Misdiagnosing Narcissism - Asperger's Disorder Written by Sam Vaknin
(The use of gender pronouns in this article reflects clinical facts: most narcissists and most Asperger's patients are male.)
Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence).
In both cases, patient is self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities. Social and occupational interactions are severely hampered and conversational skills (the give and take of verbal intercourse) are primitive. The Asperger's patient body language - eye to eye gaze, body posture, facial expressions - is constricted and artificial, akin to narcissist's. Nonverbal cues are virtually absent and their interpretation in others lacking.
Yet, gulf between Asperger's and pathological narcissism is vast.
The narcissist switches between social agility and social impairment voluntarily. His social dysfunctioning is outcome of conscious haughtiness and reluctance to invest scarce mental energy in cultivating relationships with inferior and unworthy others. When confronted with potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, however, narcissist easily regains his social skills, his charm, and his gregariousness.
Many narcissists reach highest rungs of their community, church, firm, or voluntary organization. Most of time, they function flawlessly - though inevitable blowups and grating extortion of Narcissistic Supply usually put an end to narcissist's career and social liaisons.
The Asperger's patient often wants to be accepted socially, to have friends, to marry, to be sexually active, and to sire offspring. He just doesn't have a clue how to go about it. His affect is limited. His initiative - for instance, to share his experiences with nearest and dearest or to engage in foreplay - is thwarted. His ability to divulge his emotions stilted. He is incapable or reciprocating and is largely unaware of wishes, needs, and feelings of his interlocutors or counterparties.
Inevitably, Asperger's patients are perceived by others to be cold, eccentric, insensitive, indifferent, repulsive, exploitative or emotionally-absent. To avoid pain of rejection, they confine themselves to solitary activities - but, unlike schizoid, not by choice. They limit their world to a single topic, hobby, or person and dive in with greatest, all-consuming intensity, excluding all other matters and everyone else. It is a form of hurt-control and pain regulation.
The Manifold of Sense - Part IIWritten by Sam Vaknin
To say that emotions are cognitions is to say nothing. We understand cognition even less than we understand emotions (with exception of mechanics of cognition). To say that emotions are caused by cognitions or cause cognitions (emotivism) or are part of a motivational process – does not answer question: "What are emotions?". Emotions do cause us to apprehend and perceive things in a certain way and even to act accordingly. But WHAT are emotions? Granted, there are strong, perhaps necessary, connections between emotions and knowledge and, in this respect, emotions are ways of perceiving world and interacting with it. Perhaps emotions are even rational strategies of adaptation and survival and not stochastic, isolated inter-psychic events. Perhaps Plato was wrong in saying that emotions conflict with reason and thus obscure right way of apprehending reality. Perhaps he is right: fears do become phobias, emotions do depend on one's experience and character. As we have it in psychoanalysis, emotions may be reactions to unconscious rather than to world. Yet, again, Sartre may be right in saying that emotions are a "modus vivendi", way we "live" world, our perceptions coupled with our bodily reactions. He wrote: "(we live world) as though relations between things were governed not by deterministic processes but by magic". Even a rationally grounded emotion (fear which generates flight from a source of danger) is really a magical transformation (the ersatz elimination of that source). Emotions sometimes mislead. People may perceive same, analyze same, evaluate situation same, respond along same vein – and yet have different emotional reactions. It does not seem necessary (even if it were sufficient) to postulate existence of "preferred" cognitions – those that enjoy an "overcoat" of emotions. Either all cognitions generate emotions, or none does. But, again, WHAT are emotions?
We all possess some kind of sense awareness, a perception of objects and states of things by sensual means. Even a dumb, deaf and blind person still possesses proprioception (perceiving position and motion of one's limbs). Sense awareness does not include introspection because subject of introspection is supposed to be mental, unreal, states. Still, if mental states are a misnomer and really we are dealing with internal, physiological, states, then introspection should form an important part of sense awareness. Specialized organs mediate impact of external objects upon our senses and distinctive types of experience arise as a result of this mediation.
Perception is thought to be comprised of sensory phase – its subjective aspect – and of conceptual phase. Clearly sensations come before thoughts or beliefs are formed. Suffice it to observe children and animals to be convinced that a sentient being does not necessarily have to have beliefs. One can employ sense modalities or even have sensory-like phenomena (hunger, thirst, pain, sexual arousal) and, in parallel, engage in introspection because all these have an introspective dimension. It is inevitable: sensations are about how objects feel like, sound, smell and seen to us. The sensations "belong", in one sense, to objects with which they are identified. But in a deeper, more fundamental sense, they have intrinsic, introspective qualities. This is how we are able to tell them apart. The difference between sensations and propositional attitudes is thus made very clear. Thoughts, beliefs, judgements and knowledge differ only with respect to their content (the proposition believed/judged/known, etc.) and not in their intrinsic quality or feel. Sensations are exactly opposite: differently felt sensations may relate to same content. Thoughts can also be classified in terms of intentionality (they are "about" something) – sensations only in terms of their intrinsic character. They are, therefore, distinct from discursive events (such as reasoning, knowing, thinking, or remembering) and do not depend upon subject's intellectual endowments (like his power to conceptualize). In this sense, they are mentally "primitive" and probably take place at a level of psyche where reason and thought have no recourse.