Sunday, September 30, 2007

Will I Ever Be Good Enough?

Welcome To The Resource Website For Daughters Raised By Narcissistic Mothers

“But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do YOU think of me?” - Bette Midler as CC Bloom in Beaches.

Dr. Karyl McBride :

When I was a little girl, I had a talking doll named “Chatty Cathy”. Whenever I pulled her string, she spoke the same phrases: “Tell me a story” or “Please brush my hair.” It may seem strange, but when I think about how to describe a “narcissistic mother,” I have visions of that talking doll. A narcissistic mother’s interactions with her daughter are as predictably self-centered as the Chatty Cathy doll. No matter how many times the daughter “pulls the string”- hoping that her mother will focus on her and her needs, the mother’s involvement with her is always about Mom. As small children we don’t understand these dynamics between ourselves and our mothers. Mom may look like the perfect mother, just like Chatty Cathy looked like the perfect friend, yet the child is constantly struggling with feelings of disappointment, sadness, emptiness and frustration. She is longing for the emotional support and nurturing that she never receives from her mother.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough, is for the daughters of narcissistic mothers who have spent much of their adult lives dealing with the fallout of never having received maternal support and love.
Being the adult daughter of a narcissistic mother means that you were raised by someone who cared more for herself than she did for you. She approved of you only when your behavior reflected well upon her or your family. Since her love for you was conditional, you inherited a distorted sense of love and lacked the experience of genuine maternal nurturing. As a result, you have likely developed particular coping mechanisms: you hide or deny your pain, you become involved in intimate relationships that tend to be unhealthy or unsatisfying, you are an overachiever or a self-sabotager. There is the feeling, which directly relates to never having been able to please your mother, of never being quite good enough in relationship, career and life in general. Daughters of narcissistic mothers seem to flounder in life, struggling with chronic feelings of inadequacy and emptiness, knowing there is something wrong but not understanding what that something might be. For them, life thus becomes an agony of self-doubt.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough, gives a voice to the feelings these daughters have buried, offers them insight into the origins of their pain, and provides a blueprint for healing that can be personally tailored to each reader. Will I Ever Be Good Enough, explains the narcissistic mother dynamics to adult daughters and provides them with strategies so that they can begin to overcome their legacy of distorted love and enjoy their lives more fully.

Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers from the Legacy of Distorted Love, is a self-help book written for adult daughters of narcissistic mothers. In this book, Dr. Karyl McBride is sharing her years of clinical and personal research to help daughters heal.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lies People Tell

All people lie some of the time. They use words to convey their lies while their body language usually gives them away. This is curious. Why did evolution prefer this self defeating strategy? The answer lies in the causes of the phenomenon.

We lie for three main reasons and these give rise to three categories of lies:

1. The Empathic Lie – is a lie told with the intention of sparing someone's feelings. It is a face saving lie – but someone else's face. It is designed to prevent a loss of social status, the onslaught of social sanctions, the process of judgement involved in both. It is a derivative o our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes – that is, to empathize. It is intended to spare OUR feelings, which are bound to turn more and more unpleasant the more we sympathize with the social-mental predicament of the person lied to. The reverse, brutal honesty, at all costs and in all circumstances – is a form of sadistic impulse. The lie achieves its goal only if the recipient cooperates, does not actively seek the truth out and acquiescently participates in the mini-drama unfolding in his honour.

2. The Egocentric Lie – is a lie intended to further the well being of the liar. This can be achieved in one of two ways. The lie can help the liar to achieve his goals (a Goal Seeking Lie) or to avoid embarrassment, humiliation, social sanctions, judgement, criticism and, in general, unpleasant experiences related to social standing (a Face Saving Lie). The Goal Seeking Lie is useful only when considering the liar as an individual, independent unit. The Face Saving type is instrumental only in social situations. We can use the terms: Individualistic Lie and Social Lie respectively.

3. The Narcissistic Lie – is separated from his brethren by its breadth and recursiveness. It is all-pervasive, ubiquitous, ever recurring, all encompassing, entangled and intertwined with all the elements of the liar's life and personality. Moreover, it is a lie of whose nature the liar is not aware and he is convinced of its truth. But the people surrounding the Narcissist liar notice the lie. The Narcissist-liar is rather like a hunchback without a mirror. He does not believe in the reality of his own hump. It seems that where the liar does not believe his own lies – he succeeds in convincing his victims rather effectively. When he does believe in his own inventions – he fails miserably at trapping his fellow men.

Confabulations are an important part of life. They serve to heal emotional wounds or to prevent ones from being inflicted in the first place. They prop-up the confabulator's self-esteem, regulate his (or her) sense of self-worth, and buttress his (or her) self-image. They serve as organizing principles in social interactions.

Father's wartime heroism, mother's youthful good looks, one's oft-recounted exploits, erstwhile alleged brilliance, and past purported sexual irresistibility - are typical examples of white, fuzzy, heart-warming lies wrapped around a shriveled kernel of truth.

But the distinction between reality and fantasy is rarely completely lost. Deep inside, the healthy confabulator knows where facts end and wishful thinking takes over. Father acknowledges he was no war hero, though he did his share of fighting. Mother understands she was no ravishing beauty, though she may have been attractive. The confabulator realizes that his recounted exploits are overblown, his brilliance exaggerated, and his sexual irresistibility a myth.

Such distinctions never rise to the surface because everyone - the confabulator and his audience alike - have a common interest to maintain the confabulation. To challenge the integrity of the confabulator or the veracity of his confabulations is to threaten the very fabric of family and society. Human intercourse is built around such entertaining deviations from the truth.

This is where the narcissist differs from others (from "normal" people).

His very self is a piece of fiction concocted to fend off hurt and to nurture the narcissist's grandiosity. He fails in his "reality test" - the ability to distinguish the actual from the imagined. The narcissist fervently believes in his own infallibility, brilliance, omnipotence, heroism, and perfection. He doesn't dare confront the truth and admit it even to himself.

Moreover, he imposes his personal mythology on his nearest and dearest. Spouse, children, colleagues, friends, neighbors - sometimes even perfect strangers - must abide by the narcissist's narrative or face his wrath. The narcissist countenances no disagreement, alternative points of view, or criticism. To him, confabulation IS reality.

The coherence of the narcissist's dysfunctional and precariously-balanced personality depends on the plausibility of his stories and on their acceptance by his Sources of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist invests an inordinate time in substantiating his tales, collecting "evidence", defending his version of events, and in re-interpreting reality to fit his scenario. As a result, most narcissists are self-delusional, obstinate, opinionated, and argumentative.

The narcissist's lies are not goal-orientated. This is what makes his constant dishonesty both disconcerting and incomprehensible. The narcissist lies at the drop of a hat, needlessly, and almost ceaselessly. He lies in order to avoid the Grandiosity Gap - when the abyss between fact and (narcissistic) fiction becomes too gaping to ignore.

The narcissist lies in order to preserve appearances, uphold fantasies, support the tall (and impossible) tales of his False Self and extract Narcissistic Supply from unsuspecting sources, who are not yet on to him. To the narcissist, confabulation is not merely a way of life - but life itself.

We are all conditioned to let other indulge in pet delusions and get away with white, not too egregious, lies. The narcissist makes use of our socialization. We dare not confront or expose him, despite the outlandishness of his claims, the improbability of his stories, the implausibility of his alleged accomplishments and conquests. We simply turn the other cheek, or meekly avert our eyes, often embarrassed.

Moreover, the narcissist makes clear, from the very beginning, that it is his way or the highway. His aggression - even violent streak - are close to the surface. He may be charming in a first encounter - but even then there are telltale signs of pent-up abuse. His interlocutors sense this impending threat and avoid conflict by acquiescing with the narcissist's fairy tales. Thus he imposes his private universe and virtual reality on his milieu - sometimes with disastrous consequences.

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Global Politician, Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Friday, September 28, 2007

When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself

by W. Keith Campbell

ISBN-10: 140220342X
ISBN-13: 978-1402203428

From the Publisher

Narcissistic men seem like the ultimate catch: self-confident, attractive, charming individuals who are often the life of the party. The narcissist always knows the place to be and who to be seen with. His attention is initially very flattering, but eventually his behavior is not: he becomes aloof and controlling and may cheat. He still seems somewhat interested, however, and often makes enough nice gestures to maintain a girl's interest, leaving all but him to wonder: what is going on?The country's leading expert on narcissism, Dr. W. Keith Campbell, explains how to identify a narcissist, what it means to love a man who loves himself and how to break the cycle of dating men with this personality disorder.

Author Biography: W. Keith Campbell, PhD has studied narcissism and its effects on relationships for over 10 years. He is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. Dr. Campbell has published articles in and/or been interviewed by numerous newspapers and magazines, including the New York Post, USA Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Shape Magazine and Men's Health. He lives in Athens, GA.

From Publishers Weekly

"Every time I talked about narcissists' romantic relationships," writes Campbell, who has studied the subject for years, "women would seem to pay particular attention...They would at first get a puzzled look in their eyes, then start nodding, and finally have an 'ah-ha' experience." Yes, women know about narcissistic men: those good-looking, extroverted, self-confident and, ultimately, uncaring and unfaithful men who seemed at first to be so exciting. Campbell, a young academic who wrote his doctoral dissertation on narcissists and romance, offers a book that's a couple of notches above the usual relationship advice book-intelligent, sober and well written. He clearly defines narcissism and how it is different from simple high self-esteem (narcissists need to be the best, and have a strong sense of entitlement); then offers a "narcissist's-eye-view" of a romantic relationship so readers can identify their traits (the narcissist see his girlfriend as a trophy whose purpose is to make him look good; he needs to be in control of the relationship); the difficulty of getting a narcissist to abandon his narcissism; and personal and social reasons why women date narcissists. Campbell has a wide range-he can draw on popular films as well as psychological research. If your man seems to love himself too much and you not enough, this is a good place to seek understanding and advice.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


How to Tell Healthy Self-Esteem from Narcissism

By Martha Beck

Try this: Go to the person in your life who reeks of self-esteem and ask, "In what ways do you think you need to grow or change?" If the person is psychologically healthy, the list will be as long as your leg. That's because real self-esteem is based on finding areas where we can improve ourselves and honestly working to overcome problems. Healthy people know that they are always a work in progress. Narcissists, on the other hand, will tell you they have nothing to change. Narcissists often live in anguish, while refusing to accept that their own behavior has anything to do with their discontent.

Have a Narcissist in Your Life?

To deal with narcissists, it helps to understand that they generally detest themselves at some level. They've fully incorporated the values of some highly judgmental social system (a family, a religion, a community), where love is given or withheld based on external criteria. (If you're beautiful, thin and smart, you'll be loved; if you're a fat, ugly grade-school dropout, forget it.) People who are socialized this way become addicted to status markers the way junkies are addicted to intoxicants; they crave praise because it's the closest they ever get to unconditional love.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Most people who get involved with a malignant narcissist do eventually decide to break away. At some point, they sense that, to survive as a person, they must. This often takes a very long time, but that is no reason to say that they are gluttons for punishment. A glutton for punishment never breaks away. So we must be careful not to judge too quickly. Denial is a powerful thing, and it is instinctive in traumatic situations.

Though I am less prone to denial than most people, I had an unforgettable experience with it many years ago. I was on a flight from Paris to Rome, and the security was much tighter even than it is today. Everything got X-rayed and thoroughly hand searched, including your person. You probably would not believe me if I told you all the things that happened without me allowing myself to know what was going on. The more reality tried to impose on my consciousness, the more into a haze I went. I was in the boarding line for three hours before I gave in and looked up at the sign that said this flight was ultimately bound for Tel Aviv. My heart landed in the pit of my stomach. The people in that endless line behaved differently than Europeans. After nine days in Paris, it felt good to be among people like this, whom I felt must be mostly Americans. But now, for the first time I let myself see and looked around. Their hushed, almost whispering voices were not speaking English. And every twentieth man was bearded and dressed as an orthodox Jew.

But even that did not bring me out of denial. I kept whistling in the dark, to think this was probably routine and that there was no danger. The loaded plane then baked on the runway for several hours – I lost track of time. I didn't come out of denial till long after the cargo hold had been emptied, all the baggage re-searched by hand, and reloaded. Not once, or twice, but three times.

Denial is a slippery slope, so even that did nothing but accelerate me deeper and deeper into it. That's because every time a thought acknowledging reality managed to form, you quickly repressed it in denial to keep whistling there in the dark. I didn't come out of it till the plane had sat on that runway for so long you thought terrorists were in the cockpit and negotiations were underway. Not till the silent tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife and everybody was about to explode. (You were afraid to move or talk, for fear that everybody would attack you and tear you to pieces with their bare hands, thinking you were a terrorist.) The teenage girl in the seat behind me threw up for sheer fright and was comforted by two old men.

Then a young mother held up her one-or-two-year-old son at arm's length, obviously in some silent gesture that all understood. She made him giggle with delight for us. The center of all that silent attention, he held out his arms to be an airplane for us. To this day, whenever I recall that moment, I utterly break down into sobbing tears.

It changed my life. At the time though this vision just stunned me. Back into my senses. That's because I suddenly realized that people wanted to kill this child for being.

As if stuck by a hot poker or something, I turned around with a little voice in my head angrily asking, "Why? Where are they? Where are the bastards?" It was as though a gigabyte of understanding downloaded all at once. "Humph," I thought, sitting back in my seat, "Figures! They're hiding! Cute! But I'll be damned if I'll be afraid of the people I can see!"

Why did I think that? Because when I came to my senses I noticed somebody's invisible finger on my button and snatched back control of my mind. That's why I suddenly could think straight enough to know whom to hate.

I am too ashamed to share what I had been thinking before that, as half-formed thoughts repressed just would not stay down, despite my denial, and kept surfacing to consciousness on me. But I will say that the terror tactics had me fearing those innocent people around me, not the unseen terrorists. To this day, I am both ashamed and amazed at how backwards terror had made me think. Because they were dangerous to be around, the other passengers were the "dangerous" ones in my mind, not the unseen terrorists. What a toxic thought. Imagine how it made me view them.

And there is a very short step between fear and hatred. One takes it in a heartbeat.

Yup, I was blaming the victim, viewing the targets of terrorists like Canadians and Europeans view Americans today. Yup, if we saw a bunch of sheep blaming the attacked one while making excuses for the wolf and even being friendly with him, we'd know they're crazy. But terrorized human beings NEVER fail to do just that.

Sure, those stupid sheep think that if they suck up to him, he'll like them and not eat them too. But we know that's too stupid for even a dumb animal to think. Yet, terrorized human beings NEVER fail to think just that.

I liken this crazy, backwards thinking to the true story of some children caught on a railroad trestle bridge when a train came. Observers said that, if they had done the natural thing — if they had run to the nearer end of the bridge, away from the train — they would have reached safety. But like deer in an automobile's headlights, their terror made them all run right into the onrushing train. Truth is stranger than fiction, eh? That's how backwards terror makes people think, and narcissists use terror tactics.

Terror isn't fright. Terror is a darkened state of mind. Terror is your head buried in the sand. Indeed, the very word terror comes from the Latin word terra, which means "earth" and comes from this ancient figure of speech. Terror is that underground state of mind otherwise known as denial — fear of facing facts. In terror, you're on automatic pilot, acting on thoughts you repress to the level of the subconscious. Therefore, those thoughts can be absolutely absurd without your realizing it.

So, beware denial. It's a dangerous state of mind. A narcissist's shock tactics and terror tactics drive you into it. But don't go there. People in denial don't think straight. They think and do the most inexplicable things because denial compels them 180 degrees in the wrong direction. If I had not been deep in denial I would not have boarded that plane.

Kathleen Krajco

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When Is Narcissism a Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality as Category or Continuum

© Tami Port

When is narcissism a mental illness? New research indicates that it is all a matter of degree.
What’s the distinction between “normal” narcissism and psychological disorder? In a new study appearing in the May issue of Personality and Individual Differences, two American psychologists examined the contrasting perspectives on narcissism held by social psychologists and clinical psychologists.

Social Psychology and Clinical Psychology
Social psychologists are scientists who study people in their relationship to others and to society as a whole; the discipline where mental state meets social situation.

Clinical psychology focuses on diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders. These mental health clinicians usually have a PhD and work in a medical setting with psychiatrists and other physicians.

Different Perspectives on Narcissism
There are many similarities to how clinical and social psychologists view narcissism, but there is one very important difference. Clinical psychologists classify narcissism as a personality disorder. So, according to their diagnostic criteria, you either have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or you don’t.

Unlike clinicians, social psychologists generally view narcissism as a spectrum or dimension of personality, not as a category. They do not believe that there is a specific point within the continuum of narcissism where ‘normal’ suddenly becomes ‘narcissism’.

New Research on Narcissism
In their recently published research, Foster and Campbell (2007) measured narcissism using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), an assessment tool often employed for evaluating narcissistic traits in social psychological research.

What Is the NPI?

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory is a forced-choice questionnaire that uses paired statements to assess narcissism in nonclinical, adult populations. In other words, the NPI is used for research on the general public, not necessarily mental health patients.

Although designed to measure narcissistic traits in the general population, the NPI was designed based on the clinical definition of narcissism found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This diagnostic reference is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and is the manual that mental health professionals most commonly use to diagnose narcissism and other mental disorders.

Because the purpose of the DSM is to diagnose mental illness, the various disorders are presented as specific, discrete categories. However, in the creation of the NPI, this clinical definition of narcissism was used with the assumption that people who don’t have the psychological disorder of narcissism can still display narcissistic traits.

What’s the Difference between Narcissism and Normal?

So is narcissism a distinct disorder, or is it a dimension of personality that can range from mild to extreme? Since the DSM outlines the specific criteria necessary to diagnose a person as having the psychological disorder of NPD, one might expect there to be an abrupt shift or jump in NPI narcissism scores as a point of demarcation between what is considered “normal” and what is mental illness. This is essentially what Foster and Campbell set out to explore.

Narcissism Study Method

The researchers examined 3895 participants from the general population using an on-line version of the NPI. Subjects were presented with 40 paired statements and instructed to choose the one that best described them. For each statement pair, one choice reflected a more narcissistic perspective. For example, “I am much like everybody else” versus “I am an extraordinary person.”

Narcissism Research Results

Analysis of the scores revealed no point at which there was a distinct shift from “normal” to “narcissist.” Rather the scores ranged across a continuum, a finding more in agreement with the social psychological view of narcissism.

This suggests that narcissism is structured similarly to other aspects of general personality, as a range or dimension. For example, considering the characteristic of sociability, one might see it as ranging from shy and socially withdrawn to gregarious and socially outgoing. Foster and Campbell’s research suggests that narcissism also shows a continuum of individuals who do not strongly display narcissistic traits of self-absorption to those who are extremely or pathologically narcissistic.

More Information on Narcissism
There are numerous on-line and in print resources with additional information on narcissism and personality disorders in general, including: The Mayo Clinic: Mental Health Center and the article What Is a Personality Disorder?: Overview of the Ten Psychological Disorders of Personality.

This Suite 101 article summarizes one study investigating the nature of narcissism. The content of this article is not meant to be used for diagnosis and is not a substitute for professional help and counseling.

Additional Narcissism Sources
Grey, P. (2006). Psychology, 5th Edition. Worth Publishers.

Raskin, R. N., & Hall, C. S. (1979). A narcissistic personality inventory. Psychological Reports, 45.

Raskin, R. N., & Hall, C. S. (1981). The Narcissistic Personality Inventory: Alternate form reliability and further evidence of its construct validity. Journal of Personality Assessment, 45.

Foster, J. D. and Campbell, W. K. (2007). Are there such things as “Narcissists” in social psychology? A taxometric analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 6.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Judge's antics, disorder unrelated


The Enquirer

MASON – Judge George Parker’s bizarre behavior on the Mason Municipal Court bench might be caused by a personality disorder, but that disorder cannot explain his “blatant, calculated dishonesty,” a state attorney-discipline official says.

“There is not one shred of evidence connecting (Parker’s) pervasive dishonesty” to his narcissistic personality disorder, said Jonathan Coughlan, the Ohio Supreme Court’s disciplinary counsel.

Coughlan says a description of the disorder, with which Parker was diagnosed in October 2006, includes characteristics such as having inflated sense of self-importance, preoccupation with fantasties of unlimited power, and requiring excessive admiration.

“Conspicuously absent from the nine descriptors is conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, (and) misrepresentation...There is simply no correlation between (Parker’s) blatant, calculated dishonesty and his (disorder),” Coughlan said, adding that Parker “intentionally lied to try to avoid discipline.”

Parker, judge of the court that handles misdemeanors and traffic cases for Mason and Deerfield Township, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Parker’s lawyer, George Jonson of Cincinnati, has argued for leniency, saying that his client’s narcissistic personality disorder is to blame for many of his antics, and that he is getting treatment.

The Ohio Supreme Court will consider what punishment, if any, to impose on Parker at a hearing set for Oct. 9 in Columbus. A decision, however, may not be issued for weeks after that hearing, officials say.

Critics have complained that the investigation into Parker’s conduct has been long and drawn-out.

The investigation began in 2004. Parker says he filed the initial complaint against himself.

This past June, the court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline found Parker violated dozens of conduct rules for lawyers and judges. He used tactics such as misusing the 911 emergency phone number to summon an officer to his chambers, and overstepping his judicial bounds by accompanying police when they served a warrant on a suspect. Parker also intentionally lied during disciplinary hearings in an attempt to avoid being disciplined, the board said.

The board had originally considered an indefinite suspension of Parker’s law license. But board members decided on the less-harsh recommendation of a yearlong suspension because Parker is getting treatment. However, Coughlan noted that narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t respond well to treatment.
The board recommended a yearlong suspension of Parker’s law license, with an additional six months unimposed as long as Parker continues treatment and meets other requirements.

Critics have complained that the process, which began in 2004, has taken so long. Parker’s elected term of office expires at the end of this year, but he is seeking re-election as a nonpartisan candidate. Four other candidates are challenging his bid to keep his seat in the Nov. 6 general election.

If the Supreme Court suspends Parker’s law license, that would disqualify him from serving as a judge.

Parker has been a lightning rod for controversy since he took the bench in 2002 after his election the preceding November.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Public awaits O.J.'s final chapter


Robert Seltzer
San Antonio Express-News

He had one of those names that screamed out "geek," a name fit for a professor who favored tweed jackets with elbow patches.

Orenthal James.

But Orenthal James, aka O.J., was no geek; he was an artist in cleats, a runner who turned a game into a ballistic ballet.

If only his grace had extended beyond the stadium, but O.J. Simpson had a hard time distinguishing between power plays in football and power plays in life.

When he retired, Simpson took off his cleats and pads, but he never shed the pride and arrogance that make great players great.

And so, when he was acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend in 1995, he could have tried to rehabilitate his character — a challenging task, yes, but one he never even attempted.

After all, he was acquitted, so he had the law, if not public opinion, on his side.

But, no, instead of trying to redeem himself, he sank into a bizarre world of exploitation, trying to make money off the two corpses.

There was his autograph session two years ago in Los Angeles, part of a slasher movie convention staged on the 10th anniversary of the murders — nice.

Then, about a year later, he tried to turn blood into gold again, writing a book titled "If I Did It," recounting how he would have committed the murders if he were the killer.

No, Simpson is not exactly a marketing maven, his desire for money trumping his elegance in acquiring it.

Which may explain the latest incident, the bizarre episode in which the ex-football player dropped more F-bombs than he ever heard in the locker room, according to tapes released by the victims of an alleged robbery attempt.

But it was not the cussing that was so shocking; it was the brazen attitude of a man who, given his history with the legal system, should have been a little more circumspect.

Simpson, charged with 10 felony counts, faces life in prison for the alleged robbery attempt at a hotel room in Las Vegas.

"I'm intrigued by his presence everywhere," Harry Haines, a communications professor at Trinity University, said. "Just when you think he's old news, he's back again. It's amazing to me that he maintains such a high interest level."

One reason for the fascination, Haines said, is that his story reads like a play with the final act missing.

"There's a widespread feeling that a perpetrator was never brought to justice," he said. "So whenever he's in a jam, people ask, 'Is this the point where we see justice?'"

As a pop culture icon, Simpson is more interesting than the other figures jockeying for space in the celebrity magazines.

"I find Paris Hilton exceedingly boring," Haines said. "Every time I see her on television, I think about disconnecting the satellite dish."

The ex-football great was not always the controversial figure he is today; during his playing days, he condemned another great runner, Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns.

Brown, acquitted of four assault charges between 1965 and 1985, has rehabilitated his character, working with gang members to keep them on a path that leads to success, not to prison.

Now an executive with his old team, he gets good press, his misdeeds so long ago that they seem illegible on his résumé.

Not so with Simpson, whose moral trajectory went in the opposite direction — from good to bad.

"Everybody loved O.J.," Haines said.

If there is a tragedy here, however, it is not that Simpson is beyond redemption. No human being is. No, the tragedy is that, unlike Brown, he does not realize that redemption is necessary.

"When it comes to narcissistic personality types, he's in a class by himself," Haines said. "He does not even consider the necessity of rehabilitation. My assumption is that he feels beset upon, that he has been inconvenienced and mistreated. It's mind-boggling."

Orenthal James Simpson might have been better off if he had been a geek.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Acquired Situational Narcissism

© Sam Vaknin

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a systemic, all-pervasive condition, very much like pregnancy: either you have it or you don't. Once you have it, you have it day and night, it is an inseparable part of the personality, a recurrent set of behavior patterns.

Recent research (1996) by Roningstam and others, however, shows that there is a condition which might be called "Transient or Temporary or Short Term Narcissism" as opposed to the full-fledged version. Even prior to their discovery, "Reactive Narcissistic Regression" was well known: people regress to a transient narcissistic phase in response to a major life crisis which threatens their mental composure.

But can narcissism be acquired or learned? Can it be provoked by certain, well-defined, situations? Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at New York Hospital - Cornell Medical School thinks it can. He proposes to reverse the accepted chronology. According to him, pathological narcissism can be induced in adulthood by celebrity, wealth, and fame.

The "victims" - billionaire tycoons, movie stars, renowned authors, politicians, and other authority figures - develop grandiose fantasies, lose their erstwhile ability to empathize, react with rage to slights, both real and imagined and, in general, act like textbook narcissists.

But is the occurrence of Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN) inevitable and universal - or are only certain people prone to it? It is likely that ASN is merely an amplification of earlier narcissistic conduct, traits, style, and tendencies.

Celebrities with ASN already had a narcissistic personality and have acquired it long before it "erupted". Being famous, powerful, or rich only "legitimized" and conferred immunity from social sanction on the unbridled manifestation of a preexisting disorder. Indeed, narcissists tend to gravitate to professions and settings which guarantee fame, celebrity, power, and wealth.

As Millman correctly notes, the celebrity's life is abnormal. The adulation is often justified and plentiful, the feedback biased and filtered, the criticism muted and belated, social control either lacking or excessive and vitriolic. Such vicissitudinal existence is not conducive to mental health even in the most balanced person. The confluence of a person's narcissistic predisposition and his pathological life circumstances gives rise to ASN.

Acquired Situational Narcissism borrows elements from both the classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder - ingrained and all-pervasive - and from Transient or Reactive Narcissism. Celebrities are, therefore, unlikely to "heal" once their fame or wealth or might are gone. Instead, their basic narcissism merely changes form. It continues unabated, as insidious as ever - but modified by life's ups and downs.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Self Seekers

Richard, M.D. Restak

ISBN-10: 0385159765
ISBN-13: 978-0385159760

"Here is a compelling report that unmasks one of the most prevalent - and treacherous - personality disorders occurring in America today. Based on profiles drawn from the practices of prominent psychologists and psychoanalysts, Richard Restak provides a provocative psychological portrait of a personality fast becoming widespread in our culture - the individual who can only function by manipulating and exploiting others.

Who are the self-seekers? How can you recognize them? What techniques of behavior do they use to control you? What underlies their need to dominate others? Why are their numbers increasing? The answers to these questions may surprise and shock you, but they cannot be ignored. THE SELF SEEKERS is filled with insights into the complex personalities who perceive with alarming accuracy the dynamics of everyone’s behavior but their own."

Extract from the Introduction by Richard Restak:

"Contemporary American society is currently overrun with a personality that I call the manipulator. He exists at all levels of society, from the boardrooms of our nation's industries to the maximum-security wards of our prisons. Manipulators are numbered among our employers and spouses; many of our heroes are manipulators. So widespread is the manipulator, in fact, that manipulation has become a life-style which threatens to change the very fabric of American society.

Basically, the manipulator suffers from a deficiency in the sense of self: what we usually refer to as a sense of identity. This disturbance exists along a continuum beginning with innocent and commonly encountered difficulties in the regulation of self-esteem which we all experience from time to time and extending, at the other extreme of the continuum, toward dangerous psychopathic murderers. Along this continuum are encountered different kinds of manipulators: narcissists, borderline personality disorders, impostors and finally, psychopaths. This book explores each of these different personalities and illustrates how they all share a basic disturbance in the self. To this extent, the book is about the importance of self in modem life."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

How Do I Love Me?

New Study Presents A Twist On The Conventional Narcissist

Science Daily — Conventional wisdom suggests that narcissists have negative self views which are masked by their grandiose self-concept. However, new research in Psychological Science shows that narcissists actually view themselves the same on the outside as on the inside.A brush with a narcissist's inflated ego often leaves one reeling with resentment. Whether it is their constant need for attention or their unfounded sense of entitlement, we are often quick to attribute their shallow behavior to an unconscious self-loathing. However, new research from Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, Jennifer Bosson at the University of South Florida and colleagues suggests that narcissists actually view themselves the same on the outside as on the inside.

Previous studies have shown that narcissists' conscious self-views are not uniformly positive. Narcissists see themselves as being above average in areas such as status, dominance and intelligence (what are referred to as agentic domains), but not in areas such as kindness, morality, and emotional intimacy (what are referred to as communal domains).

Following that line of thought, the researchers in this study tested the link between narcissism and unconscious self-views in these agentic and communal domains. Conventional wisdom suggests that narcissism would have negative self-views. In other words, narcissists' should unconsciously dislike themselves equally from their intelligence to their level of intimacy in relationships. Narcissists, however, had positive unconscious self-views on the agentic (but not communal) domains.

Campbell, Bosson and colleagues used an Implicit Association Test to assess the participant's underlying views on their self-esteem. Essentially, the test works by recording reaction times to computer-based word associations and relies on the notion that the participants are not aware that their self-esteem is being assessed while they are taking the test. This test was tailored to measure narcissism as it relates to agency, communion, and self-esteem.

The results, which appear in the March issue of Psychological Science, show that narcissists do not uniformly dislike themselves "deep down inside." Rather, narcissists reported positive unconscious self-views in agentic domains and not in communal areas. This study provides new evidence that narcissists exhibit a somewhat imbalanced self at both conscious and unconscious levels.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mental Illness is No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

I will go out on a limb here and say that people who cannot control themselves are insane.

The word insane is derived from unsound. An insane mind is an unsound one.

The insane stick out among us like sore thumbs. You can often tell from a block away that some stranger is insane. As when, for example, you see him walking up a crowded street alone and wildly yelling and gesticulating to himself.

The insane may not realize what they're doing at any given moment. They may not remember doing something earth-shaking that they did an hour ago. They may do something horrendous and then be surprised that people disapprove of what they did. In other words, they don't know right from wrong. They have no idea that what they are doing will get them into trouble. They show this by not even trying to sneak around in order to get away with it. The insane are unable to control themselves and thus are but a puppet of their urges.

Insanity can be temporary, as when somebody just "snaps."

Now, what I have just said about insanity is consistent with legal theory here in the United States. This is why you need to prove sanity in order to get a conviction for a crime. The judgement of sanity is made according to the criteria I used above. Did this person show by their behavior that they knew what they were doing? Did they show by their behavior that they know right from wrong? Did they show by their behavior that they could control themselves?

The insane are not punished here: they are committed to psychiatric care.

But guess what? Serial killers and criminals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are usually judged sane and sent to jail. Because they flunk the insanity test with flying colors.

We have a lot of sloppy thinking out there that all mental illness is insanity. That's exactly what you are saying if you claim that the mentally ill cannot control themselves and that they are not to blame for the bad things they do.

Well then, they deserve no credit for the good things they do either, right?

In other words, the mentally ill are all just machines with buttons that get pushed. Right?

Wrong. I challenge anyone to show me a psychiatrist or psychologist who will agree with that, in effect saying that all mental illness is insanity.

Mental illness causes TEMPTATIONS. Since when is temptation an excuse for anything?

What? People can't be expected to resist temptation? Jeez, then if I am tempted to steal someone's wallet, it's justifiable theft because poor, poor me was really, really tempted to! (sniff, sniff)

That sloppy thinking just doesn't hold up, does it?

It is sad that the mentally ill are tempted in ways the rest of us are not. But since when does TEMPTATION = CAUSE? We all get tempted 20 times a day. And we all are obligated to resist temptation. All but the insane are capable of resisting temptation. That includes the mentally ill.

The insane are not responsible for what they do. But other mentally ill people are. Mental illness is no Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

And the mentally ill shouldn't be treated as incapable of resisting their temptations. What a demeaning attitude! That's the way to lead them deeper into sickness, not the way to guide them to wellness.

Kathleen Krajco

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Reflection in the Pond

By Wray Herbert

One of the most fascinating areas of human psychology is that gray zone where normality bumps up against pathology. We all know melancholy, even if we’re not all clinically depressed. We’re all bothered by fears, but few of us suffer through diagnosable paranoia.

And so it is with narcissism. At its pathological extreme, narcissism is a debilitating personality disorder, characterized by grandiose ego and total lack of personal intimacy. Closer to home, we have all dated a narcissist. Maybe even recently.

If you’re still harboring resentments against the narcissist in your life, then you would probably also embrace the prevailing theory about narcissists: that is, that underneath all that bravado and insensitivity narcissists loath themselves for their own inadequacies. Believing this offers a quiet, harmless kind of revenge.

Well, sorry. As satisfying as that theory is (and believe me, I’m right there with you), apparently it’s not entirely valid. When psychologists test narcissists, to tap into their hidden thoughts about themselves, those thoughts don’t come up uniformly negative. Indeed, they appear to have a mix of unconscious feelings, some negative but some as inflated as the face they show the world.

Does that mean we have to abandon our sense of superiority over the narcissists in our lives? Maybe not. Psychologist W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia suspected that narcissists might indeed be insecure—but only in certain ways. That is, they might love themselves when it comes to traits like intelligence and status and dominance—power traits. But that doesn’t mean they don’t harbor doubts deep down inside for failing to be moral, kind and compassionate human beings.

Campbell and his colleagues decided to test this idea. They had a group of confirmed narcissists take a word test that tapped into their automatic, uncensored views of themselves. But they modified the standard test so that sometimes it used mostly words that resonated a sense of cooperation, belonging and generosity on the one hand, or suffering and evil on the other—community values, in other words, but both positive and negative values. At other times they modified the test so that it emphasized values like assertiveness and energy on the one hand, or quiet and inhibition on the other.

The results were clear. As reported in the March issue of Psychological Science, the narcissists’ grandiosity—the obnoxious, self-absorbed person they project to the world—was mirrored in their unconscious self-assessments, but only when it came to things like achievement and dominance. Both internally and externally, they were puffed up, full of themselves—masters of their universe in their minds. But when it came to community values like helping and affection, there was no meaningful link, one way or the other. They didn’t hate themselves for failing to connect; it’s more like the vocabulary of connectedness didn’t exist for them.

So narcissists may not be secretly full of self-loathing. But their sense of self is cock-eyed and out of balance. Psychologists of course appropriated the concept of narcissism from the Greek myths. Narcissus was a young man of such commanding beauty that every mortal fell immediately and passionately in love with him, but the youth had no heart. He had no love to return because he loved himself so much, so much that he talked incessantly about his high-powered job and his stock portfolio and . . . no, wait, that wasn’t a myth.

Essays by Wray Herbert can be found at:

Monday, September 17, 2007

The monster in the mirror

The Sunday Times
September 16, 2007

If you like what you see, you could be dangerous. Yvonne Roberts investigates ‘clinical narcissism’

Claire is 47, a mother of two, and recently divorced. Her ex-husband, Dan, 58, was a successful businessman when they met 12 years ago. “By the time we separated,” she says, “I no longer knew what was true and what was a lie. I was emotionally battered, my confidence was in shreds, and I felt the person I had once been had somehow been sucked out of me by Dan’s bullying and manipulation.”

A friend studying to be a psychotherapist suggested she look up narcissism on the internet. “I began reading everything I could, and that led me to narcissistic personality disorder [NPD]. It made me realise that not only me but a couple of friends had experienced something similar in their relationships. NPD is said to be particularly prevalent among the driven and ambitious.

“At first, I thought Dan was a really secure guy, with normal values and objectives. A person with NPD will be whatever you want him to be – as long as it suits him. Then, suddenly, you’re in exile, and you’re left perplexed, blaming yourself for what you’ve apparently done wrong. I was either worshipped or, more often, undermined. At the same time, whatever traits you have that he finds attractive – and therefore threatening to his own sense of superiority – he will set out to destroy.

“As the marriage progressed and I discovered more of his lies, the angrier he became and the more he drank,” Claire recalls. “I begged him to get help for the sake of the children – not realising that the root of the problem was probably NPD.”

Dan agreed, but later Claire found out that the time he was supposed to be spending in alcohol-addiction centres and on anger-management courses, he was with his girlfriends. “Healthy narcissistic tendencies are life-preserving,” she says. “But when the narcissism is extreme, it’s hugely destructive to everyone around. It’s a form of emotional abuse that isn’t properly recognised yet, and it ought to be. Narcissists play a subtle, long-term psychological game that is truly deadly to the other person’s psyche.”

Claire is one of a growing number of people in Britain who are convinced their partner, boss or one of their parents has NPD.

Although Freud published his study On Narcissism in 1914, NPD wasn’t officially recognised as a personality disorder in the US until the 1980s. Seen as the high-flyers’ disease, often allied with drugs, gambling and alcohol abuse, it is now a multi-billion-dollar industry. There are hundreds of therapists and support groups for the children, employees and partners of people with NPD, as well as websites and self-help books with titles such as Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist and Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents.

In the UK, there has been an ambivalent response to the apparent problem. Partly because, for a number of years, some psychiatrists questioned whether NPD and other personality disorders existed at all, while others believed they were simply untreatable. The change came in the 1990s, spurred by the government’s growing concern for the safety of the public after several attacks by people suffering from “severe and dangerous” personality disorders, and demands that they should be treated.

So what exactly is NPD? How easy is it to distinguish between a badly behaved rogue who may really love you – and a man, or woman, who has become highly skilled in camouflaging their lack of authentic emotion? And is there a cure?

In Greek mythology, Narcissus, the handsome young Thespian, epitomises the concept of destructive self-love. According to the legend, Echo the nymph falls in love with Narcissus, but since she has been stripped of the ability to form her own words, she can only repeat what she hears. Narcissus, enamoured of his image reflected in a pool, addresses himself and says, “I love you,” repeated longingly by Echo. Narcissus, however, is too self-absorbed to see, hear or react. He eventually dies of languor, neglecting to eat or drink. Echo dies from a broken heart.

In the myth, falling in love with one’s own image is seen as punishment for being incapable of loving another. In reality, NPD, at its most extreme, can lead to murder. In 2004, the public-school boy Brian Blackwell, 19, stabbed and bludgeoned his parents to death at their home in Merseyside before embarking on a £30,000 spending spree. He was obsessed with fantasies of success, power and brilliance, claiming, for instance, that he was a world-class tennis player. He was diagnosed as suffering from NPD.

NPD appears to affect men more than women. A person with NPD is spectacularly lacking in curiosity or concern for others, but can easily simulate both if it ensures the continuation of what psychiatrists call “the narcissistic supply” of uncritical admiration and adulation.

In Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, first published in 1985, the American psychiatrist Dr Alexander Lowen refers to the case of Erich, brought to him by his girlfriend, Janice. Dr Lowen asks Erich about his feelings. “Feelings!” Erich replies. “I don’t have any feelings… I programme my behaviour so that it is effective in the world.”

Erich describes his mother as perpetually on the verge of hysteria, provoked by a father who was cold and hostile. Dr Lowen diagnoses that Erich has deadened his emotions in response to his parents’ dysfunctional relationship. He writes: “The narcissistic image develops in part as a compensation for an unacceptable self-image and, in part, as a defence against intolerable feelings… a state of living death.” Erich, in his relationship with Janice, has continued to shut down feeling while exercising power. “He got her to love him without any loving response on his part,” Dr Lowen explains. “Such exploitativeness is common to all narcissistic personalities.”

So, how do you know if a person has NPD? Mental-health professionals in Europe and the US draw on two sets of guidelines that are regularly updated by international groups of psychologists and psychiatrists to help make a diagnosis. The ICD-10, the World Health Organization’s classification of mental and behavioural disorders, published in 1992, lists nine categories of personality disorder, but does not include NPD.

In the US, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was first published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952, in part to provide a benchmark for insurance companies handling medical claims. The fourth and current version (DSM-IV), published in 1994, lists 10 categories of personality disorder (see page 27) of which NPD is one. (DSM-V is due to be published in 2010.) DSM-IV also gives a list of nine characteristics, of which a person has to have at least five before NPD is considered.

The nine include a grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupations with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love; a belief that he or she is “special”, only understood by other “special” people; a need for admiration; a sense of entitlement or unreasonable expectations of favourable treatment; exploitative, taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends; unwillingness to recognise or identify with the needs of others; envious of others, or thinks others are envious of him or her, and arrogance.

In its most extreme form, known as malignant narcissism, paranoia and physical aggression may also be displayed: Stalin, Hitler and Saddam Hussein come to mind. In the rich and successful, many of the characteristics of NPD are of course seen as positive attributes. In a 2005 study, the psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon at Surrey University found that three personality disorders, including NPD, were more common in managers than in criminals.

In an article in The New York Times, Board explained: “A smattering of egocentricity, a soupçon of grandiosity, a smidgen of manipulativeness and lack of empathy, and you have someone who can climb the corporate ladder and stay on the right side of the law, but still be a horror to work with. Add a bit more of those characteristics, plus lack of remorse and physical aggression, and you have someone who ends up behind bars.

“What’s important is the degree to which a person has each ingredient or characteristic, and in what configuration.”

Since many people may belong to more than one category of personality disorder, DSM-IV divides the categories into three clusters. NPD belongs to Cluster B – dramatic, emotional or erratic types, embracing histrionic, narcissistic, antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

“The characteristics and categories provide clues, but not a definitive diagnosis,” says Professor Eddie Kane, the director of the Personality Disorder Institute at Nottingham University. “While it’s clear when a person is psychotic or schizophrenic, we have to be wary in diagnosing personality disorder. Putting a label on someone’s behaviour that may have an enormous impact on their lives has to be very carefully considered.”

In a paper published this May in The British Journal of Psychiatry, Professor Peter Tyrer and colleagues from the department of psychological medicine at Imperial College London wrote unequivocally: “The assessment of personality disorder is currently inaccurate, largely unreliable, frequently wrong and in need of improvement.”

And the psychiatrist Dr Paul Moran of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, the author of several papers on personality disorders, says: “A number of biases can distort the assessment of personality. For instance, there is evidence to suggest that the term “personality disorder” may itself be a label applied to unlikable patients who are regarded as difficult. A person can be supremely confident, superficially charming, and only choosing to treat people as stepping stones in his life. But does that mean he’s displaying signs of NPD? At present in the UK, our understanding of the characteristics, causes and treatment of NPD are very rudimentary. It’s still only a theory about how some people might behave. However, I have no doubt that individuals can and do manifest these traits.”

In 2006, a team that included Professor Jeremy Coid of the forensic-psychiatry unit at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, published an assessment of the prevalence of personality disorders in Great Britain in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The study concluded that they are “common”, affecting nearly 1 in 20 people (4.4%) – previous estimates have given a higher figure of 10-13%. What the study failed to find, however, was a single case of NPD. (DSM-IV estimates that about 1% of the US population has NPD.)

“That does not mean it doesn’t exist in the UK,” Professor Coid says. “The questionnaires used to pick it up do not work very well because not many people admit to these criteria. People don’t like to admit they are arrogant and envious.”

One reason why people with NPD appear few in number is that they are treatment resistant. Put plainly, they don’t believe they have a problem, so they rarely present themselves for help.

Shmuel “Sam” Vaknin, 46, has been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder twice. He is unusual in that he accepts the diagnosis, uniquely turning it into a way to provide an international source of narcissistic supply. Born in Israel, since the mid-1990s he has written extensively about himself and NPD, both on the internet and in books, including his magnus opus, Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited. Hundreds interact daily on his websites. He insists that he offers help and advice only to ensure a narcissistic supply of attention that confirms his superiority, intelligence and specialness – not because he cares.

Vaknin is an unsettling combination of the chilling and the charming. In conversation, it’s hard to disentangle truth from the narcissist’s tools of the trade – exaggeration, flattery, grandiosity and the display of fake vulnerability and self-pity to elicit sympathy. He is a verified economist, award-winning writer, poet, philosopher, journalist and financial consultant. He is also, he says, a failure. On one of his websites, he writes: “I have lived in 12 countries, worked in 50, and I don’t think there is one that will take me back. I consider the businesses I drove to bankruptcy with my narcissistic temper tantrums and superiority contests… The fortunes I squandered… I cherished and revelled in my self-annihilation.”

Vaknin lives in Skopje, Macedonia. He is one of five siblings, but he hasn’t seen his family for over a decade. His father was a construction worker from Morocco, who suffered from clinical depression. “Violence was the main channel of communication,” Vaknin says. His mother was from Turkey. She believed she was a prodigy, but had to leave school and sell shoes to rich people at the age of 14. “I have an IQ of 180 and it was her enormous misfortune to have me as her first-born,” Vaknin says. “My parents were ill-equipped to deal with normal children, let alone the gifted. I was her ambassador to the world, but I also constituted a threat.” Vaknin says his mother is a narcissist. In a short story – Nothing’s Happening at Home – fiction based on his own childhood, he describes the life of a six-year-old with a violent, resentful and unpredictable mother. “ …mother takes a broom to me and beats me forcefully on the back and all the neighbors [sic] watch… on the floor is this large yellow puddle in which I stand. Mummy’s broom gets all wet and the neighbors [sic] laugh… She takes down my trousers and I am exposed to the jeering crowd, drenched and naked. It isn’t a good day, this one”.

“Children with narcissistic parents are objectified. They are like circus animals, performing on order, to extract a little love,” Vaknin says. “I don’t hate my mother. I hate what her illness did to her. I began to live as if life is a film and I’m playing out a script, totally detached to fend off hurt and injury. Now, I am a monster. Underneath the skin, I am a hideously deformed individual. When you look at the quadriplegic, you can understand if he can only wink – the quadriplegic is a marathon runner compared to me and my emotional disability.”

At 17, Vaknin left home to join the army and never returned. He was first diagnosed with NPD at 26. He was living in opulence in London with his then wife, Nomi. On her insistence, he visited a psychiatrist. “When I first received the diagnosis, I was mortified and very frightened. Then, as a typical narcissist, I thought, ‘Can I use the diagnosis as leverage to become famous? Make money?’ The answer was yes.”

In 1995, Vaknin was diagnosed for a second time by a psychiatrist in an Israeli jail. He was serving 11 months for fraud, trying to manipulate the price of stock. In jail he began to write Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited.

“I am no healthier today than I was when I wrote that book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming. The vast majority of narcissists end up at the very top or the very bottom – derelict, desolate, schizoid, bitter, decaying and decrepit. You won’t find any in the middle. My narcissism is much worse than it used to be. As my capacities dwindle, minute by minute, the gap between reality and grandiosity becomes bigger and bigger. The larger the gulf, the more narcissistic defences are needed.

“I am an abject failure in comparison to my potential. I should have been a public intellectual. But people don’t like looking in the mirror, and I like forcing them to look.”

Vaknin has been married to his second wife, Lidija, 37, for five years, and they have been together for 10. She is Macedonian. Lidija would like a child. In response, Vaknin says he is a cerebral narcissist, relying on his intellect to attract a narcissistic supply. He is not much interested in sex. “For Lidija, our relationship is a constant war of attrition,” Vaknin says. “I think she is very tired. She says sometimes she is being erased. But she stays, so I must respond to some of her emotional needs. A narcissist infiltrates his partners like acid,” he explains. “If she fails to erect strong defences, the narcissist takes over, forcing the eviction of the person’s original self.”

Vaknin says narcissism recruits as it infects. “Narcissism creates a bubble universe similar to a cult. In the bubble, special rules apply that do not always correspond to an outer reality. The narcissist conditions people, so the victims come to assimilate the narcissist’s way of thinking. You can abandon the narcissist but the narcissist never abandons you. We are like body snatchers.”

Lidija Vaknin appears undaunted. “Some people think I’m crazy to stay with him, but I’ve discovered I am strong. At the beginning, several times a day, I wanted to leave. Now, it’s easier. My father was a narcissist and very physically abusive. My previous partner was violent. I learnt to read the eyes, the mouth, the body language. I don’t feed Sam’s need for admiration. We talk and tackle the issue. Sometimes I have to repeat what I say many times, and sometimes I give up trying.

“On occasions, he is untouchable. If he’s in that state, I don’t even try to communicate. He has his own world, and if I try to enter it, he explodes into many pieces. We are a good match. Sam is clever and funny. He makes jokes about himself, which is rare for a narcissist.”

Lidija’s sister, Meri Petrov, says of Vaknin: “I’ve never met a man like him. He knows how to be a good friend, but one minute everything is going well, then suddenly he says horrible things and has a terrible anger. One minute he’s kind, the next I can’t define him. My sister has found a way to live with him, I don’t know how.”

Vaknin believes his NPD was triggered by childhood trauma and abuse. “Every human being develops healthy narcissism. That is rendered pathological by abuse. By ‘abuse’ I mean refusal to acknowledge the emerging boundaries of the individual. Smothering, doting and excessive expectations are as abusive as beating and incest.”

Dr Bob Johnson, consultant psychiatrist and co-founder of the James Nayler Foundation to further research into personality disorders, agrees. “Personality disorders are all to do with software. The trauma a person has experienced in childhood. They have nothing to do with predispositions or genetics or the type of society in which a person lives. Address the trauma and the personality disorder evaporates. But the individual first has to want to change.”

Professor Eddie Kane disagrees. He says the causes of personality disorders, including NPD, may turn out to be “multi-factorial”. Biological, psychological and social-risk factors may have differing impacts on different individuals. Dr Joel Paris, professor of psychiatry at McGill University, Montreal, suggested 10 years ago that: “Personality disorders are pathological amplifications of normal personality traits… different social structures tend to reinforce some traits and discourage others.” The DSM-IV definition of personality disorder refers to behaviour “that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture” – but could a narcissistic culture act as a hothouse for NPD?

The American Dr Theodore Millon is an internationally renowned psychologist and psychiatrist. In Personality Disorders in Modern Life (2000), written with Roger Davis, he argued that pathological narcissism gained prominence only in the late 20th century. “Individuals in less advantaged nations… are too busy trying (to survive) to be arrogant and grandiose.” Millon and Davis attribute pathological narcissism to “a society that stresses individualism and self-gratification at the expense of the community, namely the United States”. Others see western culture devaluing and undermining the very elements, home and family life, work, self-reliance and healthy personal relationships that act as protective factors against narcissism.

An extensive study showing the significant growth of narcissism in the US was published earlier this year. Headed by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, it assessed the responses of 15,234 college students, between 1987 and 2006, to a test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. It attempts to rate changes in areas such as self- esteem, assertiveness and whether individuals see themselves as leaders. As part of the inventory, students are asked to agree or disagree with statements such as, “I think I am a special person.” The study found, “an alarming rise in narcissism and self-centredness”. It discovered that the average college student scored higher in narcissism than 65% of students 19 years earlier. “We’ve seen a distinct increase in narcissism,” Twenge says. “Is some of it healthy narcissism? I’m not sure there is such a thing.”

Twenge is also the author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable than Ever Before, published last year. “The rise in narcissism has very deep roots,” Twenge says. “We fixate on self-esteem and unthinkingly build narcissism because we believe the needs of the individual are paramount.”

Yet, in highly narcissistic societies, millions do not develop NPD – why not? The psychologist Dr Jeffrey Young suggests an antidote might be: “Unconditional parental love that includes fair and firm boundaries, consistent discipline and a resistance to the inclination to spoil.”

In one study, however, NPD was also found in countries in Asia and Africa – so is it truly a modern disease of the affluent? Or is Sam Vaknin correct in believing it has always existed, whether among “subsistence farmers in Africa or intellectuals and socialites in Manhattan”? As the causes are, as yet, unclear – can NPD be cured?

Dr Young founded the Schema Therapy Institute in New York more than 20 years ago. It integrates elements of cognitive behaviour therapy and gestalt therapy to identify and change self-defeating life patterns that he calls “schema”.

Dr Young’s methods have had some recognised success with NPD and other personality disorders, previously regarded as untreatable. Schema therapy is based on the notion that we all have different parts of the self, known as “modes” (eg, easygoing, angry, carefree, focused). For people with personality disorders, these are more extreme and rigid, making it difficult for a person to move from one mode to another.

In therapy, Young tries to engage “the lonely shamed child” that he sees as the source of the pain for an individual with NPD. All of which is difficult to achieve, because even if a person agrees to treatment, Young points out dryly, he may walk out unless the therapist keeps telling him he’s simply the best; ordinary won’t do.

“A lot of people only come because they’ve been sent by desperate partners or bosses. Successful narcissists have something extra that means people tolerate their bad behaviour. The most dangerous is the unsuccessful narcissist. He doesn’t have money or power or charm, so he’s fired a lot of the time. He drives more and more people away, until he ends up alone and a very bleak person.”

In treatment, people diagnosed with NPD are divided into two groups. In one are “pure” or thick-skinned narcissists. They have often been extremely spoilt and indulged and given no boundaries as children. In the second group are thin-skinned narcissists, such as Vaknin, who have grown up feeling unloved and unlovable. Young says the former are almost impossible to help; the latter may respond to therapy. “If there’s no change in a year, the chances of success are low. The person with NPD will constantly try to prove he is superior to the therapist; that the professional knows nothing.”

Treatment may also involve drugs to combat additional mental-health problems such as depression. “Perhaps a lot of what we’re doing is completely wrong,” Professor Conor Duggan, head of forensic mental health at Nottingham University, says bluntly. “Sometimes in mental health, doing nothing is better than doing something, but the imperative at present is to act. Without good-quality, rigorous clinical trials, we can’t come up with proof of efficacy – but investment in mental-health research is paltry in comparison to, say, cancer. It’s vital that that changes.”

I spoke to several psychiatrists about what a person should do if he or she believes a partner has NPD. The response was unanimous: “Leave.” “The children of narcissists may find themselves attracted to narcissists, because they have had an early training,” says Dr Michael Isaac, consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer in psychological medicine at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London. “But for other women, what often happens is a dovetailing of needs. A woman may feel a sense of service and self-abnegation. Or she may entertain the notion that she is his chosen one. It’s only later the pleasure becomes pain.”

Claire has no regrets about making her break. Her ex-husband, Dan, rejects the suggestion that he has NPD. “If you have a lot invested in your choice of man, denial about his behaviour is easy. I thought it was my fault I couldn’t reach him. Learning about NPD put together a lot of the pieces in our marriage that had refused to fit before. I now know, if you’re living with someone who has the disorder, whatever you do will never be enough. Be warned.”

Some names and personal details have been changed to protect identities

Carla, 40

Carla, 40, an only child, is divorced with a 12-year-old-son. Her mother, in her late sixties, is French. Carla’s parents separated when she was young, and she had little contact with her father. Carla went into therapy two years ago, and now believes her mother has NPD.

‘If your mother is a narcissist, it’s like living with a child who expects you to be their doll, discarded when they lose interest. I only now realise the full extent of the damage she did. Yet my instinct is still to please her. I still live five minutes away and do as she demands.

‘My therapist told me to “Laugh, let go and feel free”. I honestly don’t know how to do that because I’ve been conditioned to think only of what my mother wants from me.

When I was a child, my mother used to talk to others about me in a disparaging way — in front of me. I always had to say, “Mama, Mama”, five or six times before she paid any attention — she was completely self-absorbed. She’s like a sponge. She soaks up what she needs. When she’s satiated, she can be unbelievably cruel. Now I know it’s a disease, I feel sorry for her.

‘I never finished my education. My mother was a successful academic, but I don’t think she wanted to risk me outshining her. So I’ve drifted through life. I married young and went for what was familiar. My husband was charismatic, domineering, narcissistic, and he put me down — everything I was used to. He had an affair, so I divorced because my mother told me to. I got married again, to a decent man, but I was so used to extreme emotions I got bored.

‘My therapist asked me where I saw myself in two years’ time. The thought had never occurred to me that I had the right to think like that. That’s what narcissism does to another human being. I’d love to meet others who have had the same experience and come through it. Maybe they can show me how to live like a human being who isn’t in a form of bondage that nobody else can see.’

Leonie, 32

Leonie, 32, in advertising, met Tom, 36, four years ago. ‘He was charming and made me laugh. Within months he proposed. Then we moved in together, and he began to change. If I said I was going for a run, he would sulk. Or he would go into a fury if I’d arranged to see friends. For the sake of peace, I stopped exercising, stopped living my own life. I was sure he was having an affair, but he said I was being neurotic. I then found out he’d been married before. He said he hadn’t told me because he didn’t know how I’d react. I ended up feeling sorry for him. He was so clever at manipulation.

‘When we met, I was confident and outgoing, with a good circle of friends. By the time I left, I’d dropped three dress sizes. I was insecure, anxious, isolated and on antidepressants. I’d almost lost all sense of myself.’

Leonie later found out she was not the only woman to leave a relationship with Tom in a very different state from how she entered it. She was contacted through mutual friends by Kate, 33, an architect. ‘Kate was a mirror image of myself when I first left,’ Leonie says. ‘She was gaunt, depressed and tearful.’ Kate’s story was familiar. A proposal after a few months; mood swings; affairs; emotional cruelty; jealousy. She walked out, but not before going through his e-mails. He boasted of earning £70,000 a year. She found out it was £30,000 or less. He was living off her income and accumulating debts. ‘He lives in a fantasy world where he is the affluent Action Man, admired by one and all,’ says Kate.

The women tracked down Tom’s previous wife, as well as two ex-girlfriends. Each left him after a few years, but with enormous difficulty. ‘Last year a friend directed me to a website about narcissistic personality disorder,’ says Leonie. ‘It was as if the light had been switched on. The more I read, the more I realised this was all about Tom. He’s already engaged to another woman. It will be her turn next.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Narcissism differs greatly from ambition, confidence

By Jean M. Twenge
Publication Date: 09/10/07
Guest Columnist
The Exponent Online

Just when you were studying for midterms last spring, you might have seen the media coverage of a study showing that today's college students are more narcissistic than previous generations. "Great," you probably thought. "Somebody else who's complaining about us when we're only trying to get ahead."

Well, I'm that somebody I did the research for the study along with four of my psychology colleagues. It was the latest research I've done on how the generations differ, data I expand on in my non-academic book, "Generation Me." I know how competitive things are for young people now ミ there's a whole chapter on stress in the book, based on studies and interviews with college students and twenty-somethings.

For the narcissism study, I gathered data between 1982 and 2006 on 16,475 college students who filled out the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which has 40 items such as, "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person," "I can live my life any way I want to" and "I like to be the center of attention."

College newspapers around the country carried stories and columns responding to the study. No one really disputed the idea that many of their peers would agree with such questions. Instead, most argued that these traits were necessary. "But we are special," wrote Camille Clasby in The San Diego State University Daily Aztec. "The way we're able to meet and exceed the challenges we face is by believing in ourselves." Wrote the Exponent's own Mike Nolan: "Sure I'm full of myself. ノ I can work hard to attend college and pursue my life's goals. I'm not going to apologize for believing that I can do just fine in my life if I put enough effort into it."

I agree with Mike and the other students ミ to a point. Ambition and effort are extremely useful, especially in today's increasingly competitive world. But the scale we studied doesn't measure ambition, pride, effort or even self-confidence: It measures narcissism, a different beast entirely. It's not a good thing to think you could do a great job ruling the world (hello, Genghis Khan); nor is it good to think you're special (and no, you can't get around it by saying everyone is special ミ look up the word in the dictionary. It is not possible for everyone to be special). People who score high on this scale believe that they deserve special treatment and that they can do whatever they want. In laboratory studies, narcissists are aggressive when insulted, have a hard time seeing someone else's perspective and take more than their share of common resources.

And even with all that, narcissism does not lead to success. Even high self-esteem isn't particularly helpful. Students with an inflated sense of self actually earn lower GPAs and are more likely to drop out of college. Narcissistic business CEOs are less successful than humble leaders who give credit to their team (see the business book "Good to Great" for more on this). Put simply, narcissists are jerks, other people can't stand them, so they end up crashing and burning ミ eventually.

Why do so many believe that narcissism leads to success? Probably because narcissistic and successful people like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton are in the public eye so much. However, there are hundreds of millionaires who are even more successful who aren't narcissists ミ which is exactly why we haven't heard of them.

Nolan asked in his March column, "Does [the study] mean a model society would contain individuals with no confidence, ambition or desire to make the best out of their lives?" Absolutely not. But a model society would have few narcissists ミ people who lack empathy for others, cheat in relationships and dominate every conversation. We need successful and ambitious people, but we don't need people who think they are entitled to a good grade (or a good salary) just for showing up, or who would rather get attention than do the job right.

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., is the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- and More Miserable Than Ever Before" and is an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fall of Public Man

by Richard Sennett

ISBN: 0393308790

Excerpt from the book:

"Narcissistic character disorders are the most common sources of the forms of psychic distress therapists now see. The hysterical symptoms which were the dominant complaints of Freud's erotic and repressive society have largely disappeared. This character disorder has arisen because a new kind of society encourages the growth of its psychic components and erases a sense of meaningful social encounter outside its terms, outside the boundaries of the single self, in public. We must be careful to specify the kind of distress it is, in order not to falsify the milieu it has acquired as a social form. This character disorder does not lead inevitably to psychosis, nor do people under its sway live in an acute state of crisis all the time. The withdrawal of commitment, the continual search for a definition from within of "who I am," produces pain but no cataclysmic malaise. Narcissism, in other words, does not create the conditions which might promote its own destruction.

In the realm of sexuality, narcissism withdraws physical love from any kind of commitment, personal or social. The sheer fact of commitment on a person's part seems to him or her to limit the opportunities for "enough" experience to know who he or she is and to find the "right" person to complement who he or she is. Every sexual relationship under the sway of narcissism becomes less fulfilling the longer the partners are together."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Indifference and Decompensation in Pathological Narcissism

The narcissist lacks empathy. Consequently, he is not really interested in the lives, emotions, needs, preferences, and hopes of people around him. Even his nearest and dearest are, to him, mere instruments of gratification. They require his undivided attention only when they "malfunction" – when they become disobedient, independent, or critical. He loses all interest in them if they cannot be "fixed" (for instance, when they are terminally ill or develop a modicum of personal autonomy and independence).

Once he gives up on his erstwhile Sources of Supply, the narcissist proceeds to promptly and peremptorily devalue and discard them. This is often done by simply ignoring them – a facade of indifference that is known as the "silent treatment" and is, at heart, hostile and aggressive. Indifference is, therefore, a form of devaluation. People find the narcissist "cold", "inhuman", "heartless", "clueless", "robotic or machine-like".

Early on in life, the narcissist learns to disguise his socially-unacceptable indifference as benevolence, equanimity, cool-headedness, composure, or superiority. "It is not that I don't care about others" – he shrugs off his critics – "I am simply more level-headed, more resilient, more composed under pressure… They mistake my equanimity for apathy."

The narcissist tries to convince people that he is compassionate. His profound lack of interest in his spouse's life, vocation, interests, hobbies, and whereabouts he cloaks as benevolent altruism. "I give her all the freedom she can wish for!" – he protests – "I don't spy on her, follow her, or nag her with endless questions. I don't bother her. I let her lead her life the way she sees fit and don't interfere in her affairs!" He makes a virtue out of his emotional truancy.

All very commendable but when taken to extremes such benign neglect turns malignant and signifies the voidance of true love and attachment. The narcissist's emotional (and, often, physical) absence from all his relationships is a form of aggression and a defence against his own thoroughly repressed feelings.

In rare moments of self-awareness, the narcissist realises that without his input – even in the form of feigned emotions – people will abandon him. He then swings from cruel aloofness to maudlin and grandiose gestures intended to demonstrate the "larger than life" nature of his sentiments. This bizarre pendulum only proves the narcissist's inadequacy at maintaining adult relationships. It convinces no one and repels many.

The narcissist's guarded detachment is a sad reaction to his unfortunate formative years. Pathological narcissism is thought to be the result of a prolonged period of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. In this sense, pathological narcissism is, therefore, a reaction to trauma. Narcissism IS a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that got ossified and fixated and mutated into a personality disorder.

All narcissists are traumatised and all of them suffer from a variety of post-traumatic symptoms: abandonment anxiety,
reckless behaviours, anxiety and mood disorders, somatoform disorders, and so on. But the presenting signs of narcissism rarely indicate post-trauma. This is because pathological narcissism is an EFFICIENT coping (defence) mechanism. The narcissist presents to the world a facade of invincibility, equanimity, superiority, skilfulness, cool-headedness, invulnerability, and, in short: indifference.

This front is penetrated only in times of great crises that threaten the narcissist's ability to obtain Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist then "falls apart" in a process of disintegration known as decompensation. The dynamic forces which render him paralysed and fake – his vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and fears – are starkly exposed as his defences crumble and become dysfunctional. The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for the regulation of his sense of self-worth are painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging and cajoling.

At such times, the narcissist acts out self-destructively and anti-socially. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage, self-loathing, self-pity, and crass attempts at manipulation of his friends, family, and colleagues. His ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate. He feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal would do – by striking back at his perceived tormentors, at his hitherto "nearest" and "dearest".

Sam Vaknin

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tears and Healing

Tears and Healing: The Journey to the Light After an Abusive Relationship

Richard 21CP (Richard Skerritt)

ISBN-10: 0615114490
ISBN-13: 978-0615114491

Author's Description

Tears and Healing, The journey to the light after an abusive relationship is a self-help guide that helps people in relationships with an abusive partner to understand their situation, take greater self-care, and break free of the abuse. A reflection of the author's own trail from confusion to freedom, it outlines step-by-step the issues to be faced and teaches healthier ways to approach the situation. The steps include: contacting reality; understanding the abusers disease; dealing with love; finding yourself; dealing with obligation; healing from abusive treatment; and choosing how to move on with life.


By cortezhill (San Diego, CA)

Richard's step-by-step approach has guided thousands to find the vision and courage to say "no more" to their abusive partners.

Because abusive partners distort our reality and tear down our self-estem, breaking free can be truly dificult. In this work, written from the "inside" perspective, Richard 21CP (his online pseudonym) explains the seven step process that he developed to break free from his own abusive relationship. In direct, simple terms, he explains how to:

* get back in touch with what is really right and wrong;
* understand your partner's illness and how it spins you into its orbit;
* deal with being in love with someone who abuses you;
* detach emotionally and find out what you really need in life;
* break out of your unyielding sense of obligation;
* heal the damage from abuse, and let tears lead you to healing;
* overcome fear and make decisions to move to a better life.
--- from books back cover


Reviewer: J. Paul Shirley, MSW - Co-Author: Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook

I highly recommend Richard's book, Tears and Healing. His writing is clear, and although his words are written with gentleness, he pulls absolutely no punches about dealing with the hard facts about BPD and its effects on everyone. Some people say there is a reason for the pain we go through having a partner with BPD, and in Richard's case I agree. He has a gift for lending a helping hand for others trying to walk that painful path. I don't generally get excited about new books on BPD, but Richard's left me feeling good & that's a rare gift for a writer to have.


Reviewer: Sam Vaknin - Author: Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited

There are bookshelves upon bookshelves of professional, scholarly, and utterly inaccessible literature about abusive relationships. Those who need it the most - the traumatized victims - are locked out by the jargon and the lack of practical advice. Recently, survivors and victims have taken matters into their own hands and have published their own books, replete with first hand experiences and tips. Tears and Healing is a fine specimen of such writing: sensitive, attuned to the emotional and pragmatic needs of the survivors, both deep and accessible, a helpful guide to the traumatic aftermath of abuse.


Reviewer: Darla Boughton, Manager of Narcissistic Personality Disorder/Psychopath forums(4000+ members)

Tears and Healing is a must read for anyone involved in a devastating relationship with a personality disordered partner. It is a must-have, top-notch, first-aid kit to understanding the emotional devastation such a relationship causes. The author reveals his first-hand experience and knowledge. Let Richard's words reveal how to reclaim your sanity in an insane interaction with a disordered partner.