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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Malignant Self Love than Narcissism Revisited
The book makes a spellbinding read. It includes a lucid and scathing exposure of what narcissism can do to narcissists and to their victims. It's a self help tome coupled with an erudite and astute presentation of the tortuous path perplexed scholars weaved throughout centuries of trying to get a handle over this outlandish mental health disorder. But it is the book's...
Published on 19 Aug. 2000

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a weak book that may be unintentionally insightful
My three star rating averages two stars for the quality of the book assessed in the usual way, and four stars for the possibly unintentional insights offered by the author, a self-confessed narcissist.

First, the usual assessment: I was very excited to receive such a highly praised and extensive book, confident that, with the unusually high price, I was about...
Published on 27 Nov. 2010 by Mansel


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Malignant Self Love than Narcissism Revisited, 19 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
The book makes a spellbinding read. It includes a lucid and scathing exposure of what narcissism can do to narcissists and to their victims. It's a self help tome coupled with an erudite and astute presentation of the tortuous path perplexed scholars weaved throughout centuries of trying to get a handle over this outlandish mental health disorder. But it is the book's forte that is also it's weakness: it is not balanced. The author's self loathing, intellectualization and emotional constipation leap out of every page. His effort to invent a new psychodynamic language is admirable but lopsided at best. Great entertainment but handle with care otherwise.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The View of an Insider, 19 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
The author's Ph.D. is in philosophy, and he describes himself as "a financial consultant and columnist...an author of short stories, a winner of literary awards, an amateur philosopher".
The strength of this book comes from the author's vantage point: he is a Narcissist (with a capital N). He is an "insider", who discovered that he has the unbridled trait of narcissism and that this was the source of many of the difficulties in his professional and personal life. So we shall say at the outset that if you wish to get under the skin of a Narcissist (we shall call him the "N type"), if you wish to get to know how he thinks and feels and why he behaves as he does, then this is the book for you.
In the paragraphs below we touch on some of the issues that we found of particular interest.
What is the origin of narcissism? The author is not sure, but he notes that the trait of narcissism is typically present from early childhood, and he speculates that it might be a "biochemical problem". And he does refer to "caveman narcissists", implying that the trait may have evolutionary origins. But whatever the cause, he does conclude that this trait of the N type is compulsive ("he cannot help it") and irremediable.
Dr. Vaknin describes in some detail how the N type thinks, feels and acts on a daily basis, an automaton , a speedboat out of control, a loose cannon on the deck. He introduces some new language to describe the mental machinations of the N type: when he says "narcissistic supply", "grandiosity gap", or "overvaluation and devaluation", we know immediately exactly what he means.
Is the N type a perfectionistic individual? The author does not believe so: the N type is "a dilettante, a charlatan", "he is not thorough and underperforms, his work is shoddy, defective or partial", and "functionally the narcissist's personality has a low to medium level of organization". Indeed, the reason why the unbridled narcissist is unbridled is this lack of the trait of perfectionism.
Is the N type aggressive? Sadistic? A paranoiac? Here, the author's answer is both "yes" and "no". The N type is "not a sadist or paranoiac, per se", but he certainly can (and often does) exhibit coercive, hurtful behavior that can rival the behavior of maladjusted individuals having the aggressive trait. And in his claim to unlimited glory he can exhibit both a generalized, free-floating paranoia, as well as overtly paranoid behavior based on specific situations in which his claim to grandiosity is challenged. Thus, we might say that although he is not an aggressive individual at the core, he certainly can show effectively aggressive, or pseudoaggressive, behavior.
The author notes that the narcissistic mantle is not a one-size-fits-all garment. He draws our attention to subtypes of the N type ("cerebral" vs. "somatic"), his approach to competitive society ("horizontal" vs. "vertical" climbers), to his choice of mate, and to his sexual behavior.
Of particular interest is Dr. Vaknin's description of one type of symbiotic relationship between and N type and a submissive type (his particular "danse macabre") in which the Narcissist's partner is tolerant of the abuse that he receives to the point of "masochism". This symbiotic relationship is somewhat reminiscent of Karen Horney's "morbid dependency" between an aggressive type and a submissive type.
What happens when things do not go the Narcissist's way and he goes far, far astray? This is Dr. Vaknin's especial specialty, and here we will only mention one key to the understanding of the N type: his hair-trigger sensitivity to criticism and to being humiliated, and his propensity to the mother of all tantrums, the narcissistic rage.
Well, if narcissism is a trait so innately deeply inscribed in the human nervous system, does that mean that the unbridled Narcissist has no control over his behavior and is thus doomed to a life of helpless meanderings? Not so, says Dr. Vaknin. In "Reconditioning the Narcissist", the author makes clear that although the individual's N trait is there to stay, he can certainly alter his behavior and his life circumstances in a positive way. In other words, many of the "malignant" aspects of what is commonly known as "narcissistic personality disorder" can be dealt with in an intelligent way. Thus, the malignant aspects of unbridled narcissism can "defanged", so to speak.
Throughout the book Dr. Vaknin refers to details of traditional psychological theories (Freud, Jung, Kohut, Horney), especially in relation to the psychodynamics of early childhood. It is clear, however, that these references are mostly in the realm of expediency: over the years we have had no grand unifying theory of personality traits. What does Dr. Vaknin really think of these prior theories? The answer is in a gem of a paragraph that we reproduce below. We believe that it should be framed and affixed to the office wall of every practicing mental health professional.
Metaphors of the Mind
<<Psychological theories of the mind are metaphors of the mind. They are fables and myths, narratives, stories, hypotheses, conjunctures. They play (exceedingly) important roles in the psychodynamic setting -- but not in the laboratory. Their form is artistic, not rigorous, not testable, less structured than theories in the natural sciences. The language used is polyvalent, rich, effusive, and fuzzy -- in short, metaphorical. They are suffused with value judgements, preferences, fears, post facto and ad hoc constructions. None of this has methodological, systematic, analytic and predictive merits
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Malignant Self Love" literally saved my life!, 8 Nov. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
"Malignant Self Love" literally saved my life, I'm happy to sing it's praise. This book documented with such exactness the patterns of narcissist pathology that it has given me much needed clarity on a very difficult and confusing personal situation. I have since passed the book on to a friend who is trying to get out of a similar type of situation and he refers to "Malignant Self Love" as his "Bible". Michelle.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of insanity, 18 Aug. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
I found Dr. Vaknin's 80 or so page excerpt quite by accident when I was in so much emotional pain in trying to deal with a narcissistic person that I doubted my own sanity. Out of the nearly one hundred other books I had read in order to make some sense out of what I had been going through it was the first and only material that even began to explain what the players in both sides of this extraordinarily difficult dilemma have to deal with and gave me the courage to do what I had to do to make the changes necessary to improve my life. Dr. Vaknin's exhortation to 'do the right thing' has become a mantra I now use in everyday life to keep things on track. It should be required reading for anyone in therapy for this condition or those trying to deal with narcissists. When I first read this, I thought Dr. Vaknin had a narcissistic significant other who had caused him great pain-I did not know he was dealing with his own agony-that makes the text more compelling and now I realize why it rang so true. Please buy this book for self help and to help others. I have shared it with others who are amazed at how many questions it answered for them. 48 year old real estate agent.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Victim of a Victim, 18 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
I am the victim of my mother who has NPD - Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I can't describe in words how heartbreaking it is to realize what your mother is and what she has done to you and your siblings but it is also a relief to know in your heart of hearts that you are not crazy and what you always thought was true is true... Dr. Vaknin brings to light every question and situation that has described my mother, my family and me. I really wish more people would not be so afraid to take the road less traveled like Dr. Vaknin.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a weak book that may be unintentionally insightful, 27 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
My three star rating averages two stars for the quality of the book assessed in the usual way, and four stars for the possibly unintentional insights offered by the author, a self-confessed narcissist.

First, the usual assessment: I was very excited to receive such a highly praised and extensive book, confident that, with the unusually high price, I was about to finally read a proper book on narcissism. Ultimately, though, the book was disappointing:

1. the book is largely a FAQ, a structure that has allowed disparate material published in various places (including online fora) to be pulled together as a book. Thus, chapters repeat material verbatim from previous ones, making it hard to determine whether genuinely new material would be introduced in any given chapter. Occasional errors (such as the typesetting of some accented characters) contributes to giving the book the feel of a printed blog. In the end, I largely skimmed through the book.

2. the book largely declaims truths, strengthening arguments by USE OF ALL CAPS, rather than trying to present nuance: the Narcissist has no self-reflective ability, is certain, etc. This makes it more difficult to apply to the more nuanced interactions that I have with narcissists.

3. the book is inconsistent. Quite apart from the cut-and-paste editing, the book inconsistently claims that Narcissists can't change in one chapter, going on to advise on how to attempt to change them in the next.

4. the scholarship is superficial. While Vaknin's list of references is more extensive than any I've yet read (and less hagiographic than Behary's), references are often simply dropped in rather than critically commented upon. The primarily exception may be the psychodynamic material, including essays on Freud and his successors. (Ironically, given the unambiguous tone and apparent reverence for Freud, the book is free of any of the careful observation that typified Freud's work.) Perhaps more oddly, Vaknin also presents his own diagnostic list of for narcissism as an alternative to that in the DSM.

Now the assessment on how the book perhaps accidentally sheds light on narcissism.

5. while not commented upon, inclusion at the end of Vaknin's biography seems quintessentially narcissistic. Furthermore, its contents seem to echo Vaknin's descriptions of narcissism: presumably "Graduated a few semesters in the Technion" means that he left without graduating.

6. reading FAQ #73, on narcissists in court, I had to wonder how autobiographic the description was. If so, I think that a much more informative account would have been written in the first person - something perhaps much harder for a narcissist. (Equally, the rambling FAQ #64, on how narcissists "communicate" by fending off, evading and perfecting "the ability to say nothing in lengthy Castro-like speeches".)

7. the book feels narcissistic and cultic, from the extensive endorsements (primarily from webizens) to the mention of the number of 5* reviews received at Barnes and Noble.

Ultimately, however, the book embodies its author's message: narcissism may be incurable, but it is treatable. This is, perhaps, its most powerful lesson.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Narcissism Laid Bare, 26 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
Dr. Vaknin's 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited' is a veritable bible regarding this emerging new personality disorder. Although narcissism was briefly addressed by Freud as a personality disorder, and has been addressed by subsequent theorists, Dr. Vaknin gives us the most comprehensive glimpse yet of the inner workings of the narcissistic personality. This book is comprised of three sections: a series of 65 FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions); a nine chapter treatise on narcissism which leaves no theoretical or situational stone unturned; and a series of eight appendices which contain a broad range of philosophical essays on narcissism, including a superb critique of Christopher Lasch's 'The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an age of Diminishing Expectations'. The lay reader will find the FAQs to be most accessible. The FAQs contain straightforward plain language answers to questions about identifying the narcissist; living and coping with the narcissist and, coming to a full understanding of this difficult personality disorder. The professional psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist and counsellor will also not be disappointed. Dr. Vaknin's nine chapter treatise delves into the history of the theoretic approaches to the psychopathology of narcissism and advances this body of theory with a detailed explication of the psyche of the narcissist. Dr. Vaknin gives the professional a concrete scaffold from which we can view the narcissists' psychological landscape. By using clearly defined terminology and setting out a series of 'mental maps', Dr. Vaknin gives us a guided tour through the intricate, mirrored mind of the narcissist. Surprisingly, Dr. Vaknin is a philosopher and not a mental health professional. Despite this, Dr. Vaknin's book is a must read for anyone touched by narcissism, lay person and professional alike.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful view, 8 Nov. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
Sam Vaknin's study of narcissism is truly insightful. The author has done problably more than anyone else to educate others to this poorly understood condition. In this, his twelfth book, he shares his considerable knowledge and experience of narcissism in a comprehensive yet easy to read style. Tim Field.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a life-saving book...., 29 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
A four year long 'relationship' (I use that term verrry loosely!) from hell had all but brought me to my knees. Then I accidently stumbled across Sam's work online, which led me to this amazing book. I truly felt as if a massive boulder had been lifted from my eyelids to say nothing of the lift it gave me emotionally! This has to be the most amazing insight into NPD and I believe this is a book that every shrink should have TWO copies of, one to loan out to survivors of narcissists and one for constant referral to!

I pretty much owe my life to Sam Vaknin's works in this book... I cant give it a higher accolade
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Informative, 18 Aug. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (Paperback)
After having supervised a narcissist for 4 years and struggling with how to deal with him, I found this book to be extremely enlightening. I only wish I had this book during those tumultuous years so that I could have saved many people from becoming his victims...
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Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited
Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited by Sam Vaknin (Paperback - 1 Feb. 1999)
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