People are wondering about Obama—even his supporters, or maybe especially his supporters. He seems distracted, confused, passive, and even more cool and aloof than ever.
I have no idea why any of that would be a surprise. But it is, especially to those who bought into and also encouraged Obama’s own narcissistic myth.
All of them could learn a lot by reading up on narcissism. If they did their homework, they would discover that narcissists are grandiose and have delusions of omnipotence, and that if the world doesn’t step up and acknowledge their wonderfulness they suffer a re-opening of the narcissistic wound. The pain that results is almost unendurable, and narcissists will go to great lengths to avoid facing it.
Obama is a special case even among narcissists, because the world has long surrounded him with the sort of adulation that has fed into his narcissistic feelings in a way that most narcissists can only dream about. Deserved or not, he’s grown so used to the constant adulation, success, and honors that he considers them his due and believes even more deeply in his own innate power, whether it be to make the oceans rise or to make Putin into a pussycat.
From the start, anyone paying attention would have had to have known that Obama was no happy warrior. His personality as projected in public appearances rarely seemed truly joyful and often seemed petulant, even during his first campaign. There was his tendency to blame others, one of the first things I ever noticed about him.
And there was perhaps the most telling, and certainly the most strange thing: the statement (which I wrote about three days ago) made by the woman who was and still is probably his closest advisor, Valerie Jarrett, claiming that Obama has had a lifelong trait of boredom. Simply put, Obama has been disappointed with life, which bores him. And Jarrett locates the wellspring of that feeling in his narcissism, although she doesn’t call it that. She (and he) believes him too smart for almost anything he takes his hand to, and that leads to boredom.
Of course, it needn’t—except for the narcissist. For the latter, no deference can be enough and no reward high enough to satisfy. Obama is fated to be disappointed, because the locus of his problem lies in himself rather than in the world. The narcissistic wound, which underlies everything for narcissists and which they feel most acutely when they face failure and criticism rather than praise from the world at large, is experienced as so painful that it must be evaded at all costs:
The narcissist constantly consumes (really, preys upon) adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention and other forms of Narcissistic Supply. When lacking or deficient, a Narcissistic Deficiency Dysphoria sets in. The narcissist then appears to be depressed, his movements slow down, his sleep patterns are disordered (he either sleeps too much or becomes insomniac), his eating patterns change (he gorges on food or is avoids it altogether).
He is be constantly dysphoric (sad) and anhedonic (finds no pleasure in anything, including his former pursuits, hobbies, and interests). He is subjected to violent mood swings (mainly rage attacks) and all his (visible and painful) efforts at self-control fail. He may compulsively and ritually resort to an alternative addiction – alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, shopaholism.
This gradual disintegration is the narcissist’s futile effort both to escape his predicament and to sublimate his aggressive urges. His whole behaviour seems constrained, artificial, and effortful. The narcissist gradually turns more and more mechanical, detached, and “unreal”. His thoughts constantly wander or become obsessive and repetitive, his speech may falter, he appears to be far away, in a world of his narcissistic fantasies, where Narcissistic Supply is aplenty.
He withdraws from his painful existence, where others fail to appreciate his greatness, special skills and talents, potential, or achievements. The narcissist thus ceases to bestow himself upon a cruel universe, punishing it for its shortcomings, its inability to realise how unique he is.
When narcissism thus fails as a defense mechanism, the narcissist develops paranoid delusions: self-directed confabulations which place him at the center of others’ allegedly malign attention. The narcissist becomes his own audience and self-sufficient as his own, sometimes exclusive, source of narcissistic supply.
The narcissist goes into a schizoid mode: he isolates himself, a hermit in the kingdom of his hurt. He minimises his social interactions and uses “messengers” to communicate with the outside. Devoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer pretend to succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal (a rebellion of sorts). Smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasised etiquette used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act of violence.
The article goes on to describe what can happen if these mechanisms fail to adequately protect the narcissist. What can follow is not pretty, and can include severe depression leading to self-destructive behaviors such as drug addiction and suicide, and/or psychotic breaks. Short of that, though (and I don’t think Obama is even close to reaching that point), the other defenses work, albeit shakily.
Doesn’t this explain a lot? The last paragraph of the quote in particular certainly explains why Obama wouldn’t even do something as simple as a border photo-op during his trip to Texas, something that on balance probably would have scored political points, even though it would have put him on the spot in other ways. Obama would much rather surround himself with rich admirers, smiling and patting him on the back and getting out their checkbooks to give him vast sums of money.
Right now, to the rest of the world he is saying a big FU. At this point, his very equanimity may depend on shielding himself from too much exposure to reality, and the sycophantic worshipers who advise him agree.