Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fallacious Assumption that Children Are Mindless

Play this role. Imagine that you are seven. You are mad to see Mommy praising your sister, who is one year older than you.

What are you going to do about that?

Hey, you've got an idea. Go tell Mommy that your sister beats up other kids on the playground at school.

Do you think no child would do that? Think again. Why shouldn't she when it gets her what she wants? And when what she wants is all she cares about?

Make sure that last sentence sinks in. The only difference between her and good children is that she couldn't care less for reality: all she cares about is her image, appearances. She never grew up to the Age of Reason and quit playing Pretend that they are reality.

So she is shameless. Make sure that fact weighs as heavily as it should, too.

So, she doesn't feel lowdown and mean for doing this lowdown, dirty, rotten thing. She just Pretends she doesn't know it's a lowdown, dirty, rotten, stinking thing to do - even to a sister WHOM SHE HAS CONNED INTO LOVING AND TRUSTING HER.

Enough to make you want to puke, eh?

That's it. That's what's different about her. And that's what makes her amoral and diabolical even at such a tender age.

Why should she refrain from such lowdown dirty tricks if they make her look like an angel compared to whomever she's trashing? Any stupid sap who isn't smart enough to operate this way is stupid in her book.

Especially that stupid sap of a sister of hers, who is clueless and loves and trusts this little narcissist with a knife in her back.

What an ego trip for the little budding narcissist. She thus gets to think she's SOOOOOOO smart compared to the idiots who fall these dirty tricks.

Do you suppose that Mommy will even give the older sister a chance to defend herself by telling her that she has been thusly accused behind her back? Think again. Mommy knows that Older Sister would naturally ask who her accuser is. So, think again. Does Mommy want her to know who dunnit? Does Mommy want her know that Mommy talks with others like this about her child behind her back?

Doesn't Mommy feel a little like a betrayor for that? And doesn't the little demon notice that Mommy thus protects her from having to be responsible for her false accusations?

Wow! The Mother Load! A carte blanche! Now the budding little narcissist knows that she can pull this stunt wihenever she wants without any fear of repercussions!

That's why this will go on all their lives - behind the victim's back, to deny the victim any chance to even answer the accusations.

Maybe Mommy doubts most of it. Indeed, Mommy is probably spooked, wondering which child has the serious problem here. Mommy is getting gaslighted and goes into DENIAL of the fact that one of these two children needs a psychiatrist. So Mommy just pretends that this backstabbing is normal, no big deal.

Day after day after day this goes on. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab - often subtly and sporting a mocking little halo to boot. Over this years, this constant chipping away at Big Sister's image in Mommy's eyes does the trick.

Because Ns are con artists who come between others this way. (See the chapter in the eBook entitled "The Faces of Narcissism: The Con Artist.")

Children are NOT too unintellgent to figure this out. Even dogs aren't. Mine outsmarts and manipulates me every day - simply because he notices the results of everything I do in reaction to whatever he does. Children are just relatively immature and inexperienced, not brain dead.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Is NPD Genetically Caused?

Here is why I'm skeptical, though I think genetics has some influence on things like suseptibility to narcissistic injury and may play a role in the story.

First, studies of identical twins, raised both apart and together, have indicated hereditary influence on personality traits. Traits. Not whole personalities. It's unscientific to confuse the two. Confusing things with what they ain't is a propaganda trick, not Scientific Method.

I really hate abuse of statistics. Like when people say, "Research shows that 65% of personality is inherited."

No. The percentages researchers came up with were a creature of their instruments (evaluations and questionnaires), not a measure of how alike the twins actually were. For example, if most of your questions are aimed at eliciting evidence of narcissism, you are going to find a high percentage of correlation due to just that one trait. But what percentage of the package of that person's total personality is that? Perhaps minuscule.

No ones claims to have an instrument that measures the whole spectrum of human personality, so that it can be used in such a study to determine "how alike" the personalities of identical twins really are.

What's more, the trait of narcissism exists to some extent in everyone and is a far different thing than NPD.

Now here is the website of the main proponent of the hypothesis that narcissism is genetically caused.

I shall explain what I find lacking here - EVIDENCE. VALID SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE. By the way, I'm no geneticist, but I have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with graduate credit in advanced genetics. So, I'm not exactly clueless here.

This "theory" is vague. What exactly does it assert? What it SUGGESTS and HINTS AT is obvious, but what does it actually assert? That is impossible to nail down. There is a mile of wiggle room in it. This vagueness is unscientific.

Check it out. It never comes right out and plainly says what it implies - that NPD and malignant narcissism are genetically caused. In fact, it defines malignant narcissism as coming to the attention of a mental healthcare professional.

A very, very strange way to define a disease = as getting the attention of a physician. (I love unintended humor.)

Right at the top, this site claims the "theory" (actually no more than a hypothesis) is "Based on Mendelian genetics."

Okay, where? Show me the Mendelian genetics.

I know that humans aren't as easy to deal with as garden peas, but if you're going to claim that your hypothesis is based on Mendelian genetics, I want to see the numbers.

Where are the studies? Studies of people reliably diagnosed and their families.

What does Dr. Benis get? Fifty-percent of every statistically valid sampling of the children of N's having NPD? I'll take 1 in 4 for a recessive trait. Show me them numbers, please. Why aren't there any numbers?

Hey, it could be a blended trait among multiple genes and alleles, resulting in more complex mathematical probabilities. It's been too long since my graduate course in advanced genetics to remember all the common patterns, but I will take any definite ratio you prove exists as evidence for the claim. I don't care. Just show me that the ratio of offspring who have the disorder is always the SAME in every statistically valid sampling.

Show me.

That's what Brother Mendel did: he kept noticing that exactly 3/4 of the offspring of certain garden-pea-plant crosses always came out a certain way for some traits and that exactly 1/4 of the offspring for other crosses always came out the same way for other traits. He correctly reasoned that these traits must therefore be inherited. Otherwise the ratios wouldn't be constant from garden to garden, generation to generation.

Since we knew nothing about chromosomes at the time, three cheers for him. That was an awesome bit of science.

So, where are Dr. Benis' numbers? Gregor Mendel produced them for us. Everyone else who has established a genetic cause for something has produced the proof in those telling numbers that always come out in the ratio that echos the laws of probability. So, where are Benis' numbers?

What does that site gives us instead? The section on Royal Genealogy. This is no substitute for scientifically valid data on real people - this "personality typing" (a euphemism for "diagnosing") of the CARICATURES of long dead people.

Now, I'm guessing that you don't need graduate credit in genetics to know what's wrong with that. Especially what's wrong with using the royal family of Europe.

For one thing, these people were horribly inbred and, as a result, carry a large "genetic load" of genetic abnormalities (usually as recessive alleles that don't express themselvs except in children when both parents are carriers). They lead to such things as insanity and hemophilia. (Which is why Europe's royals don't intermarry anymore.) If you want to study something caused by the lack of one known enzyme, like hemophilia, they make a great test group. But not for something as cloudy as this. It would be impossible to sort out what genetic abnormality was causing what.

And looking for narcissism among royals? One might as well look for the color blue in the sky.

A royal may be as humble as Prince Hamlet, but his scripted performance is total narcissism. I mean, that's why he's called "my lord" and "your highness" and "your grace" and "your majesty" you know. He's supposed to act the part. You would have to know him personally as an intimate friend or family member to know the real him. Royals are trained from birth to ritually narcissistic behavior. They're SUPPOSED to be stuffy. Supposed to be imperious. Indeed, they WERE imperiors/emperors of their empires.

And of course royals will tend to actually be narcissistic as well. Just because of who they are and the way they are raised and treated.

But narcissism isn't NPD. Where is the distinction between situational acquired narcissm and malignant narcissism? Benis makes none.

A narcissistic personality isn't a narcissistically disordered one. What's more, a royal's narcissism will usually be elevated self esteem (situational acquired narcissism), not NPD, which is low self esteem in denial and acting haughty to dissimulate. They are very, very different things. One is malignant, the other is not.

And who diagnosed -'er, I mean "typed" all these generations of royals? From what examination? Of what evidence? Benis is diagnosing people way back to the 13th century. He knows that much about those hundreds of once famous people? Give me a break.

His hypothesis is just a proposed model, period. Pure thought on the matter. Not a shred of evidence is cited in support of it.

His model may be right about some things, or even many things, but there is no way to know that. And no sound reason to believe it. In fact, there is reason for scepticism, because Benis just glosses over the caveats and objections to his hypothesis, as if doing that deals with the questions they raise. What's more, he first published this model in 1990. So, if he's so sure of this, why are there still no legitimate studies to supply any evidence to back it up?

I am a firm believer in leaning toward the most likely explanation for things, not the most unlikely one. Unfortunately, studies show that most people prefer the most unlikely one.

And political correctness has no time for any explanation that puts any responsibility for himself on the narcissist. Who has a higher opinion of him then? The bleeding hearts who regard him as a machine? Or me? I regard him as a person with the power to choose for himself whether he will abuse someone or not, whether he will face facts or not. The bleeding hearts are always misplacing their sympathy. It all goes to the narcissist. They don't "understand" the victim's anger: instead they preach at the victim to "understand" the narcissist's rage. I bet such folks really like this genetic hypothesis. It must be popular in that crowd.

Genotype may well contribute to a susceptibility or predisposition to NPD. Childhood narcissistic abuse may be an important factor. And it goes against reason to disregard the obvious - CHOICE - as a cause of the way a person with NPD habitually thinks and conducts himself.

We need evidence to know whether, and to what extent if any, genetics is a factor. We need evidence to know whether, and to what extent if any, childhood abuse is a factor. But we need nothing but common sense to know that choice is operating in people who behave quite normally in the presence of witnesses and only act crazy behind closed doors in the dark.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Bye Bye Dahlia: Access Denied with a Twist of Lemon

Sam Vaknin in The Selfish Gene: The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism:

Is pathological narcissism the outcome of inherited traits - or the sad result of abusive and traumatizing upbringing? Or, maybe it is the confluence of both? It is a common occurrence, after all, that, in the same family, with the same set of parents and an identical emotional environment - some siblings grow to be malignant narcissists, while others are perfectly "normal". Surely, this indicates a predisposition of some people to developing narcissism, a part of one's genetic heritage.

Ohhhhhhhhhh, what a groaner! But he is innocent of it, because he is a narcissist. So, he thinks the abusive parent CAUSES the NPD of the child, that the child cannot help it, so that all the abused children in the family should have NPD unless genetics is a factor.

It never occurs to The Narcissist that there is another possibility: that the other children might turn out normal just because they CHOOSE to. Just because they chose not to hurt others. Because they chose to grow up and think straight. Because they chose to have integrity. Let's not give them any credit for overcoming the pain and abuse, eh?

That's what you do if you deny that choice has anything to do with it: you deny the abused children who didn't become narcissists the credit they deserve for that. You make them all just machines.

It never occurrs The Narcissist that the narcissistic parent might be but an influence or tempter (demon) to the child and that the child may resist and overcome that influence/temptation, choose his way of life, and therefore bear responsibility for what he is. But The Narcissist wouldn't be a narcissist if he accepted his responsibility for himself. Or if he gave credit to others for overcoming a hurdle he didn't.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Effect of Narcissism's Twisted Thinking on the Mind

Ideas don't just enter the mind and sit there, isolated. Information is an interesting word. It was a verb long before it acquired a noun form. "To inform" people meant to "in-form" their minds. To form, shape their minds with the ideas you fed them.

Information does that. That's because the brain is essentially a biological computer. It's tremendously more sophisticated than any human-made computers we yet have, because it can learn and because it isn't limited to making a random choice whenever no other criteria direct the choice to be made. But we already have software that can learn, too. And the science of artificial intelligence is well on the road to doing astonishing things in the development of artificial "mind." No, you aren't going to see R2D2 rolling around the corner anytime soon, but something like that day is indeed coming.

Yes, we are going to be able to do that with nothing but circuitry and wiring. Because the brain is essentially nothing but biological circuitry and wiring, with information stored (memory) in the connections. Those connections grow and ramify as information is added.

Hence the brain actually develops throughout life. At a fast rate during the "educable" mode of activity during our first 25 years or so, when we pretty much swallow whole anything we're told by an authority figure (such as a teacher), even if it means that we must throw out something we believed yesterday to accommodate this new idea. (Fortunately, mature minds aren't so quick to do that, though some people's minds never mature, remaining forever as educable/impressionable/suggestible as a youth's or child's.) The more we use a part of the brain, the more connections (gray matter) form within it. Hence the most used parts of the brain become the most developed and show more activity on brain scans.

For some things, several parts of the brain can be used. Which part of the brain a person habitually for uses for a particular thing has a big impact on how that learning or thinking runs.

In fact, this why the observed differences between a psychopath's brain and a normal person's are most likely the RESULT of the way psychopaths think, not the cause of it. We can't be sure of that yet, but if one must jump to conclusions, it's wiser to at least jump to the more likely one: you're less likely to be wrong.

Below the level of consciousness, the brain makes all the logical connections among the ideas we imbibe. I learned how this works while working on the Literary Machine and trying to explain it in the program's documentation. It's a freeform relational database designed to work the way the mind works.

You enter items of information into it. You assign keywords to each item, representing what that bit of information is about. Then you throw it into the Literary Machine. Six months later, you yank one of those keywords. BOOM - every bit of information related to that idea appears on your computer screen.

You're amazed at the connections you see! For example, here's an item of information containing a passage from scripture or a novel. There is an item of information about cancer cells. And over there is an item of information on personal ethics. And what's this? An email message you received from a co-worker! All connected by the essential concept behind the words in them.

The Literary Machine established the logical connections in the background, just as the brain does, without our being conscious of them.

Here is an example I made for the documentation.

It shows how these connections illuminate the similarity between cancer cells (cells that grow, reproduce, use nutrients, and produce wastes at a runaway rate, because the controls that moderate these processes have been lost) and other forms of immoderation/lack of measure/immodesty. Like greed. Extremism. Promiscuity. Extravagance. Profligacy.

Now you have something more than information: you have wisdom, because you now see and understand the universal concept underlying these truths.

Such is the power of words, the things we think with. And that's what the brain does with them in the background, whether we are conscious of the logical connections between the bits of information we feed it or not.

So, you can imagine the damage one incorrect bit of information can do!

It could be a false fact. Or it could be an illogical conclusion you drew about something. But it's there - bollixing up a vast network of connections = the LOGIC of the circuitry.

What happens when you do this to a computer? Crash.

That's because you've sent little streams of flowing electrons on a collision course with one another. Where they conflict - BOOM - all "thinking" (computing) stops.

The only way to accommodate conflicting information in the system is to compartmentalize it and shut down the compartment that contains information you don't want to know at the moment.

For example, my machine knows both Windows 98 and Windows XP. They each know many things that the other knows some other way. So, you don't DARE have them both awake at the same time.

The brain works the same way. The current is an electrochemical one that flows along pathways formed by the logical connections established between brain cells. When two streams collide, you "have some wires crossed."

When people are aware of holding conflicting beliefs, they too compartmentalize. One common example is what we see in the typical self-righteous hypocrite. What he believes on Sunday in church is compartmentalized to a part of the the mind deactivated the rest of the week. So, what he believes on Monday, while breaking all those rules at the office, can easily be totally contrary. In fact, what he does there may be so fearless of there really being an omniscient God that it gives him away as (a) not believing that there really is a God or (b) thinking God is a complete idiot who can't see through him.

But, as in the Literary Machine, we aren't aware of all the logical connections among the ideas we hold in our heads. So, we can't always prevent conflict by compartmentalizing. Hence incorrect information and illogic can really screw up our thinking in far-flung matters without our being aware of it. It can make us think and do the stupidest and most irrational things without a clue how stupid and anti-logical we are being.

This is what happens, for example, whenever people blame the victim.

Which is why we should be careful what we let in our heads and run a logic check on ideas before we accept them. And we should never, never, never deliberately believe a falsehood (= lie to ourself) or force thinking against the true course of logic.

We make enough innocent errors; we don't need to multiply them by willfully imbibing illogic and misinformation.

The spookiest example of the consequences that I know is what happens to a narcissist. He chooses to identify with his false image (a work of art) instead of his true self.

That lie introduces a mental virus into his brain that has far-reaching and terrible ramifications. In the background, his brain draws the logical conclusion that he IS his reflected image in the mirror of other people's reactions to him.

He is therefore like a bird raised in captivity. When Birdie hatches, the first thing he sees isn't Mother Bird. It's a human. So, Birdie "imprints" on the wrong thing in its environment, something Mother Nature (genetic evolution) never foresaw happening. The next thing you know, off Birdie goes tagging behind Human as it instinctively would tag behind Mother Bird. It learns its behavior from Human, paying no attention to the adult birds of its species. Why? Because it thinks it's a HUMAN!

I doubt Birdie knows he thinks he's a human, but he does nonetheless. Because that's the logical conclusion the circuitry of his brain was forced to draw when he identified with that human instead of with Mother Bird.

Consequences? Birdie will be lucky to learn to fly. Birdie will never learn to migrate. Birdie won't be interested in birds of the opposite sex. Birdie will never learn to find the food he needs. In short, Birdie won't be able to survive without human care for all his needs.

One incorrect bit of information in the brain causes all that trouble.

That's a narcissist: he thinks he's an image. Something he has has contact with only as reflected in mirrors.

Think what that does to his relationship with his SELF? It breaks that relationship. All mental activity that would normally be directed reflectively to the inner self is misdirected instead to some mirage out there. What happens when no mirror is around? Where is he then? Does he even exist then?

Logically, no. He forced his brain to draw that subliminal conclusion when he willfully believed a lie by identifying with the phony image he projects instead of with his flawed and despised true self inside. Now that irrational idea has crossed some wires in his brain, bollixing up his thinking in a multitude of far-reaching ways.

Hence the tragic and bizarre reports of narcissists that they feel empty and as though they do not exist when alone. Of course: no mirror, no image, no self. What did he expect when he chose to believe that lie?

Narcissists should stand as an ominous warning to all that we should never play games with our mind. It is our most precious possession, not a garbage dump. We cannot force it to believe falsehoods and to twist logic without damaging it so that it doesn't work right. As the old saying about computers goes, Garbage in, garbage out. It's the same with the mind: if you put garbage in, garbage is what will come out.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Self-Inflicted Illness?

The research of Dr. Robert Hare and others finds loads of evidence that psychopaths often come from "wonderful homes." This has forced me to rethink some things.

I used to think that the conventional notion is true - that narcissists are the products of narcissistic abuse in childhood, usually by one or more narcissistic parents.

The scenario does often happen to be the case, but does that mean that the narcissistic parent(s) CAUSED the child's NPD? Maybe not. Maybe the parent(s) just set a bad example that the child saw the advantage in and chose to follow.

And if that's the only effect of a narcissistic parent, we have to rethink the general consensus. A child can get a bad example from other places too - from a teacher at school, from a neighbor or relative. Even from other, older, children.

So we should expect to see narcissists coming from good homes as well as bad ones. True, more of them will have had at least one narcissistic parent, but not all of them by any means.

I do question Hare's finding though too. Why? Because I know that a home infected with a narcissist usually appears "wonderful" to those on the outside. Narcissists are expert at creating this illusion and devote a tremendous amount of energy to doing so. That idyllic little green house on Maple Street - that "wonderful home" - is seen for what it is, Hell, only from within.

The inmates themselves rarely admit the truth about it. In fact, they often are denial of it. They survive by living in a house divided, putting the narcissist at a distance where he can make them feel wretched and like just dying only occasionally, with a semblance of normalcy prevailing only when he isn't around. That home - the one with the narcissist not around - is the one they own. But it ain't exactly happy either, not with the footsteps of that ghost in the attic.

So, I wonder if Hare's research might have failed to uncover the truth.

A little ambivalent about the question, aren't I?

Yet, I am haunted by the feeling he's probably right. Maybe we are too quick to seek explanations for the inexplicable. Maybe we trump up things that happened in that narcissist's childhood into the "cause" when they really only showed the child a way to cheat your way through life.

The more I think about this, the more I think this may be the case. At least sometimes. We naturally try to come up with rational explanations for how narcissists got the irrational way they are. Moreover, those most in the know are most tempted to find these "explanations" = excuses.

They are the brothers and sisters of narcissists. Also the non-narcissistic parent of a narcissist.

The last thing these people wish to believe is that their beloved sibling or child just chose "the road less travelled" through life = to be evil.

In fact, no one wants to believe that. Everyone will ask, "But why would anyone do that?" Yet, think twice: We should turn that question around and ask, "Why wouldn't anyone do that?"

If you think about it, you are an idiot not to choose the evil way of life. Why play by the rules when you can cheat with impunity? At the expense of all the rest of us saps who play by the rules? Yes, why play on a level playing field, when you can can have this enormous unfair advantage?

Why BE good, when you can just LOOK good instead? Then you can look good without the effort and adverse consequences of being good. Something for nothing.

Then you can win every contest for superiority by cheating. Without having to earn it. That is, don't bother making the effort to BE superior in any way, just SEEM superior by treating others like dirt. Something for nothing.

By chosing the cheater's way of life, you can aggrandize yourself to no end, just by stealing the credit and respect that rightly belongs to others. Something for nothing.

So, what idiot wouldn't choose the evil way of life? It gets you a whole lot of something for nothing.

Answer: only people who are honest with themselves and therefore derive no satisfaction out of the hollow vanities gotten through cheating.

This choice is made by a child, or a still childish youth, who doesn't think ahead very well. By the time that kid realizes that the evil way of life follows you as a past that you must forever flee from, there's that demon at the door, discouraging any choice to turn their life around.

That isn't the inability to turn their life around: it's a virtually certain choice to stay on that runaway freight-train ride, because, like Macbeth, they are so steeped in blood already that it would be very unpleasant to change course. They'd have to admit some things they don't want to know. And they know how to blithely keep unknowing them.

At bottom, that's what a narcissist is, an inveterate cheater in the game of life. She just obdurately refuses to grow up and know that.

She is a Peter Pan, refusing to leave Never Never Land = the Land of Pretend. She clings to a child's mentality: withhold that toy from your little brother or sister to pretend that he doesn't deserve to share anything with you; throw a temper tantrum to make Mommy give you that candy bar; cross your arms and stick your nose up in the air refusing to look at that other child to pretend you're too grand to notice her. That's a narcissist for you - forever a spoiled 3-to-6 year old pretending that she's grand and that you are here to serve her needs.

Because little children often get overlooked and have delicate egos, they have an excuse for acting this way - to some extent and until they reach the age when they should grow out of it. But I see no excuse whatsoever for a 40-year-old narcissist to be acting this way.

She deliberately lies to herself, living in fantasy, never having reached the Age of Reason to accept reality and logic. She just unknows that she sucks. She just unknows that what she does doesn't make her grand - to the contrary, it makes her a lowdown and dirty, rotten snake.

There's but one way to be that mixed up - to the point that you don't know up from down. Yes, if you view lowdown, contemptible, mean and callous bevahior that DEBASES you as doing the very opposite - as AGGANDIZING you - you don't know up from down, my dear. Come on, a smart monkey is smarter than that.

So, the only way to get things that upside-down and backwards is to force your thinking into torturous twists of logic. In other words, you must do it deliberately.

To view everything backwards, the narcissist deliberately and willfully twists her thinking. She deliberately adulterates everything. If it were an accident, she wouldn't be so unfailingly and perfectly ironic. In other words, her thinking isn't just off course logically: it's always exactly 180 degrees off course.

She obdurately flies in the face of logic and reality to remain in denial of the true character of what she's doing.

In short, she f-s her own mind. How does she then expect it to work right?

So, should we be surprised and sympathize with her now that she finds it difficult to stop what she's doing? I say, no.

For example, if you smoke cigarettes, you abuse your lungs and may get lung cancer and it's YOUR OWN FAULT. Yes, it is very hard to quit such an addiction, but you are responsible for it. Not the Fates.

If you break into someone's home, you may get shot. That's a consequence of your own actions. I don't feel sorry for you. Your wound is YOUR FAULT.

By the same token, if you abuse your mind for 20, 30, 40 years and then find it all but impossible stop thinking backwards, you made your mind what it is; you made yourself crazy; and it's YOUR OWN FAULT.

Sorry, I don't feel sorry for you. You have treated your precious mind like a garbage dump and are suffering the consequences.

And, besides, this idiotic notion that narcissists can't control themselves is manifestly false: they control themselves marvellously whenever there are witnesses present.

Mentally ill people who really can't control themselves and aren't to blame for their condition DON'T DO THAT.

It's amazing how dense some people can be in failing to realize what that means.

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Another Take on NPD

Here's an excellent post on Narcissistic Personality Disorder at Portfolio Living by Liam Scanlon.

It was a long time ago.

About two months into having my new boss, it started. At first, I thought, oops, he just got really upset about this little issue ... I didn't understand exactly why he lost his temper so unexpectedly, but heck, everyone has their bad days.

Sound familiar? But then immediately Boss acted like it didn't happen, of course. The patented warning sign of a pathological personality. (Because that shows that his blow-ups are a tactic, not an accident, even if it is so habitual that he is no more consciously aware of using his pumped-up phony rage to control you than a brat is while doing the same thing in throwing a temper tantrum.)

Narcissist Personality Disorder does not leave such concrete evidence around like empty bottles, mysterious car dents, drunk-driving charges or visibly injured spouses. No, it feeds on the less concrete aspects of our lives. Damage is visited upon the people around NPD sufferers, and the behavior of the NPD sufferer is explained away using countless plausible rationalizations.

To help my own understanding, I have come up with a metaphor for the disorder and the person who is afflicted by it. The metaphor is one of a puppeteer (the disorder itself) and a puppet (the person with the disorder).

Let's explore the puppet metaphor to help understand how Narcissistic Personality Disorder works.

Read the rest of this interesting post.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

866 Responsibility Dodging Excuses for Abuse

From Sanctuary for the Abused:

Abusers will minimize, justify, deny, distort, lie about and blame others for their behavior to escape consequences, It is our responsibility to hold them accountable.

Then follows a list of 866 abusers' excuses produced by the Alternatives to Domestic Aggression (ADA) Program of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County.

It includes my favorites, like "That's just the way I am."

Ever heard that one with your Irony Detector functioning? If you did, then you know it's a joke.

The subliminal suggestion is that you just have to put up with the narcissist, because that's just the way they are = they can't be any different. Tough cookies.

Let's run a logic check on that. "The way they are" is abusive to you. Thus, with that slick talk they "reason" that you must tolerate anything they feel like doing to you.

How's that for crazy? So, you have no right to do anything about how they treat you. They can insult you, but you mustn't insult them back. They can hit you, but you mustn't hit them back. They can slander you, but you must keep their bad deeds a secret for them.

Jeez, was it the innocent who made the rules of this game? I think not. I think the rules of this game were dreamed up in Hell.

That gives the narcissist anti-reason to ever stop abusing you. And you were born yesterday if you don't realize that people will never stop doing a bad thing to you unless you make sure there are adverse consequences to hurting you.

By this Nimrodean nonsense the narcissist denies you the right to decent treatment. Because narcissists just can't help it, you see: they have to take a crap on someone every so often, and you are handy. The poor things. THEY are in pain!

This joke has a double punch line.

The next one is that - guess what a narcissist is usually getting mad at you about? Think back. It's usually over some vague rendition of you just being the way you are. Yes, everything about you is always "too this" or "too that" for them to tolerate.

Like maybe you don't smile enough. Maybe you're too sensitive. Or maybe you're too into sports. Or maybe you're not receptive enough to their criticisms of you. (That's one of their favorites.) Whatever. Though you just being the way you are has no effect on him or her whatsoever, God need not tolerate you being that way.

How's you irony detector doing now?

In other words, you have no right to be the way you are = you have no right to be. You are not the author of your self, the narcissist should be = the narcissist owns you. He or she has the right to determine what you should be.

Indeed, how many times have you heard your narcissist say that they "don't have to put up with that" = the way you are?

That is crazy. Now you see why narcissists must control you. Because they cannot control themselves.

They are children in adult bodies. When children go wild it is some grown-up's fault for not preventing them them from doing wrong. Right? For example, if children destroy property, Mom and Dad are responsible. If children run amok in a classroom, the teacher is responsible. Right? Children are irresponsible. Narcissists like it there in Never Never Land and never leave.

Read the other 865 jokes from the Big Babies' Club here.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Unheard Side of the Story on NPD

The comments are sad and revealing. I really think therapists should read some of them. See how they square with what the Ns are saying.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Narcissists: Troubled Cases of Arrested Child Development Part 2

Continuing with the theme that Narcissists are troubled cases of arrested child development, we have only to close our eyes so that we are not prejudiced by the figure of a grown-up standing there, and we will see the behavior of a six-year-old:

Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehavior, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves. This is the year, by the way, when children were traditionally thought to reach the age of reason and when first communions (and first confessions) were made.

Having a narcissist for a mother is a lot like living under the supervision of a six-year-old. Narcissists are always pretending, and with a narcissistic mother it's a lot like, "Let's play house. I'll pretend to be the mother and you pretend to be the baby," though, as the baby, you'll be expected to act like a doll (keep smiling, no matter what) and you'll be treated like a doll -- as an inanimate object, as a toy to be manipulated, dressed and undressed, walked around and have words put in your mouth; something that can be broken but not hurt, something that will be dropped and forgotten when when something more interesting comes along.

That was Joanna Ashmun. Reading that passage was one of those "Twilight Zone" moments for me, because what Ashmun here says about how a narcissistic mother relates to her "dolly baby" child reverberated in my mind with the memory of an adult narcissistic child of a narcissist I knew. When her narcissistic father suddenly became helpless (upon his wife's death) and dependent on her in his old age, their relationship changed overnight. Now he sucked up to her - all abuse of her instantly stopped. And now that she knew she owned him, she suddenly had never hated him.

Which makes sense. Being a narcissist herself, she knew narcissists are just bullies, that they just hit on people who can't do anything back to them. Besides, he needed a new Mamma, so he would surely suck up for one.

She got the deed to his home and knew that Daddy would be a good boy from now on.

She began pretending that they had (and always had had) a loving relationship. Why? Presumably because her ego needed a doll baby and because then she could go around showing off to everybody how kindly she cared for her aging father. In other words, she just capitalized on the new situation.

Bizarre enough, eh? Which proves what thorough hypocrites narcissists are. But it gets more bizarre. He became her baby, and she became his loving mother. She would even talk baby-talk to him, such as now it was time "for us to go wee-wee." Just way out there in the land of bizarre. He was her doll baby. In fact, at the time even, I was saying that.

Now I read this echo in Ashumun's words.

I am constantly struck by that - how alike narcissists are. Strange, even bizarre behaviors like this that seem to make no sense and seem to be unique are not at all unique. Other people pipe up and say, "Hey! My N did that too!"

The only difference is the circumstances. For example, there is a difference between a narcissistic mother using her child as a doll baby and an adult narcissist using her aged narcissistic father as one. But both need a doll baby.

Ashmun continues with Selected Characteristics of Normal Six-Year-Olds to enumerate the qualities of a six-year-old that persist in an adult narcissist.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Narcissists: Troubled Cases of Arrested Child Development

The simplest way to view narcissists is as troubled cases of arrested child development.

Children haven't the emotional baggage older kids and adults have acquired, but the delightful effect of this freedom on them isn't what it us usually equated to - innocence and lovingness.

Children don't take the needs, feelings, and rights of others into account. What they want is all that matters. Children can be very cruel. Improperly raised, they become terrors.

Childishness is appropriate in children, who have not yet acquired the experience to grow. So, we cut them slack and see the humor in their behavior, finding their childishness amusing, remembering that we were their age once and just like them.

It's easy to be so generous with children, because they can't hurt us. They are totally dependent on us, and they know that.

But when this same childishness persists in an adult, we don't readily see the humor in it. It is always viewed with contempt.

So, it isn't exactly a virtue in children then, either.

Ask a teacher: the main difference between an adult and a child is that a child isn't responsible for his own behavior and an adult is.

Now, when you get a grown-up child, with the power of an adult, or perhaps with great power as a high-ranking official, you have great power coupled with no responsibility. The recipe for a reign of terror.

Like Hitler or Saddam Hussein. Narcissists. Children with all power and no accountability. Like this little fellow, Anthony Fremont, whom Joanna Ashumn tells us about.

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Friday, March 09, 2007


A little serendipity that may benefit some of you. As you know, I am a tennis pro and freelance editor. One thing I do to keep up with the latest news about the pro tennis scene for my blog is read Peter Bodo's blog. The other day he mentioned something that I already knew so well I take it for granted, as if everyone knows it. But why should everyone know it? Because not everyone is a writer - of a blog or opinion pieces or essays.

When my editor James Martin came to me and asked how I felt about writing an essay highlighting what I felt the new generation of young 'uns could learn from past champions, I answered, "sure." Of course I had no idea where I would go with that, and this is one of the great pleasures of writing an essay. One of the reasons I've stubbornly continued to be a writer is because writing about something is the best way I know to figure out how I really feel about it, and I'm the sort of person who always likes to be able to say why he likes - or dislikes - something. I don't know, just because I like it, just doesn't cut it. And trying to write clearly and logically tends to be a pretty good check on prejudice and preconception; it's amazing how often I'll write a few sentences and then realize that they don't really stand up to close scrutiny. It may seem strange for a writer of commentary and opinion to put it this way, because I imagine the popular assumption is that I have my ideas and theories, and then try to articulate and justify them in prose. That happens, sometimes. But most of the time, writing is a journey of discovery. I finish a story, or post, or scene in a novel and realize it went somewhere entirely different from where I vaguely expected it to go.

Exactly. I used to say that writing is thinking. It not only helps you get in touch with your feelings and explore a topic, but that white sheet of paper leaves no place for prejudice, denial, anti-logic, half-truth, or any other form of sloppy thinking to hide.

I don't know for sure, but I think this is why some authorities suggest that the victims of abuse journal.

When you do, you go through the process that Bodo is talking about. I have but one bit of advice to add.

Remember that journaling is private writing. Like a diary. It is as sacrosanct as the privacy of the mind. It has no audience. You need that privacy to have the freedom to be brutally honest. If you journal in pain, you may feel like shouting your words from the highest mountain top, but a few years later, you'll be glad you kept these thoughts to yourself. You may even delete them.

That's okay. You've forgotten your other thoughts from that long ago too.

But you will have achieved a clarity and understanding that will benfit you for the rest of your life.

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Monday, March 05, 2007


Crabbers have long known that there is no need to cover a bucket of crabs. They just stay in the bottom of the bucket, not even trying to climb out. And, whenever a crab does start trying to climb out, the others all suddenly start exerting themselves.

To do what? Follow its lead? No. To drag it back down into the bottom of the bucket and keep it from climbing out.

Kinda like a narcissist, right? But actually, it's kinda like most people.

One of the most surprising facts about the human race is the prevalence of mediocrity. The reason this is surprising is because we never hear anyone admit mediocrity. To the contrary, people always portray themselves as working hard and as doing the best job they can.

Every now and then though, we get a myth-busting wake-up call. Like Hurricane Katrina. How could civil servants behave like that at a time like that? Or, what about the FBI before 9/11? The boss "didn't believe in computers," so the FBI didn't have any that weren't dinosaurs more than 10 years old without Internet access. Sheesh! How can flaming, incompetent negligence like that pass for doing a good job?

I got my first inkling of the invisible world of mediocrity that surrounds us in my first job. Unable to get decent sanitation repairs and equipment for a facility I managed, I came home complaining to my mother that the department heads of that city were "just trying to look like they were doing a good job, instead of actually doing one."

I thought that attitude must be rare. But it isn't. It's the rule. When teachers ask other teachers what they teach, the standard answer is "As little as possible." Not what they'd say to you or their principal, is it? Same with the factory worker on the line. Or the doctor. Or the social worker.

Most people have no motivation to put forth more than minimal effort needed to get by. And that goes for their moral life too.

In this, narcissists are no different. They are different in one regard though. Most people avoid standing out as excellent. We are trained by our peers to do this from a young age.

If, for example, you try hard to get good grades in school, the other kids will label you as a "try-harder," the implication being that trying hard is bad. You will get labeled a "brain."

It's not nice to expose the mediocrity of the other crabs in that bucket by excelling, you see. So, instead of trying too, they'd rather just drag you down and discourage your effort.

Those who coach young tennis players aspiring to great things see the same thing. As soon as a player's tremendous dedication and effort start to pay off, his or her peers start in. The great majority cave in to this pressure. Those you see reach the top of the game, like Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, are those brave souls who won't let this pressure control their choices.

Narcissists are different only in that they fake excellence as much as they can. But they too drag others down.

Often they have a reputation for excellence that is ironic, because their work is actually full of cut corners and negligence.

If they can't fake excellence, I don't know whether they would try hard or not. I suppose in that case, to get what they want, they might. But the narcissists I have known all did a lousy job. In fact it would be more correct to say that they just didn't even do their job.

Why bother when appearances are all that count, and you can fake it?

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Paradoxical Nature of Narcissists

The following quotation is of Sam Vaknin in his book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. It's about the paradoxical nature of narcissists. It helps explain how they can know a thing and not know it, feel a thing and not feel it - how they can feel guilty/ashamed and not = not experience the slightest pang of conscience. It's all just a matter of represssing awareness of unwanted knowledge and feelings every time they start to surface. Sometimes it's harder to do so than at other times, and so there are times in a narcissit's life when he can't repress and actually gets a look at what he can't bear to see = the real him inside:

He regards and treats people as though they were objects: exploits and discards them. He mistreats people around him by asserting his superiority at all times, by being emotionally cold or absent, by constant bickering, verbal humiliation, incessant (mostly unjust) criticism, by provoking uncertainty and by actively rejecting or ignoring them. All his interpersonal relationships are deformed and sick. The longer the relationship – the more it is tinted by the pathological hue of narcissism. In his marriage, the narcissist recreates the conflicts with his Primary Objects. He is immature in every walk of marriage, sex included. He would tend to select the wrong partners or spouse.

He would do everything to lead to the fulfilment of his greatest horror: being deserted. Even the staunchest supporters and lovers ultimately abandon him.

The narcissist then experiences the horrifying complete breakdown of his defences. He then, naturally, feels lonely – but his loneliness is of the existential, almost solipsist type. The whole world seems unreal to him, possessed of a nightmarish quality. He feels disproportionately guilty and assumes all the burden of blame, allocating none to his partner. Those moments may be the only occasions in which he is in touch with his emotions – an experience the narcissist is trying to avoid all his life and at all costs to his mental health.

From Chapter 3, "The Workings of a Narcissist: A Phenomenology." Read the rest here.

These are the rare times narcissists suffer any pain, but during these short episodes, boy do they suffer pain. It is capable of driving them to suicide if they don't find Narcissistic Supply in time.

See also Characteristics of NPD at the Main Site.
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