My book, The Gentle Souls Revolution, is inching towards completion & publication. So, while waiting, I’ve decided to float out book teasers — windows into some content.
Today, we will explore Stupid Narcissism:(verb) a selfish action or statement that most people would recognize as inconsiderate, egregious and and in the most extreme cases, incriminating. So, behaviors or things that most people would never do or say.
For example, raising money for legal fees by selling self-aggrandizing “trading cards” that depict the stupid narcissist in several fantasy lives – superhero, cowboy, astronaut; falling from “president” to crypto-con — that’s long way down.
While too often malignantly self-serving people lie, abuse and commit crimes without accountability, I started noticing that the more desperate a narcissist gets, the more likely he or she is to do something that is, well, just stupid. So I started calling those things Stupid Narcissism.
For example, Keith Raniere (malignant narcissism’s current poster child) is now serving a 120-year prison sentence for his crimes. Despite his steep fall from “vanguard” to convict, his delusions of grandeur march on. In the docu-series, The Vow, you can hear Raniere pontificating documentary advice to the producers over the phone from his cellblock. In a slow, deadpan, drippy, voice, he proclaims, “There are many ways of presenting a documentary. Your side is only the very top layer. And depending on what you’re willing to present as the truth, it can go very deep. So, talk to me…”
This level of self aggrandizing is impossible to comprehend: Stupid Narcissism.
Cult leaders, like Raniere, lose control by underestimating their targets. They overplay their hands when soon-to-be former members start realizing, I don’t need this person/group; they need me, or at least the cult version of me. Then narcissistic leaders panic & Stupid Narcissism kicks on.
Robert’s (somewhat) more covert version of Stupid Narcissism kicked on when I told him that I was leaving “school” to save my marriage. He tried to brow beat me back into the cult trotting out two tactics:
Strategy 1: The demonize husband tactic: “Your husband will always try to control you, you know,” He told me. “These. Things. Don’t. Happen… in a vacuum.” The irony of Robert calling my husband a controlling bully, while trying to bully and control me, was too funny to ignore.
I remember thinking, …anyone who meets my husband for five minutes, will see that controlling other people is not his thing. Didn’t Robert stop to think that my husband had put up with this weird group lurking in the background of our marriage for five years–as well as the $20,000 expense??? No, of course not, because … well … Stupid Narcissism.
Strategy 2: The empathy ambush tactic: Robert’s voice slowed and softened (like Raniere’s phone call voice). He said, “I’m trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes.” It was so transparently disingenuous, that I felt insulted. I thought, hey, Mr Evolved, I have insomnia. I’m losing weight. I can’t find work while I’m spending our money on “school” — I don’t know my ass from my elbow and you, ‘evolved man,’ are wondering why my husband is worried???
My “school” coma snapped for good. I recognized what Robert J Lifton calls dispensing of existence. You see, for Robert, my well-being didn’t matter. I was inconsequential unless in service to “school.” Stupid Narcissism doesn’t care about me, or you, or anyone else.
So I woke up and said to myself, You know, if I’m going to fuck up my life, I’d rather do it on my own terms.
The most extreme example of Stupid Narcissism that I stumbled over while researching cults came from Charles Manson. During his murder trial in 1969, his desperation accelerated. AP reporter Linda Deutsch recalled: “In court, Manson choreographed a spectacle that included his three co-defendants jumping to their feet and singing songs mocking the judge. At one point, he propelled himself across the table, brandishing a pencil and shouting at the judge: ‘Someone should cut your head off, old man.’”
Mason surely sealed his fate with the dog and pony show. Trial judges don’t suffer fools. Stupid Narcissism.
Stupid Narcissism announces, “Don’t you know who I am!” Social norms, boundaries and safeguards disappear. Then we do, indeed, see who they are. Selfish, shameless and callous people. People incapable of empathy, and bereft of morals, principles, civility, decency, or souls. The pathologically selfish are empty, desperate parasites, who cling to fallacies.
Whether malignant or covert, at the end of the day, all narcissistic cult leaders share an insatiable need to control others. They are all the same. All destroy lives and families and leave messes behind them, in the wake that follows a storm of selfish stupidity.
I don’t know how to keep a check on Stupid Narcissism — what is the societal correction? I don’t have the answer. But education is a good place to start.