On Sam Vaknin


N.B.: One thing I liked or found interesting about Sam, (who I discovered over a decade ago at random, on the old internet, when we were still using modems! ) is the brash, ostensibly self-hating, masochistic irony & paradox, which was the foot he lead with in his foray into the world of professional psychology. He would boast quite loudly about how, he was himself a diagnosed narcissist, even though he maintains the condition is more or less incurable (&narcissists are said to be inveterate liars!) .

Sam makes some insightful points about human relations, & how to potentially deal with them, but I believe the concept of a “narcissist” is a fairly debatable one, that probably shouldn’t claim to be “Science”. To me, it would be theory or philosophy, and seemingly not very good philosophy. On my experience with people who use it, it seems a fairly vague concept of dehumanizing abuse & unverifiable slander, often used by people with similar traits as often described of a “narcissist” (except with less charisma or attractiveness). Nietzsche’s concept of ressentitment tends to fit those who use the word, & as Nietzsche explained, such people are at least & probably more pathological and harmful both to themselves and others as the show boating person who bathes in his or her own glory & indulges himself & others in cruel gestures. I think that people fall into more various categories than simply “a narcissist”. In reality, what you usually will have is a multi-dimensional person who appears “narcissistic” to certain others in certain places and times, at a certain time in his or her life. I would also add that, as Sam says here, narcissism is in some ways a case of “arrested development”. Another way of saying that is, that people with growth and development potential, or young people, often go through a very “narcissistic” phase. Therefore , if you are derogatory towards “narcissism”, you are derogatory towards human growth. In my opinion, every young person should be allowed to have their “narcissism” satisfied and even encouraged, & using the (derogatory) term is often a form of quite damaging child abuse. Then, if the “narcissist” is himself or herself suffering from arrested development, possibly as a result of mistreatment earlier, what good does it do to slyly portray him or her as the bad guy, even when he or she wasn’t committing any violent, materially destructive crime against you, rather than mainly blaming yourself for getting involved with someone you weren’t actually suited for, and feeling perhaps a little sorry that you wasted someone else’s time as well, (who may or may not have been equally incompetent) ? I also point out that, there is no such thing as “normal” development, or uniform development among humans. In fact, many people never develop, & many other people develop much later than others. A person, like the Disciple Paul, may easily have a life-changing experience, only later in life. A person may often “come out of their shell” later in life. If they didn’t do this earlier, for whatever reason, this may involve a belated stage of “narcissism”, which is then extremely important & healthy, not necessarily pathological. Sam talks about people feeling a come-down after being with the “narcissist”, as if this is his or her fault! In my experience of people, a “come-down” is about the last thing you have to worry about. There is no come-up, & often they are physically attacking you. These are not “narcissists” — they are just violent, immoral, self-righteous imbeciles. As a Nietzschean, my thought goes in the exact opposite direction of Sam, in saying that people need to glory themselves more, & even attract devoted followers. This is in keeping with the natural inequality of human beings, and the mantra of self-love, character development, honesty, & splendor. The behaviors Sam associates with “narcissism” , I also believe are often largely petulant gripes, the very clinging to of which keeps so-called “victims” unwell, rather than the alleged affronts themselves, which in themselves are largely harmless, or unintentional, & probably both. My psychotherapist friend (who I won’t name, but who, as the field goes, is one of the best out there) also uses this term, & she sometimes thinks I am very narcissistic. She also says, that Jesus is the ultimate narcissist. I am not sure that Sam may not say the same, or would have to, to maintain his logic. We see here how ambivalent & unclear the term is, and potentially misleading. In my opinion, the Christian doctrines are themselves far better than most of modern psycho-therapy in actually improving people’s lives. I find it heavily ironic that a profession which uses violence, & billions of dollars of taxpayers money, to hold thousands, even millions, of people physically captive in so-called “hospitals”, would then have a clinical term that they seem to love, used mainly for designating ordinary members of the public who have never held anyone physically captive, even once in their whole lives, as “overly demanding of attention”. It seems to me, that what we have here, is a case of a Christian self-hatred & meekness before God, which, now, becomes the State, which demands EXCLUSIVE worship, such that, if any man (or perhaps woman) amongst you demands to be worshiped in his own private life, he is tantamount to a witch. Well , I have news for you: this is not what God, or Jesus, or true morality demands. The State & the Christ are not jealous in that way. They want you to worship Him & them through yourselves and one another, not against one another. They want you to become like “the ultimate narcissist” Himself, at least a little bit. Another point is this. People become “narcissists” for a reason: the reason is, that , as Sam says, this is an attractive way of being. Implication: if you have a good idea, or other good qualities, you need to become “a narcissist” in order to get attention for them — in a “culture of narcissism”, non-narcissists cannot compete! Since people are intelligent beings capable of self-creation, in reality, people flow in and out of “narcissism” at various stages in life in order to compensate for too much or too little, relative to what seems best. A humble, bashful child becomes a self-aggrandizing teenager or young adult, because he actually does have gifts to bestow from his period of intense introspection & modesty. A self-aggrandizing young adult, becomes a humble middle-aged man, because he has got it out of his or her System, “done that” , seen what its like, & has no more need to impress, reverting to his or her original character. A narcissistic culture is created precisely by the stifling of childhood & young adulthood narcissism, which creates bitter & resentful, truly “narcissistic” & damaged older adults. I think it would be kinder simply to say: this person is too demanding, I don’t have enough love for them, rather than throw mean latin names at people who are already damaged, neglected & abused. This often seems to slip into encouraging play-ground name-calling & bullying by adults invested with a position of trust & authority, on their less forunate, less-well-rewarded, already social outcast contemporaries. Judging by my experience of them, I would say that my own parents are about as narcissistic as human beings can get, at least in many ways. But, what I resent about them is not primarily their lack of empathy & other such traits, but their combination of these traits with extreme, yet legalized violence. 

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