What Can We Learn From Narcissist Sam Vaknin?

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October 8th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Can we learn something from a narcissist? The answer is a resounding yes. Massive destruction on the level created by narcissists such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao shows us that narcissists can gain power and that some of them do horrible things with that power. By studying these people, we can see how they used charm, manipulations, and development of cults of personality to gain the power they used to do great evil.

Fortunately the lessons we can learn from narcissists do not always involve evaluating widespread societal destruction caused by them. Author Sam Vaknin is a self-identified narcissist. He was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1996 during the course of parole actions related to a conviction for stock fraud in Israel. Since then, he has written extensively about narcissism. His view is that many leaders in politics, finance, and religion are narcissists and that many of these narcissists are also psychopaths. His writings are intended to help others understand and protect themselves from narcissists.

Sam Vaknin is most unusual that he is willing to admit to his behavioral traits, unlike most psychopaths and sociopaths who deny there is anything wrong with them and work hard to hide proof of their behaviors. Indeed many of them project their own behaviors onto others, particularly their victims, and blame everybody but themselves for their problems.

Psychological Terminology Is Confusing

“Psychopath” is not a precise diagnostic term, at least not from the perspective of DSM-IV which is the current version of what is widely regarding as the standard for practice of mental health in the US. DSM-IV does not use “psychopath” as a label for any particular disorder.

Prior to DSM-III was was published in 1980, there was an APA (American Psychological Association) diagnostic label of “psychopath”. DSM-III changed that to Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). The current DSM-IV has continued the use of ASPD as the closest diagnostic label to what was formerly known as psychopathy. DSM-V, due out in the near future, continues to use ASPD.

One of the foremost experts on criminal psychopaths is Canadian researcher Robert Hare who developed a widely used checklist which helps identify psychopaths. He advocates returning to the definition of psychopath that was used prior to DSM-III in 1980. Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist includes items such as “Lack of remorse or guilt; Emotionally shallow; Callous/lack of empathy” in its “aggressive narcissism” section. These traits are very similar to the behavioral traits listed as being diagnostic criteria for the DSM-IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD).

People with NPD or ASPD as a group have higher rates of other disorders with similar behavior patterns seen in those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). Since many of the traits of Axis II personality disorders are highly similar, applying diagnostic labels becomes very confusing even for a mental health professional who has access to many examples of a person’s behaviors that are obviously out of the ordinary compared to how most others would behave.

A research study tested the hypothesis that criminal personalities include antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders and found that ASPD, BPD, and NPD seems to fit well with criminals but HPD is only weakly linked.

Quoted from Axis II Comorbidity in Forensic Patients with Antisocial Personality Disorder:

The authors tested J. S. Wulach’s suggestion that the criminal personality is a quadruple personality disorder (PD) consisting of antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic PDs. First, forensic patients with antisocial PD were compared to patients without PD using the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-II (MCMI-II). Second, mean MCMI-II PD scale scores of the antisocial group were examined for clinical significance. Lastly, correlations between the Antisocial scale and all other PD scales of the MCMI-II were computed to examine patterns of association. All comparisons support Wulach `s thesis that borderline and narcissistic pathologies coexist in antisocial individuals but provide only weak support regarding the role of histrionic pathology in antisocial individuals.

Sociopath is sometimes used to refer to the more polished types who are better at hiding their unusual behaviors and whose criminal behaviors are not as extreme as a psychopath. However, others use the terms interchangeably. Still others entirely avoid “sociopath” because that was not used even in earlier DSM versions. Unfortunately there is no widely accepted usage for each term.

Determining an exact DSM-IV style diagnosis for a suspected sociopath or psychopath is not easy. If you have five mental health care professionals evaluate the same patient, it is possible to get five different opinions on the exact disorders a particular person suffers. One may say the person “shows narcissistic traits”, another may diagnose NPD, a third may diagnose “narcissistic and borderline traits”, the fourth might diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder, and the fifth might conjecture “Antisocial Personality Disorder with schizoid features”. It might lead you to wonder if they are all incompetent. Indeed that is what many of their diagnostic subjects will claim as they try to worm their way out of the consequences of an adverse diagnosis.

The value of terms like psychopath and sociopath has more to do with how they can be used to roughly characterize a set of behaviors without having to name a particular formal diagnostic label. This means you can label as a sociopath or psychopath an attention-seeking person who verbally, emotionally, and physically abuses family members but is charming to strangers and acquaintances without having to dwell on the particular personality disorder that is a best match.

I, Psychopath

Australia Broadcasting Corporation produced a documentary entitled “I, Psychopath” directed by Ian Walker that focused on Sam Vaknin and his wife Lidija Rangelovska. The piece also features input from Robert Hare and other experts including psychologists and biomedical researchers who ran tests on Sam and Lidija.

Sam Vaknin in ABC Documentary “I, Psychopath”

Some of the most interesting portions of this documentary are the interviews with Vaknin. Like many sociopaths and psychopaths, the man is at times charming and funny and other times rude and obnoxious. He might appear to those unfamiliar with personality disorders as simply a pompous jerk. But unlike many people suffering NPD, he is acutely self-aware of his behaviors.

At times he is quite funny in a twisted sort of way. At one point, an interviewer asks him if he is human. He replies that he firmly believes that the interviewer wishes to believe that he, Sam, is human.

Evolutionary psychologists contend that psychopaths gained a reproductive advantage over others by having no moral inhibitions or conscience. This might explain why there seems to be an increase in the number of psychopaths in recent years.

Some contend that psychopaths with low intelligence end up as petty criminals and average psychopaths end up being the sort a “normal” person might marry or work with without at first realizing there is something not quite normal about them. Such people often deceive others who do not know them well into liking them while they harm those close to them with frequent abuses.

Smarter psychopaths, like Vaknin with his reported IQ of 185, often aim for bigger conquests such as life as a high financier, a CEO, or a political, religious, or social leader. Often, they succeed for quite a long time — even many decades.

Some in the documentary speculate that Vaknin likes to call himself a narcissist because it helps him market his books from which he makes his living. In other words, he has leveraged being a narcissist into a financial advantage.

Vaknin is shown being subjected to multiple psychological tests related to personality disorders and psychopathy. The results are surprising, and not quite what Vaknin himself expected. The tests indicate he meets Hare’s criteria for a psychopath but isn’t quite up to the level of being a narcissist despite his earlier NPD diganosis. This seems to be exactly the opposite of what he expected.

Director Ian Walker discussed his frustration about being unable to capture much of Vaknin’s worst verbal abuse. He pointed out that Vaknin had a knack for identifying when their main camera was put away and other limitations that impeded capturing the most extreme of his behaviors. This experience matches up well with what those of us who have been in relationships with people having sociopathic or psychopathic traits have found. We experience the verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical and sexual abuse frequently but most others cannot see it because our abusers are so good at controlling their behaviors around people who are not their direct targets of attack.

American Society Highly Narcissistic

We live in a society that is highly narcissistic. Media celebrities, mass media, and mainstream politics are replete with behaviors and language strongly influenced by narcissism. We have cults of personality built up around many major media, political, and religious figures. Often the people at the center of these cults have thousands or even millions of followers who are so enamored of their chosen idol that they seem oblivious to signs of narcissism and psychopathy.

38. Identifying Different Psychopaths

It is important for everybody to learn about narcissism, psychopathy, and personality disorders because people with these problems are all around us and society is often rewarding them with money, influence, and power.

Some narcissists are not psychopaths, but many psychopaths are narcissists. Narcissistic psychopaths often use their narcissistic behaviors to badly harm others as they continue to serve the only people they truly care about — themselves.

Sam Vaknin points out that by what he finds to be the lowest reasonable estimate, there are 8 million psychopaths living in the United States. He talks about how the main religion of the US, Christianity, was started by a man who would today be diagnosed as a narcissistic psychopath. In his view, many psychopaths have strong influences on their communities and nations and are able to lead what might ordinarily good people to do very evil things.

Financial Criminals Often Narcissists Or Psychopaths

It is not just psychopath politicians who are influential actors on the public stage. Financial criminals such as Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling managed to steal billions of dollars from their victims and caused many of those victims to take their own lives. Bernie Madoff still doesn’t understand what he did wrong with his Ponzi scheme. In his view, it is similar to the Ponzi schemes run by the US government and so why is he being singled out for punishment?

Quoted from Madoff: ‘Whole government is a Ponzi scheme’:

Madoff did an earlier New York Times interview in which he accused banks and hedge funds of being “complicit” in his Ponzi scheme to fleece people out of billions of dollars. He said they failed to scrutinize the discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information.

He said in the New York magazine interview the Securities and Exchange Commission “looks terrible in this thing,” and he said the “whole government is a Ponzi scheme.”

Politics Also Filled With Narcissists and Psychopaths

In 2008, Sam Vaknin discussed his views of Barack Obama as a narcissist before the man took the White House based in part on the surge of popular discontent with the politics of George W. Bush.

Given what Obama has done during his presidency, one might argue that Vaknin’s views on Obama the narcissist were more accurate than his detractors thought at the time. Just look at how Obama has continued to trample on the US Constitution, behaviors for which he and his supporters criticized George W. Bush and that he promised voters he would reverse. Lying is habit for politicians, and this makes perfect sense once you realize that so many of them are narcissists.

On the eve of the US Presidential election of 2012, voters would do well to remember that many of the politicians seeking office look like they are narcissists and psychopaths. In many election contests, voters often are forced to choose between mainstream party candidates who are both narcissists. This is why so many voters believe they are essentially just trying to vote for the lesser of two evils. It is also why third-party candidates are often much better choices than Republicans or Democrats who try to polarize the public into fearful groups that are so busy hating each other that they cannot see that their many of their leaders are narcissists and psychopaths whom no rational person should want in public office.

Further Reading

Government By Sociopaths, For Sociopaths Dooms Family Law Reform Efforts

Sociopaths In Our Midst Hate the Truth and Its Advocates

Telling Your Nasty Ex About BPD or NPD May Hurt You

Relationships and Divorces with Someone Who Suffers Borderline Personality Disorder

Psychopathy, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Narcissism

Can Evolutionary Psychology Explain Psychopathy?

Barack Obama – Narcissist or Merely Narcissistic?

Sam Vaknin is still an idiot

Sam Vaknin’s Recommendations for Living With A Narcissist

How Victims are Affected by Abuse Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Madoff: ‘Whole government is a Ponzi scheme’

  1. kristen Centlivre
    December 3rd, 2013 at 05:54 | #1

    My name is Kristen Centlivre. I am humbly coming before you with a desperate mothers plea for help! A mothers love is a force to be reckoned with. It is a powerful energy that radiates throughout her soul. It is incomparable, larger than life, limitless, relentless, natural, protective, unconditional, forever and true. I am so thankful I came across your website and I am relieved to know that there is a voice for people like me and the children that are effected by this unbelievable nightmare. I am a 35 year old mother of two little boys who are my life. They are 7 and 5. We are here in California alone fighting a huge battle with what seems like no way to defeat such a terrifying , evil, powerful enemy. Initially my kids were in California for less than a week due to their abusive estranged father had came to Kansas and took them to California against my knowledge or will while my boys were visiting with their Grandmother, which is his Mother. I was alarmed when she was late to return them and did not answer my calls so I filed a report with the missing and abducted child unit and they put out and attempt to locate all of my children. I have the case number that proves that I tried to protect them from the circumstances that had them removed from their father. Since I am a resident of the state of Kansas I had to go through a lengthy state interstate compact process. California granted Kansas jurisdiction to monitor me, and then my children returned to Kansas after one year to be two very different children, and me a frail version of what I once was. I had encountered even more issues throughout this ordeal of our separation and was struggling to pick up the pieces but as always bouncing back. We were all in therapy to process our experience. We all were happy to be reunited, me with them, them with us. Together again finally home with their siblings, and family beginning the healing process. There were 3 unsubstantiated reports made and my bad judgment that lead me to curse at a rude Kansas CPS worker that came investigating a false report/call. was the event that unfortunately I am paying dearly but not fairly nor justly but too costly for compared to my actions or the hearsay used against me. My protective mothering instincts put me on defense facing the constant fear and stress of my children’s removal from home was overwhelming since the prior incident of removal was such as difficult time, I was doing everything in my power to keep my kids safe with me. The I reacted on impulse asking her to leave my home in a not so friendly tone but normal range of voice. This was all in love for my kids and stemmed from my passion to keep them away from ever having to hurt like that again. My disrespectful manner was not appreciated and she came back the next day and took my kids from me and sent them back to California saying I was uncooperative. This gave Kansas the right to send my babies back to California. I have been in California fighting ever since. I uprooted and left everything and everyone to be here for them and fight again. I was coerced by my lawyer to wave my right to a trial and then told my kids were on an list for adoption. The judge then said that me and their father, who are their only blood relatives in this state besides a paternal Aunt, were facing our rights being severed at the next court date at the end of January. This is horrific! A living nightmare. I am devastated! I am praying for the courage and guidance needed and I am gathering my strength to stand against the enemy. I cant afford a real attorney but I have a voice and I want to fight and stop these atrocities. My older brother and his wife back home in Kansas are currently going through the interstate compact process to have them returned there where they belong. They were born there and were students there at the time of initial removal and California taking jurisdiction over my kids. This must stop. I will not just standby and watch this happen. We can make a difference! I am looking to find others victimized by this corrupt court system. We have to be as one but we need an army of soldiers for this war, we cannot do it alone. Lets overcome Family Law Court Of Riverside and nationwide and eliminate the criminal conduct of CPS. They are guilty of robbing families of one another by kidnapping and trafficking our kids. Devastating Mothers and families, henceforth, ruining lives. Traumatizing and endangering our kids for extra funding is disgusting. I want to start a class action lawsuit so all interested please contact me. [email protected]. I am currently fighting in Riverside to get my kids back. They were taken due to hearsay and they have a cruel time limit that has been reached for reunification which I am down to very little time to fight.. and no one to hear my case. The social workers who accuse, and form opinions and judgment’s, lie, twist truths, and recommend placement out of home with no psychological testing or expert knowledge and are far from truly interested in our well being. They neglect our kids emotional, educational, physical and even there medical needs. I am a loving far from unfit Mother of two little precious boys that are being continuously moved and bounced around to different foster homes due to there acting out from this unnecessary trauma. My baby boys are not alone. They’re are innocent children’s with what could be a bright future being stolen from there happiness and dreams. The facts are undeniably ugly and sad, most kids involved in this type of injustice end up statistics. Yes some kids truly need protection, however with my research I find this is hardly the case.
    Kids are lost, beaten and die in this system. My 7 yr old son was molested in their custody and they told the foster Mom to remember her only job is to care for the kids. No investigation was completed and they did not follow proper protocol for an accusation like that at all. They said my baby was lying. I know kids don’t make up these kinds of things. The secrecy of Family Law Court prevents you from speaking in court or from anyone else to come into the courthouse but the parents. They sever rights with no jury trial and the Judges and Social workers receive big bonuses. This must be stopped. Judge Jacqueline Jackson referred to us running out of time as winding down in a tone that was so unsettling I can hear her every day and I’m terrified as we draw near to their deadline. Who are these monsters in positions of power and authority that rob the poor of their right to pursue their happy lives to be free from emotional distress. This crisis is an national emergency. The most largest number of people are unable to afford proper counsel and unaware of their rights as I once was and am now hoping its not too late for the damage to be reversed and all responsible need to face their actions and be held accountable. Unspeakable tragedy’s have emerged from these heartless acts. The dark result of what they inflicted upon others should be carefully methodically incorporated into a plan to rise above them together as a beacon of light to shine upon the many families torn apart senselessly and so carelessly. PLEASE STAND UP WITH ME AND FIGHT!! LETS FINISH NANCY SCHAFFERS MISSION TO STOP CPS> WE ARE THE VOICES FOR THE CHILDREN THAT ARE UNABLE TO BE HEARD!! HELP US!! PLEASE!! Thank you! God bless! ( I have enclosed my petition from change.org that I created to use as a tool to conquer my children’s predators. If you would take a moment and kindly sign it or send it to others I would be grateful and you will have been a enormous blessing in our lives and to all. Thanks again. I am thankful again for your efforts in this battle at hand and thankful also for your time. Please don’t forget us or our cries. We need you and you need us to be bigger than them. I have Faith in us! http://chn.ge/144u6Wa Sincerely, A voice from the wilderness, Kristen Centlivre Cause: Healing and mending broken hearts and homes and restoring our sacred family unit to the secure and most highly valued position it deserves. Destruction is the end result of the breaking apart of family, the most honored and treasured stable foundation we all will ever be blessed with. If this is allowed to continue unresolved and unchallenged we will succumb to accepting a new modern day slavery. History shows the extent of mans greed has always been an factor in devastation of our people over time. Who will stand beside me and all victims in the name of what is good and save our helpless children. We have a duty to overthrow the authority’s in power who are involved with using our little angels as pawn for their selfish gain! A verse in the in the well known Jesus Loves Me Hymn says it best in its reference to the little children they are weak but we he is strong!

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