Not every narcissist has NPD.

narcissist_continuum

As has been done with autism spectrum disorders, it’s becoming increasingly common to think of NPD as falling on a spectrum of narcissism, ranging from normal or healthy narcissism (which most of us have to some degree) all the way to psychopathy/sociopathy (variations of Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD) at the top. What we call malignant narcissism is actually NPD shading into ASPD.

Narcissism is a normal trait that helps us survive, but it becomes pathological when there is too much of it. On the narcissism spectrum, just below NPD and above healthy narcissism is a disorder called The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, or DNP. It’s not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but Dr. Nina Brown has written books about the disorder, which I haven’t read yet (I never even heard of DNP until a few days ago), but here is a description of DNP:

The destructive narcissistic pattern (DNP) is a term used to describe a constellation of characteristics generally associated with pathological narcissism, but which are fewer and less severe. Nonetheless, these characteristics negatively impact relationships. The destructive narcisist’s typical interaction produces negative reactions in others. For example, the individual devalues others, lacks empathy, has a sense of entitlement, and is emotionally shallow. He may function very well and be successful economically, but is unable to form and maintain stable relationships, as evidenced by numerous partners or marriages. The DNP, Brown asserts, is often unrecognized. Although others may find him frustrating and difficult, the individual with DNP can be charming when charm is perceived to be to his benefit.

Dr. Brown’s book “The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern” can be purchased on Amazon.

The blogger CZBZ has also written about DNP on her blog, “The Narcissistic Continuum” and has devised a detailed graph that shows the placement of disorders on the narcissistic spectrum: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2013/11/narcissism-key-from-healthy-to.html

DNP is probably much more common than full-blown NPD. These people can be very difficult to deal with but because their symptoms are less severe they would be more likely to respond to (and seek) therapy and may not be completely without empathy and have a stunted or limited conscience instead of an absent one.

The only problem I have with this continuum is that almost everyone would be on the narcissism spectrum, since most people (except for those whose self esteem has been all but obliterated) have some degree of healthy narcissism.

Advertisements

Oh hell yeah, Sam Vaknin is a narc!

malignantselflove

I got the three books I ordered from Amazon in the mail yesterday and started to read Sam’s book first because I really need to know about narcissism from the perspective of a narcissist. I said it before and I’ll say it again–it’s huge (but I like huge books).

So far (I finished the first chapter) I can tell he’s a very good writer (in a verbose, almost old fashioned way) and I think it’s going to be a fascinating read. He also gives credit where credit is due, and cites experts in the field and the DSM-IV-TR as sources.

But something stood out to me right away that screamed narcissist. At the back of the book, there are SIX PAGES of Vaknin’s accomplishments and qualifications (“Curriculum Vitae” he calls it–he is very pedantic too). SIX PAGES. I kid you not.

Not only that, there are four pages of testimonials. That’s right, FOUR PAGES. Who includes four pages of testimonials and six pages listing their qualifications? A narcissist, that’s who!

I have no problem reading a book about narcissism by a narcissist. The way I see it, it’s coming directly from the source, not from some detached expert with 8-10 years of higher education who doesn’t know what the disorder feels like. Sam KNOWS what it feels like, and it sounds like hell. Narcs are not happy people, I can assure you of that. They may SEEM happy, but they are not. They live their lives in sheer terror of their masks being stripped off.

That doesn’t mean we should feel sorry for them though. Miserable or not, they aren’t nice people, and don’t deserve our pity.

Here is an excerpt of what Paul Shirley, MSW, has to say about Sam’s book in the Prologue:

Sam’s writing on the subject pulsated with heat, it ran red with blood, it crackled with flames of passion, it cried out in agony. Sam KNEW narcissism like the fish knows the water and the eagle knows the air, because he had lived it. He described its small insignificant currents, he knew what it does when the weather changes, he knew exactly what happened to little frogs, snakes and crickets whenever they fall into the stream. Most psychologists only KNOW about narcissism. Sam UNDERSTANDS it.

After I finish his book, I’ll write up an in depth review. So far, a good read though.
You can also order his book here.

Sam Vaknin: Narcissist or narcissist wannabe?

samvaknin

Who in their right mind would want to be a narcissist?

Sam Vaknin evidently does. Vaknin, a self-identified narcissist, is a bit different from the average narcissist. He seems to fit the profile in many ways, but he is surprisingly introspective and in 1997, wrote a self-help book called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. It can be purchased through Amazon or through his own site, but you can also read free excerpts from the PDF version which is also available through his website.

I have read the PDF full version and while it’s extremely long, verbose, and often repetitive (the published version may have better editing but I am not sure), Vaknin tells you everything you want to know about narcissism (and a few things you may not have known) and offers advice to “normals” on how to deal with narcissistic people like himself. He does not glorify narcissists and in fact is quite critical of them. While it appears he wants to help people handle or even cut themselves off from narcissists, one can’t help but wonder if he wrote the book as a way to promote himself and if he might not actually take pride in having the disorder. After all, narcissism has become Vaknin’s claim to fame and he purports himself as an expert on the disorder (which I can’t argue with, despite his lack of professional credentials). It was Vaknin who coined the term “narcissistic supply,” which is now used by bonafide professionals in the field who specialize in NPD.

Most books about narcissistic personality disorder or malignant narcissism are written by doctors, psychologists, or other professionals who deal with them in their practice, so reading such a book by a self-proclaimed narcissist is an odd experience but gives the reader an entirely different perspective about what really makes narcissists tick–and in a way, perhaps a more accurate one.

vakninandbook
Vaknin with a copy of his book.

Vaknin also differs from the garden variety narcissist because of his brutal honesty. Pathological lying is one of the narcissist’s calling cards, but in 2009 Australian filmmaker Ian Walker made a fascinating and somewhat disturbing but at times extremely funny documentary about Vaknin called I, Psychopath. (I highly recommend watching this film, the extended version of which can be viewed on Youtube (I have linked the first section). In the film Vaknin lies about nothing, and in fact he’s as brutally and cruelly honest as Simon Cowell used to be when judging American Idol contestants (I definitely suspect Mr. Cowell is himself a narcissist, but I digress). That being said, there has been some controversy about Mr. Vaknin’s educational credentials. During one of his interviews with a psychologist, she questions him about his degree–he had written on the questionnaire that he has a Ph.D, but it turned out that doctorate is actually from a diploma mill and its validity is questionable at best. So dishonesty is not unknown to Sam Vaknin (as it isn’t unknown to the rest of us).

In the film, we are treated to interesting and slightly creepy, oddly lit stills of Vaknin superimposed over things like clanking machinery (hinting at how the narcissist is more machine than human), strange landscapes, and time-lapsed highways at night.

Vaknin was born in 1961 to a Turkish mother and an Israeli father. We find out that Vaknin has an extremely high IQ and he is in fact a genius. In his native Israel, he became extremely wealthy at a shockingly early age through clever (and probably dishonest) financial wheelings and dealings, and was a successful dot-com entrepreneur until he was busted for securities fraud in 1999, and lost all his money. He also postulated a scientific theory on chronons and time asymmetry.

At the tender age of 21, Vaknin was living the high life, flying around the world in a private jet, eating in the most expensive restaurants, visiting exotic locales all over the world, and raking in enormous amounts of money. The film describes how the most successful entrepreneurs and corporate bigwigs tend to possess three important traits that make them so successful: good looks, high intelligence, and most importantly, a high level of psychopathy (determined by giving the tycoons Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, which is most commonly used to make sentencing decisions for criminals.). Sam Vaknin possesses all three of these traits.

One of the psychologists who tests Vaknin during the film finds that while he does score high in traits that signify NPD, he scores even higher in traits that indicate Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, and bizarrely, scores highest of all in AvPD (Avoidant Personality disorder–a common disorder in narcissists’ victims). This psychologist does not think Mr. Vaknin is actually a psychopath, but that he may be narcissistic. Vaknin, for his part, seems petulant, insulted and almost angry that he is not more of the big, bad psychopath that he believed he was.

Later, his wife, Lidija, is also tested to find out if she is a typical “victim” (highly empathic, sensitive, putting other’s needs ahead of her own) and it is found that she is. And yet, although Sam and Lidija argue frequently, their relationship (at least on film) seems to work for them and Vaknin doesn’t seem excessively abusive, although he insists he has no capacity to feel love the way his wife does. It’s possible he may be more abusive toward Lidija off screen, but this is another thing we are left wondering. One issue that is raised is she wants a baby, but is unsure if her husband would make a good father, due to his narcissism.

vakninandwife
Vaknin with his wife, Lidija.

Vaknin gives his filmmaker, Ian Walker, a difficult time, and while we don’t see an excess of bullying on screen, in Walker’s commentary, he frequently discusses the way Vaknin abuses and calls him terrible names when the camera is off. So to try to capture Vaknin’s alleged abusive behavior on screen, he has Vaknin take over the filming and film Walker. Indeed now we hear Vaknin hurling insults and abuse at him. Walker, for his part, seems hurt, but could this just be the two of them acting out a part for the sake of giving the film more credibility of making it more interesting? There’s no way to tell, but the experiment is entertaining enough.

During the film, well known professionals who specialize in psychopathy and narcissism are interviewed and give their opinions about these character disorders, and their opinions about Vaknin himself. Vaknin, for his part, seems irascible and easily angered (and sometimes acts like a petulant child), but he also is oddly likeable (which could just be his narcissistic charm doing its work) and occasionally is extremely funny. Vaknin’s high intelligence is obvious and he speaks English extremely well too, although it’s not his native tongue.

Vaknin gifts each of the doctors and psychologists who interview him a complimentary copy of his “Malignant Self-Love,” which could be a gesture of courtesy or it could be narcissistic.

vakninsam

Vaknin is an enigma. During the documentary I sometimes wondered whether he is actually a narcissist at all. He certainly doesn’t seem psychopathic (although I’m not going to say it’s impossible), but if he’s a narcissist, I don’t think he’s a particularly malignant one. My own opinion of Sam Vaknin is that he has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which shares a number of traits with NPD because they are both Cluster B character disorders but differ in important ways. I think Vaknin has strong narcissistic, paranoid, and schizoid traits, but he is no psychopath. Clearly, Vaknin isn’t the easiest person to spend a lot of time with, but that doesn’t make him evil or a psychopath. However, he does say he was diagnosed with NPD twice–in 1986 and 1995.

I do wonder if he wants to be a narcissist more than he actually is one, and if so, why? Whatever the case, Mr. Vaknin has written an excellent and highly readable (if a bit verbose) book about malignant narcissism. I don’t personally care if he doesn’t have the right “credentials,” either as a professional or as a person with the actual disorder, because his book has helped so many people deal with the narcissists in their own lives better.

Update 11/20/14
I added a new post honoring Mr. Vaknin’s requests in the comments section, and also made the requested changes in this article. After viewing the links he posted, I’m much more convinced he’s really the narcissist he says he is.
https://otterlover58.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/sam-vaknin-read-my-post-and-has-a-few-corrections/

Something I’ve noticed about narcissists

allaboutme

I’ve read many blogs and web sites about narcissists, and one question that keeps coming up is, “do they know they’re narcissists?” Another, related one is, “do they know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it?”

The answer to both is yes. Narcissists know exactly what they are, and I think they also love it when you figure them out. They’re flattered that you know of suspect them of this nasty character disorder, even if it means it will be harder for them to continue using you as a source of narcissistic supply. They also like to read about themselves.

Several years ago, I realized my mother was a narcissist. At the time, I was pretty enraged at her (more about my relationship with her another time) and emailed her a copy of the checklist for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) from DSM IV. She backed off with the manipulations after that for awhile. Nothing else had been able to shut her up until I sent that email. I don’t know if she was flattered or not, but she definitely knew I had her number.

About a year ago I worked for a guy with fullblown malignant narcissism. I left a copy of “People of the Lie” on my desk (not on purpose), and when I came back after lunch, I caught him standing there at my desk seemingly lost in the book. He was so engrossed he didn’t even see me approach my desk and didn’t look up until I said hello. He jumped a little, then commented about my having some interesting reading taste. For the rest of the day he seemed more cheerful than usual. The next day, he asked if he could borrow the book when I was done with it.

I recently purchased a copy of Dr. Simon’s book about malignant narcissism “Character Disturbance.” I live with my daughter, who allowed my ex (her father) to come inside my home even though I have a restraining order against him (she does not). Of course that’s another matter and a serious one which I won’t address here. I did find it humorous that he had found my copy of the book, which was lying on the coffee table in the living room (not where I had left it) with a page corner turned down where he had left off reading. My daughter told me he was asking her why I was reading it, and she told him because it was about him. She said he kind of smiled after that and said he might order a copy of the book for himself. Evidently he knows exactly what he is and likes it.