The narcissist’s dark and twisted brand of empathy.

Originally posted on August 20, 2016

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Do narcissists have empathy?  Yes, and some of them have a lot of it, but it’s probably not the kind of empathy you want anything to do with.

Some lower spectrum narcissists do have some capacity for normal emotional (not just cognitive) empathy, but it tends to be selective–that is, they can turn it off when it’s too dangerous or it makes them feel too vulnerable. That’s why, for example, a low-to-mid spectrum narcissist can feel empathy for fictional characters in a movie or novel and even shed tears for them, or can feel empathy for a stray or sick animal, but when you tell them you just lost your job, or that what they just said hurt your feelings, they turn into a block of ice. Their reaction to your pain is about as heartwarming as the Siberian wilderness in January. If they’re love-bombing or trying to hoover you, they may FAKE emotional empathy, but they don’t really feel anything.  They show you what appears to be tender compassion in order to manipulate.

It’s not news that most narcissists are ultra-sensitive, but their sensitivity is retained only for themselves, and that’s why they are so easily offended. But that sensitivity seems to have a switch that turns to “off” when it comes to other people and they can appear appallingly insensitive. Many narcissists were so sensitive as children they were actually potentially empaths. Their empathy didn’t really go away, but remained in a twisted and barbed form. Their developing disorder transformed their natural emotional empathy into something dark and malevolent. Some experts call he kind of empathy narcissists have cognitive empathy–which means the narcissist KNOWS how you feel, but can’t share your feelings or care how you feel. If they are malignant or sociopathic, they may even want to hurt you. Because most of their emotions went into hiding as a form of self protection, the emotional, caring aspect of any empathy they might have once had disappeared too, and what remains is only the cognitive portion. Narcissists have an uncanny and unsettling way of knowing EXACTLY how you feel–and if they are malignant, they use their twisted brand of empathy against you. For a malignant narcissist, empathy–a quality we normally associate with loving concern–becomes a weapon used to control, attack, and belittle you.

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Cognitive empathy.

On HG Tudor’s website, Knowing The Narcissist, he wrote a post about the way some narcissists mock their victims using mimicry of their emotional reactions as a form of abuse. I am going to quote a portion of that post, because of how well it illustrates the way a malignant narcissist uses cognitive empathy as a weapon to cause pain. It’s quite amazing how well they know EXACTLY how their abuse is making you feel, but instead of feeling remorse and apologizing the way a normal person would, they instead use that knowing empathy as fodder for their mockery cannon. My ex did this to me constantly, and Tudor’s description of the victim’s feelings of overwhelming helplessness and frustration at the receiving end of this type of abuse is absolutely spot on.
WARNING: THIS MAY BE TRIGGERING.

When you stood there crying with frustration and I drank deep of the delicious fuel you provided me, I would raise my hands to my eyes and draw pretend tears on my cheeks and make a sobbing noise to humiliate you further. Here I was letting you know that I copied everything that went before yet now I copy again but not with the perfection I once exhibited. I allow the sting of sarcasm and the malicious mockery to infiltrate my copying of your behaviour so that your hurt and bewilderment was increased. You would shout at me and I would shout back using the exact words before standing and laughing at you as you burned with frustration, unable to find any response. You might stamp your feet in exasperation and I would do the same but with a leer of disdain writ large across my face.

There were times when you would scream. A terrified scream as my vicious manipulations would take their toll and as you tried to curl into a ball and hope you might just disappear and escape this nightmare, I would lean in close to you and mimic your scream into your ear, creating this fabricated falsetto of distress in order to further your own. Every reaction to my devaluation of you had the potential to be met by a mimicked reply from me in order to further your misery and demonstrate I did not treat your responses with any sincerity or concern.

Another way a narcissist can use cognitive empathy is to scope out your vulnerabilities–knowing exactly which buttons to press to upset you. In the comments, Katie provided a great example of this. Her mother, who scapegoated her and knew she was sensitive about her poverty, used this against her, saying things like, “Oh, Katie dear, it must be SOOOOO hard to be living the way you do and never have enough money for the basic things.” And then followed that up by crowing about how successful her siblings were and the vacations and new cars they were buying. My mother used to use my sensitivity itself, knowing I was sensitive about my sensitivity, saying things like, “It must be so awful being so sensitive.” What’s happening here is a kind of fake, sarcastic “empathy” is thinly veiling a cruel jab at one of your buttons, which their cognitive empathy is used to discern. And then, should you complain, they will act all hurt and innocent and tell you they were only trying to be nice or were showing concern for your well being. This is a vicious kind of gaslighting.

Please keep in mind that cognitive empathy in itself is not a bad thing.  It could be a tool used in mindfulness training to help a person learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes” before acting out against them.  Cognitive empathy can be learned, but emotional empathy cannot be taught–it’s either there or it isn’t.  Most empaths have both cognitive and emotional empathy.  Cognitive empathy lets them know how someone else feels, but the emotional aspect allows them to care.

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Toxic positivity.

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking.  But it’s become fashionable in recent years to shame “negative thinking.”  I put that phrase in quotes because sometimes “negative” just means being realistic.    Too often, being positive is the same thing as denying reality: The 3 pack a day smoker with a chronic cough insists they are healthy when you suggest they see a doctor (of course, this could be fear on their part too).   The abused wife tells you everything at home is fine even though she has the demeanor of a whipped dog and flinches whenever her husband speaks to her.   Your “friend” tells you you’re being paranoid when you (correctly) observe that he hasn’t called you in several weeks and is always “busy” whenever you’re around.    He is gaslighting you.

These are examples of toxic positivity.  Empathy is not a factor when it’s directed at someone else’s concerns.    Toxic positivity sounds more like criticism or gaslighting when directed at another person, or just plain lying or denial when it’s about yourself.   In both cases, it helps no one.

I don’t know who made this chart, but I like it because it shows the difference between toxic positivity and real positivity, which includes empathy.

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Further reading: 

Where I Stand On Positive Thinking

Institutionalized soul murder.

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“If you’ve been following me for some time now, you’ve likely noticed the absence of optimism & hope. While my wife is at work, and my son is in school, I just cry. I’m trying to hide it from them, but they know. I just want to leave this country before I’m destroyed.”  — Twitter user

If you think statements like this are unusual, I can assure you they are not.

Several days ago, Jussie Smollet, “Empire” actor, singer, director, and photographer, was brutally attacked by a couple of Trump supporters wearing MAGA hats (the new KKK hood).  The assailants tied a rope around the man’s neck, yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, and poured bleach on him.    As the assailants left, they yelled “It’s MAGA country now.”   Smollet’s injuries were severe enough to require hospitalization.  This was a hate crime and most likely an attempted lynching.   Trump is doing everything he can to turn back the clock to the Jim Crow days, and we are almost there.

Indeed, Trump emboldens such violent attacks because of his hateful, racist, misogynistic, and neofascist rhetoric, especially at his rallies.   His hostile and bullying bluster contains obvious “dogwhistles” to his supporters, letting them know that attacking or bullying people who are different than they are is just fine in Trump’s America.

Not long before the Smollet attack, four good samaritans left food and water near the Mexican border for tired, hungry migrants (who are almost all women and children, not the caravans of violent MS-13 gang members and drug dealers Trump keeps screaming about).   Police arrested the kindhearted samaritans, and charged all four of them with misdemeanors!   Why misdemeanors?  For showing empathy?  That’s insane.

Meanwhile, homegrown terrorists, neo-Nazis, and high school racists are invited to the White House, are interviewed on TV, and sometimes treated like heroes–or at least their actions are dismissed as “boys will be boys” or “well, some of them are very fine people.”

A Trump supporting politician named Greg Gianforte body slammed a reporter last year for asking him questions.  He  was held up as a hero for attacking a journalist, and even won his state election, while the injured reporter was vilified as an “enemy of the people.”   (Gianforte later apologized).

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who very believably and painfully described the way she had been  sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh, was told she was lying by Fox News pundits and Trump’s sycophants.   She was then mocked cruelly by Trump himself at one of his rallies (after Ford said the most painful part of the assault had been the way Kavanaugh and his friends mocked her — I’m sure this was not a coincidence).  Ford’s testimony was dismissed as a bunch of lies, while Kavanaugh, clearly temperamentally unsuited to serve on the Supreme Court, was painted by Trump and the GOP as some sort of misunderstood victim who was being unfairly attacked by lying, spiteful women who just wanted their 15 minutes of fame.   He now sits on the Supreme Court.

Central American children and their parents escaping certain death in their home countries, instead of being instructed in how to apply for asylum (these families are showing up legally at ports of entry) are being caged and forcibly separated from each other by ICE and border patrol agents, then tossed into concentration camps with only a foil blanket for warmth and inadequate food and medical care.   Two children have died in these camps. Unbelievably,  some evangelical Republicans are actually calling these cruel actions “biblical.”  Meanwhile, Democrats and others wanting to see the children reunited with their families and treated with kindness and empathy are dismissed as misguided or even evil.  We are gaslighted and told we just want “open borders,” but that too is a lie.

Undocumented immigrant families are released from detention at a bus depot in McAllen

Photo by Loren Elliott/Reuters

In “The Handmaid’s Tale,”  there is a scene where one of the girls is severely punished and returns with her feet bleeding and barely able to walk.  The other girls feel empathy for her, but don’t dare show it, because if they do, they too will be punished.   The same thing was also practiced in the migrant camps at the border, where siblings and other children were ordered not to hold or comfort each other, even after having been separated from their parents.   I don’t know whether or not they were punished if they broke the rules, but the fact such a rule exists is concerning.  It’s institutionalized cruelty.

There’s a reason for this besides just being cruel.  It’s an effective way populations can be controlled.  If you don’t allow people to comfort or show empathy to each other, they won’t rise up or try to overthrow their oppressors.   Hitler and other dictators were  known for doing this.  It’s also a way to fast track the destruction of human beings.   Don’t allow them any hope or comfort.   It’s an effective form of emotional torture.

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Meanwhile, cruelty is rewarded and applauded.  At the very least, it seems to be tolerated a lot more than it used to be.

Our values have been turned inside and twisted beyond recognition by a group of men (and a few women) whose only goal is absolute power.  Evil is now good, and good is evil.  Lies are the truth, and the truth is fake news.   Kindness and empathy are now bad and diabolical, cruelty and violence are godly and good.  Truthtellers are silenced, and liars are given a voice.

War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.  — George Orwell (1984)

The people having the hardest time under the Trump regime aren’t necessarily the poor (as difficult or even impossible as their lives are), but people with high sensitivity, high empathy, high creativity, and people who are critical, independent thinkers.    This regime is threatened by all those things, just as narcissistic parents are threatened and scapegoat the most sensitive, empathetic child or the child who speaks the truth and exposes the family’s dark secrets.

I have heard many people say that since Trump became president,  they feel constantly on edge, suicidal, depressed, cry every day,  have lost interest in things that once interested them, feel like they can no longer cope, want to leave the country, are constantly afraid, feel constantly angry, isolate from others, feel sick all the time, or feel dead and numb inside.  These are all indications of PTSD and C-PTSD.  Trump and his sociopathic, cruel regime has triggered or retriggered these disorders in many (if not most) Americans, but it’s the sensitive, empathic, and creative, artistic types of people who are suffering the most, and are least able to thrive under an oppressive, authoritarian regime.   At the same time, these are the same people who are most likely to be the truthtellers  and whistleblowers we need so badly right now.

What the Trump GOP is doing is institutionalized soul murder.

Enough.

Bullying and the suppression of empathy and shame.

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On Friday, at the National Mall in Washington, DC, there occurred A Tale of Two Rallies: two rallies that clashed in a way that says everything about where America as a country stands in 2019.

As the Indigenous Peoples Rights demonstration was winding down, the March for Life anti-abortion rally was just starting. A large group of boys from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School were attending the March for Life.

An indigenous elder and Vietnam veteran named Nathan Phillips was standing alone on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing a native American protest song as he banged a small handheld leather drum. As he sang and kept rhythm with his drum, a large group of teenage boys from Covington began to surround him and taunt him, cruelly imitating his singing, dancing to the music in a mocking way, and shouting “Build that wall!”  Many of the boys wore red MAGA hats — a clothing item that is already becoming associated with hatred and racism, much as the swastika or brown shirts of WWII Germany eventually became associated with the Nazis and the Holocaust.

One boy in particular stood out, and the video of his silent and seemingly hostile standoff with the Indian elder has gone viral. I won’t name the boy, because I have no desire to ruin his life.   Although the teen’s behavior toward the elder was deplorable and cruel (involving a form of bullying known as physical intimidation — invading someone’s personal space),  I blame the environment he was raised in, particularly the environment of Covington Catholic, which has developed a reputation of fostering a culture of racism, sexism, and white supremacy in its all-male student body (though both the school and the diocese have apologized for the students’ behavior at the rally).

I do not think the boy in the video is necessarily a sociopath or a narcissist, although his behavior toward the elder certainly makes it appear that way.   There are reasons to think this boy is a normal kid who may have been doing this on a dare or to appear “cool” among his peers, and may also be being indoctrinated by his school and his classmates to harshly judge and intimidate people who are different than he is.

Jack Brown, MD, is an expert on facial and body language, and he writes fascinating Twitter threads and articles analyzing the facial and body language of celebrities, politicians, and sometimes, everyday people like this high school boy, whose facial expressions during the exchange with the elder proved to be far more complex than they at first seemed.

So I have taken the liberty of reposting Dr. Brown’s fascinating thread, which goes into great detail about the boy’s subtle facial cues, which while on the surface seemed threatening and bullying, showed fleeting glimpses of shame, anger, sadness, and even empathy.

First, here is the video of the incident.    You can use this to reference the incidents described in Dr. Brown’s tweets.

1/ On Friday 18 January 2019, in Washington DC, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a confrontation occurred between some students of Covington Catholic HS (a private, all-boys school in Park Hills, KY) & members of the Indigenous Peoples March – most notably, Nathan Phillips.

2/ The students were in DC to participate in a March for Life event. Many of the boys in the crowd were wearing MAGA hats as well as clothing with Covington Catholic High School insignia.

3/ Mr. Phillips is a veteran of the Vietnam War and Native American elder of the Omaha tribe. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of this event.

4/ At 0:06, we see this student display what is known as a Loose Tongue Jut. A loose tongue jut is a microexpression/near-micro expression signifying the thought-emotions of:

• I’ve been caught

• I’ve been bad

• I’ve done a stupid thing

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5/ During 0:07 – 0:08, we see a second student exhibit this identical behavior.

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6/ During 0:23, one student pushes another student toward Mr. Phillips in an effort to further encroach into Nathan Phillips’ personal space (intimate space).

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7/ A third student displays another Loose Tongue Jut during 0:34

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8/ During 0:43, we see the student who, in the remainder of this video, is the primary confrontational individual (here referred to as John Doe). He is shown here, in near profile, in order to demonstrate his normal chin contour.

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9/ This image (0:48) is captured shortly after John Doe and Nathan Phillips encroach into each others’ personal space. The expression on Doe’s face is a partial, sincere smile (Duchenne Smile).

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10/ Entering into another person’s interpersonal space (personal space and even intimate space) – is a body language behavior which very often provokes violence.

11/ While this is true for all genders, it’s particularly incendiary when two men are Whole Body Pointing toward each other (eyes, head, shoulders, torso, hips, and feet). Simply by turning 20º – 30º to one side will de-escalate the potential for physical confrontation.

12/ During 0:53, Doe adopts a significant component of Disgust – and his smile ceases to be sincere – ergo this is a Disgust-Pseudosmile.

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13/ During 0:55, John Doe begins to display a Jaw Jut – a forward displacement of his mandible – and here, indicative of an Adrenaline Surge. He is also suppressing laughter.

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14/ During 0:56, we begin to see a fascinating dynamic – the first signals of a tremendous example of Emotional Dissonance.

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15/ Although John Doe is primarily being governed by peer pressure – and mob mentality (aka herd mentality, pack mentality, gang mentality) – his individual personality is breaking through in his moment.

16/ Indeed, Doe is suppressing his empathy – specifically his feelings of sadness for indigenous peoples and/or Mr. Phillips specifically. Note his mid-facial tension.

17/ Although contraction of the “mustache area” and flaring of his nostrils are also associated with disgust – it’s also a dynamic associated with the suppression of crying. For a couple seconds, Doe is on the verge of tears.

18/ Please watch this video first at normal speed, then at 0.5 and then again at full speed – particularly this crucial portion. The details will then be more discernible.

19/ During 0:57, Doe’s jaw juts out further. He begins what is called a Hard Swallow (note his Adam’s apple moving up and down – indicating a dry throat and elevated anxiety).

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20/ Although we can’t them directly, Doe’s repositioning of his hands begins in this moment – most probably into his pockets. This is akin to a turtle retreating into his shell – he very much wants to leave, but peer pressure is preventing him)

21/ At 0:58, he tilts his head and neck backward and thrusts his chin forward – signifying strong feelings of Defiance. Here he finishes his hard swallow and the repositioning of his hands.

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22/ During 1:04 there is a resurgence of empathy-sadness (although some disgust as well).

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23/ At 1:05, John Doe Breaks his Eye Contact (he’s looking just past Mr. Phillips or perhaps at Phillips’ right ear).

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24/ We often break eye contact in such scenarios in order to suppress strong emotions. In this second, it allows Doe to once again break this cycle of empathy-sadness.

25/ This lack of eye contact enables John Doe to, once again, break into a sincere smile and a moment of suppressing laughter (1:11).

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26/ During 1:29, we see another example of emotional dissonance – a combination of disgust and tear suppression.

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27/ During 1:30, he breaks eye contact in another manner by looking down and to HIS right. Although this is obviously in the direction of Nathan Phillips’ drum, it’s also the quadrant to which most people look during strong feelings of shame, guilt, and moments of sadness.

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28/ Here, during 1:41, Doe is once again looking past Phillips.

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29/ And in the other direction (1:43) – disengaging himself from the intensity of this confrontation.

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30/ At 1:53, after Doe re-establishes eye contact, he re-escalates his emotions, becoming angry.

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31/ At 1:54, Doe looks away again – and immediately his anger is erased and we see the beginnings of a smile (with a hint of disgust).

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32/ During 2:23, we see a stronger example of Disgust. His partial eyelid closure, while not a requirement of disgust, acts as an amplifier.

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33/ During 3:21, another student, who is probably a friend or possibly a family member, begins to give John Doe a Shoulder Rub.

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34/ This is an example of emotional support and affection – but it’s also another signal of emotional dissonance. It’s as if the student in the blue jacket is trying to say, “You did good bro – but time to disengage”.

35/ He stops his shoulder rub at 3:22, yells/howls repeatedly – and displays multiple pseudo-chest/abdomen beating gestures. He exhibits a Loose Tongue Jut during 3:28 – as his psyche declares a mea culpa – calling himself out for his mocking of indigenous peoples.

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36/ He turns to walk away – retreating to the back of the crowd – but not before he displays yet another loose tongue-jut (3:30).

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37/ SUMMARY: Many students of Covington Catholic High School, along with some others who were in this crowd, displayed blatant racism toward indigenous peoples in Washington DC on 18 January 2019.

38/ One individual in particular deliberately maintained his position in Nathan Phillips’ personal space. Mr. Phillips was, of course, vastly outnumbered and elderly – however, in many (most) similar scenarios, this student’s act would have provoked violence.

39/ The display of disgust in this situation is profoundly noteworthy. Outside of the context of true self-defense, in order to for the psyche to inflict harm on another person or group, it must view them as less than human.

40/ Those who commit such acts need to see their victims – as “others” – beneath them. Disgust is the emotion which encapsulates this feeling. Indeed, disgust is the most common emotion displayed by people committing hate-crimes and acts of mass violence.

41/ This phenomenon was well-documented during the Holocaust.

42/ While this incident in front of the Lincoln Memorial was certainly an example of peer pressure and mob mentality, it also exemplified cognitive and emotional dissonance.

43/ The primary confronting student’s emotions oscillated from disgust, anger, and even taking joy in his deliberate intimidation – but also to sadness, empathy, guilt, shame – and several times he was even near-tears.

44/ In the near future, this student will very likely appear in a public setting/television interview, where he will apologize. A written statement (usually prepared by an attorney) is nowhere close to a sincere or meaningful apology.

45/ In giving a public apology, with high probability, he will break down in tears – and it will become, for him, a fundamental life inflection point. It will be healing. Such a public apology will permanently up-regulate his empathy.

46/ Alternatively, if he neglects to undertake this difficult, but emotionally intelligent act – he will most probably spend the rest of his life digging in his heels and rationalizing his bad behavior.

 —  Dr. Jack Brown, MD

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My takeaway is similar to Dr. Brown’s conclusion:  this incident will be a pivotal event in this boy’s life.  If he takes the high road and chooses to acknowledge his barely suppressed empathy and shame, and publicly (or even privately) apologizes, he will feel painful emotions but will be able to redeem himself.  He will have learned a valuable life lesson and his empathy will henceforth no longer be so hidden.  He will grow up into a man who can truly care about others.

But, coming from a school environment having a reputation for racism and “othering” people who are different, combined with peer pressure from classmates who may be more sociopathic than he is, he may choose not to acknowledge his feelings of cognitive dissonance, and not apologize, which will make it easier for him to suppress his empathy and shame in the future.  As Dr. Brown pointed out, should he choose that road, his personality, still malleable due to his youth, could turn sociopathic or narcissistic.

*****

Follow Dr. Jack Brown’s Twitter page:

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

This article is a must read for empaths and HSPs, and anyone vulnerable to narcissistic abuse:

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

By Kim Saeed

Comments here have been turned off.  Please leave comments under the original post.

She also has a great site!  Be sure to visit.

https://kimsaeed.com/

I woke up feeling sad this morning.

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I woke up feeling super sad.   I woke up thinking about the state of our planet, and the fact that it’s mostly America’s selfish and shortsighted corporatist leaders that don’t give a damn about taking care of it or leaving it intact for future generations, who are at fault.   The things they do don’t just affect life and the environment within our own borders; their actions affect the entire world.  But they don’t care.

Greedy corporatists are concerned only about short term profits.  They gleefully go about raping and pillaging the land and dumping toxic waste into our oceans.   They think nothing of destroying the earth’s beauty and delicate ecosystems for short term gain — at the expense of human life, animal life, and all our ecosystems that sustain and nourish all life on this world.

I remember back in the 1970s when the EPA was formed and finally, polluted rivers, lakes that used to catch on fire from the petroleum deposits on their surfaces, and dark,  sooty unbreathable air in the cities began to clean themselves up because of new regulations that kept further pollution at a minimum or even eliminated it completely.

After several decades passed, the differences really began to show and these formerly toxic places became clean and liveable again.  Lakes and rivers that had been poisoned with industrial waste became swimmable and even their water became drinkable in some cases. It became possible to see a clear view even in big cities instead of a miasma of lung clogging smog.

Now we have a group of wealthy sociopaths  running everything, corporatists who want to ditch all those regulations and take us back to the bad old days.  They don’t care about our children, about animals, about future generations, or the future of life in general on this planet, as they happily go about blowing up mountaintops for more coal deposits, fracking for more oil, clearcutting forests, digging in the Gulf of Mexico and in our oceans for yet more oil, and destroying our beloved national monuments that bring joy and wonder to so many people, to sell to the highest bidder.   They make fun of those of us who hate what they are doing.  They call us socialists and snowflakes because we care about endangered species and want to preserve the earth’s beauty and want laws to protect our home from human exploitation and greed.

“Corporations and far right capitalists who want to get rid of regulations say it’s because they prevent growth. They want unlimited growth, even if the loss of protective laws destroys life on this planet. Guess what else is characterized by uncontrolled growth that kills? Cancer.”

This is a beautiful, unusual planet that evolved in a way perfectly suited for all kinds of life. Maybe in some other solar system or galaxy there are other earthlike planets suited for our kind of life, but we are not that advanced yet and have no way to travel to those planets, if they exist.   In the meantime, this planet is the only one we have.  If it dies, we go with it.

The planet is being destroyed by these greedy corporatists who don’t care about it, or anything on it, and stubbornly refuse to consider sustainable technology that other countries are doing, and it makes me so angry and sad.  That’s why today I woke up almost in tears.

If we don’t change our ways soon, we are going to be responsible for the extinction of so many species and the destruction of so much beauty and unique plant and animal life, and that may even include ourselves. Some people even believe humanity is about to become extinct, because the earth will prevail somehow, and do what it needs to do to rid itself of us, if we don’t do the job ourselves.   Maybe that’s true, and if it is, maybe we deserve that fate for how we have treated the only home we have.

If you’re a religious person who believes God created the earth, what right do we have to treat it the way we do?   Even the Bible tells us God wants us to use the earth sustainably and be stewards of it, not destroy it.  Right wing Christians who insist that taking care of the environment is a sin because it shows a lack of faith that God will replenish what we use are talking out of their arses.   That’s like saying that teenagers who throw a party while their parents are out shouldn’t have to clean up their mess because that would show a lack of faith in their parents’ ability to do so.   Maybe it’s true God CAN clean up our mess and replenish what we destroyed, but really, why should he?   Why would we deserve anything but annihilation if we blithely destroy the home we were given?

It’s just so damn sad.   For whatever reason, human empathy seems to be disappearing and without it, only death and destruction awaits.  Even higher animals have empathy.  We need to work on getting it back, and we need to teach children how important it is to care about each other and about other species too.   The lack of empathy is what’s wrong with our country, and with the whole human species.  Our lack of it will ultimately spell the end of life as we know it.  We must stop our predatory, selfish ways and reverse them, and we need to do it immediately, before it’s too late.

I love this beautiful planet.   It’s a rare gem in the vastness of space and we are blessed to be able to call it home.   I deplore what selfish, arrogant people are doing to it in the name of greed.   They don’t ever stop to think that they aren’t invincible either.  When the planet dies at their hands, they will die too.

Why “A Wrinkle in Time” is an important book in these dark days of Trumpism.

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2018 book cover.

Sarah Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian states who often appears on MSNBC to talk about the Trump presidency and its similarity with other autocratic regimes, shared her thoughts with Flood Magazine   in which she uses the plot of Madeleine L’Engle’s famous 1962 young adult novel, A Wrinkle in Time, as a metaphor for the dark political days we are living in.     As a lifelong fan of L’Engle’s Newbury award-winning science-fiction/fantasy novel (and being as against Donald Trump and his regime as I am), Kendzior’s words really resonated with me:

“It’s a good book for children to read now, growing up during the Trump administration,” Sarah Kendzior told me. “The rejection of conformity, the emphasis on compassion.” She’s called IT a “fascist monster,” comparing his brainwashing of Meg’s brother Charles Wallace to the “normalization” of Trump Times. “One of the scariest lines in the book is, ‘Just relax.’ Just give in, we’ll take care of you. Relaxing is much easier than trying to combat IT. That’s what happened to us as a nation—people had faith in institutions and checks and balances, but it comes down to individuals’ willingness to uphold those things,” Kendzior said. Lucky for her father, Meg takes responsibility, defeats IT, and rescues him by virtue of thinking hard and getting angry.

Kendzior is right.  “Wrinkle” is very much about empathy, using one’s brain to solve problems, and the age old battle between good and evil.   Madeleine L’Engle, who died in 2007,  was a Christian who often explored religious and moral themes in her works, without ever becoming preachy or self-righteous.   Rather than reject or deny science (as many evangelical Christians today do), in “Wrinkle,” she embraces science — specifically quantum physics and the possibility of alien life — to tell a riveting and rather dark story about a 13 year old girl (Meg Murry) who is forced to use her righteous anger to fight against an evil force that has kidnapped her father and is about to take over the universe.     I agree with Kendzior that kids today should read this book.  (The movie, which I believe is being released in theaters today, couldn’t have come out at a more appropriate time in American history — although I have heard the reviews for the movie aren’t that great, so maybe it’s better to stick with reading the book.)

Meg isn’t alone in her quest.  She has help, in the form of three mysterious and sometimes humorous old women (L’Engle has described these women elsewhere as guardian angels rather than the “good witches” they appear to be).  Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which have supernatural powers and can appear or disappear at will.  Mrs. Whatsit is also able to shapeshift into a being who is a cross between an angel and a centaur.   There is also Meg’s telepathic 5 year old brother, Charles Wallace, whose ability to empathize must be off the charts and who also has a genius level IQ.  Finally, there is Meg’s new friend Calvin O’Keefe, seemingly average in most respects, but who, like Charles Wallace, seems to possess an impressive ability to empathize.

The story revolves around Meg’s father, a physicist who had been working on some top secret project involving quantum physics, and then suddenly disappeared and was never heard from again.   There’s some kind of connection between his disappearance and a concept he’d been working on called a “tesseract,” which refers to a 5th-dimensional  shortcut that can be taken through time and space by “folding” it.

Meg is a relatable but not always likeable girl.  She is brainy, awkward, unsure of herself, and apparently not very popular with most other kids because she’s not perky or upbeat all the time (I loved Meg when I read this book at age 11 or 12 because she was exactly like me!)   Meg’s reaction to things tends to be to get angry or sulk.   Her teachers have expressed concern over her rebellious and uncooperative behavior and her falling grades.  Since her father’s disappearance, her problems have only gotten worse.    Her little brother Charles Wallace is the family’s youngest child and has an uncanny ability to always know when Meg is upset, and even know the exact details of what she is thinking about.    Calvin O’Keefe, while he seems to be Meg’s opposite in many ways (he is popular, athletic, and only “average” IQ-wise) also is unusually understanding and empathetic of Meg’s emotional needs.

Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, who have ensconced themselves in an abandoned house in the woods near Meg’s home, come to the children one stormy October night.  Soon the kids find out these old women are celestial messengers and know where her father is — and that only Meg can be the one to save him.   Soon the three kids are embarking on a journey across the universe, traveling by “tessering” through space and time.

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1960s book cover.

Meg is at the center of the fight to return her father from the forces of darkness that have captured him, and the evil and powerful entity (IT) that has engulfed and now controls a large part of the universe.     Along the way the reader is treated to alien worlds and creatures.  The world on which her father is held prisoner is a terrifying planet of total conformity and utter control, in which people are literally turned into programmed robots.   Anyone who deviates from the “program” in any way is coldly disposed of.   This is also the planet where IT resides.  Some of the worlds Meg visits (that have not yet been engulfed by IT’s dark forces) are populated by beings with high levels of empathy and altruistic love.  On these worlds, Meg finds the emotional and physical replenishment she needs to succeed on her quest. On one planet, she is nurtured back to health after almost losing her life by a huge and ugly but maternal creature Meg comes to call “Aunt Beast.”

Like Meg and her companions, we who resist Trumpism are on a journey to fight a force that, like IT, seeks to gain complete control and enforce lock-step conformity.    It’s a force devoid of empathy, atruistic love, gentleness, and compassion, because those are values of the Light, which are alien to the dark forces of Trumpism.    Trumpism holds a dark, violent, and toxic masculinity that insists that the Light is weak and feminine, or “socialist,” as somehow virtuous.   Darkness hates the Light because it’s petrified of its power to expose the truth, so it will gaslight you and try to make you believe that goodness is really evil and evil is good.      Light values are the same ones Jesus taught in the Gospels (and almost every humanitarian spiritual leader has encouraged, from Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.)   Ironically, the darkness of Trumpism, while insisting it’s based on Christian values, has in fact twisted and perverted Christ’s true message of love and inclusion into its polar opposite.

Like Meg, we in the resistance are going to be forced to go outside our comfort zones (Meg got quite sick while “tessering” at one point, and always did find the shortcut  frightening).  We can’t be tempted to “give in” to darkness just because it seems easier or because we’re being told that fighting it will only cause us more trouble than lying down like sheep and and accepting it.   Like Meg, we may need to use those qualities we dislike in ourselves, especially anger, to fight off the darkness before it consumes everything it touches, including our souls.

A Wrinkle in Time has aged well since its 1962 publication.  While the language the kids use in the book seems dated and overly formal (what kid calls their mother “Mother” anymore?), the book was well ahead of its time in its attitudes toward women and their intellectual aptitudes (Meg’s mother is a successful microbiologist).   The battle between good and evil is as old as humanity itself, and is especially well told in this classic and entertaining book.   The Christian message of the story is clear, while never beating you over the head with religion or Christian symbolism.   I worry about kids today being brainwashed by the sociopathic, nationalistic, racist, pro-violence, anti-woman, anti-science, and anti-education messages of exclusion and intolerance they are hearing from Trump and his followers.  A Wrinkle in Time is a great anecdote to that and if kids aren’t into reading, I’m sure seeing the new Disney movie can’t hurt them any.

It’s also a book that adults can enjoy too, and since reading the article I linked to above, I just started reading it again.

We are at war. What do we do now?

 

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So.  The oligarchs got their wish last night, under cover of darkness.  In secrecy and total lack of transparency, in the dead of a December night, they passed a tax bill that robs the poor and middle class to further enrich the 1% and the corporations.  An almost 500-page document with scribbled handwritten notes was presented to them hours before they had to vote.  This is a terrible way to govern.  It is the way things are done in third world dictatorships.

Not only is this bill, should it become law, going to gut the middle class and cause many of them to fall into poverty, it robs the most vulnerable members of society of healthcare (by repealing the ACA mandate), sneaks in a “fetal personhood” law, and gives huge tax breaks for things like private jets and vacation homes, but takes away the child tax credit for average families and the ability of teachers to deduct necessary things like school supplies.   It also cuts Medicaid and other programs many people rely on.

It also will explode the economy by adding 1.3 trillion to our national debt, which is their legacy to our children and grandchildren.   The GOP is aware of this, and don’t care, because it works for them.   It gives them a handy excuse to gut or eliminate Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare later on (neither Social Security or Medicare are entitlement programs — they are trust funds we’ve been paying into our entire working lives!)   But I don’t expect them to be there when I need them in a few more years.  I have no idea what I’m going to do then.    But the Powers That Be will just find a way to blame the Democrats for the economy collapsing and making it necessary for them to enforce draconian austerity measures that are necessary to repair the economy.  Of course, what they say is all bullshit and is just gaslighting.   They never take any responsibility for the damage they do; all they do is shift the blame to others.

Their ideal America is not one where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   They prefer one where the rights of most of us are stripped away, where voting is suppressed or we can’t vote at all, where dissenters are punished for having a voice,  where honest and ethical reporters are jailed or silenced, where immigrants are deported or locked up, where toxic authoritarian evangelical Christianity is the law of the land,  where women are chattel and property, where slavery is allowed, and the rest of us serfs toil 6 or 7 days a week (because eventually two day weekends will be abolished as well since that was a right that came about due to labor laws of the early 20th century).  Our lives will be brutal and short, just like they were in the Dark Ages.   At best, their ideal society will be a replay of the Gilded Age, which was a horrible life for most people too.   These criminals running our government won’t be satisfied until not one penny is left for us, where the middle class is gone, and we are living in a feudal society where the mighty oligarchs look down from their gated mansions up on the hill at the great unwashed masses of the impoverished existing in their shanty towns down below.

I need not go on about the horrors of such an America, but it’s what they want and it’s closer at hand than most people realize.    The oligarchs have declared war on us, and their greed knows no limits.   Their God is Mammon.  They will kill us either passively (by taking away our means to live or be healthy) or aggressively (that might be coming) in order to keep enriching themselves and feel not one iota of remorse or regret, for they have no conscience.  They gaslight us by insisting that their greed, meanness, and consciencelessness is somehow “godly” or “defending freedom.”

They lie to us by insisting that “more jobs will be created” if the ultra-rich pay less taxes, but four decades of trickle-down economics and the recessions that always result from GOP economic policies have proven this does not work.   Yet, in their willful ignorance, conservatives keep insisting trickle down economics does work, or that if it hasn’t, this time it will (what’s that saying about insanity and trying the same thing over and over?)  But in reality, it’s we, the so-called “parasites” and “useless eaters” who are the real job creators, because it’s demand for products and services that create jobs, not tax breaks for the rich.  Without us to buy their products and services, they would all go out of business.  If we get to keep more of our money to spend, we buy more and that’s what creates jobs, not tax breaks that are mostly invested in offshore banks and used to buy elections and control politics.   Most economists now agree trickle down economics doesn’t work and only creates more inequality between the richest and everyone else.   The greedy oligarchs, not us, are the real parasites on society.

This isn’t a rant against the rich.   I know most wealthy people aren’t like this.    I think most of the rich are still decent human beings, unwilling to rob the rest of us to line their own pockets, but the ones with the most power and the ones who have bought our government and greatly influence elections — the Kochs, the Mercers, the DeVos family, the Adelsons, etc. — have declared war on the rest of us, helped along by the complicit Republican Party, who are beholden to their oligarch donors.  I think the Citizens United decision was possibly the worst thing to happen to democracy and the death blow that made such a pathocratic, kleptocratic government possible.

I am beyond disappointed and heartsick at Susan Collins’ and John McCain’s decision to vote yes on this bill.  I mistakenly believed they were both people of conscience and would not put party before country, greed over people.  I was wrong.   Back in July, I wrote a glowing tribute to John McCain after his dramatic “no” vote on Obamacare repeal.   I will be removing that post, since he proved last night he’s no different than the rest of them and has sold his soul too.

And now they want to repeal Net Neutrality too, which will mean we will have to pay more to read what we want to read or view what we want to view, or not get to access it at all.   It’s a form of internet censorship, which makes it easier for huge corporations to control the web, at the expense of the small business owners, everyday people, and small-time bloggers like me.    If Net Neutrality is repealed, we bloggers may find our traffic has dropped drastically, since so many people will no longer be able to access our sites.   If we earn an income from blogging, or sell things online, we will be hurt financially by the repeal.   I have an awful feeling it’s going to pass.

I feel like I’m grieving a death, the death of my country.  It’s not a sudden, merciful death; it’s a long, drawn-out painful one.   What makes it worse is knowing that this country that used to be “the shining light on the hill” for the rest of the world, is now seen as an enemy by advanced western democracies, a country that has turned on its own people and is now turning us against each other.   We are no better than a third world dictatorship (with nukes).   The criminal enterprise posing as our government literally is trying to kill us — or make our lives as painful and oppressive as they can until we die.   It’s slow genocide.   That’s not an exaggeration or a conspiracy theory.  These are bad people with evil intentions.   They want us to go away because we are in their way in their quest for unlimited power and wealth.    But eventually it will destroy them too, for without us to buy their goods (or not able to buy their goods), how will they maintain their opulent lifestyles?

When people begin to die, it won’t just be because the poor, the old, the sick, the disabled, and even children will have their social safety net that keeps them alive stripped away and be forced to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile, repressive, and unhealthy environment.    It won’t just be because the air, water and land they’re deliberately destroying will eventually kill us.  I’ve also seen a number of comments on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) from people feeling so hopeless and scared they’re  actually considering suicide.   People will kill themselves because they have lost all hope.   They feel like the bullies have won and believe there’s nothing they can do.   We have an abusive president, and an abusive cabal of conscienceless operatives, who want us to feel that way.   They want us feeling worn down, exhausted, and ready to give up — because when we give up, they acquire complete control.   That’s how Hitler was able to get away with his crimes.  The German people were complacent, and with only a few exceptions (White Rose Society), most people gave him the benefit of the doubt or called him a “buffoon” and believed he was a bad or incompetent leader but essentially harmless.  Or they felt so beaten down and afraid they did nothing.    I see many Americans and the American mainstream media acting much the same way.   That has to stop.

They are waging a war on empathy.    Empathy and having a conscience and sense of real morality (not just being anti-abortion and anti-gay) is seen as something bad by this pathocracy who has wrested power and forced their will on us in darkness and secrecy.    They are sociopaths and and narcissists who believe empathy is a weakness, something for “snowflakes” and “those dirty liberals.”  They believe in authoritarian strongmen who show no mercy.    Their spiritual leader is Ayn Rand, who thought empathy was evil and selfishness a virtue.   Her un-Christian, un-American philosophy is hardwired into their minds, even those who profess to be Christians.   This is a spiritual war, a literal war between good and evil.   There can be no goodness in a society that thrives on selfishness, military might, greed, racism, sexism, and hatred.  There can be no goodness in a society where the only measure of a person’s worth is their success in obtaining power and wealth (or their being born into it).  There can be no goodness in a society that treats its most vulnerable members with hard-hearted callousness “for their own good.”

We are facing our shadow, and the sickness in America that has been hidden for at least 40 years is now right on the surface for everyone to see.   That’s good, because it’s not until the symptoms of an illness become visible, that action is taken to eradicate the disease that caused them.   That some choose not to see the symptoms, or believe those symptoms are actually signs of good health, proves how deep and pervasive the sickness really is.   This cancer of selfishness, sociopathy, greed, and narcissism must be eradicated, and fast.

But how do we do it?   Calling our representatives, sending them letters, going to protests, posting snarky memes, signing petitions, and waiting around to vote in rigged elections obviously isn’t enough.   I don’t have any good ideas.   But we must keep fighting this malicious power however we can (without breaking the law — for now at least) and never, ever give up.   It’s when we give up that it’s all over and they own us to do whatever they want with.  Let’s learn from Nazi Germany and not allow what happened there happen here.   Let’s brainstorm together.   But how do we keep fighting evil without succumbing to despair and hopelessness?   I don’t know.

I did have one thought.  We could register as Republicans (as odious as that is).  That would throw a monkey wrench into their voter suppression efforts and also keep us from being tracked down and surveilled.   We could still vote for who we want to vote for.  What do you think?

As down as I feel today, this clip from “Animal House” put a smile on my face.  Bluto is right — let’s get going!   #Resist!

You are also invited to join my Facebook group if you’re wrestling with Trump trauma like I am.   You will be required to answer one question.  Trump supporters are not welcome.

https://luckyottershaven.com/2017/02/18/post-trump-trauma-support-group/

Empathy burnout and the normalization of the unthinkable.

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While I don’t hold Trump or his administration directly responsible for the increase in mass shootings and killings this year, there definitely seems to be a lot more of them than ever before.  I think the national mood where people have become so divided and where hatred and violence have become almost normalized have been a contributing factor to these killings. It seems that almost every week now, there is a news story about yet another mass shooting or terrorist attack (to me, this includes white nationalist domestic terrorism) here in America. I feel more and more like we are living in a third world country where these sort of things are commonplace.

When the news broke today about the shooting at a Texas church, where 25 worshipers were killed, my first thought was a detached, almost bored, “again?” This was followed by the cynical thought “I sure hope it was a white guy who did it, and preferably a Republican” (because a Muslim, black, Mexican, or liberal shooter would make my side “look bad” and contribute to even more Trumpian cracking down on people’s civil rights).

My reaction shocked me. I didn’t feel much grief or outrage for the people who lost their lives in the one place — a church — that’s supposed to be a sanctuary from the world and all its problems. I didn’t think about the families who would be grieving for their lost loved ones or about all the innocent injured people who would never be the same again even after they physically recovered. No, I automatically politicized the atrocious event. My only real concern was that the shooter had best be a white conservative or just someone who “snapped” under stress.

A month ago, a man opened fire on 500 innocent country music lovers in Las Vegas and 58 of them died. I reacted more strongly to that event, and I don’t think it was just because more people were killed that time. I think it was because I still saw these kinds of events as abnormal; tragedies like that that just didn’t happen here in America. But even then, I had already begun to normalize such events in my mind. In June of 2016, when 49 people were shot in an Orlando nightclub, I cried. I doubt I would have cried had that happened anytime this year. In fact, I worry that if 9/11 happened today, it wouldn’t have anywhere near the gravity it did seventeen years ago, and after a few days of outrage and grief, I’d just forget it happened, like I have with all the terrible events this year.

empathyburnout

I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to others about my growing indifference and cynicism and they have told me they feel the same way. I’ve also have noticed the way it seems to take a lot less time for us as a nation to recover from such events. The Las Vegas shooting has been all but forgotten and is barely mentioned in the news anymore, as the daily bombardment of other terrible or frightening news overwhelms us and eclipses that terrible event. Would we be so quick to forget something like that a year ago? Ten years ago? If 9/11 happened today, would we have already moved on with our lives? I’m afraid we might have. In fact, rather than bring us together in solidarity as a nation the way it did then, I’m afraid 9/11 would have divided us even further into opposing political camps, with some demanding martial law or even tossing Muslims into concentration camps.

I think America is experiencing a psychological phenomenon called empathy burnout or compassion fatigue. It’s a common condition among people who work in the helping professions. When you’re continually exposed to the hurting, the dying, the sick, and the victimized, people begin to unconsciously put up an emotional shield to protect themselves.   In other words, they lose their capacity to empathize, at least for the group of people they’re helping.  I’ve read this sometimes goes so far that some people even begin to resent or feel contempt for their vulnerable charges.  Compassion fatigue is the reason why there’s such high turnover in professions like social work, firefighting, police work, teaching, emergency services, and nursing.

When compassion fatigue begins to infect an entire country, and we all begin to psychologically wall ourselves off from the world and stop caring, such events become “normal” to that society, and we become less able to recover our national sanity at the one time we need it the most.

We can’t afford to lose our capacity to feel pain and empathize with the victims of atrocities like these mass killings.    But since we also need to emotionally protect ourselves, I think the only way to avoid compassion burnout is to take frequent breaks from the news, as addictive as it has become in these times.   Spend time with your friends, your family, and immerse yourself in non-news related interests and hobbies.   Spend time with animals or in nature, or engage in volunteer work (but not so much you get burned out).    Remind yourself that these are not normal times we live in, and these events are not normal.   It’s also important to remember that the emotional numbness we may be feeling when we hear of such events don’t mean we’ve become bad people or that we don’t care, but is a normal reaction to trauma, and these are are all trauma-inducing events, even though they may not directly affect us.

We also should be working toward tightening our gun laws, but that’s another topic which I won’t elaborate on for now.

Fake empathy.

Most US Presidents, following a national disaster like Harvey, have spent time with survivors — comforting and talking to them, serving them food, and sharing hugs and even tears.

Donald Trump not only took several days to visit the people of Houston after Harvey left it devastated, when he arrived there, he spent more time bragging about the size of the crowds (as if he was at one of his rallies instead of at shelters where he had a captive audience) and what a “huge storm” Harvey had been.  He talked more about how Texas could handle things because it was so strong than he did actually offering words of support and comfort to its people.    Most outrageous of all, he told the survivors — people who had lost everything and were staying in crowded shelters — that they seemed “happy.”

Sure, he provided some good “optics” — picking up and kissing babies and pretending to serve food to the survivors — but his words to the people who were his captive audience were hollow, inappropriate to the occasion, and extremely awkward.   He also didn’t miss an opportunity to diss the media and Hillary Clinton.

The mainstream media gave him a pass, fawning all over him for having at least tried to act presidential, when they should have been calling him out on his inappropriate, callous, and outrageous words of “support” to these devastated people.

This morning he decided to put an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), an Obama-era program that ensured that young people who were brought over from other countries as children — a program that required its recipients to either be working or attending school.   By ending DACA, he doomed these productive, intelligent young people to deportation back to the countries their parents brought them from (with a six month delay).   That would mean that these kids and young adults, the vast majority of who are high achievers and are benefiting our economy,  would lose everything.   They would be stranded in foreign lands they couldn’t remember, in some cases knowing absolutely no one.  For a party that calls itself “pro-family,” his heartless and cruel decision will tear families apart and destroy lives.

Trump also had a history of failing to acknowledge Americans who have died in tragic accidents, most recently the 12 sailors who died in an accident on a Coast Guard ship.   Not one word was ever mentioned about those sailors, but this was far from the first incident in which Trump — unlike past presidents — just didn’t seem to care.

Watching Trump, I believe he not only has no empathy, he also has no conscience.  That to me indicates a sociopathic, not merely narcissistic, personality.    He actually seems to delight in causing pain and suffering.  I do think he is in fact sadistic, and enjoys pushing policies that will traumatize and hurt people.

When he talked about Harvey, he seemed almost gleeful over how “big” and “powerful” the storm was.   He seemed almost proud of it and acted like the Houston survivors should be proud of it too, as if it were some national monument or sports record.  I think he could relate to the storm.  He can relate to anything that’s powerful and destructive and destroys lives, because destruction and chaos is the only thing he understands.

Now he’s traumatizing the entire country by playing chicken with an equally unhinged narcissistic sociopath using nuclear weapons.   Nuclear war is a real possibility.    We are in grave danger of annihilation.   But it’s just a game to these two — and we are pawns in their game.  We are expendable because we aren’t people; we are merely objects to be played or discarded at whim.   Trump’s ego is much more important than human life, and he is willing to kill us all to save his ego.

A friend told me her young daughter comes home everyday crying because she’s so afraid of nuclear war.   She’s just 12, and can’t sleep.  She can’t concentrate at school and is withdrawn and depressed.   My friend told me she has had to send her daughter to a therapist to try to address this trauma.   But this girl isn’t alone.  Many people are being traumatized by this president’s actions and threats, but he will never care.  Nor will he stop his destructive and dangerous behavior.

Going back to Harvey,  Joel Osteen, the multimillionaire Prosperity Gospel preacher who holds his church services in a huge stadium, refused to open the stadium to flood survivors until he was finally shamed into it.    He held a service to pray for the survivors– and passed around a collection plate for donations to the cause — even though the people at the service were the survivors themselves! Who does that?

Trump’s evangelical “spiritual advisers” offered only “thoughts and prayers” to the flood survivors– not any real tangible help such as money, food, clothing, or time spent comforting families. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with praying for people, but when “thoughts and prayers” are used as a substitution for any real help, they are as meaningless as a Hallmark card.

I’ve noticed this is something narcissists will do in lieu of offering any real help.  They will condescendingly say, “I will pray for you,” or promise you they will send their “thoughts and prayers.”   Another thing they will do is offer you phony and hollow platitudes, slogans, and sayings in place of actually offering you a listening ear, compassionate advice, or any real empathy. There’s a huge emotional disconnect — they can’t relate to you with any depth or as a person with real feelings.  Instead, they try to mollify you with a few canned words printed on a card or a meme — and then put a guilt trip on you if you aren’t grateful for their lame and shallow efforts at “comfort.”

They also victim-shame.   They airily tell you your life would be better if you just acted more happy, smiled more, or acted more positive.   Now sure, there’s a place for positive thinking, and I agree that positive people tend to draw in more positive things in life (I have seen this work for myself).  However, there is a limit to this.   There are times such an attitude is just plain callous and insensitive, a way of dismissing the very real needs of people who have suffered misfortune through no fault of their own.   Narcissists absolve themselves of any responsibility or having to offer any real help by insidiously blaming the victim by telling them “if only you were more happy/positive/smiled more, etc. ”

During his sermon for Harvey survivors, Osteen told the people — most who had just lost everything they owned — not to play the victim.   I’m sorry, but how are people who have just lost everything they owned playing the victim?   They are victims, and as such, they should be showered with real compassion, not condescending platitudes about positive thinking.   They should also not be expected to donate to their own cause (especially when Osteen himself owns a 15 million dollar home and is one of the wealthiest men in the country) and most of these people had no access to cash or their bank accounts.

I think this conscienceless, heartless administration has been especially hard emotionally on people who have suffered abuse at the hands of people like them and also on people who are empaths and very sensitive to their spiritual darkness.