This is the edited version of an earlier post, the bulk of which went into writing The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Narcissist. I’ve taken it offline for a few weeks, but bring it back for the wonderful comments from my dear readers.
Psychopathy and narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, to be exact) are two distinct character disorders*, although they have a lot in common. They predominate among men, for one, and they share, as a main symptom, an absent or severely compromised conscience.
The complete or near complete absence of conscience is a feature of psychopathy, while narcissists often some have rudimentary components of conscience in place, albeit demonstrated mostly for public consumption.
When the two pathologies converge, as in the case of narcissistic psychopaths (a category not included in DSM), it is a bad mix — not for the narcissistic psychopath (NP), but for everyone around him.
If we want to find out whether someone possesses a conscience, we must look for its evidence — in the form of empathy, guilt, and shame — in that person’s words and, more importantly, actions:
As the above (see link) essay attempts to demonstrate, NP’s character is a combination of egotistical ruthlessness and psychic fragility, driven by spite and primitive pursuits of power and adulation; impulsive in thought, speech, and action; manipulative, vindictive, unencumbered by scruples and self-reflection or any kind of conscience-based inhibitions.
Presidential material? You be the judge.
*Personality disorders are not mental illness, but ingrained character defects that permeate every facet of a person’s life without necessarily rendering him or her incapable of daily functioning. Mental illness (psychosis) comes and goes, and, depending on the severity of its symptoms, may incapacitate a person for stretches of time. But when not symptomatic (actively psychotic), a person suffering from a mental illness can feel, think, and function quite well. Character (personality) disorder, in contrast, is a permanent pathological pattern of a person’s functioning. This is the way he is.