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Weekly Case Study February 26th: Lenny: NPD Twin Brother

Submit a Case Study and Sam Vaknin, in person, will analyze your situation and offer insight, coping strategies, and remedies.

Moderators: WindSong, samvaknin

Weekly Case Study February 26th: Lenny: NPD Twin Brother

Postby WindSong » Tue Feb 27, 2007 12:00 pm

I am a triplet--one of three boys. We grew up on a small farm in Minnesota.
My Mother worked outside the home as our Father had Parkinson's disease that
was diagnosed shortly after our births--double or nothing, trips to win; we
made a total of six siblings. Dad's disease progressed as we became
adolescents; and I had always thought the lack of closeness (dysfunction) in
our family was due to Dad's illness. The classic story of one person in the
family is ill, and the family focuses on that person until they are healed
or die; then they no longer know how to relate to each other. I assumed
this to be true and explained why I felt such distance.

I am the first of the three; more outgoing risk taker, and more successful
as a result than my triplet brothers. 30 years ago, at the age of 21, I
married my brothers high school sweeheart. Home town population
1200, and 64 in our graduation class---everybody knew everybody. Yes I know
it sounds horrible, but they had broken up sometime before this took place.
We were married for 10 years and divorced. My brother married a woman with a
young daughter who subsequently had a child out of wedlock at the age of 17.
She proved irresponsible, and my brother legally adopted little Joe as his and
the biological grandmother's own child, even thoughthe biological mother was
always in contact with Joe. My brother divorced 3 years ago himself, and Joe
(17 years old) has been living in both households which are in close
proximity of each other.

For some reason my brother and I never got along; and at the age of 52, I'm
sensing our mortality and want to reconcile our differences. This is so
because our other brother died of sleep apnea one year ago. In fact he was the 4th
family member to die inside of 3 years. Mother 7/03 @ 82; neice committed
sucide (no history of mental illness) @37; her mother (my sister) dies 2
months later of pulmonary embolism; and our other brother. Two siblings in a years
time at 60 and 51 respectively. It has been very sad for our family these
last 3 years.

I was in Minneapolis for the funeral (I live in Seattle); and when all was
over, I dropped in on my brother to talk---to clear the air on the event of
our brother's passing. It had been 4 years since we had anything near a
conversation. I must of caught him off guard, as he claimed to feel trapped
in his own garage. In our conversation he threw down the proverbial shit
bag of old wounds/disappointments (including marrying his old girlfriend)
that he's been hanging on to for the last 30+ years. Huh???? This is old
stuff! I knew then and there something was wrong with him, but didn't know
what it was. I thought after our brother's death it would bring all of us
together. My brother said he had no intention to talk to me before I went back
to Seattle; nor could he see ever coming out here. I've lived here 9 years
without a family visitor.

I got an email he entitled "First Contact" suggesting HE made the first
effort to communication. Fine. His emails told only of what he was doing,
but he never asks anything about me or my life. Come to think of it, he
never has. Even in Minnesota during our brother's services he never inquired
about my life. This past summer I visited Minnesota to see friends and
family, but not my brother. A couple weeks after getting home, I get an email
from him, "So by not stopping by, don't you only continue the status quo?"
I wrote back, "I don't recall you ever saying anything nice to me, or about
me. It reminds me of the old saying, I'd rather eat brussel sprouts with
people who love me, than eat fillet mignon with people who don't." In
repsonse he unleashed his abusive venom on me once more. I responded by
saying if we are going to have a relationship, it would require seeing a
counselor together, to which he suggested I never suggest counseling to him
again. My brother has a 30 year old BS with a major in psychology, but never
pursued any career as such. He works for 3M.
His two emails since have been an abusive attack on me on how I've isolated
myself, and how wonderful he is. I know enough to the same
environment/nurturing/Mother has yielded this result? At the funerals,
my brother didn't have any friends supporting him, while I had a dozen---and I
haven't lived there for 9 years. How did we become so different? Since my
"enlightenment" I can read his emails which are now obviously classic
narcissistic. I am a threat to him and this is how he reacts to threats.
our other brother must've also been part of the N supply, whose loss has taken a
significant toll on my brother. No worries. The following weekend an old
girlfriend from CA came into town for a 30 year class reunion; as as my brother
puts it, "I fell head over heels and asked her to marry me." Supposedly
this will take place next year. My brother must have been on a roller coaster
ride. He refers to her as "a model."

I assume he devalues me to the remaining family members and friends, but I
am comforted in knowing what all of this is about.

Being a triplet, what does my undiagnosed but hitting 7 of the 9 diagnostic
criteria brother see when he looks at me? I am successfully retired with no
bills or obligations to anyone, and can travel anywhere. In comparison he
can't compete on the same level and has devalued me for as long as I can

Genetically the same with the same upbringing by a Mother who worked outside
the home, a Parkinson's stricken Father, and three older siblings living on
a farm in Minnesota. How did we (my NPD brother and myself) turn out so
different from a personality perspective? Shouldn't we be the same?

After I learned of the similarities of NPD and bullying, it hit home. I
think he has contaminated what is left of my family for so long, it seems
unlikely they will ever awaken from poisoning of my brother. They all live
in Minnesota, I live in Seattle, Washington. Shall I count my lucky stars I
don't live there, or does it become my responsibility to expose him to the

Shortly after our twin brother's death, my brother proposed to an old girlfriend
visiting from out of town for a 30th reunion. Automatically "in love" he
proposed to his "model" and claimed she loves him without strings. It
appears his ideal love arrived at a time when the NS he received from oue twin brother
was gone and he had suffered a narcissistic injury. What would you expect
of the outcome to his impending marriage?
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Postby samvaknin » Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:10 pm

Hi, Lenny, and welcome aboard.

what can I say? he must be jealous of you! But then I am sure the thought occurred to you as well (smiling).

Click on these links about envious narcissists:







Take care.

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Postby samvaknin » Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:16 pm

Hi, Lenny,

Is pathological narcissism the outcome of inherited traits - or the sad result of abusive and traumatizing upbringing? Or, maybe it is the confluence of both? It is a common occurrence, after all, that, in the same family, with the same set of parents and an identical emotional environment - some siblings grow to be malignant narcissists, while others are perfectly "normal". Surely, this indicates a predisposition of some people to developing narcissism, a part of one's genetic heritage.

This vigorous debate may be the offshoot of obfuscating semantics.

When we are born, we are not much more than the sum of our genes and their manifestations. Our brain - a physical object - is the residence of mental health and its disorders. Mental illness cannot be explained without resorting to the body and, especially, to the brain. And our brain cannot be contemplated without considering our genes. Thus, any explanation of our mental life that leaves out our hereditary makeup and our neurophysiology is lacking. Such lacking theories are nothing but literary narratives. Psychoanalysis, for instance, is often accused of being divorced from corporeal reality.

Our genetic baggage makes us resemble a personal computer. We are an all-purpose, universal, machine. Subject to the right programming (conditioning, socialization, education, upbringing) - we can turn out to be anything and everything. A computer can imitate any other kind of discrete machine, given the right software. It can play music, screen movies, calculate, print, paint. Compare this to a television set - it is constructed and expected to do one, and only one, thing. It has a single purpose and a unitary function. We, humans, are more like computers than like television sets.

True, single genes rarely account for any behaviour or trait. An array of coordinated genes is required to explain even the minutest human phenomenon. "Discoveries" of a "gambling gene" here and an "aggression gene" there are derided by the more serious and less publicity-prone scholars. Yet, it would seem that even complex behaviours such as risk taking, reckless driving, and compulsive shopping have genetic underpinnings.

What about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

It would seem reasonable to assume - though, at this stage, there is not a shred of proof - that the narcissist is born with a propensity to develop narcissistic defences. These are triggered by abuse or trauma during the formative years in infancy or during early adolescence (see http://samvak.tripod.com/faq64.html). By "abuse" I am referring to a spectrum of behaviours which objectifies the child and treats it as an extension of the caregiver (parent) or an instrument. Dotting and smothering are as much abuse as beating and starving. And abuse can be dished out by peers as well as by adult role models.

Still, I would have to attribute the development of NPD mostly to nurture. The Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an extremely complex battery of phenomena: behaviour patterns, cognitions, emotions, conditioning, and so on. NPD is a PERSONALITY disorder and even the most ardent proponents of the school of genetics do not attribute the development of the whole personality to genes.

From "The Interrupted Self" (http://samvak.tripod.com/sacks.html):

"'Organic' and 'mental' disorders (a dubious distinction at best) have many characteristics in common (confabulation, antisocial behaviour, emotional absence or flatness, indifference, psychotic episodes and so on)."

From "On Dis-ease" (http://samvak.tripod.com/disease.html):

"Moreover, the distinction between the psychic and the physical is hotly disputed, philosophically. The psychophysical problem is as intractable today as it ever was (if not more so). It is beyond doubt that the physical affects the mental and the other way around. This is what disciplines like psychiatry are all about. The ability to control 'autonomous' bodily functions (such as heartbeat) and mental reactions to pathogens of the brain are proof of the artificialness of this distinction.

It is a result of the reductionist view of nature as divisible and summable. The sum of the parts, alas, is not always the whole and there is no such thing as an infinite set of the rules of nature, only an asymptotic approximation of it. The distinction between the patient and the outside world is superfluous and wrong. The patient AND his environment are ONE and the same. Disease is a perturbation in the operation and management of the complex ecosystem known as patient-world. Humans absorb their environment and feed it in equal measures. This on-going interaction IS the patient. We cannot exist without the intake of water, air, visual stimuli and food. Our environment is defined by our actions and output, physical and mental.

Thus, one must question the classical differentiation between 'internal' and 'external'. Some illnesses are considered 'endogenic' (generated from the inside). Natural, 'internal', causes - a heart defect, a biochemical imbalance, a genetic mutation, a metabolic process gone awry - cause disease. Aging and deformities also belong in this category.

In contrast, problems of nurturance and environment - early childhood abuse, for instance, or malnutrition - are 'external' and so are the 'classical' pathogens (germs and viruses) and accidents.

But this, again, is a counter-productive approach. Exogenic and endogenic pathogenesis is inseparable. Mental states increase or decrease the susceptibility to externally induced disease. Talk therapy or abuse (external events) alter the biochemical balance of the brain.

The inside constantly interacts with the outside and is so intertwined with it that all distinctions between them are artificial and misleading. The best example is, of course, medication: it is an external agent, it influences internal processes and it has a very strong mental correlate (its efficacy is influenced by mental factors as in the placebo effect).

The very nature of dysfunction and sickness is highly culture-dependent.

Societal parameters dictate right and wrong in health (especially mental health). It is all a matter of statistics. Certain diseases are accepted in certain parts of the world as a fact of life or even a sign of distinction (e.g., the paranoid schizophrenic as chosen by the gods). If there is no dis-ease there is no disease. That the physical or mental state of a person CAN be different - does not imply that it MUST be different or even that it is desirable that it should be different. In an over- populated world, sterility might be the desirable thing - or even the occasional epidemic. There is no such thing as ABSOLUTE dysfunction. The body and the mind ALWAYS function. They adapt themselves to their environment and if the latter changes - they change.

Personality disorders are the best possible responses to abuse. Cancer may be the best possible response to carcinogens. Aging and death are definitely the best possible response to over-population. Perhaps the point of view of the single patient is incommensurate with the point of view of his species - but this should not serve to obscure the issues and derail rational debate.

As a result, it is logical to introduce the notion of 'positive aberration'. Certain hyper- or hypo- functioning can yield positive results and prove to be adaptive. The difference between positive and negative aberrations can never be "objective". Nature is morally-neutral and embodies no 'values' or 'preferences'. It simply exists. WE, humans, introduce our value systems, prejudices and priorities into our activities, science included. It is better to be healthy, we say, because we feel better when we are healthy. Circularity aside - this is the only criterion that we can reasonably employ. If the patient feels good - it is not a disease, even if we all think it is. If the patient feels bad, ego-dystonic, unable to function - it is a disease, even when we all think it isn't. Needless to say that I am referring to that mythical creature, the fully informed patient. If someone is sick and knows no better (has never been healthy) - then his decision should be respected only after he is given the chance to experience health.

All the attempts to introduce 'objective' yardsticks of health are plagued and philosophically contaminated by the insertion of values, preferences and priorities into the formula - or by subjecting the formula to them altogether. One such attempt is to define health as 'an increase in order or efficiency of processes' as contrasted with illness which is 'a decrease in order (increase of entropy) and in the efficiency of processes'. While being factually disputable, this dyad also suffers from a series of implicit value-judgements. For instance, why should we prefer life over death? Order to entropy? Efficiency to inefficiency?"

Read More

Liveslye, W.J., Jank, K.L., Jackson, B.N., Vernon, P.A.. 1993. Genetic and environmental contributions to dimensions of personality disorders. Am. J. Psychiatry. 150(O12):1826-31.

The Genetic Roots of Personality Disorders - click on the link:

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Your third question

Postby samvaknin » Thu Mar 01, 2007 3:34 pm

Your third question is a moral dilemma, not a question about narcissism or NPD.

Only you can decide what to do according to your values.

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