Your Narcissist: Madman or Genius? (Based on News Intervention Interview)

Uploaded 6/3/2022, approx. 14 minute read

You ask any narcissist, and they will tell you I'm a genius. Even somatic narcissists who have far more brawn than brain claim to be geniuses.

Pick up artists, if nothing else, but definitely geniuses.

And yet, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual makes clear that Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a very, very serious mental health problem.

Scholar, towering scholars, such as Otto Könberg, many others, my little self included, considered Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be on the verge of psychosis, not very far from schizophrenia.

In other words, seriously bad thing.

So, is your narcissist a genius, or is he a madman?

Sometimes you feel confused and baffled in doubt, because he sounds so iridite, he sounds so sure of himself, so authoritative, and he throws at you a million facts. And these facts imply that his knowledge is unlimited, he's omniscient, and he does sound profound sometimes.

And so, you don't know, you can't judge properly. Also, you're not qualified in many cases, because narcissists make claims of genius in fields which are especially arcane and not accessible to laymen, so as to sow confusion with regards to their true accomplishments and capabilities.

So, narcissists would say, I'm a genius physicist, or such like, an area where you don't have the capacity to judge. It's a form of unintentional gaslighting, form of confabulation, a form of wishful thinking, and an integral part of the narcissist's love affair with himself, the shared fantasy.

Narcissists don't love themselves, but they love the falsehood.

So, what are we to make of all this?

It takes a genius to drink a megapoint of wine on camera, as you all know.

Let me help you decipher, disentangle, make sense of the narcissist's claims.

My name is Sam Vaknin, I'm a professor of psychology and the author of the Sempiternal, look it up, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism, Revisited. The Bible of Narcissism, written in 1995, when no one ever, anywhere, was talking about narcissism.

Okay, Shoshanim, this entire video is based on an interview I've given to the long-suffering Scott Jacobson. Interview is titled Professor Vaknin on Genius and Insanity, still undecided, and it was published in the News Intervention website, which is an Asian, Indian, actually, website of news and analysis.

The analysis is madmen or genius.

We start with the Philippines, of course, where there is a concept called Kapwa. Kapwa simply means connectedness. Everything I do represents or reflects on people around me. I'm integrated in a social network.

I cannot conceive of myself as separate from this network as an individual.

Narcissists are incapable of Kapwa. They cannot perceive themselves as a node in a network, let alone an equi-potent node. They can emulate and simulate teamwork because many of them are goal-oriented, but they never have the attendant emotions of compassion and affection and empathy in which to collaborate and the joy of mutual or common accomplishments.

Consider the cerebral narcissist.

The cerebral narcissist always regards himself as a misunderstood and underappreciated genius.

In reality, cerebral narcissists are simply depressed. The depression accounts for most of the narcissist's behaviors.

For instance, his compulsive pursuit of narcissistic supply is a form of self-medication. The cerebral narcissist's sexual abstinence, lack of libido, is another manifestation of his underlying depression.

He constructs a whole grandiose ideology of genius superiority around his sexlessness, of course, in order to resolve the cognitive dissonance, but really is simply depressed.

I encourage you and urge you to watch a video I've made a few days ago about the three depressions of the narcissist for two reasons.

It deals with this issue and it will increase my views and make me a much richer person, which, of course, is another way of saying it would prove that I'm a genius.

Problem is that both madness and genius involve abilities which are the same. They share the same abilities, same capacities, and it makes it extremely difficult to tell them apart.

For example, both madness and genius involve the ability to reframe reality in an unexpected way, to provide insight, to surprise you and say, well, I never saw it this way. Yeah, right. It's amazing. How come I never thought about it?

And this is done by gaining a synoptic view, synoptic vantage point.

The genius is able to span and scan a variety of disciplines and bring together common strands from many fields and areas of life. It's a hallmark of genius, this ability to connect the hitherto unconnected.

Similarly, this interdisciplinary vantage point is a radical departure from hidden underlying assumptions, challenging assumptions, deconstructing them, so to speak, is at the core of genius.

Geniuses don't change necessarily the way we see the world, but they change the way we think about the world by changing our hidden assumptions.

So what's the difference between genius and madman?

We have the scientific method. Scientific method is the answer. It is designed to help us to tell apart mad insanity from genius by applying a test, and it's a test of falsifiability.

A genius and a madman come with theories. They create new theories. And these theories yield predictions. And then we test these predictions. And if they fail, we falsify them. This is the test of falsifiability.

Both madness and genius are actually theories of the world and theories of mind. And like every other type of theory, they yield predictions which can be tested and falsified. Most of our predictions yielded by insanity are easily and instantly falsifiable.

Here's your first test with your narcissist. He keeps making predictions. He keeps saying, this is going to happen. No one understands. I am the only one who understands what's going on. And I'm telling you, it's leading there.

So narcissists spew out predictions all the time, monitor these predictions, evaluate them, and then see if they actually materialize, if they actualize. And if the person keeps failing in these predictions, if the predictions keep being falsified, then that's likely a madman or, in other words, narcissist.

Most of our predictions yielded by insanity are easily and usually instantly falsifiable. Most of our predictions garnered by genius. These predictions hold water for long stretches of time. And even when they are falsified, they're falsified only in private cases and in extreme conditions.

For example, theories of relativity have falsified Newtonian predictions, but only on vast scales and with incredible energies. So Newton is still a genius, even though all his predictions had been falsified by Einstein. He's a genius because his predictions apply in the vast majority of cases in daily life.

The narcissist predictions fail time and again, everywhere, all the time pertaining to absolutely everything. He never succeeds to get it right, actually, or rarely succeeds. And when he does get it right, it's clear that he got it right by chance or for the wrong reasons. That's your first test of whether you're dealing with a genius or with a narcissistic madman who is grandiose and just making claims of genius.

Psychopathology is rigid. Mental illness is rigid. It is unyielding. It's not amenable to learning. It's nauseatingly repetitive. It's constricting. It's divorced from reality. The narcissist is an impaired reality testing and he's unwilling, not open to any input from the outside, to any form of learning and education. He knows it all.

The genius, on the other hand, is immersed in the world. Even when the genius is reclusive, even if he lives alone in a pod or a cocoon, even if he doesn't see anyone for like decades, he's still in the world. He's acting on the world with the world. Genius is about the world. There is no genius who didn't have an impact on the world. They have an impact on the world because they are of the world.

So the genius learns and evolves all the time as opposed to the narcissist who is stuck in La La Land, in his Neverland and refuses to change because he's perfect. Why would he change?

The mind of the genius is kaleidoscopic. It's vibrant. It's alive. It's ever expanding. The mind of the narcissist is mummified.

Genius is life-reified. Narcissism is stagnation-reified.

Scott asked me in the interview, a news intervention, he asked me if high intelligence is required for a true genius because many narcissists are intelligent.

But people confuse intelligence and creativity, intelligence and genius. I told Scott, if by intelligence you mean IQ, the answer is a resounding no.

High intelligence is not required for true genius. High IQ is not required for true genius.

The saying about perspiration and inspiration applies a lot of hard work which a narcissist is incapable of.

Thomas Alva Edison said it. He said it's 90% perspiration, sweat and 10% inspiration.

The narcissist believes that it's 100% inspiration because he's godlike.

And so genius is the ability to see familiar things in a fresh, unprecedented way. It involves imagination, intuition, the ability to tell apart the critical from the tangential.

These are the core constituents of genius, not intelligence.

What intelligence does do, it contributes to genius in terms of alacrity. It makes the processes faster. It's a catalyst. It speeds up theorizing. It speeds up discovery.

That's the only role of intelligence.

Narcissists can be intelligent, but if they are not open to learning anything new, if they believe they already know everything, if they consequently don't apply their imagination and creativity and intuition and so on, they're not geniuses. They can't be geniuses.

Scott asked me what happens to an insane person who happens to have high intelligence.

And I said that an insane person who has a high intelligence is likely to construct theories that will pass for genius, will appear to be genius, especially among laymen, but they're not.

The intelligence of the gifted madman, the gifted insane person, his intelligence serves to camouflage, to disguise the lack of rigor and the delusional counterfactual content of his creations.

Many conspiracy theories are actually madmen masquerading as geniuses. Rather than catalyze disruptive discoveries, the intellect of the insane, the intellect of the madman, works overtime.

The service of aggressively defending, manifestly reasonable, ridiculous sleight of hand, the intelligence or the intellect of the madman is not open to any modifying feedback from the environment.

His insulate, the madman's intellect is solipsistic, moribund, as I said, not so the genius.

So narcissist is likely to consider himself in terms of a fortress. He's under siege from an environment that is insufficiently intelligent and superior to understand him. He's underappreciated because he's misunderstood.

But the truth is that he's misunderstood because he's pew-silly most of the time.

What happens to the mind in the mind of a genius who slowly deteriorates into an insane person?

These things happen, for example, Friedrich Nietzsche. Such a genius visibly transitions from cognitive flexibility to defensive and hyper-vigilant rigidity. He develops what we call confirmation bias. He's not open anymore to anything from the outside.

We have narcissists who do contribute a lot to science, arts, culture and society. There's no denying this. But it simply means that their genius outweighs their narcissism.

However, it's a safe prediction that ultimately their narcissism would prevail.

The work of such geniuses, who are also narcissistic, becomes incrementally and gradually way more easily falsifiable, sometimes even with mere thought experiments.

So we see, for example, the latter years of Albert Einstein. This kind of genius turned madman repeats himself ad nauseam. He becomes grandiose. He cognitively distorts reality to buttress an inflated and fantastic self-image.

And the minute you divorce from reality, you can never ever be a genius. Being a genius is about reality. This is why I insist in all my videos to debunk nonsense, misinformation, myths, because it's critical.

Reality testing is critical.

And how do fake geniuses cover for their lack of insight, ingenuity and intelligence, wanders Scott, innocuously, I hope.

And my answer is simple. Fake geniuses, also known as narcissists, they copy, they plagiarize, they steal, they imitate a real genius's structured thinking and work and claim them as their own.

These kind of fake geniuses are good at promoting themselves and getting credit where none is due. Most of these frauds are actually intelligent, but they have dark personalities. They are subclinical narcissists or subclinical psychopaths.

Exasperated Scott asks, is true genius inborn, innate, native to the individual or honed, refined, developed extrinsically?

My answer is that we know that IQ is responsive to environmental stimuli.

The analytic kind of genius, the one with IQ above 140 or 160, there's a debate, is by far the most studied type because it is most easily measurable.

There are most studies that rigorously link such IQ to heredity.

On balance, anecdotal evidence clearly suggests the genius is acquired and can be inculcated at an early age if the child is subjected to rigorous training in a regime of positive and negative reinforcements.

Here, there's a plug for the narcissists because that's exactly what narcissists go through. Narcissists usually are their mother's pets.

There's a group of narcissists who have been abused and traumatized horribly in childhood, but the vast majority of narcissists are actually spoiled brats. They've been idolized, pedestalized, instrumentalized, and parentified, and they had been taught to be geniuses. They had been conditioned to be geniuses by the unrelenting assault of a demanding parent.

So their intelligence does develop responsibly. In response to this stimuli and reinforcements by the parent, the narcissist does become highly intelligent.

Many narcissists, not all, do become highly intelligent, but then they make the mistake and everyone around them makes this mistake, especially their parents, that they're geniuses.

It would behoove us to make a distinction between polymath or synoptic genius and idiot savant. A polymath is one who knows many fields, not necessarily deeply. A synoptic genius is usually one who focuses on one or two fields deeply and then revolutionizes them, makes us see the world in a different way.

And an idiot savant is someone with a one-track mental acuity mind. Those of you who have seen the movie Rain Man.

So an idiot savant is someone who has an amazing capacity, superhuman capacity, but in an extremely thin sliver of reality.

The latter, idiot savant, form a subgroup of neurologically and genetically defective people.

This is definitely a neurological and probably a pronounced genetic contribution there.

Jacobson, some mental disorders, including schizophrenia, appear more heritable.

Is it the same for various states of insanity in general?

Vaknin, playing the sage and the genius? We don't know enough, not by a long shot.

Certain mental illnesses present with structural and functional abnormalities of the brain that are very likely to be genetically coded for, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Other mental health issues run in families. So a genetic component is indicated, borderline personality disorder and psychopathy, for instance. So we don't clearly know.

In the case of narcissism, there are no studies that substantiate the claim that narcissism is a strong genetic component. On the very contrary, there are numerous studies for well over a hundred years that support the alternative view.

Narcissism is a problem of nurture, a problem of the environment. Abuse and trauma suffered in early childhood. The narcissist grows, learning to perform.

In the narcissist's mind, genius is a performative act. It's a play, it's a show, it's show business. He is acting the genius.

Because narcissists confabulate, believe their own lies, gradually he begins to believe that he is a genius and he drinks to it.

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Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
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