Nov 02 2010

Narcissism as Expressed by General Maximus’s Message to Commodus in the Movie Gladiator: “The Time for Honoring Yourself Will Soon be at an End, Highness”

Published by at 2:36 pm under Counseling & Psychotherapy

As the political season of “look how good I am” finally comes to an end, I remembered this classic line from the Academy Award winning movie, Gladiator.
After Commodus taunts Maximus with the brutal murder of his son and wife, Maximus turns to face him with the firm voice of the righteous warrior. His message: “The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end, highness.”

The little inflection in Maximus’ voice when he says “highness” is classic.

Commodus has  placed himself in an exalted role and Maximus is going to appreciate bringing him down.

Commodus, the pathologically narcissistic son so desperate for glory, murders his own father, claims the role of emperor for himself, and circumvents

his father’s plans to make Maximus the “protector” of Rome in a transition back to a Republic.

Thus the stage is set for the dramatic fight between Commodus who symbolizes the forces of evil, and Maximus, of course, symbolizing the forces of good.

Maximus is the righteous warrior who has earned his power and stature in the world. On the other hand, Commodus is an immature man who has seemingly earned nothing. All that he has has been the gift of his father’s stature as the Roman emperor.
Additionally, Commodus presents himself as deviant in his sexual overtures to his sister, Lucilla and sexualized infatuation with Lucilla’ young son, Lucius.

Commodus’ plan for ruling Rome? He will be the good father who loves his children, the citizens of Rome. The twisted sexuality is a major theme within the story with the suggestion this may be part of the reason for Commodus’ having pathological personality traits.

He wants to incest his sister to have a biological heir, but the we are led to believe the object of his sexual desires is his  nephew.

Let’s face it, there is not much to like in Commodus.

And as Maximus predicts, the time for Commodus honoring himself quickly ends. The forces of good prevailing over the forces of evil.

Just the way we like it. Good wins over evil. Karma.
The epic fight between the forces of good and the forces of evil has many real life examples.

In the field of personal growth retreats, James Earl Ray is a glaring example of narcissistic excess leading to the death of faithful, trusting believers.

As his picture portrays, Ray is a good looking guy with pearly white teeth. He doesn’t look like someone charged with responsibility for the deaths of three people.

However, looks often deceive. Ray is someone who dropped out of college and found he could sway people with words and charm. Good combinations for someone who didn’t know very much but wanted to be rich.

Karma has led him to face accountability for his lies and deceit of many, many people who entrusted him with their lives.

The details of this case are shocking. Ray kept people in an improperly built and managed sweat lodge until three people died and countless others fell sick.

Ray was grossly irresponsible and it will be interesting to see how he tries to get out of being accountable.
The Iraq war has been waged in part to defeat the evil and pathologically narcissistic dictator, Saddam Hussein.

In Hussein, we have a real life example of a dangerous dictator who projects himself as the “good father” of the Iraqi people, while at the same time murdering any and all who appear to be a threat to his power. Abusing alcohol, drugs, rape and mass murder are his calling cards.

When Hussein was toppled from power, the United States claimed a victory, but let’s not talk about the many years Hussein was supported in power by our political and military leaders.

  This picture to the left shows Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein as recently as 2003 when the United States apparently had no problem with Iraq’s possession and use of chemical weapons and the documented human rights violations.

We can easily sit back and judge this support of Hussein over many decades was wrong.

The policy makers from that era would argue that the strategic benefits of supporting Hussein in Iraq far outweighed any ethical considerations. And that’s the way it usually goes.

But we have historical evidence which suggests George W. Bush may have had a plan to invade Iraq to topple Hussein long before 9-11. Was W psychologically injured by his father’s failure to invade Iraq years earlier?

Some might argue that W’s immaturity and narcissism led him to a grandiose adventure to “fight the evil empires” on his own, to finally show who (maybe his own father?) who was “in charge.”

Again, as recent history has shown, probably Dick Cheney was “in charge” as his company Haliburton quickly became the recipient of millions of dollars of contracts to do just about everything possible to do in Iraq.

And W’s published book and his public interviews indicate he admits to authorizing “waterboarding”, an archaic form of torture prohibited by law and any sense of morality.

He seems proud of authorizing torture, if not bold. Again, it will be interesting to see what happens with this bit of narcissism…will he face investigation?

Ethical considerations are usually less important than strategic benefits. And pathological narcissists are very good at manipulating vulnerable people, especially if those people have something the narcissist wants.

Vulnerable people are meant to feel helpless or even endangered without the protection of the narcissist in power. Fear of injury is a key way these type of tyrants and bullies remain in control.

When these tyrants and bullies are confronted with sufficient power, their end is usually quite violent. Hussein died from hanging and Hitler blew himself up in a bunker rather than face the tragic violence he created around the world.

Many pathological narcissists remain in power, perhaps some were recently elected, voted out of office or remain in political offices throughout our country. It will be interesting to see what happens during the next two years.

I predict democrats will try to prevent secret corporate campaign donations and republicans will try to keep it in place.

Obama will not be proven a muslim or socialist.

American citizens will settle down and realize that Obama and the democratic administration has accomplished many positive things over a short period of time, including a historic reform of our nation’s health care system.

And more is needed.

So, for all those pathological narcissists out there, let’s hope they begin the realize that “the time for honoring themselves will soon be over.”

It is a time where the common good, not just the corporate good should be our priority.

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