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Art and Narcissism: Communicating Souls and Audience

Uploaded 5/18/2020, approx. 30 minute read

I am what is left of Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and today I am going to discuss interesting topics, and they are interesting because they interest me, of course.

So, what is the soul? Can we ever access another person's mind? What do artists do? Why do we confuse art for reality when it is actually a manifestation or a reification of a fantasy? Do artists bridge between minds? Do they constitute a bridge between minds, or a tunnel between minds, like wormholes? And what does narcissism have to do with all this?

Narcissism, never forget, is a confluence, a nexus, a combination of fantasy and reality.

So, is narcissism perhaps a form of art, and are narcissists artists?

Do narcissists use their life as a huge canvas upon which they paint their grandiose fantasies and then make us believe that these are realities? Some of us, at least.

And what is the shared fantasy? It is not an artistic space, a gallery where the narcissist exhibits his latest oeuvre, his latest creations.

And in this sense, perhaps the narcissist is godlike because he creates his own space within which there is a whole world, a whole universe, a cosmos of everything.

So these are the topics of today's conversation. It's a bit philosophical, but I think if you listen to it carefully, you could gain insights into the mind of the narcissist that are difficult to obtain by other means.

We are all creative to some extent. We cook a good meal. We are being creative. We arrange things physically, in physical space, creatively. We paint. Of course, we are creative. We sculpt. We write short stories. We write, we compose emails.

All these are creative acts.

So while the narcissist is very alien by his nature, he is inhuman. He is a form of artificial intelligence. He has no empathy, no access to emotions. He misses 70, 80% of the apparatus that makes other people human.

There's one thing that he has in common with literally every other person on the planet, and that is creativity.

Only the narcissist chooses to leverage and utilize his creativity in a very peculiar way. He treats himself as the raw material. Rather than externalize his art, he internalizes his art, he embodies it, and he reifies it. He's the sole artist who becomes his work of art.

It's very close to what is called performance art.

But even in performance art, there's a Cartesian division between artist and his art. The narcissist is his art. There's nothing there except his art.

Take away the fantasy, take away the fiction, take away the confabulation, the grandiosity, the delusions. Nothing is left. There's nobody there.

Avoid an emptiness, a hall of mirrors without reflections in them.

So today we are going to study creativity, art and the creative process as a way of better understanding, of gaining a deep insight into the narcissist's mind.


And so we start with a quote by Karl Schmidt-Rutloff, not my fault.

And he says, he said, I know of no new program, only that art is forever manifesting itself in new forms since there are forever new personalities, but its essence can never alter, I believe.

Perhaps I'm wrong.

But speaking for myself, I know that I have no program, only the unaccountable longing to grasp what I feel and what I see and to find the purest means of expression for it.

It's a good description of the artistic process, but let's regress a bit and start and go back 3000 years and get acquainted with a problem that has plagued philosophy since then to this very day.

It's very far from resolved and it's known as a psychophysical problem. It's long standing. It's probably intractable.

Here's the problem. We all have a corporeal body. We have a physical body, flesh and blood, carbon based. It is an entity subject to all the laws of physics. Yet we experience ourselves, our internal lives and external events in a manner which provokes us to postulate the existence of a corresponding non-physical compliment.

It's like we all say, yeah, we have a body, but there is someone inside the body. It's like an empty apartment inhabited by a tenant and this corresponding entity, this tenant, ostensibly incorporates the dimension of our being, which in principle can never be tackled with the instruments and form and logic of science. It's like a non-scientific thing.

So we use faith, we use mysticism to gain access to this alleged ostensible entity. I'm saying alleged and ostensible because we are still a long way from proving that such an entity exists. Or as many mystics would tell you, there's no way to prove it in principle.

So a compromise was proposed long time. The soul is nothing but our self-awareness. It's introspection. It's the way we experience ourselves.

But of course, it's a cyclical thing. It's a tautology. It's a flawed solution because it assumes that the human experience is uniform, unequivocal and identical. And it also assumes that there is a self that does the introspection.

So instead of soul, we have a self. We have a plurality of entities. We are multiplying entities, which is very bad in science.

And maybe the human experience is uniform, unequivocal and identical, but there is no methodologically rigorous way to prove this.

You may be experiencing the world totally differently to me. We have no way to objectively ascertain that all of us experience pain, for example, in the same manner, or that the pain that we experience is the same for all of us.

This limitation on our knowledge prevails even when the causes of the sensation are carefully controlled and monitored, for example, in scientific experiments. A scientist might say that we can map and pinpoint the exact part of the brain which is responsible for the pain.

By the way, this very sentence is wrong because it assumes a causal relationship. The truth is that we can map and pinpoint the exact part of our brains which lights up in response to pain. That's all we can say.

Moreover, science is even able to demonstrate a monovalent relationship between the pattern of brain activity in C2 and pain.

So there is this. Every time you have pain, a sudden part of your brain lights up. In other words, the scientific claim is that patterns of brain activity are the pain itself.

But this is a ridiculous claim. It's a fallacy. Such an argument is prima facie, inadmissible.

The fact that two events coincide, even if they do so always and without fail, does not make them one and the same. If A and B happen all the time simultaneously, it of course does not mean that A is B.

Brain activity and pain happen all the time, at the same second, but it doesn't prove that they are the same.

Hume, David Hume. The serial occurrence of two events does not make one of them a cause and the other an effect.

And we have a saying, correlation is not causation.

Similarly, the contemporaneous occurrence of two events only means that they are correlated. A correlate is not an alter ego. It is not an aspect of the same event.

In other words, activity in the brain appears when pain appears, but it by no means follows that it is the pain.

A stronger argument would crystallize if it were convincingly and repeatedly demonstrated that playing back these patterns of brain activity induces pain.

Even so, we will be talking about cause and effect rather than about an identity.

If I could replay the brain patterns and you would feel pain, it doesn't mean that the brain patterns are the pain.

For example, maybe they are causing the pain or maybe there's a third component, third part of the brain that is involved and it detects the patterns and then it causes pain.

I mean, you never know. There's no way to prove that they are one and the same.

The gap is even bigger when we try to capture emotions.

Pain is simple. I can take a pin and prick myself. I'll have pain. That's the simplest, most basic, most primitive thing.

Everyone experiences pain, even, I mean, animals, everyone.

But imagine trying to capture emotions or sensations and imagine using this crude blunt recently invented instrument called language to capture these things which preceded an antecedent language by millions of years.

This seems close to impossible. How can one even half accurately communicate once, for example, anguish, love, fear, desire? We can hardly communicate hunger and thirst accurately. We are prisoners in the universe of our emotions, never to emerge.

And the weapons at our disposal, language, are rusty and useless.

Zen Buddhism says this. Language actually distorts, doesn't help.

Each one of us develops his or her own idiosyncratic, unique emotional language. It is not a jargon or a dialect because it cannot be translated or communicated. Our private internal language cannot be translated or communicated. No dictionary can ever be constructed to bridge this linguistic gap.

I feel love, you feel love. Is there a dictionary that can tell me what's your love like? How you experience your love? What goes on in your mind? Do you have a mind? I don't know if you have a mind.

You claim to have a mind. What if you're programmed to claim that you have a mind?

But you don't actually have a mind. We know nothing about other people.

In principle, experience is incommunicable. People in the very far future may be able to harbor the same emotions chemically or otherwise to induce them so that, I don't know, I'll take a pill, you'll take a pill, and we can be assured and ascertained by the manufacturer. The manufacturer will give us a money back guarantee that if we take the same pill, we'll experience the same emotion.

Even that is ridiculous. How can we prove that we had experienced the same emotions? One brain would directly take over another maybe and then maybe we could feel the same.

Maybe in the future there will be technologies where one brain will become dominant and the other will become submissive or client brain.

Even then, these experiences will not be communicable. They will have no way available to us to compare and decide whether there was an identity of sensations or emotions.

We are utterly and totally dependent on language.

And still, when we say the word sadness, we all seem to understand what we are talking about.

How do you explain this? If we were never able to communicate the essence of sadness, how do we know when we say the word sadness, we are talking about the same thing?

In the remotest and furthest reaches of the globe, people share the feeling of being sad. In Nepal, in Russia, in Australia, in Macedonia, in Israel, in the United States, people are sad. The only place they are not sad is Canada, which raises the question of the human.

I'm kidding. Seriously, Canada is the antenna mark of the happiest countries in the world.

But people are sad everywhere and sadness can be evoked by disparate circumstances.

And yet, we all seem to share some basic element of being sad.

What is this element, unchangeable, immutable kernel, this tough core that we touch upon when we say, I'm sad? And that resonates with you.

There's a frequency of vibration like touching this kernel by saying I'm sad. An identical kernel in you or core in you resonates with the same frequency. It's a little like color. Color is a frequency of light waves.

We have already said that we are confined to using idiosyncratic emotional languages. Each one of us has his own language. Each one of us has eight billion people on Earth, minus the coronavirus victims. And each and every one of them has his or her emotional language. Totally private.

I disagree with Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein said that they are not such things as private languages. I think he was dead wrong. I think the foundation of the human experience is a private language.

It starts with a private language. And these private languages cannot be translated to other idiosyncratic emotional languages. They cannot be communicated. These languages are not bridges. The function of language is to bridge. The function of this language is to isolate. The function of private languages is to isolate.

So let's for a minute say, okay, everyone is a private language, but there can be a meta language, a language that connects all these private languages like a giant eight billion pages or 800 billion pages dictionary. And everyone has his own private language, can access the dictionary and translate to another language. This meta language, this giant dictionary, is common to all human beings. Maybe it is what we call to be human. Maybe this giant dictionary, this meta language, is the language of being human.

Emotions are statements in this language. This language must exist, to make even the most rudimentary communication between human beings possible. If we don't have this resonance, if these don't have this mega dictionary, if we don't have this meta language, how are we communicating at all? Even if we are getting it 90% wrong, we are still getting it 10% right. This 10% right must be based on something common.

This is where narcissists are so excluded. They have no access to this meta language, to this mega dictionary.

It would appear that there must be a correlation between this universal language and our myriad idiosyncratic individualistic languages. And the narcissist is excluded from this.


By the way, not the psychopath.

Psychopath lacks empathy and doesn't use his emotions, but his core empathy is far more developed than the narcissist. And he does use his emotions from time to time.

Narcissists are incapable. They have no access to their emotions. And they are utterly incapable of warm or emotional empathy. And their cold empathy is extremely primitive because it's a binary device.

Yes, narcissistic supply, no supply. This person can give me supply, let me scan, but I need to scan only for two, three qualities, two, three properties.

The psychopaths scans for dozens, hundreds, thousands of properties. The narcissist scans for two, three, 10 properties, 10 characteristics, 10 vulnerabilities.

Narcissists are very primitive compared to psychopaths. That's why psychopaths prey on narcissists.

But the thing is coming back to the core issue, the thing is that there is a universal language, no question about it. It's an inefficient language. It does not allow us to communicate the bulk of our inner experience, the bulk of our emotions and even cognitions.

Our world, our internal world remains hermetically sealed, inaccessible, like the borders in today's world, the international borders.

But we still have a passport. We still somehow communicate with other people based on this meta-language or massive dictionary.

And the narcissist is excluded even from this.


Let's go back to pain, this most primitive of sensations. Pain is correlated to brain activity on the one hand and to this universal language that I just mentioned, the meta-language on the other hand.

We would therefore tend to parsimoniously assume that the two correlates are but one and the same.

Let me explain this obtuse statement.

It may well be that the brain activity which goes together with pain is merely the physical manifestation of the metalingual element pain.

In other words, there's this mega dictionary and in this enormous dictionary, there's an entry for pain, you know, in the letter P, entry for pain, page 20,467,444. That's an entry for pain.

And so what happens is the brain activity is how we react to the word pain in this dictionary. It is the word pain in the dictionary, in this mega dictionary, in this meta-language, is the one that creates the patterns of electrical activity, biochemical activity in the brain that correspond to pain.

We feel pain and this is our experience. It's unique. It's incommunicable. It's expressed solely in our idiosyncratic language.

We know that we are feeling pain and we communicate it to others using this meta-language.

As we use the meta-language to communicate to others, as we use this universal language to communicate to others, the very use or even the thought of using this meta-language provokes the kind of brain activity which is so closely correlated with pain.

But just a minute, even if we don't communicate our pain, we still feel our pain. It's not true that communicating our pain is a precondition for feeling our pain.

Well, I'm sorry. That's not true. For example, we can hypnotize someone to not feel pain. It seems, and what is hypnosis? It's communication.

Hypnosis is a communicated message. I can hypnotize you and then amputate you and you will not feel pain.

So pain seems to be intimately linked to communication, to messaging, to signaling.

And indeed, if you think about it for a minute, most emotions, especially maybe pain, they signal something. They signal something, first of all, to ourselves, but then to other people, to the environment. They motivate us to interact with the environment in highly specific ways.

For example, we are hungry, we seek food, we're in pain, we avoid the pain, we shun the pain, the source of the pain, especially when we're married. So it seems that emotions, sensations are intimately linked to the use of language.

Moreover, we know that we can induce emotions by talking. I can cause you to cry. I can cause you to laugh. I just did. I can use language. That's the essence of psychotherapy.

We use talk therapy, we use language to induce changes, especially emotional changes.

But we can also use language to cause pain and other things.

I mentioned hypnosis, but not only hypnosis. What is the placebo effect? What's the placebo effect?

It's when we give people totally innocuous, innocent, neutral substances and we convince them that these are medicines.

This is a famous experiment. People were given water. They were told it's alcohol. And they had bodily manifestations of alcohol intoxication. A few of them blacked out and they drank water. There was not a trace of alcohol in what they drank. So they were told it's alcohol.

Their body reacted. They also emotionally reacted. Their empathy changed. Aggression levels went up. Sexual promiscuity went up.

It is important to clarify that this universal language dimension, meta language, it could be a physical thing, maybe even genetic. I don't know where the dictionary is. Maybe you're always right.

Maybe this is a collective unconscious. Maybe it's in the genes, coded, encoded somehow in the DNA.

We know nothing about the DNA. Maybe 10%. We don't know that the vast majority of DNAs is kind of trash. We used to consider it as trash until recently. Until we discovered it's very meaningful. And we used to think that 90% of the brain is glue.

Glue. Now we know it's not true. I mean, we don't know yet. We may, a point in the future may come where we locate this meta language. Nature might have endowed us with this meta language to improve our chances of survival.

Because to survive we must cooperate. We are cooperative species. Teamwork, zone, political. We work together. We don't survive very well as loners, as we are discovering now in social distance.

Communication of emotions is of unparalleled evolutionary points. And a species devoid of the ability to communicate the existence of pain, for instance, would surely perish.

You see, fear. You communicate fear.

Everyone runs away. You saved a few people. You communicate your pain, people avoid. People avoid the source of the pain. So you saved them some pain.

Pain is our guardian against the perils of our surroundings.


So let's summarize this section.

We manage our inter-human emotional communication using a universal language, which is either physical or at least has strong physical correlates.

I believe also in the brain. And the narcissist is excluded from this. He is not part of this compact. Not only the narcissist, by the way. Many, many people with autism spectrum disorder are also excluded from this dictionary.

Ironically, not so the psychopath. He is not excluded.

Perhaps because psychopathy or antisocial personality disorder, especially psychopathy, is not really a mental health issue. It's more more of a brain disorder, similar to, shall we say, schizophrenia. And schizophrenics are not excluded from this language. They are not.

Schizophrenia is a different issue altogether. It has to do with the cohesion of the self and hyper reflection, and other other, but they are not excluded from this language.

The function of bridging the gap between our private idiosyncratic languages and the more universal language was relegated to a group of special individuals. These individuals are busy constructing bridges between our inside and its language and the outside and its language.

And this group of people are called artists, artists, people who make art. It is the job of the artist to experience mostly emotions and then to mold their experience into the grammar, syntax and vocabulary of some kind of universal language. It is their job to communicate to us the echo of their own private idiosyncratic language.

It is very interesting to note that we can understand art. It may be the only proof available that all our private languages are actually one and the same because the artist translates his or her private language into art.

If private languages were massively dissimilar, if they were disparate, if they had nothing in common, we would never be able to understand the artist's art. His art reflects his language.

To understand him, we must have something in common. We must share some elements with his language.

So it means our private language and his private language has a lot in common.

Artists are forever mediating between us and their own experience.

Rightly so, the quality of an artist is measured by his ability to loyally represent his own unique private language to us. The smaller the distance between the original experience of the artist, the emotions of the artist and the external representation, the more prominent the artist.

The really, really groundbreaking, amazing artist, Chagall, Picasso in some periods, the really great artists. There is no difference between their own private original idiosyncratic unique experience, their own emotions and what we see on the canvas, the representation. It's emotion there. It's raw emotion spread on the canvas. The emotion can be distorted, the emotion can be filtered through cognitions, through ideologies, through scores of painting and sculpting and plastic arts. All this is true, unfortunately.

There are many, many constraints that distort the transmission mechanism.

But we feel the raw, we feel the raw, raw, if you wish, psyche or soul of a Picasso or a Chagall or a sultan on the canvas. We feel the raw Van Gogh. It's like someone splattered his brainand it splashed on the canvas. I'm sorry for this image. I hope you're not eating.

We declare artistic success when the universally communicable representation succeeds to recreate and evoke in us the original emotion that was felt by the artist.

The artist was said, he painted the painting, we look at it, we are said, it's a success. It's a success. It's resonance via the mediation of the artwork.

It's very much like teleportation, which allows in sci-fi yarns for the decomposition of the astronaut's body. For the decomposition of the astronaut's body in one spot and it's recreation atom for atom in another spot.

Even if the artist fails to faithfully recreate his inner world, but succeed in calling forth any kind of emotional response in his viewers or readers or listeners, he's still successful.

The ultimate in art is that the artist succeeded to externalize his inner world and place it on an objective medium. That's the ultimate.

But most artists don't succeed to do that.

So what they do instead, they create triggers.

So when we watch the works of art, we're triggered. We're triggered to some emotional response.

Every artist has a reference group, his audience. They could be alive or they could be dead. For instance, the artist could measure himself against past artists, his heroes, his idols. The reference group could include few people or many people, but they must be present for art in its fullest sense to exist.

There's no art without the audience. No such thing.

Modern theories of art speak about the audience as an integral and defining part of the artistic creation. Even the artifact itself, the work of art engulfs and includes the provenance of the multiple generations of viewers and readers and listeners and the interactions of masses of people with the work of art had created the work of art.

We can't, for example, Mona Lisa, you can't say Mona Lisa. The minute you say Mona Lisa, look how many associations, look how many worlds and universes spring to life.

The Renaissance, how the Mona Lisa was stolen in return. The Louvre, Paris, France, Leonardo da Vinci. I mean, so many things.

This precisely is the source of the lemma of the artist as well. Who is to determine who is good, who is a good artist? Who determines who is a qualitative artist? Who is the authority that says you're a bad artist or you should look for another career?

Put differently, who is to measure the distance between the original idiosyncratic internal private experience and its representation for public consumption? After all, if the original experience is an element of an idiosyncratic non-communicable language, we have no access to any information regarding this language and therefore we are in no position to judge it.

Only the artist has access to his own internal language and only he can decide how far is representation of this internal language, how far it is from the original experience.

In other words, it is the artist who judges his own success. He looks at his work of art and he says, I failed. I didn't capture my inner vicissitudes, my inner turmoil, my inner chaos, my inner love, my hatred, my sadness.

Art criticism is an oxymoron. It's a contradiction in terms. It's impossible.

Granted, the reference group of the artist is audience, however limited, whether among the living or among the dead, has access to that meta-language, that universal dictionary that I mentioned before that is available to all humans.

And still, no member of that audience has access to the artist's original experience and so their capacity to pass judgment on the artist is in very great doubt.

On the other hand, only the reference group, only the audience, can aptly judge the representation for what it is. The artist is too emotionally involved in his work of art.

True, the cold objective facts concerning the work of art are available to both the artist and to the reference group, but the audience is in a privileged status. Privileged status, it's bias, is less pronounced than the artist.

And here we come, of course, to narcissism.

What is narcissism?

The false self is a work of art. It is the narcissist creation. It's an expression of his internal language, his private language, and it is the audience, the sources of narcissistic supply, that judge this creation and communicate their opinion and feedback and input to the narcissist, which he then uses to reconstruct his internal world and affect his private language.

The problem of the narcissist is that he has no access to this meta-language, so he is utterly dependent on his audience.

The typical artist is not utterly dependent on the audience. He is also a human being. He also has access to the meta-language.

Narcissist is like a blind person surrounded by seeing people, people with vision, so he depends on them to lead him. They are his guide dog, if you wish.

Normally, the reference group would use the meta-language embedded in us as humans and a modicum of empathy to try to vaguely compare their emotions to the artist's emotions, to try to grasp the emotional foundation laid by the artist.

But this is very much like substituting pornography for real sex. Talking about emotions, let alone making assumptions about what the artists may have felt that we also perhaps share, there's a far cry from what really had transpired in the artist's mind.

It's a speculation, or the rudiments, or a very mechanical view, like Benjamin said, very mechanical, reproducible view of art.

We are faced with an ecotomy. The epistemological elements in the artistic process belong exclusively and incommunicably to the artist. The ontological aspects of the artistic process are observable by the group of reference, but this group has no access to their epistemological domain.

So it's like two monopolies. Epistemological domain monopolized by the artist, no one has access to his mind, no one has access to his pain, no one has access to his emotions, only he knows what goes on inside himself in his inner landscape.

And then there's the audience, and the audience has access to the work of art, has access to the mental language, but no access to the artist's internal landscape. The work of art can be judged only by comparing the epistemological to the ontological, but what do you do when you have no access to the epistemological part?

Nor the artist, neither his group of reference, can do this. This mission is not impossible. Art is a massive failure at communication because one of the two parts of the equation is monopolized and inaccessible.

And you know what? I'll go even further. Even the artist, very often, frequently, has no access to that part, to his inner world, to his private language. And especially if the artist is narcissistic, forget about it.

So an artist must make a decision early on in his career, should he remain loyal and close to his emotional experiences and studies and forego the warmth and comfort of being reassured and directed from the outside through the reactions of the reference group?

In other words, should he go commercial? Or should he consider the views, criticisms and advice of the reference group in his artistic creation? In other words, go commercial and must probably have to compromise the quality and the intensity of his original emotion in order to be more communicative?

I repeat this. This is the core. This is absolutely the core in narcissism as well.

If you regard narcissism as an artistic process, the artist has a dilemma. Should he remain loyal and close to his emotional experiences and studies and forego, give up the warmth and comfort of being reassured and directed from the outside through the reactions of the reference group? In which case he becomes autistic, no one understands his art, van Gogh, and he cuts off his ear?

Or should he consider the views, criticism and advice of the reference group in his artistic creation and then most probably have to compromise the quality and intensity of his original emotion in order to be more communicative?

Go commercial.

As Jordan Peterson and Shirley Castle reported in 2003, artists may be challenged when it comes to cognitive filtering of information from the outside that is relevant to survival or to goal orientation.

Lateral inhibition leads to cognitive disinhibition.

In their attempts to categorize and organize the avalanche, artists come up with atypical, eccentric, schizotypical, and unconventional solutions, including sometimes hallucinations.

No wonder many artists use substances. Artists get immersed in their inner world at the expense of reality and personal needs, such as self-care or social function.

And so I'm quoting from the Unleashed Mind, Why Creative People Are Eccentric, by Sherry Carson, Scientific American Mind, May-June 2011.

She says, A brain imaging study done in 2010 by investigators at the Kowalinska Institute in Stockholm suggests the propensity for both creative insights and schizotypical experiences may result from a specific configuration of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain.

Using positron emission tomography, PET, or Jan de Manzanillo, Frederick Ullelle, and their colleagues examine the density of dopamine D2 receptors in the subcortical region of the thalamus in 14 subjects who were tested for divergent thinking skills.

The results indicate that thalamic D2 receptor densities are diminished in subjects with high divergent thinking abilities, similar to patterns found in schizophrenic subjects in previous studies.

Are you listening to this? People with divergent thinking and with original thinking, all artists are people with highly original thinking, the most original thinking, their own private language.

These people are similar to schizophrenics.

The researchers believe that reduced dopamine binding in the thalamus, found in both creative and schizophrenic subjects, may decrease cognitive filtering and allow more information into conscious awareness.

Clearly, however, not all eccentric individuals are creative.

Work from our lab, says Shirley Carson, indicates that other cognitive factors such as high IQ and high working memory capacity enable some people to process and mentally manipulate extra information without being overwhelmed by it.

Through a series of studies, we have in fact shown that a combination of lower cognitive inhibition and higher IQ is associated with higher scores on a variety of creativity measures.

Shared vulnerability models suggest that at least a subgroup of highly creative individuals may share some, but not all, biological vulnerability factors with individuals who suffer from psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

This vulnerability may allow the highly creative person access to ideas and thoughts that are inaccessible to those of us with less porous mental filters.

So I'm asking you, if the creative person is a pseudo-psychotic, near schizophrenic, or possessed with extremely high IQ, what are your chances to understand him? What are his chances to communicate with you effectively?

Art can also be perceived as a form of self-mutilation. The internalized anger of Jesus, leading to his suicidal pattern of behavior, pertains to all mankind. His sacrifice benefited humanity as a whole, at least according to Christian Orthodoxy in doctrine. So Jesus self-mutilated, committed suicide in effect, but did it for good cause.

A self-mutilator in comparison appears to be selfish. His anger is autistic, self-contained, self-referential, and therefore meaningless as far as we are concerned. His catharsis is a private language.

But what people fail to understand is that art itself is an act of self-mutilation. It is the etching of ephemeral pain into a lasting medium, the ultimate private language.

So you remember the example of the scattered brain and what have you? I'm watching too many horror movies in this lockdown. It's the same. The artist is smeared on the canvas.

People also ignore at their peril the fact that only a very thin line separates self-mutilation, whether altruistic like Jesus or egoistic like the artist, and the mutilation of others, serial killers. Adolf Hitler, who considered himself an artist, a failed artist, but still an artist, and many serial killers, by the way, use the crime scene as a kind of improvised performance art scene. There are many artistic elements in many, many antisocial, aggressive, violent, and murderous activities. It's again the nexus between narcissism and malignant narcissism, extreme psychopathy, extreme murderous aggression in art. We're not that far from each other as we think.

Perhaps that's why we have this gut visceral reaction to narcissists and psychopaths, not because they are so different to us, but because they are so similar to us.

That's not my insight, regrettably. That is the insight of Sigmund Freud. It's called the narcissism of small differences.

We tend to hate, we tend to despise, and to hold in contempt, and to act aggressively, to aggress against people who are similar to us, not different to us.

We are all narcissists and psychopaths. We are just loathe to admit it.

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Sam Vaknin discusses a range of topics in these sections, including his theory of three types of narratives people use to relate to the world, the problematization of issues in society, his agreement with Jordan Peterson's values but criticism of his claim of universal applicability, his treatment modality called cold therapy, his theory of narcissism and the inability to love, his theory of physics and language, his views on the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's response to it, and his childhood as a child prodigy.


War as Narcissistic Fantasy (with Trisha Goddard on TALKTV)

Sam Vaknin discusses the dehumanization of the enemy in war, emphasizing the psychological defense mechanism of splitting and the role of war in creating a new order. He also delves into the language of war as a fantasy defense and its impact on perception of the enemy. Vaknin draws parallels between war and narcissistic behavior, highlighting the antisocial and psychopathic aspects of war.


Mantras for New Normal, Victim's Resolutions

In this transcript, Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel and how it represents the human struggle with existence. He emphasizes the importance of self-love and self-acceptance, without narcissism, as the key to happiness. He also advises setting clear boundaries and having zero tolerance for abuse and disrespect. Vaknin encourages embracing change and focusing on oneself in the new normal of 2021.


Talk That Defies a Title (Assembly of Silence Radio Hour (ASRH))

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses various topics including his views on narcissism, the impact of psychology on society, and the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). He criticizes psychology as a pseudoscience that promotes solipsistic and atomized views of individuals, leading to a society where people are treated as objects. Vaknin sees AI as a hopeful solution, as it operates as a pure network concept that cannot be corrupted and has self-correcting and self-learning capabilities. He also touches on the changing nature of human relationships and the decline of intimacy among younger generations. Vaknin believes that integrating AI with human systems, with proper safeguards, is the only hope for addressing the challenges posed by narcissistic and psychopathic behaviors in society.


Sam Vaknin’s Party Boat of Harsh Truths Facebook Group Q&A (with Sherri McKeon)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses various topics, including his views on narcissism, covert narcissism, the impact of the pandemic on mental health, the nature of leadership, and the state of modern physics. He criticizes the tendency to invent concepts like dark matter and dark energy when faced with unexplained phenomena, instead of revising existing models. He also touches on his theory of time as a fundamental field and the importance of not multiplying entities in scientific theories. Vaknin emphasizes the need for humility in science and the dangers of grandiosity in both personal behavior and academic pursuits.


Why Do You Trust Learn To Trust Again! ( Bonus Rant)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses various topics in these sections, including malignant egalitarianism, lying, the psychology of trust, and the importance of trust in relationships. He argues that people today think they are experts on everything without bothering to educate themselves or research properly, which undermines expertise and intellectual authority. He also warns that people should be cautious of those who claim to be empathic and selfless but ask for payment for their services. Additionally, he emphasizes the need to be alert and vigilant but not hypervigilant in relationships, and provides markers to distinguish true friends from fake friends.


Ukraine: From Invasion to PTSD (Newsweek, Part 2 - Part 1 in DESCRIPTION)

In an interview, Sam Vaknin discusses the attraction of psychology, the impact it can have on people's lives, and the importance of creativity and humility in the field. He also touches on the meaning of life, trauma, and the decline of philosophy as a guiding principle in society. Vaknin emphasizes the interconnectedness of these issues and the need to resurrect philosophy as a means of setting ethical and rational guidelines for science, politics, and society.


UNEDITED Why We Prefer Narcissism or Psychosis to Mental Health? (RAW WA Real Convo)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses various topics related to psychology, including the trauma of selfhood, the role of the mother in shaping the self, the importance of narratives, and the concept of collective unconscious and archetypes. He argues that humanity has chosen narcissistic narratives, which have their roots in the enlightenment, and that narcissism is becoming a religion that deifies individuals. Vaknin warns that this trend towards narcissism and psychosis poses a risk to the survival of the species.


Down God’s Rabbit Hole: Religious Apologetics

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses his experience at a Cold Therapy seminar in Romania and his thoughts on a book he received as a gift. He critiques arguments made in the book about atheism, religion, and spirituality, and emphasizes the importance of reason and trust in understanding the world. He also challenges the concepts of intelligent design and the existence of God.


Psychopathic Narcissist's Fantasy: Mr. Ripley in Truman Show

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the similarities between artificial intelligence and the narcissist, as well as the inner world of the psychopathic narcissist. He also analyzes the movies "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "The Truman Show" in relation to narcissistic behavior and the impact on victims. Vaknin delves into the moral and ethical implications of choices and dilemmas in the context of narcissistic abuse. He also explores the concept of utopia and its relation to choice and information.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
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