Test of the 3 R’s (acquired situational narcissism vs. NPD)


I just read an interesting article by Sam Vaknin (author of Malignant Self-Love) describing a condition that afflicts some celebrities and other high-profile people or people who achieved overnight success, called Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN). It can also occur in codependents of a narcissist (what the ACON community calls “fleas”). ASN can mimic NPD, but tends to diminish over time or if the person’s fortunes change. But a more important difference is that a person with ASN isn’t lacking what he calls “The Three R’s.” These are:

1. Remorse
2. Remediation
3. Restoration

Narcissism is used as a coping strategy but doesn’t necessarily become a life sentence. I’ve done enough editorializing, so here is the article.

The Test of Three R’s
By Sam Vaknin

Acquired Situational Narcissism can be induced in adulthood by celebrity, wealth, and fame. But, it may also occur in a variety of other situations. Codependents, aiming to fend off gnawing abandonment anxiety, can resort to and evolve narcissistic and even psychopathic behaviours and traits in order to cater the whims of their “loved” ones; in anomic societies and depraved cultural or religious settings, people with a conformist bend tend to adopt antisocial modes of conduct and personal style so as to “fit in” and belong.

How can we tell whether one’s narcissism is of the ephemeral, derivative variety – or an integral, immutable, and inalienable feature of his or her personality? By applying the test of “Three Rs”: Remorse, Remediation, and Restoration.

To qualify, remorse has to be expressed repeatedly and must be heartfelt. It should entail a modicum of sacrifice, embarrassment, and inconvenience. Regretting one’s misdeeds in public is more convincing than sending a private missive or whispering “sorry” anonymously. Remediation requires making amends and offering reparations, which are commensurate with the offending acts and bear some symbolic relation to them. Thus, financial abuse can be absolved only with the aid of a monetary compensation that corresponds to the damage done and suffered. Finally, restoration involves affording one’s victims the opportunity for closure, if not forgiveness, so that they can move on with their lives.

True narcissists and psychopaths fail the Three Rs test at every turn: their remorse is feigned and ostentatious; they provide little or no recompense; and they never put themselves at the victim’s disposal to allow her to achieve that she needs most: closure.

Read the rest of Sam’s article here.

Related to this, on February 22, writer/producer Nancy Fulton will be interviewing Sam Vaknin about the portrayal of narcissists in media and entertainment. More info can be found here.