Interview with Sam Vaknin

Published 2014-10-19.
Narcissism is a very misunderstood term. In the popular lexicon, it seems to be used interchangeably with self-confidence or self-absorption. How do you define narcissism?
Narcissism (rather, pathological narcissism) is the absence of a functioning self (or, to be more precise, Ego).

It is the constant dependence upon other people to gain self-esteem, to regulate a sense of self-worth and to gain self-confidence.

Narcissism is, therefore, other-absorption rather than self-absorption.

The narcissist is attuned to input (real or perceived) from other people because in the absence of such constant feedback he feels annulled, non-existent, void (and in many respects, he is). I use he, though everything I say here applies equally forcefully to women narcissists.

The narcissist constructs an elaborate, largely fictitious, grandiose image of himself (the False Self). He then hurls it at people and monitors their every reaction. Reactions that conform to the misinformation purveyed by the False Self generate flooding, immersive sensations of omnipotence, omniscience, brilliance and perfection.

Reactions that negate the False Self cause narcissistic injury:- a terrible, insupportable, excruciating agony. The narcissist administers mental painkillers to himself by discounting ("devaluing") the source of the hurtful reaction, by dismissing the reaction itself, or by altering the False Self to conform to it - in short, by activating a mechanism known as "cognitive dissonance".
Is there such a thing as healthy narcissism, and at one point would you say that narcissism enters the realm of pathology?
Narcissism is an integral part of our development as humans. A residue of it survives well into adulthood. It is essential, it keeps us alive. It drives us to achieve things and to seek the approval of other humans. It helps us bond with significant others, motivates us to raise children, to consume, to study, to explore, to discover, to invent, to innovate. It is a powerful engine of human and personal progress.

Pathological narcissism has very little to do with healthy narcissism. It thrives on ANY kind of attention, even on a negative one (infamy, fear, hatred) and from ANYONE (the narcissist has no significant or meaningful others in his life). It is divorced from reality (fails the reality test). The False Self is... well ... false. It is a concoction, a confabulation, a distorted invention, replete with magical thinking and ideas of reference. It leads to dependence rather than to inter-dependence, to conflict rather than to collaboration, to sadistic behaviours rather to tender emotions and intimacy. It is a malignant form of narcissism because it takes over the host and then kills it.
You write that a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder is deeply determined to think of his personality as unique. Yet those with NPD share a common , and sometimes readily identifiable, set of traits.
Q. You write that a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder is deeply determined to think of his personality as unique. Yet those with NPD share a common , and sometimes readily identifiable, set of traits. Can you discuss some of those traits, and explain why they add up to a personality disorder--rather than simply a personality?

A. The last part is easy. Pathological narcissism is self-defeating and self-destructive on a consistent and long term basis. A pattern of behaviours, cognitions and emotions that leads one away from happiness is a personality disorder - not a personality. Narcissists are often dysphoric and (as recent research demonstrates) ego-dystonic (or, in plain English, they are often sad and malcontent). Their lives are a mess and typically characterized by frequent losses (divorces, dismissals, failures, conflicts with authorities and the law, bankruptcies and so on). Hence the word "disorder".

It is indeed comic that narcissists should think about themselves as unique. You can find the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder in both the DSM IV-TR (2000) and the DSM V (2013) here:
You wrote: "Pathological narcissism has very little to do with healthy narcissism." But aren't they both from the same source?
Q: You wrote: "Pathological narcissism has very little to do with healthy narcissism." But aren't they both from the same source? You seem to be saying that the desire for approval, which in the case of healthy narcissism, is a kind of glue that helps create and cement relationships, becomes so overpowering as to destroy them altogether.

A: Both healthy and pathological narcissism are parts of the same developmental phase. But while the former is not concerned primarily with others - the latter is absolutely other-directed. Healthy narcissism is what we call "self-love", "self-esteem" and "sense of self-worth". It is a constant, it requires no regulation and it is attuned to reality. It does not fluctuate with input from the outside. Pathological narcissism is everything that healthy narcissism is not. It is derived exclusively from the outside, it fluctuates widely and it is self-destructive and self-defeating because it gauges reality very poorly. Additionally, very often, it is connected to strong masochistic urges and to a punishing, sadistic, immature and rigid super-ego (=conscience).
You wrote: " It is a malignant form of narcissism because it takes over the host and then kills it." You make NPD sound like a kind of parasite!
Q: You wrote: " It is a malignant form of narcissism because it takes over the host and then kills it." You make NPD sound like a kind of parasite, both in the way the disorder impacts the narcissist himself, and in the parasitic attitude the narcissist then takes towards others.

A: Indeed. Pathological narcissism is parasitism. It is the unabashed, ruthless and unscrupulous exploitation of others (as sounding boards, as accumulators of past glories, as servants, as extensions of the narcissist). The narcissist idealizes, then uses, then devalues, then discards. He is the epitome of the society of waste and consumerism - with other humans as raw materials. The narcissist colonizes, then abandons. His are viral qualities: he leverages the host's own assets to infect and manipulate it. And pathological narcissism is a viral process: normal development is thwarted and overpowered by the invasion and takeover of rigid defence mechanisms.
In your book, "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited", you coined a whole new lexicon to describe the mechanics of NPD. Did you find that the existing psychological language fell short?
Pathological narcissism has been a neglected subject until the late 1970s. Even then it was the reserve of arcane schools of psychoanalysis. With the introduction of the DSM III definition of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1980, pathological narcissism broke into the open. But the body of knowledge and research is still woefully inadequate and I found it so lacking that I had to invent my own language, to some extent.

But the lacuna is not merely linguistic or semantic. I believe that pathological narcissism underlies many other mental health disorders and pathologies. It can give us the first, important, clue to a unified theory of dysfunction.
In which ways your background in economics informs your psychological theories?
Q: In addition to the metaphor of narcissists as drug addicts seeking a fix, you often use terms culled from economics to describe psychological dynamics: narcissists overinvest, devalue, attempt to gain strategic advantage, etc. Are there other ways in which your background in economics informs your psychological theories?

A: Surprisingly, these terms are borrowed, not mine. Devaluation, narcissistic supply - are not my inventions (what a narcissistic injury!). But, of course, economics, physics and philosophy (my fields) inform and form my world of metaphors. Fortunately, I am also a published author of short fiction (in Hebrew) and I even write poetry ( ) - so, I am not as dry as one might fear.

But there is another angle to it:

The Narcissist does view the world solely in economic and contractual terms. Deprived of access to his own emotions, the narcissist is a diligent student of other people's behaviour patterns. This is how he gets his behavioural cues and clues. The narcissist is a phenomenologist and, as such, his is a cold, detached, observational, indifferent, and, at times, hostile world in which people transact rather than interact. The narcissist regards others as reducible codes which can be deciphered with the twin keys of self-interest and contract-making. The narcissist behaves this way in his own life. He contracts with others, he measures their performance, protests violations, threatens litigation or sanctions.

The narcissist is a businessman who is constantly trading his self-identity and the veracity of his life against narcissistic supply.
You wrote: "Fortunately, I am also a published author of short fiction (in Hebrew)..." Can you speak a little about the subject matter and themes of your short stories?
The specific short stories that were published and won the 1997 Ministry of Education's prize for Maiden Literature in Israel were written in jail. Talk about poetic injustice...)

I was in the throes of psychological gangrene induced by a severe narcissistic injury. I have been teleported unsuccessfully, disintegrating in mid-space into a million sizzling molecules, that was how it felt. I tried to recompose myself but there was nothing there except a life-threatening vacuum. So, I regressed to my childhood and recreated my life, year in and year out, pain by pain, an inventory of humiliation and maltreatment, abuse and self-abuse, self-loathing and self-destruction. My mother, my wife, my life - a series of ambering ruins, not a pleasant landscape to behold. I wrote these stories as I do everything else: systematically, cold-bloodedly, in a the calculating manner of an automaton.

I fended off the anguish and weighed words the way a physicist measures resonance and amplitude. Only once did it get out of control. I had a flashback of a violent scene between my parents (which I had repressed remarkably). I was frightened as a little kid would. At other times I cried silently. It was cathartic, no doubt - as efficient as any therapy and by far cheaper.
I've seen "Malignant Self Love" described in some contexts as a self-help book. Do you see it, then, as more a work of self-literacy than self-healing?
Q: I've seen "Malignant Self Love" described in some contexts as a self-help book. Often in this genre, we see authors who have triumphed over some personal adversity and wish to help others do the same. But your approach is quite different. You write that your discovery of your own NPD "was a painful process which led nowhere. I am no different--and no healthier--today than I was when I wrote this book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis poor and alarming." Do you see it, then, as more a work of self-literacy than self-healing?

A: I never described "Malignant Self-love" as a helpful work. It is not. It is a dark, hopeless tome. Narcissists have no horizons, they are doomed by their own history, by their successful adaptation to abnormal circumstances and by the uncompromising nature of their defence mechanisms. My book is a scientific observation of the beast coupled with an effort to salvage its victims. Narcissists are absentminded sadists and they victimize everyone around them. Those in contact with them need guidance and help. "Malignant Self-love" is a phenomenology of the predator, on the one hand and a vindication and validation of its prey, on the other hand.
You've written that as a prisoner, you began to study your fellow inmates and came to see yourself in them. At the time, did that recognition take you by surprise?
Not really, I have had a long history of associating with criminals and personal brinkmanship. Throughout my adulthood I have been a vicarious delinquent, observing with awe and admiration and humour the depraved circles I moved in.

What did astonish me, though, was the close resemblance of narcissism and addictive behaviours (drugs, gambling, etc.). It was then that it dawned on me that narcissism was an addiction (to narcissistic supply).
Do you remember any specific prisoners with whom you found something in common?
I befriended all the murderers without exception. There is something profound and occult in breaking this outlying taboo. I am attracted to these people not because I have anything in common with them - but because I strive to understand them. It is by sifting through human wreckage that I hope to reconstruct the quiddity of "being human". Devoid of empathy, I resort to sharp, unmitigated, grotesque and horrific experiences to jolt me into a vague recognition of the denominator common to myself and to all "others". This, by the way, is an important strand in clinical psychology: it is through the study of aberrations, deviations, perversions and pathologies that it strives to fathom "normal" human nature and conduct.
Where did the idea for your Web site, where you first published your theories on NPD, come from, and how has it evolved?
I did not believe then - nor do I believe now - that any publisher would have published my writings. I come on too strongly, in your face. I am uncompromising, politically very incorrect. Publishers are commercially motivated and politically constrained. Is it a coincidence that the Internet and e-books evolved in tandem with desktop publishing? The whole thing is a revolt against the publishing establishment. The website - and the printed edition that followed - were acts of desperation. But, in hindsight, it was a blessing.

My main site has 16000 impressions (=c. 4000 unique visitors) DAILY. I moderate discussion groups with well over 20,000 members. My book is sold through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. My YouTube channel garnered 5,000,000 views and 15,000 subscribers hitherto. My content is replicated and syndicated on thousands of blogs, websites, YouTube channels, and other platforms.

I am content - though widely hated, feared, loathed, reviled, and despised. Perhaps I am content BECAUSE I am finally universally hated, feared, loathed, reviled, and despised.

At the beginning, in 1997, I simply translated my jailhouse notes, extracted from a worn-out cardboard-bound notepad. Then, as people kept writing to me (I get c. 20 letters daily) asking the same questions over and over again, I came up with the "Frequently Asked Questions" section (all 102 of them).

Then I noticed that my list-members were especially attached to certain messages asking me to re-post them to the list from time to time. I collected these in 60+ "Excerpts from the Narcissism List" pages. So, you see, the site developed by default, organically, and in response to pressures by my "customers".

I want to emphasize that I charge only for the print edition of the book, my e-books, and video lectures on DVDs. The rest - the full text of all my books online, the discussion groups, 320 videos on YouTube, and 40 e-books - are free of charge.
You wrote: "I never described 'Malignant Self-love' as a helpful work. It is not."
Q: You wrote: "I never described "Malignant Self Love" as a helpful work. It is not." And you also wrote: "So, you see, the site developed by default and in response to pressures by my "customers".

You are a self-professed narcissist, and you warn your readers that narcissists are punishing, pathological, and not to be trusted. Yet thousands of readers or customers seem to be looking to you for help and advice on how to cope with their own narcissism or on their relationship with a narcissist. I'm struck by a kind of hall-of-mirrors effect here. How do you reconcile these seeming contradictions?

A: Indeed, only seeming. I may have mis-phrased myself. By "helpful" I meant "intended to help". The book was never intended to help anyone. Above all, it was meant to attract attention and adulation (narcissistic supply) to its author, myself. Being in a guru-like status is the ultimate narcissistic experience. Had I not also been a misanthrope and a schizoid, I might have actually enjoyed it. Though grounded in the most updated scholarship, the book is imbued with an acerbic and vitriolic self-hatred, replete with diatribes and Jeremiads and glaring warnings regarding narcissists and their despicable behaviour. I refused to be "politically correct" and call the narcissist - "other-challenged". Yet, I am a narcissist and the book is, therefore, a self directed "J'accuse". This satisfies the enfant terrible in me, the part of me that seeks to be despised, abhorred, derided and, ultimately, punished by society at large.
While you say your work is not helpful, don't you feel that at least the "victims" of narcissists might be helped? After all, you're giving away all the trade secrets.
The victims of narcissists have rarely become victims randomly. It is very akin to an immunological response: there is a structural affinity, an inexorable attraction, an irreversible bonding and an ensuing addiction far stronger than any substance abuse. I, therefore, am doubtful not only with regards to the prognosis of a narcissist - but also with regards to the healing prospects of those exposed to his poisoned charms. The Inverted Narcissist (a sub-species of codependent who is specifically attracted to narcissists) is a narcissist, a kind of mirror narcissist. As such, she is no less doomed than the "original" classic variant.
How old are you? What did your parents do professionally?
Almost 54.

My mother has always been wedded to both my father and to her abode. As a consequence, she has had very little time left for us, her children. She was also fighting what I now know to have been severe mental disorders. Later in life, she healed spontaneously and developed a minor career as a caretaker - looking after the disabled and the geriatric. My father - a clinically depressed person if I ever saw one - climbed the corporate ladder to become a regional construction site manager. But he was never too gregarious or obedient and so, resented by the management and admired by very few co-workers for his professionalism - he was booted out. He spent 8 years wallowing in self pity until he found a menial job in a warehouse, way beneath his qualifications. He likes it there. It validates his view of himself as a martyr.

Q: How big was your family growing up--how many brothers and sisters?

A: I have three brothers and one sister, all younger than me. On most of them - those who did not detach on time - I have been a destructive influence.

Q: What was your family's attitude toward religion?

A: My parents vacillated between ridicule and disdain and bouts of devoutness. On the average, we were a mildly traditionalist family: selectively observed a few religious commandments and rites. Two of my brothers flirt with fundamentalist Judaism (more charitably known as Orthodoxy). I am agnostic. I do not waste my time on questions the answers to which are, in principle, unknowable.
You mentioned a marriage that fell apart while you were in prison. How long were you married for? Are you and your ex-wife in touch?
I met Nomi in 1987, she married me (her idea - I punished her by ruining the wedding) in 1990, we got divorced in 1996. Last time I really spoke to her was a few minutes after our divorce ritual in which I participated as a prisoner. I have met her again in order to sell our car. That was it - I never saw her since, nor have I spoken to her, nor do I have any information about her whereabouts.
I understand you're something of a nomad now, hopping from country to country and job to job. Do you ever long for a more settled existence?
Never (shudder). That would be like inhabiting a morgue, a cemetery. My life is colourful, adventurous, impossible, cinematic. Sure, I pay a dear price for such desultoriness - but, who doesn't? A sedentary, predictable, numbing existence exacts an even higher price. When one is 90 years of age, all that remains is one's memories. You are the director of the movie of your life - a 70 years long film. Now, sit back and let the screening begin: is it boring? would you have watched this oeuvre had you not been its main protagonist? If the answers are negative and positive, respectively - you have succeeded to live well, regardless of the price you have paid.
You must have served in the Israeli army. How did you find that?
I served more than three years in the Israeli army. Halfway through I became a national celebrity, which allowed me to manipulate my commanders, my co-soldiers and the army structures to accommodate themselves to my "special needs". The first half of my service was a voyage of discovery of "what's out there": Israel, guys, gals (no sex), the company of others. The second half was an hallucinatory and unmitigated ego trip.
You wrote: "I served more than three years in the Israeli army. Halfway through I became a national celebrity." Was your fame at this time based on your business success?
Oh, no (laughing). I did own 25% of a retail outlet. We sold computerized astrological predictions to the gullible, using the state of the art monsters which then passed for computers. But I became famous first as a "genius" physicist and a philosopher of science. There were later waves of fame: as an angry member of the Sephardi minority, as the right hand of a Jewish billionaire, as a stockbroker and, finally, as a criminal.
You wrote: "Being in a guru-like status is the ultimate narcissistic experience."
Q: You wrote: "Being in a guru-like status is the ultimate narcissistic experience."

I'm still curious, though, what your attitude is toward your "customers." It's clear you appreciate the attention from them, but do you consider them foolish for seeking advice from a narcissist such as yourself?

A: I am by far the most intelligent person I know, so, the deepseated belief that all others are bumbling, ineffectual, repulsive fools is a constant feature of my mental landscape.

But seeking advice from a narcissist about narcissism doesn't sound foolish to me IF the consumer applies judgement and his or her knowledge of narcissism and its distortions to the advice received.
Where did you receive your undergraduate and graduate education?
In primary school, I had been a very disruptive student. I acquired full literacy at the age of 4. I found school boring. My teacher referred me to a child psychology who measured my IQ (he used the WISC test). It came out at 180.

I commenced my academic studies at the age of 9 in the Technion - Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa. I studied 8 semesters (mainly physical sciences) but did not complete a degree. I obtained my Ph.D. in "Pacific Western University" (later "California Miramar University" in Encino, California and Geneva, Switzerland) in a distance learning program. The subject of my thesis is "Time Asymmetry" but my doctorate (1982) is in philosophy. My Ph.D. dissertation is available from the Library of Congress and UMI. The physicist Eytan Suchard has recently expanded on my work and taken it to a whole new level.
Do you think NPD is more widespread than most people believe?
When one is preoccupied with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it is only natural to see pathological narcissism everywhere. I think that the strict diagnosis of NPD is as rare as the APA makes it out to be: less than 1% of the adult population. But narcissistic TRAITS and BEHAVIORS are very common, very widespread and form part and parcel - or even the foundation stone - of many other mental health disorders. Otherwise healthy or "normal" people exhibit clear narcissistic characteristics and behaviours. I believe that up to 10-15% of the adult population is thus afflicted or affected.
You've written that narcissists suffer from terrible bouts of depression (or dysphorias) when they are running short of narcissistic supply. How do you cope with these periods?
These dysphorias are usually reactions to the diminishment of narcissistic supply. Such deficiency can be the result of the disappearance or attrition of sources of supply - or of the devaluation of trustworthy and available ones. In the past, I used to react by frantically groping for new sources of supply. Lately, I react by withdrawing completely from the world while I try to cultivate new sources of supply which will not require contact in the flesh (this interview, my mailing list, my sites, my books, my articles, other interviews). The older I get, the more my schizoid features emerge at the expense of my narcissism. I might end up being a bitter recluse. My political columns are definitely authored by a cantankerous hater and misanthropic despiser of Mankind.
You characterize NPD as a "post-traumatic" disorder. What similarities - and differences - do you find between NPD and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
I don't recall having characterized NPD as PTSD. True, there is always a PTSD-like phase in the formation of pathological narcissism owing to the traumas endured by the narcissist in his formative years. Still, I don't think such a comparison is entirely convincing. NPD is ubiquitous, all-pervasive and other-orientated. PTSD is none of these. But I did suggest that the VICTIMS of narcissists suffer from C-PTSD. The differences between PNSD (Post Narcissist Stress Disorder) and PTSD are superficial: victims of narcissists have no flashbacks and the like. But the core of both reactive patterns is one and the same. Living or interacting with a narcissist - even for a short duration - is often a most harrowing experience.
Should your remarks in this interview be taken with a grain of salt?
Q: In "Malignant Self Love", you write: "The Narcissist does his damnedest to avoid intimacy. He constantly likes about every aspect of his life: his self, his history, his vocation and avocations, his emotions. This false information and the informative asymmetry in the relationship guarantee his informative lead, or "advantage."

It seems from this statement that Narcissist is poker-faced card player who refuses to show is hand. In light of these statements, should your remarks in this interview be taken with a grain of salt?

A: Is this interview intimate in any sense of the word? I wasn't aware of it.

To me, this is the exchange of bits and bytes for a mutual benefit. I fill in the forms (respond to your questions) and you get to add an interview to your site. A transaction.


Your question IS pertinent because the narcissist is a pathological liar - that is a liar who lies for no discernible gain. Additionally, the narcissist suffers from cognitive distortions. He views the world in a unique manner, imbues it with transcendent meaning, populates it with figments of his psyche, re-orders it in accordance with his highly idiosyncratic scheme of things, attributes to people motives they never had, lashes out against the unwitting and baffled targets of his paranoia and so on. In short, the narcissist can more often be found in the fantasyland of his grandiosity than with us, here, on earth.

I did my best not to lie in this interview (it takes a conscious effort on my part). But, I cannot spot the cognitive distortions that might have crept in.
Do you think there are certain kinds of traumas that result in NPD, or are there certain kinds of people whose reaction to trauma results in NPD?
Q: You didn't say that NPD is the same as PTSD. But you did characterize NPD as a "post traumatic" disorder, i.e., one caused by trauma. Do you think there are certain kinds of traumas that result in NPD, or are there certain kinds of people whose reaction to trauma results in NPD?

A: NPD is a new phenomenon. It was first recognized as an autonomous mental health disorder in 1980 (DSM III).

There little research about any aspect of pathological narcissism: epidemiology, aetiology, dynamics, prognosis, nothing.

Most of my correspondence has been with victims of narcissists, or with people who have been interacting with them. Thus, I studied narcissism both first hand (I am a narcissist) and second hand. But the first sample - myself - is quite biased and limited and the second one both biased and unreliable (self-selecting and self-reporting). Narcissists tend to deceive their environment, including by massively and frequently re-authoring their life narrative and biography.

But, I think that the following common strands are rather certain:

Narcissists grow up in emotionally dysfunctional (though not necessarily abusive) families: no unconditional love, no validation, no affirmation, insecure parents, emotional lability of family members, capriciousness and unpredictability of conduct, a perturbed process of socialization, and so on.

Narcissists have been either utterly ignored, neglected, misunderstood and abused in childhood - or pampered, dotted upon and stifled in their formative years.

Narcissists are often the offspring of narcissistic parents (narcissism breeds narcissism).

There are more male narcissists than female ones.

That just about sums up what we know today about the aetiology of narcissism.
Can you recall any specific instances of discrimination or oppression that you or your family members faced as Sephardim?
It was not state policy, there was no Israeli apartheid. But it was in the air, in the fact that we lived in segregated neighbourhoods, in linguistic ghettos. We rarely inter-married and Ashkenazi officials always made disparaging remarks about Sephardim and their (lack of) culture in public.

It was in the humiliating and disparaging Israeli anti-Sephardi slang, in the fact that - barring some token Sephardim - there were none in any elite: the military, in politics, academe, in the arts. In other words, it was a glass ceiling placed oppressingly low.
Your self diagnosis is that you suffer from malignant self love. Do you know any other businessmen who seem to have developed similar symptoms?
First, I was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder twice in the space of 8 years.

Second, I don't think that there is a necessary connection between the vocation of the narcissist and his pathological narcissism (I am using "he" but this should well be read as both "he" and "she"). The narcissist is an automaton programmed to search for Narcissistic Supply: adulation, admiration, applause, affirmation and attention. Where these are available, you will find a narcissist lurking in wait for his human prey. The narcissist projects a false image of his self onto others. Then, when this image is reflected back at him, he feels good, he feels reaffirmed.

Twenty years ago, my world vanished. I was imprisoned, my wife left me, I became a social pariah, I lost all my money and property as well as my ability to earn money in the future (owing to my criminal record). It takes a massive life crisis to penetrate the defences of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I wanted to die, literally, I was planning it, I almost stole a gun from one of the wardens. Then I stopped and asked myself how come a person who had so many chances in life, a flourishing career, above average intelligence - how come I ended up being where I was. I started reading, ferociously, in jail, at night. I devoured hundreds of books, articles and dissertations about the subject. I discovered that I am the victim of a pernicious condition, that my personality was "disorganized" and rigid. That I adapted badly to the demands of my environment. I met the enemy and it was I.
How is this weakness or disorder apparent in your daily life and work?
I am vain, in pursuit of appearances rather than of substance, dangerously pretentious, a pathological liar, obdurate to the point of stupidity, highly intelligent (180 IQ consistently measured in tests decades apart) but very unwise, shallow in everything I do, lacking in perseverance and so on.

My life is a pattern of renunciation of everything my parents stand for: petite bourgeoisie values, small town mentality, moral conservatism, family, home ownership, attachment. I have no roots. In the last 30 years I changed 23 domiciles (in 9 countries). I have no no children, though I do maintain long and loyal relationships with women. I am a gambler in disguise (respectable gambling), have no continuous relationships with friends, and no career (impossible with such mobility). I served one prison term, have divorced once, and consistently associated with the underworld out of fascination mixed with mortal fear. I have some meager accomplishments which I latch on to as a lifeline: I have published books (one of my latest ones, a book of short stories, won acclaim and a prestigious award and another - dialogues about matters economic - is the "bible" of a certain government) and am always in the process of publishing more (mostly reference). I have my web sites (which, I believe contain original material in psychology, philosophy and economics), my commentaries are published online and, sometimes, in print, and I appear intermittently in the electronic media. But my "achievements" are ephemeral. They do not last because I am never there to follow up on them. I lose interest very quickly, move physically and disconnect emotionally.

Another area of dysfunction is my sexual life. I was brought up to think that sex is ugly and dirty. My rebellious nature led me to experiment with swinging and group sex. But, most of the time, I abstain. In between bouts of promiscuity (once a decade for a few weeks, after major life crises) I am utterly asexual (despite long-term relationships with women). My sexual non-availability is intended to frustrate women who are attracted to me. I use the fact that I am married as an alibi and a shield from the ominous attentions of the fairer sex.

I am a conscious misogynist: I fear and loathe women and tend to ignore them to the best of my ability. As far as I am concerned, women are chimeras of hunters and parasites. Of course, this is not my STATED position (I am truly a liberal - for instance, I will not dream of depriving women of their career opportunities or suffrage). This conflict between the emotional and the cognitive leads to express hostility in my encounters with women, which they detect, in some cases. Alternatively, I "desexualize" them and treat them as functions.
What can change your situation? Have you improved your situation?
Research shows that psychodynamic therapies (such as psychoanalysis) are rather hopeless in coping with NPD. Cognitive-Behavioural therapies do succeed to modify certain behaviour patterns. Overall, I haven't improved one iota in my 53 years. Jail, exile, bankruptcy, divorce, mortal danger - NOTHING changes me. In a perverted way, I am "proud" of it. You must understand that personality disorders have a function. They develop because the child is exposed to repeated traumas. His way of defending himself, shielding himself from unremitting and unrelenting hurt is by constructing a "False Self" to take on the flack. The child mentally deflects his traumatic experiences to the False Self. Because it is impossible for him to love the abusing and dangerously unpredictable parents or caregivers - he directs his love at himself. Hence pathological (or secondary) narcissism. I must emphasize, though, that this is a psychodynamic (object relations) view. There are other schools in psychology and they have other explanations for narcissism: some of them reject the construct of pathological narcissism altogether.
Do you blame other factors for your fall?
No, my fall, is entirely, directly and indirectly related to the fact that my personality is inflexible. This rigidity means that I have pre-set, immutable, invariable reactions to changing situations. Of course, very often my reactions are counter-productive. I am self-destructive and my behaviours are self-defeating. I hate myself so much that I am content only when I suffer and on the verge of complete devastation. It is a common mistake to believe that understanding something is halfway to curing it. I understand pathological narcissism as very few people do. I correspond with psychologists and psychiatrists all over the world, giving them advice on this subject. Yet, even when I am fully aware that my actions will cause me great, irreversible, harm I cannot change my course, I cannot avoid committing these tragic errors. I want to be constantly punished. It was Kafka who understood that a continuous criminal process is the worst possible punishment. Similarly, a personality disorder is very much an on-going Kafkaesque trial. No one - least of all the accused - knows the charges or when and if the torment is going to end.
Are you in touch with your family? What do they advise you to do?
I haven't seen my parents for almost two decades. Immediately after I my discharge from prison I had to flee Israel because of the combined pressures of my creditors and the State of Israel. I talk to them (to my family) rarely by phone. There is not a lot of advice they can give me. Even as a small kid with humungous eyeglasses and a high IQ, I was alien to them. I did not belong. They were afraid of me, repelled by me, they wanted the nightmarish me to just go away. At least this is how I felt. Ever since then I found myself in dozens of unprecedented or very rare situations in which NO ONE could give me any reasonable advice, let alone my parents. I am in touch with one of my brothers, the youngest, Sharon. The difference between us is 16 years and, in some respects, I am like a father figure to him. He is a very talented painter and illustrator and not a trifling philosopher.

Q: What do you miss most in Israel?

A: Nothing. It always was by far the most unpleasant place I know and it is getting worse by the day, I am being told.
Can you describe your appearance nowadays? How is your health?
I look exactly as I did when I had my Bar Mitzvah. I refuse to grow up (though I did get stouter, admittedly). I have no children, no driver's licence. These are things grown-ups do which I avoid. I am a Wunderkind and I am simply afraid of losing this (by now, delusional) status by growing up. I am rather healthy, except some minor problems. Because I do not exercise, I don't have one muscle in my flabby body (except my brain, of course :o)))
What does money mean to you?
Safety, the ability to extract Narcissistic Supply by showing off, the ability to do what I really want, which is to accumulate knowledge and to use it to impress everyone. I don't like the process of making money. It is tiresome, repetitive and does not involve the intellect too rigorously.

Every idiot can make money, most of them do and, from my experience, most of those who do are not bright, to use a very restrained British understatement. I know how to make money and I made serious money several times in my life. There is nothing to it.
Your biggest regret? Any other big mistakes?
My life is comprised of a series of errors. Almost all my moves have been mistaken, in ways big and small. I apply a mechanism called "cognitive dissonance" to this. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult to continue to live with so many errors, misses, near-misses and with so much resulting ruin in my past.

So, I just tell myself that this is the way I WANT to live: turbulently, vicissitudinally, crazily, unpredictably, dangerously. It is true, though, that my life is fascinating. I have done almost anything one can think of and have been almost everywhere.

This is great fun, though the price in personal stability and development is steep.
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