ADHD, Autism, Narcissism: No Empathy in Dead Mother Triad

Uploaded 9/13/2020, approx. 38 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

I am also a professor of psychology in several universities.

And today I would like to discuss the connection between ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and narcissism.

It's kind of a new triad. Are these linked somehow? Are these connected? There will be a lot.

I'll be quoting a lot, citing a lot from scholarly literature, and trying to demonstrate that there are intimate connections between these.

But before we go to scholarly literature, I would like to set out a conceptual map.

I think, mind you, I think it's speculation based on 25 years of studying pathological narcissism, but it is still speculation to be tested, experimented on, repeated, experiments should be repeated, etc. until we see if there's any truth to my speculation.

But this is my gut feeling. This is my hunch. This is my intuition.

Intuition plays an important part in scientific progress because it helps us formulate research goals and it helps us to direct our studies in a way which would yield meaningful results or not.

So my gut feeling is that the narcissist as a child, because the narcissist doesn't have a primary object, a mother who is responsive, who is warm, empathic, loving, unconditionally loving, embracing, accepting. He doesn't have a safe base to come back to once he had explored the world.

The narcissist has no focus of attention. He has no object, mother in this case, or you know what, even father, caregiver, he doesn't have an adult figure, but especially mother, mother is much more critical than any of the other figures. He doesn't have an adult figure upon which he can latch, upon which he can hang, towards which he can direct his attention. Mother is rejecting. Mother is painful. She's humiliating. She's cold. She's absent. She is self-preoccupied. She's self-centered. She's selfish. She resents the child for infringing on her free time and leisure. She sometimes regards the child as the reason for all her troubles. So very often she is aggressive towards the child. She induces terror in the child, panic reaction.

So the child is afraid, simply afraid to direct his attention at the primary object. He never learns, he never learns how to pay attention. He never learns how to laser focus his mental resources so that he can, so that he zeros in another person.

And this is the foundation in my view, the psychodynamic foundation of attention deficit.

The child never learns to become attentive because there's no one there which could absorb his attention, who would accept his attention and reciprocate in a way which would reinforce this attention positively.

Reciprocate, respond in a way which would encourage the child to continue to pay attention. Whenever the child tries to pay attention to mother, he rebuffed. He's attacked, he's criticized, humiliated or even punished, sometimes punished corporeally, bodily. So the child learns that attention is bad. Paying attention is bad. He is conditioned via negative reinforcement to not pay attention. He regards attention as a form of threat.

And so he develops attention deficit.

And yet these mental energies have to go somewhere.

Children have a very, very steep learning curve and developmental curve, including body development, including brain development. The brain doubles in size every few months.

So the child has a lot of pent up energy which he has, which usually is directed to the primary object.

When there's a good enough mother, safe base, the energy goes there. And mother loves this energy and accepts this energy, encourages it and absorbs it in a positive way and reflects it back.

So as to encourage the child to develop boundaries and to explore the world, however grandiosely and to separate from her and become a healthy individual standing on his or her own two feet. That's a healthy mother, a non-narcissistic mother, a non-labile mother, a mother who regulates her emotions, not a dysregulated mother, not a borderline mother.

But when there's a mentally ill mother or mentally disordered mother, the child is in trouble because all this energy has to go somewhere. So he becomes hyperactive, hyperactive.

And he learns that hyperactivity garners him, gets him the attention that he's not getting otherwise. So there's a vicious feedback loop, positive and negative reinforcement from mommy actually rejects him.

So inability to develop positive attention, attention span, and there's attention deficit and attention from other adults and from mommy when he's a bad boy, when she's a bad girl. So being bad comes to be associated or being hyperactive, you know, a troublemaker, comes to be associated gradually with garnering and getting much desired, much sought attention and the child gets conditioned and develop ADHD.

And this is doubly true. If the child is on the autism spectrum disorder, if an autistic child would have severe difficulties to interpret, for example, body cues, body language cues, social cues, an autistic child processes the world very differently, akin to borderline, an autistic child doesn't have a skin doesn't have protection. So his emotions are so enormously dysregulated. It's like they develop the emotions, they develop an escape velocity, like in rockets, you know, they move with such energy, the emotions up and down that one day, they just go into outer space and they are never to be found again. Autism preconditions predisposes the child to develop, in essence, narcissism is a defense.

So narcissistic defenses in autistic children are very common. And one of them, of course, is a pronounced lack of empathy or at least discernible empathy, functional empathy. That's one of them.

Second thing, many autistic children are grandiose in some highly specific ways. And all autistic children have severe attention deficits. We are beginning to see the connections here.

Possibly there's an autistic child who reacts with narcissistic defenses and learn dysfunctional ways of regulating attention, both because he has a biological proclivity and predisposition to dysregulation of attention. And because he learns from his environment, from his human environment, that certain types of attention, the negative ones, go hand in hand with hyperactive behavior.

So all these three conditions become enmeshed and tangled and cannot be separated. They feed on each other. They feed on each other. And it's very, very difficult to break.

This part that there is such a connection, this part is not speculation. And this is why I want to read to you from scholarly studies.

In the books, in the book, Sadism: Psychoanalytic Perspectives, which I mentioned in yesterday's video, there's a scholar by the name of Damien McCann. And I'm quoting from his article in the book.

He says, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, almost half of those diagnosed with a positional defined disorder or conduct disorder are also diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.

So for you to understand, oppositional defined disorder and conduct disorder are the precursors of psychopathy.

Most children, about 80% of children with conduct disorder, grow up to become psychopaths.

So here we see early on the connection between oppositional defined disorder, ODD, and conduct disorder, the precursors for narcissism and psychopathy, how they're intimately linked with ADHD. Half of children with ODD and conduct disorder also have ADHD.

I'm continuing from the article.

Adolescents living with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So adolescents living with ADHD and a coexisting conduct disorder, such as oppositional defined disorder, these adolescents are at higher risk for antisocial behavior and suspension from school. The school dropouttimes greater than the rate among adolescents who are not affected by ADHD outcomes that underline the importance of early identification.

The McCann continues. It has been suggested that parents of children living with ADHD and conduct disorder often feel frightened and intimidated by their child's behavior. They worry about danger or injury to other family members.

Parents may also be shocked or embarrassed by their child's sadistic behaviors.

At one and the same time, family members can act in ways that either reinforce or diminish the patient's problematic behavior or thoughts. So their involvement is helpful and often essential.

This is Meghan. And this connection between ADHD and early nascent narcissism and psychopathy is extremely strong.

What is ADHD actually?

The American Psychiatric Association says symptoms of ADHD include inattention, not being able to keep focus, hyperactivity, excess movement that is not fitting to the setting, and impulsivity, exactly like borderlines and psychopath, by the way, impulsivity, hasty acts that occur in the moment without fault. It's exactly it's a very good description of a primary psychopath, by the way, they are exactly like this.

An estimate, the American, the APA continues, an estimated 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have aged ADHD. By the way, 2.5% of adults, amazingly, that's also the percentage of psychopaths in the general population and also the percentage of narcissists in the general population. That's the median among many studies.

So if you make a meta analysis of studies, that's the number you get.

So ADHD, psychopathy, narcissism, they have the same incidence and the same prevalence in the general population, identical number. ADHD is diagnosed as one of three types, inattentive type, hyperactive impulsive type, or combined type. A diagnosis is based on the symptoms that have occurred over the past six months.

Inattentive type, six or five for people over 17 years of the following symptoms occur frequently.

So in the inattentive type, doesn't pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or job tasks. Has problems staying focused on tasks or activities, such as during lectures, conversations, or long reading, or listening to long Vaknin videos, does not seem to listen when spoken to, seems to be elsewhere, does not follow through on instructions, doesn't complete schoolwork, chores, or job duties, may start tasks, but quickly loses focus. Has problems organizing tasks and work, for example, does not manage time well, has messy disorganized work, misses deadlines, avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental efforts, such as preparing reports and completing forms. Often loses things needed for tasks or daily life, such as school papers, books, keys, wallet, cell phone, and eyeglasses.

Tell me about it. Is easily distracted, forgets daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands.

Older teens and adults may forget to return phone calls, pay bills, and keep appointments. That's the inattentive type.

As I go through the list of characteristics of various types of people with ADHD, you will immediately identify your narcissist or your psychopath. Many of these features are very, very typical of psychopathy and narcissism, pathological narcissist. And any and every one of you will confirm this, I'm sure.

Feel free in the comments.

Then there is the hyperactive impulsive type.

Again, fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in the seat, not able to stay seated in classroom or workplace, runs about or climbs where it is inappropriate, unable to play or to do leisure activities quietly, always on the go, as if driven by a motor engine, talks too much.

That's me. Blurts out an answer before a question has been finished. For instance, may finish people's sentences, can't wait to speak in conversations, very typical of narcissists.

Has difficulty waiting his or her turn, such as while waiting in line, again, a feature of entitlement in pathological narcissism, interrupts or intrudes on others, for instance, cuts into conversations, games or activities, starts using other people's things without their permission. All the things and others may take over what others are doing. All these are features which describe ADHD, but also features in pathological narcissism and in primary psychopathy.

There is a very powerful connection between these diagnoses. And again, I repeat my hypothesis, my working hypothesis, to be tested.

I think the child in a dysfunctional family, with a dead mother, non-responsive mother, not good enough mother, with the wrong kind of mother, selfish, inattentive, cold, detached, narcissistic, self-centered, instrumentalizing and parentifying mother, which uses the child to gratify her wishes and needs, smothering and pampering and doting mother, teaching the child that he can do no wrong, isolating him from reality.

Mothers who don't allow the child to develop boundaries, to separate, to individually, because they have abandonment anxiety and the child is there to cater to their needs, to reduce their anxiety. The child is a kind of anti-anxiety medication and anxiolytic.

These kind of mothers, the child cannot develop the skill of paying attention, because he doesn't have a focus of attention. The mother is rejecting it or she is not there, or she treats him as an object, not as a person. And so he doesn't learn to pay attention and his attention is all over the place, wanders in his attention deficit.

And he cut, he doesn't have long enough interactions with the mother. She's cold, she's detached, she just walks away, she creates object inconstancy by her frequent absences. So he doesn't learn to develop an attention span, even when he does have attention, when he does show attention. This is very brief attention.

And then his attention wanders. He, the mother never teaches him to pay long term attention to anything.

Social media are doing the same to us, by the way, they're reducing our attention span, advertising, and even television. This kind of media, they are destroying our ability to focus, to have long term attention span, and they induce attention deficits that is backed by many studies.

And so the child compensates for this by becoming hyperactive.

It becomes hyperactive for two reasons.

First of all, it has a lot of energy. It has to go out somewhere, it develops outlets, dysfunctional outlets for this energy.

And the second reason, he gets attention. When he misbehaves, he gets attention, he learns the connection.

Now that creates a problem in mentalizing. In mentalizing is a crucial foundational prerequisite for developing empathy.

Now, let's start by explaining what is mentalizing.

Mentalizing is a process by which we make sense of each other, and of ourselves, implicitly or explicitly, in terms of subjective states and mental processes.

Mentalizing is a profoundly social construct, in the sense that we are attentive to the mental states of those we are with, physically or psychologically, we pay attention.

We ask ourselves, what is he thinking? What makes her tick? What did she want?

These innocuous questions are actually attempts to theorize, to create a theory of other people's minds. And indeed, it's called a theory of mind.

And in psychotic psychology, mentalizing or mentalization is the ability to understand the mental state of oneself or others. The mental state that underlies overt behavior.

So the first stage, we observe behavior. And then we speculate, like I'm doing now, we speculate about the motives, the dynamics behind the behavior, we speculate about the state of the mind that had generated this behavior.

And so mentalization can be seen as a form of imaginative and creative mental activity, fiction writing, that lets us perceive and interpret human behavior in terms of intentional mental state mentalization goes with the assumption of intentionality.

That is very confusing to many victims of narcissistic abuse, because we observe the narcissist behaving, we observe a behavior with a narcissist or the psychopath of the borderline. And of course, we try to mentalize the narcissist, we try to understand the narcissist, we try to make a constructive theory as to what made the borderline do what she did, or what drove the psychopath to act the way he had done.

And so we construct theories, but these theories fall flat, they collapse, they disintegrate, because we can't really penetrate the minds of narcissists, psychopaths and borderlines, we can't create an efficacious theory of mind for these people, a theory of mind.

And so there's a huge gap with discrepancy between our theory and the ultimate observable behaviors.

Because our theory yields predictions, when we construct the theory, he tells us, well, the narcissist did it because of this. So he is likely to do this because of that.

And then he doesn't. The same with the psychopath, same with the borderline. They are so unpredictable, dysregulated and labile, that all our theories fall like houses of cards.

A theory of mind is an important social cognitive skill. It involves the ability to think about mental states, your mental states, other people's mental states.

And in theory of mind, we use beliefs, desires, intentions.

And where do we find information about these beliefs, desires and intentions inside ourselves?

We make the wrong assumption that the narcissist is exactly like us, that he has the same base desires, the same intentions, the same urges, the same drives, the same hopes and fears and dreams, that he has the same, in other words, mental state, that he has the same mind like us, that is absolutely wrong and erroneous.

This is where everything fails. This is why you keep being victimized and abused.

These narcissists don't have a mind that's like yours. They don't have a human mind.

And I'm not saying this in a pejorative term. I'm not cursing or demonizing the narcissist because they lack empathy and they lack access to positive emotionality. They lack the two pillars upon which the edifice of the human mind rests.

Like Samson, take away these two pillars and the temple crashes. The temple collapses on you if you're inside.

So be careful. Make no assumptions about the narcissist and the psychopaths and the borderline because they are utterly alien to you. They have almost nothing in common with you. Their inner space is, I don't know, galactic interplanetary. It's not earthly and it's not human by any extension of this work.

And so we use your mind to understand why someone acts in certain ways and does not act in other ways.

This hypothesizing, this scientific method is not working with people who are not like you.

For example, if tomorrow an extraterrestrial, an alien were to land on Earth coming all the way from Alpha Centauri, you know, and total alien from another planet in another galaxy were to come to Earth. We would be very foolish to assume that such an alien has the same desires and the same mental states and the same fears and the same hopes and dreams and wishes as we do. That would be a very foolish assumption, very dangerous assumption, because we need to assume that an alien from another galaxy has nothing in common with us. We may discover gradually similarities, resonances, echoes of our mind, but we should not make an a priori assumption that an alien is like us.

Narcissus comes from another planet, from a galaxy of pain and hurt, from a planet of rejection, humiliation and abuse, from a place where he could not become. Narcissism is a work in progress that had been arrested, stopped midway. He is like a construction site never completed.

There is nothing in common between an apartment that's never been completed and a livable, livable quarters, livable apartment. Nothing in common. The walls are bare, the electrical wiring is all over the place. It's dangerous.

And theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states, beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, cognitions, our mental states, to ourselves and to others. We really make the assumption that we are 99% the same.

Theory of mind is necessary to understand that others have the same beliefs, desires, intentions and perspectives like us. The content of these beliefs, the content of the desires, the intentions, the perspectives may be different, but the vessels, the containers are the same.

Narcissists are not using your cutlery. They are not using your pots and pans and spoons and forks. They are using something you are not going to recognize.

Now, empathy has three components and that's why I am against the term cognitive empathy when attributed to narcissists and psychopaths.

Narcissists and psychopaths have two forms of empathy out of three. They have reflexive empathy and cognitive empathy, not only cognitive empathy.

So it's wrong to say that narcissists have cognitive empathy and healthy people have emotional empathy. It's absolutely wrong.

There are three layers, reflexive, cognitive and emotional.

Psychopaths and narcissists lack the emotional part. Borderlines, by the way, have all three reflexive, but they cannot regulate.

So let's talk a bit about reflexive empathy because cognitive empathy, you can find huge amount of information online.

Emotional empathy, needless to say, millions of videos and everyone experiences cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. I mean, when you see someone crying, when she's smiling, you have a cognitive reaction. You say, she's sad, he's happy. And you have an emotional reaction. She said, I'm sad, he's happy, I'm happy. I remember how it feels to be sad and I'm sad for her. Remember how it feels to be happy and he makes me smile. So emotional cognitive empathy are not alien to you.

But the vast majority of humans, unless they get stuck at a seriously early stage, don't remember and don't know what is reflexive empathy.

And I want to elaborate a bit on this because in the next video, I'm going to propose a new theory of empathy. And reflexive empathy is a crucial part of it.

I'm going to quote from the book, Sadism: A Psychoanalytic Developmental Perspective. I'm going to quote from Graham Music.

Yes, music, someone is called music, wonderful name, from Graham Music's article, he's a scholar.

So I'm citing the article, by about four months, infants can know that they are the subject of another person's attention. They show cooing, for example, and that is based on studies by Reddy, in 2000.

Soon, most infants, most babies have sufficient understanding of other minds to be able to tease in mutual enjoyment. Again, Reddy, 2008.

A crucial developmental window at about nine months allows much more sophisticated understandings of other minds, as seen in joint attention, social referencing, and secondary intersubjectivity. These are terms coined by Trevarden and Hubley.

Trevarden and Hubley, very early on in 1978, kind of deconstructed empathy. And they demonstrated the role of joint attention, the baby pays attention to an adult and the adult pays attention to the baby. It's crucial, this feedback loop.

Social referencing and secondary intersubjectivity. I'll discuss all this a bit later.

I'm continuing from the article by Music.

With these skills come early empathic capacities, but only if infants receive experiences that we tend to take for granted.

In particular, this includes what minds in 2002 has called mind-mindedness. That is an awareness of someone being responsive to and caring about our thoughts and feelings. That the infant needs this response. This is often so, this is so often missing in maltreated abused children who lack early experiences of attunement.

And so they do not develop empathy or care for others. They don't get this feedback early on.

And without this feedback, they can't develop attention. And without attention to others, they can't develop a theory of mind. They can't develop empathy.

So you see the sequence, you see the chain, bad upbringing, bad mother, dead mother, no attention, inability to focus attention, inability to focus attention, inability to notice other people, you can't develop a theory of mind, you can't mentalize. You can't mentalize, of course, you cannot have empathy.

By around, I'm continuing from the article, by around 14 months of age, most children have an innate desire to help other children.

Tomasello, in 2009, they found that in experimental situations, when an adult has a tricky problem such as fetching out of rich objects or opening a cupboard door with full hands, most toddlers were quick to help the adult spontaneously motivated by empathic concerns and disliking, seeing wrongdoing and suffering.

There's another study by Vaish, V-A-I-S-H, by the way, the same year 2009, was a good year for empathy studies.

So children, when they see you in trouble, they try to help, already when they are 14 months of age.

Indeed, babies as young as a few months old, show preference for kindly as opposed to nasty puppets or animated characters.

So they prefer animated characters who help over animated characters who hinder another figure.

That's a study by Hamlin in 2007. Young babies appear to comprehend another person's intention to help or to be nasty. And they show surprise when an innocent character approaches a seemingly nasty animated object, but not when the same character approaches a good guy, Kullmeyer, 2003.

Such experiments, for example, by Bloom in 2010, they show that babies can distinguish pro-social and anti-social behaviors. Even babies can already tell the difference between a good, healthy person in a narcissist and a psychopath.

Babies, that's why I don't buy your stories that you didn't see anything, you didn't spot anything, you had no intuition.

The narcissist is such a great actor that he pulled the wool over your eyes, he misled you.

Nonsense. As early as nine months old, babies react clearly to psychopaths and narcissists, babies, and that's studied by Bloom in 2010.

Maybe more surprisingly, such babies also prefer puppets that punish the bad figures, over puppets who are nice to the bad guys.

In other words, babies have a rudimentary sense of justice and a desire to see bad behavior punished.

And yet early empathy and healthfulness, they depend on receiving attuned and mind-minded attention.

Containment is beyond called it in 1962. Babies need good enough parenting, Winnicott, 1996. By the end of the first year, children have built up considerable expectations of relationships based on past experiences, and these expectations include whether or not other people are likely to be kind or helpful.

Dweck, in 2009, he described abused children and how they recoil. It's horrible to see, by the way.

Mal-treatment inhibits the capacity for empathy, continues Grigoriadis, music, yes.

Ordinarily, toddlers respond kindly to other toddlers' distress in nursery, but abused children generally can show little or no empathy or concern for another's distress, and indeed could be quite aggressive to such children.

Abuse children? Abuse children. Maine and George, 1985. Securely attached children, who have been sensitively attuned to, consistently show more empathy.

That's a study by Mikulis in 2005. The circuits in the brain, central to empathy, turn off in the face of stress, fear and trauma.

Shirkliffe, 2009. Analogous with what neuroscientists and other researchers seem to be discovering about developmentally sensitive periods in general. It's a big study by Thomas and Johnson, 2008.

And so, music says, I hypothesize that in many maltreated children, an early window of opportunity is missed when they might have developed ordinary empathy and compassion.

And I would add to that, in the same window we develop attention, in the same window we develop regulation of impulses, in the same window we develop regulation of emotions, in the same window we develop control of moods.

When this window is shattered with a stone of abuse and maltreatment and rejection and coldness and self-centeredness, when the mother is dead and bad and detached and cold and rejecting and humiliating and wrong for you, this window closes.

And it's too late for you later to develop all these capacities, empathy, compassion, attention, activity control, impulse control, and so on.

I want to read to you a fragment, a snippet, an excerpt from an article by Reina Friderici in Financial Times, September 3, 2020.

Several years ago, she said, a wise colleague wrote a wonderfully contrarian column arguing that no organization should hire more than a few very clever people.

Sure, clever people are great with facts, abstract ideas, and vigorous debate, but put too many of them in a room together and they can gum up the system with their love of complexity and conflict.

As we know knowledge worker, know, clever people aren't always the most collaborative in what they have in brain power, they often lack in empathy.

She continues, in his 1958 book of dystopian fiction, The Rise of the Meritocracy, Michael Leon predicted that the hubris of the marriage of ocratic elites would eventually trigger a political revolt resulting in the downfall of meritocratic elites.

Is that where we have come or where we are going?

Whatever the November election result in the United States or the ultimate outcome of Brexit, we would be wise to heed Young's advice, says the author of the column.

If people were valued according to their kindliness, courage, imagination, and sensitivity, and not just according to their intelligence, education, occupation, and power, there would be no classes.

Every human being would then have equal opportunity not to rise up in the world in the light of any mathematical measure, but to develop his own special capacities for leading a rich life.

Perhaps in some post-meritocratic world it will be so.

End of the quote from the column, great column by the way.

She mentions, I mean the author mentions a lot of other literature on meritocracy and empathy.

But sometimes we come across people who grew up in apparently functional families with a lot of love and acceptance and so on.

Why these people don't have empathy when their upbringing was normal and the family was highly functional.

And so we speculated there may be a genetic problem or a brain abnormality, but the evidence for this is very sparse.

Lack of empathy owing to abuse and trauma, breach of boundaries, no safe base, dead mother.

When the child is not allowed to separate and deviate, we understand this. We understand why this might lead to a lack of empathy.

Lack of empathy owing to instability, arbitrariness, capriciousness, reversal, discontinuity, unpredictability.

One day the child is on the pedestal, the next day the pedestal is on the child. That could destabilize anyone, let alone the child.

Abuse in functional, sorry, children in functional families where the mother is good enough mother, where there's unconditional love and acceptance, where boundaries are set and encouraged, where separation, individuation is a normal process without emotional blackmail and so on and so forth.

Most of the overwhelming majority of these children develop very healthy empathy which lasts a lifetime, but at some stage a tiny sliver, small minority of these children, are exposed to other influences, other out of the family influences, a bad sadistic teacher, a group of peers bullying the child, a drug dealer, a neighborhood drug dealer.

I mean, media, visual content on television, on social media. I mean, you never know. There's so many extra family influences that you never know and these influences, if they come early enough before the age of six and in some cases before the age of nine, they can hamper and hinder and obstruct and undermine empathy.

Albert Schweizer, who was a great humanitarian, wrote in his book, Philosophy of Civilization, 1923.

If I'm a thinking, if I'm a thinking being, I must regard life other than my own with equal reverence, for I shall know that it longs for fullness and development as deeply as I do, myself.

Therefore, I see that evil is what annihilates, hampers or hinders life.

Goodness, by the same token, is the saving or helping of life, the enabling of whatever life I can to attain its highest development.

And it's precisely the philosophical point of view of Harvey Cleckley, who is still by far the most preeminent scholar of psychopathy and now statistics.

When Cleckley had at the end of the book to summarize his thinking, he said, well, I can't offer you anything. The field is very new. It was in 1942. The field is very new, but I can tell you this.

Psychopaths reject life. And this rejection of life is a decor.

I came up a few years ago with the I equal MCU theorem. It's like I wanted to be like Einstein, you know, because I think I'm better looking than Einstein.

So I wanted to be like Einstein, where Einstein invented the E equals MC squared. I invented the I equals MCU theorem of empathy.

I postulate the existence of three basic modes of interpersonal relatedness. I equals MCU, in other words, I am seeing you. It's one way of relating to other people. I am seeing you. I equals MCU.

Another way, I UCM. I am what you see in me. I equals you see me, UCM. I am what you see in me and defined by your gaze.


So the first one is I MCU, I am seeing you.

Second one is are you see me? I'm defined by your gaze.

And the third one is you equals ICM. You is what I see as me. You is what I see as me.

So one and three, they're variants of empathy.

I'm seeing you and you is what I see as me. I and you have a lot in common, but I'm seeing you. So you're seen, you're not transparent. I realize that you exist as a separate boundary, autonomous, self efficacious agent, agency, there's agency there.

And this is the foundation of empathy, recognizing others. They have a right to live. They have a right to happiness. They have a right to boundaries. They have a right not to be hurt and abused and molested.

And the third one is you is what I see as me. You know, I realize that we have so much in common. We are human.

And so one and three are variants of empathy. The ability to see the other is indispensable to the development and exercise of empathy.

Even more crucial, I would say, is the capacity to identify with the other, to see the other as me.

But the child who grows up in a dysfunctional family with a dead mother, with a rejecting mother, with a cold, detached mother, he has no other. He has no other to exercise on.

Empathy takes developing. It's a skill. It's an acquired skill.

The reflexive part is biological.

But then to become social, you have to exercise and develop it as a skill.

But if you don't have a mother, you don't have a partner. You don't have a partner to develop this skill.

And so the second mode, I am what you see in me. I'm defined by your gaze.

This is pathological narcissism. The narcissist forges a false self that is designed to elicit external input in order to sustain itself.

And just to perform some important ego functions, the narcissist needs other people. He cannot do anything by himself. He does not exist by himself. He is an absence.

It is the intersection of multiple gazes, the intersection of the minds of multiple observers.

In this intersection, in this circle created by their combined views, this is the narcissism. It's like a hurricane.

But inside, there's a quiet, dead eye, which is the essence of the narcissist. He is the outcome of multiple reflections. He is a whole of mirrors.

But inside, there's nothing. The narcissist exists merely as a reflection in the eyes of others.

In the absence of narcissistic supply, he crumbles. He withers like an apparition, an enchantment. Magic is a mirage.

I granted an interview to the National Post in Toronto in Canada in July 2003. And I would like to read this interview to you. It's short. And it's the last segment of this video. And I would like to read it because I think it's a relatively benign summary of empathy.

First question was, how important is empathy to proper psychological functioning?

My answer.

Empathy is more important socially than it is psychologically.

The absence of empathy, for instance, in narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders. This absence predisposes people to exploit and abuse others.

Empathy is the bedrock of our sense of morality. Arguably aggressive behavior is as inhibited by empathy as it is by anticipated punishment.

So empathy, interiorized, becomes conscious. And our conscience tells us not to do some things because they're bad. So we are afraid of punishment externally, but we are also afraid of punishment internally. Our internal punishment is called guilt or shame. And it is built on empathy interiorized.

I continue my answer to the National Post.

But the existence of empathy in a person is also a sign of self-awareness, a healthy identity, a well-regulated sense of self-worth and self-love in the positive sense.

The absence of empathy denotes emotional and cognitive immaturity and inability to love, to truly relate to others, to respect their boundaries and accept their needs, feelings, hopes, fears, choices, wishes, and preferences as autonomous entities.

Question, the journalist asks, how is empathy developed?

My answer.

Empathy may be innate. Even toddlers seem to empathize with the pain or happiness of other people, such as their caregivers.

Empathy increases as the child forms a self-concept, identity.

The more aware the infant is of his or her emotional states, the more the infant explores his limitations and capabilities, and the more prone he is to projecting this newfound knowledge onto others.

By attributing to people around him his new gained insights about himself, the child develops a moral sense and inhibits his antisocial impulses.

The development of empathy is therefore a part of the process of socialization.

But as the American psychologist Carl Rogers taught us, empathy is also learned and inculcated. We are coached to feel guilt and pain when we inflict suffering on another person.

Empathy is an attempt to avoid our own self-imposed agony by projecting it onto another.

Question, is there an increasing dearth of empathy in society today? Why do you think this is so?


Remember, this is an interview given 20 years ago, in 2003, 17 years ago.

My answer, the social institutions that had reified, propagated and administered empathy have all imploded.

The nuclear family, the closely knit extended clan, the village, the community, the neighborhood, the church, friendships, they've all unraveled. Society is atomized, mono-ic.

The resulting alienation fostered a wave of antisocial behavior, both criminal and legitimate.

The survival value of empathy is on the decline. It is far wiser to be cunning, to cut corners, to deceive into abuse, than to be empathic.

Empathy has largely dropped from the contemporary curriculum of socialization. It's not on the menu.

In a desperate attempt to cope with these inexorable processes, behaviors predicated on a lack of empathy have been pathologized and medicalized.

The sad truth is that narcissistic or antisocial conduct is both normative and in today's environment, rational. No amount of diagnosing it, treating it, and medicalizing it, and medication it, no amount of such things can hide or reverse this basic fact.

Psychopathy and narcissism work. Our is a cultural malaise, which permeates every single cell and every strand of the social fabric.

Question, is there any empirical evidence that we can point to of a decline in empathy?

My answer, empathy cannot be measured directly, but only through proxies such as criminality, terrorism, charity, domestic violence, domestic abuse, violence, antisocial behavior, related mental health disorders, other types of abuse. These are all proxies for empathy.

Moreover, it is extremely difficult to separate the effects of deterrence from the effects of empathy. Sometimes we behave properly because we're afraid, not because we have empathy.

If I don't battle my wife, if I don't torture animals, if I don't steal from, if I don't shoplift, is it because I'm empathetic or because I don't want to go to jail?

No one knows.

Rising litigiousness, zero tolerance, a skyrocketing race of incarceration, as well as the aging of the population, the whole sliced, intimate part of violence and other forms of crimes across the United States, at least, in the last decade.

There's been a precipitous decline, for example, in the murder rate, it's down 50%.

But this benevolent decline had nothing to do with increasing empathy, I think.

The statistics are open to interpretation, but it would be safe to say that the last century has seen the most violent and the least empathetic period in human history.

Wars, terrorism are on the rise. Charity giving is on the wane measured as percentage of national wealth. Welfare policies are being abolished.

There's an altruism fatigue. Darwinian models of capitalism are spreading.

In the last two decades, let's remember, the interview is 17 years ago. In the last two decades, mental health disorders were added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

And these mental health disorders, their hallmark is the lack of empathy.

The violence is reflected in our popular culture, movies, video games, the media. There were no social media when this interview was given.

Empathy, supposedly a spontaneous reaction to the plight of our fellow humans, is now channeled through self-interested and bloated non-government organizations or multilateral outfits.

The vibrant world of private empathy has been replaced by faceless state lodges. Pity, mercy, the elation of giving, they're all tax deductible.

And generally speaking, it is a sorry sight. It's the demise of empathy.

So this was an interview in 2003. And I, by far, I haven't been the only voice. I mean, long before this interview in 1974, Christopher, in 1978, Christopher Lash wrote The Cultural Narcissists. And Emile Durkheim, a hundred years before, described anomic societies where empathy will vanish and suicide will flourish.

And then you had, I'm going to say we, I'm going to say we, I mean, psychologists, sociologists, academics, public intellectuals, women of all sort, you name it, dozens, hundreds of names.

Mark Hughes, I mean, Santayana, we have been warning against this for, for like ages. And no one would listen. And no one would listen because the efforts of money, efforts of power, efforts of manipulate, manipulating other people to obtain desirable goals and preferable outcomes is taken over.

Even public intellectuals who tell you how to live your life, how to become better people, they're not telling you how to become better people. They're telling you to become, they're teaching you how to become more efficient people, very often at the expense of others. I'm sorry, I can't think of a single public intellectual who is not narcissistic, psychopathic, self-centered, egotistical, labile, dysregulated, sadistic to some extent. And all of them are teaching you, all of them are teaching you not how to develop empathy, compassion and care and love towards your fellow beings, but how to make maximal use of your natural endowments and to fake and to lie and to pretend so as to obtain whatever and to extricate whatever you can for lovers.

In other words, the view of public intellectuals today is that the world is a win-lose situation.

In this sense, I'm terribly sorry, terribly sorry to say that I can't see any difference in principle between Donald Trump's jungle, Darwinian view of the world and any public intellectual I know. They're all saying the same, but some of them are saying it in a high-faluting way.

Some of them, you know, in a pub with a pint kind of way, but they are all saying the same.

It's eat or be eaten, kill or be killed, manipulated, manipulate or be manipulated, don't be the sucker, get ahead, make the most and the hell with others. ###

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