The day Sam Vaknin knew he was a narcissist

Vector illustration of a man lock up in prison

I’m going to go ahead and confess part of the big secret that I alluded to in an earlier post. I’m writing a book about Sam. I can’t say too much else about it right now because the book’s focus hasn’t completely gelled in my mind yet. Right now I intend for it to be a biography, focusing on NPD from the inside–that is, what the disorder FEELS like. Sam is a controversial figure, and has enemies within the narcissistic abuse community and even more so among professionals who specialize in NPD (mainly because in their minds he lacks the proper qualifications), but there are also a great many people he has helped–even if helping wasn’t his intention, which it most likely wasn’t if he really is the malignant narcissist he says he is.

I took on this project because I need to come to my own conclusions without being influenced by others, either positive or negative. I do feel like Sam’s been more maligned that he deserves over the brouhaha over his “paper mill” degree, among other things. He’s an interesting character, and to my way of thinking, deserves to have a book written about him. I realize it will probably be a small market, but that’s okay–his story needs to be told. I also realize this will most likely be a feast of narcissistic supply for Sam, but I can live with that. Of course, I’m not going to sugar coat anything–but narcissists even consider negative attention to be satisfactory supply. In fact, some even prefer it. I think my book will be balanced, and there are good reasons to defend him from his haters but there are many things I don’t know about him yet either. If he’s really that malignant, I could wind up hating him myself when I’m done with this project. Or maybe not. Whatever happens, I know it will be very educational and mind-expanding and I feel that one way or another, writing this book will change me in some profound (and good) ways.

So anyway…Sam gave me the go ahead for this project after I emailed him wanting to do it. I’m trying to figure out how to go about getting an interview with him (I would have to go to Macedonia), but for the time being, I emailed a woman who did interview him who has some tapes and who may be able to share those with me. I’m waiting for a reply. Sam also sent me a long list of links to his writings, most which I have never seen before but which are publicly available here. These are his personal journals, poetry and short stories. I have a lot of reading to do!

Sam’s disordered mind fascinates me because he has two qualities in spades that both fly in the face of the typical narcissist (and he insists he is a malignant narcissist; of that I still have my doubts but that’s another thing I need to find out on my own): he is completely and brutally honest, and he has incredible insight into his disorder.

I’ve rambled on long enough about why I want to write this book. In reading Sam’s journal entries, I came across this one that left me gutted, breathless and nearly crying. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how a narcissist–a machine-like being with the inability to feel–can write about themselves with so much raw and searing emotion. There’s something else going on there. He’s a wicked good writer, but I believe with the certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow that there’s not one shred of fiction in this journal entry. I can smell bullshit from a mile away by now, and there’s no bullshit here. For the record, Sam’s poetry is just as gut-wrenching as his prose.

It’s about the day he became aware he was a narcissist. Until that day he had no insight into his disorder; he gained all his insight after the incidents leading up to that day. In some ways, the way he describes it, NPD seems much like a dissociative disorder, like MPD (multiple personality disorder). I have written before about how taking away a narcissist’s supply would send them into a “narcissistic crisis” of severe depression, forcing them to confront their own emptiness, which in turn results in emotional catharsis; this is exactly how it happened here for Sam.

Unfortunately, he got to that point, but was either unable or unwilling to seek further treatment to attempt to rewire his brain to have empathy or a conscience. A cure may not be possible. Maybe you can’t retrain the adult brain to have a conscience the way it was done for a child like Beth Thomas; I just don’t know. That’s one more thing I need to find out more about. I sure have my work cut out for me.

How I “Became” a Narcissist


I remember the day I died. Almost did. We were in a tour of Jerusalem. Our guide was the Deputy Chief Warden. We wore our Sunday best suits – stained dark blue, abrasive jeans shirts tucked in tattered trousers. I could think of nothing but Nomi. She left me two months after my incarceration. She said that my brain did not excite her as it used to. We were sitting on what passed as a grassy knoll in prison and she was marble cold and firm. This is why, during the trip to Jerusalem, I planned to grab the Warden’s gun and kill myself.

Death has an asphyxiating, all-pervasive presence and I could hardly breathe. It passed and I knew that I had to find out real quick what was wrong with me – or else.

How I obtained access to psychology books and to Internet from the inside of one of Israel’s more notorious jails, is a story unto itself. In this film noire, this search of my dark self, I had very little to go on, no clues and no Della Street by my side. I had to let go – yet I never did and did not know how.

I forced myself to remember, threatened by the immanent presence of the Grim Reaper. I fluctuated between shattering flashbacks and despair. I wrote cathartic short fiction. I published it. I remember holding myself, white knuckles clasping an aluminum sink, about to throw up as I am flooded with images of violence between my parents, images that I repressed to oblivion. I cried a lot, uncontrollably, convulsively, gazing through tearful veils at the monochrome screen.

The exact moment I found a description of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder is etched in my mind. I felt engulfed in word-amber, encapsulated and frozen. It was suddenly very quiet and very still. I met myself. I saw the enemy and it was I.

The article was long winded and full of references to scholars I never heard of before: Kernberg, Kohut, Klein. It was a foreign language that resounded, like a forgotten childhood memory. It was I to the last repellent details, described in uncanny accuracy: grandiose fantasies of brilliance and perfection, sense of entitlement without commensurate achievements, rage, exploitation of others, lack of empathy.

I had to learn more. I knew I had the answer. All I had to do was find the right questions.

That day was miraculous. Many strange and wonderful things happened. I saw people – I SAW them. And I had a glimmer of understanding regarding my self – this disturbed, sad, neglected, insecure and ludicrous things that passed for me.

It was the first important realization – there were two of us. I was not alone inside my body.


One was an extrovert, facile, gregarious, attention-consuming, adulation-dependent, charming, ruthless and manic-depressive being. The other was schizoid, shy, dependent, phobic, suspicious, pessimistic, dysphoric and helpless creature – a kid, really.

I began to observe these two alternating. The first (whom I called Ninko Leumas – an anagram of the Hebrew spelling of my name) would invariably appear to interact with people. It didn’t feel like putting a mask on or like I had another personality. It was just like I am MORE me. It was a caricature of the TRUE me, of Shmuel.

Shmuel hated people. He felt inferior, physically repulsive and socially incompetent. Ninko also hated people. He held them in contempt. THEY were inferior to his superior qualities and skills. He needed their admiration but he resented this fact and he accepted their offerings condescendingly.

As I pieced my fragmented and immature self together I began to see that Shmuel and Ninko were flip sides of the SAME coin. Ninko seemed to be trying to compensate Shmuel, to protect him, to isolate him from hurt and to exact revenge whenever he failed. At this stage I was not sure who was manipulating who and I did not have the most rudimentary acquaintance with this vastly rich continent I discovered inside me.

But that was only the beginning.

22 thoughts on “The day Sam Vaknin knew he was a narcissist

  1. I really don’t think he is a classic narcissist. He is a strange person and has psychological issues that is for sure but there is much more going on. I think what is fascinating me is you trying to figure him out. What if you did him side by side with your experiences. His introspection and your dealings with your narcissist as seen from the point of view of your challenges. There are so many facets to that story. If you could weave them together it would really be interesting. You have a unique perspective on him and his affect on others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s such a mystery. I’m not 100% sure he actually is a narcissist anyway, and that’s part of what I want to find out. I don’t know if there will be an opportiunity to meet him “side by side” but if I do, it’s going to be interesting dealing with a narcissist in a different way–as the subject of research instead of one of my abusers. I’ll have to stay strong. Ian Walker in “I Psychopath” said his experience with Sam during filming was horrible, but something tells me Walker may be a narcissist himself, and two narcissists together usually can’t stand each other.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, that will be the tricky part. Knowing if I’m being manipulated. Through emails he’s been very nice, but that could be the “charm” LOL
          I’ll arm myself beforehand if I ever do meet him in person. You are probably right that no one will ever really know the real Sam–not even himself.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Okay, thanks! 🙂 I’ll admit it–I will be a nervous wreck if I know I will be meeting him, but I probably would be even if he wasn’t a narc. If I was meeting a celebrity I’d be a nervous wreck too. I’m just going to stay quiet mostly and let him talk.


  2. My background is very similar to the blogger of this post. Yes, he does sound like a narcissist. (I’ve always thought they were tortured souls. After reading this, this is exactly what this sounds like.) This appears to be a rare glimpse into the psyche of a narcissist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you first of all for reading my blog. 🙂 I’ll look at yours too. I am 95% certain he is a narcissist. And ITA they are tortured souls. Most have no insight and have cut themselves off from the torment so they can’t feel it and cover it up with masks, which must be very stressful to have to keep up all the time. But someone with great intelligence and insight like Sam, apparently is able to feel the darkness of the disorder and suffer accordingly. I think a part of him does not want this disorder and wishes he could free himself from it. I have empathy for these people–but not TOO much empathy because then you get into dangerous territory. You have to be very careful, even when they have this much insight.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right. As I am sure you already know, NPD individuals are extremely dangerous. They generally don’t waste their time on anything or anyone unless they’re getting a lot out of it, usually to the detriment of the poor person who was unfortunate enough to cross their path. This makes me wonder if other NPD indivifuals have an inkling that something IS wrong with them, but choose not to accept it? This is a very interesting study that you’re doing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I hear you. I know how dangerous Ns are–I’ve been surrounded by them my whole life and was nearly destroyed by them. So I feel like I’m about to walk into a landmine, but I’m very excited about this too. I feel like it’s something I just have to do. I feel much stronger than I used to because of my faith in God who is always by my side.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been twice diagnosed with narcissistic Personality Disorder (in 1983 and 1995) by 2 different diagnosticians in Canada and in Israel. No point in this “he is a narcissist, he is not a narcissist” nonsense. Get on with it, I suggest. However, NPD is invariably comorbid with other mental health disorders: personality disorders, mood disorders, and so on:

    Moreover: my books are NOT based on my personal experience or mere introspection. They are based on the giggest database and sample ever assembled over 17 years on the topic of pathological narcissism. It is based on correspondence since 1996
    with hundreds of people diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (narcissists)
    and with tens of thousands of their family members, friends, therapists, and colleagues. Time to lay this myth to rest as well: my work is not about ME, it is about NARCISSISM.


  4. About the alleged illegitimacy of academic degree and other backstabbing lies shockingly spread mostly by people whose lives I transformed for the better (by their own admission!) read this:

    Not all the academic community disparages my work. Actually many scholars make use of it regularly. See, for instance, the Testimonials section here:

    My work is cited in thousands of books and hundreds of academic papers (see Google scholar Sam Vaknin and search for Sam Vaknin on Google Books.)


  5. I took a look at this link:
    (the narcissist as drama queen). I haven’t read all of it yet, but one thing did stand out and makes a lot of sense. Narcissists are like drug addicts, without their “fix” (narcissistic supply in the form of attention from others) they freak.
    Here’s an excerpt.
    “Narcissistic Supply is exciting. When it is available, the narcissist feels elated, omnipotent, omniscient, handsome, sexy, adventurous, invincible, and irresistible. When it is missing, the narcissist first enters a manic phase of trying to replenish his supply and, if he fails, the narcissist shrivels, withdraws and is reduced to a zombie-like state of numbness.”


  6. When people write that they have two personalities… they should look into MPD–I notice here Sam V mentions it. He should look into the possibility of “mind control” or alters. There can be a spiritual component to severe abuse especially sexual where the extreme abuse brings the demons in and can “split” the personality and bring in other entities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MPD isn’t an invasion of evil spirits or entities, it’s a splitting off of the personality into two or more sub-personalities that are part of the whole person. A good therapist who is trained in treating people with multiple personality disorder can get good results by working with the dominant personality, which is usually the most mentally healthy and the only one aware of all the other personalities. Hypnosis may be necessary at times to access the weaker personalities or the “child” personalities. But over time, a good MPD therapist can help the person with MPD integrate all the personalities into a whole. It has been done on many people. Also, MPD is included in the anxiety/dissociate neuroses category, and people in this category suffer and want to change. While some of the nastier personalities may not want to cooperate at first, they are usually not dominant and can be coerced by the dominant personality to integrate.
      That being said, I wonder if Sam’s form of narcissism is similar to MPD or if he may have MPD in addition to being a narcissist? (MPD is almost always seen in children who suffered severe abuse when very young).

      But back to your comment about malignant entities, that’s an interesting topic, because M. Scott Peck, a respected psychiatrist who wrote “People of the Lie,” absolutely believes there is such a thing and that “evil people” are people with malignant narcissism. He also believes that possession by evil spirits or even satan is possible, and that exorcism can work on people who aren’t “perfectly possessed” (that is, there is still some goodness in them). He thinks people who become possessed aren’t naturally evil though, and may even be good, but made some kind of choice or played with the occult that invited the evil entity to take residence inside them. I’m not a Bible thumper or particularly religious, but I am a Christian and I’m just not sure. Peck could be onto something. I definitely believe evil exists, but I’m not sure I believe in malignant spirits or the devil. This is such an interesting topic you brought up I think it’s time to write another post about narcissism and itspossible relation to the supernatural.


  7. I also was thinking about all this today, and while I still definitely want to work on this book about Sam, I feel like I’m not quite ready either spiritually or emotionally to undertake it right now. I’m pretty new to recovery and am still taking baby steps, and I think undertaking something like this right now might be more than I could handle. I need more healing first. Someone else advised me too that it probably wasn’t a good idea until I’m stronger, and I respect this person’s advice. I still plan to do it, just not right now. In the meantime, this blog and other blogs about narcissism is Godsend to me and I’m forever grateful for everything I’m learning and that there IS HOPE.


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