Donald Trump is often described as a textbook case of the downsides of extreme narcissism — the cruelty, the conceit. But the Republican presidential front-runner’s success in business and politics raises this uncomfortable question: What if he also exemplifies the upsides of narcissism? And what if it would behoove many of us to be a bit more like him?
Your knee-jerk response may be, “I don’t want to emulate Donald Trump in any way!” But can we take just the useful pages from his playbook and leave out the ugly parts?
I put that query to Dr. Craig Malkin, author of the new book, “Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — And Surprising Good — About Feeling Special.” A clinical psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, he begins with a massive disclaimer: “I would not advise anyone to emulate Donald Trump in a lot of the ways that he behaves.”
But broadly speaking, he says, it’s a myth that narcissism is all bad. In fact, narcissism is a trait, not a diagnosis, Malkin says; it’s a drive to feel special. And it exists on a spectrum, unhealthy mainly at the extremes.
“We are surrounded by this idea of empty, soulless, dangerous narcissists, and there are people like that out there,” he says. “But the reality is, what we see in the research is that there are healthy aspects, and they coexist, often, with the unhealthy in people who are extremely narcissistic. So you get the good with the bad.” Continue reading