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Barack Obama is a Narcissist and Other Urban Legends August 23, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Politics.
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8 comments

Obama narcissus

Several friends and relatives forwarded me the email Obama is a Narcissist purportedly written by Sam Vaknin, “a world authority on narcissism.” It goes on to say, “He (Vaknin) understands the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism, everyone listens.” Whoa, let’s take a deep breath.

What the email fails to mention is that Sam Vaknin was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1984. And that title of Dr. before his name? Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin’s resume reports that he completed nine semesters at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His doctorate is not in psychology, but philosophy, and was received from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited on-line diploma mill based in California. (Operators are standing by, if you too would like add Dr. to your name) Vaknin, an Israeli citizen, was incarcerated in Israel for white collar fraud and currently resides in Macedonia.

Although the Obama is a Narcissist email references some of Vaknin’s writing and includes a header suggesting he is the author, the article was actually published Sept. 8, 2008 by Ali Sina on the FaithFreedom.org (FFI) site as Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer. How do I know this? I credit Snopes.com. Since 1981, Snopes founders Barbara and David Mikkelson have made it their job to investigate information flying around out there on the internet and provide a much needed reality check.

FFI identifies itself as “a grassroots worldwide movement of ex-Muslims and all those who are concerned about the rise of the Islamic threat.” Its publisher, an Iranian who lives in Canada, uses the pseudonym “Ali Sina.”

If you’ve received the above email (there are numerous versions flying through cyberspace), you know it quickly goes off the deep end. Obama is likened to Jim Jones, the charismatic cult leader of the the People’s Temple who led over 900 of his followers to commit mass suicide. The email says they did so “cheerfully.” Sina’s ugly diatribe refers to Obama’s supporters as “worshippers” and wastes no time in comparing Obama to Stalin, and Hitler. Sina has said on the website that he hopes Obama will be executed by electrocution – it subscribes to the conspiracy about Barack Obama’s birth. Wingnuts unite!

My outrage about the above circulating email is two-fold. First, it’s a lie and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. I only worked briefly as a journalist, but the journalistic mantra is “a reliable source.”

Secondly, as someone who’s written quite a bit on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I know those with NPD are pathological liars. So to my mind that negates Vaknin’s observations made from half-way around the world. Vaknin has provided incredible insights into his own narcissism for which I’m grateful. It’s important to note that those with NPD crave attention, but will settle for notoriety. The email circulating provides this to Vaknin in abundance.

I’m most disappointed with how quick people are to use and abuse the term “narcissist.” I realize many don’t know any better. That’s why I write what I do. For the record. narcissism runs on a continuum from healthy narcissism (Healthy Ego) to Destructive Narcissistic Patterns (Me is getting in the way of Us) to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or as Vaknin refers to his NPD, Malignant Narcissism.

I can’t imagine how any politician or leader could rise to power without a healthy/hefty dose of narcissistic traits. Think alpha male. But this doesn’t mean they have NPD? One tell-tale sign of those with NPD is they’re unable to maintain a healthy emotional relationship with significant others. Someone better tell Michelle and the girls.

I highly recommend that when an email is forwarded to you, you run it by Snopes.com. I recently was forwarded Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins University. When it started talking about how ingesting dairy products creates mucus and how some forms of cancer thrive in mucus, it got me to wondering. I went to Snopes and sure enough they’d already done the research. John Hopkins issued a rebuttal stating that the circulating email is a total fabrication.

If you have trouble remembering the name Snopes, you can do like I do. It rhymes with Scopes, as in the Scopes Monkey Trial. There’s a cure for ignorance – it’s called education.

Photo Credit:  Google Images

Can a Narcissist be Cured? February 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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13 comments
believe1

This is the poster that hung in Agent Fox Mulder's X-Files office.

When I first started researching Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I goggled “flirtation,” as my narcissistic friend “Joe” was a chronic flirt. It was actually embarrassing to be with him when he was in “turn on the charm” mode. Think: Small boy showing off in front of his mother’s friends. Yeah, it was THAT bad.

I stumbled upon A long post about flirtation, validation, and conversion on Hugo Schwyzer’s blog. Hugo, a professor at Pasadena City College, is a prolific blogger (219 posts on blogging alone!)

Over my Winter Break (the holiday formerly known as Christmas Vacation), I was on Facebook wasting some quality time. I noticed that one of my friends had commented on a photo Hugo Schwyzer had posted. I recognized his name and sure enough, I still had his post bookmarked. I sent him a message via Facebook telling him how I enjoyed his writing along with a link to my Close Encounter with a Narcissist.

No reply from Hugo, but several days later I noticed an incoming link from his blog. Not only had Hugo read Close Encounter with a Narcissist, but he had written an entire post in response to it.

What I didn’t know was that Hugo had been repeatedly diagnosed with a Cluster B Personality Disorder (Borderline was always the default diagnosis) starting in college. He has written numerous posts about his self-destructive behavior, suicide attempts, voluntary hospitalizations, and three marriages (followed by three divorces) – all before he hit the big 3-5. (You’ll find these under “Addictions and Mental Illness” and “Narcissism and Borderline Personality.”) Hugo is a prolific writer. He writes with intelligence and insight and has plumbed every detail of his life ad nauseam.  Whether you agree with Hugo or not, it’s always an interesting read.

In his post “Turning down the volume on KHGO”: Reflections on overcoming a personality disorder, Hugo urged his readers “to read all three of my excellent pieces,” but took issue with this statement I made (a mishmash of many other’s quotes): “So someone doesn’t have a personality disorder, they ARE the personality disorder. These personality traits are so deeply ingrained that they defy change.”

Hugo goes to great lengths to detail how far he’s come since he got clean and sober, and found God. If he were an attorney, I might be tempted to say he presents a strong case for the defense. His own.  He believes it’s possible for someone with a personality disorder to change –  if they really want to, and offers himself as proof. Yet even Hugo acknowledges that it’s an ongoing struggle – making him a work in progress.

Here’s the comment I wrote in response to his post.

I found your post interesting and have taken several days to “sit on it.” Yes, I’ve had numerous visitors to my blog planetjan. (Hugo sent me!) Thank you very much.

It’s ironic that your name and picture popped up on Facebook through a mutual friend. I recognized your name. Sure enough, I still had your post on flirtation bookmarked from two years ago, when I was first researching NPD.

I hadn’t read any of your other posts about your hospitalizations and diagnoses, but now I have. I appreciate your honesty and candor as one of my sons has OCD and also spent a stint as a minor at Las Encinas due to drug-related problems. I had to laugh when you described how cute the nurses thought it was that you wore duck slippers, as that sounds so much like my son.

Though you obviously have narcissistic tendencies (but on some days, so do I), ultimately you don’t seem grandiose (in the clinical sense), which is what distinguishes NPD from the other Cluster B disorders. Sam Vaknin, himself a narcissist, said that “self-reflection is the antonym of narcissism.”

Narcissists, as a rule, are not self-destructive, and none I know have ever shown self-destructive tendencies (other than substance abuse). None have sought help from a therapist (unless they were literally dragged there by a significant other) as they were convinced they didn’t have a problem. I tend to agree with Emily’s comment above. My friends in 12-step programs are quick to point out that they are always “recovering,” as opposed to “cured.”

So, from my own (albeit limited) experience, I’d give you a clean bill of health when it comes to NPD. Narcissism, though, is like a ground fog that swirls about ALL of the Cluster B disorders.

Your relentless introspection runs contrary to this diagnosis. BTW, your sponsor sounds like a wise and very patient man. I imagine when you did Step 10 – “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it,” you took it to the nth degree! I say this with all due sincerity.  Jan

I want to believe. No, make that I wanted to believe. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to believe it WAS possible for Joe to change, especially once I’d seen beneath the mask. I felt his pain, yet any attempt to go “there” with Joe was an exercise in futility. Despite the countless seminars he attended so he could learn to “relate” to women and deal with his “boundary issues,” it all came down to this – he was going through the motions. Nothing every changed for Joe. Nothing ever will. I take no joy in saying this.

My concern is for the Narcissist’s victims who tell themselves, “If I just try harder to communicate my feelings, or bend over backwards, or walk on water, I know he/she will finally ‘get it.’”  They want to believe. They want to believe they can help the Narcissist actually feel something. Something real.

People have asked Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited, if having insight into his own narcissism has enabled him to change for the better. Sam’s answer is a resounding NO. Sure, he can change on a superficial level if it so suits him, but not at a deeper level. Not in his heart. But doesn’t Sam’s willingness to share his knowledge about Narcissistic Personality Disorder prove that he possesses that ever elusive quality the rest of us call “empathy?”  Sam pulls no punches. Being a poster-boy for NPD is a major source of Narcissistic Supply (NS). Period.  

I don’t believe for a minute that Hugo has NPD (Borderline maybe, but not NPD). Hugo’s relentless self-examination runs contrary to everything I’ve learned about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  So, ergo Hugo. But I like to keep an open mind. Read Hugo’s posts and see what you think. The Truth is out there.

Close Encounter With A Narcissist – Part 3 August 15, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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548 comments

Please read/reread “Close Encounter with a Narcissist – Parts 1 & 2” before reading Part 3.  These are usually featured in Top Posts in the column at the right.  If not, you can access them through Tags or Categories under Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Scroll down through Part 3 to reach Parts 1 & 2. Note: In Part 3, I’ll refer to a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) simply as a narcissist.  Again, I’ll refer to the narcissist as “he,” as the majority of narcissists are male.

Looking back on my own close encounter with a narcissist, I can see the Red Flags were there early on. In my gut, I knew there was something “off” about my friend Joe. But I had trouble putting my finger on just what IT was. The more time I spent with him, it became painfully obvious how illogical Joe’s reasoning was – it just didn’t jibe with “human” logic. He also seemed enamored with himself and professed to having many talents. I once teased Joe that he was “self-absorbed.”  But I wasn’t teasing – merely making an observation. For the first time, the word narcissist popped into my head.

Red Flag #1 – Grandiosity

Ah, yes.  Grandiosity and its sidekick Magical Thinking. While there is an overlap with other personality disorders when it comes to Lack of Empathy, it is Grandiosity that distinguishes Narcissistic Personality Disorder from all of the other personality disorders. Grandiosity is the jewel in the crown that makes the narcissist so very special.

According to the DSM-IV, “The essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.

“Individuals with NPD routinely overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, often appearing boastful and pretentious. They may blithely assume others attribute the same value to their efforts and may be surprised when the praise they expect and feel they deserve is not forthcoming.”

An admitted “seminar junkie,”  Joe shared with me a dizzying array of plans he had that would bring him money, recognition, or just a change in scenery. After hearing these change weekly, I began writing down all of the things Joe was going to do “some day.”  When you’re a teenager, or even in your twenties, this kind of daydreaming is normal. But not in your 40s.

Narcissists love to envision grand scenarios starring – themselves! What they lack is the follow-through to make them reality. Why do narcissists indulge in this kind of thinking?  Just thinking of all of the great things they’re “going to do” brings a smile to their face. Think of it as mental masturbation.

One day I told Joe I believed the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Not that people can’t change, but barring some life-changing epiphany, most people are creatures of habit. Joe vehemently disagreed. You see, the narcissist’s grandiosity goes hand-in-hand with Magical Thinking. Joe was big on the book The Secret, which holds that all you have to do is think positive thoughts and good things will happen. Now, I’m all for positive thinking and I like to think karma will come round, but Magical Thinking goes above and beyond. When you’re a narcissist, though, fairy tales can come true (besides, they’re already wearing that crown).

Here’s an example of grandiosity. Joe was considering taking a freelance job on the side. He’d never done this sort of work, but narcissists are convinced they can do anything. I warned Joe he could be getting in over his head, but he took the job anyway. Three weeks later, he came to me in a panic. Not only had he screwed up the job, he was being asked to refund the money he’d been paid, since someone else would now have to fix his mess. His client had mentioned the “L” word – lawyer. It was the first time I’d seen Joe visibly shaken.

Now, on some level, Joe knew he’d screwed up, but he refused to accept any responsibility. As I listened to him talk aloud about the botched job, I watched him mentally rewrite the scenario of what happened. It wasn’t his fault – it was that stupid woman who hired him. You see, narcissists are NEVER, EVER wrong. So, if a narcissist ever tells you he was wrong about something (a very human trait), brace yourself. Most likely he’s getting ready to do something really nasty – to you.

Red Flag #2 – Lack of Empathy

Empathy is what makes us human. We can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and share their joy or feel their pain. But a narcissist has only one one pair of shoes – and they fit PERFECTLY. Human emotions confound narcissists and make them uncomfortable. They don’t know the right thing to say. They’ve watched humans, so they know what they’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t come naturally. This explains their often odd and insensitive comments (The Inappropriate Effect). Any talk of feelings is just so – icky!  Joe was quick to point out he hated “girlie girls” or anyone who was “touchy feely.” He dismissed anything tinged with emotion as “drama.” What was funny was although Joe said he hated drama, it was his own bad behavior that sparked all of the drama in his life.

Joe often said he was “too nice.” He could talk a good game, lamenting the injustices in the world, as if he genuinely cared. But it was just that – talk.

I once listened to Joe make a comment to a young woman. They’d worked together and supposedly were friends. The comment was about her body and had a sexual undertone. It left her visibly distressed. Now, any normal person, seeing her reaction would have immediately apologized for hurting her feelings. But what did “I’m too nice” Joe do? He sat across the table from her for the next hour and never opened his mouth. Later, I asked why he would say such an insensitive thing. He shrugged and admitted it was a cheap shot, but added, smiling, “It was so easy – that’s what made it so much fun.” It was creepy.

When I talked to the woman several days later, SHE apologized to me!  “I’m sorry I got so upset,” she said. “I know the way Joe is, so I shouldn’t have let it bother me so much.” Can you see how a narcissist gets away with such behavior? People make excuses for him!  “That’s just the way he is,” they say, while mentally adding another tally mark after the word @sshole.

Asking a narcissist to “have a heart” has just the opposite effect. Reasoning with them also falls on deaf ears. A narcissist doesn’t want to change because there’s nothing wrong with him. YOU are the one with the problem, remember?

Red Flag #3 –  Confusing Communication

Communication (or should I say lack of genuine communication) with a narcissist is a crazy-making experience. Humans communicate to share information, ideas, and feelings. Not so the narcissist who uses words to confuse and paralyze his victim. Narcissists don’t like to play their nasty games on a level playing field. Their cryptic comments are designed to keep their victim constantly confused and wondering, “What did THAT mean?” This tactic gives the narcissist the home team advantage.

Any attempt to discuss feelings with a narcissist is doomed to leave the victim not knowing left from right. Joe had a short list of pronouncements that could derail any conversation: “Can’t you take a joke?”  “But no one got hurt!”  “Why do you bother talking about that?  It’s in the past!” (yesterday constituted ‘the past’) “If you’d just behave!”  “I’m really busy, so is this life or death?” or his ultimate putdown, “You’re such a drama queen!”

If you know a narcissist, you already know the kind of comments I’m talking about. They’re the equivalent to a teenager’s dismissive, “Whatever!” or the “Talk to the Hand” gesture.

When cornered, a narcissist is like the cartoon character who, when in danger, magically produces a pencil, quickly draws a door, and makes a hasty exit. When I read Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen, a French psychiatrist whose specialty is victimology, it was her chapter on Communication and the narcissist that hit a nerve. The verbal roller coaster, with all its twists and turns, came to a screeching halt and I decided then it was time to get off the ride. It was no longer exciting – it was making me sick.

Cerebral and Somatic – Sex as in “Table for One, Please”

Narcissists get their admiration, or Narcissistic Supply (NS), in one of two forms. Cerebral narcissists gain NS through their intellect, that is, by being “an authority.” Somatic narcissists may be equally intelligent, but they satisfy their need for NS through sexual conquests.

Both kinds of narcissist prefer autoerotic sex – masturbation – to sex with a flesh-and-blood woman. That’s because a real woman expects you to talk to her, or even worse, cuddle, after the main event. Remember, the narcissist can’t establish a genuine emotional bond with another human, so he finds these feelings unnatural and awkward. Faking it is hard work, and he’d just as soon get up and watch TV or check his email. You served your purpose and now he’s done with you. It’s like he had to blow his nose – and the Kleenex? Well, that would be you. He’ll toss it/you aside until he needs to blow his nose again. Romantic, huh?

Cerebral narcissists can put on a show during the idealization phase, but quickly lose all interest in sex. They’re essentially asexual. They derive pleasure from frustrating their partner by withholding sex. This gives them a feeling of power. Besides, to them, not only is sex down and dirty – it’s just so common. They’re way too special to engage in such a common pursuit. So they can do without.

Despite Joe’s love of sexual innuendo, I realized when it came to women, he was like my dogs when it comes to cats. My dogs love the chase, but if the cat stops running, they just stand there, looking rather embarrassed about what to do next. After a short impasse, they wander off to look for another cat that will run from them. Remember, it’s the chase that the narcissist loves.

A somatic narcissist, on the other hand, is like the town dog always making his rounds. But it’s not just his infidelity, and the accompanying lies, that are so disturbing. It’s his irrational rationale. “You made me do it” so “It’s not my fault.” (I apologize to all dogs for comparing them to a narcissist. Dogs are infinitely more caring and human than any narcissist could ever hope to be.)

The Myth of Curing the Narcissist

Remember the blanket analogy from Part 1?  A person doesn’t HAVE a personality disorder, they ARE the personality disorder. Narcissism in interwoven into every fiber of that blanket. Unravel the blanket and you unravel their personality.

If you’re a woman, you’re most likely a nurturer and think that with enough patience and love, someone or something can be helped. It’s that “I’ll nurse this fallen baby bird back to health using a medicine dropper!” thing. Sound familiar?

Even after I figured out that Joe had NPD, I was convinced if I could just reconnect with that inner child that was hiding deep inside, he’d feel safe to come out and show me his real face. Olly, olly, oxen free! Some call this logic “Peeling an Onion.” The rescuer thinks, “If I can just peel away the layers of hurt, I can get to the core of the problem, and I can help him heal.” But what’s at the core of an onion?  Ah ha! That’s a trick question, because an onion has no core.  Not to mention that peeling an onion makes YOU cry, while the onion feels nothing.

Know this. That wounded child’s True Self might as well be preserved in amber. It’s fossilized and will never ever develop. Besides, a narcissist doesn’t want to be fixed because he’s convinced he’s fine just the way he is. It’s YOU who has the problem, remember?

So, least you forget, write this on a post-it note and put it up on the refrigerator:  NO NARCISSIST HAS EVER BEEN CURED!  (I’ve since written more about this.  See Can a Narcissist be Cured?)

Discarded and Scarred – Life After the Narcissist

I was only involved with Joe for four months and we were just “friends.” (Friends is in quotations because narcissists don’t have any real friends). Joe had proven himself to be a first class @sshole on so many occasions. He showed absolutely no interest in me as a person – only in what I could do for him. He’d solicited advice, ignored it, then punished me for offering it. So why couldn’t I just “move on?”  I knew WHAT he was. I knew there was NO CURE. But still…

First, it was hard to forget how much I enjoyed Joe’s company during the Idealization phase. He’d bound up to me like an eager puppy wagging its tail. It was hard to believe this was an act, or just the giddiness that went with honing in on a new source of NS. It seemed so real – to me.

But, the most painful part was the feeling of betrayal – of being duped. It’s hard to admit that you were just a “thing” with an expiration date, especially to a person you genuinely cared about. You want to think that when all is said and done, at the end of the day you were special. But you are special, and that’s why the narcissist targeted you.

I was angry with Joe, but I was angriest with myself. I’m a confident person with strong boundaries, so how could I have let this happen?  This was all a game for Joe. But then he had an advantage because he’d played this game many times before. He knew the rules. Hell, I didn’t even know it was a game!

A word of warning: A narcissist will never give his victim the validation they so desperately seek or closure. This final act of control and cruelty leaves his victim hanging and twisting in the wind. This brings a smile to the narcissist’s face.

I’ve since forgiven myself. As a caring person, I only did what came naturally. I saw someone who was lonely and seemed to be in pain, and I reached out to help them. But Joe didn’t want or need my help, because he’s perfect just the way he is. So, you see, I’m the one with the problem. But it’s a problem I can live with. It’s called being human. And that, my friends, is what I learned from MY close encounter with a narcissist.

Acknowledgements

It was Joe’s self-involvement that led me to Google “narcissism.” Who would have known there were so many others online looking for answers?

Sam Vaknin’s book Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited was a revelation. How could anyone not know Sam?  A narcissist, he’s everywhere on the internet. I’m just glad a life crisis forced him to venture out into the light of day long enough to write this seminal book. Although I jokingly refer to Sam as the Head Vampire, he has shed such light into the darkness that is NPD. I’m only sorry I forwarded my highlighted version to Joe, who will never read it (I imagine he uses it to prop up one very short leg of a table.)

Marie-France Hirigoyen’s book, Stalking the Soul, was a godsend. I ordered a used copy from Amazon.

I first found on-line support through Careplace’s NPD community. Several of the online friends I met there are now my real-life friends, and I kiss the ground for my good fortune.

The members of MSN Groups Narcissistic Personality Disorder Forum constantly amaze me with their wisdom, insight, and yes, humor. It’s inspiring to see how people can gain strength from each other’s experiences, cry, learn, laugh, and move forward. Special thanks to Femfree, the forum manager, for posting the link to my blog.

Finally, thanks to all those near and dear to me. You know who your are. Your patience and support has made me realize how incredibly rich I am.

Looking to the Future

I always thought that as soon as I finished writing Close Encounter with a Narcissist I’d be DONE! But I’m a teacher, remember?  And there’s still so much work to be done to educate the public about this devastating disorder. So, I WILL be writing future posts on NPD. If you’d like to check in from time to time, please bookmark my site.  Peace.

Posts since written – You’ll find them in Categories or Tags under Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Can a Narcissist be Cured?
The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #1, 2, and 3.

You’ll find these in Categories under Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


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