Interpellation: People-pleasers, Narcissists Are Not Masochists

Uploaded 2/19/2023, approx. 16 minute read

Today, we are going to have an admixture of novel concepts, controversial views, and plain, old-fashioned, in-your-face defiance by your favorite professor of psychology, Blue professor of psychology.

Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism, Revisited.

We start with a concept borrowed from neo-Marxist socio-economic theory.

The word is interpolation.

It is a process first described in socio-economic settings by one Louis Althusser, a French, his name notwithstanding, a French psychologist and philosopher who ended up in a mental asylum as most psychologists and psychiatrists should.

Okay, so, shonim, interpolation in Althusser's work is a different thing, and I recommend that you watch the video I've made about Althusser.

But interpolation, the way I use it, is when someone reacts to other people's wishes, other people's desires, other people's urges and expectations as if these were his own.

I'm going to repeat this.

When you react to other people's desires, wishes, hopes, dreams, demands, and especially expectations, as if these were yours, not theirs, but your own, you are being interpolated.

So now you know what's happening to you. You're being interpolated.

And then if you act accordingly, the interpolation is translated into action.

So for example, someone expects to have sex with you, and then you adopt this expectation. This expectation becomes yours.

You experience the other person's expectation as if it were your own.

You experience the other person's desire, demands, urges, drives, wishes as if they were your own, and you end up having sex with this person even though you didn't want to, even though you don't even like that person.

So this is interpolation. It's a form of mind control. It's a very subtle state of hypnosis or trance or brainwashing, if you wish.

Social pleasures are the reification of this process, the reification, the embodiment of interpolation.

But interpolation makes an appearance in many other mental health disorders, such as, for example, dependent personality disorders, aka codependency, or borderline personality disorder.

Interpolation appears also in psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders.

And to cut a long story short, in many other mental health issues, interpolation is a way of taking over your mind by forcing you to adopt the expectations and wishes of another person when that other person renders you an extension of themselves.

Narcissists do it very often, and so do psychopaths, and to a lesser extent, borderline.

Now, masukis, the self-destructive, psychopathic narcissists, and people pleasers are different breeds. They are different kinds of people. Sometimes they behave in the same ways, so it's difficult to tell them apart.

I repeat, masukis, people who are self-destructive, psychopathic narcissists, and people pleasers behave in ways which resemble each other, and so they're difficult to tell apart, but they all interpolate other people and are interpolated by other people.

In other words, the dominant interactive process, the dominant interpersonal process is interpolation, whether active or passive, is a recipient.

Start with masukis.

Masukis crave pain. They desire to be hurt. They want to be hurt.

The opposite of pain aversion, pain averse, the opposite of hurt averse, the pursue, the pursue agony, entombment, the engineer, the orchestrate, incremental situations whose outcomes are agonizing, mortifying, and humiliating, but never life-threatening.

Masukism is not about suicide. It is about staying alive to experience the pain in a very perverted way, a very sick way, and joy.

Okay, so these are masukis.

What about self-defeating, self-loathing, self-destructive folk? What about these kind of people? These kind of people act out recklessly, petulantly, and defiantly in order to sabotage their best interests and their well-being in a decisive, self-harming, self-trashing, and almost suicidal manner.

So one could say that self-subtaging, self-defeating, self-harming, self-trashing, and self-destructive people are at the very end of the spectrum of masochism, the same way psychopaths are at the end of the spectrum of antisocial personality disorder.

These people are exaggerated masochists, masochists whose pain is so extreme that it leads to life-threatening situations.

You could say that self-destructive and self-defeating and self-trashing and self-harming people are suicidal masochists.

On to the third kind, psychopathic narcissists.

Psychopathic narcissists puppeteer others. They play with others. They brainwash others. They co-opt and manipulate others into goal-oriented scenarios that superficially appear to be masochistic.

But in reality, these scenarios are actually sadistic or, in the best case, self-efficacious as far as a psychopathic narcissist is concerned.

In other words, the psychopathic narcissist would engineer or orchestrate situations that would cause him pain.

And so superficially on the surface, it would appear to be that he is a masochist, but actually he is not, nor is he self-destructive or self-defeating.

These scenarios, these scripts, these theater plays organized by the psychopathic narcissists intend to fulfill some goal. They're self-efficacious. They're ends-oriented.

The narcissist wants to accomplish something. And so he inflicts pain on himself because that's an inevitable cost of obtaining the goal.

Sometimes there's sadism involved.

Psychopathic narcissists enjoy inflicting pain on other people, even if it means that they have to pay a price in terms of being hurt. That's how twisted the minds of psychopathic narcissists are.

And finally, people pleasers are conflict averse. They need to be accepted and to belong. They are self-sacrificial.

And so again, superficially on the surface, one could be excused if one were to confuse people pleasers with masochists.

They're pleasers are sacrificial, so they endure pain and suffering exactly like masochists.

But as distinct from masochists, they enjoy this role. They find it gratifying. They pursue it.

The masochist inflicts pain on himself and also enjoys it.

But these are isolated occurrences, more like a life strategy.

Whereas the people pleaser simply wants to fit in and to belong and to be accepted and to be loved and to be liked and to be cherished.

And so the way to do this is to sacrifice one's best interests and to have no boundaries.

You see the distinction.

The people pleaser pursues his or her best interests.

He's the opposite of a masochist. He loves himself or herself.

But the people pleaser engages in dysfunctional strategies to realize this self-love by giving up, by surrendering, by being submissive, by echoing other people, by oversharing, by succumbing, by being interpolated all the time, adopting other people's expectations as one's own.

Let's take an example, which I think will disambiguate all this, make it very clear.

And again, I'm going to take a very extreme example.

A masochist would push his girlfriend to cheat on him in order to endure exquisite torment. The torture of witnessing his girlfriend with another man, if the masochist is a male, this torture is delectable, is desirable, is wonderful, is ambrosia, is nectar to the masochist's soul.

Yes, he wallows in excruciating pain, but this pain is a kind of delicacy that masochist pursues relentlessly, almost like an addiction.

So the masochist would send his girlfriend to another man to cheat on him, if he is a cuckold, for example, because it gives him pleasure.

Ultimately, he transitions through the pain into a state of elation.

Now imagine the self-destructive sort.

The self-destructive sort will act the same way. He will push his girlfriend to cheat on him, but then he will proceed to break up with her or to divorce her if he is married.

In other words, the self-defeating, self-harming type would push his girlfriend to cheat on him in order to destroy his life, in order to devastate himself, in order to ruin the institutions to which he adheres, such as his marriage.

He will shatter his life against the rock of pain and infidelity. He will leverage his partner's disloyalty in order to accomplish the goal of dismantling his own life.

The psychopathic narcissist will send his girlfriend to cheat on him, exactly like the masochist, exactly like the self-destructive sort.

All three will act in the same way.

So that's why when looking from the outside, it's very difficult to tell which is which and what is what.

But the psychopathic narcissist will send his girlfriend to cheat on him because he wants to make sure that he is cucked, he wants to make sure that he's cheated on, but he would do this in order to get rid of his intimate partner, to get rid of an unwanted and burdensome relationship.

Psychopathic narcissist will leverage the partner's shame and guilt to get rid of her.

So it's goal-oriented, the means justify the end and the cost of the inevitable pain of having to watch your girlfriend with another guy is acceptable.

This is the only way to ensure or to secure her future absence and without any stalking or demands or recriminations.

So this is an example of the psychopathic narcissist acting the same way as the masochist does in the same way as the people pleaser does, but for completely different reasons.

Very selfish, very interest-oriented.

And finally, the people pleaser will simply permit his intimate partner, permit his girlfriend to sleep with others just so as to make her happy.

The people pleaser would want to please her partner or his partner by allowing him or her to sleep with other people.

Again, we have the same behavior.

"Honey, you can sleep with this guy, but the reason is, honey, I want you to be happy and I want you to stay with me and I want us to be together. If this is the price I have to pay, I will do it because I'm a people pleaser."

Same behavior, four different explanations.

Pushing your intimate partner to cheat on you, the masochist to enjoy the pain, the people pleaser to please the partner, the psychopathic narcissist to get rid of the partner and the self-destructive type to destroy his marriage or his relationship.

These are all, of course, mentally ill people.

What about respect?

What about boundaries?

What about rules of conduct?

What about codes?

What about scripts?

What happens to all these things?

Don't expect the mentally ill to respect you.

They don't know how. They have no self-respect, so how could they possibly respect other people?

Instead, the mentally ill veer, oscillate between object submission and contemptuous defiance.

And don't expect the mentally ill to not breach your boundaries.

Of course they will, time and again.

They are unboundary.

Mentally ill people have no boundaries or they have porous boundaries. Mentally ill people are hurtful. They cause pain. Hurt people hurt people because they fail to perceive the separateness of others.

Many mentally ill people do not possess a functioning self or an undisturbed identity. They don't exist, actually, except for the agency of other people.

And existing through the agency of other people means you have no boundaries, you don't know where you stop and other people begin.

So do not expect the mentally ill to observe the rules, to obey some code of conduct, to be empathic. The mentally ill are too busy at survival. They are self-centered. They are entitled.

Their mental illness is a get out of jail card, excuses every misbehavior. Everyone else is to blame for the egregious misconduct of the mentally ill. It's known as alloplastic defenses.

So I'll give you two tips from the art of psychotherapy.

So on, if a certain action or some inaction has outcomes, these consequences are intended, whether consciously or unconsciously.

People are often only dimly aware of the full range of their motivations and usually they get it wrong.

But when people make behavioral choices to act or to refrain from acting, they actually seek and they intend the most likely outcomes.

Even when and if they are not aware of the desired ends, of the consequencesof the outcomes, even when they vehemently deny any such intention and motivation, that's precisely what they want.

If someone acts in a certain way and there's a likely outcome, they want the outcome. If someone does not act and there's a likely consequence to not acting, they want this consequence.

Don't listen to any denials, don't believe any disavowals. If someone acts or does not act, they want the likely consequences of their choices.

Example, if you act in a way that imperils and dangers a long-held relationship, it is because you want this relationship over. You wish to extricate yourself from this relationship. You want out. This is your way of sabotaging the relationship.

If you don't act in a certain way and it would mean that the relationship is endangered, the same. You want it over.

The second tip I'm going to give you, what clients say in therapy matters far less than why they choose to say what they are saying.

What content do the clients select? What do they elect to disclose? What do they omit and why? What words do they employ and why do they choose these words? Why do so disclose anything in a particular timing?

The subtext, the hidden occult text matters much more than the overt text.

Speech acts need to be deconstructed to teach us anything meaningful about the client.

In one of the dominant features of deconstructing speech acts is isolating interpolations.

The way other people's expectations, wishes, dreams, hopes, demands, weigh on us, penetrate our minds, fashion our choices and decisions and actions, and ultimately become an integral part of our identity.

This, by the way, is Lakan.


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