Extreme self-love

2016-10-30 06:56
Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

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What do US presidential nominee Donald Trump, rapper Kanye West and our very own SABC honcho Hlaudi Motsoeneng have in common?

They have all been branded narcissists by commentators and pundits, who have remarked on their extreme levels of confidence.

There’s a diagnosis for that, however. Some of those who love themselves a little too much suffer from a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder.

The Mayo Clinic in the US defines narcissistic personality disorder as a “mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.

But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

This sounds a lot like Trump and his habit of issuing a barrage of tweets at 3am at everyone who insulted him that day.

And Motsoeneng? Consider some of his famous one-liners:

“Hlaudi Motsoeneng is Hlaudi Motsoeneng and there is only one Hlaudi in South Africa, no one else,” he said at a press conference in September.

About his achievements at the SABC, he said at the time:

“I want to applaud people who recognise this wonderful person called Hlaudi. Because when I came here there was no SABC. People will tell you there was no SABC. When I came here, there was just a disaster.”

But while we may think Motsoeneng and Trump are hilarious, narcissists are a toxic bunch, able to wreak havoc on the organisations they lead, as well as in their relationships.

One of those who believes Motsoeneng is a narcissist is well-known Johannesburg social worker and writer, John Clarke, who likened him to the Greek mythological figure, Icarus, who forgot his father’s warning not to fly too high with his self-made wings, lest the hot sun melt the wax off them.

“Hlaudi most accurately manifests Icarus. Narcissists tend to soak up any publicity, good or bad, to power them to greater heights.

"When they command considerable resources to, as it were, ‘rewax’ their wings, maybe we unwittingly and perversely keep them flying at an altitude which they would not otherwise be able to reach,” Clarke said.

However, clinical psychologist Liane Lurie cautions against labelling someone unless they have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

“A person is considered narcissistic according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders when they ‘display an excessive need for admiration, seem to lack empathy and appear to have an exaggerated sense of their own importance’,” she said.

“These difficulties may manifest in early adulthood, and may present themselves in a number of different settings.

"Such individuals are often experienced as exploiting others for their own needs, not being able to recognise or connect with the feelings of others, believing that they can only be understood by ‘special’ people and as having a sense of entitlement that others cannot say no to their requests.”

Lurie warns that before “writing this so-called disordered individual off, it is important to understand that at their core, they may be exceptionally vulnerable.

“The so-called narcissism may have developed out of a situation where their emotional needs were never met, thus forcing them to fend for themselves.

"The narcissism in that sense serves as a protective defence,” she says.

“They may find it difficult to connect deeply with others because of fears of being rejected. The narcissism allows them to maintain a safe distance while still feeling in control.”

How toxic are narcissists really? City Press asked Laura, a daughter of one, who learnt to walk on eggshells around her mother at a very early age to avoid sending her into a fit of rage.

“My mother was self-obsessed,” she says. “She was always right and everybody wrong. If you dared to question her or disagree with her choices, she would blow up.”

As the eldest, Laura, now 43, trained herself to be a perfect daughter “so that I became the buffer for my sister”.

“I would do exactly as she said so that none of us would have to deal with her tantrums,” she says.

“Words like thanks, please or well done never came out of her mouth.

"She found fault with everything we did and used every opportunity she got to make us understand that we were not meeting her standards.”

Laura moved out of home the first chance she got, but problems followed her and she developed an eating disorder, something a psychologist later told her was a result of how her mother treated her.

The psychologist told Laura to “purge myself of her”, but she struggled to do so until she was 38 years old, and only after her mother interfered in her marriage and constantly criticised her husband and her parenting skills.

“One day I decided enough was enough. My mother had taken too much of my joy and I had to put a stop to it.”

Read more on:    kanye west  |  donald trump  |  hlaudi motsoeneng

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