Online Resource for Victims of Psychopaths and Narcissists

Sam Vaknin Revisited or Is a "Malignant Narcissist" Really a Sadistic Psychopath?

By Invicta (a pseudonym)

It is natural to want to support victims, but supporting victims is not identical to arming a lynch mob with lack of knowledge and misrepresentation.

Over the time spent on the internet trying to make sense of what happened with my encounter with an online psychopath [1] I came to realise that there was a load of misinformation out there, on sites and in essays I encountered. I had garnered information, ostensibly pertaining to those with narcissistic personality disorder, only to come to the realisation, in time, that the inner life of disordered narcissism described, was more indicative of a psychopath, a slippery term in itself, [2] rather than the other.

What to do?

When I joined support groups I was overwhelmed with new and old theories about how it was my fault, and actually very little that had to do with online psychopaths, even while a lot of the psychodynamics were relevant as in NPD, though more severely so.

I endured a Narcissistic Personality Disorder support group where I should have known better but was so desperate for a place to feel less alone. I made the mistake of trusting someone disordered who I thought was earnest in helping survivors to recover, not realising this person is probably a psychopath. The capricious deletions should have been a hint. Moreover, I found that site in particular to be a breeding ground for all sorts of disturbed and mendacious people, for opportunists who now have gone on to breed more disturbance and misinformation on their own sites.

The following are my considered opinions and a warning about some sites and essays and "research" I have encountered; I consider them significant for spreading misinformation and deserving of a caveat. I have a solid background in psychology and I am also the survivor of an encounter with an emotionally sadistic psychopath. I was also trained for rigorous thought and research (thank you McMaster University, and my grad school ), so it's not like I fell into this making up theories as I go along.

I admit this bias: Most support groups and theories blame the victim/survivor, however unconsciously which, IMO, is anathema to survivors of encounters with psychopathic types. IMO and in my experience, there is nothing in the life of the survivor that caused the encounter with, or the behaviour of, someone disordered.

I have seen sites that create hypervigilance about psychopaths and NPD or any other disorder, even the mentally ill. Sites that load up on supposed symptoms that might trumpet a psychopath or "malignant narcissism", taken to the Nth degree of absurdity. Assertions that any less than a harmonious relationship may be founded upon verbal abuse and emotional abuse as the "victim" perceives it to be; and there are many to happily support that view. As if the DSM, the legal definitions and the clinical definitions weren't confusing enough, someone comes along on the net and decides there are way more psychopaths and "N"s than we ever imagined! And far more ways to identify their peculiarities, symptoms, traits, behaviour, than the governing psychiatric bodies ever imagined.

I think not.

Moreover, my major disagreement with a lot of what I've read on the net is the role of the target/victim/survivor. Call it "co-dependence", call it "hysteria" or "histrionic or borderline personality type", call it "echo personality disorder", all pathologize the victim. Who blames us? Those who have not been through it. Nor is some bigtime pathological narcissist or psychopath going to be the one to tell me about the dynamics and my psyche OR even begin to describe to me what the aftermath is like for survivors; for one thing, consider the source.

Disordered narcissists are not taking over the planet. Selfish, self-centred, egotistical people exist, and we have dealt with this from the beginning of creation, it is not new. "Narcissists" are not lurking around every corner (ok, perhaps in LA :)) to do us in. Nor are there psychopaths slinking behind every bush and in every office (though there are a preponderance of them on the internet and they are known to be statistically overrepresented in mental health areas and law ). Even the abusive are not necessarily without hope for redemption. The net has pathologised us all. And, hungry for information, we bit.

I think that misinformation is taking over the internet particularly in the newly "glamorous" area of narcissism. Listed here are sites and essays which I think promulgate victimisation- that is, indiscriminately pathologise us, the survivors; some, also, in effect, attempt to quantify our experience and bind our thoughts and feelings to the author's biases. And, on the Internet, there are other sites that incite hypervigilance and create a world bereft of kindness, where "N"s lurk in the shadows, in nooks and crannies, and we have to remain in "defence" mode....ever the potential or defective victim.....

There are multitudinous sites on the Internet belonging to Sam Vaknin. He is a self-proclaimed "malignant narcissist". Though his writings purport to be the inner life of one disordered individual, unfortunately they distort too much about NPD to be credible. This is a recent quote: "NPD is the epidemic of our time - stealthy, pernicious, ubiquitous, unrecognized." [Unrecognized? How convenient for such an assertion with nothing to back it up except one self-described NPDer's opinion].

Moreover, Mr. Vaknin's Ph.D. is not in psychology; and, in fact, it is from a diploma mill. His certification in counseling is from an online "school". [3].There is nothing in Mr Vaknin's CV that suggests a BA or MA in anything, never mind psychology. Mr Vaknin's emphasis in his CV seems to be/have been on economics. This is what he has to say about his "credentials": I am not a mental health professional, as I state very prominently on my Web site. The content of this Web site [SV's] is based on correspondence since 1996 with hundreds of people suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (narcissists) and with thousands of their family members, friends, therapists, and colleagues.[That does not make this scientific research- it merely consists of anecdotal evidence, which has no authority in the scientific community. See: Narcissism and Grandiosity]

I passed a "Counselling Techniques" exam, provided online by Brainbench.
Here are the results:

Results Without A Name or Description
Take care there. Sam

[Counselling techniques without practice? Huh? I spent many many many hours with clients and with supervisors to assess my techniques and skills and abilities. And doesn't Brainbench use "open book" exams? This is so basic, to ask such questions.]

Also the pathological narcissist's worldview is aligned with his disorder. IMO, SV pathologises the target/victim/survivor as may his followers by proxy ("followers by proxy" are defined as those who maintain BBs and Support Groups whose posted quotes by Sam Vaknin dominate their sites and other sites where they post). IMO, zero credibility, even if they know the difference between bipolar and major depression.

S Vaknin has recently moved on to become editor of emotional/verbal abuse topics on Suite 101. I find this to be the ultimate irony. That the abuser gets to tell us, the survivors of abuse what we are about. And what we go through. The man is self-described disordered. Can anyone doubt his lack of empathy and inability to understand the point of view of the victim? And he is writing about the trauma that we suffer from narcissistic abuse? He is now writing a book using posts by abuse survivors on the Internet, that is, from anecdotal evidence, where anyone can make up anything, and without prior consent.

When announced that he was becoming an editor, this is what his ardent follower, "femfree", wrote:

This is wonderful news!! Congratulations. Your unparalleled resources, assistance and knowledge to survivors is exemplary. This is an exciting and innovative resource that will be most highly recommended everywhere!!

NO. His advice to survivors and anyone else, imo, is far less than exemplary. And so is his continuing manipulation of the Internet and the discussion group [4]

Vaknin's Pathologizing the Victim (2004)[sic] is an example of dangerous distortion, not a point of view one may see in a thoughtful, responsible essay on therapy and therapists- this essay in effect says to trust no one, and pathologises therapists, portraying many as potentially abusive. The writer has no idea of what is best for the abused, no idea of the dynamics of a therapeutic relationship. And the advice given in the final paragraph, is so harmful, and so out-to-lunch, that it can seriously damage a survivor's desire/efforts to find help by instilling doubt,lack of confidence or belief and trust in the helping professions. The writer asserts:

Thus, an abuse victim who declines to have any further contact with her batterer - is bound to be chastised by her therapist for obstinately refusing to constructively communicate with her violent spouse.

Better to play ball and adopt the sleek mannerisms of your abuser. Sadly, sometimes the only way to convince your therapist that it is not all in your head and that you are a victim - is by being insincere and by staging a well-calibrated performance, replete with the correct vocabulary. Therapists have Pavlovian reactions to certain phrases and theories and to certain "presenting signs and symptoms" (behaviors during the first few sessions). Learn these - and use them to your advantage. It is your only chance.

Not only is there a narcissist or psychopath under every bush and beside every 'couch', but there are also inferior robotic 'Pavlovian' types in the helping professions, and the world is hostile and unkind - a breeding bed of paranoia and persecution. The author has no understanding whatsoever of the dynamics of abuse. Just a glib surface rendering. Such advice is unconscionable, to suggest manipulating the therapist just like a psychopath might - to hold therapists in contempt, just like a psychopath would - to assert that therapists are prone to a conditioned response, reducing their responses to the likes of rats and pigeons and all other animals. Yet this too is supported by the groups mentioned above. And on the internet, neither he nor they will be held to account. All he has to do is say "he is not a mental health professional" [but I play one on the Internet].

Caveat emptor! Consider the source. This is all opinion, and a misuse of psychology as we know it.

The Cyber Narcissist by Sam Vaknin

...."' ever the intimidating bully" - is not accustomed to such resistance'" [by others on the net, in groups, I presume]. This rather sounds like you can show no opposition , must play "nice", or be labelled a narcissist. The author also suggests that therapeutic dyamics are at play in groups where cyberpaths play, which in my view is just plain silly, not to mention a distortion of the concept and actuality of therapy. With the really disordered in the mix, the environment becomes toxic and illusory.

Compare the above with Wendy Koeningsmann's brilliant analysis of Psychopathic Types At Play on the Internet (reflects my experience to an uncanny degree); and The FBI Profile Of the Mental Rapist

Both these assessments do not profile a cyber narcissist as essentially an argumentative, belligerent, obnoxious bully. No, these types are far subtler than that and that is why people can be manipulated and fooled. And to make psychopathic play in groups akin to therapy is to distort the meaning of true therapy. Again, it seems that the author has little conception of what really happens in groups where cyber narcissists play. Or perhaps he is trying to deflect from the true psychopathic types/narcissists that do populate the internet (but hey, I guess that would place me then, in the paranoid category! :)) - the ones that on the surface display true narcissism in action, as Dr. Bruce Gregory so nicely articulates:

When the narcissistic defense is operating in an interpersonal or group setting, the grandiose part does not show its face in public. In public it presents a front of patience, congeniality, and confident reasonableness.

For a survivor's view, please keep reading

As noted above, I was targeted by an Internet psychopath; he was practiced in manipulating someone into loving him. The relationship resembled a cult of two. The brainwashing and manipulation were subtle and insidious- when one becomes vulnerable, when someone penetrates your defences, or you have few defences, it is easy then to begin an onslaught of mental rape.

The one thing that I didn't expect, when I sought support online, was to end up the survivor of not one, but two online psychopaths, not to mention a myriad assortment of fanatics on the support group most heavily associated with him- the cult groupies, the cult followers (not the unsuspecting innocents).

New facts keep coming to light. They were always there, I imagine, but were largely ignored. But no longer. I have felt for a long time that Sam Vaknin and his book, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, were meant to engender a cult following, among other things. He even attests to this and other views about victims, healing, and his hatred for Americans in the following interview: Natterbox Interview With Sam Vaknin

Some Quotes

I, therefore, am doubtful not only with regards to the prognosis of a narcissist but also with regards to the healing prospects of those exposed to his poisoned charms.

I am by far the most intelligent person I know, so, the deep-seated belief that others are bumbling, ineffectual fools is a constant feature of my mental landscape.

The book was never intended to help anyone. Above all, it was meant to attract attention and adulation (narcissistic supply) to its author, myself.

Being in a guru-like status is the ultimate narcissistic experience.

Well, what else is new?

Suffering tremendously from the mental rape of an Internet psychopath, knowing that most therapists would not understand (and I could not afford one) I joined Sam Vaknin's board with a psyche like hamburger. At the time, it was the only board around. Over time the games began, and the capricious deletions and many people got hurt. Instead of being in a place of healing, I was in a war zone. I was also, it turns out, deceived and misled, not realising that there was a cultish following.

When you're hamburger, you don't think as clearly, you just want to know you're not alone. I am a mental health professional and you'd think that we would know better, but let me tell you, when you are wounded beyond belief, all your training means nothing. Some people were wonderful on that site, but they left. That's why I started my own site, but didn't include a board. Just some fair and objective information, partly to counteract the dreck. I never imagined that unmasking a fraud would be part of my healing journey. Sometimes, Providence has a strange sense of humour.

I also felt very humbled. For I was dealing with a sadistic psychopath/sociopath and Sam Vaknin's views fed right into that; to realise that helps you grasp how out of control your life really is. He wasn't talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Mr Vaknin is trying to reform "Narcissism" into an all-encompassing explanation for all bad behaviour, blurs distinctions between the Personality Disorders, and collapses the uniqueness and severity of the disorder for each person into a single [malevolent] entity. In effect, it seemed to me that Sam Vaknin was recreating "Narcissism" and NPD in his own image, according to his worldview. Which means it is not simply narcissism, nor is it NPD. According to the author, it is not anything remotely recognisable as Narcissistic Personality Disorder as he knows it.

My feeling is that, in effect, Sam Vaknin was drawing in vulnerable victims, desperately looking for answers, sometimes easy answers, and recreating them in his own image, inoculating them with his hatred and alienation, and creating a world view where things are worse than imagined, instead of better; it is a world of paranoia, where, in effect, there are monstrous "Ns" under every bush.

I speak as one who, at first, believed a lot of this stuff. He has pathologised almost everyone in every manner. So how can any true healing take place for any of us if we are misled and misinformed- imo, his version of healing, if he had one, is that everyone see it his way. Just like a cult leader wannabe. And his answer against accountability would be, "you knew what I was, so you have only yourself to blame for 'x'".....

Update: 8/13/03

I just discovered this information in an article by a forensic psychologist which says:

In 1970, Otto Kernberg pointed out that the antisocial personality was fundamentally narcissistic and without morality. He called it malignant narcissism, which included a sadistic element. That self-love is central seems correct but this conception failed to go very far with clinicians who needed practical instruments.

The article is a fascinating and rigorous delineation of the history of attempts to define psychopathy and to predict it. Robert Hare's instrument has the most validity and incorporates Kernberg's conception of a narcissistic component.

It reinforces my belief that a "malignant narcissist" in effect resembles a sadistic psychopath and that that is the construct Sam Vaknin's book describes and explains, not Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


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