Three years ago, on November 30, 2006, I received an e-mail from Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Perhaps you’ve seen Vaknin’s name on the Internet. He wrote and self-published a book called Malignant Self-Love—Narcissism Revisited. He promotes the book heavily online, so if you Google “narcissism,” his website on narcissistic personality disorder comes up on the first page of search results.
Here’s what Vaknin said in his e-mail:
You haven’t responded to my last two e-mails to you. Have I done anything to offend you?
Now, I didn’t remember seeing any e-mails from Sam Vaknin. So I wrote:
What emails? I haven’t received anything.
I much appreciate your response, thank you.
My e-mail messages to you are probably relegated by your e-mail program to your spam or trash folders.
I wrote to offer to collaborate with you in any way you deem fit. For instance, I can respond to questions about narcissism, or write a short monthly column about the intersection between narcissism and psychopathy.
Here is a list of links which you, the visitors to your Website, and the readers of your (great!) newsletter may find of interest.
His e-mail included 17 links for articles on his website, articles he’s written on other websites, and articles in which he was quoted. The guy seemed to know what he was talking about, so I invited him to send me an article to explain the difference between narcissists and psychopaths. He immediately sent another link to another one of his pages. I read the information and determined that it was poorly written and explained nothing.
So I looked into his background. Right on his homepage was a link to his disclaimer:
The author is NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. The author is certified in Psychological Counseling Techniques by Brainbench.
Brainbench was an organization that offers online business training and assessments. And his Ph.D., according to his own website, was in philosophy. Delving further into his website, I read his page about Narcissists and Women. Here’s what Vaknin wrote about himself:
I am atrabilious, infinitely pessimistic, bad-tempered, paranoid and sadistic in an absent-minded and indifferent manner. My daily routine is a rigmarole of threats, complaints, hurts, eruptions, moodiness and rage. I rail against slights true and imagined. I alienate people. I humiliate them because this is my only weapon against the humiliation of their indifference to me.
Sam Vaknin, it turned out, readily admitted that he was a narcissist. I decided not to publish any of his articles.
Sam, the movie
Now, Sam Vaknin is star of a documentary called I, Psychopath. The documentary followed Sam Vaknin and his wife, Lidija, as Vaknin was examined and tested by experts to determine if he is, indeed, a psychopath.
It is a world first. As we all know, psychopaths don’t think anything is wrong with them and so are unlikely to seek evaluation or treatment. The only ones who are examined are in prison. But Vaknin voluntarily submitted to the process, and it was captured on film.
We see Vaknin take a personality test and be interviewed for the PCL-R (SV) diagnostic tool. Then we see other experts examine his brain in an MRI machine.
Along the way, Vaknin offered some chilling insights. “Most psychopaths are more like poison than a knife,” he said. “And they are more like slow-working poison than cyanide.”
He also explained proper bullying technique—verbally attack, then back off. Attack, then back off. Eventually, he explained, the victim is done in by his or her own stress reactions.
The documentary also addresses Vaknin’s academic “credentials,” which are, not surprisingly, highly exaggerated. (For Vaknin’s response to questions about his qualifications, see his rant about “malicious gossip.”)
Attacking the filmmaker
The film was written and directed by Ian Walker of the Magic Real Picture Company in Australia. Walker offered a first-person narrative through much of the film, describing his observations of Vaknin’s behavior. “Making a movie with a psychopath,” Walker stated, “Is a little like poking a snake with a stick.”
Slowly, Vaknin turned his verbal abuse on Walker. According to the I, Psychopath web page, “By the end, Walker almost calls it quits on his own film rather than spend another day with its main subject.”
I can understand that. Looking back at my e-mail correspondence with Vaknin, I suspect that he never sent two initial e-mails that he claimed I failed to answer. The “have I done anything to offend you?” language was probably contrived to put me on the defensive right away. Classic psychopathic strategy.
If you want a good look at the behavior of a psychopath, and at research about the disorder, watch this documentary.
Thanks to a Lovefraud reader for sending the link for online viewing.