Narcissism 101 and Narcissistic Abuse 101 with Robert Stark

Uploaded 11/23/2019, approx. 28 minute read

This is Robert Stark.

I'm joined here with Sam Vaknin. He's an expert on the subject of narcissism and author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and other books on personality disorders.

Sam, it's great talking to you.

Thank you for having me.

For starters, can you give us some background information about yourself?

I'm a professor of psychology in several universities, the author of several books about personality disorders.

Can you explain the concept of the true self as opposed to the false self, which would be based on delusions of grandeur?

The false self doesn't have to be based on delusions of grandeur. False self is simply any construct that deviates from reality that is based or founded upon cognitive deficits, a misperception of reality, a delusional perception of reality, or a fantasy, which is a psychological defense mechanism. So you could have a grandiose false self, which is typical of the narcissist, but you also have a false self, for example, in borderline personality disorder. False self is simply the person's way of avoiding a painful or potentially painful reality.

There's a general perception that narcissists constantly have high self-esteem, but there's also this pattern of fluctuating self-worth, basically going from high self-esteem to low self-esteem and back and forth. So that's often a misperception.

Well, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, in its latest edition, 2013, the fifth edition, accepted that the sense of self-worth of all narcissists is labile. That means that it fluctuates, goes up and down. Prior to 2013, the orthodoxy was that there are two types of narcissists. One was the classic overt narcissist, the grandiose narcissist, whose sense of self-confidence, self-esteem was unassailable and supported by a series of grandiose delusions and fantasies.

And there was the compensatory narcissist, which was a narcissist with an inferiority complex, to borrow a term from Adler, with a labile, fluctuating sense of self-worth, etc., etc.

That distinction is no longer valid. Today, we believe that all narcissists have an unregulated or dysregulated sense of self-worth. And self-worth is a term, an umbrella term, which includes self-esteem, self-confidence and self-perception.

Now, what narcissists do, because they can't regulate their sense of self-worth from the inside, as most healthy people do, they regulate it from the outside. They use feedback from other people to buttress a grandiose self-perception or grandiose self-image, which in turn lends itself to a high self-confidence and self-esteem.

But of course, it's all founded on a piece of fiction. That's why we call it a false self. It's all a narrative. It's very similar to a movie.

And the narcissist experience of his own existence is exactly like a character in a movie.

Narcissist experiences his life as a movie, and he directs his life in the most grandiose way possible.

Any challenges to the movie, any challenges to the grandiosity are perceived as life threatening, because in the absence of this grandiosity, the narcissist is unable to regulate his internal environment to its crumbles.

Narcissist simply vanishes. It's an existential threat.

Seeking constant feedback, that would be an example of narcissistic supply, so actively solicitating narcissistic supply.

Can you explain more about that concept?

Well, the narcissist goes around and asks people to tell him how the brilliant he is, how handsome he is, how perfect and genius and unimpeachable and what have you.

Narcissist wants people to tell him that his false self is actually not false, that his grandiose narrative is actually not grandiose, but reflective of the truth, and that his delusional, fantastic landscape, inner landscape, is not delusional and fantastic, but an authentic depiction of reality.

That's a tall order, so the narcissist very often has to coerce people to force them, to control them, to force them, to beg them, and to use a variety of other manipulative techniques to bring them to the point that they will confirm to him what they evidently and clearly see as non-reality.

Narcissist therefore is a leader of a cult, it's a cult leader, and it's a missionary cult, in the sense that he's trying to convert everyone around him to his set of beliefs, and these beliefs are unrealistic, very similar to a cult.

That's why I keep suggesting that narcissism is a religion, or faith, with one adherent, one believer, one worshipper, that's a narcissist, and one godhead, that's the narcissist as well.

And the narcissist tries to convert people, very much like Christian evangelists or Christian missionaries, tries to convert people to his religion, so that these people also worship the godhead, which is the narcissist.

And most narcissists succeed to convert, at the very least, their nearest and dearest, their loved ones, the family, most narcissists. Others succeed to convert wider circles, such as the workplace, and yet others succeed to become the president of the United States, and they convert tens of millions of people into their cults.

Is attention and narcissistic supply often a substitute for people who fail to form healthy social bonds?

Narcissists are actually, contrary to the avalanche of misinformation online, narcissists are actually pro-social, as opposed to psychopaths.

Psychopaths are anti-social.

Narcissists are pro-social.

Narcissists are heavily dependent on other people. Narcissists need other people to collaborate and cooperate with him. Narcissists need to co-opt other people, to bribe them, to cajole them, to beg them. It needs to work with people.

So the vast majority of narcissists are actually team players, and they can construct teams and lead them or participate in teams very effectively.

Now the team could be your wife as a narcissist, your spouse, or it could be your workplace with a hundred people, or it could be a political party with millions of people.

But there is not a single narcissist alive who isolates himself from society or acts against social interests and so on, because narcissists are dependent, addicted to narcissistic supply.

And at this stage, narcissistic supply comes only from people.

So there is a huge, huge confusion, online especially, when people conflate narcissists and psychopaths.

Psychopaths are anti-social. Psychopaths do not depend on other people for anything. They don't need other people. They treat other people as objects. They need money, they need power, they need sex, and whatever they need, they take.

And if you're in the way, they trample on you. And once they have used you, they discard you. And they don't discard you in a lengthy process of idealization and devaluation. They simply discard you, like a piece of trash.

There is a clear distinct difference in style between narcissists and psychopaths. There is a middle category of psychopathic narcissists, and they combine the worst of both worlds.

But the vast majority of narcissists are pro-social.

How emotionally invested is the narcissist in what they produce? And do these investments often fade?

What do you mean produce? You mean creative work?

Yeah, creative work.

Yeah, it could be their children, their family, how much money they make, just anything that they produce.

The process of emotional investment in anything is called cathexis. And narcissists have severe disruptions in cathexis. They can't affect properly. They are therefore not emotionally attached to anything. They don't bond with anything or anyone.

So they can change professions in the blink of an eye. They can turn around in a dime. They are utterly disloyal, and they can change partners and sources of supply at the speed of light. That's because they don't attach. They have what I call flat attachment. They don't attach, and they don't bond. There is no emotional investment.

Narcissist has no access to his emotions. The narcissist is so afraid of his emotions that he blocks emotions off. He walls them off. There's a firewall between the narcissist and his emotions. The only emotions the narcissist allows himself to feel are directional utilitarian emotions, such as, for example, envy or anger or hatred, because they lead to results. They're goal focused or goal oriented.

Narcissist doesn't feel love, doesn't feel attachment, doesn't feel bonding. He doesn't have any of this. He regards people as extensions of himself, instruments of gratification, useful for some ends, and so on and so forth.

The distinction, the difference between narcissists and psychopaths is in terms of speed, not in terms of quality, and in terms of complexity of the cycle. Narcissists go through phases. They first idealize people, because they need people to provide them with narcissistic supply. They want to convert or transform these sources of supply into perfection, into perfect entities. So they idealize people, and then they use them.

And once these people are partially expirative, once they can provide a narcissist with narcissistic supply, the narcissist goes through a process called devaluation, and then he discards these people, and then he replaces them.

The psychopath doesn't bother to go through all this. The psychopath uses people, and then instantly discards them. He doesn't bother to idealize them, nor does he bother to devalue them.

So psychopaths are like truncated, speed of light versions of narcissists, compressed, or zipped narcissists, if you wish. But both of them have zero, zero, zero emotional investment in anything.

Children, creative works, professions, workplaces, friends, so-called friends, spouses, you name it. Countries, languages, places of residence don't receive anything. They never get attached to anything. They live in a movie. They direct the movie. And you can shoot a movie anywhere, with anyone, at any time.

As far as humor, what role does humor play in the relationship to the narcissist self-image?

Like, for example, would a narcissist engage in self-deprecating humor in a sort of ironic sense, or would they avoid that?

No, no, they will not avoid this. There are three uses to humor in the narcissistic construct.

The first one is false modesty. It's when the narcissist self-deprecates with the explicit expectation that you will contradict him. So the narcissist would say, I'm so ugly, you can't imagine how ugly I am with the expectation that you would say, but actually you're not ugly, you're handsome. Or the narcissist would say, sometimes I'm so stupid with the full expectation that you would say you're not stupid, you're a genius.

So narcissist use self-deprecation in order to elicit narcissistic supply and effect. That's the first use of humor.

Second use of humor is aggressive. They use humor statistically to taunt, torment, and humiliate people.

And the third use of humor is to actually support grandiosity, to restructure the world in a way that the comic aspects of certain circumstances and situations and other people would somehow buttress and uphold the narcissist's grandiose view of himself and his life and so on.

So these are three uses. Narcissists make abundant use of humor in multiple interactions.

It's not true that they lack a sense of humor.

Some of the greatest comedians in the world were actually narcissists.

As far as people who suffer from, I guess what you would describe as a neurotic disorder or anxiety disorders or depression, how much of an overlap is there with narcissism or with those people?

I guess stereotypically you would think those people would suffer from low self-esteem, but how much of an overlap is there between depression and anxiety disorders and narcissism?

Depression is less about a lack of self-esteem. Depression is about hopelessness. It's the mistaken belief, the cognitive deficit, the mistaken belief about reality. It's an impaired reality test. It's catastrophizing, the belief that nothing will ever be okay again, which of course is a nonsensical sentence.

So depression is a nonsensical condition, a reaction to nonsense.

And in this sense, narcissists are not immune to depression.

Once, for example, they have lost a source of supply, they tend to catastrophize and say, well, I've lost this source of supply. I'll never have another source of supply. I'll never have supply again, etc.

So narcissists react with a mood disorder to mainly the loss of narcissistic supply or sources of supply. They tend to go through phases of extended depressive episodes, major depressive episodes, and most narcissists have a disthemic background. That means a kind of a background depression because they fully anticipate losses.

Narcissism is such a condition that it brings about a constant, a stream of constant losses. The narcissist constantly loses people in his life, constantly loses narcissistic supply, constantly bungles up his life, constantly makes mistakes and ruins his career and so on and so forth. So narcissists anticipate loss.

And so narcissists suffer from anticipatory anxiety and from a disthemic form of depression, background depression, but they also suffer from acute clinical major depressive episodes once they lose narcissistic supply or sources of supply.

Do you think that narcissism is on the rise and the reasons for the rise of narcissism in our society? And does one have to at least be somewhat narcissistic to survive in today's out of my society?

Well, it's a compounded question, as you might have noticed.

Let's start with the premise. Pathological narcissism seems to be on the rise.

Studies by Twenge and Campbell, for example, among college students have shown a quintupling of narcissism as compared to 1986 when similar studies were carried out. It seems that narcissism is on the rise, especially among the young, but on the rise generally.

Narcissistic personality disorder used to be diagnosed in 1% of the general population. And today we diagnose it in about 3% of the general population.

If you add psychopathy to the list, we may well be talking about 10% of the population. Although psychopathy is supposed to be more rare than narcissism, I think it's misdefined. We're influenced by the work of Robert Hare and so on, which is Robert Hare was a prison psychologist. And so he kind of dragged psychopathy to the dark end, what today we call the dark triad.

But psychopathy is actually a coping and survival mechanism. It's an adaptation, if you wish, evolutionary adaptation.

So I think if you take narcissistic and psychopathic disorders put together, they today would characterize about 10% of the population.

Why is that? It's because our societies around the world are homogenized and they are highly narcissistic and psychopathic.

There's an evolutionary, there's a competitive advantage, evolutionary advantage to being a narcissist and a psychopath.

It all started, that's my personal interpretation, my personal speculation. It all started with the fact, with the population bump, with the fact that our numbers have grown exponentially.

When I was born, there were as far as I recall, 3 billion people in the world. And today there's close to 8 billion people in the world.

It's very difficult to be noticed. It's very difficult to draw attention to oneself. It's very difficult to promote oneself. There's too much competition for eyeballs. It's very difficult to capture eyeballs, mind you, let alone monetize them.

So people need to escalate behavior in order to attract attention. This escalation in behavior is what we call narcissism.

And as they escalate behavior, they need to become less and less empathic because empathy constrains you. Empathy limits and restricts your repertory of attention seeking behaviors.

So they need to become less and less empathic and so on.

So here's the answer to your question in today's societies and cultures. It behooves you to be narcissistic and even I would say psychopathic.

In July 2016, the venerable academic journal, New Scientist, came up with the cover story. The cover story admonished parents. It says parents, educate your children to be narcissistic.

Narcissists, series of studies, latest one released in the United Kingdom about two weeks ago. Narcissists rise to the top. They have a competitive advantage in the workplace. They have higher incomes across the spectrum. They gravitate to professions with higher incomes. They gravitate to professions with higher leverage, in other words, influence and power over other people.

So narcissists are overrepresented among chief executive officers, among judges, among lawyers, among medical doctors, etc. It pays to be a narcissist.

Three percent of the chief executive officers of Fortune 500 companies, according to studies by Air and Babiak, are diagnosable psychopaths. People with psychopathy, psychopaths, that's three percent.

And these are the people who submitted themselves, I mean subjected themselves to testing. Probably the number is much higher.

So to sum up the answer, yes, narcissism, psychopathy on the rise.

Why? Because to survive, you need to draw attention to yourself and you need to self-promote.

Don't forget that today about 40 percent of the population are self-employed. It's a new trend.

In the 1960s, 80 to 90 percent, depending on the country, were employed by companies, by big corporations. Today, 40 percent are self-employed.

As a self-employed person, you need to promote your work. You need to be noticed. You need to stand out. You need to demonstrate some competitive edge.

How to do that? Well, by being noticeable, by escalating your behavior, by being, in other words, narcissistic.

So as far as the benefits of narcissism, you make the point that narcissists can go on to accomplish great things in media, the arts, politics, and business.

And usually, we talk about narcissism as a pathology. So for talking about this as an issue, and it can be very destructive, would you generally take the premise that narcissism is destructive? Or would you, or is some, as you were saying, some degree of narcissism is healthy?

So would you, as from a standpoint of, from a psychological standpoint, would you try to encourage people to get over it? Or would you advise that more in finding the right balance?

the right balance?

Until very recently, in my profession, in psychology, we used to have the concept of a normal personality, which was an ideal personality, non-existent, of course. Personality against which we measured other personalities. And some of these personalities deviated from the normal personality to the extent that we label these personalities pathological.

Today, this approach is antiquated and outdated and not used anymore. Todaywe ask only two questions. Are you happy? And are you functional? Are you happy? And do you function well in a variety of settings? Do you function well within your family? Do you function well in the workplace? Do you function well socially, etc? If the answer is yes to both questions, we don't really care what is the type of your personality. It's healthy. It's okay. If you don't, if the answer to one of these two questions, let alone both of them, is no, then you require intervention and your personality is pathological.

Nowthe thing is this, as society becomes more and more narcissistic, narcissists would become more and more functional. And of course, narcissists are happy or lucky.

Sothe answer to both questions is bound to become increasingly more affirmative. In 10 years time or 20 years time, when all societies and cultures would be psychopathic and narcissistic, the narcissist would be happy and functional. And so, in this sense, they would be the new normal.

Let me try to elucidate this concept.

In Nazi Germany, the pathological personality would have been the empathic personality. The psychopath in Nazi Germany would have been the normal personality, the functional personality.

Soit all is very culture bound and context dependent. It's a societal construct. Personalities are partly in big part, societal constructs. They are not a distinct clinical objective, clinical entities.

To say narcissistic personality disorder is not like saying tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was the same in ancient Egypt, in China, in Switzerland, and in the United States. A doctor from Ghana can diagnose tuberculosis in Israel. A doctor from Israel can diagnose it in Vietnam. It's an objective clinical entity.

Not so narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder is highly dependent on the period in history, on specific cultural and social mores, on experimentation.

As far as how society impacts narcissism, you've lived in a lot of different countries. Is this an issue, uh, all across the world globally or would you say it's stronger in the United States?

Well, the United States is a harbinger. It's a, you know, it's a beacon. It starts there. All epidemics start in the United States. And so today it's global, but yes, it started in the States and must pronounce in the States.

And what's happening today in the States will happen in 10 years time or five years time.

The transmission mechanisms are much faster and smoother. We have the internet today.

Soone phenomenon that used to take 20 years to spread globally, the contagion is much faster.

And today you have a whole host of scholars such as Dutton and others, and they say that narcissism and psychopathy are positive adaptations and that we need narcissism and psychopathy to survive. And they, they coined new terms such as productive narcissism or high functioning psychopath. And so there's a glorification and glamorization and justification of narcissism and psychopathy in academe. There are ideologues, ideologies of narcissism and psychopathy. There's going to be an apologetics of narcissism and psychology. It's emerging in 10 years time. It will be the bad.

What will be teaching in schools and universities?

How much of narcissism is brought up by one's upbringing as a child?

Both how the child is raised by their parents and possible genetic factors?

We have no, no studies, no serious studies that support a genetic link with narcissism. We have serious studies that support a genetic link with psychopathy or more precisely antisocial personality disorder. And we have serious studies that support neuroscientific findings.

I mean, there's the neuroscientific findings specific to psychopaths. Their brains are different. That's not the case with narcissists.

So we tend to believe, and I think justifiably so, that narcissism is an environmental disease. It's a disease or problem or pathology, whatever you want to call it, adaptation.

If you wish, if you're an apology, an apologetic of narcissism, then you will call it adaptation, not a maladaptation, but whatever it is, it's environmental.

In other words, it's crucially, crucially reactive to environment, social and cultural context and mores upbringing, peer interactions, role model adaptation, adoption, and so on and so forth.

That's why narcissists, that's why I, in my most recent work, I suggest to get rid of the old notion that narcissism is a personality disorder. I think it's actually a post-traumatic condition.

I suggest that narcissism is simply a way to react to trauma and an adaptive, adaptive way, a way that it actually helps the narcissist to survive.

And the more the world comes to resemble an abusive family, the more this survival strategy, this coping strategy, will be adaptive, will be good, will be a good thing to have.

And the world is becoming more and more abusive and comes more and more to resemble a dysfunctional, horrible, abusive family about.

As far as engaging in criminal or even violent behavior, is that more of a function of psychopathy or a narcissist withor narcissism by itself can lead to that?

No, as I was very, as I was very clear and again, online there's an avalanche of misinformation, disinformation, rank nonsense, and utter trash, often unfortunately shoveled out by people with academic degrees, but not relevant academic degrees, psychologists even who know who don't know the first thing about narcissism.

Narcissism is only one of, of hundreds, if not thousands of topics in psychology, that you have a degree in psychology does not qualify you to talk about narcissism.

So there's a lot of nonsense online. And one of the major nonsense is that narcissists are criminalized and antisocial. They are not, they are prosocial.

Narcissists are highly unlikely to engage in rank or pure criminal behavior. They may transgress boundaries. They may break the law, obviously, but they will usually do it within a social context and with many, many other people.

The psychopath is violent, has no impulse control, cannot delay gratification and is a much more primitive machine in this sense. It is a psychopath who is the criminal.

One third of the prison population, um, in the United States have been diagnosed with psychopathy and very few ofthe prisoners have been diagnosed with narcissism.

So crime has to do much more with psychopathy.

Now that the narcissists can break the law, but there is no proof and there are no sub studies that substantiate the claim that narcissists break the law more than any other group in the population.

While there are numerous studies that show that among psychopaths, breaking the law is a hobby or a sport and they do it just with the kick of it.

How effective is a therapy for narcissism?

Neil has no effect. I am not aware of any treatment modality which have any long lasting impact on the core of narcissism.

Of course, many treatment modalities are very successful at modifying behaviors, abrasive behaviors, somewhat problematic behaviors, painful and hurtful behaviors, communication protocols, changing the speech patterns and the linguistic choices of narcissists, etc.

But these are cosmetic changes. They don't touch the core.

No treatment modality that I'm aware of has any long-term impact on the narcissists.

I spent the last seven years developing a new treatment modality called therapy. I have applied it to 46 volunteers and at this stage, the results are positive.

But of course, 46 volunteers are nothing. It's not a representative sample, nor can we learn anything from it.

The oldest volunteer, I mean, the first volunteer, seven years ago, and it seems based on the track record that the effects and impacts of cold therapy are long lasting.

It's very simple. People who come to cold therapy are people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder or with clear narcissistic personality.

And then they test positive after the therapy, they test negative. So they have lost their narcissism.

And this testing continues once a year. And right now we have applied cold therapy to patients or to clients seven years ago, six years ago, five years ago, and they still test negative as far as narcissism.

It seems they got rid of the narcissism once and for all.

But again, it's a non-representative sample.

Any claim as to the efficacy of cold therapy right now would be tantamount to a scam.

We need clinical trials must go on for many, many decades and with thousands of patients before we can make any claim whatsoever. Cold therapy aside, nothing else works.

Not cognitive behavioral therapy, not the MDR, which is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, nothing, not schema, not schema therapy and so on.

Of course, unscrupulous, self-interested, cell and greedy therapies would claim otherwise. And there are many such claims online and offline.

They are fallacious. These are lies and scans.

And these people should go to jail in a proper functioning society.

But since our society is narcissistic and psychopathic, they actually rise to the top and they make a lot of money off these lies and misleading people, creating false expectations and taking money from them.

It's another example of how narcissism pervades and permeates even, and especially the helping professions.

I would not be shocked if we were to administer narcissism tests like narcissistic personality inventory to therapists if we were to discover that the preponderance of narcissists among therapists is much higher than in the general population.

I have been working with therapists and psychologists for well over two and a half decades. And I can tell you the overwhelming vast majority of them are narcissistic, if not rank, diagnosable narcissists.

There's a specific definition of a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

What's the difference between that specific diagnosis and just narcissism in general?

Well, narcissism in general is a set of behaviors and traits that imply self-centeredness, lack of empathy, inability to regulate emotions, superficial intimacy or fake intimacy, and so on and so forth, but with totally proper functioning and so on.

Narcissistic personality disorder is an extreme condition that involves utter lack of empathy.

Well, I suggested that actually narcissists do have empathy, but I dubbed it cold empathy. It's empathy without the emotional component, just a cognitive type of empathy.

So, anyhow, they lack emotional empathy. They're exploitative. They're unable to regulate their internal environment and intimacy. They don't care at all about their people around them and so on.

So it's a matter of degree.

In other words, narcissistic personality disorder is narcissism writ large. It's a quantitative distinction, not a qualitative one. It's a spectrum. You can be in the middle, you can be at the beginning of it, you can be at the other end, and narcissists, people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder have all these problems to the extreme. That's the only difference.

So that's why there's a lot of confusion because people come across other people who are somewhat narcissistic. They have some narcissistic traits, for example, they're grandiose, or they're hypervigilant. They scan for insults. They see insults and slides in everything, or they are aggressive, or they are sadistic to some extent, and so on, and they say, well, they are narcissists.

To qualify as a narcissist, you must have a panoply of manifestations and expressions of pathology that are at their most extreme, and all of them must be consistently at their most extreme all the time.

Another difference between narcissists and people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder is that narcissistic people, people with traits and behaviors, are sometimes narcissistic, and at other times they are not narcissistic. So for example, they can show empathy suddenly, or they can really attach to someone, or they can be altruistic for a change, or they can develop intimacy, I don't know, in the workplace, and so on. So they have exceptional behavior from time to time.

People diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are totally consistent across time and across space. There's never an exception, not for a split second. It's unrelenting. All dimensions of narcissism are expressed all the time, in all the environments, with everyone, everything.

Today in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, latest edition, edition 5, 2013, there is another model of narcissism, it's called the alternative model, for those listeners who would like to read about it for themselves. It's on page 767.

So the alternative model is a new approach to narcissism, and it's dimensional. In other words, it's not a list of criteria, not a bullet list of criteria that you just check off.

It's a nuanced description of a human condition. It's very nice, a very nice model.

It describes how the narcissist tries, but fails at creating intimacy. How the narcissist doesn't really care about what happens to his spouse, to his so-called loved ones, to his children, to his environment, in the workplace. He tries to care, but he doesn't really care. How he uses the outside to regulate a turbulent, chaotic inner landscape with ups and downs, depression and elation, etc.

It's a literary kind of description, the alternative model in the DSM-5 is a literary rendition of narcissism, and much closer to reality, by the way, than the nine criteria bullet list of the fourth edition.

In this sense, I always say that psychology is an art form. It's a form of literature.

The greatest psychology to have ever lived, greatest psychologist, was not Sigmund Freud. It was Dostoevsky.

We don't have a better description of a psychopath than V.S. Naipaul. It is the most ingenious psychologist to have ever lived.

Psychology is a form of literature that Diagnostic andit.

Today, narcissism is across a dimension, across a spectrum.

If you're at the very, very, very end, then you can be diagnosed with narcissistic personalities.

Sam Vaknin, it has been an excellent show. Thank you so much for being on.

Thank you for having me.

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Narcissism is a spectrum of behaviors, from healthy to pathological, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A malignant narcissist is someone who has NPD and wreaks havoc on themselves and their surroundings. They feel grandiose and self-important, exaggerate accomplishments, and demand recognition as superior without commensurate achievements. They require excessive admiration, adulation, attention, and affirmation, and are interpersonally exploitative, devoid of empathy, and constantly envious of others.

Self-Aware Narcissist: Still a Narcissist

Narcissism is pervasive and defines the narcissist's waking moments, infiltrating and permeating their dreams. Narcissists only admit to a problem when they are abandoned, destitute, and devastated. Narcissistic behaviors can be modified using talk therapy and pinpointed medication conditioning, but there is a huge difference between behavior modification and a permanent alteration of a psychodynamic landscape. Narcissism may improve with age, but it is rare.

Narcissist: Psychotic?

Narcissists are not full-fledged psychotics, as they are aware of the difference between true and false, real and make-believe, and are in full control of their faculties and actions. Narcissists are efficient instruments for the extraction and consumption of human reactions, and they resonate with their audience, giving it what it expects, wants, and demands. Narcissists are hypersensitive and hypervigilant, alert to every bit of new data, and continuously rearrange their self-delusions to incorporate new information in an egosyntonic manner. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is insufficient grounds for claiming a diminished capacity or insanity defense, as narcissists are never divorced from reality and crave it to maintain the precarious balance of their disorganized, borderline psychotic personality.

Narcissistic and Psychopathic Politicians and Leaders

Narcissistic or psychopathic leaders are a product of their society and culture, and their mental health pathologies resonate with their followers. They create a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion, and their reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substance. When their regime ends, the entire edifice crumbles, leaving behind a massive, collective, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Narcissism? Not What You Think! (An El-Nadi-Vaknin Convo)

Narcissism is not a mental illness but a personality style, and narcissists can be self-aware and proud of their disorder. They can be manipulated if they are convinced that certain behaviors are counterproductive and harmful to themselves. Women who fall for narcissists often do so because of their own psychological reasons, and unless they address these issues, they are likely to fall into the same trap repeatedly.

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