campbet: When dealing with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, what tactics can be used to make this person take responsibility for their actions?
Dr. Vaknin: The narcissist has alloplastic defenses. What this means is that he tends to blame others, inanimate objects and people, for his behaviour. "You made me do it" is a common sentence or, "What could I do? I couldn't help it under the circumstances." He is superstitious to some extent and paranoid ("The world/luck is against me").
Again, the key is simple: the narcissist is a vending machine. Input the coins of narcissistic supply and press the right button ("responsibility"). Example: the narcissist made a mistake. You want him to acknowledge his responsibility. Make the mistake GRAND, unprecedented, unique, amazing, stunning, and the narcissist will immediately "adopt" it. Narcissistic supply can be both negative or positive. To write the masterpiece of all time is the exact emotional equivalent of writing the flop of all time. To be a Hitler is identical to being Jesus. The narcissist has no moral or emotional preference between these two. He just wants to be considered the unique-st.
David: What you're saying is, much like a child, any attention, positive or negative, is good for the narcissist.
Dr. Vaknin: Yes, precisely. The narcissist's personality has frozen in time in his early childhood or early adolescence. He is an emotional fossil. Unable to grow, unable to interact, caught in the amber of his own delusions and rage.
Pollyanna: Dr. Vaknin, in your opinion, is it possible for a Somatic/physical narcissist to ever be monogamous?
Dr. Vaknin: A somatic narcissist derives his narcissistic supply from his body, its functioning, his health, his looks, but above all, from continuous sexual interactions (in which he manifests sexual prowess). It is no good to limit one's sexual interactions to one person. One person is not a representative sample and the narcissist is on a constant polling mission. He collects the opinions of his sexual partners and creates a composite from which he derives supply. Somatic narcissists are very unlikely to be monogamous, although they are very likely to maintain emotional attachment to one preferred woman (man) and regard all other sexual partners as objects. The somatic narcissist is a misogynist. He regards women as tools. The female somatic narcissist (more commonly known as Histrionic) is a man hater. The narcissist maintains a dichotomous picture of "holy-whore". The significant other is holy (and, therefore, should not be contaminated by sexual intercourse). All other women are whores and sex with them tends to acquire sado-maso hues.
David: Judging from the questions, I would say many of the people in the audience are "victims" of narcissists. So, I think here, it's important to point out that getting help for yourself is important.
Dr. Vaknin: Professional help is essential! You do not have to stay in an abusive relationship or a relationship that is harmful to you psychologically or physically. Victims of narcissists often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is treatable successfully and as David said, stay out of abusive relationships.
David: Here's an audience comment, then another question:
Pris: My NPD husband has been forced to grow because he lost his toy when we discovered my Dissociative Identity Disorder and ritual abuse history.
David: This email question comes from Herb Janssen. "People that I know have narcissistic traits that include lack of empathy, need for excessive personal attention, use of lies to exaggerate their accomplishments, inability to appreciate the needs of others, etc. These run counter to the teachings of most major religions. Based on this, I question the ability of the narcissistic individual to really accept the religious teachings they profess. Is there any information in the literature on the topic of narcissism and religion? Do these people use religion as an escape (I'm okay, I'm a religious person.) or do they really strive to meet the religious teachings?
Dr. Vaknin: Narcissists use anything they can lay their hands on in the pursuit of narcissistic supply. If God, creed, church, faith, institutionalized religion can provide them with narcissistic supply, they will become devout. They will abandon religion if it can't. They abuse religion as they abuse everything else: political office, positions of authority (there's a FAQ dedicated to this) their life circumstances, access to information, other people. They are predatory because they need the supply, not because they are malevolent (most of them are not). They are not evil (as Scott Peck would have it). They are addicts, simple. And religion, as Marx taught us, is a great source of opium. Unfortunately, there are no published texts I am aware of regarding narcissism and religion (with the exception of texts about religious cults and sects).
David: What causes someone to be a narcissist, have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is a learned behavior or genetic in nature?
Dr. Vaknin: Dr. Anthony Benis believes that it is of genetic origin. Being the hardware that we are, it is both possible and plausible. It is a fact that not all abused children become narcissists. Also, recent research has demonstrated the incredible plasticity of the brain. But there is insufficient data to support this theory. There are mountain ridges of data regarding the connection between childhood abuse, or bad parenting, or abuse by peers, and the development of narcissism. Pathological narcissism is an escapist reaction to the unpleasant facts of life. It is adaptive. It aids survival. It works. That is why it is difficult to get rid of it. It was functional in a critical period of one's development. I dedicated many FAQs to these questions (especially 64 and 15).
David: Here's a related question on the "passing on of narcissism."
lglritr: Dr. Vaknin, I'm in the process of a divorce from a narcissist who is the product of two extreme narcissist parents (one of which recently passed away). How do you protect an eleven year old child from their influence? I'm worried that I'm beginning to see an onset of some of the traits.
Dr. Vaknin: Nothing to do except serve as a counter-example. Show your kid that there is an alternative. That not all people are so self-centered and merciless in their pursuit of gratification. Be the kind of person you want him to be. Give him a choice. But do not choose for him because this is what narcissists do ..:o)