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Art of Deception

November 10, 2010

I have written many articles across a broad range of topics on this blog that illustrate how much deception goes on in our world. One of the goals of my book on unhealthy narcissism is to help others learn how to recognize people we encounter who are misleading and deceptive. This is very important as it relates to people with controlling personalities who manipulate or exploit others for their own gain or pleasure. Obvious examples are people like Bernie Madoff, the Ponzie-schemer, who lied for decades about his financial investment acumen and business dealings. His targets ranged from family members, to charities, to foreign entities. At the root of this scheme was extreme deceptive behavior likely driven by strong feelings of entitlement and corresponding lack of empathy or conscience. To be sure, white collar crime is all about deception using a legitimate front to cull favor and trust in order to steal, embezzle and otherwise commit larceny.

Persons who lack a conscience, who lack empathy, who feel entitled and are arrogant often control others to exploit them and bolster their grandiose ego. Their nefarious deeds are overcompensation for an inadequate sense of self; it makes them feel superior to others. These types of personalities behave in this manner to gain reassurance about themselves. Their ego is grandiose and their overall personality is maladapted due to faulty parenting and/or caretaking. Children who are abused, neglected, overvalued or undervalued, develop self-image problems and gross insecurities. If they favor behaving like the abusive parent, they will learn to abuse others in like kind. That means they learn the fine art of deception and all the manipulative control tactics that go along with it.

In a society that promotes reward and recognition by competing in the marketplace, these persons are very adept at getting ahead by being deceptive. They are charmers, perfectionists, compulsive workaholics, and often will take credit for others efforts. They will lie, tell half-lies, and manipulate situations to their advantage. They do not take criticism well and even a perceived slight may enrage them as their sense of self is very fragile.

These are also people who identify their sense of self with their jobs and if fired, or laid off, may be the perfect candidate for ‘going postal’. This is due in large part to the narcissistic wounding they experience – a blow to their fragile grandiose false-self. They have great difficulty coping and dealing with this wound as they do not know how to deal with the accompanying emotion of shame. The internal dialog may go something like this: Why me? Why wasn’t it the other guy or gal. I deserve better. They are not as good as me in my job, or as a husband, etc. It is this self-talk that churns and escalates resulting negative behavior. It is important to understand that shame is at work here. Shame is a powerful emotion and intolerable for an unhealthy narcissist. It overwhelms them. Regulation of emotions like shame, is simply a major problem for unhealthy narcissists. How do they handle the feeling of shame? The unhealthy narcissist will offload their feelings of shame onto others rather than absorbing the emotional ‘blow’. They will do this by attacking others through verbal rages and even physical violence. The target may be the person’s family, friends, the postman, the grocer, etc. They may pick a fight to relieve the emotion they are otherwise unable to bear. Complicating the matter are strong feelings of entitlement and envy and this helps to drive the unhealthy narcissist to seek revenge. They will seek revenge against those who still have their jobs, or against the wife who goes on to a happier union with another man, etc. These behaviors are part of their effort to stabilize their self-image of superiority and quell the feelings of failure and shame.

Not all unhealthy narcissists will be violent, but they will perpetuate their art of deception to promote their false-sense of self and help them to cope in their shaky lives. Being that these people have great difficulty in relationships due to their inability to reciprocate feelings, it is best to keep distance from these people as their behavior is unpredictable and too often damaging to others.

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Categories: Narcissism, Psychology
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