Narcissistic people pose a number of challenges for the societies in which they reside. Their selfishness is liable to cause suffering to those around them, and the indifference that the typical narcissist shows to this suffering is liable to cause violence. As this essay will examine, however, there are two distinct types of narcissism.
Narcissistic sadism is what most people think of when they think about the problems that narcissism causes. This is when a person puts their own ego above all other considerations, to the point where they harm others for no good reason. Narcissistic sadism is behind most cases of bullying and many cases of physical abuse.
At its most extreme, narcissistic sadism manifests in conditions such as psychopathy, in which other people are considered nothing more than tools for gratification. Psychopaths act as if the suffering of others is entirely meaningless, particularly when it stands in the way of the desire of the psychopath. People like this are all but indistinguishable from demons, as if brought to Earth specifically to wreak misery.
There is, however, another form of narcissism that arguably does just as much damage, if not more. This is narcissistic masochism – when one sacrifices oneself unnecessarily to glorify one’s own moral rectitude or fortitude. It is the act of putting oneself first by putting oneself last.
At first, this doesn’t sound like that much of a problem, considering that masochism primarily does damage to oneself. However, the fact that all individuals are part of a countless number of overlapping systems means that, in much the same way that it’s impossible to remove one knot without damaging the whole net, it’s impossible to damage oneself without damaging other people.
The most striking examples of narcissistic masochism right now are the repeated displays of feet-kissing by Pope Francis. These performances are supposed to broadcast the humility of the Pope to the entire world – but, naturally, Francis only does them when the cameras are in position and rolling. In his abject submission, Francis supposes that he’s demonstrating his superior moral sophistication to the world.
All kinds of martyr complexes could fall under this rubric of narcissistic masochism. The common element is that narcissistic masochists will glorify themselves as they are destroyed, usually in the belief that they have established some kind of moral supremacy over the rest of humanity. They believe that their destruction has occurred on account of that they are too good or pure for this world.
A more nefarious example of this phenomenon is collective narcissistic masochism. This is most obviously seen today in the form of ethnomasochism.
In particular, there is a strain of ethnomasochism that is constantly berating itself for its supposed role in various historical crimes, in particular colonialism and slavery. This strain believes that collective narcissistic sadism (which perhaps reached its apogee in Germany between 1939-45) is the world’s foremost danger, so much so that we ought to go as far as possible in the opposite direction.
This strain of narcissistic masochism leads to people supporting the mass importation of “refugees” from various disadvantaged parts of the world. Even when these people are told that these imports will commit a massively disproportionate amount of sex crimes, this is waved away as some kind of karmic payback for the nebulous historical crimes of the white man.
The psychology involved here is very similar to that of a masochist who pays a dominatrix to beat him on the grounds that he has misbehaved terribly in the past. In principle there’s little difference between someone grovelling before a dominatrix and someone grovelling because they believe that they have inherited the sins of their ancestors. The brain circuitry that inspires either action is broadly the same.
The archetypal narcissistic sadist is little more than an overgrown toddler. They never grew past the phase of responding primarily to egoic desires. Although their actions may have become more complicated and sophisticated as they became adults, the basic motivation is the same aggression that motivates small children and wild animals – an instinct that puts itself first before any other consideration.
The archetypal narcissistic masochist is the one who hates his family, hates his neighbourhood, hates his city, hates his country and hates his race. He will not admit to hating the world, because that doesn’t give him the opportunity to glorify himself. Anything associated with himself, however, he hates. Therefore, he derives gratification from destroying himself and anything associated with him.
The major difference between the two is that the sadist is other-focused, whereas the narcissist is self-focused. Although both are self-centred, the sadist focuses on destroying the other, whereas the masochist focuses on destroying himself (or any group that he may belong to).
If men like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer best represent narcissistic sadism, perhaps people like Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Pope Francis best represent narcissistic masochism. The latter group of people – although most don’t realise it – cause just as much suffering and misery as the former, if not more. They also cause it for equally narcissistic reasons.
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