Can Narcissist be Tricked Into Healing? (with Daria Zukowska)

Uploaded 4/14/2022, approx. 42 minute read

So hello, everyone, and you will not guess who is our guest today.

Yes, yes, it's Sam Vaknin. Hello. I would love to introduce, of course, for everyone that doesn't know Sam. He's a visiting professor of psychology, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don in Russia, of course, the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissists Revisited, and a professor of finance and psychology in SIAS-CIAPS, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies.

Yes, that sounds like me.

Okay, good.

Good to see you, Dr. Vaknin.

It's our first time together.

Yeah, actually, yeah. So I would love to speak with you today about some myth that is going on online, or not only online, about NPD, because still, you know, many people think, and I don't know where is this myth coming from, that they can, that NPD can be cured.

Can be cured, or cannot be cured? Cannot be.

So could you say something about that, like why NPD can rarely be cured, and why other people think in a different way?

I think the word cured is a very big word. Certain behaviors which are antisocial behaviors, abrasive behaviors, behaviors which are socially problematic, these behaviors can definitely be modified in narcissists.

The construct of narcissism, the disorder itself, is very problematic to reverse. And I think that's what people mean when they say that it cannot be healed or cannot be cured.

Narcissistic personality disorder is not tuberculosis. It's not something you take a pill and you change.

The disorder is very much like stage four terminal metastatic cancer. It infects and pervades and attacks all the areas of life of the narcissist, all the functionality of the narcissist.

So it's very difficult to attack all these areas simultaneously, to treat them, to help the narcissist, to change himself to that extent.

So a realistic treatment goal in narcissism would be to make the narcissist more acceptable to other people, more pleasant, more cooperative, less injurious, less problematic, less difficult, less ornery, less stubborn, less antisocial or even criminal.

So these treatment goals should be the limited treatment goals.

And if these are the treatment goals, the success rate is pretty high actually.

Because the pathological NPD, I mean by that clinical NPD is like a useful survival strategy and that's why it's also resistant and resilient and to change.

And people still asking even online or they keeping asking, is it something that they can do to help their partners or other family members, they still believe that they can help them.

Let's go back a bit and discuss the very concept of therapy. The concept of psychotherapy is new. It's a very new concept. It's no older than 120 years old.

We didn't have psychotherapy before. We didn't have what Freud called talk therapy. We treated people with medication. We treated people with exorcism. We treated people, I mean there were various methods of treating people who were essentially mentally ill, but no one thought about talking to them.

So the concept is new and we are still experimenting. It's very, very new. We're still experimenting with various methods and so on and so forth.

Now, the idea of talk therapy is that it is possible to penetrate the mind of another person via the bridge of language.

Until more or less Bleuler and Freud, there was the belief that the mind of another person is accessible only by God. Only God can access the mind of another person.

Another human being cannot and it was largely perceived that the mind is a fortress. The imagery was that the mind is like a fortress, a city, a city with fortifications and you cannot access.

Psychotherapy came up with five vectors, five vectors of attack, five vectors of entering this fortified city via behavior, via cognition, via emotion, via the environment and via the past, via transference. These are the five vectors that we have.

With some patients we try to modify their behaviors. With some patients we try to modify their cognitions. With some patients we try to reframe emotions or induce new emotions.

With other patients we change the environment or tell them to change the environment and with some patients we play the role of a parent, a father or a mother in transference-based therapy.

This is one thing to remember. The second thing to remember is there are two types of therapy, not one. There is transformational therapy. It's a therapy that changes the patient and there is restorative therapy. It's a therapy that restores the patient, brings the patient back to the same position from before the illness or before the disorder.

So now if we take all this, what I just said, and we apply it to the narcissist, can we access the mind of the narcissist by changing his behavior?

The answer is actually yes. We can change the behaviors of narcissists. Can we change the cognitions of narcissists?

Very limited success, very unlikely. Can we change the emotions of narcissists?

Here the answer is clearly no because narcissists have access only to negative emotions, negative affectivity. They don't have access to positive emotions so it's useless.

Can we change the environment of the narcissist? Not for long. The narcissist recreates his environment, the pathological narcissistic space all the time.

And finally, can we induce transference in the narcissist? Yes, we can. I do it in cold therapy. There is a therapy, there is transference-focused therapy of Kernberg and so on and we can induce transference in the narcissistic patient.

But then unfortunately, the narcissist has repetition compulsion. He is going to repeat the same conflict and the same bad outcome that he had with his original parent.

Additionally, the narcissist does not want to be transformed. He does not want to change. He wants to be restored.

So he doesn't want transformational therapy. He wants restorative therapy. He comes to the therapist and he says, I used to be amazing. I used to be great. I used to achieve, I used to have many accomplishments. I used to be powerful and I want to be the same again. Please restore me to how I was before.

He doesn't come to the therapist and says, listen, you know, I destroyed my life. I hurt everyone. I wanted to be different from now on. It just comes and says, you know, I used to be efficacious. I used to be efficient and now I'm no more efficient and I want to be as efficient as I used to be.

If you put all this together, what I've just said, we're in big trouble because the only way to somehow induce change in the narcissist is via altering behaviors. It's an extremely limited arsenal.

In typical therapy, we use cognitions, emotions, behavior, environment, you know, transferring sometimes. We cannot with the narcissist use 90% of our weapons as therapists. We don't have 90% of our weapons.

And the second thing is the narcissist is resistant to change. He just wants to be the same, more of the same. As a partner of the narcissist, you're faced with the same issues. You face with the same issues.

And the only way to induce change in your partner is to condition him to create an environment of reinforcements, negative reinforcements or punishment, sanctions, positive reinforcement if he behaves in certain ways, operant conditioning, etc.

And then hope that the narcissist will modify his behaviors in order to secure more positive reinforcements.

That's essentially the only thing you can do when you can modify only behaviors.

If you expect the narcissist to suddenly fall in love with you or to suddenly be thinking as normal people think, or to suddenly, I don't know, it's useless. It's not going to happen.

Even when we try to induce development, because there are some developmental therapies, we're trying to induce development in the narcissist. It's also pretty hopeless. I can go later into why all these things are not working, but they're not working.

So the approach is transactional. You behave this way. I'm going to give you positive reinforcement. I'm going to give you sex. I'm going to give you money. I'm going to give you love, intimacy, support.

You don't behave this way. I'm going to take away everything. I'm going to take away the cookies. I'm not going to give you cookies.

Now it sounds a little like dealing with a small child. And that's exactly what it is.

You need to, as a partner, you need to work with a narcissist as you would with a small child. That's what you do with a small child.

Yeah, we can work with behavioral modification with NPD, but we cannot expect permanent alteration because, like you said, it's just impossible.

And the reason that they're coming for the therapy is, yeah, they just want to still have this kind of supply that they have before.

Yeah. So how the therapy can even help NPD?

Like the therapy is supposed to help them.

And what can we do as a therapist?

There are two basically, two approaches, two approaches.

I mentioned that all the other vectors, cognitive vector, emotions, environment, developmental vector, behavioral vector, transference vector, all these with exceptional behavior don't work with narcissists. There are good reasons why they don't work. I don't know if you want to go into it, but if you do, I can later talk about it. There are good reasons why each and every one of them doesn't work with the narcissist.

So we are left as a therapist with a single weapon.

And you have basically two possible approaches.

The first approach is to use the narcissist grandiosity to tell him, listen, this is the treatment goal. And because you are so amazing and so unique and so perfect and so omniscient and so omnipotent and so godlike, definitely you can accomplish this treatment goal.

I mean, to challenge him, to challenge his grandiosity and say, let's see if you can accomplish this treatment goal. The narcissist is a child.

Don't forget always, always the partner and the therapist must remember that the narcissist is a child.

One of the biggest mistakes in the therapy of narcissists is that the therapist treats the narcissist as an adult. When the narcissist presents in therapy, the therapist tries to interact with the narcissist as if the narcissist is an adult. So the therapist tries to make an alliance with the narcissist. He tries to negotiate with the narcissist. He tries to determine treatment goals with the narcissist. He tries to analyze the situation with the narcissist and it's absolutely the wrong approach because the narcissist is not an adult. He is emotionally at least a child.

And so the treatment should be the same treatment we give children, child psychology treatment.

And so one of the things we do with the children is modeling. Modeling, we show them behavior and they imitate because they're children.

Narcissists do that actually. If they regard you as a role model or authority figure or and they accept your authority or accept you as a role model, they will imitate you and then you can model the behavior.

The second approach, which you also do with children, is to challenge the narcissist. It's grandiosity, what I mentioned before. Surely you can do this. Surely you can do this because you're great. Narcissists fall for this trap and then they accomplish the treatment goals just to show you that they are perfect and they're exactly like a child would do.

And so these are the two ways open to us with narcissists.

And the approach of conditioning and reinforcement is very critical throughout this phase of the treatment.

First of all, you should provide the narcissist with a constant stream of narcissistic supply. When he modifies his behavior, when his behavior changes in accordance with the treatment goals, then you should provide him with explicit narcissistic supply.

You should praise him. You should tell him how great he is. You should tell him you never had a client who moved that fast and that decisively. You should tell him that his intellect is amazing. You should tell him that he got it right the first time and it's the first time ever anyone got it right the first time and so on and so forth. You should lavish praise on him.

This narcissistic supply is addictive and it will make him want to please you more and more.

Now, everything I'm saying is bed therapy with people who are not narcissists.

You should never do any of these things with people who are not narcissists.

But regrettably with narcissists, you must do this if you want to accomplish anything whatsoever, even the smallest thing.

And then, you know, the treatment goals are accomplished. The problem is, is it going to be long term or short term?

In many narcissists, the change in behavior is environmental. And so when the environment changes or the other constraints or they meet a new partner or they go back, they go back to the beginning. It's very frustrating. It's a little like borderline. Borderlines are the same.

The patient keeps, it's cathect, cathectus. It's pushing the stone up, stone goes down, pushing it up and goes down. So there's no permanence of results in narcissists in borderline.

Okay. But still, like the, you know, therapeutic process for narcissists is still frightening for them. Even if they decided, you know, it's still, why is that?

On multiple levels.

First of all, he has to accept that you are an authority figure. He has to admit that you know more than he does. It is utterly unacceptable to the narcissist. The narcissist is omniscient, all knowing, equivalent of God. It cannot be that you know anything more than he does in any field whatsoever.

So he needs to overcome this as an authority figure.

Second thing, you create expectations, therapy creates expectations and he feels that he needs to fulfill these expectations to support his self-perception, inflated, fantastic self-perception.

So you are an engine of expectations and at the same time, your potential source of frustration as a therapist.

Because if the expectations are not met, the narcissist is frustrated and this creates aggression. That's the dollar hypothesis from 1939. Frustration creates aggression.

Narcissists very often become aggressive in therapy. And the reason is that they feel that they hadn't met your expectations of them and that they feel that you know more than they do and refuse to accept that they know more than you do.

So if you're a kind of therapist who has an ego problem, the narcissist will challenge your knowledge and then you will say, no, I know more than you do. And the narcissist says, no, I'm no more than you do. And it will become an ego clash.

Another issue is the narcissist comes to you from a position of weakness. He comes to you because something is wrong, because there is some defect, because there needs to be some change. So he comes to you from a position of inferiority. He is not used to that. He is not used to admitting that he needs help.

Narcissists regard empathy and help as threats. If you empathize with a narcissist, he regards this as a form of aggression. Because if you empathize with him, you are saying, I am like you. When you show the narcissist empathy, you're actually telling the narcissist, we have something in common. We have the same human experience. I am like you.

But the narcissist immediately responds, you're not like me. No one is like me. So empathy is a threat. And if you offer help to the narcissist, which is therapy, if you offer help, you're actually saying you need help. You're helpless. On your own, you cannot solve this.

These are all narcissistic injuries. The whole process of therapy consists of an endless stream of narcissistic injuries all the time. And this creates narcissistic rage, withdrawal, avoidance, passive aggression, if it is a covert narcissist.

In other words, negative results all the time. All the time, negative results.

If you are the wrong kind of therapist, as I said, with ego issues and so on, this will create absolutely overt conflict, which could escalate to aggression.

I would like to stop here and maybe elaborate more about this attitude towards therapists because from my experience, they insist absolutely that they are special and they don't want to be treating like in a humble frame, they don't want to adapt because of this, they go like so. They don't want to.

So sometimes when they are speaking, like from my experience, when I'm working with them, it's like that I cannot teach them anything, nothing new or yeah, we should be equal.

They insist that maybe we can be colleague or something like that. Or maybe we are like, you know, yeah, we can be friends, good friends, or that how do I think I am that I dare to ask them all these questions like, who am I?

So yeah, they try in this, especially on the beginning, all the time, show power play, power play, and also mind game, I would say, they try this all the time.

They may also try to corrupt you to corrupt the therapeutic setting. So they will offer you to do business, or they will buy you a very expensive gift. It's of course contamination of the therapeutic process, or they will involve you in personal issues that have nothing to do with the therapy, try to convert you to a friend, or they will try to convert you to saviour, fixer role.

So they will try to make you save someone or fix someone, for example, their borderline girlfriend. So they will try to take you outside the therapeutic ethical perimeter and to render you unethical, to corrupt you.

But more generally, when the narcissist comes to therapy, he is faced with two choices, and he has two alternatives, and he has to choose. Either he idealizes you, and in a process called co-idealization, I will explain it in a minute, or he idealizes himself, and he has to devalue you.

So the first option is that he idealizes you. He tells you, wow, you're the most amazing therapist I ever came across, or your credentials, your education and so on are unique, or you're very special one way or another, or you know, he will idealize it.

By idealizing you, he's idealizing himself.

One of the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-4, and actually five as well, is that the narcissist to be treated by special people. It's a diagnostic criteria. It's how we diagnose NPD.

When the narcissist goes to a hospital, he wants to be treated by the chief doctor, no other doctor, only the chief of the department, etc. So he needs to he needs to idealize you. He needs to make you special, because if you are special, then he's special. He's treated by special people.

This is option one, but he has another alternative, by making himself special and devaluing you. So he will tell you that treating him is a privilege, your privilege. You are lucky that you have him as a patient because he's very special, because his case is unique, because he can teach you new things that you are not even aware of, because he can present you to other clients, because you're lucky to have him in your life. You're lucky that he entered your clinic, you know, and you should be very grateful for this. And yeah, you are inferior, but he can help you. He can bring you to his level.

And so this is process of making himself special and devaluing you.

Most narcissists actually cycle. They start by idealizing you, and then they devalue you and idealize, because it's a process of co-idealization.

He idealizes you, then because you are special, he is special. So he idealizes himself.

But then once he idealized himself, he doesn't need you anymore, because now he's ideal. So now that he is idealized, he can dump you, devalue and discard.

The same dynamic that happens in intimate romantic relationships of narcissists happens in therapy. Same.

In his mind, there is no difference between you as a therapist and you as a potential source of supply, or you as a potential intimate partner.

Indeed, many narcissists try to cross the boundary into intimacy, into sex, into relationship with their, if you are, you know, of relevant sex, opposite sex. So many of them try to do this.

And because borderlines are grandiose, also, grandiosity is criterion of borderline, borderlines also try to do this. They are very inappropriate in therapeutic setting. They try to make you an intimate partner in some way.

And this is because the same dynamic in therapy happens in relationships, all other kinds of relationships, including intimate.

So the narcissists can't see the difference between having you as a therapist and having you as a lover. He doesn't understand why you would put this boundary.

What's the problem here? You are having a co-idealization process. So why not have sex or why not love each other? He doesn't understand this.

There's no concept of boundaries. Of course, this is also a childlike thing. Children have no boundaries, and they act very inappropriately in a variety of settings, because socialization is not complete.

So these are the unique problems of therapy with narcissists.

Yeah, and I totally agree. They're doing all these things that you mentioned about absolutely, especially in the beginning.

Yeah, it's totally bad. What if you pass this through with some of clients?

What if you overcome this? What if you go beyond this stage?

If you succeed to show the narcissist that there is value in the therapy, in the sense that modifying his behaviors renders him more self efficacious. If he modifies his behaviors, then he gets better outcomes.

Narcissists are exactly like psychopaths, goal oriented, although their goal is supply.

Psychopaths have many goals. Narcissists have one goal, supply. If you show him, in other words, that modifying his behaviors can guarantee better or regular supply in the long term, then he will settle down, then the power play, the conflict, all this will abate, will disappear.

But at that point, he will change the way he sees you. Remember that I said that when he enters the therapy, he sees you as a threat, because he feels inferior, he feels needy, he feels that you are superior in some way, so he sees you as a threat. He idealizes you in order to idealize him.

So once he is idealized, he devalues you, so all these dynamics.

At some point, he may say, wow, Dania is helping me in some way, in a sense that using some of her ideas and techniques that can obtain supply more efficiently, more efficaciously.

So now he will transform you into a service provider, not into a therapist, but like his personal assistant or his personal advisor or the woman to go to if there are issues with obtaining supply. So you become like the electricity company or the internet, you become a service provider.

Now this creates yet another set of problematic dynamics.

Because he sees you as a service provider, he thinks he is buying you. By paying you for the therapy, he owns you. He owns you. You are his service provider. He has a right to certain types of service.

Now he insists, so he can become very demanding, very aggressive if he feels that he is not getting value for his money. And he will keep reminding you all the time that he is paying you, that he expects you to perform.

So it all becomes very transactional.

The third phase of therapy with narcissists is a narcissist converts the therapy into a transactional space where he pays for your skills and knowledge and so on. But by paying you, he owns you. And by owning you, he is superior to you. He is your boss. It's no longer an issue that you have something to give him which he doesn't possess.

Now he possesses you and your knowledge. He owns you so from that moment he doesn't feel inferior anymore.

Remember a very critical thing here which is very difficult for people to understand, even professionals. You don't exist. You don't exist.

But Kernberg was the first to describe this process in great detail.

Kernberg even created a therapy called Transference Focused Therapy that is based on what I'm about to say.

So you don't exist. The minute the narcissist sees you, the first presentation in the clinic on your office, the minute he sees you, he snapshots you. He takes a snapshot, introjects. He puts it in his head and it becomes an internal object.

From that moment the therapy takes place in his internal space not out there, not with you but with your representation in his mind.

So in the third phase where he had converted you into a service provider, where he had converted the whole process into a transaction, he owns you in the sense that you are an internal object. You're part of his mind. So all your knowledge, all your skills, all your talents, all your education, it's him. It's not you.

Because you are part of his mind. You're an internal object. So everything that you can offer is not external. It's coming from the inside. It's a very sick situation. It's coming from the inside.

So he doesn't feel that you know more than him because you are part of him. You're an extension. Whatever you know is his knowledge, not your knowledge. Whatever skills you have are his skills, not your skills. Then whatever you're doing is his doing, not your doing. So because you're an internal object, he can overcome the narcissistic injury.

Actually converting you an internal object is his way of overcoming the narcissistic injury. He makes you an extension. He makes you an internal object.

So that moment you are no longer an external threat. You're part of him. And he can be even very proud of you because you're part of him. He can even go around and say, I have a great therapist. You should go to her. She's amazing and so on.

But he's not saying this because he sees you as a great therapist, but he says it because he owns you. He's proud of his ownership. You know what I mean? It's very crazy.

And they're doing this. You can see it. This is one of the ways that they're working like that.


But during my clinical experience, many people ask me like, do a narcissist has emotions? And I think it's not a good question even because everyone has emotions.

What probably they don't understand or what they cannot see. It's like, you know, like narcissists, they can only emulate emotions or, you know, that their emotions are only like, you know, reactive, not proactive.

And people are confused with this. They don't understand what.

First of all, the modern perception of emotions is that it's a form of cognition, emotions of subspecies of cognition. So these are thought processes, essentially experienced differently. And that's why we call them emotions, but they're essentially thought processes.

And the narcissist and narcissism is a fantasy defense. So narcissism by definition is a cognitive distortion. It's a cognitive distortion. It's not a deficit, but it's a distortion.

When the narcissist sees the world, he rewrites reality. He doesn't see reality as it is. He has impaired reality testing. And he needs this to support his grandiosity.

If I believe that I'm God-like, reality will deny me. Reality will tell me you're not God-like. You're zero. You're nobody.

So I need to falsify reality. I need to ignore reality.

And this is called cognitive distortion.

Freud was the first to describe at length a series of cognitive distortions known as psychological defense mechanisms. And one of the psychological defense mechanisms is fantasy.

When fantasy defense mechanism takes over the personality, takes over the person, we call it narcissism.

So narcissism by definition is cognitive distortion.

Consequently, narcissists have emotional distortions because emotions are cognitions. So they have emotional distortions and they have emotional distortions in two ways.

First of all, they have access only to negative affectivity. They have access only to negative emotions such as envy, rage, etc. So this they have direct access and exactly like other people like normal healthy human beings. But they don't have access to positive emotions.

The access to positive emotions is denied because very early on positive emotions like love were associated with pain and with hurt. So the narcissist denies himself access to positive emotions because if he experiences them, he will decompensate and he will become essentially a borderline. He will be dysregulated, overwhelmed.

Grozstein, who was a famous psychoanalyst, suggested that borderlines are children who tried to create narcissism and had failed.

And so consequently, the borderline is in touch with her positive emotions. And whenever the borderline is in touch with her positive emotions, she is dysregulated. She falls apart. She's terrified. She has abandonment anxiety. She has engulfment anxiety.

In other words, the borderline experiences a positive emotions, but in a very bad way. It's a very bad experience.

And many borderlines envy narcissists. They say, I wish I were a narcissist. I wish I were a psychopath. Then I would not feel all these emotions.

The narcissist, on the other hand, is a child who had succeeded to destroy his true self and to deny himself access to positive emotions. It's like the child says, I'm not going to love money because whenever I love money, she hurts me. So I'm not going to love money anymore.

And of course it becomes a habit. So he doesn't know how to laugh. You're right that narcissists imitate or emulate emotions.

25 years ago, I suggested something. I called it emotional resonance tables.

The narcissist collects information. He says, this person is crying and she tells me that she said, ah, okay. So when people are said, they're crying. So he makes like a big table of behavior and reported affect. So what people report to their feeling and how they behave. And then he uses this table to imitate and emulate empathy and emotions. And they're very good at it.

Narcissists, they can easily deceive you and convince you that they're actually very empathic and very emotional and so on. To the point that many, many therapists and diagnosticians misdiagnose narcissism as for example, borderline or misdiagnose narcissism as bipolar. It's very easy for narcissists to deceive even clinicians by imitating empathy and emotions very expertly, but it's an imitation. It's not real.

So why should NPD commit to the therapy if it's only limited, you know, remission?

The same way you go to the gym is to exercise his muscles.

As I said at the very beginning, narcissists don't come to therapy for transformational purpose. They come to therapy for restorative purpose.

So they come to therapy either because their efficacy had declined. The routines they're using to obtain supply are not working anymore. For some reason, the environment changed. People don't like them anymore. Friends abandoned them. Their intimate partners broke up with them. Something bad happened. They lost all their money. They went bankrupt. They're in jail. They're in prison. Something went wrong.

So the old tactics, the old strategies of the narcissist to obtain supply are no longer working. So he needs to go to an expert and ask, how can I regain myself? How can I become a alpha male predator? That's restorative.

The second thing is they believe that if they come to you, you can teach them new techniques to obtain supply. So they would use you again as a service provider and they would try to learn from you how to obtain supply.

Now in the narcissist world, everything is about supply. The only reason you give therapy is because it gives you supply. In his mind, you're giving therapy. You've chosen this profession because it makes you feel superior because it gives you supply.

So he says, okay, let me go to a therapist, see how she gets supply and I will do the same. I'll copy her. I'll imitate her.

They say to themselves, medical doctors and therapists, these two professions, they're about obtaining supply. They're not about healing people. Therapists don't care about people. Medical doctors don't care about people. They care about being admired. They care about being respected. They care about being adored.

So the narcissist, in his mind, you're a narcissist because of the profession you had chosen. So he would try to learn new tricks from you. Very simple. And he would hope that you can fix him. It's like a broken machine. You can fix him, but he wants to be the same machine. He doesn't want to be another machine. He comes to you as a dishwasher. He doesn't want to exit as a refrigerator. He wants to be a better dishwasher or a fixed dishwasher as a minimum.

This is the huge difference between narcissists and all other patients, all other types of patients, including borderline. They want you to change them. They want transformation. They want a different life, a better life. The narcissist doesn't want you to change him. He thinks he's supreme. He thinks he's perfection.

It reminds me of the joke. Not a joke, actually, historical fact. There's a Jewish language called Yiddish. It was a Jewish language used in Poland and Russia and so on.

Okay. So one day the Jews decided in the 19th century that they should begin to learn the literature of other countries. So there was this small Jewish publisher in a shtetl. Shtetl was a small town in Poland. So there was this small Jewish publisher, a tiny Jewish publisher, working from a room in a shtetl, which is a tiny town, you know, village, actually. And he decided to translate Shakespeare, finally, for the Jews to read Shakespeare. So he worked very hard and he translated Shakespeare. And this is what the cover page says. William Shakespeare's plays translated and improved.

So this is the narcissist. He wants to come to you to remain William Shakespeare, but maybe improved a little. So more Shakespeare, more narcissist. He doesn't come to you because he wants to have another life or a new life or a better life or to get, you know, to make other people more happy or to keep his intimate partner. It's none of this. He comes to you because he failed to obtain supply and he wants you to fix this. Simple.

And you are nothing but an internal object. You're an extension service provider. It's very demeaning, very humiliating for the therapist. And it's very difficult dynamic with narcissists and with borderlines.

Borderlines are also brand new. That's why many, many, many therapists don't refuse to take class to be patients, absolutely refuse.


I'm working with them, but yes, for me, yeah, sometimes of course it's difficult, but most, you know, work with me than with NPD.

But so yeah, is there anything that they can do for themselves?

Before they decided to go for the therapy?

The best thing a narcissist can do for himself is to self-destruct completely. The only window of opportunity, which is not long, three to six months, the only window of opportunity to induce some real behavior modification. And even I would say some psychodynamic change in the narcissist is when the narcissist has utterly destroyed everything imaginable in his world.

And in my case, as everyone knows, I'm diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder twice. So he's pretty sure.

And there was something really happening in my life. I was repeating the same cycles, repetition compulsion, it's called. I was repeating the same cycles over and over and over again until at age 35, my wife abandoned me for another man.

I lost all the money I had. I had a group of companies with 8,000 employees and $40 million turnover. I lost all of it. The state took it as a punishment for criminal offenses. I went to prison. My reputation was destroyed because this was a big public affair. So it was mortification.

Clinically, it was mortification. It is then, then a window of opportunity opened for me.

And I'm glad to say that I was sufficiently wise, shall we say, to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

And this is when I wrote Malignant Self-Love. This was, and ever since then, I am not healed and I'm not cured. And I would still be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder without a doubt.

But I'm a productive, pro-social, communal narcissist. I don't hurt people. I help people. I even heal people. And I contribute.

And that's why in 1997, I described the concept of, I also coined the phrase, pro-social narcissist or communal narcissist.

So you can go to a narcissist and say, listen, why don't you obtain supply by being good to people? Why don't you obtain supply by helping people, by healing people, by working in socially acceptable ways, socially sublimated ways?

And many, many narcissists would, why don't you, why don't you become superior by being morally superior?

Now, many narcissists would do this. Many narcissists would strike this deal. They would become famous by being charity oriented. They would become superior by being morally superior. They would become known for being a good husband or a good father. So they would derive supply in ways which are socially sublimated and helpful to them and to others.

It's not true that all narcissists are menaced to society, horrible people who destroy everything.

Actually, there is a convincing case that the majority of creative people are narcissistic or narcissists. They create the music that you listen to. They create the books that you read. And they had created the social institutions that are working in your favor.

Narcissism is a force either for evil or for good. And it's easy to convince the narcissist to be a force for good if you promise him supply in return.

So he would do good things because it gets him supply.

I think Mother Teresa was a narcissist, for example. For example, and yet she's Mother Teresa.

I think, what's the name of this Swedish girl? The environmental activist Greta. I strongly think she's a narcissist. But she's definitely pro-social. She's communal.

I strongly, yeah. I think she's a narcissist, absolutely. And I can give you thousands of names of narcissists and all of them had transformed art, culture, society, history, some of them for the worse, like Hitler and Stalin and Napoleon, but many of them for the better.

So narcissism is energy. How you channel it and what you do with it and how you transform it is very much up to the people around the audience.

Unfortunately, there is this stigma and so on and people, you know, make it easier for narcissists to be evil, to be destructive, to be, it's easier because of expectations.

Now we know from expectation theory in psychology, if you expect something from someone, they will fulfill the expectation.

We have studies, for example, where teachers discriminated against some students in a class and these students had the worst grades, not because they were more stupid than the other students, but because they were fulfilling the expectations of a teacher.

Society expects narcissists to be evil and bad and destructive, so narcissists are evil and bad and destructive.

Has society created an incentive system where narcissists, as the children that they are, get supply only in socially acceptable ways, socially beneficial ways, we would have benefited enormously, humanity would have benefited enormously from this.

Now wasted energy.

How you channel it and what you do with it and how you transform it is very much up to the people around the audience.

Unfortunately, there is thisstigma and so on and people, you know, make it easier for narcissists to be evil, to be destructive, to be, it's easier because of expectations.

Now we know from expectation theory in psychology, if you expect something from someone, they will fulfill the expectation.

We have studies, for example, where teachers discriminated against some students in a class and these students had the worst grades, not because they were more stupid than the other students, but because they were fulfilling the expectations of a teacher.

Society expects narcissists to be evil and bad and destructive, so narcissists are evil and bad and destructive.

Has society created an incentive system where narcissists, as the children that they are, get supply only in socially acceptable ways, socially beneficial ways, we would have benefited enormously, humanity would have benefited enormously from this.

Now wasted energy.

How you channel it and what you do with it and how you transform it is very much up to the people around the audience.

Unfortunately, there is this stigma and so on and people, you know, make it easier for narcissists to be evil, to be destructive, to be, it's easier because of expectations.

Now we know from expectation theory in psychology, if you expect something from someone, they will fulfill the expectation.

We have studies, for example, where teachers discriminated against some students in a class and these students had the worst grades, not because they were more stupid than the other students, but because they were fulfilling the expectations of a teacher.

Society expects narcissists to be evil and bad and destructive, so narcissists are evil and bad and destructive.

Has society created an incentive system where narcissists, as the children that they are, get supply only in socially acceptable ways, socially beneficial ways, we would have benefited enormously, humanity would have benefited enormously from this.

Now wasted energy.

How you channel it and what you do with it and how you transform it is very much up to the people around the audience.

Unfortunately, there is this stigma and so on and people, you know, make it easier for narcissists to be evil, to be destructive, to be, it's easier because of expectations.

Now we know from expectation theory in psychology, if you expect something from someone, they will fulfill the expectation.

We have studies, for example, where teachers discriminated against some students in a class and these students had the worst grades, notonly on narcissists and even though the results are great, the 72 people treated by now, the results are nothing short of amazing. Their lives are changed forever, massively. They are happy, they're social, they made peace with everyone in their lives.

The results are amazing.

But the process involves inflicting devastating trauma on another person. And that is ethically dubious.

Do I think there's any alternative?

No, there's no alternative because I don't regard narcissism as a personality disorder. I regard narcissism as a post-traumatic condition.

These are trauma defenses.

And the only way with narcissism, because these defenses are so rigid, the only way we have is to use artillery, missiles.

Unfortunately, we can't, unfortunately, talk our way through this. It's been 150 years, enough, or 100 years actually, enough.

We know other therapies are not working, I mean, to the point of healing or curing.

So we need to take a different approach.

The narcissists who went through whole therapy are very happy that they did. Very happy that they did, and maybe this should be the test.

But this is one approach.

One approach is to traumatize them, break them apart, and put them back together, in a more socially acceptable way.

But there's a much more benign approach, which I described earlier.

Simply accept narcissism, accept it, and use it for the better.

Use this energy to accept that they are children, accept that they will never grow up, accept that they need to see themselves in a certain light, and this creates compulsion.

And harness this energy, use this energy to create.

Now, I think, who was a very famous psychologist, I think suggested that creativity is a form of psychoticism. He linked creativity with mild form of mental illness.

I think this is precisely what we should do with narcissism.

We should reframe it not as a personality disorder, but as a form of creativity.

Narcissists are very creative in finding supply. When they try to find supply, they compose symphonies, they write books, they are the greatest lovers. Even in sex, they are very creative.

Their effort, determined effort to obtain supply is mediated via creativity.

And if we reconsider narcissism as a form of creativity, reframe it, I think everyone would benefit.

And if the intimate partners of narcissists stop placing on narcissists demands which are typical of adults, but accept that the narcissist is a child who will never grow up, the intimate partner will have an easier life.

The conflict between the intimate partner and the narcissist is because the intimate partner demands that the narcissist perform as an adult. She says, you're grown up. I expect you to act the way an adult acts. I expect you to be grown up. I expect you to fulfill your obligations, your chores, and your responsibility. I expect you to keep your promises. I expect you to not gaslight me. I expect you to perceive reality properly. I expect you to have emotions.

These expectations are setting the narcissist up for failure because the narcissist is a child and cannot fulfill any of these things.

I do agree with you.

And for me, it's really nice to observe where I can see my clients where, for example, with NPD, when they're using their grandiosity for good things, this is the best thing that I can observe.

It is said that some relatively large group of people are owing to childhood abuse in various ways, got stuck in childhood and can never ever grow up. This will never happen. Narcissists will never grow up.

It's sad.

But children are not only evil. Children are delightful.

The narcissist can be delightful. The narcissist can be charming. The narcissist can be, you know, because he's a child and you can see the child in the narcissist. You can see the child in every and any narcissist, even me. You can see the child there.

And so telling the narcissist, I'm going to ignore the child in you and I demand that you grow up. I demand that you be not done, is actually at the root of most of the conflicts between narcissists and other people.

All the narcissist wants you to do is to provide him with supply. This is the deal you have with a narcissist if you want to be his intimate partner.

I will be your mother. I will treat you as a child and I will give you supply.

Now, do I recommend to be the intimate partner or a narcissist? Of course not.

I don't recommend this.

If you made this decision, then act properly, then accept that he's a child, give him supply, be his mother.

That's the only way to, you know, share fantasy, to interact with the narcissist. That's not me. That's Sander in 1989.

He suggested the only way to be with narcissist is in a shared fantasy.

So if you decide to be with a narcissist, it's like, you know, you buy a ticket for a train. You wouldn't expect to fly on an airplane. Your ticket is for a train, you know.

So when you end up with a narcissist, you wouldn't expect him to be adult. You wouldn't expect him to be grown up. You wouldn't expect him to be responsible.

And this and that.

No, he's a narcissist. That's it. He's a child and you have to be a mother.

Not good for you. Break up, walk away, find a healthy relationship.


So it was Professor Sam Vaknin.

Sam, thank you so much for your time.

Thank you.

Thank you for having me.

And thank you everyone for your time. And see you in the next video.

I hope you all noticed how I stole her water and never gave it back to her. After poor narcissist.



So have a nice day and see you soon.

Yeah. Thank you.

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