Picture
After all, a cigar is just a cigar...
I made the acquaintance of a feminist psychologist (PhD) in a social setting who graciously allowed me to ask her a few questions about Sarah Palin. She does not treat Mrs. Palin, as far as I know, though she could not confirm that even if I was so silly as to ask.

But PhD did agree to toss some tidbits my way. And while I hope this will become a semi-regular feature that will allow readers to pose questions of their own, I will begin with our brief discussion of a new buzz phrase:  Situationally Acquired Narcissism.  PhD writes me the following...


***
When we evaluate someone's "disorder" generally in the old days we'd start with exploring primary gain and identifying secondary gain

Once we determine what's in it for the patient then we look at history and begin to weave together a working hypothesis, and try on different psychopathologies.  

Some people suggest that Palin is stupid.  Perceived stupidity  can ironically be confused with Narcissism.  That self important, inflated sense of entitlement that operates within a vacuum surrounded by tunnel vision.  The question is: Is this a fundamental core character disorder or is it situationally acquired.  An important question since one involves severe psychopathology at the core-- suggesting early trauma and neglect among other things.  Acquired along the way is a response to projected power and abuse thereof.

I think this speaks to acquired Narcissism.   It encourages an honest assessment of who surrounds the narcissist and who feeds
them.

***

Thank you, Phd, for getting us started on this line of inquiry. Here is some more to read about those afflicted with ASN.

If you'd like to comment or leave questions, I hope PhD will come back for more Crunch, er, Shrink Wrap Supreme. Like Doc, she's very busy, and I don't know how much I can ask of her. Or if you are or know someone in the field of psychology who'd like to toss out some more tidbits for us to digest, I'd welcome that. 

I'd like to examine the role of families who enable mentally ill people; projection; lying; Borderline Personality Disorder; and other organic brain diseases. Hopefully, we can make this a regular feature.

 


Comments

Alex
05/28/2011 08:29

I'd like to ask the PhD how a therapist can know which Narcissism is at issue, since an Acquired Narcissist may not have the courage (or inclination) to examine core trauma and neglect that actually set the Narcissism in place as an early reactionary, survival skill. From my experience with therapy and narcissism in my family, there is no Narcissism but that acquired in childhood. And what kind of Narcissist ever seeks treatment or would admit to anything other than a childhood in which they are the shining hero?

Brad
05/28/2011 09:07

Granted, we can't know for sure what Sarah Palin's psyche and mental health are like; only a qualified mental health professional treating her can judge if she has Narcissistic Personality Disorder or whatever.

Still, knowing the traits of NPD and seeing how she *may* exhibit them can potentially enrich our understanding of her. It's in that spirit that I copy the following from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed:

DSM IV definition: Someone who suffers from Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) has at least 5 of the following characteristics:

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 favorable 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 behaviors or attitudes

nenagh
05/28/2011 09:21

Just found your site a few weeks ago.

Congratulations.. it is a wonderful place to visit.

Only joined in to say how pleased I am that you are getting professionals to discuss the Palin mindset.

She is so baffling to the average punter.

Well done, Laura for your excellent site and insights.. and thanks.

Tea Party AK
05/28/2011 11:33

Doesn't a psych disorder like you describe start early in life? Sarah was a humble, shy, sweet girl as a child, teen and young adult.

Obviously none of us know when the flip was switched internally but I'd imagine it was sometime in the mid 00s.

Friend to all
05/28/2011 11:36

Sarah is no different from Bill C or John Edwards, minus affairs. When people are given power, even a little, they want more. I see part of myself in Sarah. I think most people probably do. Most people's goals in life are to live happily and provide for their families. Sarah is no different. Power equals money equals family lives well. Her kids are loving the acquired status and roaming the US having fun. Most kids are hesitant about parents growing public careers but they grow into it and cherish what it gives them. The Palins are no different.

WasillaKnight
05/28/2011 11:39

About families, I can only speak for a couple members, but they generally defend Sarah and work to call out those who lie and rewrite the past. Like it or not, Sarah's past has been horribly rewritten by haters and jealous people. True story.The heaths/palins are downto earth and supportive as a unit.

Collective Mentality Kills
05/28/2011 12:07

I am not a psychologist but just an objective observer. I will first say that I do not believe in the idea of personality disorders, as I can literally see all the above characteristics in everyone I have met. Theres a reason why pretty much every play is based loosely or closely on real life people. I will also say that most people who criticize Sarah on the web haven't met her so anything they speak of is useless in determining such diagnosis.

Here are my comments to these bulleted points you mention:

1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) THIS DOESNT DIFFER FROM YOUR AVERAGE POLITICIAN or PUBLIC FIGURE. I WOULD POINT OUT THAT IT'S NOT USUALLY SARAH WHO SPEAKS OF HER PAST AND ACHIEVEMENTS. HER DOTING FATHER SHOS PICS OF MEDALS, CERTIFICATES, ANIMAL KILLS, AND SPEAKS ON HER DETERMINATION. DONT CONFUSE DOTING PARENTING WITH GRANDIOSITY

2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
I AM AT A LOSS WITH HOW YOU CAN POSSIBLY KNOW IN ANY WAY HOW THIS RELATES TO HER. 1. MOST PEOPLE WANT TO REACH THE HIGHEST RUNG ON THE LADDER (WORTHLESS IDEALISM?) 2. NO ONE WANTS TO BE POWERLESS. AGAIN, TO GENERAL AND TOO MUCH LIKE YOU AVERAGE POLITICIAN

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)
HMM, MAYBE THE FIRST PART. DEFINITELY DONT SEE THE SECOND PART THOUGH. SARAH WILL BE FRIENDS WITH ANYONE. TRUST ANYONE? THATS A DIFFERENT STORY. TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE LIED AND BURNED HER FOR PERSONAL GAIN. NOW WHERES THEIR PSYCHOANALYSIS?

COME TO THINK OF IT, WHERE'S AN ANALYSIS OF ALL THE BLOGGERS WHO 1 FEEL THE KNOW SARAH FROM OTHERS REPORTS AND ASSOCIATIONS 2. USE A BLOG TO MANIPULATE READERS INTO BELIEVING THEIR PROPAGANDA 3. SPREADING LIES AND RUMORS VIA BLOGS

THATS NOT NATURAL AND ITS QUITE IMMORAL. YES IM LOOKING TO POGATES, MALIA AND IM AS LEADING EXAMPLES

4. requires excessive admiration
I DO KNOW SHE DOESNT LIKE ASS KISSERS.
AND LIKE MOST PEOPLE, PROBABLY DOESN'T LIKE TO BE IGNORED OR HATED. WE CANT KNOW ANYTHING DEEPER BUT MY GUT IS SHE DOESNT NEED EXCESSIVE ATTENTION

5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
SMALL TOWN LIFE AND BEING INITIALLY OFFERED POSITIONS AND SUPPORT. REMEMBER, PEOPLE WHO ARE OFFERED THINGS GROW ACCUSTOMED. SHE WAS APPROACHED FOR CITY COUNCIL.

6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
RELATES TO POWER IN MY MIND. I THINK BECAUSE NO ONE LIKES TO HEAR CRITICISM THAT IT'S EASY TO USE SUPPORT TO PROPELL ONE FORWARD. THE MORE I THINK ABOUT ALL THIS, IT ALL RELATES TO POWER. ALSO, ALL THIS RELATES TO OBAMA (INEXPERIENCE, NEVER HELD A REAL JOB, SHADY METHODS TO ADVANCE HIS CAREER, USE HIS NETWORK TO "KILL" OPPONENTS CHANCES. I MEAN CMON, HIS ENTIRE RISE WAS BASED ON MOMENTARY CHARISMA AND CHARM. HE HAD NO FOUNDATION OR ANSWERS FOR ANYTHING. WILL YOU ADMIT A DOUBLE STANDARD WHEN ACCUSING SARAH OF IDENTICAL THINGS?

7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
ONE CAN ONLY SPEAK FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THIS ONE. HOWEVER, IVE SEEN THAT VIDEO SOMEONE POSTED ON YOUTUBE OF SARAH WAITING FOR TODD TO ARRIVE AFTER THE IRONDOG. SHES TALKING TO A FRIEND WHOS LAMENTING SOMETHING AND SARAH GENUINELY SHOWS CONCERN AND A LONG HUG. SHES ALSO PRAYED WITH BRISTOL (CAUGHT ON HIDDEN CAMERA) OVER DWTS AND SHOWS MOTHERLY AFFECTION.

8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
IVE SEEN NO PUBLIC EVIDENCE AND ONE COULDNT KNOW THIS WITHOUT KNOWING WHO A PERSON IS INSIDE

9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes DESCRIBES ANYONE WHOS ACHIEVED SUCCESS IN THEIR LIFE AND CAREER AND THEIR ATTITUDES TOWARD OTHERS WHO HAVE NOT. IE BARBARA WALTERS, MARTHA STEWART, ANNA WINTOUR, MOST POLITICIANS COME TO MIND

HERE A GOOD STATEMENT TO HELP YOU ALL OUT. IF YOU THINK IT, IT IS TRUE. YOU SPEND SOOO MUCH TIME PONDERING WHO SARAH IS THAT ANY CHARACTERISTIC THAT CONTRADICTS THAT IMAGE MUST BE A LIE. HER CHILDHOOD IS THE OBVIOUS EXAMPLE BUT THERE ARE MANY MORE.

YOURE LITERALLY USING THESE COMMONLY SEEN ATTRIBUTES TO PAINT SARAH AS ABNORMAL AND A BAD PERSON. MEET HER, HAVE DINNER WITH HER, ENGAGE HER IN LONG FORM CONVERSATION, THEN YOU AN TALK.

Leona
05/28/2011 13:26

I think Sarah Palin's behavior is narcissistic, whether she has NPD or not. The worst thing is that her behavior causes damage in many ways, whether she hurts people's feelings or disregards the law.

Ph.D.
05/28/2011 13:33

Alex,
Here is a link that briefly addresses acquired narcissism. Indeed Politicians, Doctors, Film Industry people, Rock stars, judges etc are prone to a false sense of importance and grandiosity.

Those who seek treatment at some point become mindful of unsatisfactory relationships that repeat patterns of instability and experience a fundamental loneliness at the core.

http://www.globalpolitician.com/21001-narcissism

CA Guy
05/28/2011 13:52

CMK, I think your rather strident (all caps) defense of Sarah has its merits, but why is it that you feel the need to do so? Exploring that is perhaps as interesting as the traits she displays. No one will doubt there is a charismatic nature to Ms. Palin. But whether it is benign or malevolent remains to be seen. Those who have to live with and deal with NPD individuals will often begin to display those same characteristics as both defense mechanism and character model. Some of these individuals begin to lose their ability to see how they emulate and absorb these characteristics, and begin to accept these traits as a norm for behavior, often interspersed with episodes of lashing out or wildly erratic behavior. Viewed in this light, teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, slashing brake lines, and radical plastic surgery might all be seen as just another day at the Palins.

Lidia17
05/28/2011 14:05

Sarah was never "humble", "shy" or "sweet". She got the name "Barracuda" because of how she treated her OWN TEAMMATES in HS.

Chuck related in a couple of different ways that he could not "bend" her.

This is how close the family is:

-----
And despite family ties being so important to her, she didn't even tell her parents she would be running as vice president.

Last night her father Chuck Heath, a teacher, said: "A pal called to tell me to watch the TV it was a total surprise. Sarah didn't say a word to us. She doesn't like to bother us usually. But she did call her mum Sally later to tell them they would be flying on a plane to attend the Republican National Convention, starting tomorrow."
----
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2008/08/30/i-m-too-busy-to-sleep-juggling-breast-pumps-blackberrys-at-midnight-says-us-vice-presidential-candidate-sarah-palin-115875-20717685/

curiouser
05/28/2011 15:37

This is wonderful! I hope some cable news hosts will take a cue from Laura and bring on psychologists whenever they discuss Palin.

I didn't realize there were two types of narcissism. I can see how the types fit the two narcissists I know but I'm not so sure about Palin. I'm inclined to believe she has some type of fundamental core disorder that existed before she achieved the status that would explain ASN. She has described herself as 'wired differently' several times and Todd has also used the term. Sarah said her mom 'taught me to be self-sufficient'.
www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20230644,00.html

That could mean she felt neglected. Somewhere I read a story Sarah told about walking around Skagway by herself when she was about four. Sarah's repetitive sexualization of her daughters also seems to suggest early trauma.

Would Phd give an example of narcissism perceived as stupidity? I wonder if that's similar to 'ideas of reference' which Palin exhibited in her reactions to Couric's 'what do you read?' and to an ADN joke about Lisa Murkowski which spurred a true sample of Palin's writing style in 'Who's Your Daddy?'.
http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/shades_of_lipstick.php?page=all

Looking forward to future 'Shrink Wrap Supreme' posts!



JR
05/28/2011 15:59

I would like to explore the connection to narcissistic disorders and lying. I am amazed at how much Sarah Palin lies – even about unimportant items or details of events that can easily be disproved. Just as an example: when discussing Trig in a recent speech she said he was born in Anchorage. Wait, I can’t prove that one is a lie because it hasn’t been proven that he was born at Mat-Su in Palmer. Mat-su is just the hospital she has used all of the other times she has repeated the story. She even wrote it in her book. Okay, bad example, forgetting where Trig was born was just a mistake, not necessarily a lie.
Seriously, the lies are incredible – from driving down in the RV to Dancing with the Stars, to her oil industry expertise, to being an avid hunter, to how many flags she had in her office. Some lies are very blatant. For instance, when she was found guilty of ethics violations and a reporter asked her how she felt she looked right at the camera and said she was thrilled to be cleared of all charges.
That is why I have a hard time swallowing the comments on here about Sarah, her functional family and her normal levels of ambition. She is a proven chronic liar – and I think that behavior has everything to do with the false reality she lives in because she suffers from some sort of personality disorder. I believe this disorder is part of the answer to the question why a sitting governor thought she could get away with faking a pregnancy.
Laura, I do appreciate that you allow for discussion with different points of view on various subjects. I can also recognize when a blogger gets too close to the truth – I get to read over-the-top unrealistic “opinions” backed up with supposed personal firsthand knowledge comments.

Alex
05/28/2011 18:20

Thanks, PhD, for the link. This line from the article - "It is likely that ASN is merely an amplification of earlier narcissistic conduct, traits, style, and tendencies." -- answers my question. Regarding your answer about a narcissist seeking help: what finally pierces through the self-centeredness and causes them to feel lonely and/or not blame it on others?

LisanTx
05/28/2011 19:35

A person can have traits from any of the personality disorders; they don't necessarily have to have all of the traits in one disorder. Nor is a person limited to one disorder.

For example, I think Sarah has several Borderline traits, Histrionic traits and Antisocial traits, as well as being Narcissistic. These are the traits that I've seen her exhibit:

HISTRIONIC
Demanding of attention
inappropriately seductive or provocative
shifting and shallow emotions
physical attention draws attention
dramatic, theatrical, and exaggerated
speech is impressionistic and lacks detail

ANTISOCIAL
repeated violation of social norms/laws
lying and conning
impulsive and fails to plan ahead
irritable and aggressive
reckless
irresponsible
lack of remorse

BORDERLINE
unstable self-image
impulsive behavior
unstable moods
sudden, intense and extreme anger
paranoia
fear of abandonment

"Collective Mentality" says that everyone and/or most politicians have the narcissistic traits. The important issue is the degree and frequency to which someone has these behaviors. Plus, sociopaths are drawn to politics and other avenues to achieve power, so there likely are more people with personality disorder traits in politics than in other areas.

LisanTx
05/28/2011 19:37

The fourth item under Histrionic in the above list should be:
"physical appearance draws attention"

d.t.
05/29/2011 02:57

Dear Laura and PhD:

I am so grateful that you have initiated this discussion. I grew up with a parent with NPD, and although that parent is gone now, every single other member of my family is still recovering from the trauma of family life in which lies, self-importance, entitlement, demands, and a completely unreal vision of the world as perceived by this parent were our daily norm. Like the Palin, we too acted out our pain, anger, and confusion in a variety of ways, and were really screwed up by it (while always presenting, at our parent's demand, a united front of "niceness" and "closeness" to the world at large). Only the two of us siblings who have had serious therapy to understand and come to terms with what we'd been through have lives that are remotely stable now.

Having had first hand experience with this mental illness (and it IS a serious mental illness), I spotted NPD in Sarah Palin's behavior virtually from the moment she stepped on the national stage. Recognizing her as someone with mental health problems, I've been both astounded and appalled that the Republican political establishment has allowed her to gain such prominence. Bad for our country, bad for the party...and ultimately bad for Sarah Palin herself, who needs treatment for the disorder - for her kids' sake, especially - and not people feeding the gradiosity of her disorder.

I realize that if you've never had direct experience with someone suffering from this disorder, it may appear that Palin simply has an unusually large amount of the ego/self-importance that many other politicians and celebrities display...but for those of us familiar with this particular mental illness, it's clearly more than that. And her children, with their many, many problems, are typical of kids raised by NPD parents. (Contrast this with Bill Clinton's child, for example. He's got a politician/celebrity ego as huge as any, and perhaps the morals of an alley cat when it comes to young women, but he's not mentally ill, and his child is a smart and stable young woman with a first rate education, career, and stable marriage.)

A quick question for PhD: My therapist told me that it's very hard to treat NPD patients because the nature of their pathology doesn't allow them to see, let alone admit, that they have a problem. Is this indeed the case? What are the chances that the Palin family will every get the individual and family help that they clearly need?

d.t.
05/29/2011 03:00

I meant to say, in the first paragraph abobe: "like the Palin CHILDREN, we too acted out our paint..."

My apologies for the typo.

V
05/29/2011 04:29

What a wonderful discussion and analysis! Kudos to dt in particular.

And for those who may doubt the applicability to Sarah, let's remember a few well-publicized events (I will not give instances for every attribute, because I'm not close enough to Sarah to make judgments on these more touchy-feely dimensions):

Sense of entitlement:
Remember how she spent and spent to buy clothes on someone else's credit card? And how she tried to lay the blame on others?

Requires excessive admiration:
Instead of acknowledging that she fumbled a few questions, Sarah started talking about the lamestream media and gotcha questions.

Interpersonally exploitave:
If you want to believe her aide's tell-all book, there are many examples. And if you don't want to believe that, what about compelling Bristol to speak out for abstinence?

Lack of empathy:
Remember her reaction to the Giffords shooting? Her reaction was all about her. Recall how Obama, instead, tried to heal people in Tucson.

And now for a few more words, as I'm from Tucson. Obviously Sarah Palin did not pull the trigger that killed 6 people and injured so many. A disturbed young man did that, and the fact that he could is a consequence of the lack of mental care and gun laws which are both insufficient and inadequately enforced. But I can also describe the atmosphere in Tucson prior to the election. It was toxic. The Jesse Kelly (Giffords' opponent) supporters were loud and frightening (I felt nervous on more than one occasion). The signs put up around town about her were vicious and misleading. It was not surprising that an unstable young man picked up a gun. In my opinion - and in Giffords', too, because she asked Sarah to tone it down - Sarah contributed to that toxic atmosphere.

Which is why I'd like to see Sarah marginalized. She's dangerous and divisive.

carrieoki
05/29/2011 05:18

Having followed Palin for 2 plus years, watching via video, TV, reading news accounts, scattered "opinions" of mental health professionals, and countless blogs (in particular Alaskan progressive blogs), I record the following as observations, though not a diagnosis. Have read descriptions of either bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic disorder, sociopathy, or sociopathy with narcissistic and histrionic components. Sociopaths can be female or male, usually non-violent. They can be from any walk of life, your neighbor of your boss, for example. 1 in 25 people in the USA are sociopaths. Read "the sociopath next door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us," by Martha Stoudt, Ph.D., Crown, 2005; Broadway, 2006. The key characteristic of the sociopath is "being the victim" (Palin continually displays her crown of thorns).Others are inability to accept blame (when have you seen Palin accept blame?), engineering the discrediting of others (for example--shoving under the bus those who have outlived their usefulness or firing those who do not agree with one's opinions). Also lying (she lies, sometimes even when she does not need to lie, sometimes returns to a previous lie and embroiders THAT lie), feeling they are deserving of special favors (examples here, please); that rules are for others, but not for them (she does not have to answer questions from the media, while she hides behind Twitter and castigates other politicians for their political positions and moral failings); and using others, including family, as tools (can we forget prop baby Trig, hauled out wearing no socks, jacket, nor hat in 40 degree weather on the book tour)?
I am inclined to agree w/ sociopath with narcissistic and histrionic components.

Diane
05/29/2011 07:19

It appears to fit her like a glove.
read Blind Allegiance, he could not have more accurately described palin.
She is a user and destroyer.

I do wonder how smart she is though. Does she have a learning disorder too?

05/29/2011 10:22

Great questions you all pose; great personal insight and differences of opinion.

I have a few more posts ready from PhD but I am wondering if perhaps she can expound a little bit more on the N. and if and when they seek help.

And J.R. - you reminded us all of that stunning comment following the Branchflower report. I recall clearly watching her smile at the camera and say that she was happy that she was exonerated of any wrongdoing. The reporters stood there like they were catching flies. No one called her on it. Stunning scenario, among others.

Mhurka
05/29/2011 10:46

A while back ago Bill O'Reilly was conducting an interview with Palin and remarked to her that many people have been comparing her to Eva Peron. It seemed that she did not know who that was. I was intrigued and so I did a bit of internet research and discovered that her IQ is allegedly being reported as "83" which is classified as "Dull".(I hope that the number is eventually verified because it may play a role in her evaluation.)
In any event, I have always felt that a learning disability/disorder from early childhood can seriously impact one's intellectual and even moral development because a human being's evolution depends so much on the learning process.

05/29/2011 11:26

And welcome to the people who say they knew Mrs. Palin, or know the family currently.

Please, if you can, take a moment to tell us about your feelings on the Trig pregnancy. What do you think? What do you know? How and why do you know it?

And perhaps people can ask questions respectfully.

Thank you again for visiting.

mumimor
05/29/2011 12:07

Laura,
I have become an instant fan of your blog and your work, and I hope you will take the following as a friendly question.
To me, diagnosing people one doesn't know, and from a distance oversteps a boundary. Your attempt to find the truth behind Sarah Palin's many lies and strange behavior works better without this. Maybe SP will run for president, and your research could become very important. In my view, this diminishes the strength of the whole study.

Ph.D.
05/29/2011 15:13

Curiouser,

I don't think one could find a scholary article addressing the theory of narcissism vs stupidity. It is more my clinical observation that people with narcissistic features, or who are narcissistically organized, tend employ tunnel vision as a way to prop up and maintain their fragile sense of self. This defense coupled with grandiose entitlement often prevents a more global world view and eclipses mindfulness. This could present as a lack of intelligence.

Alex,

What fianlly pierces the narcissist's denial and brings them into therapy? It all depends-- generally a recognition that dysfuntional, unsatisfying, repeteitve patterns in their relationships finally cannot be ignored. In my experience a reckoning with the false self and fear of abadonment and feeling deflated could initiate a desire for self exploration. Sometimes aging and loss of youthful splendor catapults one into depression. Or, one's awareness of mortality breaks through the vulnerable shell; No longer the prettiest, smartest, or most "popular." Most narcissists are fed from the outside in and lack resources to self soothe or fill up from within.

Mumimor,

Agreed, it is unethical and unrealistic to diagnose one from afar without an indepth intake and history. In this case there seems to be a fascination with speculating about the observable features Ms Palin has demonstrated publically. There are some inconsistensies in her presentation that pique the interest of some who have followed her in her journey. Not sure a collaborative hypothesis qualifies as a boundary violation but you make a good point that there are too many missing puzzel pieces to generate a definitive diagnosis at the current time.

Alex
05/29/2011 17:26

thanks again, PhD. My mother, the narcissist, is now 84. For the first time in her life, she's allowing herself to be vulnerable. I believe, like other women who saw through Palin early on, that when you've survived a narcissist or a pedophile or any kind of destructive person, you can't help but recognize them wherever they turn up. It's A Self-Preservation Geiger Counter!

Leona
05/29/2011 17:33

I recall seeing photos online of Palin with Janet Napolitano, who was governor of Arizona at the time. This would have been back in February or March, or maybe even April, 2008. The photos show the two of them seated, being interviewed I think. Anyway, there is at least one image of Palin, sitting on a straight chair, bending over her lap. If she had been five, six, or seven months pregnant I seriously doubt she could have made that manoeuver. Perhaps Janet Napolitano could shed some light on Palin's status at the time.

Oakland MD
05/29/2011 17:40

Oakland MD
05/29/2011 17:49

I've been following Ms. Novak's blog on the subject of Mrs. Palin's pregnancy. As a physician I find the questions she has raised to be, in equal parts, highly credible and deeply disturbing. I'll continue to follow this fair-minded inquiry to see where it leads. Thank you!

05/29/2011 18:14

Thank you, Oak MD for joining us! And to Leona, Brad S. and I are going to get to that scenario very soon.

Mumimor, I hear you and understand your point entirely. I am still trying on different hats for this blog and trying to find out what works and what doesn't.

There has been so much speculation on Palin - and so much bizarre behavior in addition to actual events - that I find it a compelling line of inquiry. And a safe one, as long as no expert tries to definitively diagnose anyone or any one thing.

So, I love having you here reading and commenting and I hope you'll stay, or at least visit the other posts that resonate more positively with you.

Thank you for the feedback! L.

carrieoki
05/30/2011 01:02

Ph.D.,
Can you address the occasional lip-smacking and tongue protrusions caught on some video and in some pictures of Palin? I read where tardive dyskinesia is a side effect of some psychotropic medications.

Anon
05/30/2011 06:28


The following are links to six short Newsweek videos from an interview of Sarah Palin & Janet Napolitano by Karen Breslau, taken in March 2008 -- when Palin would have been 7 MONTHS PREGNANT. Palin is leaning forward with her arms crossed and comfortably moving her hands and body THE ENTIRE TIME (the combined videos are over 15 minutes long!). Does anyone know of someone (anyone?) who was 7 months pregnant that could / would do this?

Palin: Reluctant Beauty Queen (02:01):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7FA0HdZeAk

Palin: On Hillary (02:26):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPAIUwYPsjI

Palin: On Motherhood & Politics (01:43):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWlzmWnZ_ek

Palin: Alaska Corruption "Embarrassing"(03:47):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mc943ltXMQ

Pailin: Tough Decisions as a Governor (03:26)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPFUlz3r8B8

Palin: No Woman, No Guilt (02:45)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBNnHkKa61g

Guest
05/30/2011 11:24

Another question for PhD:

Could you please comment on this alternative hypothesis re: habitual sticking-out of the tongue?

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/09/tongue-jut.html

FrostyAK
05/30/2011 11:30

Does it matter what her exact clinical diagnosis might be? She is obviously a dysfunctional human being - one who has been lying publicly since her first entrance into politics, the Wasilla City Council. And has escalated as she advanced in politics. Before that? We know she was highly aggressive and not exactly well liked. Her sister was the star in HS.

I have some clinical psych training (long time ago), and I think the symptoms are more important than a firm diagnosis. Most importantly with $palin, she shows malignant narcissistic tendencies with any number of other diagnoses possible. Again, the symptoms are most important.

Laura, those you welcomed who claim to know $palin personally are most likely the common garden variety of "$palin fairy tale trolls" - those who follow her every word on twitter, facebook, C4P, and sarahPAC, then post glowing tales of how great she has always been. Seems her family members like to make up such fairy tales as well - maybe they are bored on their "bus tour".

Many thanks to you for taking on this daunting task.

05/30/2011 12:16

I'm not surprised, Frosty AK. There was just a crack in one comment that made me wonder.

PhD is not comfortable writing on the tardive dyskenesia b/c it involves psychotropic meds and an MD needs to comment.

I'll see if we can get someone to comment on that.

But PhD does have other things to say. Coming soon!

curiouser
05/30/2011 13:36

PhD - Thank you. I do think I see how Sarah exhibits tunnel vision. I also suspect she may have other cognitive disorders that impact her ability to study and comprehend policy issues. She hasn't shown that that she's capable of having an in-depth discussion on even her own major legislative accomplishments as governor and I don't see how that would relate to tunnel vision. Perhaps, I haven't grasped the full extent of how tunnel vision would operate.

I have some cognitive disorders myself which have not affected my intelligence. This discussion has reminded me to not glibly use the 'dumb' or 'stupid' words for Palin.

Thanks again. I'll stay tuned.

Leona
05/30/2011 14:54

I found out that Palin was interviewed with Janet Napolitano at the Newsweek Women & Leadership Event in Los Angeles on March 3, 2008.
"Preparing to go onstage March 3 in Los Angeles, at NEWSWEEK's Women's Leadership Forum, Palin was eager to quiz another governor, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, on her impressions of her state's senior senator."
This was right before Palin announced her pregnancy. So my theories are:
(1) Palin miraculously became pregnant right after the Women & Leadership event (because she sure didn't look or act pregnant on March 3)...
or
(2) Some big event or decision took place on or about March 3, e.g. Bristol gave birth or Palin decided that she would become Trig's mother.

Leona
05/30/2011 15:00

Palin was photographed sometime in December, 2007 for Vogue magazine. I don't have the issue in which the photos appeared -- maybe February 2008 -- anyway, she is svelte in the photos, including one of her standing in her driveway in a long green jacket. No baby bump, no suggestion of pregnancy at all.

Leona
05/30/2011 15:04

Re: Palin's behavior
I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist, so take what I write with a big grain of salt. My reference points are some people I have known most of my life.
Palin seems to be bipolar in some respects, and she also seems to have some attentional problems, sort of like ADHD. She has a lot of "people smarts" in the sense that she knows how to manipulate people really, really well, at least until people catch on to the fact that they are being manipulated for Palin's own purposes.
I would be tempted to call her a sociopath, but that would be total speculation on my part.

Banyan
05/30/2011 20:43

I agree with Leona about the bi-polar thing, not that I think psychological labels have much in the way of scientific validity. But they are descriptive, and they can indicate, and lead to the discovery of, objective neurological correlates.

I must add, that, neurologically, people with strabismus (crossed-eyes) often have other types of brain damage (ADHD, for example).

What I'd like to know is what medications (legal and otherwise) is she/has she been on?

Lidia17
05/31/2011 04:19

PhD, I would submit that intelligence and malignant narcissism are unrelated phenomena: that there can be intelligent narcissists as well as ones with a low IQ. I don't think there's any reason why the distribution should be different, necessarily, than that of the population at large (although I guess it is possible).

Rather than her narcissism masking Sarah's intelligence, I'd say an opposite case can be made: that her narcissism has helped her hide her learning disabilities. Her enormous paranoia, bluster, defensive cunning, and manipulation of those around her through fear has certainly provided a shield beyond which few people have dared to investigate.

If she actually is in possession of a college degree, or even a high-school diploma, I wonder to what extent they may have been issued just to kick Sarah down the road and let her be someone else's problem.

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I believe I have, in my extended family, two narcissists or psychopath/sociopaths, father and son. The father is marginally functional (can often "pass" for normal), the son less so. I believe this is a genetic condition, as there is a history of mental disorders in the father's side of the family, including a bi-polar dx and a murder/suicide.

An experienced psychologist brought in to deal with the son told the family that therapy would be a waste of time: that the son would merely turn it into a game of manipulating the therapist. This is "unofficial", of course, because it is apparently unethical, or at least politically incorrect, to diagnose certain types of mental illness in minors.

I have experienced the son's manipulation first hand over a number of years, so I feel the therapist is correct. The boy must always be the one to initiate or conclude any activity or conversation that takes place, even ones in which he is not directly involved. It's quite uncanny and you may not even notice it being with him for a day or even two. But then you see it in every. single. comportment: he MUST have total control.

He routinely attacks and bites teachers, the psychologists and aides, and even the principal (he's 10) when he doesn't get his way. He'll leave class, march to the principal's office and demand that his teacher be fired (because she's not doing what HE wants her to do, she is "broken" and must be done away with). I'm amazed they still allow him in the (regular public) school.

This is NOT generic "spoiled brat" behavior: he'll demand ice cream, and if given it, he'll throw it in your face and spit at you if he decides it isn't the right flavor, or it's not in the right color cup. He loves to fuck with people's heads and 'trick' them. He is… Insane.

He has been like this from birth! As an infant, he was very hard to feed, because he was always angry and agitated. He never slept. At the age of two, he announced that he was God. I am convinced that he is just "wired differently". We accept that children can be born with a club foot, or with an inherited blood disease. Why are we so skittish about diagnosing a clearly diseased brain? Each physical mutation is a potential evolution. Arguably, the more organic narcissists and psychopaths succeed in reproducing, the more of them there'll be.

------
While "acquired narcissism" is an interesting hypothesis, I see Sarah as too firmly rooted in her malady: she will never admit error or weakness (see Tuscon), and so she will never seek or submit to therapy. I could see Bristol, though, as having an acquired form of narcissism. It's not apparent that she expresses the same maniacal insistence on omnipotent AGENCY that Sarah exhibits. Bristol seems more conflicted in her behaviors, and she shows genuine tenderness towards the babies and toddlers that her mother is constitutionally incapable of, as we can tell from Sarah's body language. I can see that Bristol may have adopted her narcissism as a means of survival in Sarah's world: the world to which Sarah has bound her.

I know some people think it is irresponsible to speculate about these individuals, but with the years of photos and videos and transcripts… all the unguarded moments… I think we have more material on Sarah than any therapist would get out of a normal patient showing up once a week and revealing what they choose to reveal. Of course, I'm not knocking therapists; I'm sure they know which sorts of questions to ask to dig deeper… it's just that I don't think we need to wait for an in-person-expert's opinion to figure out that Sarah is seriously mentally ill, and a pathological node of constant chaos and toxicity in the life of her family, and unfortunately in the life of our nation.

Banyan, that is very interesting about the strabismus!

Lidia17
05/31/2011 04:51

PhD, an fascinating document for you to examine (should you care to) would be Sarah's "Who's Your Daddy?" letter. This is a spontaneous, unguarded and unfiltered sample of her writing and thought processes. A newspaper asked rhetorically "Who's your daddy?" (meaning who are the powers backing you politically, one assumes… who do you show deference to…). Sarah—not capable of understanding the metaphorical idiom—took this to be an assault on her actual biological father, and wrote a bizarre defensive rant:

-------------
‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ Great question! I see that I got a “thumbs down” on the Anchorage Daily News Sunday scoreboard with an accompanying insinuation that may not have the appropriate dad to allow me a particular public service role. Maybe the ADN should interview us wanna be’s (or has-beens!) and find out who are our daddies? . . . More often than not when people out here in the real world run into me they don’t say, “Oh, so you’re Alaska’s Oil and Gas Commissioner? Or, “Oh yeah, you ware that mayor.” Nope. They say, “So you’re Mr. Heath’s daughter? Cool! He’s my favorite teacher of all time!” I wouldn’t wish it any other way. . . . I’m thankful for all my dad taught me and allowed me to do. I’m glad he dragged my butt out of bed early, early autumn mornings to hunt ducks with him before cross-country running practice. He taught me to bag a caribou, fillet a fish, dig buckets of darns, and find the plumpest blueberries. He wouldn’t put up with my wimpy reasons why I couldn’t thaw frozen fish egg bait in my mouth, like he does, when ice fishing. But he did understand when I looked up at him quizzically once upon his request to “please hold those” while he searched for something to put our freshly butchered moose’s eyeballs in so his students could observe them later that day. He graciously understood, and I didn’t have to hold those ungulate’s warm parts that morning in the alders. . . . So seeing the “thumbs down” on the newspaper editorial scoreboard with the suggestion that my dad may not be the right dad to allow me to progress towards some political position that probably isn’t in the cards for me right now anyway... well, I got to think about just who my dad is today. I thank the ADN for that.
---------------

http://web.archive.org/web/20060708112923/http://www.palinforgovernor.com/Articles.htm

Jeanabella
05/31/2011 09:39

Thanks for your Blog Laura! I come often to read the comments which are great! When journalists do their homework on Palin, we may have better coverage rather than the Paparazzi type coverage we're getting so far.
I read "Blind Allegiance" by Bailey and "The Lies of Sarah Palin" by Dunn.
In her own words and emails, Sarah shows her MO. Spending hours daily with her inner circle, Sarah would go over transcripts of bloggers and radio personalities who may have insulted her. Bailey says there was very little time to do any Governing! Her constant lying about everything and anything is sick. She is so used to lying, it comes naturally. She makes it up as she goes and uses her supporters to do her bidding, like pretend letters to the editor praising Palin, and dirty tricks and made up stories to attack her detractors. She is a menace.

Jeanabella

Leona
05/31/2011 18:18

I agree with Jeanabella's comment. During Palin's time as governor, she did not get much real work done, because she was constantly spending her time and energy, as well as the time and energy of her staff, on personal issues of her own making, results of her lies and pettiness. I know this because a good friend of mine worked in Alaska government at the time. It was incredibly frustrating for people in Alaska, having a diva as a governor.

Leona
05/31/2011 18:21

We cannot afford to have a lying, self-promoting, sick attention whore in any position of power in the United States. Palin must be exposed for what she is, and for the dysfunctional way in which she behaves and can be expected to behave in any position of power.

06/01/2011 13:47

There are so many great issues to explore here. And I've got a few things lined up for PhD and I'm trying to get some other PhDs and MDs on board to share the work.

A big THANK YOU to PhD for responding to commenters and taking the time to do this.

And to everyone, I'm jotting down ideas and questions and hope to address them all.

dmoreno
06/04/2011 06:59

Thanks Laura,

Just catching up with some back reading and missed this post from last week. I have been wanting to read some information on scara's mental health and opinions from a true professional for a long time now and thank you for setting this up. I suggested that Joe uses this subject for his last chapter as I think our country's health would benefit if we understand what we are dealing with when it comes to the mental health of our leaders.


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