Cold Therapy: what is it?

narcissusflower

Narcissus flower in bloom.

Cold Therapy is a new therapy developed by Sam Vaknin for people with NPD and other disorders.   It sets up a scenario that creates a facsimile of the original trauma that that set off their disorder (retraumatization).   The “cold” refers to the idea of recognizing the narcissist is an emotional child and allowing them relive the trauma without offering any “warmth.” The narcissist is then given emotional tools to handle the traumatic event differently, thereby “rewiring” the brain.    It has had hopeful results on several people diagnosed with Cluster B disorders, including NPD and ASPD, and other disorders.

According to Vaknin,

Cold Therapy deploys tools from the arsenal of child psychology to treat these disorders because of their roots in attachment dysfunctions and arrested development. The therapy seeks to recreate an environment conducive to the replication of original childhood traumas so as to allow the client to resolve them as an adult.

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From the webpage about Cold Therapy:

Developed by Sam Vaknin, Cold Therapy is based on two premises —

1. That narcissistic disorders are actually forms of complex post-traumatic conditions; and
2. That narcissists are the outcomes of arrested development.

Cold Therapy borrows techniques from child psychology and from treatment modalities used to deal with PTSD. Cold Therapy consists of the retraumatization of the narcissistic client in a hostile, non-holding environment which resembles the ambience of the original trauma. The adult patient successfully tackles this second round of hurt and thus resolves early childhood conflicts and achieves closure rendering his now maladaptive narcissistic defenses redundant, unnecessary, and obsolete.

Cold Therapy makes use of proprietary techniques such as erasure (suppressing the client’s speech and free expression and gaining clinical information and insights from his reactions to being so stifled). Other techniques include: grandiosity reframing, guided imagery, negative iteration, erasure, happiness map, mirroring, escalation, role play, assimilative confabulation, hypervigilant referencing, and reparenting.

The therapy then makes use of Lidija Rangelovska’s “Spiral of Healing” to revisit the original traumas, but this time in a holding (supportive) environment, replete with empathy and emotions.

Who can benefit from Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is a radical departure from current tenets of most treatment modalities.  It is especially effective in the treatment of Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorders, and certain mood disorders, including dysthymia and major depressive episodes (clinical depression of both exogenous and endogenous causes).

Who can attend

Anyone can attend the seminar (which is to be held in Vienna, Austria on May 12 – 14, 2017), but licensed therapists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the seminar.

Dates, times, exact location, itinerary for the workshop for each day, and information about payment can be found here:

https://www.scribd.com/document/336914118/FIRST-EVER-Cold-Therapy-Certification-Seminar-in-Vienna-REGISTER-NOW

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Do narcissists cry?

crocodiletears

This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article.  It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.

Do narcissists cry?  Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices.  Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest.  The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave.  Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist.  Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.

Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.

Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.

Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.

babycrying
Here’s who your narcissist really is.

While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”).  Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category.  They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them.  They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you.   They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.

Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?

A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare.   But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible.  Don’t get your hopes up though.    That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting.   If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing.  Maybe.  (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be.  It’s his livelihood).

Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy.  For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.

He writes:

I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.

One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.

I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.

Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.

cryingofthestoneangel
Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at Deviantart.com

Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?

The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams.  A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above.   Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it.   They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams.   Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon.  The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists.  If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane.  Suicide is not unheard of.

Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing.  If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on.   Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being  swept away in the the river of day to day reality.   It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede.  But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been.   I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.”  Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.

Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are).  That being said,   I like to remain optimistic.   I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls.  Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never.  I don’t recommend you try  doing this yourself.  Leave it to the professionals or to God.   You cannot fix a narcissist.   All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.

We don’t need a malignant narcissist in the White House.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, ‘Dude, what’s your problem?’ — Ted Cruz

I’m talking about The Donald, of course. Most politicians have a narcissistic style or narcissistic traits, but we have probably never had a president with fullblown NPD. Author and narcissism expert Sam Vaknin has watched over 600 hours of footage of Trump and pegs him as a malignant narcissist. I believe him. Yikes!

Former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had a few words about Trump too. He was enraged when Trump accused Cruz’s father of being involved in JFK’s assassination, and exploded to the press. Here is the transcript of that, and an accompanying video of Cruz’s entire rant.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/05/03/cruz_explodes_pathological_liar_trump_a_narcissist_at_a_level_i_dont_think_this_country_has_ever_seen.html

How did narcissism get so “popular”? (part two of two)

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Here is the second installment, as I promised–I apologize for the delay. In part one, I covered the way narcissism has increasingly infiltrated our society and become a near-virtue to be emulated, starting in the late 1940s and 1950s in a postwar America now regarded to be a world superpower. The babies born in this mood of can-do optimism, the Baby Boomers, were indulged by their parents, who believed anything was possible and showered their children with all the new toys, space-age technology, and new permissive child-rearing techniques that were suddenly popular.

In Part One of this article, I discussed how the indulged Boomer generation influenced western society at every stage of life, and (as a generation) grew into grandiose, entitled adults who demanded (and got) special treatment every step of the way. I covered the decades from the 1950s through the 1980s, and described how narcissism became increasingly regarded as a desireable quality. By the 1980s, narcissism came out of the closet, with the election of a president (Reagan) who encouraged greed, materialism, and entitlements for the wealthy with his “trickle down economics.” At the same time, empathy, neighborliness, and general goodwill toward others seemed to become almost quaint, a naive relic of the past. The juggernaut was the new “greed is good” philosophy, made popular by a 1987 hit movie, “Wall Street,” (which was of course the place to be). Narcissism was no longer something to be hidden; now it was something to aspire to.

In this next installment, I’ll be focusing less on the Boomers and more on the continued growth of narcissism in society, as well as the backlash against it–the narcissistic abuse and ACON community–which began as an Internet phenomenon during the mid 1990s due to one self-professed narcissist named Sam Vaknin. But actually, the seeds of the backlash had been planted as far back as 1983, with M. Scott Peck’s bestselling book, “People of the Lie.”

1990s.

cast_friends

The greed worshipping culture begun in the 1980s continued during the 1990s, as Boomers rose to power and we elected our first Boomer president, Bill Clinton, in 1992. Under Clinton, the economy boomed, and a new breed of Yuppies, the Dot Com entrepreneurs (who were mostly Generation X), rode on the coattails of the newly born Internet, and they made money hand over fist until they went bust several years later. But people still went shopping and the culture at large was becoming increasingly exhibitionistic, obnoxious, and in-your-face (reality shows were born during this time), while corporations grew bigger and more unwieldy (unlimited growth, like a cancer, was encouraged, and smaller companies merged into megacorporations the size of small governments). Meanwhile, government institutions built in the more sedate and community-oriented 1950s and 1960s began to splinter and crumble. The government, especially the part of the government that tried to help its less fortunate citizens and attempted to even the playing field through fair taxation, became The Enemy.

But a backlash was beginning to silently bubble under all the glitz and bling of the ’90s. Back in 1983, a psychiatrist turned born-again Christian named M. Scott Peck published his groundbreaking book, “People of the Lie.” Here, for the first time, was a self help psychology book that focused on “evil”–specifically, people who were evil. The traits described in the book are exactly those of malignant narcissism. The book resonated with many, particularly with Gen-Xers and later born Boomers (Generation Jones), who had been raised by narcissistic parents. In some cases, especially for younger Boomers and early Gen-Xers, these kids had been betrayed by initially doting Silent generation parents who suddenly, during the 1960s or 1970s, seemed to suddenly care only about their own self-development at the expense of their confused and hurt adolescent and preteen children who they no longer seemed to even like much (this is exactly what my experience had been growing up in the 60s and 70s: my parents changed and no longer seemed to care).

But in the early 1980s, Peck’s “evil people” were not automatically equated with narcissists or people with other Cluster B disorders. Until the mid-90s, narcissism–or NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)–was simply a psychiatric label given to certain patients with a certain set of traits, who may or may not have been evil. NPD wasn’t demonized yet.

Then along came Sam Vaknin in 1995. Vaknin, a former white collar criminal and self-confessed narcissist, had written a tome about narcissism called “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.” Written initially to obtain supply and a guru-like status for himself, Vaknin’s book actually helped many of the narcissistic abuse victims who read it and recognized their abusers in its 600+ pages. Vaknin’s idea of NPD didn’t fit that described in the DSM: he mixed in with NPD several traits of psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and Borderline personality disorder (BPD), to describe a particularly dangerous type of malignant narcissist that made the toxic people described in M. Scott Peck’s book seem almost tame in comparison.

The book was successful, and soon Vaknin started his own website, and discussion groups, and abuse victims all over the world jumped on the bandwagon. Vaknin, exactly the sort of person they sought to avoid, had become their savior and guiding light out of darkness.

Until the 2000s, Vaknin’s was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. But in the very late 90s, a few books were beginning to be published about this “new” type of abuse that didn’t necessary include physical violence (but could). Parents, particularly mothers, were the focus, and a subset of the narcissistic abuse community–one that focused on narcissistic mothers and the damage they had done to their now-adult children–formed the template for the explosive ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) movement.

2000s.

bling

For a brief time, after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it looked like Americans just might start to care about each other again. There was an outpouring of support for the victims of the 9/11 disasters, and solidarity shown among all Americans. For the first time, regional differences and even racial differences didn’t seem to matter, and Americans were united by their flying of the flag. No one seemed all that concerned by the curtailment of certain freedoms and and increase in xenophobia–after all, it was for the protection of the country, right?

But as a result, the economy was suffering, so George W. Bush Jr. (“Dubya”) gave us all permission to “go shopping.” And so we did. It was back to the bread and circuses and the shallow, materialistic culture of the 1980s through pre-2001.

Reality shows rose in popularity and the badder the behavior, the more popular they got. New celebrities were famous only for “being famous,” having a famous parent, or just for acting badly. People aspired to be just like Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore, or Tiffany “New York” Pollard from Flavor of Love. All of these characters were narcissists, or at least acted that way for the benefit of the camera. And people loved them for it.

During the 2000s, Millennials, the rising young adult generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, started being being accused of being narcissistic, but if they are, you can blame their parents for having taught them these values. In addition, a lot of gaslighting is going on by older generations, who blame the Millennials for their inability to find jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits, forcing them to live at home and be dependent for longer than earlier generations–and accuse them of being “lazy,” “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But what about their mostly Boomer and Gen-X parents, who modeled this sort of behavior?

Politicians became more blatantly narcissistic and their lack of empathy sank to new lows. One politician said if you weren’t rich, you should blame yourself. Blaming the victim became increasingly popular, and was even seen by some conservative politicians as a “Christian” way to behave–for if you were favored by God, He would bless you with wealth and material comforts. Religion itself became a way for narcissists to rise to positions of great power, and use their “favored status” in God’s eyes as a way to abuse their flock of followers.

Meanwhile, the narcissistic abuse commmunity continued to grow, and blogs written by abuse survivors were beginning to pop up all over the Internet. The abuse community developed their own lingo, some of it borrowed from earlier movements such as 12-step programs (codependent, enabling, people-pleaser are examples), some from pioneers such as Sam Vaknin (narcissistic supply, confabulation), and some from mental health experts going all the way back to Freud. Some terms were taken from popular movies, such as “flying monkeys” (The Wizard of Oz), and “gaslighting” (Gaslight).

2010s.

tea-party

Being only 5 years into the 2010s, it’s hard to see any patterns yet, but it does seem that the problem of narcissism is finally being noticed by the general public. One of the Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump, is well known for his “NPD” and called out for his grandiose antics constantly, even by people outside the narcissistic abuse community. Narcissism is a fashionable topic now–the fascination by it may only be a fad, but it’s making people pay attention. Lately I’ve noticed a number of Christians who are abandoning the fiscally conservative values held by groups such as the Tea Party, who are about as collectively entitled as you can get (they had better get their social security, but to hell with that child who needs special medical treatment but can’t get it because his parents are too poor). It’s probably too soon to tell whether the “social gospel” is making a return, but there does seem to be a greater call for an increase in empathy and caring for each other and building communities instead of just building up the Almighty Self.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of this decade holds.

Why does a narcissist need a false self?

trueself_falseself

On one of Sam Vaknin’s discussion pages, someone asked a very good question:
Why does the narcissist conjure up another Self? Why not simply transform his True Self into a False one?

I’ve wondered about this too. Here’s Sam’s explanation, which is a link to one of his articles from his website. While his long answer is predictably bleak and hopeless, and I don’t agree with him about everything, taken as a whole, this article did answer a lot of questions I had been wondering about and as always it made me think.

The Dual Role of the Narcissist’s False Self
By Sam Vaknin

We often marvel at the discrepancy between the private and public lives of our idols: celebrities, statesmen, stars, writers, and other accomplished figures. It is as though they have two personalities, two selves: the “true” one which they reserve for their nearest and dearest and the “fake” or “false” or “concocted” one which they flaunt in public.

In contrast, the narcissist has no private life, no true self, no domain reserved exclusively for his nearest and dearest. His life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display, garnering narcissistic supply from his audience. In the theatre that is the narcissist’s life, the actor is irrelevant. Only the show goes on. The False Self is everything the narcissist would like to be but, alas, cannot: omnipotent, omniscient, invulnerable, impregnable, brilliant, perfect, in short: godlike. Its most important role is to elicit narcissistic supply from others: admiration, adulation, awe, obedience, and, in general: unceasing attention.

The narcissist constructs a narrative of his life that is partly confabulated and whose purpose is to buttress, demonstrate, and prove the veracity of the fantastically grandiose and often impossible claims made by the False Self. This narrative allocates roles to significant others in the narcissist’s personal history. Inevitably, such a narrative is hard to credibly sustain for long: reality intrudes and a yawning abyss opens between the narcissist’s self-imputed divinity and his drab, pedestrian existence and attributes. I call it the Grandiosity Gap. Additionally, meaningful figures around the narcissist often refuse to play the parts allotted to them, rebel, and abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist copes with this painful and ineluctable realization of the divorce between his self-perception and this less than stellar state of affairs by first denying reality, delusionally ignoring and filtering out all inconvenient truths. Then, if this coping strategy fails, the narcissist invents a new narrative, which accommodates and incorporates the very intrusive data that served to undermine the previous, now discarded narrative. He even goes to the extent of denying that he ever had another narrative, except the current, modified one.

The narcissist’s (and the codependent’s) introjects and inner voices (assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers) are mostly negative and sadistic. Rather than provide succour, motivation, and direction, they enhance his underlying ego-dystony (discontent with who he is) and the lability of his sense of self-worth.

buddhanature
“Buddha nature” True Self vs. “Ego” False Self. Click to enlarge graphic.

Introjects possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic (interpretative) framework which allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, of one’s place in it, and, consequently of who one is (self-identity). Overwhelmingly negative introjects – or introjects which are manifestly fake, fallacious, and manipulative – hamper the narcissist’s and codependent’s ability to construct a true and efficacious exegetic (interpretative) framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one’s perception of the universe and of oneself and reality becomes unbearable and engenders pathological, maladaptive, and dysfunctional attempts to either deny the hurtful discrepancy away (delusions and fantasies); grandiosely compensate for it by eliciting positive external voices to counter the negative, inner ones (narcissism via the False Self and its narcissistic supply); attack it (antisocial/psychopathy); withdraw from the world altogether (schizoid solution); or disappear by merging and fusing with another person (codependence.)

Once formed and functioning, the False Self stifles the growth of the True Self and paralyses it. Henceforth, the ossified True Self is virtually non-existent and plays no role (active or passive) in the conscious life of the narcissist. It is difficult to “resuscitate” it, even with psychotherapy. The False Self sometimes parades the child-like, vulnerable, needy, and innocent True Self in order to capture, manipulate, and attract empathic sources of narcissistic supply. When supply is low, the False Self is emaciated and dilapidated. It is unable to contain and repress the True Self which then emerges as a petulant, self-destructive, spoiled, and codependent entity. But the True Self’s moments in the sun are very brief and, usually, inconsequential.

This substitution is not only a question of alienation, as Horney observed. She said that because the Idealised (=False) Self sets impossible goals to the narcissist, the results are frustration and self hate which grow with every setback or failure. But the constant sadistic judgement, the self-berating, the suicidal ideation emanate from the narcissist’s idealised, sadistic, Superego regardless of the existence or functioning of a False Self.

There is no conflict between the True Self and the False Self.

First, the True Self is much too weak to do battle with the overbearing False. Second, the False Self is adaptive (though maladaptive). It helps the True Self to cope with the world. Without the False Self, the True Self would be subjected to so much hurt that it will disintegrate. This happens to narcissists who go through a life crisis: their False Ego becomes dysfunctional and they experience a harrowing feeling of annulment.

falseself_graphic
Anatomy of the mind of a narcissist.

The False Self has many functions. The two most important are:

1. It serves as a decoy, it “attracts the fire”. It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By inventing it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation – in short: to the abuse – inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a cloak, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.

2. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: “I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment.” The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter other people’s behaviour and attitude towards the narcissist.
These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist. The False Self is by far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, True Self.

The two Selves are not part of a continuum, as the neo-Freudians postulated. Healthy people do not have a False Self which differs from its pathological equivalent in that it is more realistic and closer to the True Self.

It is true that even healthy people have a mask [Guffman], or a persona [Jung] which they consciously present to the world. But these are a far cry from the False Self, which is mostly subconscious, depends on outside feedback, and is compulsive.

The False Self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances. But its dynamics make it predominate, devour the psyche and prey upon the True Self. Thus, it prevents the efficient, flexible functioning of the personality as a whole.

That the narcissist possesses a prominent False Self as well as a suppressed and dilapidated True Self is common knowledge. Yet, how intertwined and inseparable are these two? Do they interact? How do they influence each other? And what behaviours can be attributed squarely to one or the other of these protagonists? Moreover, does the False Self assume traits and attributes of the True Self in order to deceive the world?

Read the rest of Sam’s article here.

A “new” personality disorder?

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I’ve heard of Passive Aggressive (Negativistic) Personality Disorder before, but it’s not currently recognized by the DSM. I think it should be added because I know people like this. In many ways it resembles narcissism, but some of the well known traits of narcissism are lacking, such as arrogance and grandiosity. It also resembles Paranoid Personality Disorder in some ways, without the schizoid traits. Passive-aggressives can be quite manipulative. They are well known for giving the “silent treatment” and sabotaging others. A person who complains constantly, is never satisfied, always sees the glass as half empty, and openly envies the more fortunate would probably qualify.

Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder
From “Personality Disorders Revisited” (450 page e-book) – by Sam Vaknin

Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder is not yet recognized by the DSM Committee. It makes its appearances in Appendix B of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, titled “Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study.”

Some people are perennial pessimists and have “negative energy” and negativistic attitudes (“good things don’t last”, “it doesn’t pay to be good”, “the future is behind me”). Not only do they disparage the efforts of others, but they make it a point to resist demands to perform in workplace and social settings and to frustrate people’s expectations and requests, however reasonable and minimal they may be. Such persons regard every requirement and assigned task as impositions, reject authority, resent authority figures (boss, teacher, parent-like spouse), feel shackled and enslaved by commitment, and oppose relationships that bind them in any manner.

Whether these attitudes and behaviors are acquired/learned or the outcome of heredity is still an open question. Often, passive-aggression is the only weapon of the weak and the meek, besieged as they are by frustration, helplessness, envy and spite, the organizing principles of their emotional landscape and the engines and main motivating forces of their lives.

Passive-aggressiveness wears a multitude of guises: procrastination, malingering, perfectionism, forgetfulness, neglect, truancy, intentional inefficiency, stubbornness, and outright sabotage. This repeated and advertent misconduct has far reaching effects. Consider the Negativist in the workplace: he or she invests time and efforts in obstructing their own chores and in undermining relationships. But, these self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors wreak havoc throughout the workshop or the office.

passive_aggressive_bitch

People diagnosed with the Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder resemble narcissists in some important respects. Despite the obstructive role they play, passive-aggressives feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated, and misunderstood. They chronically complain, whine, carp, and criticize. They blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as martyrs and victims of a corrupt, inefficient, and heartless system (in other words, they have alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control).

Passive-aggressives sulk and give the “silent treatment” in reaction to real or imagined slights. They suffer from ideas of reference (believe that they are the butt of derision, contempt, and condemnation) and are mildly paranoid (the world is out to get them, which explains their personal misfortune). In the words of the DSM: “They may be sullen, irritable, impatient, argumentative, cynical, skeptical and contrary.” They are also hostile, explosive, lack impulse control, and, sometimes, reckless.

Inevitably, passive-aggressives are envious of the fortunate, the successful, the famous, their superiors, those in favor, and the happy. They vent this venomous jealousy openly and defiantly whenever given the opportunity. But, deep at heart, passive-aggressives are craven. When reprimanded, they immediately revert to begging forgiveness, kowtowing, maudlin protestations, turning on their charm, and promising to behave and perform better in the future.

Click here to read about passive aggressive bureaucracies and collectives: http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/personalitydisorders36.html#pacollect

“Is Donald Trump Just Another Narcissistic Liberal?”

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Photo credit: Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com

I rarely post political articles, because I don’t want to alienate anyone based on their political affiliation, but with the election right around the corner…and I thought this article I found on Sam Vaknin’s Facebook page for his book “Malignant Self-Love” is an especially interesting one that’s appropriate to the subject matter of this blog, so I’m going to share it.

My own 2 cents:
I’m not sure that Obama is a narcissist in spite of all the memes and arguments to that effect (though he might be–I think most politicians probably are), but the info here about Trump is right on. I didn’t know he was a liberal.

I don’t think Trump is a malignant narcissist (though I’m not sure), but I wouldn’t want him for president, no matter if he’s left or right, because he’d be a joke and embarrassment. Trump embarrasses himself but he’s too narcissistic to know how ridiculous he is. He would be a disaster to this country because the last thing our country needs right now is a narcissistic president who constantly brags about his achievements.

“Is Donald Trump Just Another Narcissistic Liberal?”
By Richard Larsen, westernjournalism.com

Book Review: “Malignant Self-Love” by Sam Vaknin

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Vaknin’s “Bible of Narcissism”

I first heard about Sam Vaknin’s book “Malignant Self-Love” about 15 years ago–when I made a cursory online search about NPD after I realized my own mother was one. At that time, Vaknin was pretty much the only voice on the Internet about narcissistic abuse. Vaknin, a self-confessed narcissistic psychopath , had written a “bible of narcissism” and it became obvious, from scanning the selected pages he provided in PDF format on his website (which has never been upgraded to a more current look and format–he uses the ancient blogging site, Tripod), that this guy was obsessed with his own disorder to the point of unhealthy navel-gazing and what’s more, he and seemed to hate people like himself. What was this, some kind of pathology performance art?

His book and his own story that inspired the book intrigued me, but at the time, I was still trapped (or thought I was trapped) in my abusive marriage and my kids were still very young, so I filed this information away in the back of my brain, and quickly moved onto other things, such as trying to keep my doomed marriage together. In fact, I didn’t think about his book again until late last year, after I left my narcissist.

When I started my blog in September 2014, Vaknin still had a huge presence online (though he no longer had a monopoly on narcissism). He was often quoted on ACON blogs and even in more serious articles in publications like Psychology Today. The difference was, by now, he was no longer alone. There were other voices joining his–Kim Saeed, Michelle Mallon, and Kathy Krajco (who is with us no more) just to name a few, and of course psychologists and other authors like Dr. George K. Simon, Robert Hare, and Marsha Stout. And too many ACON (Adult Children of Narcissists) bloggers to count. By this time, Narcissism was a Very Hot Topic, at least on the Intenet. Sam Vaknin probably began that trend, in spite of his being so vilified by so many of the narcissism bloggers he paved the way for.

A self-professed malignant narcissist writing self help books for victims of abuse may seem like the ultimate irony–but when you look a little deeper, it makes a lot of sense. Who better than a narcissist to know what makes a narcissist tick? Every other expert who writes books about narcissism has to make educated — or not so educated — guesses.

If you’re not a narcissist, it’s almost impossible to imagine what such a disorder can feel like to its bearer, just as the pain of cancer can never be convincingly described by one who has never suffered from cancer. If a book were to be written about what it’s like to have cancer, the writer should be a cancer survivor–or one about to succumb. My point here being that Sam Vaknin, whether you like him or not, whether you think he’s doing ACONs a service or hurting them, whether he’s got the proper credentials or not (and personally I don’t care about the whole credential brouhaha because not once in the book does he say he’s a mental health professional and in fact it’s full of disclaimers), is definitely qualified to write about narcissism. His primary qualification–the only qualification that really matters–is that he is speaking from personal experience.

So I pulled out my debit card and ordered the huge black-and-red tome with its Caravaggio “Narcissus” illustration on the cover (which, for me, was a draw in itself, because I love the painting). It set me back about $40 on Amazon (you can get a copy signed by the author for about $54.95) I thought the price was a bit high, until I held the book in my hands. It was as big as the Bible! Maybe even bigger. I flipped through its onion-skin thin Bible-like pages and saw how tiny the print was.

Oh, man, I thought. I don’t think I can read this. But I was determined to. I wanted to understand what it felt like to be a narcissist, what it felt like to be inside Sam’s head. And so I began to read.

Malignant Self-Love is not a book you can read in one sitting–or even ten. Maybe not even twenty. Normally, I’m a very fast reader. Until I started blogging (and no longer had time to read much), I could consume about 3 good-sized books a week. People looked at me like I had three eyes and a horn growing out of my head when I’d tell them I finished a 300 page novel in 2 days. But Vaknin’s book is different. It’s not only got a LOT of information–almost more information about narcissism than you’d ever need or want to know–but it’s a dark and depressing read too, and I found that while reading it, I felt my mind being sucked into Vaknin’s bottomless black vortex of pain. He’s pessimistic, negative, and hates his own disorder. He also seems to hate himself for having NPD, and demonizes narcissists in general, referring to them as non-humans and machines. He demonizes himself in the process, and warns his readers to stay far away from people like himself. You would think from all this encouraging advice to the sort of people who would have been his prey, that he cares about the victims. I’m not so sure, since he himself is quoted as saying he never intended to help anyone by writing Malignant Self-Love, that his primary motive was narcissistic supply and attaining a guru-like status for himself.

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Sam Vaknin, the psychopathic, emotionless predator.

Yet in spite of his heart never having been in its creation, Malignant Self-Love is an outstanding piece of writing, and English isn’t even Vaknin’s native language. He weaves words together into a beautiful piece of literature the way a holy man weaves tiny colored threads together to create a Persian rug–with an intricacy and detail that is rare in modern writing.

Indeed, Vaknin’s writing at times can seem as if it’s from a bygone century. His phrasing is old-fashioned and his writing is highly descriptive, hearkening back to 19th century authors. At times it reads almost like poetry. And it’s very emotional writing. You come away from the pages (which feels somewhat like coming up for air after having been underwater too long), with the strong sense that whenever Vaknin refers to the “Narcissist,” he is really speaking about himself in the third person. There is passion and pain in these pages, but more than anything else, there is rage. White hot rage. Sam Vaknin is…intense. And so is his book.

Although some mental health professionals and other who study NPD have criticized Vaknin for appearing to take several related personality disorders–Antisocial, NPD (the less malignant type described in the DSM-V), Borderline Personality Disorder, and even autism–and churn them together into a mutation of the psychiatric definition of NPD into a devastating form of psychopathic malignant narcissism. Some mental health experts have even said Vaknin’s book has been damaging to the field of diagnostic psychology because it blurs the lines between several distinct personality disorders.

But since when is the field of diagnostic psychology a real science anyway? At best, it’s a social science; at worst, an art form–so in my mind, Vaknin’s theories about NPD make as much–or more–sense than some of the experts.’

Vaknin was also not the first narcissism writer to ever do this. While M. Scott Peck’s 1983 book “People of the Lie” is written from a completely different perspective from Vaknin’s–one with religious overtones written by psychiatrist who is also a born-again Christian–Peck’s book too seems to mix traits of NPD and ASPD. And while Peck didn’t call the hybrid disorder “malignant narcissism” (he calls it “evil”) because that term wasn’t in wide use in 1983, people could relate–because we almost all know someone like that. Vaknin’s book also describes people that victims of narcissistic abuse recognize–a dangerous kind of narcissist who has nothing but ill will toward others, but it was born from having been abused themselves, as Vaknin was abused.

Vaknin’s readers are mostly women, who are in a relationship with a narcissist or thinking about leaving one. Sam Vaknin does not disappoint. Victimized, emotionally damaged women see Vaknin as a kind of online therapist (especially those who frequent his discussion groups and forums), and the “transference” of strong feelings of a patient to their therapist is an important development in the psychotherapeutic relationship. If they’re using the Internet as their therapist, Vaknin can easily become the object of these feelings of transference. He becomes a kind of mirror reflecting back to them all the admirable qualities they have imbued him with–-which may or may not be accurate-–but it’s what they want or need to see in him. The problem is, unlike with a therapist in a controlled psychotherapeutic setting, women experiencing transference toward a online cult hero like Vaknin have no idea what to do with these feelings or how to use them to learn more about themselves. But on the plus side, he does tell them how to disengage and tell them WHY they should disengage and what makes their narcissist tick, and of course he’s right. Many of these women (and men too) claim Vaknin’s book saved their lives and helped them get started along the road to self-discovery and freedom from abuse.

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I think this picture shows a sad side Sam Vaknin rarely shows in public. That’s why I think it might have been a candid photo that caught him with his mask temporarily down. Of course he could be acting for the camera too.

If you don’t like ponderous, pessimistic tomes or books that don’t require the reader to think, then Vaknin’s bible of narcissism may not be for you. But if you like a book you can savor and digest over weeks or months, the way you would savor a fine wine by taking small sips and not chugga-lugging it down like a cheap bottle of Gallo, then I recommend his book if you’re in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, trying to go No Contact, or just interested in narcissism. His writing is so good it’s worth reading even as just a work of literature, even if you disagree with his assessment of NPD as a blight on humanity and the precious little hope he conveys that sufferers of NPD can ever get well (which is one of the few problems I have with his book).

It took me nearly three months to finish Malignant Self-Love, but only because I could only swallow a little of his brand of darkness at a time without making myself sick. However, when I finally read the last page, I came away feeling like I had an insight into my narcissists that no one else could have made possible. It was as if Mr. Vaknin provided a sort of mirror to my narcissists and made them talk to me– openly and honestly–about why they did the awful, hurtful things they did. In giving my narcs a voice, albeit a depressing, raging one–I felt as if Vaknin’s book had somehow stripped away some of their power over me. And that’s always a good thing.

“Ned’s Short Life” by Sam Vaknin

Can a narcissist feel empathy for a tiny creature like a goldfish? Maybe. I like this story, even though it’s sad.

Ned’s Short Life
by Sam Vaknin

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Lidija returned home all dusty and breathless, as was her habit ever since we have bought the apartment and she embarked on its thorough renovation, long months ago. Between two delicate but strong fingers she held aloft a transparent plastic bag, the kind she used to wrap around half-consumed comestibles in the refrigerator. Instinctively, I extended an inquisitive hand, but she recoiled and said: “Don’t! There’s a fish in there!” and this is how I saw Ned for the first time.

“He is a male,”—Lidija told me—”and Fred is a female”. In the crowded and smelly pet shop the salesgirl elaborated on the anatomic differences between the sexes. So, now Fred had a mate.

“Fred” is Fredericka, our first attempt at a goldfish. One of the handymen gave her to Lidija “to keep your husband company while you are away”, he explained mischievously. Fred grew up in a bowl and then graduated into a small and rather plain aquarium. I placed a clay elephant and a plastic, one-legged ballerina in it, but this unlikely couple did little to liven it up. Fred’s abode stood on the kitchen counter, next to a pile of yellow bananas, flame-orange mandarins, and assorted shrink-wrapped snacks. She swam melancholily to and fro, forlorn and lonely, toying with her own reflection.

A fortnight later, Lidija and I purchased a bigger tank. I filled it with tap water and dumped Fred in it. Shocked and distressed, she hid under a shell and refused to emerge, no matter the temptation. Hence Ned.

I knew next to nothing about new fish tanks, the need to “cycle” them owing to the absence of nitrogen-devouring bacteria, and the stress that all these cause the unfortunate inhabitants of my aquarium. I dumped Ned in the crystal-clear waters as unceremoniously as I did his would-be mate. But Ned—having graduated far worse aquaria in dingy pet shops—swam a few triumphant laps around the receptacle and then settled down to the business of chasing food scraps. Fred eyed him shyly and then joined him hesitantly. It was the first time she had moved in days.

As the time passed, Fred, a codependent goldfish if I ever saw one, excitedly clung to Ned’s bright orange tail and followed him wherever he glided. But Ned did not reciprocate. Far more aggressive than Fred, he deprived her of food, pursuing her in circles and leveraging his longer body and broader amidship to tackle the silvery female. All my exhortations and threats went on deaf ears: Ned would coyly slink away only to resume his belligerence when he figured I am out of range.

Still, every few hours, Fred and Ned would align themselves, as arrow-straight as soldiers on parade, and swing to and fro in unison in the currents, perfectly at peace, their delicate fins flapping regally and slowly. It was a bewitching, hypnotizing manifestation of some primordial order. I used to sit on the armrest of a couch, enthralled by their antics, monitoring who does what to whom with the avidity of a natural scientist and the wonderment of a child. Gradually, the susurration of the air pump; the gentle breeze of bubbles; and the elegant motility of my fancies all conspired to calm my rampant anxiety. I made a living off the proceeds of books I have written about my mental health disorder and so was gratified to escape the stifling and morbid environment of my own making.

Then, one morning, I woke up to find the couple gasping at the shell-covered bottom of their tank, tail and fins streaking red and rotting away, bit by tiny and ephemeral piece. The magic gone, it was replaced with the nightmarish horror that permeated the rest of my existence. I felt guilty, somehow threatened, imbued with the profound sadness that other people—normal people—associate with grieving. Reflexively, I surfed the Internet frenetically for answers; I downloaded a dozen books and read them; and I got up at all hours of the night to change the water in my Ned and Fred’s minacious cesspool. I woke up with dread and bedded with foreboding and so did my version of Fred, my Lidija.

Ned’s body was decaying fast. Fred continuously nudged him: “Are you alive? You come to play?” But, when she saw how serious his condition is, her whole demeanour changed. His swim bladder affected, his dwindling scales plastered with burrowing parasites, besieged by toxic levels of ammonia, Ned’s compromised immune system—ravaged by his crammed and foul apprenticeship in the pet shop—didn’t stand a chance. He wobbled pitifully. Fred stood next to him, still as a rock, allowing his sore body to rest against hers, giving him respite and the solace of her company. Then, exhausted by her own condition and overpowered by his much larger weight, she would swim away, glancing back sorrowfully as Ned sank and darted, staggered and careened.

Yet, Ned wouldn’t give up. His magnificent tail consumed, he still took after the flakes of food that drifted down the water column; he still toured his new home, leftover fins flailing, bullet-like body strained, eyes bulging; he still teased Fred when he could and Fred was much alive when he revived. They slept together, occupying an alcove that afforded them protection from the filter-generated waves.

As the days passed and I added salt to the aquarium, Ned seemed to have recovered. Even his tail began to show some signs of black-tipped resurrection. He regained his appetite and his territorial aggression and Fred seemed delighted to be again abused by a reanimated Ned. I was the proudest of fish-owners. And Lidija’s crystalline laughter reverberated whenever Ned’s truncated trunk ballistically caroused the waters.

But this was not to last: the salt had to go. The fresher the water became, the sicker Ned grew, infested with all manner of grey; shrunken; lethargic; and immobile except when fed. This time, he ignored even Fred’s ichtyological pleas. Finally, she gave up on him and drifted away sullenly.

One morning, I lowered a tiny net into the water. Ned stirred and stared at the contraption and then, with an effort that probably required every last ounce of his strength, he bubbled up, rolling over and over, like a demented cork, all the while eyeing me, as though imploring: “You see? I am still alive! Please don’t give up on me! Please give me another chance!” But I couldn’t do that. I kept telling myself that I was protecting Fred’s health and well-being, but really I was eliminating the constant source of anxiety and heartbreak that Ned has become.

I captured him and he lay in the net quiescent, tranquil. When his mutilated body hit the toilet, it made a muffled sound and, to me it sounded like “goodbye” or maybe “why”. I flushed the water and Ned was gone.

Notes of first therapy session with Sam V., male, 43, diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

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The following is about ten years old, I think. I’m not going to editorialize this further, but let the therapist’s words speak for themselves. (I do not know who the therapist was). Pretty interesting stuff and a vivid picture of how NPD can manifest itself in one person, in this case a well known author who writes about his own disorder. Sam Vaknin suffers from the cerebral form of narcissism; the other type is somatic.

Notes of first therapy session with Sam V., male, 43, diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/personalitydisorders65.html

Sam presents with anhedonia (failure to enjoy or find pleasure in anything) and dysphoria bordering on depression. He complains of inability to tolerate people’s stupidity and selfishness in a variety of settings. He admits that as a result of his “intellectual superiority” he is not well placed to interact with others or even to understand them and what they are going through. He is a recluse and fears that he is being mocked and ridiculed behind his back as a misfit and a freak. Throughout the first session, he frequently compares himself to a machine, a computer, or a member of an alien and advanced race, and talks about himself in the third person singular.

Life, bemoans Sam, has dealt him a bad hand. He is consistently and repeatedly victimized by his clients, for instance. They take credit for his ideas and leverage them to promote themselves, but then fail to re-hire him as a consultant. He seems to attract hostility and animosity incommensurate with his good and generous deeds. He even describes being stalked by two or three vicious women whom he had spurned, he claims, not without pride in his own implied irresistibility. Yes, he is abrasive and contemptuous of others at times but only in the interests of “tough love.” He is never obnoxious or gratuitously offensive.

Sam is convinced that people envy him and are “out to get him” (persecutory delusions). He feels that his work (he is also a writer) is not appreciated because of its elitist nature (high-brow vocabulary and such). He refuses to “dumb down”. Instead, he is on a mission to educate his readers and clients and “bring them up to his level.” When he describes his day, it becomes clear that he is desultory, indolent, and lacks self-discipline and regular working habits. He is fiercely independent (to the point of being counter-dependent – click on this link: http://samvak.tripod.com/faq66.html ) and highly values his self-imputed “brutal honesty” and “original, non-herd, outside the box” thinking.

He is married but sexually inactive. Sex bores him and he regards it as a “low-level” activity practiced by “empty-headed” folk. He has better uses for his limited time. He is aware of his own mortality and conscious of his intellectual legacy. Hence his sense of entitlement. He never goes through established channels. Instead, he uses his connections to secure anything from medical care to car repair. He expects to be treated by the best but is reluctant to buy their services, holding himself to be their equal in his own field of activity. He gives little or no thought to the needs, wishes, fears, hopes, priorities, and choices of his nearest and dearest. He is startled and hurt when they become assertive and exercise their personal autonomy (for instance, by setting boundaries).

Sam is disarmingly self-aware and readily lists his weaknesses and faults – but only in order to preempt real scrutiny or to fish for compliments. He constantly brags about his achievements but feels deprived (“I deserve more, much more than that”). When any of his assertions or assumptions is challenged he condescendingly tries to prove his case. If he fails to convert his interlocutor, he sulks and even rages. He tends to idealize everyone or devalue them: people are either clever and good or stupid and malicious. But, everyone is a potential foe.

Sam is very hypervigilant and anxious. He expects the worst and feels vindicated and superior when he is punished (“martyred and victimized”). Sam rarely assumes total responsibility for his actions or accepts their consequences. He has an external locus of control and his defenses are alloplastic. In other words: he blames the world for his failures, defeats, and “bad luck”. This “cosmic conspiracy” against him is why his grandiose projects keep flopping and why he is so frustrated.