The narcissist compensates with grandiosity for his sense of inferiority.

And he compensates with charm and charisma for his sense of absence.

He becomes too present, over present, massively present, ubiquitously or pervasively present in order to hide the fact that there's actually nobody there that is totally absent.

Charm in this case is a form of signaling or messaging.

Hello, I'm here and I'm real.

And don't you dare tell me otherwise because look at the way I'm influencing you.

My influence on you is proof of my existence.

And it's very psychologically compelling.

John Potts wrote a book titled The History of Charisma published in 2010.

Contemporary charisma maintains, however, the irreducible character ascribed to it by Max Weber.

It retains a mysterious elusive quality.

Media commentators regularly describe charisma as the X-factor, unknown.

The enigmatic character of charisma also suggests a connection, at least to some degree, to the earliest manifestations of charisma as a spiritual gift.

But let's go back to what the media says.

Say, the media described charisma as the X-factor, unknown.

And that just confirms what I've been saying.

The narcissist's charisma disguises, it masquerades in absence, avoid in emptiness.

That's why X-factor, unknown, cannot be described, cannot be captured because there's nothing there.

Whoever introduced the personality charisma when he applied charisma to designated forms of authority, and when he discussed charismatic authority, or what later came to be known as charismatic dominance or domination, he suggested a classic definition, which is still widely in use.

He died in 1920, but it's still widely in use.

Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which this individual is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.

These as such are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them, the individual concerned is treated as a leader.

How the quality in question would be ultimately judged from an ethical, aesthetic or other such point of view is naturally indifferent for the purpose of this definition.

Weber indicated that charisma naturally generates followers.

People congregate around the charismatic, magnetic person.

They are attracted, pulled.

I think the best metaphor would be gravity.

They gravitate towards the charismatic, magnetic leader, and they are the ones who support the leader's powers.

As I say, this person has an influence over me, so that means that he has some powers.

I, says the individual, I am the detector or the sensor of such powers, and the living proof that these powers do exist.

According to Weber, the recognition on the part of those subject to authority is what constitutes the authority.

It is decisive in the validity of charisma, in the validation of the authority.

Paul Jus, a sociologist, wrote the following.

He said that Weber's definition, through simple but profoundly consequential phrases such as "are considered" and "is treated", he said Weber makes charisma become relational, attributable, a sociological concept.

For Weber, the locus of power is in the lead in the followers who actively, if perhaps consciously, invest their leaders with social authority.

So this group dynamic is very crucial.

The narcissist would be unable to express his charisma and his charm and to exert authority without followers.

It's even deeper.

The narcissist would not be able to exercise or to somehow buttress and support or believe in his own brandiosity without people.

Narcissists are crucially dependent on people.

They are pro-social, not anti-social, psychopaths are anti-social.

Narcissists critically depend on other people for self-regulation, exactly like the borderline.

Psychologists define charisma in terms of practical outcomes.

Charismatic leaders, for example, are more efficacious, more effective.

It's a form of signaling.

It's a form of value attribution or acting on values.

It's a symbolical form of interpersonal relationship.

It has to do with emotions.

I mean, there are numerous theories about charisma in magnetism, economic outcomes of charisma in magnetism, scientific studies of all this, but ultimately I think it all boils down to narcissism.

Len Oakes, who is an Australian psychologist, he wrote a book, a dissertation actually, about charisma and he developed a series of checklists and so forth.

Basically he follows the footsteps of Einstein's quote and he argues that, Len Oakes argues, that charismatic leaders exhibit traits of narcissism.

He says they display an extraordinary amount of energy accompanied by an inner clarity unhindered by the anxieties and guilt that afflict more ordinary people.

And he compared he compared charismatic leaders with traditional leaders and with legal, rational leaders.

And I'll read to you the entire table and then say goodbye.

It's a promise.

So type of ruler, charismatic leader, traditional dominant personality and legal, rational, functional, superiors or bureaucratic officials, also known as technocrats.

Position determined by in the charismatic case, having a dynamic personality.

In the traditional case, an established tradition or routine.

And in the legal rational case, legally established authority.

How do these leaders rule?

Charismatic leader rules via extraordinary qualities and exceptional powers.

The traditional leader rules by acquired or inherited hereditary qualities.

The legal ruler, the technocrat, the rational ruler, rules by virtue of rationally established norms, decrees and other rules and regulations.

The charismatic leader is legitimized by victories and success.

The traditional leader is legitimized by an established tradition or routine.

And the legal rational leader is legitimized by a general belief in the formal correctness of rules and those who enact them.

And this is considered the source of legitimized authority.

What about loyalty?

The charismatic leader inspires interpersonal and personal allegiance and devotion.

The traditional leader inspires loyalty based on traditional allegiance, allegiances and affiliations.

And the legal rational leader inspires loyalty via authority or via rules.

So the loyalty is not to the leader, but to the system.


The charismatic leader is emotionally unstable and volatile.

How did we say that?

The traditional one shares a common purpose with the flock of the and the legal rational one abides by rules.

And I refer you here to Merton's theory of deviance.

Very interesting.

We'll discuss it one day.

Now, the leadership of charismatic leaders is rulers and followers.

So there's a kind of hierarchy, disciples, apostles, you name it.

As followers, the traditional leader adheres to established forms of social conduct.

In the case of the legal rational leader, the rules, not rulers.

These are the distinctions made by oaks.

So I think a very, very interesting.


Thank you for listening to this non charismatic, definitely not magnetic presentation, but chock full of mass, chock full of information.

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