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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why the extreme need for power or wanting to be in control ???

Lately,with the current political situations brewing in the world, first in Egypt and then in Libya and many more rearing to escalate, I have closely been looking at the aspect of  people wanting to control or dominate others. Why is there a deep need in them for power and to prove ones superiority, grandoise and sometimes even omnipotence? It is often highly characterised by self-love. Though it is considered healthy to care about your own well-being and have a healthy self esteem when someone loves themselves to the exclusion of all else and others become objectified to be used only to serve the self, this is no longer considered healthy or normal. What triggers this? Is it normal? When does this behaviour classify as unhealthy? Does this always mean a psycological condition? How does one evaluate this? Is this curable?

Here are a few clinical terms which I came across while researching this subject. I have tried to define and explain them in some detail along with available methods for treatment.


Adolf Hitler
Megalomania is an unrealistic belief in one's superiority, grandiose abilities, and even omnipotence. It is characterized by a need for total power and control over others, and is marked by a lack of empathy for anything that is perceived as not feeding the self. Although megalomania is a term often ascribed to anyone who is power-hungry, the clinical definition s that of a mental illness associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
There are different psychological theories about how and why NPD develops, most of which relate to the integration of different aspects of ego and self as a child, and the nature of the parental roles in that process. Regardless of theory, NPD is characterized by extremely low self-esteem, which is compensated for by delusions of grandeur and megalomania, a narcissistic neuroses. With the propensity to act only on behalf of one's self, the unbridled need to feed one's ego, and the objectification of others to serve the power-hungry needs of megalomania, it is easy to see how this can be a recipe for disaster, especially when wrapped in a charismatic personality.
One of the most well known examples of megalomania in modern history was Adolf Hitler. A street waif, Hitler wasn't content rising through the ranks to become the military leader of Germany. His megalomania drove him to aspire to conquer the entire world. Being born into a "superior race" also wasn't enough for the mentally ill Hitler. Instead, he wanted to wipe out all other races. This need to destroy everything outside of what he perceived as an extension of himself is a classic though horrifically illustrated example of megalomania. Paradoxically, a person who exhibits such tremendous ego and self-confidence in reality has such low self-esteem and such a fragile ego that he cannot abide any expression other than his own, for fear of annihilation of the self. Therefore everything that is not under his control is perceived as a threat.
Among dictators, fundamentalists, and politicians we find those who view themselves as morally superior with the willingness to sacrifice, kill, or risk the safety of others considered inferior in order to assert their own agendas. Though there are legitimate circumstances in which leaders must exercise civil or military force, or religious zealots can profess solemn beliefs, the line between religiosity and fanaticisim between duty and megalomania, can be a gray one. This is how the term has become part of our culture's vernacular.
Megalomania is also sometimes associated with bipolar disorder; a depressive illness that is characterized by mood swings from extreme lows to extreme highs. During the latter cycle, people often suffer delusions of grandeur and feelings of infinite capability. They talk about unrealistic plans and goals as if these plans and goals are within their grasp.
While genocide is an extreme example, many serial killers may also suffer from megalomania. They objectify, then sacrifice their victims to exercise total control with a complete lack of empathy for the suffering of others. The principles or characteristics of NPD and megalomania can also be expressed in lesser degrees or in a different fashion by those we might consider more mainstream than genocidal maniacs and serial killers.
Schizophrenia, a mental illness characterized by delusions, hallucinations and extreme paranoia is also often found alongside megalomania. Psycotherapy and drugs can help cure and control these condtions.

The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history. Bertrand Russel


Narcissism is a psychological condition defined as a total obsession with self, to the exclusion of almost all other interaction with people. Narcissism is often characterized by a lack of empathy for others, an immature sense of humor, a compulsion to satisfy personal needs without regard for others, and sometimes sadistic or destructive tendencies towards other people. People suffering from narcissism can be extremely introverted in social situations, tending to avoid deep friendships or commitments to career or family.
According to a common psychological model used by psychoanalysts, almost all humans begin life with some degree of narcissism. After all, in a baby's world he or she is the most important creature alive, followed closely by the supportive giants known as parents. A baby or toddler has a significant number of physical and emotional needs, all of which should be addressed by the people surrounding him or her. This is how the world works, according to a two-year old child. Eventually, a healthy child will learn that the world is bigger than he or she is, and parents will not always satisfy selfish needs. Failure to learn this fact can lead to a condition called primary narcissism.
Early childhood or primary narcissism is thought to be part of the natural growth process, as children focus their energy and attention away from parents and towards an ever increasing subject/object world. If the child experiences a severe disappointment or senses abandonment, he or she may regress to the primary narcissism stage as a defense mechanism. For parents, this could mean a return to baby talk or demanding behavior until the child finds a way to deal with the traumatic blow to his or her self-worth. Hopefully, the child will learn to live with life's disappointments and grow into a responsible adult. For some people, however, an early lifetime of rejection by others can create secondary narcissism during adulthood.
It is this secondary narcissism which may be diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism is primarily a defense mechanism, albeit with some socially damaging side effects for the sufferer. A narcissistic adult faced with the pressures of career, family and social interaction can literally implode psychologically, retreating to childhood behaviors such as primary narcissism.
The feelings of others no longer matter to a narcissistic personality. Other people simply live to serve, much like the role filled by parents during early childhood. When family members, co-workers, subordinates or friends fail to satisfy his or her needs, a true narcissist will most likely detach from them emotionally and become even more self-absorbed. Narcissism as a personality disorder can be treated through pscyotherapy, but many sufferers prefer to remain undiagnosed.


Schizophrenia is a mental illness that impairs one’s ability to perceive reality. It is often confused with split personality, to which it is not at all similar. Rather, those with schizophrenia can suffer from delusional thinking that can impair behavior and ability to live a normal and functional life.  Schizophrenia most often develops in young adults in their late teens. It is equally prevalent among males and females. Very rarely, schizophrenia may occur in early childhood. Additionally, late onset schizophrenia may occur in the elderly, possibly tied to dementia from Alzheimer’s disease, though this is not always the case. Most often, however, an older teen that has seemed relatively fine and healthy will begin to exhibit symptoms of the illness. Symptoms vary in prevalence and in persistence, and are a way of diagnosing different types of the illness.
Those suffering from schizophrenia may believe that they are invincible or all-powerful and thus cannot be hurt. This can cause them to act in ways that are dangerous to themselves or others. Conversely, those affected may believe that others are plotting against them, or that there is a subversive tendency by those around them to somehow harm the schizophrenic. Hallucinations are often present and fuel delusions. The schizophrenic may hear voices that are not there. They may also see things that don’t exist. These additional voices or visions may cause the schizophrenic to feel helplessly trapped, as he or she cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not real.
In many cases, schizophrenia can respond well to drug therapy. Medication, like anti-psychotics, can help alleviate some but not all symptoms. The patient is also taught to recognize that the brain will still produce some positive symptoms, and that these should be ignored.

Note :This article is just an overview to look into the psyche of these behaviours and may not be used as a diagnosis or prognosis for a condition in a person. Appropriate medical evaluations and tests may be needed for diagnosis and treatment.  NPD, megalomania, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can all be treated with medications and psychotherapy.

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