Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 1

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Why Does the Narcissist Devalue His Source of Secondary Narcissistic Supply?

One of the reasons is that the narcissist wouldn't belong to a club which will accept him as a member.

But there are many others. For instance, the narcissist resents his dependence and by devaluing the object of his dependence (his spouse, for instance) he gets rid of the dissonance.

Yet another issue:

The narcissist perceives intimacy and sex as a threat to his uniqueness and specialness. Everyone needs sex and intimacy - it is the great equalizer. The narcissist resents this equality. He rebels.

Sex and intimacy are usually also connected to past unresolved conflicts with important primary objects (parents, other adult role models, or caregivers). They invoke these conflicts, encourage transference, and provoke the onset of an approach-avoidance cycle.

Jeffrey Satinover, despite being a Jungian, has a very clear psychodynamic model of these behaviours.

2. Narcissistic Mental Health Professionals

Mental health professionals are human. Many of them suffer from mental disorders. Many of them chose their profession simply in order to to be able to cope with their own deficiencies and problems.

Unfortunately, some of them are not sufficiently conscientious. They engage in the delicate art of therapy long before they overcome their own problems.

They bring their problematic, even sick, selves into the therapeutic setting and, in doing so, they aggravate the patient's issues.

Analysts are supposed to work to solve their own problems prior to practicing. Therapists are supposed to work under supervision and to refer and defer to these supervisors. An outside perspective is often very helpful to them. But not all therapists and psychiatrists adopt these professional standards and work methods. This is unfortunate.

Being subjected to therapy administered by a narcissist must be a harrowing experience. It is no different to being married to a narcissist, or being brought up by a narcissist, or to having a narcissistic parent.

Willingly choosing to continue therapy with such a person is not wise. Derive the lessons: stay away from narcissists and even from those whom you suspect of being narcissists. And ask yourself why did you choose to stay on as things got worse. The answer to this question is important.

Don't be discouraged and do continue therapy with someone else. Your growth and personal development are important and pressing needs. You will overcome this unfortunate encounter. All the victims of narcissists do. They emerge scarred but the wiser for it.

3. How to Cope with a Narcissist?

Administer a modicum of narcissistic treatment (including verbal abuse) to the narcissist - and he/she is likely to vanish in a puff of indignant smoke. Narcissists shrivel, wither and die without Narcissistic Supply.

Humiliation, disagreement, criticism, comparison with others, mirroring the narcissist's behaviour - are all great ways of getting rid of narcissists.

4. NPD Treatments - SSRI

NPD per se is NOT treated with medication, but with talk therapy. The underlying disorder is treated by long-term psychodynamic therapy. Other PDs (NPD rarely comes alone. It usually appears with other PDs - "co-morbidity") are treated separately and according to their own characteristics.

But phenomena which are often associated with NPD - such as depression or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) - ARE treated with medication. Recent research indicates that SSRI's (such as Fluoxetine, known as Prozac) might have adverse effects if the primary disorder is NPD. They sometimes lead to the serotonin syndrome which includes agitation and exacerbates the rage attacks typical of a narcissist. I didn't hear about the exacerbation of grandiosity due to SSRI consumption. SSRI's do lead at times to delirium and a manic phase and even to psychotic microepisodes, though.

This is not the case with the heterocyclics, MAO and mood stabilizers, such as lithium. Blockers and inhibitors are regularly applied without discernible adverse side-effects (as far as NPD is concerned).

Additional cognitive-behavioural therapies are often used to treat OCD and sometimes depression.

To summarise:

Not enough is known about the biochemistry of NPD. There seems to be some vague link to serotonin but no one knows for sure. There is no reliable NON-INTRUSIVE method to measure brain and central nervous system serotonin levels anyhow, so it is mostly guesswork at this stage.

Thus, as of now, the typical treatment is:

  1. Talk therapy (psychodynamic)
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD and depression
  3. Antidepressants (with SSRI being currently under critical scrutiny)

(continued below)

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

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships




Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube


5. Epidemiology of Narcissism

The figures seem to indicate that a minimum of 1% (probably 3% and perhaps up to 5%) of the population above the age of 10 are narcissists. Now, factor in the parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, children, the children's families...

This is the biggest underdiagnosed mental health pathology ever. Many researchers also believe that all Cluster B Personality Disorders (Histrionic, Antisocial, and Borderline) have a underlying foundation of pathological narcissism. This is getting close to 10% of the adult population. Staggering numbers.

6. Rescue Fantasies

"It is true that he is a chauvinistic narcissist with repulsive behaviours. But all he needs is a little love and he will be straightened out. I will rescue him from his misery and misfortune. I will give him the love that he lacked as a kid. Then his narcissism will vanish and we will live happily ever after".

7. Loving a Narcissist

I believe in the possibility of loving narcissists if one accepts them unconditionally, in a disillusioned and expectation-free manner. Narcissists are narcissists. This is what they are. Take them or leave them. Some of them are lovable. Most of them are highly charming and intelligent. The source of the misery of the victims of the narcissist is their disappointment, their disillusionment, their abrupt and tearing and tearful realisation that they fell in love with an ideal of their own invention, a phantasm, an illusion, a fata morgana. This "waking up" is traumatic. The narcissist is forever the same. It is the victim who changes.

It is true that narcissists present a facade in order to generate Sources of Narcissistic Supply. But this facade is easy to penetrate because it is inconsistent. The cracks are evident from day one but often ignored. And what about all those who KNOWINGLY and WILLINGLY commit their wings to the burning narcissistic candle?

I, personally, always inform and warn other people that I am a narcissist. Yet it never seemed to have dissuaded even one fervent lady from pursuing me (or, rather, my False Self). It did not deter one businessman from doing business with me. Frankly, it did not deter you from joining my list. Why is this? Because, having been forewarned, perhaps you stand to benefit without suffering. And, most probably, you do. But perhaps it is the irresistible attraction we all have to the "other", the "different" and, as a result, the "risky".

8. Hitler and Narcissism

I recommend Alan Bullock's book "Hitler and Stalin - Parallel Lives" (both deemed narcissists by Bullock and Hitler was judged to be NPD by Fromm).

Another FASCINATING study, secretly commissioned during the war years depicts Hitler as a severe case of NPD - when NPD was not even recognised as such: http://www1.ca.nizkor.org/hweb/people/h/hitler-adolf/oss-papers/text/profile-index.html

9. Cultural Sensitivity of Therapists

Today, therapists are trained to be culturally-sensitive. A person needs help if he does not feel well AFTER ADJUSTING for his cultural and societal idiosyncracies. In many subcultures, a person would feel very bad if unable to marry many women. If the client is a fundamentalist Moslem, then he should be treated ( because he does feel bad) in order to ENABLE him to marry many women in accordance with his religious practice.

Therapists/psychologists are taught today to be culturally sensitive. They are taught to confront culture, race and gender issues as early as the first session with a patient to avoid future tensions or misunderstandings.

10. NPD, Culture and Normalcy

Assumptions of normalcy should always be qualified. "Normal WITHIN a given culture/society". If the "disorder" is congruent with the client's culture and society - then he is well- adapted. But, for example, if an aboriginal woman chooses to live in the West, then according to Western cultural and societal norms she might indeed be a dangerous deviant. Dissidents and conscientious intellectuals in authoritarian regimes were often treated by psychiatrists because they were abnormal - and THEY WERE! Within their cultural and societal contexts - they acted abnormally and needed treatment because they endangered their lives and the lives of others.

An abnormal (person) does not conform to cultural and societal values prevailing in his or her actual context.

The issues of morality and deviance should not be confused, though. In certain societies and cultures a person is normal ONLY if he is immoral. In others, being moral is abnormal. Risking one's life to oppose Hitler was an abnormal behaviour. But it was, is, and always will be moral (assuming morality includes a hard nucleus of "core values" like "thou shalt not kill").

11. Psychodynamic versus Cognitive-Behavioural Treatments

This is the seemingly eternal debate between the cognitive-behavioural theories of therapy and the psychodynamic ones.

To grossly oversimplify:

The CBTs (cognitive behavioural therapies) are based on the belief that insight - even a merely verbal and intellectual one - is sufficient to induce an emotional outcome. If properly manipulated, verbal cues, insights, analyses of standard sentences we keep saying to ourselves ("I am ugly", "I am afraid no one would like me"), and repeated behavioural patterns (learned behaviours) coupled with positive (and, rarely, negative) reinforcements - are sufficient to induce a cumulative emotional effect tantamount to healing.

Psychodynamic theories do not believe that cognition can influence emotion. They believe that much deeper strata have to be accessed and studied by both patient and therapist. The very exposure of these strata is considered sufficient to induce a dynamic of healing. The therapist's role is either to interpret the material revealed to the patient (psychoanalysis) by allowing the patient to transfer past experience and superimpose it on the therapist - or to actively engage in providing a safe emotional environment conducive to changes in the patient.

I think the latter approach is the right one. Consider me: there are few narcissists who achieved the level of cognitive insight I have. I know myself and my mental defences reasonably well. Did it induce any substantial change in me? I don't think so. Unfortunately, my case is a hybrid, because I also sustained a series of severe narcissistic (=emotional) injuries simultaneously with the cognitive insights. Rather, the latter were induced by the former.

The sad fact is that no known therapy is effective with narcissism ITSELF - though a few therapies are reasonably successful with coping with its effects.

(continued below)

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

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships




Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube


12. Bill Clinton - a Narcissist?

I think the question is WHY is he behaving the way he does. Is he doing it compulsively, in an uncontrolled manner? Is he looking to be punished, get caught, avoid getting caught?

Is he constantly bored, feels empty and is looking to illicit sex for constant thrills?

Is he contemptuous of others?

Does he lie pathologically (cannot help it) or expediently (in a  premeditated manner)?

Is he oblivious to the pain that he inflicts on others - or simply does not care?

Has any of you interviewed him lately to come up with unequivocal answers to all these VERY CRITICAL questions? Has any psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist interviewed him and tested his personality him? I don't believe so.

So, in the absence of HARD facts - how can we diagnose him?

13. Self-Defeating and Self-Destructive Behaviours

These behaviours can be grouped by the following motivations:

(a) The Self-Punishing, Guilt-Purging Behaviours

These are intended to inflict punishment upon the individual and thus to provide him with relief.

This is very reminiscent of compulsive-ritualistic behaviour. The person harbours guilt. It could be an "ancient" guilt, "sexual" guilt (Freud), "social" guilt - but guilt it is. The person internalised and introjected voices of meaningful others that consistently and convincingly and from positions of authority informed him that he is no good, guilty, deserving of punishment or retaliation, corrupt. His life is thus transformed into an on-going trial. The constancy of this trial, the never adjourning tribunal IS the punishment. It is Kafka's "trial": meaningless, undecipherable, never-ending, without a verdict, subject to mysterious laws, and run by arbitrary judges.

(b) The Extracting Behaviours

People with PDs are very afraid of real, mature, intimacy. Intimacy is formed not only within a couple, but in a workplace, in a neighbourhood, with friends, while working in a team on a project. Intimacy is another word for emotional involvement which is the result of interactions in constant and predictable (safe) proximity. PDs interpret intimacy (not DEPENDENCE - but intimacy) as strangulation, the snuffing of freedom, death in installments. They are terrorised by it. Their self destructive and self defeating acts are intended to dismantle the very foundation of a successful relationship, a career, a project, a friendship. NPDs, for instance, feel elated and relieved after they unshackle these "chains". They feel they broke through a siege, that are liberated and free at last.

(c) The Default Behaviours

We are all afraid of new situations, new possibilities, new challenges, new circumstances, and new demands. Being healthy, being successful, getting married, becoming a mother, or a boss - are abrupt breaks with the past. Some self-defeating behaviours are intended to preserve the past, to restore it, to protect it from the winds of change, to decimate the draught through the open window of opportunity.

14. Narcissism not Curable?

Narcissism is a structure of the WHOLE personality. It is ALL-pervasive. It is akin to being an alcoholic but MUCH  more so. Alcoholism is an impulsive behaviour. Narcissists have these reckless behaviours plus hundreds of other problems. Wife beating is a behaviour. Narcissists have dozens of impulsive behaviours, some of them uncontrollable (like their rage or behaviours which are the results of their grandiosity). On the other hand to be a (non kleptomanic) thief is to have a vocation - how can one compare something as superficial as a vocation to the structure of one's personality? You CAN compare narcissism to depression or to other disorders. But not to traits or attributes that we can change at will.

My narcissism is no more "curable" than the entirety of my personality is disposable. I AM a narcissist. Narcissism is the colour of my skin, not my choice of subjects at the university.

15. Narcissism and Culture

Karen Horney was amongst the first to point out that NPD is defined within a cultural context. While I know of NO culture which condones NPD - I can CONCEIVE of one. But, I think it should not matter to us. We are living in an increasingly Westernised world, we are Westerners, our problems are here and now and we label them NPD. That one culture's problem can be another's assets is the staff moral and cultural relativism is made of.

What matters is CONFORMITY to norms. We define norms STATISTICALLY. We have no other choice. There is too much disparity of opinion regarding culture, the "right" norms, morality, and "proper" behaviour. So, we sample the population, determine what is statistically normal (not DESIRABLE - but normal) and compare behaviour patterns to these statistical benchmarks. If someone deviates from our norms - then he is a deviant, a patient, mentally sick, and so on.

Funny that psychology started differently: by holding forth a model of the "healthy" person and comparing it to PATIENTS. In other words: psychologists defined people as patients simply because they came to see them with a complaint and did not fit an idealised model of the healthy, functional person.

Today, the approach is culturally-sensitive. A person needs help if he does not feel well AFTER ADJUSTING for his cultural and societal idiosyncracies.

16. The Vocations of Narcissists

I think we are likely (or liable...) to find a concentration of narcissists in the media, in show business, in politics, and in academe. Did you notice how these people - literally and physically - wither away when out of touch with their Sources of Narcissistic Supply, with their audience?

"Narcissistic Supply" - adulation, admiration, approval, applause, attention, fame, celebrity, notoriety ... in short: feedback - positive OR negative - from people. The narcissist thus sees his "False Self" - the image that he projects to others - reflected. This way he feels assured of his very own existence.

17. Lazy Narcissists

Narcissists are lazy because they feel entitled without having commensurate achievements. To be considerate is to invest effort, time, attention, and other resources. Why do that if, anyhow, one is entitled - and expects to cash in on this entitlement? People are Sources of Narcissistic Supply. Narcissists feel so worthy that they pose a "take me as I am or leave me altogether" choice to the world.

Extra effort is considered by the narcissist to be superfluous. I agree that the best way to treat a narcissist is to out-narcissise him/her. Treat it like it treats you and it will vanish in a puff of smoke quicker than a witch. Narcissists are not interested - nor are they sufficiently resilient - to face opposition, disagreement, friction, conflict, in short: negative narcissistic supplies.

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