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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 31 March 2017
I'm so greaful to the author, this book is amazing.
It covers a-z on the narcissism.
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on 6 September 2010
We are all narcissists to some extent but if you are someone that tries to understand how someone is feeling and reason why someone acts in a certain way, then this does not apply to the narcissist. What this book gave me was the insight into how a narcissists mind works. Once understood everything started to make sense. I spent twenty torturous years hoping that things would get better as I stood and watched my partners personality bounce around like a yo yo. Never knowing whether I was coming or going but constantly living under a dark thick cloud of anger. Here Vaknin made me realise it was a waste of time trying to communicate or try and get him to try and understand things from my point of view. He described the pattern of our relationship exactly as in his eyes I was first a goddess and then a nothing. I watched him switch his personality so quickly depending on who was watching. It was all so fake and very scary. He was such a brilliant charmer that no one would know or understand what went on behing closed doors. With this book I saw a way forward and it gave me the strength to get out even though it is very chilling when you face up to what you knew deep inside for many years but couldn't even contiplate. As described experiences come back to haunt and every time I get confused I refer to this book and it sets me back on the right path.
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on 19 August 2000
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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on 8 November 2002
"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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on 18 August 2001
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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on 23 August 2016
Not just an excellent book on Narcissism but THE book on Narcissism!
No study of the difficult subject of cluster B personality disorders would be complete without diving deep into this exploration of the mechanics of the disorder written from the unique vantage point of the insider. Sam clearly demonstrates time and again in this work that he has superior insight not only into what makes the narcissist tick, why they do the often bewildering things they do but also what makes the victim stick around for more abuse. Most of the literature out there on NPD is underwhelming and superficial by comparison to the wealth of penetrating, profound information provided here.
This book is essential reading for the academic, the therapist or the victim of narcissistic abuse alike.
I challenge anyone to get this book, pick any page at random and not be impressed by the depth and quality of the unique insight into NPD that is provided there.

A truly excellent and thorough piece of work that solidifies Sam's position as the global authority on the subject of Narcissistic personality disorder.
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on 19 August 2000
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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on 27 November 2010
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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on 29 May 2016
Wow what an amazing read.

Having took a major interest in cluster B personality disorders whilst partaking in a psychology course I came across Sam Vaknin's book when specifically looking into NPD.

The book is hugely informative, educational, well written and hard to put down.

What I thought was especially pertinent was how intimate the book was in reflecting NPD, being so that the author, having been twice diagnosed himself gave a brutally honest look into the mind of a Narcissist.

I have to commend a man that has managed to write a book so well that gives more insight than many a trained psychologist has managed to achieve with many years study.

Having been in proximity to dNPDs and people with high narcissistic traits I can honestly say this book reads like a personal diary to their behaviours, actions and their mindset.

Highly recommended 👌
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on 18 May 2001
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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