the fire flower of narcissistic rage
Reading Time: 10 minutes (Adrian Swancar.)
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Hi and welcome back! To borrow a phrase and wreck its meter: the time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to speak of many things: Of shoes and ships…’ And narcissistic rage, of dysfunctional game admins and extremely seditious presidents. In the case of those last two items, these two groups have some very important traits in common: their narcissistic desire for attention, the mind-boggling extremes to which they are both willing to go in order to get it, and their catastrophic rage when it is denied. Today, Lord Snow Presides over how I learned to spot narcissists in a game I once loved.

the fire flower of narcissistic rage
(Adrian Swancar.)

(Today’s LSP concerns this game. The game leader I discussed there elevated today’s featured narcissist to her position before abdicating. He didn’t understand how much damage narcissists can do to volunteer efforts, and he also didn’t understand the difference between narcissistic behavior and the brand of antisocial, BOFH-style fashionable irascibility that coders in MUD-Land often affected back then [and probably still do]. For space considerations, I left her role in the clusterf*** out of the anecdote, because I did and still do consider the lead admin as the one bearing ultimately responsibility for the problems outlined. Here, for the first time, is simply that other half of the story.)

Rage: the Fire-Flower.

Anger is a perfectly natural response to physical or emotional pain. We can even feel it in situations that seem like they’d more correctly lead to feelings of joy. The first sprouting of the seed of anger isn’t easily controlled, if it’s controllable at all.

If the person sprouting the anger-seed doesn’t feel they have access to a way to deal with it or manage it constructively, though, that tender shoot blossoms into the fire-flower of rage. Rage can consume whole galaxies with its ferocity.

And narcissists really don’t have adequate ways of dealing with the pain that all humans feel. Worse still, they rarely have any understanding of how few the benefits are of allowing that fire-flower to blossom — compared to snipping it in the bud before it reaches its full growth (meaning, learning to manage anger constructively). Regular people might seek professional help when they realize what their uncontrolled fires are costing them in terms of opportunities and relationships.

But narcissists seem almost entirely immune to such glimmerings of self-awareness. They rarely seek professional help for their dysfunctions. If they ever do, they often only use it as a way to refine their narcissistic control-grabs.

No, they have something else in their emotional toolboxes.

Narcissistic Rage: The World-Eater.

A narcissist feels anger quickly and easily. They are usually acutely, even painfully hyper-aware of threats and challenges.

Their anger often stems from the pain of being denied whatever it is they want right then — which is usually attention and/or special treatment — or from being (or potentially being) exposed for who and what they truly are. This denial/threat gets called narcissistic injury by the pros.

Once the narcissist suffers a narcissistic injury, they can’t respond to it like non-narcissists do to whatever has caused them pain. Those options are entirely off the shelf for them. Instead, they bloom straight into narcissistic rageIt is not like regular rage. It is intense, aggressive, vengeful, balls-to-the-wall, and utterly out of scope to the (often imagined) offense.

The goal of someone in the throes of narcissistic rage is always going to be getting everyone back to doing what the narcissist wants them to do — which, again, is giving the narcissist attention or special treatment.

This link explains a number of situations that might fling a narcissist into narcissistic injury and then rage.

You might imagine, if you know me, that I’d read that and immediately think of our seditious current President. Or that I’d think of some megachurch pastor in trouble, or even of my fundagelical ex-husband, Biff.

And yes, I do think of all of them when the topic of narcissism comes up.

But first, I think about ‘Loretta,’ a MUD admin I knew years ago. The fires that consumed her ended up helping to destroy that entire once-successful game.

The Ascension of a Narcissist to Power.

A MUD login screen. “Genesis LPMud Login.”Fair use via Wikipedia.

Multi-User Domains, or MUDs, are like World of Warcraft, just all in text form. They were what people played before graphical games got popular. Once upon a time, Yr. Loyal &Etc. Captain was wayyyy into them.

I met ‘Loretta’ on the last MUD I ever staffed.

Loretta had a deep, deep need to suck up all the attention in a room. It was just uncanny. She could turn literally any scene into one centering on herself.

Eventually, she became an administrator. Hoo boy.

Now, Loretta was not the sole problem here, rest assured. The game had opened itself to her brand of dysfunction long ago; she was simply the most visible sign of that dysfunction. That said, she was a very visible sign.

We had no idea that our leader had signed our game’s death-warrant that day. Nor did I figure out for years why our game had proven to be so singularly vulnerable to bad-faith actors like Loretta.

What Happens When Narcissists Achieve Power.

For a while, Loretta just set up roleplaying scenes that somehow ended up revolving around her rather than players. Such scenes are, if you’re wondering, just as tedious as they sound for players.

Eventually, people began noping out of her roleplaying scenes. No worries! She began dabbling with coding for the game. Unfortunately, she had no idea what she was doing. So she often broke stuff way worse than whatever she’d scare-quotes “fixed,” then had to walk back all her changes to the code. Players got used to the game breaking constantly, just in all new, entertaining ways every time, then losing the flashbang gee-whiz options Loretta had created for them in the first place. That whole scenario is also as tedious as it sounds.

And she was unbelievably abrasive throughout all of these events.

But Loretta loved the attention she got from wielding that kind of power, and she persisted. For a while, this attention pleased her enough. But it, too, stopped satisfying her.

So, she began angling for more power. She began stepping on the toes of admins themselves, even her own onetime friends, trying to push herself to the forefront of the administrators’ group as a whole. Considering her incompetence at every single project she’d attempted so far and her generally awful behavior, nobody was very pleased with that.

Her narcissistic rage ignited at one definitive rejection.

I’m telling you all this because in the next subsection, you’re maybe going to notice some parallels that have been making me nervous for days now.

The World Eater.

Back then, we didn’t know what narcissists really were, much less what narcissistic injury looks like, much less what forms narcissistic rage takes or why. So what happened next took every one of us by surprise.

Loretta began to lash out hard against the admins she saw as causing all her problems. Her reaction was so intense it frightened some of us.

To some extent, we were used to her outbursts. On our internal forums, she’d often write these hugely offensive posts there, insulting every single person who’d offended her that time and causing a huge kerfluffle that’d take days to soothe before she detonated again. The lead admin pretended that all of this was perfectly in keeping with his leadership philosophy, and did not act to stop her.

That’s what happened this time, too.

But she went so much further this time. A massive, major roleplaying event that she had arranged had almost bombed hard because the admins she’d assigned to help out just didn’t show up at all. Mr. Captain and I helped at the last second, even though we’d both already recently quit our positions (over staff mistreatment in general).

In the wake of this ‘vote of no confidence,’ Loretta just exploded.

She insulted and threatened the staff, even insinuating that she’d just take the whole game down before ever apologizing. And by then, she held that kind of power.

What she wrote was all the kind of stuff that just cannot be walked back.

Or even forgiven, much less forgotten

Responding to Narcissistic Rage.

In her lashing-out thread, Loretta gloated about the initial response she’d gotten. She had been, she asserted, utterly in the right to tongue-lash admins and insult them nine ways from Sunday. Indeed, she considered the following rash of resignation notices as PROOF YES PROOF that her fellow admins were, and I quote her here, “scared of her anger.” This notion had always pleased her enormously.

I pointed out in a response that no, nobody was “scared” of her at all. What was she going to do, reach through people’s monitors and strangle them?

No. She was just words on a screen, words lacking even sound. And what kind of shit attitude was that anyway, being proud of scaring volunteers helping run the game we all loved?

No. We were just absolutely sick to death of her behavior. She was a tedious bore, and we had better things to do than deal with her. Whenever she needed a jolt of attention, she caused some major drama. People got hurt, relationships got destroyed, and increasingly, people quit in response. And we’d had enough of it.

I was pleased with my thrown gauntlet. But I had not yet learned my lesson about igniting the world-eating fire of narcissistic rage.

As another very narcissistic character once discovered:

For to cause suffering is to know suffering.

The ultimate horror is exposure — the tearing off of the mask.

And I’d exposed the truth Loretta had always tried to avoid about herself.

Of Dysfunctional Game Admins.

I’d reduced Loretta to a little forgotten godling trapped in a tiny ancient clay figurine: shrieking into the wind, a tinny little voice that holds no more power to hurt anyone, screaming out endless demands and threats that nobody will ever care about again.

I had negated her power over the rest of the admins.

I’d defanged her.

Her retaliation came swiftly.

(This, again, all occurred an online roleplaying game — nonprofit, free to play — run by volunteers for people who wanted to pretend to be Big Damn Heroes fighting baddies with swords-n-sorcery. I just feel the need to remind myself of that fact. Over-the-top drama is just one of the many fun features of narcissism.)

Almost immediately after I wrote that response, Loretta yanked my admin access to the forum and ensured that my ingame admin account was shorn of all admin privileges, even stuff usually allowed to departing admins as a courtesy. (If she messed with my server account, I don’t know about it. I never tried logging into it after that day.) I was not even given time to write a final goodbye post to players using my game-admin account, also a traditional courtesy accorded to outgoing admins who hadn’t broken any game rules. She did this to all the admins who said they were quitting.

Except I didn’t care and doubt they did either. Her silly gesture of revenge was only making my life easier, though it made the jobs of her few remaining admins harder. Either way, I was done. So, I did not lose sleep over Loretta’s dysfunctional last hurrah.

The Fire-Gutted MUD.

Now imagine what the game’s admin stable looked like after that drama.

It’d already been worryingly sparse. With her incendiary rage outburst, though, she’d just gutted it.

No matter. She had won her latest war, she thought.

But now she found herself almost completely alone. After that almost-failed roleplaying session went south and the game lost most of its admin stable, it began hemorrhaging players too. Every so often I’d hear from one of them — always very sad at what had become of this once-great game.

The game didn’t close for good after that drama, however. It took years for its staffers to awaken to that truth.

Eventually, inevitably, though, this MUD went the way of all such flesh.

I stress again: Loretta was not actually the cause of that ending. She was simply a symptom of greater dysfunction deeper in our group — dysfunction that had allowed her into leadership, and then offered no effective mechanism for her evaluation or removal. The game never recovered from this weakness.

I could say the exact same things about America’s current President.

The Destruction of Narcissists.

All that is ever left of a fully-defanged narcissist is a tin-pot dictator godling trapped in a little clay figurine from eons past, its tinny little voice thundering threats into the uncaring wind.

It just takes a lot to get them to that point, especially if they’ve managed to get their hooks into real power over others.

As for Loretta, after she wrecked that game she faded away from the whole MUD scene. I can find no signs or mentions of her online for the past 10+ years. Maybe she’s found healing. I truly hope so. I had my problems back then too, and I did.

But while she staffed that one MUD, I can tell you this:

She fought with everything she had to maintain her narcissistic supply: the attention she needed more than air itself. When she felt really threatened, she pulled out all the stops — causing bigger and bigger ruckuses and dramas to try to get herself centered again in everyone’s attention.

Ultimately, her own efforts were what backfired against her most. Her own inability to harness her pain led to her hurting others to feel better. It didn’t even occur to her that sooner or later, her victims would refuse to cooperate.

Of Seditious Presidents.

Our current Grifter-in-Chief always reminds me of Loretta. He’s a complete narcissist, and I am not the only person who’s thought so.

Worse, we know that narcissistic leaders often inspire other narcissists to follow them. There’s been a whole study on that topic published just last year. It asked how many of Donald Trump’s supporters are narcissists seeking to hitch their wagons to a more-successful narcissist. The answer: apparently, a lot of ’em.

(One interesting takeaway of the study: conservatives in general “tend to be slightly more narcissistic.” I wonder how much worse that’ll get, as conservatism itself becomes even more polarized along Trumpist lines.)

And I’m also hardly the only person who’s thought that evangelicals sure seem to have a lot of narcissistic-seeming people in their ranks. Even evangelicals have said so.

At least some of them are even starting to recognize narcissism in leaders as a very serious problem for their tribe.

The Potential Powderkeg.

Donald Trump has been handed a very definitive rejection — much of it from the people he himself considered set-in-stone supporters.

We now have a countdown going — just a few more days until the very end of his regime of lies and overreach and staggering incompetence — and what sure looks like treasonous behavior caused directly by his own narcissistic rage-bender over losing the election itself.

I’m not sure he’s quite defanged yet, is all.

Today, Lord Snow Presides over my most fervent hopes that those around this high-level narcissist understand the lengths to which he could go in expressing his utter rage.

See you tomorrow!

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About Lord Snow Presides (LSP)

Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was my very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures!

(A note regarding my terminology and language: I am not a lawyer — not even on TV. The terms I use here, as in every post, are not to be construed as formal legal accusations. My writing reflects my opinion and nothing more. May the President and all his supporters face their fair trials!)

(Hilarious link of the day: This PDF, found during a search for narcissistic evangelicals. Don’t miss the photo of the truly happy-clappy, giddily sanctified pastor on Page 1. He’s got the joyjoyjoyjoy downinhisheart, Oh! Down in his heart, Oh! Down in his heart!)

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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