I recently finished a degree in psychology at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Now - I know it isn’t often a college student who goes online to write about her coursework after she’s graduated, but I wanted to share one of the case studies I wrote on because it’s funny as well as insightful.
The assignment was narcissism, and the subject I chose was a conman called Robert Eringer. If you search for him you’ll find reams of his conspiracy theory blogs and articles about his libel battles with the rich and powerful. There are also accusations that he was hired by the CIA as a conman to discredit a journalist in the 1990s. All of it is pretty weird, but nothing compares to Robert Eringer’s own work.
As well as a conspiracy buff, he’s the author of almost a dozen spy novels. Most of them involve a protagonist who is spookily similar to Robert Eringer. This means they hang out in bars, swear a lot and get into trouble. As a case in point, that by itself is really narcissistic. If you aren’t familiar with the term, narcissism is defined by one of my old textbooks as “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.”
To understand a bit more about the twisted world of a narcissist, the best thing to compare Robert Eringer’s real-life claims with the plots of his novels. For example, two of them feature a character called Jeff Dalkin, “an ex-FBI agent who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and looks exactly like Bruce Willis.” Seriously? His crazy protagonists are always pretty much the same, and always the person Eringer wishes he was. Around half of the novels take place in Monaco and America and most involve his heroes solving strange mysteries and embroiling themselves in the world of espionage.
Now let’s look at Robert Eringer’s real-life claims. Firstly, he claims to have worked as the head ‘spy master’ of Monaco’s secret service. This claim has been disproven and Eringer has been successfully sued for libel as a result. He also claims that he worked with the FBI and CIA, but the closest he came was being hired by a former CIA director to harass various people.
None of it is really glamorous or noble, but narcissists tend to rewrite their own personal histories so they are always the good guys. Robert Eringer does exactly this, usually through the imaginary world he’s constructed in his books and blog entries. What makes Robert Eringer pathological is that his need to be noticed has blurred the lines between reality and fiction in his head. He genuinely seems to see himself as a proper spy and seems to think the stuff he writes about is based on fact (another textbook sign of narcissism).
For example, his dispute with Monaco came about due to his claim that he was owed money for his ‘spy work’. Eringer did live in Monaco for a while, but he spent most of his time hanging out in bars, exactly like the protagonist of his book Parallel Truths (that’s honestly what it’s called): “Back in his favorite Monaco bar, Sandak plans the final phases of this intricate operation, certain he wasn’t paid nearly enough for his audacity.”
Art imitating life? Nope, just a confused man seeking attention. Like most narcissists, Robert Eringer is disturbing and entertaining at the same time, and he makes a great case study. In case anyone’s wondering, I got 93% on the project. Thanks Robert Eringer!