Ireland became a breeding ground for self-serving narcissists


GIVE ME A BREAK:NARCISSISTS ARE some of the loneliest people in the world, except they never learn how lonely they are until it’s too late. Narcissists, either as individuals or in an elite group, are convinced that the world revolves around them and they’re very good at pulling others into their game, especially if they have financial or moral power. When their behaviour tests the patience of even the most willing enablers, narcissists have a trump card – they appear needy and vulnerable.

So when caught out in wrongdoing, they demand generosity, special favours and tolerance. In the rare event that someone stands up to them, they brand their accusers as lacking in empathy, when it’s the narcissist who actually cannot empathise with others.

Has no one any idea what they’ve been having to deal with? Is nobody but them actually living in the real world? Can no one understand the sheer stress involved in being the centre of the universe?

If that doesn’t work, narcissists avoid blame by blaming everyone else and are very good at producing scapegoats and fall guys. A narcissist never experiences guilt because he’s like the pampered dog who eats your dinner and allows itself to be chastised, only to cuddle up to you afterwards and steal your breakfast the next morning.

A narcissist’s needs come before everyone else’s, and when these needs are met, the world is better off because the narcissist knows what’s best for everyone – whether it’s pulling together the money for a vanity project that will never see the light of day or something more sinister, such as an abuse of people or power.

Anyone in thrall to a narcissist has usually accepted an emotional or economic payoff, because narcissists are good at buying people or gaining their loyalty on credit.

When an entire institution is narcissistic, most people involved with it may believe that if narcissistic needs are unmet, the world will stop turning. At its most basic, people fear for their jobs. If the narcissist is running a religion, the potential whistleblower may even fear hell.

What’s so dangerous about narcissists is this ability to convince people that if they fall from grace, so will everyone else.

Narcissists and their institutions believe that everything they own, no matter how expensive or outlandish, has been earned, whether or not that’s the case.

Like the Russian prince in need of just one more diamond encrusted Fabergé egg, the narcissist in public life can convince others that without that egg, the world will implode.

Say you live in not just one fabulous house, but several. You haven’t got just one enviable car, you have a fleet. These possessions are no less than you deserve and they are but worthy examples of your (arguably) refined taste, which in itself makes the world a better place – can’t anyone see that?

Without people providing an example at the very top, what does everyone else have to aspire to? Narcissists always travel first class because they deserve it, they spend more on clothing and personal grooming, they dine in the finest establishments because all of these things are not meant to please them personally – they are actually generous acts in themselves because they raise the status of everything associated with them, such as Ireland Inc.

Narcissists are impossible to win an argument with. They’re adept at turning criticism on its head by speaking of their humble roots and their struggles to lift themselves up from the bottom to the pinnacle of achievement. They are convinced that they are a fine example to others.

Narcissists can be irresistibly charming and are often surrounded by enablers, who lose their own identities and values by becoming wrapped up in the narcissist’s world, like the backstage wardrobe mistress who puts up with abuse because she gets the star’s cast-offs.

Psychiatrists and psychologists debate what gives the narcissist this grandiose sense of entitlement. Is it an accident of genetics or the environment?

Ask a narcissist what made them that way and they can’t tell you because they’re not narcissists, are they?

Psychiatrically definable narcissism is relatively rare; people and institutions whose behaviour borders on it are not, particularly when given the circumstances in which to grow. And these days it’s running like weeds gone wild. The economic boom encouraged narcissism like top-grade organic compost.

The “because I’m worth it” mantra wasn’t just from a shampoo commercial, it was a personal statement of empowerment. Narcissists convinced non-narcissists that overspending on luxuries while others were starved of the basics made sense because weren’t they lifting everybody up with them and – famous last words “providing jobs”.

All of this Galway Tent, fake tan, champagne first-class living was contagiously good because it made Ireland Inc appear successful to the outside world. The outside world was laughing at the ostentation, but never mind that.

Most people don’t laugh when dealing with narcissists – these people and institutions are too powerful. Don’t dare to criticise publicly unless you’re prepared for the worst. A narcissist will throw it right back at you, and because you were an enabler caught up in their selfish world, some of it will probably stick.