Opinion: A 2-year-old hiding behind the uniform and the medals

U.S. General David Petraeus, with his wife Holly seated behind him.
reuters

All leader hierarchies are a honey pot for narcissism — excessive vanity and self-centeredness. This is equally true in the military as it is in the corporate or political world. Why would a successful and popular military leader risk everything? Not because he needed the sex. The world is asking how could he be that stupid? Narcissists are not motivated the same way as balanced ordinary people.

What makes pathological narcissistic leaders difficult to understand is that we can’t see they are in the middle of a life and death struggle to maintain a false self-image.

How does that false self-image develop? One important source of pathological narcissism can be found along the road to maturity. At a certain stage, children discover their own will power by challenging their parents. If good parenting does not help the child to balance its will, they grow up with a secret sense of entitlement. When this child becomes an adult that sense of entitlement can survive as a very childish part of the personality — a self-image built on the false belief they really are that important.

And where does the bad judgement come from? After all, narcissists all seem to be intelligent and mature — at least on the surface. Someone appointed as head of the CIA would have to present pretty well to those making the decision. The problem is that people appointing leaders aren’t able to see the whole picture, they don’t know there is a 2-year-old hiding behind the impressive uniform and the medals.

So how could such a seemingly powerful person be foolish enough to squander everything for the short lived pleasure of an extramarital affair? Well, not because it was cool or exciting, but because he desperately needs it. If a narcissist is unable to get their narcissistic fuel, which is the attention and adulation of others, they end up depressed, feeling worthless and lonely, thus making their actions into a life-and-death struggle to maintain a flawed identity. What makes narcissistic leaders dangerous is that they are not motivated by work and love. They will do anything to keep their self-image intact, to feed their sense of entitlement.

— Mats and Karin Eriksson are the authors of The Salamander Club. More information about their book and their work can be found at www.salamanderclub.com


Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send 100-word submissions to letters@metro.us.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."