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.