Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 32

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. How to Protect My Son from Narcissism?

Your son is likely to encounter narcissists in his future.

In a way, he will be better prepared to cope with them, more alert to their existence and chicanery and more desensitized to their abuse.

For this you should be grateful.

There is nothing much you can do, otherwise. Stop wasting your money, time, energy, and emotional resources.

It is a lost war, though a just cause. Instead, make yourself available to your son.

The only thing you can do to prevent your son from emulating his father - is to present to him another role model of a NON-narcissist - YOU. Hopefully, when he grows up, he will prefer your model to his father's.

But there is only that much you can do. You cannot control the developmental path of your son.

Exerting unlimited control is what narcissism is all about - and is exactly what you should avoid at all costs, however worried you might be.

2. From Desperation to Happiness

This is our duplicity as humans:

That we transform our desperation into a fount of happiness, our constant quest into its own reason, our horror into curiosity, our fear into courage, our thoughts into action, our cruelty into God.

It is this insane behaviour that psychiatrists call "sane".

3. Internal Combustion and External Propulsion

Some of us have internal combustion - others need external propulsion.

It takes the two kinds to make a world.

You need a reason, a vision, an horizon - to be motivated.

You are deterred by the void.

I need the void. Its very vacuity attracts me. The challenge of its emptiness.

I am out to conquer by expanding into the abyss.

You minimize yourself in order to avoid it.

You are propelled by other people's strength and by their convictions.

Their very eagerness and neediness accelerates you.

I make a universe for them and then withdraw.

You make a universe for them and then withdraw.

I withdraw because they need me.

You withdraw because you need them.

4. Loving and Believing That You Love

One must differentiate between LOVING and BELIEVING that you love.

Adults who are NPD sufferers lack empathy and, as a result, are incapable of loving.

The prognosis of NPD in therapy is poor - though a certain percentage does "heal".

Put together, this means that NPDs are not likely to recover or develop the ability to love as other people do.

Still, many narcissists BELIEVE that they are in love or that they are loving.

They INTERPRET certain experiences (such as co-dependence, or the acquisition of Narcissistic Supply) - as LOVE.

So, in a (material) way - narcissists do love and are capable of experiencing love (though their "love" is not the love of non-narcissists).

You might wish to read: http://samvak.tripod.com/empathy.html and http://samvak.tripod.com/sense.html

And you will find much more about the emotions experienced by narcissists in the Excerpts pages.

5. The Art of Un-Being

To un-be is an art practised only by the much abused - or by the very healthy.

The former learn to hide their true selves, to project invented ones - and to believe in their own projections.

They learned that often to vanish is to survive.

They became penumbral background, sliding stealthily and noiselessly across walls of fury and of rage, across traumas and injurious time.

They exercise merging.

They transubstantiate into the ethereal existence that is being someone else's extension.

Moulded into the inanimate, objectified and cast around, they watch life itself projected onto the inside of their eyelids in hues of red and black.

They know better than to be. A nuisance, an obstruction, a agonized reminder - they cringe and curl, transformed into an infinite loop of searing void.

Sometimes they hope not to return.

The latter are so certain of their own vitality that they are not afraid of turning it on and off at will - a tap of animation, a valve of quiddity, a switch between the present and the absent.

They can un-be with fearless glee and satisfaction.

They have a solid foundation, the healthy ones - cemented by love, a rock of self-esteem, embedded in an ocean of self-worth, hurling in a universe of self-acceptance.

Those wistful endowments bestowed on one when too young to appreciate them...

6. The Narcissist's Refrigerator

Imagine that your refrigerator would have constantly demanded your attention beyond rudimentary and passing maintenance. Wouldn't you be amazed and angry at it?

To the narcissist, you are a mere function, an instrument whose fate and destiny is to supply the narcissist with the attention or adulation that he requires (i.e., with Narcissistic Supply). The narcissist recognizes that he has to maintain you to a certain degree. Your performance tends to deteriorate if not properly treated. But he does his best to minimize his investment in you in terms of time and energy.

The narcissist is a highly efficient machine. Should you demand more - you will become a nuisance, a drag, a burden. The narcissist will dump you. He will disconnect swiftly and remorselessly, ruthlessly and cruelly.

The narcissist is in a constant, resource-consuming pursuit of an elusive commodity. He has nothing left for human relations. Human emotions and intimacy - constitute an inefficient allocation of resources because of their low yield of Narcissistic Supply. It is better to invest and be invested in appearances, in the False Self, in superficial interactions - these consume a minimal amount of energy and time and yield the most Narcissistic Supply per energy and time units invested.

7. Mind Like Water Interview

Q: What is your background and why did you write about narcissism? Please define narcissism for those who are unfamiliar with the term.

A: Narcissism is a pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

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"Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" was written in jail (at least in outline). It was an unflinching attempt to understand what went wrong, what brought me hither, and where was I likely to go from there. In its current incarnation, it is an impersonal textbook, with a lot of scholarly material and dozens of frequently asked questions answered in laymen's terms. So, it has a lot for everyone. It deals with a pernicious and devastating mental health issue - the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) with which I am afflicted. I think that what made it a hit (and, at $45 + shipping it is not cheap) is its relentless straightforwardness, its uncompromising gaze, its willingness to venture where others feared to tread. The narcissist is often also a sadist, a stalker, a masochist, a sex pervert, and an abuser. The book is a manual intended to help the narcissist's exhausted and traumatized victims extricate themselves from the nightmare of being near a narcissist or with him.

Q: How do we encourage kids or adults to have high self-esteem, but yet avoid becoming narcissistic?

A: This is precisely the mistake of the education system. One cannot "teach" self-esteem or "encourage" it. Moreover, self-esteem is a derivative of one's sense of self-worth. Optimally, both do not fluctuate too wildly. They are both rooted in one's upbringing (mainly in early childhood) - though both one's self-esteem and sense of self-worth are affected by one's environment later in life.

A healthy and stable self-esteem is the result of predictable and just caregiving, of a recognition of the child's boundaries and his or her existence as a separate entity, of nurturing though not overbearing compassionate and empathic care, of respect coupled with rational discipline, and of teaching by example. Self-esteem grows in response to all these and is osmotically "absorbed" in the right milieu.

Q: Tell me about "After the Rain".  What should I care about the Balkans?

A: If you don't mind the Balkan - the Balkan will mind you. This is the greatest lesson of September 11: the world is everywhere. There is nowhere to hide and isolationism is futile. You have millions of immigrants from the Balkan - a direct result of the conflicts there. Knowing Balkan history - is knowing the history of your fellow Americans.

Moreover, as I wrote in the essay "The Mind of Darkness":

"'The Balkans' - I say - 'is the unconscious of the world'. It is here that the repressed memories of history, its traumas and fears and images reside. It is here that the psychodynamics of humanity - the tectonic clash between Rome and Byzantium, West and East, Judeo-Christianity and Islam - is still easily discernible. It is in the Balkans that all ethnic distinctions fail and it is here that they prevail anachronistically and atavistically. Contradiction and change the only two fixtures of this tormented region."

Q: What is your most popular e-book?

A: "Pathological Narcissism FAQs" (http://samvak.tripod.com/faq1.html ). It comprises dozens of questions and answers regarding relationships with abusive narcissists and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The content of this e-book is based on correspondence since 1996 with hundreds of people suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (narcissists) and with thousands of their family members, friends, therapists, and colleagues.

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge in selling your e-books?

A: Trust. Potential readers are not sure they will get the e-book. They hesitate to provide their credit card data over the Internet (even through a safe server and to a respectable fulfilment agent, such as CCNow). The barriers to publishing an e-book are very low, so the market is inundated by vanity-type "books" and "monographs" authored by graphomaniacs. People have learnt not to trust the quality of e-books. Moreover, many e-books are overpriced. The reader applications are still to complicated and mutually incompatible. You won't believe how many technical problems we have even with simple WORD or HTML documents: backward incompatibility, Mac vs. PC, fonts - it is a nightmare.

Q: What advice can you give to other authors?

A: I thought that selling a book is a matter of mastering a few basic principles. Fresh on the heels of the success of "Malignant Self Love", I hubristically believed that I knew everything there is to know about book promotion. The truth is that every book is an entirely independent product. It has its own, idiosyncratic, rules of promotion which one to discover anew.

Moreover, "eyeballs", online readers, do not always translate to offline cash. Books can rarely be promoted exclusively online. And niche products are a lucrative proposition - providing the niche is sufficiently large and accommodating. "Balkan studies" proved to be a narrow and Procrustean market.

Be online. Be generous with your free online content - but not TOO generous. The entire text of "Malignant Self Love" is available online. While we had more than 700,000 visitors in the last 4 years - we sold books only to a negligible fraction of them.

To succeed, write about things you know well or that are close to your heart. Write with conviction and passion - but do not hector or judge. Just tell a story. Never forget the narrative. People buy books either to escape from reality - or to grapple with it. A good book provides both options and allows the reader to smoothly switch between them.

Q: Please leave us with you favourite philosophical musing.

A: I have seen the enemy - and it is I.

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Internet: A Medium or a Message?

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