by KessieLou on Deviant Art
When I was junior high age — we didn’t have junior high schools in those days so I was still in grade school — I spent a lot of time drawing paperdolls. My friend from across the street joined me in creating a whole society of “people” and their clothes. They were not Barbies so much as patterns of what we thought the world was like. (There were no Barbies yet, but I had a Toni doll who was bigger, 3-dimensional, and had wild red hair, like mine.)
The key was that each of we two had two figures (based on Winnie Winkle, Lil’ Abner and Brenda Starr comic strips in the daily paper), one who was blonde and a force for good and the other who was brunette and a force for wickedness — not violence or murder, but machinations to hurt other figures and dominate stories. Because they were from the comics, they were VERY sexual (big boobs, tiny waists, painted eyes). Because we made all sorts of clothes for them they were naked, but not explicit. (No nipples.) We did hair extensions and big earrings.
Of course, they were about puberty and trying to understand “female” both socially and physically. We stopped when my friend’s cousins, who were older and more sophisticated, took an interest and began to make more elegant figures, clothed and detailed with skillful watercolors, which took them higher on the culture scene into “art.” Distanced.
But there was one figure I made for myself who was nothing like any of this and was not shared with my friend. She was very tall and skinny with gray hair braided tight around her head and she wore a long black dress with long sleeves and a high neck. She is a figure often found in gothic BBC films — the strict governess, the stern housekeeper, the prison warden. I named her “Minerva.” I didn’t think of her as evil nor even wise as in the Greek myths— maybe more like constricted by virtue, rigid. Once a Blackfeet community college student in a class of mine told me that she expected I would be bony and humorless like this. She was surprised by my actual appearance; she was not the first.
Minerva came back to mind last night because I was chasing the “narcissism” trope again and watching Sam Vaknin’s YouTube posts. He looks like a male version of Minerva and takes her attitude to some degree. This linked post is about how he feels when listening to music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QVoqDTjLCE
He says, “the decomposing sweetness of my childhood” makes him “unbearably maudlin”. He cannot breathe then. He claims otherwise he feels nothing but emptiness. Except that he has a sense of stored-up emotion that — if released — would destroy both him and us. Pretty grandiose.
When I listen to Sam for a while, I feel as though I’ve been watching a stripped version of an Ingmar Bergman movie, one like “The Seventh Seal” or “Wild Strawberries”, except without the redemption of the (blonde) forgiving mother. But then recently comes a new Vaknin vid, which I can’t find when I go back to make a link. It’s about he and his wife, who previously had had relationships with malignant narcissists. Most of the really raging attacks on narcissism, the ones that want vengeance, are from women, who often transparently invited themselves into the relationship in the first place, seeing it as some kind of privileged access. They want to “fix” Sam, which is grandiose. Like a child wanting to “fix” parents.
Vaknin and his wife
But grim Sam accepts that he IS a grandiose narcissist, maybe with malignant psychopathic or sociopathic aspects, a fact impressed upon him by a failed marriage, a failed business, and a jail term that gave him time to think. Rather than reject or even repent, he decided to claim the label and exploit it, which he has done rather successfully. He now claims and probably deserves to be described as the world’s expert on narcissism. It’s interesting to hear him talking about Trump — he joins the consensus of most people that Trump is an extreme narcissist, both grandiose and malignant.
In the vid with the wife (she is younger but mature, quite pretty with an expressive face that shows amusement and tenderness), she says nothing for a while, but then he invites her to speak and asks her why she cares about him. She puts a tender hand on his shoulder and they exchange some jokes. Sam can’t help smiling. But he fights it.
To tell the truth I share her warm feelings for grandiose narcissists (maybe not the more malignant ones) and am not bitter about my time with them, energy spent on them, even wounds inflicted by them. I sort of regret the wounds I made on them. This world is not drawn by Disney. And, like Vaknin and his wife, I find that a little humor is a powerful sting remover.
This is a link to the Vaknin menu. By now he’s established an identity and is making a comfortable living as an expert. He’s much more interesting and useful than the “Neoatheists”, though there’s still something we associate with religion about him, like a cranky old priest or rabbi or imam. He’s not either the invisible psychoanalyst nor the reassuring papa. (His full name is technically Shmuel Ben David “Sam” Vaknin, born in 1961, which was the year Kennedy was elected and I came to the rez, almost immediately hooking up with a grandiose narcissist.)
Such a strategy is a lazy form of discipline, "valorized" or "virtue" ethics in which one takes as a guide an admired person. This is also a child’s strategy. Children are always exceeded by the demands on them. I feel this very sharply — I think the times are pressing this on us all, no matter how truly powerful and wise we are. There’s currently an advertisement about a little white dog showing up with a subway rider and asking to be adopted. Soon the dog is joined by homeless people, abandoned children, powerless races, mortally ill, elderly people until there is a crowd following this helpless man. I teared up. It’s hard to accept or even tolerate the need in the world.
One way is Sam’s. He takes the position that he is impossibly superior, to the point of being alien. Admitting all that neediness in himself and the world would release impossible rage.