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NEWS INTERVENTION Interview with Sam Vaknin and Christian Sorensen on Narcissism

Not sure just who is the incoherent clown, Sorensen, but i am grateful for the comic relief in such dire times.

Interview with Sam Vaknin and Christian Sorensen on Narcissism
Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Sam Vaknin is Visiting Professor of Psychology, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia and Professor of Finance and Psychology in SIAS-CIAPS (Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies), as well as a writer and the author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited. Christian Sorensen is an independent philosopher from Belgium. Both have scored profoundly high on the most reliable general intelligence tests, i.e., mainstream tests. In both cases, they have devoted themselves to wide-ranging and deep foci of study throughout life. Vaknin on narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Sorensen on philosophy, metaphysics, and ethics. Here they talk about the central focus for Vaknin, narcissism.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Within the DSM-V, of those criteria for formal diagnosis of an individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), what ones seem the most reliable, valid, and powerful as predictors of NPD to each of you?

Sam Vaknin: The DSM V is a vast improvement over the DSM IV-TR in that it includes an alternate model with criteria which are dimensional, not categorical; dynamic, not static; and descriptive rather than taxonomic (concerned with lists of symptoms).

The DSM V re-defines personality disorders thus:

“The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits.”

According to the Alternative DSM V Model for Personality Disorders (p.767), the following criteria must be met to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (in parentheses my comments):

Moderate or greater impairment in personality functioning in either identity, or self-direction (should be: in both.)


The narcissist keeps referring to others excessively in order to regulate his self-esteem (really, sense of self-worth) and for “self-definition” (to define his identity.) His self-appraisal is exaggerated, whether it is inflated, deflated, or fluctuating between these two poles and his emotional regulation reflects these vacillations.

(Finally, the DSM V accepted what I have been saying for decades: that narcissists can have an “inferiority complex” and feel worthless and bad; that they go through cycles of ups and downs in their self-evaluation; and that this cycling influences their mood and affect).


The narcissist sets goals in order to gain approval from others (narcissistic supply; the DSM V ignores the fact that the narcissist finds disapproval equally rewarding as long as it places him firmly in the limelight.) The narcissist lacks self-awareness as far as his motivation goes (and as far as everything else besides.)

The narcissist’s personal standards and benchmarks are either too high (which supports his grandiosity), or too low (buttresses his sense of entitlement, which is incommensurate with his real-life performance.)

Impairments in interpersonal functioning in either empathy or intimacy (should be: in both.)


The narcissist finds it difficult to identify with the emotions and needs of others, but is very attuned to their reactions when they are relevant to himself (cold empathy.) Consequently, he overestimates the effect he has on others or underestimates it (the classic narcissist never underestimates the effect he has on others – but the inverted narcissist does.)


The narcissist’s relationships are self-serving and, therefore shallow and superficial. They are centred around and geared at the regulation of his self-esteem (obtaining narcissistic supply for the regulation of his labile sense of self-worth.)

The narcissist is not “genuinely” interested in his intimate partner’s experiences (implying that he does fake such interest convincingly.) The narcissist emphasizes his need for personal gain (by using the word “need”, the DSM V acknowledges the compulsive and addictive nature of narcissistic supply). These twin fixtures of the narcissist’s relationships render them one-sided: no mutuality or reciprocity (no intimacy).

Pathological personality traits

Antagonism characterized by grandiosity and attention-seeking


The aforementioned feeling of entitlement. The DSM V adds that it can be either overt or covert (which corresponds to my taxonomy of classic and inverted narcissist.)

Grandiosity is characterized by self-centredness; a firmly-held conviction of superiority (arrogance or haughtiness); and condescending or patronizing attitudes.


The narcissist puts inordinate effort, time, and resources into attracting others (sources of narcissistic supply) and placing himself at the focus and centre of attention. He seeks admiration (the DSM V gets it completely wrong here: the narcissist does prefer to be admired and adulated, but, failing that, any kind of attention would do, even if it is negative.)

The diagnostic criteria end with disclaimers and differential diagnoses, which reflect years of accumulated research and newly-gained knowledge:

The above enumerated impairments should be “stable across time and consistent across situations … not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment … are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).”

Jacobsen: In correspondence, Christian, you noted three fundamental axes of identity self-concept, defense mechanisms, and type of object relationship. Christian, can you elaborate on these three axes, please? Sam, can you reflect on these proposed axes from within the professional literature and as a leading expert on NPD?

Vaknin: Pathological narcissism is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence. The source of the abuse or trauma is immaterial – the perpetrators could be parents, teachers, other adults, or peers. Pampering, smothering, spoiling, and “engulfing” the child are also forms of abuse.

Pathological narcissism has been conceptualized successively as an infantile defense mechanism and a disturbance in object relations. Later, it metamorphosed into a personality disorder. I regard it as a post-traumatic condition coupled with arrested development (puer aeternus, Peter pan). Inevitably, such early childhood traumas render attachment in later adult life very dysfunctional, of course. It also gives rise to cognitive deficits such as grandiosity and to the overuse of defense mechanisms such as fantasy. But these are secondary features and not universal.

Jacobsen: Christian, also, you remarked on psychiatry and the phenomenological approach, existentialism, and vitalism. So, Christian, what are the reasons for these intersections with respect to a philosophical approach to analyzing narcissism? Sam, how does philosophy play a fundamental role, or simply a role if at all, in orienting and defining the diagnosis of NPD or simply narcissism with psychology?

Vaknin: It doesn’t. The members of the DSM Committee have no training in philosophy. Psychology pretends counterfactually to be an exact science, at least as much as medicine is. Philosophers are not welcome. Freud was a neurologist and tried to create a physics of the mind (“analysis”). The tradition of experimental psychology now dominates and lab coats are everywhere. There is a very strong strand of anti-intellectualism and anti-philosophy in psychology.

Jacobsen: Some still view mental disorders as some otherworldly phenomenon, as in something spiritual grounded in sin or a disorder of the soul. Why do these supernaturalistic propositions and (non-)explanations continue to persist over time?

Vaknin: Because people are ignorant and feeble-minded, befuddled and fearful, disoriented and at the mercy of psychopathic con artist masquerading as religious leaders, public intellectuals, gurus, mystics, and life coaches with the definitive answers to all their questions immersed in the syrups of love and universal harmony, whatever this nonsense may mean.

Encyclopedia of Narcissism and Psychopathy

Buy 16 books and video lectures on 3 DVDs about narcissists, psychopaths, and abusive relationships
Jun/26/2020, 11:09 am Link to this post  

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