The Pistorius narcissist diagnosis: Experts got it wrong

The Pistorius narcissist diagnosis: Experts got it wrong

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Oscar Pistorius - CNN Courtroom screen shot
Oscar Pistorius - CNN Courtroom screen shot

BETHESDA, Md., July 2, 2014 — The experts in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa testified this week as to the athlete’s state of mind at the time of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder and in the days since the tragedy.

Unfortunately, the experts who spent the past 30 days evaluating Pistorius came to a conclusion that speaks of misinformation and contradictions.

The experts who evaluated Oscar Pistorius got it half right:

  1. Right – The doctors and therapists who evaluated Pistorius testified this week that the Paralympic athlete was not suffering from any form of mental illness or impairment when he shot and murdered Reeva Steenkamp on the eve of Valentine’s Day 2013 in his South Africa residence.
  2. Wrong – Despite labeling Pistorius as highly insecure and depressed, the experts claim there are no clear indications that he is a narcissist with a personality disorder (NPD) or a psychopath/sociopath with deep pathological defects.

This conclusion is troubling and contradictory, because, narcissists/sociopaths/psychopaths act abusively, not only because they lack a conscience and are void of empathy and remorse, but because they are deeply insecure, highly fearful of abandonment, and paranoid. When cornered and caught, these pathological types drop the grandiose and entitled front and instead manipulate the consciousness of others by engaging and parading their insecurities to gain pity.

As Martha Stout, Ph.D. notes in her book The Sociopath Next Door, not all narcissists are sociopaths, but all sociopaths are narcissists. More importantly, both individuals with NPD and marked by sociopathy do not like themselves. Knowing this may garner immediate sympathy and empathy from many. Unfortunately, gaining our sympathy and empathy is exactly what perpetuates the harmful behavior of these predators.

The term “narcissism” is derived directly from the myth of Narcissus. Like Narcissus, narcissists appear to always and forever be gazing lovingly at themselves. If you interpret Narcissus or narcissism this way, you would be half correct. Narcissus is always and forever gazing loving at his reflection, not at himself—there is a difference.

A reflection of a person is a distortion; it is not the inner reality and nuances that reveal our nature. The narcissistic sociopath falls in love with a distorted self-image, not with his/her spirit. It seems that the myth behind the myth has been obscured by the images depicting the myth. What a travesty of misinformation and interpretation.

Sociopaths hide their true nature from themselves and from everybody else. They avoid looking within, because they hate themselves and fear being reminded of why they hate themselves so much.

And about that reflection pool we always see Narcissus, in artistic imagery, staring into adoringly–that reflection pool is a shallow puddle. It’s this shallow, muddied effect that makes narcissists/sociopaths so dangerous and why even the experts get it wrong the majority of the time, because even the experts misinterpret the myth, which leads to misinterpretation of what it means to be narcissistic.

Instead of being real and sharing their inner fears and shame, sociopaths present to the world an idealized reflection, a projection of who they want us to think they are and of who they desperately wish to be. These projections are mere shadows and imaginings of their surroundings and are composed of nothing real or tangible.

Pistorius wanted to be seen as a super man and indestructible. And now? Now that he has been exposed? What happened to those projections?

The answer is simple. Those old projections no longer serve his current agenda, which is to save himself from punishment. Understanding and accepting how easily a narcissist/sociopath can switch gears should be obvious to the experts and should be the reason society pursues just punishment and insists that Pistorius be accountable for his/her actions. In light of this recent diagnosis (or misdiagnosis rather), it appears Pistorius may never receive just punishment.

Why do we as a society keep excusing this behavior and refuse to label the behavior for what it is? Why are we sympathizing with Pistorius? Are we afraid of being judged ourselves one day for acting abusively or carelessly? Or are we already acting abusively and carelessly on a regular basis, and we don’t want to seem like hypocrites by punishing these fools simply because they got caught? Or do we see this type of behavior as “not a big deal” and that people just have bad days and do dumb things under duress?

A woman is dead as a result of this man’s “dumb” act. Her name is Reeva Steenkamp. Society, for reasons many claim to be civil, has paused to consider her murderer’s defense. Reeva did not have the opportunity to pause and defend herself, so why is Pistorius demanding and receiving the grace and mercy he denied Reeva who did nothing to provoke Pistorius to shoot her four (4) times through a locked bathroom door? It is speculated by many that Reeva locked herself in the toilet to flee eminent danger without fully realizing that nothing could separate her from the destructiveness of Pistorius’s explosive rage.

Pistorius destroyed a woman’s life and negatively impacted the lives of all of her family, friends, and loved ones. He’s now claiming to be an insecure and fearful victim of society and circumstance? Where do his self-pity and projected blame end and his accountability begin? Pistorius uses self-pity, “loss” of limbs, and the state of crime in South Africa to dupe the experts and the public into believing he is a rat in a cage who reacts in fear when his cage is rattled.

Well, don’t we all!?

The difference between Pistorius and the rest of us non-sociopaths is that we have empathy, remorse, and a conscience. Together, these qualities would not allow us to a.) murder someone due to base feelings of insecurity and b.) staunchly defend our actions with the hope of eluding punishment. On the contrary, unlike Pistorius, we would be ashamed and surrender to the justice system and plead guilty.

In addition, it should come as no surprise that the latest reports mention that Pistorius is now suicidal. After all, sociopaths suffer, too, despite what many want to believe and suffer deep stress and anxiety when they get caught so publicly and are forced to answer for their behavior. Threatening suicide is the ultimate pathological tool used to control the consciousness of an entire society and garners the attention and protection Pistorius desperately needs. It’s no wonder Pistorius is showing signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: His mask slipped and he had no control, because he is not in control of his nature and never has been.


Paula Carrasquillo is a victim/survivor’s advocate and author of the novelette, Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Follow her on Twitter and check out her personal blog.

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