Narcissistic, Passive-aggressive Organizations and Bureaucracies

Uploaded 4/16/2015, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Collectives, especially bureaucracies, for example, for-profit universities, health maintenance organizations, the army, the government, municipalities, the church, well, bureaucracies tend to behave passive aggressively. They tend to frustrate their own constituencies.

This misconduct is often aimed at releasing tensions and stress that the individuals comprising these organizations accumulate in their daily contact with members of the public.

Additionally, as Franz Kafka astutely observed, such misbehavior fosters dependence in the clients of these establishments. It cements a relationship of superior, in other words, the obstructionist group, versus inferior, the demanding and deserving individual who is reduced to begging and supplicating.

Passive aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism. The destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and of course, the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with real-life achievements.

No wonder, therefore, that negativistic, narcissistic and borderline organizations share similar traits and identical psychological defenses with a narcissist. Most notably, denial, mainly of the existence of problems and complaints, projection, blaming the group's failures and dysfunction on its clients rather than on its management or on its workers.

In such a state of mind, it is easy to confuse means, making money, hiring staff, constructing or renting facilities and so on, with ends, providing loans, educating students, assisting the poor, fighting wars. Means become the ends, and ends become the means to further means.

Consequently, the original goals of the organization are now considered to be nothing more than the goals on the way to realizing new aims.

Borrowers, students, the poor, are mere nuisance to be summarily dispensed with, as the board of directors considers the erection of yet another edifice, office tower, and the disbursement of yet another annual bonus to its members.

As Parkinson noted, the collective perpetuates its existence, regardless of whether it has any role left and how well it functions.

As the constituencies of these collectives, most forcefully its clients, protest and exert pressure in an attempt to restore these institutions to their erstwhile state.

Well, as this happens, the protests, the pressure, the complaints, the collectives develop a paranoid state of mind, a siege mentality, replete with persecutory delusions and aggressive behavior.

Yes, collectives can be aggressive, and they can be paramount.

This anxiety is an introjection of guilt.

Deep inside, these organizations know that they have strayed from the right path.

They anticipate attacks and rebukes, and they are rendered defensive and suspicious by the inevitable, imminent, impending onslaught.

Still, deep down, bureaucracies epitomize the predominant culture of failure.

Failure is a product, the intended outcome, the end result of a complex, deliberate and arduous manufacturing process.

Like the majority of people, bureaucrats are emotionally invested not in success, but in failure.

They thrive on failure, on calamity, on emergency. The worse the disaster and ineptitude is, the more resources are allocated to voracious and ever-expanding bureaucracies.

Do you remember what happened to the U.S. government after the 9-11 terrorist attacks? Do you remember how it grew, exploded exponentially? Do you recall how many more resources it appropriated from the economy?

So 9-11 was good for the U.S. government.

Paradoxically, the measure of success of these institutions is in how many failures they have had to endure or have fostered, not how many successes.

These massive organs tend to attract and nurture functionaries and clients whose mentality and personality are suited to embedded fatalism.

In a globalized, competitive world, the majority are doomed to failure and recurrent deprivation. Those rendered losers by the vagaries and exigencies of modernity find refuge in Leviathan. Imposing, metastatically sprawling, nanny organizations and corporations who shield them from the agonizing truth of their own inadequacy and from the shearing winds of entrepreneurship and cutthroat struggle.

A tiny minority of Mavericks swim against this inexorable tide.

These people innovate, refrain, invent and lead.

Theirs is an existence of constant strife, as the multitudes and their weaponized bureaucracies seek to put these people down, to extinguish the barely flickering flame and to appropriate the scant resources consumed by these forward leaps.

In time, ironically, truly successful entrepreneurs themselves become invested in failure and form their own vast establishment empire, defensive and dedicated, rather than open and universal networks.

Progress materializes despite of, and in contradistinction to the herd-like human spirit, not because of it.

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