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 ambition—was 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.
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.
which which way these people are55:55thinking and why they think yeah welland bad as that is and rife withconflict as that is the alternative isto separate as you pointed out into twocamps that don’t talk yes and the thingis the the consequence of not talking isthat you fight that that’s the end gamebecause the only way you can stop fromfighting with other people is bynegotiating with them and you know oneof the things that’s also interestingand this is partly why Silicon Valleyleans to the left is that a fair bit ofyour political preference is determinedby your biological temperament it’s astrongly influenced so if you’re acreative type who’s kind of disorderlythen you’re likely to be on the liberalleft end of the distribution and ifyou’re a non creative type who’s orderlyand and especially if your orderly thenyou tend to be on the right-wing end ofthings and so and well why is that whydo those variations exist well theyexist because some of the time your beststrategy is to do what other people havedone and shut the hell upand just do it run the algorithm writethe pathways already laid clear it worksstay in the damn rut and move forwardokay so that’s the conservative approachand when things are going right it’s theright approach the problem is is thatsometimes it’s not the right approachbecause something is shifted and sosomething new has to emerge and so thenthere’s a bunch of people who areadapted to the new and those are theentrepreneurial and creative types andof course they dominate Silicon Valleybecause it’s a very entrepreneurial it’sa very entrepreneurial what would youcall it geography and so they’re gonnalean to the left but they have tounderstand people have to understandthat the left and the right need eachother the Liberals and the Conservativesneed each other liberals start companiesconservatives run them and the problemwith the Conservatives is well they canonly run a company in one directionbecause they’re conservative they don’tthink outside the box but so if thecompany is working in the product lineis good and everystable like hire some conservativesbecause they’ll maximize efficiency andthen move down that track but if thetrack is no longer going in a gooddirection because something’s change theenvironments change well then you gottabring in the creative people and so weneed each other and the only way that wecan survive the fact that we’redifferent and the fact that we need eachother is by continually talking theyhave talked constantly it’s like wellhow much of what we’re doing should wepreserve versus how much of what we’redoing should we transform and the answeris we don’t know because the environmentkeeps changing so what do we do about58:26of so there’s this theory it’s a lovelytheory that’s laid out right at thebeginning of the Bible that says thatif you tell the truth you transform thepotential of being into a habitableactuality that’s how it works so we saywell how do you want it how do you makethe world better tell the truth becausethe world you bring into being as aconsequence of telling the truth will bea good world and I believe that’s true Ithink it’s true metaphorically I thinkit’s true theologically and I think it’strue like at the practical andscientific level as well I think it’strue and all those levels simultaneouslyso that’s been ridiculously exciting tojust sort through I think this notionand one of the things you said that Ithink really resonates is that there’snot a voice out there that is advocatingfor responsibility and that is talkingabout how important this is and I thinkthis is an inherent principle that mostpeople are kind of aware of and it feelsgood to them to hearI get resonates so you feel it you youwhen you when you’re saying this cleanyour room you know put your house inorder like yeah yeah how come I’m nothearing this right I’m not hearing thiswell it’s so funny because one of thethings psychologists have done for thelast 20 years especially the socialpsychologist has pushed this idea ofself-esteem you should feel good aboutyourself and I think why would you tellsomeone 20 that it’s like you shouldfeel good about who you are it’s like noyou shouldn’t why should you feel goodabout who you are it’s like you shouldfeel good about who you could be that’sway better cuz you got sixty years toturn into who you could wait a minuteare you what your accomplishments are orare you dis individual going throughthis journey I mean I don’t think81:43there’s anything wrong with feeling good81:43about who you are as long as it’s81:46tempered by an understanding of81:47potential and what you have accomplished81:50versus what you can accomplish well I81:51think having confidence is a big part of81:54it it is it is and I’m not saying that81:55people shouldn’t have confidence but81:57like often you take young people say81:59there are sixteen to twenty two and82:00they’re not really feeling that good82:02about who they are right because their82:03life is chaotic and and disorder and82:05they don’t know where they’re going and82:06they don’t know which way is up a call82:08so there could be bad parenting going on82:12and I think that’s one of the reasons82:14why presen eights with people this idea82:15of be happy for you about who you are82:18right feel good about who you write but82:20but the thing is it has82:21to be stated with precision it’s like82:23yes it’s like Lucia you should treat82:26yourself as if you’re valuable82:28especially in the Ho’s Angela but you82:31should concentrate on who you should82:32become especially if you’re young and so82:34let’s say you’re miserable and82:35nihilistic and chaotic and depressed and82:37all of that now and you have your82:38reasons you know terrible parenting82:40abuse all of those things it’s like well82:42you should feel good about yourself it’s82:45like no no it’s it’s not it’s not the82:46right message is that it’s more like you82:50should understand how much potential82:52there is within you to set that straight82:54and then you should do everything you82:56can to manifest that in the world and it82:58will set it straight and that’s better83:00than self esteem it’s like you’re you’re83:02in a crooked horrible position okay fine83:04there’s a lot of suffering and pain83:05associated with that yeah you can’t just83:08feel good about that because it’s not83:09good but you can do something about it83:11you can genuinely do something about it83:13and I think all the evidence suggests83:15that that’s the case yes so I’m telling83:17telling young people look there’s no83:19matter how bad your situation is I’m not83:21gonna pretend it’s okay it’s not okay83:23it’s tragic83:24tainted with malevolence and some people83:27really get hurt by malevolent people83:28like you know terribly hurt sometimes83:30they never recover it’s really awful but83:33there’s more to you than you think and83:35if you stand up and face it with with83:37the positive with a with a noble vision83:40with discipline and intent you can go83:43far farther to overcoming it than you83:46can imagine83:47and that’s the principle upon which you83:49should predicate your behavior and I83:51think that one of the things that’s83:53really nice about being the clinical83:54psychologist is that this isn’t just83:56guesswork like one of the things we know83:58two things in clinical psychology one is84:01truthful conversations redeemed people84:03because if you come to a clinical84:05psychologist who’s worth is salt you’ll84:09have a truthful conversation the84:11conversation is well here’s what’s wrong84:13with my life and here’s what caused it84:16you know maybe it takes a year to have84:17that conversation and both of the84:19participants are doing everything they84:21can to lay it out properly here’s how it84:24might be fixed here’s what a beneficial84:26future might look like and so it’s a84:28completely honest conversation if it’s84:29working well and all that’s happening in84:32the conversation is that the two people84:33involved84:34are trying to make things better that’s84:36the goal let’s see if we can have a84:38conversation that will make things84:39better okay so we know that works it84:41does make things better and then another84:43thing we know is that well let’s say84:45there’s a bunch of things that you’re84:46afraid of that are in your way so you84:49have some vision about who you want to84:50be maybe you have to you know you want84:52to be successful in your career so you84:54have to learn to talk in front of a84:55group it’s like okay well you’re afraid84:57of that no wonder you don’t want to be84:59humiliated so okay so what do we do85:0193:51because sometimes you know you’re just93:53hopeful I would like a good thing to93:55happen it’s like yeah but you know I’d93:56like to drink half a bottle of whiskey93:58tonight – it’s like so which is it gonna94:00be well just being hopeful about the94:03future might not be enough but then you94:05think oh I see like there’s that little94:07hell thing that I outlined it’s waiting94:09for me and maybe I’m afraid of taking94:11the nips next step forward because it’s94:12demanding and challenging it’s like yeah94:14I’m afraid of that but I’m way more94:16afraid of where I might end up if Idon’t get my act together and peopleshould be that’s why their conceptionsof hell in so many religions it’s likehell is a real place whether it’seternal that’s a whole differentquestion whether it’s waiting for you inthe afterlife that’s a whole differentquestion but if you’ve never met anyonein Hell you haven’t lived very long youhaven’t had your eyes open yeah it’sundeniable that feeling of totalcomplete misery and deniable yeahespecially when it’s compounded by thefact that you know you did it toyourselfthat’s the real fun that’s the real funpart it’s like I’m having a bitch of atime and I richly deserve it97:11that’s that I have a chapter in there on97:13raising kids it says don’t like your97:15kids don’t let your kids do anything it97:17makes you just like them it’s like wellthat’s first predicated on theobservation that you’re quite a monsterand it would be better for your kids ifthey didn’t get on your bad side andlike again because I’m a clinicalpsychologist a monster why why do youuse that term because I’ve watchedfamilies like I’ve seen families whereit’s as if every single person in thefamily has their hands around the neckof the family member that’s close to97:39them and they’re squeezing but only97:41tight enough to strangle them in 2097:43years but you’re not always using it as97:45a pejorative you you you’ve also used it97:47you should become a monster you should97:48be a monster yeah but that’s that’s you97:52shouldn’t be it it shouldn’t be97:54accidental that’s the thing what97:57so what do you mean by monster then in a97:58positive sense like you feel a monster98:00oh that’s easy among a positive monster98:02is somebody who says no and means it98:04because when you say no what you mean is98:07there isn’t anything you can do to me98:08that will make me agree to do this why98:10is that a monster because you have to be98:11because no one will take you seriously98:13otherwise no one will take you seriously98:15like no means if you keep pushing this98:19something that you do not like will98:21happen to you that’s what no means you98:23don’t have any strength of character98:24unless you can put up a fight you know98:27and to be able to say no to something is98:29to be able to put up a fight so and you98:31can’t do that if you’re if you can be98:33pushed around you’ll just get argued98:34into submission or you’ll feel guilty98:36because you’re causing conflict or98:38something like that but isn’t there98:39confusion using those terms as a98:41positivism and a negative maybe there’s98:42another word instead of monster well98:44there is there is the potential there is98:47the potential for confusion you say well98:48is that something that can be I think98:51monster is a horrible thing I don’t98:52think of it as being like a wall like98:55someone who is just rock-solid in their98:58belief system and rock-solid and their99:01understanding when you fight someone99:03who’s formidable say what do you think99:05of the person that you’re fighting like99:07how would you characterize them they may99:09have a monstrous side because they can99:11think they can they can bring physical99:15substantial physical force to bear on99:18the situation and and be willing to do99:21it so they’re not naive and and harmless99:24by any stretch of the imagination right99:26they have a well-developed capacity formayhem they think well is that monstrousit’s like well I would say yes I wouldsay fierce fierce fine let’s go withthat yeah because someone who’s fierceand formidable it’s not necessarily amonster you know just I think of amonster as being just an awful person99:47who’s done awful things and just you99:49know okay well so fair enough well so99:52back to the back to this situation with99:54your kids while you definitely don’t99:56want to have your kids act in a way that99:57awakens your inner monster right let’s100:00put it that way and so you need to you100:02need to organize your family with a100:05certain amount of discipline and a100:06certain amount of structure so that you100:08get to do what you want which is back to100:10that100:10to the point that you made earlier so100:12that you’re happy to have your kids100:14around so that you won’t take revenge on100:15them and so you want to lay your life100:18out so that well so that it’s providing100:23you what you need to not be bitter and100:26to work for your best interests and for100:28the interests of everyone else that100:30would be lovely and I think it’s100:31attainable you know because the book is100:34very dark and and I’m a very dark guy in100:36some ways because I’ve looked at the100:38terrible things that people do to one100:39another that’s the fascinating way of100:41looking at you think you yourself as100:42dark as I don’t think of you as dark oh100:45that’s good100:45the more relevant thing is that I’vebeen studying these old stories thesearchetypal stories for a very longperiod of time and they have power theyreally have power and they manifestthemselves everywhere they manifestthemselves in movies and in books and Imean Harry Potter’s a mythological storyand it made Roland richer than the Queenof England you know these stories havepower and I was fortunate enough tostudy a large number of people largenumber of scholars who knew what thatpower was Carl Jung in particular and Icould make it more accessible to peopleand so that’s a big part of it but whatoverall significance of that is well Ijust it just leaves me speechless I meanthere’s Kathy Newman things a goodexample and I mean so many things havehappened I’ve got involved I’ve been ina scandal of some sort a serious scandalof some sort probably every three weeksfor a year and a half you know and thereare things that are just well the didJames tomorrow thing is a good exampleof that like that’s a big deal you knowthat that explosion that that thatemerged around him in the court casethat’s coming out of it it’s a big dealand this thing with Lindsay Shepard thatwas the worst scandal thathit a Canadian University and then therewas all the protests and and then therewas what happened with with channel 4the UK and it’s like I don’t know whatto make of itI don’t what what I’m trying to do ishave a good conversation when I come andtalk to somebody like you where we canhave a good conversation try not to say118:18anything stupid that’s really what I’m118:20trying to do is to not say anything118:22stupid that’s hard or too stupid yeah118:27yeah well didn’t it’s being high stakes118:28poker yeah you know for it’s not quite118:31so bad now because especially after what118:35happened with channel 4 and some118:36journalists like people have been trying118:38to take me out for quite a long time and118:39it’s not it isn’t working so far118:43actually you actually believe what118:45you’re saying and it actually makes118:46sense well you know that’s that’s it’s118:50not a bad start but it’s rare in this118:51world this is a especially in these118:53ideologically charged times yeah this118:56toxic tribalism that we keep bringing up118:58it’s well and I also decided like a long119:01time ago and and I I think this runs119:03through 12 rules for life is well I119:05believe that people’s decisions tilt the119:07world towards heaven or hell I think119:10there’s no more accurate way of119:11describing the consequences of each of119:14your decisions than that you face119:16potential that’s what you face that’s119:19what you face in the world is potential119:20it’s not Material reality it’s potential119:23and every decision you make you’re119:26deciding whether you want to make the119:27world better or worse and if you like119:30the ultimate better is heaven and the119:32ultimate worse is hell we know how to119:33make the world into hell we’ve done that119:36multiple times much of the 20th century119:38was that it’s like I looked it all out119:40and I thought okay I would rather that119:42the world didn’t degenerate into hell119:44and I understand why people wanted to119:46degenerate into hell they’re angry119:48they’re angry because they suffer they119:51suffer unfairly and they suffer because119:53people hurt them and so they think this119:56is a bad game I’m not going to help make119:58it better I’m angry I’m gonna make it120:01worse even that’s what the call of mine120:02kids did you know that’s what all the120:05mass shooters do they say to hell with120:06this I hate it120:08they’re so far behind the game they just120:09want to flip the table yeah yeah worse120:11than that they they want it120:12obliterate the game yes and they want to120:15do it with as much malice as possible120:17just to obtain revenge and I understand120:19that but I decided a long time ago that120:21I would rather not play that game I120:23think it I think that it’s possible that120:26we could make the world better I really120:28believe they leave that too so I think120:29well the so I’m I’m trying to tell120:32people look there’s more to you than you120:34think there’s more potential there’s120:36more than enough potential to go around120:38there’s definite suffering and120:40malevolence in the world we could fix it120:41you haven’t got anything better to do120:43that’s a very big point that there’s120:44more potential to go around talking120:46about more than people understand we’re120:47not gonna run now to put that no we’re120:49not and with this idea of the famine120:51thinking is one of the reasons why120:53people get upset at other people’s120:55success they think somehow another this120:57other person’s success takes something120:59away from them yep yeah well there’s and121:01it’s see the other thing too is that121:03I’ve realized that people actually act121:05like what they confront in the world is121:07potential it’s so funny because whatever121:09potential is it’s it’s not materially121:12measurable but if you tell someone121:13you’re not living up to your potential121:15they go it’s like well what is that121:18potential that you’re not living up to121:19and then when you say well there’s121:21potential in front of you you know that121:23you can walk out on the street and you121:25go right or left or straight ahead like121:27you’re facing this thing that isn’t121:29fully formed and you get to decide how121:32it’s going to form and you can make it121:36better and so my question is like the121:38world’s a rough place there’s no doubt121:39about it it’s a harsh place but myquestion is what would happen if westart making it worse how good could itbe if we stop making it worse and Idon’t know if there’s an upper limit tothat like it might be maybe we couldmake it really really really good whynot and we don’t have any better to dothan thatit’s like aim at heaven start at homeaim at heaven tell the truth let’s seewhat the hell happens you know like itis the case clearly on the facts of thematter in 20 years there wouldn’t haveto be a single person in the world thatwas hungry in 20 years we could get ridof the 5 biggest diseases that currentlyplague the planet we could straightenthings up and god only knows what thingscould be like that or we could let thewhole thing DJright into hell so in each of us ismaking that decision with each decisionthat’s the other thing that I’veunderstood so take your choice you wanthell are you want heaven if you pickhell just remember you knew what youwere doing when you picked it but nobodypicks hell yeah just sort of let itslide yeah but they do it because theyblind themselves you know you know whenyou do it you say oh yeah well you knowI let that slide then you and then youdon’t think about it it’s like you couldthink about it you could think about it123:02you could know but you don’t let123:04yourself know is any of this all the123:09pressure and the scandal every three123:10weeks is this this is it way on you is123:14it is it difficult how are you feeling123:18like when we’re not feeling strange123:20thing123:21yeah it’s like it’s like simultaneously123:23the worst possible thing and the best123:25possible thing that could happen well123:27financially it’s been a boom right yes123:30it’s which I mean the thing that I’ve I123:35shouldn’t say this but I’m going to123:37because it’s just so goddamn funny I123:38can’t help but say that I figured out123:40how to monetize social justice warriors123:42[Laughter]
Franco was an unauthorized immigrant who had been working in this country for over a decade. His wife, Anne, is from a Pennsylvania Dutch family that has been in this country for generations. They were married in 2013 and have three American children, Max, Javier and Valentina.
In the spring of 2017, Franco got in a minor traffic accident near his Pennsylvania home. A few weeks later as he was leaving for work, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement swarmed him, took him away and deported him to Guatemala.
.. This is an example of ICE going after a perfectly productive member of society. I got the anecdote from a series of reports that Deborah Sontag and Dale Russakoff did for ProPublica and The Philadelphia Inquirer. They found that 64 percent of the immigrants arrested by ICE in the agency’s Philadelphia region had no prior criminal conviction.
.. There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country. Every past administration has used some discretion in targeting whom to deport. They targeted those who were destroying society, not building it. They tried to take account of particular contexts, and they tried to show some sense of basic humanity.
.. today, discretion and humanity are being stamped out. The Trump administration has embraced a “zero tolerance” policy. In practice that means that all complexity has to be reduced to uniformity. Compassion is replaced by a blind obedience to regulations. Context is irrelevant. Arrests are indiscriminate. All that matters is that the arrest numbers go up, so human beings in the system are reduced to numbers.
.. The Trump administration immigration officials have become exactly the kind of monsters that conservatism has always warned against.
For centuries, conservatives have repeated a specific critique against state power. Statism, conservatives have argued, has a tendency to become brutalist and inhumane because a bureaucracy can’t see or account for the complexity of reality.
.. Statist social engineering projects cause horrific suffering because in the mind of statists, the abstract rule is more important than the human being in front of them. The person must be crushed for the sake of the abstraction... People like Stephen Miller are not steeped in conservative thinking and do not operate with a conservative disposition. They were formed by their rebellion against the stifling conformity they found at liberal universities. Their primary orientation is not to conservative governance but to owning the libs. In power they take the worst excesses of statism and flip them for anti-liberal ends.. Here’s how you can detect the anti-liberal trolls in the immigration debate: Watch how they use the word “amnesty.”.. Any serious reform has to grapple with tangled realities, and any real conservative has an appreciation for that complexity. But if you try to account for that complexity before an anti-immigration troll, he or she will shout one word: Amnesty!.. This is what George Orwell noticed about the authoritarian brutalists: They don’t use words to illuminate the complexity of reality; they use words to eradicate the complexity of reality... Look at how the Republican candidates for the G.O.P. Senate nomination in Arizona answered questions about a provision to keep families together at the border. They responded with inhumane abstractions: “I try not to get swayed by what the emotions are or the pressure.. “Compromising on the rule of law to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is the wrong path to take,”.. “Amnesty” has become a club the trolls use in their attempt to stamp a rigid steel boot on the neck of the immigration debate. It’s the sign of a party slowly losing its humanity.
The obvious next move for the Master Persuader involves asking Pence to “evolve” to Trump’s positions on all LGBTQ matters. Everyone expects a VP to pretend to be a full supporter of the President’s policies. That gives cover for Pence to update his LGBTQ views because…
– Religious conservatives will dismiss it as mere politics, believing Pence privately holds views that match their own.
– Anti-Trumpers will see a major violation of the monster frame.
.. He has lots of levers. Expect him to push one lever after another until the monster framing cracks. By summer the story will be that he’s the most flexible and centrist president in our history.
.. It is worth noting that Trump and Clinton had very different unframing challenges. If Clinton had won, her job would have been to convince the public she isn’t crooked. But you can’t do that simply by doing some honest things in public. We expect that even crooked people do honest things when watched. Clinton literally had no path to remove her “crooked” label.
.. In summary, you can’t prove you are honest by NOT stealing something in public. But you can prove you are not a monster by saving a kitten from a tree in public.
Thanks to timely assists from Wikileaks, Trump has successfully framed Hillary clinton as a crooked politician. Meanwhile, Clinton has successfully framed Trump as a dangerous monster. If the mainstream polls are accurate, voters prefer the crook to the monster. That makes sense because a crook might steal your wallet but the monster could kill you. As of today, Clinton has the superior persuasion strategy. Crook beats monster.
.. The biggest illusion this election is that we think the people on the other side can’t see the warts on their own candidate. But I think they do. Clinton supporters know she is crooked, but I think they assume it is a normal degree of crookedness for an American politician. Americans assume that even the “good” politicians are trading favors and breaking every rule that is inconvenient to them.
.. Likewise, Trump supporters know what they are getting. They know he’s offensive. They know he’s under-informed on policies. They know he pays as little in taxes as possible. They know he uses bankruptcy laws when needed. They know he ignores facts that are inconvenient to his message. They just don’t care. They want to push the monster into Washington D.C., close the door, and let him break everything that needs to be broken. Demolition is usually the first step of building something new. And Trump also knows how to build things when he isn’t in monster mode.
.. If Trump gets elected, and he does anything that looks even slightly Hitler-ish in office, I will join the resistance movement and help kill him. That’s an easy promise to make, and I hope my fellow citizens would use their Second Amendment rights to rise up and help me kill any Hitler-type person who rose to the top job in this country, no matter who it is.