These days, it is popular to cast Donald Trump as a narcissist. After all, he’s loud, brazen, tactless, crude, and more. He’s a big mouth, and he’s very obviously un-likable for many people. I’ve seen people in the narcissistic abuse support community say that it is helpful for the world to see Trump and learn about narcissism. However, I disagree, and here is why:
I think it distracts from the even bigger problem! It promotes the myth that all bad guys make themselves easy to spot. But in reality, most narcissists, sociopaths and abusers are NOT obvious. That’s why they are able to hurt so many people. Too many people naively believe that they can recognize an abuser by looking for overt, public behavior. This is wrong. How many of us were frustrated while our abusers tormented us in private, then put on a show in public? How many people miss the signs of a narcissist because they are so busy looking for obvious outward appearances? This is not to say that Trump is a nice, friendly guy. This is to say that, the people who aren’t obvious can be far more dangerous.
Would you rather have an enemy who honestly states that he hates you? Or someone who pretends to be your best friend or love of your life to manipulate you and stab you in the back? We know the first one is bad news, but most people do not know to be aware of the second, which is why the two-faced narcissists are able to inflict more damage. We as abuse survivors should know this or be on track to knowing this. It is the only way to avoid future narcissists! If we keep looking at the obvious, we are going to miss the more subtle signs of a very dangerous personality.
Psychopaths are extremely common in big business and in politics. Unfortunately, the qualities that lead a person to seek power, and the qualities that make them better able to gain power exist in a high-functioning predator. Ruthless and charming narcissists have an advantage over people with healthy minds. Most politicians will lie to get ahead. They can be crude about it, or they can be sugary sweet. Predators can make you think that they care about you long enough to gain your confidence to get what they want from you, and they are all throughout the government.
This article from the Huffington Post includes an interview with Martha Stout, (author of The Sociopath Next Door.) It includes some more good points:
Remember, psychopaths in particular KNOW to make themselves look good. They know they have to charm and impress a person. They can act like the most loving people in the world. They can fool us into thinking they genuinely care about us. We now have a president-elect who gets on stage and says shocking things that stun and offend people. That is unpleasant. But, it doesn’t mean that mean there isn’t danger lurking behind the cordial and well-planned words of people who know how to put on a more acceptable public face.
We must train ourselves to look beyond the obvious and to think critically about the motives of others who flatter us or say all the right things. More importantly, we must look at actions. A politician can stand on stage in a nice suit and say everything that we want to hear, but that doesn’t mean they mean it. I know from first-hand experience, that my sociopath ex trashes some of his most devoted flying monkeys behind their backs while charming them to their faces.
Let’s not push the idea that a narcissist is that easy to spot and forget the reality that they usually aren’t.