Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

  
 
 
 
 
 
 

LARGE-GROUP NARCISSISM AND POLITICAL LEADERS
 
 
 
By
 
Vamık D. Volkan, M.D. and J. Christopher Fowler, Ph.D
 
 
 
 
 
Psychiatric Annals, Volume 39, Issue 4, APRIL 2009.
 
 
Massive traumas at the hands of “others” lead to shared humiliation, shame, fear of being assertive, and difficulty mourning for large ethnic, national, or religious groups. Large-group narcissistic injury may lead to a corresponding defensive increase of shared narcissism linked to large-group identity. Once the traumatic event is over — following the end of an occupation by the “other,” the removal of the oppressive regime, or the break-up of a political system — smoldering narcissistic injuries among the former sufferers and among their descendants through transgenerational transmissions can spark new large-group processes of  “entitlement ideologies.” Such processes, with or without a change in function, may remain active for generations, at times with malignant and destructive consequences. When exacerbated, they play a role in the creation of an atmosphere that encourages leaders with narcissistic personality organization to reactivate and manipulate “entitlement ideologies” and related emotions within the large group. This, in turn, increases the shared narcissistic investment in large-group identity and changes its characteristics. Such leaders can function to repair old wounds, returning mature pride and confidence to the group, or conversely, narcissistic leaders with an under-lying paranoid orientation can foment violence and massive destruction in the name of “ethnic cleansing” and genocide.
 
 
Narcissism and Large-group identity:  
When people form groups to perform shared tasks to express the group’s specific functions and purposes, they make narcissistic investments in the group’s shared identity. This accentuates the “specialness” of the group over all others including, because of its unique identity, similar groups. Identities range from belonging to the same school, theater group, soccer team, or professional association, to belonging to the same geographical region, terrorist affecting the members’ economic, social or political well-being.
 
In direct observational studies of groups of 30 to 150 individuals, Kernberg noted that narcissistic reorganization of chaotic regressed groups seeks out an omnipotent narcissistic leader, idealizing him or her while acting out a “parasitic dependency.”3 This phenomenon is similar to the basic assumption dependency that Wilfred Bion5  observed in regressed small groups (composed of 8 to 12 individuals). Kernberg’s observations of paranoid reorganization of chaotic regressed larger groups, on the other hand, correspond to Bion’s fight-flight, basic assumption small groups. If the group’s organization, ethnic, or national group. Interference or threats to the group from an outside “other” challenges the group members’ collective narcissistic investment in the group identity and may disrupt the collective tasks that maintain identity. When external threats disrupt the cohesiveness and functioning of the group, the group’s members experience a shared regression.  
 
The sharing of the large group’s identity begins in childhood.  
 
 
Individuals identify with a given large group when they name an affiliation such as, “We are Arabs,” “We are Americans,” “We are Hindus,” or “We are Communists.” They hold on to a given large-group identity and invest it with shared narcissism. Paraphrasing Erik Erikson’s6  notion of personal identity, we use the term “large group identity” to refer to a large group that shares a permanent sense of sameness while also sharing certain similar characteristics with other large groups.
 

The sharing of the large group’s identity begins in childhood. This applies also to members of a political group whose parents and the people in the childhood environment are believers in the ideology. To become a follower of a political ideology as an adult involves other psychological motivations. The type of large-group identity that a child primarily will assimilate depends on the existing large-group history and shared sentiments in the child’s external world. To illustrate differences in largegroup identity investment, consider a child born in Hyderabad, India. As the child’s identity in relation to the large-group identity develops, this child will focus primarily on religious issues, because adults there define their dominant large-group identities according to religious affiliation (Muslim or Hindu).7 Questions of investment in ethnicity versus religion, or nationality versus political ideology, are not as essential to understanding large-group identity as is the psychodynamic process of linking the child’s core personal identity to the historical primacy of large-group identity at the time of the child’s development. Some children of mixed marriages may come to identify with more than one national or religious group. When ethnic conflicts erupted in Transylvania between Romanian and Hungarian ethnic groups and in the Republic of Georgia between Georgians and South Ossetians, children or descendants of mixed marriages (having one parent from one ethnic group and the other from another ethnic group) often became psychologically troubled.8

 

A “normal” degree of shared narcissism necessarily is attached to largegroup identity.9 A healthy degree of narcissistic investment in a large-group identity provides a sense of belonging and trans-generational continuity among members, and in turn supports individualized self-esteem of the members.

 

An “exaggerated large-group narcissism” denotes a process in which people in a given large group become preoccupied with the superiority of almost anything connected with their large-group identity, ranging from nursery rhymes and food, to established cultural customs, artistic achievements, scientific discoveries, past historical triumphs, and possession of more powerful weapons than their neighbors, even when such perceptions and beliefs may not be realistic. We can observe Erikson’s10 concept of pseudo-speciation becoming actualized within the largegroup’s activities when the group’s identity becomes excessively invested with exaggerated narcissism. Erikson described how each human group develops a distinct sense of identity linked to an illusion of being chosen at the outset of human history. When an empire collapses or when a large group loses its former powerful position on the world stage, we see a shared exaggerated narcissistic investment in its large-group identity.11,12

 

Pseudospeciation is also observed when a large group tenaciously holds on to a sense of victimhood by referring to a dramatic past trauma or chronic oppression at the hands of an “other.” Utilization of a sense of suffering is often in the service of feeling morally superior, openly or in a hidden fashion, representing the existence of “masochistic large-group narcissism.” Pseudospeciation is also observed when a large group tenaciously holds on to a sense of victimhood by referring to a dramatic past trauma or chronic oppression at the hands of an “other.” Utilization of a sense of suffering is often in the service of feeling morally superior, openly or in a hidden fashion, representing the existence of “masochistic large-group narcissism.”13,14

 
A particularly pernicious form of “malignant large-group narcissism” develops when members of one large group share a spoken or unspoken belief that “inferior others” are contaminating their group’s superiority, and they feel entitled to use shared sadism in order to oppress or kill the “inferior others.” What happened in Nazi Germany illustrates this concept. A particularly pernicious form of “malignant large-group narcissism” develops when members of one large group share a spoken or unspoken belief that “inferior others” are contaminating their group’s superiority, and they feel entitled to use shared sadism in order to oppress or kill the “inferior others.” What happened in Nazi Germany illustrates this concept.15
 
 
Collection data on Large-group psychologhy:
The above descriptions of large-group narcissism from expected “normal” levels refer only to the surface picture of the complex and intertwining realistic and psychological factors that influence large-group identities. There are special circumstances that permit in-depth data collection on large-group identities and the shared psychology of large-group processes.13,14,16,18
 
1. Conducting psychoanalytically informed interviews with people from different age and gender groups and from different sections of a society during war-like situations, soon after wars are over, and decades after the original trauma.
 
2. Facilitating or participating in a series of years-long unofficial diplomatic dialogues between influential delegates from large groups in conflict. When enemy large-group representatives come together with a facilitator/observer for such dialogues, they become “spokespeople” for the conscious as well as unconscious psychological processes that exist within the large groups to which they belong and exhibit psychological elements that are present when one large group relates to another one in peace or in war-like situations.
 
3. Making observations at refugee or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps over some years and spending time with families who are perceived as leaders in such camps. Here “we-ness” becomes palpable and is expressed in the refugees’ verbal and nonverbal communications and refugee leaders’ interactions with their fellow sufferers.
 
4. Visiting “hot places.” Under certain circumstances, specific geographic places become symbols or even protosymbols19 of large-group identity and become intensely invested with shared narcissism. Volkan called such locations “hot places.” For example, during the Georgian-South Ossetian war in 1991–1992, Georgians captured the cemetery in the South Ossetian capital Tskinvali. When there were more South Ossetian casualties (about 100 of them), they were buried in the schoolyard of High School #5 on Lenin Avenue. Later, South Ossetians built a memorial at this location and called it the “Crying Father.” In the South Ossetian culture, fathers are not supposed to cry, so erecting a “Crying Father” statue stood for their shared trauma, shared narcissistic hurt, and the victimized South Ossetian identity.
 
5. Spending time with the political leaders of large groups, especially when they are preoccupied with large-group issues and are concerned with the protection of their large-group identities and the narcissistic investment in them.
 

From  individual psychology to large-group psychology in its own right:  

Individuals make up large groups of hundreds of thousands or millions; therefore, in the large-group psychology we see reflections of individual psychology. Once a large-group process starts, it establishes a life of its own.
 
We will now follow the example of Kernberg,3,4 who observed regression in groups 30 to 150 followed by narcissistic or paranoid reorganization and examine regression and narcissistic and paranoid reorganizations in groups of hundreds of thousands or millions. Then we will focus on how political leaders with narcissistic personality organization give adaptive or destructive direction to these shared processes.
 

Large-group regression:

We borrow the term “regression” from individual psychology to denote when a large group becomes involved in certain social and political processes after a major threat to its large group identity, because we do not have a word that stands only for large-group regression. Perhaps Earl Hopper’s20 term “incohesion” in a large group is better. Elsewhere Volkan18 described 20 signs and symptoms of large-group regression. One of them, rallying around the leader, as occurred in the United States immediately following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has been known since Sigmund Freud. When Freud21 wrote about this phenomenon, he did not explicitly state he was referring to groups, and it was Robert Waelder22 who brought to our attention that it was, in fact, regressed groups that Freud was describing.
 
Regression within a large group stimulates the population to share primitive mental mechanisms of internalization and externalization when dealing with the external world. We are referring here to massive internalizations, such as the population “eating up” political propaganda without making much of an effort to evaluate its validity. Such primitive internalizations create conditions for mass movements against the identified enemy, as Volkan13 observed when studying Albanian historical events. Under the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, the Albanians built an estimated 750,000 bunkers throughout Albania in anticipation of an attack by an enemy primarily created by externalizations. Building these bunkers, which would not stand against modern weapons, was also a reflection of magical thinking, another characteristic of regressed large groups. We see various types of magical thinking, such as expansion of extreme religious fundamentalism23 and combining historical events and shared traumas with religious beliefs.
 
In a regressed large group, the political, legal, or traditional borders begin to symbolize the borders of large-group identity. In other words, borders become highly psychologized, and people, leaders, and official organizations become preoccupied with their protection. Because there is in fact a realistic danger “out there,” borders obviously need to be protected, and because of this, it is difficult to study the psychological aspects of this preoccupation. When a large group regresses, “minor differences” between the enemy groups become very major issues, since minor differences are experienced as unchangeable “borders” separating one large group’s identity from their enemy’s identity.
 
In some regressed large groups, traditional family values are replaced by ideologies, such as happened in Nazi Germany.24 In other regressed large groups, the role of women is reduced to giving pleasure to men (sex), providing food (symbolic milk for the society under stress), and producing children for the survival of the large group’s identity.23 Efforts are made to activate, or to become preoccupied with, certain cultural customs to illustrate the uniqueness of a given large-group identity. The large group wants to wave them like flags to illustrate that their identity is stil visible and functioning. But in the psychological reality of the large group, its members feel helpless, humiliated, suffer from complicated mourning, and express rage in hidden ways or openly. Thus, when efforts are made to exaggerate cultural customs, these customs do not exactly look like the original ones; they are now invested with rage and envy. One example of this can be found in South Ossetia. There had been a playful cultural ritual concerning brides, in which a girl would be symbolically kidnapped and married. The cultural kidnapping customs in South Ossetia turned into a horrible actualization of kidnappings and rapes of young women after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when bloody fights took place between ethnic Georgians and ethnic South Ossetians living within the same legal/political state boundaries.14
 

Inflaming “Chosen traumas”:

When individuals regress, they go back to nodal moments in their developmental history, visit early realistic and fantasized desires and dreads, and utilize early mental mechanisms to deal with them. In these states individuals experience, in a sense, a “time collapse” by mixing perceptions, affects, conscious, and unconscious fantasies about present psychological problems with the same form of psychological problems from childhood. Each large group also has a developmental history mixed with reality and fantasy. Each large group was “born” in a historical event or often in a mythologized story. As decades or centuries pass, each large group goes through historical experiences that make them special and different from other groups. When a large group regresses, references to the history of its beginning or its mythological birth may increase. But this is not a usual phenomenon. What is usual in a large-group regression is the reactivation of “chosen traumas,” shared mental representation of a past historical event that has caused the ancestors of a large group to face drastic losses.14,25
 
First, we will briefly explain how a chosen trauma becomes established. A massive trauma at the hands of enemies, unlike traumas caused by natural or man-made accidental tragedies, is accompanied by shared shame, humiliation, inability to be assertive and even dehumanization. When the members of an affected group cannot reverse their shame, humiliation, helplessness, and dehumanization and cannot mourn their losses, they obligate the subsequent generation(s) through what is known as the transgenerational transmission of trauma, to complete these unfi nished psychological processes. We have known about this phenomenon for some time, especially due to many psychoanalytic studies on Holocaust survivors and their descendants.24
 

More than a child’s identification with traumatized adults, the concept of “depositing” self- and object images into the self-representation of a child explains how transgenerational transmission of trauma occurs.24,26 Depositing is closely related to “identification” in childhood but it is in some ways significantly different from identification. In identification, the child is the primary active partner in taking in and assimilating object images and related ego and superego functions from another person. In depositing, the other, adult person, more actively pushes his or her specific self-and-internalized object images into the developing self-representation of the child. The other person uses the child (mostly unconsciously) as a permanent reservoir for certain self-and-object images belonging to that adult. The experiences that created these mental images in the adult are not “accessible” to the child; yet those mental images are pushed into the child without the experiential/contextual “framework” that created them. Memories belonging to one person cannot be transmitted to another person, but an adult can deposit traumatized self-and-object images — as well as others, such as realistic or imagined object images that are formed in the depositor’s mind as a response to trauma — into a child’s self-representation. Judith Kestenberg’s term transgenerational transportation,27 we believe, refers to “depositing” traumatized images.

 

In the case of mass traumas, all such images and tasks that are handed down contain references to the same historical event, and as decades pass, the mental representation of this event links all the individuals in the large group. The historical truth about the event is no longer a psychologically key element for the large group; what is important is the sense of being linked together. In open or in dormant fashion, or in both alternately, a chosen trauma can continue to exist for centuries. The term “chosen trauma” accurately reflects a large group’s unconscious “choice” to add a past generation’s mental representation of a shared event to its own identity. Although large groups may have experienced any number of traumas in their history, only certain ones remain alive over decades or centuries. Large group leaders, storytellers, and poets “mythologize” the special stories connected with their ancestors’ traumatic event, dramatically casting the story’s heroes and villains to aggrandize the moment. The mental representation of the event becomes a large-group marker that belongs solely to the group.19

 
In “normal” times, the chosen traumas can be ritualistically recalled at the anniversary of the original event, when the members of the large group share a strong sense of group cohesion and belongingness. Greeks link themselves together when they share the “memory” of the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul) to the Turks in 1453; Russians recall the “memory” of the Tatar invasion centuries ago; Czechs commemorate the battle of Bila Hora in 1620, which led to their subjugation under the Hapsburg Empire for nearly 300 years; Scots keep alive the story of the battle of Culloden in 1746 and the failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie Charlie to restore a Stuart to the British throne; the Dakota Indians of the United States recall the anniversary of their decimation at Wounded Knee in 1890; and Crimean Tatars defi ne themselves by the collective suffering of their deportation from Crimea in 1944. Israelis and Jews around the globe, including those not personally affected by the Holocaust, all to some degree define their large-group identity by direct or indirect reference to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is still too “hot” to be considered a true chosen trauma, but it is already becoming an ethnic marker, even though Orthodox Jews still refer to the 586 B.C. destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia as the chosen trauma of the Jews. Some chosen traumas are difficult to detect because they are not simply connected to one well-recognized historical event.
 
Although large groups may have experienced any numberof traumas in their history,
only certain ones remain alive over decades or centuries.
 
Even when chosen traumas are recalled ritualistically, emotionally speaking they may lie dormant for a long time, like effectively repressed unconscious conflicts; yet, like individual conflicts, the chosen trauma can be reactivated and emotionally inflamed to exert a powerful psychological force in the lives of the group members. Indeed, some political leaders seem intuitively to know how to inflame a chosen trauma, especially when their large group is in conflict or has gone through a radical change and needs to reconfirm or enhance its identity. Chosen traumas act like fuel to maintain large group conflicts, even if the conflicts have their origins in economic, legal, political, or military controversy. When a large group regresses due to present threats against its identity and suffers from shared narcissistic hurt, its members do not simply recall their chosen traumas in ritualistic ways. They reactivate the chosen trauma in an effort to repair and maintain the large-group identity and the narcissistic investment in it.
 
During unoffi cial dialogue series between influential representatives of enemy groups, the representatives’ preoccupations with their chosen traumas create a significant resistance against having realistic negotiations.14 Whenever a new ethnic, national, religious or political crisis develops within the society its political leaders’ reactivation and infl ammation of chosen traumas fuel entitlement ideologies.
 

Chosen glories:

Many nations celebrate their independence day. All large groups have ritualistic recollections of events and heroes whose mental representations include a shared feeling of success and triumph among large-group members. Such events and persons appearing in them are heavily mythologized over time, and these mental representations become large-group markers called “chosen glories.” Chosen glories are passed on to succeeding generations through transgenerational transmissions made in parent/teacher-child interactions and through participation in ritualistic ceremonies recalling past successful events. Chosen glories link children of a large group with each other and with their large group, and the children experience increased self-esteem by being associated with such glories.
 

Entitlement ideologies:

Chosen traumas are typically accompanied by entitlement ideologies, one of the principle signs reflecting a large-group’s attempt towards a narcissistic reorganization following a regression. It also reflects an attempt to find a solution to complicated mourning of losses of people, land, and prestige in the current trauma that are intertwined with similar losses in the reactivated chosen trauma. Not unlike the exaggerated entitlement we notice in a person with a narcissistic personality organization, an entitlement ideology provides a shared belief system for the members of a large group in that they have a right to possess whatever

they desire. This can obviously precipitate a conflict with an “other.”
 
Chosen glories link children of a large group with each other and with their large group.
 
Irredentism is a political entitlement ideology. It became a political term after the Italian nationalist movement sought annexation of lands referred to as Italia irredenta (unredeemed Italy), areas inhabited by an ethnic Italian majority but under Austrian jurisdiction after 1866. Many authors28-31extensively studied another well-known entitlement ideology and its sometimes deadly consequences known as Megali Idea (Great Idea) among Greeks. It refers to a specific political entitlement ideology that demanded the reunifi cation of all Greeks of the former Byzantine Empire. Megali Idea played a significant role in Greeks’ political, social, and especially religious lives, since the Greek Orthodox Church was instrumental in keeping the Megali Idea alive and active. Since Greece’s membership in the European Union, its investment in this ideology has been waning.
 

Purification:

After a large group emerges from crises such as war or the break-up of a political system or removes itself from an oppressive regime, the attempt at reorganization may take a paranoid reorientation: The affected large group performs purifi cation (large-group externalization). Like a snake shedding its skin, the large group will cast off certain elements such as symbols, “cultural amplifi ers,”9 ideologies that no longer seem useful or appropriate, or those things that seem to impede growth and the revitalization of large-group identity, including people or things that are “foreign” but near and threatening. Large-group purification rituals involve a spectrum of practices, ranging from the benign (purifying language) to the malignant (ethnic cleansing). After their war of independence (1821–1829) from the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks purified their existing language of Turkish words. In locations where a revolution took place or where oppression by others ended, we frequently see changes in the names of towns, streets or other geographical locations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1993 the newly independent Latvia attempted to purify its military Cemetery of Brothers in Arms from the unwanted remains of less than two dozen Soviet Army soldiers. Russians, especially military veterans, reacted with rage and this kind of ethnic cleansing of unwanted corpses was not carried out.13 After the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, the Serbians during the times of Miloševic were involved in cultural and ethnic cleansing.13
 
Taming or inflaming large-group resgression:
Two events that took place during the latter part of the 20th century, the birth of post-apartheid South Africa, and the death of the former Yugoslavia shed light on the role of a leader’s personality and relationship with the large group, and illuminates two different ways of handling large-group narcissism: one attempts to repair it, and the other to increase it. Histories of both South Africa and the former Yugoslavia involved massive change, total disruption of governmental, social, and philosophical systems, and in both places events induced regression and anxiety within their respective large groups. Nelson Mandela initiated a non-violent process to bring together black and white groups that had lived separately and in confl ict for decades, while Slobadan Miloševiç incited aggression among groups that had lived together rather peacefully for some time.
 
Mandela’s personal approach to leading post-apartheid South Africa is evident in his involvement in the 1995 World Cup Rugby Championship hosted by South Africa. Rugby had been considered a white man’s sport in South Africa and “a symbol of white Afrikaner unity and pride dating back to the Boer War.32 Although South Africa produced talented rugby teams, they had been barred from the 1987 and 1991 World Cup Rugby Championships because of apartheid. Hosting the 1995 World Cup was therefore of great political significance for the new South Africa, and Mandela would be able to enhance both national and international prestige if the event was successful. Mandela’s task was made even more challenging since the South African team, the Springboks, had only one black player, and the name of the team evoked associations with apartheid itself. But beyond simply ensuring a well-run tournament and portraying South Africa as a reformed and responsible host, Mandela’s personality actually helped to promote the process of emotional unifi cation in South Africa.
 
To encourage the feeling that rugby now belonged to all South Africans, Mandela visited the team’s training camp, shook hands with the players, patted their backs, and wore a Springbok cap. He told the team that the whole nation was behind them and made public statements about the new image of the Springboks. In turn, the Springboks reciprocated. The day before their match against the former champion, Australia, the South African rugby team went to Robben Island, off Cape Town, where Mandela had been imprisoned for 18 years. They visited Mandela’s former cell and dedicated their efforts in the World Cup to their president. The whole country was galvanized. The next day, under the spell of this emotional atmosphere, the Springboks defeated Australia 27–18. In the black township of Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, 44% of the 9 million residents watched a game that had previously been associated with the pro-apartheid white regime,32 and they did so even though the single black player on the team was sidelined because of an injury.
 
On the day before the Springbok’s next match against France, Mandela gave a speech in Ezakheni, a black community, where he pointed to his Springbok cap and said: “This cap does honor to our boys. I ask you to stand by them tomorrow because they are our kind.”32 South African blacks identifi ed with Mandela and with his acceptance of the white regime’s sport. This unlikely symbol of South Africa’s apartheid past was transformed into a symbol of unity and hope for the modifi cation of societal attitudes. Millions cheered as the team upset France the next day, and the 1995 Rugby World Cup came to a crescendo when South Africa defeated top-ranked New Zealand in overtime to win the championship. Soon afterward, the Springboks began a campaign to encourage black township residents to pay their utility bills as part of their contribution to the rebuilding of South Africa. A white man’s sport had become a vehicle for education about civil responsibility, adaptation, and postapartheid politics.
 
We have not studied in depth the development of Nelson Mandela’s personality and therefore cannot offer many insights into how or why he became the type of leader he was. It is clear, however, that his personality was well suited to encouraging creative and adaptive approaches to the many problems that face South Africa.
 
Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) activities were most supportive of Mandela’s efforts. TRC activities evolved as an abstract memorial that absorbed feelings associated with unfinished large-group mourning and humiliation.33 In today’s South Africa, what can be called “social sadism” is prevalent. The rates of murder, rape, and armed robbery are disturbing.34 We believe that, among other reasons, such disturbing statistics reflect the continuing effects, now turned inward, of the long-standing large-group trauma. Nevertheless, Mandela’s and Tutu’s personalities and the TRC’s activities, as Tutu himself believes,33 stopped extreme bloodshed in South Africa. Now, South Africans are attempting ways to open up large-group mourning and re-create the distribution of healthier narcissism to their large-group identity as well as sub-identities in South Africa. Besides books such as Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s A Human Being Died that Night,35 Phillip Miller’s cantata REwind, Lee Hirsch’s documentary Amandla, and Ian Gabriel’s film Forgiveness openly express the experiences of apartheid and help societal mourning.
 
Another political leader who appeared to have a narcissistic personality organization manipulated regression, reactivated a chosen trauma, infl amed an entitlement ideology, stimulated narcissistic and paranoid directions in reorganization, and caused malignant purification. Volkan13 described in details how after the collapse of Yugoslavia, when Serbs were attempting to consolidate their “new” identity, Slobodan Miloševiç reactivated the Serbian chosen trauma, the shared mental representation of the Battle of Kosovo that had taken place in 1389, and associated Serbian entitlement ideology known as Christoslavism,36 leading to exaggerated and sometimes malignant large-group narcissism and malignant purification. It would be misleading to portray Miloševiç as solely responsible for the many tragedies of the Balkans, since animosity between Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians existed long before he came to power, and many complex issues and events were involved. But it is also clear that Miloševiç’s decisions were not intended to encourage peace, stability, and ethnic tolerance. Here we will refer to some key aspect of this most tragic event that took place in Europe at the end of the 20th century.
 

Before the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina began, state propaganda under Miloševiç’s tutelage aimed to reactivate the mental representation of the Battle of Kosovo (1389) between the Serbians and the Ottomans. In the Serbian’s minds this event marked the end of their most glorious period, the death of one of their holiest leaders, Prince Lazar, the beginning of their subjugation, and conjured up images of defeat and conquest for Serbians. Miloševiç did not “invent” Serbian’s feelings toward this historic event; they had been kept alive for centuries in Serbian folksongs, other art forms, and church and school teachings. But he did, with the help of the Serbian Orthodox Church and certain Serbian intellectuals, actively encourage their resurrection and elevation in the Serb’s individual and collective consciousness. In preparing for the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in 1989, he arranged for the body of Prince Lazar, the Serbian leader who was killed at Kosovo, to be taken from one Serbian village to another in a year-long journey back to a monument near the site of the battle. In each city and town where Lazar’s body was taken, political speeches were made and “funeral” ceremonies were attended by throngs of mourners dressed in black, as if Lazar had been killed only recently. These commemorative events created an atmosphere for a “time collapse:” the shared fantasies and feelings pertaining to the mental representation of the Serbian chosen trauma linked to an entitlement ideology became intertwined with shared perceptions and anxieties pertaining to current social and political conditions. The time collapse then permitted the introduction of an idea of entitlement for revenge. Since the Ottoman Turks killed Lazar, many Serbs of Miloševiç’s time began to feel that they were entitled to take revenge and kill Bosnian Muslims whom they perceived as, and actually referred to as, extensions of the Ottoman Muslims.13 A most malignant form of purification, so-called ethnic cleansing, then occurred, and a similar process was then pursued in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 
Volkan13 interviewed individuals who knew Miloševiç and collected data about him. He concluded that Miloševiç was aloof, calculating, self-centered, and seems determined to remain “number one” at any cost, including the destruction of others. A saying in Belgrade during Volkan’s data collection phase went something like this: “Pity on the person whom Miloševiç calls a friend!” Miloševiç came from a broken family and experienced numerous traumas in his early years. When he was 7 years, his favorite uncle, an army officer, put a gun to his head and killed himself. When he was 21 years, his father did the same. His mother killed herself when he was in his early thirties. He married his teenage sweetheart, Mirjana Markoviç, but her story is no fairy tale either. According to Norman Mailer,37 Markoviç’s mother, a Yugoslav partisan during World War II, “was captured by the Nazis, tortured, surrendered crucial information, was released, and then was executed by the leader of her partisan group, who happened to be her father.”37
 
It is difficult to imagine that these experiences did not have a profound affect on shaping Miloševiç’s adult personality. Both his and his wife’s violent loss of love objects must have caused complicated mourning, difficult adaptations, and defensively increased narcissism. A close bond apparently existed between the two — to function to patch up each other’s psychic wounds and have a special relationship. But Miloševiç otherwise did not trust those in his entourage or have many close relationships. Clinical observations indicate that individuals who have experienced such drastic losses and have become stuck in complicated mourning sometimes symbolically “resurrect” the dead and their substitutes substitutes in an attempt to mourn, although this process never has an adaptive end for them. The wish to repair the image of the loss and the aggressive wish to "kill" seems doomed to alternate repeatedly.38
 

This background may explain why Miloševiç played a key role in bringing Lazar back to "life" and facilitated his "funeral" in Serbian towns. We can only speculate that his troubles mourning and increased narcissism found a counterpart in the Serbian people’s shared wish for a “greater Serbia” and the corresponding inability to mourn the losses associated with Ottoman control of the Balkans and their ancient leader, Lazar, who had been "martyred" six centuries earlier.

 
Creating leaders with narcissistic personality organization:
Historical examples abound in which large-group humiliation or chosen trauma reactivation prepares the psychological foundation to seek, elect, or accept a person with narcissistic personally organization to be a “savior” for the stressed group.18,39,40  Such a leader’s belief in his or her superior power, intelligence, and omnipotence creates comfort and an illusion of safety for the regressed large group. Thus, the followers use the leader with a narcissistic personality organization as an “antidote” for shared anxiety. In turn, this type of leader utilizes the dependency and adoration of the regressed followers as one way to protect and maintain his or her grandiosity and hide his or her dependency needs. The leader then is inclined to manipulate, in an exaggerated manner, the regressed large-group processes consciously, but more importantly unconsciously, and initiate reorganization. Not all leaders with exaggerated narcissism are destructive; many can be reparative. A reparative leader with narcissistic personality organization wishes for his or her followers to achieve a hoped-for high level of functioning in order to reflect the leader’s shining self image and be extensions of his or her superiority. A destructive leader with narcissistic personality organization also attempts to lift up his followers’ self-esteem and modify their large-group identity, but only by comparing their “superiority” to an “inferior” group that is targeted for destruction.18,39
 
Examining the period of Miloševiç’s power can be a lesson in which psychoanalytically oriented observations may direct political authorities to consider preventive strategies. If a leader with narcissistic personality organization reactivates and inflames a chosen trauma, an entitlement ideology, propaganda for purification, and helps to create an atmosphere of time collapse, one should anticipate the possibility that a destructive event could evolve.
 

Because individuals with narcissistic personality organization seek to become “number one,” they may get elected in democratic countries such as the United States without the large group needing a “savior.” In spite of the checks and balances in democratic countries, there are occasions when a leader with narcissistic personality organization may lash out and seek a target through which he could address the needs of his narcissistic personality and restore his power and prestige in his own mind.

 
Examinations of Richard Nixon’s life from a psychoanalytic angle reveal that the dominant aspect of his personality was narcissistic, although he utilized obsessional preoccupations to support his narcissism.8,41 Steinberg focuses on a time when Nixon felt frustration, shame, and humiliation because of a collection of external events. She convincingly describes how Nixon, in order to re-establish the stability of his narcissistic personality in the face of these threats, hastily chose to exert and reconfirm his power and superiority through a secret offensive against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong bases in Cambodia. Kissinger was told to inform the State Department of the first B–52 mission, “only after the point of no return.”42 There was more to the decision — made quickly, secretively, and exclusively by Nixon — than military strategy. The North Vietnamese would not be allowed to get away with making Nixon appear weak, impotent, or indecisive.
 
In the public speech in which Nixon announced his invasion of Cambodia, delivered nearly a year after the covert bomb In the public speech in which Nixon announced his invasion of Cambodia, delivered nearly a year after the covert bombing began, the importance of the policy as a means of supporting a sense of grandiosity, now displaced onto the United States, seems clear. He said, “We will not be humiliated... we will not be defeated.” Under no circumstance would the United States act “like a pitiful, helpless giant” — instead America must respond decisively since “it is not our power but our will and character that is being tested tonight.”42 Student protest broke out across the nation, and nearly 100,000 protesters eventually converged on Washington. In Cambodia, a full-fledged war broke out and raged for 5 years, and continued for another 20 years as the Khmer Rouge sought complete control through the “killing fields.”
 
Because individuals with narcissistic personality organization seek
to become ‘number one,’ they may get elected in democratic countries...
without the large group needing a ‘savior. 
 

Large- group narcissism in today’s world and future considerations:

Recently, a modern form of “globalization” has become the zeitgeist among politicians, academicians, and economists that promotes an ideal and attempts to create prosperity and well-being for societies by standardizing economic, technological, ecological, and sociocultural elements and by bringing political democratic freedom to every part of the world. From a psychological point of view, this wished-for form of internationalism implies erasing “otherness” or “pseudospeciation” to a great extent that is, we believe, an impossible task. It is no wonder that alongside the preoccupation with the modern version of globalization there is an “anti-globalization” movement that speaks out against what is perceived to be negative aspects of globalization.43 Modern forms of globalization and economic uniformity are perceived as intrusive threats to large-group identity.44–48 Meanwhile, the internet and related tech movement that speaks out against what is perceived to be negative aspects of globalization.43 Modern forms of globalization and economic uniformity are perceived as intrusive threats to large-group identity.44–48 Meanwhile, the internet and related technological advances in communications, the increase in international travel,49 and related activities allow people around the world to become integrated socioculturally in ways that were not possible during earlier human history. These phenomena, in turn, have been modifying cultures. Younger generations, especially with their interest in communication technologies, are carrying out shared tasks and in so doing they are changing the culture of older generations worldwide.50,51
 
In his book Grundsätze der Realpolitik (Basic Principles of Realpolitik),52 Ludwig von Rochau (1853) advised political leaders and politicians to carefully estimate what their opponents really wanted, not what they said they wanted, and to be prepared to use force when necessary to achieve their own or thwart someone else’s objectives. Eventually Realpolitik came to mean that political life was exclusively dominated by secondary process thinking, realistic assessment of options, and rational formulas to maximize one’s own carefully defined interests. Political scientists, historians, and others who evaluate political leaders and their decisions have adopted this ideal, often called the “rational actor model,” and therefore mainly focus on economic, legal, military and related issues. Although “rational actor” models still dominate political analysis, their limitations also have been recognized. Since the 1980s, interest has increased in using cognitive psychology to explain certain aberrant or “irrational” political decisions. Meanwhile, systematic use of psychoanalytic or psychodynamic data concerning leaders and their decision-making patterns and processes remain scarce.
 
Especially since September 11, 2001, we realize that routine diplomatic activities, logical thinking, bargaining, and established customs of “Realpolitik” alone are insufficient strategies for dealing with world affairs connected with large-group identity conflicts and terrorism. Psychoanalytically informed observations and formulations extend our understanding of world affairs, especially destructive and irrational historic and current events.
 
Exploring the variations of large-group narcissism, the interactions between large groups and their leaders with narcissistic personality organization may help to anticipate the conditions in which social forces create the conditions for destructive acts, even genocide.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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