And if narcissism explains the condition and state of leaders and politicians and prominent personalities, then what is it that explains the condition and state of those who follow these individuals? As Jerrold Post argued, the “charismatic leader-follower relationship” consists of two “narcissistically wounded” or “narcissistically scarred” parties who end up completing one another like a “lock-and-key relationship.” In a sense, one sees the other as a remedy for their frustrations and incompleteness. Strength is gained by the charismatic and narcissistic leader through the confirmation and admiration of others, and in turn, strength is gained by followers through the idealization of another. 

And as mentioned before, overcoming narcissism requires the absorption of the ego through love, and in turn, the absorption of the ego and love results from an exhaustive education process. From the point of absorption into love forward, withdrawal of the libido from the love-object results in illness and neurosis. As Freud wrote: “Organic illness, painful stimulation or inflammation of an organ, creates a condition which clearly results in a detachment of the libido from its objects. The libido which is withdrawn is found in the ego once more, as an increased cathexis of the diseased part of the body.” Freud added: “One may venture to assert, indeed, that the withdrawal of the libido from its objects in these circumstances is more striking than the diversion of egoistic interest from the external world.”

This “detaching of the libido from the object” after the ego has been absorbed in love is the source of pathological conditions, as Freud contended. On the contrary, in a narcissistic state, the sexual impulses and the libido also find an object, but the object “is not external and foreign to the individual, but is his own ego” as Freud wrote. The peak or maturity of “libidinous evolution” is its “scientific stage” when “having renounced the pleasure principle and having adapted himself to reality, he seeks his object in the outer world.” Freud argued that there were four phases to libidinal evolution, namely, the egoistic, animistic, religious, and scientific. The first phase is when the object of the libido is the self, whereas in the animistic phase the object is also the self to a large extent, but it is characterized and defined mostly by superstition. The third phase – namely, the religious phase – is “characterized by dependence on the parents” to borrow from Freud, while the scientific phase is something which we have already described. 

Interestingly, Freud characterized conditions such as megalomania and narcissism as a turning away of sorts from the external world and from external objects. As Freud wrote: “The megalomania characteristic of these states points the way. This megalomania has no doubt come into being at the expense of object-libido. The libido that has been withdrawn from the external world has been directed to the ego and thus gives rise to an attitude which may be called narcissism.” Freud perhaps made the most interesting point of all regarding the distinction between egoism and love, when he wrote: “A strong egoism is a protection against falling ill, but in the last resort we must begin to love in order not to fall ill, and we are bound to fall ill if, in consequence of frustration, we are unable to love.” 

In essence, and in short, there needs to be a balancing and integration of “the libidinous factor of psychic life” on one hand and “the functioning of the instincts of self-preservation” on the other hand in order to cure the functional disturbances, maladies, and pathological states which run rampant but largely undetected throughout society. Fear as a self-preservation instinct can work only to a certain extent. Beyond its optimal level, fear becomes both useless and futile and a hindrance and obstacle in the way of purposeful and meaningful action and living.

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