Malignant egocentricity is a term that aptly describes the psychology of many dictators, dictator wannabes, and sometimes even people like you and me. In order to understand this term, it is important to have some understanding of the structure and nature of the psyche.
The ego is the center of the conscious personality. It is your conscious identity, your “I-ness.” The ego functions as a lens, or filter, through which you perceive and respond to the world, both inner and outer.
But the ego is just one part of your much larger personality which also includes the unconscious. The center of the total personality—conscious and unconscious—is termed the Self. The Self, not the ego, is the proper center, guiding and healing force within the psyche. In a healthy orientation to life the ego is meant to serve the Self. Diagrammatically, this is sometimes depicted as a planet (the ego) revolving around the sun (the Self).
Unfortunately, our ego, or conscious mind, often takes itself to be the center, the leader or “CEO” of the personality. This is called egocentricity. All of us have some level of egocentricity—it is an inevitable human tendency. But in certain individuals egocentricity becomes malignant. That is, it becomes like a cancer that has taken on a life of its own, diverting energy from other areas of the psyche for its own indulgence and over-reaching efforts to control.
There are a number of personality characteristics common to persons whose orientation to life has become malignantly egocentric. Because the malignantly egocentric ego attempts to make itself the center of one’s being, it is like a rogue nation or a state that has seceded from the union. To the extent that its real place is within the union, it triggers within itself a certain amount of paranoia for it knows its sovereignty is ill-gotten, tenuous and temporary. Its apparent authority is achieved only through the hubris and usurpation of a role that does not belong to it. As a result, there is often an underlying anxiety and paranoia to the personality ruled by malignant egocentricity. Such a person may live in a sort of psychological bunker, reinforced by reassuring rationalizations and soothe-saying sycophants.
Emerging in reflexive compensation, or counterbalance, to this underlying fear of impending collapse is often a manufactured arrogance and bravado. A haughty persona reflects an ego that has become possessed by an unchecked power drive. Its presentation is a lie, a bluff and false self designed to convince others and reassure the egocentric individual of the rightness of his/her beliefs and decisions.
Additionally, the malignantly egocentric ego tends to be one-sided and short-sighted. It does not know what it does not know, and it frequently could not care less. Its viewpoint is rigid. It lacks flexibility and spontaneity because its single-minded goal is to safeguard and perpetuate itself. Therefore, ideas, perspectives or experiences that would challenge or undermine it are strictly and aggressively silenced, argued against, belittled or ridiculed. It will go to most any end to try and depotentiate that which it fears.
The malignantly egocentric ego tends to see things in terms of polarities and in so doing triggers divisiveness within its community, be that its family, a social group or a whole nation. If you are not for it, you are against it. There is no even-handed, pros and cons perspective. Agreement and allegiance are mandatory. Naysayers must be eliminated lest troublesome self-doubt open the floodgates of unconscious inferiority feelings and the inklings of impending doom.
Such an individual is often cowardly. Their ego is too much attached to itself to actually engage in a heroic act for true heroism involves the willingness to sacrifice oneself for something greater than oneself. This is the very thing the malignantly egocentric ego cannot do. It loves itself too much to die or surrender for that which is more worthy and valuable. It sees death and transformation as annihilation, loss, and humiliation. It is too possessed and intoxicated by playing God to acknowledge its humanness, vulnerability, mistakes and fallenness.
Perhaps the greatest losses characteristic of the person suffering from malignant egocentricity are those of love, creativity and humor. These gifts flow from the Self, the dynamic, ever-evolving core of the personality. The malignantly egocentric ego may try to imitate these qualities but they ultimately ring hollow. They resemble a performance, or presentation, cut off from the authentic soul of the individual. Because its focus is its own self-preservation, all of its conscious decisions are ultimately focused towards that end. This precludes acts of genuine love, creativity and spontaneous humor for these arise from and serve depths of the psyche and universe.
A final result of these things is that the malignant ego is rather predictable. This stems from its lack of genuine creativity. It is so attached to a particular goal that its methods become machine-like and its creativity is straight-jacketed. In its arrogance it does not see how obvious its intentions are to others. So hungry and desperate to achieve its ends, it is either blind to the transparency of its motives and methods or it has become so over-confident—seduced and blinded by its own lies and purloined power—that it does not care what others see or know. Its view of itself is writ so large and that of others so small, that it does not really care what the little people think.
Copyright © Andy Drymalski, Ed.D.
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