Disordered Leaders: Why Are Psychopaths And Narcissists Drawn To Positions Of Power?

psychopaths and narcissists drawn to positions of power

There are many different types of government. There is democracy, which literally means rule by the people. There is autocracy, which means government by one person with absolute power, such as a monarch or dictator. There is also oligarchy, which means rule by a small number of extremely wealthy and influential people.

A lesser-known – but unfortunately common – form of government is pathocracy, which literally means government by people with personality disorders. In most cases, this means people with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder.

I have written about pathocracy in a series of posts on this blog over the last year or so. The concept was originally developed by Polish psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski, who grew up under the Nazi occupation of Poland, and then experienced the Soviet regime of Stalin. Lobaczewski devoted his career to studying the relationship between personality disorders and politics.

Narcissists Want To Be Given Power
Disordered Leaders: Why Are Psychopaths And Narcissists Drawn To Positions Of Power?

He concluded that individuals with disorders such as psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder are strongly attracted to power and often constitute the governments of nations. He defined pathocracy as, ‘a system of government created by a small pathological minority that takes control over a society of normal people.’

In my earlier posts, I suggested that there was a danger of the United States government becoming a pathocracy. I think it is safe to say that this has now transpired. Even before Trump became president, a large number of American psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals stated their belief that the president has a disordered personality. Most recently, the president’s niece, Mary Trump – a clinical psychologist – has stated that the president suffers from malignant narcissism, and possibly other conditions such as sociopathy and dependent personality disorder.

Pathocracy is not just about individual leaders, though. Once a disordered leader takes over a country, responsible and moral people gradually leave the government, either resigning or being ejected. It’s just a matter of time before the whole government is filled with ruthless people with a severe lack of empathy and conscience.

Pathocracies arise because people with psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder have a strong desire for power. Moral and empathic people may gain positions of power due to merit and ability, but they don’t feel the same intense drive for power as psychopaths and narcissists. Narcissists and psychopaths push themselves into positions of power in the most ruthless and brazen way, propelled by a need for authority, attention, and wealth. In this post, I would like to explain where this drive for power comes from.

Related: The Difference Between Narcissism And Confidence

Extreme Separation

One of the reasons why personality disorders interest me is because they are the polar opposite of ‘spiritual’ states. Spirituality is essentially about connection. It’s about transcending self-centeredness and feeling connected to other human beings and to the natural world. This sense of connection generates a sense of concern and compassion for other beings, and a sense of responsibility towards the human race and the world in general.

As I showed in my book The Leap, spiritually developed people don’t feel the drive to accumulate wealth, power, and success. They have no desire for personal gain because they don’t feel a sense of lack. Their sense of connection means that they feel part of the world, and content to live in it, on an equal basis with other people.

narcissists and psychopaths
Disordered Leaders: Why Are Psychopaths And Narcissists Drawn To Positions Of Power?

People with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder experience the world in a completely different way. They live in a state of intense separation or disconnection. They are trapped inside their own mental worlds, like prisoners in solitary confinement, alone with their own impulses and desires.

They can’t sense other people’s feelings or see the world from other people’s perspectives. The world outside their own minds is a shadowy, unreal place towards which they feel no responsibility. Everything takes second place to their own needs and impulses.

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Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor PhD is the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality, including his new book Extraordinary Awakenings: When Trauma Leads to Transformation.View Author posts