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Emotional Flashbacks of Gaslighting Empaths and Other Ignorant Nonsense (Compilation)

Uploaded 7/16/2023, approx. 2 hour 20 minute read

Some of you may have noticed that my videos come replete with advertising. This is not my call. This is not my decision.

YouTube forcibly is placing advertisements in and on my videos against my express settings and not sharing the revenue with me. This is another act of bullying by YouTube.

A cross-commercialization of what should have been an educational and social platform. There's nothing I can do about it. It's out of my hands.

I apologize to all of you for this new, fangled experience on my channel. I've kept it advertising-free for well over 12 years.

But now there's been a change in the terms of service of Google. And now they can do whatever they want with my videos without any need for my permission and without sharing the income with me.

So from YouTube to gaslighting, very similar topic if you ask me.


Today we're going to discuss GoDeep into the topic of gaslighting.

We're going to expose a series of techniques either to unmentioned anywhere on the Internet and largely even in scholarly literature.

It starts with an article published in the Washington Post. The article is titled "Gaslighting: How to Recognize Gaslighting and Respond to It". It was authored by Angela Haupt. And it says something that I've been saying over the past 10 years.

It says, "Gaslighting made the leap from psychological lingo to trendy buzzword with the 2016 presidential campaign. More recently, it has morphed into what Ackerman calls a catch-all phrase often used incorrectly by people referring to simple disagreements over issues or interactions that don't meet gaslighting's historical definition.

Some mental health experts, continues the article, are concerned that overusing the term could obscure the abusive nature of gaslighting and reduce its power to help victims recognize ongoing manipulation.

For them, for these mental health practitioners, and myself included, it's important that gaslighting retain its original meaning.

The experience of having your reality repeatedly challenged by someone who holds more power than you do.

We're going to expound on this later in the video, and I'm going to finish the video with a series of techniques you can use to find back gaslighting.

Gaslighting is exactly like extending a hand and reaching into your mind and then scrambling it. It's as bad as this. And it uses a series of techniques.

Some of them would be familiar to you, but you probably had never associated these techniques with gaslighting.

We start with deja vu. Deja vu is when the strange looks or sounds familiar when the unprecedented or when something that hadn't happened yet, something that you're experiencing, is perceived as a past experience.

So when a present experience is perceived as a past experience.

Now we can do it with words. For example, I keep using the word "sosanim" or a very old German word which I've just invented, "geschlimf", which means to destroy, devastate, "geschlimf". The more often I use these words, the more familiar they become.

It's when the strange begins to look familiar. Deja vu is a French word. It expresses the feeling that one has lived through a present situation before.

Some people, of course, immediately interpret deja vu as a kind of paranormal or supernatural experience, a precognition or a prophecy, but in reality it's an anomaly or memory.

There's a strong sense of having been here, of a recollection, the time, the place, the smells, the tastes, the ambience, the sounds, everything, the practical context of the previous experience, seems to apply to the current experience.

But this is because of uncertainty, because of the impossibility of it all. I will come to it in a minute and I will explain how deja vu is applied in gaslighting by abusers.

Now, gaslighting is much more typical of psychopaths than narcissists.

Narcissists believe their own lies, they confabulate, and so they adopt and appropriate their lies and then they defend their lies vehemently, if you challenge them.

Psychopaths are goal-oriented, they know exactly what they're doing, and the aim of gaslighting is to unsettle you, to destabilize you, and to allow the psychopath to introduce into your mind anything he wishes.

Again, shortly we will discuss how this is done.

There are two types of deja vu, the pathological one which is frequently associated with epilepsy, and it is usually prolonged or frequent because there are other symptoms involved, there are other symptoms like hallucinations.

It's an indicator of a neurological or psychiatric illness. That's not the kind of deja vu I'm talking about.

The deja vu I'm talking about is non-pathological. It happens to healthy people.

Actually, two-thirds of the population have had a deja vu experience one or more.

Now, we know that deja vu happens when there is dislocation, when there is disorientation, and therefore there's a close affinity between deja vu and dissociation.

For example, people who travel often or travel frequently have more deja vu experiences than the normal population. People who watch movies, movie buffs, aficionados addicted to movies, they are much more likely to experience deja vu than other people.

So detachment, dissociation are critical, and this is what the abuser does to you.

What he does to you, he detaches you from your own experiences, from your own reality, and this renders his reality familiar to you because you can't really compare his reality to your reality.

You tend to lie to yourself, to deceive yourself into believing that his reality is normal, has always been there, is familiar.

That's a very important point that you need to understand.

What gaslighting involves is not only a divorce between you and your reality testing. It involves a substitution effect.

The abuser provides you with an alternative to your own experience, to your own world, to your own reality, to your own universe.

And because you had been detached from your roots, so to speak, because the abuser obliterates your own memory, challenges your own identity, if his reality becomes like a life raft, you cling on to his reality because you have no alternative.

The first stage in gaslighting is destroying who you are, destroying your trust in yourself, destroying your perception of reality and your reality testing, destroying your self-efficacy, your ability to operate in the environment in order to extract positive outcomes.

You begin to disbelieve yourself. You begin to distance yourself from yourself, a process known as estrangement.

And then the abuser comes into this picture, anomalous picture of derealization, depersonalization, and amnesia that he had induced in you.

He had induced these dissociative states in you.

So then he comes and says, "Well, I have a solution for you. I have a solution for you. You're very amnesia. You depersonalize. You realize I have a solution here. Let me give you my reality, my world, my universe, my perceptions, my experiences, my interpretation of what's happening.

And because you don't have your own alternative anymore, you cling to his.

People who tend to experience déjà vu are often fragile and vulnerable. They are depressed. They're anxious. They're stressed. They're under high pressure.

Research clearly shows that the experience of déjà vu is associated with other mental health conditions.

However transient, it also decreases with age. We are less amenable to such manipulation as we grow older because the weight of cumulative experience is too great, too big for a single abuser to undermine.

Abuse via gaslighting therefore leverages, takes advantage of our vulnerability, our fragility, our brittleness, our anxiety and our depression in order to supplant our existence in one reality with another.

It is a form of metaverse. It is a virtual reality.

Gaslighting is about creating a virtual reality and then convincing you that it's the only reality in existence.

And one of the main tools the abuser uses, however unknowingly, to accomplish his goal is entraining.

I've mentioned entraining in several videos and in my dialogues with Richard Grannon.

Entraining is a process of coordinating brainwaves.

Now usually entraining clones brainwaves via music. When people play the same music or listen to the same music, there's a total synchronization of their relevant brainwaves.

And this is entraining.


But I suggested, and I still do, that entraining can be accomplished with other sounds, not only music.

For example, verbal abuse. If verbal abuse has a refrain, if it has a rhythm, if it has a kind of embedded harmony, then one can conceive of verbal abuse as a form of music.

And this leads to a phenomenon known as semantic satiation.

Semantic satiation. Semantic satiation is a psychological phenomenon where repetition causes word or phrase to lose meaning for the listener.

If you repeat the same word thousands of times, ultimately you will discover to your shock and consternation that the word the word means nothing to you.

We perceive repeated speech as meaningless sounds.

And this is exactly the power of entraining because verbal abuse, repeated ad nauseam, repeated constantly becomes sound.

It becomes music, which essentially is meaningless.

And therefore, therefore it penetrates your linguistic defenses. It goes deep into your reptile brain, down to the brainstem.

Music stimulates very ancient areas of the brain, in addition to the neocortex and the prefrontal cortex, but very ancient parts of the brain.

That's the power of music. That's why we react to music so profoundly and emotionally.

And the repetition of the verbal abuse renders it meaningless.

So our linguistic centers disengage.

And instead, we perceive these words as a form of wall of sound, as a kind of music.

Extended inspection, extended analysis, for example, staring at a word or looking at a phrase for a very long period of time, has the same effect like repetition.

Exactly the same effect, semantic satiation.

When we are exposed to written or verbal abuse repeatedly, it loses its meaning and it becomes music and it entrains our brain.

It coordinates our brainwaves, the brainwaves of our abuser.

In the cortex, verbal repetition arouses a specific neural pattern that corresponds to the meaning of the word.

Rapid repetition makes both the peripheral sensory motor activity and the central neural activation fire repeatedly.

And this causes what we know as reactive inhibition.

This is a reduction in the intensity and sensitivity of the activity with each repetition. Habituation is like if you put pressure on your arm, at first you feel the pressure.

But after a while, you get used to it and it no longer registers.

James Jacobovits called it in 1962, experimental neurosemantics.

There are numerous studies that have substantiated every single word I've just said. I'm referring you to Jacobovits, an early study, but also Piloti, Antrobus and Daph in 1997 and Koinos in 2000 and numerous others.

So this is a well-substantiated phenomenon.

And so by entraining, semantically satiating you, the abuser creates a coordination, a synchronicity between his brainwaves and yours, which grants him total access to your mind and allows him to obliterate your previous identity, memories, experiences, perceptions and to sublimb, to substitute them with his own, a good description of gaslighting.

And in this process, the abuser acquires authority. There's a power asymmetry because of intermittent reinforcement in trauma bonding. The abuser is on top.

So there is a power gradient. We're going to discuss it later when we come to classic theories of gaslighting.


So the first mechanism is deja vu.

The second mechanism used in gaslighting is exactly the opposite.

Je mevi. Je mevi. Never saw. The familiar is made to look or to sound strange. Again, it's a French phrase. I don't know why the French. Why French? Why they caught on to all these techniques and mechanisms.

But it's a fact. It means never seen. It's experiencing a situation that one recognizes in some fashion, but that nonetheless seems novel, unsettling, unfamiliar, anxiety inducing.

It is the opposite of deja vu. Je mevi involves a sense of eeriness, creepiness. There's an impression of experiencing something for the first time, despite knowing rationally that you had experienced it before several times.

So, je mevi vu also is associated with aphasia, amnesia, epilepsy.

So it's a dissociative state exactly like deja vu. And like deja vu, the abuser induces in you, je mevi vu.

It is precisely the abuser's ability to produce conflicting states of mind, conflicting dissociations that gives him his immense power over you.

Je mevi vu is commonly experienced when a person momentarily does not recognize a word, a sound, a sight, a place, a time that they know that they know.

They just don't feel that they know.

So there's a divorce between cognition and perception of emotion, perception of sense.

On the one hand, you know that you've been here before. You know you've done that before. You know you've experienced it before, but you don't feel that you had.

So this creates a divorce between you and reality, and it is this daylight between your perception of yourself and your perception of reality, this crack, this abyss that allows the abuser to get through and enter your mind.

Anyone repeatedly writing or saying a specific word out loud has this notion.

It begins to feel like, no way is this a real word. No way I've heard it before. This is an example of je mevi vu.

Je mevi vu is associated with a delirious disorder, intoxication, substance abuse, delusions such as the captious delusion and so on and so forth.

So it has its place in the pantheon of pathologies of the human mind. It also induces the imposter syndrome.

You begin to feel so unreal that you begin to experience yourself as an actor, as an imposter.

In other words, the abuser had exported to you his own self perception.

Most abusers are dissociative. Many of them are narcissistic, and they perceive themselves as spectators, as observers of a movie. They perceive their lives as a kind of film or flick that they are watching or observing with some mild interest. They don't really inhabit.

Abusers don't really inhabit their lives. They're from the outside. Their lives are like theater productions. They're like directors or actors.

So by inducing in your combination of de je vu and je mevi vu, they make you feel the same.

This is the initial phase of narcissistic contagion.

When the narcissist infects you with a virus of narcissism, you're beginning to see the world through his eyes. You're beginning to perceive yourself as unreal as he perceives himself. You're beginning to adopt his cognitive distortions.

You're beginning, for example, to adulate him because you had accepted his grandiosity as a realistic assessment of the world.

It's very similar to depersonalization. The very reality of reality is doubted. Derealization.

Abusers also use, in order to gaslight, de je vu. De je vu means "I had already lived." It's an intense but false, wrong feeling of having already lived through the present situation. It's a form of de je vu, but much more intense. It's very akin psychologically to a true flashback.

There's no such thing as emotional flashback. It is nonsensical hype. But there is such thing as flashback or reveredness.

Flashback or reveredness are the outcomes of hormones of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

De je vu is a mild, mild feigned form of flashback because for a minute there, you lose the distinction between reality and delusion.

For a minute there, you're really into the alternative reality, preferred to you and imposed on you by the abuser.

Unlike de je vu, de je vu has behavioral consequences because people act in the environment as if it were some other reality than what it is.

It compels you to abandon reality and to enter a virtual reality, a second life, a metaverse.

There's an intense feeling of familiarity. And so you prefer to withdraw from real life events or activities and inhabit this fantastic space known as paracosm.

And patients who have de je vu justify their feelings of familiarity with beliefs that are essentially delusional.

The abuser induces in you de je vu by penalizing you if you refuse to adhere to his reality, if you refuse to enter the reality space that he had created for both of you.

It's a cult-like setting. You're like an account. And if you oppose the cult leader, which is the abuser, or especially the narcissistic abuser, then you're penalized.

On the other hand, in addition to the stick, there's a carrot. If you do accept the abuser's reality and act accordingly, if your acceptance of his reality has behavioral manifestations which he can monitor and witness, he rewards you.

He gives you a prize. He praises you. He elevates you. He renders you his favorite, etc.

So they're very strong incentives with intermittent reinforcement involved. They're very strong incentives to let go of real reality and to adopt the fake reality, which is the abuser's reality, thereby experiencing periods of de je vu.

And so these are the mechanisms that are used in Gaslight.

There's another much less known mechanism, which is what Foucault, Michel Foucault, the famous social theorist and critic, Michel Foucault called it "de jala".

In Madness and Civilization, a history of insanity in the Age of Risen, which is a book he had written and published in 1961, "Foli des raisons, histoire de la folie, a larges clasique".

So in 1961, Michel Foucault examined the evolution of the meaning of madness in culture, law, politics, philosophy and medicine, especially in Europe, from the Middle Ages until the end of the 18th century.

And Foucault being Foucault, it's a bit of a complex thing, but I will read to you an excerpt from this book.

And remember, we're discussing Gaslight in one of the mechanisms which are very, very not known, obscure, stealth, ambient, under the radar, surreptitious, very pernicious and nefarious mechanism used by the abuser is de jala.

And so Michel Foucault described de jala this way.

He said, "Up until the end of the 15th century, or perhaps slightly beyond it, the death theme, the theme of death reigns supreme. The end of mankind, the end of time, are seen in war and the plagues, hanging over a human existence is an order and an end that no man can escape, menacing presence from within the world itself.

Suddenly, as the 15th century drew to a close, that great uncertainty spun on its axis and the derision of madness took over from the seriousness of death.

From the knowledge of that fatal necessity that reduces men to dust, we pass to a contemptuous contemplation of the nothingness that is life itself.

The fear before the absolute limit of death becomes interiorized in the continual process of ironization.

Fear was disarmed in advance, made derisory by being tamed and rendered banal and constantly paraded in the spectacle of life.

Suddenly, it was there to be discerned in the mannerisms, failings and vices of normal people.

Death as a destruction of all things no longer had meaning when life was revealed to be a fatuous sequence of empty words, the hollow jingle of a justice cap and bells.

The death's head showed itself tovessel already empty, for madness was the being already there of death. Death's conquered presence, sketched out in these everyday signs, showed not only that its reign had already begun, but also that its prize was a meager one.

Death unmasked the mask of life and nothing more.

So, this is typical Foucault. This is a translation of Kalfa and Murphy in 2000. It's a typical Foucault.

I'll try to translate Foucault into normal language.

What Foucault says is, in the 15th century, Western civilization transitioned from having a preoccupation with death to having a preoccupation or an obsession with mental illness.

Foucault says it makes sense because to be crazy, to be mad, is similar to being dead, mentally dead.

And so, mad, crazy people and dead people are no longer functional. They're no longer able to participate in reality. One could say that they are no longer in society.

Foucault says that this cultural transition from the emphasis on death to the obsession with madness happened when Western society realized the similarity between being crazy and being dead and realized that madness is just as bad as death.

It's essentially a form of death before the physiological form.

It seems that there is a notion of death before death, and this is deja l'un.

Now, how does this fit into gaslighting?

Gaslighting involves the process of killing you mentally. It involves the process of driving you crazy.

Madness. The abuser introduces madness into your system. He chaotizes it.

Crazy making. He makes you doubt your own existence.

To all practical purposes, you die.

And then he offers you, the abuser offers you, a resurrection. He gives you the option to be reborn. A second life, a second chance.

But the condition is that you accept his reality. You will never die, tells you, the abuser, as long as you're with me, as long as you occupy and cohabit with me in the same space, as long as you become an internal object, an extension of me without will, without degrees of freedom, without challenge or criticism.

And this is deja l'un.


Okay. Back to Angela Hout of the Washington Post. Do you remember the article published in the Washington Post a few days ago? Here's what she says about gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a manipulative form of communication where power differential exists, said Angela Corbo, an associate professor and chair of communication studies at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships or friendships between parents and children when seeking medical care or at work.

"I see it as one party distorting information and preying upon another's vulnerability, said Corbo.

She likened it to a more sophisticated way of looking at bullying.

Medical gaslighting, by the way, is very trendy right now. It's when a medical professional downplays a patient's concerns, tries to persuade the patient that their symptoms are imaginary or the result of mental instability.

Back to the article.

Gaslighting continues Hout. Gaslighting is a devastating psychological tactic combining elements of manipulation, control and exploitation of trust, said Angela Corbo.

"The trust, said Naomi Torres-Makie, a psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and head of research at the Mental Health Coalition.

Torres-Makie continues, "Those things, manipulation, control, exploitation of trust, those things are the building blocks of gaslighting.

Gaslighting is also a pattern of behavior that occurs over a long duration and not on a one-off basis. A gaslighter will repeatedly twist events to shift blame to someone else, and this emotional abuse can result in victims questioning their sanity.

Experts previously believed that gaslighting was always intentional, but they now think that it's possible that some gaslighters are not aware of their manipulative behavior, which is something I've been saying for well over 15 years.

Even when the narcissist gaslights, he is not aware that he is gaslighting. His gaslighting is not intentional. He fully believes in his alternative extended augmented virtual reality.

Psychopaths gaslight intentionally.

The article continues, "Over the long term, being on the receiving end of gaslighting can lead to lower self-worth, feelings of insecurity, depression and anxiety. It can also cause someone to be consumed with self-doubt, said Torres-Makie, who has worked with many patients who have experienced gaslighting.

"It can be difficult to trust people in the future or to connect with people, plus, you often feel very disconnected from yourself because of this experience of feeling out of touch with what's real and what's not.

The article lists a series of signs that you are being gaslit and connects gaslighting to toxic relationships, wish to control someone and losing grip over the partner.

So it's a desperate attempt to regain control over the partner. And the signs listed are "invalidation of your emotions."

People who gaslight often trivialize or invalidate their victims' feelings. "Very undermining comments are common," Torres-Makie said.

For example, someone might say, "You're just being dramatic. Why do you care about this so much?" Other common phrases include "You're too sensitive. You're crazy. You're imagining things. And don't get so worked up. I can add to this a long list like you're paranoid." And so, "invalidation" is an integral part of gaslighting. It is very disorienting.

And you begin to question how you feel. Question yourself. Question your reality because of this invalidation, especially when the abuser is in a position of authority or when you admire the abuser, which is the common cult-like setting with narcissists.


Another hallmark of gaslighting is the twisting of reality.

The article says, "People who gaslight will flip things and twist them back on you," Torres-Makie said.

"They will be adamant that you did or that you said things. You know you did not.

Torres-Makie describes the situation.

One partner calling the other "stupid." Then that person says, "Hey, you called me stupid." Projection. The person who initially made the derogatory comment might then say, "I didn't call you stupid. You called me stupid." Etc.

So these are lies intended to distort reality and control the situation.

But in the case of many narcissists, they don't realize it's a lie.

Owing to very powerful mechanisms of reaction for defense mechanisms like reaction formation, projection and splitting. Same with borderline.

Very often they don't realize that they're projecting or splitting.

Gaslighting involves coercion. The gaslighter forces you to admit that you're wrong. And if you refuse to admit that you're wrong, you're penalized. You're punished.

He forces you, for example, to apologize. Even if you are the one who feels betrayed, gaslighters change the narrative. They blame shift. They victimize self-victimize. They make you feel bad and guilty and ashamed and ego-distonic.

And so you end up accepting the reality. You end up apologizing.

They say to you, "You made me do it." They pin their bad behavior on you somehow. You're the source. And if you're a people pleaser, you take responsibility for things you didn't do.

This is called "autoplastic defenses."

The gaslighter is always assured, confident, strong, explosive, repetitive. He entrains you. He makes you feel deja vu and jamevu and all these mechanisms.

Jamevque.

And so you are in a state of disorientation and you don't know what to trust and who to trust anymore.

It's much easier to simply succumb, to surrender, to become submissive and to say you're right. You're right. I've been wrong and I've been wrong all along.

It leaves you mistrusting your perception. You start doubting yourself, constantly questioning what is real and where you are reacting.

Did you misunderstand a certain situation?

The article quotes Ackerman.

If you start to have a disproportionate amount of doubt in yourself that was not previously there, that's a sign of gaslighting.

You may think maybe I'm crazy, maybe I am paranoid, maybe I am too sensitive. Whatever that person is calling you, his voice is in your mind.

This is entraining. It's taking over your mind. He implants his own voice in your mind. It's an introject. It's an internal object. It's a and you can't get rid of it.

In early childhood, this is known as the imago processing, but it can happen to you as an adult.

The abuser regresses you to early childhood and then implants his voice in your mind. You tend to repeat this voice in your mind.

If this voice says you're paranoid, you would say, well, maybe I'm paranoid. If this voice says you're too sensitive, say, well, maybe I'm hypervigilant and hypersensitive.

You tend to blame yourself. And you need to understand that you're being gaslit. You need to identify the situation of gaslighting.

Is there a power of symmetry? Is there a question of trust?

Do you did you give up on reality as you had known it? Are you beginning beginning to mimic your abuser?

Resonate with him. Repeat his phrases. Ad nauseam. Did he take over?

You need to recognize a takeover, a hostile takeover. It's a form. It's a subtle form of interpersonal abuse because the abuser often doesn't attack you personally. He attacks reality. He doesn't tell you something's wrong with you. He tells you something is wrong with your reality.

And so it's kind of a by proxy abuse, vicarious abuse. So it's under the radar. It's very difficult to spot and to tackle.

But just knowing that you're abused, just labeling it gaslighting, that's very, very important.

And some therapists says you are giving yourself some clarity and removing the extra tax on your brain as it struggles to make sense of what's happening.

Pay attention to how you feel. Journal. Write a journal. Write it down.

Every time you're in doubt, write it down. Document every event.

However, however minute, however inconsequential.

You're brewing coffee. Take a photo. You're saying something. Record yourself. Document, document, document.

Create hundreds of photographs a day in order to fight back.

Ask yourself, how do I feel when I'm around that person?

Corbo suggests the following questions.

Do I feel anxious? Do I fear that the person is going to contradict me? Do I find that I might be ready? I might be really confident and outgoing when I'm not with him.

But when I'm with him, I feel fuzzy. Do I think that something's wrong? Can I identify what's wrong?

Write. Write times. Write dates. Write down places. Write document feelings. Make a detailed minutia record of your life so that whenever you self-doubt, you can go back to this record and remind yourself how things truly were, how things stood, how did you feel?

No one will be able to gaslight you because this kind of record creates self-trust.

Gradually, you will not need these crutches. I mean, you will stop journaling and you will stop writing and documenting everything down.

Once your self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth had been stabilized, regulated and restored, assert yourself.

If he starts to gaslight, stop the conversation.

Torres McKee says, "Assert your own reality as much as you can and as much as is safe."

You could say, "No, you were the one who called me stupid. Don't twist it. Don't try to gaslight me."

It sounds like Speck says, another psychologist, Speck says, "It sounds like you're having a really hard time hearing what I'm saying. I know what I felt and it's important for me to voice this.

This is what you should say to your abuser.

It doesn't sound like you can take in this perspective. I no longer want to engage in this conversation. You're gaslighting me.

If you're ready to hear how I felt and to discuss it, I'll be open to do this at a later time.

Walk away. Call someone you're close to. Restore your reality testing. Tell a friend, you know, "I know this thing happened and he's trying to tell me that it's not true. I need to share this with you in order to ground myself."

Torres McKee continues, "Otherwise, you only have that one person who is telling you this false reality and it's easy to get swept into that reality and least support. Use other people as external memory.

Your identity crucially depends on input from other people and don't hesitate to involve authorities or structures within your environment.

For example, if you're being gaslit at work, involve the human resources department. If you're being gaslit by a dangerous abuser, involve the police. Don't hesitate to involve not only your social network, not only your friends and family.

Remember, sunlight disinfects abuse. In extreme cases, you would need to walk away. You would need even to resign your job.

But until then, try to confront the gaslighter. Address the situation.

Torres McKee suggests saying, "Hey, you're telling me something but my sense is this other thing is right or true. How can we account for this difference?"

Try to reason with a gaslighter because many gaslighters, as I repeat, don't know what they're doing.

See if you can find colleagues who may be experiencing the same thing with the same person.

Torres McKee continues, "There's strength in numbers. If someone is doing it to you, it's likely they might be doing it to more people and it can help you get support.

And finally, of course, talk to a professional. If the gaslighting had been all pervasive and lasted for many, many years, this voice is embedded in your mind.

You need to separate and deviate from your abuser. It's exactly like being a two-year-old, exactly like undergoing this traumatic process all over again without a safe base.

So you need a safe base. Your safe base could be your therapist.

Recovering can take years. You need to work with a therapist because you need to feel safe and you need to have external validating input.

Gaslighting is emotional abuse. This person has taken over your life.

Talking to a professional breaks this pattern and provides a counterweight to your gaslighter.

The therapist is a modeling agent. You model yourself after the therapist. He provides you with a good enough parent as opposed to the bad or dead parent that your abuser is emulating.

Use all these tools.

Gaslighting is dangerous for your mental health. It's possibly the most dangerous technique that abusers use, and that is saying a lot.

Lying is one of the myths associated with narcissism. And the reason there are so many nonsensical myths about narcissism is that people came online and without any qualifications and any relevant credentials, declared themselves to be experts on narcissism. And so they propagated, unmitigated trash and rubbish.

And so let's inspect eight or so of the myths.


First of all, unambiguous physical or sexual abuse rarely results in adult secondary narcissism. To be afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder, one needs to be pedestalized, idolized, hampered, instrumentalized or parentified as a child, and then abruptly and cruelly discarded by the parent.

The adult narcissist spends a lifetime trying to recapture those lost moments of parental idealization.

Myth number two, narcissists do have emotions, but they have access to and experience only negative affectivity, rage, envy, hatred and the like. So they do have emotions.

Number three, narcissists do have empathy. They have a truncated form of empathy, cold empathy, which allows them to spot and leverage the vulnerabilities in their targets.

Next, narcissists dread abandonment. They have separation insecurity or separation anxiety. They dread abandonment exactly like borderlines do.

Narcissists are often dysphoric, often depressed, especially when they fail to secure narcissistic supply.

Number five, grandiosity is about being unique. Grandiosity is not about being the best. It's not about being the greatest. It's not about being the most. It's about being unique, special, sui generis, one of a kind.

So the narcissist can brag, for example, about being the perfect loser, the uninterrupted failure, the quintessential victim, being a loser, a failure and a victim. This doesn't strike people as grandiosity, but it is if you are the ultimate victim, the peak of looseship, etc.

So the grandiosity is about being special.

Next, sub-narcissists are pro-social, communal. These narcissists are morally upright, altruistic and charitable. They are ostentatious and grandiose about it all, but they still are friendly and integrated in society, sometimes as pillars of a community.

Next, narcissists cheat, romantically cheat, I mean, extramarital affairs. Narcissists cheat less often than psychopaths because they're prone to abandonmentanxiety. They're terrified of losing their partners. Narcissists are less faithful during the bargaining and devaluation phases of the shared fantasy, but in all the other phases, they're actually unusually faithful.

We misattribute to narcissists traits and behaviors because most of you are misled, especially by people online, and few of you bother to read scholarly literature, including these self-styled experts.

But misattribution is a general problem. There is something called misattribution error, or attribution error or attribution bias. That is, when we attribute to other people motivations that reflect on who they are, rather than analyzing the decision-making process of other people, we say, well, that's the way they are. And this is called attribution error.

We misattribute the most likely motivations to our actions and to other people's choices and behaviors.

Often, the picture is much more complex and involves layers upon layers of occult hidden reasons and causes.

I'll give you three examples.

Take, for example, toxic relationships. When you ask people, why do you stay in a toxic relationship, some of them will say, well, trauma bonding, or some such phrase, which they have little idea what it means.

But sometimes people remain trapped for decades in toxic relationships, not because they pity the partner, not because they love the partner, not because they are bonded with the partner, but because they seek to continue to punish their mates for past transgressions, real transgressions, perceived transgressions, or imagined transgressions.

There's a dynamic of vengeance going on in many toxic relationships. I recommend that you watch the movie Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Take another example, sunk costs. People make new decisions or persevere with old ones because they had already invested resources, however minimally, in a certain course of action. They chose a course of action and they had made investments, minimal investments. Any investment, however small, yields commitment. And this is regardless of outcomes. The outcomes could be negative. The person can even foresee correctly that the outcomes may be negative.

But the fact that he had invested in the course of action means he's going to continue to the bitter end.

And finally, let's take as example, celibacy. Some narcissists all opt for lifelong celibacy because they are incapable of either sustaining a sexually active long term relationship and they are also incapable of having casual sex because it undermines the sense of uniqueness and grandiosity.

So these narcissists are in a bind. They're in a catch 22. They can't have sex in long term relationships and they have abandonment anxiety. They're afraid to lose their partner so they don't cheat. And they can't have casual sex.

So they end up being celibate. Ascelibate.

As you see, nothing is as it looks. Very often when you come across a lie or a deception or a confabulation, you should ask yourself, how does the other person perceive it?

If it is someone with borderline narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder, they may well not realize that they're lying. Their world is constructed on falsity.

What is the false self? It's false. The world is founded on fantasy.

The world of people with cluster B personality disorders is founded on a fantasy defense gone awry, malignant fantasy.

And so they have great difficulty to tell the difference between reality and alternative reality, reality and fantasy. It's all blurred. It's all fuzzy. It's all dreamy, dreamlike.

And so don't be too harsh on these people.

A psychopath is the only one who uses lying and confabulation and prevarication to obtain goals.

But even with the psychopath, even with the psychopath, often there is comorbidity, for example, with borderline. It's pretty common.

So be more understanding. Try to go to the roots of the lie. Try to see what function the lie that fulfilled.

You remember the classification? The eight roles of lies? The eight functions of lies?

Try to understand why you are being lied to.

And then create the environment in the circumstances where the person with cluster B may feel safe enough to tell you the truth.

Hello, students, faculty, dear esteemed colleagues. This is the second winter semester lecture. And today we are going to focus on flashbacks.

Flashbacks in post-traumatic stress disorder and the new construct of emotional flashbacks in CPTSD.

Is this construct valid or is it yet another example of internet hype with no clinical significance or meaning?

We're going to delve deep into the issues of trauma and dissociation, especially in victims of various forms of abuse.

So it's going to be a bumpy ride. I hope all of you don't end up the lecture feeling that you have been victimized.


One service announcement before we start. This is a joint lecture both for Southern Federal University in West Oveston in Russia, Russian Federation, and for the outreach program of CIAPS, Center for International Advanced Professional Studies.

Now, those of you who are enrolled in the CIAPS program, completing your doctorates and post-doctorates, please do not submit your assignments via your Alma Mater. Log it into your student accounts. Click on Outreach. Identify and isolate CIAPS. You'll find me there in the Faculty of Finance and the Faculty of Psychology.

Please submit your assignments via the outreach program of CIAPS, not directly via your university because I'm not going to get them. I don't have access to all the universities which participate in the consortium of CIAPS. I have access only to the outreach program.

Okay, enough traumatizing you with all kinds of announcements. Let's get to the point.


Long ago, to be precise, 25 years ago, I had suggested that the human mind works with three processes, not two.

Until recently, we thought that people interact with the environment and with each other via cognitions or via emotions.

And then there's a school. The new thinking is that emotions are actually subspecies of cognitions. They are a form of cognition.

So whether you subscribe to this school and consider emotions a type of cognition and whether you don't, I suggested to add a third way of relating to the world and interacting with it, and that is trauma.

So I suggested three processes, not two. Cognition, emotion and trauma or dissociation.

And I suggested that all three are arranged in what we call memories.

Traumas override cognitions. They override emotions with new content.

That is not an original insight of mine. That was described amply and vividly and thoroughly by Schneider.

And Schneider called it silencing. It's a process where cognitions and emotions are not deleted. They don't disappear. They don't vanish. They are overwritten. They are replaced with other cognitions and emotions, which are essentially dissociative or dissociated.

So trauma is an entirely separate, distinct mental universe. Trauma is not the absence of something. It's a presence in its own way.

People react to the world by thinking about it, cognition, by feeling something, emotion, and by dissociating, by rewriting reality, by bearing, ignoring, denying, reframing and replacing reality with internally generated cognitions and emotions.

And of course, in this particular case, we would have dissociation of reality, but not dissociation of internal objects.

This is a very, very crucial distinction. Dissociation pertains to external objects.

You can have a situation where you dissociate external objects and reality, but you are fully in touch with and interact with internal objects, which would lead us a bit later to the issue of emotional flashbacks.


I refer in the meantime to work by Vasquez, Hervas, Schneider, Dell, and Perez Salis.

All these scholars have dedicated their work to the issue of thought suppression. Schneider came with a pretty amazing construct of silencing.

Trauma, therefore, is a language. It's a language of dissociation. It's a language that deals exclusively with internal objects while fending off, firewalling, denying, reframing, eliminating, ignoring external objects. It's a solipsistic inner landscape, inner world language.

And this, of course, immediately reminds us of the unconscious. This is what psychoanalysis had described as the unconscious.

And when we look at defense mechanisms, to remind you, defense mechanisms, the main function of defense mechanisms, is to reframe reality in a way that will not be injurious, in a way that will not damage the individual, to change the perception of reality, to change analytic cognitions and emotions in ways which would conform to, would be egosyntonic, conform to self-perception, what Freud called ego ideal, and so on and so forth.

So defense mechanisms allow us to survive in the world by essentially falsifying it.

And so defense mechanisms, if we accept this new proposition that I'm making, that cognition, emotion and trauma are three languages, we immediately see that there are defense mechanisms dedicated to falsifying cognitions.

One example, rationalization or intellectualization. There's a cognitive defense mechanism, usually intended to resolve cognitive dissonance.

And then we see another group of defense mechanisms which have to do with emotions, denial, projection. And finally, we see defense mechanisms which have to do, which are exclusively dedicated to the processing of trauma.

One very early example is repression.

So trauma is the language. It's a language of dissociation. It's a language that we use to make sense of the world, to organize it, to imbue it with meaning, to obtain and to secure self efficacious outcomes and thereby enhance our agency.

And so if this is right, and if trauma is on par with emotions, same as cognitions, then trauma should be very frequent.

And indeed, I claim in my early work and in my recent work, I claim the trauma is as frequent as emotions, as common as cognitions.

And I refer you to earlier videos I've made, they're all available on my YouTube channel, and start with the one about structural dissociation.

In 1995, when I started my work, my initial focus was on victims of abuse, especially narcissistic abuse. In 1995, I was the first to suggest that victims of narcissistic abuse suffer from complex trauma or complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

This was five years after Judith Herman proposed this new diagnosis. Judith Herman worked with veterans of war, especially the Vietnam War.

But she hinted in her early work in 1991 that CPTSD could in principle also be applied to domestic violence victims.

So I took it, took the ball and ran with it. And I suggested that CPTSD is a common outcome of narcissistic abuse.

But I didn't develop it further, and I shifted my focus to narcissism.


So now before we start with flashbacks, I would like to introduce you to the taxonomy, the terminological classification, which was proposed six years ago by Kvavilashvili.

I don't know why all psychologists have these names. I think they may have become psychologists because they have these names. These names are seriously traumatic.

Anyhow, Kvavilashvili in 2014 suggested a consistent terminology.

First of all, there are involuntary autobiographical memory. This is an everyday memory phenomenon. Very often we keep being reminded of something which we would rather forget.

And Boone and Drager in 1993, they noticed that when there's PTSD, we have these involuntary autobiographical memories.

So this is the first class.

Then there are intrusive memories. While the involuntary autobiographical memories are an everyday phenomenon, intrusive memories are involuntary memories with repeated and usually distressing content, generally associated with psychological disorders.

So involuntary autobiographical memories, we all have them.

Then intrusive memories, which are beginning to be a pathology, we are transitioning now from mental health to mental illness.

And finally, the cherry on the top is flashbacks.

Flashbacks are involuntary memories involving re-experiencing distressing events in the present thought to occur right now.

So this is very typical of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now the three are not interchangeable. Flashbacks are not involuntary autobiographical memories. Involuntary autobiographical memories are not intrusive memories. And flashbacks are not intrusive memories. It's wrong to confuse these three or to conflate them or even to imply that they contain elements of each other. They don't. These are three extremely distinct phenomena, as I will demonstrate throughout this lecture.

When we talk about when we discuss flashbacks, which is the topic of this lecture, we need to consider several aspects and parameters and dimensions of flashbacks.

For example, how frequent are they? How toxic? Psychologically toxic. And do they create any functional impairment?

When we conceive of flashbacks using these three parameters, they begin to look a lot like dissociative disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder usually involves dissociation. Again, Boone and Drager in 1993. Koons, COH, NS in 1996. Middleton and Butler in 1998. All of them were scholars who had first suggested the affinity and even the comorbidity between flashbacks and dissociative phenomena. They were not dissociative symptoms or dissociative disorders. They made early claims that both flashbacks and dissociative disorders are elements of PTSD, a claim that today is much disputed, as you will see.

As a good introduction, I would refer you to Paul F. Dell.

Paul F. Dell is one of the preeminent scholars of dissociation in the world. He had written a chapter titled Understanding Dissociation, and it was published in the Bible of Dissociation. It's a book called Dissociation and the Dissociative Disorders, DSM-5 and Beyond.

And in this chapter, he suggested that, I quote, dissociative flashbacks are a type of hallucination triggered by amygdala amplified intrusive memories of post-traumatic stress disorder.

They are not a valid indicator of blocked or dissociated trauma. This was written a few years back. Today we know that patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, patients who have dissociated trauma, they manifest flashbacks more often than patients who don't have dissociated trauma.

So people with post-traumatic stress disorder can have dissociation where they took the trauma and they buried it. They forgot it. They dissociated it. They eliminated it from their conscious memories.

So this is one type of PTSD with dissociated trauma. And another type of PTSD is without dissociated trauma.

And people who have PTSD with dissociated trauma, they have very frequent flashbacks, much more frequently than people who did not exercise dissociation.

And so there are several possible explanations of flashbacks.


The first is maybe flashbacks are, and these are all hypotheses, you should realize or you should know that the topic of flashbacks is understudied. We don't know a lot about flashbacks. We definitely don't know anything or very little about the etiology of flashbacks, how they are brought about.

A functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain of people experiencing flashbacks had shown amazing made up and upheaval. A upheaval not necessarily in the amygdala, but strangely in the prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain involved with learning and memory.

So we were surprised.

This is another argument in favor of my suggestion, my proposal.

I don't think that flashbacks have a lot to do with emotions or with the amygdala. I think they're actually a third type of language, a third type of communication, a third framework of relating to the world. And as a third language, as a language, they would tend to use the prefrontal cortex, not the amygdala.


Anyway, there are five schools as to the origin, etiology of flashbacks and how they come about.

The first one is that flashbacks are dissociation, potentiated repression.

Second school says that it's an intrusion from a dissociated structure.

So both these schools associate flashbacks with dissociation.

The third school says that it's an evolutionary form of dissociation.

The fourth group of scholars suggest that flashbacks are actually depersonalization or derealization. And if they happen very frequently, then it's a form, a subspecies of depersonalization disorder.

That's not saying much because depersonalization and derealization together with amnesia are dissociative symptoms.

Again, we come full circle to dissociation.

Finally, the last school of thought is that flashbacks are a conversion disorder without unconscious motivation and purpose.

It's like the body goes on automatic pilot and reacts without any motivation, goal direction or context, reason or rhyme. The body just takes over.

Pete Walker, who had written a very popular book about complex post-traumatic stress disorder, calls it amygdala hijacking.

Regrettably, functional magnetic resonance imaging doesn't tend to support this particular phrase. It's not the amygdala that's hijacked, it's other parts of the brain.

But still, the fifth school believed that the body suddenly erupts like a volcano or an earthquake and takes over. That flashbacks are actually when the body takes over from the mind and does whatever it wants. So, conversion disorder.


Dell proposes three or four types of post-traumatic stress disorder. And he conflicts directly with the accepted classification, which is essentially Bremner, the Bremner classification.

Dell proposes that there are four types.

Type number one is overuse of dissociation. And here, he is supported, this claim is supported by work done early on by Lanius, L-A-N-I-U-S and Frewan.

These two scholars demonstrated that when the use of dissociation becomes too frequent, almost automatic, then it provokes flashbacks. And it provokes post-traumatic stress disorder.

So, this is the first type of PTSD.

Second type of PTSD, according to Dell.

And to remind you, the accepted classification is Bremner, not Dell. But I think Dell's classification is much more nuanced, much more subtle, and captures clinical groups that are not captured by Bremner's black and white, one of two types of PTSD.

So, I prefer Dell's classification.

So, the first type of PTSD, overuse of dissociation. Second type, defensive compartmentalization of trauma.

This was suggested decades ago by Spiegel in 1980 that actually PTSD is when we compartmentalize trauma, when we isolate it, we put it in a drawer, and then we shut the drawer with a bang, and that creates PTSD.

Our constant effort, attempt, energy depleting, investment of resources in shutting off the trauma is essentially what we call PTSD.

And then the third type, according to Dell, is hijacked neurobiology with hallucinations. This comes very close to Walker's amygdala hijacking.

And Dell, at the time, 12 years ago, also believed that it was the amygdala that's involved.

As I said, to remind you, fMRI studies had conclusively demonstrated that the amygdala, although involved tangentially, is not the critical part.

And finally, the fourth type of PTSD, according to Dell, is numbing.

Numbing is a form of depersonalization disorder.


Okay, now you have the background.

PTSD, dissociation, the various schools, the various etiologies, and so on and so forth.

So, let's get to the point.

What about emotional flashbacks?

To make clear, since we are in a university setting right now, the academic community had resoundingly and uniformly rejected the construct of emotional flashback.

And if I have to look objectively, or try to look objectively, of course, I would also tend to reject it.

Not entirely, though. Not entirely, and this is the topic of this lecture, but in large measure.

One of the main reasons I find it very difficult to accept the construct of emotional flashback is that emotions are forms of cognitions, and they are not stable across time.

When we dredge up emotions, when we have emotional recall, when we remember emotions, autobiographical, intrusive memories, you remember the classification.

So, we actually invent them. We recreate them. We reassemble them. Memories are not stable across time.

Emotions are not stable across time. And memories of emotions have totally, have very little to do with the original emotion.

This had been demonstrated in hundreds of studies.

When we remember something, even if it is a cognition, which is much easier to remember, even if it is an event, even if it is something that happened to us autobiographically, even if it is an accident we saw, even if it was an imprinting event like the assassination of John F. Kennedy or 9/11, even then we remember wrongly, we tend to get 50% of the content of the memory wrong within one year, and 90% of the content of the memory wrong in 10 years.

Let me be clear. 90% of what you think you remember is factually wrong, is counterfactual. The figure is much higher if you are trying to recall your emotions, because there are defenses involved.

There is a falsification of reality, you remember? We discussed it a few minutes ago.

So when we try to recall emotions, this is totally made up. This has totally nothing to do with how we had really felt at the time.

This is what we think we had felt. This is how we feel today about what we had felt.

But it's not how we had felt.

We can never recall emotions properly, really, faithfully, loyally, accurately, no way.

The emotions, when you think right now about an unpleasant event, a traumatic event, a happy event, you re-experience emotions. You experience pain, shame, happiness, but they are not the same emotions that you had experienced then. They are not even close to the same emotions that you had experienced then.

You cannot recall emotions. You cannot dredge them up.

What you do is reconstruct them, reframe, recreate, and this applies to memories as well.

Now, since this is the case, emotional flashbacks is an oxymoron. Flashbacks is not the clinical term.

The clinical term is "revividness". Revividness, living again, re-living, re-experiencing. Flashbacks are authentic, faithful, loyal, super-accurate recreations of a moment in time, of an experience, especially a traumatic experience, but not necessarily.

99% of the cases, it's a traumatic experience, but the experience is recreated so correctly, so precisely, so vividly, so colorfully that the person experiencing a flashback is thrown back in time and is again there and then.

And his recollection, his recall is perfect. His recall is perfect.

In this sense, Delhi is right. It's a kind of hypnotic hallucination. It's akin to hypnosis.

Indeed, studies have shown that people who are easily hypnotizable suffer many more flashbacks following a traumatic event than people who are not suggestible, cannot be hypnotized.

It seems that flashbacks are hypnosis, a form of hypnosis.

But with accurate, faithful content, emotions never have, are never accurate, never precise, never faithful to the original.

So how can you have emotional flashbacks? You can't. You simply can't. They don't sit well together.

What you have is maybe painful emotional recall. You remember the classification by Kvavilashvili?

You may have involuntary autobiographical memories. You may even have intrusive memories of emotions. These are involuntary emotional memories with repeated and usually distressing content.

But these are not flashbacks. These are not flashbacks because they are false. They are wrong. They are erroneous. They are mistaken.

The emotions you feel today about your divorce ten years ago are not the same emotions you had felt during the divorce. They are your emotions today and they are very little to do with your emotions then.

Because time has passed, cognitive processing had happened, defense mechanism kicked in. A lot has been delegated to the unconscious via trauma, traumatic dissociation.

So your state of mind right now, even if you feel that your state of mind is being hijacked by some overwhelming and overpowering emotion, this state of mind has nothing to do with the original state of mind.

Therefore, and for this reason only, I mean this reason only is sufficient to disqualify the concept of emotional flashbacks.

There are many other reasons. There are many other reasons to conclude that emotional flashbacks is a very, very wrong construct.

But to be fair, I would like to quote Pete Walker's suggestion, things he had written about emotional flashbacks.


This was published in Psychotherapy.net. And he wrote an article titled "Emotional Flashbacks and Complex PTSD". And this is what he had written. Pete Walker.

"Emotional flashbacks, sudden and often prolonged regressions, amygdala hijackings, to the frightening and abandoned feeling states of childhood. They are accompanied by inappropriate and intense arousal of the fight-flight instinct, the sympathetic nervous system. Typically, they manifest as intense and confusing episodes of fear, toxic shame, and/or despair, which often beget angry reactions against the self or others.

When fear is a dominant emotion in an emotional flashback, the individual feels overwhelmed, panicky, or even suicidal. When despair predominates, it creates a sense of profound numbness, paralysis, and an urgent need to hide.

Feeling small, young, fragile, powerless, and helpless is also common in emotional flashbacks. Such experiences are typically overlaid with toxic shame, which, as described in John Brightshow's "Healing the Shame that Binds", obliterates an individual's self-esteem with an overpowering sense that she is as worthless, stupid, contemptible, or fatally flawed as she was viewed by her original caregivers.

Toxic shame inhibits the individual from seeking comfort and support, and in a reenactment of the childhood abandonment she is flashing back to, isolates her in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness.

Clients who view themselves as worthless, defective, ugly, or despicable are showing signs of being lost in an emotional flashback.

When stuck in this state, they often polarize, effectively, into intense self-hate and self-disgust, and cognitively into extreme and virulent self-criticism.

Numerous clients tell me, says Pete Walker, that the concept of an emotional flashback brings them a great sense of relief.

They report that for the first time they are able to make sense of their extremely troubled lives.

Some get that their emotional flashbacks can best be understood as the key symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a syndrome afflicting many adults who experienced ongoing abuse or neglect in childhood.

Addictions are misguided attempts to self-medicate.

Some understand the inefficacy of the myriad psychological and spiritual onsense they pursued, and are in turn feel liberated from a shaming plethora of misdiagnoses.

Some can now frame their extreme episodes of risk-taking and self-destructiveness as desperate attempts to distract themselves from their pain.

Many experience hope that they can rid themselves of the habit of amassing evidence of defectiveness or craziness.

Many report a budding recognition that they can challenge the self-hate and self-disgust that typically thwarts their progress in therapy.


Very often a construct that is clinically invalid and relies on absolutely wrong information is very soothing to clients and patients.

But we should never confuse something that works with something that is true.

Faucities, pretensions, faking, outright lies work very well in calming people down, in making them feel content and happy, in restoring inner peace.

This is known as the placebo or even nocebo effect.

People want to be lied to. Lies are comforting. They want to find meaning in a meaningless universe. And they love labels.

But we, as scientists, or aspiring scientists, or at the very least as scholars of the human mind, we must be much more rigorous and we must reject and exclude and suppress anything, anything that is not evidence-based, anything that cannot be repeated and reproduced in experiments and tests. Anything that relies on, patently, wrong information.

And the parts of the text here that mentioned events in the brain are wrong. Simply wrong.

Moreover, the text, as I've read it now, by Pete Walker, is a god-awful confusion between PTSD, dissociation, childhood abuse, trauma. I'm sure he's a nice guy and I'm sure many people feel that they have been helped by him.

But he has a long way to go. There's a lot to learn about trauma, dissociation, PTSD, PTSD and so on and so forth.

I'm sorry, but I would have failed him had he been in my class.


So now let's move from a pop, hype, YouTube scholar to, or wannabe scholar, to be precise, to real scholars.

I'm going to refer you to a few articles and then we're going to delve deeper into the talk.

To start with the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, I suggest that you read the article, article title, "Disfunctional post-traumatic cognitions, post-traumatic stress and depression in children and adolescents exposed to trauma" and network analysis.

The chief authors, the main authors, Anke de Haan and Markus Landolt, together with many others, it was published in November 2019 and I would like to quote a single paragraph.

"The latest version of the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11, proposes a post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD diagnosis, reduced to its core symptoms within the symptom clusters, re-experiencing avoidance and hyperarousal.

Since children and adolescents often show a variety of internalizing and externalizing symptoms in the aftermath of traumatic events, the question arises whether such a conceptualization of the PTSD diagnosis is supported in children and adolescents.

Furthermore, although dysfunctional post-traumatic stress cognitions, PTCS, appear to play an important role in the development and persistence of PTSD in children and adolescents, their function within diagnostic frameworks requires clarification.

And so the results of their study were that the PTSD re-experiencing symptoms, strong overwhelming emotions and strong physical sensations and the depression symptoms, difficulty concentrating, emerged as most central to PTSD.

Items from the same construct were more strongly connected with each other than with items from the other constructs. Dysfunctional cognitions were not more strongly connected to core PTSD symptoms than to depression symptoms.

The conclusions are that our findings provide support that a PTSD diagnosis reduced to its core symptoms could help to disentangle PTSD depression and dysfunctional cognitions.

Using longitudinal data and complementing between subject analysis might provide further insight into the relationship between dysfunctional PTCS, PTSD and depression.


Second article, so, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, November 2019.

A second article I would like to refer you to is an item response theory analysis of the PTSD checklist for DSM-5, implications for DSM-5 and ICD-11. And it was written by Madison Silverstein, Jessica Petri, Kramer, Weathers and others.

Again, I would like to, so it was published in March 2020 in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Journal of Anxiety Disorders, volume 70, an item response theory.

So again, a single quote, "The PTSD checklist is widely used, extensively validated questionnaire for post-traumatic stress disorder. The PCL was revised for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition 2013. And in the updated version, the PCL-5 has continued the strong psychometric performance of the original version.

To further explore the PCL-5 psychometric properties, we used item response theory, IRT, to examine item difficulty and discrimination parameters in separate samples of trauma-exposed undergraduates and community members.

Considering item difficulty, nightmares, flashbacks and reckless or self-destructive behavior emerged among the most difficult items across samples and internal avoidance emerged as the least difficult items across samples.

In terms of item discrimination, inability to experience positive emotions, detachment from others, diminished interest and negative emotions emerged as highly discriminating items in both samples.

And traumatic amnesia and reckless or self-destructive behavior emerged as the least discriminating items in both samples.

The results have implications for the divergent conceptualizations of PTSD.


Okay, and another article I would like to recommend to you. It was published by the American Psychiatric Association. It's titled "Positive side effects in trauma-focused PTSD treatment: Reduction of attendant symptoms and enhancement of effective and structural regulation". It was authored, co-authored by Singl, Höfner, Traute and SAC. It was published in 2020.

Again, I've written a paragraph, "Trauma-Focusing treatmentssuch as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are highly effective in reducing the core symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, intrusive memories and flashbacks, hyperarousal and avoidance.

Additionally, suffering from PTSD is often accompanied by a broader set of mental comorbidities and complaints, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or somatization and disturbed self-regulation abilities.

According to the Adaptive Information Processing Model, SHAPIRO, 2010, the processing of pathogenic memories can help not only to reduce the PTSD symptoms, but also accompanying complaints additionally.

So the method used in this study was an EMDR study of people with PTSD. And then they used these questionnaires to study the effects.

And they applied a series of...

One of the reasons I'm recommending this article to you is that they used multiple types of questionnaires.

So they attacked PTSD symptoms from every possible direction. They used the checklist 90, SCL 90. They used the Beck depression inventory, TorontoAlexithymiaScale 20. They used the Hanover self-regulation inventory, etc.

So they used many, many.

And when you go through the paper, you will get acquainted with the variety of tools we have, diagnostic tools we have.

The results of the study showed that apart from alleviating the PTSD symptoms, exposure-based treatment of pathogenic memories led to a significant decrease in accompanying symptoms such as depression, anxiety and osmatization.

Remember how I started this lecture? When I suggested that trauma is actually a language and that it is intimately connected not with cognition, not with emotion, but with memories.

Furthermore, patients improved their structural abilities with regard to emotional perception and differentiation, controlling impulses, tolerating frustration and regulating self-esteem.

The conclusion is that PTSD core symptoms and comorbid complaints are closely interlinked and can be seen as a traumatic stress cluster, which is accompanied by significant impairments in self and emotion regulation.

Therefore, treatment concepts should explicitly foster emotional processing and structural abilities to target the post-traumatic stress responses entirely.


One classic, by now classic, article which still is the gift that keeps on giving, and I strongly recommend that you start your tour of this world of PTSD, flashbacks and so on. With this article, it's titled "Re-experiencing traumatic events in PTSD: new avenues in research on intrusive memories and flashbacks" and it was written by Chris Brewin in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology in May 2015.

So, this is a very interesting article.

First of all, he puts emphasis on the fact that post-traumatic flashbacks are intrusive, and they entail the re-experiencing of traumatic events in the present. So, it's the equivalent of time travel. And if we travel back in time or forward in time, we expect to get to the real period, not to an imitation of the period or reconstruction of the period or of a sub of the period, but to the real period in time. So, it's mental time travel.

The reconstruction is faithful, and it's not felt as reconstruction. It's so intrusive, it feels real, and it feels real because it is real in every sense of the word almost.

It's not real ontologically, it's not real out there, but it's real inside. That's why emotional flashbacks are a contradiction in terms. Emotions are never, never faithful. They always processed. They always recreated. They always invented.

Emotional recall involves memories. Memories involve invention, creativity, imagination, fantasy, other defense mechanisms.

So, you never get to experience the same emotion twice. So, you never get to have an emotional flashback. You get to have unpleasant emotional recall, but not an emotional flashback.

Post-traumatic flashbacks of all kinds, including in CPTSD.

And here I recommend scholars, not pop culture personalities, even if they are therapists. I recommend real scholars like Judy Herman.

So, flashbacks must include these elements of re-experience.

And the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 5, which was published seven years ago in 2013. It's the first time, believe it or not, since 1980, I mean PTSD has made its appearance in the 1980 edition of the DSM. And yet, flashbacks made it into the DSM as a unique symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder only recently in the fifth edition. And it will make its appearance in the eleventh edition of the ICD. It didn't until now.

So, the clinical status of flashbacks, even classical intrusive, revivid flashbacks, the whole concept of revividness, was very disputed. And the majority of the profession didn't believe in flashbacks, didn't think that they are real phenomena, really separate clinical entities, and let alone emotional flashbacks. And only recently and grudgingly, they were introduced as a symptom of PTSD.

And consequently, over the past 40 or 50 years, there's almost no research into flashbacks.

Research is starting right now. We're trying to understand the cognitive, neurological, biological basis. And we also don't know how to assess flashbacks, how to measure them, how to ascertain that they are happening, how not to confuse and conflate flashbacks with other phenomena, like intrusive memories.

And what about psychosis? And what about people in intensive care? They also have, you know, when people say, "My whole life flashed in front of my eyes." Is this a flashback?

What about psychosis? When there are hallucinations that are so vivid that the psychotic patient feels he's really there. He feels that he's in an alternative reality, an alternative universe.

Body and mind. Is this flashback?

Or should we have a psychotic flashback, which is essentially non-traumatic, but the outcome of confusion between internal and external objects, which is where I'm driving it.


I'm trying to say that trauma is a language element also in healthy people. Everyone has cognitions, emotions and traumas.

And so when there is confusion between internal and external objects, flashbacks are inevitable.

Therefore, we can predict that people with borderline personality disorder will have flashbacks. People with psychotic disorders will have flashbacks and people with narcissistic personality disorder will have flashbacks.

And the whole concept of narcissistic mortification. Narcissistic mortification can be reconceived and redescribed as a flashback. A flashback into a period before the existence of the false self.

So it's a very new field.

When we have frequent intrusive recollections of a traumatic event and when we act and feel as though it were happening again right now, this is dissociative flashback because we dissociate from current reality.

We retreat, we withdraw, we regroup inside so as to avoid the outside.

And if we have frequent intrusive recollections of stressful and unpleasant events, many of them traumatic, this becomes a psychopathology.


Some scholars tried to redescribe or reconceive of the whole concept of psychopathology as essentially a huge giant flashback.

So we have work by Gregory, Lipton, Burgess and even Brevin himself in 2010 suggesting actually that psychopathology is this.

Is the inability, inability to work well with internal and external and the objects that reside, that inhabit these zones.

And consequently having flashbacks, losing track of time, so to speak, re-experiencing, reviving, relieving your past.

And as you can immediately see, emotional flashbacks is a highly inadequate way and also manifestly wrong way to describe this, to capture the essence of flashbacks.

It is the relieving in the present, as Brevin says, it is the relieving in the present that distinguishes intrusive memories in PTSD from intrusive memories in other disorders.

That's another article of his in 2014.

And this insight, as he says, this insight has been incorporated in proposed revisions to the PTSD diagnosis in the ICD-11.

I also refer you to work by Maeser, Stadman, Dal Glish, Smith, Yule and Glucksman in 2013, which fed into the committee process of the ICD.

Brevin says, "Traumatic re-experiencing in PTSD are its involuntary and uncontrollable nature.

The strong sensory impressions and the sense of "nowness" or of the event occurring in the present." Deja vu, yes, we all know this term.

I refer you to work by Dal Glish, Joseph in 1996, Erlaz, Hackman and Michael in 2004, I mean, it's quite well documented.

Brevin continues, "These are phenomena that can be equally observed in children with post-traumatic conditions."

And he is right.

A few years before he had written this article, in 2014, a few years before, in 2008, there was a big study by McKinnon, Nixon and Brewer.

And there was another study the year before that in 2007 by Maeser, Stadman, Dal Glish, Smith, Yule and Glucksman.

And they have demonstrated conclusively that flashbacks can occur in very young children, which again leads me to my original proposition.

We are born with trauma. The process of birth, of course, is traumatic.

Then every stage, separation, individuation, these are all traumas.

And we experience thousands of mini traumas a day.

Trauma is not a cataclysmic life-shattering watershed moment or event.

Trauma is a way of relating to the world. When the world traumatizes us, it's because it is unwieldy. It is unpredictable. It is shocking. It is extraneous because we can't control it, etc.

We react with grandiosity to trauma.

So this is our way of taking on the world.

So it seems that even very, very young children already have traumatic dissociative responses, flashbacks included.

So it must be something very fundamental. It's not something we develop as adults. It's not late onset. It's not something that happens to us because life is tough and life sucks.

It's a tool, a fundamental tool that we have, we are born with. We are born with a toolkit that includes trauma and dissociation as ways of relating to the world and mediating and reframing experience.


Brevin says, "The sense of nowness also distinguishes involuntary memories in PTSD from the involuntary memories reported by depressed patients or individuals who are exposed to trauma without developing PTSD."

And here I refer to work by Bier, Munch, Reynolds. I mean, all these scholars have dealt with this.

So we also, I mean, if we believe that re-experiencing traumatic memories, flashbacks, nowness, deja vu, presence, faithful, authentic, total replica, if we believe that this is an unmutated version, what we are experiencing in the flashback is an unmutated version of what had happened before, then re-experiencing going through flashbacks is not a negative thing, as Pete Walker suggests, and others. It's a very positive thing.

It is an integral part of processing the trauma.

Indeed, Brevin says, re-experiencing trauma memories in the present is predictive of the course of the disorder over and above the effects of initial symptom levels.

I refer you to literature by Klim, Ehlers, Glaser, Halligan, and others who had demonstrated pretty conclusively to my mind that flashbacks are therapeutic and have healing effects.

I incorporated this insight into cold therapy, where I induced flashbacks. I re-traumatized the patient in order to induce healing or therapeutic flashbacks, but they are flashbacks.

I forced the patient to relive and re-experience the trauma, as the treatment proceeds, and not only cold therapy, but EMDR, schema therapy, and Gestalt, and many other types of therapies that deal with trauma, so as the treatment proceeds, of course, the frequency of the flashbacks diminishes.

But we tend to confuse the horse and the cart. The frequency of flashbacks diminishes because the treatment is successful, and there's no need for flashbacks.

Flashbacks is like adhesive tape. It's like plaster, you know, adhesive. It's like self-administered, self-medication. The patient copes with mind, soul-shattering and wounding trauma, which is inside him.

The pent-up energy of the trauma is inside, as Freud had observed.

And Freud himself coined the word "abreaction." That's when in treatment, this power, this energy of the trauma, explodes like a nuclear bomb.

So the patient is aware dimly of this energy. It's very negative, very pernicious, very insidious, very disruptive in this function.

To cope with this, the patient administers, uses, leverages flashbacks.

The main role of flashbacks, in my view, is to suspend the distinction between now and then, external and internal, out there and in here, reality and my mind.

Flashbacks eliminate boundaries and borders and demarcations. Flashbacks allow us for a little while to not cope with intolerable, unbearable reality, but to go back to something we had already coped with.

It's not pleasant. It's devastating. It's retraumatizing. It's painful. It's shocking. But it's familiar.

Flashbacks are trips to the familiar in order to avoid the world, as the world is perceived as hostile, dangerous, unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary, the enemy, a jungle out there.

So we retreat.

And in this sense, I agree with Del.

There is a strong hallucinatory or fantastic element in flashbacks.

Not in the sense that the content is fantastic. The content is faithful and authentic, faithful to the original.

But in the emotional reaction to the flashback, there is an element of escape, an element of fantasy.

I'm no longer here. I'm back in Vietnam. Why is Vietnam preferable? To right here and right now?

Because right here and right now, I have Vietnam plus. I carry Vietnam with me in my mind.

The shouts, the screams, the wounds, the blood, I carry all of it in my mind.

And then in addition to that, on top of that, I have to cope with challenges that reality, the real world is posing.

So sometimes it becomes overwhelming. The the PTSD patient is overwhelmed.

And this is why it's very difficult to tell apart victims of complex trauma from patients with borderline personality disorder.

It's the critical element in borderline personality disorder is emotional dysregulation, when emotions overwhelm the patient.

And the same thing happens with PTSD. The combination of the past, memories of the past, images of the past, smells of the past, all the triggers, the past, plus the demands of the present put together, too much.

And the only way to avoid being overwhelmed is to avoid being.

Flashbacks allow you to not be.

By going back to the past, you cease to exist in the present, of course.

So as long as the underlying PTSD is not treated, of course, flashbacks will continue.

It's the only medicine, the only cure and healing tactic strategy available to the traumatized person addressing flashbacks in therapy contributes to better outcomes of the therapy.

Because we replace self administered amateur medication, which is very disruptive and dangerous in the long term, because the association becomes a habit. It's addictive like everything else.

And all flashbacks are dissociated by definition.

So the person becomes addicted. The frequency of flashbacks increases, never decreases.

So we try to substitute professional clinical treatment for self administered flashbacks.

I refer you to work by Nijdam, Baars, Orff, or LFF and Gersons when they analyze the relationship between reduction in the frequency, intensity, toxicity and so on of flashbacks and treatment outcomes.

And continuing to experience flashbacks, it's a specific indicator of PTSD, of course, no one is disputing that flashbacks is a dissociative and therefore a pathological manifestation of a massive disruption to the inner organization and hermeneutic environment ambience inside the mind.

I refer you to work by Bryant, O'Donnel, Creamer, Macfarlane and Sulloway.

So, Bedew writes, lack of any formal definition of flashbacks or dissociative re-experiencing resulted in uncertainty about whether the term should be reserved for extreme episodes in which individuals completely lose contact with their surroundings for periods of minutes or more. Or whether flashbacks should include all intrusive memories that are accompanied by a sense of relieving the event, relieving the event, revividness in the present, even if only fleeting.

And I think we have fleeting flashbacks hundreds, if not thousands of times a day, exactly as we have fleeting emotions and fleeting cognitions.


Both the DSM-5 and the ICD-11 have new definitions of PTSD and they have opted actually for a much more inclusive view where flashbacks are seen as existing on a continuum between constant, you know, a barrage of flashbacks as a daily occurrence, hundreds, thousands of times a day, and then once in a lifetime, revivid or reliving of a traumatic event somewhere in between.

I would push it further to the left. I think trauma, dissociation and dissociative symptoms such as flashbacks are one of the three main ways of relating to the world, relating both to internal objects within our ego system and to external objects, our reality.

There are three ways, cognition, emotion, dissociation or trauma.

Recently, for completeness sake, because this is an academic setting, I need to review all the literature. That's one of the requirements in my job description.

So I refer to the work of Rubin, Bernstein, Bony, BOH, and I, etc, etc. And they are trying to contest the construct of flashbacks. This is not such thing as flashbacks.

They are no different in principle from autobiographical memories. I leave it to you to read their work. I am not impressed.

So in 2002, Hellwell and Brewin conducted a massive study of PTSD, dissociation and flashbacks.

And in this study, they included a definition of flashbacks, which I think is the best definition ever written. It was 2002, almost 20 years ago. It was one of the pioneering studies of flashbacks and so on.

And this is the definition they used.

A type of memory that you experience is markedly different from those memories of the event that you can retrieve at will.

The difference might be a marked sense of a reliving of the traumatic experiences.

Some report complete reliving, whereas other people report more momentary or partial reliving or perhaps just one aspect of the original experience.

For some people, flashback memories take them by surprise or swamp their mind.

Finally, some people report a sense of time distortion and, for example, react to the flashback memory as though it was an event that was happening in the present.

That captures and encapsulates everything we still know about flashbacks. There's no new knowledge since then.

So this was a study in 2002, and they observed the patients. They asked the patients to classify their traumatic memories.

They asked them to classify the traumatic memories as just memories, sometimes intrusive memories and flashbacks.

So when the patients, when the people who were subjected to the study, when the study participants were describing flashbacks, they had involuntary motor responses. They had ticks, their hand moved, their faces convulsed. They had they lost control over the bodies.

When they were just describing flashbacks in hindsight, working backwards, memories of flashbacks.

And they were not able to perform visual spatial tasks. So their cognition was severely impaired.

Other patients who were describing very difficult traumatic memories, anything from rape to worse, but had no flashbacks, had no problem to perform the visual spatial tasks and their body did not react at all.

So flashbacks are in the nexus between body and mind as one as many trauma scholars keep saying.

The body remembers. Flashbacks are like body memories. And that's why I think emotional flashback is very misleading.

The whole body must be involved. So their body and the mind collaborate or collude to induce a flashback.

We can say the same thing about emotions and the same thing about cognitions.

These are systems that are body mind systems and body mind systems invariably involve identity elements, their identity, they involve identity elements, foremost of which is memory.

But it's not limited only to memory.

Subject for another, another perhaps lecture.

Flashbacks are almost never, if ever, described as positive. They're always negative and they're always arousing.

They create hyperaroused. I'm referring to work by Huntley, but Whaley, W H A L L E Y and others.

Scholars like Chow, LaMauca, Steptoe, they documented increases in heart rate and flashbacks when they're described, they contain sensory words. Words that put into the senses. SENSA.

Much less to emotions, by the way.

When people are asked to describe flashbacks, they rarely use emotional words. They use body words, mentions of death, fear, helplessness and horror, but body based. Like they're about to die or something very bad is going to happen to them.

I refer to work by Hellowind in 2004.

Like the real life situations PTSD patients encounter, the same words and phrases tend to elicit flashbacks repeatedly, but not invariably.

Flashback elicitation is probabilistic rather than a predictable process.

So what's the difference between flashbacks and normal memory or normal episodic memory?

It's because in flashbacks, conscious attention is directed, channel like a laser beam onto objects and scenes such as that by virtue of sharing the same location in space, individual features are bound together to create a stable contextualized representation that can be retrieved or inhibited at will.

That is normal episodic memory.

So memory is an act of will. In typical memory, we first want to remember, then what we do, we collect all kinds of data items, location, smells, sights. We put them together, we bind them together and we embed them in a context and then we retrieve this totally confabulated and invented story, narrative that usually is counterfactual.

90% of memories are wrong after 10 years, 50% are wrong after one year.

So there are studies by Treisman and Gelade as early as 1980 that demonstrate this.

But when there is a traumatic event, there's a problem with attention.

I refer you to my video where I describe the affinity between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, trauma dissociation and personality disorder.

Attention is critical. When we form memories, our attention is usually focused. Our attention shuts out, eliminates 95% of the information. We absorb at any given time less than 5% of the information that reality offers us on a silver plate.

We have very selective attention leads to selective memory.

And based on this process of selectivity, we generate memories that sit well with, that conform to a narrative, a storyline, the script of our lives.

We struggle very hard to maintain a coherent and cohesive story of who we are, what we are, where we are going and when we're going to get there and who other people are in our lives.

Maintaining the internal consistency and external consistency of the story of our lives, these stories, that's the main mental and psychological occupation that we have.

And so trauma disrupts this process.

I'll quote from Bremen.

During traumatic events, however, attention tends to be restricted and focused on the main source of danger so that sensory elements from the wider scene encoded by the perceptual memory system will be less effectively bound together, producing fragmented and poorly contextualized memories that are difficult to control.

Laboratory research has shown that such unattended patterns or events, providing they're sufficiently novel, produce long-term memory traces.

The existence of these traces can be detected, for example, through facilitation or negative priming effects or re-presentation of the stimuli, even though a memory of the original pattern cannot be deliberately retrieved.

I refer you to studies by Treisman, aforementioned Treisman and the Scheper, starting in 1996.

So there is an involuntary element in flashbacks, and flashbacks depend on involvement of an involuntary perceptual memory system that is distinct from ordinary episodic memory.

And Bremen called it in 2010, 2014, he called it the revised dual representation model.

It's like we have a two-track system, voluntary and involuntary.

The voluntary system is what we call ordinary episodic memory, and the involuntary perceptual memory system is, Copp, deals with trauma.

I would reverse the order. I would say the trauma uses the second memory system to relate to the world.

This is the track of the trauma, this is the pathway, the trajectory of trauma.

So cognition and emotion, they use episodic memory formation, while trauma uses the second perceptual track.

So I agree with Bremen that there is a dual representation, but I disagree that the dual representation is an outcome of the trauma.

I think the trauma is fundamental, is initial, we are born with trauma. I think we are born with the capacity to be traumatized.

And we use the second system of perceptual memory.

Now this system is much less organized. It has no narrative. It has no control. It's out of control. Literally out of control. That's why we have flashbacks. And it's out of control because it's not embedded in a context. It's not part of a narrative.

When something is out of context, out of the blue, out in the air, I mean, it's very bothering, it's very disturbing, and you tend to think about it a lot more.

If someone you know well suddenly behaves in a way which shocks you, you would tend to think about this misbehavior a lot more than you would think about his other behaviors.

Pain flashbacks have been described in which it is somatic rather than visual sensations that are repeatedly re-experienced as though they were happening in the presence.

So I refer you to Salomon's, Osterman, Gagliese, Katz and others, they describe pain flashbacks.

It seems that the body itself, divorced from the mind, has its own kind of memory, bodily memory, if you wish, the body remembers.

Van der Kolk. So bodily memory, and the bodies also have flashbacks. We are all acquainted with the phantom organ or phantom pain. It's a dissociated pain. The organ is amputated. Someone's leg is amputated. He still feels the leg. The leg still itches. There's still pain in the missing leg. Isn't this dissociation? Isn't this traveling back in time? Isn't this, in other words, flashback?

Again, I refer you to work by Whaley, Farmer, Bremen himself in 2007.

Frightening delusions and hallucinations, such as occur in psychotic disorders or intensive care patients. This is also a form of traumatic re-experiencing.

These people believe that the hallucination is real. When your life flashes in front of you, it's not like you're watching a movie. You feel that you're there.

People insisted that they were there. When people have out of body experiences or near-death experiences, as described by Moody and others, they believed when they had returned to their bodies, so to speak, they regained consciousness.

They claim to have been there. It's re-experiencing. It's re-vividness. It's relieving. These are all forms of flashbacks.

Flashback, therefore, doesn't have to be a real life event. You could flash back to an imaginary event, to a paracosm, to an imaginary kingdom.

For example, narcissists flash back to the period before the false self, but also flash back to elements of the false self.

The process of re-experiencing, relieving, is not limited to external objects.

And the events that involve external objects, you could flash back internally into internal objects and into the dialogue and the interaction between internal objects.

Processes such as introjection, therefore, might involve flashbacks.

Quite a few scholars dealt with the issue of hallucinations and delusions and fantasies as forms of flashback.

And I refer you to Barry, F-O-R-D, Jellico Jones, Haddock, Gracie, Hardy, Fonell, and Brujo.

Wade, they all described hallucinations, delusions, fantasies, and so on as forms of flashback, or as processes that at some stage involve flashback.

You can flash back internally, not only externally.

Hallucinations, just to be totally rigorous, this is an academic setting and I would hate to be considered a YouTube personality.

So hallucinations do not meet the current DSM-5 criteria for a traumatic event.

And the fact that someone had a terrifying experience and developed characteristic symptoms could be enough for PTSD, but not for flashbacks.

Not for that element, diagnostic element, symptom of PTSD.

So we need to be very careful. Not all hallucinations qualify as flashbacks.

But if the hallucination is intrusive, if it has negative emotionality, negative content such as horror, fear, terror, if it involves vivid, re-vividness, vivid re-experiencing, vivid re-living, and if it induces trauma, I think it can safely qualify.

I think Brewin, others think it can safely qualify as a flashback.


Finally, I refer to two additional articles about treatments focused on flashbacks, going from flashbacks to trauma rather than from trauma to flashback.

So, article, brief mindfulness-based intervention for rapid release of PTSD symptoms and specific phobia.

It was written by Smith, California Institute of Integral Studies. It's actually a PhD dissertation. It was published this year, 2020.

And this is a very good article in military psychology. Can you believe it? Military psychology, good article.

Resolution of dissociated ego states relieves flashback-related symptoms in compact-related PTSD, a brief mindfulness-based intervention.

Again, written by Janine and Hartelius, by Smith and Hartelius. It was published in February this year, February 2020 in military psychology.


Okay, let's pull all the strands.

Flashbacks are now a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are various types of post-traumatic stress disorder, depending which classification or taxonomy you wish to adopt.

Flashbacks are connected intimately to trauma and to dissociation. Flashbacks involve relieving experiences. Flashbacks are authentic, faithful to the original, and in this sense, they resemble very much a hypnotic dissociated state.

Hallucinations, psychotic elements, psychotic symptoms, delusions, and some types of fantasies could be construed as dissociated flashbacks.

And in this sense, certain types of mental health disorders, many more mental health disorders, should involve flashbacks, or we should reconceive of flashbacks as elements and symptoms of many more mental health disorders.

The main function of flashbacks seems to be processing of trauma and separating, defending against the memories of trauma by disengaging from the world.

So it's really a dissociative reservoir, dissociative amnesiac mechanism.

So the flashback allows the person to disengage and retreat and withdraw to a familiar situation that he had already survived and he knows he has survived.

However difficult flashbacks are, they're safe, and very often they're safer than reality or inability to cope with reality.

So flashbacks are a safe evolve against being overwhelmed by emotions, overwhelmed by cognitions, overwhelmed by memories.

Disregulation, extreme dysregulation, leading to decompensation, disintegration and acting out.

And so we should expect to find flashbacks in borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, all the dissociative identity disorders.

And we should find flashbacks in all trauma related conditions, including CPTSD and PTSD.

Indeed, that's the very reason we are seriously contemplating to merge all these, because there's no clear difference between borderline personality disorder and CPTSD.

They all involve dissociative mechanisms.

The situation is such that I'm proposing to consider that the human mind, the human brain has three ways of relating to the world, not two.

Cognitions, emotions and dissociation. Dissociation is a way of coping with the fact that the world constantly traumatizes us.

And it is a fact establishing numerous studies that even very, very, very young children employ and use dissociation, are traumatized and have flashbacks.

So this must be something very, very fundamental, not acquired.

We are born with it as we are born with cognitions, as we are born with emotions.

And so I think there are three languages, three interactive modes, three pathways of relating to the world, to others, objects and to internal objects. And these pathways are cognitions, emotions and dissociative processes, including traumatic dissociative processes.

And when we fail to distinguish internal objects from external objects with the management of our internal environment, including all the internal objects and constructs, fails. Or when we confuse and conflate external and internal objects, one of the main symptoms is dissociation, dissociative disorders, including flashbacks.

So flashbacks are a symptom, they're an indicator that there is a massive systemic failure of distinguishing between internal and external, introjection and projection. All these processes are compromised.

There's a problem in extremists. This problem results in psychotic disorders.

In the middle ground, this failure to integrate external and internal and separate them with clear cognitive, emotional and other boundaries. In the middle ground, this creates borderline personality disorder or borderline narcissistic disorders as Kernberg had it.

Kernberg claimed that borderline narcissism and psychosis, they are all first cousins. So this is in the middle.

And in the benign or healthy end of the spectrum, we all experience trauma repeatedly. We all have many fleeting flashbacks, many fleeting traumas. And we use dissociation on a regular basis to cope with the world as we use emotions, as we use cognitions.


Okay, a lot to chew on and a lot to think about. Despite what I've said about Pete Walker, I encourage you to try and read his book. It's not a rigorous clinical experience. It wouldn't pass peer review. But he has many, many interesting insights based on experience with clients and others, many interesting insights into the presentation phase of CPTSD.

How CPTSD presents in therapy or in clinical settings.

So he's very descriptive. He's not very good in analyzing. He's not very knowledgeable, but his descriptions are worth absolutely getting acquainted with.

Otherwise, please stick to serious scholars, the ones I've enumerated in this presentation.

Assignments, I remind you, please assignments through the common platform, the CS-CEPS outreach common platform. And to both academic establishments, Southern Federal University and CIAPS, I wish a good and healthy day. Stay safe. We want you all back face to face when this is over. Don't let the virus traumatize you and don't ever flashback to this period. It's not a pleasant one.

Thank you.

By now, you all know that my name is Sam Vaknin and that I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

So why should I repeat it every video? Let's get to the point.


Today we are going to discuss two misunderstood concepts.

One is empathy and the other is gaslighting.

Self-declared, self-styled and self-imputed empaths are actually narcissistic individuals.

What do they do online? They trumpet their alleged hypersensitivity as a grandiose claim to uniqueness and to victimhood. They are unique. They are perpetual victims.

Empath, by the way, is a nonsense label, hyped online, but with zero clinical significance. It is not taught in any university and mentioned in very few scholarly articles, usually in a derisive way.

You see, the problem is that everyone is possessed of empathy. Even narcissists and psychopaths have empathy.

Well, a type of empathy, a form of empathy, which I dubbed cold empathy. Everyone has empathy.

And in this sense, of course, everyone is an empath.

I think this is the source of the confusion. There are people who are highly sensitive. They even have a clinical label, Highly Sensitive Persons or HSPs. Their empathy is so extreme that it renders them skinless, like they don't have a skin.

They cannot firewall other people's emotions, other people's pain. They get flooded. They drown in the sort of ambient noise of other people.

They get dysregulated. Their mood and emotions are out of control.

These are highly sensitive persons, HSPs, but highly sensitive persons are extremely few and far between.

They are not a dime a dozen. Highly sensitive persons are not online. They are very unlikely to expose themselves in cyberspace. They tend to be inordinately shy, introverted, schizoid and avoidant. They are recluses. They avoid the world because the world is painful. They want away from the maddying crowd. They're not likely to join giant online communities and sort of expose themselves to ridicule and criticism, to other people's pains and other people's emotions. They're likely to shy away.

Many of them don't have an online presence at all.

So if you see someone who claims to be an empath online, the likelihood is, the very high likelihood is, that this person is actually seeking attention, is grandiose and in this sense technically is a narcissist.

HSP, highly sensitive person, is not to be confused with a neurological condition known as sensory processing sensitivity.

These are people who get flooded by sensa, sensory inputs, smells, sounds, sights. These overwhelm them and they lose control.

And so the online forums were self-styled empaths congregate, the watering holes of online empaths, self-imputed empaths. These are cesspools. I've been visiting them for years. They are full of malice, disempathy, lack of empathy, one upmanship, spite, evil and delusional fantasies, competitive, professional victimhood.

Online forums of empaths far exceed online forums of narcissists, in terms of the concentrated vibe of, for lack of a better word, malice.

Based on anecdotal observations only, most empaths strike me as collapsed or covert narcissists, who had been out-narcissized, who have been manipulated and abused by overt narcissists.

These are two types of narcissists competing with each other.

One group of narcissists style themselves victims and empaths and attack and fight against the other groups of narcissists, which are overtly and openly grandiose.

Their self-imputed sensitivity or hypersensitivity is merely a manifestation of narcissistic rage, following a series of narcissistic injuries.

Hypersensitivity is not to be confused with hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance is when the narcissist scans his human environment for alleged slights or stensible insults, challenges to his grandiosity, to his self-perception and self-image. It's perfect, brilliant, godlike, divine, omniscient and omnipotent.

Hypersensitivity is something completely different. It's when you can't cross the street without being overwhelmed and inundated with other people's agony, existential agony, angst and anxieties and fears and emotions. This happens to extremely few people. It's a pathological condition.

Same thing is happening with gaslighting. Gaslighting, at least the videos I've watched online, made it my business to watch most of them.

They're nonsensical. Why are they nonsensical?

Because gaslighting is often confused and conflicted with dissociation, with confabulation and with dissonances.

I should have foreseen that this is going to happen when I borrowed the term gaslighting and introduced it into the wider discourse in the 1990s.

I coined the term narcissistic abuse and was trying to kind of display or explore the varieties of narcissistic abuse, so I borrowed the term gaslighting.

And this is where it all ended.

Gaslighting has only one meaning. It is deliberate. It's a deliberate strategy, premeditated strategy, of impairing, adversely affecting the reality test of another person, the victim, rendering that person dependent on the gas lighter, on the abuser, for critical cognitive functions.

So the victim's judgment is impaired, the victim's perception of reality, the victim's trust in herself. All these are repeatedly undermined, subverted, maliciously so.

So the victim becomes dependent on the abuser.

And this is done usually in order to assert control and for personal gain of some kind.

Gaslighting is therefore a psychopathic tactic, not a narcissistic one.

Narcissists rarely engage in gaslighting.

Psychopaths do.

Narcissists have a series of other problems which closely mimic gaslighting, but are not gaslighting.


The first one is dissociation.

Narcissists are disassociated. They are discontinuous. It's dissociation is a persistent amnesia, a series of persistent amnesia gaps in memory.

And when you have these repeated gaps in memory, this results in an incoherent and discontinuous sense of self and identity. It also generates inconsistent or contradictory thoughts, emotions and behaviors of the same individual, usually within a short period of time.

It can be perceived as gaslighting, but it is not.

Contribulation is how the narcissist cooks with dissociation.

The population is writing fiction, short stories. It's an ego-converant attempt to create plausible, though often untrue, narratives to bridge over dissociative, threatening memory gaps.

So Narcissist says, "Well, I don't remember what had happened, but knowing myself, and knowing the environment, and knowing the circumstances, this is what could have happened. It is so plausible that it had happened that actually, I believe, it did happen."

You see, narcissists believe in their confabulations. They are not lying when they confabulate.

Again, it looks like gaslighting. There is nothing to do with gaslighting.

So Narcissist's desperate attempt to restore continuity, to introduce some glue into the disjointed parts of his personality.

And finally, there is dissonance. Everyone has dissonances.

A dissonance is when you hold two mutually exclusive and contradictory thoughts, emotions and beliefs, at the same time.

So, for example, you love someone and you hate him. It's called ambivalence. Emotional ambivalence.

Love hates relationships. Very common.

You have two thoughts. They conflict. They can't sit well together. This creates dissonance, a sense of unease.

If this continues, creates anxiety.

But people can and do display inconsistent behavior. People change course. People surprise you and surprise themselves. People do things they never thought they could do.

It all depends on so many factors.

And dissonances are very common. They are the main source, the main engine of anxiety.

But they have nothing to do with gaslighting.

Belatedly, I'm trying to introduce some clarity into a field crowded with charlatans, wannabes, unstrapulous therapists and mental health practitioners who capitalize on ignorance and helplessness and fear. It's a swamp out there. We need a Donald Trump to clean it.

Not me. I don't have orange hair. Orange hair is the main qualification.

Thank you for listening. Talk to you next time.


This is the age of narcissism. Everyone and his dog or her dog or her cat want to feel special. Everyone wants to feel unique and in some way superior.

So people keep coming up with these nonsensical labels such as demisexual, sub-sexual, empath, recovered narcissist, I don't know, shy or quiet borderline, etc. These are self-aggrandizing, self-imputed, self-attributed labels which make you feel good because if you are an empath or if you are a recovered narcissist or if you are demisexual, whatever that means, or if you are sub-sexual, you are special. You have a place. You are distinct and distinguished.

And today we are going to deal with one of these labels, the twin flame.

And I'm going to show you why it is very dangerous for you to adopt the counter-label of empath.

This dance macabre, this extremely dangerous liaison between so-called twin flames and so-called empaths is at the heart of what's happening online in numerous communities.

It is a dance of victimization, collusive victimization where both parties want to enhance, propagate and perpetuate the victim status.

And I'm going to delve deep into the construct of twin flames using everything the psychology has to offer.


My name is Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Flower, Narcissism Revisited and other books. I'm also a professor of psychology.

So you better listen to me, kiddos. And let us start by stating categorically, if you come across someone who is your twin flame, that person in all likelihood is a narcissist or a psychopath.

I repeat, if you came across your twin flame, you're being subjected to grooming and to love bombing by a narcissist or a psychopath.

Beware, these are confidence artists.

You know what is the source of the word, the etymology of con artist, the con in the con artist? Confidence.

Con is short for confidence.

So they pray on your confidence.

You say to yourself, I've met my other half. I've met my twin flame. I've met my long lost brother, sister. I'm whole. Now that I've met him, I'm whole. I feel complete. I feel restored. I feel revived. I feel alive.

And these are warning signs, actually, as we are going to discuss shortly.

What the narcissist and psychopath acting as your twin flame, what he does is something called idealized mirroring.

He mirrors you. He provides you with a mirror.

And you look into the mirror, but it's a distorting mirror. It's a mirror that provides you with an idealized version of yourself.

Not only an idealized version of yourself at the present, but an idealized version of yourself in the past and well into the future.

The idealized mirror, the idealized process of idealized mirroring, is a process of reframing, grandiose reframing.

Suddenly, you're flawless. You're super intelligent. You're drop-dead gorgeous. You're amazing. You're everything. You're a dream come true.

And this is the image that the narcissist or psychopath masquerading as a twin flame projects onto you.

He makes you view yourself, regard yourself as you've never seen yourself before. Perfection.

In this process, you co-idealize yourself.

It's a narcissistic defense. It's a form of grandiosity.

When you see yourself in the twin flame's eyes, when you ponder his gaze, when he looks upon you, you feel elated. You feel elevated. You feel completed. You feel perfected.

In other words, you idealize yourself.

But the only way you could idealize yourself, of course, is if you idealize him.

He is the source of your idealization because in your mind, he is ideal.

How can you idealize someone to that extent? How can you give someone the power to idealize you?

What renders him the source of authority? Why do you trust him when he tells you that you're perfect?

It's because he resonates with you. There is resonance there.

He picks up on your frequencies. He picks up on your vibes and your wave.

And he adapts himself. He adjusts himself to resonate on the same frequency, thus enhancing the frequency, enhancing the intensity.

So it gives you the impression that you and him, you share the same traits, exactly the same traits, the same preferences, the same behaviors, the same values, the same goals and boundaries and dreams.

Same-ness. The same-ness is total. And we call this process in psychology identification.

Idealized mirroring involves two elements.

Idealizing you via co-idealization. I'm ideal. If I'm ideal, I have the right to tell you that you are ideal. If I'm ideal, you can trust me when I tell you that you are ideal. If I'm ideal, I'm also infallible. I don't make mistakes.

So if I tell you that you're ideal, you can take it to the bank. You can count on it and cash it.

So co-idealization.

And the second element is resonance or sameness or identification.

You become one because the message sent to you via the grooming and love bombing phase with the twin flame is that you are twins and that you are flames.

Analyze this phrase. Twin means you are the same. Flame means you are special, amazing, exuberant, consuming, perfect, fire. You're on fire.

So there's a lot of excitement here, a lot of thrill, a lot of adrenaline, a lot of energy and some, of course, risk-taking, which only spices up the proceedings.

It's you on steroids. You on steroids plus added features.

When you look at the twin flame, you say to yourself, he's exactly like me, but more so. I'm intelligent as he's telling me. I'm intelligent. He's intelligent, but more so. I am moral, morally upright. I have values. He has values, the same values, but more so. He's more resilient, he's stronger. He's everything I am, but more so. He is more of me. He is an amplified version of me.

You feel empowered. You feel enabled because he is a caricaturistic extrapolation and exaggeration of you. You see yourself tenfold. You see yourself in him, magnified, but it's still yourself.

You can identify yourself. It's not that the magnification or the amplification had rendered you alien or estranged from yourself.

No. You recognize yourself fully in the twin flame. It's just that he is so much more of you, so much more of you.

It's identification.

And so, the twin flame legitimizes you. Everyone has self-touche. Everyone needs to calibrate via social intercourse. Everyone, from time-to-time, regrets things. Everyone is contrite and repentant. Everyone feels that, you know, this time I was mean and nasty, I shouldn't have been. Everyone self-criticizes. Everyone is an inner critic.

And when the inner critic works well, it's a positive thing. It's a positive construct.

What the twin flame does, it tells you, you can do no wrong. The twin flame places you on a pedestal, idolizes you, idealizes you.

And that brings you back to childhood when potentially your parents did the same. You could do no wrong. You were perfection. You were an idol. You were pampered and smothered and spoiled.

And the twin flame recreates this early childhood process. He infantilizes you by isolating you from bruising, harsh, critical reality. He prevents friction with reality. He wraps himself around you like shrink wrap, like a firewall.

And from that moment on, you live in a cocoon. You're in a bubble, his bubble, his cocoon. And he keeps sending you, keeps signaling to you that you don't need actually reality because you're perfection.

And you have this overwhelming sense of being seen. Everyone wants to be seen as perfect and ideal and an idol and amazing and drugged and gorgeous and super intelligent and incredible and unprecedented. Everyone wants to be seen this way. Everyone wants to be seen by an adoring mother or adoring father, parental figures.


And here comes the twin flame. And he is, he is this father you had been waiting for all your life. Or he is this mother that you had been waiting for all your life for eternity.

And here they are. Mother and father reincarnate. Mother and father, the new version, version 2.0, surrogate mothers and fathers. And this time they're not going to make mistakes. This time they're going to see you. This time you're not transparent, not neglected, not abandoned. And they are not absent. This time they are focused on you like a laser beam. This time you are the center of attention. This time you're going to see you, they're going to see you as you are.

Perfection, divine perfection.

There's a sense of belonging, instant sense of belonging because it's your family.

The twin flame is your family. He is actually you, writ large. Your existence, your very being is validated and affirmed via the twin flame.

But of course, he is the rub. The twin flame is an act. The twin flame is a very gifted actor. He has thespian skills. He's pulling the wool over your eye. He's manipulating you. He's using you and abusing you, pushing all the buttons. He knows what makes you tick and he makes you tick.

And gradually you're beginning to perceive your twin flame as either superior to you in some way.

It's still you, but a superior version of you, an improved version of you. Or you perceive him as a kind of reinforcement, the cavalry. So either as a superior being, a superior future version of you, or as the cavalry, savior, fixer, healer.

In both cases, what the twin flame is broadcasting, what he's signaling, what he's telling you is, if you stick with me, we're going to reach utopia. We're going to reach this perfect, idyllic space where you're going to feel good all the time. You're going to be happy all the time. It's uninterrupted bliss. And I'm going to provide this to you. And I'm going to provide this to you either because I'm superior to you and I know how to get there. I can lead the way and you just need to follow me blindly, of course, or because I'm on your side. I'm amplifying you. I'm making you stronger. Two is always better than one.

And so the twin flame, I'm a copy of you. So now there's two of you. And because there's two of you, you're much more likely to reach this resting place in a good sense, a place where everything fits, a place of eternal well-being, welfare, peace of mind, strength, resilience and happiness and content.

This utopia is the promise of the twin flame.

But if you delve into the etymology of the word utopia, it means no place. The translation of utopia is no place. It's a pessimistic word, not an optimistic one because it's no such place.

And the twin flames promises of utopia are exactly this, no such place. It's a con. He's a con artist and you fall for it. You fall for it because you want it desperately. We're going to discuss it a bit later.

You need for an internal object. You want it desperately. You can't live without it. Once you had tasted it, once you had experienced it, it's addictive. It's addictive because it caters to your deepest needs. It eliminates your deepest fears and it leads you to a place where you can relegate responsibility and you don't need to think critically. You can just be.

For the first time in your life, you can just be. And for the first time in your life, you can truly love yourself because now you are lovable. Now you are worthy and ideal.

How do you know that twin flame told you so? And because he's ideal, his judgment, his opinion matter. They are real. You can trust them.

How does the twin flame reach this position? How does he gain so much power over you?

I said that twin flames are actually narcissists and psychopaths. So they all possess cold empathy. Cold empathy is the ability to scan, to scan you and to immediately spot your vulnerabilities.

So the first thing the twin flame does is spot your vulnerabilities. He then proceeds to idealize you and he causes something in you.

He evokes and provokes an illicit psychodynamic process in you, which is best described as self-infatuation or self-limence. I call it the Hall of Mirrors.

When you had entered the realm and the domain of the twin flame, you had entered actually a carnivore Hall of Mirrors. There are mirrors everywhere. And who do you see in these mirrors? You. A thousand you. Ten thousand you. It's intoxicating. It's inebriating. It's addictive.

He has the key to the Hall of Mirrors. He is the only one who can trigger in you self-infatuation and self-limence, which you misinterpret as self-love. He's the only one who can amplify you, magnify you, enhance you, improve you, render you superior and victorious and triumphant. He's the only one with the key to the kingdom and it's a kingdom of heaven.

And so you enter willingly into the Hall of Mirrors. And once you had taken the first step, you're caught in a shared fantasy with features, cult-like features. It's like a cult. He's the leader and you're a member of the cult.

And the twin flame becomes a parental figure. I mentioned it before. He actually acts as a benign and benevolent parent. The parent you never had.

Because real-life parents, real-life parents are never perfect. Real-life parents frustrate. Sometimes they're absent. Sometimes they're busy. Sometimes they're selfish. Sometimes they're self-absorbed. Sometimes they push you away. That's real parenting and it's healthy. It's good for you to experience frustration, as I will discuss later.

But this parental figure, the twin flame, it's a fake parental figure. It's idealized. It's perfect. It never rejects you. It never pushes you away. It's always there, too much even. There's an element of stalking.

So it's the parent you never had and always wanted to have. All of us want to have such a parent. A parent whose focus of attention is exclusively on us. We are the sole object of desire of that parent.

That parent pays no attention to anyone or anything else but us. We want an exclusive parental figure.

We actually internalize, introject the parental figure. We internalize mummy because the internal object is an ideal parent. The internal object never goes away. Never abandons us. The internal object is never absent. The internal object is always available for a dialogue. The internal object is always there. Always. And we are the focus of attention of the internal object. We are the most important thing in the internal object's existence because we are the internal object.

So when mummy keeps frustrating us as babies, what we do, we create a duplicate or a replicate mummy and we internalize, we swallow this in inner representation. We convert mummy, the frustrating object, the exciting object. We convert her into a client, compliant, complacent, always available, non-frustrated internal object.

That's the ideal parent.

And the twin flame reaches into you, reaches inside you and co-ops this internal parent. He colludes with the internal parent and he becomes one with this internal object. He becomes a parental figure.

And the second thing the twin flame does, he becomes your false self. Yes. You are idealized. You are now drop dead gorgeous, hyper intelligent, amazing, unprecedented. The love of his life, he has never come across anyone like you.

Many things happen to him with you the first time in his life. You made him do things, you made him feel things he's never felt before, etc, etc.

And this constant brainwashing and propaganda, they actually create in you a false self, a locus of grandiosity.

And so you interject the twin flame, both as a parental figure and as a false self.

And when you have a parental figure, which is essentially an internal object and is perfect, coupled with a false self, it's actually going back to early childhood because babies have primary narcissism. They're grandiose and they have an internalized parental ideal, perfect parental object.

So now the twin flame regresses you, pushes you back to early childhood, to the period before you separated and individuated. He pushes you to an infertile state of total dependence, total identification.

So what the twin flame does, he provokes in you, he resuscitates and revives in you, he resurrects in you, constructs that were long, long, latent and dormant because they were not needed anymore. As an adult, you didn't need your grandiosity. You didn't need a parental figure as an adult.

But the twin flame comes along and he activates your parental figure, your internalized, interjected parental figure. And he reboots your grandiosity and suddenly you find yourself a baby. You find yourself a baby because you are interacting with an interjective parental figure, the twin flame, and you're as grandiose as a baby.

And this is the phase before separation and individuation in human development. This is the phase between six months and two years.

So he regresses you to such an infantile state that you become dependent on him. You become, in a way, merged with him, fused with him. You're not separate from him. You're no longer, in other words, an individual because he had reversed, reversed the process of separation and individuation. He rendered you a non-individual and you are no longer separate from him.

Put simply, he eliminates, erases and deletes your boundaries, including ego boundaries. And he takes over all your ego functions.

I advise you to watch the lecture on ego functions.


Now, originally, the baby creates internal objects in order to avoid frustration because external objects always frustrate the baby.

The baby wants to eat, mother is busy. The baby wants mommy to be with him 24/7, mommy has to sleep or has to go somewhere. So it's always frustrating. The baby is in a constant state of frustration.

And it's extremely dependent for his survival on frustrating external objects. So the baby's solution is to create internal objects, to avoid the frustration and to avoid the dependence.

But the twin flame takes you so far back, so far back, that your internal objects actually create the exact opposite effect.

You become dependent on your internal objects. And because you become dependent on them, any divergence, any discrepancy between the internal object and the actual behavior of the twin flame causes panic. You're interacting. The twin flame made you create an internalized parental object. This internalized parental object represents the twin flame.

The twin flame had become your surrogate parent, your surrogate mommy, your surrogate daddy.

So now you're interacting with the internalized object that represents the twin flame.

But very often the behavior, the choices, the language, the speech of the twin flame will contradict with the idealized, introjected internal object.

So there will be a discrepancy. There will be clashes and conflicts between the real thing out there, the twin flame, and the internal object that represents the twin flame in your mind.

And this will create frustration and dependence via intermittent reinforcement.

The twin flame will hold the key. He will hold the key to your peace of mind. He will hold the key to your tranquility, your ability to function.

And any discrepancy, any contradiction, any conflict will provoke in you enormous panic, anxiety, and even severe depression.

Because your dependence on the internal object is now whole and complete.


I read to you an excerpt from the book "The Empty Core" by Jeffrey Seinfeld.

He refers to an object relations scholar by the name of Hartman. Hartman, H-A-R-T-M-A-N.

And this is the excerpt. Hartman also has a sense that the internal world must be personalized in his theory that object constancy is the central ego function around which the other ego functions develop.

So Hartman put ego constancy at the core.

Now, before I continue with the excerpt, when you internalize the twin flame and you continue to interact with the internal object, you're snapshotting.

You engage in narcissistic snapshotting. You take a snapshot of the twin flame, you internalize it as an internal object, you introject it as an internal object, and then you continue to interact with that internal object.

That's exactly snapshotting.

And that's why every conflict and every discrepancy, every mismatch between the real life twin flame and his representation in your mind cause panic.

Because from the moment you had met the twin flame, you start to live inside your mind.

Idealization is a mental process. Parental figure is a mental process.

You withdraw from the world.

The twin flame causes you to avoid reality, to shun it, to withdraw from life, and to inhabit, to reside exclusively in a fantasy-like utopia in your mind.

The twin flame detaches you from reality and forces you to become, in a way, introverted, psychologically introverted in the sense that you interact mostly with elements in your mind not with reality anymore.

Gradually you find yourself isolated. You lose friends. You're no longer in touch with family members. More and more you sit all by yourself obsessing about the twin flame and leaving out fantasies in your mind with various, with the participation of various internal objects and introjects and constructs.

You had withdrawn and you are immersed in a schizoid state within the fantasy space of your mind.

And so this is what Hartmann says, that object constancy is critical. The twin flame provides you object constancy via the process of generating the internal object.

The internal object is constant, so you feel safe with the twin flame. The twin flame makes you feel safe and secure because you will never be abandoned and you will never ever be abandoned because the twin flame is you.

He is your false self. He is your idealized image.

And above all, the twin flame exists largely inside your mind where you can guarantee that there will be no abandonment and no rejection.


But what if you are borderline?

I continue with Hartmann.

The borderline patient, he says, initially turns towards the object with insatiable need. Eventually she feels rejected and then she rejects the object in turn and then she fears object loss.

So the borderline is clingy and needy. She appropriates, confiscates and adopts an outside external object, could be the twin flame.

Then she anticipates rejection, real or imaginary. And then she rejects the object. And then she fears that she had lost the object.

So Seinfeld says the borderline is primarily concerned with destroying the object through aggressive distancing.

It is the schizoid person who cannot accept rejection and may enact the internal obsession in the interpersonal domain without regard for reality.

Typically the schizoid endeavors to completely repress the hunger for love. As long as the repression is effective, the schizoid relates to the outer object world in a realistic but emotionally shallow manner.

If the schizoid person is threatened with massive regressive withdrawal, he may resort to an obsessive fatal attraction, desperately clinging to object relatedness.

So we see two ways, two paths, two options of reacting to the twin flame.

If you are more of a borderline, you're likely gradually to become aggressive and the relationship will become more and more conflict laden. It will involve approach avoidance. There will be a lot of tension, a lot of dissonance. You will retreat more and more into your mind. You will preemptively reject the object. You will decompensate. You will act recklessly, for example, promiscuously.

And so on.

So if you're borderline, you will become a secondary psychopath. You will react with aggression.

These are not my words. This is Hartman and Seinfeld.

If you're a schizoid, you will react with obsession. You'll become obsessed. And this obsessive fantasy gradually will impair your reality testing so dramatically that you will try to force the fantasy on reality. You will try to enact the fantasy. You will try to carry out behaving in the real world as though your fantasy was reality.

And this is very dangerous.

You see, the twin flame monopolizes what we call regulatory functions, not only ego functions.

And I again encourage you to watch the video about ego functions to understand what I'm talking about.

But the twin flame monopolizes also regulatory functions.

When you're a baby before the age of two years, mommy and daddy regulate everything for you. They regulate your emotions. They regulate your moods. They tell you what to think as well. They teach you language. They are your mind. Your parents, mommy and daddy, are your outsourced mind. They are your external soul, external psyche.

All functions, ego and non-ego, come from the parents into the child before age two. The twin flame regresses you to this phase. He regresses you to the phase before separation and individuation, before you had separated from your parents and became an individual.

So because he does this, he assumes the same role that parents assume when the baby is younger than two years old.

In other words, the twin flame begins to regulate and control your moods. He begins to regulate and control your emotions.

Your inner environment even tells you what to think. He dictates your cognition, cognitive processes. He inculcates in you cognitive biases and prejudices and even cognitive deficits.

Gradually, the twin flame becomes a mind snatcher. He invades your mind like a parasitic entity and he takes over like a virus. He takes over and he uses your mind to replicate. He replicates himself inside your mind and from that moment he can provoke in you any mood. He can elicit in you any emotion and he can control the way you think.

And this process is called "entraining".

The problem is that as the twin flame regulates your internal environment, you are beginning to perceive other people as the opposite.

The twin flame is perceived as egosyntonic because by regulating your moods, your affect, your cognitions, the twin flame restores some inner peace, some equilibrium, some homostasis, some balance within your mind.

It's like you're saying, you're telling the twin flame "listen, you know what, you take over, you take over, you take responsibility, you take over my mind, you manage my mind, you just make sure that I'm in peace. You become a zombie or a remote controlled robot.

But a remote controlled robot presumably has inner peace. So you're tranquil, you interpret it as happiness, you're happy and content with the twin flame because you no longer have to think. Your emotions are not yours. Anything that happens inside you is tightly micromanaged by the twin flame.

So you feel safe. It's like handing over power and responsibility to a dictator. A dictator is a bad thing, presumably, but people are happy in dictatorships because they don't have to think for themselves and they have no responsibility for the consequences of their actions. They can blame everything on the tyrant.

So the twin flame becomes your tyrant and you're the population, the populace and you hand over power to the twin flame.

At the same time, you get rid of nagging downs, of self-recrimination because if he is in power, if he's in power, you can blame him. You don't have to blame yourself. You develop alloplastic defenses and a total external locus of control.

But as you do this, you attribute, there's an error of attribution, you attribute your regulatory environment to your twin flame.

You say to yourself, only he can make me feel good. Only he can control my moods and render me less labile. Only he can regulate my emotions.

And so I'm not all over the place. He's good for me. My twin flame is good for me because when I'm with him, I'm much more normal. I'm much more healthy. I'm much more at peace.

I love it. I love to be with him because he restores my inner calm, my tranquility. He's my meditation. He's my yoga. He's my solution.

And all others threaten this balance, threaten this newly found equilibrium. All other people are a threat. They are dysregulatory. They are deflating. They are critical. They're often critical of the twin flame and they're critical of your sick relationship with the twin flame.

You don't want to hear that. You don't want to listen to them.

They destabilize you. They make you feel ill at ease. They render yourself critical. They cast doubt the newly found certainties that underlie your life. They undermine the stability that you had finally reached with your twin flame and you regard them as enemies, dysregulatory enemies, disconfiting enemies.

And this leads to paranoia and isolation.


And here is why considering yourself an empath is seriously problematic and even dangerous.

There's no such thing as empath, clinically speaking. So empath is a form of self-aggrandizement. It's a form of self-idealization.

Empaths are perfect. Empaths are angelic. They're angels.

Empath's can do wrong. Empaths are by definition empathic. They are moral. They're wonderful. They're wonderful creatures. They've just fallen prey unwittingly to an abuser.

But otherwise they're simply wonderful creatures. It's self-aggrandizement. It's a part of your grandiosity.

To label yourself an empath is to continue on the path of self-aggrandizement.

But you must understand this is the abuser's main tool.

The twin flame uses, leverages and abuses your need, your grandiose need for self-inflation and self-aggrandizement.

He aggrandizes you.

The twin flame's main bulwark, main penetration pathway, the twin flame's main coercion technique is to aggrandize you.

He keeps telling you that you are the most amazing thing since sliced bread, that he had never come across anyone like you, that you had made him feel and do things he had never felt and done before, that you are supremely intelligent, that you are drop-dead gorgeous, that you are the one and only one, that you're divine.

He aggrandizes you all the time. Massive doses of the toxin and poison and venom of grandiosity.

And here you, when you attribute to yourself the label empath, you're doing the same. You're self-aggrandizing.

It makes your abuser's job much easier. It makes the twin flame's job much easier. The more grandiose you are, the more detached from reality you are. The more grandiose you are, the less self-critical you are, the less likely you are to change and improve and heal.

And this is precisely where the narcissist wants you to be. The narcissist wants you to aggrandize yourself as an empath or some other nonsense so that you don't have mental resources.

You are so invested in the grandiose label that you no longer have mental resources to work on yourself, to better yourself, to heal yourself, to learn about yourself, to develop self-awareness and to avoid pitfalls in the future.

The narcissist wants you in this compromised position of self-aggrandizement because it perpetuates his roles and it reinforces his introgect. It continues the abuse.

Remember that his introgect is telling you the same things.

When you tell yourself, when you convince yourself that you're an empath, this amazing supernova, amazing creature, fascinating unicorn, you know, when you convince yourself that you're an empath, you engage in belatant, counterfactual, unrealistic grandiosity.

And the introgect of the abuser, the introgect of the narcissist, the introgect of the psychopath, the internal object that the narcissist and the psychopath have implanted in your mind is doing exactly the same.

This internal object is telling you, you're a unicorn, you're amazing, you're unprecedented, you're a nager, you're perfection.

So by telling yourself that you're an empath, you're amplifying, amplifying the power, the potency, the voice of the abuser's internal object.

You're colluding and collaborating in your own self-destruction.

And like in the Stockholm Syndrome, the twin flame becomes the source and the regulator of life itself, of self-esteem, of well-being, of self-love.

And he's the power to inflict hurt on you. So when he does not hurt you, you're grateful to him. And you want to make sure that he doesn't hurt you.

So you become subservient and submissive.

And so the Stockholm Syndrome, although it's not an accepted clinical construct or syndrome, but the Stockholm Syndrome has some merit.

Gradually, because the twin flame becomes so important, so entrenched, so embedded in you, you're terrified of losing the object. You're terrified of losing the twin flame.

And so you want to gratify, you want to satisfy, you want to please the twin flame. You want to prevent him from hurting you. You definitely want to avoid abandonment and rejection and jubilation.

You become a slave. You regress to a stage of early childhood which is before separation, individuation.

And that stage, remember, the stage between six months and two years, the child has mostly internal objects.

So the twin flame forces you to move back from external object relations to internal object relations. He makes you a schizoid.

And the introject, the internal object representing the twin flame in your mind is not only parental, but it's you.

The twin flame integrates into your identity. He becomes a determinant of who you are because any internal object is a component of you, it's internal. Any object which is internal is you.

By insinuating himself into your mind as an internal object, by regressing you to an infantile phase where you can interact only with internal objects.

Your abuser has compromised your identity. Your abuser had become your identity. Any fault of losing him causes incredible panic because it's like losing yourself. It's a state of symbiosis, but a bad form of symbiosis known as merger and fusion.

And I want to end by reading to you a scholarly text about symbiosis as opposed to merger and fusion.

Merger and fusion are sick, they're pathological. It's a kind of relationship, a relationship that a codependent has with their intimate partner, borderline has with their intimate partner.

Merger and fusion are bad.

And twin flames are 100% merger and fusion. That's the mother of all mergers and fusions. That's the most extreme form of merger and fusion.

And this is contrasted with symbiosis.

Jeffrey Seinfeld, in his book, The Empty Core, writes the following.

Ego psychological object relations dialogue has emphasized the dangers of symbiosis to personal autonomy.

I took exception, arguing for the positive value of symbiosis for personal autonomy.

I would now add that I believe that the infant has a pristine but unitary autonomous self that is never entirely lost in the close bond with the mother.

And the attachment to the mother serves to reflect and enhance the autonomous self, not to threaten it.

As Sutherland in 1989 actually states, the development of the autonomous self may be likened to an acorn becoming a tree.

The close bond between the infant and mother does not in itself impede the infant from becoming what his nature had intended him to become.

Mahler in 1975 recognizes this fact when she refers to an autonomous drive.

Symbiosis remains a useful term if it is not defined in a biological state of absolute fusion. It refers to an effective state of oneness, a fantasy with pH of alikeness that Fairbairn described in classical terms as primary identification.

It remains an autonomous self, no matter how pristine, that fantasizes or feels such alikeness with the internal object.

The transitional state is marked by a separation from the internal object, which therefore gives rise to separation, anxiety, isolation and fears of object loss, prompting the wish to return again to the object.

Clinging to the mother may be effectively felt as a merged state in terms of the wish to deny separation.

However, clinging to the object creates the fear of the loss of autonomy, thus setting in motion the recurrence of the cycle.

Clinging, avoidance, clinging, avoidance, approach avoidance.

Optimally, each cycle of closeness, distance, approach avoidance gives rise to growth towards mature dependence.

This is symbiosis and this is what you do not have with a twin flame.

With a twin flame, the deal is simple. You vanish, he takes over your inner space.

You, as a separate entity, as a reality-gauging person, as an individual, as a separate creature with boundaries, all this is eliminated. You disappear and you reappear as an internalized inner space which the twin flame then invades and takes over.

It's a parasitic process where actually the parasite consumes the host from the inside until nothing is left but a schismic shell.

Beware.

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