The importance of psychology in history demonstrated on the case of William´s II narcissism Milan Steinbauer
Mentorgroep PSBA1-14/Groep 8
Overall, history seems to depend to a great degree on the mental constitutions of single figures - to a degree that is not conform with our rationalizing wishful thinking of history. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the importance of a more psychological understanding of history. Beforehand I would like to say that I do not want to judge William II, nor justify his political actions by describing his traumatic childhood. I rather use the person William II as one example of many to illustrate the role modern psychology should play in historical research and writing. In order to understand the historical context here is a short overview of William´s II life. William was born on January 21, 1859 as the first son of Victoria and William Frederic III. William II suffered from his birth on from a fifteen centimetre shorter left arm and several other impairments. There were a lot of attempts to heal his retardation, but none succeeded. One could call his childhood and youth traumatic and sad. In the first chapter of the main part there will be a more detailed report of the therapeutic attempts. He had a very ambivalent relationship with his mother and from 1866 on, his mentor was an in every way unsatisfied man called Dr. Hinzpeter. This educator tried to form the future emperor by drilling him ten to twelve hours a day. From 1874 until 1877 William went to high school in Kassel, where he accomplished his Abitur (German high school degree). In1877 he started his military service which lasted until 1888. The service was often interrupted by studies (1877-1879 he studied law in Bonn) and other advanced educations. 1888 William II became emperor of the German empire. In his era Germany became one of the leading economical countries. However, problematic was Germany's increasing political isolation. William II contributed a great deal to this isolation: he caused many crises and did not take sufficient care of foreign relations. Therefore the German Empire fought the First World War with almost no allies (Röhl, 2007). During the war from 1914 until 1918 William II stepped into the background of politics. In this time he was also called the „Shadow Emperor“. From 1918 until his death on the April 7, 1941 he lived in the exile in the Netherlands. Because of the limited count of words of this paper I will just focus on one particular psychological aspect of William II; his narcissism. The term narcissism comes from a myth from Ovid. In the metamorphosis Narcissis falls in love with his own reflection. Besides the healthy narcissism there is the narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD have a pervasive sense of grandiosity and self-importance. They characteristically feel like they stand above others, think that they should be treated in special ways and are special, imagine that they have superiority over others, overplay their successes, lack empathy, require an unusual huge amount of recognition and often are envious of others (APA, 1994) The most recognized model of narcissism today is the dynamic self-regulatory processing model: (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001 as cited in Cramer, 2011). „According to this model, narcissism is an ongoing personality process (rather than a static condition), organized around the chronic goal of creating, maintaining, and further enhancing grandiose self-views. According to the model, narcissists hold grandiose but simultaneously tentative and unstable self-views that require them to seek continuous external self-validation“ There are two main theories for the development of narcissism. The first theory suggests that parents who overvalue and overindulge their children benefit narcissism (this theory is not relevant in the case of William). The other theory claims that parental callousness, missing...
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