From Authenticity to Dark Authenticity

We tend to associate authenticity with goodness and morality. But dark personality traits can be truly authentic, turning conventional notions of authenticity inside-out.

Grant H Brenner MD DFAPA
7 min readApr 19, 2024


  • Authenticity is associated with the idea of virtue, but that is only part of the picture.
  • Dark personality traits complicate notions of authenticity, when deceit and manipulation are core traits.
  • Embracing dark authenticity permits greater candor about risks from widespread deception and malevolence.

Being authentic is typically idealized in our culture, and it is generally associated with notions of goodness, purity, self-actualization, and other virtues. However, this conceptualization leaves room for unease, because there are plenty of people who are on the dark spectrum- sociopathic or psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, or sadistic. They aren’t being inauthentic.

Au contraire, we may wish they were less authentic, and to at least pretend to be more interested in others’ well-being and the common good. Behaving more agreeably, in fact, over time may reduce dark traits. Walking around knowing there are plenty of wolves dressed as sheep isn’t…



Grant H Brenner MD DFAPA

Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Entrepreneur, Writer, Speaker, Disaster Responder, Advocate, Photographer