Hello everybody. We are today with Dr. Sam Vaknin. He is a writer and a psychologist and he's an academic. So he studied psychology from a more academic point of view.
And you wrote a book. You want to introduce yourself a little bit?
Well, my name is Sam Vaknin. I wrote not only one book, but several books. The most well-known is Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I've been studying narcissism since 1995. I was the first person to go online with narcissism. And for nine years, I was the only person. No one else was talking about narcissism between 1995 and 2004. And then 2004, other people joined, and now it's one big party. And everyone is discussing narcissism and became a buzzword all over the world.
Hopefully because today I feel like it's very relevant and it's incredible that we've come today to this point in 2021. And we still have so much to discover about this huge thing, which is narcissistic abuse, not just narcissism as pathology, but also the behavior pattern of narcissists and narcissistic abuse in general.
Do you want to introduce it just for our audience?
I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in 1995 because I felt that narcissistic abuse should be distinguished from all other types of abuse. All other types of abuse target specific dimensions. So they can target a financial dimension. They can target a legal dimension. They can target your deficiencies and vulnerabilities. They can target your family. They can target your friends.
But all other types of abuse is usually focused on a single dimension of the victim, the body, the mind, the social network of the victim, and so on.
Narcissistic abuse is the only form of abuse, the only form of abuse, which targets all dimensions simultaneously and with the aim of eliminating the victim.
No other aim. The aim is to eliminate the victim. To eliminate the victim as an independent autonomous agent and to recreate the victim as an extension, an introject, an internal object, a snapshot, whatever you want to call it.
But as something that is utterly 100% controllable and manipulable. So the elimination of the separate existence, the separateness of the victim is the core of narcissistic abuse and this does not happen in any other form of abuse.
And that's why I coined the phrase in 1995 to distinguish it from other forms.
Thank you for doing that because I feel like it was much needed, especially because I am a recovered victim of narcissistic abuse myself and I can tell that what you're saying is totally true and it's still happening in my life because you know once you unfortunately come across a narcissist and you become a victim.
Those people target you forever because they have to destroy you. They have to totally eliminate you and to make you become one of their extensions as you're saying.
So how do you feel like, because you know today we're talking about this a lot also because a lot of leaders are narcissistic because people confound, especially I heard in one other of your videos, that you were saying how what we used to call narcissist is in fact probably a sociopath and what the real narcissist are instead the predators, the covert narcissist, the people that really truly try to exploit others in a way that others don't understand.
So they elect them as leaders just because they show confidence and charisma. And so they become leaders and they actually perfect way this kind of narcissistic reality and behavior at very high levels of our society and because they don't have any morals, any ethics to be faithful to, they actually climb the ladder a lot better than anybody else.
So we actually get a world where these people get very far in hierarchy.
So what do you think is the effect of this kind of what is happening today in the world?
Political leaders reflect underlying realities and the underlying reality as was documented by studies all over the world, studies for example by Twenge and Campbell, studies in China, studies in Russia, in Egypt, in Israel, in all over the world.
It's clear that the incidence and prevalence of pathological narcissism is exploding exponentially, up to five times more, up to five times higher among the young, among people under age 25.
So narcissism is now a globalized or pervasive phenomenon.
And of course leaders are blank screens, political leaders are blank screens, we project onto them, the dynamics of the population, the cohort dynamics. The electorate is narcissistic.
And that's why leaders are narcissistic. When the electorate became psychopathic we had Adolf Hitler.
The electorate defines the leadership. Leaders are derivatives of the electorate.
But why did population, whole population suddenly become suddenly because it's a sudden event, it's a cataclysmic, cataclysmic tectonic shift. It happened in the 80s. Why? Why suddenly the explosion of narcissism?
I think there are several reasons.
One, population growth. We have today close to 8 billion people. It is very, very difficult today to be noticed. It's very difficult to feel as an individual. We were all told that we are individuals, we are divisible entities like atoms, like atoms in chemistry and physics, yes. And so to be, to be individual, to be these separate, unique, special entities, we need to be seen, we need to be noticed. It's very difficult today to get attention because 8 billion people are competing for attention.
The population growth created an escalating pressure to make yourself special, unique, to stand out.
And this fostered narcissism.
The second thing is the culture of consumption, consumer culture.
We have opted about 150 years ago with the Industrial Revolution. We have chosen death over life. We have chosen inanimate objects, cars, smartphones, laptops. We have chosen objects over human beings.
We actually sacrifice human beings to create objects.
And so we are living in a thematic, a culture of death. Western civilization is a death count where everything is objectified.
Humans are objectified.
Heinrich Heine, the famous Jewish German poet said, if you burn books, one day you will burn people. If you objectify objects, physical objects, one day you end up objectifying people.
And people became objects and commodities.
And this is, of course, the core of narcissism. Because what does the narcissist do? The narcissist objectifies you. He treats you as an object.
When you live in a culture that treats human beings as objects, hookup culture, where the female body is an object, fashion, where the female body is an object and the male body is an object.
We objectify human beings, which is the quintessence of narcissism.
So don't you think that, because from your perspective, it's like it's a cause.
So because we objectify them, people became narcissistic and that's just a mere consequence.
What about, because this is my idea, like I have a different perspective on that. And my idea is that instead it's somewhat driven by the market.
So because we live in a society, in a consumer society, but also in a capitalistic system most times, you know, where industries need to be able to sell, right?
And you cannot sell, you cannot have profitable company and something that you can actually foresee. You cannot foresee the future of your company if your audience, if your consumers are not people you understand, are not people that are buying their response to specific triggers.
So I feel like population is continuously gaslighted by TV, by, you know, the ads continuously, just for them to stay in that state of mind of unawareness for them to be able to become the cow used by the system continuously.
Because if people are aware, they are also unpredictable. So it's easier to deal with customers that are actually predictable.
So I don't think this starts from the fact that people became, you know, objective. I think it's actually driven by the market.
The market needs this kind of people. And so they continuously feed people with ads and spots and, you know, slogans and things. They continuously glasslight them.
And the result is that we have not a lot of narcissistic people in society. We have a lot of overly narcissistic people, people that do not, that are not really predators. People that don't because of their unawareness in their, they behave, they're selfish and they're good and they're, you know, special as you're saying, they have to stand out, but they don't really understand their own functioning and other people function.
So they are over narcissists that are instead abused and used by the market itself and because of this cover narcissist that use the same exact kind of behavior that the market use, then they have an advantage because they are surrounded by flying monkeys, by enablers, but by people that actually respond exactly how they want to their triggers and to their manipulations.
And so they can climb the other more easily.
So I don't think is because people became narcissistic. I think people actually are unaware of being overly narcissistic for a reason.
It's a training, you know, what do you think?
Well, first of all, that's not a new idea.
There was a philosopher and a psychoanalyst by the name of Louis Althusser in the 1960s. He suggested the concept of interpolation.
Interpolation is exactly what you described. It's when the market culture and market society uses advertising mainly to brainwash essentially the masses to behave in highly specific ways which are conducive to consumption and so on. So he called it interpolation.
Similarly, in 1974, 78, I'm sorry, Christopher Lash wrote a book called The Cultural Narcissist. In this book, he described how culture actually becomes narcissistic as a form of industry. And again, Guy Debord, in 1968, also described the society of the spectacle, where everything is a theater production, everything is a spectacle.
So these ideas have been around a very long time. And they are essentially post-Marxist ideas. They are the ideas that the market is somehow evil or the market somehow leads to evil. And of course, markets have their failures and they are very inhuman. Markets are very inhuman and they would tend to objectify people.
So the process of objectification that I spoke to, the death count, it's a death count of the market, of course. The market is the mechanism of the death count.
But the death count preceded the market. We can find the philosophical foundations and underpinnings of the death count long before the market occurred.
So independent capitalistic or proto-capitalistic markets, they started to happen in the 14th and 15th century and they blossomed in the 18th and 19th century with the Industrial Revolution.
But the philosophical foundations of the death count preceded that. And when I say the death count, it's preferring objects to people and making people into objects. That happened hundreds of years before capitalism.
Proto-capitalism is a very new phenomenon. It's about 600 years old.
Capitalismis about 200 years old. These are very new phenomena.
But if you go back sufficiently long in history, you'll find that there had been a gradual transition from emphasis on the human being as a human being to emphasis on the human being as a function, as a consumer, as a producer, as a religious, adherent.
Whichever way feudalism, for example, regarded people as production, means of production, feudalism and then industrialism. So people have been objectified long before capitalism, long, long before there was any efficient market.
We don't need capitalism to get to objectification of people. That is just what is happening today.
But still, it's because someone needs to survive that other people are somewhat brainwashed because it's the only way.
So I sent you my equation on narcissistic abuse. I think that every time we have a person or an entity or a country or whatever level, it doesn't matter, every time there is a need that needs to be satisfied for survival. And that need has to be satisfied externally from an external source.
So the system is not independent, but it's dependent. And at the same time, there are things like grandiosity or lack of empathy, things that don't allow the system or that person to compromise and to be like, okay, let's have a win-win situation.
So every time there is a need, but that person or that entity or that country is now willing to compromise with the source of that need.
What happens is that the source has to be exploited and brainwashed and manipulated for the source to not understand the power it actually has against the other person that is dependent on it or her or him, you know.
So I feel like this kind of situation happened in a lot of different cases, like formations, like we see continuously countries that are used because of their resources and they're not allowed to, you know, develop like Africa, for example, just to have a simple example that is, you know, we have been knowing about that for centuries at this point and still nobody's doing anything.
But in the end, the reason why Africa is not developing is because the Western countries need for it to not develop so they can, you know, use their resources for free, basically, instead of having to pay for that.
And so compromising with their own internal economy. So I feel like maybe it's been since forever that these kind of behaviors and narcissistic abuse at every level happen.
But today we are the point that also, thanks, I know that you probably don't like much social media, but I have a positive, you know, I truly believe they can help because in some way, now we have a lot of people that are becoming aware.
And thanks to social media, we are not isolated anymore because in the end, the narcissistic behavior pattern starts from isolation of the victims because otherwise you can't brainwash anyone, right?
If people have references, they cannot be brainwashed. So what social media gives us today is instead a reference and so we can spread what we think, what we know awareness.
So today we have a lot more and I don't think it's by chance, we have a lot more people that are aware of our narcissism and a lot more people that talk about it because now victims can actually tell to the world their experience, which is something that was before impossible.
So maybe the system is still dead on this, so people don't want to hear or oftentimes people are surprised when they actually find out that these kind of abuse happens at every level, but it cannot happen forever unless we have a real change in society.
And so I think today we can actually kind of like improve in this sense because we can probably not avoid for narcissists to exist, but for sure we can give people the weapon they need to understand.
It should not be victims because what the point is in this type of situation where there is a need and the system is dependent, if we take away the source to fulfill that need, the system just implodes. It cannot exist anymore.
So I think school families, but we should have some sort of welfare system that allows us to somewhat cope with all that is going on in society, but I don't think it's easy to think.
I think, you know, governments oftentimes wonder, because in the end, the whole system is based on this sort of mechanism.
So once you unravel gaslighting and what it is and what it means, like, basically, everything falls down because it falls apart because everything is based on gaslighting today.
So I think we should end this first meeting and continue with the next one. What do you think?
Yes, a pleasure. It was a pleasure talking to you and we'll see you again in the next episode.
Thank you everybody. Thank you.