The “Dark Triad” is a term in psychology that refers to a trio of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. These traits are considered “dark” because of their malevolent qualities—namely, they are associated with a callous-manipulative interpersonal style.
Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, egotism, and a lack of empathy. It’s derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a man who fell in love with his reflection. In a psychological context, narcissism ranges from healthy self-esteem to a pathological level where it can be the full-blown personality disorder NPD and have a great impact on relationships and quality of life.
A hallmark of pathological narcissism is the constant need for admiration and a sense of entitlement. While a certain degree of narcissism may be essential for healthy self-confidence, its extreme can lead to destructive behavior both to the narcissist and to those around them.
Machiavellianism is named after the philosophy espoused by Niccolò Machiavelli, a Renaissance-era political philosopher who argued that deceit and manipulation were effective in politics. This trait is characterized by a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. It’s not an officially recognized personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but it is widely recognized in the field of psychology. People high in Machiavellianism are often adept at controlling others and tend to prioritize their interests over morals or societal rules.
Psychopathy is perhaps the most dangerous trait of the Dark Triad. It is often associated with a deficit in affective (emotional) responses and a lack of empathy. Psychopaths may exhibit antisocial behavior, diminished capacity for remorse, and poor behavioral controls. It’s important to note that while psychopathy is not a formal diagnosis in the DSM, its behaviors are often associated with antisocial personality disorder. Psychopaths are typically impulsive and thrill-seeking, they may be charming and intelligent, which masks their inability to form genuine emotional bonds.
Each of these traits exists on a spectrum, and all individuals may exhibit these traits to some degree. It’s the extreme manifestations and the presence of all three traits in an individual that become particularly problematic. The Dark Triad has been a subject of significant research, especially in occupational and social psychology, due to its implications for workplace behavior, relationship dynamics, and social harmony.
Individuals with these traits may be drawn to certain professions or social situations that allow them to exert power or control over others. In the workplace, for example, Dark Triad traits may be beneficial to some extent for individuals in high-level management positions or in industries where cutthroat tactics are common. However, these traits can also lead to toxic work environments, unethical behavior, and organizational dysfunction.
The Dark Triad can also affect interpersonal relationships. Individuals with high levels of these traits may be charismatic and engaging initially, but their relationships are often superficial and plagued by manipulation and conflict. Their lack of empathy can result in the callous treatment of others and a focus on short-term relationships that serve their needs.
Made and Born
Research on the Dark Triad is extensive and has explored the biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to these traits. Some studies suggest that there are genetic predispositions for these traits, while others point to environmental factors such as childhood experiences. It’s likely a combination of both. The expression of these traits is also influenced by cultural and societal norms; what may be considered assertive or ambitious behavior in one culture could be viewed as aggressive or unethical in another.
Understanding the Dark Triad is important not just for psychologists and mental health professionals, but also for individuals in managerial roles, human resources, and those involved in policy-making. By recognizing these traits, it is possible to develop better screening tools for positions that require high ethical standards and to create interventions that may mitigate the impact of these traits in various settings.
The Dark Triad encompasses three interrelated personality traits that have significant implications for individual behavior and social interactions. While these traits are part of the human personality spectrum, their dark aspect lies in their potential to harm individuals and society when present in high levels. Understanding and addressing the Dark Triad traits can lead to healthier social environments, more ethical workplaces, and overall improved wellbeing.
Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, encompassing a wide array of topics such as mental processes, emotions, cognition, development, personality, and social interactions. It seeks to understand how individuals think, feel, and act, both individually and in groups.
It fascinates me endlessly and — because you’re here! — I am guessing it fascinates you too.
They think of themselves as special; chosen; beyond the fray — rules do not generally apply to them, but oh do they ever to you. They tend to see the world in black and white terms, a Manichaean struggle of hierarchy vs. fairness, with strict social status to abide by and perpetuate — a world of dominance and submission, with themselves at the top.
The higher on the Cluster B scale you go (with psychopathy at the top), the less empathy these individuals possess. Without empathy, there is no basis for forming a conscience. One could say the classic defining hallmark of this group of personality disorders is that the people exhibiting them have little to no conscience. The general consensus from research to date indicates that somewhere between 4-8% of the general population has very weak or no conscience at all — a scary figure when you think of it in terms of being about 1 in 15 of the people you will meet in your lifetime.
Cluster B includes:
Narcissism — This is the root trait of all the Cluster B personality disorders. We all exhibit narcissism to some degree, and it’s a large part of childhood and teen development to learn how to balance it with sociality. As with all life skills, some develop it more or less well — and if the narcissistic phase is never fully outgrown, adults can be emotionally immature in surprising and at times dangerous ways thanks to a kind of profound psychological arrested development. When the self-absorption is so severe as to profoundly disturb aspects of their lives, that is when clinicians might say a person has a narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD. There are several types of narcissism, including covert narcissism and malignant narcissism. Park of the dark triad in psychology, narcissism is often found in conjunction with two other malevolent personality traits: psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
Borderline — Perhaps best known culturally from the movie Girl, Interrupted (1999), borderline personality disorder of BPD is characterized by intense mood swings, impulse behavior, fear of abandonment, unstable self-image, dissociation, and self-harm. One way to think of BPD is as a sort of failure to form an integrated personality.
Histrionic — The least well-known of Cluster B, histrionic personality is extremely dramatic and over the top, well out of proportion to the magnitude of events or circumstances. They have an overwhelming desire to be noticed, and will behave extremely or inappropriately to get attention.
Sociopath — Sociopathy takes narcissism and adds more sadism into the mix. A narcissist could hurt you and not really care either way, while a sociopath will derive from pleasure from it and often go out of his or her way to cause harm for the purpose of reaping that enjoyment. Though not as unfettered as psychopaths, sociopaths can be prone to violence and criminality at the worst, and are commonly cruel and mean-spirited at best.
Psychopath — The psychopath is the scariest of the Cluster B bunch. Unbelievably horrific folks like Ted Bundy and Hannibal Lecter were almost certainly psychopathic — committing horrific and murderous crimes that have shocked generations in their brutality and stomach-churling details.
Common traits and behaviors:
Projection— blaming others for your own misdeeds. Projection involves attributing one’s own undesirable thoughts, feelings, or motives to another person. It serves as a defense mechanism to avoid confronting or accepting these aspects in oneself.
Scapegoating — blaming the wrong party for a transgression; scapegoating is the practice of unfairly blaming an individual or group for a problem or fault. It often serves to divert attention away from the real issue or to absolve the blamer of responsibility.
Gaslighting— a form of psychological manipulation where the perpetrator tries to make the victim doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. The aim is to gain control or induce confusion.
Stonewalling — refusing to speak or dilvulge information. Stonewalling involves refusing to communicate or cooperate, often in a relationship setting. It serves as a way to avoid conflict or evade responsibility, but it can be damaging to relational dynamics — and is prevalent in Cluster B.
Grandiosity; extremely high self-regard, often out of proportion to actual achievements. Grandiosity is an inflated sense of one’s own importance, skills, or achievements. Often seen in narcissistic personalities, it can manifest as excessive confidence, arrogance, or a belief in one’s own exceptionalism.
Splitting — the tendency to view people or situations as entirely good or entirely bad, with no middle ground. Common in borderline personality disorder, it can lead to unstable relationships and emotional volatility.
Black and white thinking — this cognitive distortion involves viewing situations in extreme, either/or terms. It lacks nuance, often categorizing things as good or bad, right or wrong, with no middle ground. This can limit one’s ability to see alternative perspectives.
Lying — the act of deliberately presenting false information as true. While it can serve various purposes, such as self-preservation or manipulation, it erodes trust and can have significant relational consequences.
Malignant envy — this virulent form of envy is destructive and stems from a desire not just to attain what another has, but also to deprive them of it. It can lead to harmful actions aimed at undermining the envied individual.
Denial — a psychological defense mechanism where one refuses to accept reality or facts, often to protect oneself from painful emotions or situations. It can be both conscious and unconscious. Common in all of us, it is often especially pronounced in Cluster B.
Narcissistic rage — triggered by perceived threats to self-esteem or self-worth, narcissistic rage is an intense, disproportionate anger often aimed at destroying the source of the threat. It can be overt or covert, involving passive-aggressive behavior.
Cruelty — causing physical or emotional harm to others, often deriving pleasure from their suffering. It’s an extreme form of antisocial behavior that can manifest in various ways, from verbal abuse to physical violence.
Bullying — a repeated, intentional act of aggression, often exploiting a power imbalance to intimidate or harm others. It can be physical, verbal, or relational, and occurs in various settings like schools, workplaces, and online.
Sadism — the act of deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, humiliation, or suffering on others. It can be psychological or physical and is considered a concerning trait when it leads to harmful actions.
Word salad— a jumble of words and phrases that lack coherent meaning. Often seen in severe mental disorders, it can also be used manipulatively to evade questions or confuse listeners.
Narcissism is a complex psychological construct that manifests in various forms, each with its own set of characteristics and implications. It actually refers to a range of conditions that fall under the umbrella of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) — which itself falls under the umbrella of Cluster B.
Grandiose narcissism is the most commonly recognized form — it’s the stereotype of what most people refer to when they think of a narcissist. Individuals with this type exhibit an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for excessive admiration. They often believe they are special and unique, deserving of special treatment. Their self-perception is rarely grounded in reality, leading them to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the contributions of others. This form of narcissism is usually quite visible and can be disruptive in both personal and professional settings.
In contrast to the grandiose type, vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and introverted. They still have a heightened sense of self-importance but are plagued by insecurity and a fear of rejection. Their narcissism serves as a defense mechanism to protect a fragile self-esteem. Unlike grandiose narcissists, they are not outwardly arrogant but may harbor secret fantasies of greatness that they fear will never be realized.
This is a severe form that combines traits of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggression, and sadism. Malignant narcissists are not just self-centered; they are also willing to manipulate or harm others to achieve their goals and often do so repeatedly. They lack remorse and are often deceitful, making them particularly dangerous in relationships and organizational settings.
Social psychologist Erich Fromm, who fled the Nazis in the 1930s, describes the Nazi “quintessence of evil” as an canonical case of malignant narcissism. They are among the most concerning members of Cluster B.
Also known as “closet” or hidden narcissism, this type is less obvious than the grandiose form. Covert narcissists often present as shy, reserved, or self-deprecating. However, they share the same sense of entitlement and lack of empathy as other types. Their narcissism is expressed in more subtle ways, such as passive-aggressiveness or quiet disdain for others.
This type is characterized by a grandiose sense of one’s own altruism. Communal narcissists believe they are the epitome of generosity and kindness. They seek admiration not for their looks or achievements but for their perceived selflessness. However, this is often a façade to garner praise and adoration.
This is not an individual trait but a shared belief within a group that they are exceptional or superior. It can manifest in various settings, from nationalistic fervor to corporate culture. Collective narcissism can be dangerous as it often leads to in-group favoritism and out-group discrimination.
Somatic narcissists are obsessed with their physical appearance or bodily achievements. They may spend excessive time and resources on grooming, exercising, or undergoing cosmetic procedures. Their self-worth is tied to their physicality, and they often seek sexual conquests to validate themselves.
Cerebral narcissists derive their sense of superiority from their intellect rather than their appearance. They consider themselves smarter than everyone else and seek to demonstrate this at every opportunity. They are often dismissive of others’ opinions and intolerant of intellectual disagreement.
This form manifests in the realm of spirituality or religion. Spiritual narcissists believe they have a direct line to a higher power and may consider themselves enlightened or morally superior. They use their spiritual beliefs to justify their actions, even when those actions harm others. Abusive priests and handsy preachers with large hard drives fall into this group.
A relatively new concept, eco-narcissists are individuals who flaunt their environmentally friendly lifestyle for the sake of appearing superior. Their primary concern is not the environment but the social capital gained from appearing conscientious.
Narcissism in politics & political ponerology — Karen Stenner, Bob Altemeyer, Hannah Arendt, Erich Fromm, Łobaczewski, etc.
Word salad is a term used to describe disorganized speech that can occur in various mental health conditions, including some personality disorders like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). In the context of NPD, word salad may not be as severe or disorganized as it is in conditions like schizophrenia, but it can still be difficult to follow and understand.
Word salad in NPD is characterized by a mix of unrelated or loosely related words, phrases, or ideas, which may be used to manipulate, confuse, or maintain control in a conversation. This type of speech may be a defense mechanism employed by someone with NPD to avoid responsibility, deflect criticism, or maintain their sense of superiority.
Word salad almost seems like a kind of pseudoscience or paleological babble that narcissists use to hold the floor with their own agenda, such that anyone who is trying to challenge them can’t even get a word in edgewise. It is a common tactic of emotional predators, who seek to disorient and confuse their targets in order to achieve their hidden agendas and goals.
Some common features of word salad in NPD include:
Tangential thinking: The person may go off on tangents, bringing up unrelated topics or ideas in an attempt to distract from the main point or issue at hand.
Circular reasoning: The person may engage in circular arguments, repeating the same points over and over without ever reaching a resolution or addressing the underlying problem.
Evasion: The person may use vague language, refuse to answer direct questions, or change the subject to avoid taking responsibility or admitting fault.
Gaslighting: The person may use word salad to make others doubt their own perceptions or understanding, in order to maintain control and avoid accountability.
It is important to note that not everyone with NPD exhibits word salad. However, when it does occur, it can be a source of frustration and confusion for those interacting with the individual. Effective communication with someone who engages in word salad may require patience, setting boundaries, and seeking support from a mental health professional.
Word salad in cults
Word salad can also be used as a tactic by cults and other high control groups to create confusion and maintain control over their members. This technique involves the use of jargon, ambiguities, and convoluted language that might sound profound but is ultimately meaningless or contradictory.
By employing such language, leaders can create an illusion of insight and wisdom, often leading members to believe they must align themselves closely with the group to understand its teachings fully. The confusion created by word salad can hinder critical thinking, making it difficult for members to question or challenge the group’s ideology or leadership. This method thus reinforces dependency and control, ensuring that members remain committed to the group’s principles and less likely to seek external perspectives. In the realm of manipulation, word salad is a subtle but potent tool for influencing thoughts and behaviors.
Know the cult warning signs, and keep an eye on the use of word salad jargon in potential groups you may be considering joining.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by (as the name implies) narcissism, including a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for others, and a need for admiration. People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are special or unique in some way. They may be preoccupied with fantasies of power, success, beauty, or ideal love. However, behind their grandiose façade, they often have fragile self-esteem and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection.
Lack of empathy, an inability to recognize or care about the feelings and needs of others.
Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of them.
Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
The symptoms of NPD may vary in intensity and presentation, but they are typically stable and longstanding. The condition may start in early adulthood and may be diagnosed only after adolescence, as it is difficult to differentiate between normal developmental narcissism and pathological narcissism in childhood.
NPD: Lack of empathy
People with NPD may have difficulty in maintaining close relationships because of their lack of empathy and preoccupation with themselves. They may feel entitled to special treatment and have unrealistic expectations of others. They may exploit others for personal gain and may become angry or hostile when their expectations are not met. Additionally, they may struggle with criticism or rejection and may react with rage or humiliation.
NPD is often co-occurring with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. It may also be comorbid with other personality disorders, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder, as individuals with BPD may exhibit traits of NPD, such as a need for attention and admiration.
Treatment for NPD often involves psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapies, which aim to explore the underlying psychological factors contributing to the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may also be effective in addressing maladaptive beliefs and behaviors associated with NPD. However, individuals with NPD may be resistant to therapy, as they may not recognize the need for treatment or may be unwilling to acknowledge their role in the dysfunction.
Types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Grandiose Narcissism: This form is characterized by arrogance, dominance, and a need for admiration. Individuals may appear self-confident and assertive but are often preoccupied with fantasies of success and power. This is the classic version of the narcissist that most people think of when they think of NPD.
Vulnerable Narcissism: Unlike the grandiose type, vulnerable narcissists are sensitive and insecure, often feeling unrecognized and inadequate. They may harbor intense envy and resentment towards others and are prone to feeling victimized.
Malignant Narcissism: Malignant narcissists combine aspects of NPD with antisocial behavior, aggression, and sometimes even sadism. This type can be dangerous, as they lack empathy and remorse and may exploit or manipulate others without concern.
Covert Narcissism: This type manifests as hidden or masked narcissism, where individuals may not outwardly display arrogance but still harbor grandiose fantasies and exhibit a lack of empathy. They often feel misunderstood and neglected, leading to passive-aggressive behavior.
Communal Narcissism: Communal narcissists see themselves as especially caring or altruistic, often emphasizing their contributions to others. However, these acts are driven by a desire for recognition and praise rather than genuine empathy or compassion.
Please note that narcissistic personality disorder is a complex and multifaceted condition, and these categories may overlap or manifest differently in each individual. If you have concerns about this disorder or would like more detailed information, consulting a mental health professional would be the appropriate step.
Covert narcissists, also known as closet or hidden narcissists, exhibit a more subtle and hidden form of narcissism. Unlike their overt counterparts, they tend to present themselves as modest, self-effacing, or even victimized. However, beneath this humble exterior lies an underlying sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and a constant need for attention and validation.
Key Traits of Covert Narcissists:
Insecurity: They often feel inadequate and may suffer from anxiety or depression.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior: Rather than being openly demanding, they may use subtler tactics to manipulate others.
Victim Mentality: They may cast themselves as the victim to gain sympathy and control others.
Sensitivity to Criticism: Even mild criticism can provoke intense reactions, as their self-esteem is fragile.
Chronic Feelings of Envy: They may resent others’ success or happiness and believe they are entitled to the same.
Comparing covert narcissists to other types
1. Overt Narcissists:
Overt narcissists are the opposite of covert narcissists. They are open and unabashed about their self-centered behavior, displaying arrogance and a sense of superiority or supremacy. Unlike covert narcissists, who may mask their true intentions, overt narcissists tend to be more transparent.
Overt narcissists are openly grandiose, while covert narcissists hide their grandiosity.
Overt narcissists seek attention directly, while covert narcissists manipulate subtly.
Description: This platform often features articles by mental health professionals that delve into various types of narcissism, including covert narcissism. It’s a great starting point for understanding the subject from a psychological perspective.
Description: Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive overview of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, including symptoms and treatments. While not specifically targeting covert narcissism, it gives an essential foundation on narcissistic behaviors.
Description: This resource is dedicated to helping victims of narcissistic abuse. Angie Atkinson, a certified life coach, offers various tools, including videos and articles, to understand and recover from covert narcissistic behavior.
Description: This podcast series by a professional therapist addresses issues related to narcissistic relationships, including covert narcissism. It offers insightful episodes that can be valuable for those dealing with covert narcissists in their lives.
Covert narcissism in a nutshell
Covert narcissists represent a unique and challenging form of narcissistic personality. They are adept at hiding their true intentions and can be difficult to identify, especially when compared to other, more overt forms of narcissism. Their passive-aggressive behavior and tendency to cast themselves as victims make them particularly insidious. Understanding the differences between covert and other types of narcissists can provide valuable insights into their behavior and help in recognizing and managing interactions with them.
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when an individual unconsciously attributes their own feelings, thoughts, or attributes to another person. Projection is a way for people to cope with and protect themselves from unwanted or uncomfortable emotions such as guilt, anger, or anxiety. In essence, psychological projection involves transferring one’s own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto someone else, as a means to avoid confronting or dealing with them directly.
Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, initially conceptualized projection as a defense mechanism. According to Freud, the mind has various ways to protect itself from psychological distress or anxiety, and projection is one of many methods. While Freud’s work laid the foundation for understanding projection, our understanding of the concept has evolved over time, with many modern psychologists examining its cognitive, social, and emotional aspects.
Several factors contribute to the likelihood of an individual engaging in psychological projection. These factors include personality traits, social and cultural influences, and situational factors. People who are more prone to projection often have a higher level of neuroticism or difficulty regulating their emotions. Social and cultural factors can also play a role, as people may be more likely to project certain emotions or traits onto others depending on societal norms and expectations. Situational factors, such as stress or emotional conflict, can further exacerbate the tendency to project.
Types of projection
There are various types of psychological projection, including:
Complementary projection: This occurs when an individual projects their own feelings or thoughts onto someone who has a complementary role in their life, such as a partner or coworker. This type of projection can often be seen in relationships, where one person may accuse their partner of being unfaithful when, in fact, they are the ones who are struggling with feelings of infidelity.
Complimentary projection: In this form of projection, an individual attributes positive qualities or traits that they themselves possess onto someone else. This may be done to reinforce a positive self-image or to maintain a sense of self-worth.
Projective identification: This is a more complex form of projection in which an individual not only attributes their own emotions, thoughts, or motives onto another person but also manipulates the other person into actually exhibiting those characteristics. This can be seen in interpersonal relationships where one person tries to control or manipulate the other to confirm their own beliefs or fears.
Collective projection: This occurs when a group of individuals projects their shared feelings, thoughts, or motives onto another group, often as a means of maintaining group cohesion or protecting the group’s image. This type of projection can be seen in situations of intergroup conflict, where one group might blame another for problems that actually stem from within their own group.
Negative consequences of projection
Psychological projection can have several negative consequences, both for the individual engaging in projection and for those on the receiving end. For the projector, it can prevent them from taking responsibility for their actions, feelings, or thoughts, thereby hindering their personal growth and emotional development. It can also distort their perception of reality, leading to poor decision-making and strained relationships.
For those on the receiving end, psychological projection can be confusing, hurtful, and damaging. It can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and emotional distress. Additionally, being subjected to projection can cause individuals to question their own reality and self-worth, potentially leading to feelings of self-doubt or depression.
Projection in politics
Politicians and their supporters often engage in projection as a way to deflect criticism, discredit opponents, and maintain a positive image of themselves or their party. Projection in politics can manifest in various ways, including the following:
Accusing opponents of misconduct: Politicians may accuse their opponents of engaging in unethical or illegal activities that they themselves are involved in, as a way to deflect attention from their own actions and create doubt about the opposition (classic example: when then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich waged a campaign against then-President Bill Clinton for having an affair, while he himself was having an affair with a Congressional aide on his staff).
Misattributing motives: Politicians might project their own motives or goals onto their opponents, suggesting that the other side is pursuing an agenda driven by selfish or malicious intent. This can be a way to delegitimize the opposition’s policy proposals or campaign messaging.
Stereotyping and scapegoating: Projection can also be seen in the form of stereotyping and scapegoating minority groups or other marginalized communities. Politicians may project their own insecurities, fears, bigotries, or prejudices onto these groups, blaming them for social or economic problems, as a way to rally support and distract from the real issues at hand.
Groupthink and collective projection: Political parties, factions, or movements may engage in collective projection, projecting their own faults or shortcomings onto rival groups. This can help maintain group cohesion and reinforce a shared identity, but it can also contribute to political polarization and conflict.
Projection in politics can have several negative consequences, including the distortion of facts and reality, the exacerbation of political polarization, and the perpetuation of stereotypes and prejudice. It can also hinder constructive dialogue and compromise, making it more difficult for politicians and policymakers to address pressing issues and find solutions to problems.
To counteract the influence of projection in politics, it is essential for individuals to remain vigilant and critically examine the claims and accusations made by politicians and political parties. Media outlets and journalists also play a crucial role in fact-checking and holding politicians accountable for their statements and actions. Encouraging open and honest dialogue, promoting empathy and understanding, and fostering critical thinking can help mitigate the impact of projection in the political arena.
Emotional blackmail is a manipulative tactic used by individuals to exert control and undue influence over others by exploiting their emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities. It typically involves the use of threats, guilt, or negative emotions to pressure someone into complying with the manipulator’s demands or desires.
Forms of emotional blackmail
Threats: The manipulator may threaten to harm themselves, the victim, or someone the victim cares about if their demands are not met.
Guilt-tripping: The manipulator may try to make the victim feel guilty for not complying with their wishes, suggesting that their refusal indicates a lack of love, care, or loyalty.
Fear: The manipulator may use the victim’s insecurities, anxieties, or fears to manipulate them into submission.
Obligation: The manipulator may insist that the victim “owes” them something, such as a favor or support, in order to pressure them into compliance.
Emotional predators use blackmail
Emotional blackmail can be subtle or overt and may occur in various types of relationships, including romantic partnerships, friendships, family, and professional settings. Emotional predators (often people with personality disorders) tends to use psychological manipulation techniques to get what they want from you — without much (or any) regard for your own feelings in the matter, or the ethical dubiousness of doing so.
Recognizing and addressing emotional blackmail is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships.
Negging is a manipulative tactic often used in the context of dating and interpersonal relationships. It involves making backhanded compliments or subtle insults aimed at undermining someone’s confidence and self-esteem. The term “negging” is derived from the word “negative,” and it is typically employed to make the target feel insecure or uncertain, causing them to seek validation from the person employing the tactic.
Negging is often associated with pickup artists (PUAs) and their strategies for attracting romantic partners. The idea behind negging is that by lowering a person’s self-esteem, they become more susceptible to the manipulator’s advances and more likely to seek approval or validation.
“You’re really pretty for a girl with glasses.”
“I like how you don’t care about what people think of your outfit.”
“You’re surprisingly intelligent for someone who talks so much.”
Negging is part of the broad pantheon of tactics used by emotional predators. It can have negative consequences on the target’s emotional well-being and can potentially lead to toxic or abusive relationships. It’s essential to recognize negging as a manipulative tactic and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. If you encounter negging, it is crucial to assert yourself, disengage from the interaction, or seek support from friends, family, or professionals if necessary.
Negging also falls within the realm of cult warning signs. If a group engages collectively in a lot of negging and flaw-finding, you should investigate them thoroughly and closely. They may be a high control group or cult who is interested in extracting things from you in the guise of “helping” you.
Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that are characterized by persistent and inflexible patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that deviate significantly from cultural norms and cause distress and impairment in various areas of functioning, such as work, relationships, and self-image. Personality disorders typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood and tend to persist over time.
There are several types of personality disorders, each with its own unique set of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is the standard diagnostic tool used by mental health professionals, identifies ten personality disorders organized into three clusters based on their shared features and clinical presentation.
Cluster A personality disorders
Cluster A personality disorders include paranoid, schizoid, and schizotypal personality disorders, which are characterized by odd, eccentric, and suspicious behavior. People with paranoid personality disorder have a pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others and may interpret benign remarks or events as threatening. Schizoid personality disorder is marked by a lack of interest in social relationships, emotional detachment, and solitary pursuits. Schizotypal personality disorder involves eccentricities in speech, behavior, and appearance, as well as unusual beliefs and experiences.
Cluster B personality disorders
Cluster B personality disorders include borderline, narcissistic, histrionic, and antisocial personality disorders, which are characterized by dramatic, erratic, and emotional behavior. Borderline personality disorder is characterized by unstable mood, self-image, and interpersonal relationships, as well as black and white thinking and impulsive and self-destructive behavior. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) involves a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by excessive emotionality, attention-seeking behavior, and exaggerated expressions of emotion. Antisocial personality disorder involves a disregard for the rights of others, a lack of remorse or guilt, and a tendency towards impulsive and irresponsible behavior.
Antisocial personality disorder, or ASPD, includes individuals colloquially known as sociopaths and psychopaths. All of the disorders within Cluster B include excessive narcissism as a foundational core, and within ASPD that extreme self-regard has a dark and amoral character referred to as malignant narcissism.
Cluster C personality disorders
Cluster C personality disorders include avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders, which are characterized by anxious, fearful, and perfectionistic behavior. Avoidant personality disorder involves social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to criticism or rejection. Dependent personality disorder is marked by a pervasive need for others to take care of them and an inability to make decisions without excessive reassurance or advice. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder involves preoccupation with rules, order, and perfectionism, as well as rigidity and inflexibility in one’s beliefs and values.
Effects and treatment
Personality disorders can cause significant distress and impairment in various areas of functioning, such as work, relationships, and self-image. People with personality disorders often struggle with interpersonal relationships, have difficulty maintaining employment, and may experience problems with substance abuse, self-harm, or suicidal ideation.
Treatment for personality disorders typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and support from family and friends. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and schema therapy are all effective in treating personality disorders. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms. It is essential to seek help from a mental health professional if you or someone you know is struggling with a personality disorder.
A scapegoat is a person or group who gets unfairly blamed for the wrongdoings, misdeeds, or crimes of others. Scapegoating is the act of doing this to someone.
The term comes originally from the Bible, in a story from Leviticus where a Jewish chief priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on a goat before releasing it into the wilderness. The goat psychologically cleansed the bad deeds of the population, serving as a convenient mechanism for group healing.
The modern scapegoat
In contemporary times the scapegoat metaphor is used to describe situations where a guilty party gets away scot-free by loudly and vociferously blaming an innocent “enemy” instead. This can be on a small scale like a workplace or a family, but it can also be on a larger scale within society — labelling entire groups or racial identities as “enemies” fictitiously and thus, dangerously.
Scapegoats have a close cousin in the political realm, in the “Us vs. Them” core dynamic of fascism. Fascists essentially pretend that only Outsiders are dangerous, because it gives anxious people the illusion of safety. This ideology increases the followers’ dependency on the in-group, to the point of hero worship or even cult worship.
The illusion of control
Scapegoating is often driven by prejudice and bigotry, fear, and a need to maintain the status quo. When people feel threatened, either by external factors such as economic or political instability or internal factors such as a sense of personal inadequacy, they may look for someone to blame. Scapegoating can provide a sense of control and empowerment, allowing people to believe that they are doing something to address the problem. However, this illusion of control comes at the cost of dehumanizing and harming others.
Scapegoating can have serious consequences for individuals and communities. The scapegoated individuals or groups can become marginalized, ostracized, and stigmatized. They can experience discrimination, harassment, and violence, both on a personal and group level. Moreover, scapegoating can distract attention from the real problems and prevent work towards constructive solutions. By focusing on blaming individuals or groups rather than addressing the root causes of problems, scapegoating can perpetuate injustice and inequality.
Dealing with scapegoating
Preventing scapegoating requires recognizing its underlying causes and addressing them. This can involve promoting empathy, understanding, and open communication, and fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility. It can also involve challenging the narratives that promote scapegoating and promoting a more nuanced understanding of complex issues, with less black and white thinking. Educating people about the dangers of scapegoating and the benefits of cooperation and collaboration can also help to prevent it.
Scapegoating is a harmful and unjust practice that involves blaming individuals or groups for the problems of a larger community. It can have serious consequences for the scapegoated individuals or groups and perpetuate injustice and inequality. Preventing scapegoating requires recognizing its underlying causes, promoting empathy and understanding, and challenging the narratives that promote it. By working together and taking responsibility for our collective well-being, there’s no reason why we can’t build a more just and equitable society.
Black and white thinking is the tendency to see things in extremes, and to view the world through a very polarized lens. Even complex moral issues are seen as clearcut, with simple right and wrong answers and no gray areas in between.
Also referred to as all-or-nothing thinking or dichotomous thinking, black and white thinking is a very rigid and binary way of looking at the world. Black and white thinkers tend to categorize things, events, people, and experiences as either completely good or completely bad, without acknowledging any nuance or shades of gray. This can manifest in various aspects of their lives including relationships, decision-making, and self-evaluation. Black and white thinking can be a defense mechanism, as it provides a sense of certainty and control in situations that are complex, uncertain, or anxiety-provoking.
For example, a person who engages in black and white thinking may view their work performance as either completely successful or a complete failure, without considering any middle ground. They may view themselves as either a “good” or “bad” person, based on a single action or mistake. This type of extreme thinking can lead to feelings of extreme anxiety, depression, and self-doubt, as well as difficulties in personal and professional relationships.
Black and white thinking in political psychology
Black and white thinking can also be seen in political or social contexts, where individuals categorize people or groups as either completely good or completely bad, without acknowledging any nuances or complexities. This type of thinking can lead to polarizing beliefs, rigid ideologies, and an unwillingness to engage in constructive dialogue or compromise.
The origins of black and white thinking are complex and multifaceted, but it can stem from a variety of factors, including childhood experiences, cultural and societal influences, and psychological disorders including personality disorder. For example, individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse may engage in black and white thinking as a way to cope with the complexity and ambiguity of their experiences. Similarly, cultural or societal influences that promote a strict adherence to binary categories can also contribute to black and white thinking.
Psychological disorders such as borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders are also associated with black and white thinking. For example, individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may see themselves or others as either completely good or completely bad, without any middle ground. This type of thinking can lead to unstable relationships, impulsive behavior, and emotional dysregulation.
Narcissists too, especially malignant narcissists, tend to exhibit black and white thinking, with the frequent framing of any narrative as being primarily about themselves (good/The Hero) and everyone else (bad/The Other).
Challenging black and white thinking
There are several strategies that can be used to challenge and overcome black and white thinking. One of the most effective ways is to practice mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment and observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness can help individuals to become more aware of their thought patterns and to challenge any extreme or polarized thinking.
Another strategy is to engage in cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and beliefs. This can involve examining evidence for and against the black and white thinking, as well as exploring alternative perspectives and possibilities.
Overall, black and white thinking can be a limiting and damaging cognitive pattern that can negatively impact various aspects of an individual’s life. However, with awareness, practice, and support, it is possible to overcome this pattern and develop a more nuanced and balanced view of the world.
Grandiosity is a psychological term used to describe a pattern of behavior characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a preoccupation with one’s achievements and abilities, and a need for admiration and attention from others. Grandiosity can manifest in a range of behaviors, including boastfulness, arrogance, entitlement, and an exaggerated sense of one’s own abilities and accomplishments.
People who exhibit grandiosity often have a huge ego — and an exaggerated sense of their own importance and abilities. They may believe that they are unique, superior, or special, and that others should recognize and acknowledge their exceptional qualities. This can lead to a sense of entitlement, as individuals with grandiosity may feel that they deserve special treatment, privileges, or attention. They may become upset or angry when they feel that their needs are not being met or that they are not receiving the recognition they feel they deserve.
Grandiosity can also manifest in a tendency to exaggerate or embellish one’s accomplishments and abilities — or even to outright lie about them, or completely fabricate them. People with grandiosity traits may feel the need to constantly promote themselves and their achievements, and may be inclined to brag or boast about their successes. They may also be prone to exaggerating their abilities, skills, or knowledge, and may present themselves as experts in areas where they have limited experience or actual understanding.
In addition to an inflated sense of self-importance, grandiosity is often accompanied by a need for admiration and attention from others. Individuals with grandiosity may crave recognition, praise, and validation from others, and may go to great lengths to gain (and keep) attention and admiration. They may be drawn to positions of power or influence, where they can exert their control and influence over others. However, they may also become resentful or angry if they feel that they are not receiving the level of attention or recognition they believe they deserve.
The downsides of grandiosity
Grandiosity can have a range of negative consequences for individuals who exhibit this behavior. People with grandiosity may have difficulty forming meaningful relationships with others, as they may be more focused on promoting themselves and seeking attention than on building genuine connections with others. They may have little empathy for others, which can make their friendships and attachments very one-sided, with too much time and focus directed toward the grandiose person and too little time for the other person(s).
They may also have a tendency to overestimate their abilities, which can lead to poor decision-making and mistakes. In some cases, grandiosity can lead to reckless or dangerous behavior, as individuals may take risks or engage in behavior that is outside of their abilities or experience. Their supreme overconfidence can lead them into risky activities, and they may lead others into danger as well.
What causes grandiosity?
There are a range of factors that can contribute to the development of grandiosity. Some individuals may have lived through early childhood experiences that led them to believe they were exceptional or entitled, while others may have a personality type that is prone to grandiosity. In some cases, grandiosity may be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, such as narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or other personality disorder. Grandiosity can also operate at the group level, with collective narcissism driving the inflated self-importance and sense of entitlement for a particular organization or class of people.
Treatment for grandiosity typically involves therapy and counseling to help individuals understand and manage their behavior. This may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can help individuals identify and challenge their negative thought patterns and beliefs, and develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Additionally, medication may be prescribed to treat underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to grandiosity. With appropriate treatment and support, individuals with grandiosity can learn to manage their behavior and develop more positive and fulfilling relationships with others — on the other hand, it is generally quite rare for a grandiose person to even seek help and treatment in the first place, largely due to their own overconfidence and conviction that they do not require any professional assistance.
More proof that narcissist Donald Trump is a narcissist:
It’s a hallmark of NPD to first dramatically underreact (“coronavirus is a Democratic hoax!”) and then suddenly dramatically overreact (threatening military-enforced quarantine of NYC). Donald Trump narcissist-in-chief is followed by fellow egomaniacs who see themselves in him — and see themselves getting away with murder no matter what they do. They’re the kings of word salad.
I’ve been reading John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” and am reminded of the quintessential liberal definition of the term:
The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.”
— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (emphasis mine)
It seems to me that Libertarian proponents tend to make a systematic error in portraying liberty as only commensurate with the first part of Mill’s description: essentially interpreting it as, “I should be able to do whatever I want, and have no constraints placed upon my person by the government whatsoever.” The idea of “cancel culture” is a reflection of this ideal, whereby the right wing complains that moral constraints that apply to everyone should not apply to them.
The Libertarian narcissist Venn Diagram is practically a circle.
Libertarianism sees itself in control
It believes its ideology should dominate others despite its extreme minority status. The Libertarian narcissist wants to get the benefits of the social contract and civil society, without having to pay back into the system in proportion to their usage of public resources at scale. The Libertarian political philosophy violates the fundamental, cross-cultural principle of reciprocity — exhibited in societies through the ages.