Sunday, December 31, 2006

Is He/She a Narcissist?- You're not Crazy.

Is your partner a narcissist? You may not know how to tell, but even worse, you may be thinking that you are the crazy one. Narcissists work hard to distort our reality to make their reality feel safer.

So what is a narcissist? Someone who preens in front of the mirror all day in admiration? NOT! Ask yourself this: is your partner intensely angered by anything that seems to suggest that he or she might have a flaw? Narcissists will do anything, including brutalizing their own family, to maintain their own feeling that others see them as without any flaws. And, narcissists have extreme and illogical sensitivities, sometimes connecting the most minute observations with their intense fears of being seen as flawed. Narcissists will strain every muscle to meet their own "flawless" image, and demean or destroy anyone or anything who casts any doubt on this image. If you see this dynamic in your partner, family member, coworker, or friend, you are very probably dealing with a narcissist.

For many of us, struggling to live with this kind of abusive partner, the first handhold we need to grasp is that we are not crazy. Whether the person we live with has narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder/sociopathy, or alcoholism, people who suffer from these disorders have extreme emotions, which lead them to actions that can range from puzzling to brutal. Living with them is painful and confusing. Personality disorders are aptly named, because the minds of people who suffer from these disorders work differently than healthy people.

It is only by understanding how you and your partner function, how his or her personality disorder affects his or her behavior, and how you interact, that you can begin to really judge what is happening. To figure out what you should do, you need to understand your own emotions and how to handle the decisions you face. Meaning from Madness explains a disordered partner is written by a man who survived a violent relationship with a narcissistic/borderline/alcoholic wife and has been engaged helping others through these situations for the past 6 years.

Meaning from Madness: Understanding the Hidden Patterns that Motivate Abusers: Borderlines, Narcissists, and Sociopaths
by Richard Skerritt
ISBN: 1-933369-14-0

They Spin our Reality: Disordered people can't deal with the reality of their behaviors. On some level they realize how hurtful they are, yet accepting this major flaw in themselves is just too painful. So disordered abusers spin our reality to make theirs less painful. One of the most common defense mechanism they use is projection. In projection, a characteristic of themselves that they find just too painful to accept is projected onto us. And the most frequently projected characteristic is mental illness. "I'm not a narcissist. You're the crazy one." Another common and difficult defense mechanism is blame shifting. It's your fault this happened because blah, blah blah blah...

After a while it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what is being projected and what is being distorted. We begin to doubt our reality and question whether we're the crazy ones, or whether our disordered SO's (significant others) are really right about what they say.

The truth is, THEY'RE NOT RIGHT. But they feel better when they can get us to carry the burden of their illness and their behavior.

What's more, disorder people hide their problems very effectively. People with all of these personality disorders - narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder - have serious maladjustments in coping with life. Thus, they live in emotional turmoil. They seek to present a very together appearance, hiding their disease from most people. It is only when we get into a close and private relationship with someone with these personality disorders that the abusive behavior comes out. And because their lives are wracked with emotional turmoil, there is a lot of pent-up emotion that can be focused on us. Yet those around us don't see it, causing us further confusion.

The different disorders have different underlying themes. People suffering from narcissistic personality disorder respond with extreme defensive actions to events which they feel threaten their perception as special and privileged. Similarly, those suffering with borderline personality disorder respond to some events with extreme fear of abandonment - events that would have little meaning to a healthy person. Those with antisocial personality disorder lack normal feelings of responsibility and compassion and thus have little motivation to restrain their reactions. And alcoholics can show any of these, while at the same time their natural inhibitions from hurtful behavior are suppressed by the intoxication.

All of this leads a lot of confusion for those of us unlucky enough to be in committed relationships with someone with a personality disorder. My own experience was with someone who probably would have barely diagnosed at her worst - and definitely not at her best - with borderline personality disorder. What I have learned, as I have begun helping people with broader experiences, is that much of what I learned about abuse and borderline personality disorder also applies to narcissistic personality disorder and even antisocial personality disorder.

Another thing I've observed over time is the link to alcoholism. AA and Al-Anon have a culture that treats alcoholism as a disease alone and apart. Thus, people getting support through these channels tend to think that there is nothing more to learn beyond alcoholism. At the same time, this approach leaves some things unexplained. They talk about "dry drunks" and problems that persist long after alcoholics get sober. Why is this so? If addictive use of alcohol is the problem, why don't things improve when the alcohol abuse stops?

The reality is more likely that alcoholism and other addictions, like pot/marijuana, prescriptions drugs, cocaine, etc, are the result of a personality disorder. In the case of my ex-wife, a mixed addictions to alcohol and prescription psych meds was the result of self-medication to deal with the emotional pain of her disorder. Addiction is extremely toxic, and greatly worsens the effects of a personality disorder. But if the substance abuse stops, the underlying personality disorder is still there.

Thus, understanding how a partner borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, alcoholism, and substance abuse will interact with us is essential if we are to get a handle on our situations and our own lives. And to begin with, we have to realize that even though we are victims a prolonged distortion campaign and may feel very confused about things, WE ARE NOT CRAZY.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism

John Banja, assistant director of health science ethics at the Center for Ethics and associate professor of rehabilitation medicine, is perhaps the easiest interview on campus. An expert on medical ethics and author or co-author of more than 150 publications, his latest book is Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism (Jones and Bartlett, 2005).

The innovative book is an exploration of the legal, psychological and ethical effects of medical errors on patients and their health care providers. In Banja’s view, error disclosure to patients can be compromised by health professionals’ need to preserve their self-esteem (“medical narcissism”).

Emory Report sought to discuss this point of view with Banja, but upon arrival he decided instead to interview himself. Narcissistically.

BanjaQ: With a title like Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism, do you think any doctors will read the book?

BanjaA: Well, some will be turned off by the title. But I tried it out on dozens of physicians, and I was heartened by a fairly consistent reaction: Their eyebrows ascended, and they said, “Interesting …” A few looked at me crossly, though, and said, “What’s your evidence?”

BanjaQ: That’s a good question. What is your evidence? In fact, are you claiming physicians are pathological narcissists?

BanjaA: No, I’m not saying that and I remind the reader repeatedly that I am not making that claim. What I’m saying is that medical training—in fact, health care training in general—has lots of narcissistic traps or temptations for trainees.

BanjaQ: Like what?

BanjaA: Well, look at the “perfectionist” model that so many physicians were and sometimes still are trained in. Their supervising physicians expect them to be errorless; their patients expect them to be perfect. It’s easy for physicians to buy into the perfection myth, so it’s no wonder that physicians tend to be compulsive.

BanjaQ: So do perfectionist doctors have trouble managing medical errors?

BanjaA: That’s part of the idea. A bigger part, however, is that most health professionals (in fact, most professionals of any ilk) work on cultivating a self that exudes authority, control, knowledge, competence and respectability. It’s the narcissist in us all—we dread appearing stupid or incompetent. The problem, I think, is that health care is so unpredictable and stressful and contains such high stakes, that many practitioners exaggerate their competence. They come to believe that one ought never appear ignorant, uncertain, hesitant or wrong. So when this professional self-image is challenged, these persons are tempted to withdraw, or become hyper-defensive or just plain arrogant.

BanjaQ: Again, where’s the evidence for this?

BanjaA: Probably the best evidence is in the form of thousands of people who suspected they or a loved one was grievously harmed by error, but who never had their questions adequately answered by the health professionals treating them. Instead, these people asked a lawyer to find out what happened. But maybe the most interesting thing I stumbled across in my research was the way health professionals rationalize their medical errors.

BanjaQ: Rationalize?

BanjaA: Yes. Remember that calling X an “error” is essentially an interpretation. Now, when your self-interest is at stake—such as in not getting sued for medical malpractice—it’s amazing how ingenious one can become in “re-interpreting” what happened. An error might become an “incident”; or we decide we don’t have enough evidence to say absolutely that an error caused the patient’s harm; or we decide that maybe an error did cause the patient harm, but that the harm wasn’t so bad; or that the catastrophe that happened “wasn’t my fault.” Maybe we decide it wasn’t anyone’s fault.

BanjaQ: So these are ways the health professional tries to protect him or herself from the emotional pain of owning up to the error and his or her obligation to disclose it?

BanjaA: Right, and that’s what I call “medical narcissism.” I’m not saying all health care professionals are imperious or arrogant—although a small minority certainly are. Every profession boasts a minority of obnoxious, overbearing narcissists. What I am saying is that there is an atmosphere in health care that can breed narcissistic inclinations and attitudes that make it very difficult to disclose medical errors truthfully and ethically. And encouraging that atmosphere are the malpractice carriers and hospital lawyers who have long insisted that health professionals not admit liability—in other words, not admit error or apologize for it.

BanjaQ: But isn’t there a movement in health care today bucking that tradition?

BanjaA: Yes. We’re finding out not only that disclosing error truthfully and honestly is the ethical thing to do, but it seems to be a very cost-effective strategy, especially when it comes to lawsuits.

BanjaQ: How can people find out about that?

BanjaA: Read my book.

BanjaQ: Narcissism isn’t necessarily unhealthy, correct? Want to end with a comment on that?

BanjaA: Yes. We should all strive to be healthy narcissists—that is, to have the determination and self-esteem to know what we want in life and feel good and confident about pursuing it. But healthy narcissists can also give and receive love; they can sustain healthy relationships, and they’re not crushed by failure. Unhealthy narcissists can’t do that. The great fallacy we make in thinking about unhealthy narcissists is that we believe they are excessively in love with themselves. That’s incorrect. Their real pathology is that they are unable to love themselves in a healthy way.

Medical Errors and Medical Narcissism
John Banja
ISBN: 0763783617

Friday, December 29, 2006

Penetrating the Narcissist Disguise

How is it possible to maximize one's chances of penetrating the almost impenetrable disguises of the character disordered? And how do we keep ourselves from falling into the web of their deceitful scheming?

First, it is a mistake to decide never to trust another human being. There are many honest persons who are entirely trustworthy. But there is a difference between trusting another and trusting in another. We ought not to forget that every man is fundamentally a man: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes" (Ps 118, 8-9).

We should also learn to cultivate a kind of "spiritual Kantianism"; for it was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who distinguished between phenomenon (appearance, or the world as it appears to us) and noumenon (the thing in itself, insofar as it is not an object of our sensible intuition). This distinction may not be sound epistemology, for it led ultimately to Idealism and Post-Modernism, but we should nonetheless understand that things are not always as they appear to be. Evil is brilliantly inconspicuous: "There is a wickedness which is unscrupulous but nonetheless dishonest, and there are those who misuse kindness to win their case. There is the person who will walk bowed down with grief, when inwardly this is nothing but deceit: he hides his face and pretends to be deaf, if he is not unmasked, he will take advantage of you. There is the person who is prevented from sinning by lack of strength, yet he will do wrong when he gets the chance" (Si 19, 20-30).

Anyone who goes for a stroll in a posh residential neighborhood naturally assumes that the interior of the houses are for the most part as attractive as their exterior. No one, upon entering, expects to find a desolate interior, that is, a mass of rubble. But some human beings are not always whom we expect them to be; for we naturally project our own basic character traits onto others. But this is not always prudent: "Someone with a sly wink is plotting mischief, no one can dissuade him from it. Honey-tongued to your face, he is lost in admiration at your words; but behind your back he has other things to say, and turns your words into a stumbling-block" (Si 27, 22-23).

The character disordered are highly intuitive. Samuel Vaknin writes: "The narcissist, above all, is a shrewd manipulator of human character and its fault lines." Moreover, he "is possessed of an uncanny ability to psychologically penetrate others." If we do not wish to find ourselves cooperating in the underhanded schemes of the character disordered, we must decide from the outset never to compromise justice, nor do evil that good may come of it. We ought to commit to frequent confession, for unrepented sin can lead us to becoming permissive under the guise of being tolerant and forgiving. But the permissive are not forgiving, only indifferent. The unrepentant excuse themselves, and motivated by an unconscious desire to be excused by others (not forgiven, which implies confession and contrition), he will readily excuse the faults and failings of others, obliging them to do likewise. Hence, the current widespread approbation of tolerance as the perfection of justice. But tolerance is not necessarily a virtue, for there is a great deal that love refuses to tolerate. Again, such confusion only establishes the conditions that the character disordered depend upon in order to keep themselves from being exposed. We can undermine such conditions by praying that we might be given a horror of sin and by cultivating a hatred of injustice.

To keep oneself from being fooled by the narcissist whose facade includes Catholicism, we only have to remain faithful to Peter. The narcissist cannot help but defy authority, and if he is highly intelligent, his dissent will be subtle and covert. He will be loved by the majority for his "progressive" and "compassionate" posture, but he cannot afford to be too overt in his liberalism. If he is ordained, he will plot for ecclesiastical office, for he is not content with the humble and obscure life of a simple priest, which is why as a priest, his ministry almost always takes on a theatrical hue. He will do things out of the ordinary, often subtly unorthodox, things that call attention to himself and make him popular with a particular contingent of the parish. But underneath the facade, nonetheless, lurks a man who is anything but compassionate, as some people eventually discover.

By remaining faithful to Peter, one takes a path that ultimately the narcissist cannot follow. It is by virtue of this fidelity that we share in the benefits of Christ's prayer for Peter: "Simon, Simon! Look, Satan has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22, 31). All of them will be sifted like wheat, but Peter will not fail, not by virtue of his own strength -- from this angle, he failed -- , but by virtue of Christ's prayer for him. There will be made available to us all sorts of solid objects for us to hold onto that will provide the appearance of stability, but these solid objects are only floating debris, pushed along by the current. Only the rock (petros) embedded into the river floor is truly stable and unyielding. Hang onto that, and we resist the passing current of deceptive ideas and ever changing mores.

Doug McManaman

Thursday, December 28, 2006

This game has no winners

Manipulation is control and no one wins.

It is a toxic cycle of control and compliance.

Low self-esteem, depression, chronic anger, and feelings of helplessness are often the result of being caught in relationships with manipulative people. These can include family members, friends, or coworkers.


If you feel like you can't be heard, if you are afraid of being put down, if you give in when you don't want to and feel powerless to change, if you lack assertiveness, if you are blamed all the time and told you are responsible for what is wrong, you are being manipulated. If you feel like a victim or martyr, you are being manipulated.


Because they can. Because they have problems and found that manipulating is a good way to get what they want. The victim's compliance rewards them.


You can change your behavior and your reactions. This will change the manipulator. It takes two to make the manipulation work. If you empower yourself to change, you can stop the manipulation.


You already have! Here, you are gaining information. That's the key to change. Learning to recognize the manipulators and their tactics is the first step. Learning what your personal attributes are that makes you vulnerable to manipulation and understanding manipulation techniques and how to respond is the next step.


Of course. The cycle of control can be broken and you can learn what the methods are to do this. Learning how "boundaries" work is one step. Finding the right words to respond to a manipulator is another.

Ann Bradley

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Discarded victims

In the world of normals we nurture relationships with people. Not so with the narcissist, everyone is a potential object to become their supply, to gain their trust, to devalue and\or use and eventually discard with no remorse. Usually, the relationship with supply lasts until the narcissist gets bored and its stimulating effects decline or they see the opportunity to aquire new supply for thier personal gain.

You’re suddenly told you are no longer "needed" and you’re completely deleted from their world, you must be deleted because the narcissist would never want you to be near or know their new supply, to warn them of their fate. Who would believe you? unless you had proof and knew the narcissist was lying to his new victim. That is your only weapon. Some discarded victims are more outspoken than others.

For a new victim to find out the truth is devastating for the narcissist, he does not like to be alone, he becomes lost having neither his old supply to charm back into his life or his new supply that he was causing him to be on a high because they were gulible enough to believe his lies and manipulations.

One victim at a time, locked in compartments of the narcissists past. So sadly, you will not be discarded until they are completely sure they have secured a new supply and you are left wondering what caused their bizarre child like behavior.

Sadly, it’s not unusual for a narcissist to return to a prior supply if it’s apparent that the new one is not as bountiful, they simply abandon the new supply and return to the prior one to regain the pity and trust while hunting to secure a more advantageous supply.

Who is really caged?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Narcissism: A Nine Headed Hydra?

Proposing Nine Types of NarcissismIn classical mythology the serpent Hydra had nine heads. Every time Heracles cut off a head two new heads appeared. In a similar way narcissism may be seen as one disorder but with nine different types: Craver, Special Lover, Martyr, Rescuer, Rager, Trickster, Body Shaper, Power Broker, and Fantasy Maker.

1. The Craver has a lot of love to give but always with strings attached. This type has a great fear of abandonment and clings to people they can connect with, but they are never satisfied.

2. The Power Broker desires...well, power of course! They will do almost anything to gain power, and rarely consider any consequences of their actions. They can be bullies, arrogant, and cold. By any means necessary is their motto.

3. The Rager is someone on the edge, and when their narcissism is bruised, they will lash out. These types are often verbally and/or physically abusive. Very controlling.

4. The Fantasy Maker is the type that has retreated into their own reality, because they are living in defense of the painful reality of their lives. They do not live in truth and therefore have difficulty forming "real" relationships with others.

5. The Special Lover is the type that believe love is the answer to all things. They believe that they have a special capacity to love and tend to idealize love and the people whom they love. Of course, they face deep disappointment when they realize that their love and/or the ones they love are not perfect.

6. The Body Shaper is highly focused on their physical image. Fashion. glamour, Youth. Beauty. They live very shallow and empty lives, and they tend to deny ageing.

7. The Trickster is an extremely charming and social type. These types can trick people into trusting them, but is very malicious and ruthless in these relationships. They feel a sense of entitlement and are without remorse.

8. The Martyr revels in their suffering. They are victims and love telling people about it. THey totally identify with the pain they are dealing with in the present. They want care and support and will exploit others to get it. They tend to form relationships with others who have a need to be needed and then they are exploited. This is their way of controlling other people.

9. The Rescuer is virtuous. They always take the high road in relationships. They appear kind, considerate, and they try too hard. They find it easier to give than to receive. This could be because they were a parentified child in a dysfunctional family.

Bruce Stevens

Monday, December 25, 2006

Why do narcissists hate Christmas?

Holiday blues are a common occurrence even among the mentally sound. In me, a narcissist, they provoke a particularly virulent strain of pathological envy. I am jealous at others for having a family, or for being able to celebrate lavishly, or for being in the right, festive mood. My cognitive dissonances crumble. I keep telling myself: "Look at those inferior imitations of humans, slaves of their animated corpses, wasting their time, pretending to be happy". Yet, deep inside, I know that I am the defective one. I realize that my inability to rejoice is a protracted and unusual punishment meted out to me by my very self. I am sad and enraged. I want to spoil it for those who can. I want them to share my misery, to reduce them to my level of emotional abstinence and absence.

I hate humans because I am unable to be one.

Sam Vaknin

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Egomania - The Invisible Pandemic

An unrecognized, invisible killer is stalking the world. The insidious aspect of egomania is its ability to take over the mind and soul of its victims, so that instead of seeing egomania as a disease, we are made to see it as the height of human reason (pursuing our self-interest) and the purpose of human existence (getting ahead). Even when we see its worst apects---its most hideous visages--we are blind to its destructive lethality.

To succumb to egomania means that we become:

* limited in outlook or concern to our own activities or needs; blind to the larger reality concerned with self-gratification rather than the common good; focusing on greed instead of fellow-feeling

* obsessed with an exaggerated sense of self-importance; full of conceit instead of regard for others

* controlled by any one who flatters us or appears to consider our needs; followers of whatever cult leader appears to recognize our importance

Egomania, narcissism, is the natural condition of the infant; the world exists merely as gratification or denial of personal desires. The caretaker--parent, nurse, teacher, religious authority--tells the infant what reality is and how he or she must behave in response to this defined reality.

It's at this stage of egomania and narcissism where most personalities stop developing; they remain in an infantile state even though they have matured physically. Ego-satisfaction is the only concern, avoding punishment by authority figures and achieving one's individual goals is the life-game, and understanding or awareness is totally unnecessary and boring. The authority figures will tell us what is real and what we're supposed to do, so we have absolutely no need to think for ourselves. Since personal satisfaction is primary, however we achieve our goals is okay. There are no moral values beyond feeling good about ourselves and making others fear and respect us. Any consideration for the good of others is weakness and stupidity.

So we have high school and college students who want nothing more out of their educational experience than credits; they have no interest whatsoever in understanding the subjects they study. They're not even interested in developing skills; if they can get other students to do their assignments and tests for them, that's great. The majority of people in our culture merely want to get along, avoid trouble with authority figures, succeed in their careers, and cram as much personal pleasure into their lives as possible. In short, most persons in our society are grown infants. Showing off, having "attitudes," talking endlessly about oneself, swaggering through life, taking pride in ignorance and violence--these have become the norms.

Persons possessed by narcissism are incapble of loving others, but they are also incapable of loving themselves--because they have not developed the ability to love.

We must rid ourselves of our current truncated, lopsided definitions of personal maturity and intelligence, which consider the "greatest" person the one who owns the most things: money, cars, homes, persons.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Narcissists and Religion

Narcissists, in accordance with their Machiavellian mindframe, will often appear religious, especially if they are leaders. But they may also ascribe to a religion in an effort to understand their special status, which they believe they enjoy. As Samuel Vaknin writes of the narcissist: "he is a captive of the false conviction that his uniqueness destines him to fulfill a mission of cosmic significance."

The narcissist despises authority and is totally incapable of collaboration. That is why he inevitably seeks a position of authority, even in a religious context. Should he be Catholic, he will most certainly come into conflict with the teaching authority of the Church, for he has a need to defy authority, and he refuses to be measured by anything larger than himself, even God. Vaknin describes what the narcissistic cycle of extreme valuation and devaluation looks like in a religious context. Those who are sources of narcissistic supply are highly valued by the narcissist, not for their own sake, but for what they provide him. Should that production come to a stand still, should a person ever come to discover the true nature of the narcissist hidden underneath all his colorful layers, he is quickly and thoroughly devalued and demonized. As was said above, the narcissist is initially religious in an effort to understand his own uniqueness. He is a disciple -- chosen -- by virtue of a special quality in him, and not really by virtue of the mercy and gratuitous love of God. He is incapable of genuine humility and worship of what is larger than himself, and so God is eventually devalued, for He does not remain a source of narcissistic supply for long. The true disciple delights in the law of God: "The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces" (Ps 119, 72). But despite appearances, the religious narcissist personally finds that law a maddening nuisance that unnecessarily limits his sources of narcissistic supply, namely the entire secular world. Religious narcissists, thus, tend to be compromising liberals, watering down the difficult truth so as to be more inviting and inclusive. But all they ever really invite and include are sources of narcissistic supply, nothing more (this, of course, is not to suggest that all liberals are narcissists).

But religion has afforded the narcissist with a position of authority, which in turn is a reliable source of narcissistic supply. Hence, the reason some of them do not leave the Church--much to the dismay of some of the faithful. They are inconsistent in their leadership; for they are disloyal to the teaching magisterium, but they demand unquestioning loyalty and absolute deference to their own authority. Should this demand for obedience become too obvious, they can very cleverly appear to employ a democratic style of leadership and receive input from everyone. With a large enough number of people at hand, the clever narcissist can find fragments of his own vision in some of their ideas. If one watches carefully, one notices how he collects those very pieces and assembles them into a vision which everyone thinks was democratically determined. But the final product in no way will have differed significantly from what he had decided originally, before consulting anyone. The democratic process, which was under his control from the beginning, only lends the appearance of collaboration and democracy.

The pseudo-religious narcissist will especially identify with certain biblical imagery, such as the Good Shepherd, which depicts a human person amidst irrational animals of an inferior nature. The Parable of the Talents lends itself very well to the narcissist's twisted mind. In this parable, some servants are given five talents, another two, to a third only one, each in proportion to his ability. The narcissist of course sees himself as a ten and everyone else as a two or a one. Only those whom he needs and who supply him with fuel qualify as a ten, but these may quickly find themselves reduced to a two or a one should their status as supplier suddenly change. Such a parable can become a useful tool of manipulation and flattery. In short, the narcissist's use of scripture is as twisted as Satan's in the temptation in the wilderness.

There have been a number of false norms that have been made popular over the years that have only made it easier for the depraved and pathological narcissist to continue undetected. The popular exhortation to be tolerant, positive, non-judgmental and inclusive are prime examples. If a person sees the glass half full, he is positive and optimistic, but negative and pessimistic if he sees it half empty. The problem here, though, is that evil is parasitic. As was said above, there is simply no such thing as pure evil, because evil is a lack of due being. The optimist who refuses to see the lack lest he begin to feel negative is blinding himself to evil and contributing to the creation of the kind of environment that the depraved require in order to flourish. Good is the very subject of evil. And so there will always be something good to behold in the morally depraved egotist. The half full/half empty platitude is simply useless, except for the ridiculously cynical that no one takes seriously anyway.

The biblical precept not to judge (Cf. Mt 7ff) is not and has never been an unqualified and absolute norm, as if making judgments were intrinsically evil. Rather, the biblical norm is qualified by the context in which we find it: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother's eye and never notice the great log in your own?...Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother's eye" (Mt 7, 4-5). Scripture does not assert that all of us have logs in our eyes that we are forever unable to remove, thus barring us from ever having to judge that someone might have a splinter in his. The norm bears upon the hypocrisy of the morally blind passing judgment on someone much better off morally and spiritually. It is not a precept against making judgments; for as St. Paul says: "The spiritual man judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one (1 Co 2, 15). Scripture is filled with examples of negative judgments (Cf. Acts 5, 1-5; 8, 21-22; Rm 1, 1ff; Eph 4, 5). The narcissist is ever scheming to create a safe environment primarily for himself, and so what could better serve him than to be surrounded by people who are committed to an unqualified refusal to make judgments?

Narcissists will forever seek positions of power. But such positions must be forever denied them. They must never be given authority. But so few are denied positions of authority because they are so adept at disguise. They are convincing, articulate, and charismatic. But the narcissist is all about power. His entire leadership is a game played ultimately for the sake of himself. Everyone under his authority is being abused in one form or another, and the damage he can do is far reaching. The facade he uses to hide his depravity and fool the world may very well contain genuinely good things, such as religious, political, judicial, or educational principles. But most of his victims will forever associate his deception with these good things and will be unable to distinguish between what is genuinely good from the narcissist's abuse of it. In rejecting the one, they inevitably reject the other. How many good things are irretrievably lost to others as a result of such abuse?

Doug McManaman

Friday, December 22, 2006

Where Egos Dare: The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders and How to Survive Them

Leadership. The word conjures up images of dynamic action, inspiring vision and a highly motivated workforce. The great leaders of commerce are the idols of our time. But what of the Demon Leader, the destructive force, the bully in the boardroom? We've heard a lot about positive leadership but what about the dark side -- the narcissistic leader?

Despite the widespread experience of employees who have tolerated egotistical bosses, there are few resources to help people survive and succeed in spite of a narcissistic leader.

House of Mirrors is a brilliant -- and sometimes disturbing -- analysis of the psyche of these leaders and the devastating -- and often hidden -- effect they can have on both individual and organizational performance. Based on in-depth research and more than 500 first hand-interviews, the authors give us:

-- Profiles of some of the world's best known corporate figures
and their destructive behavior: Michael Eisner, Al Dunlap,
Robert Allen, Gilbert A Amelio and others

-- Examples of the few narcissistic leaders who've had a positive effect

-- Action steps and recommendations for what you can do about
the narcissistic leaders negative, undermining behavior

-- Eye-opening stories about the unbelievable conduct of
egotistical, self serving bosses

Where Egos Dare: The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders and How to Survive Them
Dean B McFarlin, Paul D Sweeney, Dean B. McJarlin
ISBN: 0749427248

Review from

"My gosh! It's him! It's as if I am reading about my ex-boss! This is an in-depth study with strategies on how to counter a narcissist. He once told me, "Your priority is to make me look good." My ex-boss is self-absorbed, has no strategy, micro-manages his employees, manages up very well, has to always be right, behaves in an erratic and confusing fashion (says stuff like, "I knew you would fail at that project when I gave it to you" to our team when a project appeared to be failing...which he never participated in or gave a clear goal for, BTW.)

It is clear that I worked for someone who is a form of white collar socio-path (think: Enron). I bought 4 of these for colleagues who still work with him, and one for HR....wish I had had this several months ago. I finally a high cost, but at least I am no longer under his thumb, a minion forced to worship at his ego-altar.

I did do a strategy found in this book: the end run. I reported him to the company Ethics office after I got away from him and the investigation was worth the risk. They are at least now aware of his divisiveness.

I highly recommend this to anyone who works for a confusing boss that is not a team player, offers no strategy for his own team, does not fully communicate his plans, withholds information (sometimes key), has always got to be right, and assigns meaningless work just to make himself look good (e.g., has you create presentations that may have little to do with your function, that he then presents to his up-line without ever informing you, and after making sure he understands all the details so that he can look as if he did the presentation himself). If you have a check mark by most of the above, then you need this book. My best advice is to get away from a narcissistic boss, especially if you are an honest person who just tries to do the right thing and does not play the office political games very well."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Violence from Self-Love

“Self-love forever creeps out, like a snake, to sting anything which happens to stumble upon it.” – George Byron

Violence from Self-Love: Narcissism and Aggression in the Face of Ego Threat
Ashley Girgis
Trinity University

Study Introduction

Most would agree that an encounter with a narcissistic person is not a pleasant one. Self-obsessed, conceited, and often offensive, narcissists constantly seek to revel in others’ admiration, even if that admiration must be extracted and construed to fit the narcissist’s own self-perceptions. Despite simply being difficult to interact with and oftentimes obnoxious, however, there seems to be an even darker side to the narcissistic story. Among other characteristics, it is a common observation that narcissists seem to be overly reactive when their grandiose views are not confirmed or threatened by others, and they often become overtly aggressive and offensive.

As more evidence accumulates validating the link between narcissism and aggression, it is becoming increasingly clear that highly narcissistic individuals tend to react more aversely to threatening information or feedback from others when compared with the average person, responding with aggressive behavior as a means of reasserting their inflated views of themselves. In this sense, ego threat can be conceptualized as any encounter, feedback, or information perceived as a threat or challenge to one’s worth, competence, or character. Additionally, aggression can be defined as any attempt to hurt another person, whether it is through verbal or physical derogation. Although this link between narcissism and aggression is evident, the underlying mechanisms that govern this reactive process remain vague.

Considerable debate has arisen over narcissists’ motivation to aggress against others, and there seem to be two equally feasible potential mechanisms. The first of these is the self-reparation mechanism, which supposes that narcissists internalize the ego threat and their high selfesteem has actually been damaged by the ego threat, motivating an attempt at restoring that damaged self-esteem to pre-threat levels. This mechanism is supported by evidence suggesting that narcissists’ self-esteem is very unstable and susceptible to damage by ego threat; because of this, aggression might be an attempt to return the narcissist to the position of superiority that he or she craves.

The second possibility is what has been termed the ego-promotion mechanism, which predicts that the observed aggression is not a result of narcissists’ insecurity, but simply a manifestation of their aggravation at others’ failure to recognize and confirm their perceived superiority. This mechanism is supported by the exhibitionism and exploitativeness that often characterize narcissists. In other words, it is unclear whether narcissists’ reactions are rooted in an attempt at repairing their damaged self-esteem, or if they aggress with the intention of just taking out their frustration and proving to others that they are, in fact better.

Because of this important distinction, it is important to investigate whether narcissists become aggressive to restore their perceptions of superiority in their own eyes (i.e., with the intent of self-reparation) or to promote these perceptions in the eyes of others in the public domain, an area which has been suggested in the literature but never actually studied.

For example, a private ego threat might be encountered in a situation where a person finds out he or she did poorly on a test, but no one else is aware of it. In contrast, a public ego threat might be exemplified in a situation where the same person finds out he or she performed poorly in front of others because the teacher reads the grades out loud in class. The current study attempted to address the ideas in question by teasing apart and isolating the specific interpersonal triggers that cause narcissists to respond aggressively in response to an ego threat. If the self-reparation hypothesis is true, narcissists would be expected to aggress more when threatened privately; in contrast, if the ego-promotion hypothesis is valid, they would be expected to aggress more when threatened publicly.

By examining the differences between public and private ego threats and whether it is the personal feeling of inferiority or the perception that others think one is inferior (particularly when that perception is illfounded), the present experiment attempted to provide further insight into the link between narcissism and aggression.

Study Conclusions

The findings of the current study, although in part quite surprising, paint an interesting picture of the aggressive narcissist. Contrary to most reports concerning the link between narcissism and aggression, the evidence here portrays people who are not only reactive to challenges and ego threats, but also those who overtly attempt to hurt others around them simply because they can. In this description of narcissistic aggression, aggression is not just an attempt to reassert one’s superiority and dominance over others, it is also a less complex manifestation of a desire to exploit others and, more importantly, sadistically derive pleasure from this exertion of power.

Although we are not any closer to isolating the underlying mechanisms behind this response and whether aggression has a self-repairing or ego-promoting effect on narcissists, this idea that enjoyment of the aggressive act actively mediates narcissists’ response provides new information as to what might be going on in the minds of these people. The fact that these mechanisms remain unknown warrants further study and closer examination, and a deeper understanding of this discrepancy would lend valuable insight into the conceptualization of the narcissism-aggression link and would contribute to the development of more effective interventions for combating over aggression in a variety of situations. Although it is unclear from this research exactly what motivates narcissists to act aggressively, the indication that they particularly enjoy the act of hurting others is alarming, and it carries strong implications for both the comprehension of narcissism and the understanding of how to deal with these narcissists. Furthermore, it is clear from these findings that narcissists not only love building themselves up, but they also love tearing other people down; in other words, it is yet another example of how maladaptive self-love can indeed be a very dangerous thing.

Ashley Girgis
(follow link to read complete study)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Voicelessness and Emotional Survival

When lay people and professionals alike talk about dysfunctional families, often the question arises: Did the mother love the children? Or, did the father love the children?

Parental love is a very complicated emotion. If a parent compulsively looks after their children's health, insisting they eat only organic food, and natural vitamins, is this a form of love? How about if a parent makes a child come home after school and forbids any socializing until the studies are completed to her satisfaction--because this way the child will get into Harvard. Is this love? If the parent is looking after the child's best interests, then arguably their actions reflect love. But where is the line drawn? Some parents say to their children: "Everything I did, I did for you--fed you, clothed you, put a roof over your head--all of it for you." While probably an exaggeration, there is still a bit of truth here. Was there love? Probably. One can usually find a kernel of love towards their children in even the most narcissistic of parents. "I love you because you reflect well on me" is still love, however sullied. (One might argue that love in the service of selfish needs is not really love--but the line between selfish and unselfish love is a fuzzy one indeed.) Furthermore, the tears a narcissistic parent sheds when their child dies are absolutely real.

Simply put, love is too complicated an emotion to be of much use in distinguishing narcissistic and healthy parents. In my experience, if you ask adult children of narcissistic parents whether they were loved, many if not most will say "yes, in a controlling, self-centered way" even after they've completed therapy. Another variable, however, is far more telling. The critical questions are: "Did my parent respect and value what I said, see myself as independent from them in a positive way, and feel that my thoughts and feelings were as important as theirs." In other words, did my parent allow me "voice?" No adult child of a narcissistic parent can answer these questions in the affirmative.

These questions define the critical injury to adult children with narcissistic parents. Interestingly, many such people have no problem finding "love." But deep affection does not satisfy them unless accompanied by the granting of "voice" by a powerful person. As a result, adult children of narcissistic parents often go from bad relationship to bad relationship in search of "voice."

For parents, the implications are clear. Love is not enough. Client after client has taught me this unequivocal lesson:

If you want to raise emotionally healthy children, you must give them the gift of "voice."

Richard Grossman, Ph.D .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Language, Words, and Lies: A Narcissists Arsenal

"If we suspect that a man is lying, we should pretend to believe him; for then he becomes bold and assured, lies more vigorously, and is unmasked." - Arthur Schopenhauer

Narcissism and words

One of Sam Vaknin's quotes which most enthralls me is this one. It speaks to me so clearly; it hits me with a gut punch - it tells me the truth - and it makes me sick. I love words. I believe in the power of words. I believe that if truthful words are spoken, written, shared, they will be heard, and they will be answered. Not with a narcissist. You get sucker-punched in trying to explain something. There is no response to what is said. Words are deflected, twisted, questions answered with questions, non sequitors abound.

Sam Vaknin tells us:
"With the classic narcissist, language is used cruelly and ruthlessly to ensnare one's enemies, to sow confusion and panic, to move others to emulate the narcissist ("projective identification"), to leave the listeners in doubt, in hesitation, in paralysis, to gain control, or to punish. Language is enslaved and forced to lie. The language is appropriated and expropriated. It is considered to be a weapon, an asset, a piece of lethal property, a traitorous mistress to be gang raped into submission."

Joanna Ashmun warns us:
"The narcissists I've known have apparently always been "that way" and they get worse as they get older, with dramatic regression of their personas after the deaths of their parents and other personal authority figures who have previously exerted some control over the narcissists' bad behavior. And, yes, chronic depression gets to be obvious at least by their forties but may have always been present. Depressed narcissists blame the world, of course, and not themselves for their personal disappointments. Narcissists are threatened and enraged by trivial disagreements, mistakes, and misunderstandings, plus they have evil mouths and will say ANYTHING, so if you continue to live or work with narcissists, expect to have to clean up after them, expect to lose friends over them, expect big trouble sooner or later."

"Men hate those to whom they have to lie" - Victor Hugo

Ann Bradley

Monday, December 18, 2006

Children of the Self-Absorbed

Millions of adults grew up with immature, self-absorbed parents who made their own children responsible for their physical and emotional well-being, expected admiration and constant attention, and reacted with criticism and blame when their slightest need went unmet. In this accessible book, psychologist Nina Brown helps grown children come to terms with the results of such an upbringing, including tendencies to overcomply to others' needs, withdraw when someone needs nurturing, and lack self-esteem. Through self-exploration exercises and protective and coping strategies, Brown helps readers work toward developing a "healthy narcissism" by identifying destructive patterns their parents may have had, evaluating attitudes and behaviors that may be hampering their own adult relationships, dealing with self-doubt and other negative feelings, and piecing together a more integrated sense of self.

Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents
Nina W. Brown
ISBN: 1572242310

Selected reviews from

"I knew all the scenes from growing up. They were scattered in different areas of my mind! I knew how my relationship with my mom was presently! Nothing is ever enough! I knew that she had seldom been there for me emotionally growing up or now and that I had always had to be there for her regardless of my age! I worried about her constantly. There was so much crying from her! I now understand why she is the way she is and that she'll never see me as an individual but someone there for her. All of the scenes are now in one place in my mind because they now make sense! Because of this I actually feel better about my relationship with my mom because I know where I stand and that I will continue to be there for her with the exceptions of taking care of myself and family first! I also realize the areas I need to further develop because of this upbringing! I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH NINA W. BROWN!!!!!" - D. Paris

"During my own course of therapy, I discovered that my mother was most likely a narcisstistic parent. I picked up this book and my mom fit the descriptions to a 'T.' The information is presented extrememly well, very organized - much better than other books on the topic. And it validated some of the issues I'm dealing with personally in therapy. The tone is gentle and reassuring, but not coddling. I felt like finally, somebody understood what I had been dealing with all my life. There are exercises to help you deal with overcoming issues - I've done a couple and shown them to my therapist. If you have a parent like this, wow, it's very difficult to handle the repercussions. But this book really will help." - M. Patton

"There does not seem to be very many books out there about growing up with narcissistic parents but this book truly helped me. One of my parents was (and still is) extremely narcissistic and this book allowed me to begin to heal from the harm that parent did to me during my childhood. The book explained the general characteristics of narcissistic people in a very organized way. It gave me some tools for dealing with that parent which I have begun to use successfully whenever I am in their presence. It also encouraged me to look at my own tendencies toward narcissism which I have used carefully. I do not want any type of narcissistic behaviors from me or my parent to negatively affect my child." - K. Rikkers

"You can't change a narcissist but you can change how you react to them. Nina Brown gives very useful and practical advise on dealing with the aftermath of having a narcissist for a parent and scars they leave on their children. I especially like the lack of blame here, it is what it is and it's time to do something about it. I don't think "Children of the Self-Absorbed" is only for adult children of narcissists, older teens can benefit greatly. Nina brown has written a 'must have' survival guide that will teach them how to avoid the pain that comes from expecting their parent to behave like others around them. The narcissistic parent is the center of his own universe and as such, leaves no room for their children. Learning at an early age "this is not your fault" goes miles in achieving healing for what hurts the most, rejection.
I highly recommend "Children of the Self-Absorbed."" - Carolyn Rampone

Sunday, December 17, 2006

For the Love of God

God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist's wet dream, his ultimate grandiose fantasy. But God comes handy in other ways as well.

The narcissist alternately idealizes and devalues figures of authority. In the idealization phase, he strives to emulate them, he admires them, imitate them (often ludicrously), and defends them. They cannot go wrong, or be wrong. The narcissist regards them as bigger than life, infallible, perfect, whole, and brilliant. But as the narcissist's unrealistic and inflated expectations are inevitably frustrated, he begins to devalue his former idols. Now they are "human" (to the narcissist, a derogatory term). They are small, fragile, error-prone, pusillanimous, mean, dumb, and mediocre. The narcissist goes through the same cycle in his relationship with God, the quintessential authority figure.

But often, even when disillusionment and iconoclastic despair have set in - the narcissist continues to pretend to love God and follow Him. The narcissist maintains this deception because his continued proximity to God confers on him authority. Priests, leaders of the congregation, preachers, evangelists, cultists, politicians, intellectuals - all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God.

Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogynism freely and openly. Such a narcissist is likely to taunt and torment his followers, hector and chastise them, humiliate and berate them, abuse them spiritually, or even sexually. The narcissist whose source of authority is religious is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked mastery. The narcissist transforms even the most innocuous and pure religious sentiments into a cultish ritual and a virulent hierarchy. He prays on the gullible. His flock become his hostages.

Religious authority also secures the narcissist's narcissistic supply. His coreligionists, members of his congregation, his parish, his constituency, his audience - are transformed into loyal and stable sources of narcissistic supply. They obey his commands, heed his admonitions, follow his creed, admire his personality, applaud his personal traits, satisfy his needs (sometimes even his carnal desires), revere and idolize him.

Moreover, being a part of a "bigger thing" is very gratifying narcissistically. Being a particle of God, being immersed in His grandeur, experiencing His power and blessings first hand, communing with him - are all sources of unending narcissistic supply. The narcissist becomes God by observing His commandments, following His instructions, loving Him, obeying Him, succumbing to Him, merging with Him, communicating with Him - or even by defying him (the bigger the narcissist's enemy - the more grandiosely important the narcissist feels).

Like everything else in the narcissist's life, he mutates God into a kind of Inverted Narcissist. God becomes his dominant source of supply. He forms a personal relationship with this overwhelming and overpowering entity - in order to overwhelm and overpower others. He becomes God vicariously, by the proxy of his relationship with Him. He idealizes God, then devalues Him, then abuses him. This is the classic narcissistic pattern and even God himself cannot escape it.

Sam Vaknin

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Celebs: Legends in Their Own Minds

Individuals with narcissistic tendencies appear to be attracted to the entertainment industry – rather than the industry creating narcissists, says USC study.

By James Grant

Celebrities have more narcissistic personality traits than the general population, and people with narcissistic tendencies seem to be attracted to the entertainment industry rather than the industry creating narcissists, according to a study by researchers Drew Pinsky of the Keck School of Medicine of USC and S. Mark Young of the USC Marshall School of Business and the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Elsevier), is the first systematic, empirical and scholarly study of celebrity personality and was based on a standardized test of narcissistic personality traits administered to 200 celebrities.

“The general public’s understanding of celebrity personality is based largely on anecdotal information such as media interviews,” Young said. “We conducted this study as part of a larger program of research to provide more scientific evidence on what the celebrity personality is really like.”

The authors say they chose narcissism as the topic of the study because it is one of the most widely discussed characteristics of celebrities.

“Narcissists generally crave attention, are overconfident of their abilities, lack empathy and can evince erratic behavior,” said Pinsky, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at USC. “However, they are also well-liked, especially on first meeting, are extroverted and perform well in public.”

To conduct their research Pinsky and Young employed a well-validated personality research instrument, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), which has been used by researchers for more than two decades.

The NPI test divides narcissism into seven components: superiority, exhibitionism, entitlement, vanity, authority, exploitiveness and self-sufficiency.

The authors found that the celebrities participating in the study had statistically significantly higher narcissism scores compared to aspiring business leaders (MBA students) and the general population. Reality TV personalities had the highest overall narcissism scores when compared with actors, musicians and comedians.

And while men are more likely than women to evince narcissistic traits in the general population, the authors found that among celebrities, females were more narcissistic than their male counterparts.

“Our research also shows that many celebrities exhibit narcissistic behavior prior to becoming famous, which could indicate a self-selection bias for the entertainment industry by certain personality types,” said Young, who holds the George Bozanic and Holman G. Hurt Chair in Sports and Entertainment Business at USC.

“Knowing that many celebrities have narcissistic tendencies may allow entertainment industry decision makers such as studio executives, producers, directors, agents, publicists and casting agents to work with them more effectively,” Young explained. “It may also provide greater insight into celebrity behavior for the general public.”

The research data were collected anonymously and confidentially from celebrities selected at random during guest appearances on the nationally syndicated Westwood One radio show “Loveline,” based at the KROQ-FM radio station in Los Angeles.

The celebrities were administered the NPI test during breaks on the show, which Pinsky has hosted for the past 20 years.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Manipulating a Narcissist


"... a friend of mine once explained the credo of the narcissist as "I'm the piece of shit the world revolves around." It is a psychological syndrome in which extreme insecurity finds cover and comfort in self-obsession. Therefore, every response you make to a petulant, irritable, childish, tantrum-inclined narcissist finds you walking on thin ice. ... It is the reason why, when one is dealing with a narcissist who is also wielding a nuclear bomb, a little tactical forethought is your best friend.

It's important to understand that a narcissist operates out of only two constantly flip-flopping states of emotional being; grandiosity and humiliation. So, if you are not feeding the grandiosity ..., than you are humiliating him. Period. Those are your choices. That is the part of this equation you can't change.

Out of those two choices, only the grandiose narcissist is a happy narcissist. A humiliated narcissist is a rigid, non-compliant, revenge seeking nightmare....

To a narcissist, anything short of being treated like a V.I.P. is not only unacceptable, it is humiliating. And the behavior of a humiliated narcissist is always a vengeful, vindictive tantrum. Always."

Merrill Markoe

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Characteristics of the Narcissist II

The narcissist despises community and emotional intimacy, and so they are profoundly lonely. On the one hand, though, there is something about their loneliness that narcissists like; for they can attribute it to their unique and superior nature. But as human persons who have a radical need for others, they cannot tolerate loneliness. This conflict is a source of chronic anguish; for loneliness is hell, and yet, as Sartre would say, "hell is other people" ("l'enfer, c'est les autres").

Man is a person, from the Latin persona (through sound). He longs to express himself, to communicate himself to others, whether depraved or not. Just as those who contemplate the marvelous or the beautiful cannot hold themselves but will cry out in praise of what they behold, so too the depraved cannot help but on occasion burst out and spit their bile, thus providing others a momentary glimpse of their interior rot. Moments such as these are clues that must be stored in the memory and, like disparate pieces of a puzzle, assembled later in order to acquire a more complete picture, which will be a horror to behold, or an experience of terror -- if the narcissist discovers that he has been found out by you. The clues, in isolation, will suggest only minor imperfections or character flaws. But taken together over a number of years, they suggest something much more ominous. The inconsistencies evident in the behaviour of the narcissist -- prior to his discovery -- should never be simply accepted, only to be forgotten. Rather, one must ponder the inconsistencies in behaviour until they become consistent, that is, until the apparently inconsistent behaviour acquires an intelligible narrative that rings true.

Some pathological narcissists are so clever that certain people will simply never be able to penetrate the disguise, no matter what has been pointed out to them. One reason they are so successful is that they have come to believe their own lies. The narcissist has convinced himself that the facade is not a lie. What helps to establish this conviction, among other things, is a commitment to a cause -- a genuinely good cause. But after a few years of observation, one discovers that the narcissist's devotion to the cause is one sided and not grounded in a commitment to the principles underlying the cause, because after a time the inconsistency of the morality of the depraved becomes noticeable. His behavior, in other words, is not principled. And he will despise any individual or institution that expounds a consistent ethics, because it exposes his own inconsistent and arbitrary one and is a constant reminder of his own self-deception.

It cannot be emphasized enough just how much we typically underestimate the depravity of the pathological narcissist who operates behind a facade of respectability and altruism. We cannot forget that they have a desperate fear of exposure, that someone might catch a long enough glimpse at the rot that lies within and raise the awareness of others, thus threatening the power structure that took years of careful planning to erect. That is why the pathological narcissist is a long term plotter, like the brilliant chess player who plans ten or more moves ahead. It is almost impossible for anyone to uncover the complex and multi-layered schemes of such a person unless one is entirely aware of the depths of his depravity and the level of his intelligence. Knowing the one without the other leaves one ever open to being perpetually deceived.

The awareness that others have seen contradictory aspects of himself is a constant source of anxiety for the narcissist in a position of authority. And he is aware of the limits of human perspectives and that community has the power to enlarge individual points of view. When people talk with one another, they begin to acquire a much larger perspective on things, that is, they begin to see a bigger picture. The pathological narcissist who is in a leadership role cannot afford to have people talking amongst themselves and sharing stories. So he will go to great lengths and carefully contrive very devious and underhanded schemes to keep people divided. He will sow division among colleagues by planting lies about one person to another, and another about someone else. This can be a successful strategy because no one expects a highly intelligent adult to be carrying on like a scheming eight year old child or an emotionally disturbed adolescent. And since most of us avoid confrontation, it is much easier to believe the liar.

Pathological narcissists succeed for a time because of the extreme resonance of their personality structure. As Samuel Vaknin writes: "Narcissists appear to be unpleasantly deliberate... They are too human, or too inhuman, or too modest, or too haughty, or too loving, or too cold, or too empathic, or too strong, or too industrious, or too casual, or too enthusiastic, or too indifferent, or too courteous, or too abrasive." He is an enigma, at least prior to his exposure. One can't help but reason that he's either an outstanding citizen, leader, priest, court judge, teacher, etc., or he's the most morally depraved individual you are going to meet for a long while. And very few of us expect to discover such a depth of depravity in well dressed professional adults. So we naturally conclude the former. For he is careful not to show opposite extremes to one and the same person, especially if that person is someone he needs. The majority in his immediate environment will see his "too good" side only. Should anyone no longer be needed, or should one happen to become a threat to his facade, such a one is likely to get a taste of the narcissist's vindictive nature, even one who has been a close "friend" to him for a number of years -- a narcissist's loyalty is paper thin, for he is incapable of genuinely intimate friendships. But only the targeted victim will see his vindictive nature, or a small few. He is careful to keep this side of himself from others, for it is an inconsistency that might expose him. So adept is he at this narrowly focused persecution, in fact, that any attempt by the victim to tell another will in all probability make him (the victim) appear as if he is losing his mind.

The narcissist takes advantage of every opportunity to favor a person who is down and in need -- as long as the prospects that he will be of use later on are good. Such favors might include providing employment, personal counseling, boosting one's confidence, flattery, listening and being sympathetic (at least apparently), etc. Such opportunities supply the narcissist in a number of ways. Primarily, they ensure loyalty for the day that will inevitably arrive, the day when his personal edifice crumbles and he finally falls into the pit he has dug for his enemies over the years. Such a loyal following makes it all the more difficult for anyone to depose him. They also have the added advantage of helping him to persuade himself that he is good and that perhaps the gnawing awareness of that damp and dark cellar at the heart of his character was only a passing fancy. Furthermore, they provide a sense of superiority in that others depend upon him in order to be the persons they have become. When someone finally comes to realize that he is a treacherous and exploitative fraud -- which is inevitable -- , who is going to believe such a person when so many have been directly benefited by the accused? Gratitude makes it easier to excuse his "faults" or minor character flaws, and that is about all that the clues will suggest in isolation -- and most people have poor memories.

The depraved and pathological narcissist is very ready to forgive the faults of others, not because he is loving and merciful, but rather because he is indifferent. In fact, inordinate leniency is typical of narcissists. They are either vindictive or lenient, but rarely just. Leniency, which is a vice, is hard to distinguish from mercy or clemency, so it enables him to feel virtuous, and it also helps perpetuate the appearance of moral purity. Moreover, leniency provides another opportunity to ensure loyalty.

But ultimately, the pathological narcissist is indifferent to injustice and its victims. As St. Thomas Aquinas argues, the more excellent a person is, the more he is prone to anger (S.T. I-II, 47, 3). But the narcissist experiences no righteous indignation. He only rages against the person who is a threat to his charade and/or who refuses to cooperate with his underhanded schemes. But he will not be incensed at injustice.

Courage is the mean between recklessness and cowardliness. Here, narcissists are also at both extremes, never in the mean. Indeed, they are often bold or inordinately daring. Their inflated sense of superiority propels them to recklessness; for they are subject to fantasies of omnipotence and unequalled brilliance, and they feel that they are above the law. And it is this sense of superiority that allows them to underestimate the intelligence and determination of their adversaries. But they are not brave; they are cowards at heart. They lack the courage to gaze upon the dilapidated specter of their true selves, nor can they bear to look into the eyes of one who has discovered their true nature. They inspire terror only because we recognize that the inhibitions that govern the impulses of normal healthy persons are completely lacking in the pathological narcissist. They are psychopaths. The terror they inspire is a source of narcissistic supply that contributes to their sense of existing, which they need to counter the sense of their own nothingness, created by their immoral and unrepented choices.

Doug McManaman

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Characteristics of the Narcissist I

The narcissist is calculating. He is utilitarian through and through. He refuses obedience to the basic requirements of the natural moral law, for obedience implies that there is something larger than himself of which he is not the measure, but which measures him. Such a notion, however, is incompatible with the very thrust of his character. He has become the measure. He is calculating for the sake of procuring power; for it is power that allows him the control he needs to protect himself from exposure and from his having to face his own finitude. Power allows him to more easily procure a supply of narcissistic fuel. His entire life has become a struggle to procure this fuel, or what Samuel Vaknin calls narcissistic supply, and he will employ the most devious means at his disposal to get it. And if, by some misfortune, he should come into a position of power, we can expect his style of leadership to be thoroughly Machiavellian.

There is no better insight into the workings of the mind of the morally depraved and narcissistic leader than what is provided in chapter 18 of Machiavelli's The Prince. The principal characteristic of such a leader is not prudence, but craft:

"Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word."

Because such persons have depleted their character so profoundly through choices contrary to the norms of reason, they approach the bestial level and will even begin to see themselves as such. For beasts are not governed by the natural moral law, but by the law of power. The narcissistic leader is fundamentally bestial in his rule, but he cannot appear that way without exposing his true colors, and exposure is his greatest fear. And so he must employ craft and know when to "avail himself of the beast". Machiavelli writes:

"… it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man. …A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer."

Such a person, by virtue of his olympian egotism, always regards others as inferior to himself. Everyone is a simpleton in his eyes. What helps afford him this illusion is that most people are unsuspecting and are unaware of the degree to which they are being taken advantage of, used and abused. This unawareness is not due to a general lack of intelligence in people, but to their tendency to project their own range of normalcy onto others. Hence, their disinclination to suspect someone so profoundly depraved to be in their midst, carrying on an existence that is fundamentally and thoroughly alie. But the character disordered conveniently regard this trait as evidence of intellectual inferiority and will take a twisted delight in the knowledge that they have so many fooled.

"But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived."

When it is a question of evil, it is precisely the element of disguise that people tend to overlook. We are wont to assume that evil, character disorder, profound moral depravity, psychopathy, pathological narcissism, etc., are easy to detect and that such people can only intimidate and inspire fear upon a first encounter. But this is only the case with those not intelligent enough to disguise their depravity, like the common criminal. The most dangerous among us are those intelligent enough to appear as paragons of virtue.

"…it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.… a prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result. … he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, …"

With respect to evil, there still exists a sort of half-baked Platonism in the attitudes of many people, for there is a common assumption that if a person is knee deep in depravity, either he does not know any better or is under the influence of environmental and psychological determinants he has no control over. But there is a distinction between intellectual and moral virtue. Morality is in the will. It is very possible to have a brilliant mind, but at the same time a wicked and depraved will. The most dangerous predators among us are ingeniously veiled. They carefully surround themselves with people entirely unlike themselves, that is, with deeply empathic human beings who wish to please others, who are slow to judge, who are excessively tolerant and who have an eye for the good to be found in others. They know how to exploit to their own advantage such character traits. It is their association with such people that maximizes their chances of perpetuating the facade and keeping themselves from exposure.

Doug McManaman

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gender and the Narcissist

I keep using the male third person singular because most narcissists (75%) are males and more so because there is no difference between the male and female narcissists except in two things.

In the manifestation of their narcissism, female and male narcissists, inevitably, do tend to differ. They emphasise different things. They transform different elements of their personality and of their life into the cornerstones of their disorder.

Women concentrate on their body (as they do in eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa). They flaunt and exploit their physical charms, their sexuality, their socially and culturally determined "femininity". They secure their Narcissistic Supply through their more traditional gender role: the home, children, suitable careers, their husbands ("the wife of…"), their feminine traits, their role in society, etc.

It is no wonder than narcissists – both men and women – are chauvinistic and conservative. They depend to such an extent on the opinions of people around them – that, with time, they are transformed into ultra-sensitive seismographs of public opinion, barometers of prevailing winds and guardians of conformity. Narcissists cannot afford to seriously alienate those who reflect to them their False Self. The very proper and on-going functioning of their Ego depends on the goodwill and the collaboration of their human environment.

True, besieged and consumed by pernicious guilt feelings – many a narcissist finally seek to be punished. The self-destructive narcissist then plays the role of the "bad guy" (or "bad girl"). But even then it is within the traditional socially allocated roles. To ensure social opprobrium (read: attention), the narcissist exaggerates these roles to a caricature. A woman is likely to self-label herself a "whore" and a male narcissist to self-style himself a "vicious, unrepentant criminal". Yet, these again are traditional social roles. Men are likely to emphasise intellect, power, aggression, money, or social status. Women are likely to emphasise body, looks, charm, sexuality, feminine "traits", homemaking, children and childrearing – even as they seek their masochistic punishment.

Another difference is in the way the genders react to treatment. Women are more likely to resort to therapy because they are more likely to admit to psychological problems. But while men may be less inclined to DISCLOSE or to expose their problems to others (the macho-man factor) – it does not necessarily imply that they are less prone to admit it to themselves. Women are also more likely to ask for help than men.

Yet, the prime rule of narcissism must never be forgotten: the narcissist uses everything around him or her to obtain his (or her) Narcissistic Supply. Children happen to be more available to the female narcissist due to the still prevailing prejudiced structure of our society and to the fact that women are the ones to give birth. It is easier for a woman to think of her children as her extensions because they once indeed were her physical extensions and because her on-going interaction with them is both more intensive and more extensive.

This means that the male narcissist is more likely to regard his children as a nuisance than as a source of rewarding Narcissist Supply – especially as they grow and become autonomous. Devoid of the diversity of alternatives available to men – the narcissistic woman fights to maintain her most reliable Source of Supply: her children. Through insidious indoctrination, guilt formation, emotional sanctions, deprivation and other psychological mechanisms, she tries to induce in them a dependence, which cannot be easily unravelled.

But, there is no psychodynamic difference between children, money, or intellect, as Sources of Narcissistic Supply. So, there is no psychodynamic difference between male and female narcissist. The only difference is in their choices of Sources of Narcissistic Supply.

Sam Vaknin

Monday, December 11, 2006

The tools of the narcissist

The narcissist uses five main tools. These are gifts, affection, withdrawal, threads and violence and in exactly this order.

Gifts: Gifts can be used in two ways. They can either be a symbol of submission or a symbol of demand. Free people generally do not give gifts because they have what they want and do not want to submit or demand. The communication between the victim and the narcissist is based upon gifts. The narcissist gives gifts in order to make the victim depended. The victim in return accepts these gifts and returns far greater gifts in order to accept this submission. The altruist on the other hand simply helps but does not give gifts either. So if your relationship starts off with gifts, that is a bad sign. Think about children. Most of the time, they make deals with each other. If a child gives a gift it is because the child doesn't like the item any longer.

Affection: The narcissist very early on claims soul mate ship, ultimate love. Everything seems incredible and unbelievable - a dream come true. Free people might show each other affection but generally feel comfortable with themselves. They might enjoy the company of someone but will stay focused on their own interests. The victim is needy (co-dependent) due to some childhood abuse. The narcissist is not needy in terms of affection but admiration within the group where the narcissist keeps his or her spider-web. However, the narcissist gives this affection in order to draw the victim into this spider web. This is a difficult time for the narcissist because the narcissist cannot be intimate. Hence, intimacy is replaced by sex.

Withdrawal: Once the victim's dependency is re-directed onto the narcissist, the narcissist begins to withdraw. Step by step the supposed closeness is disappearing. The victim experiences this as a great loss and the narcissist finds him or herself on high. The narcissist thinks something like: "I don't have to give gifts, I don't have to show affection, and yet I am being admired."

Threads: The victim who remains needy is in shock that no affection is shown to him or her by the narcissist and starts to withdraw him- herself. Now the narcissist starts to panic because the admiration seems to be diminishing and starts to threaten the victim. These threats are of the kind: "You are a liar. You said you loved me but now you obviously don't." Now, the narcissist resorts back to the first tools including gifts and sex and threatens that they will be withheld. Strangely enough, this has already happened but the narcissist will try to convince the victim that all is as it always used to be. In this sense these threads are imaginary only.

Violence: At one point the narcissist will fail to convince the victim any longer by means of persuasion and changed perception. Now the narcissist will resort to violence. This is the stage when abuse in the common sense takes place. This includes locking out the victim, tearing up photographs, destroying personal belongings in front of the victim, hitting the victim, demanding abusive sexual favors from the victim, punching, kicking, spitting, withholding finances, bad mouthing, threatening to kill, using courts and ultimately shared children.
All what the narcissist wants is admiration.

Dr. Ludger Hofmann-Engl

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Narcissitic Leaders

The narcissistic leader is the culmination and reification of his period, culture, and civilization. He is likely to rise to prominence in narcissistic societies.

The malignant narcissist invents and then projects a false, fictitious, self for the world to fear, or to admire. He maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with and this is further exacerbated by the trappings of power. The narcissist's grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience are supported by real life authority and the narcissist's predilection to surround himself with obsequious sycophants.

The narcissist's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as "victims of persecution".

The narcissistic leader fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, mythology. The leader is this religion's ascetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures (or so he claims) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling.

The narcissistic leader is a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people - or humanity at large - should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, the narcissistic leader became a distorted version of Nietzsche's "superman".

But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral.

In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernist and moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things "natural" - or by strongly repressing these feelings. But what they refer to as "nature" is not natural at all.

The narcissistic leader invariably proffers an aesthetic of decadence and evil carefully orchestrated and artificial - though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers. Narcissistic leadership is about reproduced copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols - not about veritable atavism or true conservatism.

In short: narcissistic leadership is about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), the leader demands the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis is tantamount, in this narcissistic dramaturgy, to self-annulment.

Narcissism is nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives are nihilistic. Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism - and the cult's leader serves as a role model, annihilating the Man, only to re-appear as a pre-ordained and irresistible force of nature.

Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the "old ways" - against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the corrupt order. Narcissistic movements are puerile, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon a narcissistic (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state, or group, or upon the leader.

Minorities or "others" - often arbitrarily selected - constitute a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that is "wrong". They are accused of being old, they are eerily disembodied, they are cosmopolitan, they are part of the establishment, they are "decadent", they are hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin ... They are different, they are narcissistic (feel and act as morally superior), they are everywhere, they are defenceless, they are credulous, they are adaptable (and thus can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They are the perfect hate figure. Narcissists thrive on hatred and pathological envy.

This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler, diagnosed by Erich Fromm - together with Stalin - as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.

The narcissistic leader prefers the sparkle and glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. His reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substances, consisting of mere appearances and mass delusions. In the aftermath of his regime - the narcissistic leader having died, been deposed, or voted out of office - it all unravels. The tireless and constant prestidigitation ceases and the entire edifice crumbles. What looked like an economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely-held empires disintegrate. Laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. "Earth shattering" and "revolutionary" scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem.

It is important to understand that the use of violence must be ego-syntonic. It must accord with the self-image of the narcissist. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform with the narcissistic narrative.

Thus, a narcissist who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite - is highly unlikely to use violence at first.

The pacific mask crumbles when the narcissist has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, the prime sources of his narcissistic supply - have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, the narcissist strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. "The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)", "they don't really know what they are doing", "following a rude awakening, they will revert to form", etc.

When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail - the narcissist is injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized - is now discarded with contempt and hatred.

This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting". To the narcissist, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. A narcissistic leader is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc.

The "small people", the "rank and file", the "loyal soldiers" of the narcissist - his flock, his nation, his employees - they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated - is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of the narcissist. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sam Vaknin