Narcissistic Personality Disorder Books

Reviews by Sam Vaknin Ph.D.

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 The Drama of the Gifted Child : The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller, Ruth Ward (Translator). The gifted, doted upon, child often grows to be a narcissist. Anatomy of a gift as a curse. "When I read this bookfor the first time in the early eighties, it completely swept me off my feet. Here was an analysis that explained why I was in search of my 'true self', why I felt my achievements were 'empty', why I felt empathy for others and antipathy for myself. The idea proposed by Alice Miller, in a nutshell, was that there are children who are able to feel and ease the emotional insecurity of their mothers (the 'gift' of the title), thus gain her love but in the process deny their own desires. These children grow up to become helpers in various roles, including therapists - like Alice Miller herself. They develop sensors for the subconscious signals of the needs of others. The problem is, they subconsciously deny themselves the pursuit of their own needs, and consequently cannot become who they 'are'. Which makes them prone to the illnesses which, according to the Freudian theory, go with suppressed desires depression and grandiosity (the latter being just a way of keeping depression at bay)."

 

Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self by Elan Golomb. The victims' plight - the dynamics of abuse and co-dependence. Pathological narcissism is a stealthy, pernicious and all-pervasive form of semipternal and venomous abuse. The narcissist is not necessarily as 'evil' person. He (for 75% of all narcissists are men) is simply oblivious to the long-term outcomes of his actions and inaction. He uses and discards, idealizes and devalues, derives narcissistic supply and then moves on. To be the child of a narcissist is a harrowing, devastating, incomprehensible experience. Golomb does an unparalleled job of mapping the territory of pain and rage that her childhood was - and by implication the childhood of victims of narcissists is. One of 5 books that are a must to anyone who wants to come to grips and demystify this disorder.

 
The Narcissistic Family : Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, et al. The family as the breeding grounds of personality disorders in general and narcissism in particular. This book has an important mission - to re-define abuse. Most people associate the term with beatings or verbal onslaught. But abuse is a spectrum of behaviours. Perhaps the most pernicious kind is the subtle, non-discernible and socially acceptable one. A doting mother, a demanding father, unrealistic expectations, a family ethos of not expressing one's emotions - are all forms of abuse and all might lead to trauma. Treating the child as an extension of the parent, a toy and the conduit of the parent's frustrated dreams and unfulfilled wishes is a violation of the child's forming boundaries. It is a perversion of the all-important processes of individuation and separation. It is a travesty and the child pays its price all its remaining life. Personality disorders are often reactions to such all-pervasive and pernicious abuse. Read all about it in this (somewhat academic) book.

 

Children of the Self-Absorbed : A Grown-Up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents by Nina W. Brown. The role of "bad", self-absorbed and immature parenting in the fostering of narcissistic disorders. Is there a linear connection between narcissistic parents and narcissistic off-spring? Is there a lineage of narcissism? Is narcissism contagious? Judging by the number of books about 'affected children of narcissists', the answer would seem to be: yes. Growing up with narcissistic parents is tantamount to being a POW, a hostage, the object of the whole spectrum of abuse. It is trauma writ large. And it can - and sometimes does - distort the child's healthy development. Narcissists are, as Nina Brown says, 'self-absorbed'. The child is an extension, a plaything, a toy, a nuisance, a threat - but never, simply, another human being with needs (especially emotional ones) and boundaries to be respected. This book is a straightforward presentation of this state of siege and how to overcome the pernicious after-effects of being exposed to narcissism, replete with case studies. A fascinating read.

 

The Narcissistic/Borderline Couple : A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Marital Treatment by Joan Lachkar. "Follies-a-deux", madness-in-twosome, afflicts many couples when both partners are personality disordered. "Defining the narcissistic/borderline couple as "individuals who, when they are together, form a shared couple myth that gives rise to many collective fantasies," Lachkar explicates the network that underlies this type of relationship and demonstrates how two theoretical constructs--self psychology and object relations--can be integrated to create an effective conjoint treatment of marital pathology."

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