Throughout The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates most of the traits associated with what the DSM-IV calls “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”Â If you’ve spent much time on my site, you’ll have gathered that I’m no fan of diagnosis.Â I don’t want to end my discussion of the film before I’ve even begun by affixing a label to this character; instead, I’d like to use The Social Network as a way to approach a cluster of psychological traits that often go together.Â Sometimes you see them in the bipolar disorders; or you might find them displayed by someone who’d receive a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder instead.Â In truth, the so-called personality disorders exist along a spectrum, nobody fitting neatly into any single diagnostic category, but I’ll use the DSM-IV criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a basis for my discussion.Â I’ll invert the order of list and end with the earlier criteria since they raise some interesting and difficult questions.
According to the DSM-IV, you need to display at least five of these qualities to meet the diagnostic threshold.
1.Â Â Â Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
From the opening scene with his girlfriend Erika, where he sneers at Boston University and condescendingly tells her he’ll give her the opportunity to mingle with people she wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to meet, to his disdain for the lawyers who question him, Zuckerberg behaves with consistent arrogance.Â He clearly feels himself to be above everyone in intelligence and entitled to treat other people in any way he sees fit.Â Contempt is the hallmark of his character.
2.Â Â Â Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
The Winklevoss twins represent a privileged, Waspy way of life that Zuckerberg clearly envies; in addition, he will never possess their athletic ability and social ease, qualities he believes his ex-girlfriend Erika admires.Â In the first scene, when telling Erika about the powerful final clubs and the importance of belonging to one them, he clearly aches to be part of that system, not a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity.Â When Eduardo receives an invitation to be “punched” by the Phoenix Club, a prestigious and storied campus organization at Harvard, Zuckerberg dismisses the invitation as “a diversity thing,” thus spoiling Eduardo’s pleasure.Â In a way, you can view his treatment of Eduardo and the Winklevoss twins as triumphing over them, a classic strategy for mitigating unbearable envy.
3Â Â Â Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
In the very first scene, Zuckerberg demonstrates his complete inability to identify with or understand the experience of others.Â He insults Erika by belittling her school and treating her with condescension; then, when she’s upset by his behavior, he repeatedly asks her if she’s being serious.Â He needs to be told because he lacks the ability to understand via empathy.Â Only when she at last convinces him that she’s truly angry does he apologize; it’s apparent that he issues this apology merely as a tactical measure, because he knows this is what you’re supposed to do in order to mollify someone under these circumstances, and not because he feels true remorse.Â For the remainder of the film he displays consistent disregard for the feelings of virtually every other person he knows, including his best friend Eduardo.
4. Â Â Â Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
Regardless of the merit of their subsequent legal claims, the Winklevoss twins are consistently dismissed, ignored and out-maneuvered by Zuckerberg.Â They invited him to join their venture as a programmer; never once does he acknowledge any sense of gratitude or responsibility to them.Â Despite the fact that Eduardo has been a loyal and supportive friend who bankrolled their operation, Zuckerberg ruthlessly cheats him out of his ownership interest in the company they founded together.Â As Eduardo points out to him late in the film, Zuckerberg has no other friends.
5. Â Â Â Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
Zuckerberg clearly feels entitled to wealth, fame and success.Â He expects people to conform to his expectations, move wherever he likes and do what he tells them.Â Without consulting his partner, he decides to move their company to California and expects Eduardo to fly out when summoned.Â He thinks he’s more brilliant than everyone else (with the exception of Sean Parker, founder of Napster) and is therefore entitled to do things his own way, no matter how it makes other people feel or the inconvenience it may cause them.Â He demonstrates one type of insensitive, narcissistic behavior after another.
We’ve met the minimum five criteria for the diagnosis.Â In my experience, whether in Narcissistic Personality Disorder or some other syndrome, these five traits often show up together.Â Let’s call this configuration “pathological narcissism”; in general, it is characterized by grandiosity, a lack of empathy, poisonous envy, a sense of entitlement and a tendency to manipulate and exploit other people.
There are several other possible diagnostic criteria one can meet for Narcissistic Personality Disorder; two of them raise some interesting questions.
6.Â Â Â Has a grandiose sense of self-importance; and
7.Â Â Â Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with,Â other special or high-status people (or institutions)
What if you really are the smartest person in the room, or in almost any room?Â What if your achievements truly areÂ extraordinary by any sense of the word?Â Are you narcissistic if you recognize the truth and expect others to acknowledge it as well?Â What if only someone as intelligent and mentally quick as you can truly understand you? Â Does it make you an elitist to insist upon that fact? Throughout the film, I was often torn as I listened to Zuckerberg, particularly in the scenes where he squares off with the lawyers:Â I found his contempt grating but at the same time, I thought that virtually every observation he made about them was true.Â From my point of view, he displayed superior logic and rhetorical skill in almost every exchange.
Finding Your Own Way:
I’d like to devote this section to a series of questions about the film; I welcome your thoughts and comments.Â Try to answer them without any resort to morality, or ideas about how we all ought to behave.
How did you feel about Mark Zuckerberg?Â Did you find him repulsive or was there a way in which you empathized?
Did his arrogance offend you or could you see the ways in which it was a defense mechanism, a response to a narcissistic injury such as rejection by Erika?Â At core, did he struggle with deep and completely unacknowledged feelings of inferiority?
Do you believe he “stole” the Winklevoss twins’ idea, in the process overvaluing his own creation, or was Facebook truly something bigger and more creative than their original concept?Â Was he in the right place at the right time, maybe an opportunist, or was he a true (if obnoxious) visionary?
Do you believe he really cared about Erika or was it simply that he couldn’t bear rejection?Â The last scene in the film where he’s gazing at her Facebook page could be read either way:Â (1) he’s still pining for her, after all this time; or (2) everything since that night when she rejected him has been a response, an attempt to inflate himself after she shot him down.Â Narcissists have notoriously thin skins; was the fuel behind the creation of Facebook the intolerable pain of a brutal blow to his ego?
Does he over-value intelligence as a defense against something else?Â What do you think it might be?[jwplayer mediaid=”309″]
Awesome post! As a grad student studying rehabilitation and mental health counseling, I always get something good out of what I read here.
I haven’t see the Social Network yet, but I look forward to renting it soon so I can put some thought into and answer your questions!
Joseph, you’re not describing a movie you’re describing the baby boomers. I don’t know when you were born but your article suggests you’re a boomer. The shadow of the boomer archetype is narcissism. I find it very strange a psychotherapist whose been through intensive therapy would conclude someone from a hero/civic generation is a narcissist. The only conclusion I can reach is that you are projecting.
I’d rather see writing that speaks of the Millennial generation that isn’t cynical and demeaning especially when it doesn’t fit. Zuckerman stated unequivocally that the movie was way-off. Perhaps if you were reviewing the movie Pirates of Silicon valley, your review would be right on the money. Gates and Jobs are both typical narcissistic boomers.
As a first year GenXer, I am a very cynical person. Angry, mad and unhappy with ‘how things turned out’. However, I do know when I’m projecting and I do know that the Millennial generation is completely the opposite of how you’ve portrayed them in this review. I’m sorry but you can’t simply say Zuckerman is only one human being and doesn’t represent the Mills. He does. He’s one of their business leaders and has done exactly what a the Millennial archetype does and that is create civic virtues for the betterment of society, not the individual.
If you want to see a narcissistic social network go to a business meeting run by and attended by baby boomers.
James, I can’t comment on the Millenial generation and its leaders as I don’t know enough about them to make the kind of broad statements that you do. No doubt you’re right, that the REAL mark Zuckerman has “created civic virtues for the betterment of society, not the individual.” As portrayed in the film, however, he is a classic narcissistic: grandiose, envious, arrogant, contemptuous, exploitative, lacking empathy, etc. The cinematic Zuckerberg never mentions social virtues; when explaining why he doesn’t want to monetize the site, he says that Facebook is “cool” and that ads will spoil that. He keeps telling Eduardo that Facebook needs to evolve; they have to wait, to see how big it can become. He seems obsessed with the numbers and becoming as large and influential as possible. He does nothing else in the film that demonstrates anything remotely like concern for civic virtues or social welfare.
We need to keep the real and fictional Zuckermans separate. I may have blurred this distinction with my questions at the end of the post, by asking about the relationship between the actual accomplishments of the real Zuckerman and the psychological traits demonstrated by the character in the film. Sorry about that.
The interview on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago preceding the film release provided insight that the film truly did portray MZ”s personality. This may sound harsh, however, I feel that Facebook has created a society of “social mutants”. Personal communication, dialog, exchanges of real emotion and human contact are becoing non-existent. Is an “emoticon” really a replacement from hearing the nuances of voice inflection and facial expressions?
I am not a fan of social networking as you can tell. The generation of ‘facebookers”
is missing out on REAL LIFE.
As for MZ – I don’t know a person on this planet who give a 60 million dollar settlement to somebody, (the twins) unless there was proof of guilt and impropriety.
Would you? Perhaps he got off cheap?
Do yourself a favor today…phone a friend!
OMG 🙂 you watch 60 minutes and then tell others to get a life. Enjoy the couch, you are missing both the point and the phenomenon. Might I suggest getting off your couch, visiting a library (the place they keep useful information) – I’d start with ‘litigation’ – and learn why someone would indeed pay millions – and it has little to do with emotional guild. By the way – you’re now participating in a network. Welcome.
The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
Facebook was good for me and still is! Thank God for Facebook in my life. I was bedridden, fighting breast cancer stage 4 and far away from home. It was the window to society for me. It was a way to feel connected to family and friends, when I could not breath well, walk or use my arms well at times. I met old classmates there and am now married to a high school sweetheart because of Facebook.
Loved your comments.
I don’t “Facebook”. I do not “tweet”. Oh, my gosh. I do not “text”, …. Oh no! Say it ain’t so!
Zuckerberg-FaceBook ——- translation: ” Come into my parlor “, said the Spider to the fly.
Zukerberg and Bill Gates are both rumored to be on the Autism spectrum. I wonder if that possibility would alter your assessment of the Zuckerberg character. This is neither a condemning or condoning the character’s behavior. At the same time, this movie may be one desperate individual’s attempt to create an understandable (to him) means of connecting with other people. Maybe he has no idea how to connect to people around him, maybe he never learned how other people think. Of course, all of this writing is most likely my own projecting onto the Zukerberg character. Relationships are very difficult for me, though I study and practice as often as possible. It’s hard to not empathize with someone who seems as confused.
I have not seen the movie, but I read The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. In the book MZ has a mission that he feels will change the world for the better – everyone united and transparent on Facebook. And his mission justifies any means. I love Freakin’me’s comment about “social mutants”. I know a husband and wife who post on each other’s walls for all their FB “friends” instead of calling each other . It seems the reason Facebook is so successful is that is satisfies a combination of voyeurism (what are others doing), exhibitionism (thinking everyone will be interested in what they are doing), and social isolation (Facebook replaces having real relationships). I use Facebook for business, but frankly, I don’t want to and I really don’t see the attraction. But I clearly I am in the minority.
I mostly agree with your view on FB, although I do try to see it from the POV of my kids’ generation. My oldest son, a sophomore in college, uses it mostly as a kind of datebook; he never posts anything of a personal or narcissistic nature but will put what college events he’s attending and schedule details of social plans with his friends. In that sense, it’s a very useful tool. My 12-year-old daughter has no interest in FB. I don’t know what my middle son posts on his wall because he refuses to “friend” me!
Some of our friends were over the other night and one of them quoted another friend about her daughter on FB. She said, “Well I guess I’ll have to log onto Facebook now to see whether Amanda has farted in the last half hour.” Isn’t that hilarious! It is always astonishing to me that people believe others care about the minutiae of their lives in this way and are willing to post it in a public space.
On the other hand (there’s always another hand), I do enjoy the brief insights FB gives me into the lives of my nieces who I rarely see. Even if we’re not talking on the phone or seeing one another, I have some limited sense of their ongoing lives. It is no substitute for more intimate, lengthy contact but it’s all I’ve got.
I had some free time tonight so I rented the Social Network. I thought it was a fabulous film!
Here are my answers to your questions:
1. Given my opinion on social media (to quote a column I wrote about it once, social media is to relationships what fast food is to nutrition. It’s a quick way to feel like you’ve gotten what you need, but when compared to what you really need, what you get is insubstantial.), I had a little bit of a bone to pick with the real life Mark before I saw the movie. So I went in expecting to dislike him. And I did! Which is why I was surprised that I could empathize when his classmate called him a name via a note she passed him in class. Throughout the movie, I found myself sympathizing for him — because he was, for lack of a better phrase, completely unable to delve deeper than the surface. His whole world was superficial, as it is for all narcissists I’ve known.
2. I wasn’t as offended by his arrogance as I expected to be, and I think that’s because I did see it more as a defense. I think he likely did struggled with unacknowledged feelings of inferiority. So he tried to create the conditions of superiority (making himself look better than he is and making other people look worse than they are) and he overcompensated.
3. I have to say I think Mark in the movie made a good point when he said something like, “If Facebook was (the twins’) idea, they would have invented Facebook.” Based solely on what I saw in the movie, I’m not sure if I think he stole the idea. Part of me wants to say it is because he heard the twins’ idea that he came up with the idea for Facebook, which is bigger and better than what the twins had in mind. But another part of me wants to say that he hear the idea and decided, in response to the “injury” of their implying his reputation needed a boost, to one-up the twins by creating something bigger and better that would render their idea obsolete.
4. I don’t believe he really cared about Erika. I don’t think narcissists are capable of caring about other people in sincere ways (and I don’t think it’s always malicious. It just…is.). In the last scene, I think what he pines after isn’t Erika — it’s acceptance. Even though he’s probably not aware how inferior he feels, it shows up as this need for “proof” that he’s worth something. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ego-blow was the fuel behind the creation of Facebook.
5. The more intelligent he can show people he is, the fewer reasons other people will have to assume he isn’t smart. The more reasons other people will have to admire him. The narcissist assumes that other people a) are watching him and b) that they care who he is/what he’s doing, etc. So the narcissist spends his or her energy looking like what he or she hopes will impress other people (and in really, really rare cases, like Mark’s, a narcissist will actually do things that impress people instead of just projecting an image.). I think his expressing his intelligence is a defense against those unaddressed feelings of inferiority.
Wow! Thanks for such thoughtful detail, Arleen. It’s a psychologically astute film, and so provocative. I think I’d have to agree with you, especially on Nos. 3 and 4. I think I’m going to write another, short piece on my movies blog about the force of narcissistic injury.
It amazes me how many people think they can figure out what “causes” Narcissism. Or how they can assign the label to a generation or society, etc. There are things that can make it worse (in childhood, etc.), but it’s basically something one is born with – at least the basic traits and personality type.
That’s why it’s an Axis II disorder. That’s where mental retardation is. PDs are a sort of emotional/social retardation. Having a high IQ is not a way to become a Narcissist. (Just as not every NPD is a redhead, 7 foot tall mostly male baby-boomer) LOL. We know now there is emotional intelligence and other intelligences such as being born a great artist, athlete or musician. Many of those are NPD and many of those are not. So â€“ no correlation between intelligence and personality disorders. Agreed?
They just stand out because itâ€™s always worse to have a smart, talented, rich, good looking Narcissist on your hands, than one without those social advantages. A smart, spoiled young person can act like a little brat but that does not make them a personality disorder if they have the capacity for empathy and the ability to see it in themselves and change â€“ mature, if they so choose. (An NPD has to fit the criteria over time which includes impairment of (social) functioning. Many smart spoiled young people can also be shy, humble, introverted, etc. A trait is a trait. We can try any on for size and pick and choose them. Some we are â€œborn withâ€ or just tend to lean toward. However, a pattern over time without capacity for change is something else.
BTW – I hear they are taking NPD out of the next DSM, what do you know about that and is there a replacement?
In terms of all the PDs in movies, Dr. Gregory Lester has a great list. He says how ‘Seinfeld’ was created to have each character a personality disorder but toned down some and with humor. So Jerry is the NPD, the girl is the Borderline, the short, balding guy is the Histrionic, the weird neighbor a schitzotypal and I guess those are the main ones. But they did it on purpose! Why the success? Just as sex sells, so does DRAMA. PDs sure do stir up the drama. (Mommy Dearest, Fatal Attraction). Can you think of others? Would you say Fatal Attraction female was borderline or histrionic? I’m thinking borderline because of her rage and violence.)
I appreciate the discussion. I love personality and generational stuff too. Iâ€™ve been reading about the relationships between narcissists and codependents and how they attract each other just as an alcoholic/addict finds his/her enablers. Does anyone have an opinion on how Codependency should be diagnosed, and if itâ€™s curable/changeable? Is it a personality type, disorder, addiction or does it need its own category?
JP Bailey, IMF
No correlation between intelligence and personality disorders — agreed.
Yes, I’ve read about removing NPD from the upcoming DSM-V and I wrote about it here. In my view, these diagnostic categories are entirely artificial. While I do see clusters of behaviors and defense mechanisms that tend to appear together, I don’t believe in discrete categories that equate psychological difficulties to medical disorders.
Thanks for the interesting observations about ‘Seinfeld’, ‘Mommy Dearest,’ etc. And yes, I’d agree that the character played by Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction’ most closely fits the diagnosis of BPD while also demonstrating features of other personality disorders. My impression is that the revision to DSM-V is moving closer to using clusters of traits rather than discrete categories because that’s how personality disorders appear — along a spectrum. I think this will be an improvement.
Another excellent blog. Thank you Jo.
Okay, so I’ll have to get this movie after all.
RE: your discussion of traits 6 and 7…I’d say #6 is definitely diagnostic. It is one thing to be more or less accomplished, but that doesn’t change our basic importance. No matter how accomplished, if even the most pedestallized (word?) child still believes that greatly in his self-importance by the time he’s in college, that’s pathological. Another clue is that it’s the shadow side of self-hatred.
On number 7, I think we’d have to split it up. To feel that only others whose brains work similarly can fully understand me might not be evidence of pathological hatred of self and others. It may, in fact, be true. But to think that only those who function similarly (intelligence-wise, socially, whatever) are worth spending time with seems clearly diagnostic. For the person who is not ill, who is wise as well as smart, there is the ability to appreciate and have empathy for others whether or not they are “smart” enough to appreciate him.
Whatever we may think about Mark Zuckerberg and FB, this is a fabulous film. Aaron Sorkin is great screenwriter and David Fincher a superb director. All the performances are outstanding.
As for your remarks on 6 and 7, I think you’ve convinced me. And I agree about self-hatred: shame and self-hatred are the shadow side of narcissism.
Re: â€œWell I guess Iâ€™ll have to log onto Facebook now to see whether Amanda has farted in the last half hour.â€ LOL!
Like Katherine who commented above, I’m definitely in the minority. I quit MySpace in 2006, I quit Facebook and Twitter in 2010 and I had texting shut off on my cell phone in 2007. And I’m 25, so most people I meet in my generation think I’m crazy. As somebody who’s been on both sides of it, I can see the points the people make who implored me to stay when I decided to quit each. But I’ve reaped far more benefits since quitting. Disconnecting gives the mind permission to focus on one thing at a time. Especially when somebody has the ability to text, email, Facebook and tweet anywhere, at any time, from a cell phone, it’s really easy to be in a constant state of “on alert” which, as some studies have shown, is actually rewiring brains (young ones, at least) so they become unable to focus on one thing at a time, or on anything for a lot of time in one sitting. I definitely don’t explicitly tell anyone to quit social media altogether, and I don’t deny that social media has benefits, but I do encourage the curious to try stepping away at least temporarily. It’s sincerely refreshing!
And one more thought on the movie. I thought it was amazing the way the film ended: Zuckerberg, creator of something that’s supposed to be the ultimate in connecting a person to other people… alone at a computer. It’s like reality and a metaphor all at once. Loved it!
I stumbled on your web site by a ‘Google’ search. I’m a teacher of the gifted in a public school. I have an assignment as a college student to present Freud’s ideas on his theories of intelligence as my term project.
I saw Social Network with my husband. I saw the real interviews of MZ.
I have read your interesting article.
As a teacher of gifted students, I have seen kids with highly developed minds identical to MZ without a sociable personality. As a member of your generation, Dr. Burgo, I saw that MZ was ill-mannered, selfish, and insecure. I also have Mark listed as one of the pages I like on Facebook. He doesn’t seem to be adopting a wealthy lifestyle and he appears to have the desire to make a contribution to society.
I replied under Arleen’s post because I think that she is such a wise, young person! She thinks that the electronic toys interfere with our social lives. Indeed! I was logged onto my Facebook account while trying to read research articles from University of Indiana. I came to my senses and logged off Facebook realizing that it was distracting me. My husband has a similar opinion. He convinced me that we do not need new telephones because we need a real life. We text our grown children because that is the way they communicate and they live in another state or that is my ‘narcissistic’ reason. Now, before I turn off the computer, watch my favorite TV program, and check to see if my friends replied to me on Facebook, I want to say that I will not keep up with you on Twitter but I will bookmark this page.
I enjoyed your article and I did understand that you were describing the personality of “Zuckerman ” as portrayed in the film and not necessarily the “real” Zuckerman. I do agree with you that he has the classic narcissistic traits. It’s all about him and everyone , including his only true friend is expendable . Did he truly care for Erika? I doubt it. What he cared about was how she could benefit him. I don’t even think he cared that she dumped him. What he cared about was his bruised ego . Narcissists, are at best, extremely difficult to be friends with and almost impossible to be in a long lasting relationship with. It seems to me they almost always end up alone in life. But destroy the lives of so many other people that they come in contact with.
Good posts ( all 3 related ones) which provide a good platform for discussion of the movie – and of the core figure behind it. recently saw some clip[ on TV which included a reference to something Zuckerman ( the real guy) said early on at Harvard, re: the first group of people who used his “baby’ facebook : a bunch of “dumb f–ks” for allowing him access to their personal info. He is brilliant, and I think it’s a good thing he did Facebook rather than focus on hacking major intelligence networks,for instance. Brilliance has never meant nice or responsible, and immensely talented people often do not run up against the obstacles we less proficient types do. If we act like obnoxious asses, no one will suck up to us, and we are generally forced to face some of our bad ways if we want to be part of society. When you are this materially successful, you can continue ( ala Michael Jackson) with any behavior at all, as long as you produce profits. But you continue alone.
Re: narcissism and intellect. I am demonstrably sharper in what you might call “academic intellect” than most of my peers. (IQ 170, graduated second in my class from the toughest academic program in my field in the world). However, I do NOT consider myself “superior” to others in terms of personal value. Indeed, some of my most wonderful friends never graduated from college at all. Having a high IQ is just a biological trait, like being seven feet tall or having bright red hair. When an intellectual turns narcissistic, it is because s/he hasn’t been guided by wise parents and mentors through the world of feelings and the consideration of what value and meaning actually are. Narcissistic intellectuals are void of empathy and self-reflection because they simply have not encountered a serious authority figure who modeled these traits in their daily lives. Those of us with high IQs who are not narcissists have been lucky to encounter adults who insisted that we consider the feelings of others as a moral imperative.
I think it is simplisitic to conclude that a narcissistic person can always be changed by a positive role model. I believe that although Lee B. was positively influenced by wise parents and so is not narcissistic, he or she probably did not have that tendency to begin with (despite an extremely high IQ that could have resulted in narcissim in another person.) I believe good parents can raise good children, but I also believe that this is not always the case.
Perhaps I am not completely objective in my opinion because of my own experience in having a sister who displays narcissistic tendencies. My parents were very good role models in the area of teaching their offspring to see and value all aspects of people-not just intelligence but everything people have to
teach us. My brother and I picked up on this attitude, but my sister did not. Therefore, I think that parents can guide us, but we have to be able and willing to see, understand and ultimately live what was taught.
Perhaps your high IQ will permit you to pursue more in-depth research and inquiry into narcissism before you make a blanket statement..Zzzzz
I have been involved in marketing creation/innovation for almost 50 years. Almost without exception, everyone involved in the creative process leaves each meeting with a new idea or a new perspective. If the people involved in the process are a team, that’s great. But if someone’s only goal is to find/stumble upon that scrap of an idea (anybody’s idea) that they can then further develop and use to become rich and famous, well that makes them an intellectual parasite and perhaps a narcissist too, and a billionaire maybe, but their defense of their own actions (like Mark’s) are laughable. He seems to be as vain and shallow as the millions who flock to Facebook to find some reassurance that their life has substance and meaning. It probably doesn’t.
Hmm, interesting. Right after the first scene of the movie I realized that Mark Zuckerberg had Asperger’s Syndrome. However I am not a doctor or mental health professional of any kind, so perhaps I am wrong! My nephew has Asperger’s Syndrome and I am fairly sure that my father had it as well. I see similar traits in Mark Zuckerberg. I didn’t see arrogance in him at all, just an extreme lack of social skills and empathy.
When he was in deposition and treated the opposing counsel with utter contempt, telling him he was paying him the absolute minimum amount of his attention necessary to answer the questions and that the lawyer didn’t deserve his respect, you didn’t think he was arrogant?
Well I guess I didn’t look at it as arrogance, I thought it was a coping mechanism and a reaction to being under so much pressure and being unsure of how to act and what to do in a social situation.
But, ok, your viewpoint is certainly valid as well.
I think you’re right, it was a coping mechanism — but then, I think arrogance IS a coping mechanism. So I guess we’re saying the same thing.
I remember reading a book titled Shame: The Underside of Narcissism by Andrew Morrison many years ago when I was recovering from an abusive marriage, to help me put the pieces together about a narcissistic, sociopathic personality. Shame in early childhood may not produce either of these, but I’m convinced it is often a component.
I spent 10 years in therapy, diagnosed as borderline and “slightly” bipolar, whatever that means. It took years for me to attach to my therapist and stop splitting. I see clearly that much of my struggle was shame based. I didn’t go down the path of narcissism and sociopathy — my pain was directed inward, leading to clinical depression and suicide attempts. I picked the more outward result of shame, the narcissistic sociopathic personality as a partner — like a lock and a key.
The Mark Zuckerberg as portrayed in the movie is very familiar to me. Erika was emotionally healthy enough to walk away. As for Eduardo, we only have to look at his relationship with the woman who burned the scarf to see his “lock and key” tendencies. And even though the twins were more emotionally healthy, MZ was able to manipulate them with bullying and lying behavior. Everything about this character screamed at me — run, run fast and far. But then, I’ve been there….
Just discovered this blog, and glad for it! I’ve not yet seen The Social Network yet, but now I think I’ll have to put it on the “to watch” list.
That said, though I haven’t seen the movie, this excellent post and subsequent commentary has me rolling this idea around:
Is it possible that the character (or actual person) of MZ created (subconsciously or not) FB as a kind of golem? I.E., FB serves as a way for MZ to dictate the terms and playing field for the very skillset in which he has arrested development. Consider, his is an arrogant, narcissistic and Asperger type personality. FaceBook engenders a very tightly controlled matrix in which interactions are catalogued into neat and manageable categories (like/dislike), able to be tallied and concretely referred to as a metric of popularity (# of “friends”). It is even able to be accessed for the simulacra of succor and in the entire absence of actual flesh and blood people: One can go back and re-read wall comments and re-experience comradery long after “friends” have moved on to another wall. One can even monitor “friends” at a distance, only interacting when they wish, and on their terms. It’s kinda binary (friend/de-friend), and it also allows the user to observe (from a safe place) how to actually BE friendly by watching group interaction on walls.
It seems to me that FB serves to “normalize” MZ’s socially inept behaviour; that rather than admit his own shortcomings (and if he’s a narcissist, he wouldn’t), he creates his golem to level the playing field so that he can enjoy people “on his level” – which, whilst MZ might imagine creates a great transparency and closeness that is in the mode of his own “superior” way, is actually (IMHO) actually reducing interaction to an almost mass movement of social narcissism and Asperger-type shallow interaction with stilted, staccato cadence.
Instead of adjusting to the world and learning to be social, MZ created FB to make the world as he is, so that he may live more comfortably within it. As you might have gleaned, I’m not the biggest fan of FB. I understand the power of it (and have trepidation on that leave too) — it’s a handy networking tool for business, but as a social medium, I think it is reducing interaction to a somewhat arrested and underdeveloped level of socialization and culture.
Is it possible MZ (the character/RL person, not sure) copes with his inferiority by dominating through osmosis? After all, what narcissist wouldn’t like to see his reflection in the mores of society at large?
Of course, this would mean that he’s created a social behaviour construct that acts as a malignant meme, and users are his unwitting tools and victims — being guided insidiously into becoming as arrested as MZ himself is.
Fascinating. Whether or not it was his intention, FB as a creation certainly embodies his psychological nature, as you so cogently described. You could argue that, given his limitations, he couldn’t have invented any other form of social media.
I do agree with you, Scavenger.
Mark Zucherberg portraited in the film “The Social Network” has traits of Asperger Syndrome or has Asperger syndrome (Autism Spectrum, DSM V, 2013), not Narcissistic Personality Disorder (Grandios Pathologic Narcissism, Otto Kernberg).
I have a son suffering from Asperger syndrome (highfunctioning autism) and a father with typical Narcissistic Personality Disorder (highfunctioning psychopat) and there is a very big difference between the two conditions after all.
A psychopathic person knows that he is hurting other people, a person with autism do not understand he is hurting other people. I believe Mark Zucherberg in the film “do not understand” he is hurting other people.
I think the portrait in the film of a very clever person with Asperger syndrome, is brilliant.
I am a psychiatrist myself and I have been thinking around this conditions (the differences) for 25 – 30 years now.
Asperger syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder/Psychopathy is not.
I have seen films on Youtube, the real MZ is interviewed, and he do not give the impression of a person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder/Psychopathy.
He is more likely to suffer from autism or traits of autism, if anything. He seems to live in a different reality, has a different cognition when solving problems.
He may represent the positive outcome of a person with very high IQ at one end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
From my point of view, all these labels and categories are entirely artificial. “Pervasive Developmental Disorder” and “Personality Disorder” are completely fictitious categories invented by the APA that correspond only vaguely and imprecisely to the reality of human experience. Given that I used the label NPD in the first place, I guess I started it, but I have seen clients who present with “personality disorders” who have autistic features, as well. You’re also using the word “psychopathic” a little loosely; in any event, one of the main hallmarks of NPD (according to the books) is a “lack of empathy,” which would mean that they would *not* necessarily understand the effect of their behavior on other people. It is this overlap of features between different categories that make the apparent precision of diagnostic labels misleading.
Well, if you have one personality disorder, you very often fullfill criteria for another 1 – 2 personality disorders. That is the link between NPD and Antisocial Personality Disorder ( = Psychopathy) – Robert Hare. I did not want to start a new discussion about Psychopathy, I only want to point out this connection.
Of course there is a possibility that a person can suffer both from Asperger syndrome/autism and for example NPD, or as you write – clients who suffer from personality disorders even have autistic features. But that is an other discussion.
A person with Asperger syndrome/autism has difficulties in understanding social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication etc. They do seem to be narcissistic because of that. But they do not interact in a narcissistic way (=grandiose) and they are very often modest and shy. I am not used to write and spell in English so I instead send you the links to APA:
I do agree with you that diagnostic labels can be misleading, because overlapping of features, but there is always a main diagnos, and the treatment differs between Asperger syndrome (special education, KBT etc.) and NPD (psychoterapy, if possible).
Psychodynamic psychoterapy given to a person that fullfills the criteria for Asperger syndrome/autism –> confusion.
My knowledge tells me that MZ in the film (a lot of situations) suffers from Asperger syndrome, not NPD nor Antisocial Personality Disorder. I have read elsewhere people suggesting “psychopathy”, but that is wrong. MZ do not mean to hurt.
The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin) won the “Autism Film Critics Award” year 2010. See IMDb. That canÂ´t be a coincidence. Well, well. … Best regards.
I have successfully treated people with many of the features you attribute to Asperger’s. It’s only confusing to them if the therapist doesn’t understand the psychodynamics of autistic defenses. The psychoanalytic mode of treatment pioneered by Francis Tustin in England has for decades treated people who suffer from autism and Asperger’s with success, although her work is largely unknown in the U.S. where the medical/behavioralist view predominates. Also, the cinematic Mark Zuckerberg was anything but modest and shy; he was arrogant and filled with contempt for most people, including opposing defense counsel and the “Winklevii” as he contemptuously labels them.
Hello, Maria B, I found this discussion while looking for information on co-morbid Aspergers and NPD – I have a client who I am convinced is both. I also feel the movie portrayal of Zuckerberg is both (at least, to be honest, in the first half hour. I found him so obnoxious and annoying that I had to stop watching at that point. I don’t tend to react that way to people on the autistic spectrum, in fact quite the opposite, I’m the one who can put up with their continuous one-track conversation when no one else can — and yet I did see the Aspergers traits in MZ while also finding him very arrogant and deliberately hurtful).
While labels can be simplistic and require caution, I think they can be very valuable in designing treatment.
I also think Scavenger is brilliantly accurate in his description of Facebook. I value it for sharing specific info on events, publications, or political campaigns through their own pages, but I find it tedious and pointless to maintain my personal site. I also speculate that the frequent changes everyone hates are a deliberate and arrogant ploy of MZ to “mess with our heads”.
I do agree with You and Scavenger about Facebook.
But I still think (as Harriet wrote 2011-02-02:
“M Z. I didnâ€™t see arrogance in him at all, just an extreme lack of social skills and empathy”), that the main explanation is some kind of autism.
Well, I have seen the film (one year ago) and I have read some interviews with him, but that doesnÂ´t give the whole picture. I have never met him in real life, and he is not my patient, so indeed I canÂ´t be sure at all. To my knowledge MZ is not examined by a psychiatrist ore psychologist, not even tested (WISC/WAIS. … and so on).
I even do not like the habit to label some wellknown historical persons for having Asperger syndrome (Einstein, Wittgenstein). The complexity of a human being is bigger than a diagnose.
Although I am also interested in the comorbidity Asperger and NPD. Theoretically it must be possible to suffer from both conditions at the same time, when you are an adult.
You wrote that you have a client with both conditions. How will you start to threat him/her? Which diagnose gives the person most problems?
Asperger syndrome can exist together with psychopathy, and the result can be bizarre murders.
Asperger and schizophrenia has a link. It is more common for a person with Asperger syndrome to develop schizophrenia than earlier expected. Not a high risk, but although more risky than normal.
A discussion also depends on what you are looking for. If you are defined to be born with an autism spectrum disorder, you of course also can develop a personality disorder or have a higher risk of developing that. There is also a connection between Asperger syndrome and depression (a very big one), and other psychiatric diseases as schizophrenia.
So, the baby that is born with autism or Asperger traits is more vulnerable to develop any personality and/or psychiatric disorder.
I donÂ´t know anything about MZ very early life, I have only seen a film. My impression of that film is stlll that he is suffering from autism (DSM-V, year 2013) or traits of autism. But I may be wrong. Anyhow this discussion is interesting. And I donÂ´t like FB either.
Thank you Scavenger for such brilliant and enthralling musings… and thank you Joseph Burgo for such a marvellous (in)site. While not post therapy yet, as someone who studied film and philosophy many years ago, finding this blog today has been one fantastic ‘session’. i haven’t even seen the film but now have a reason to do so, also the perfect excuse never to join FB! [insert grateful emoticon]
I’d love to read an article and discussion on ‘In Treatment’
Sounds like my landlord, and my eldest sister.
I had watched the movie, Social Network, and throughout the film, I could not help compare the film version of MZ to a former boss, who I, and countless others, would classify as clinically narcissistic. I think James Goulding’s early post up top reveals the fact he may have never actually met a (1 in 100 people) real “narcissist,” or has had to deal with one on a regular basis. There is a difference between the kind of narcissism we are flip or casual about, some bundle of traits that to some degree most of possess, and the clinical variety. After two years working for a narcissist, and enduring the emotional backlash and hives that went along with that experience, I can only say that navigating this personality “type” is challenging at best, dehumanizing at its very worst. What is most important from a psychotherapy stance is that of the many clinical “disorders,” narcissists are the least likely to seek treatment because they cannot (or refuse to) recognize they are experiencing something unique. In other words, if the first step is to recognize one’s problem, they don’t get that far!
A recent CNN interview of the twins, from whom MZ is said to have stolen the idea, reported them as saying the movie was “kind” in its portrayal of MZ. So to quote MZ as saying the movie was “off base” as evidence to a claim requires one to look at the counter stories as well.
MZ created something that millions of people use, and they seem to enjoy it. Maybe it takes a narcissistic personality to do just that. What’s so wrong with it? He had a different approach to connecting: his ultimate work has helped many people connect.
I have a degree in psychobabble, and while it initially started to help recovering war soldiers, it has turned in to quite a self-fulfilling and self-sustaining industry with regard to diagnosis, in some areas. Driven? Successful? Focused on your goals? Maybe you choose to find people who agree with you instead of constantly debating. Do these things and you are a bad thing called a Narcissist. I think we need Narcissists, and it’s not all bad: they tend to achieve and either create or through their actions help create things of value. While I don’t really do Facebook, I think for some people it has really helped them connect and makes them feel good. Enough said. Narcissists have value, and I don’t think it’s prudent to overlook their positive contributions to society.
I completely agree. The need for adulation, admiration or even to provoke envy can drive people to achieve great things. As far as the achievement is concerned, if it has great social value, does the motivation of the creator really mattter?
I too agree that Narcissists can contribute great things to society because they are driven and have few, if any scruples, when other people or agendas get in their way. However, that lack of empathy, the thing that enables Narcissists to achieve in ways that most others find repugnant, has a cost to other people in their lives. If you are not one of those people left emotionally or physically savaged by the N (and his true belivers) on his way to the top, it may appear to be a small price to pay. Me? I don’t believe that the ends justify the means.
Also, I believe that the amount of damage an N can do is directly related to the number of his ‘true believers’.
In reply to “How did you feel about Mark Zuckerberg? Did you find him repulsive or was there a way in which you empathized?”
I really really hope you mean to say “How did you feel about the porttrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in this film?”
I’m in the media field, and I cringed at the way this film took liberty with portraying a real young man who is not dead yet. Based on a book by his supposed victim, a formal friend turned enemy. And the whole gang behind the film who parasite on Zuckerberg’s success, their smugness, how they play into people’s envy of the young and brilliant and super rich. Like they were there during his first dates. Like they were there when the boys played with hot Asian chicks. And where was Mark’s real life long term medical school love interest? Too tame and sentimental, too normal and sane to be included.
The envy of this whole project is so thick, yet most people feel such great relief knowing for certain that it was the actual Mark Zuckerberg they have witnessed in the film. Geeks are suppose to hate sexy boys and always plotting revenge.
Mark is like the proverbial Veronica – he is expected to hate the Betty in the form of the W brothers, whether or not he actually even noticed their superior attributes, or the kind of chicks they attract. Is it possible that he didn’t envy them, just wanted to exploit their idea? Can we just stop there and stop projecting the victim the writer the director’s envy of W brothers onto a convenient target?
only another N would reframe to use words like ‘hot asian chicks’….nobody, and i DO mean ‘nobody’, objectifies women quite as effortlessly as the NPD male…
…good try to defend someone you may over-identify with, in absence of real knowledge of said person, though. Interesting.
Hi! I read your post and it really helped me in my assignment. I learned a lot about some of the traits of a narcissistic person especially when you used the character Mark Zuckerberg as an example. Thanks! Great post, by the way.
Thanks for taking the time to let me know!
I am looking for a club for people with NPD. I have NPD, and I am having a hard time in social settings. Is there any help I can get?
I don’t know of any but maybe one of the other site visitors has some useful information.
Excellent response. I’d be rather suspicious too were anyone putting forth that they were looking to form a ‘club’ for NPD’s. My god, the blood bath that might ensue! True N’s don’t tolerate any sort of sustained involvement because it all becomes competitive after a time and they really, really do not tolerate any sense of having ‘lost’, in any context, very well.
I sympathized with the guy. He was a jerk when provoked or challenged, but perhaps it was his way of displaying a “respect me and I’ll respect you” tactic in social settings. If I were to think deeply about this character I would have to bring his past social interactions in to play, i.e. elementary, high school etc.
I bring this up from my own past experience in high school, I played basketball, and I was a known fighter if it called for it, thus I’m going to presume I was not a geek or a nerd as they were called.
Although I did observe geeks as I found them interesting, more specifically I wondered why they were so weird. Not weird in a bad way, I often wondered why they would say weird things when I would speak to them (I know now our social convo subjects differed). I also noticed that many of the “nerds” I observed were not mean spirited at all. For example, I never seen or heard of them going out of their way to humiliate “bully” anyone, that’s not to say they didn’t, I’m just saying that when a “jock” went out of their way to bully someone, it was always mean spirited and most often in the public eye.
The most interesting thing I observed and I’m sure we all have seen it at one point or another, is when a bully is verbally insulting a “nerd”, the “nerd” always seems to burn the jock or bully “using only logic” to the point where they become speechless. What follows after that varied.
Nonetheless, I believe this character or people like this in general process this trait as a defense mechanism they developed from past experiences where by they could not defend themselves physically, thus they in their own way are showing their dominance through intelligence and whit, no different from basketball captain showing their dominance by skill and direction.
On a final note, when speaking with these same geeks today, I find that if an individual shows them respect, they will do the same, but condescend them and they will burn you with their whit, and make you feel inferior by intelligence the same way a body builder might make an individual feel inferior physically.
He was not a narcissist he was just a geek who defended himself when challenged.
I sympathized with him, too. Even if he has a powerful set of narcissistic defenses, he still suffers and feels pain.
I also agree with frankwhite 29. As he said the character, Mark Zuckerberg, was not a narcissist, he was just a geek who defended himself when challenged. Speaking of suffers and pain, as I belong to 1% of NPD in the general population, I am having pain and suffer almost every day. Somehow, most people around me do not like me or my attitude. I had rough times with my family and coworkers. Most of times, I do not have a friend. Once in a while, few people find me likable. Two days ago, my supervisor told me, I will be transferred to other place. I was not get along well with my preceptor, obviously he gave a bad report to my supervisor. I realized today that my attitude with my preceptor was from my NPD. My poor social skill from my disabled personality has been put myself in bad situations.
I am frustrated since I do not know how to not act the way I do. Why can I seen as a normal person, so that I can enjoy with people around me. I am an outsider.
I do not even know how to keep my job as much as I want. I am trying to survive with NPD everyday. I keep reminding myself that I am a default, I should not blame others for the bad treatment I receive. As I have NPD, I do realized that I do not have control over my life. The most hurtful thing of being NPD is I do not have a friend whom I can talk with.
i’m not sure who diagnosed you, but please gt a 2nd opinion even if you see this months later…ALWAYS get a 2nd opinion from another M.D., in this case a psychiatrist, before accepting a diagnosis and pursueing treatment…NPD is rarely seen, so for ANYONE to diagnose you with NPD they’d have to be extremely experienced….N’s aren’t likely, iow, to voluntarily BE seen, ok? If you’re volunteering for help from a doctor, that’s a good, healthy behavior that shows a higher level of self -awareness in the mortal range than most NPD’s i’ve come across…and most of them are either professional’s in breakdown or in prison, and the extreme’s of the environments says a lot about those with NPD….iow, it’s very rare, thankfully
I haven’t met him, just seen him on interviews and read about him. I’d say geek – yes, INTJ – yes, impaired social skills – yes, Asperger’s – maybe, narcissist – I doubt it.
I would have thought a narcissist would be very concerned with their image – how they dress and what kind of house they live in. He apparently lives in very modest house for someone of his apparent wealth and doesn’t care for dressing to impress.
I tried to make clear that I was not talking about the actual Mark Zuckerberg. I’m talking about a character in a movie. Narcissists come in all stripes, and the narcissist who cares about his appearance in just a stereotype.
I haven’t watched the movie yet, but my husband did and thought he lacked social skills like Asperger’s (I’m Aspie and so is our son). Seems others agree http://playonwords.com/blog/2011/01/08/does-mark-zuckerberg-have-aspergers/
Interesting you say narcissist though. Not sure if you are familiar with Penelope Trunk’s blog. She says she is Asperger’s. She seems to thrive on centre of attention though. Some say BPD (she says she does things like smashing a lamp over her head), some say narcissist. http://baileybear.hubpages.com/hub/Penelope-Trunk-Brazen-Careerist-or-Brazen-Narcissist
I don’t believe in attaching these labels anyway, even though I used one to discuss this character. The diagnostic categories established by the DSM are more or less fictional and don’t really correspond to anything in reality. For example, you might know that “narcissistic personality disorder” is scheduled to be eliminated in the upcoming DSM-V. All the so-called personality disorders are just points along a continuum, artificial chosen and identified by committee as if they were discrete entities. In my view, npd and Asperger’s are on a continuum, too; they have features in common and there’s very little to be gained by attaching a label. Instead, I believe in looking at autistic processes and autistic defenses, which appear in other disorders and often appear in people with narcissistic issues. Whether the fictional MZ gets one label or another seems pointless to me; I’m interested in the way his contempt and arrogance are mobilized to defend against narcissistic injuries and envy. You can label it however you want.
I agree that labels can be problematic as they are essentially human-defined constructions. I wasn’t aware that NPD was getting dropped (dropped completely or absorbed somewhere else like Asperger’s?). Labels also carry stigma. Anything that’s less common that the majority gets called a ‘disorder.’ I write under a pen name because of stigma.
My husband was initially against getting our son formally diagnosed (which is how I learnt about myself). In the end, we felt we had to to get the necessary support from school – our son was being bullied by teachers that misinterpreted his behaviour. He’s at a different school now and much happier.
While labels sometimes carry a stigma, diagnostic labels in our current atmosphere sometimes do just the opposite. Getting a diagnosis often comes as a huge relief to people, because then they can identify themselves as having a medical disorder, free of the shame that often goes along with an awareness of having mental difficulties or being different from other people. It can be a very good thing when other people regard the label in the same way, as you found with your son. But I’ve also noticed that many people cling to their diagnostic labels with subtle pride these days, a kind of reaction formation to the underlying shame. I’m not directing this comment at you personally, but I’ve noticed this in particular with people who self-identify as having an autistic spectrum disorder.
Just a question – using the labels as point of reference in communication – do narcissism and Asperger’s have different motivations even if could be mistaken for each other at first glance? Is the narcissist deliberately being an a$$hole to get what they want? Aspies are not usually expert manipulators.
While everyone is different, we all struggle with the same fundamental issues. Narcissistic defenses are usually trying to ward off a deep sense of shame about the ways we’re damaged. Autistic defenses, in my experience, are mobilized against a terrifying and unbearable sense of vulnerability. Shame, damage, vulnerability — these are human issues that many of us struggle with. The question is the degree, and what kind of defenses we use to ward them off.
So, really what you’re saying is disorders like narcissistic & borderline personalities shouldn’t get such a hard time because they result from damaged people?
I see narcissistic behaviours in both my family and my husband’s family. My husband’s family are very concerned that they look popular & wealthy. His sister despises me, yet she is most successful at acheiving this idealism, although I don’t see her as a nice person (except to her social circle she wants to impress). Hubby’s family are functional alcoholics. My family are religious fanatics – they don’t accept me because I rejected the family religion. They like to keep up appearances they are the perfect moral family, that doesn’t have an embarrassing family member that doesn’t believe in god. My husband is the only person that accepts me the way I am. We are authentic people, but have few friends. We dislike the hypocrisy in our families and in the way people manipulate each other to ‘get ahead’ in life. Maybe that’s why we haven’t ‘gotten ahead.’?
Most humans have a sense of selfishness. Most of it is healthy and mutually beneficial.
‘Narcissism’, otoh, is an EXTREME, and RARE, trait in humans. The very word is based on a Greek myth. This was a lad who could not stop staring at his own reflection. It hurt others and angered the gods who punished him. OK, THAT story is not a diagnostic model you’d use, right? We don’t punish patients. We try to help them.
The case of narcissism, though, doesn’t usually call a Dr. up. And it’s so different than selfishness that really only a trained specialist should use the word ‘narcissistic’ in relation to a real, human client.
A real MH discussion using a real DSM Axis ii PD for a FICTIONAL character is as dangerous as using an ancient gods method of justice for narcissism.
I had mixed feelings when diagnosed. Relief – because of finally understanding why I have experienced such difficulty in workplace, relationships, health despite being intelligent and having qualifications. A sense of sadness at the permanency and fear that son may encounter similar problems. Fears because I know we are dependent on my husband financially and emotionally.
My husband was against a label initially because doesn’t want it to be used as an excuse. I was apprehensive because of stigma (and I don’t disclose unless need to). For us, it helps us understand what’s going on.
I’ve observed the autistic pride thing via my blogging circles. There’s squabbling about name change eliminating Asperger’s, there’s ‘adult bloggers’ and ‘mother bloggers’ fighting, there’s people that don’t want Apserger’s to be associated with ‘severely disabled people with helmets and diapers’, there’s parents of grown children ‘severely disabled with helmet & diaper’ that dismiss ‘higher-functioning autistics’, etc etc. All this dissention has put me off blogging lately.
This is all so interesting. I just want to mention at the outset that I don’t do Facebook either, or Twitter etc. But, of course, each to his/her own.
BTW, Joseph, I read recently that NPD WILL continue to be included in the DSM. Which leads me to a question. Surely having the disorder (NPD) precludes insight into the disorder? I am not talking about mere narcissistic traits, such as, well, plain “jerkiness”, for want of a better word.
Look, the internet is littered with “narcissism” websites, which by and large are just bashing forums, and to be more precise, man-bashing forums. These websites are real money-spinners, from what I can gauge, and IMO not really helpful. The term NPD is bandied around a lot.
Interestingly, NPD does *not* preclude insight into NPD. I’ve seen a TV programme largely presented (though there was also a voiceover narration) by a psychologist who was revealed, late in the show, to himself have NPD.
You’re talking, probably, about Sam Vankin.
1) Sam is NOT, I repeat, NOT a MH professional. He’s not an M.D. in psychiatry nor a PhD in Psychology.
2) Sam claims many, many things. Most of what he does may be motivated by his NPD, if in fact his diagnosis was rendered responsibly. Some have suggested it was not.
3) Sam writes books and wants to sell them. Many people creatively use YouTube and wordpress yo further such aims as it’s much easier to write books than sell them. For some people. Sam may find it all very easy. I don’t know.
4) Sam speaks with authority. So does the local car dealer.
This does not mean either is giving us the full picture on the topic they know we’re interested in. In fact, it may be why they leave things out 🙂
This is very interesting. Im sorry this isnt my first language, trying to explain the best I can. I noticed too that npd is bandied around and find it hard to figure out what the disorder is. I havent watched the movie, I reckon all movies are just the writers and producer’s take on the ” real thing”. Often this can be exaggerated or one sided. I have met few people, all men, who acted as if they have npd or similar traits. IMO it is true the afflicted wouldnt have insight into their problems but it is not like psychosis that they have disconnection from reality. In my view if they have these “denfenses” this doesnt stop them from having moral, legal , personal responsibility /accountability for their actions. Some of these people i knew personally, some have committed very well planned crimes. Because of the outward appearances it is extremely hard to catch criminals like that . So from what i understand in npd (im not saying all people with it commit crimes) they do have insight if not for motivation interally (what kind of trauma would cause npd? I dont understand either) but logically npd know the law, are in touchwith reality and sadistically enjoy hurting people (i understand there is continium but talking from own experience and suspect of npd/its traits in several 4 people i met)
Yes, and I especially agree about legal, moral and personal responsibility. But because so much of more highly developed moral behavior depends upon empathy — the ability to imagine how an action might affect someone else and to “feel with” them — people with severe forms of narcissism are usually motivated by fear of punishment instead. Knowing that there’s a law against torture and obeying it because you fear prison is quite different from not wanting to hurt someone because you empathize with his (imagined) pain.
Thank you for your response. I didn’t see it before and sent a ps so that wasn’t in response to your post.
I still can’t imagine how the people would not understand how the other one feels. Also the people I knew that committed these crimes they were violent / physical crimes like sexual assault… How can they not know that this would hurt. In my opinion they do it precisely because it hurts someone they want to use (eg as a sex slave or toy) and humiliate. Also the complexity of the preparation like selecting a vulnerable victim who was traumatized by past experiences and in traumatic state they knew I wouldn’t be a good witness with evidence of trauma anxiety etc . So I couldnt easily or in some cases not at all prove that the person did anything wrong as no bruises or other visible injuries were left there was a history of us being in a relationship even though that relationship was created under false pretenses and was predatory so that would be sex assault by lying . Given complexity of the persons understanding how could they know all this and made their criminal activity so hard to prove yet they don’t know true right and wrong just the law? I can see what you mean they lack empathy but how does the person know all that without getting into the victims mind ( in my understanding that’s empathy )
I see your points. I think it’s possible to have an understanding of what might hurt another person, esp. physically, without truly empathizing. In the dynamics you describe, I think what goes on unconsciously is the projection of hated vulnerable parts of the self into the victim where they are then attacked, tortured and annihilated. The point is to make the victim a receptacle for unwanted parts of the self, so while a certain kind of imaginative envisioning goes on, it seems different to me from actual empathy. Real empathy would involve an awareness of other people’s feelings, as opposed to the attempt to make someone feel one particular way.
Ps i am only talking from personal experience. As you probably gathered the crimes were committed against me. I have very little compassion for people who use others as playthings as objects to be discarded later. I was unlucky to meet probably one extreme of the continium. Maybe Im wrong and these men have some other disorder instead or in addition to npd. In my view i dont excuse anything they do because of npd. I just beleive in jailing them rather than treating them.
As harsh as this may sound, I hope it may also grant you some insight into the how and why: people get treated the way they want to be treated but more importantly: they get treated in ways they allow certain treatment whether good or bad. So if you are vulnerable or portray yourself as such, there is a significant chance that vulnerability will be exploited by those who can sniff it out. That of course doesn’t excuse the things that have happened to you but it does (at least partially) explain it nor does it mean you get up from bed one morning thinking “gee I want to get robbed or mentally abused”. It’s more of a subconscious signal, a trait, or way of living, a dynamic; the lock and key thing someone else mentioned on this site.
From what I have read in the replies it pretty much sums up what I also have noticed: a substantial amount of sites claiming to have relevant information about the subject of NPD are pretty much a bash fest against people with NPD (also man bashing) and very little information is given about what the hell to do when you actually “suffer” from NPD. Suffer in quotes because it depends on the mode the N is in.
Typically when you encounter a person with NPD you’re facing his grandiose self; his image and not (the approximation of) his true self. Only people who the N can really trust may get to see a different, more genuine image.
It is a common misconception the N doesn’t have empathic ability, in fact he does but won’t show this because it will portray him (in his mind) as weak, frail, inferior or on the same level as the common people (which is “of course” not acceptable) etc. Just because people don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Also when you’re being belittled or have to face the brunt of an expression of rage, it’s not you who’s being targeted, not as a person anyway. It’s just the image the N has that is being projected or imagined and you are either the closest fit or easiest/nearest target available.
From a recently self-aware N who’s trying to come to grips with this matter. I’m in no means an authority figure on this subject other than my own limited experience. Still, I hope this helps to explain some things.
Actually from having had a Narcissistic Personaltiy Disordered mother and then having an intimate relationship with an Aspergers Personality for 3 years I totally thought that Zuckerberg was an Aspergers personality……which also has some traits in common with Narcissism…the lack of empathy, extremely high opinion of themselves but for long and lengthy reasons I won’t go into here I thought his personality was more consistent with Aspergers…
I just read that Asperger’s is going to be eliminated as a diagnosis from the new DSM. The problem is that people actually believe these discrete categories actually exist, which can’t be true if the APA committee can simply write them in and out of existence.
That’s an interesting thought about simply writing things in and out of existence…… Warning! This may be off topic and too long!
This may not make sense but I”ll try….My label is Tracey, it was given to me for identifying purposes….and while am I aware that it’s just a label and doesn’t really define me in any way as like everyone else I am a being made up of experiences and the complex reactions and responses I have made to those experiences. I think in a way it’s a burden having a label as it somehow seems to assume an identity that fixes us in time and space and often confines our potential to the beliefs we’ve gathered about ourself according to our environment and most imortantly the people within in that enivornment….. Also other people need to want to fix, define and confine us according to what they know about us and who they are in relationship to us as well and visa-versa.
So if as of today I decided to drop the label Tracey would that mean that Tracey never have really existed ….. to me this opens up a lot of questions about identity and our attachment to it which to me sort of feels like it’s all wrapped up to some degree in who we think we are in terms of the name/label that has contained us since we were born…and when that identity that we have attributed to ourselves comes under threat we are often in serious trouble……. I am not totally sure of what ‘s meant by a contiuum but I get the feeling that if these peronality disorders are a continuum then we, our lives and experiences are also a continuum
that bears no real realtionship to the name we’ve been given and yet we believe we are that specific person with that specific name and then some of us invest ourselves completely in the notion …e.g. I am Tracey Waugh..and there are certain implications that are attached to that name, and the idea of who I believe I am..and it seems that the greater damage has been done once we have been given a name and then a set of qualities that become synonymous with name, usually given by others…… most of us tend to feel some sort of tacit oblibation to live up to those qualities and of course nobobdy can, it’s mpossible and so when our experiences and environment create responses that aren’t aligned with who we think or thought we were (or they think or thought we were)……..shattering……..what I am trying to say is that we totally destroy ourselves and make ourselves miserable for things that in essence don’t even really exist….ie the notion of ourselves as a fixed identity…the notions of us being weak, strong, pretty, ugly, smart, kind, whatever all just written into being like Aspergers, and if we chose we could write them out of existence………
The question for me is how do we move from beings that need to fix, identify and judge into beings that feel safe enough to simply experience without too much attachment to our so called selves?
Asperger syndrome has always been almost equal to highfunctioning autism an therefore DVM-V (year 2013) will categorize it as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (along with classical Kanner autism for example).
A person with Asperger syndrome has the same problem as a person with classical autism, the same diagnostic criteria. The only difference is the IQ.
Asperger syndrome = 30 % mentally retarded ( IQ less than 70)
Classical autism = 100 % mentally retarded, often moderate (IQ 30 – 55).
So DSM-V will conclude that Asperger syndrome = highfunctioning autism (more or less).
This is a simplified explanation!
PS ……just going by the character portrayed in the movie
Sorry I just realised that someone already pointed that out and you responded with not believing in labels……personally I think labels can be useful….in my own journey of trying to understand myself, my life and my relationship with my mother, hearing the term Narcisstic and then researching it just gave me such a greater understanding as to how and why she could have said and done the things she did to someone she was supposed to have loved….it gave me something to work with…and for myself as I took on parts of her …also if I was to develop cancer or MS or some other illness…even though illnesses are just complex sets of symptoms to some underlying cause..I would want a name given to it…I would want it labeled…then you can more easily do your own individual research into the condition and make some decisions about what you think the best approach for yourself will be ………often Professionals in the Health Care Services, be it doctors, pshychiatrists, pshychologists, homeopaths and many and varied others have their own particular philosophies, techniques, medications and therapies that they adhere which narrows their patients options ..researching by symptoms to find your answers can be long and tediuous….. having a label as a starting point is to some degree useful…..
As long as it’s a starting point, sure. I also think there is a difference between identifying something for what it is versus affixing a label. To use your own example, knowing that your mother’s behavior was “narcissistic” shed light on the dynamics of your relationship. Narcissistic behavior is a very real thing that shows up in all sorts of ways. That would be different from saying (as I had one prospective client tell me) that her mother suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and she, herself, had been diagnosed with Co-NPD, as if that explained it all. Too often diagnostic labels are the end and not the beginning. It’s especially troubling when the diagnosis points to a particular drug that will cure it.
Reading this thread with interest.
Being haughty, grandiose, vain, selfish, unpleasant, immature, arrogant, insulting, self-centred does not IMO mean that the individual has narcissistic personality disorder. “Jerk disorder” would be more appropriate.
Nothing can be achieved – again IMO – by someone who has NPD, due to the underlying depression, insecurity, fear, and most of all abusiveness. A career abuser, not to put too fine a point on it, who has to abuse someone else in order to feel better (temporarily) him/herself. If abusing others (emotionally, mentally or physically) is a “defense”, well, not on my patch it isn’t.
The NPD by virtue of the disorder does not have the staying power for anything, whether middling or great. They might SEEM (everything is “seem” where they are concerned) to be getting somewhere, only in their own skewed estimation though.
about your interesting twists on this, i have a friend who truly fits the archetype, to the ‘T’. but, he truly is the most intelligent person in the room, has had a past, and an education that is beyond ivy league, and came from aristocratic roots in his family.. as annoying as it is to be around him, I am always learning something from him, even though he is quite an ass. during the recent recession, he lost much of his fortune, and his persona is quite stripped down, and he is surviving, although, now he just seems more borderline to me.
anyway, i appreciate your vistas on this subject.
Thanks. I’ve also known some people like your friend, though not quite so incredibly “superior”, and while they can be fascinating for a time, they eventually become more annoying than enlightening, simply because they’re so narcissistic. All those “personality disorders” exist along a spectrum anyway, so it’s not surprising that your friend has gone from seeming purely narcissistic to more borderline, now that he has lost an important prop for that superior self.
An age old adage..”The end justifies the means” is evident in the portrayal of Zuckerman in the movie. I would not want to be condidered a friend of his, distant or otherwise. He absolutely fits the criteria of mental illness stated in this article, in fact many of the personality disorders. Unfortunately it has no cure because their warped sense of entitlement and greatness prevents them from seeking professional help. They DON’T believe the are sick, and if they did seek help there is no pill that instills empathy and kindness. They will go to the grave never believing for a second that they harmed others. By far the most dangerous of the disorders. The poor afflicted are in prison and the wealthy manipulate and scam. Very sad indeed, the movie was depressing.
A little off topic, but how often do you have a client who is NPD, and are they receptive to learning about their disorder? Usually someone who has these traits isn’t a willing participant in any tx process.
Sorry for the delay — I was on vacation last week. I’ve rarely had a severe narcissist in treatment; as you say, they rarely participate willingly in therapy.
Hi Dr Burgo
I have been reading the responses with interest on this site .
A couple of issues are :-
What you are relating to is the movie ” The Social Network ” about Mark Zuckerberg and a portrait of narcissistic personality disorder that the lead actor portrays in the movie concerning Mark Zuckerberg .
It does seem that the majority of people that write back to you miss the point that it is only a movie and an apparent portrayal of Mark .
You are only giving one example of what a narcissistic personality disorder can be portrayed
To relate that Aspergers syndrome is part of what Mark suffers from is an interesting thought and this could be true but the subject matter is about narcissistic personality disorder is it not ?
Has anyone ever been on the receiving end of a narcissist ?
I myself don’t like putting labels on people but after being off work for over 9 months and seeing a forensic psychologist who was very interested in the person concerned and as I was under intensive psychological treatment , I explained exactly what had happened, the view was that the person concerned had multiple personality disorders and one of them was narcissistic personality disorder.
Until you have been on the receiving end of a narcissist then you will know .
To assist further in my recovery, I went to a Forensic Psychology Course to understand about this and other disorders.
In April I will be doing the Advanced part of the course to further my skills and learn more including the criminal area of Forensic Psychology.
Remember it is only a portrayal of Mark and a movie.
Exactly — the fictional Mark Zuckerberg. Thanks for bringing in your own experience of suffering at the hands of a narcissist.
A psychiatrist friend of mine put it this way: The narcissist (disordered) thinks the rest of the world is out of step with him, when in fact it is he who is out of step with the rest of the world”.
As you say, Joseph, those with NPD rarely if ever present for therapy. So, they are avoided, hated, berated, villified, and have no place in society. They make others suffer, if they get a chance to do so.
On the other hand, how did the narcissistic personality disordered person get that way? Well, yes, we have heard the causes and combinations of causes, none of which were the narcissist’s fault.
And yet they will go to the grave not knowing the harm they have caused, simply because to them the “harming” is part of their coping mechanism. Is this not the case?
How’s this for food for thought. Everyone on the planet has their own unique personality and just because it doesn’t fit into what society likes or is the minority in nature it is just what it is, that person’s personality and not a disorder at all. Aren’t people suppose to learn to get along with others? Even the ones who we may find not to be so easy to deal with. We each are who we are based on genetics, environment, life experiences and learned behaviors…end of story!!!
I just started reading your site today and I’m late to the game for this discussion, but a few thoughts I wanted to share.
I think the standard definition of empathy is a sticky wicket and maybe how we think of it needs to be tweeked. There are two components to empathy: recognition and response. A person is supposed to be able to both recognize/identify another person’s thoughts and feelings and respond appropriately. If they don’t do both parts of the equation, then they are said to have no empathy.
For example, a narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath, generally can recognize and anticipate another person’s thought or feelings to something that happens to that person, but they don’t respond in an appropriate manner. They recognize that someone is hurt/sad, but they don’t care/respond appropriately or if they do respond appropriately, it tends to be exploitive on their part. Say, if they know someone’s feelings are hurt, they don’t care or if they act like they care, they’re doing so for exploitive reasons.
Someone with Asperger’s often doesn’t recognize the feelings or thoughts of another – they can’t read the cues emoting from the other person unless they’re extreme cues generally. However, when they do recognize how the other person is feeling, then they generally react appropriately and they care how that other person feels. For instance, they tend to get very upset and feel for the other person when that person is crying or if they see that person physically harmed. They often respond in an appropriate and what is generally considered empathetic manner when they recognize how that other person feels as long as there has been an overt cue (crying for instance) to how that other person feels.
Which component of empathy (recognition or response) is more important or are they equal? I think, someone not usually recognizing less than overt signs of emotions from another person is annoying, but them responding appropriately and not for exploitive reasons when they do recognize the cues, sets them apart from the one who acts inappropriately in response even though that one recognizes the feelings of another. It makes them less narcissistic, less cruel, etc, in my opinion. Yet, both are considered to be incapable of empathy since one of the components of empathy is missing in both of them. I think the Asperger’s person’s deficiencies in empathy are less damaging to others and not narcissistic. That’s not to say that Aspie’s don’t have egos, too.
The MZ character in The Social Network came across as a royal pain in the rear at times to me, but that he has Asperger’s instead of NPD. His character was portrayed as others were reading him and how Asperger’s people tend to wrongly come across to others imo. It was a good movie I thought, but very one-sided.
Since you’re new to the site, you probably aren’t aware that I don’t believe in these separate diagnostic categories. Psychological disorders don’t fit the disease model, as the APA would have us believe; it all exists along a spectrum. Asperger’s and NPD are artificially distinct categories along that spectrum.
As for empathy, I think your description makes it sound too cognitive. To me, empathy means that I feel something within myself akin to what you’re feeling, a kind of emotional resonance. The socipath might have learned to recognize the external cues that indicate the presence of certain emotions but that’s not empathy. The upset you described as felt by the person who suffers from “Asperger’s” seems like true empathy to me. Almost unbearable, but real.
Thank you for your response Joseph. I agree that my description was too cognitive. The sociopath isn’t feeling something within and doesn’t have the emotional resonance – they understand what the person is feeling cognitively, but not emotionally. They are lacking in both parts of empathy and not just in one part as I previously described them. The Asperger’s person is lacking in the recognition portion, but does generally have feeling within for the other person once they recognize how that other person feels.
I read a bit more after I posted, but still have much more to read to understand your views on diagnostic categories. I know there is no “one size fits all” to each category and it’s hard to fit someone precisely into a category since it’s a spectrum for all of us. I have found some value personally in the category descriptions/criteria, but I look forward to reading more and understanding your view.
I think there can be some limited value in diagnosis if we think of these DSM labels as indicators toward particular emotional conflcits/issues and possible defense mechanisms. The problem with the disease model is that it usually seems to stop inquiry. You “have” bipolar and therefore you need to take this drug.
Ooops, I just noticed that the person who posted above me is Christina. We’re different people and I should have used another name to differentiate between us.
Something else – Maria, you posted this above, “Asperger syndrome = 30 % mentally retarded ( IQ less than 70).”
That’s not true, although Asperger’s syndrome is a continuum and not equal for all those who have it. They tend to be average to above average in IQ scores.
Something else again – they have been showing on the news this week videos of MZ taken 7 or so years ago, before he became “famous”. His mannerisms in the videos strongly indicate Asperger’s imo.
Yes, Christina. Everyone on the planet has a distinct and unique personality, and in general IMO people try to get along. However, I hardly think that it is a good idea to get along with abusers ( I refer to emotional, psychological and verbal abusers as well as the physical kind). And there are a lot of that kind of personality out there. And how does one learn to get along with an abuser? It is certainly unlikely that they will want to learn to get along with non-abusive personalities. It suits them to abuse, because the quick fix they get from abusing makes them feel better, temporarily. Telling them they are abusive, suggesting to them that they might find better boundaries, or that they should get help generally just generates more rage and abuse.
And yes, they (abusive personalities, which is IMO a disordered personality) are whothey are. But why would I want to put myself in harm’s way by trying to get along with an abuser?
So yes, there are people who have their eccentricities, foibles, or even their bad days. Don’t we all? But abusers? Hardly.
Are narcissist envious of other narcissist?
Yes, they often are, especially when they are each trying to be more ideal and enviable than the other.
Dear dr. Burgo, your article first says the narcissist is “unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others”. Then it says “Zuckerberg demonstrates his complete inability to identify with or understand the experience of others”.
These two sentences confused me, maybe because English is not my native language. Is a narcissist somebody who doesn’t want to identify with the feelings of other people or somebody who is not able to do it?
I sure want to understand other people, but because of a traumatic childood, often I feel I’m not able to interpret their feelings correctly. It’s like other people’s emotions were a foreing language to me. Does this issue make me a narcissist? And, btw, how can I get better at undestanding other people’s feelings?
Maybe “unwilling” is the wrong word. I think they are unable to identify with other people’s feelings because to do so would bring them into contact with their own feelings, especially shame. The only way I know how to develop better empathy is through extensive psychotherapy.
Wow, I just diagnosed one of my old best friends. No wonder why she pushed me away. Thanks for the video and website.
What I found most repellent about the movie was the way it utterly misrepresents what motivates real talent – casting about for a “reason” for Zuckerburgs ambition, and coming up with nothing more imaginative than what amounts to wanting to get laid.
The fact is, intelligence is isolating and that isolation leads to social awkwardness and often to the impression of grandiosity rather than the fact of it. People who possess a genuine gift are driven to pursue it, often at the expense of money and personal security of all kind.
What motivates talent, or is talent it’s own motivation? We live in a world that celebrates the exceptional, and yet demands conformity at every turn. That in itself is enough of a contradiction to create significant distortion in the personality of any “exceptional” person, by which I mean, those unusually gifted, such as Zuckerburg. Of course, if they are actually conscious of their talent, they are easily labelled “grandiose” as these gifts inspire enough envy in others, and usually a good degree of insecurity as well, to legitimize the claim.
I see what you mean, and mostly agree, but there is no inherent reason why being exceptionally talented and aware of it should lead to contempt for other people. But you’re right about reducing what motivates an exceptional character to something banal. It’s annoying.
I was involved with a gay man who was diagnosed as Bi Polar I. His behavior from the start was one of condescension to me. We no longer see each other. I found his behavior to be totally unacceptable and repugnant. He was on the standard array of medications for this problem. In retrospect today after educating myself about both Bipolar and Narcissism- is it possible to be both Bi Polar and NPD? I realize that in the Manic phase of Bipolar, a patient will exhibit all the signs of NPD- however looking back now at the behavior of this man- he consistently exhibited all the negative and toxic traits of NPD. My experience with this man was very negative. While very intelligent and attractive- he seemed totally devoid of empathy, had grandiose illusions and a superiority complex that was truly arrogant and snobbish. He had been institutionalized several years ago- and had filed for bankruptcy.
Your experience with this man points to the unreliability of psychiatric diagnosis. People aren’t categories. They exhibit all sorts of symptoms in various combinations along a spectrum.
Hi, late to the discussion, but the notion of NPD on a spectrum similar to Asperger’s and Autism is an intriguing one, and I have heard it even suggested that the Narcissistic ‘spectrum’ underlies nearly all mental illness. This resonates personally for a couple reasons. One is having being married to a woman with clinically diagnosed NPD and BPD co-morbidity (though I suspect it might have been more the other way around)! In any case, I gradually became more aware of the subject, at about the same time I started doing some volunteer work with developmentally & mentally disabled adults. And I have noticed that if there’s anything my ‘clients’ all share in common, it’s the presence of so many of the classic NPD symptoms, like ‘mind blindness’, manipulation, and having no boundaries, empathy or sense of accountability. Which says to me that perhaps all ‘broken’ brains start with the typical NPD “deficits”, and that the various other symptoms like the NPD’s grandiosity, the BPD’s sketchy sense of self, sociopathy/psychopathy, Asperger’s/Autism deficits, etc., the schizophrenic and psychotic, etc., are all basically various “Maladaptive Variants”. In fact the argument could be made that ‘mind blindness’ is the unifying factor behind all mental illness. BTW, have also heard of the notion that ‘mind blindness’ (aside from it’s “adaptations”), may be less of a ‘disease’ or ‘defect’, than simply an occasional genetic throwback to earlier developmental stages of “homo sapiens”.