Manipulating a Narcissist: My Plan for Kim Jong Il

I have some insight to contribute, and not just because I may be the only person in these United States who read both his book on opera and his book on cinema.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

It may not surprise you to hear that I have very little experience negotiating international policy.

I do, however, know a lot about interacting with pathological narcissists. I was raised by them and have long lived among them as I continue to study them in relative peace. In a way, I am to narcissists what Jane Goodall is to chimpanzees. (Well, I guess Jane Goodall wasn't actually raised by chimpanzees.)

But the point I am trying to make is that I have some insight to contribute about future dealings with Kim Jong Il. And not just because I may be the only person in these United States who read both his book on opera and his book on cinema.

No...I speak now of that fact that Kim Jong Il is almost certainly a pathological narcissist.( Also a sociopath. But that's not why I called you all here today.)

It is the grandiosity of Mr. Il's narcissistic disorder out of which his premature nuclear testing and his stance about it is born.

For those of you who don't obsessively read books on narcissism, as I do, a friend of mine once explained the credo of the narcissist as "I'm the piece of shit the world revolves around." It is a psychological syndrome in which extreme insecurity finds cover and comfort in self obsession.
Therefore, every response you make to a petulant, irritable, childish, tantrum-inclined narcissist finds you walking on thin ice. This applies equally to agents, politicians, actors, officious little bureaucrats at Wal Mart and North Korean heads of state. It is the reason why, when one is dealing with a narcissist who is also wielding a nuclear bomb, a little tactical forethought is your best friend.

It's important to understand that a narcissist operates out of only two constantly flip-flopping states of emotional being; grandiosity and humiliation. So, if you are not feeding the grandiosity of someone like Kim Jong Il, than you are humiliating him. Period. Those are your choices. That is the part of this equation you can't change.

Out of those two choices, only the grandiose narcissist is a happy narcissist. A humiliated narcissist is a rigid, non-compliant, revenge seeking nightmare.

So yesterday, when I read in these pages about an unidentified North Korean official who was quoted as saying, "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes. That depends on how the U.S. will act," my narcissism alarm bells instantly started ringing. Especially after I read, in the same paragraph that Mr. Sensitivity, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton's reply was "If they want to talk to us, all they have to do is buy a plane ticket to Beijing.,"

Narcissistically speaking, I knew that Bolton telling Kim Jong Il he could show up on his own dime if he wanted to ( at the stalled six-party talks that North Korea is shunning in favor of bilateral negotiations with the United States,) was not going to be very well received.

That is because to a narcissist, anything short of being treated like a V.I.P. is not only unacceptible, it is humiliating. And the behavior of a humiliated narcissist is always a vengeful, vindictive tantrum. Always. Don't forget, too, that Kim Jong Il loves grand drama to the extent that he's dabbled in operas and films.

So let's pretend for a second that Bolton or someone, (anyone!) in the Bush administration cared even a little about psychology. ( I know I'm just pissing in the wind here. But isn't that why God invented blogging?) Then I think they would have to consider the idea of sending Kim Jong Il a V.I.P invitation to a meeting of important super powers as one of the safest ways to buy a little time. Only through grandiosity feeding do you acquire a hand of cards that you can safely play with a narcissist.

Of course, even knowing all this, there's still only a limited amount of moves you can make. By definition narcissists are inflexible. And this all becomes infinitelyl more complicated by the unfortunate truth that Bush, Cheney , Rumsfeld and Bolton are all vindictive tantrum throwing narcissists too.

But looking on the bright side, at least Kim Jong Il is a wine-women-and-song-style hedonist, not an Islamic Jihadist joie-de-mort death worshipper.

Kim Jong Il doesn't want to die. He wants to live really really well. His former sushi-chef-turned-author revealed that Dear Leader not only has a wine cellar containing 10,000 bottles but also used to send him on culinary shopping trips to Iran and Uzbekistan for caviar, to Denmark for pork, to China for grapes and to Thailand for mangos.

So how about this for a tactical move that would feed his grandiosity : Arrange for a great big power lunch AT HIS PLACE. "The U.S. would love to come talk you...and sample some of your amazing wines." Condi could say, "And maybe watch thousands of synchronized Korean students with flashcards create vast mosaic scenes from Korean history, in back of a field full of dancers, gymnasts and acrobats. I've always wanted a first hand look at some of those four level human pyramids surrounded by a sea of children twirling hoops and jumping rope in tandem."

Then while Condi, and lots of network cameras are in the thrall of the glory that is North Korea,..well, here's where my not actually knowing anything about international negotiating kind of becomes a deficit. I guess you let Jack Bauer, Bill Buchanan and Chloe tell you just what your options really are.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community