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Sociopathy — lack of compassion, connection, empathy, feelings integrated with others — may feature in “narcissistic personality disorder” and what I consider its political relative, ‘malignant narcissism”, which are both interwoven with personality. Grandiose messianic delusion, manipulation (gaslighting is symptomatic of that), willful control of others (why it’s so important to own the press, put on a show, destroy rivals, and inhibit critics, educators, and journalists) become features of population- or state-exploiting dictators. The banners above them matter a lot less, lol, than how they’re wired on the inside. Overlooked feature in this area: “narcissistic mortification”. Whatever the injury was, the memory of it is private.

Oh, really?

Yes, really, but, sigh, also for this writer, intuitively.

I’ve no idea what the latest news may be from the psychology and social science sector, and, sans funding for research, I don’t care to look (but will take a glance in a few moments)

Empathy, imagination, and intuition serve this writer as well they may.

I have noticed online that articles showcased of deal with narcissistic personality within the context of intimate relationships, e.g., from the “Grace, Power, Strength” blog, “Is He a Sociopath? – 20 Signs”.

Surprising to me, and I meant nothing malicious by this, the Google search “Putin, narcissist” indeed yields results.  I had cringed with the thought that this blog might come up tops on that — having some ideas Out There is different from having some statement Way Up There 🙂 — but Joseph Burgo’s piece in The Atlantic took the top spot: “Vladimir Putin, Narcissist?”(April 15, 2014).

In second place: Ablow, Keith.  “Inside the Mind of Vladimir Putin — Russian president no simple thug.”  Fox News, March 11, 2014.

Sam Vak’s page comes up third.

And BackChannels, the blog you’re reading: it doesn’t exist.


Putin may do okay.  Transference . . . reparative narcissism . . . maturation — even the leaders of powerful states will grow older and may grow wiser (would that Obama would catch up with the Other Great Leaders in this regard).  Given the descriptions of the possible sources of Putin’s possible “narcissistic mortification”, self-preservation cathected to ethnolinguistic cultural security seems to me a clear good path.


And “reparative narcissism” is also a term of art in this arena.

“Reparative” or “destructive” narcissistic leaders:

“Narcissism,” of course, is not a “bad word” and is as normal in human psychology as are sexual or aggressive desires and natural anxiety about internal conflicts. Indeed, healthy narcissism is necessary for anyone to survive, work, and maintain a solid identity. But narcissism is also subject to frustrations, which may lead to unhealthy weakened or inflated self-love (Weigert, 1967.) It is when people have exaggerated love of self that they exhibit the repeated thought, behavior, and feeling patterns that in combination are called narcissistic personality. Such individuals think that they are unique and grand, which causes them to feel omnipotent and to act as though they are better than anyone else. But people with narcissistic personalities live in a paradox: while they love themselves too much and feel grandiose and omnipotent, they also, in the shadows so to speak, possess an aspect that is devalued and “hungry” for love. Periodically, this hunger asserts itself into awareness and creates anxiety, shame or humiliation in the person. Accordingly, such individuals’ personality organization splits between a grandiose self and a hungry self. The splitting in the personality organization reflects a lack of cohesive identity. The personality characteristics reflecting the grandiose self are overt, while those characteristics reflecting the hungry self are covert (Akhtar, 1992; Kernberg, 1975, and Volkan and Ast, 1994.)

Volkan, Vamik D.  “Some Psychoanalytic Views on Narcissistic Leaders and Their Roles in Large-Group Processes,” January 12, 2007.

That’s what happens when one noses into academese online.

Blocky text.

The style is much friendlier paper-based and supported by sofas, tables, highlighters, and coffee.

Nonetheless, and to access a Jewish trope, one has always the choice of making things a little bit better — not a great revolution, great war, great “grandiose delusional messianic” (an NPD term of art) image, but a little more fair and just, a little more comfortable and strong.

Much will be written about the Putin’s leadership psychology across the arc of his tenure, but I would suggest today that as rough as his childhood may have been, it had a little bit of magic and warmth somewhere in it, and while Moscow once again chats with terrorists (PFLP), the leader nonetheless promotes before his public education, health care, social security . . . integrity.

Additional Reference

Vamik D. Volkan (website)

Volkan has been practicing political psychoanalysis for over two decades. His first “patients” were high-level delegations from Israel and Palestine, with whom he engaged in “unofficial diplomacy” for six years. He credits the late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, with opening the field with his 1977 declaration that 70 percent of the problems between Arabs and Israelis are psychological. Ten years later, Volkan established the Center for the Study of the Mind and Human Interaction, the world’s only conflict resolution organization housed in a medical center. Because Volkan’s brand of therapy depends on individual breakthroughs to affect mass behavior, it is difficult to quantify “progress.” The clinical effects of his work, by nature, may never be proven. Such is the persistence of man-made trauma.

Kiem, Elizabeth.  “Putting the War on Terror on the couch: Vamik Volkan’s Blind Trust.”  Review of Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror by Vamik Volkan.  Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing, 2004, pp. 367.  Review published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2004.

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