Okay. I don’t want to land on either side on this Sam-Vaknin debate, because I’m not.
Vaknin’s writings are voluminous. I have read much but not nearly all, so I have but impressions. For the most part, what he says about narcissism rings true to me, because it squares with my experience with narcissists. What other narcissists write often doesn't square with that experience, but Vaknin’s writing almost always does. Other narcissists often set off my lie detector, but Vaknin virtually never does -- on the subject of NPD, that is. In fact, unlike other narcissists, he doesn’t try to make you feel sorry for narcissists. That’s a big plus in my book.
So I don't wish to discredit what he writes about NPD. I'm not qualified to sit in judgment of his credibility on this, and I have no desire to sit in judgment of it. Still, I don't mind saying that what he writes about NPD generally rings true to me.
I don't say this because I think Mr. Vaknin is an honest man. Narcissists are pathological liars because of the way they relate to the world around them. That means you can't believe them about what day of the week it is. They will claim that the earth is flat, the sky is purple, or that 2 + 2 = 5 to support their delusions about what is going on. They will lie to you about what they just said to you two seconds ago. They will lie to you about what you just said to them two seconds ago. And every two seconds they will alter their lie about what is going on so bewilderingly as to make you feel like Alice in Wonderland. And they throw their lie in your face, expecting YOU to behave as though it's true. If you refuse, they will try to cram it down your throat. In fact, narcissists often lie for no reason whatsoever except their pathological fear of Truth itself.
Knowing this, I always approach Mr. Vaknin's writing with a healthy dose of skepticism. But on NPD he's generally telling the truth as far as I can tell. My disagreements with him on that are few and when I disagree, I feel that he is just mistaken, not dishonest. Frankly, I'm amazed at that and have often wondered why on earth he'd tell the truth about NPD. Indeed, I can't believe that a narcissist is ever telling the truth unless he has a damned, good, self-serving reason to!
But, fortunately, on NPD he does. And readily admits it. He isn't explaining NPD out of the kindness of his heart. He's doing it to get ATTENTION, the narcissist's pain-killing drug. I mean, just Google “narcissism” and see all the attention he’s seeking and getting!
Somehow, he has made himself the foremost authority on NPD. He is even treated as a legitimate authority on the subject by psychiatrists. He admits that he thus achieves "guru status," which is nirvana to a narcissist. In fact, he has a cult following.
If what he said about NPD didn't square with what top psychiatrists know and with the experience of people like me, what he says would be attacked. And he knows it. So, to achieve and maintain his status and following, he must tell the truth about NPD, and I think that's why he does -- or at least tries to as much as possible.
BUT he is a narcissist. Duh!
Let’s substitute the name of some other predator for “narcissist” and see if people are making sense.
Let’s say tigers can talk. One tiger talks to us and tells us all about tigers, informing us that they view us as good to eat -- nothing more. They have this hunger that only eating us can fulfill. A tiger can resist the temptation, but you know what will eventually happen. We are are a tiger’s next meal, that’s all. They don’t relate to us. He explains what goes on in the mind of a tiger to make it a man-eater.
What astounding revelations these are! We are exceedingly grateful for this information!
So, what? Are we going to run up and hug that tiger?
Yikes, and they say sheep are stupid. But no sheep would ever run up and hug a wolf for explaining why wolves eat sheep.
Why would that tiger do this?
Look at what he’s getting from it. He is the star of the show! He has people crowded around, hanging on his every word. My, what an avalanche of ATTENTION he’s getting.
Vaknin has found a harmless (even helpful) way to get ATTENTION. Great! Good for him! I wish every narcissist would discover such a non-abusive way to get the attention they crave.
But his audience is mostly American, and how does he really feel about Americans? He doesn't hide it. Just click a few links and find out. Here's a taste of how he flew off the handle at one who ticked him off about the copyrights to an interview:
I hate Americans in general and their pusillanimous litigious minds in particular (as does most of the world).
It’s amazing how few people bother to drink responsibly: It’s all a matter of public record. First, see Vaknin’s curriculum vitae. Note that one doesn’t “graduate” from “a few semesters” in a school. He's often called "doctor" as though he's a medical doctor, but look again. The PhD he claims is in philosophy, with a major in “Philosophy of Physics,” a subject I never heard of, probably because physics is pure science, the antithesis of philosophy. People with doctoral degrees outside of medicine are called "doctor" only by their students and in other professional settings where they are practicing in that field as a profession.
What's more, you can see that Pacific Western University offers no such PhD program. You can see from this Wikipedia entry on PWU that it is an unaccredited diploma mill. As for being "Certified in Psychological Counseling Techniques by Brainbench," click the links on his Curriculum Vitae page and see that the transcript that appears has no name on it. As for Brainbench, just click the link and what it calls itself: an "employee/employment testing service" for "predicting employee success," not as an educational institution. Click through the myriad links to the Certification for Psychological Counseling Techniques, for this $49.95 product, you'll see the disclaimer:
Our Health Sciences certifications provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of both health science and the laboratory and laboratory and patient techniques used to practice it. These certifications verify your knowledge of the concepts and subjects tested. Brainbench certification does not imply that the individual has the skills necessary to perform a specific procedure or treatment, or is licensed or authorized to practice any health care profession under any applicable laws.
Click the Learning link to find that their "teaching" includes nothing but the test (which you can retake as often as you want and which is presumably open-book), additional "practice tests," and access to a "Learning Center with specific content to help you improve your skills" -- no instructors, no practice or internships, no coursework, just a bunch of links.
And then the Jerusalem Post details here (the June 14, 1996 edition in “Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Three Stock Manipulators" by Evelyn Gordon) why Vaknin did time in prison.
Vaknin doesn’t hide any of this. People just don’t look at it. Do look, and judge for yourself what it means.
As far as I know, he abuses no one. I mean, he wears a warning sign, so whose fault is it if people snuggle up to him? (I don't understand the attraction.) You can learn from his writing without becoming a fan who goes around the Web singing his praises like he's some sort of Messiah.
What's called for is a sense of measure. Many narcissists seek negative attention in lieu of the other kind, and it's not unheard of for a narcissist to use his own narcissism as a claim to fame. Nonetheless, Vaknin's writing on NPD does GOOD. Much good. And that should go to his credit. Can't we give credit where credit is due without forgetting that he IS a narcissist? I can.