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Interview with the Author of The Death Of Sex And The Demise Of Monogamy And Malignant Self Love, Sam Vaknin (Part II).
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» » Interview with the Author of The Death Of Sex And The Demise Of Monogamy And Malignant Self Love, Sam Vaknin (Part II).

Interview with the Author of The Death Of Sex And The Demise Of Monogamy And Malignant Self Love, Sam Vaknin (Part II).

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

Interview with the Author of The Death Of Sex And The Demise Of Monogamy And Malignant Self Love, Sam Vaknin (Part II). You can read Part I of the interview here. In today's interview, he discusses narcissism in detail and the nature Vs. nurture debate of the same. 


Q 1. In your book, Malignant Self Love you have mentioned the types of narcissism. What is the difference between cerebral and somatic narcissism ? When it comes to self-destructiveness, are they the same? What about relationships?

A. There are no psychodynamic or behavioural differences between these two subtypes. The distinction is merely opportunistic: the cerebral narcissist derives narcissistic supply from his audience’s reactions to his pyrotechnical intellect and sparkling intelligence, his brilliant eloquence, and his encyclopedic knowledge. The somatic narcissist garners attention and accolades which refer to his musculature, sexual prowess, and stamina. Both types devour human sources of supply equally voraciously and dispose of the carapaces with blood-curdling nonchalance.

Q 2. Is narcissism a spectrum of severity: mild, moderate, extreme? How do these gradations of narcissism manifest in the narcissist's behavior, especially in his presence online and on social networks?

A. Narcissism is a spectrum: from the healthy to the most severe form, known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Our society and culture are narcissistic and reward narcissistic traits and behaviors. Consequently, the incidence of narcissism is skyrocketing. Social media and similar me-technologies are mere manifestations and by-products of this underlying trend.

Online, mild narcissists are likely to be hypervigilant (prone to being slighted) and arrogant, but not exploitative and ruthless. Such narcissists are the initiators of and the fodder for flame wars and trolling. The full-fledged variety involves antisocial (psychopathic) attempts to extract benefits from one’s “friends” and “followers”: sexual, financial, or in the form of adulation in cult-like situations.

Q 3. Is Narcissism Nature or Nurture? Are you born with it or is it acquired?

A. 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. There may be a genetic predisposition to narcissism, however.

Q 4. According to you, dangerous narcissists, with money, power and prestige, like President Obama, have a tremendous influence over people. What happens when they lack narcissistic supply? How destructive to themselves and to others can they become?

A. Narcissists naturally gravitate towards positions of authority: they love power, celebrity, and money because these translate easily to abundant narcissistic supply. The danger lies in the narcissist’s inability to empathise with his charges; his inevitable self-destructive streak which wreaks havoc on the lives of his followers, patients, parishioners, or fans; and his poor reality test: his delusional detachment from reality, his grandiose and fantastic False Self, and his emotional investment in maintaining a fallacious front at all costs to him and to others.

The narcissist regards everyone in terms of their functionality as extensions of himself and as founts of adulation and attention. He rages when they “malfunction.” He is blind to their needs, emotions, and aspirations. He is unstoppable in the pursuit of his addiction to supply and what he perceives to be his self-interest. He is envious, spiteful, and bullying. Not desirable traits in a colleague or a boss.

Q 5. Is vanity the same as full-fledged pathological narcissism, somatic or cerebral? How can you tell if someone is merely very vain or a narcissist, in terms of their behavior? What is the tipping point?

A. What matters is that the following characteristics, often found in healthy people, appear jointly and not separately or intermittently and that they are all-pervasive (invade, penetrate, and mould every aspect, nook, and cranny of the personality):

1.     That grandiose fantasies are abundantly discernible;

2.     That grandiose (often ridiculous) behaviors are present;

3.     That there is an over-riding need for admiration and adulation or attention ("narcissistic supply");

4.     That the person lacks empathy (regards other people as two dimensional cartoon figures and abstractions, unable to "stand in their shoes");

5.     That these traits and behaviors begin, at the latest, in early adolescence;

6.     That the narcissistic behaviors pervade all the social and emotional interactions of the narcissist.

Q 6. Many suggest that the millennial generation is more narcissistic than other generations? Are these the outcomes of social media or celebrity cults? Should we be worried about this?

A. The incidence and prevalence of narcissism have always been the same. What has changed is that now a narcissistic personality style is widely embraced, considered legitimate and acceptable, fawned rather than frowned upon. Like so many skeletons, narcissists have come out of the closets. Ours is a culture of celebrity. It is no longer merely me-first, it’s me-only. Such anomic atomization makes it very difficult to maintain a functioning society: it renders communication and collaboration onerous and inefficient. 

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