I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Let’s begin at the beginning, with the DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
2. Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
3. Exaggerating your achievements and talents
4. Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
5. Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
6. Requiring constant admiration
7. Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
8. Taking advantage of others to get what you want
9. Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
10. Being envious of others and believing others envy you
11. Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
L. Ron Hubbard is a classic example of these criteria. In every area of his life, he expected to be acknowledged as a master, despite proof of the opposite. In the navy, he aspired to command, but his fellow officers recognized his incompetence early and he rarely got a chance to cause too much mayhem before being removed from that capacity. Every single university or job application that he wrote contained what might be kindly called “exaggerations,” more realistically called fabrications. He truly felt entitled to do whatever he pleased, including marrying his second wife without divorcing the first one. When socializing with other science fiction writers, he told fabulous stories—the others did the same of course, but it was acknowledged that they were stretching the truth or improving the story. Hubbard would get really angry if anyone questioned the veracity of his tales—he expected to be believed unconditionally. He could take a tiny incident (he took a picture somewhere) and turn it into a major event (he was a National Geographic photographer) without blinking.
The rest of us, those who have consciences and who care about the people around us, can’t conceive of living life this way—this is why we are so slow to respond to a narcissist. For the first while that we are dealing with the person, we just can’t compute what is going on. It seems stranger than fiction. I had an assistant for a while who just about drove me to drink, until I realized that I was dealing with a narcissist. He just wanted a job listing on his resumé—he didn’t care if he did a good job and really didn’t listen to any instructions that he was given. He spent a lot of time telling me that his professors just didn’t realize what a genius he was, hence a C+ average. And of course there were lots of awesome projects and fabulous travel that he had done (note, he came from a wealthy family, so some of it was actually possible). But I have to wonder how much of the story was fiction.
Hubbard had a good dose of paranoia to go along with the personality disorder. But his is one case where just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get you! His habit of viewing international laws as tedious rules that someone as special as he shouldn’t have to worry about made him persona non grata around the world.
I think that since Hubbard considered himself far superior to everyone else, he expected that he would be able to do everything excellently. “After all,” he could tell himself, “if that guy can skipper an ocean liner and I’m better than him, then running an ocean liner will be a piece of cake for me.” No acknowledgement that training or talent had any bearing on success.
Long story short: Thankfully, LRH has moved on to the next level of research (i.e. died). Less happy is the fact that another control freak was waiting to take over the reins of Scientology and is still taking advantage of thousands of people. For an insider’s perspective, I would recommend Beyond Belief : My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill (niece of the current leader).