I apologize in advance. This post is going to be weird. My only purpose is to encourage you to read an article that was published yesterday by The Atlantic, which I have read and admired for many decades.
The article is not short, but it’s important. If you’re ready to read it, don’t bother wasting any more on my summary of it or quotations from it below. Just click that link and feel to come back here afterwards if you want to comment.
The article was written by George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. George Conway argues that a very, very famous individual, who holds a very high position in in the U.S. government, suffers from mental/psychological disorders so serious that it would dangerous to the point of foolhardy to allow this individual to continue to bear the responsibilities and exercise the powers of that high office.
Conway knows the individual well, and in addition has studied up on the psychological disorders in question, most especially “narcissistic personality disorder,” which Conway also refers to as “pathological narcissism.”
You may think I’m being cute here by not mentioning the name. Maybe so. But unlike Conway, I have not met the person involved, nor studied the psychological disorders to which Conway refers. He knows the person and, although he is an attorney, not a psychiatrist, he has obviously studied to understand how psychiatry defines these disorders. Conway concludes that this person suffers from “extreme” or “pathological” narcissism. He writes:
The DSM-5 describes its conception of pathological narcissism this way: ‘The essential feature of narcissistic personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.’ The manual sets out nine diagnostic criteria that are indicative of the disorder, but only five of the nine need be present for a diagnosis of NPD to be made. Here are the nine:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
Requires excessive admiration.
Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes…
Conway also quotes from a book by Justin A. Frank, a former clinical professor of psychiatry and physician, who wrote a book about this person’s psychology. To wit: His “mental state,[Frank wrote], “include[s] so many psychic afflictions” that a “working knowledge of psychiatric disorders is essential to understanding [him].”
Indeed according the psychiatrists quoted in Conway’s piece, the larger diagnosis can consist of combinations of four specific problems, “narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism” in any combination, but the individual in question exhibits all four.”
Conway also cites a piece published in May in in USA Today by Psychologist John Gartner, the founder of an organization called Duty To Warn, referring to the various psychological issues troubling the individual in question: “There are a lot of things wrong with him—and, together, they are a scary witch’s brew.”
The name of Gartner’s organization refers to the obligation that the law imposes upon a party who has the opportunity to warn other of a hazard, but and failed to do so.