Young Machiavellians and the traces of shame

coping with vulnerability to a toxic affect

Doris McIlwain

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Machiavellians (Machs) do not inhabit the realm of emotion in the same way as others, yet they use it to manipulate others. They do not experience feelings, empathy, or morality in normative ways, yet they are consummate manipulators and deceivers precisely by playing upon these sentiments and convictions in others. Thus, they induce in others the guilt they hardly feel themselves. In these ways they can bypass detection by authorities, win in short-term exchanges with others, and even gain a kind of popularity. What influences contribute to such a personality style? What are some of the costs to self and others incurred as a result of Machiavellian practices? Is there a need or means to remedy these costs? My central thesis is that part of what makes a Mach is reliance on unskilled means of coping with shame. Rather than suffer it as a persistent fact of life, they attempt to externalize shame, once and for all, attempting in this way to bypass the felt effects of shame. In a nutshell, I suggest that trying to handle shame in this way alienates a Mach from others and from parts of himself or herself. Alienation undermines a Mach's social integration; trying to bypass shame fragments his or her personality, undermining personal integrity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNarcissism and Machiavellianism in youth
Subtitle of host publicationimplications for the development of adaptive and maladaptive behavior
EditorsChristopher T Barry, Patricia K. Kerig, Kurt K. Stellwagen, Tammy D Barry
Place of PublicationWashington, D. C.
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
Pages213-231
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781433808456
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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    McIlwain, D. (2011). Young Machiavellians and the traces of shame: coping with vulnerability to a toxic affect. In C. T. Barry, P. K. Kerig, K. K. Stellwagen, & T. D. Barry (Eds.), Narcissism and Machiavellianism in youth: implications for the development of adaptive and maladaptive behavior (pp. 213-231). Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/12352-012