Hello everyone and hello Sam. We have a special guest today, the author of the Bible, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. Hello Sam.
Hello, just one correction, the author of the Bible was God. I wrote Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, not God. But sometimes I get confused, I'm not sure who I am.
Okay, I'm happy to see you and hear you and today I would love to speak with you about, I think, a really important topic, which I can see that we have a lot of myths around this topic and I'm speaking about growth and integration when we are working with ourselves or with a therapist.
So yes, I would love to speak with you about that. Could you elaborate maybe first about self-growth and you know and growth in general?
I will start as usual with some controversial statements because this is expected and we don't want to disappoint the viewers.
Growth is a very Western concept. It's a Western concept because it is intimately linked to another concept, the concept of progress.
Personal growth of personal development is perceived in Western civilization as a desirable goal, a very good thing, something we should aspire to, we should direct our lives to grow and develop all the time and it is linear. It's a linear process, very much like progress.
So the more you grow, the better person you are, the better your outcomes, the better people feel around you, etc.
And also growth in Western perception is derivative. Growth is responsive to the environment, to other people, to events in your life.
So growth is not entirely under your control. You don't control it fully. It's a bit reactive, actually in a big way it's reacting.
According to psychodynamic schools in psychology, growth is totally determined from the outside, for example the way the mother treats the child.
The first stage of growth is separation and individuation, which is separating from mother and gradually developing a persona, a personality.
And this depends very closely on the mother. If the mother is a bad mother, a dead mother, dysfunctional mother, then separation and individuation will fail.
So until more or less the 1990s, 1980s, we regarded growth as determined from the outside, actually not something that is your decision or control or choice or whatever.
Now none of these things is actually true. All of these things are culture-bound. In other words, they are not really psychological realities. They are cultural artifacts, cultural beliefs, cultural norms.
For example, in some societies it is a very bad idea to grow. Take for example Japan. Japan is a collectivist society and they don't like you to be an individual.
This is true. In Japan it's a negative adaptation to individuate, to separate, to become, to grow, to develop. It's a negative adaptation in collectivist societies, not only Japan, reputation-based societies in the Arab world and so on and so forth.
So this is very culturally determined.
Also in some situations it's very good to be an infant, to infantilize in some situations. For example, when you are in a dictatorship, when you're living in a dictatorship, it's a seriously bad idea to have your own opinion, to have critical thinking, to disagree with the government. Really bad idea. You need to be an infant. You need to be a child in such a society so that the government, the state, can act as a nanny state, as a mother substitute and you remain a child forever.
People in dictatorships are not allowed to develop and to grow. You're not thinking about Poland, don't you? I'm not speaking about Poland. I'm speaking about much more egregious examples such as North Korea today, Russia today and Nazi Germany in the past and so on and so forth. People were not allowed to grow and develop in these societies. They were penalized if they did.
So not growing up in these societies was a positive adaptation, not a negative thing. It would have been recommended by therapists. If you went to a therapist in Nazi Germany and you said, "Oh my god, they're killing the Jews, this is really bad," the therapist would have given you medication because you're probably something wrong with you.
Additionally, growth is cyclical. It is not linear. And this is not some wackney. This is Zygmunt Freud. Growth is not linear. You grow and if there is some obstacle, some problem, if you fail to grow, you regress. You go back to the previous phase of growth.
So growth is not a linear thing, like a train. It always goes from A to B.
But growth is a series of trials and errors. Sometimes you succeed to grow, sometimes you don't succeed to grow. And when you don't succeed to grow, you go back to what you used to be. And this is a process known as regression.
And finally, growth is not a goal. It's not something to aspire to. It is an instrument. Growth is a good thing for survival in some circumstances and some environments. So it is a means to an end. It is very much like education. Education in itself is not a goal. You don't have a goal to study mathematics or to study engineering. You study engineering because you want to make a living, because you want to have a family, because you want to, you know, this is a means, not a goal.
And it's a big mistake to consider growth and development as goals, as Western society does, and all the self-help industry.
We also confuse a lot personal growth and personal development with acquisition of skills. You could be very skilled and an infantile person, not developed, even mentally ill.
So, oh, yes. So skill acquisition is not the same as personal growth or personal development.
Personal autonomy, personal agency, personal independence, they're not the same like personal growth and personal development.
Actually, some elements in personal growth require that you reduce your independence. For example, when you fall in love and have an intimate relationship, you need to reduce your autonomy, not increase it. You need to reduce your independence, but falling in love and being able to maintain intimacy is a very important component of personal growth.
So sometimes personal growth is the opposite of independence and autonomy and agency and defiance and so on. And yet we tend to confuse these things, and they are not the same.
The three thinkers that guide us today when it comes to personal growth are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, and another guy who is much less known. His name is Adolfo.
These are the three big thinkers on growth.
Since this is not a monologue, if you would like to discuss these schools of thought, we can. It's up to you.
Yes, of course, we can, especially. I can see that it's a big problem, especially in the young generation that I can see.
They confuse. I can see a lot of frustration when I'm working with young people, 20, 25, 26. They don't know what to do, how to make a progress, how to develop and how to grow because they see that this is the important thing, especially Western Europe. And I can see that they lost.
Yes, I think they are lost because of something that Maslow, Abraham Maslow said a long time ago, decades ago. He said that we need to differentiate between two types of motivation. One is called deficiency motivation and one is called meta motivation.
Deficiency motivation is when we miss something and we want it. For example, I have a deficiency motivation to drink wine right now. Or to buy the new iPhone. iPhone 15.
Yes, these are all deficiency motivations. Yeah. And they are intimately linked to the capitalist ethos of consumption. They have to do with consumption, consumerism.
So we want a house, apartment and then we want gadgets and devices and then we want and then we objectify people. We begin to want people the way we want iPhones. We begin to see people as objects. As commodities and we consume people the same way we consume instruments or devices or trips or whatever.
So consumption mindset has to do with I am missing something and I need to have it. And that's why he called it, that's why Maslow called it deficiency motivation.
So I'm missing an iPhone. I want to have it. I'm also missing a lover and I want to have it. I want to have the lover the same way I have the iPhone. I want to own and possess the lover and use her or him as an object.
Now, young people confuse deficiency motivation with meta motivation. They think if they own things, they're going to be happy.
Yeah. They confuse, they don't understand that to own things has nothing to do with happiness and personal growth and personal development.
And that if the most important thing for you is to own things, things are going to end up owning you. So you are going to end up being owned by your own things, not the other way.
And so this is why Maslow coined the word meta motivation. He said that meta motivation doesn't have to do with anything external like an iPhone.
Yeah. It has to do with internal processes.
I want to read to you a sentence that I found in the writings of Abraham Maslow. So we can elaborate more about Maslow, Rogers, and okay.
So Maslow wrote that meta motivation are those motives that impale the individual to character growth, character expression, maturation and development. And they operate on the level of self-actualization and transcendence in the hierarchy of needs.
So what Maslow said actually is if we are very immature, when we are infantile, we are focused on things, owning things, possessing things, using things, manipulating things, focused on things.
And we convert people around us to things with thingify people around us. But then we grow up, we develop and the sign that we have grown up and we have self-developed is when we are no longer concerned about anything external, but we are concerned only about the internal.
Am I loyal to myself? Am I authentic? Am I being authentic? Am I realizing my potential? Or is there wasted potential? Am I happy in doing what I'm doing? Or am I not happy? Am I taking steps to improve my well-being, etc.
So the focus is very different and he called the meta motivation.
And meta motivation is that the heart of the ultimate form of status of growing up, which is self-actualization. That's the tip of the famous Abraham Maslow pyramid.
So this was Maslow's theory of human growth. It's actually a school in psychology. It's known as hysteria.
And then there was a guy called Aldous. Strangely, he's not very well known. I think mainly because he was working in industry. He was working with factories. So he was never in academia. He was an industrial organizational psychologist.
And so people in academia, they never heard of him. But Aldous, actually, invented the modern version of Maslow's work. It is known as ERG theory.
So the dominant theory today of growth, personal growth and personal development, is Aldous', not Maslow's. And it's known as ERG.
And Aldous says that we have three types of needs.
Number one, existential needs, needs of existence, like for example, to eat and to drink wine, which for me is an existential need. I hope people realize that sometimes I'm kidding.
The second type of needs is relatedness. We need to relate to other people. We need to be in contact with other people. We need to socialize. We need to fall in love. We need to make children. We need all this. These are related.
And then there's a third layer, which is growth needs. Growth needs are what Maslow described.
So this is why the theory is called ERG theory, existence, relatedness, growth. Understand.
And Aldofe, Clayton Aldofe, Aldofe, A-L-D-E-R-F-E-R.
Aldofe said that growth needs are a sign of maturation and the ability to develop an internal locus of control, a mastery of your own life, the ability to direct your life and to drive your life to make yourself a better person in your own eyes so that you see yourself as fully actualized, your potential is fully implemented, and you're happy in your creativity and so on and so forth.
We'll discuss it a bit later when we talk about integration and growth.
Integration, yes. Hopefully.
Now, the other very dominant thinker on growth and the last one is Carl Rogers.
Carl Rogers came up with humanistic psychology and does humanistic therapy as well.
By the way, in today's very sick and crazy world, humanistic psychology would be considered unacceptable, unethical, and even criminal to some extent.
Because, for example, in humanistic psychology, you're supposed to have bodily contact. You're supposed to hug the patient.
And today it would be considered probably sexual abuse.
How far we have drifted from the work of Carl Rogers, for me, is the barometer of how sick we have become as a society.
Because Carl Rogers' work and his therapy is the most humane treatment modality ever invented. It's about being human, really, fully.
The second maybe is logotherapy by Viktor Frankl, these two.
And no wonder these two today are frowned upon, criticized, because the world is sick, not these therapists. These therapists are healthy. The world is sick. The world is sick simply.
Now, Carl Rogers said that in order to personally develop and personally grow, you need to be embedded in an environment that doesn't contain coercion or distortion.
So the environment around you needs to let you have your own tempo, your own pace, your own rhythm of development and growth, not put pressures on you, no expectations, no demands, no punishments, but let you evolve at your own pace.
And the second condition is that the environment does not force you to falsify reality, to distort reality, to perceive it wrongly.
Now, one of the most famous cognitive distortions, one of the most famous ways of misperceiving reality is known as grandiosity.
So in narcissism, we have a situation of distortion.
Yes. Narcissist misperceives himself, reality and his place in reality.
So consequently, the narcissist becomes coercive. He is aggressive in many ways.
And Rogers understood this. He says, you cannot develop, you cannot grow up, you cannot learn, you cannot evolve, you cannot become a full fledged person.
If you're in an environment that lies to you, gives you wrong information about reality and then coerces you. He says, if there's no coercion and no distortion, there are forces inside you, creative forces and integrative forces.
By the way, they're not the same. Creativity takes you away from yourself. Integration takes you back to yourself.
But you need to have both. You need to have both.
And then Karl Rogers said, if your integrity forces and creative forces are allowed to operate in a benign environment, in a good environment, then you begin to develop several elements of personal growth and personal development.
Number one, adaptation. You adapt yourself to the environment.
Number two is insight, the ability to perceive yourself correctly. And when you do perceive yourself correctly, this self perception generates dynamics. It creates change and transformation in you.
And this is what we do in therapy, of course, we provide the patient with insight and the insight generates dynamics.
He says the third element is self-esteem. He said, once you're in a benign functional environment, and you adapt it to this environment and you begin to have insight and so on, so forth, you develop self-esteem.
And the self-esteem allows you to realize your potential. Self-esteem is not grandiosity, because self-esteem is grounded in reality. It means that you know yourself, you know your strengths, but you also know your weaknesses. You know your potential, but you also know your limitations. And you accept yourself as you are.
You don't reject yourself. You love yourself, not narcissistically. You love yourself as you are.
The narcissist doesn't love himself. He loves a totally fake, wrong, false image of himself. He doesn't love himself. He loves a version of himself that he wish he were aware. He loves his wishful thinking, not himself.
A really healthy person loves himself or herself.
And then this allows for dynamics or transformation, which is another name for growth.
So these are the major schools in human growth in personal development.
Thank you. Thank you so much for that, because I think it's really important to hear, especially from the expert, what is growth and what is the second thing that I would love to speak about with you?
Integration. What is an integration then? A very, very controversial topic in psychology.
When you go to self-help books and so on and so forth, they're not really psychology. They're definitely not academic psychology.
They reflect, I would say, popular wisdom, street wisdom. They are based, self-help books are based more on an experience, on experiences and anecdotes.
Academic psychology is very different and very little of academic psychology makes it into self-help. That's why academic psychology is a critical of self-help and self-help authors are critical of academic psychologists because there's no meeting place.
Now, one of the main contentious issues is integration, which is in Jung's work is known as constellation.
First of all, integration assumes there is something to integrate. Integrations assumes that there is a pre-integration and post-integration phases.
So before the integration, you have multiple elements, multiple parts, multiple ingredients and components, and then by some alchemical mystical process, these come together and form a unity.
Now, this unity, this kernel, this nucleus is known as the self in Jung's work. It's known as the ego in Freud's work. It is many names, but there's always the assumption that if you were to dig deep into the individual, you will find a core identity and that is the individual.
If you touch this core identity, you're touching the individual. Of course, this is the outcome of integration. This is not a very good description of a human being.
Human beings are in flux. They fluctuate. They are more like a river, not like a pond and not like a lake. They're like a river.
You can never meet the same person twice. That's a major problem in psychology because psychology cannot conduct the same experiment twice.
So there is a replication problem. The subjects keep changing all the time. So you can never meet the same person twice.
And if you cannot meet the same person twice, what's the meaning of a core? If your experiences, your traumas cause you to change and sometimes change dramatically, where is your core? Where is this nucleus?
Do you have a part of you that is untouched by your experience and your life?
And then there's another part that is touched? Or is all of you touched by your experience and trauma? In which case youdon't have a core. You don't have an integrated anything. You don't have even a self.
So there is this work by Philip Bromberg, which I'm continuing in my work.
And Philip Bromberg suggests that we don't have an integrated self or an integrated ego or anything integrated at all. We have a theory, a repertoire. We have a repertory of reactions to changing environments. So each environment provokes, triggers a set of reactions specific to that environment. And this is called ego state or self state or or sub personality in other schools. It's called sub personality.
So the current perception is that integration and constancy actually never happened, that it was just a myth and allegory or wishful thinking on behalf of the early thinkers of psychology. And these early thinkers were not rigorously scientific. They were based mostly on introspection.
A lot of Freud's work is was based on introspection and very, very few cases, very few shocking. If you Freud actually mentions 13 cases in all his work.
Young is not much better.
So this is a very limited sample.
And today we have a better perception, I think.
So what why do we feel that we are the same? Why does dahlia feels that she's still dahlia?
Although if dahlia were to look back 10 years, I think she would have realized that she's not dahlia.
But why does she feel that she's dahlia?
Because there is a continuity of memories. And the memories underline what we call identity. When we have situations where memories disrupted, for example, in Alzheimer's, there is no identity and the person does not feel any continuity and doesn't feel that he's the same or she's the same from day to day. Some things are fixed. For example, your attachment style is actually fixed for life. Don't believe the nonsense online. In the overwhelming vast majority of cases, well over 90, 95%, you cannot change attachment style. This is you, period. Many of your traits, character traits are usually for life and cannot be changed. A lot of behavioral patterns, not all, but many are fixed.
And this is what Freud called repetition compulsion. You keep doing the same thing over and over. You keep selecting the same partners, same mates. You keep doing the same things. You keep failing the same way, succeeding the same way. So there is a rigidity of behavioral patterns, traits and motives. Your motivations almost never change throughout life.
So there is something that is immutable. There are some things that never change. And these things give you the impression that you are still the same. Although these things are not all of you, they are just a part of you. The other parts of you keep changing all the time.
Now, we develop the belief that we are immutable, that we are unchanging, that we are integrated, we became a unitary single core thing. Because it's helpful, it's a positive adaptation to deceive ourselves this way. It's positive to believe this nonsense.
Because if you believe that you're the same, you're much more efficacious. You're much more, you are able to obtain positive outcomes from the environment much more.
If you believe that you're the same, imagine if you were to believe that you're not the same, that every day you are different. It would have confused you a lot. You wouldn't know what to do. You don't know how to behave. You wouldn't know how to convince other people to help you or obtain some results.
Or I think even trust to yourself. Trust yourself? Absolutely. So you would have been less self efficacious.
The second thing is that if you believe that you are the same, you minimize the investment of your emotional and psychological resources.
If you say I'm the same, so I don't need to revisit myself. I don't need to review myself, I don't need to check myself, I don't need to investigate myself, don't need to examine myself, I'm the same. So this saves a lot of energy. Saves a lot of resources. It's minimum effort.
The last thing is if you believe that you're the same, you're avoiding dissonance and conflict, which is very critical. It's dissonance and conflict create paralyzing, debilitating anxiety, reduce your ability to perform.
So by lying to yourself that you are integrated and constellated in the same Dalia, in as the core and nucleus and basically most of the time you're the same. You avoid dissonance and conflict.
Now, of course, it's a defense. This is a massive defense because if you were to really see yourself, you would have become dissonant. That is inevitable.
Whenever we create insight in therapy, the patient becomes dissonant. It's well known. Freud called it resistance.
Yes, this is resistance. And it's not a pleasant feeling. So it's not a pleasant thing. Not for the patient, but it is a defense against realizing, wow, I am not, I'm not the same person from minute to minute, from day to day and have been lying for myself all this time and so on. So there's a lot of resistance.
And so I would summarize and say that the misguided wrong belief that we have an integrated, constellated, unitary ego or self is a defense against insight and dissonance, against.
So this prevents insight and prevents dissonance.
Perhaps the first thing a good therapist would do in therapy is to convince the people, demonstrate to the patient that it is legitimate to not be the same from one day to the next, that she or he, the patient doesn't have the obligation to be predictable or to provide other people with certainty or to conform to societal expectations or to never experiment and so on, because these are all results of the belief that you're the same person all the time.
You know, people want to do something. They want to do something experimental. They want to be adventurous. They want to do something wonderful. But then they say, it's not like me. What do people think about me? It's not like me.
And when you confront someone and say, do you realize that you have said this or do you realize you've done this? Very often people will tell you it doesn't sound like me. I don't believe it.
And this is of course the myth of the integrated, unitary ego or self, which does not exist for sure. Does not exist. I do agree. Thank you for that. That's why I'm working with the approach internal family system parts or parts or, you know, self-states.
And first thing that I'm telling to my client is that you have self-states and or parts. So they know that it's not like, you know, one self and that's it. And thank you for that, because I can see online a lot of myths that we can change attachment style and, you know, we can change a lot of things that then that we cannot do it.
So I would like to add two observations very briefly, because we have four minutes and 34 seconds, 33, 32.
The first observation is we are not a black box. The assumption that you have a unitary ego, unitary self, it's like a black box. There's no way to penetrate this unitary self and unitary ego, because it's integrated. So you cannot see the parts. You can see only the surface, but not inside.
And to see inside, you need to be very aggressive, like in psychoanalysis. You need to confront the patient with this with the traumas of the past and you need to really and Freud called it a reaction. Hereaction.
He said there is a nuclear explosion after that.
If you do this.
So psychoanalysis is an aggressive confrontational adversarial method.
Where the therapist is fighting the patient and the patient is resisting the therapist. It's a war.
No, but it's all based on the assumption that you need an explosive device to open up the ego.
And it's not true. It's not a black box.
The last thing I want to observe is that we all have voices. These are voices of mother and father and meaningful others and teachers and role models. And these voices are known as introjects.
And even in psychoanalytic literature and even in psychodynamic literature, there's no denying that we have introjects.
But wait a minute.
If these introjects are so powerful, how can this sit well? How can we reconcile this with an all dominant, all powerful ego or all powerful self?
It's not true. We have a battlefield of numerous voices, all competing for our attention, all trying to change our behaviors and so on and so forth.
Internal family system is a representation of this insight, of this idea.
But there are others.
It's not the only transactional analysis is doing this also.
So it's not the only treatment modality with this idea. Of course.
But yeah, we are fragmented. We are fractured. We are broken. All of us are broken in one way or another.
And sometimes it's the role of therapy actually to integrate us just a little.
I do agree. Thank you so much for the insight. And I hope it's you soon.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Take care.