This article was conceived suddenly during one of those Internet-discussions, in which I tend to engage during my PMS. Afterwards, I am usually astounded about how stupid I was, but sometimes it ends with sudden insights that happen to be useful.
So, this time the starting point was a huge mistake that the Ukrainian Rada (the parliament) had made on 23th of February 2014, when they had cancelled the “language law” by Kivalov-Kolesnichenko. The topic starter was firmly convinced that the cancellation of this law, above all other reasons, had caused civil unrests in Eastern Ukraine. He was not one of those Russian jingoists called the “vatniks” (lit. “Cotton-padded coats”). On the contrary, he was in opposition towards Putin. He recognised that the Russian propaganda held a stake in this business, that they blatantly lied about the “criminal responsibility for using Russian”, that they faked Tyahnybok’s statement on the law – but still, “the Ukrainians should have known better”.
I will not explain the story behind Kivalov-Kolesnichenko’s “language law”, it is too long. The main point is: nobody, ever, proposed criminal persecution against Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The cancellation of this law was a mistake, but a minor one. It could cause neither the invasion of Crimea, nor those civil unrests in Donetsk-Luhansk, because the massive anti-Ukrainian propaganda attack had started long before that law was cancelled. Its cancellation has been an excuse, not a reason.
So, I was told, you the Ukrainians shouldn’t have given the separatists an excuse!
And then I realised that this is pure, explicit victim-blaming. When someone requires from somebody to be perfect, it is never about perfection. It is about shame. And in this case the person who shames the Ukrainians is an anti-Putinist.
The next day another guy from the very same circle (an anti-Putinist, too), blamed the Ukrainian government for drafting refugees into the military service.
By that time I’ve learned not to waste my time. He apparently took no interest in the explanation that a country with a war at hand cannot sign any capable man off. We've got a long border to guard; any country in our situation would do the same.
But, you see, they just cannot sympathize with Ukraine when it acts like any other country. They only sympathize with the country that acts perfectly.
The first guy was a socialist, the other a liberal. So, this perfection-seeking was not about their political creeds. It was totally about them being Russians.
It lies somewhere deeper than convictions and beliefs – on a more common level, where general education and mentality meet personal character.
I've had a long history with narcissists. Long enough to recognize the pattern.
What if the so-called “Russian character” is nothing more than national-wide narcissism?
Let’s take a look.
First, what is narcissism? Wiki says that it is “the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one's own physical attributes, that derive from arrogant pride”. Well, OK, all of us are narcissists to a certain extent. We like to be admired and praised, don’t we? But beyond that there is what is called the “Narcissistic personality disorder, in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process. It is estimated that this condition affects one percent of the population”.
Can it affect a whole population of a country, or at least a significant part of it?
Yes, and the Nazi Germany is an example.
The symptoms of the narcissistic disorder are very close to the Nazi mindset. The narcissist and the Nazi alike:
• Expect to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments;
• Expect constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others;
• Envy others and believe others envy them;
• Are preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence;
• Lack the ability to empathise with feelings or desires of others;
• Are arrogant in attitudes and behaviour;
• Have expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic;
The difference is that the narcissist applies all of this exclusively to their own person, while the Nazis extended those narcissi treats to the whole nation. For the Nazi, everything German was to be recognised as superior and special – the nation and the country, which had to draw everyone’s attention and admiration, to stir up envy, and destined to the great success, and be an enormous power which can afford to disregard other petty nations.
Muchhas been said already about the similarity between the Nazi Germany and Putinist Russia. They are similar indeed, Putin looks like a second-hand Hitler. But this similarity has it’s roots deeply in the narcissism, which had affected both the countries long before Hitler and Putin were born. It is not only these countries; the same symptoms one can observe in Meiji-Showa Japan, in Maoist China, pre-war Poland, Croatia and Italy, 17th-century Spain and modern Iran.
What do these nations have in common?
Technological and economical underdevelopment, which causes a massive, huge inferiority complex.
Narcissism always starts with an inferiority complex. A narcissist feels his/her insignificance and hates him/herself for this. This hatred causes shame, and in attempt to protect him/herself from this shame the narcissist builds up an ideal person which he/she pretends to be. But any hint of criticism shatters this ideal image, which is intolerable. Therefore, the critic is treated as an enemy.
Any sane person can ask: why so complicated? If you feel shame, you just stop doing what causes this shame and stop feeling shame. Profit!
That is true, but not for the narcissist. The narcissistic shame is different from the ordinary shame: there is no particular reason for it, the narcissist is ashamed just of being imperfect. Which means: just of being human.
Usually, the parents are responsible for such an attitude. But it could be any significant adult person whose reactions to the child’s behaviour have nothing to do with the latter: the child is “good” or “bad” depending only on the adult’s current mood. This crazy way of upbringing makes the child believe that it is not he/she who makes him/herself good or bad; it is the others and their attitude, always.
Do you see the point? Everyone knows that others can make them feel bad. Sometimes they are nasty persons, the others. But only narcissists really do believe that the others define them as good or bad.
How do I know this? I have read a lot. And an even more important thing – I used to have a narcissistic disorder myself. I know how it feels – when someone, anyone, has a power to make you and unmake you with a word. With a thought.
It sits deep inside the subconscious. It takes a huge amount of therapeutic work to dig it out into the consciousness – this fear, this shame. It is painful work. So most of the narcissists never get to therapy. And the rest come to the therapist when their lives are totally broken.
In their consciousness, the narcissists never admit to that shame, fear and weakness. They deal only with their “grandiose selves” and demand from the others to deal with those false personalities. Any attempt of criticism is taken as a mortal injury. And, as I say, it really feels this way. That’s why the narcissists respond to criticism with an intense aggression.
Some narcissists can fake tolerance and self-criticism. The trick is to take the blame and to blame yourself for what you have not actually done, or for some minor faults. Double profit: it doesn’t hurt and still you can feel yourself a tolerant, forgiving person, almost a martyr. But try to prick the narcissist where it really hurts – and you will see a truckload of shit hitting a high-pressure turbine.
Some narcissists find delight in the narcissistic mortification. They go in cycles: first comes an attempt of building up their “grandiose selves”, then failure (inevitable, ’cause, hey, NOBODY can be perfect!) and then plunging into misery and self-pity… and then harvesting portions of love and consolation from others, so-called “narcissistic supply”, to make another attempt of building up a “grandiose self”, aaand we’re back!
Let me remind you, the narcissists really do believe that it is the others that define them as good or bad, so they need love and admiration to seem good and feel good. They are human-addicts, and, like any addict, they are never satisfied and always need a dosage increase. And when they feel withdrawal, they feel bad and they behave badly, but it is not perceived as their own fault, they always blame others! The narcissist can plunge into mortification and play it off for repentance or atonement, but only to get a dose of love and admiration for such a brilliant atonement and thorough repentance. Try to deprive the narcissist of this dose – and… you know: a truckload of shit and a high-pressure turbine.
But people usually do not like shit showers. That’s why at the end of the day, narcissists are lonely.
So, that is a general description of what it means to be a narcissist. Let’s take a look at what it means to be Russian.