The Case of Saddam Hussein
Narcissism is defined as the excessive love or admiration of oneself. This definition is not far from the psychological meaning of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a disorder listed in the DSM and is characterized by personality traits such as grandiosity, need for admiration, exploitative attitude, and a lack of empathy. They require admiration and dream of power. Narcissists have a feeling of entitlement, even at the expense of others. They talk mainly about themselves and have very little interest in others. Narcissists have a hard time accepting any type of personal criticism. Narcissists can make people feel intimidated, miserable, or angry (MacDonald, 2011). Narcissism is nurtured from deep rooted feelings from as far back as childhood. Saddam Hussein, former president of Iraq, is one example of narcissism.
Saddam Hussein had an unhappy childhood. His father either died or abandoned the family. His mother attempted to abort him and then psychologically rejected him (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). His mother attempted suicide several times leaving Saddam in the care of others. His mother eventually remarried giving him a stepfather. However, Saddam’s stepfather also mistreated him. Hussein’s stepfather insulted and abused him. Hussein was also forced to steal livestock for his stepfather (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Saddam also was not allowed to attend school and was illiterate until age ten. However, his cousins were allowed to attend school; a fact that Saddam was angry and jealous of. Saddam was labeled as angry, quiet, and lonely by his peers. At age ten, Saddam went to live with an uncle. Saddam showed evidence of being violent extending into his teen years. At age fourteen, Saddam claimed to have tried to kill his teacher; he was linked to the murder of a teacher and a cousin (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009).
When Saddam became president, he had statues and images of himself placed around Iraq. He also gave himself numerous titles and powers as he saw fit. He demanded admiration and even killed those who did not. In 1993, Saddam broke peace terms and in 1998 he failed to abide by the United Nations weapons inspector mandates (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). Saddam’s speeches were generally about himself and his accomplishments. His speeches were written with the intent to boast his importance and achievements while not mentioning others around him. When Saddam lived with his uncle, he was encouraged to dream of becoming a hero (Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, 2009). All of this pointed to narcissistic personality disorder.
When speaking of narcissistic personality disorder, there are psychodynamic and cognitive – behavioral components. It is the belief that the vanity, arrogance, and self – centeredness found in narcissists is an attempt to counteract the individual’s underlying feelings of being inadequate (Hansell & Damour, 2008). Narcissists often idealize themselves in order to not feel inferior. The individual’s caregiver in childhood may have been depressed or emotionally neglectful. The narcissist may have a distorted view of the self; can either be superior view or worthless view. These components are evident in the case of Saddam Hussein. Growing up, Saddam felt inadequate and inferior. His mother attempted suicide many times, left Saddam in the care of others, and ultimately rejected him. He was illiterate until he was ten which fueled his feelings of worthlessness. In the beginning, Saddam had a view of himself as worthless. However, when he rose to power the view turned to a superior view.
Saddam Hussein was a narcissistic man and ruler. He viewed himself as being superior and important. He murdered many from his own party and people who did not agree with his ideas. He dreamt of power and then more power. When it came to rules such as peace terms and weapons mandates, he felt the rules did not apply to him and he refused to follow them. Much of Saddam’s childhood reveals his narcissistic development. Since he was not allowed to attend school, he was jealous of the accomplishments of his cousins in school. He was violent and linked to two murders when he was an early teen. According to Meyer, Chapman, & Weaver, Saddam’s “childhood, family background, and early acts of psychopathic violence all played a part in nurturing a future malignant narcissist” (2009, p. 229).
Hansell, J., & Damour, L. (2008). Abnormal Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
MacDonald, P. (2011). Narcissitic Personality Disorder. Practice Nurse, 41(1), 16-18.
Meyer, R., Chapman, L. K., & Weaver, C. M. (2009). Case Studies in Abnormal Behavior (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Sue, D., Sue, D. W., & Sue, S. (2010). Understanding Abnormal Behavior (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.
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