“The victims of the narcissist’s abusive conduct resort to fantasies and self-delusions to salve their pain.” ~Sam Vaknin
I have often been told by both experts on and victims of narcissists that they just don’t change. I believe that’s true, and I had hoped to provide you with an interview with the well-known narcissism expert, Sam Vaknin, to discuss that very topic – whether or not a narcissist could actually be changed.
Vaknin, who has often been quoted in my work and who was an early inspiration for me in my study of narcissism, has said that he believes it’s possible to love a narcissist, but only if you accept him unconditionally and essentially agree to be his narcissistic supply.
But, as it turns out, Vaknin is truly what he claims to be – and so instead of an interview, I got an experience, and maybe it’s one that’ll prove more valuable to my readers who need help with their narcissistic relationships.
This offers me some real-life examples that aren’t really very personal but can show you a clear-cut example of what narcissistic manipulation (gaslighting) really looks like, at least on a mild level. I like a good silver lining, don’t you?
My Brief Facebook Friendship with the Self-Proclaimed Narcissist
It’s kind of funny, how excited I got when Vaknin accepted my friend request on Facebook. I’d read his work years ago and had often referred back to it – but the one thing I failed to catch was that Vaknin was a self-proclaimed narcissist.
In fact, he’s widely known as such. One blogger who observed him on a documentary about his narcissism actually wrote a post questioning whether or not Vaknin was a narcissist.
Is Vaknin a Narcissist or a Wannabe? One Blogger Found Out the Hard Way
“Vaknin is an enigma,” writes Lucky Otter. “During the documentary I sometimes wondered whether he is actually a narcissist at all. He certainly doesn’t seem psychopathic (although I’m not going to say it’s impossible), but if he’s a narcissist, I don’t think he’s a particularly malignant one.”
She adds that her personal opinion of Vaknin “is that he has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which shares a number of traits with NPD because they are both Cluster B character disorders but differ in important ways. I think Vaknin has strong narcissistic, paranoid, and schizoid traits, but he is no psychopath.”
Apparently, Vaknin read the post and sent the blogger corrections, specifically noting that he has been “twice diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (in 1986 and in 1995).”
That’s intriguing, right? Kind of, anyway, for someone who studies this disorder.
My First Facebook Conversation With Vaknin Reveals Narcissistic Tendencies
The whole self-proclaimed narcissist deal would, of course, explain our first conversation on Facebook messenger, which went something like this.
Him: Glad to have you as my friend! You may also wish to join (his facebook group) and buy my print book, e-books (electronic books), and video lectures are available for purchase (at this link) (remainder of post redacted because it was literally more than a dozen promotional links and NOTHING else).
Me (clueless and in huge nerd mode – I was so excited I even did a really quick Periscope about this dude!): Sam, you are actually the first person I read when I was trying to figure out my problem with someone several years back. Since then, I’ve gone on to research even more and have written a few books and several articles on the topic. So I’m very honored to be your friend and I’d absolutely treasure an opportunity to work with you on something in the future. Thanks for accepting my friend request.
Him (narcissism, activated): Strange: I cannot find a single instance where you refer to my work in your articles or in your books. Your gratitude sounds a bit insincere. Thank me by buying my books (link attached, of course).
Me (kinda felt like I’d been slapped in the face – this guy was a big influence for me): Wow. I actually did quote you and recommend your stuff several times and have bought your books. I’m sorry I bothered you. My gratitude is sincere.
Him: (would you call this condescension?):
1. Where did I say or even hint that you are bothering me???
2. Thank you for your business.
3. Google must be slipping. I typed your name+mine and nothing came up. Would appreciate a solitry example of an article in which you quote me.
4. Thank you for your kind words.
Take care there.
(Plus four more promotional links – redacted)
Me (feeling a little shocked, but still wanting to make this narcissist like me): Here are some links (redacted) that show where you’ve been quoted by me. I could go on if you like. Sorry if I misunderstood your tone before. Also I write under Angela Atkinson. Maybe that was the confusion (note: it was – my personal profile is under “Angie” so he had Googled the wrong name).
My Second Facebook Conversation With Vaknin: I Got Reeled Back In.
Me (later, feeling a little more confident): Hey Sam…I’d love to interview you sometime. Let me know your thoughts’
Him (reeling me back in – a standard gaslighting move): I would be honored and delighted to grant you an interview. At your disposal any time. (Promotional link -redacted)
Him (still reeling): Angela Atkinson! This month, I even posted an article of yours everywhere, including on my FB timeline! Sorry about the confusion.
Me (feeling like I was on top of the world – he liked me, he really liked me!): That is amazing and thank you so much! I sincerely appreciate it and am very grateful to know you. I’ll check out your press kit and get with you tomorrow to schedule an interview if that’s okay?And in the meantime, please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.
And that was it. No further response. Our next conversation didn’t go quite as…smoothly, though.
My Third Facebook Conversation With Vaknin: Narcissistic Injury on Parade
Though we’d spoken about a potential interview just before the weekend, he reached out to me on Monday morning. He was a narcissist, injured.
Him: Angie, haven’t heard from you as promised. Could you at least extend to me the courtesy of letting me know why you have changed your mind regarding the interview?
Me: Good morning Sam. I didn’t forget, just haven’t had a chance to schedule it yet. I’m very excited about it though, so when is best for you? Could we do the interview via a live Google hangout?
Him (later, excessively formally, don’t you think?):
I live in a hellhole in the farthest, most benighted corner of Europe.
(Long, wordy and unnecessary directions on how to record an audio interview via Skype redacted).
Looking forward to hearing from you.
SamMe (willing to consider this setup he’s described and figure it all out to get the interview): Okay, thanks. I’ll look into that asap. What times and days are best for you?Him: The weekends are the best (saturday, even Sunday, if youa re up to it.) My time zone is CET. Not sure where you are. I am 6 hours AHEAD of NYC. 2 PM here is 8 AM in New-York.
My Final Facebook Conversation With Sam Vaknin: The Discard Phase
Me (Here’s where it all goes wrong): Okay. I’m central time – I live in St. Louis. Where are you from, just out of curiosity?Him: I am currently on assignment in Skopje, Macedonia. I am an Israeli by citizenship.Me (should’ve just said goodbye, but instead, I said): Oh cool! I didn’t know. You’re not Jewish are you? Just wondering because I’m 1/4 Jewish – I recently learned it.Him (preparing for the attack): Angie, I am an Israeli. It means that there is an 80% chance that I am Jewish and 20% chance that I am an Arab. Now, I leave it to you to figure out which.Me (still thinking we’re being professionals and having a nice, harmless conversation here): Haha okay. I was just being nosy, no worries. I’ve been a bit deprived of the Jewish culture even though I’m only 2nd generation American on that side.Him (preparing for the kill):
I don’t mind nosy. I mind dumb. Your question was more the latter than the former …:o))Me (once again shocked, stupidly): Oh. Well, I’m sorry then.Him (in full narcissistic glory): No apology called for. We all lapse from time to time. For more information about me (including the fact that I live in Skopje, for instance), you can simply peruse my Facebook page (the “About” section).
Me (admittedly, feeling a little defensive and a LOT offended): For the record, I may appear to be a standard dumb blonde, but I’m quite the opposite. Respect is a two way street.Him (Negating everything I said and changing the conversation back to himself): I did not judge you by your appearance. In fact, I did not judge YOU at all. I judged what you WROTE to me. And what your wrote to me was dumb. It doesn’t necessarily follow that you are dumb. What you write and who you are are two separate things. Finally, respect has to be earned. I never grant it automatically and unthinkingly.Me (realizing what he’s doing and trying to get back to being professional by referring to the interview – and still admittedly feeling defensive): I hear you. I disagree that what I asked was dumb, but I understand that you’re not seeing it from this side. It makes me afraid to continue asking questions, for the record.Him (gaslighting all the way – he blames me and twists the conversation back to himself and the things that he “will never allow”): Your emotional reaction to criticism is an issue that you have to work on. I cannot help you there. I will continue to express my opinions freely, though. I never allow other people’s emotions to inhibit, constrict, or restrict me in any way, shape, or form.
Me (pretty much done with this guy at this point, but still thinking an interview with him could do my readers some good – so I’m trying): That’s important. I guess I’ve been shocked at your willingness to use the word “dumb” in reference to me/something I said. But you’re right – your opinion is just that.Him (clearly offended that I agreed with him that his opinion was just an opinion, hurling insults all over the place – discard phase plus a final flair of narcissistic rage? Maybe.): It’s nothing personal. I told you that I am an Israeli and you asked “You’re not Jewish are you?” That’s a dumb question. You also asked me where I live when you could have easily found the answer on my Facebook page, Wikipedia, Twitter, Google, and a zillion other websites. That’s equally dumb (or lazy). “My opinion is just that” is another dumb utterance. Now, I am afraid I am beginning to form the distinct feeling that perhaps you ARE dumb.
And then he blocked me. Oh yeah.
I don’t know, y’all. If he’s not a narcissist, he sure imitates one pretty well. Does this conversation feel familiar to you? Have you experienced gaslighting like this? Let’s talk about it.
Here’s a playlist on gaslighting that could be helpful for you.
And here’s a video playlist on how to spot a narcissist – hope it’s helpful for you.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.