12 February 2006

Malignant Self-Love/Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Sam Vaknin Revisited

For a survivor's view of Sam Vaknin's "Therapy" by "Invicta":

As noted on the previous page, Narcissism On the Internet, I was targeted by an Internet psychopath; he was practiced in manipulating someone into loving him. The relationship resembled a cult of two. The brainwashing and manipulation were subtle and insidious- when one becomes vulnerable, when someone penetrates your defences, or you have few defences, it is easy then to begin an onslaught of mental rape.

The one thing that I didn't expect, when I sought support online, was to end up the survivor of not one, but two online psychopaths, not to mention a myriad assortment of fanatics on the support group most heavily associated with him- the cult groupies, the cult followers (not the unsuspecting innocents). I have written about my group experience on that page with some pertinent links.

New facts keep coming to light. They were always there, I imagine, but were largely ignored. But no longer. I have felt for a long time that Sam Vaknin and his book, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, were meant to engender a cult following, among other things. He even attests to this and other views about victims, healing, and his hatred for Americans in the following interview: Natterbox Interview With Sam Vaknin

Some Vaknin Quotes

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.

I am by far the most intelligent person I know, so, the deep-seated belief that others are bumbling, ineffectual fools is a constant feature of my mental landscape.

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.

Well, what else is new?

Suffering tremendously from the mental rape of an Internet psychopath, knowing that most therapists would not understand (and I could not afford one) I joined Sam Vaknin's board with a psyche like hamburger. At the time, it was the only board around. Over time the games began, and the capricious deletions and many people got hurt. Instead of being in a place of healing, I was in a war zone. I was also, it turns out, deceived and misled, not realising that there was a cultish following.

When you're hamburger, you don't think as clearly,you just want to know you're not alone. I am a mental health professional and you'd think that we would know better, but let me tell you, when you are wounded beyond belief, all your training means nothing. Some people were wonderful on that site, but they left. That's why I started my own site, but didn't include a board. Just some fair and objective information, partly to counteract the dreck. I never imagined that unmasking a fraud would be part of my healing journey. Sometimes, Providence has a strange sense of humour.

I also felt very humbled. For I was dealing with a sadistic psychopath/sociopath and Sam Vaknin's views fed right into that; to realise that helps you grasp how out of control your life really is. He wasn't talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Mr Vaknin is trying to reform "Narcissism" into an all-encompassing explanation for all bad behaviour, blurs distinctions between the Personality Disorders, and collapses the uniqueness and severity of the disorder for each person into a single [malevolent] entity. In effect, it seemed to me that Sam Vaknin was recreating "Narcissism" and NPD in his own image, according to his worldview. Which means it is not simply narcissism, nor is it NPD. According to the author, it is not anything remotely recognisable as Narcissistic Personality Disorder as he knows it.

My feeling is that, in effect, Sam Vaknin was drawing in vulnerable victims, desperately looking for answers, sometimes easy answers, and recreating them in his own image, inoculating them with his hatred and alienation, and creating a world view where things are worse than imagined, instead of better; it is a world of paranoia, where, in effect, there are monstrous "Ns" under every bush.

I speak as one who, at first, believed a lot of this stuff. He has pathologised almost everyone in every manner. So how can any true healing take place for any of us if we are misled and misinformed- imo, his version of healing, if he had one, is that everyone see it his way. Just like a cult leader wannabe. And his answer against accountability would be, "you knew what I was, so you have only yourself to blame for 'x'".....

Invicta 8/12/03

Update: 8/13/03 I just discovered this information in an article by a forensic psychologist which can be found in toto, here: http://www.crimelibrary.com/criminal_mind/psychology/psychopath/1.html?sect=19

In 1970, Otto Kernberg pointed out that the antisocial personality was fundamentally narcissistic and without morality. He called it malignant narcissism, which included a sadistic element. That self-love is central seems correct but this conception failed to go very far with clinicians who needed practical instruments.

The article is a fascinating and rigorous delineation of the history of attempts to define psychopathy and to predict it. Robert Hare's instrument has the most validity and incorporates Kernberg's conception of a narcissistic component.

It reinforces my belief that a "malignant narcissist" in effect resembles a sadistic psychopath and that that is the construct Sam Vaknin's book describes and explains, not Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

by Invicta

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The Psychopathic Tendency in World Politics

By Jerry Russell and Richard Stanley.
Revision level: 1.0r, 4/5/2003

For many years, psychologists have studied the frightening reality of psychopathic or sociopathic personalities -- the serial killers, the child abusers, the pathologically consistent liars and incorrigible thieves. The scientific study of these individuals was systemically organized by Hervey Cleckley and his 1941 classic "The Mask of Sanity", and today the specialist Robert Hare is one of the foremost authorities in the field. According to Hare, the key emotional and interpersonal traits defining the psychopathic personality syndrome are: a smooth, glib capability to lie, manipulate and dissemble; a completely callous lack of empathy or concern for others; shallow emotional affect and lack of remorse; and egocentric grandiosity.

While most psychological studies of psychopathy have been based on prison populations, there's an emerging (and controversial) recognition that many individuals with this cluster of personality characteristics, are not in prison. The traits of these individuals are so distinctive that they may even represent a distinct taxon, a true sub-species of mankind -- consisting of otherwise normal human beings who are completely lacking in normal human responses to social interactions with others.

In his book, "Without Conscience", Hare writes:

"To give you some idea of the enormity of the problem that faces us, consider that there are at least 2 million psychopaths in North America; the citizens of New York City have as many as 100,000 psychopaths among them. And these are conservative estimates. Far from being an esoteric, isolated problem that affects only a few people, psychopathy touches virtually every one of us.

Consider that the prevalence of psychopathy in our society is about the same as that of schizophrenia, a devastating mental disorder that brings heart-wrenching distress to patient and family alike. However, the scope of the personal pain and distress associated with schizophrenia is small compared to the extensive personal, social and economic carnage wrought by psychopaths. They cast a wide net, and nearly everyone is caught in it one way or another.

The most obvious expressions of psychopathy -- but by no means the only ones -- involve fragrant criminal violations of society's rules. Not surprisingly, many psychopaths are criminals, but many others remain out of prison, using their charm and chameleonlike abilities to cut a wide swath through society and leaving a wake of ruined lives behind them.

Together, these pieces of the puzzle form an image of a self-centered, callous and remorseless person profoundly lacking in empathy and the ability to form warm emotional relationships with others, a person who functions without the restraints of conscience. If you think about it, you will realize that what is missing in this picture are the very qualities that allow human beings to live in social harmony.

It is not a pretty picture, and some express doubt that such people exist. To dispel this doubt you need only consider the more dramatic examples of psychopathy that have been increasing in our society in recent years. Dozens of books, movies, and television programs, and hundreds of newspaper articles and headlines, tell the story: Psychopaths make up a significant portion of the people the media describe -- serial killers, rapists, thieves, con men, wife beaters, white-collar criminals, hype-prone stock promoters and "boiler-room" operators, child abusers, gang members, disbarred lawyers, drug barons, professional gamblers, members of organized crime, doctors who've lost their licenses, terrorists, cult leaders, mercenaries, and unscrupulous businesspeople.

What about politicians? Well, here we have to be careful, because in any individual case it can be very difficult to get the data that's needed for a complete scientific diagnosis. However, in some cases there is enough information available to make a persuasive case. For example, Chris Barr in his essay Towards a unified theory of Clinton notes the psychopathic aspects of Clinton's obsessive-compulsive work habits and decision-making processes, his multiple sexual escapades and denials, and his slimy yet inescapable "Sun King" charisma. Unfortunately, Barr's article is less attentive to Clinton's murderous attack on Yugoslavia, his coverup of the Vince Foster scandal, and his cynical manipulation of the financial markets to produce a massive and artificial boom-bust cycle, all of which would prove much more devastatingly that Clinton was a cold-blooded killer and pokerfaced liar.

Based on the conduct of the Iraq war, more and more people worldwide are concluding that George Bush is a psychopathic, insane individual. Some skeptics argue that the events of 9/11 were a cynical hoax, intended to provoke America into fighting aggressive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of innocents, in a quest for Imperial power. If this is agreed, then it really should not be necessary to offer any further evidence of the psychopathy of George W. Bush. But there is much more: in this essay by Bev Conover of Online Journal, Bush isn't a moron, he's a cunning sociopath, we learn that in his youth, George W. "enjoyed putting firecrackers into frogs, throwing them in the air, and then watching them blow up." Reporter Richard Gooding of the tabloid STAR stated, in a well-referenced article, that Bush was the president of Yale's Delta Epsilon Kappa fraternity -- which "barbarically branded its new members on their backsides with a red-hot metal rod as part of a sadistic hazing practice." Reportedly, "the branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta."

While he was not busy slumming at Delta Epsilon Kappa, Bush also joined the highly elite Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale. Some boys just can't get enough of that "Greek" party lifestyle.

There's a lot of controversy over whether psychopathy should be viewed as a disease caused by some sort of organic birth defect or brain damage. Injuries to the frontal lobes can cause a syndrome that's similar in some respects, but Hare has done a series of studies showing that they're not identical, and that "true" psychopaths basically have highly intact cognitive skills, unlike victims of brain injuries.

Whether it's a "defect" or not, our speculation is that the psychopathic personality is an inherited trait (although this would certainly be controversial among psychologists, many of whom would argue that it can be a result of traumatic childhood experiences or brain injuries.) From our perspective on the literature, it seems reasonable to speculate that it may be only a matter of time before scientists isolate the particular genes that are involved in creating a pre-disposition towards the psychopathic syndrome.

A paper by Harris, Rice & Quinsey (1994) argues that psychopathy is a "taxon" -- that is, a discrete subclass, more or less as distinctive as male vs. female, or cat vs. dog. This is based on a statistical analysis of a population of subjects with their scores for psychopathy. The distribution of scores is strongly bimodal, indicating a lack of "shades of gray" for the psychopathic personality syndrome. This is a strikingly unusual result in personality research, which usually finds a continuous range of variability in personality traits. While a five-factor personality model (introversion/extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness) is often considered sufficient to describe the normal range of personality, the psychopathic personality is very difficult to represent within this space (see Miller et al., 2001), exhibiting highly differentiated sub-traits within the major personality dimensions (where we would normally expect to find correlated sub-traits.) The unusual pattern of sub-traits is, in our view, another basis for believing that psychopathy represents a distinct genetic syndrome.

A review article "the sociobiology of sociopathy an integrated evolutionary model"(Mealey, 1995) treats "primary sociopathy" more or less as a synonym for Cleckley/Hare psychopathy, and argues that it's an evolutionary adaptation -- that enables a percentage of the population to fill the ecological niche for cheaters and scam artists.

Along these lines, Kent Bailey(1995) argues that psychopaths should be called "warrior hawks", and that a healthy contingent of them would be necessary for the survival of any primitive band, faced with the need to survive in violent competition with neighboring tribes. "Warrior Hawks" is perhaps a kinder, less judgmental euphemism for the phenomenon. But on the other hand, it might be unfair to those who might favor warfare in some specific set of external circumstances. "All warrior hawks are psychopaths"? Dramatic, but probably not strictly accurate. (Some warrior hawks might only appear to be psychopaths.)

A related issue is the extent to which "normal" individuals can adopt the behavior patterns of psychopaths. The ideals of empathy, social cooperation and altruism have been supported by a wide variety of philosophical, ethical and spiritual arguments over the years. More importantly, they may also be backed by millions of years of evolution, as many species have adopted cooperative modes of behavior for survival. A revulsion for excessive wanton cruelty may be literally instinctive for most human beings. Nevertheless, any evolutionary tendency towards kindness, empathy and cooperation can apparently be overcome in certain circumstances -- for example, when the government issues a call to war, and tells the people that the enemy must be killed as a matter of the society's own survival.

The psychopaths have developed an extraordinarily powerful camouflage mechanism. When it fits their purposes, they are glib, friendly and easy-going, devoid of the petty anxieties that trouble most of us and cast a pall over day-to-day interactions. They are the very embodiment of charisma and chutzpah. In this way, they stay hidden and undetected by their victims until a trap is sprung. Precisely because most human beings have an instinctive internalized sense of fair play and altruism, they are incapable of seeing when another human being does not share these attributes. We simply do not believe that such evil could exist -- and when we do undeniably encounter it, we may be tempted to ascribe it to supernatural causes, invoking the Devil himself. It is particularly stunning and incredible to contemplate that a powerful and reputable person, a company president or a Senator, or the Ruler of our Country, could possibly be a true psychopath, a man devoid of conscience.

Yet we maintain that this is quite frequently the case, from the beginning of history down to the present day.

Psychopaths and Political Power. Sometimes (and seldom more than today) it seems impossible to escape the conclusion that the whole world is going insane with war and preparation for war. However, the situation is merely a manifestation of a psychopathic tendency in politics, a sinister undercurrent which is always present and sometimes erupts into ugly prominence.

In order to explain how this has happened, we will take the liberty of expressing a theory in terms of primitive, pre-historical culture. (Ever since Rousseau invented the concepts of the "noble savage" living in the "state of nature", philosophers have appealed to pre-history in support of their frameworks, and scientists have criticized those models as little better than fables. Keeping this criticism in mind, we offer this historical just-so story as a model, but not as a proof.)

A pre-history of psychopathy. Primitive man lived in small tribes of perhaps a hundred people or so. Within these tribes, all the basic functions of government and religion had to be filled--educating the young, taking care of the old, making plans for hunting and gathering, providing an ethical system and a knowledge base for dealing with the world, and interacting with other tribes. To fill these functions, we might imagine that hierarchies would naturally emerge, based on strength, skill and intellect.

In this intimate environment, an unintelligent psychopath who actualized a criminal desire to kill or steal from his fellow tribesmen, would obviously be maladaptive as well as easily detected. However, a more clever individual with the psychopathic personality syndrome could find himself in an advantaged position in a tribal society.

With respect to a neighboring tribe -- a well-timed lie about their intentions, or false allegations of evil actions on their part, could inflame the passions of the psychopath's own tribe. This would have tremendous advantages in terms of the outcome of prehistoric warfare -- the ability to carry out an attack with surprise at a time of one's own choosing. A psychopath could satisfy his blood-lust, and emerge as a hero of his tribe as well -- while a non-psychopathic leader would spend time pondering the pain and suffering of the neighboring tribe, as well as the risks to his own people.

With respect to one's own tribesmen -- clever, well-spun and glib lies about Nature or "The Gods" could help fellow tribesmen achieve a (quite likely false) sense of assurance and confidence about the world and their place in it, while more honest individuals would simply scratch their heads at the mystery of it all. As long as the lies are not caught (and religious ideas are often framed in terms which are not subject to verification) the psychopath can earn the respect of his tribe, and probably extra benefits in terms of a greater share of the wealth of the tribe, and better access to women.

As society became more complex, the psychopath's psychological edge may have become more significant. To the extent that psychopathy and intelligence are both hereditary, those advantages would have compounded the sociological advantages of better education and greater wealth that would naturally have accrued to the children of the leading lights of the tribe.

Psychopathy at the dawn of history. With the development of writing, the elite class would multiply their advantage over the commoners, because these highly specialized skills could be used to create an aura of mystery as well as a body of tremendously useful proto-scientific knowledge. Of course, not all members of the elite would be likely to be psychopathic by any means -- on the contrary, we would expect that accidents of birth, the distribution of skills within the broader society, and the advantages of conscientiousness and honesty, would be a constant balancing force. However, the activities of the psychopathic element would put a continuously insane "edge" on the acceptable range of elite conversation, and more often than not, non-psychopaths would find it much to their advantage to play along with the lies of the psychopaths (even when they were able to understand the fraudulent nature of those lies.)

By the time of earliest written history, we would argue that the psychopaths must have been pretty firmly in control of the emerging civilizations. We find that hordes of slaves were enlisted to build gigantic stone temples for the benefit of rulers who were seen as Gods Incarnate, while fear of the Gods (and rulers) was sometimes maintained through human sacrifice at the altar of those same gigantic temples. And this was in the stable, civilized part of the world -- which was wracked from time to time by invading hordes of roving barbarians who sometimes left none alive of the vanquished. The hatred of human sacrifice was a major part of the dialectic by which Rome conquered the ancient world.

The strategy and tactics of class struggle: As Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto --

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Yet Marx was quite incorrect in viewing Capital as the fundamental underlying nature of this struggle. Many other factors are just as important, if not more so. Capitalism had not even been invented when the process of Class Struggle was firmly entrenched in human society. We argue that history should more precisely be viewed as a struggle of Truth and Common Sense to emerge against the ongoing efforts of psychopathic elements within the elite classes, who promote chaos and insanity for their own benefit.

A list of the ever-evolving tactics of the psychopathic elite classes would certainly include the following --

(1) Capitalist economics. Wealth obtained by the elite through conquest or theft, or inheritance, or monopolistic practices, or government-granted privilege, is treated equivalently to wealth generated by hard work or trade or innovation. In this way, the elite co-opts the support of the productive middle class.

(2) Socialist economics. The elite captures a large percentage of the total income of society through taxation (as in most modern nations). This is done ostensibly for the benefit of the common people at large, but most of the resources are appropriated for elite purposes, while only a relatively small trickle is used for "bread and circuses" to maintain support from the lower and middle classes.

(3) Feudal, fascist or communist economics. The common people are more or less owned by the elites as slaves, who are alternatively terrorized and cajoled into compliance. This system occurs when the elite is able to cause the breakdown of capitalist or socialist economic system.

(4) Democratic political systems. All politicians come from the elite classes or serve the interests of elite classes, while the people have the illusion of determining outcomes for their benefit.

(5) Authoritarian political systems. Royal or dictatorial power is used to direct as much as possible of all social resources towards elite goals. The system may be justified on patriotic, ideological or religious grounds. Typically associated with feudal or fascist economic systems.

(6) Popular religions. Often created and always manipulated by psychopathic lies from the priesthood, popular religions exploit natural human spirituality to promote the goals of the elite. Typically, individuals are encouraged to behave honestly and altruistically on behalf of elite goals (in contrast to the elites themselves, who routinely rely on deceit and treachery.) Religion may also be used to promote war and ethnic hatred, when this is required by elite strategies.

(7) Conspiracy. Elite individuals may choose to cooperate secretly with other elite individuals in other institutions or nations, to achieve mutual goals. Since elites do not necessarily share the religious and ethnic prejudices of their citizens or subjects, these conspiratorial alignments may often seem paradoxical or impossible when viewed in terms of conventional (national or institutional) paradigms. They make sense only in terms of the universal class struggle transcending national or institutional boundaries.

(8) War and conquest. Elites in aggressor societies use their power and deceitfulness to incite the population to make war. War creates anxiety, and allows the upper classes to appropriate more resources to defeat the enemy. For the losing side in war, the population at large may suffer complete defeat (and death or slavery) but the losing elite typically emerges in quisling status -- reduced but far from impotent. Sometimes a militarily strong but culturally inept nation or tribe invades and conquers another, only to find themselves ruled in short order by the elite classes of the conquered.

A particularly astounding example of the creation of war by elite banking interests is the extraordinary level of funding of both Hitler and Stalin in the build-up to World War II, as documented in Antony Sutton's books "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler" (1976) and "National Suicide, Military Aid to the Soviet Union" (1973). These interests were obviously more important that Hitler in creating World War II, yet they went unpunished and indeed invisible at the Nuremberg War Crimes tribunals, and they are leading the charge to war today as well.

(9) Revolution and submergence. If the lower classes make troublesome demands, the elite may stage or permit a revolution which promises a major overhaul in the social structure. Following the revolution, the same old elite class emerges in control of the new institutional framework.

(10) Economic and social chaos. Elites may intentionally create or exacerbate economic boom-bust cycles, instigate ethnic conflict, or intentionally sabotage the productive capacities of a society, in order to increase the relative power and status of government and corporate institutions.


Bailey, K.G. The sociopath: cheater or warrior hawk? Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 18, 542-543.

Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E. & Quinsey, V. Psychopathy as a Taxon: Evidence that Psychopaths are a Discrete Class. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(2), 387-397.

Mealey, L. (1995). The sociobiology of sociopathy an integrated evolutionary model. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 18, 523-599.

Miller, J.D., Lynam, D.R., Widiger, T., & Leukefeld, C. (2001). Personality disorders as extreme variants of common personality dimensions: Can the five factor model adequately represent psychopathy? Journal of Personality, 69, 253-276.

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A basic hypothesis of Psychopathy

From: The Mask of Sanity, by Hervey Cleckley, 5th edition

Now that we have proceeded with our task through the stages of (1) presenting observations of the gross material and (2) sifting and tabulating as conveniently and intelligibly as we were able the pertinent residue of our data, let us attempt the next step. This will consist in searching for some concept or formulating some theory that might satisfactorily account for the facts observed. Much of the material appears contradictory, not only in the ordinary world of average or normal living but even in the world of mental disorder commonly granted to be less readily comprehensible in terms of ordinary reason. Even the accepted postulates which help us come to some understanding of the patient with hysteria or the delusional schizophrenic seem at first to fail when applied to the psychopathic, or antisocial, personality.

A patient whose fragmented personality prevents him from becoming aware of significant facts and puts him at the mercy of fantasies indistinguishable from what is real may conduct himself in a fashion that strikes us as altogether absurd and irrational if we fail to take into consideration this fragmentation. A man who is sane by the standards of psychiatry, aware of all the facts which we ourselves recognize, and free from delusions but who conducts himself in a way quite as absurd as many of the psychotic becomes another problem altogether. The observer is confronted with a paradox within the already baffling domain of mental disorder.

In the attempt to arrive at an applicable conception, one consistent with the facts of our observation, I find it necessary first of all to postulate that the psychopath has a genuine and very serious disability, disorder, defect, or deviation. To say that he is merely queer or perverse or in some borderline state between health and illness does little or nothing to account for the sort of behavior he demonstrates objectively and obviously. The practice, quite popular until recent years, of classifying the disorder of these patients, no matter how plain their incapacity to lead normal lives, as (1) no nervous or mental disease and (2) psychopathic personality, whatever the sanctions afforded by tradition, emerges not only as a misleading practice but also as sometimes promoting absurdity when we honestly examine the material to which such terms are applied.

Let us for a moment consider the essential evidence brought out in staff meetings on which experienced psychiatrists establish in an obvious case the diagnosis of schizophrenia and on which legal action is taken to declare the patient psychotic and incompetent (insane) and commit him for treatment. In the brief summarizing statement to support such opinions we often find such words as these:

The history shows that he has failed repeatedly to make a satisfactory adjustment in the social group. His actions indicate serious impairment of judgment and show that he cannot be relied upon to conduct himself with ordinary regard for the safety of himself or of others. His irrational and unacceptable behavior has, furthermore, occurred without normal or adequate motivation. He shows no real insight into his condition and tends often to project the sources of his troubles to the environment. His emotional reactions are grossly impaired and he has repeatedly shown inappropriate or inadequate affect. We may say, then, that he is psychotic, incompetent, incapable of carrying on the usual activities of life, and in need of close supervision.

Such facts have often over many decades constituted more convincing evidence for the diagnosis of schizophrenia than the delusions and hallucinations also frequently present but sometimes not demonstrable in that psychosis. All of these statements just recorded (excepting only the one word "psychotic") may be applied with full validity to the psychopath. This, of course, does not make him a patient with schizophrenia but it does, I maintain, afford grounds for saying he has a grave psychiatric deficit, and grounds that cannot be dismissed lightly. Although I insist on the gravity of his abnormality, I frankly admit that it is a different kind of abnormality from all those now recognized as seriously impairing competency. It is an abnormality that differs more widely in its general features from any of those than they differ from one another.

The first and most striking difference is this: In all the orthodox psychoses, in addition to the criteria just mentioned, or to some of these criteria, there is a more or less obvious alteration of reasoning processes or of some other demonstrable personality feature. In the psychopath this is not seen.

The observer is confronted with a convincing mask of sanity.

All the outward features of this mask are intact; it cannot be displaced or penetrated by questions directed toward deeper personality levels. The examiner never hits upon the chaos sometimes found on searching beneath the outer surface of a paranoid schizophrenic. The thought processes retain their normal aspect under psychiatric investigations and in technical tests designed to bring out obscure evidence of derangement.

Examination reveals not merely an ordinary two-dimensional mask but what seems to be a solid and substantial structural image of the sane and rational personality. He might then be thought of, in the full literal sense, as an example of what Trélat meant to designate by his expressive term, la folie lucide.

Furthermore, this personality structure in all theoretical situations functions in a manner apparently identical with that of normal, sane functioning. Logical thought processes may be seen in perfect operation no matter how they are stimulated or treated under experimental conditions. Furthermore, the observer finds verbal and facial expressions, tones of voice, and all the other signs we have come to regard as implying conviction and emotion and the normal experiencing of life as we know it ourselves and as we assume it to be in others. All judgments of value and emotional appraisals are sane and appropriate when the Psychopath is tested in verbal examinations.

Only very slowly and by a complex estimation or judgment based on multitudinous small impressions does the conviction come upon us that, despite these intact rational processes, these normal emotional affirmations, and their consistent application in all directions, we are dealing here not with a complete man at all but with something that suggests a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly.

This smoothly operating psychic apparatus reproduces consistently not only specimens of good human reasoning but also appropriate simulations of normal human emotion in response to nearly all the varied stimuli of life. So perfect is this reproduction of a whole and normal man that no one who examines him in a clinical setting can point out in scientific or objective terms why, or how, he is not real. And yet we eventually come to know or feel we know that reality, in the sense of full, healthy experiencing of life, is not here.

Fortunately for the purpose of this discussion, but unfortunately indeed in any other light, an objective demonstration is available which coincides perfectly with our slowly emerging impression.

The psychopath, however perfectly he mimics man theoretically, that is to say, when he speaks for himself in words, fails altogether when he is put into the practice of actual living. His failure is so complete and so dramatic that it is difficult to see how such a failure could be achieved by anyone less defective than a downright madman* or by a person totally or almost totally unable to grasp emotionally the major components of meaning or feeling implicit in the thoughts that he expresses or the experiences he appears to go through. In the actions of his living, then, he confirms our subjective impression, or it might be said that our surmise coincides with the objective and demonstrable facts.

During my early observation of psychopaths that preceded publication of the first edition of this book in 1941, I was so much impressed with the degree of maladjustment in these patients that I felt at the time, and said, they should be called psychotic. Subsequent consideration led me long ago to change this opinion and to find myself in complete accord with Richard L. Jenkins who in 1960 wrote:

Hervey Cleckley, in The Mask of Sanity, expresses the belief that the psychopathic personality is a psychosis not technically demonstrable, maximally concealed by an outer surface of intact function and manifested only in behavior. The disagreement I would express with this intriguing definition is that, to me, it strains the concept of psychosis past the breaking point. A psychosis is a major mental disorder. A psychopathic personality shows not a disorder of personality but rather a defect of personality, together with a set of defenses evolved around that defect. The defect relates to the most central element of the human personality: its social nature. The psychopath is simply a basically asocial or antisocial individual who has never achieved the developed nature of homo domesticus.

There is another important point against classifying the psychopath's grave defect with the psychoses. Though I believe he is in degree as maladjusted for leading an acceptable life as the psychotic patient, I do not believe there are similar reasons to consider him legally irresponsible or morally blameless for the frauds he perpetrates and the crimes he may commit.

Let us then assume, as a hypothesis, that the psychopath's disorder, or defect, or his difference from the whole or normal or integrated personality consists of an unawareness and a persistent lack of ability to become aware of what the most important experiences of life mean to others.

By this is not meant an acceptance of the arbitrarily postulated values of any particular theology, ethics, esthetics, or philosophic system, or any special set of mores or ideologies, but rather the common substance of emotion or purpose, or whatever else one chooses to call it, from which the various loyalties, goals, fidelities, commitments, and concepts of honor and responsibility of various groups and various people are formed.

Let us assume that this dimension of experience which gives to all experience its substance or reality is one into which the psychopath does not enter. Or, to be more accurate, let us say that he enters, but only so superficially that his reality is thin or unsubstantial to the point of being insignificant.

Let us say that, despite his otherwise perfect functioning, the major emotional accompaniments are absent or so attenuated as to count for little. Of course he is unaware of this, just as everyone is bound, except theoretically, to be unaware of that which is out of his scale or order or mode of experience.

If we grant the existence of a far-reaching and persistent blocking, absence, deficit, or dissociation of this sort, we have all that is needed, at the present level of our inquiry, to account for the psychopath.

The effort to express what is meant by experiencing life in a full sense, or by awareness of a solid emotional contact, runs through the psychoanalytic literature, which so often stresses the difference between an actual, or emotionally participating, understanding of some important situation and a mere verbal or academic understanding, however complete in that dimension. This point is also implicit in the concepts of Adolf Meyer's psychobiology, which, by its very definition of terms, shows that it is striving to emphasize the wholeness of experience or the full meaning of reactions.

Among lay observers of human problems and human values is sometimes found a sharp awareness of the very point I mean to stress in trying to describe the so-called psychopath.

A poet of our century, Donald Parson, chilled by the dead perfection of the celebrated glass flowers at Harvard, seems to see and translate into metaphor and allegory something closely related to the problem of the personalities discussed here and whose outer state I am trying to describe as a mask of sanity:

I stand in wonder. What amazing art!

No counterfeit is this, but counterpart
Itself, carved with the infinite detail
That makes the plodding step of patience fail.
From life's authentic prompt-book is this leaf.
To cup the rain and captivate the sun:
The poignant lilac whose sharp sword of scent
Can make the memory bleed - that sacrament
We call a rose - a thousand other blooms,
Forever mummied in their crystal tombs.
And yet … somehow … as I behold
These mimic plants, they leave the fancy cold;
Then, frigid patterns, sleep inviolate
Within your glassy cells. Unkindly fate
Denied you death and so denied you life
I want my plants to feel the tonic strife
Of all the testing elements; to know
The flagellation of the rain, the snow,
The scathing sun, the shrapnel of the hail;
To bear the hundred lashes of the gale
And all that soul of man or flower needs
For flowering - the rivalry of weeds,
Not clipped or clamped in time's unyielding vise -
Eternal molds of sempiternal ice -
Farewell, stark forms. No more can you beguile,
You wear the sleety artificial smile
That freezes as it falls. My earthly flowers
Can hear the wing-beat of the flying hours
And, blushing for your deep immortal lie,
Are unafraid - nay, eager - proud-to die.
So shall they burgeon with a sweeter breath
Because, like us, they wait the frost of death.
Glass Flowers

Although to the casual reader these words may suggest more readily the obvious artificiality familiar in the schizophrenic and the schizophrenic's withdrawal from the pain and pleasure of objective life, a point may be made that the full implication of the poem more properly bears on the state of these personalities we now discuss.

Such outward perfection as that seen in the glass flowers at Harvard and such complete lack of participation in the essence of life and mortality suggest wonderfully the situation which me mean to portray in the personalities described in this volume. The schizophrenic does not preserve the intact outer form and function of a complete personality, but the psychopath does.

Without suffering or enjoying in significant degree the integrated emotional consequences of experience, the psychopath will not learn from it to modify and direct his activities as other men whom we call sane modify and direct theirs. He will lack the real driving impulses which sustain and impel others toward their various widely differing but at least subjectively important goals. He will naturally lack insight into how he differs from other men, for of course he does not differ from other men as he sees them. It is entirely impossible for him to see another person from the aspect of major affective experience, since he is blind to this order of things or blind in this mode of awareness.

It must be granted of course that the psychopath has some affect. Affect is, perhaps, a component in the sum of life reactions even in the unicellular protoplasmic entity. Certainly in all mammals it is obvious. The relatively petty states of pleasure, vexation, and animosity experienced by the psychopath have been mentioned. The opinion here maintained is that he fails to know all those more serious and deeply moving affective states which make up the tragedy and triumph of ordinary life, of life at the level of important human experience.

Such capacities vary widely, of course, among normal people and are perhaps proportionate to the general personality development, or, in a far-reaching sense, to true cultural level. The scope or the substantiality of such reactions, if they could be accurately and objectively estimated, would, perhaps more than any other criteria, make it possible to judge how successful and how complete an experiment in nature a particular person has proved to be.

A Beethoven, a Dante, or an Aeschylus, if his real inner life is faithfully represented in his works, would probably present no less a contrast in this aspect with the illiterate and unimaginative peasant or the successful pickpocket than in objective accomplishments.

Nevertheless, no normal person is so unevolved and no ordinary criminal so generally unresponsive and distorted, that he does not seem to experience satisfaction, love, hate, grief, and a general participation in life at human personality levels much more intense and more substantial than the affective reactions of the psychopath.

My concept of the psychopath's functioning postulates a selective defect or elimination which prevents important components of normal experience from being integrated into the whole human reaction, particularly an elimination or attenuation of those strong affective components that ordinarily arise in major personal and social issues.

However intelligent, he apparently assumes that other persons are moved by and experience only the ghostly facsimiles of emotion or pseudoemotion known to him.

However quick and rational a person may be and however subtle and articulate his teacher, he cannot be taught awareness of significance which he fails to feel.

He can learn to use the ordinary words and, if he is very clever, even extraordinarily vivid and eloquent words which signify these matters to other people. He will also learn to reproduce appropriately all the pantomime of feeling; but, as Sherrington said of the decerebrated animal,the feeling itself does not come to pass.

Even his splendid logical faculties will, in real life situations, produce not actual reasoning but that imitation of reasoning known as rationalization, for in the synthesis by which reasoning contributes to sound judgment, the sense of value, that is, the value of truth and feeling, cannot be missing. When this is missing, the process is only rationalization, something which, however technically brilliant, does not satisfactorily guide and shape action. And no difference between the two is more fundamental.

When we conceive of the thought, the emotional responses, the general psychic processes, and the behavior of a person in whom is postulated a defect of this sort, we have arrived at something identical or all but identical with the psychopath as he appears in actual life.

When we say that a disorder at deep levels of personality integration prevents experience from becoming adequately meaningful to the subject, we become vulnerable to the accusation of talking nonsense. It is easy indeed to become unclear, if not to appear actually ridiculous, in attempting to express a point, however tentatively, on these fundamental Matters. A reviewer in the New England Journal of Medicine says of the concept here advanced:

If that (understanding of the meaning of life] is the disease from which the psychopathic inferior suffers, this term can be applied to most of us and certainly to the reviewer, since, so far as he knows, no one has yet given us an insight into the meaning of life. [p. 349]

Such a comment is appealing and not without humor, but it scarcely meets the issue in a responsible manner. We need not assume that a normal man understands the ultimate purpose of life or even that he is remotely near final accuracy in his evaluations of his own bits of experience in order to believe that the psychopath is, in comparison, seriously disabled by the specific deficiency we are attempting to formulate.

Although "meaning" or "the meaning of life" can be applied to a philosophic or religious system that attempts to explain man and the universe, it must be obvious that such an application is not intended here. By saying that a good deal of the affective substance which people find in life experiences is lacking in the psychopath's responses, we seek only to point out that he is not adequately moved and that he does not find subjective stimuli to make the major issues of life matter sufficiently to promote consistent striving. Furthermore, he cannot achieve true and abiding loyalty to any principle or any person.

It is difficult, perhaps, to express anything about such a matter without inviting misunderstanding. Such an affective alteration of fundamental experience is generally granted in the schizophrenic, who shows superficial indications of it. In the psychopath, although it is so strongly indicated by his conduct, this alteration is well masked by his misleading surface. It should not be said that such an estimate can be scientifically proved in either case, or that any subjective state in another can be so established.

In Brenden Maher's important work devoted to current problems of psychiatry and psychology published in 1973, thirty-two years after my first effort to formulate these concepts, I find support and encouragement in this comment on subsequent studies of the psychopath:

Dr. Cleckley's book, The Mask of Sanity, has been the stimulus for most of the experimental research that has been conducted into the problem of psychopathy. It is one of the best examples available of careful clinical observation leading to hypotheses (not conclusions) which can then be put to controlled test. The wealth of clinical anecdote with which each point is illustrated renders it difficult to find any one sequential extract from the book that might serve to present his hypotheses in a systematic fashion. The extract in this volume consists of several portions of the text selected and assembled to be maximally coherent, while letting Cleckley's own views be presented in his own words.

From Cleckley's hypothesis there has developed naturally a major interest in the psychobiology of the psychopath's emotional experience -or lack of it. A prima facie credence must be given to the possibility that the psychopath is deficient in those bodily responses that give rise to the emotional experiences of anxiety, pity and the like. Hare, one of the major investigators of the present time, examines this explanation and presents the pertinent data in his paper here. The paper is not previously published elsewhere and it provides a new synthesis of findings from several related lines of research on the topic. [p. 197]

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