About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.
Some very smart people are asking: what is going on? Many sense urgency, even threat, but don’t understand exactly why. Those who do sense danger want to understand what is going on in order to know what to do. In dire circumstances, we need a survival kit. Given the nature of jeopardy, survival may depend on having physical supplies or a supply of information. In 2017 what is needed is information.
1. What is deflection?
Deflection is accusing another of doing the very thing you are guilty of yourself. The guilty party does this to avoid any investigation or consequence of his own behavior.
2. What is a narcissist?
A clinical definition of a narcissist is not one who loves himself but one who has an inflated sense of one’s own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. That is, a narcissist thinks everything is about him, has no understanding of or concern for others, and needs to claim credit for anything “good” and to deny responsibility for anything “bad,” especially failure. Beneath apparent self confidence is a fragile self esteem that is threatened by even the slightest criticism. Therefore daily he will blame others and deflect (accuse others).
The need to protect a fragile ego justifies storytelling, even lying. It justifies claiming credit for what others have done and accusing others of what he has done. Predicting the future demonstrates superior knowledge, as does speaking in superlatives: the greatest, easiest, strongest, biggest and best ever.
4. Why is any group controlled by its most neurotic member?
First, what is a group? It is a number of people – as few as three, as many as the 535 members of Congress or the 318,000,000 citizens of the United States – with a common identity and a common purpose. To get to work, a group must agree to group norms – acceptable language and behavior and common goal(s). The most neurotic member controls because he does not agree – his behavior and language are outside the norm so work never begins. All energy of all the other members is focused on trying to convince or control the neurotic member. That member will not change but will use the following defenses: my predecessor did the same thing; other members do it but you treat him better, and you may not like it but it’s not illegal.
The great question is: so what? Say this does define the problem or unearths the underlying cause: so what? Nice to know, but what do you do with the information?
The knee-jerk reaction to deflection is twofold: the accused denies and defends; the reporters work diligently to seek out and publish the truth. Don’t bother.
The deflector wants focus elsewhere either because he does not wish to get caught or because he wants to do something else while no one is watching. In either case deflection is working when the focus shifts from the deflector to the accused.
Don’t try to establish truth and convince his supporters; learn from history. When all the New York newspapers tried to expose Boss Tweed, there was a river of ink and nothing happened. Tweed explained, “My constituents don’t know how to read.”
Tweed’s constituents couldn’t read; the narcissist’s supporters won’t listen.
So what do you do?
Again Tweed explained, “They can’t help seeing them damned pictures!”
Trust the comedians. True believers cannot be convinced, but they can laugh. When the accusations, exaggerations and outright downright lies appear daily, borrow a line from Ronald Reagan, smile, and say, “There he goes again.”
For the serious-minded, the response to a deflector’s accusations is to ignore the accused and investigate the substance because that is what the deflector is guilty of.
Are you trying to figure out if the disruptor of groups is a brilliant man with a hidden agenda and no conscience, a beer short of a six pack, or dumber than a ball peen hammer?
None of the above: in his mind he is the magician. He is the one who knows how the trick is done. He loves doing it because it demonstrates the invidious comparison: how smart he is and how easily fooled you are. He is a constant combatant – one who must prove his superiority daily, if not minute by minute. He needs an audience and a sparring partner.
You cannot change a narcissist, but for those who wish to lessen his power, remember William James, psychologist and brother of novelist Henry James, who wrote: “No more fiendish punishment could be devised than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by the members thereof.”