Sam Vaknin is a self-avowed and diagnosed malignant narcissist. As a survivor of a psychopathic relationship, Vaknin’s prolific writings may be one of the first sources of information you come across. I know that’s how it was for me. Beware, though — you may gain some insight into what has happened to you, but he is what he says he is. For that reason, I hate promoting his efforts toward fame and fortune through his writings, speaking engagements, and YouTube videos. He is taking advantage of the suffering of others for his own gain, and reading his prolific output will “slime” you — slime being a term coined by one blogger I’ve followed.
I had subscribed to one of Vaknin’s email lists, but now delete most of his stuff unread. In August of 2013, he emailed an English-translated version of an interview done with him (WARNING — Not for faint of heart):
The interview pasted from the mass email he sent out, full credit to Sam Vaknin and the person doing the interview, with some slight spelling and other minor corrections, and emphasis mine:
Q: If I’ve got everything right you have been diagnosed as a psychopath and a narcissist. Is that true?
A: I have been diagnosed twice as a narcissist, but not as a pure psychopath, though I came very close to it (da fehlten mir ein Paar Punkte). However, I am considered to be a psychopathic narcissist. A person, who has narcissistic personality disorder and displays a significant number of psychopathic traits and behaviour.
Q: The interesting thing about you is that you offer information and help to people who are confronted with these kinds of disorders for the persons affected, but especially for their victims.
A: Mostly for their victims, very true.
Q: For how long have you been aware of your pathological condition?
A: The first time I have accepted my diagnosis was in jail, a prison psychiatrist diagnosed me. I hit rock bottom, low end of my life, lost possessions and money, my wife left me, my defenses crumbled. And without those defenses I was finally able to embrace the truth. Das was around 1995.
Q: You’ve stated before that finally accepting your diagnosis felt like a relief / helped you. How Has it changed your life to embrace this diagnosis?
A: No, it has changed nothing in my psychodynamic landscape. I am still equally virulent, a malignant narcissist, highly psychopathic. But I have acquired the users manual. Before I was only aware there were certain processes within me, and certain outcomes I could not explain. With the diagnosis came a label, with the label came literature, with the literature came a higher level of understanding, pathways. It gave me two things: Healthy self-confidence on higher level (self-awareness I never had before), and an opportunity to acquire narcissistic supply (attention) in a way, which is socially acceptable.
Q: So this is what you do by your work? Helping the victims of narcissists to gather narcissistic supply?
A: Acquiring this supply is not work, it’s the main dynamic of narcissism. The narcissist needs attention, preferably positive like admiration or adulation (not necessarily), to stabilize his labile and fluctuating self worth – it is a compulsion, not work. However I am gathering narcissistic supply by propagating knowledge about NPD and interacting with victims, which is socially acceptable. I no longer commit crimes, I no longer sadistically inflict pain on other people. Less dire consequences for me, and some benefits to society.
Q: Is that an altruistic solution?
A: No altruism whatsoever, I don’t give a damn about the victims. I need the narcissistic supply, so I trade my considerable knowledge for their attention.
Q: Do you suffer less from your condition since you are getting along with society in that way?
A: No, i don’t suffer less. The condition has not changed, it remains stable. It is the same, if not worse. But the means have changed, changed the tools, bought a new toolkit, which I am building the same homes with as before. I am still suffering from all the manifestations of the disorder. Narcissism is like finding yourself stranded on a spaceship, on the way to nowhere, being the only astronaut on board alive – everyone else died. It is a very solipsistic, frightening condition. The narcissist cannot grasp other people as full-fledged human beings – they are like cardboard cutouts, figures in a comic strip, sources of supply, functions. The narcissist lacks empathy, and through empathy we interact with other people. Empathizing establishes a bride empowering us to cross over, and make real, or what we think is real, contact. The narcissist lacks these bridges, he is on an island. He can therefore not perceive that he is not alone. This is very very frightening .
Q: If you were depraved of all those cardboard figures, your human sources of narcissistic supply. What would happen if you did not have those people and their approval?
A: The narcissist is heavily depending on other people for narcissistic supply and he resents being dependent. Because in his mind he is omnipotent, omniscient, brilliant, perfect, fantasies of grandeur, which is an inevitable part of the disorder. So how would you reconcile this? This object-dependence, what people say about you, valuing them so highly they can ruin the precarious balance, which is your personality. Giving them so much power – but thinking you are Übermensch and they are untermenschen. And this tension between superiority and inferiority, dependence and god-like traits, is the reason for many behavioral manifestations.
Q: Are there certain domains in society and professional world that are populated by narcissists? Those kind of jobs people think you have to be cold-blooded for?
A: Narcissists gravitate towards professions and vocations that give them power over other people, to decide the fate of other people, to force people to give them attention. So you would find them in showbiz, media, politics, judges, law enforcement, clergy and church – wherever there is a congregation of audience that is a captive audience and supplies the narcissist by only listening to him or obeying him – doctors, medical staff. So yes, narcissists would be overrepresented in these professions normally.
Q: Could it be we’re ruled by narcissists?
A: It could well be that amongst politicians narcissism is more prevalent as amongst the general population, but i wouldn’t generalize and say all politicians are narcissists. But they all must have narcissistic traits and behaviours – and some of them will probably suffer from the full-fledged condition, NPD.
Q: Have you always been a narcissist or have you become one?
A: Narcissism is nothing you’re born with – maybe there is a genetic predisposition, but to become a narcissist one must undergo certain events in early childhood to adolescence. Abusive and traumatic events. The latter has many forms, to be smothered, to be a spoiled child, to be forced to realise the dreams and wishes of your parents – these are also forms of abuse. Abuse in childhood is when the child is not recognized as separate autonomous entity with own boundaries own emerging wishes, needs, preferences and emotions. When the parenting poses on the child an external agenda not allowing the child to become an individual. This can be done via beating the child, via sexual abuse. But also via too much attention, spoiling the child, too much love. Enforcing the child to realise the hopes and wishes and expectations of the parents.
Q: Do you think narcissism is broadly represented amongst human society?
A: Noone really knows, statistics say that about 1% of the population is likely to suffer from the condition of NPD, narcissism. Narcissism itself is a healthy condition, so we all have this healthy form, it includes self-regard, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, knowledge of your own potential. And then there is pathological narcissism, which is not the full condition – gradations. There are people with narcissistic behaviour, style and traits, but no full fledged. The 1% are those diagnosed, but narcissists never really get to be diagnosed, let alone have a therapy. I think the real number would be ten times as high as the statistics say – about 10% of general population.
Q: So can you remember not being a narcissist?
A: That is a really good question. I do remember a period before I became a narcissist, that must have been around age 3 or 4, I do remember forming my narcissism as a conscious effort. I remember I’ve been diagnosed with 180+ IQ, very high, which allowed me to achieve results which were not age-appropriate, advanced. Also my memories are unusual for a child of three, I remember as a child of ¾ inventing the narratives, the stories that became my narcissism later. Inventing the stories of my omniscience, how I knew everything, and inventing fictitious figments of me that are very powerful. Telling myself I would not feel pain if I told myself not to. I remember assembling it like Lego. Before that, I remember being a spoiled child, admired and loved because I was achieving things that were not typical for a child, the entire neighborhood was there first, then the whole nation. So I became a spoiled brat. Later I was subjected to horrific physical abuse up until the age of 16. The answer to the question is yes – I remember the exact moment where I decided to be a narcissist.
Q: So you remember the empathic abilities you have lost in this process?
A: No, I was too young to develop real empathy.
Q: A little compassion, do you remember that at least?
A: I remember being compassionate, that I cried when my mother was sad, that I was a good-hearted kid, I used to give away my things, tried to understand other peoples emotions. But these are just flickers of memory, they have receded so fare. It’s like the shades on the wall of Plato’s cave. I do not relive them, do not have access to them. I just know of them.
Q: Does the thirst for attention become worse with more attention? Has it become worse for you since you garnered a lot of attention with your book and media-presence?
A: Yes, because narcissism is like an addiction, like drugs. The more you consume, the more you have to consume. The pursuit of narcissistic supply becomes a total compulsion which pervades all aspects of your life every waking moment, and devours you. Exactly like heroin. It simply eats your life. Harvard professor Millmann suggests narcissism can even be provoked even in adulthood if someone becomes very successful, he calls it acquired situational narcissism – rock stars, business tycoons, successful doctors, admired by society, exposed to public gaze by the media, develop a condition similar to NPD even though they have no relevant childhood background. Completely out of the blue, as adults.
Q: Are there a lot of narcissists who become famous by being driven by the thirst for fame?
A: According to Millmann you either are a narcissist and driven by it you become famous or you become famous and you become famous and then by reaction to the stress and media exposure and being a celebrity you develop NPD. This is not the orthodox view – which says you cannot become a narcissist after adolescence.
Q: So fame in each case is a terrible and dangerous thing?
A: It is a drug. And drugs make you a junkie – self-centered, immoral, they have no-one really close to them, they would do anything to their mother to get money for their drug. So narcissists are driven people and their drug is the narcissistic supply, and they will recoil at nothing to obtain it. Some of them become serial killers, others become Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin – both diagnosed with NPD. There is nothing they will not do for this supply, without this drug the narcissist disintegrates, very frightening, I have gone through this many times. Cold turkey of the soul. The entire personality starts to disintegrate brick by brick. And you feel like Galatea by Dali, where the woman dissolves into particles. Molecules, there is no glue that can hold together the construct of your personality. And actually there is nothing there. In the core of the narcissist there is a huge vacuum, a voracious void, that needs constant supply to survive. So the narcissist invents something called false-self, which represents everything the narcissist wants to be. It’s omnipotent, omniscient, perfect, brilliant, it always wins. And that he projects to the outside. People only react to the false self, a living lie. And by trying to become this lie, the narcissist sacrifices his own being, the true self. The narcissist makes a deal with the devil – you give me fame, celebrity, supply, attention, notoriety – you make me be in the public eye, and you’ll get my soul.
Q: So narcissists are hollow beings, which cannot recover their true self any more?
A: It is impossible to resurrect it, all there’s left is the false self.
Q: Is the narcissist always aware he is not actually that shining avatar (schillerndes Trugbild) he projects and uses as a decoy to accumulate attention and praise?
A: The vast majority of narcissists are not self aware, the think they’re being themselves. But even these narcissists at the back of their mind have a nagging feeling that they’re false, cheating, frauds. But they cannot explain why. If you sit with one, he would tell you he feels like a fraud and is about to be exposed, but couldn’t tell you why it is like that. The false self has little to do with the narcissists – it is a god, a divine figure – but the narcissist is a human. There can be no connection The narcissist wants to become a god, but that is a doomed aspiration. The narcissist knows that when people are reacting to the false self, they are reacting to false advertising, wrong data he is constantly emitting. But only on the unconscious level, not consciously, he is not self aware. On the unconscious level he knows he is false and that’s why he feels like a fraud.
Q: Do you think those narcissists, unaware of their unchangeable pathological conditions are better off than self-aware ones like you? Do they suffer less?
A: No, Freud already said knowing or not knowing something is meaningless, if there is no emotional resonance to go with it. He coined the term inside, a cognitive element and the emotions to go with it. The narcissist has suppressed emotions, so even knowing to be a narcissist is not insightful, it is just a piece of knowledge. I am 1.73m, have brown eyes and am a narcissist. It hat no inner resonance and effect on my psychodynamics. The only thing it might do it gives me better tools to maximize, or optimize my flow of narcissistic supply, I am more aware of how to manage it. I am more aware of how to use people around me, especially people but not only people, to regulate the supply. I am more adept of having relationships, like with my wife, because I know how to make her cater to my needs more efficiently. As an example: My coworkers, my boss, society at large, the internet, I will be more adept to extract supply. It is a common mistake to assume narcissistic supply must be positive. If I cannot be admired and loved, I don’t mind being hated and feared.
Q: If you can choose, do you prefer to be loved or hated?
A: In my particular case I prefer being hated and feared, I would sympathize Adolf Hitler more than example Albert Schweitzer. But that is my case, it does not apply to all narcissists. The vast majority of them would like to be loved and admired. But psychopathic narcissists and sadists like me, we prefer to be hated and feared. But hatred and love are equivalents, both forms of attention which allow to manipulate people efficiently. So those preferring love do not appreciate the feeling itself, they only regard it as a more efficient tool of manipulation. And similarly I want to be hated and feared, because it gives me power to extract my supply.
Q: How is it possible for you to sustain a relationship if your partner knows about those details? (sich dieser Situation bewusst ist)
A: The partner has to have a highly specific background for the relationship to survive. That means the partner has to feel like he was getting something out of the relationship. Of course many relationships with narcissists start off on a false basis, because the partner is interacting with the false self, which is charming, irresistible, imitates empathy and mimics emotions. So most narcissist relationships are based on a lie. That’s why most of them disintegrate. But there is a minority, not particularly small minority, of relationships surviving. And it is a good question how they survive. This has to do with the partner’s background, which has to be very specific. These are people who grew up in households with at least one narcissistic parent. They have learned how to cope with narcissists, parents in this case. So the must have learned how to extract benefits out of narcissists, including emotional benefits. They have learned to enjoy narcissistic supply via the narcissist, vicariously. When the narcissist is successfull, they feel successfull. These are highly specific types of partners which I call inverted narcissists.
Q: So they are narcissist-codependent by upbringing?
A: They are codependent, either by upbringing or other circumstances of life, or they are cold-blooded, psychopathic in their own way. There are couples who cheat and kill but are very happy as a couple. There are four or five psychological profiles being excellent matches for a narcissist. And they would thrive only with a narcissist. Without such a partner they would feel life was black and white, not in technicolor. Pedestrian, dreary, routine they can’t stand it. Adrenaline junkies for example, or deriving excitement from the partner’s success. There is a group of people finding a narcissist the best match for them.
Q: Are they masochists?
A: Some of them are, but not all.
Q: So there are only some people who can workout with a narcissist?
A: Yes, that’s why they change partners so often.
Q: But you are living in a constant long-term relationship?
A: Yes, my relationship lasts about 16 years now, a very long relationships. There are narcissists whose romantic life’s a very stable, but everything else chaotic, the change jobs, cities, countries, residences – but their partner. And there are narcissists clinging to his career, changing partners like socks. It is important. So it is important to understand there must be a locus of stability in a narcissists life: In my case this is my marriages and romantic relationships. My internet relationships. I am extremely unstable in everything else, my CV mounts to 11 pages, because I have changed so many jobs and locations – this is my 13th country.
Q: I love to be hated – I hate to be loved. What is that all about?
A: I am a psychopathic narcissist, and a sadist. I derive pleasure by inflicting pain on people, additionally i completely lack empathy and regard people around me as potential sources of supply and benefits. People are tools, instruments, objects. So I found, as a psychopathic narc. In obtaining results from my environment is easier when people hate me as when they love me. I found fear is a more controlled, calibrated emotion so they act more efficiently if they fear. Hatred and fear, can be fine-tuned, they are basic emotions, it is a matter of efficiency. Inducing fear and hatred, I derive pleasure, people having those negative emotions, they are afraid, ill at ease, people are hateful. It causes me the emotion that I have inflicted it on them. So it gives me a double-yummy. Outcome achieved, pleasure had. In other words: I love my job.
Q: So would you prefer the book reviews on Amazon for your work to be hateful and negative as well?
A: My book is a commercial enterprise. So it is better if people love it, because it is the more efficient way to work out. I am a psychopath, but that doesn’t mean I am irrational, so for my book I like it to be loved – but as a person with certain psychodynamic needs I prefer hatred for myself, because it is a better motivation. I want people to hate me, but love my book.
Q: So is the narcissist the fitter man to prevail in our society and in the struggle for life?
A: I am not the first to point it out, We are living in a narcissistic society that rewards narcissism, so in our sick civilisation narcissistic behaviours have become a very efficacious way to relate to the world, so it is an indicative how sick and pathologized our society has become, that narcissists are the most successful, are on top and shape and mold society tho serve their needs, and they are comfortable with it. Narcissism equipped with an enabling, empowering technology is the way of the future. I believe personally that in 50 years time, narcissism will be the norm. It will not be labeled as such, but narcissistic traits, behaviours, and technologies will be the mainstream, maybe already in 20 years. And narcissism means atomisation of society for they cannot interact with other people, it will be a society without empathy, of lonely people, centered on their needs, themselves, they will interact only to extract supply and then disconnect. Recent developments in virtual reality and augmented reality already point that way, people will stay at home, only interacting with technology that will serve narcissistic supply in rapid fixes, like drug, they will not associate, not have sex, not talk to each other if not for supply. All this phenomena will belong to the past, there will be no hyperstructure like families or communities. We will become a society of individuals. To answer your question: Yes, I believe the narcissist is fitter. Nietzsches Übermensch in many respects.
Interview: Bich Roy
Illustrationen: Cosmic Nuggets
This is not reading for the faint-of-heart. I do not recommend it for anyone who is new to the quest to understand psychopathy. And I do not recommend adding to this man’s supply by adding to his acclaim or spending money on his books. That being said, I deign to share because it does give a window into the utter depravity of the psychopath.
Here is one of Vaknin’s many YouTube videos:
What I strongly do not like about Vaknin’s soliloquy is that he seems to portray the victim / prey as someone whose empathy, dreams, and higher ideals are not so vastly different from those of the narcissist / predator, that they are shallow. I have written a post called Me and My Shadow, dealing in part with Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow self. Human beings are complex creatures, spirit made flesh. We all have darker aspects to some degree, some more, some less. But Love, Empathy, Compassion, God, Kindness, Conscience, and a higher calling to our ideals are real. We are not like them. However, Vaknin does accurately portray what the predator does to the prey. So the video is cautionary for that reason.
When you have tangoed or tangled with a psychopath, you will eventually become closer to your True Self than ever before. Use it for the Good — do Love, be Love, and do not waste your energy on psychopaths.
“To rid my soul of one dark blot…”
“I once was lost, but now am found…”
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