Nationalism vs. Patriotism: Narcissism vs. Self-love

Uploaded 11/22/2014, approx. 5 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. Patriotism is akin to the healthy form of self-love. It consists mainly of pride in one's self-identity and values based on one's culture and shared history.

Patriotism is not exclusionary, but inclusive. The patriot, in constantly seeking to improve his lot, and that of his compatriots, is open to advice and suggestions, and welcomes criticism.

Patriotism is concerned with the concrete, the here and now. It is grounded in reality.

Nationalism is very much like compensatory malignant classism. It rears its head when people stop being patriots, when they are rendered by circumstances, usually of their own making, not necessarily so, ashamed of who they are, humiliated. Nazi Germany comes to mind.

Nationalism is exclusionary and oppositional. The nationalist sense of self-identity and self-worth depends on the aggressive belittlement and devaluation of other collectives, other nations, minorities, ethnic groups, and religions.

The nationalist regards every hint of criticism of his nation as an act of violence.

Though he volumably professes to an ardent love of his former, his nation, the nationalist is mostly concerned with the abstract and the elitist, and a girl of an eye called Grandiose Fantasies, who by utopian future occupy his time, not the concrete, not the here and now.

It is common to believe that the more marked the differences between newcomers of citizens, the more pronounced the result of nationalism and racism. After all, white Frenchmen, Americans, and Dutch men, the self-proclaimed liberal white, often harbor averse criticism and conscious racial attitudes.

But this is only half the truth. The ugliest manifestations of racism, up to genocide, are reserved to immigrants who look, act, and talk, like us. The more they try to emulate, assimilate, and imitate us, the harder they attempt to belong, the more ferocious and rejection of them.

Freud coined the phrase narcissism of small differences in a paper titled The Taboo of Reginity, which he published in 1917.

Referring to earlier work by British anthropologist Ernst Frawley, Freud said that we reserve our most virulent emotions, oppression, hatred, and ending, towards those who resemble us the most.

We feel threatened not by the other with whom we have met in common, but by the nearly we who mirror and reflect us.

The nearly he impairs the narcissist's selfhood, challenges his uniqueness, affection, and superiority, the condiments of the narcissist's sense of self-worth.

He provokes in the narcissist's primitive narcissistic defenses and leads him to adopt desperate measures to protect, preserve, and restore the balance.

I call it the Galliver Array of Defense Mechanisms.

The very existence of the nearly he constitutes a narcissistic injury.

The narcissist feels humiliated, ashamed, and embarrassed, not to be special after all. Then he reacts with envy and aggression towards this source of frustration.

In doing so, the narcissist resorts to splitting, projection, and projective identification.

He attributes to other people personal traits that he dislikes in himself, and he forces them to behave in conformity with his expectations.

In other words, the narcissist sees in others those parts of himself that he cannot countenance and that he denies.

He forces people around him to become him and to reflect his shameful behaviors, hidden fears, forbidden wishes, and horrible traits.

But how does a narcissist avoid the realization that what he loudly decries and derides is actually a part of him?

By exaggerating, or even dreaming up and creatively inventing differences between his qualities and conduct and other people's.

The more hostile he becomes towards the nearly he, the easier it is for him to distinguish himself from the other.

To maintain this self-differentiating aggression, the narcissist stokes the fires of hostility by obsessively and trenchfully nurturing grudges and hurts, some of them imaginable.

It wells on injustice and pain inflicted on him by these stereotypically bent or unworthy people.

He devalues and dehumanizes these people, plots revenge to achieve closure.

In the process, the narcissist indulges in grandiose fantasies, aimed to boost his feelings of omnipotence and magical immunity to the consequences of his actions.

In the process of acquiring an adversary, the narcissist blocks out information that threatens to undermine his emerging self-perception as righteous and offended.

He begins to base his whole identity on the brewing conflict, which is by now a major preoccupation in a defining or even all-pervasive dimension of his existence.

Very much the same dynamic applies to coping with major differences between the narcissist and others.

He emphasizes the large disparities while transforming even the most minor ones into decisive and unbridgeable.

Deep inside, the narcissist is continuously subject to a knowing suspicion that his self-perception as omnipotent, omniscient and irresistible is somehow flawed, confabulated, unrealistic.

When criticized, the narcissist actually agrees with the critic. In other words, there are only minor differences between the narcissist and his detractors, but this threatens the narcissist's internal position.

Hence the wild rage, if any hint of disagreement, resistance or debate, precisely because they resonate with the narcissist.

Similarly, intimacy brings people together. It makes them more similar. There are only minor differences between intimate partners.

The narcissist perceives this as a threat to his sense of uniqueness.

He reacts by devaluing the source of his fears, his may, his powers, his lover. He re-establishes the boundaries and the distinctions that were removed by intimacy.

Thus restored, he is emotionally ready to embark on another round of idealization.

This is what I call the approach avoidance complex.

The study, titled War and Relateness, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors, Rico Spolaore and Romain Bazziard, concluded, the degree of genealogical relatedness between populations has a positive effect on their conflict propensities, because more closely related populations, on average, tend to interact more and develop more disputes over sets of common issues.

Populations that are genetically closer are more prone to go to war with each other even after controlling for a wide set of measures of geographic distance and other factors that affect conflict, including measures of trade and democracy.

We fight with our shadows. We conflict with our reflections. It is ultimately a battle between us and ourselves. We have seen the enemy and it is us. ###

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