online conference transcript
Dr. Sam Vaknin: is our guest. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of the book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. We talked about Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD), victims of a narcissist, inverted narcissists, and other narcissism topics.
David Roberts is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
David: Good afternoon. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for today's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com.
Our topic today is "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Our guest is Sam Vaknin, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy. Dr. Vaknin is author of the book: "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited". The book gives an in-depth look at Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD. Dr. Vaknin, a self-professed narcissist, calls the book a "documentation of a road of self-discovery".
And, in the end, although he documented everything and realized he has NPD, he's not any healthier for it. "My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming." You can read more about Dr. Vaknin here. His site, Malignant Self Love, is in the HealthyPlace.com Personality Disorders Community.
I know you are overseas, in Macedonia. Good Evening, Dr. Vaknin, and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being our guest today. So that everyone knows what we're talking about, can you please define Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, for us and how it differs from someone who may have narcissistic episodes or tendencies?
Dr. Vaknin: Everyone is a narcissist, to varying degrees. Narcissism is a healthy phenomenon. It helps survival. The difference between healthy and pathological narcissism is, indeed, in measure.
Pathological narcissism and its extreme form, NPD, is characterized by extreme lack of empathy. The narcissist regards and treats other people as objects to be exploited. He uses them to obtain narcissistic supply. He believes that he is entitled to special treatment because he harbours these grandiose fantasies about himself. The narcissist is NOT self-aware. His cognition and emotions are distorted.
David: In your book and other writings, you paint a very undesirable picture of a narcissist as someone who lacks empathy, uses others to fulfill their own ego needs, a pathological liar. What kinds of problems does this create for the narcissist and can they be treated at all?
Dr. Vaknin: Narcissism cannot be treated. The side-effects and by-products of narcissism, such as depressive episodes or obsessive-compulsive behaviors can. Psychodynamic therapies have very limited success in treating NPD and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) doesn't fare much better. Medication can be used to treat the side-effects I mentioned. The narcissist is the prime and first victim of his own mental constitution. His disorder prevents him from materializing his potential, from having mature, adult relationships and from enjoying life. The narcissist is universally hated or despised, prosecuted and cast out. He pays dearly for what, in essence, is beyond his full control.
David: From an outsider's point of view, the negatives of being a narcissist, the inability to have mature relationships and enjoy life, may sound bad. But does the narcissist him/herself feel bad about that?
Dr. Vaknin: Recent research shows that he does (he is ego-dystonic). He interprets away his dystony (=bad feelings), he invents complex narratives and employs a myriad of defense mechanisms such as intellectualization and rationalization. In short, he lies to himself and to others, projecting "untouchability", emotional immunity and invincibility. However, this is all a facade which cracks when the narcissist is faced with a real life crisis, as I did.
David: I read through most of your faqs on your site and one of the things that struck me was, it seems the narcissist only suffers relatively short episodes of feeling bad whenever a "life-crisis" comes up, but then recovers relatively quickly. Is that true?
Dr. Vaknin: Yes, absolutely. This is why it is near impossible to have a long-term treatment plan and therapeutic alliance or contract with the narcissist. He simply doesn't stay put long enough. He "recovers" the functioning of his defenses very quickly and devalues the therapist.
Narcissism is a resilient and pernicious phenomenon, deeply ingrained in the psyche of the narcissist, or as they say in DSM land: "all pervasive". The reason is that narcissism is not merely an agglomeration of defense mechanisms. It is a way of life, a religion, an ideology, a catechism all rolled into one. It is very akin to drug addiction in its psychological dimensions and, indeed, dual diagnoses (narcissism and substance abuse) are very common as is co-morbidity (narcissism with another mental health disorder). Narcissism is also at the root of a few other mental health disorders. This makes it very intractable.
David: Can the narcissist have a meaningful life?
Dr. Vaknin: Frequently Asked Question Number 1... LOL. The narcissist feels that his life is meaningful as long as his self-deception holds. But when a narcissistic injury occurs (following the loss of a major source of narcissistic supply, for instance), the narcissist is faced with the void that is his life: the empty, dark, all consuming black hole that is at the core of his emotional apparatus. Life without emotions is artificial intelligence. No wonder the narcissist compares himself constantly to computers and other automata.
David: We have some audience questions and then we'll continue with our conversation:
Dr. Vaknin: My pleasure.