Typically writers employ language of ownership of personality disorder which conveys the idea that what is, for N-disordered individuals, a pervasive, wall-to-wall psychological defence (against narcissistic injury), is consciously deployed by a thinking and fully aware self somewhere "behind the scenes"; a homunculus operating a mask known as the "false self".
Adopting this language gives writers (and readers) the satisfaction of seeming objective and simultaneously presenting the N as outright wicked.
This kind of language is, in my view, inappropriate and inadequate to conveying the nature of disorder. My main reason for objecting to it is that I believe Donald Winnicott was right to identify a "false self" as emerging (in adverse conditions of infancy) where the true self ought to be. So, for a N to become aware of themselves as N-disorder, that is, become aware of their own psychopathology, is for them to become aware that the true self is lost, and was lost at some time in (early) childhood. Experiencing this loss and being able to feel sadness over it could be the beginnings of someone recovering from N-disorder.
I do not wish to excuse N-disordered individuals, or N-abuse. Personality disorder is a social phenomenon, and creates massive suffering for individuals and those with whom they are close. I say: don't put up with N abuse! Seek professional help! But after the rage and hurt and anger we may feel, compassion is called for.
Since 2012, when I first encountered it, I have been mindful of the work on personality disorder by Dr Hanna Pickard of Oxfird University. In a nutshell, her work encourages a clinical and general stance towards personality disorder (or what, significantly, she calls "disorder of agency") that stresses an individual's responsibility for harmful behaviours but without blame. For example, in her paper "Responsibility without blame: philosophical reflections on clinical practice" (Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry and Philosophy, OUP), Dr Pickard points to disordered individuals' awareness of their harmful behaviours. They have "conscious knowledge" of these behaviours and it is therefore right to assert that they have choice to desist from them. But Dr Pickard also makes it clear that by "conscious knowledge" she does not intend that disordered individuals necessarily know "why" they might behave in those harmful ways, or what those behaviours might be achieving in terms of protecting them against (for example) narcissistic injury.
[Dr Pickard is an analytic philosopher and clinician (psychotherapist). I seem to remember some of her writing addressing a problem that may be a characteristic pre-occupation of that school of philosophy, i.e. the question whether or not minds exist. It's never occurred to me to doubt that other minds exist. My view is informed by the practice of psychotherapy, in which "self-objects" (aspects of one's mind, one's personality) may be acquired through a therapeutic relationship that enable psychological growth. This points to some sort of merged infant-mother mind in early life. How can any mind be without other minds to act as it's container?]
So here are some responses I have given on the culprit blogs I have stumbled over. The comments I made appear out of context (I won't identify the blogs themselves), so it may be tricky to understand what I have been responding to. But the gist of my comments has been towards denying the idea that there is, in the N-disordered individual, someone else present behind the mask who, therefore, must be evil-doing.
In response to a blog on what James F Masterson called "Closet" Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
The word "malign" accurately describes the effect of personality disorder on lives. Unfortunately, it also encourages the idea that PD sufferers are also "malign", that they are self-conscious, that behind the narcissistic "false self" there is another, conscious self, manipulating things. I appeal to readers of this blog, which has attracted thoughtful comments, to consider that there is no self-consciousness in NPD sufferers (whether of the "closet" or "overt" kind). The damaging thought-feeling-behaviour patterns are sub-consciously driven. In total they are geared towards maintaining self-esteem, getting external validation/love/admiration of a false-self-image. The false self emerges in response to unempathic parenting (usually a mum who has her own un-met narcissistic needs). Disordered individuals lack real self-esteem, lack self-love, which is the same thing as lacking authentic "self" - something virtually unimaginable if not directly experienced. Personal setbacks, contradicting the false-self-image of the NPD sufferer, may drive the individual to seek psychotherapy. It's only in the therapeutic environment that the individual can achieve (with great pain) self-awareness, i.e. awareness of the disorder.
The blog author maintained that CN's "are aware of their traits but choose to repress them out of denial which is one of the main characteristics of the disorder".
I responded with the following comment.