Inside Saudi Arabia’s Decision to Launch an Oil-Price War

Riyadh prepares emergency budget for $12-20 a barrel oil; “It’s all about egos now.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia intensified an escalating oil-market war on Tuesday, with Riyadh set to raise output to record levels and Moscow saying it was ready to pump more crude.

State-run Saudi Arabian Oil Co. said it would boost production to 12.3 million barrels a day in April, some 300,000 barrels a day over the company’s previous maximum sustained capacity.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, meanwhile, said his country could rapidly open its own taps.

Oil prices lost a fifth of their value Monday, after Saudi Arabia over the weekend slashed its crude prices and signaled it would boost its output next month. The move followed Russia’s rejection of a Saudi-backed plan by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut crude output in response to dwindling demand in China and elsewhere.

Even as the price war escalated with fresh salvos from both sides, former Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih was in talks with Mr. Novak in an attempt to reverse the production hikes and revive the collective OPEC-Russia output curbs, according to Saudi-government advisers and officials.

Mr. Falih, who negotiated the initial production cuts in 2016, is now Saudi Arabia’s minister of investments. His outreach to Mr. Novak is done with the approval of Saudi authorities, the advisers said. If Mr. Falih’s mediation succeeds, the advisers and officials said, OPEC and its allies including Russia will convene an emergency meeting in April.

Mr. Novak said Moscow isn’t ruling out further cooperation with OPEC, adding that the next scheduled meeting is planned for May or June.

“The doors are not closed,” he said.

Amid the escalating fight, President Trump called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday to discuss global energy markets, the White House said Tuesday morning. The leaders also discussed “other critical regional and bilateral issues,” according to a statement.

Global GlutOil prices have fallen as demand from China has slowed and Saudi Arabia haspledged to pump more.

Saudi Arabia and Russia’s decisions to flood markets are surprising, as China—the world’s largest oil importer—has been hobbled by the deadly coronavirus, which has hurt its demand for oil after refineries and factories were forced to shut.

Saudi Arabia’s struggle for oil-market supremacy might earn it a sliver of market share at the expense of Russia and rival U.S. shale producers, but the cost of a price war might be too much for the kingdom to bear, analysts and oil officials say.

The combination of declining global consumption and rising supply pushed Brent crude, the benchmark for global prices, to its sharpest decline since the first Gulf War in 1991 on Monday. Some of these losses were recouped Tuesday as the Brent oil price gained 8% amid a broader revival in markets.

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive discounts are targeting some of Russia’s core markets in China and Northern Europe. The kingdom is also taking aim at U.S. oil producers, Saudi and OPEC officials said.

The Russian energy minister declined to comment and the Saudi energy minister didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Some oil officials say theystruggle to see the logic behind Saudi Arabia’s decisions. Others see the battle as tied to Prince Mohammed’s recent efforts to tighten his grip on power and raise his international clout, according to people involved in the OPEC talks.

Russia’s failure to find common ground with Saudi Arabia and OPEC on oil cuts was preceded by talks in early February between Riyadh and Moscow that focused on the possibility of forging a broader, long-term alliance. Under one scenario, Saudi Arabia would have sped up its investments inside sanctions-hit Russia and backed the Kremlin’s military efforts in Syria, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ultimately, the crown prince didn’t commit to a deal, say the people familiar with the matter, because he didn’t want to alienate the U.S. Weeks later, roughly at the same time that Russia was refusing to endorse the Saudi-backed plan to cut oil output, Mr. Putin was initiating a rapprochement with Turkey, a Saudi foe, the people said.

“It’s all about egos now, not about the oil market,” said a Saudi-government adviser.

Meanwhile, Prince Mohammed saw the OPEC debate as a way to assert his broad influence over the kingdom’s oil policies and to prove to his older brother, Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, that he could force Russia’s hand, according to people familiar with his thinking.

In a terse phone call to Prince Abdulaziz late Thursday, the crown prince overruled his brother, who had agreed to a three-month production cut with OPEC, and extended the proposed cuts through the end of the year, these people said.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, on Thursday.

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN BRUNA/SHUTTERSTOCK

The crown prince ordered the minister to force OPEC to adopt the decision—even if that meant risking any hope that Russia would join in, they said.

Now the kingdom is pursuing a strategy of undercutting its rivals by drowning markets with cheaper oil—a move that has a tendency to backfire, say longtime market watchers.

On Saturday, the Saudi energy ministry told Aramco officials that instead of cutting production, they should pump more oil and lower the price. Saudi Arabia soon spread the word throughout the market. “It was the Saudi declaration of war against Putin,” said a senior Saudi official.

Within hours, officials at the finance ministry were tasked with preparing a budget scenario that envisions benchmark Brent crude prices dropping into a $12-$20 a barrel range. All Saudi ministries were also asked to cut their spending significantly to prepare for this scenario.

But the strategy has backfired before.

In 2014, then-Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi persuaded OPEC to pump at will to compete with U.S. shale producers. His rationale was that the cartel’s members had the ability to produce at extremely low costs. But after the price of Brent crude fell below $28 a barrel in early 2016, the Saudi royal family fired him. His successor, Mr. Falih, negotiated a pact between OPEC and Russia to cut production in the first OPEC+ deal. Within months, oil prices more than doubled.

The move to depress prices also missed its mark in the 1980s and led to a period known in oil circles as the “Lost Decade.” In 1986, OPEC faced competition from rising North Sea production. Saudi Arabia’s delegation was so upset about OPEC members flouting the group’s production agreements that it unleashed a flood of oil that sank prices for a prolonged period.

Eventually, Saudi Arabia backtracked and cut production, but the move wasn’t a complete failure, as it helped score a political victory against the Soviet Union. Riyadh had been backing insurgents battling Russia in Afghanistan—many of whom would later found al Qaeda. As the oil price fell to around $30 a barrel, Russia faced a budget crisis that contributed to food shortages and an end to its war in Afghanistan. Its then-leader Mikhail Gorbachev retreated from Kabul and launched the restructuring of Russia under his perestroika policy.

Russia is better prepared to weather low oil prices than in the past. Oil is now accounts for less than a third of budget revenue. The country has also accumulated massive reserves. The Russian finance ministry said Monday that it could withstand 10 years of prices at $25 to $30 a barrel.

Still, some Russian producers say the oil-market war is excessive.

“I’m in shock. This is a very unexpected, irrational decision to put it mildly,” Leonid Fedun, vice president of Russian private producer Lukoil was reported as telling Russian newspaper the Bell. Russian oil companies would like to increase production, he said, but that won’t make up for losses from falling prices.

The mood is more somber in Saudi Arabia, which needs oil prices over $60 a barrel to balance its budget, according to Saudi officials. The kingdom is now contending with its own coronavirus outbreak, moving Monday to suspend all air travel with many of its neighbors.

Saudi Arabia’s national oil company Aramco fell about 7% to 27.95 riyals ($7.45) a share on the Saudi domestic exchange Monday. The Saudi price decrease has “literally burned all global energy investors,” said a Saudi official. “[Saudi Aramco] Won’t sell a share to foreigners again,” he said, referring to the Crown Prince’s plan to list Aramco internationally.

How To Win With People You Don’t Like – Jocko Willink

If I am so smart, why am I know winning.

You should build relationships with people you don’t like for the good of the mission.

If you don’t like someone, most of the time that is your ego.

Transcript

00:00
do you talk about building or you talk about building relationships a lot at
00:03
work even when people whom you might not like even with people who mean you don’t
00:09
like have you always been this way or did you also feel difficult also
00:16
difficulty in wanting to build relationships with those people if the
00:20
latter what are the things that help you to actually want to build relationships
00:25
with him things so when I was a young seal
00:32
I was pretty typical young seal pretty typical young man meaning I thought I
00:39
was invincible I thought I could beat everyone in a fight cuz I didn’t know
00:45
jiu-jitsu so you just think you’re just gonna win but that you’re wrong I
00:48
thought I knew everything of course and I thought I was smarter than everyone
00:54
else kind of typical sometimes I would rub people the wrong way and the people
01:01
that I would rub the wrong way were especially people that I third thought
01:05
were not squared away in the chain of command so if you weren’t square if you
01:09
if you were my boss and I didn’t think you were squared away I was gonna rub
01:12
you the wrong way no cuz I was gonna be slightly offensive yeah as a matter of
01:17
fact I got an evaluation it’s one of the first evaluations that I got when I got
01:20
to a SEAL team and back in the day yeah you’d get you were rated 4.0 was the
01:27
highest you could get and it would go all the way down to whatever like one
01:31
but at this time basically everyone got four oh and everything right you
01:36
basically got four oh and everything and like you’d have to mess up you have to
01:40
mess to get deviate from the four so I got all four O’s and I got a 3.8 which
01:47
was like a major dig and the dig was in I think it was like in relation like I
01:54
don’t know what the word was but when I got debriefed on it what the
01:59
guy that gave me the 3/8 what he what he told me
02:03
which I actually was proud of because that’s how stupid I was
02:07
he’s like you you you’re too hostile with people that aren’t squared away
02:12
that’s literally and I was all like whatever you’re damn
02:17
right I am hostile towards people that aren’t square to go to war right just an
02:23
idiot that’s what that’s what the situation
02:25
was and you know it made me mad if a leader was weak and I would form these
02:33
antagonistic relationships with leaders if I thought that they were weak
and one
02:39
of these bosses eventually that I fought I was better than right I thought I was
02:45
smarter I thought I was smarter than him right I thought that he was an idiot
02:50
sure I should have his job right how often do you think that right I should
02:58
have that guy’s job I’m smart and the more I showed this attitude the worse
03:03
our relationship got in the world and the less he listened to me and the less
03:08
influence
I had over how we did things and therefore the the worse we did and
03:17
the and the the worse our ability to perform God because he was just doing
03:22
things the way he thought without any good input from anyone below him in the
03:26
chain of command mm-hmm all because I had formed this antagonistic
03:31
relationship with him which was bad because then he’s not listening to me
03:34
and then one day one day I said to myself if I’m so smart if I’m such a
03:47
smart guy why am I losing why am I losing if I’m so smart if I am so smart
03:56
why can’t I get this guy to do what I want him to do even though he’s my boss
04:02
doesn’t matter if I’m so smart yes they were smarter than him why can’t I get
04:07
him to do what I wanted me to do hmm why if I’m so smart how come I can’t
04:14
have more influence over the way we operate if I’m so smart and he’s so dumb
04:18
mm-hmm and that’s that’s when I realized that’s when I had an away
04:25
an awakening that instead of blaming him for being stupid I was the one who was
04:33
being stupid I had lost the ability to influence my boss because I was being
04:43
stupid and because of my ego
I literally thought I deserved his job okay I
04:48
thought pretty much anyone could anyone in the platoon should have his job and
04:55
therefore since I thought that I I understand of supporting him they said a
05:02
building a relationship with him i undermined him now once I got humble and
05:09
I started to build a positive relationship with him
instead of an
05:13
antagonistic one that started to change and because because then he started
05:19
listening to me he started to change some things and my influence over the
05:24
whole situation became better because I now had a relationshi
p despite the fact
05:29
I liked the guy despite that fact I built the
05:33
relationship and the situation got better I had more influence and that
05:39
became kind of my standard operating procedure was to build relationships
05:43
with people even if I didn’t like them to build relationships with people so
05:48
that I could have more influence now does what does that sound like right
05:53
that sounds like I’m kind of this manipulative two-faced superficial
05:58
disingenuous guy yeah that’s that’s being devious and conniving not keeping
06:03
it real not keeping it real right but the fact is that is not true that’s not
06:10
that’s not that’s not who I am you don’t know who I am I’m a guy that’s trying to
06:17
accomplish the mission that’s what I am I’m a guy that is trying to accomplish
06:22
the mission who is putting my own ego in check to build a relationship with
06:27
someone that I don’t like that I don’t respect but what I’m trying to do is
06:34
improve our operational capability what’s more important to me trying to
06:43
arrange the situation build the relationship so that we do better not so
06:49
that I get promoted not so that I’m getting some accolades but so that we as
06:54
a team do a better job I put the little feelings aside because I want the team
07:03
to win so if you’re having having some trouble getting over your feelings and
07:11
getting over your ego to build relationships for the good of the team
07:15
ask yourself the same question I asked myself a long time ago
07:21
which is this if I am so smart why am I not winning and if you answer that
07:31
question honestly then you’ll put your ego in check
07:34
you’ll go build the relationships that will make you and your team accomplish
07:38
the mission and win hmm there you go
07:46
can’t help but agree with that one you know what’s funny is if you think
07:51
about like why you wouldn’t like someone mm-hmm what what causes you and not like
07:56
someone most of the time that’s your ego anyways most of the time that’s your ego
08:01
anyways yeah and so you know you had that story of the you know you were
08:08
consulting somebody it was like a big CEO of yeah like a lacrosse guy that
08:12
story is probably the most common story I mean the way you handle it different
08:18
yeah but that scenario that you started with with us are so common man
08:21
where ya they rub you the wrong way because right off the bat you see him as
08:24
some kind of competitive figure to you like they’re you know some you know
08:28
compare you know you’re competing with them in your own mind in whatever and
08:31
the feelings probably meet you a lot of the time you know see kids don’t like
08:34
each other you know one anything he says you’re you know you’re already defensive
08:38
but it’s weird man how you can how that happened like that’s happened to me
08:41
before not is it wasn’t as overt but just like yeah I don’t really feel that
08:45
guy you know I don’t like I would because I not only is he like when you
08:49
look at them whatever they’re kind of competitive with you but maybe they do
08:52
something just this much different than you you know like it’s just different in
08:55
philosophy or something like that I was like oh let me again second and then
08:58
they open their mouth and say one word to you and it’s real nice you’re like oh
09:01
I love that guy you know just one little thing just one little like hey I’m cool
09:05
you know I like you kind of thing and it’s like oh man yeah when they say
09:08
something humble to you yeah it disarms your ego and you’re all of a sudden
09:12
you’re bros yeah it’s so weird but if they don’t if they escalate the ego
09:16
situation
which then it’s very problematic happens all the time I mean
09:19
really that’s the natural course of things because you do have to put on the
09:23
brakes on your feelings and be like okay let’s make a different kind of decision
09:27
than the automatic one I got to switch to manual real quick and then bling but
09:31
the bottom line is you’re gonna interact with all kinds of different people if
09:33
you’re in any kind of team want so ever which is most most human beings interact
09:37
with other human beings through their job through their life through I mean
09:41
you could apply this to your family too right
09:42
there’s someone in your family that you don’t get along with well what good does
09:48
it do does it make your family unit better when you let those emotions play
09:53
out and let your ego play out no it doesn’t you’re better off you’ll get
09:56
further and you’ll have a better you’ll have a better life in your family if you
10:03
put your ego in check and then say you know what I’m just gonna build a
10:06
relationship with this person it’s gonna make everything better and smoother but
10:09
it’s like man if you it I feel like you can take the place of any marriage
10:15
counselor by just saying that for real like all you have to do is in and they
10:19
got to do it but all you got to do is ask like is this gonna help the
10:22
relationship with my wife or my family whoever it is in your is this gonna help
10:26
the relationship if I do this or don’t do this or is it gonna hurt it and
10:29
that’s it that’s it that’s super general question or whatever but it’s it’s so
10:32
cut and dry most of the time yeah of course it’s exceptions but generally
10:35
speaking it’s pretty cut and dry okay and a lot of time just like I said it
10:39
has to do with like your ego or your you know this this sense of vengeance little
10:44
micro sense of vengeanc
e because I can’t believe she doesn’t respect the fact
10:49
that I took out the trash you know she asked me to take the trash all the time
10:52
finally when I do it nothing you know like chilli its I was talking to a
10:59
friend of mine and we were talking about you know I’ve talked about the mutiny
11:03
that I had yeah yeah Co platoon but we had a mutiny we fight
11:07
we had a mutiny against uh our platoon commander we fired he got fired and then
11:12
the other guy that came in to take his place was like the best guy mm-hmm and I
11:15
was talking to a guy that worked with him much later when he was a senior
11:18
senior guy and I was telling him I was like oh when I talk on the podcast about
11:24
the platoon commander that was like the best that’s who I’m talking he’s like no
11:28
way and and this guy working with he’s a senior guy and he says you know when he
11:34
when I worked with him he would take out that he would take out the trash from
11:38
the office every day
and he and I started laughing said that’s right and
11:43
I’d be look and he was saying like oh I look at him and be like sir you know you
11:47
don’t need to do that it’s like no no it’s not good you know someone’s got to
11:49
take out the trash I got it mm-hmm this is a seat a guy that shouldn’t have
11:53
been taking out trash for 25 years taking out the trash
11:57
well is he picking up breath picking up brass taking out trash you know that’s
12:02
that’s being humble yeah being humble goes a long way

Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein

The Dire Dangers of Narcissism

Though I’m professionally distant from today’s media luminaries, I have a particular personal interest in the current narcissistic spectacle du jour: I went to college and was friends with Harvey Weinstein nearly a half a century ago.

With an admixture of feelings, I watch the scandal unfold. I’m horrified and angry at what Weinstein is charged with perpetrating. I’m confused and saddened by my former friend’s behavior. Yet, I’m not surprised, given what I remember about Harvey when we were students. That’s not to say I could have predicted this. I don’t identify with interviewees solicited by journalists to tell what they knew of ignominious scoundrels before they committed their heinous acts. Harvey Weinstein—from first impression of him being grandiose, sycophantic, and magnanimously generous to the progression of his unstable and rampant ambitionwas intense, needy, insecure, ingratiating, and over-the-top in his endeavors.

I’m not invested in justifying or scourging Harvey. He’ll get whatever the consequences of his actions bring—spiritually and legally. I feel sorry for him, but ever more sorry for, and indignant about, the victims he is accused of abusing, exploiting, bullying, and oppressing. Such injustice must be vindicated—but that is not up to me. As a psychologist, my goal is to unravel and shed light upon the inner forces that develop into disastrous behavior. Since I consorted with Harvey and knew him well decades ago, I want to lay bare the seminal roots of an accused tyrant before he became one.

As a psychologist, I have something to contribute by explaining the wily dangers of narcissism, thus allowing potential victims to be informed and better protected. As an American citizen, I am alarmed and wary about the course and future of our country, our people and our principles. As a father, husband, and person with strengths and weaknesses who is desirous of healthy relationships, I, too, am vulnerable. Narcissism is an insidious monster, born of a needy and unstable ego that lurks for years, nursing its perceived wounds, until it explodes in aggressive and blind perpetrations. A healthy self-image must be nurtured. It can be achieved by hard work that includes the basis for self-respect and the practice of respect for others. Though the development of narcissism is neither predictable nor clearly delineated, certain factors may contribute to a self-aggrandizing ego and overbearing sense of entitlement:

  • a “silver-spoon” upbringing, where material things and excessively indulgent opportunities became integral elements in the family culture;
  • exposure to a series of traumas and humiliations;
  • use of embarrassment to modify childhood misbehavior;
  • employing self-flagellation to cope with insecurity; or simply
  • relying on an escapist fantasy and the transformative illusion of becoming a legend and hero in one’s mirror.

Though we may recoil from the exaggerated hubris of the narcissist, we should also be respectful and thankful for not traveling along such an isolating and destructive path. As my mother often said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” To live a life of worthiness and honor, one must embrace gratitude and humility.

What Happened to You, Harvey Weinstein?
Do you remember me, Harvey? I know you’ve got a lot on your mind these days; but I’ll bet that if you heard my name, you’d say, “Mark… how the hell are you doing?” We go back a long way, Harvey, to some wild days at the University of Buffalo.

Remember the crowd? Janis Siegel (affectionately called Pumpkin), who went on to acclaim as a singer with Manhattan Transfer. And the creative and iconic Jay Beckenstein, jazz saxophonist with Spyrogyra.

Remember those all-nighters, the 4:00 AM greasy burgers at Your Host Restaurant? The anguished, drugged-out rants and discussions about the universe, who we were, and where we were going?

We grew up and went out in the world to different places. You were amazing, Harvey: intense, sycophantic, driven, disturbed, and needy. I identified with you—Jewish kids from New York, arrived in a blue collar city, ready to take over and show how much we knew and how things should be done.

You floundered, and then soared. It wasn’t long before you traded academics for an entrepreneurial path, on your way to becoming a juggernaut. You founded Harvey & Corky Productions, bringing big-name musical talent to downtown Buffalo. You soon rubbed shoulders with the top names and icons of our generation. It must have been intoxicating, far beyond the drugs that most used to reach for peace and imagined self-importance.

Throughout the years, I watched your movies and cheered you on. There goes Harvey Weinstein—I knew him in college; we were friends. I envied your success. From my intimate knowledge of your personality, I suspected that you were not happy or fulfilled. How could you be, never filling the immense void within you with something other than riches and accolades? Not to diminish your sweeping achievements. But you were so needy and insecure. How could anything the world had to offer be enough?

I wrote to you fifteen years ago, hoping to reconnect. But I never got a response.

Apparently, you tried to fill your deep inner void with surreptitious trysts, using your money and influence to sway and dominate young women—impressionable and aspiring beauties you used for your lustful and egotistical purposes. You used your money, power, and influence to lord it over people, to take advantage of them, and to coerce their silence. The chickens have come home to roost; the truth will not be hidden; you are exposed and in trouble.

It’s not for me to judge you Harvey. I just want to tell you something about women and men and power and accountability.

Females are not immune from deceit, hypocrisy, and the fleshly litany of sins. But females are to be protected and respected. They are “weaker” in some sense, but immensely more powerful than men in many respects. Our society inherently imposes on women mixed messages, psychological traumas, economic discrimination, and often the raw end of many deals. Our culture exalts and worships physical appeal, but quickly disregards and discards worthwhile human beings when their outward beauty fades. Ironically, we exalt and worship physical beauty, and yet we exploit it. The fleeting blooms of pulchritude and stardom leave women vulnerable and with undeserved dismissal or ostracism. Too many men strut their machismo, stricken with envy (and with the fantasy) that a woman can have sex any time she wants (whereas many men have to feel they must lure or seduce). Unfortunately, some men act out of this context to take advantage and force or exploit women. When the playing field becomes overly imbalanced, many women either withdraw into resentful passive aggressiveness—avoiding or manipulating intimacy—or act out with hostile projection—rejecting men or typecasting them as insensitive and only interested in exploitative sex. Though there’s plenty of blame to spread around, men bear the burden—historically, we have been at fault by dominating women and isolating them from full and equal participation in society.

With your overarching success, Harvey, you now have trouble (tsouris, in Yiddish) on a grand scale. My heart aches for you, and I pray for you.

I have some advice for you, Harvey, my dear old friend: it’s time for you to make amends, to acknowledge your wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness, and to make restitution—no holds barred. I know you must now resort to posturing for strategic legal reasons, but you are going to sacrifice a lot of money to pay for your mistakes. You can no longer “buy” people (and certainly not their silence). You will feel alone, and will be alone. You will have to give up the pretenses you have long abused to fill the abyss and mollify the gargantuan ego that hides the empty Harvey Weinstein.

Yet, there is someone valuable, tender, sensitive, worthwhile inside the blustering and offensive Harvey. This is an opportunity to find out who you really are, to change the offensiveness, and to develop into an honorable person.

God has used you, Harvey, and he is not done yet. Through these scandals, he is using you writ large to teach others; and he is bringing you to your knees in the hope that you will stay there and begin to acknowledge and worship him.

Truer riches await you, my friend, if you will only repent and ask for divine forgiveness and guidance. You must also seek forgiveness from the people you hurt, so many of them. It’s time to be open, sincere, and humble. You must unequivocally repent.

Years ago, you founded a big company—Miramax—named after your parents, Max and Miriam Weinstein. What would they think of their son now? I never knew Max or Miriam, but I am sure they always loved you. Why, Harvey, has it been so difficult for you to feel love?

The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly half a century ago could never relax. He always had to prove something, to get more and show more. You were an intense and difficult person. But you were likable, Harvey, and you didn’t have to try so hard.

Narcissism Exposed

The term narcissism is taken from Greek mythology. Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. He was drawn to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it (himself), not realizing it was merely an image.

Today, narcissism is a psychiatric diagnosis and considered a mental disorder. It is also often used disparagingly in common parlance and description. Narcissism involves extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, and has come to characterize a personality type. Narcissists think extremely highly of themselves and are often driven to seek validation of their worthiness and inflated self-opinion by soliciting and even demanding the approval of others. They delude themselves that their boorish machinations and manipulations of others testify to their own self-worth. Though they may be capable of compassion and empathy, narcissists are so preoccupied with their own selfish interests and with validating themselves that they typically ignore or do not consider or recognize others’ needs, even the people closest to them.

Narcissists’ classic “me-first” posture often leads them to resort to aggressive acts that allow them to dominate or “win,” regardless of the costs. They love and need to be the center of attention, often usurping the limelight, dominating conversations, and controlling situations and people to serve their own ends.

It is when they are challenged or confronted with reality that the true pathological character of narcissists flagrantly emerges. Narcissists’ fragile self-image and ego structure do not allow them to acknowledge the egregious nature of their self-importance. Thus, is it is rare for them to apologize or admit wrongdoing. Remorse and repentance for their offensive actions almost never occurs (think Trump).

Thus, narcissists often have a problem with reality-testing; that is, they can only perceive events and circumstances from the same perspective as others when such “reality” supports and buttresses themselves in a positive and flattering light. Unfortunately, this infrequently happens. Instead narcissists twist and distort reality to suit their own views, inevitably causing confusion, alienation, and damage to relationships and the integrity and well-being of others. They constantly use people in devious ways, and invariably deny their motives and the unpleasant effects upon others. Narcissists have confounding and appalling obsession to blame others for what they themselves have done. A psychological term for this is projection. This is denial at its craftiest, and it is infuriating (again, think Trump).

When dealing with and referring to people who thought too highly of themselves, a dear friend of mine use to quip. “I’d like to buy you for what you’re really worth, and sell you for what you think you’re worth.

We can shake our heads in disbelief or disgust at narcissism, and we can mock this condition with humor. However, don’t underestimate the dire danger of narcissism as the disorder affects all those who come into contact with the narcissist. Narcissists cannot have good relationships because they view others as opportunities to validate and gratify themselves. In psychoanalytic terms, they have poorly developed object relations. In plain language, this means that they cannot separate and distinguish between themselves and the legitimate perceptions, opinions, values, desires, and needs of others. What others experience (including hurt or neglect perpetrated by the narcissist) is blocked by the arrogant, center-stage prominence of the narcissist’s own needs.

Dealing With Narcissists

Because narcissists live in a bubble of self-absorption and denial, it’s very hard to break through their manipulations and defenses. Normal people (allowing for differences among individuals) have varying abilities to admit mistakes, acknowledge wrongdoing, apologize with sincerity, recognize their flaws and trespasses along with the negative impact upon others, and modify their behaviors to minimize the negative effects of selfishness. Not so with narcissists, as this is the core of their personality disorder.

It may be helpful to review the following guidelines in dealing with people you suspect of narcissism:

Expect self-centeredness and reality distortion

Because narcissists’ self-absorbed attitudes and responses are often provocative, it’s tempting to react with consternation, indignation, umbrage, and the like. However, if you keep your dismay and outrage to yourself, you’ll be in a better position to question the behaviors with a strategy of setting limits. Instead of expressing your emotional reactions to narcissistic self-centeredness, practice the strategies listed below.

Refrain from demonstrative emotional reactions

Tie responses to facts, evidence, and questions

When faced with narcissists’ bold claims, quietly question the bases for such statements. Or, just ignore them. For example, someone may proudly announce, “These people don’t know how to drive. I happen to be one of the best drivers on the road.” You could say, “ I guess so. But there is the issue of your three moving violations and numerous parking tickets.” Or, you could just let it go, and smirk to yourself.

Sometimes, simply questioning the basis for outrageous statements is enough to slow down the narcissist’s bluster. Remember Trump’s tirades about how he “knows more about Isis than any general in the military,” and his defiant complaint that he is “the victim of the greatest witch hunt in history”? There is no shutting down such an ego. However, one might ask, “Where did you acquire your military knowledge, and why were you not consulted and solicited before you became president?”

Please give us some details about the other witch hunts against which you compare your own alleged persecution.”

And don’t expect an intelligent and coherent response to your questions!

Preface accountability and confrontations with acknowledgment and legitimate praise

Narcissists perceive questions, challenges, and alternate opinions—even facts—as threats to and defamation of their integrity. Therefore, it’s helpful to preface and intersperse your messages of accountability with reasonable and relevant praise toward the person whom you’re trying to get to really listen to you. Even appealing to their putative sense of discernment and justice may get you farther along on your attempts to bring reality into the conversation.

When I deal with pie-in-the sky people who live inside dreams inflated by their own sense of self-worth and entitlement, I find it prudent to ask, “I understand that, given your abilities and track record (?!), you expect this to work out as you’ve favorably planned…, but because you are smart, have you formulated an alternative scenario and plan?”

Set boundaries and repeat if-then consequences as they pertain to the narcissist’s behaviors

Inevitably, narcissists repeatedly step on the toes of others. Their transgressions may be verbal and/or they may take vindictive actions (hello again, Mr. Trump). Their self-aggrandizement can make it hard to keep a straight face; or, their attitude of entitlement may carry implicit threats for noncompliance or resistance. (Harvey Weinstein got away with his egregious behavior in large part due to his political and economic influence, much of which he wielded against much less powerful women. When he ultimately confronted a woman who was formidable and courageous, she pulled the plug, and the dirty slimy water that had accumulated in the bathtub over the decades slurped down the drain. Harvey was left sitting naked and shivering in his own filth.)

Granted, it’s not for individuals to take on the President of the United States. But the collective violations and outrage are propelling Trump to his comeuppance. Kudos to the brave people who have spoken the truth and challenged Trump, even at risk to their own reputations and careers! That takes integrity, confidence, and courage!

And Harvey? My old friend, your bullying and predation have ironically transformed the zeitgeist. Your secret life of lust, aggression, and intimidation now exposed has caused trauma and harm—shame on you! However, the notoriety has caused a groundswell of indignation, objection, and cries for justice. You have become the agent of change, long overdue.

The message is clear: If you abuse or intimidate women, it will come to light and you will pay.

Solicit commitments, promises, and contracts in writing

Remember that, as part of their sense of entitlement, narcissists do not hesitate to change the rules—including their agreements, commitments, promises, and respect for others’ needs—when it suits their purposes. Therefore, it’s wise to make a habit of solidifying commitments and promises in writing, with dates and signatures if possible. Though the self-entitled may scoff and sneer at such requests, pretend you are prone to mistaking the details, since your memory might not be as good as theirs (!) and remind them of the pithy saying, Black and white on paper is a lot clearer than the gray matter of the brain.

In other words, play dumb, like a fox. The narcissist may pity you and indulge you.

At the very least, keep your own meticulous records with details of words, actions, and dates. E-mails and texts establish a continual, accessible, and practical audit trail, useful for holding the narcissist accountable, especially when deception and conflict arise.

Be prepared for breaches of trust, intimacy, and fidelity

Precautions and attentiveness notwithstanding, you cannot change the basic flawed character of the narcissist. That’s not to say that people don’t change. Life experience, traumas, pain, and consequences are all great teachers. They even teach to the seemingly robust and impregnable bravado of narcissists (and, at best, it takes awhile). In his own way and with his own timing, God chips away at the lives and consciences of the foolish and hurtful. At his own discretion, he causes miracles to happen.

But the very nature of narcissism attacks trust, empathy, and consideration. Don’t be surprised when the narcissist (repeatedly) violates boundaries, flaunts rules, and sabotages trust, intimacy, and even your own faith. Remain loving, but be cautious and be prepared. Your sensitivity and good intentions are no match for the power of narcissism. Engaging in an argument or a major adversarial battle with a narcissist can be akin to stepping into the ring with a mixed martial arts fighter. No holds are bared. Be prepared for the unexpected. Be on guard. Protect yourself at all times. Expect hyperbole, manipulated facts, concocted falsehoods, inconsistencies, and outrageous lies. It’s all part of the package.

Narcissism’s Dire Consequences

Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein are but two notorious narcissistic icons—caricatures writ large in a field of opportunism. Their transgressions leave us aghast, wondering how such egregious behavior could have escalated and continued.

Surely, someone like Weinstein, if indicted and convicted of a crime or crimes in a court of law, must be thwarted and punished. Trump is a much more complex matter involving political and constitutional issues that are still in the process of unfolding. However, the important take-home message is that there are many like them—young, old, male, female, prominent, less significant—who foist their attitudes and perpetrations upon the unsuspecting and vulnerable, the psychologically and experientially less sophisticated, and those with fewer defenses and resources.

Narcissists may be overtly offensive, or they may be furtive and wily—sheep in wolves’ clothing. In a culture that has inveterately promoted self-centeredness and a “me-first” value system, narcissists may seem to embody the cultural virtues, to blend in and prevail over the competition. But you will recognize them by their intransigence and lack of compassion for the basic welfare and psychological well-being of others. As legends in their own mirrors (or pools, as with the Greek Narcissus), they deem themselves the only ones who matter.

As a society, we should focus attention on identifying, dissuading, and modifying the development of narcissistic character. Respect for women—pervasive societal, legal, accommodating respect—is surely a good place to start. We are beginning to painfully learn those lessons.

But the battle against misogyny is not enough. Parents must teach their children that the world does not “owe” them. The government should provide more than minimal education and health care—service, schooling, and training that focuses on character development and resources for the ravages of character failure, including disorders of emotional bonding, anxiety, depression, trauma, and the depredations of addiction.

We need to return to God, individually and collectively. Each of us determines our own personal relationship with or abandonment of our Creator. Religion should not be forced. But spiritual living should be foundational and institutionally encouraged. The development of the soul and its conscience and compassion is incompatible with the “me-first” ethos that culturally reinforces narcissism.

When tragedy strikes, we become voracious Monday morning quarterbacks. We scrutinize the history of assassins and predators, looking for clues that should have exposed them earlier. However, social autopsies on misfits will not relieve us of the larger problem, nor will those efforts alone avert the perverse development of unhealthy, megalomaniac egos.

We must become a society, through and through, that values humility and teaches people, rank and file, to put others first. Against such a social norm, the Trumps and Weinsteins will identify themselves early as faulty people who need discipline, correction, and guidance to develop true and healthy self-love.

Narcissism may never be eliminated, for we are a prideful and sinful species. With regard to selfish insensitivity, some are given to robust excess, even to the point of outright cruelty. Recoil as we might from Trump and Weinstein, we should learn that we need to expose them earlier in order to prevent the devastating potential of narcissism from exerting its will.

Farewell to the Harvey I Knew

We can’t live in the past. The Harvey Weinstein I knew nearly a half century ago has gone his own way, as have I.

In college, you looked up to me, Harvey. In your desperate neediness, you couldn’t see through my pretense, my needing to appear hip and avant-garde. If I’d had your talents, Harvey, perhaps I would have gone much farther astray than I did. Money and fame eluded me, but I guess I was luckier than you. And life did not let me get away with what, in my insouciant arrogance and ambition, I secretly wanted to.

If we could have coffee, I’d share with you some of the ordeals that happened in my life, what I’ve learned and about the people who taught me. Despite many setbacks and traumas, I’ve been fortunate. I have loved and been loved. Women have been great teachers to me, some intimate, some maternal, and many have been platonic, wonderful influences. I have learned to respect women and to not take advantage of them. Except for my wife, I regard them as sisters, mothers, and daughters. I treat them with biblically directed protection, respect, and deference. I joke (respectfully) about the differences between men and women. I note with professional acumen the stereotypes that frequently characterize the brains and demeanors of the two sexes. I’ve written a book about this, too, aimed at improving harmony and satisfaction in marriage relationships.

With maturity, I have more confidence and less need to prove myself or be the center of attention. I’m more able to appreciate the difficulties women have in a male-dominated world. I’m grounded enough to speak up and to model for males how to respect, value, protect, and share equally with females.

With God’s help and the stringent sanctions of many people who knocked me off my self-constructed pedestal and put me in a proper place, I’ve tamed most of my narcissistic tendencies.

The Harvey Weinstein I knew has grown and devolved. Farewell naïve and callow college buddy. I still recognize you, Harvey; beneath the atrocities, there is a boy, now a man, desperate for satisfying love. I hope this is God’s way of teaching you how to find it.

— Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.