Saturday, February 11, 2017

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Dr. Sam Vaknin

A minor celebrity in recent years has been Sam Vaknin. He is a former businessman who got busted for some kind of white-collar crime and gained modest fame for promoting the concept of the narcissistic personality disorder. In the process he has made a number of claims that should be addressed.

Mr. Vaknin states that narcissism is common to people who are smart, handsome and lacking in conscience. Most people think that I'm smart; some people think that I'm handsome; but I very much do have a conscience, otherwise I would not feel guilty about so many things. When I was working for Oracle, I put in an atrocious performance, and this has been on my conscience for years. I have since then apologized to my former boss. We are now good friends.

Mr. Vaknin stated that Jesus had been a narcissist and a sociopath. This is something that happens when wrong people get to define mental health. A conman will always be against anything absolute, and an anal retentive will always be against anything passionate. When wrong people decide what is health and what is sickness, the world suffers. This is regardless of whether or not they are narcissists.

Mr. Vaknin has been making the case that there are things that people owe to others and that there are things that people owe to themselves. My response to that is, How dare you tell me what I owe myself. As for others, they can speak for themselves. I do not need Mr. Vaknin telling me what I owe to others. They can do so themselves.

Mr. Vaknin militates against both Renaissance and Romanticism. He claims that Renaissance produced people who were amateurs, and that Romanticism produced people who were emotive. So why is it then that we now look back to Renaissance and Romanticism? Was Michelangelo an amateur? Were Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Mary Shelley bad people? Or is this something that one might hear from someone who has no use for beauty and wisdom and is a controlling person, whether he be a narcissist or not?

The idea of narcissism of course precedes Sam Vaknin. The problem with the idea is that it would pathologize most people who make meaningful contributions. If it is narcissistic to seek great success, or if it is narcissistic to have original ideas, then everyone who's achieved great success – and everyone who has original ideas – is a narcissist. This would pathologize most of the world's greatest contributers. Do not claim to be protecting society when you are destroying what made it great in the first place.

Mr. Vaknin argues that a narcissist is someone who's lost his true self. The question to ask here is, True – according to whom? I once encountered people claiming those who adopt European and Japanese styles as posers. I can't believe that such a belief is practiced in America. What is one's true self? Is it whatever people saw you as being when you were a child? Is it however people may have pigeonholed you before you had anything to do with this matter as a conscious, volitional being? Are the people who came from Europe to America or Australia guilty of narcissism because they left the places that thought they knew them in order to build a better life elsewhere? Are we to be forever bound to the false judgments that people made of us when we were children? Or is this mentality that denies the most fundamental reality – that of choice as to who, and what, to be?

Of course people have been calling one another narcissists left and right ever since this idea was popularized. I have seen kind, genuine, compassionate people being branded narcissists as well. In most cases they are wrong. And even in cases where they are right, the question to ask is, So what? America's new president is a narcissist. He built a $9 billion business empire, and you haven't.

There will always be times when one or another profession goes off a cliff. We are seeing this today with psychology. The qualities that made America great in the first place – ingenuity, risk-taking, original thinking – are being treated as a pathology. This is terrible for America. It is more terrible for the world.

According to the definition of this concept, America was founded by narcissists. According to the definition of this concept, most of America's industrialists and inventors were narcissists. According to the definition of this concept, there is now a narcissist in the White House. Gates, Clinton and any number of others were accused of narcissism. Yet these people made vast contributions, whereas people demonizing them have not.

I take issue with the concept of untreatable disorders. All it says is that the person has no idea how to solve whatever problem a person may have. The correct solution in such situations is to stay away from people who think that way and find real solutions in other places.

One such place most certainly is religion. God promises redemption for all sinners, which psychology does not. Who is a better authority: Jesus Christ or Dr. Sam Vaknin? Who has better ideas as to what you owe yourself and what you owe other people? Who was a better person and a better teacher?

Now I do not consider myself a better person than Mr. Vaknin. I do however believe that I have better ideas. On this issue, the claim is based on simple reason. Anything human is capable of choice. And anything capable of choice can be good, bad, or a mix.

If someone is on a destructive path, fine, correct them. But do not go around claiming that some people are evil and can only be evil whatever they do. Once again, anything capable of choice can be good, bad, or a mix. This is not only limited to narcissists. This is the case for everyone.

It is in this – recognition of the fact of human choice – that solution can be found to all such problems. Choice elevates you above bestial dynamics and gives you authority as to what you want to be. Anything human – narcissist or not – can choose to act rightfully; and it is in this that lies the true solution to fascism, whatever may be its source and whatever may be its direction.


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