Narcissists and Psychopaths: Responsibility and Other Matters
Frequently Asked Questions # 13
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By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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The narcissist is not entirely responsible for his actions. Should we judge him, get angry at him, be upset by him? Above all, should we communicate to him our displeasure?
The narcissist knows to tell right from wrong. He is perfectly capable of anticipating the results of his actions and their influence on his human environment. The narcissist is very perceptive and sensitive to the subtlest nuances. He has to be: the very integrity of his personality depends upon input from others.
But the narcissist does not care. Unable to empathise, he does not fully experience the outcomes of his deeds and decision. For him, humans are dispensable, rechargeable, reusable. They are there to fulfil a function: to supply him with Narcissistic Supply (adoration, admiration, approval, affirmation, etc.) They do not have an existence apart from carrying out their "duties".
This article appears in my book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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True: it is the disposition of the narcissist to treat humans in the inhuman way that he does. However, this propensity is absolutely controllable. The narcissist has a choice – he just doesn't think anyone is worth making it.
It is a fact that the narcissist can behave completely differently (under identical circumstances) – depending on who else is involved in the situation. He is not likely to be enraged by the behaviour of an important person (=with a potential to supply him narcissistically). But, he might become absolutely violent with his nearest and dearest under the same circumstances. This is because they are captives, they do not have to be won over, the Narcissistic Supply coming from them is taken for granted.
Being a narcissist does not exempt the patient from being a human being. A person suffering from NPD must be subjected to the same moral treatment and judgement as the rest of us, less privileged ones. The courts do not recognise NPD as a mitigating circumstance – why should we? Treating the narcissist specially will only exacerbate the condition by supporting the grandiose, fantastic image the narcissist has of himself.
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