by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist, Energetics Institute, Perth, West Australia
One of the notable events of 2012 was the "outing" of the legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong as having led a cunning and pervasive sham through a large part of his cycling career. The details that have emerged about how he operated, how he conned so many for so long, and the reactions of others since, all point to the existence of a narcissistic or psychopathic personality at work.
Indeed others such as emotional intelligence academic Mr Chris Golis, have described Lance Armstrong as a classic "corporate psychopath", who he claims "has hustled and bullied his way to the top his whole life". I would agree and note the narcissistic excesses that dominated the way he conveyed himself, fought critics, used silence, and lied whenever it suited him.
What one noticed with Lance Armstrong was the image he projected and how he had a strong group of blindly loyal "followers" who are now still in denial that he has done anything wrong. It is common for the followers of narcissists to stop using adult critical thinking to sum up situations and question what is going on.
Some followers are reported to have even colluded with him and were then blackmailed into silence for their part in doping scandals. They were manipulated by Armstrong into becoming guilty which bound them in silence lest there be retribution for them if ever the whole sham was exposed.
Narcissists by nature are co-dependent personalities. They firstly need others approval and feedback that they are great and lovable and the best. This psychic black hole inside of them needs constant filling on a daily basis as they are essentially an empty persona which has been replaced by a carefully crafted grandiose, image based false self. This false self is the operative identity you and I see and relate to.
It is a vacuous, self serving self that does not see others than anything other than opportunities to be used and exploited. Narcissists and psychopathic personalities tend to see others in terms of their "utility value".
This means they only pay attention to you and me if somehow we enhance their image through them associating with us, or we have some asset, knowledge, power, connection or opportunity they want. If that is the case they will be seductive, persuasive, manipulative or ominous until they get what they want.
Narcissists have no real feelings and so lack empathy and concern for others. They are indifferent to the way their behaviour and actions affect others, as they are totally obsessed only with themselves, and do not care what is your fate. Lance Armstrong has shown this indifference and lack of emotion since his exposure in regards to the fate and reputation of the sport and the other professional cyclists.
Narcissists and psychopathic personalities are however vengeful and angry personalities. Some are overt and open in their rage as a form of emotional and physical violence towards others, whilst others equally use the mind violence of silence as covert control in their typical response.
The silent type show complete restraint and feigned lack of affect when confronted and act this way to control you and highlight how when you get angrier the problem lies with you. However they lie in wait, raging inside, and will tend to ambush you and execute you quietly and when you are least suspecting.
The co-dependence also shows up in the fact that the narcissistic personality is image and not substance, and often covers up a shadow self that is incompetent, slovenly, chaotic or addictive in many ways. They need others to clean this up and tend to these tasks.
They then tend to recruit a "caretaker" personality or follower group who runs around and does all the mundane stuff in their lives. They feel such tasks are beneath their magnificence, but also they often lack home care skills, computer skills, or other skill types that most of us have mastered.
They feel "special" and demand you see them as that, and so as they are different there are different or no rules for them in life. They also tend to have secrets and secret lives and they like this as it feels like power to them. Armstrong showed this in his doping regime.
As was noted in the media, Lance Armstrong did not respond or make appeals to the sanctions and decisions made against him. When "outed" the narcissist will tend to remain silent when the audience is too large to win over or manipulate or control. A corporate psychopath and the narcissist are similar but not exactly the same personalities but both rely on their charm to seduce others, and to disarm others when confronted and uncovered in some way.
In their worlds they see the truth and lies as two interchangeable concepts and unemotionally use whichever one gains them the greatest advantage. They routinely are deceiving others as their whole persona and its story of magnificence is typically a lie, and so they are building lie upon lie as they move forward.
They are a snowball of lies rolling forward getting bigger every day. They also use lies and the truth interchangeably as a game with "close ones" whom get confused when told different versions of the same events. The narcissist makes them feel like they are going crazy and that close person will start to doubt their own reality.
They tend to be very political as they are the consummate political animals. They see the whole of life as a game with winners and losers – and that they are winners. They love to win and to crush opponents and critics as they are internally full of hidden rage and insecurities.
They see ethics and morals as a sign of weakness and hold such value driven people in contempt. They are end-game driven and to them the journey is not important, only the result. Any cost is fine as long as others have to bear that cost on the way through to that goal and any power and status it may accrue comes to them only.
This is the essence of Lance Armstrong who has literally ridden to the top of his sport at a huge cost to the credibility of the sport, his colleagues, officials, and the integrity of the medical people around him who are believed to have executed the doping cover-up for his benefit. There has been no apology and there never will be.
Narcissists and psychopaths never believe or admit they are wrong and so by extension will never offer you an apology. Narcissists and psychopaths lack remorse as that is a feeling and they are unfeeling and so they simply move on in life and reinvent themselves again without learning key lessons in life.
Armstrong is slowly being removed from self created charities and foundations, but the shame and guilt felt by others now is exactly the trauma often felt by survivors of these personalities when the total facade collapses. Everyone feels ripped off and conned, but somehow many followers will still doubt their own reality and judgement now as a result. Some will still blame themself.
Everyone moving forward in that sport is now tainted. It is hard to imagine that people were not aware of what was going on. There have been numerous doping scandals apart from this one going back decades. It is not wrong to describe the whole elite level of that sport as having a psychopathic culture and nature. Despite repeated scandals nothing appears to change and the cycling industry is in denial and plays innocent.
In fact it appears everyone adopts better camouflage and moves forward again trying not to get caught and stay one step ahead of the Doping Agencies. Whilst the other athletes stay in denial and keep collectively saying "we saw nothing and we did nothing", then a sceptical public will turn away from watching Tour De France and other events.
We have seen the damage that business leaders such as Alan Bond and the late Sydney stockbroker Rene Rivkin can do, and who Mr Golis describes as corporate psychopaths. He notes that "Corporate psychopaths have a phenomenal desire to win or to make money and the two often go together, of course".
The move in business circles towards networking as a key mechanism of meeting potential clients and being an enabler to creating business opportunity is a new hunting ground for these types. If one looks you will notice how these personalities show up and tend to dominate and play games within these business networking environments.
A networking group is just another game environment to show up in, wow people, and compete to win, and win at whatever costs. I have noticed over 2012 as I became more active within these groups how these personalities are quite prominent and dominant within these circles.
I personally have even left one such group for the lack of moral compass within the leadership group who were dominated by narcissistic personalities. In line with what we have discussed here, they were destroying the fabric of the group and ignored the rules and processes of that Chapter organisation.
One final thing you notice about these people whether in business and personal settings is how their own lies which form the basis of their personality and Self, are then completely and utterly integrated into their "truth". They no longer can tell the difference between their own truth and their lies and they start to believe their own lies as their truth.
If you ever expose their lies watch how they will either explode into rage and attempt to annihilate you, or lie and lie in the face of evidence and the truth, or go silent, shutdown and withdraw. At that point get on your own bike and race as hard as you can and get off the top of the hill and away from them!
Remember that narcissists do not typically want to heal. They get immense negative pleasure from their very conscious actions and behaviours. They actually fit the description of "evil" as a state of acting consciously with pre-meditated harmful actions, especially when they are the more anti-social, psychopathic extreme version. In most cases you are better off moving away from them than trying to accommodate them or bargain with them.
In their world its win-lose and you lose so better you do not engage with them when they are like Lance Armstrong as extreme examples of this type of personality. It is a far better choice and find a healthier person to do business or personal relationship with. This is the choice I have had to do several times in my business career and in reflection I am glad now I have made those choices every time.