Feb 23

“The Devil Wears Prada”: Is Your Boss a Narcissist? Psychopath?

Is your boss a narcissist? Well, does his or her behavior resemble that of fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the demonic boss in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)? Because almost everyone seems to believe she’s a really good example of a narcissist.

Marco R. della Cava, USA Today, writes about asking Dr. Paul Babiak, co-author of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, about the Priestly character“As the ability to diagnose psychopathic behavior has improved, we find there are more women who fit this profile,” he states.

So, then, perhaps she’s a psychopathic narcissist? A narcissistic psychopath? A psychopath who’s also a narcissist? This sort of parsing is precisely what the DSM folks have grappled with. (See Charles Zanor, “A Fate That Narcissists Will Hate: Being Ignored”).

But, do we really care that much about how to diagnose Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? We’re more concerned with whether your own boss is a narcissist and/or psychopath.

Andrea, Anne Hathaway‘s character, does, of course, wind up experiencing the misfortune of getting hired after all. And of course is wildly mistreated by boss Priestley.

If you are unlucky enough to have a boss who’s a bully or a manipulator or a puppetmaster, these just happen to be the three types of psychopaths Babiak and Robert Hare, authors of Snakes in Suits, believe exist. Constructive advice is provided in the book about how to deal with them.

Below are selected quotes from Snakes in Suits:

When dramatic organizational change is added to the normal levels of job insecurity, personality clashes, and political battling, the resulting chaotic milieu provides both the necessary stimulation and sufficient “cover” for psychopathic behavior.

Rapid business growth, increased downsizing, frequent reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures have inadvertently increased the number of attractive employment opportunities for individuals with psychopathic personalities.

Companies are very pragmatic and respond to information about behaviors relevant to the work at hand rather than subjective feelings about another person.

Even in the face of contrary evidence, the psychopath can lie so well that listeners doubt themselves first, rather than question the psychopath.

Another characteristic of psychopaths is an ability to avoid taking responsibility for things that go wrong; instead, they blame others, circumstances, fate, and so forth.

In psychopaths’ mental world people do not exist except as objects, targets, and obstacles.

The real problem for others is when narcissistic features, especially a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy, shade into antisocial and destructive behaviors. When this happens, the pattern might be described as aggressive or malignant narcissism, which is difficult to distinguish from psychopathy.

Mar 21

Narcissism As a Trait Versus Disorder

Several notable books take on the type of narcissism that doesn’t necessarily qualify as a personality disorder but is actually a relatively common personality trait in its own right.

I. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2009) by Drs. Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell 

Twenge: “Narcissism is an inflated sense of self. It is thinking that you are better than you actually are. It is a complicated trait with lots of different correlates to it, but it does include things like seeking fame, attention, vanity, and so on. However, its main characteristic is its self-centeredness.”

The authors address such questions as, how is narcissism not just high self-esteem? One main difference between a diagnosable narcissist and someone with narcissistic traits, they say, is that a narcissist lacks the ability or interest in nurturing his or her relationships.

Other “signs of narcissism” according to Twenge:

  • Overconfidence
  • Being delusional about one’s own greatness
  • Over-optimism
  • Taking too many risks
  • An inflated, unrealistic sense of self
  • Alienation from other people
  • Entitlement, the expectation of having things handed to you without much effort
  • Not caring about others.

II. Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad–and Surprising Good–About Feeling Special (2015) by Craig Malkin

Rethinking Narcissism is about de-pathologizing the term. “The truth is,” states the book blurb, “that narcissists (all of us) fall on a spectrum somewhere between utter selflessness on the one side, and arrogance and grandiosity on the other. A healthy middle exhibits a strong sense of self. On the far end lies sociopathy.”

Although Malkin has a self-test on his website, psychologist Leon F. Seltzer (Psychology Today) says the longer book version of Malkin’s test is “alone worth the price of the book.”

If you’d like a deeper sense of Malkin’s views on related topics, the following articles will help:

III. Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, and Ours by Nancy Van Dyken (September 12, 2017)

In an interview with Psychology Today, author Van Dyken defines “everyday narcissism” as “a low-grade, garden-variety form of narcissism that most of us struggle with, often on a daily basis.” Reports Publishers Weekly, “everyday narcissism” includes “the resulting passivity, inability to discuss emotion, and self-denial” that arises from being taught certain myths from an early age.

These five myths have been typically handed down from one generation to another and are as follows:

  • We are responsible for—and have the power to control—how other people feel and behave.
  • Other people are responsible for—and have the power to control—the way we feel and behave.
  • The needs and wants of other people are more important than our own.
  • Following the rules is also more important than addressing our needs and feelings.
  • We are not lovable as we are; we can only become lovable through what we do and say.

One of Van Dyken’s various recommendations is to learn how to say no, which in her work as a therapist is “one of the hardest pieces of homework I give to people.” Her advice will go something like this: “I’d like you to say ‘no, that won’t work for me’ three times this week.” As she recently related to Mike Zimmerman, tonic.vice.com, “It might take someone 3 months to learn how to do that.”

Mar 19

“Oz the Great and Powerful” As Narcissist In Growth Process

Today’s number one box-office hit Oz the Great and Powerful is a “prequel” to the classic The Wizard of Oz. It’s about how the Wizard actually gets to Oz in the first place.

In clinical social worker Eleanor Payson‘s book The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family (2002), she “illustrates how Dorothy’s journey captures all the seductive illusions and challenges that occur when we encounter the narcissist.”

The following excerpt from the first chapter of Payson’s book describes some of the signs of NPD, or narcissistic personality disorder:

Unhealthy narcissism is occurring when an individual excessively pursues admiration, attention, status, understanding, support, money, power, control, or perfection in some form. It also means that the NPD person is not able to recognize, other than superficially, the feelings and needs of others. The rules of reciprocity are not operating in the relationship. This is not to say that NPD individuals don’t often shower others with attention, gifts, or favors. Indeed, they often do. But the ultimate goal is always for some kind of return. The giving may be to foster a certain image or an overall feeling of indebtedness in you, such as an IOU note to be called in at some other time. You, of course, would rather believe you received the gift because you are cared for and valued.

A passage from Payson’s book that further describes how the narcissist uses manipulation to get his or her needs met:

The narcissist has learned that other people do not always do his bidding or meet his demands in the way he expects. He has, therefore, developed manipulation skills, sometimes deceitful, to achieve his goals. Sometimes these skills are a highly developed ability to charm and bring others under his spell or influence.

Other times, he may be exceptionally good at using intimidation, power plays, or intellectual prowess. Yet another style is the martyr manipulation of using helplessness, obligation, or guilt. In many ways, the narcissist has assessed, with considerable skill, the vulnerabilities of another person. He then effectively manipulates this person until he achieves his desired outcome.

The Wizard in Oz the Great and Powerful

As played by James Franco, Wizard-to-be Oscar Diggs is a magician from Kansas who wants to be not a “good man” but “a great man.” Unfortunately, Franco’s performance and/or suitability for the role has been widely criticized.

Yes, Some Viewers Do Indeed Find the Narcissism

IGN: “Diggs is a dangerously irresponsible narcissist at the start of the film and his journey is to become a leader that the people of Oz can believe in. It is less about him being powerful, or great as he imagined greatness to be (full of pomp and fame), and more about him being man enough to give the citizens of Oz the confidence to fight for themselves.”

1amgeek: “Oz the magician is a con-man who has tangoed with one too many women in his time, which has put him on the run, landing him smack dab in the middle of Oz, a land which just so conveniently is named after him. Oz The Great and Powerful follows this man’s journey from narcissistic ninny to the good man he never thought he was.”

It’s been suggested by some that Diggs’s less appealing traits are more tolerable by the end because of his eventual growth into a somewhat better human being.