Channeling Thomas Jefferson / Understanding the Narcissist

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Date Host Connie Willis
Guests Suzanne Munson, H.G. Tudor

In the first half, author Suzanne Munson talked to Connie Willis (info) about her interest in the Founding Fathers of the United States, and how she came to seek a spiritual connection with Thomas Jefferson. While doing research for a book she was writing on Jefferson, Munson recalled, she began to have conversations with him through a professional medium. Soon after, she also reached out to eight historians, who gave her recommendations as to what to discuss with Jefferson; among the topics they suggested were government, education, spirituality, and slavery.

Munson noted that although Jefferson died long ago, he was not "frozen in time" as a spiritual entity. He was aware of the events of the current era, she said, and he even spoke in a contemporary manner and not as a person of the colonial era. As a result, Munson continued, she was able to ask Jefferson directly for his opinions on the present-day United States. The result: Jefferson is not happy with the current state of affairs, she reported, and views today's American government as a betrayal of the principles on which he and his revolutionary colleagues built our nation.

One thing that surprised Munson about Jefferson, she related, was his complex attitude toward his relationship with Sally Hemings, a woman enslaved by Jefferson and with whom he fathered several children. According to Munson, Jefferson acknowledged present-day criticisms of his owning slaves, and expressed regret that he chose not to acknowledge his relationship with Hemings—which, Munson claimed, he described as loving and respectful—outside of the human chattel model. Even Hemings herself, in fact, intervened through the medium to affirm Jefferson's account of their relationship, said Munson.

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Author H.G. Tudor, who has been diagnosed as a narcissistic psychopath, joined the show in the second half to offer insight into his lived experience as a narcissist. Even as a young child, Tudor explained, he viewed himself as set apart from—and even superior to—his siblings and classmates. He also remembered feeling puzzled by the normal expressions of happiness by his peers, as well as a "delicious rush of power" when he misbehaved. His self-image came further into focus, he said, when he witnessed the power his mother could wield by manipulating others through her own narcissism. Years later, after a girlfriend told Tudor she believed he suffered from a personality disorder, he sought a professional evaluation, which confirmed his narcissism and psychopathy.

The hallmark trait of a narcissist, for Tudor, is the marked absence of any empathy for other people. He went on to outline other personality characteristics common to the disorder, like the tendency to manipulate all interpersonal relations toward one's own benefit, a need to control situations and people, and an endless desire for bigger and better "wins" and pleasurable experiences.

Tudor also offered advice on how to protect against the destructive behavior of a narcissistic psychopath. First and foremost, he warned: do not try to match the narcissist's aggression or audacity. To do so is to invite a contest of power—something they love, and will enter into with reckless disregard for any mercy or fairness. Instead, Tudor suggested, flee the battlefield: put as much space between yourself and the narcissist, cutting off opportunities for further contact or interaction wherever possible. While the narcissist would never concede a loss in such a situation, they will likely lose interest in pursuing you, settling instead for an easier or more convenient target in someone else.

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