Malignant Narcissism and Power : A Psychodynamic Exploration of Madness and Leadership book cover
1st Edition

Malignant Narcissism and Power
A Psychodynamic Exploration of Madness and Leadership

ISBN 9780367279646
Published December 17, 2019 by Routledge
170 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Using psychodynamic theory and riveting case material, this book dissects the figure of the malignant narcissist leader (MNL). Across the world today, individuals and societies are impacted by unprecedented disruptive influences, from globalization and climate change to economic uncertainty and mass migration. The rise of populists and would-be saviors has promised certainty for anxious populations, but how far are such leaders suffering from the MNL pathology?

Through the psychoanalytic lens of Otto Kernberg, the authors explain the etiology of the charismatic MNL’s clinical features: charisma, grandiosity, criminality, sadism, and paranoia. The book outlines the limitations and complexity of diagnosis, contextualizing the MNL within the transcendental and millenarian movements, and discusses the patho-dynamics of high-pressure groups and totalitarian regimes, including types of groups, methods of mind control, categories of constituents, the corporate totalitarian state, and the authoritarian demagogue. The book looks at a wide range of leaders including Donald Trump, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Roger Ailes, Keith Raniere, Jan of Leiden, and Credonia Mwerinde.

Distinguishing the disordered personality of the MNL from other personality disorders, and presenting a new model of overlapping descriptors to categorize high-pressure group types and identifying types of followers as well, this book represents essential reading for psychodynamically minded psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, sociologists, political scientists, and those working in organizational development.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: An Introduction to the Malignant Narcissist Leader: A Psychological Autopsy of Bishop Frederick Ladysmith-Jones

Review of the Literature

Psychological Autopsy of a Malignant Narcissist


Chapter 2: Assessment of the Malignant Narcissist Leader: Clinical Features, Selected Psychodynamic Epidemiological Items, and Interdisciplinary Observations

Malignant Narcissism in a Leader: Broad Assessment and Analytic Recommendations

Clinical Features and Interdiscplinary Observations of the Malignant Narcissist Leader Profile


Chapter 3: Sympathy for the Devil: Application and Limitations of the Malignant Narcissist Diagnosis

The Client: Robert Green

Chapter 4: The Patho-Dynamics of Totalitaria: How Mad Leaders Form Followers and Gain Ascendance

Cult or High-Pressure Group: Synonymous Terms with a Range of Meanings

How the MNL Colonizes the Organization

The Followers: Various Types and Singular Madness

The Authoritarian Personality and the Cults of Influence Related to the Rise of Donald Trump

Treatment Options for Survivors of Cults


Chapter 5: A Totalitarian Sampler: The Mad Leader in Context of the Cultic OrganizationCategories of Cults

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the Rajneesh Movement: a predominantly spiritual/human potential high-pressure group, with commercial and political sub-features

Tony Alamo and the Alamo Christian Foundation: a predominantly spiritual/human potential high-pressure group, with commercial and political sub-features

Keith Raniere and NXIVM: predominantly commercial high-pressure group, with spiritual/human potential and political sub-features

Roger Ailes and Fox News: a predominantly political highpressure group, with commercial and spiritual/human potential sub-features

Marshall Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate: a predominantly spiritual/human potential high-pressure group, with commercial and political sub-features

Marcus Wesson’s Christo-Vampire Family Cult: a spiritual/human potential high-pressure group, with few political or commercial features

Shoka Asahara and Aum Shinrikyo: a spiritual/human potential high-pressure group, with political and commercial features


Chapter 6: The Perversion of Utopia: Malignant Narcissist Leaders and the Transcendental

The Rise of the Modern Tyrant

Utopia and Its Perversion


Chapter 7: Zeiders and Devlin Dialogue: Etiology, Sexuality, and a Primal Horde of Horrible Insights Useful for Research


Zeiders and Devlin Dialogue



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Charles Zeiders , PsyD, is the T.S. Eliot Lecturer for Humanities and Spiritual Psychology, Reformed Episcopal Seminary in metropolitan Philadelphia, USA. A clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr. Zeiders is an expert clinician and psychopathologist. His books include The Clinical Christ, Faith, Forensics, and Firearms, as well as volumes of depth-psychological poetry.

Peter Devlin , LGSW, is a psychotherapist at Capitol Hill Consortium in Washington, DC. He received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MSW from the University of Southern California. His research interests include trauma and the psychology of power.