As a psychoanalytically oriented clinical psychologist with over 45 years of practice experience, I looked forward to writing a book about narcissism in the early years of my retirement. I decided, particularly in the context of contemporary events, that it would be far more meaningful to build my book around my personal encounter with a narcissistic father.
It was daunting to do this. It meant exposing deeply personal - and sometimes deeply unattractive - facets of my internal life to the scrutiny of strangers. In the end, I concluded that doing so was a necessary undertaking. It would allow me and my readers to get inside narcissism in a way that a purely clinical or academic discussion could not.
The personal journey that I describe myself as having taken drew me - perhaps understandably - into some very dark corners of my own soul. As you will see from a reading of the book, the personal devastation that I endured potentially set the stage for my own psychopathy.
I direct a significant portion of the book towards the ways in which malignant narcissism, or more broadly psychopathy, replicates itself on both personal and larger societal stages. In the end, I think my journey allowed me to finally penetrate narcissism's component parts and their interrelationship to one another.
It is my hope that my book makes a very meaningful, but of course incremental, contribution to our grasp of an aspect of human character many of us think of as evil. I also believe that what happened to me, to my family, and to my father's colleagues (he was, at one point, the senior vice president of Montgomery Wards in the 1960s) offers a microcosm of the distorting effects narcissistic leaders have upon the states they govern. I focus extensively on this important subject at various points in my book. I also draw the reader's attention to the apparent ease with which we are repeatedly seduced by narcissistic leadership, articulating some of the reasons why we are so vulnerable to this deeply destructive variant of human personality.
"A rare combination of compelling biography and crucial work of science, this is essential reading for our disordered times." Ian Hughes, author of Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personalities Are Destroying Democracy and contributing author to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
"Malignant Narcissism is an essential contribution to the growing literature on dangerous personalities and the destruction they cause. Courageous, searingly honest, and deeply moving, Richard Wood uses his tools as a clinical psychologist to mine his experience growing up with an abusive narcissistic father with intelligence, insight and compassion. A rare combination of compelling biography and crucial work of science, this is essential reading for our disordered times. An invaluable work of wisdom and experience."
- Ian Hughes, author of Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personalities Are Destroying Democracy and contributing author to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
"This fine book offers a marvelous combination of often hair-raising raw experience with thoughtful, illuminating reflection and insightful commentary. Sharing very personal, challenging experiences from the overheated crucible of his chronically emotionally stressed nuclear family, Dr. Wood provides an inspiring, liberating model of courageous struggle and self-disclosure. Transiting smoothly between individual and social psychology, in mutually informative ways, he provides a well-timed, thought-provoking discussion of our fondness for malignant narcissistic leaders... I recommend this labor of love... to all others interested in understanding themselves, their loved ones, and their sociocultural and political milieu. This is a courageous, timely, well-written, important book."
- Dr. Brent Willock, clinical psychologist, is Founding President of the Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. He is author of Comparative-Integrative Psychoanalysis; and The Wrongful Conviction of Oscar Pistorius: Science Transforms our Comprehension of Reeva Steen Kamp's Shocking Death.
"Richard Wood's book is a masterpiece on the subject of Narcissism. From the riveting revelations of his personal exposure to its most pernicious elements as a child growing up through to his ultimate victory in overcoming its worst effects, you will most certainly be enlightened, and perhaps even frightened, by his deeply insightful explication of the dynamics of this pervasive psychological phenomenon. His analysis is compelling, comprehensive and profoundly empathic. Greater danger for humanity lurks in narcissistic leaders and Wood's book identifies it clearly and convincingly."
- Timothy Gilmor, Ph.D., C.Psych
"'Malignant Narcissism' is not for sissies. It reminds this reader of the title of one of Leonard Cohen's last albums "You Want it Darker." It is a courageously compelling and important in-depth exploration of malignant narcissism from a tripartite perspective--the personal, the professional and the political. The language is stark, dark, vivid and evocative.
Dr. Wood does something rare for an experienced practicing psychologist. He begins his exploration by sharing what his own life was like growing up with a malignantly narcissistic father and a mentally frail mother. Writing from a psychoanalytic view, he constructs a gripping exploration of an imagined inner life of a malignant narcissist. The picture is not a pretty one. It is an almost visceral experience... Finally, the author envisions the malignant narcissistic leader. He describes the way in which this leader evokes fear and compliance in others and how this fear motivates them in response. It is quite an examination of humanity in its darkest forms.
Although not for the faint of heart, this book is well worth the read for thoughtful souls who are interested in and fascinated by this dark facet of humanity and its potential for inordinate impact on others, from individuals to entire populations."
- Susan A. Andresen, Ed.D.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
303 pages 5 stars This is not a book for the weak of heart. Dr. Wood tells his story in detail, all the horrible detail, of his parents', especially his father's, abuse of him. It is a very sad story. I wanted to cry in parts. His purpose is to give the reader a factual and illustrative example of what malignant narcissism does not only to the family, friends, associates, colleagues of the narcissistic individual, but also to those who encounter them. This is a very real syndrome and far more pervasive in our society today than one might believe. Especially in public life such as politics and the corporate world. Dr. Wood list the personality characteristics which these people exhibit. They are specific and nearly 100% of narcissistic people illustrate them. When I was in clinical psychology my patients were mostly diagnosed as Borderline Personality. (I am now retired.) I believe the two syndromes share some similarities – at least in behavior exhibited. The book fascinated me. I truly “enjoyed” reading it. I, too, undertook the study of psychology to “fix” myself. I believed that there was something “wrong” with me and so my studies and sessions with my clients became a learning journey, about others, about myself and about psychology. I want to thank NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for forwarding to me a copy of this fascinating book for me to read, “enjoy” and review.
This was a difficult book to read, though not necessarily because of the subject matter. It is perhaps because this book was particularly challenging to write, as it attempts to portray what is defined here as a form of psychopathy on one of the most personal perspectives possible (a son writing about why and how we are hurt most by the ones we love), as a clinical. psychologist presenting a case study, and how this type of dangerous personality can create havoc politically, in a global village full of nukes. Ricjar Wood writes in an academic,introspective style, and it is only in bits and giveaways that the abuse he suffers at the hands of his father come through - in glimpses. Only at the end does the father speak for himself, on the autobiographies he dictates for his son. The father certainly came across as an enormously vital, resourceful individual who had to provide for his family during the Depression where they couldn't. He was clearly, also very lucky, though also dogged by painful losses too, though it is difficult from this account to discern any possible malignant narcissism - if anything, it dies seem odd he didn't develop some kind of mood disorder, considering this fascinating account of ups and downs. The son certainly thought that having to grow up too fast is not good for any ego however, and the father's account does imply that he certainly had to grow up too early. The son describes how he nearly ended up becoming psychopathic himself, so that filial bonding activities such as huntin' shootin' and fishin' immediately take on a far more sombre timbre. My main issue with this book then, is that in the telling, the descriptions of the father's experience are too vague, there is not quite enough direction to get enough of a real sense about what it was like to be brought up by a malignant narcissist, though the distress brought about by experiencing all this first hand is converted strongly enough. The book is most excellent in its analysis on how the world really does not need too many individuals with this kind of damaged individual running things, and is perceptive about describing how 'nice' peoe like you and me what be ensnared enough to end up with enough blood in our hands to be in it too deep to back out. Then, a whole government, a whole country will become infected with incompetency, compromised cues and empathy. Oh yes, and evil. By the way. However this book might be critiqued, it does not really need much to look at what the author is getting at there. The question is, whether or not that message will be, or even can be, received in our current, very volatile world.