The Narcissist’s Relationship with Money

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

When the narcissist has money, he can exercise his sadistic urges freely and with little fear of repercussions. Money shields him from life itself, from the outcomes and consequences of his actions; it insulates him warmly and safely, like a benevolent blanket, like a mother’s good night kiss. Yes, money is undoubtedly a love substitute and it allows the narcissist to be his ugly, corrupt, and dilapidated self. Money buys the narcissist absolution and his ego-syntonic friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance. With money in the bank, the narcissist feels at ease with himself, free, arrogantly soaring supreme above the contemptible, unwashed masses.

With money lining his proverbial pockets, the narcissist can always find people poorer than him, a cause for great elation coupled with ostentatious disdain and bumptiousness on his part.

The narcissist rarely uses money to buy, corrupt, and intimidate outright. He is more subtle than that. Contrary to common stereotype, the narcissist’s avarice seldom devolves into conspicuous consumption. Many narcissists wear 15 year old tattered clothes, have no car, no house, and no property. It is so even when the narcissist can afford better.

Money has little to do with the narcissist’s actual physical needs or even with his social interactions. True, the narcissist leverages lucre to acquire status, or to impress others. But most narcissists conceal the true extent of their wealth, hoard it, accumulate it and, like the misers that they are at heart, count it daily and in the dark. Money is the narcissist’s licence to sin and to abuse, his permit, a promise and its fulfillment all at once. It unleashes the beast in the narcissist and, with abandon, encourages him – nay, seduces him – to be himself.

Narcissists are not necessarily tight-fisted, though. Many a narcissist spend money on restaurants and trips abroad and books and health products. They buy gifts (though reluctantly and as a maintenance chore). Narcissists addictively gamble and speculate and lose fortunes. The narcissist is insatiable, always wants more, always loses the little that he has. But he does all this not for the love of money, for he does not use it to gratify his self or to cater to his needs. No, he does not crave money, nor care for it. It is the power that it bestows on him that matters: the legitimacy to dare, to flare, to conquer, to oppose, to resist, to taunt, and to torment.

In all his relationships, the narcissist is either the vanquished or the vanquisher; either the haughty master, or an abject slave; either the dominant, or the recessive. The narcissist interacts along the up-down axis, rather than along the left-right one. His world is rigidly hierarchical and abusively stratified. When submissive, he is contemptibly so. When domineering, he is disdainfully so. His life is a pendulum swinging between oppressed and oppressor.

To subjugate another, one must be capricious, unscrupulous, ruthless, obsessive, hateful, vindictive, and penetrating. One must spot the cracks of vulnerability, the crumbling foundations of susceptibility, the pains, the trigger mechanisms, the Pavlovian reactions of hate, and fear, and hope, and anger. Money liberates the narcissist’s mind and unleashes his cold empathy. It endows him with the tranquillity, detachment, and incisiveness of a natural scientist.

With his mind free of the quotidian, the narcissist can concentrate on attaining the desired position: on top, dreaded, and shunned – yet obeyed and deferred to. He then proceeds with cool disinterest to unscramble the human jigsaw puzzles, to manipulate their parts, to enjoy their anguish as he exposes their petty misconduct, harps on their failures, compares them to their betters, and mocks their incompetence, hypocrisy, and cupidity. The narcissist cloaks his misdeeds in socially acceptable garb – only to draw the dagger. He casts himself in the role of a brave, incorruptible iconoclast, a fighter for social justice, for a better future, for more efficiency, for good causes, an altruist, or an empathic and selfless benefactor. But it is all about his sadistic urges, really. It is all about death, not life.

Still, antagonizing and alienating potential benefactors is a pleasure that the narcissist cannot afford on an empty purse. When impoverished, he is altruism embodied: the best of friends, the most caring of tutors, a benevolent guide, a lover of humanity, and a fierce fighter against narcissism, sadism, and abuse in all their forms. He adheres, he obeys, he succumbs, he agrees wholeheartedly, he praises, condones, idolizes, and applauds. He is the perfect audience, an admirer and an adulator, a worm and an amoeba: spineless, adaptable in form, slithery flexibility itself. To behave this way for long is unbearable, hence the narcissist’s addiction to money (really, to freedom) in all its forms. It is his evolutionary ladder from slime to the sublime and henceforth to mastery.

The Narcissist’s Puppets on the Receiving End

The recipients of the narcissist’s tainted and conditional “largesse” similarly equate money with love. Craving the latter, they settle for the former. With so many strings attached to the narcissist’s “gifts” they end up entangled and dangling like dysfunctional marionettes, puppets in the narcissist’s theatre of the absurd.

The psychodynamic dimensions of money and giving are myriad and crucial to maintaining the victim’s precarious inner balance. People embark of great feats of self-deception and cognitive dissonance to justify the sacrifices in self-respect, dignity, and the perception of reality that they have to make in order to remain on the narcissist’s good books.

But self-awareness is never far under the surface. Gradually, the human props in the narcissist’s staged plays rebel outwardly or inwardly: they become passive-aggressive, bitter, depressed, and paranoid. They feel alienated, dehumanized, objectified, and misunderstood. They seek to free themselves by becoming contumacious and unruly counterdependents – or by clinging to the narcissist and emotionally extorting all others as flaming codependents.

These reactive behavior patters are ingrained and hard to break. They ossify into the moulds in which the narcissist’s victims fester and putrefy, writhing in agony, and crumbling whenever the narcissist inflicts on them abuse in its many forms. If they do not extricate themselves in time, these victims gradually acquire many of the traits and behavior patterns of their narcissistic tormentors and form with them a shared psychosis, a mini-cult of domination and subjugation that is mediated via the ubiquitous dollar sign.

The Compulsive Giver

There are two types of narcissists: (I) Stingy and mean and (II) compulsive givers. Most narcissists feel abused and exploited when they have to pay money in order to satisfy the needs and wishes of their “nearest” and “dearest”.

Not so the compulsive givers.

To all appearances, the compulsive giver is an altruistic, empathic, and caring person. Actually, he or she is a people-pleaser and a codependent. The compulsive giver is trapped in a narrative of his own confabulation: how his nearest and dearest need him because they are poor, young, inexperienced, lacking in intelligence or good looks, and are otherwise inferior to him. Compulsive giving, therefore, involves pathological narcissism.

The ostentatious largesse of codependent compulsive givers is intended to secure the presence and attachment of their “loved” ones and to fend off looming (and, in their mind, inevitable abandonment.) By giving inexorably they aim to foster in the recipient an addictive habit and thus prevent them from leaving.

In reality, it is the compulsive giver who coerces, cajoles, and tempts people around him to avail themselves of his services or money. He forces himself on the recipients of his ostentatious largesse and the beneficiaries of his generosity or magnanimity. He is unable to deny anyone their wishes or a requests, even when these are not explicit or expressed and are mere figments of his own neediness and grandiose imagination.

Inevitably, he develops unrealistic expectations. He feels that people should be immensely grateful to him and that their gratitude should translate into a kind of obsequiousness. Internally, he seethes and rages against the lack of reciprocity he perceives in his relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. He mutely castigates everyone around him for being so ungenerous. To the compulsive giver, giving is perceived as sacrifice and taking is exploitation. Thus, he gives without grace, always with visible strings attached. No wonder he is always frustrated and often aggressive.

In psychological jargon, we would say that the compulsive giver has alloplastic defenses with an external locus of control. This simply means that he relies on input from people around him to regulate his fluctuating sense of self-worth, his precarious self-esteem, and his ever shifting moods. It also means that he blames the world for his failures. He feels imprisoned in a hostile and mystifying universe, entirely unable to influence events, circumstances, and outcomes. He thus avoids assuming responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

Yet, it is important to realize that the compulsive giver cherishes and relishes his self-conferred victimhood and nurtures his grudges by maintaining a meticulous accounting of everything he gives and receives. This mental operation of masochistic bookkeeping is a background process of which the compulsive giver is sometimes unaware. He is likely to vehemently deny such meanness and narrow-mindedness.

The compulsive giver is an artist of projective identification. He manipulates his closest into behaving exactly the way he expects them to. He keeps lying to them and telling them that the act of giving is the only reward he seeks. All the while he secretly yearns for reciprocity. He rejects any attempt to rob him of his sacrificial status – he won’t accept gifts or money and he avoids being the recipient or beneficiary of help or compliments. These false asceticism and fake modesty are mere baits. He uses them to prove to himself that his nearest and dearest are nasty ingrates. “If they wanted to (give me a present or help me), they would have insisted” – he bellows triumphantly, his worst fears and suspicions yet again confirmed.

Gradually, people fall into line. They begin to feel that they are the ones who are doing the compulsive giver a favor by succumbing to his endless and overweening charity. “What can we do?” – they sigh – “It means so much to him and he has put so much effort into it! I just couldn’t say no.” The roles are reversed and everyone is happy: the beneficiaries benefit and the compulsive giver goes on feeling that the world is unjust and people are self-centered exploiters. As he always suspected.

The Misanthropic Altruist

Some narcissists are ostentatiously generous – they donate to charity, lavish gifts on their closest, abundantly provide for their nearest and dearest, and, in general, are open-handed and unstintingly benevolent. How can this be reconciled with the pronounced lack of empathy and with the pernicious self-preoccupation that is so typical of narcissists?

The act of giving enhances the narcissist’s sense of omnipotence, his fantastic grandiosity, and the contempt he holds for others. It is easy to feel superior to the supplicating recipients of one’s largesse. Narcissistic altruism is about exerting control and maintaining it by fostering dependence in the beneficiaries.

But narcissists give for other reasons as well.

The narcissist flaunts his charitable nature as a bait. He impresses others with his selflessness and kindness and thus lures them into his lair, entraps them, and manipulates and brainwashes them into subservient compliance and obsequious collaboration. People are attracted to the narcissist’s larger than life posture – only to discover his true personality traits when it is far too late. “Give a little to take a lot” – is the narcissist’s creed.

This does not prevent the narcissist from assuming the role of the exploited victim. Narcissists always complain that life and people are unfair to them and that they invest far more than their “share of the profit”. The narcissist feels that he is the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, and that his relationships are asymmetric and imbalanced. “She gets out of our marriage far more than I do” – is a common refrain. Or: “I do all the work around here – and they get all the perks and benefits!”

Faced with such (mis)perceived injustice – and once the relationship is clinched and the victim is “hooked” – the narcissist tries to minimise his contributions. He regards his input as a contractual maintenance chore and the unpleasant and inevitable price he has to pay for his Narcissistic Supply.

After many years of feeling deprived and wronged, some narcissists lapse into “sadistic generosity” or “sadistic altruism”. They use their giving as a weapon to taunt and torment the needy and to humiliate them. In the distorted thinking of the narcissist, donating money gives him the right and license to hurt, chastise, criticise, and berate the recipient. His generosity, feels the narcissist, elevates him to a higher moral ground.

Most narcissists confine their giving to money and material goods. Their munificence is an abusive defence mechanism, intended to avoid real intimacy. Their “big-hearted” charity renders all their relationships – even with their spouses and children – “business-like”, structured, limited, minimal, non-emotional, unambiguous, and non-ambivalent. By doling out bounteously, the narcissist “knows where he stands” and does not feel threatened by demands for commitment, emotional investment, empathy, or intimacy.

In the narcissist’s wasteland of a life, even his benevolence is spiteful, sadistic, punitive, and distancing.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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The Situational Codependent: Codependence as Reaction to Life Crises

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Some patients develop codependent behaviors and traits in the wake of a life crisis, especially if it involves an abandonment and resulting solitude (e.g. divorce, or an empty nest: when one’s children embark on their own, autonomous lives, or leave home altogether.)

Such late-onset codependence fosters a complex emotional and behavioral chain reaction whose role is to resolve the inner conflict by ridding oneself of the emergent, undesirable codependent conduct.

Consciously, such a patient may, at first, feel liberated. But, unconsciously, being abruptly “dumped” and lonesome has a disorienting and disconcerting effect (akin to intoxication). Many patients rush headlong and indiscriminately into new relationships. Deep inside, this kind of patient has always dreaded being lonely (lonely, not alone!). Following a divorce, the death of a significant other or intimate partner, the passing away of parents or other loved ones, children relocating to college, and similar episodes of dislocation, she suppresses this dread because she possesses no real, effective solutions and antidotes to her sudden solitude and has developed no meaningful ways to cope with it.

We are taught that denied and repressed emotions often re-emerge in camouflage, as it were. The dread of ending up all alone is such that the patient becomes codependent in order to make sure that she never finds herself in a similar situation. Her codependence is a series of dysfunctional behaviors that are intended to fend off abandonment.

Still, patients who develop situational codependence (unlike classic, lifelong codependents) are fundamentally balanced and strong personalities who cherish their self-control. So, they always keep all their options open, including the vital option of going it alone yet again. They make sure to choose the wrong partner and then they spectacularly “expose” his egregious misconduct so that they can get rid of him and of the newly-acquired codependence in good conscience and at the same time.

To reiterate:

– The situational codependent is characterized by a deep-set fear of being lonely (abandonment anxiety, a form of attachment disorder) as an underlying, dormant inner landscape;

– This lurking abandonment anxiety is awakened by life’s tribulations: divorce, an empty nest, death of one’s nearest and dearest.

– At first, the newly-found freedom is exhilarating and intoxicating. But this “feel-good” factor actually serves to enhance the anxiety! The inner dialog goes something like this: “What if it feels so good that I will opt to remain by myself for the rest of my days? This prospect is terrifying!”

– Thus, a conflict erupts between conscious emotions and behaviors (liberation, joy, pleasure-seeking, etc.) and a nagging unconscious anxiety (“I am not getting any younger”, “This can’t go on for ever”, “I’ve got to settle down, to find an appropriate mate, not to be left alone”, etc.)

– To allay this internal tension, the patient comes up with situational codependence as a coping strategy: to attract and bond with a mate, so as to forestall abandonment.

– Yet, the situational codependent is ego-dystonic. She is very unhappy with her codependence (though, at this stage, she is utterly unaware of all these dynamics.) It runs contrary to her primary nature as accomplished, assertive, self-confident person with a well-regulated sense of self-worth. She feels the need to frustrate this new set of compulsive addictions (codependence) and to get rid of it because it threatens who she is and who she thinks she is (her self-perception.) Surely, she is not the clinging, maudlin, weak, out of control type! All her life, she has known herself to be a strong, good judge of character, intelligent, and in control. Codependence doesn’t become her!

But how could she get rid of it? In three easy steps:

– She chooses the wrong partner (unconsciously);

– She proves to her satisfaction that he is the wrong partner for her;

– She gets rid of him, thus re-establishing her autonomy, resilience, self-control and demonstrating credibly that she is codependent no more!

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Nationalism vs. Patriotism: Narcissism vs. Self-love

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Patriotism is akin to the healthy form of self-love: it consists mainly of pride in one’s self-identity and values based on one’s culture and shared history. Patriotism is not exclusionary, but inclusive. The patriot, in constantly seeking to improve his lot and that of his compatriots, is open to advice and suggestions, and welcomes criticism. Patriotism is concerned with the concrete, the here and now. It is grounded in reality.

Nationalism is very much like compensatory, malignant narcissism. It rears its head when people stop being patriots, when they are rendered by circumstances (usually of their own making) ashamed of who they are: Nazi Germany comes to mind. Nationalism is exclusionary and oppositional: the nationalist’s sense of self-identity and self-worth depends on the aggressive belittlement and devaluation of other collectives (other nations, minorities, ethnic groups, or religions.) The nationalist regards every hint of criticism of “his” nation as an act of violence. Though he volubly professes to an ardent love of his “Volk”, the nationalist is mostly concerned with the abstract and the elitist: megalomaniacal, grandiose fantasies of a utopian future occupy his time, not the concrete, or the here and now.

It is common to believe that the more marked the differences between newcomers and citizens, the more pronounced the resultant racism. After all, white Frenchmen, Americans, and Dutch hotheads attack black folks. The self-proclaimed liberal white often harbour averse racism (unconscious racist attitudes). But, this is only half the truth. The ugliest manifestations of racism (up to genocide) are reserved to immigrants who look, act, and talk like us. The more they try to emulate and imitate us, the harder they attempt to belong, the more ferocious our rejection of them.

Freud coined the phrase “narcissism of small differences” in a paper titled “The Taboo of Virginity” that he published in 1917. Referring to earlier work by British anthropologist Ernest Crawley, he said that we reserve our most virulent emotions – aggression, hatred, envy – towards those who resemble us the most. We feel threatened not by the Other with whom we have little in common – but by the “nearly-we”, who mirror and reflect us.

The “nearly-he” imperils the narcissist’s selfhood and challenges his uniqueness, perfection, and superiority – the fundaments of the narcissist’s sense of self-worth. It provokes in him primitive narcissistic defences and leads him to adopt desperate measures to protect, preserve, and restore his balance. I call it the Gulliver Array of Defence Mechanisms.

The very existence of the “nearly-he” constitutes a narcissistic injury. The narcissist feels humiliated, shamed, and embarrassed not to be special after all – and he reacts with envy and aggression towards this source of frustration.

In doing so, he resorts to splitting, projection, and Projective Identification. He attributes to other people personal traits that he dislikes in himself and he forces them to behave in conformity with his expectations. In other words, the narcissist sees in others those parts of himself that he cannot countenance and deny. He forces people around him to become him and to reflect his shameful behaviours, hidden fears, and forbidden wishes.

But how does the narcissist avoid the realisation that what he loudly decries and derides is actually part of him? By exaggerating, or even dreaming up and creatively inventing, differences between his qualities and conduct and other people’s. The more hostile he becomes towards the “nearly-he”, the easier it is to distinguish himself from “the Other”.

To maintain this self-differentiating aggression, the narcissist stokes the fires of hostility by obsessively and vengefully nurturing grudges and hurts (some of them imagined). He dwells on injustice and pain inflicted on him by these stereotypically “bad or unworthy” people. He devalues and dehumanises them and plots revenge to achieve closure. In the process, he indulges in grandiose fantasies, aimed to boost his feelings of omnipotence and magical immunity.

In the process of acquiring an adversary, the narcissist blocks out information that threatens to undermine his emerging self-perception as righteous and offended. He begins to base his whole identity on the brewing conflict which is by now a major preoccupation and a defining or even all-pervasive dimension of his existence.

Very much the same dynamic applies to coping with major differences between the narcissist and others. He emphasises the large disparities while transforming even the most minor ones into decisive and unbridgeable.

Deep inside, the narcissist is continuously subject to a gnawing suspicion that his self-perception as omnipotent, omniscient, and irresistible is flawed, confabulated, and unrealistic. When criticised, the narcissist actually agrees with the critic. In other words, there are only minor differences between the narcissist and his detractors. But this threatens the narcissist’s internal cohesion. Hence the wild rage at any hint of disagreement, resistance, or debate.

Similarly, intimacy brings people closer together – it makes them more similar. There are only minor differences between intimate partners. The narcissist perceives this as a threat to his sense of uniqueness. He reacts by devaluing the source of his fears: the mate, spouse, lover, or partner. He re-establishes the boundaries and the distinctions that were removed by intimacy. Thus restored, he is emotionally ready to embark on another round of idealisation (the Approach-Avoidance Repetition Complex).

In a study titled “War and Relatedness”, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors, Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg concluded:

“(T)he degree of genealogical relatedness between populations has a positive effect on their conflict propensities because more closely related populations, on average, tend to interact more and develop more disputes over sets of common issues … (P)opulations that are genetically closer are more prone to go to war with each other, even after controlling for a wide set of measures of geographic distance and other factors that affect conflict, including measures of trade and democracy.”

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Pears Cyclopaedia 2014-5 Edition: Human Knowledge Encapsulated

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

This one volume cyclopaedia is maintained meticulously up to date by a dedicated team of scholar-contributors, headed by the indefatigable polymath, Dr. Chris Cook. Hundreds of entries in dozens of sections reflect the latest developments and knowledge in numerous areas of life. It is an astounding feat.

The 2012-2013 edition of Pears Cyclopaedia was the first major revision in some time. It added considerable heft to veteran chapters as well as re-introduced categories of knowledge from previous editions. This 2014-5 edition follows in its footsteps and is augmented with a Biblical Glossary, replete with coverage of the Apocrypha.

The “Chronicle of Events” is brought up to April 2014. The “Prominent People” section has been updated to include, for instance, Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State (2009-13) and Chavez’s passing away.

The “Background to World Affairs” – a compilation of chronologies arranged by country and monographs about the history and societies of the regions of the globe – is indispensable: it is as updated as an online blog and as thorough as an encyclopedia. Four pages are dedicated to the History and Development of the European Union.

“Britain Today” is by far the best synopsis of current affairs and statistics of that Sceptered isle. It has been completely revamped to include a Who’s Who in British Politics and a Glossary of Recent Politics as well as chapters about “Redress of Grievances”, the media, and pressure groups. It offers a sweeping overview of the British constitution and system of government.

“The Historical World” comprises a historical glossary, a guide to historic Britain, a dictionary of modern wars since 1914, annotated lists of famous battles and treaties and alliances, selected European rulers, and a comprehensive chapter about archaeological discoveries and sites.

The “General Compendium” is a cornucopia of tables and data and delectable lists, some useful, some quaint: English and Scottish monarchs, British Prime Ministers since 1721, US Presidents, foreign phrases, national currencies, Roman numerals, the international time-table, the Greek alphabet, common legal terms, Popes since 1800, Archbishops of Canterbury and York, traditional ranks in the armed forces, Roman rulers and towns, a digest of new words (including “selfie”), Nobel Prize winners, major literary prizes, famous ships, the order of succession, patron saints, the phonetic alphabet, the Chinese and Hindu calendars, the dates of Easter Day, signs of the zodiac, a glossary of antiques, taxes, British military anniversaries, and the Beaufort Scale of Wind.

The venerable and popular section “Myths and Legends” now covers not only Greece and Rome, but also Norse mythology. Pears provides a constantly-updated survey of “Ideas and Beliefs” throughout the centuries. The entry about the Gay Movement, for example, notes that the first gay marriages in Britain took place on 29 March 2014 and that in Russia “homophobia is rife and attacks on gays are common.”

Regrettably, the Gazetteer of the British Isles is all that remains from the once excellent Atlas. It is followed by a much enlarged “General Information” gateway: a mini encyclopaedia with hundreds of listings pertaining to all fields of human knowledge, from astronomy and architecture to zoology. The entries are scrupulously au courant: under “Television” one learns about the next trend: UHDTV or that “India’s population will overtake China by 2028.”

To augment these magnificent offerings, Pears Cyclopaedia provides a “Literary Companion” (outline of English literature arranged as a chronological survey, replete with biographical and bibliographic entries and surveys of twentieth-century poetry and drama); an “Introduction to Art and Architecture” (key terms, movements, and styles as well as biographies); “The World of Music” (outline historical narrative, glossary of musical terms, index to composers, and a special topic about popular dances in the West); “The Cinema” (its history and famous actors and directors as well as a glossary of key terms and list of Oscar winners up to and including 2013).

A massive section, aptly titled “Food and Drink”, tackles the world of wine (including a detailed treatment of the libations of Europe), proffers a glossary of food terms, discusses beer and brewing, spirits and liqueurs, only to revert to the quintessential Anglo-American delectable obsession of coffee and tea. This is seamlessly, albeit somewhat incongruously followed by a “Sporting Almanac.”

The “World of Science” comprises coverage of diverse fields such as astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, and human evolution. It also sports a variety of scientific tables. Medicine merits its own gateway, inevitably titled “Medical Matters”: the most common illnesses and conditions, some of them treated to in-depth analyses within special topics. A subject index caps this wondrous work of reference.

“Affection” and “attachment” are terms rarely used in a review of a reference title, but, they are the ones that come to my mind as I contemplate the new (2014-2015) edition of Pears Cyclopaedia, one of many editions I possess. I confess to my addiction proudly: control freak that I am, I like to hold the Universe of Knowledge in the palm of my hand, in a manageable, pocket-sized form.

What renders this single volume unique is not that it is a cornucopia of facts (which it is, abundantly and lavishly so), but that it arranges them lovingly in patterns and narratives and, thus, endows them with sense and sensibility. It is at once an erudite friend, a mischievous iconoclast, a legend to our times, the sum total of human knowledge in a panoply of fields, and a treasure-trove of trivia and miscellany. It is as compellingly readable as the best non-fiction, as comprehensive as you need it to be, and as diverting as a parlour game. It is both quaint and modern in the best senses of these loaded words.

Pears Cyclopaedia is a labour of love and it shows. Its current editor (formerly its Assistant Editor), Christopher Cook, has been at it for decades now. Annually, he springs a delicious surprise on the avid cult that is the readership of Pears Cyclopaedia: new topics that range from wine connoisseurship to gardening. This edition is not an exception, though the surprises are within the chapters.

At more than 1000 pages, Pears Cyclopaedia is a bargain. Alas, its distribution leaves something to be desired. I have spent the better part of a long afternoon searching for it in vain in London’s bookshops. Last time I had it ordered in Europe, I waited for months on end for its arrival. It is also not exactly available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It should be. Pears Cyclopaedia is wonderful, in the true meaning of this word: it is full of wonders and, therefore, is itself a wonder.

Putting the Broken Humpty-Dumpty Narcissist Back Together

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Positive feelings (about oneself or pertaining to one’s accomplishments, assets, etc.) – are never gained merely through conscious endeavor. They are the outcome of insight. A cognitive component (factual knowledge regarding one’s achievements, assets, qualities, skills, etc.) plus an emotional correlate that is heavily dependent on past experience, defense mechanisms, and personality style or structure (“character”).

People who consistently feel worthless or unworthy usually overcompensate cognitively for the lack of the aforementioned emotional component.

Such a person doesn’t love himself, yet is trying to convince himself that he is loveable. He doesn’t trust himself, yet he lectures to himself on how trustworthy he is (replete with supporting evidence from his experiences).

But such cognitive substitutes to emotional self-acceptance won’t do.

The root of the problem is the inner dialog between disparaging voices and countervailing “proofs”. Such self-doubting is, in principle, a healthy thing. It serves as an integral and critical part of the “checks and balances” that constitute the mature personality.

But, normally, some ground rules are observed and some facts are considered indisputable. When things go awry, however, the consensus breaks. Chaos replaces structure and the regimented update of one’s self-image (via introspection) gives way to recursive loops of self-deprecation with diminishing insights.

Normally, in other words, the dialog serves to augment some self-assessments and mildly modify others. When things go wrong, the dialog concerns itself with the very narrative, rather than with its content.

The dysfunctional dialog deals with questions that are far more fundamental (and typically settled early on in life):

“Who am I?”

“What are my traits, my skills, my accomplishments?”

“How reliable, loveable, trustworthy, qualified, truthful am I?”

“How can I separate fact from fiction?”

The answers to these questions consist of both cognitive (empirical) and emotional components. They are mostly derived from our social interactions, from the feedback we get and give. An inner dialog that is still concerned with these qualms indicates a problem with socialization.

It is not one’s “psyche” that is delinquent – but one’s social functioning. One should direct one’s efforts to “heal”, outwards (to remedy one’s interactions with others) – not inwards (to heal one’s “psyche”).

Another important insight is that the disordered dialog is not time-synchronic.

The “normal” internal discourse is between concurrent, equipotent, and same-age “entities” (psychological constructs). Its aim is to negotiate conflicting demands and reach a compromise based on a rigorous test of reality.

The faulty dialog, on the other hand, involves wildly disparate interlocutors. These are in different stages of maturation and possessed of unequal faculties. They are more concerned with monologues than with a dialog. As they are “stuck” in various ages and periods, they do not all relate to the same “host”, “person”, or “personality”. They require time- and energy-consuming constant mediation. It is this depleting process of arbitration and “peacekeeping” that is consciously felt as nagging insecurity or, even, in extremis, self-loathing.

A constant and consistent lack of self-confidence and a fluctuating sense of self-worth are the conscious “translation” of the unconscious threat posed by the precariousness of the disordered personality. It is, in other words, a warning sign.

Thus, the first step is to clearly identify the various segments that, together, however incongruently, constitute the personality. This can be surprisingly easily done by noting down the “stream of consciousness” dialog and assigning “names” or “handles” to the various “voices” in it.

The next step is to “introduce” the voices to each other and form an internal consensus (a “coalition”, or an “alliance”). This requires a prolonged period of “negotiations” and mediation, leading to the compromises that underlies such a consensus. The mediator can be a trusted friend, a lover, or a therapist.

The very achievement of such an internal “ceasefire” reduces anxiety considerably and removes the “imminent threat”. This, in turn, allows the patient to develop a realistic “core” or “kernel”, wrapped around the basic understanding reached earlier between the contesting parts of his personality.

The development of such a nucleus of stable self-worth, however, is dependent on two things:

  1. Sustained interactions with mature and predictable people who are aware of their boundaries and of their true identity (their traits, skills, abilities, limitations, and so on), and
  1. The emergence of a nurturing and “holding” emotional correlate to every cognitive insight or breakthrough.

The latter is inextricably bound with the former.

Here is why:

Some of the “voices” in the internal dialog of the patient are bound to be disparaging, injurious, belittling, sadistically critical, destructively skeptical, mocking, and demeaning. The only way to silence these voices – or at least “discipline” them and make them conform to a more realistic emerging consensus – is by gradually (and sometimes surreptitiously) introducing countervailing “players”.

Protracted exposure to the right people, in the framework of mature interactions, negates the pernicious effects of what Freud called a Superego gone awry. It is, in effect, a process of reprogramming and deprogramming.

There are two types of beneficial, altering, social experiences:

  1. Structured – interactions that involve adherence to a set of rules as embedded in authority, institutions, and enforcement mechanisms (example: attending psychotherapy, going through a spell in prison, convalescing in a hospital, serving in the army, being an aid worker or a missionary, studying at school, growing up in a family, participating in a 12-steps group), and
  1. Non-structured – interactions which involve a voluntary exchange of information, opinion, goods, or services.

The problem with the disordered person is that, usually, his (or her) chances of freely interacting with mature adults (intercourse of the type 2, non-structured kind) are limited to start with and dwindle with time. This is because few potential partners – interlocutors, lovers, friends, colleagues, neighbors – are willing to invest the time, effort, energy, and resources required to effectively cope with the patient and manage the often-arduous relationship. Disordered patients are typically hard to get along with, demanding, petulant, paranoid, and narcissistic.

Even the most gregarious and outgoing patient finally finds himself isolated, shunned, and misjudged. This only adds to his initial misery and amplifies the wrong kind of voices in the internal dialog.

Hence my recommendation to start with structured activities and in a structured, almost automatic manner. Therapy is only one – and at times not the most efficient – choice.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

The Narcissist Loves His Narcissistic Personality Disorder

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The narcissist can get better, but rarely does he get well (“heal”). The reason is the narcissist’s enormous life-long, irreplaceable and indispensable emotional investment in his disorder. It serves two critical functions, which together maintain the precariously balanced house of cards called the narcissist’s personality. His disorder endows the narcissist with a sense of uniqueness, of “being special” – and it provides him with a rational explanation of his behaviour (an “alibi”).

Most narcissists reject the notion or diagnosis that they are mentally disturbed. Absent powers of introspection and a total lack of self-awareness are part and parcel of the disorder. Pathological narcissism is founded on alloplastic defences – the firm conviction that the world or others are to blame for one’s behaviour. The narcissist firmly believes that people around him should be held responsible for his reactions or have triggered them.

With such a state of mind so firmly entrenched, the narcissist is incapable of admitting that something is wrong with HIM.

But that is not to say that the narcissist does not experience his disorder.

He does. But he re-interprets this experience. He regards his dysfunctional behaviours – social, sexual, emotional, mental – as conclusive and irrefutable proof of his superiority, brilliance, distinction, prowess, might, or success. Rudeness to others is reinterpreted as efficiency.

Abusive behaviours are cast as educational. Sexual absence as proof of preoccupation with higher functions. His rage is always just and a reaction to injustice or being misunderstood by intellectual dwarves.

Thus, paradoxically, the disorder becomes an integral and inseparable part of the narcissist’s inflated self-esteem and vacuous grandiose fantasies.

His False Self (the pivot of his pathological narcissism) is a self-reinforcing mechanism. The narcissist thinks that he is unique BECAUSE he has a False Self. His False Self IS the centre of his “specialness”. Any therapeutic “attack” on the integrity and functioning of the False Self constitutes a threat to the narcissist’s ability to regulate his wildly fluctuating sense of self-worth and an effort to “reduce” him to other people’s mundane and mediocre existence.

The few narcissists that are willing to admit that something is terribly wrong with them, displace their alloplastic defences. Instead of blaming the world, other people, or circumstances beyond their control – they now blame their “disease”. Their disorder become a catch-all, universal explanation for everything that is wrong in their lives and every derided, indefensible and inexcusable behaviour. Their narcissism becomes a “licence to kill”, a liberating force which sets them outside human rules and codes of conduct.

Such freedom is so intoxicating and empowering that it is difficult to give up.

The narcissist is emotionally attached to only one thing: his disorder. The narcissist loves his disorder, desires it passionately, cultivates it tenderly, is proud of its “achievements” (and in my case, makes a living off it). His emotions are misdirected. Where normal people love others and empathize with them, the narcissist loves his False Self and identifies with it to the exclusion of all else – his True Self included.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

TIPS: How to Cope with Financial Abuse

Interview granted to The Guardian, June 29, 2013
by: Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-love – Narcissism Revisited” and other books about personality disorders (www.narcissistic-abuse.com)
My media kit (with ideas for articles) is available here: http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/mediakit.html
Q. Would narcissists often try to restrict their partner’s independence by reducing their access to shared family finances? Why?
A. Narcissists are control freaks, paranoid, jealous, possessive, and envious. They are the sad products of early childhood abandonment by parents, caregivers, role models, and/or peers. Hence their extreme abandonment anxiety and insecure attachment style. Fostering financial dependence in their nearest and dearest is just another way of making sure of their continued presence as sources of narcissistic supply (attention.) He who holds the purse strings holds the heart’s strings.
Reducing other people to begging and cajoling also buttresses the narcissist’s grandiose fantasy of omnipotence and provides him with a somewhat sadistic gratification.
Q. Would it also happen with female narcissists exercising control over men?
A. Yes. There is no major psychodynamic difference between male and female narcissists.

Q. What advice would you give to someone in a relationship with a narcissist? Should they try to keep their finances separate?

A. They should never allow themselves to be irrevocably separated from their family of origin and close friends. They should maintain their support network and refuse to become a part of the narcissist’s cult-like shared psychosis. They should make sure that they have independent sources of wealth (a trust fund; real estate; bank accounts; deposits; securities) and sustainable sources of income (a job; rental income; interest and dividends; royalties). Above all: they should not share with their narcissistic intimate partner the full, unmitigated details of their life and critical bits of information such as banking passwords and safe box access codes.

Q. I understand that narcissists will sometimes sacrifice their finances and get into big trouble financially (even going bankrupt) in order to satisfy other narcissistic desires – so I presume this means that narcissists are also people whose finances can be instable?

A. It is not as simple as that. The classic narcissist maintains an island of stability in his life (e.g.: his job, business, and finances) while the other dimensions of his existence (e.g., interpersonal relations) wallow in chaos and unpredictability. The narcissist may marry, divorce, and remarry with dizzying speed. Everything in his life may be in constant flux: friends, emotions, judgements, values, beliefs, place of residence, affiliations, hobbies. Everything, that is, except his work. His career is the island of compensating stability in his otherwise mercurial existence. This kind of narcissist is dogged by unmitigated ambition and devotion. He perseveres in one workplace or one job, patiently, persistently and blindly climbing up the corporate ladder and treading the career path. In his pursuit of job fulfilment and achievements, the narcissist is ruthless and unscrupulous – and, very often, successful.

The borderline narcissist reacts to instability in one area of his life by introducing chaos into all the others. Thus, if such a narcissist resigns (or, more likely, is made redundant) – he also relocates to another city or country. If he divorces, he is also likely to resign his job.

This added instability gives this type of narcissist the feeling that all the dimensions of his life are changing simultaneously, that he is being “unshackled”, that a transformation is in progress. This, of course, is an illusion. Those who know the narcissist, no longer trust his frequent “conversions”, “decisions”, “crises”, “transformations”, “developments” and “periods”. They see through his pretensions, protestations, and solemn declarations into the core of his instability. They know that he is not to be relied upon. They know that with narcissists, temporariness is the only permanence.

Narcissists hate routine. When a narcissist finds himself doing the same things over and over again, he gets depressed. He oversleeps, over-eats, over-drinks and, in general, engages in addictive, impulsive, reckless, and compulsive behaviours. This is his way of re-introducing risk and excitement into what he (emotionally) perceives to be a barren life.

The problem is that even the most exciting and varied existence becomes routine after a while. Living in the same country or apartment, meeting the same people, doing essentially the same things (even with changing content) – all “qualify”, in the eyes of the narcissist, as stultifying rote.

The narcissist feels entitled. He feels it is his right – due to his intellectual or physical superiority – to lead a thrilling, rewarding, kaleidoscopic life. He wants to force life itself, or at least people around him, to yield to his wishes and needs, supreme among them the need for stimulating variety.