The enigma of Mr. Putin
Currently the president of the Russian Federation, Mr. Putin, is more in the spotlight than ever. “The super tough guy”, “the Russian macho” – whatever the cliché – is as “enigmatic” to the West as ever. Judging by the actions of the overwhelming majority of world politicians they are still unable to understand with whom they are dealing.
There are multiple reasons for that perceived blind spot of course including rational and conscious reasons, for instance the temporary benefits their countries may reap while they remain ‘blind’. Still, even if one imagines the hypothetical situation when the political leaders of the whole world suddenly became free from those temporary concerns and concentrated on the very real and big issue of the Third World War starting in Ukraine they still would not know how to deal with Mr. Putin. This is not at all surprising because they think of him as another person.
When someone is asked to describe their acquaintance they would probably go for some peculiar features, for example: a brilliant scientist; loves good wine, plays guitar; lame as a result of an accident; deals with disappointment in life by employing an acidic and somewhat perverted sense of humour, etc. The more we observe a person the more accurate is our knowledge of him and the easier it is for us to predict, to some extent, his reaction to certain things. This is a broad rule applicable to a normal person and normal human relationships. Here lies a mistake that people make about Mr. Putin; in their attempt to understand him and to deal with him they apply to him the normal rule described above. With Mr. Putin this rule is doomed to fail. Why is this so? – Mr. Putin long ago ceased to be an individual but became, so to speak, the shell of a person which contains a non-personal modus operandi. Hence, those who attempt to deal with him as with another person are doomed to fail because they deal with non-personal principals; worse even, those principals are entirely alien to a normal wholesome psyche.
For example, they sign an agreement with Mr. Putin the person naturally expecting him to keep his word but he does not do so and smiles into their faces. They are stunned, shocked but decide to give him another chance nevertheless – perhaps he will be ashamed if he is caught on a lie more definite than the current one. They express their “disapproval”, shame him (within the frame of the accepted political correctness and their own fears of being viewed as “being too harsh” or of “dangerously cornering him”); yet another agreement is signed up but the situation repeats itself again. And so on. They look at him, they quietly discuss what is wrong with him and they feel powerless because they operate within acceptable limits of normality. They wish Mr. Putin went away somewhere so they would never have to deal with him again. They are utterly powerless. Does not this situation remind one of a family which has a hopelessly abnormal member and does not know what to do with him?
Level 1: the psyche of Mr. Putin
The illustration with the family is actually not a metaphor. The behaviour of a narcissist in the world is nothing more than an extension of his behaviour in his family. I am thankfully no longer the only person who has noticed that the behaviour of Mr. Putin is a textbook description of the narcissistic personality disorder. And the narcissistic features of his behaviour are so gross and so costly to the world that I take a liberty to outline them here as I observe them from afar, without knowing him in person.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-criteria used by psychiatrists define the narcissistic personality disorder as:
“A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
(3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
(4) requires excessive admiration
(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes”
Those symptoms are somewhat artificially divided; in case of a real person one symptom is usually the extension of another one and so on therefore I will speak about several lines of the modus operandi in dynamics which are easily observed.
“The need for admiration” immediately brings to mind the endless photographs “Mr. Putin with the tiger”, “Mr. Putin catching the fish (almost of his height)”, “Mr. Putin [piloting the ultralight aircraft] leading the birds somewhere” and so on. Those photos are openly vain and thus stupid, inappropriate to anyone in the position of president of a country but entirely appropriate to a narcissist who wants to be admired, as an “alpha-male”. The notorious experiments with botox belong to the same category. All this looks like a farce but not to the narcissist himself.
“The lack of empathy” has been noticed and commented by many. It is the famous answer to the question “What happened with submarine ‘Kursk’?” – “It sank” combined with a totally inhumane smile; it is the so-called “Herod’s Law” that prohibits foreigners to adopt Russian disabled children whom no one else wants; it is the deliberate sadism with which all the opposition was dealt with (the slow rot in prison, the disproportionately lengthy sentences); it is the current Ukrainian war, with its nameless Russian soldiers denied even a decent funeral; it is if you like the whole life in the Russian Federation where the majority of people are unable to get their most basic (including medical) needs met, and so on. A telling feature here is that Mr. Putin is openly empathy-less i.e. he does not bother to pretend before the camera. He is as he is, proclaiming to the world that “we (our army) will stand behind the women and children and they (Ukrainians) will not dare to shoot into us”. And the world, including the Russian nation, swallows it reinforcing his narcissistic sense of entitlement.
What is quite revealing here is the relationship between the majority of the Russian nation (a kind of an extended family) and its leader that is, of a willing victim and an abuser. This is like the textbook case, of “the narcissistic husband and the borderline (personality disorder) wife”. Being based upon an intricate system of mutual manipulation, such a relationship is surprisingly stable because it meets the pathological needs of both partners perfectly: the grandiosity of a narcissist is gratified by the admiration and submission of the borderline and the need of the borderline to be protected together with their desperate need, in a pathological (abusive) attachment gratified by the narcissist. The children brought up within such a union know nothing but a toxic, pathological relationship and relate to others accordingly.
"A sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations”. This is a particularly revealing feature of a narcissist. There is a term in psychology, “narcissistic rage” that describes the grossly disproportional response to the response “no” from anyone else. “How dare you to not comply, I will wipe you off the face of earth, I will, I will… etc” This is nothing else but the rage of a baby against his mother now being transferred by the grown narcissist onto various non-complying others. As any unresolved childhood drama it carries dreadful psychic energy – this can be testified by anyone who ever dared to say “no” to a narcissist. In the case of Mr. Putin his intolerance of the word “no” when it comes from someone else lies at the root of various conflicts, from his dealing with the members of the opposition to the wars he began including the current one.
“A sense of entitlement”, together with “a grandiose sense of self-importance” is also the source of Mr. Putin’s pathological lying (“they must keep their words because they are nothing, but I don’t have to if I do not want to”). Here also comes into play the symptom “believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people” – speaking plainly, the politicians with whom he has to deal are perceived by him as a bunch of scum who deserved to be cheated, mocked, etc. (this feature is also central for the antisocial personality disorder)
“A pervasive pattern of grandiosity”. The need to perceive himself as grand is a matter of life and death for the narcissist. As it was mentioned above, the narcissistic personality disorder develops as a result of the abnormal relationship with a parent, mostly a mother who uses her child as a tool for gratification of her own emotional needs; she treats him as a part of her and prevents him from a achieving normal emotional separation (independence) via encouraging and inflating his sense of self-grandiosity (there is no space here to discourse on this topic in more detail; those who are interested may refer to the literature on this disorder. Thus the child fails to develop his real Self = real person but instead throws all his energy into creating the mirrors which would reflect his grandeur. The older is the narcissist, the more need of the mirrors he has and the bigger they must be (when he was small his mother played the role of a mirror, obviously in an adult world it is not enough). I am convinced that the various endeavours of Mr. Putin can be considered as the mirrors which he has created to support his grandiose self-image. If one follows his career from the first time he became president till now one can easily see how the mirrors grew. Now the world is dealing with the grandest one – the concept of the so-called ‘Russian World’.
To appreciate its scale, a few worlds about this concept must be said. ‘Russian World’ means the civilization of “compatriots” who are united by the Russian language, Russian culture and Russian mentality. “Compatriots” are officially defined as 1) anyone who speaks Russian; 2) anyone who is ethnic Russian; 3) anyone who/ whose ancestors ever lived on the territory of the USSR; 4) anyone whose ancestors ever lived on the territory of the Russian empire. This means that the number of Mr. Putin’s vassals is considerably more vast than the population of the Russian Federation. Further more, ‘Russian World’ implies “the gathering of the divided Russian nation” and also proclaims the necessity of defending “the compatriots” and their interests wherever and whatever they happen to be. Furthermore, ‘Russian World’ has an important spiritual component, “Russian Orthodoxy” about which more will be said shortly. The concept of ‘Russian World’ considers Byelorussia, Ukraine, and North Kazakhstan to be “originally Russian territories”, their populations – Russians and the first to be joined back; this is one of the reasons for the current war with Ukraine. But those are only the first steps towards the incarnation of the all-embracing concept which, I repeat includes not only territorial but also spiritual connotations. ‘Russian World’ is truly the grandest mirror of all in which Mr. Putin is reflected as the head of the great empire, “gatherer of the Russian lands” (a popular title, stolen from the Russian saint, St Sergius of Radonezh), and even as potential “Orthodox ruler”. Actually, why potential? One or two leaders of Orthodox Churches have already proclaimed him as such.
I will repeat several key points. Judging by the symptoms, Mr. Putin exhibits all the key-features of narcissistic personality disorder. At the heart of this disorder lies the arrest of the development of Self at a very early stage. A narcissist essentially does not have a true Self. He is empty inside (this is experienced by him as non-existence) and his life is an ongoing attempt to defend against this inner emptiness constructing various grandiose mirrors which play the role of his Self. Therefore the worlds’ politicians cannot deal with Mr. Putin the person because he does not exist. What exists are only the constellation of the mirrors and pathological behaviours. From here it follows that to deal with Mr. Putin effectively one must deal not with him per se but with the narcissistic personality disorder which he is channelling.
It cannot be stressed enough that behind the mirrors lies inner emptiness. To lose the mirrors means to cease to exist; such a loss must be avoided by all costs. To Mr. Putin it means “building the ever-expanding empire by all costs”. To the rest of the world it means that they must think very carefully what the costs are and what they must do about it.
Level 2: the enhancement of the narcissistic psyche by the KGB/FSB ideology
It is a challenge to describe the “aura” of this organization and its workers. The word “contempt” comes to mind – their contempt, not mine. Then follow others like “condescendence”, “belonging to the elite” and “intolerance of another’s opinion”; all-embracing cynicism, somewhat artificial politeness which suddenly breaks giving way to the obscenest vulgarity and rudeness if an opponent does not comply. Generally speaking, those who work in that organization believe that they are the elite and other “people” are swine. It is not necessary stated straightforwardly (although it often is) but they radiate this conviction. They are extreme conservatives of that kind who cannot stand the avant-garde artists, alternative music, “rotten intelligentsia”, “opposition”, free thinking – anything that sticks out. Swine are despised and mocked but tolerated; those who stick out are hated. They often employ cynicism and habitual dismissal to deal with an opponent; it is not unusual to feel a vague sense of loss, humiliation, and pollution after an interaction with them.
The parent of the KGB/FSB, the CHK (Emergency Commission), was created in 1917 for the purpose of combating counter-revolution and sabotage. The members of CHK had to detect and liquidate anything or anyone that threatened the communist state, from the plots against the ruling party to those who simply thought differently. The views of Felix Dzerzhinskiy, its first leader, are instructive for the understanding its ideology that is still alive now. He qualified any exchange of ideas or a theoretical argument about possible ways of building the socialist state or any “special opinion” as “the enemy’s activity and direct counterrevolution”. He also stated that “we have never been the cretins of democracy” meaning that the State Government and CHK would never tolerate any deviation from the official line, in any form. This notion marks an important feature of the organization, its tendency to dehumanize any individual who is labelled as “enemy” or “counterrevolutionary”. Those who belong to the organization are labelled as well; the self-dehumanization is an inevitable side-effect of dehumanization of others; all the normal (Christian) humane values go to the gutter.
From its birth CHK (and then its successors) were given the functions of a hunter, an interrogator, a judge at certain times, and an executioner. The organization has been feared by people, for good reason. Hence it is not surprising that the members of this organization would enjoy practically an unrestrained power and a sense of belonging to the superior cast. The degree of given power would decrease with time but the ideology or the spirit would remain. The character of the job – hunting, chasing, blackmailing into compliance, recruiting etc forces the usage of the worst human qualities, in the workers and in their victims likewise. The human being as an individual with an inborn dignity does not exist otherwise it is impossible to carry out the job – he or she is labelled, their set of weaknesses identified, their vices are played on.
To conclude with, the organization (whatever its name is) provides its workers with powers which are much bigger than those of an average citizen; it teaches them not to see a person in a human being but to see a pathetic shaking creature, a swine by sheer dent of not-belonging to the organization; it also gives them the sense of their own entitlement. Those are narcissistic tendencies which most likely had enhanced the natural narcissism of Mr. Putin. Most importantly, they gave an empty individual the sense of purpose and the structure he was lacking. His natural spite for others, his contempt, sense of entitlement and his inability to relate to others other than as tools for his own gratification were not judged but encouraged. The system provided him with the mirrors he craved as well and with the possibilities of obtaining new ones, bigger and grander.
From what has been said follows that the world is dealing not just with Mr. Putin the armature narcissist but with the professional, a narcissist cubed, a narcissist aided by the training received by him in an infamous organization that damages or destroys all the best in a human being to fortify the worst.
Level 3: opening the door to the darkness
This is going to be a final part, annoying and “completely unnecessary” for many. The world politicians ceased speaking about God and evil long ago because they are such archaic, medieval notions in our modern time. Still, I cannot help but speak this “archaic language” here because Mr. Putin did not leave the world any chance to avoid that.
A few days ago Patriarch Filaret addressed “dear brothers and sisters, all people of good will” with the message regarding the Mr. Putin deeds in Ukraine. Among other things he stated that: “Satan went into him”. In Christian language this means exactly that: Mr. Putin is possessed. It is not a metaphor but the reality of a life: the metaphysical evil found its home in Mr. Putin and does what it pleases though him. When I read this my reaction was “Yes! – at last it is said”. The process of emptying oneself is over. The so-called “Orthodox ruler” was empty from the beginning but emptied himself even more – not for Christ but for Satan.
Patriarch Filaret expanded: “For your actions you separate yourself from the Orthodox Church and God, doom yourself to an ignominious end of this life and eternal damnation in hell – in the life of the future world. For all the blood that was shed at your will, and the evil done by your order, your punishment will be the same as the punishment of the liar and fratricide Cain – the curse and eternal damnation.” Those are the strongest possible words. One may say that they are just customary “church” language for expressing disapproval of one’s deeds or to depict a certain degree of atrocity. It is not so. Patriarch Filaret simply knows the spiritual reality and the fact of the possession of Mr. Putin. This is plain to see to any practicing Christian. I am quite surprised that no one said it before.
I will add a few more archaic words to expand on the topic of the possession of Mr. Putin and its consequences for the modern world. This topic by no means undermines anything that was said above about narcissistic personality disorder and its dynamics. This disorder is the ideal for anyone who wishes to invite evil into his life because it is a super fertile ground for the vices and also because it features the sin which, according to Christian ascetics, separates a person from God more surely and speedily than any other vice. It is called the sin of evil pride, meaning a pride of unprecedented degree. This archaic term includes all those clinical notions of grandiosity, entitlement, a sense of superiority etc which were discussed above. The term provides the important additional information about the nature of the disorder: it makes a person totally disabled spiritually: he is unable to see his true condition or even a small part of his true condition. Because he sees himself as grandiose, effectively a god there is neither need nor a place in him for God. There is a place for Satan though because Satan is perceived as a mighty extension of his narcissistic fake self. The fake self is reflected in the ultimate fake mirror provided by the perfect gratifier of all narcissistic needs of this world. This is the nature of possession explained in terms of psychology. Stated in terms of Christian theology, such a person is nothing else but a shell for a metaphysical evil.
I do not know if this statement is of any use to the worlds’ politicians. Probably not (though it may be of use to the remaining people of good will); regrettably, the language of metaphysics is employed by fascists but not my liberals, democrats, socialists or conservatives. The only thing I will add is that you are not dealing with Mr. Putin the natural narcissist or Mr. Putin from the FSB, the professional narcissist cubed but that you are now dealing with the ultimate narcissist – Satan. You can call him The Narcissistic Principal instead if that comforts you but please remember that it is the insatiable emptiness that is concerned only with itself, and cares about the world only as long as it is able to satisfactorily reflect its perceived grandeur. Do you wish to continue to work as its mirrors?
8th of September 2014