Steve Jobs, iNarcissist December 12, 2011Posted by alwaysjan in Uncategorized.
Tags: Apple, Candle Ap, Free Candle Ap, Health, Maureen Dowd, Michael Maccoby, Narcissism, Narcissistic Leaders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Steve Jobs biography, Steve Jobs Narcissist, Was Steve Jobs a Narcissist?
Steve Jobs was obsessed with beauty. He was a perfectionist who did not suffer fools. He could be a tyrannical boss who brought out the best in some, while humiliating others deemed less worthy. He could be incredibly charming. More frequently, he could be a pompous ass given to fits of crying when he didn’t get his way. Yes, he changed the world. But make no mistake, Steve Jobs was a classic narcissist.
I was surprised when I read The Limits of Magical Thinking, an otherwise insightful article by Maureen Dowd, and there was no mention of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). She had read the Walter Isaacson biography. There’s one mention of him suffering from possible mild bi-polarity. Hello? How could she have not seen the red flags?
I have to admit was a bit perplexed when I heard Jobs had asked Walter Isaacson to write his biography so his children might better know him and why he often wasn’t there for them.
I bought the book the day it was released, so I, too, might better know Steve Jobs. I’m an avid Apple consumer, dare I say devotee. Upon learning of his death, I wrote Steve Jobs – The Real Big Apple as a tribute. But, I have to admit that my knowledge about Steve Jobs as a person was sketchy. What can I say? I must have been busy breastfeeding and changing diapers when he was on the cover of TIME. And speaking of covers, Steve Jobs personally approved the cover design for his biography. (He was a control freak to the end.)
It’s been a while since I parted with $32 for a hardcover book, so as I was reading, I hesitated marking up the book. But after the umpteenth reference to his ability to “manipulate” others, I pulled out a pencil. The book now looks like a dot-to-dot drawing. If you connect them, you have yourself a world-class narcissist, albeit an extremely productive one.
Most telling was Jobs’ relationship with Tina Redse which ran hot and cold for five years. After one argument, she scrawled “Neglect is a form of abuse,” on the wall to his bedroom. According to Isaacson, “She was entranced by him, but she was also baffled by how uncaring he could be. She would later recall how incredibly painful it was to be in love with someone so self-centered. Caring deeply about someone who seemed incapable of caring was a particular kind of hell that she wouldn’t wish on anyone, she said.”
It was only after they broke up that Redse helped found OpenMind, a mental health resource network in California. She read about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and realized that Jobs met the criteria – perfectly. “It fits so well and explained so much of what we had struggled with, that I realized expecting him to be nicer or less self-centered was like expecting a blind man to see,” she said. “It also explained some of the choices he’d made about his daughter Lisa (born out of wedlock just like Jobs was) at that time. I think the issue is empathy – the capacity for empathy is lacking.”
Even as Jobs contemplated marrying his wife Laurene, he still had not decided if he was going to put all of his apples in one basket. (Sorry, that’s one pun I couldn’t resist!) He asked friends who they thought was more beautiful, Tina or Laurene. What’s funny is Tina was so not available at that point.
Though married for 20 years, I believe that Steve Jobs’ “Ideal Love” was not his wife, Laurene, but Apple, the baby he’d created back in that garage with Steve Wozniak. Laurene was obviously a strong woman with a life of her own. She makes brief cameos in his biography always playing the consummate nurturer. At one point, she and one of their daughters appear in beekeepers suits. She was obviously warm and giving and made up for his physical and emotional absence. It’s an all too familiar dynamic.
If you’ve had a close encounter with a narcissist, you’ll see red flags everywhere in the book. The only difference between your garden variety narcissist and Steve Jobs is that his magical thinking served him well, at least in business. He was a millionaire at 25. Imagine how that fueled his NPD? Though he walked around barefoot, he still couldn’t walk on water though there are those who would argue that I’m wrong. Since first writing this, I’ve read Was Steve Jobs’ Narcissism Justified? on the Psychology Today site. It’s an excellent read. If the jury was out in regards to Jobs’ narcissism, it’s now IN.
I found Walter Isaacson’s biography to be an interesting read. But will his book help Jobs’ children better understand their father? I think not. Steve Jobs remains an emotional enigma even in death.
I came across another great article Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons by Michael Maccoby and originally published in the Harvard Business Review. Very interesting reading indeed.
One more thing…This post was written on my beloved MacBook, the photo was taken with my iPhone, and as I write this I’m listening to music on my iPod. Oh, the iRony.
Photo Credit: Jan Marshall