Okay, dear colleagues, I hope you can all hear me. Welcome to the fourth international conference of addiction research and therapy.
I am proud to be the chair of the first two sessions.
My presentation will be divided, therefore, in two parts.
The first part is my paper on narcissistic and psychopathic leaders. And the second part, Dr. Busan, I think your equipment is creating some noises or something. Can you mute yourself while I'm talking? Because your equipment is making noises in the background. If you could mute yourself, thank you kindly.
So there will be two parts. The first part is my paper on narcissistic and psychopathic leaders. And the second part, I will introduce the two sessions. And then regrettably, I have to rush to another webinar.
First of all, I apologize that you had to wait for so long and so on. But all is well that ends well and better late than never, as they say.
So without further ado, let's get to the presentation.
Today, I would like to discuss a phenomenon that started long before the pandemic with a populist wave of populism, the revolt of the masses, as Jose Ortega Ygazete called it in the 1930s.
It's a situation where people use the levers of democracy to elect leaders that are rebels. They don't conform. They are anti-establishment. They're defiant. They're impulsive.
In short, many of these leaders and I will not go into names, nor will I mention locations, of course. We must maintain a level of political correctness in this presentation.
But many of these leaders qualify diagnostically and clinically as narcissists. Some of them are even psychopathic or psychopathic narcissists.
Narcissistic and psychopathic leaders reify the pathologies of their cultures, of their societies. They are not an isolated phenomenon. They don't come from outer space. They embody. They're like a blank screen upon which everyone projects their pathologies.
So if we see a rise of narcissistic and psychopathic leaders, it's only because civilization, societies and cultures throughout the world, the East and West, not only the Western world, but East as well, everyone is becoming more narcissistic.
And in the fringes, many, many are adopting psychopathic behaviors as highly efficacious or self-efficacious.
We even have scholars in prestigious universities glamorizing, glamorizing psychopathy, glamorizing narcissism, high functioning narcissists. Some of them say that the best leaders are psychopaths.
Psychopaths should be overrepresented in professions such as chief executive officers in corporate settings, surgeons in hospitals or military leaders.
There's a whole movement pro-psychopathy, pro-narcissism movement with academic backing. And it had permeated and penetrated and manifested in politics, of course, because politics is in a way our collective unconscious to borrow from Jung.
These leaders foster and propagate a personality cult.
But when things go sour, when things don't go their own way, they turn on their own fans and followers and acolytes and psychophants.
We will discuss this dynamic a bit later.
As I said, the narcissistic or psychopathic leader is the culmination and reification of his period, culture and civilization. Such a leader is likely to rise to prominence in narcissistic societies.
The leader's mental health pathologies resonate with the enemies of his society and culture. I call this a psychopathological resonance.
The leader and the led, the leader and the electorate, the leader and his nation, the collective, they form a self-enhancing and self-reinforcing feedback loop, a diode of mirrored adoration and reflected love by elevating and idealizing their fear, their leader, the mob, because it's a mob. It's aocracy. The mob actually is elevating and idealizing itself. The leader is the mob.
And the leader's harness of hypocrisy, mob rule, becomes the norm, the new normal.
In the duchess' ascendance, these members of the impersonal masses, these mobs, they find hope. In his manifest illness, mental illness, they find curative solace and a legitimation of their own collective insanity.
The dictator or the authoritarian leader himself equates being elected, however patently and fairly, with being chosen by the transcendental forces of gods, of history.
His destiny, says the leader, is the manifest destiny. His exceptionalism is the nation's own exceptionalism.
Like Louis XIV said, let us be one. I am the state.
The malignant narcissist invents and then projects a force, fictitious self, for the world to see, to behold, to fear, to admire.
Such a leader maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with. And this is further exacerbated by the trappings of power. He is surrounded by yesmen and psychophants and acolytes. No one dares to tell him the truth.
There's a bubble forming around him.
The narcissist's grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience are supported by real life authority.
And the narcissist's predilection and proclivity to surround himself with obsequious psychophants.
The leader's personal, intimate life, the leader's persona, personality rather, may be utterly different to his political public persona.
There is an abyss. There is a gap between the public image and the truth. It is an unsettling Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect.
In private, in chambers, the narcissistic psychopathic leader may be avacular, empathic, sentimental, helpful, supportive or dull, bourgeois, mediocre, middly, sickly, fussy, aloof or friendly.
But he is at great pains to conceal all these attributes from the public.
The narcissist's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism, a whiff of disagreement.
Most narcissists are paranoid. They have persecutory ideation on even persecretary delusions. Many of them suffer from ideas of reference or referential ideation, the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not.
And so narcissists often regard themselves as victims of persecution. They are the sacrificial lambs.
The narcissistic leader fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the trappings and hallmarks of an institutional religion, a secular religion, with him as the Godhead.
There's a priesthood. There are rites, there are rituals, there are temples. There's worship, catechism and mythology, personal mythology.
The leader is his religion's aesthetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures, also he claims, in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling and to his nation.
Very often such leaders will say, I'm sacrificing my life for you. Look how hard I'm working for you, for you, not for me, for you.
The narcissistic leader is a monstrously inverted saint, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people, or humanity at large, should benefit.
By surpassing, by suppressing his humanity, the narcissistic leader becomes a distorted version of Nietzsche's Superman, Obermensch.
Many narcissistic and psychopathic leaders just look around you, because by my estimate, 40% of the countries of the globe are ruled by narcissists and psychopaths, at least 40%, if not more.
Many narcissistic and psychopathic leaders are the hostages of self-imposed rigid ideologies. They fancy themselves Platonic philosopher kings or warriors against corruption and against crime.
Lacking empathy, they regard their subjects as a manufacturer, regard these raw materials, or as an obstructed collateral damage in vast historical processes.
They often, they're fond of saying, when you cut trees, you chip wood, or to prepare an omelette, one must break the eggs. These are their favorite things. People are eggs or woodchippings.
But being a human, not human, being superhuman, also means being asexual and being amoral.
In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernists. They are moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things natural, or by strongly repressing these feelings.
For example, by denying the possibility of sickness and illness, a man should Strength, weakness is deplored, vulnerability is derided and decried.
But what they refer to as nature is not natural at all.
The narcissistic leader invariably prefers an aesthetic of decadence, an evil carefully orchestrated and exacts artificial, though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers, of course, needless to say.
Narcissistic leadership is about reproduce copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols.
Symbols matter. It's not veritable atavism or true conservatism. It's opportunistic play, game, mind game, power play, and all of it within the symbolic realm.
In short, narcissistic leadership is about theater. It's a society of the spectacle, to use Guy Debord's phrase. It's about theater. It's a theater production.
It's not about life, to enjoy the spectacle, to be subsumed by the theater production.
The cultish leader demands the suspension of judgment and the attainment of depersonalization and derealization and loads and loads of amnesia.
The narcissistic leader is a dissociative leader. He thrives on forgetfulness, on lies, on distortions, on negating the truth and facts.
Catharsis is tantamount in this narcissistic dramaturgy to self-annulment.
Narcissism is nihilistic, not only operationally or ideologically. It's very language and narratives are nihilistic.
Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism, ostentatious rejection and hatred of life.
The cult's leader is the role model. He annihilates the man only to reappear as a preordained and irresistible force of nature.
I am not human anymore. I represent history. I'm not human anymore. I represent a drive, anti-corruption drive. I'm not human anymore. I'm a crime fighter. I'm not human. I'm a principle. I'm not human. I'm an ideology. I'm a religion.
Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the old ways, against the hegemonic culture, against the upper classes, against the established religions, against the superpowers, the corrupt order, the establishment.
Narcissistic movements are pure, real, adolescent. A reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon narcissistic and sometimes psychopathic toddler nation states or group or upon the leader himself.
What about minorities? What about others? Minorities and others are singled out, arbitrarily selected and they constitute a perfect, easily identifiable embodiment of everything that's wrong.
Minorities, others are accused of being old, of being eerily disembodied, cosmopolitan, part of the establishment, globalist, decadent, deviant, perverted, sick, dangerous, contaminants, polluting, etc.
Minorities and others are hated, hated on religious and socioeconomic grounds or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin, anything, skin color. They are different. They are blamed. They're accused of being narcissistic.
They claim to have the higher moral ground. They act morally superior.
These are projections.
It is the narcissistic leader and his followers who are narcissists and yet they claim that the minorities are narcissists.
Narcissistic leader and his fans are the ones who are aggressive and violent and dangerous and yet they claim that the minorities are aggressive and vile.
It is the narcissistic leader that establishes an authoritarian surveillance state. He is everywhere. He has eyes everywhere. A system of snitching, a system of shaming and yet he blames the minorities, immigrants, others, of being everywhere.
Minorities are defenseless. Minorities are credulous. They're adaptable and so they can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction.
They are the perfect hate figure, a foil.
Narcissists thrive on hatred. They thrive on pathological envy. They invent enemies where they're none because it is by opposition that their fuzzy identity coalesces and crystallizes and congeals.
Narcissists, of course, like borderlines, have difficulties with identity. They have identity diffusion or identity disturbance.
And this is precisely the source of fascination with the epitome and the quintessence of narcissistic and psychopathic leaders, Adolph Stalin, as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his consciousness. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies and wishes. He didn't have an ego. He had an id, only an id, using Freud's trilateral terminology.
Hitler's unconscious became the conscious of the world. Hitler provided us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates and what it was like before we invented civilization.
Hitler forced all of us through a time warp.
Many of us did not emerge. Hitler was not the devil. Hitler was one of us. He was what Hannah Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. He was just an ordinary petit bourgeois middle-class mentally disturbed failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation at the time, people who had lived through disturbed and failing times. He was a perfect mirror, a channel. He channeled the pathologies of his age, a voice and the very depths of our souls.
The narcissistic leader prefers the sparkle and the glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. The reign of the narcissistic leader is all smoke and mirrors. There is no substance there. It's devoid of substance. It consists of mere appearances and mass delusions.
And in the aftermath of the regime of the narcissistic and psychopathic leader, the narcissistic leader having died, having been deposed, having been voted out of office, it all unravels.
The tireless and constant prestidigitation seizes the sleight of hand. The entire edifice crumbles like so much dust.
What looked like a economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely held empires disintegrate, laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. Earth-shattering and revolutionary scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem. As their end draws near, as they come to the end of their regimes, narcissistic psychopathic leaders act out. They lash out. They erupt. They attack with equal virulence and ferocity, compatriots, erstwhile allies, neighbors, foreigners, minorities, loved ones, so-called nearest and dearest, intimates.
It is important to understand that the use of violence must be egosyntonic. It must accord with the self-image of the narcissist. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform with the narcissistic narrative and ideology.
I'm violent because I'm fighting crime. I'm aggressive because they are aggressive. My aggression is intended to forestall aggression. It's in self-defense.
All populist charismatic leaders believe that they have a special connection with the people, a relationship that is direct, almost mystical, a relationship that transcends institutions and the normal channels of communication such as the legislator or the media.
And so a narcissist who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite, such a narcissist is unlikely to use violence at first.
But this pacific mask crumbles when the narcissist has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, that his constituency, his grassroots fans, the prime sources of his narcissistic supply, that they have turned against him.
At first when he develops this paranoid ideation, this persecutory delusions that everyone is against him, at first in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction, underline his chaotic personality, the narcissist strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment.
Why is he not popular anymore? What has happened?
He says, the people are being manipulated. Foreign powers are provoking them against me. People are duped by the media, by big industry, by the military, by the elite. They don't really know what they're doing. They are following this phase. They will revert to form. They will realize how good they had it with me.
But when these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology, when these attempts fail, the narcissist is injured. This injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized is not discarded with contempt and hatred. Hitler gave instructions to destroy Germany days before he had died. This primitive defense mechanism is called splitting.
To the narcissist, dichotomous thinking is the technical term. To the narcissist, things and people are either entirely bad, entirely evil, entirely enemy and hostile or entirely good, entirely supportive, blemishless.
The narcissist projects onto other people, his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. He deposits his negativity, his shortcomings, his inadequacies in human repositories, in other people.
And then what's left is totally good, his perfection, perfection and body.
Narcissistic leader is likely to justify the butchering and slaughtering of his own people by claiming that they had intended to assassinate him. They were about to undo the revolution, devastate the economy, harm the nation or the country. The small people, the rank and file, the loyal soldiers of the narcissist, his flock, his nation, his employees, they pay the price.
The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated, it's a drawn out process.
It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of the narcissist.
This is his sole legacy, a massive complex post-traumatic stress disorder, CPTSD.
Strong men engage in political theater. I call it the being there syndrome.
Four decades ago, the Polish-American Jewish author, Yezhkoshinsky, wrote the book Being There. It describes the election to the presidency of the United States of a simpleton, a gardener whose vapid and trite pronouncements are taken to be sagacious and penetrating insights into human affairs.
The being there syndrome is now manifest throughout the world.
Given high enough level of frustration, triggered by recurrent endemic and systemic failures in all spheres of policy, even the most resilient democracy develops a predilection for strong men.
Leaders with self-confidence, Sanfuan and apparent omniscience all but guarantee a change of course for the better, make our country great again.
These are usually people with a thin resume, having accomplished very little prior to their ascendance. They appear to have erupted on the scene from nowhere. They are received as providential messiahs precisely because they are unencumbered with a discernible past.
And so they are ostensibly unburdened by prior affiliations, commitments and failures. Their only duty is to the future. They have no past. They are a-historical. They have no history and they're above history.
Indeed, it is precisely this apparent lack of biography that qualifies these leaders to represent and to bring about a fantastic and grandiose future.
They act as a black screen upon which the multitudes project their own traits, wishes, personal biographies, needs and yearnings.
People say, he's so much like me. He's so much like me. People derive hope from this.
They say he's so much like me. One day, I can be like him.
The more these leaders deviate from their initial promises, the more they fail, the dearer they are to the hearts of their constituents.
Their constituents love them because they fail, love them because they lie, love them because they don't keep promises, love them because they are like their constituents.
Their new chosen leader is struggling, coping, lying, trying, failing, exactly like they are, exactly like they are.
He uses shortcomings and vices exactly like they do.
This affinity is endearing and captivating. It helps to form a shared psychosis fully ecclesial, a kind of psychotic disorder between ruler and people. It fosters the emergence of a hagiography.
The propensity to elevate narcissistic or even psychopathic personalities to power is most pronounced in countries that lack a democratic tradition or nations that inhabit territories that once belonged to non-democratic empires, cultures and civilizations which frown upon individualism, collectivist cultures and traditions, have a collectivist tradition.
These countries prefer to install strong collective leaderships rather than strong men.
Yet all these polities, all these forms, all these arrangements, all these organizing principles, they maintain a theater of democracy or a theater of democratically reached consensus.
Putin calls it sovereign democracy. There are votes, there's voting, you know, there's a parliament.
Such charades are devoid of essence and proper function. They are replete and concurrent with a personality cult or the adoration of the party in power.
In most developing countries and nations in transition, democracy is an empty world. Granted, the hallmarks of democracy are there, candidate lists, parties, election propaganda, a plurality of media and voting, but its quiddity is absent.
The democratic principles are institutions. They are all being consistently hollowed out and rendered mock by election fraud, exclusionary policies, cronyism, corruption, voter intimidation, collusion with foreign interests, both commercial and political.
The new democracies, so-called, they are thinly disguised and criminalized plutocracies. There are oligarchs everywhere. These are authoritarian regimes. These are puppeteered heterochies.
The new democracies suffer from many of the same ills that afflict veteran role model democracies.
Markey campaign finances, vinyl revolving doors between state administration and private enterprise, endemic corruption, nepotism and cronyism, self-censoring media, socially, economically and politically excluded minorities and so on.
But while this malaise does not threaten the foundations of a United States or a France, it imperils the stability and future of other countries.
Many nations have chosen prosperity over democracy. Yes, the denizens of these realms can't speak their mind or protest or criticize. They can't even joke, lest they be arrested or worse.
But in exchange for giving up these freedoms which they regard as trivial, they have food on the table, roof above the head, they are fully employed and they receive ample healthcare and proper education. They save, they spend to their hearts content, they travel all over the world. That's the Faustian deal that they have made, a strong leader or a strong collectivist leadership, authoritarianism, dictatorship, but I live well. My lifestyle is great. I'm enjoying myself and therefore if I consume, probably I'm happy.
In return for all these worldly and intangible goods, popularity of the leadership which shields political stability, prosperity, security, prestige abroad, authority at home, a renewed sense of nationalism, collective sense, community sense. These are the goods that the strong leader provides.
He's popular because the country is stable, because there's prosperity, because everyone is safe and secure, because the country has prestige abroad. He has authority at home because he's a nationalist and he encourages a sense of collective and community.
The citizens of these countries forgo the right to be able to criticize the regime or change the regime once every four years.
Many insist that they have struck a good bargain, not a Faustian one.
The thing is that well-established democracies, including the United States, are on the way exactly to this model, this middle ground. I am free economically, but I'm subjected politically.
There's a strong man or a strong collective leadership who will take care of my needs, make sure that I'm safe and allow me to travel abroad once a year.
How dismal, how dismal this scenery is and how abused and exploited by ruthless, reckless, callous, relentless psychopaths and narcissists. They are all over. They are taking over and we are doing nothing to stop them.