I admire Sigmund Freud because of his frustrating honesty. Several times during his career, he threw out the major portion of the ideas he had developed, to go in a new and more sophisticated direction. It enraged his followers, who were looking for authoritative guidance. Freud had none; it was the thinking mind that provides the guidance, not some Austrian fellow with a swell beard.
Freud wrote at the end of his career of the Death Instinct, of the balance between love, Eros, and the pursuit of death, Thanatos. He began to develop the ideas as the major forces in human behavior.
Some of the thoughts about the death instinct discussed by Freud and others addressed the idea of the Death Instinct as a regression form adulthood into a more comforting time of youth and childhood. Death as the bliss of the ultimate Infancy again.
we see this universally in the yearnings of American Celebrity. When one is young and unknown, one is batted by a harsh series of frustrations, the endless “NO!” of seeking a career. In politics and entertainment, the “no!s” are heartbreaking, even when others with less talent and more narcissistic character advance, and you don’t.
To rise to the top is to have enough money to surround yourself with the affirming luxury of inanimate objects; but even more important, a paid ‘posse’ of hangers-on and cheerleaders who say “yes!” to every impossible idea that you construct. If you are great at one thing, then you must be great at everything. The poor winners of the Nobel Prize, say in chemistry or physics, are bombarded with inquiries which address things far from their intellectual expertise. They may think they know something about the topic, but they need intelligence and modesty to properly frame their response.
In American politics, we have Donald Trump. In an editorial, Dr. Charles Krauthammer offered a bleak picture of Trump as narcissist. It is apparently a secondary narcissism. Nobody could survive in New York real estate without some measure of self and balance between what one wants, and what the world holds true.
He saw Trump as an eleven-year-old schoolyard bully; and then recanted, seeing him as more of a 1½ year old infant; even more clearly a secondary narcissism. A secondary trait or defect is a state of being to which one has regressed from a higher function; a primary defect as a developmental stage at which one was arrested and did not progress.
Trump, then, is a 1½ year old in Krauthammer’s eyes. How did he get this way?
Character is often built through the adversity of reality. The sublimation of instincts takes place when one needs an integrated and refined approach to reality, rather than wailing or grabbing at the objects of the world.
Success, in America, is much like the consequences of the unrestrained drive towards Thanatos – not the seeking of death itself, like the thrill-seekers like Charlie Sheen or racers like James Dean, but the slow cloaking of the beloved celebrity object in layers of unquestioning affirmation – from the posse and hangers-on, from the world one creates, from the lust for riches that will shower forth for one’s friends.
I feel great sorrow for Michael Jackson, a person who may have never developed out past primary narcissism, due to the fame he had during his youth. He never had to struggle in the guise of anonymity. He was always Michael Jackson.
Neverland seems to have represented a mad narcissistic nest for the damaged identity.
Krauthammer seems to have touched on the narcissism of Donald Trump. He acts, as Krauthammer avers, at an infant’s level. He is very warm when someone stimulates him by acting nice to him; and bursts into unbridled wrath when someone says “NO!”
He has his “posse” among people who identify with him, strive to affirm his passion for fame and love by cheering madly for him. These are, of course, the REAL people; those who scorn him are phony and cruel, who may rig the election upcoming to frustrate the Will of the People. Perhaps from a great distance, Mao was this way. Elsewise, how to explain the fifty million deaths or so in “The Great Leap Forward?” But Mao recanted, and even more maturely, apologized.
Fame, in America, is a path to Thanatos, a path to the deck for the ferry across the Styx. To become saved, to be come complete, is transmogrified into the passion to be eternally affirmed. The story of Lear comes to mind. Cordelia spoke in terms of mature love; Regan and Goneril, of narcissistic love. Putin spoke with flattery about the Donald; he is a beloved man. The Khans spoke harshly towards Donald; he could not stand the crush of their criticism, he hates that.
The Donald is not particularly notable when it comes to celebrity narcissism; he likes model wives, not hookers and blow like Charlie. But the millions who have come to admire him for being brave enough to speak his mind, is troublesome. He only speaks of the fetters and insults of the real world. Some of his points are penetrating and insightful, some merely whining about resentment and imagined slights. He is not fit to be President; perhaps most Americans are not, for this reason. But the mistake is to recognize him as a prescient and penetrating thinker, rather than a narcissist who is slowly trained by the crowd to complain about what they also resent. That is the danger.
We have largely become a narcissistic crowd, hoping for Mother Government to help us with our suffering, jealous when others are helped more than ourselves. We are a bureaucratic mess, a system that works poorly in seeking systemic “goals” which are ill-conceived, poorly planned by power-seeking individuals, and which waste heroic amounts of money to accomplish little.
Bureaucracies give rise to tyrants. If the rules are bad, one needs a Great Man to slice through the rules and red tape, and make things happen. Perhaps that was Donald’s forte – get to the sale, make the closing happen. As a President in the current game, he will not have enough power. The question remains – suffer through inadequacy, or fundamentally overthrow the government?
Hillary’s narcissism is more modulated and rhythmical, more in tune with the way things happen in Government. She will be no more mature than the Donald, but the rent will get paid on time.
There are and were other candidates who are radically different. Gary Johnson comes to mind. But he offers solutions to a mature America, one which may perhaps not exist any more. Bernie Sanders, too, in a very similar way.
We jealously mock Narcissus for having an expensive mirror, a taste in things, an eye for pretty women, a selfishness which comes true. But we are the ones that make the path; the Donald is only walking on it.