One of the many online petitions I’ve been asked to sign since the election was to ask our legislators to block all of the nominees out forth by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I hesitated over that one. After railing for eight years about Republican roadblocks, could I in good conscience advocate for the same kind of behavior?
A Huffington Post article this week had no such qualms. It called Democrats “weak” for not going after nominees with the same kind of vigor as the Republicans had done. Some justified declining to engage in the same tactics. Instead, they are, as Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said, “. . . trying to make sure that we’re still in character, that we’re still the party that believes in governing, we’re still the sane folks.” But many are wondering if anything can be accomplished by holding to Michelle Obama’s advice: “When they go low, we go high.”
I would like to believe that the hight road can be successful. On this weekend of honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., his words from 50 years ago ring out with new meaning:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
But I also believe that there is an added dimension to our new national nightmare that must be taken into consideration. When I read the article, “Coping with narcissistic personality disorder in the White House, I knew the author was on to something. While all ten of the insights about dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, I found #s 1, 6, and 7 to be particularly relevant to this discussion.
# 1: It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.
#6: It’s very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic, and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. Do not do this and do not allow others, especially the media, to do this. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about why, step away until you recalibrate.
#7: People with NPD often recruit helpers. These are referred to as “enablers” in the literature when they allow or cover for bad behavior, and “flying monkeys” when they perpetrate bad behavior on behalf of the narcissist. Although it’s easiest to prey on malicious people, good and vulnerable people can be unwittingly recruited. It will be important to support the good people around him if and when they attempt to stay clear or break away.
Our challenge is going to be “going high” with a whole lot of “going low” going on. Maintaining a spirit of love, while confronting hatred, bigotry, and ignorance will necessitate a strong spiritual discipline. But we’re going to have to deal with this mental disorder as well – not stigmatizing mental illness, but educating ourselves, setting our boundaries, calling out bad behavior, and calling out those who buy into it.
I am calling He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named a narcissist. No, I’m not a mental health professional who can make such a diagnosis. But after reading the literature and recognizing the symptoms, I believe we had to take this seriously – in the interest of public health.
I do not use the word as a pejorative or a joke, nor do I intend to stigmatize anyone with a mental disorder. But when there is a narcissist in the White House, it is incumbent on us to know how to respond, how to go high. Because he will go low.