Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 23
Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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1. Interview at Amazon UK
Amazon.co.uk talks to Sam Vaknin
Q: Where are you from? How - if at all - has your sense of place coloured your writing?
A: I was born in Israel to Jewish immigrants from Turkey and Morocco. We belonged to a socially and economically backward minority - which might explain what led to my interest in narcissistic defence mechanisms. Israel is an aggressive, militaristic, power-driven, intolerant, religious and conservative society. Enclaves of liberal thinking do exist but they are outweighed and diluted by the general populace. It is an odd admixture of the Western indulgence of the individual (Lasch's narcissistic society) coupled with strong compensatory mechanisms employed in an effort to counter-balance a national inferiority complex and survival anxiety. This coalesces into the clinical picture known as "pathological narcissism" - which is the subject of my book.
Q: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself an author?
A: I wrote all my life. It was my preferred venue of escape. I published short fiction, works of reference and columns in periodicals. Writing sits well with my personality disorder. It provides me with Narcissistic Supply. It is magical in that symbols lead to action. It provides the twin illusions of eternity and sagaciousness. I have never thought of myself as anything but an author.
Q: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
A: I have always been drawn to short fiction - although most of my published work (in Hebrew, Macedonian, other languages) is non-fiction. There is an essence in short fiction, distilled and aromatic which is missing in the homeopathic equivalent of the longer genres (such as the novel). I have thus found myself enamoured with A.A.Poe on one end of the spectrum - and Francoise Sagan on the other. The last two decades have been a revelation to me in that they provided me with legitimacy. My short fiction deals with amoral characters, making amoral decisions about emotionally harrowing (to them, emotionally neutral) situations. Post modernism liberated me and allowed me to pursue this line of writing.
Q: What is the most romantic book you've ever read? The scariest? The funniest?
A: I try to abstain from romantic literature and am pretty successful at doing so. The scariest book I ever read is the Amityville Horror. It took a whole sleepless night to wear off. The funniest book I read is "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. I love wry, marginally vicious humour.
Q: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?
A: I hate music. All types of music. It makes me intolerably sad. It osmotically infiltrates me, cell-level, and drowns me. Short of breath I barely make it to the gramophone (I prefer vinyl records) and turn it off.
Q: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?
A: I am reading David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality". To me, it is a funeral. The death of science. When highly qualified physicists engage in metaphysics, even mysticism - both disciplines emerge the lesser for their efforts.
Q: What are you working on?
A: I have just finished writing my second book of short stories (in Hebrew) and submitted it. I am augmenting "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" with additional chapter (available online and to the book purchasers via email). And I am columnizing ferociously on the Kosovo crisis. I used to live in Yugoslavia and Macedonia until 1998, so I know the area and its inhabitants first hand.
Q: Use this space to write about whatever you wish.
A: Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Re-Visited was written under extreme conditions of duress. It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me. My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a shocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed. Slowly, the realization that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me. This book is the documentation of a road of self-discovery. It was a painful process, which led to nowhere. I am no different - and no healthier - today than I was when I wrote this book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming.
2. Vindictive Narcissists
Basically, there are only two ways of coping with such people:
(a) Frighten them
Narcissists live in a state of constant rage, repressed aggression, envy, and hatred. They firmly believe that everyone is like them. As a result, they are paranoid, suspicious, scared, and erratic. Frightening the narcissist is a powerful tool for the modification of his behaviour. If sufficiently deterred - the narcissist will promptly disengage, give up everything he was been fighting for and sometimes make amends.
To act effectively, one has to identify the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of the narcissist and strike repeated, escalating blows at them - until the narcissist lets go and vanishes.
One should threaten a narcissist with public disclosure of misdeeds, misbehaviour, or unfavourable traits. One should drop cryptic hints that there are mysterious witnesses and recently revealed evidence. The narcissist has a very vivid imagination. Let his imagination do the rest.
If the narcissist has been involved in tax evasion, in malpractice, in child abuse, in infidelity - these are so many fields which offer a rich vein of attack. If done cleverly, noncommittally, gradually, in an escalating manner - the narcissist will crumble, disengage and disappear. He will lower his profile thoroughly in the hope of avoiding hurt and pain. Most narcissists have been known to disown and abandon a whole PNS (Pathological Narcissistic Space) in response to a well focussed campaign by their victims. Thus, a narcissist may leave town, change a job, desert a field of professional interest, avoid friends and acquaintances - only to secure a cessation of the unrelenting pressure exerted on him by his victim.
I repeat: most of the drama takes place in the confined recesses of the paranoid mind of the narcissist. His imagination runs amok with him. He finds himself snarled by horrifying scenarios, pursued by the most vile "certainties". The narcissist is his own worst persecutor and prosecutor.
You don't have to do much except utter a vague reference, make an ominous allusion, delineate a possible turn of events. The narcissist will do the rest for you. He is like a little child in the dark, generating the very monsters that paralyse him with fear.
Needless to add that all these activities have to be pursued legally, preferably through the good services of law offices and in broad daylight.
Otherwise, if done privately and in the wrong way - it might constitute extortion, blackmail, harassment, and a host of other criminal offences.
(b) Lure them
The other way to neutralize a vindictive narcissist is to offer him continued Narcissistic Supply until the war is over and won by you. Dazzled by the drug of Narcissistic Supply - the narcissist will immediately become tamed, forget his vindictiveness and triumphantly take over his "property" and "territory". Under the influence of Narcissistic Supply, the narcissist is unable to tell when he is being manipulated. He is blind, dumb, and deaf to all but the song of the NS sirens. You can make a narcissist do ANYTHING by offering, withholding, or threatening to withhold Narcissistic Supply (adulation, admiration, attention, sex, awe, subservience, etc.).
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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3. Narcissistic Thoughts about Humanity
What is different today is the DEATH OF CURIOSITY.
Curiosity is the result of SCARCITY of information. It is like thirst - it is so much stronger when water is scarce. Or like hunger - it is so accentuated after a long fast.
But when there is a glut - too much of something - our hunger for it, our cravings, die.
There is too much information, data, knowledge. We have been desensitized. No one wants to know more than he ABSOLUTELY needs to know. This is the world of the absolute minimum. People are becoming more and more narrow minded, less open to the world, more isolated. The more TELEcommunication - the more the distance (tele) between people. There is no more "professional pride" because people value their leisure more than their work, change workplaces and professions very often, and are flooded by superfluous information. So, no one knows anything about anything. What we fail to understand is that too much information results in insufficient knowledge and pervasive ignorance. People are dumbed down. Television, newspapers, books, films - I remember another era. Today, these are mass products for intellectually passive consumers. The education system disintegrated. Publishers refuse to publish books, or articles, with a vocabulary "too extensive". Collective idiocy replaced collective intelligence.
For someone like me - this is an impossible world to live in. I am intelligent, forever curious to learn more about seemingly unnecessary things. I am intolerant of ignorance and stupidity in all its forms. While in the 1960's I could have survived somehow - today it is very difficult to even breathe. EVERYONE is stupid. University professors don't read books. Authors don't spell correctly. Freight forwarders know little about customs procedures.
Soldiers are too afraid to fight (hence "smart bombs" to replace soldiers). It is a total degeneration of all civilization.
Every time I come across a reminder of this - I MUCH PREFER my computer and books to ANY human. This is why I LOVED it in jail. Together with the army (another kind of jail) - it was the best period of my life. I didn't have to deal with humans.
4. The Good Enough Mother
The critical question is, of course, not whether she can be a good mother to her teen off-spring, but whether (to use Winnicott's phrase) she has been a "good enough mother" to her children when they were younger. Most theoreticians agree that the critical ages are 4 months to 6 years. It is then that most (not all, but most) of the long term damage is done.
She is crying for help the only way she knows how. She is playing on the fact that her father feels threatened by her exploding sexuality. She maximizes this threat by behaving promiscuously or by seeming to do so. It is her way of saying: "Daddy, I am hurting so terribly! Please help me!".
The FIRST thing he must do is VALIDATE this pain of hers. Ignoring it, denying it, belittling it, transforming, it, redirecting it, projecting it - is WRONG. It will (and does) have adverse effects.
The SOURCE of the pain, at least at this stage, is IMMATERIAL.
She must know that there is one place - ONE place - in this ominous, dangerous, capricious, arbitrary universe - one place where she is accepted and loved unconditionally AS SHE IS. One place where she DOES NOT have to play slut or gay or strip herself to gain attention, credence and an ear. She must be listened to and believed. She is in pain. If someone is bleeding - will a doctor postpone all treatment until he finds the instrument that wounded the patient?
5. Vindicating One's Self-Loathing
She is looking to victimize herself and thus validate the judgement instilled in her that she is worthless, lowly scum.
She is also testing the world to see: is it really as bad? Are all people vicious exploiters, devoid of conscience?
In psychological parlance: is everyone a "bad object"?
She is employing Projective Identification (PI) and Splitting (S).
These are two primitive defence mechanisms (defence against pain usually inflicted by a mother).
PI is when she tries to force people to conform to her view of them. If she thinks someone is a bad object she does her damnedest to provoke him, invoke anger, and a sense of threat and danger in him, motivate him to BE a bad object. Finally, when the inevitable reaction comes, she feels vindicated ("You see, I was right all along, everyone IS rotten, including my Daddy").
Splitting is the separation of the good aspects of an object (a person) from his bad aspects. If the person is seen as bad - the good aspects are tossed aside and often attributed to someone else (projection). Then the person remains "all bad".
She does not need things one can measure or count (time, money, possessions). She needs love, caring, sharing and support. Some of us are less gifted at giving these to others - because we never received them ourselves. This is the tragedy of mental disorders. Like some genetic curse, they are handed from one generation to the other, oblivious to all good intentions and fervent promises made.
6. The Narcissist as a Meaningful Other
The child modifies his behaviour in order to secure the narcissist's continued love, so as not to be abandoned.
This is the root of the perniciousness of this phenomenon:
The narcissist IS a meaningful, crucially significant figure ("object") in the Inverted Narcissist's (IN) life.
This is the narcissist's leverage over the IN. And since the IN is usually very young when she makes the adaptation to the N - it all boils down to fear of abandonment and death in the absence of care and sustenance.
I don't think inverted narcissism is as much a wish to gratify one's narcissist (parent) - as the sheer terror of forever withholding gratification from one's self.
7. On the Irrelevance of Labelling
Whether a poison is strychnine or cyanide is of very little consequence once one is poisoned.
It does not really matter whether he is a narcissist or not.
What matters is that loving this man and taking care of yourself are NOT COMPATIBLE goals. They are mutually exclusive behaviours. EITHER you are with him - OR you take good care of yourself.
A decision that only you can make, a matter of priorities. I don't know how long you have been together but I do not think that your husband is going to abandon you. This is because you accept him back. Not many women would - and he knows it.
Think about his escapades as VACATIONS.
Perhaps you SHOULD establish a formal schedule of such "vacations" - or at least establish a procedure for your husband to take these vacations.
It will reduce your abandonment issues and provide him with the respite that he need. His escapes are obsessive-compulsive in nature, the result of mounting anxiety. There are many very effective cognitive-behavioural techniques to treat such behaviours. Did you try marital or couple therapy?
Accept that which you cannot change - formalize it, enshrine it, even encourage it.
Do not be afraid to lose him. The more freedom you allow him - the more attached to you he will become, knowing that such leeway is not to be found elsewhere.
The Persian poet Omar Al-Khayam wrote in the Rubaayat: "When you want the bird, set it free".
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