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Narcissistic Personality Disorder Chat Transcript: Dr. Sam Vaknin 12/5/02

 

Introduction

Patty, Webmistress of Mental Health Today:

I would like to now introduce our speaker for tonight Sam Vaknin, Ph. D., author of "Malignant Self Love:  Narcissism Revisited" is not a mental health professional though he is certified in psychological counseling techniques He is the editor of Mental Health Disorders categories in the Open Directory Project and on Mentalhelp.net. He maintains his own websites about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and about relationships with abusive narcissists here and in HealthyPlace.

Sam Vaknin is also the editor of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic in Suite101, the moderator of the Narcissistic Abuse List and other mailing lists (c. 3900 members).

It is also interesting to know that Dr. Vaknin himself has the NPD.

Question from saved:

Thanks to Sam! I have read your writings on narcissists and inverted narcissists that were abused as kids. I was wondering, why do some people who were abused end up as neither a narcissist or an inverted narcissist?

Sam Vaknin:

This is an intriguing question. It would seem that the PROPENSITY to develop pathological narcissism may be GENETICALLY determined.
The development of pathological narcissism also depends on other factors such as whether the person is first born, whether he or she was abused by parents, by peers, or by role models (such as teachers) and whether the abuse was of the classic kind (physical, sexual, or verbal) or of another type.

Many people are not aware that there are a million ways to abuse. To love too much is to abuse. It is tantamount to treating someone as an extension, an object, or an instrument of gratification. 
To be over-protective, not to respect privacy, to be brutally honest, with a sadistic sense of humor, or consistently tactless - is to abuse. 
So, this is an interaction between nature and nurture. Read more in my journal entry - "The Selfish Gene" -
here: http://samvak.tripod.com/journal1.html

Question from saved

If there are 2 narcissistic parents who together have 2 kids, would it make sense that one child might be treated as their "perfect God-like child" and the other would be treated with physical and verbal abuse, and treated like a trash dump? 


Sam Vaknin

Yes, it is. Narcissists idealize or devalue people. They split people into "good, rewarding, satisfying" objects and "frustrating, withholding, bad" people.
They idealize any and every person - including their own children - if they believe the child can serve as a source of narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, admiration, affirmation, etc.)
If the child is perceived by them as a POOR source of supply - either because he or she is insufficiently submissive and obsequious or because the child is imperfect (sick, "stupid") - they devalue the child.
A child that reflects poorly on the narcissist's self-perceived perfection, brilliance, status, etc. - is doomed.
The narcissist lacks empathy. He is cruel. His children are on constant trial. Abuse is the penalty for any disagreement with the parent, criticism, or for being independent, an autonomous individual with own needs, wishes and boundaries. 

Question from oakknoll

Is it typical for a male narcissist to have multiple girlfriends at the same time, telling all of them that they are loved treating them as if they are all cherished and lying to all at the same time acting charming and juggling all of these women at the same time?

Sam Vaknin

Yes, it is very typical of a certain kind of narcissist - the somatic. This is a narcissist - 75% of them are males - who derives his narcissistic supply from the condition and performance of his body:
sexual prowess, attractiveness, body-building, exercising, grooming, etc.
These narcissists need a constant stream of reassurances in the form of sexual exploits, "girlfriends", liaisons and sexual adventures, often extra-marital.
Very similar to desensitization to a drug - the dose has to be increased with time to achieve any kind of stimulation. Hence the multiple affairs.
Lying is typical of all kinds of narcissists. 
Malignant narcissists maintain a FALSE SELF - essentially, an invented Ideal Ego which replaces their TRUE SELF and confines it to degeneration and fossilization.
The narcissist IS false, IS invented, IS fiction, IS an illusion and a narrative. So, he sees nothing wrong in lying, inventing, and, ultimately, in losing all touch with reality.
Add to this the fact that narcissists regard other human beings as you might regard your electrical appliances - useful as long as they function to be discarded when they don't - and lying becomes completely understandable and predictable in the narcissist's diseased mind. 

Question from Aria

I recently ended a 2 year relationship with a man who after six months went to a psychiatrist as I thought he had anger management....he was diagnosed with bi-polar and narcissism and for a year improved greatly on medication but then his mother died.
In reviewing your website I read the literature on invert narcissism
and now believe my Mom was narcissi but never had a relationship like this before, was married 22 years but this man engulfed me for lack of a better word.. The catalyst came when his Mom passed away
I am now becoming aware that I may have invert narcissistic tendencies and 2) did the death of his Mom cause the massive self-destruction he is going through now?

Sam Vaknin

One should be very careful with the self-"diagnosis" of Inverted Narcissism. There are many forms of co-dependency. IN (Inverted Narcissism) is that specific variant of co-dependence where the co-dependent member of a couple is attracted irresistibly to people DIAGNOSED with the NPD. And ONLY to people diagnosed with the NPD.
As to your second question:
Yes, the death of the narcissist's parent - and especially his mother - is a crucial, regressive, event. The narcissist - typically - has numerous unresolved conflicts with his mother. 
Moreover, certain "parts" of his mother are "inside" the narcissist's psyche (as introjects). Her voice reverberates in him constantly, as it were.
When she dies, the narcissist is not only denied closure - but he finds himself unable to re-enact (replay) some fundamental conflicts. Additionally, it is, literally, as though part of him died.
If the narcissist is somatic there is also the issue of confronting ageing and death.
Narcissists are people without boundaries. They are not sure where they end - and other people begin. Having been treated as extensions of their parents during early childhood, they find it difficult to separate and individuate (become individuals). The identification
with the parent is so strong that many narcissists maintain an on-going relationship with their mother or father - while unable to commit to other meaningful or significant others. More here:
http://samvak.tripod.com/faq64.html and http://samvak.tripod.com/faq67.html

Question from femfree

Why do his victims feel they are turning into narcissists themselves? 

Sam Vaknin

Femfree, special welcome. Femfree has edited the "Narcissism Book of Quotes" which you can download here:
http://www.suite101.com/files/topics
/6514/files/NPDQuotes.rtf
The best primer to abusive relationships with narcissists and psychopaths. To your question:
Narcissism is contagious. The narcissism creates a "bubble universe", similar to a cult. In this bubble, special rules apply.
These rules do not always correspond to outer reality.
Using complex defense mechanisms, such as projective identification, the narcissist forces his victims - spouse, mate, friend, colleague -
to "play a role" assigned to him by "God" - the narcissist.
The narcissist rewards compliance with his script and punishes
any deviation from it with severe abuse.
In other words, the narcissist CONDITIONS people around him using intimidation, positive and negative reinforcements and feedback, ambient abuse ("gaslighting"), covert, or controlling abuse, and overt, classical abuse.
Thus conditioned, the narcissist's victims gradually come to assimilate the narcissist's way of thinking (follies a-deux) and his modus operandi - his methods.
You can abandon the narcissist - but the narcissist never abandons you.
He is there, deep inside your traumatic memories, lurking, waiting to act out. You have been modified, very much like an alien snatching bodies.

Question from oakknoll

Is the disorder more common in only children? And in general what is the prognosis for recovery from NPD? Do you believe they are capable of really loving another person other than a parent?

Sam Vaknin

Regarding your first question, NPD is diagnosed in early adolescence. There are TRANSIENT, or REACTIVE forms of narcissism that are diagnosed later in life (Roningstam, 1996).
Some scholars believed that pathological narcissism is a reaction to setbacks and narcissistic injuries (Freud, Kohut, Kernberg) - and it is always with us, waiting to be triggered by personal misfortune.
As to your second question - it is poor.
Narcissists react very poorly to intervention because they are paranoid and they feel superior to the therapist.
Long term improvement has been achieved with psychodynamic therapies. Short term gains were produced with cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Some behaviors - like dysphorias (depression) and obsessive-compulsive
behavior patterns can be ameliorated with medication. But the rate of remission is high.
The answer to the third question is simple: No, period.
Narcissists cannot love others because they don't love their TRUE self. They "love" a fiction - the FALSE SELF. They are full of feelings of inferiority and self-loathing and they are very sadistic and self-punishing when they incur a narcissistic injury (when they "fail"). You
can't love others if you do not love yourself. Moreover, narcissists do not understand what it means to be human (i.e., they lack empathy).
To them other people are bi-dimensional, cartoon, cardboard cutouts, or, at most, an audience. Others are FUNCTIONS, INSTRUMENTS, EXTENSIONS. They, therefore, cannot be loved for what THEY ARE but only for WHAT THEY PROVIDE. This is no real love. It is a utilitarian relationship - an inversion of the way the narcissist was treated by his own parents. 

Question from Patty

I am in and out of denial about a man who is NPD I am semi involved with. His behavior is always after we see one another he doesn't want to have any contact or communication with me for awhile until he decides he wants to see me again and it is always on his terms. I finally confronted him with this behavior in an email and asked him why today saying it was important in regards to me seeing him again and he did not write back. What's the deal?
He also seems to get "hurt" easily and it takes him awhile to recover from things I say.

Sam Vaknin

Patty, great many thanks for this forum and for your invaluable contribution to disseminating mental health knowledge. 
Narcissists are easily hurt because of their unrealistic expectations from other people.
They expect others to swallow whole their false self - a deception.
They feel entitled to special treatment. They demand to be exempted from rules and conventions - legal as well as social.
Any hint of criticism, or disagreement - any indication that you see the narcissist for what he really is - is perceived by the narcissist as a THREAT. Narcissistic injuries upset the precarious and delicate balance between the competing parts of the narcissist's personality. They upset the apple cart.
Narcissists are terrified of intimacy and commitment - and, yet, they crave it. They are afraid of it because intimacy threatens to "expose" their fictitious nature, their invented identities and biographies, their vulnerabilities.
Yet, they crave it because they need someone by their side who can provide them with a constant and regulated stream of narcissistic supply.
This phenomenon - of initiating an approach and then vanishing rudely and inexplicably - is called "approach-avoidance repetition complex". It is very damaging to the self-esteem of the partner and provokes in her or him strong feelings of guilt and shame. 

Question from BCurious

Are there instances of Ns seeing their dog as an extension of themselves, if say the father is dead, the mother elderly, and a poor emotional connection with the wife? Sorry for the earlier line jumping incident!

Sam Vaknin

Yes - see this: 
http://samvak.tripod.com/journal53.html
Any thing can serve as a source of Narcissistic supply, providing that it has the potential to attract people' attention and be the subject of their admiration.
Narcissists relate to objects - including pets and humans - as either accumulators or discarders.
Roughly, they either COLLECT objects which serve them as reminders of
past grandeur and abundant narcissistic supply - or they discard objects because of their emotional content.
The accumulators also amass objects in order to acquire status and garner narcissistic supply (awe, admiration).
EVERYTHING is an extension of the narcissist. His personality has a low level of organization. In other words, he has no boundaries and recognizes no boundaries.
He is not aware where he ends and his dog - or you - begin. You are there as possessions, tools, to perform pre-assigned functions.
The narcissist IS the universe. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. 

Question from Aria

How do you get the narcissist to abandon your memories, the lurking, waiting to get you, I don't want to be modified by him and want those feelings gone.

Sam Vaknin

How do you get the narcissist out of your mind? That's what you mean? 

Aria

You mentioned it above.... Yes....they cause so much damage, how to get beyond it?

Sam Vaknin

Living with a narcissist - or interacting with him for a prolonged period of time - is a trauma. The result is a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Allow me to quote one of my favorite FAQs - http://samvak.tripod.com/faq68
Also see: http://samvak.tripod.com/faq80.html

"At the commencement of the relationship, the Narcissist is a dream come true. He is often intelligent, witty, charming, good looking, an achiever, empathetic, in need of love, loving, caring, attentive and much more. 
He is the perfect bundled answer to the nagging questions of life: finding meaning, companionship, compatibility and happiness. He is, in other words, ideal. 
It is difficult to let go of this idealized figure. Relationships with narcissists inevitably and invariably end with the dawn of a double realization. 
The first is that one has been (ab)used by the narcissist and the second is that one was regarded by the narcissist as a disposable, dispensable and interchangeable instrument (object). 
The assimilation of this new gained knowledge is an excruciating process, often unsuccessfully completed. People get fixated at different stages. They fail to come to terms with their rejection as human beings - the most total form of rejection there is. 
We all react to loss. Loss makes us feel helpless and objectified. When our loved ones die - we feel that Nature or God or Life treated us as playthings. 
Losing the narcissist is no different to any other major loss in life. It provokes a cycle of bereavement and grief (as well as some kind of mild post traumatic stress syndrome in cases of severe abuse). This cycle has 4 phases: denial, rage, sadness and acceptance."
Some people, however, cannot get past the denial, or rage phases. 
They remain 'stuck", frozen in time, constantly replaying mental tapes
of the interactions they had with the narcissists.
What they don't realize is that these tapes are "foreign objects"
implanted by the narcissist in their mind. Time bombs waiting to explode. Kind of "sleeper cells" or post-hypnotic suggestion.
If you find yourself in this situation there is little you can do to help yourself. You need professional assistance. 

Aria

Thank you so very much....I am in the acceptance stage.....now seeking to understand.

Question from nightspace

This is all new to me. I've realized the my husband is a N right now his life is very disappointing, we just had a child last year and she has rare disease, he wants to leave now I feel because he does not have all the material things he wants cars nice home etc, and he blames that on me for not working and wanting to stay home to care for bb, like patty said he bounces back slowly from things I say, he has been holding grudge against me. How do I protect daughter from his actions? 

Sam Vaknin

How old is your daughter, nightspace? 

Nightspace

17 months.

Sam Vaknin

First, let me reassure you: it is NOT your fault. Narcissists have ALLOPLASTIC DEFENCES. While most people ask: what have I done wrong? How can I better myself and my situation? The narcissist asks: WHO is responsible for my situation? Who conspired against? Who is out to get me? Who can I blame for this? Whose fault it is?
A child with a rare disease is a blemish of the narcissist's delusional
record of perfection. It can't be HIS fault - he is perfect. If he fails, is impoverished - it must be someone else's fault.
You are a convenient scapegoat.
As to your daughter.
I am afraid there is little you can do - except, of course, divorce him and move away a thousand miles.
As long as you maintain the family unit, the ONLY thing you can do is simply provide your daughter with a counter-example.
As your daughter grows, become her role model. Show her that not everyone is a narcissist or behaves narcissistically. 

Question from Patty

Is it common for people with borderline personality disorder and/or bipolar disorder to wind up as partners with NPDs? Also what are the similarities of these disorders with NPD?

Sam Vaknin

There is a discussion of similarities and differences between all cluster B personality disorders here: http://samvak.tripod.com/faq82.html
In a nutshell: a sense of entitlement is common to all Cluster B disorders. 

Narcissists almost never act on their suicidal ideation - BPDs do so incessantly (by cutting, Self Injury, or mutilation). 
NPDs can suffer from brief reactive psychoses in the same way that BPDs suffer from psychotic microepisodes. 
There are some differences between NPD and BPD, though: 
The narcissist is way less impulsive; As I said, the narcissist is less self-destructive, rarely self-mutilates, and practically never attempts suicide.
The narcissist is more stable (displays reduced emotional lability, maintains stability in interpersonal relationships and so on).
Both NPDs and BPDs are afraid of abandonment. 
Patients suffering from personality disorders have many things in common: 
Most of them are insistent.
They regard themselves as unique, display a streak of grandiosity and a diminished capacity for empathy .
They are manipulative and exploitative.
Most personality disorders start out as problems in personal development which peak during adolescence.
The personality disordered are often unhappy (dysphoric and anhedonic) and ego-dystonic (hate themselves).
Patients with personality disorders are alloplastic in their defenses. In other words: they tend to blame the external world for their mishaps. 
At least that's what the DSM-IV-TR (2000) says.
As to your first question:
BPD's would tend to be attracted to NPD's but only in specific combinations.
This depends on co-morbidity.
A BPD who also has HPD (Histrionic) will be attracted to both kinds of narcissists.
But a BPD with narcissistic traits (overlay) is likely to be attracted to the cerebral narcissist.
A BPD who is also codependent would be attracted to the type of narcissist that her parent was. 
I must correct myself: the DSM claims that people with personality disorders are ego-SYNTONIC (are happy with the way they are).
I think it is wrong. So, that they are unhappy with themselves is MY VIEW. 

Question from emmespalace

Sam, is there any way someone who is now in a relationship with someone who has NPD can break away from this relationship and remain safe from repercussions?

Sam Vaknin

It depends on the narcissist is question. Pathological narcissism rarely comes in "pure form". It is always CO-MORBID with other mental health disorders or with substance abuse or other reckless behaviors (DUAL DIAGNOSIS).
If the narcissist has strong anti-social (psychopathic) traits, he would tend to be vindictive and violent.
If the narcissist is also paranoid, he would tend to stalk, harass, and, generally, incapacitate his "persecutor".
But the best predictor of future violence is past violence.
In most cases, the narcissist's bark is far more dangerous than his bite. The reason is simple: the narcissist is a drug addict. He is after supply. This is energy, time and resource consuming.
The narcissist needs to dedicate himself to the pursuit of NEW narcissistic supply sources.
This need prevails over his desire to PUNISH old sources. 

Question from saved

If someone is a cerebral narcissist, can he still receive a narcissistic injury by being insulted or humiliated by comments made by others about his being overweight, unendowed, etc.? 

Sam Vaknin

Very interesting question! I have never been asked this before!
Let me think ... No, I don't think so.
Narcissistic injury is actually the way a narcissist experiences THREAT to his inflated ego, to his delusions of grandeur and grandiose fantasies and to his sense of entitlement.
A cerebral narcissist would feel threatened if his claims regarding his INTELLECT and his intellectual accomplishments are disputed or exposed as a lie.
But a cerebral narcissist makes NO CLAIMS regarding his body, sexual ability, strength, etc.
So, he is incapable of feeling threatened by any statements pertaining to these issues. 

Emmespalace

As I see there are no further questions at this time, Sam would you care to make any open statements at this time? If not I would like to conclude this chat tonight by saying that a log of this chat will be available very shortly on the main websites page at:

http://www.mental-health-today/
narcissistic/transcripts.htm

Sam Vaknin

I just want to conclude by saying this:
Pathological narcissism is at the root of many other mental health disorders.
It is a plague that has invaded families, corporations, politics, business, terror and crime organizations...
It is everywhere.
It is shocking how unaware are decision makers, mental health professionals and practitioners, community workers, and others who should know better. Ignorance is what allows the narcissist to commit serial abuse. This chat may have contributed to reducing this ignorance a tiny bit. Thank you for making this possible! Good night, you all! 


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