Real Narcissists are Covert, Grandiose Narcissists are Psychopaths

Uploaded 3/28/2021, approx. 23 minute read

What could be better, I ask you, than an intimate evening with Sam Vaknin and a good glass of wine?

Exactly like Freddy Krueger or a bad coin, I keep coming back.

You can get rid of me. Never mind what you do. Even when you unsubscribe, you find me somewhere on YouTube.

It's a disaster. Good evening.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and a professor of psychology.

Actually, this is a university lecture. I hope my students don't see the introduction.

So today we are going to discuss a very interesting phenomenon known as compensatory narcissism.

It's not new by any stretch of the imagination. It's been described decades ago. It's been described by the biggest names in psychology, Theodore Millon, a study of personality disorders. Theodore Millon finds code, like anyway, many others.

But there's a new study just came out and I'm cited in this study. My work is cited in this study, but that's not the reason I'm reviewing this study. I'm reviewing this study because the authors had developed new tools, new measurement tools, which seem to have proven pretty conclusively that compensatory narcissism is not just a figment of the imagination, but an actual clinical entity, as all of us have been saying for decades now.

So compensatory narcissism may be connected somehow to Self-Discrepancy Theory. Self-Discrepancy or Ego-Discrepancy is when traits and behaviors make the person feel uncomfortable. The person becomes egodystonic.

There is a discrepancy between traits, behaviors, and the self.

Now, Self-Discrepancy Theory claims that the self has three parts. The classical Freudian part, which interfaces with reality, provides reality testing, controls behavior, mediates between drives and behavior, etc.

The second part, which Freud at the time called Ego-Ideal, and that's how the self would like to be, what it would like to become.

The fantasy of how the self would look in five years, in 10 years, in 20 years, when it grows up.

And the third part is how the self ought to be, how the self should be.

In other words, perhaps the equivalent of the superego and conscience.

So these three parts, they constantly interact, constantly negotiate, compromise, strike bargains, and drive on the personality in its totality, the self.

But sometimes there are discrepancies. There are dissonances between these parts. And they don't sit well together. The harmony is shattered.

And this is known as self-discrepancy.

I and many others have suggested that at the core of compensatory narcissism, there is self-discrepancy.

I use the language of internal objects, which is essentially an object relations language.

But you don't have to use this language. You can say sub-personalities. You can say pseudo-identities. You can say sub-states. It doesn't matter how you describe it. The moving parts of the self, when they clash, when they conflict, when harmony is destroyed, there is self-discrepancy, and it may lead to a compensatory effort.

The person tries to compensate for this extreme unease. And this compensatory mechanism is what we call narcissism.

Later on, I'm going to discuss another phenomenon, anosognosia, not anal-sognosia, anosognosia.

Your mind is in the gutter today. I don't know what's wrong with you.

Anyhow, so anosognosia, right.

Many, many years ago, many years ago, when you were all just imaginations in your parents' minds, I was very much alive. And I had written a book titled Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. And the first edition was published in 1999. It was based on a website in writings from 1995. And in this book, there was a sub-chapter titled The Compensatory versus the Classic Narcissist.

I would like to read you an excerpt from this sub-chapter because it leads smoothly and seamlessly into the current research published in July this year.

So, The Compensatory versus the Classic Narcissist.

I'm quoting from the book, another interesting distinction suggested by Dave Kelly in his excellent P-types website is between the compensatory-type narcissistic personality disorder and the classic narcissistic personality disorder described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM.

Here are the compensatory NPD criteria, according to Dave Kelly.

And now I'm quoting Dave Kelly.

Personality types proposes compensatory narcissistic personality disorder as a pervasive pattern of unstable covert narcissistic behaviors that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts as indicated by six or more of the criteria below.

The basic trait of the compensatory narcissistic personality type is a pattern of overtly narcissistic behaviors that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem.

The compensatory narcissistic personality type seeks to create an illusion of superiority and to build up an image of high self-worth.

Theodomillian strives for recognition and prestige to compensate for the lack of a feeling of self-worth, may acquire a deprecatory attitude in which the achievements of others are ridiculed and degraded, milan again.

His persistent aspirations for glory and status, milan, has a tendency to exaggerate and boast.

Milan is sensitive to how others react to him, watches and listens carefully for critical judgment and feels slighted by disapproval.

Milan is prone to feel ashamed and humiliated and especially anxious and vulnerable to the judgments of others.

Milan again covers up a sense of inadequacy and deficiency with pseudo-arrogance and pseudo-grantiosity.

Milan has a tendency to periodic hypochondria.

Forman, another scholar, alternates between feelings of emptiness and deadness and states of excitement and excess energy.

Forman entertains fantasies of greatness, constantly striving for perfection, genius or stardom.

Forman has a history of searching for an idealized partner and has an intense need for affirmation and confirmation in relationships.

Forman frequently entertains a wishful, exaggerated and unrealistic concept of himself which he can't possibly measure up to.

Aniraihe produces too quickly, not up to the level of his abilities because of an overwhelmingly strong need for the immediate gratification of success.

Aniraihe is touchy, quick to take offense at the slightest provocation, continually anticipating attack and danger, reacting with anger and fantasies of revenge when he feels himself frustrated in his need for constant admiration.

He is self-conscious due to a dependence on approval from others. He suffers regularly from repetitive oscillations of self-esteem.

He seeks to undo feelings of inadequacy by forcing everyone's attention and admiration upon himself.

Aniraihe may react with self-contempt and depression to the lack of fulfillment of his grandiose expectations.


So the sources are Max Forman, Narcissistic Disorders and the Urdupal Fixations in the Annual of Psychoanalysis, Volume 4, Theodore Millon, Disorders of Personality, Aniraihe, Pathological Forms of Self-Esteem Regulation in Essential Papers on Narcissism, Don Richard Rissow, RISO, Personality Types, and now Dave Kelly continues by proposing speculative diagnostic criteria for compensatory narcissistic personality disorder.

A pervasive pattern, says Dave Kelly, of self-inflation, pseudo-confidence, exhibitionism, and strivings for prestige that compensates for feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as indicated by the following.

Pseudo-confidence compensating for an underlying condition of insecurity and feelings of helplessness, pretentiousness, self-inflation, exhibitionism in the pursuit of attention, recognition, and glory, strivings for prestige to enhance self-esteem, deceitfulness and manipulativeness in the service of maintaining feelings of superiority, idealization in relationships, fragmentation of the self, feelings of emptiness and deadness, a proud hubristic disposition, hypochondriasis, substance abuse, self-destructiveness.

Compensatory narcissistic personality disorder corresponds to Ernst Jones' narcissistic God Heine's codes, narcissistic personality disorder, which made it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Heine's code describes a compensatory narcissist, not a grandiose overt one, and to Theodemilan and Roger Davis.

So not long ago, there was a press release which referred to a new study, a new fascinating study. My work is cited in this study, it's a disclaimer, but that's not the reason I'm reviewing the study. I'm reviewing the study because it's the first substantial evidence for the existence of compensatory narcissism using objective measurement tools.

So the press release said, narcissism driven by insecurity, not grandiose sense of self. And it says, narcissism is driven by insecurity, not an inflated sense of self, finds a new study by a team of psychology researchers.

Its research, which offers a more detailed understanding of this long-examined phenomenon, may also explain what motivates the self-focused nature of social media activity.

Pascal Wallisch, a clinical associate professor in New York University's Department of Psychology, says, for a long time, it was unclear why narcissists engage in unpleasant behaviors, such as self-congratulation, as it actually makes others think less of them.

And so the paper was published in the academic journal, Personality and Individual Differences. And Wallisch says, this has become quite prevalent in the age of social media, a behavior that has been coined as flexing. It's called flexing.

Our work reveals that these narcissists are not grandiose, but rather insecure. And this is how they seem to cope with their insecurities.

Mary Kovalcik, the paper's lead author, and at the time graduate student at New York University, she says, more specifically, the results suggest that narcissism is better understood as a compensatory adaptation to overcome and cover low self-worth.

Narcissists are insecure, and they cope with these insecurities by flexing. This makes others like them less in the long run, thus further aggravating their insecurities, which then leads to a vicious cycle of flexing behaviors.

So the survey, they kind of worked with 300 people, which is a pretty, pretty large sample in a narcissism study, actually one of the biggest I ever came across. It's 300 people, 60% female, 40% male, which shows you that narcissism is becoming a unigendered phenomenon. Women are now as narcissistic as men. The median age was 20, so these are young people.

And they answered 151 questions via a computer. And so, hold it for a second.

Lady, I'm recording YouTube in the middle. I'll call you, okay?

Where was I? Right.

So they say that narcissistic personality disorder had been conceptualized as excessive self-love. With this part, I have a dispute.

No serious scholar of narcissistic personality or pathological narcissism had suggested that pathological narcissists are self-love, none. Actually, many of the most preeminent scholars of narcissism claim that narcissists have no ego and no self.

So definitely they cannot have self-love. They're also incapable of love.

No self, no love, no self-love.


But I think what the authors try to say that there's two subtypes known as grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. And they say a related affliction, psychopathy, is also characterized by a grandiose sense of self.

And so, the authors invented a novel measure, a new measure. They called it prison very appropriately, performative refinement to soothe insecurities about sophistication.

Wow. And this produced flex, performative self elevation index. And flex captures insecurity driven self conceptualization.

So kind of impression management. It's an impression management measuring tool.

And so I'm not going to all the tedious details. And they discovered some pretty amazing things. And I'm going to read to you a few segments, a few accepts from the paper.

And the paper, again, was published in Personality and Individual Differences. And it is titled Narcissism Through the Lens of Performative Self Elevation.

Okay. Here are the highlights.

Narcissism has been fundamentally misunderstood, say the authors. It's compensatory, not grandiose.

We developed a flexed scale that captures genuinely narcissistic behavior.

Psychopaths do exhibit high levels of grandiosity, and narcissism is not self-love. It is self-loathing in disguise.

And they gave an abstract, and they explained their work, etc.

I would like to read to you actually from the introduction.

The authors say, we are interested in the nature of narcissism. Narcissism is a personality disorder that is conceptualized as excessive self-love, wrong, and manifests as a grandiose sense of self-importance, entitlement, and superiority, right.

They quote the American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5, Auerbach, and Freud. More recently, continue the authors in this otherwise excellent article. More recently, two subtypes of narcissism have been distinguished.

Vulnerable narcissism, also known as covert narcissism, characterized by low self-esteem, anxiety about attachments, and extreme sensitivity to criticism.

And the other subtype, grandiose narcissism, which manifests as high self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, and self-importance.

And they refer to work by Dickinson, Pincus, Roman, Newman, Herner, Beerhofen, Wink.

This distinction, say the authors, has shown itself to be fruitful.

Vulnerable narcissism is associated with low self-esteem, low life satisfaction, and interdependent self-construct.

Conversely, grandiose narcissism is associated with high self-esteem, high life satisfaction, and an independent self-construction, Roman, Henkel, Beerhofen, and Rhodes.

These differential attitudes also present behaviorally, say the authors. Both grandiose and vulnerable narcissists have a tendency to deliberately induce jealousy in their romantic partners, but for different reasons.

A vulnerable narcissist is motivated by insecurities. He seeks reassurance to compensate for low self-esteem, whereas the grandiose narcissist induces jealousy primarily to gain power and control in their relationship.

And references made to the work by Totoiello, Hart, Richardson, and Tallett.

Considering differential underlying motivations opens up a broad perspective.

Narcissistic personality disorder is often conceptualized as a part of a constellation of dark personalities and traits, such as manipulativeness, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

Paul House, Williams, Anderson, and Kehl.

This raises the possibility that these conditions are more closely related than previously believed, which is what I've been saying for 26 years. These conditions are facets of the same single underlying disorder.

The authors continue, it is important to recognize that there is considerable overlap in how these disorders manifest behaviorally and emotionally.

For instance, a narcissist may manipulate others to increase their status, Vaknin, they quote my work, and they may exhibit low empathy for others.

However, such behavior exhibited by a narcissist might be due to a focus on protection of self-worth, even though these traits are primarily associated with psychopathy actually.

Moreover, vulnerable but not grandiose narcissist experience emotional dysregulation and false attribution of hostile disposition, paranoid ideation, ideas of reference, referential ideation, and they refer to Hanson, Brown, Freese, Zhang, Lu, Zhao, Zhang, and Wang. Sounds like a circus.

Okay, they continue.

The introduction is excellent, and that's why I'm quoting it in full.

Grandiose narcissism seems to resemble psychopathy in many respects, which raises the possibility that the tessellation of these conditions could be improved.

It appears to be the case that grandiose narcissism might be better understood as a manifestation of psychopathy.

This notion is supported by the finding that individuals who strongly exhibit psychopathic traits also tend to have a grandiose sense of self-worth.

Gustafson, Ritzer, Miller, Sleep, Crow, Liner.

Recently, 2023.

Counterintuitively, better conceived of as narcissism proper, the primary type of narcissistic disorder.

And so in this research, say the authors, we aim to refine this distinction between vulnerable and grandiose.

We note the distinction between vulnerable and grandiose resulted from statistical, not conceptual, considerations.

The low internal consistency of commonly used narcissism scale, as scales, wink.

The construct of covert narcissism was first proposed by Akhtar and Cooper, the late Cooper died last year, in 1989.

But wink, wink gave it a substantiation. He had demonstrated that if you use narcissism scale, you get two results. One of them is covert, fragile, shy, and one of them is actually grandiose.

Similarly, scholars of borderline thought that as such a verification, such a division could happen in borderline. You could have a shy borderline or vulnerable borderline, but this is not supported by research.

One problem is that the measures rely on self-reporting.

I've been castigating narcissism studies and narcissism tests for ages because they rely on liars and they rely on manipulators to self-report honestly. They also rely on people who are highly dissociative. Narcissists especially are highly dissociative. They forget things, then they confabulate, they invent things.

And so it's very contentious. It's very contentious.

And so they go on and on and they support literally most of the insights of court, milan and with all modesty, many of my suggestions and proposals and ideas and throughout the last three decades. I'm very, very happy with this article.

And they say, we believe that our pattern of findings suggests an interesting relationship between narcissism and psychopathy that has not been fully appreciated in existing literature.

Specifically, we posit that what was previously seen as grandiose narcissism is actually better understood as a behavioral manifestation of psychopathy, which I've been saying this since 1997.

Individuals with psychopathic traits tend to genuinely believe in their own grandiosity, hair, numen, and do not present with any hint of insecurities, kill.

In contrast, narcissism per se say the authors might be inherently vulnerable, characterized by insecurities and self-elevating behavior in nature.

To validate the understanding of a relationship between narcissism and psychopathy, it is important to recognize that the interpretation of behavior is inherently ambiguous.

Motivations and intentions do matter.

So how would one distinguish which of the two conditions drives any given behavior?

Psychopaths are known to be motivated by a desire to attain power. They are goal-oriented, not only power, sex, money.

In contrast, narcissism manifests as a desire to pursue status.

Zeichler, Hill, and again with all due modesty, Wagner.

Of course, power and status are often correlated in the real world, which presumably why this issue has been conflated in the existing literature of narcissism.

And so we predict that, say the authors, that both psychopathic and narcissistic individuals will score high on classic measures of narcissism, but that individuals high on psychopathic traits will prefer outcomes conferring power.

Whereas individuals high on narcissistic traits will prefer outcomes conferring status.

Shifting the lens from psychopathy back to vulnerable narcissism, one remaining issue pertains to the motivations for self-elevating behavior specifically.

It has been observed that the prevalence of narcissistic behaviors seems to be on the rise.

They're quoting Bojlovskaya, Magrav, Dinkfielder, and others. They should have quoted also Twenge and Campbell and others.

An increase in such behaviors, specifically self-elevation, flexing, makes sense within the framework we propose here, as engaging with social media inherently inflicts constant social comparison and appraisal, which could exacerbate insecurities about sense, about self-worth.

Vogel, Rose, Okde, Eccles, Frans in 2015.

So the conclusion is, we conclude that grandiose narcissism is better understood as one manifestation of the highest self-regard exhibited by psychopathy.

Counter-independently, vulnerable narcissism actually is narcissism proper, a behavioral adaptation to cope with and to mitigate the suffering imposed by insecurities about oneself.

You remember Anosognosia, not anal-sognosia, are not-sognosia. Those of you who misinterpret my words, please stop. Your mind is in the gutter. Get it out of there and watch the video.

All right, Anosognosia. Anosognosia is a very interesting phenomena, and I would like to somehow link it to narcissism.

In some mental illnesses, for example, bipolar disorder, more pronounced in schizophrenia, there is a phenomenon called anosognosia. Anosognosia is from Greek, from ancient Greek, and it means without knowledge of the disease.

So it's a lack of insight. It's when the person is unaware of their condition, and when he's made aware, he's unable to accept it.

Now, in narcissism, there's no anosognosia. In narcissism, there's something much more interesting.

There is reframing. When you come to the narcissist and say, listen, you talk to a narcissist, and I have a database of close to 2,000 of them. I've spoken to all of them. I mean, I've administered questionnaires to all of them. And you ask them, you ask the narcissist, do you know that you are misbehaving? Do you know that your behavior is abrasive and hurts people? He would say, yeah, I do. Do you know that you are very critical of other people? Yeah, I do.

So they are fully aware of their behaviors.

The thing is that narcissists refuse to accept their behaviors as problematic. They say, these are my behaviors, and they give me a competitive advantage.

Because of my behaviors, I'm humanity version two, I'm the next version of humanity. And the next is rung in the evolutionary ladder. It gives me an advantage edge, gives me an edge in the world.

So they glorify their disorder. They're emotionally invested in narcissism. They think narcissism is the best thing that happened to them ever. They don't want to give up on their narcissism because they connect the narcissism erroneously, by the way, to their creativity, to their managerial skills, to their real life success.

So everything that happens, everything good that happens to them is an outcome of their narcissism. So they believe.

So in a way, it's a kind of anosognosia, because when you come to someone with bipolar disorder, and this person has anosognosia, and you tell them you have bipolar, he will deny it.

You say, I don't have bipolar. When you come to a psychotic person's schizophrenia, paranoia schizophrenia, and you tell them, listen, you're sick, you have paranoia, schizophrenia. And if this person has anosognosia, he or she will deny it completely.

So I'm not sick at all. What's wrong with you?

It's the same with the narcissist, but the schizophrenic and the bipolar are less aware than the narcissist. They are, they are not fully aware of the panoply and spectrum of their behaviors.

The narcissist is, it's just that he doesn't consider it a disorder. So it's a lack of insight, really. It's anosognosia is not simply being in denial, or being stubborn. Anosognosia is when the brain cannot process the fact that thoughts and moods don't reflect reality.

Narcissists don't have this. Narcissists don't have this. They're divorced from reality because they have the grandiosity firewall.

But within their domain, within the field of space of internal objects, they are fully conscious. They are fully aware. Sometimes they behave in obnoxious, defiant, contumacious in your face ways. They do it on purpose to manipulate, to accomplish outcomes.

So they sometimes hone and leverage their alleged dysfunctions, because it gives them an advantage, gives them an edge. They get results, they get things done.

So this is anosognosia. Anosognosia is caused by damage to an area of the brain involved in self-reflection. And this damage had not been spotted in narcissists, in the brains of narcissists.

Everyone, all of us, we constantly update our mental image of ourselves. We gain new information and we rejig the parts, the jigsaw puzzle, and we create a new image.

And when the frontal lobe is damaged, in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, gradually the frontal lobe is damaged, you can no longer properly update the self-image.

So these patients have difficulty.

And so I don't want to go now into all the details of the treatments and medication, because it s not the main thing.

So the classic person with anosognosia is cognitively unaware that he has an equal underlying mental health condition, and also not aware that he has, of course, anosognosia.

The narcissist is perfectly aware of his behaviors, of his traits, of how he is hurting people, of what he is doing. Everything is in perfect awareness. He just misinterprets it. He has an hermeneutic deficit, explanatory deficit. He misreads not the facts, but he misreads the interpretation of the facts.

He says, that s the way I am, and it s good that I m this way, because it makes me superior, and I will never give this up, because this is what makes me tick, this is what makes me a winner, not a loser.

And so anosognosia in narcissism is not a problem. And so anosognosia in narcissism is kind of a metaphor. It s not real, because there s no damage to the brain, and narcissists are fully self-aware.

When I say narcissist, just to clarify, in all my texts and in all my videos, the word narcissist means someone diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, not someone who is an a-hole or has a narcissistic style, but someone with a diagnosis.

And so these people don't have anosognosia.

Okay, I hope I satisfied your prurient instincts and lifted your mind out of the gutter, where it has been throughout this video since you saw me, of course. And see you tomorrow with high-functioning autism.

And what is the difference between HFA, high-functioning autism, and psychopathy? Shocking, stunning news.

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