Guess who is Narcissus in our midst?


A woman reader mildly reproached me by posing this question:
“If Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had no qualms in pointing to President Benigno Aquino 3rd as the head of state who held up the traditional leaders’ photo-taking at the ASEAN summit in Malaysia, why did you refrain from saying outright that President Aquino may have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as described in your column?” (“A Diagnosis in search of a patient,” Manila Times, 28 April 2015).

Last Tuesday, April 28, Prime Minister Lee posted a photo on his Facebook page that showed him and his fellow Asean leaders excluding Aquino lining up for the traditional leaders’ picture. He said: “Waiting to take the traditional leaders’ photo, but someone’s missing. #guesswho?”. It’s not known what the other leaders did to express their annoyance.

To address the reader’s question, I will answer politely as follows:

“Madame, Mr. Lee is an Asean head of state, and he was among those who were inexcusably held up by the absent or tardy Filipino leader. He knew what he was talking about when he complained on his Facebook page.

“As for my recent column, I will say in defense that I am not a psychologist and not a psychiatrist who can confidently judge that President Aquino in his actions and behavior in office has exhibited the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

“While many readers were uniformly of the belief that Aquino fits the diagnosis, I am bound by the ethics of journalism to root my conclusions and observations on solid ground.”

A subject veiled in secrecy
Finally, I am not unmindful of the point made by other readers, that we Filipinos have been exercised no end these past few years by the riddle of what is wrong with our president.

Some thought Fr. Jaime Bulatao’s brief psychological profile on Aquino at the Ateneo told a big and unfinished story. Alas, the Jesuits locked up the secret in their vaults. I’ve also read the speculation that Aquino could be autistic. And then there was that speculation that he may have Asperger’s syndrome.

All of which came to nothing, because the Palace and people who should know (Cabinet members, PNoy’s doctors, presidential aides) will absolutely not tell us anything, even if there is a constitutional provision requiring periodic reporting on the president’s health, presumably including his mental health.

In the view of some friends and readers, with which I am in agreement, NPD could be by far the most spot-on diagnosis of BS Aquino.

Researching NPD in the Internet
Since the publication of the column, I have done more research on NPD. I plan to visit next week one Filipino psychiatrist to get an account of the disorder from the trenches.

The Internet, it turns out, is a mine of information on the disorder. There’s a very informative Wikipedia article on NPD, which includes links to other articles that the reader can study. There are other articles on NPD, some of which are too technical for my amateurish curiosity.

I will only summarize here some of the key information contained in the Wikipedia articles on personality disorders in general and narcissistic personality disorder in particular.

Personality disorders are conditions in which an individual differs significantly from an average person, in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others.

Changes in how a person feels and distorted beliefs about other people can lead to odd behavior, which can be distressing and may upset others.

Several different types of personality disorder are recognized. They have been broadly grouped into three clusters – A, B or C.

Narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a Cluster B personality disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, is mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process. It is estimated that this condition affects one percent of the population in the United States.

First formulated in 1968, NPD was historically called megalomania, and is a form of severe egocentrism.

People who are diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance. They have a sense of entitlement and demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior. They have a strong need for admiration, but lack feelings of empathy.

History of the malady
The use of the term “narcissism” to describe excessive vanity and self-centeredness predates by many years the modern medical classification of narcissistic personality disorder. The condition was named after Narcissus, a mythological Greek youth who became infatuated with his own reflection in a lake. He did not realize at first that it was his own reflection, but when he did, he died out of grief for having fallen in love with someone that did not exist outside of himself.

The term “narcissistic personality structure” was introduced by Kernberg in 1967 and “narcissistic personality disorder” was first proposed by Heinz Kohut in 1968.

Therapy for NPD
People rarely seek treatment for NPD. This is partly because NPD sufferers deny they have a problem. Most, if not all, cannot see the destructive damage they cause to themselves and to others and usually only seek treatment at the insistence of relatives and friends.

Psychotherapy is used to treat NPD. Unconscious fears of exposure or inadequacy often cause defensive disdain of therapeutic processes.

Therapy is not one hundred percent effective because patients receive feedback poorly and defensively.

Not a futile exercise
Trying to determine whether President Aquino has NPD or not is a worthy endeavor. He will surely not submit to examination by a psychiatrist, let alone to being psychoanalyzed on a couch,

Nevertheless, a full review of President Aquino’s acts as president and behavior in office should be attempted because it will yield invaluable insights on the personality of the man who holds the nation’s life in his hands.

Aquino’s first year alone in the Presidency was filled to overflowing by his quirks, to wit;

1. His refusal to be sworn in by then Supreme Court Chief Justie Renato Corona, and his relentless campaign to shame Corona into resigning.

2. His erratic handling of the Luneta hostage-taking crisis and refusal to apologize to the Hong Kong government.

3. His hysterical claims against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and his foolish claim that she left nothing in the national treasury.

4. His decision to underspend and impound parts of the budget.

The disorder was manifest from the start.

I believe that narcissistic personality disorder could be as revealing of President Aquino as astrology was of Ronald Reagan at the White House.

But with this difference. Despite astrology, Reagan proved to be a strong president. He brought down the Berlin Wall and bankrupted the Soviet Union.

In our case, we still must wonder where Aquino’s quirks and tics will take us – God knows where.


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  1. Alejo Rosete on

    Makabayan ito ang sagut ko sa comment mo

    Ang sinasabi lang ni Yen ay ang nakikita ng tao sa kanilang Pangulo.
    Siguro kung hindi pangulo si BS Aquino ay wala namang mag-aksay ng
    panahon para isulat ang kakulangan niya.

    Karapatan ang taong bayan malaman the State of Health of their President.

    Hindi na kailangan ni Yen ang ibedensiya.

    Para matapos na ang usapan o kurokuro sa kalusogan ni
    Presidente BS Aquino ay DAPAT ILABAS NA NIYA ANG

  2. Migs Doromal on

    It wasn’t Ronald Reagan’s who dabbled in astrology. It was his wife, Nancy.

    TO ANSWER THAT COMMENT ABOUT DRUGS AND NANCY REAGAN, HERE IS A QUOTE FROM Wikipedia showing that Nancy Ragan was an avid anti=-drug fighter:
    “Just Say No” was an advertising campaign, part of the U.S. “War on Drugs”, prevalent during the 1980s and early 1990s, to discourage children from engaging in illegal recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying no. Eventually, the scope of the campaign expanded to cover violence and premarital sex as well as drug use. The slogan was created and championed by First Lady Nancy Reagan during her husband’s presidency.”

  3. Wala na bang maisulat si Yen Makabenta na worth reading other than hatred and fault finding?

    As if everyone is guilt except him.As if his statement is a gospel truth?Wala na bang laman and inyong pag-iisip kundi punahin and kakulangan ng sino mang lider ng bayan? Kung ma ibidensya ka, ilabas mo.

    It’s an old playbook the all journalist use, pero ano ang resulta, meron ba?

    You are just creating an atmosphere of hopelessness

    Kailan pa kayo magbabago?

    Kailan pa po magbabago and ating mga opisyales na palpak at walang pagmamahal sa mga naghihirap na Filipino, lalo na ang President Aquino?

  4. butch hirro on

    i suppose that from now on, pnoy should start wearing adult diapers. just like the one they issued to the mmda traffic constables when the pope came to the philippines in january. make sense?

  5. Samuel Santos on

    Dapat siguro Narciso (with apologies) at hindi Benigno (again with apologies) ang pangalan ni Noynoy. Ano say mo aling Kristeta (carta 40 ka na, diba)? LOL

  6. genesisbughaw on

    Sir, Greetings of Peace!

    There’s a saying that actions speaks louder than words.

    BS Aquino complex personality is worth taking of our time. I’m in full agreement of your incisive intelligent findings back by research though we are not in that field of expertise to declare him as A narcissist-in-chief , he is the one that’s why everyhing he says should be validated and if i may, his babes administration should now be not put under supervision of elders.

  7. “When they’re criticized, or think they’re being criticized (and they’re definitely hyper-alert to the possibility),
    they’re compelled to react aggressively, in the frantic effort to avoid re-experiencing the terrible feelings of loneliness , abandonment, or rejection they suffered when they were younger”

    “Blaming and excessively criticizing others to shore up an extraordinarily vulnerable ego–and reacting antagonistically in the
    face of anything regarded as critical of themselves–they keep others at a distance that renders any true intimacy impossible. The way they “set things up” in relationships, particularly intimate
    relationships, makes their self-created dilemma unsolvable.
    So they remain emotionally and spiritually unfulfilled, hungry for a nebulous something they can’t even conceive. Lacking the ego strength that would allow them to be genuinely vulnerable to
    others– the prerequisite for the intimacy they secretly long for–their
    relationships demonstrate a level of detachment not entirely
    dissimilar from their original so-hurtful disconnection from their
    parents. But this time they’re not just the victim but the “perpetrator,”
    Psychology Today

    All of Pnoy Aquinos latent/pent up anger found an outlet/victim in arroyo. Female, and his superior – that would trigger obsessive vindictivemess. Transference/projection.
    Narcissists like to pretend to be outwardly nice, but are inwardly nasty and love to control/bully others. They like to surround themselves with weak characters/co-dependents who will not be challenging but subservient.

  8. Rodrigonase on

    Based on the result of your research on NPD, I dare say that it fits someone we know to a T. Guess who? As we say in the vernacular, “Bato-bato sa langit ang tamaan huwag pong magagalit”.

  9. Bert O. Romero on

    I think it’s unprecedented that an ASEAN leader, personified by our own president, would glaringly be late for an official ASEAN function which has been traditionally trumpeted as the photo op that depicts ASEAN solidarity. The tardiness, regardless of the reason to justify it, was both an embarrassing disrespect to the Association and to Malaysia as host and a revelation of the kind of president the Philippines has. It was likewise unprecedented that another ASEAN leader, personified by Singapore’s Prime Minister, would deliberately upload in his social media account for the whole world to see and know the lamentable lack of professionalism of the Philippine president. If Pinoy cannot appropriately represent the country in international fora, he will be doing the country a sublime service by just staying home.

  10. vagoneto rieles on

    We may now understand the sentiments of Congressman Peping Cojuangco and his wife Tingting when they publicly rejected, even castigated their nephew, Prersident Pnoy Aquino a couple of months ago. The uncle and auntie must know whereof they speak. We.. the public, should just strand back and let the scene play out. We could learn more about how and why ‘the Pnoy’ should not have been Peresident at all.

  11. Vicente Penetrante on

    Come 2016, no more Narcissus! The problem with the electorate, they usually conceive as sweet what soon turns out to be sour.

  12. Amnata Pundit on

    I just realized, thanks to your article, that NPD and drug abuse (like shabu or cocaine) have the same symptoms. Get it?

  13. Whether you were seen as a failure by your parents, a closet gay, or are simply a non-achiever, the narcissist compensates by creating defence mechanisms which bolster their lack of self-worth and create a facade to mask the real person. Exposure is the narcissists greatest fear, hence they often live secretive/dual lives, and like to hide their true selves.
    They are empty vessels which have to draw upon others to fill the emotional void, but they cannot handle any intimate relationship ( are often celibate), and generally sad, lonely characters will few social skills and a limited circle of friends.

    Sam vankin’s book ‘ Dr Jackal and Mr Hide’ is a clever and telling title.

    • I agree 100%. Now we go to blame game. Who must be blamed if someone with NPD leads the country? The family? The Makati Business Club and its supporters? The opportunist politicians who could not win on their own? Gullible voters? Other vested interests with big election contributions? Or all of them?

  14. in olden times, we filipinos have in our culture the so called “minana”. minana is not only restricted to family wealth or resources, character traits but also the mental capacity. thus when we see a person behaving weirdly, we try to connect this behaviour to the ascendants who may have this “weirdness”. kaya sinasabi natin: may kulang ang utak kasi ganyan din ang kanyang mga ninuno. look at joshua and try to analyze.

  15. Karl Galgana Schimkowski on

    Dear Mr Makabenta, it was not Reagan who brought down the Berlin Wall. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the result of a rising opposition in East Germany. The mass protests of 1989 lead to the Peaceful Revolution, which began with the leadership of East Germany giving in to the demands of the protestors, like freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and freedom to travel. Mr Reagan did not have a hand in this. And contrary to what many Filipinos believe, it was not EDSA I that inspired people in East Germany (or other socialist countries) to take to the streets in the late 80s, such news did not transpire through the strict censorship of state-controlled media behind the Iron Curtain.

    That’s the arrogant version of history. But all the world’s observers saw the truth that you wish to revise.

  16. Pnoy aquino’s ‘false self’ seems akin to a cerebral narcissist.

    The most important thing to pnoy aquino is to be regarded and admired as clever ( he has failed on that one)

    The desire for honorary degrees and awards
    Always using detail to show knowledge
    Putting down his superiors
    Surrounding himself with non-intellects
    Avoiding tough situations/questions
    Teaching new cabinet members (his narcissistic supply) how to shoot!
    Trying to impress naive young girls (narcissistic supply), but not wanting a relationship, simply periodic ego massaging – preferably by text, or group dates.

    “It is better to keep your mouth closed
    and let people think you are a fool than
    to open it and remove all doubt”
    Mark Twain

  17. P.Akialamiro on

    Speaking of Autism, I have a nenphew-in-law who has an autistic son. Tracing back to his paternal grandparents and ancestors, there was no one who has it. However, it was traced that a nephew of his on his maternal side, is also autistic. I am not a doctor but, I wonder if there is an autistic descendant or ascendant in the family tree of Pres. B.S. Aquino.

  18. Carl Cid Inting on

    The silly smirk that crops up on PNoy’s face at the most inappropriate times says it all. This is not a normal person.

  19. Can someone in Manila Times do a piece on the Aquino government’s lack of action against drug peddlers? Come down to Mindanao. Look at how openly these narc peddlers are selling their merchandise.

    • Larry Ebersole on

      someone was talking about open drug peddling in Mindanao; what do you think is the main money makers of the LGU’s after the minimizing of the jueteng? And the favorite means of transport for delivery and distribution? of course the municipal or city ambulance… no checkpoints di ba?

  20. Joel Ramos on

    The country is in limbo, its people have been there for quite some time…Hell, that’s where powers and principalities who have failed are headed. He will be in good company…crooks, corrupt leaders, megalomaniacs, tyrants, etc. He’s headed for retirement, while the people are headed nowhere, he will probably write his “memoirs”…no doubt they will contain nothing self deprecating but a lot of patting himself on the back. He gets an F for failing his people, an F for not having improved the quality of life of Filipinos, an A for showing up for photo ops at disaster areas handling out water bottles, an F for his failure to be diplomatic when facing leaders and dignitaries like the Pope…and A for finger pointing, an A for pointing out the problems of the country and blaming them on past leaders, boy did we ever pick a lemon. If he were a car, he would have no resale value.

  21. The mental illness of the fake president was aptly described by Fr, Jaime Bulatao. He characterized the symptoms of the Abnoy as uncontrollable anger, vindictiveness, strong desire for revenge, inability to relate with people, lack of sleep, medium intellectual grasp. He diagnosed it as Schizophrenia, which is a kind of psychosis or insanity.


    • Simple, the mother died and exploited the situations. Even those stupid artist rode along to convinced the masa that this guy was the “messiah” to make this country “great again”…