Archive for the ‘Difficult people’

March 24th, 2008

Power junkies

Power and superiority are inextricably linked. Most narcissists have a strong need for power and a limited capacity to handle it responsibly. The narcissist believes that to be without power is to be weak and to be weak is degrading and humiliating. The person who wants and needs power (or anything else) the most, is more likely to get it than someone less desperate for it so that the people who achieve positions of social power are frequently the least fitted to have it.

In interpersonal relationships, the one who feels a need to dominate in order to maintain a sense of superiority will in all likelihood have power over someone with no such need. The problem with power is that even ordinary people who have it can come to believe that they are therefore special and deserve privilege. And people who think they are special think they deserve power.

Such delusions can only cause trouble. Everyone knows that power corrupts yet few analyze why. Power makes a person feel superior and if he is superior then it is easy to see others as inferior and therefore instruments for the use of the one with power. It feels good to feel superior and anything that makes us feel so good can be addictive. Every narcissist is unique but the way in which a grandiose ego operates and the methods it uses to maintain and enhance itself varies so that there are different types of power junkies:

Top dog

Everyone likes to feel in control but most of us know that in order to get along with others, especially in close relationships, we need to share power, negotiate some acceptable division of it, and tolerate times when we don’t have as much control as we might like. The Top Dog though must always dominate, is always right, and must control everything and everyone. He or she might be a total control freak or, like a nagging child, relentlessly demand and insist on having their own way by wearing down others’ will with their persistence. A relationship with a Top Dog is either rent with argument and power struggles or the partner finds himself or herself ground down and exhausted by the constant battle for the smallest sliver of control.

The Success

For someone who needs to see themselves as special and superior and to have others see them the same way, there is no better course of action than to climb to the top of some hierarchy or become successful in some area valued by society. To The Success life is a game and he or she is a serious competitor intent on winning, intent on achieving, proving their greatness, and collecting the accolades, prizes, money, status, possessions, fame or notoriety that go along with success.

He sees himself as an action man, a mover and shaker, someone with a significant impact on his world and the people in it. He might be a ‘tycoon’, thick-skinned and hardheaded, often admired for his can-do attitude and looked up to for his success. But he is profoundly lacking in empathy and has only contempt for the ‘little’ people who have not reached his heights or who do not aspire to.

He might use intimidation, hostility, and aggression but those around him often see his take-no–hostages stance as a sign of strength and leadership and normal practice for someone who is successful in his career. Or he might still be climbing the ladder, treading on the heads of others on the way up, scathing of compassion, kindness, appeasement, or compromise. He might want a ‘trophy’ partner, to impress others, or a supportive, nurturing woman devoted to his welfare, but either way she must function as required or risk replacement. He is frequently a workaholic with little time for people close to him. He might give materially but not emotionally.

Machiavelli’s Disciple

Machiavelli’s Disciple is The Success or Top Dog taken one step further. In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince in which he praised the notorious despot Cesare Borgia as a worthy example of leadership. Machiavelli advocated deceit, manipulation, underhand tactics and pretence of trustworthiness and benevolence to hide malevolent motives and maintain power and control. The end justifies the means. For five hundred years Machiavelli’s name has been a byword for cunning and unscrupulousness but recently he has become a hero and guiding light to those who advocate his methods as an aid to self-advancement.

Like Machiavelli’s famous Prince, this narcissist (or even psychopath) has no conscience, does whatever it takes to get what he wants and finds morality irrelevant, in both his public and private life. As Machiavelli advocated he will use deceit and unscrupulous or even illegal means to achieve his goals. His partner is likely to be dragged into his moral quagmire, have her integrity compromised, be caught in the web of the consequences of his actions, or become his victim and lose her assets, find herself betrayed, or suffer whatever else he deems necessary for his advancement. He is oblivious to others’ needs, wishes, feelings or happiness except if they are useful to him and he will ride roughshod over them in his ruthless pursuit of his own interests.

The Alpha Male

The Alpha Male is strong, confident, in control, a swaggering bundle of raw, physical, male virility, power and superiority. He is the leader of the pack, the dominant male in his male group, (which could be bikies or businessmen), the top of the pecking order, likely to have higher levels of testosterone than his entourage of ‘lesser’ followers, which gives him more muscle, aggression, a higher libido and a tendency to impulsive behaviour.

He has total faith in his superiority and entitlement that he intimidates other men and assumes the right to possess what ever he wants, so that he imposes and intrudes, helping himself with such and air of confidence that few challenge him. He couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks and answers to no one. He is ruled by the principles of extreme maleness—strength, winning, dominance. Women are for conquering; feelings are for sissies. Women often find the Alpha’s strength appealing but a relationship with him is emotionally limited because he expects to dominate and for his woman to know her place which is behind or beneath him.

The Queen Bee

The Queen is the female equivalent of the Alpha Male. She might be a schoolgirl or an elderly retirement home resident but she dominates her peers ruthlessly, using devious psychological games in place of the Alpha’s strength, to control and intimidate. She is aggressively competitive but often tries to camouflage it by being ‘nice’, by using more subtle and socially acceptable ‘feminine’ ways to channel her need for dominance. In a relationship, she may become a shrewish harridan, use subterfuge and manipulation or feminine wiles to get her way.

The Chosen

The Chosen embraces some system of belief, philosophy or regime that distinguishes him from non-adherents—those who are lesser, misguided, and wrong. He might for example be a follower of a health, fitness or diet regime; he might belong to an environmental movement, educational elite, or religion.

For normal people religious faith is about love and it enriches their life and softens their attitude to others. But for narcissistic individuals aligning themselves with a supreme power enhances their self-image so that religion can be a means of reinforcing their superiority. Life can make all of us feel small and helpless, states the narcissist finds unbearable. But he can gain power by association and have the big gun of religion to support his own authority, ‘rightness’ and immortality.

The religious narcissist is rarely moderate in his beliefs, usually leaning toward the extreme of militancy, zealotry, fundamentalism, or fanaticism. His beliefs are rigid, inflexible and intolerant. He is likely to show indifference or even cruelty to those who don’t believe as he does because as one of God’s chosen elite he will go to Heaven while those who don’t believe what he does, are wrong, inferior and so doomed to Hell. He believes that because he is right, and he knows he is right because he follows God’s teachings, (or his interpretation of God’s teachings), he can dictate how others should live and behave and punish their transgressions.

Making others feel guilty makes him feel powerful and God’s word can be a useful tool to manipulate, control and punish others. Going to church, appearing ‘good’ and righteous boosts the ego and can blind the Chosen to his own transgressions or serve as a means to hide them so that he is capable of monumental hypocrisy. It is no coincidence that many paedophiles have found a home in holy orders. Where better for a devil to hide than in a church? The religious narcissist is not moved by decency, humanity or by an ambition to help others, to purify his soul or any other higher cause. What attracts him to religion most is the need to feel ‘special’ and powerful.

Often religious narcissists have illogical beliefs, such as that they are God’s favourites, that because God loves them they don’t have to follow rules and obligations that apply to other people, that because God made them the way they are it would be sacrilegious to change in any way, or that if God created them, then whatever they do must be right and good. Some people even become addicted to their religion and use it the same way other addicts use their drugs—to control or avoid reality, and to make themselves feel good.

The religious narcissist may well use religion as a weapon to control or punish a partner or children, or neglect his family in favour of it. The same attraction and benefits—superiority and specialness by association, can also be found in other groups such as political or special interest groups, cults, or gangs.

The Chauvinist

Like The Chosen, the Chauvinist gets his power from belonging to a group. Chauvinism is simply an illogical and self-satisfied belief in the superiority of the race, religion, nationality, group, or the sex to which one belongs. Despite decades of feminism, male chauvinism is alive and well. The Chauvinist believes that males are all things positive and admirable and females are all things ‘silly’ and weak, or at best maternal and nurturing. To the male chauvinist being male is reason enough to come first, and to get what he wants. He loves his own kind, his male peers, best, because they are most like him and they have his first allegiance. Women are secondary, separate, somehow alien and ‘other’, outsiders of little importance outside their traditional use as sex objects, wifely servants, and adoring mothers. When the Chauvinist looks at a woman he does not see an equal human being but someone not like him, and therefore someone inferior.

Chauvinism can be flagrant, obvious, and unrepentant or subtle and seemingly harmless, hidden behind charm or disguised as jokes. But whichever form it takes it demonstrates a lack of respect or even contempt for its target. A while ago, I was quite ill and my female GP referred me to a male specialist. I was feeling physically fragile and emotionally vulnerable and my new doctor didn’t help when at my first appointment he told me a ‘joke’: ‘Why do women use make-up and perfume? Because they are ugly and stink.’ I felt personally offended, and a creeping repugnance at having such a man operate on me. Was I oversensitive, lacking a sense of humour or was he unprofessional, condescending, or chauvinistic?

Sometimes male chauvinism shows itself in small things, like a man I once worked with who was a avid reader but refused to read any book written by a woman. When questioned about his peculiarity he justified it with the explanation that women aren’t naturally good writers, after all there are no female equivalents of Shakespeare or Dickens and besides, what could a woman have to say that could be of relevance or interest to a man? This same man also refused to use female dentists, doctors, accountants, solicitors or vets. I can only imagine what sort of husband he was.

Female chauvinism operates in much the same way with men seen as different and inferior. The female chauvinist also sees the opposite sex in an objectified, stereotyped way. Men might be fools in need of direction, incompetents to be bossed around, objects to be used to satisfy needs, or dangerous enemies to be avoided or punished.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.


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