What is Meant by the Term “Malignant Self-Love?”

| Staff Writers

Malignant self-love is a term developed by Dr. Sam Vaknin and is utilized as the title of his book in which he provides a first-hand account of narcissistic personality disorder or NPD. The complete title of Vaknin’s text is Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited and was published in 2003, with multiple reprints since that date.

Vaknin utilized the term as part of his effort to offer new insights into NPD. The term is also used as part of his effort to offer a better organized methodological framework that utilizes a new psychodynamic language intended to more accurately describe the dynamics of NPD.

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Overview of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The world-renowned Mayo Clinic defines narcissistic personality disorder as a personality disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of their own importance as well as a deep need for excessive attention and admiration. NPD was only recognized as an independent mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, in 1980.

This mental illness is marked by troubled relationships and a lack of empathy for other people. Hidden behind what is perceived as extreme confidence is a fragile self-esteem. A person with NPD is highly vulnerable to even the slightest criticism.

Who is Dr. Sam Vaknin?

Dr. Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited and the person who is credited with furthering, if not creating, the term malignant self love, is not a mental health professional. He is diagnosed with NPD.

He is an Israeli, born in 1961, who is a writer by profession. Before turning to writing, and before his incarceration in an Israeli prison for financial crimes, Vaknin was a financial consultant in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Macedonia.

The Root of the Terminology of “Narcissistic” Personality Disorder

Surrounding much of Vaknin’s writings and lectures is a focus on the term malignant self-love as something of a more apt replacement for narcissistic personality disorder. Thus, understanding the origins of the term “narcissistic” personality disorder is useful.

Narcissistic personality disorder as a psychological term of art stems from the Grecian legend of Narcissus. Narcissus was a Greek boy who became enamored with his own reflection in a pond. As he fell in love with his own reflection, Narcissus rejected the advances of a nymph called Echo. In the end, Narcissus was punished by Nemesis by being consigned to forever pine away for the unattainable reflection of himself with which Narcissus was in love.

The Development of a New Vocabulary

In writing his book, Vaknin relied on a review of existing academic literature combined with authoritative reports of research studies as well as his own personal experience as an individual diagnosed with what heretofore had been called narcissistic personality disorder. As noted previously, Vaknin ultimately determined that the vocabulary developed by psychologists, academicians, and others failed to accurately convey what really is at play when it comes to NPD. As a result of this realization, Vaknin concluded that “a new vocabulary had to be invented to account for the myriad facets and appearances” of NPD. The gravamen of that new vocabulary is malignant self-love.

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