Behind the mask of supportive and loving attention to the students' concerns and attempts to prosper and survive in the competitive market of academic adherence, the monster wreaks it's manipulative hands to forestall and paralyse the creative spirit of independence and personal sovereignty.
Do most people realise how vulnerable and open to persuasion young, intelligent and creative people actually are to manipulation by the charms and seeming affection presented and postulated by manipulative authority figures? And this may not have anything to do with sexual grooming! I am talking of the psychological manipulation; that wedding of ideas, instruction, belief systems and social dependencies to one person's seeming authority, love and extreme persuasive bond with others in an extreme power imbalance. We don't need to identify it only in cults; such manifestations may in fact be far less visible than what we observe in cults. Yet this kind of manipulation can lead to disastrous and horrific results with strong social impact and long-term consequences.
This essay is in no way an academic treatise. My reason for writing is an emergence of similar observed behaviours that I noted in a play I wrote over thirty years ago: "Blind Fold" set in the mid 1980s.
In that play, a charismatic figure ran a series of student camps over many years. The mantra was "One Focus; One Action" (and one other term I have since forgotten) and it covered a number of areas including rock-climbing and physical pursuits. But the key sessions were on Drama based activities and therapeutic, even psycho-drama sessions. At the beginning of the play we learn that this charismatic person, John Mantle, died (probably suicided) nearly a year before the current camp. However, his essential ideas were carried on by a group of four senior students who adhered, like Zealots, to the philosophies and approaches of Mantle and felt obliged to further the the extreme elements of his legacy. Mantle was encouraging student action regarding climate advocacy, young-people's advocacy, gender equality and self-management in the work place and in education. At the camp, where the play takes place, the Zealots learn of Mantle's own betrayal of the very philosophy he espoused and they felt he lost his "focus". They felt so strongly about it they decided it is better to face martyrdom than see the grand design be destroyed. In an extreme act of self mutilation, they each ritualistically blind themselves
rather than see the belief system they practiced being destroyed.
Part of their activity enacted in the play was a serious blindfold exercises that saw them take on the ability to see reality when taking away the sense of sight. For this they borrowed from Gloucester's journey in "King Lear". Their work culminated in the central exercise for the camp which was the "Boiling Kettle" which saw them prepare tea using actual boiling water while blindfolded and moving amongst the space.
"Blind Fold" was very controversial when presented at Canberra's Ralph Wilson Theatre in 1990. However, subsequent cultural attitudes and events of the past five or so years revives much of the central spine of that production and its thesis.
Come Here Lovie; You are so special but you need my help
The monster within the loving guise of the teenaged child's strongest adult supporter and guide takes the child on a guided tour of possibility. "I will guide you", says the monster in the loving guise of a supporter and advocate! The loving and attentive guise of one who cares as no one else cares; who seems to "see what I am"! Who will buck the prevailing systems of rules and care! Who acknowledges that "yes your teachers do care for you darling; they just don't see their own insecurities and weakness as I do! Don't let them inflict on you their own inability to see beyond their own training and institution" ... So "call me whenever you want to check up on what they are saying ... Darling, I am with you through whatever they have you do."
However, when it suits the monster, they abandon their charges as they move on to better things! Still, the confused young people cling to their every message and sign of their continued connection with them.
The Sweetness Seduction
The monster has a seductive face and a commanding voice. The voice is hypnotic and soothing of the ego. The monster lulls its victim / student who becomes the supportive device; an energised somnambulist that advocates and propagates the earnest and certainty of the monster spell-maker. "Yes lovie, I am with you all the way."
The monster is motherly or fatherly and hugs their students and former students when they see them to ensure that they love them. It is ok for them to hug because they is special; unlike all the other teachers and adults in the children's lives! While other examples of hugs and contacts with students via social media might be unethical and against teacher "Codes of Ethics", their doing this is special because of their unwavering support of the young people and their struggles.
There is nothing sexual in hugging their darlings and they will in turn always look to them for advice and clarification when things are difficult. And who would challenge them? The monster is hidden behind a vulnerable mask that no one dare try to penetrate lest they explode in a rage and release the venom from some inner chamber of personal horrors that chasten and demand release! To say they is the victim is to suggest they is under the control of a force over which they has little knowledge. And they conceals this monster as if it were simply a psychological disorder. And in concealing it, the disorder becomes their shield and even their weapon. And they offer it willingly to their favoured students: some keen favourites!
Spreading the Love
The story of the deceptive monster in human form embedded in social and familial situations is the subject of Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Eugene O'Neill and so much television melodrama series such as "Days of Our Lives". The complex narratives and motives of the monster in human personality and resultant actions is reminiscent of Iago from Shakespeare's "Othello". While no one starts out trying to become a monster, cultural situations and personal tendencies may well gravitate one to that of extreme manipulative action. Laura in Strindberg's "The Father" feels more than justified in struggling against the cultural weight of her own oppression. She weaponizes her perceived weak position in the household to achieve her desired outcomes. In the process, she becomes the monster that in effect achieves the victory she craved.
The phenomenon of weaponizing weakness is archetypal in its historical and cultural manifestations. The four students in my play, "Blind Fold", use their own powerless position to strike ferociously at the establishment that marginalised them and their lives. Having their belief system manipulated by a now dead adult figure, they feel armed and necessitated to advocate the ideals instilled into them. Working from a powerless position, they use the strongest weapon at their disposal: their own destruction and self mutilation! So yes, this guarantees their being taken seriously.
But these students were initially motivated by love; love for the ideals promulgated by a manipulative and probable Narcissist. Narcissists make great characters in plays. In real life, they are very active in all walks of business and the arts. Their influence on young teen minds is underestimated.
Extreme Positions and a Zealot Mindset
The narcissist monster whispering and urging can produce more than a simple dependency on a strong personality for guidance. When the monster dies or disengages from the young person's world, it might seem as if the influence dies with it. However, as we saw in the 1990 "Blind Fold" play, the young enthusiasts can take on an even more extreme position to fulfill the potential of their infection.
The best example of this in literature is Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "Demons". In the novel, we see lauded ideas being framed from semantics into concrete actions that have the power to sink a whole nation. It is complex novel. To reduce it to a single statement of a theme or warning is to belittle its scope. However, the novel does provide exposition of the effects from some charismatic individual to play on the young mind and the young activist. The analogy of the devils in the swine gives food for thought when it comes to all forms of persuasion for activism.
Zealots and the Arts
Theatre provides a clear platform or stage for the masked monster narcissist. Stirring up the psyche in theatre rituals gives a clear routine through which manipulative controls can be exercised on young actors and students. Either from the position of director, actor, manager, designer or even janitor, the scene is set up for whispering and the soul touching so much part of the monster narcissist's repertoire.
The participants become one-tracked and successfully rule out interventions from others. The manipulator knows how to nourish and foster a sense of deep belonging. The participants learn to block out influences and remain true to the dictates of the masked warrior. The coldness in the eyes and blank expression of the students as others attempt to integrate them into diverse activities becomes perceptible. They each parrot the same slogans. They each have a mission to find fault in anything presented to them. They have no idea how much they are pawns in the monster narcissist's strategy to destroy her enemies and former allies.
In my play "Blind Fold" the students turned in on themselves as a protest and as a way to exercise their power. In today's world, the students begin to see others outside their particular group as enemies out to get them. They are fed the language of "toxic environment" and "not feeling safe" as phrases used to undermine their social situations and as a means to attack the educational system and their work environments and to weaponize their own neurosis.
But the real targets are not even on the radar of the students. They are rather surreptitiously enacting a strategy formulated by the loving monster they perceive as a friend, mentor and guru. These highly intelligent and artistic students are really prey to the charlatan charms of the narcissistic monster that charms and fosters them. At the least, students' own creativity is stunted and the ability for critical and independent assertion is limited. At the extreme we find numerous examples of where horrific actions are contemplated and at times implemented.
David Kozak, a twenty-four-year-old history student, killed 14 students at a Prague University on 22 Dec 2023. He recorded his thoughts about suicide and being a maniac by killing students. While nothing at this point suggests his actions had anything to do with the influence of another in his life, the action does point to the growing cultural neurosis whereby intellectual semantics are replacing a sense of empathy and real connection with society.
The ennui that accompanies such situations gives rise to even greater possibilities for the monster narcissist to construct new strategies for the entrapment of creative and intelligent minds. A neurotic society gives credence to the apparent expertise and seemingly welcomed skills that the outspoken monster narcissist can use to solve whatever problem is raised. The university becomes a kind of breeding ground for the symbiotic relationships between monster and off-spring!
But if you think this person is NOT a monster and "you are over-stating your case", then think again. The skills of this individual may well be welcomed and seen as beneficial for the institution and for the students! Think again! Once they don't get their way, they will use all strategies at their disposal to destroy you! The students themselves being their most significant and putrid weapon!
To the public, they are inspirational leaders and martyrs to the cause. And some of their brightest followers will try to emulate and even surpass this contrived martyrdom.
You work in situations where you may well identify the kinds of things I am discussing here. The question is: "How do I deal with it?"
If any of this rings bells for you, then have a look at this website:
10 Signs of a Narcissistic Sociopath https://impactvirall.com/narcissistic-sociopath/2/gsc.tab=0
If you have noticed the signs I have outlined or simply wish to investigate further, then the linked website is certainly most valuable.
As artists, directors, teachers, colleagues it is important to identify and not be intimidated by the monster within the dynamic colleague and even friend who will ingratiate themself only to turn viciously when their way is blocked. The situation is not unique. Be careful; our students and fellow artists are our concern and we owe them ...
Best wishes in theatre and the arts ...
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