Narcissism and Psychopathy in Game of Thrones (Part 1): Cersei
Two major landmines have hit the country in recent months and years: 1) the discussion of narcissism on a grand scale, impacting macro-micro levels of politics, work, love, and family relationships, and 2) the HBO phenomenon television series, Game of Thrones. Interestingly enough, there is broad intersection amongst these two topics. This blog article will attempt to illuminate and draw comparisons amongst characters in Game of Thrones and the spectrum of narcissism and psychopathy represented in the acting of the epic GOT series. I will attempt to assign a diagnosis and a course of treatment for characters in Game of Thrones, in an effort to shed light on the spectrum of narcissism, which in its most dangerous form, is psychopathy (or Antisocial Personality Disorder). (DSM-5, 2013).
**Spoilers ahead for those who have not watched (or read) the entire series**
A Brief Primer on the Spectrum of Narcissism:
Narcissistic Traits—->NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)—–>Malignant Narcissism——>Psychopathy
I like to provide a spectrum illustration of how narcissism can manifest in individuals. So much has been written on narcissism both in popular culture, politics, in relationships, etc. I will defer to other articles which effectively demonstrate what NPD is, and its danger to society. Narcissists can be overt (obvious) or covert (more deceptive). Individuals can exhibit what therapists call traits of narcissism (one or two characteristics which don’t necessarily warrant an NPD diagnosis) or they can have full-blown NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Others with more malign, sadistic intent and with obvious lack of empathy and modus operandi to cause emotional harm can have what is termed “malignant narcissism,” which is one brush stroke from psychopathy. The DSM prefers the term Antisocial Personality Disorder to describe psychopathy (DSM-5, 2013).
Character of Cersei: In the Game of Thrones HBO series, Cersei is the matriarch of House Lannister in a science fiction medieval world fantasy which parallels in some ways the War of Roses in English history (Martin, 2015). (Major differences between show and actual history include the addition of dragons and zombie-like creatures, called White Walkers). Cersei is a formidable, power-hungry Queen who currently sits on the Iron Throne, ruling all of Westeros. Her reign, however, is at risk, as she has effectively obliterated her threats to power (House Tyrell, the Sparrows) with one blast of wildfire, sending the Sept of Baelor into smithereens along with her main foes. She has an incestuous relationship with her twin brother, has three children (who have all since perished in the series), and is vengeful and merciless with any who have harmed her family or her progeny.
Diagnosis: Cersei initially might have presented with malignant narcissism (aggression meets antisocial behaviors, suspiciousness, and NPD, as well as a poor sense of self and fragility) and perhaps some features of Borderline Personality Disorder (long term patterns of unstable relationships and unstable sense of self, and unstable emotions). With her most recent annihilation of her enemies at the Sept of Baelor, as well as her evidence of sadism in capturing/torturing foes Septa Unella and Elaria Sand and daughter, it appears that Cersei will stop at nothing to seek revenge, to ascend to the Iron Throne and seize power of all of Westeros, no matter the cost (including losing her three children to murder and suicide). My clinical impression for Cersei is : psychopathy. In the DSM, this is called Antisocial Personality Disorder (DSM-5, 2013).
Treatment: For Cersei, and for anyone who is unfortunate enough to be saddled with such a diagnosis, the prognosis for such individuals is quite grim. By virtue of the definition of psychopathy, Cersei is absent any empathy or compassion. She receives narcissistic/psychopathic supply (ego fuel) but causing harm and suffering to her perceived enemies. She is not able to grasp a solid sense core sense of self, and she shows evidence of uncaring, shallow emotions, insincere speech, overconfidence, selfishness, violence (Hare, 2011). Sadly, individuals such as Cersei are so entrenched in their psychological conundrums that most often such folks end up in prison, killed, or perpetually deflecting and hiding from the law in a fugitive state of unending deception. Most therapists would not work with a psychopath or an APD individual, as such a person does not possess the insight or empathy to be able to make lasting change.
Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, J. N. (2014). Psychology: DSM 5. Boston: Pearson.
Hare, P. D. (2011). Without conscience: the disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. Place of publication not identified: Tantor Media, Inc.
Martin, G. R. (2015). A Game of thrones: book one of A song of ice and fire. New York: Bantam Books.
“Comparing Narcissism to Antisocial Personality Disorder.” The Recovery Expert. N.p., 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 Aug. 2017.
3 Sneaky Techniques Covert Narcissists Use to Disarm and Demean You. (n.d.). Retrieved August 05, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/recovering-narcissist/2017/07/3-sneaky-techniques-covert-narcissists-use-to-disarm-and-demean-you/
Schneider, A. (2017). Narcissism and Psychopathy in Game of Thrones (Part 1): Cersei. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2017/08/narcissism-and-psychopathy-in-game-of-thrones-part-1-cersei/