There seems to be a striking similarity between the toxic behaviour patterns of pathological narcissists, particularly those with a tendency towards vulnerable narcissism, and the behaviour of the woke mob. While there is vast academic literature on pathological narcissism at the individual level, the expression of pathological narcissism at the population level has been suggested only fairly recently. If the supposition is valid that the traits of the woke mob comprise those of pathological narcissism, then it must be considered that society is being subjected to narcissistic abuse by the woke mob and that the woke mob cannot be reasoned with and it will not change; it can only be circumvented or removed.
Pathological narcissism is a personality style, just as extroversion or agreeableness are inherent personal types. As a consequence, pathological narcissism is rarely amenable to fundamental change. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a Cluster B personality disorder, is the formal diagnosis of someone with pathological narcissism who presents to a trained professional because he or she is suffering as a consequence of his or her personality type. The caveat is that pathological narcissists are rarely aware (or care) that they have a toxic personality style and infrequently suffer any real consequences of their behaviour. By definition, pathological narcissists have low (or erratic) levels of empathy, self-awareness and introspection, and they are surrounded by those who acquiesce to their bullying behaviour, often to avoid the narcissist’s vindictiveness, rage and general nastiness. Consequently, unlike most other mental and personality disorders, therapy is almost exclusively provided to those subject to the narcissist’s abuse and toxic behaviour, rather than to the narcissist themselves.
The personality disorder exists on a spectrum of severity and has various (overlapping) subtypes. However, all manifestations of pathological narcissism share common traits, including low levels of empathy and self-reflection. Pathological narcissists are utterly self-absorbed, and constantly seek attention and validation. This precipitates chronic, toxic behaviour patterns, distinct from occasional obnoxious behaviour that every human is prone to. Although measuring the prevalence of pathological narcissism in the general population is difficult for the reason noted above, in the West it is estimated to be at least 1% and is increasing. Why some individuals develop pathological narcissism is complex and not fully understood, but is probably attributable to both genetic and environmental factors. Pathological narcissists often had emotionally impoverished or abusive childhoods, but the majority of children in troubled environments do not become emotionally dysregulated adults. Although pathological narcissism is considered to be rooted in deep personal insecurity and shame (and not vanity), the increasing prevalence of pathological narcissism, seemingly among the younger generations, begs the question, does declining behavioural boundaries and discipline or disingenuous positive affirmation contribute to the emergence of the disorder?
The grandiose (or overt) manifestation typically comes to mind when considering narcissism. Grandiose narcissists are usually entitled, over-confident, bombastic, charismatic individuals. By contrast, vulnerable (or covert) narcissism is more subtle. Vulnerable narcissists are similarly entitled, but are more inclined to seek validation through playing the victim, often circuitously. Vulnerable narcissists may view themselves as perpetual victims; but also any pushback on their bullying and manipulation allows them to (unfairly) cry foul and position themselves as the victim, reinforcing their self-perception of victimhood (i.e., the victim/bully complex). This is exacerbated by the pathological trait of hypersensitivity to, and defensiveness of, any criticism or challenge of their behaviour or beliefs, which are often lies or distortions. The need for domination and control over others is also a common trait of pathological narcissists. Narcissists exert emotional control through threats, manipulation, gaslighting and unjustified anger and criticism; but also tangible control through money, work promotions, social interactions, etc.
The woke mob are generally thought of as a vociferous coalescence of bratty social justice warriors on social media and in academia, although these illiberal ‘progressives’ have infiltrated all institutions, including mainstream media, Big Tech and Government. Collectively, they exert considerable influence over the whole of society. This influence is exerted by bullying the public into nodding along with their progressive ideology, founded on victimhood and the consequent pursuit of ‘equity’. The mob threatens the cancellation of anyone who dares to refuse to take the knee, use pronouns, pronounce whiteness as evil, proclaim that men can give birth, assert that lockdowns saved millions of lives – and on and on. The problem is not that many subscribe to the woke ideology – obviously people can believe whatever they like. The problem is that those subscribing to the woke ideology bully the rest of society into acquiescence and self-censorship. This is coercion and control. This is societal abuse – society is being abused by the woke mob.
Pathological narcissists cannot be reasoned with or fundamentally change their behaviour. Advice from therapists expert in this disorder is for those subject to narcissistic abuse to completely extricate themself from the relationship with the narcissist if possible; or, if complete disengagement not possible, avoid reasoning with, or defending themselves to, the narcissist. Not only is arguing with a narcissist futile, it gives them the attention and validation that they crave. If extrapolating pathological narcissism to the population level is reasonable, then the woke mob itself, and institutions captured by progressives, need to be circumvented or removed. The latter is impossible; consequently, society needs to take the initiative and proactively extricate itself completely from the mob’s influence. This means continuing to set up new communication platforms, institutions and cultural milieu where objectivity, freedom of speech and open debate reigns.
Sam McLean is the pseudonym of a vet with a PhD in epidemiology from a Russell Group university.