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Narcissism and Denial in the Obama Administration

And more than a soupçon of self-deception, as well.

by
G.M. Roper

Bio

February 28, 2010 - 12:00 am

After Scott Brown’s surprising victory last month in Massachusetts, President Barack Obama spoke with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s World News Tonight:

Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office.

People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.

In my world — the world of psychotherapy — we call that “denial.”

Denial can be loosely defined as an unconscious desire to refuse to recognize or acknowledge a given reality. An alcoholic believing that he is not a problem drinker, that he can quit anytime, or that he can control his drinking if he so chooses. A former presidential candidate believing that he can keep an illegitimate daughter secret forever and having a great deal of difficulty in acknowledging the truth when the evidence becomes clear.

A number of pundits have already noted (here, here, here, and here) that Mr. Obama would have us believe (or that he truly believes) that the voters in Massachusetts elected someone running as a conservative Republican because they were angry at the “last eight years” of Republican rule.

Which is, I think you will agree, an interesting premise in sort of a semi-psychotic way: “Anger at Republicans causes voters to vote for a Republican.”

If that isn’t denial, with anger at the Obama administration in particular and Democrats in general due to extraordinarily high spending, cap and trade, the upcoming huge increase in taxes, and of course ObamaCare, then I really don’t know what denial is.

Dr. Sanity says that self-deception (one form of denial) is a particularly pernicious problem to work through:

Therapists, more than many, appreciate the fact that people engage in all sorts of self-deception all the time. Psychiatry and psychotherapy is essentially a search for the truth; which is sometimes hidden beneath layers and layers of self-deception and cleverly deployed psychological defenses that protect and insulate the individual from confronting something painful and devastating to their world.

It is for this reason that psychotherapy can take a great deal of courage on the part of the patient; and a great deal of persistent probing on the part of the therapist. Simply put, psychological health and the ability to function optimally in life absolutely depends on being able to recognize reality and effectively deal with it. Self-deception is fundamentally dysfunctional, and over the long-term potentially lethal.

And it is this difficulty in recognizing the reality of the Massachusetts election that is one of the major dysfunctions of the Obama administration.

The administration is perfused with a narcissistic belief that everything they want to do is what the American people want. It doesn’t matter that a national tea party movement has formed and that demonstrations against higher spending, higher taxes, and increased federal intervention in the private sector (banks, automobiles, housing, etc.) have been increasing on almost a weekly basis.

So why does this administration have so much difficulty recognizing that the people, the majority of whom voted for him, are so troubled with the direction they feel the country is headed in? It’s almost like the administration is saying to itself: “What’s the matter with these people? Don’t they know that we know what is best for them?” It is precisely the answers to these questions that seem not to penetrate the collective heads in the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

The Democrats were swept into power in 2008 and given a filibuster-proof majority in which they could enact just about anything they wanted. President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (plus Vice President Joe Biden) believed, with some justification, that the power they had been entrusted with was sufficient to move the Democratic program down the road. Obama had been sworn in as the first (real) black president, people were ecstatic, and D.C. was crammed with celebrants at the inauguration. Change and hope were in the air; people were enthused with the concept of “yes we can!”

And the administration, in their narcissism, let this go to their heads, forgetting that leadership and cooperation are required to change the direction of the ship of state.

The American public began to see the problems with an encroaching federal government, and the high spending and higher taxes that would be required to fund the government at the much, much higher levels. In fact, the Heritage Foundation states that the federal income tax will become more progressively discouraging:

Hard work, savings, investing, and entrepreneurship. Discouraging these catalysts of economic growth is always counterpro­ductive, but doing so during a severe economic reces­sion is particularly irresponsible.

Those in power do not really believe that the lumpen proletariat understands this, but they do, and they are banding together.

It will be up to the president, his cronies, and the folks in Congress to work through their denial, to cast aside their narcissistic delusions, and to listen to the people. We weren’t joking in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts; we were serious, and the Obama administration better understand this or they will find themselves in dire straits indeed.

G.M. Roper is a psychotherapist in Texas.
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