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Narcissism, Abuse: His POV, Her POV (Compilation)

Uploaded 11/28/2023, approx. 1 hour 59 minute read

I record as well.

Perfect.

Are you right for us to launch straight into it and we just see where we go?

I do have a list of questions. Do you want me to touch on them now or are you okay?

No, no, no. Let's just charge ahead.

Spontaneity is a mother of necessity or something like that. Let's go ahead.

I like it.

Well, in that case, Sam, it's an absolute pleasure having you with us today. I'm sure our listeners are going to get a lot from this conversation.

So I guess just to set the scene for anyone who's not familiar with your work.

So Professor Vaknin has a background originally in physics. If you wanted to talk to him about chronons and quantum mechanics, he's got another life in there. He's a medical doctor. He's a professor of finance and he served as an advisor to several governments for a long period of time. He's an author. He's written lots and lots of books, including Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism, Malignant Self-Love. You've got a YouTube channel with 170,000 subscribers. And you have over 805 videos on there. So you're very prolific, I guess, to where the conversation will go today, which is in psychology.

So you are a professor in psychology. And many would regard you today as an expert in the field of narcissistic personality disorders, so MPD.

And that's really what we want to share with some of our listeners today.

So maybe let's just launch straight into it if that's right with you.

Please go ahead. Absolutely.

I forgot my main qualification. I'm an insomniac 60 year old.

Well, given how much you've done in life, that's probably not a surprise. It's believable, isn't it? It's credible.

Yeah. Yeah.

So Sam, we often hear people talk about narcissism. They'll say things like, oh my gosh, my ex was such a narcissist or my boss is a narcissistic maniac.

And I guess in the world of psychology, when we talk about narcissism as a pathology, as something that's gone wrong, it's very different to someone who has a narcissistic trait.

So maybe let's start with that.


Can you set the scene for our listeners?

What is narcissism as a trait and what is narcissism as a disorder where it's gone deeper than that?

Well, we don't use the word trait because narcissism is a complex of traits and behaviors.

But we do use the phrase narcissistic style, which was coined by a scholar by the name of Lynn Sperry.

So Lynn Sperry was the first to suggest that there is a distinction, should be a distinction between narcissistic style and the narcissistic disorder.

Now, the disorder is merely a malignant form of the style where the style, for example, might be abrasive and a bit antisocial. The disorder would add to that, a lack of empathy, where the style would be self-centered and a bit egotistical. The disorder would be exploitative and abusive.

So it's simply a malignancy of exactly like cancer is a malignancy of the healthy self.

Now, the narcissistic style is becoming more and more common because it's a positive adaptation in our civilization.

Self-promotion, the mid-generation, self-centeredness, social atomization, the collapse of institutions such as family and community, etc. force us to become self-sufficient and self-contained and self-referential.

So all of us gradually are developing narcissistic style as a way of coping with our reality, which is harrowing and dystopian.

But the disorder itself involves a bewildering multiplicity of pathological processes, defense mechanisms, gone awry. Childhood traumas converted into other forms of trauma.

I mean, it's a much more complex landscape than the style.

The style is simply a set of coping strategies which had coalesced into something coherent and cohesive, while the disorder involves a massive disruption in almost every conceivable dimension of personality, identity and functioning.

And what sort of percentages of men and women in the Western world suffer from NPD?

Actually, we have good statistics in other places as well, for example, India, Egypt, China, Russia.

So by now we know much more than we used to 20 or 25 years ago.


Here's the thing. In the past, we used to believe that 75% of all people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are men and 25% are women. Today, the ratio is 50/50.

And actually, there's a very worrisome phenomenon where women are becoming gradually more narcissistic than men.

And we think the number of women is beginning to exceed the number of men.

And we think, I mean, one of the hypotheses why this is happening is that traumatized women, women who had been traumatized in intimate relationships, tend to develop narcissistic defenses, tend to become narcissistic.

And so they tend to present with such a variety of intense narcissistic symptoms that they cross the threshold into narcissistic personality disorder.

But it's a different type of narcissistic personality disorder because it is situational. It's reactive. It's not something that had happened to them in early childhood.

So we might as well call it late onset pathological narcissism.

So we are beginning to see, therefore, a panoply, a zoo of narcissistic disorders.

We see post-traumatic narcissism.

So narcissism is a reaction to trauma, whether in early childhood or late in life.

We see constitutional narcissism, which usually is allied or aligned with psychopathy. We see grandiosity, which is an integral feature of borderline personality disorder and all the antisocial personality disorder spectrum.

So we are beginning to understand, we're beginning to reconceive of narcissism in several ways.

First, we are beginning to consider narcissism a form of post-traumatic reaction, a kind of post-traumatic disorder.

Then we're beginning to reconceive of narcissism as an addiction, a kind of addictive personality, because narcissists are addicted to narcissistic supply. They're addicted to input from the environment in order to regulate their internal landscape.

And finally, we are beginning to realize that actually all these distinctions, all these differential diagnoses between psychopaths and narcissists and borderlines and histrionic, they're Sorry for the rough language. No, no, we can talk. They are utter nonsense.

And so, for example, the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, which is the world's DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is used mainly in North America, more precisely in the United States. The rest of the world is using another book. And that other book is titled The International Classification of Diseases, ICD.

The latest edition of the ICD, edition 11, had eliminated all these diagnoses. They're gone. And they have a single diagnosis, personality disorder.

So now, in the rest of the world, you are diagnosed with a personality disorder with narcissist's de-emphasis, personality disorder with psychopathic emphasis or overly.

So it's very antiquated thinking to say, oh, he's not a narcissist, he's a psychopath, or he's not a narcissist, he's a borderline.

We're beginning to understand that all of these, especially narcissism and borderline, are post-traumatic artifacts and that they share, they have so much in common and so many crossovers and so much comorbidity.

In other words, they are so common together in the same patient that all these distinctions are totally besides the point and wrong, simply wrong.

Hmm.

How would you tell if you were in a relationship with someone and they started displaying personality concerns, particularly narcissistic concerns?

What are the sorts of warning signs that some of our listeners might look for that would flag that there might be a narcissistic issue there, specifically narcissistic?

Well, the first red alert, by far the most dominant, most important, is a lack of empathy.

Now, narcissists have what we call empathy.

Called empathy is cognitive empathy coupled with reflexive empathy.

In other words, they are able to read you well. They're able to spot your vulnerabilities.

And once they had spotted your vulnerabilities, they intrude, they invade you via the chinks in your armor.

So they're very good at reading your weak spots, your frailties, your fears, your wishes, and then leveraging this to take over you, essentially, to launch a hostile takeover.

But they don't have the emotional correlate.

In other words, they may notice that you are sad, but they will not feel sad consequently. They will not even understand what it means to be sad. They will not empathize, therefore.

So a lack of empathy. A lack of empathy manifests on a first date or a second date or an initial relationship. A lack of empathy manifests in two ways.

When the person is hyper-intellectualising, in other words, when everything goes through the mind but nothing goes through the heart.

So when there's a lot of analysis going on, when the narcissist analyses you all the time, breaks you to pieces, disassembles you, puts you together, synthesises you and deconstructs you all the time. It's like you are a lab rat, you know, like you're an experiment in psychology and the narcissist keeps trying to put you together in his mind.

So this is a very telling sign, hyper-analyzing you without concomitant emotional reactions, doing it as one would do to a laboratory mouse or a rat.


The second thing is, even when you are in need of support and support and understanding, even when you show overt signs of being in distress and so on and so forth, the narcissist is extremely unlikely to react or is likely to react with aggression because you're weak and contemptible.

So we call this inappropriate affect. The narcissist reacts wrongly. He laughs at the funeral. He finds tragedy funny and he finds your distress contemptible because it means you're weak.

So wrong reactions, inappropriate affect. These are the two, I think.

And then you can observe the narcissist in action. Is he trying to take over you, to control you, to micromanage you, to tell you what to do, where to put the keys, when to go to the toilet, why have you been there for too long?

He chooses the wine. He orders the dishes. He doesn't bother to consult you. He, I mean, he takes over. He micromanages your life from first moment.

Another very telling sign is how does it treat people he perceives to be inferior to him, like cab drivers, waiters, service providers. How does it treat them?

He perceives people to be inferior. If he berates them and demeans them and attacks them and humiliates them, then he's very likely a narcissist because narcissist immediately establish hierarchies, hierarchies of power.

Narcissists are engaged constantly in power plays.

Another very telling sign is if he immediately tries to establish his superiority.

And so he scans you and he finds the only area where he's superior. And then the rest of the evening, the rest of the date revolves around that area where he's superior.

So if you're more athletic, he's not going to dwell on this. But if you know a lot less about biology, the rest of the date will revolve around biology because that's where he can be superior.

So focus, focus on superiority.

And finally, another sign, there are many, I mean, there are numerous.

Another sign is an external locus of control. If the narcissist plays the victim, plays the victim intends to claim that all his defeats and failures and mishaps and wrong decisions were brought about because of other people's envy or because he's a misunderstood figure or because society is wrongly constructed or wrong principles or always blaming someone else.

An institution, another person, his boss, his ex-wife, you're naming, if he has alloplastic defenses, if he tends to blame other people constantly.

Here's the thing. The minute you come across a narcissist on a date, in the workplace, in a presentation, never mind where, you immediately feel ill at ease. Immediately.

There's something wrong. Something is his gone or ride. There's something creepy. It's like the parts of the narcissist don't fit together. A badly assembled robot.

You know, it's like there's something, there's a glitch in the software. It's like a badly run simulation of a human being. It's like an Android, but of the first generation, not yet fully ironed out.

You know, and so you have this you have this ill at ease feeling. It's something and this is called the uncanny valley. The technical term for this, this feeling is the uncanny valley because there was a Japanese roboticist, Masahiro Mori. And in 1970, he suggested that when robots come to resemble human beings to the maximum, we're going to feel very uncomfortable around robots.

So because they are so close to human beings that would resemble human beings that would simulate human beings so well, but there would still be something missing.

The robotic essence, if you wish, the robotic essence, we're going to stop this because we are not robots. We're going to spot another species. We're going to have this problem with artificial intelligence as well.

And so that's why compare narcissists to forms of artificial intelligence or aliens from another planet who body snatch human bodies.

And then, you know, of course, they are not human beings, but they are so deficient and defective human beings that they defy the definition itself. They defy the word. They're not human in the full sense of the word.

Absolutely. And we are uncomfortable around pseudo humans, quasi humans, wannabe humans, imitation humans, simulation humans. We feel very uncomfortable.

So why do women ignore this gut feeling, this uncanny valley?

Because they're lonely. They're lonely. They're self deceiving. They want to believe. They want to hope. They crave and long for a relationship. They're going to overlook anything and everything.

That's the truth. The truth is, had people listened to their gut instincts, all narcissists would be utterly isolated. No one would have any dealings with them.

But people deny that their intuition, they buried because their intuition tells them run for the hills now.

So is there something charming and engaging about that projection that the narcissist gives off? Does that play at all?

Narcissists are not charming or engaging.

But the narcissist has a very simple trick up his sleeve.

The narcissist idealizes you. So the narcissist idealizes you and then projects to you his your idealized version.

So the narcissist focuses on you like a laser beam. He acts as though you're the most interesting person in the world that he had ever come across. He makes you feel so elevated, elated and superior. He infects you with his own grandiosity. He idealizes you and then he lets you see. He lets you witness your own idealized version.

So he actually makes you fall in love with yourself. It is not that you find the narcissist charming. It's that you find it charming that the narcissist finds you charming. That's what charms you.

The narcissist finds you charming or pretends to find you charming and you find this irresistible because you want to be charming. You want to consider yourself irresistible.

And this is the message the narcissist is sending you. There's no one like you. You're amazing. You're hyper intelligent. You're the most gorgeous person I've ever seen. Drop dead gorgeous. You're this, you're that. You're that, you know, and you want to hear that. It's addictive. It's an addictive message.

You're actually when you fall in love with the narcissist, you fall in love with yourself.

I compare the narcissist to a hole of mirrors. When you enter the hole of mirrors, it's empty. Just mirrors. When you enter the hole of mirrors, you see yourself reflected a thousand million times. Who can resist this? No one can.

Is that what we commonly hear referred to as love bombing? That phase when, as you said, the laser lighting you, you are absolutely overwhelmed with their affection and their adoration of you.

Yes, that is a love bombing phase and it's followed by the grooming phase. The love bombing phase is idealizing you and exposing you to your own idealization, which no one can resist. It becomes totally addictive. That's why this is the essence of trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding has two pillars. One pillar is core idealization where the narcissist idealizes you and in return you return the favor. You idealize the narcissist. So there's core idealization. That's one pillar of trauma bonding.

And of course, when you feel idealized, it is so addictive that you can't let go. You need the source of idealization next to you. You can't let go.

And the second pillar of trauma bonding is what we call intermittent reinforcement.

The narcissist conditions you, gets you addicted very much like social media, but the narcissist gets you addicted to your own idealization and then he withdraws it abruptly. He just goes back and exactly like a drug pusher, you would chase him because you need the next fix.

So this creates extreme bonding. It's known as trauma bonding.

The trauma is the intermittent reinforcement.

And so love bombing is this core idealization phase and it is followed by grooming. Grooming is simply a set of procedures, strategies and instructions on how you should behave if you want me to continue to idealize you.

So this is what you should do if you want me to continue to be in your life and to become the unwavering found of your idealization.

And of course, you're an addict by now. You would do anything. You would steal money from your mother. You know, you would do anything to continue to get the drug, to get your fix.


So I think in your book you refer to an inverted narcissist as the victim of a narcissist. It's almost this impression of someone that's been pressed up against a narcissist and it's the flip of that.

Is that sort of that dynamic that you're describing there?

No, the inverted narcissist is a narcissist. It's a subspecies of covert narcissist. The inverted narcissist is a covert narcissist who obtains her narcissistic supply via another narcissist. So she is a parasite narcissist. She creates a symbiosis. She creates a symbiosis with another narcissist.

The inverted narcissist, because she is a covert narcissist, lacks the confidence to go out on her own, to strike out on her own and obtain supply. So what she does, she teams up with someone like me, with a narcissist, an inverted or grandiose narcissist.

And then he obtains the supply and she basks in his glory.

It reminds me that in the 19th century Germany, if you were married to a doctor, if you're a woman and you were married to a medical doctor, you were called Frau Doctor, Mrs. Doctor. So his glory, his academic accomplishments reflected on you as a woman. Even if you've never attended elementary school, you were still called Frau Doctor.

So it's the same with the inverted narcissist. Think about it as the sun and the moon. The moon doesn't have its own light, but it reflects the light of the sun. And the moon is the inverted narcissist. The sun is the overt narcissist.

Sounds extremely toxic. I guess I want to go back to this phase that you were describing.

So initially you're love-bombed, you're putting the laser of the narcissist, you feel amazing and then you're groomed as you said.

Can you walk our listeners through what happens beyond that point? Beyond that point we have something called shared fantasy.

It's pretty shocking and amazing that not a single one of the self-styled experts on narcissism online even mentions shared fantasy because it is by far the main mechanism of relationships with the narcissist.

Anyone who had bothered to read the academic literature should have been acquainted with it. And it shows me that these so-called experts online don't have a clue about narcissism and have read nothing about it.

You're talking about toxic environment. YouTube is a toxic environment. Absolutely.

Because there are many essentially con artists with and without academic degrees.


Okay, don't get me started. Okay, let's revert to your question.

The next phase is known as shared fantasy. It was first described in 1989. Not by me, by Sam Vaknin. Who is a scholar of cluster B in narcissism.

So the shared fantasy is an extremely complex relationship.

And this is also the source of the trauma of narcissistic abuse.

Because the shared fantasy acts or operates on multiple layers and dimensions and processes. I mean, it would take like a whole book to describe a typical run of the mill pedestrian shared fantasy, let alone a shared fantasy between two really unique people.

Let's say a very intelligent narcissist and a very accomplished woman that would create a shared fantasy, which is kaleidoscopic and even more difficult to describe.

But in a typical shared fantasy, the narcissist is trying to convert his intimate partner.

And I'm going to use stereo. Typically, I'm going to use a man and a woman, but genders are utterly interchangeable. Gender pronouns are utterly interchangeable.

So in a typical shared fantasy, the narcissist is trying to convert his intimate partner into, first of all, a bad object, what we call a persecutory object. In other words, he's trying to convert her into an enemy in his mind.

The first stage is called snapshotting.

The narcissist takes a snapshot of his intimate partner. He internalizes the snapshot and then he photoshops it.

The process of photoshopping is idealization.

So he idealizes the snapshot.

The snapshot is what we call introject in clinical terms. He then proceeds to interact with the snapshot, not with the real person ever, never with the real person, only with the snapshot.

But inevitably, the real person begins to diverge from the snapshot because she is real. She learns things. She grows. She evolves. She moves away. She gets a new job. She meets new people. She diverges from the snapshot. The snapshot is static. That pieces off the narcissist and that renders her an enemy because she is challenging the internal equilibrium of the narcissist. Precariously balanced on all these introjects remaining static. It's a condition for the narcissist's sanity that these introject snapshots will never ever change. That has to do with other issues, abandonment, anxiety, object inconsistency and so on.

So the intimate partner inevitably threatens the narcissist in her peace, harmony and equilibrium. So she becomes an enemy.

The first stage in shared fantasy is converting the intimate partner into a bad object, a threatening object.

Then the narcissist proceeds with the first type of narcissistic abuse because there are two types of narcissistic abuse.

When I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in 1995, I thought there was only one kind and I was wrong. There are two types of narcissistic abuse.

In this phase, in this initial phase of the shared fantasy, there is a special type of narcissistic abuse. And it is intended to test the partner, to see if she is loyal, if she will walk away when she is abused, if she is resilient, if she is strong and if her love is true.

So the narcissist abuses egregiously his intimate partner to test her, to see if she is a keeper, if she will sting.

The second reason is to transform her into a bad object because of course such abuse creates bad blood and a lot of hostility in the partner, which affirms the narcissist's view that she is a persecretary object.

And the third reason is because the narcissist is about to transition to the next phase in the shared fantasy and convert his intimate partner into a mother figure, a maternal figure.

But to do that, he must first ascertain, he must make sure that she will not abandon him, that she will not betray him.

So to do that, he abuses her. The abuse is a pre-qualification test.

Are you going to love me unconditionally? Never mind what I do to you. If the answer is yes, you can be my mother. If the answer is no, if you cheat on me, if you betray me, if you abandon me, you cannot be my mother.

So this is a job interview.

Then the third phase within the shared fantasy is the maternal phase, where the narcissist converts his intimate partner into a mother figure, the mother he never had, and reenacts with her all the conflicts he used to have with his mother, the early childhood conflicts, hoping for a different resolution.

And of course, at this stage, because she's a mother figure, it's incestuous to have sex. So most of these relationships devolve into sexlessness.

The woman at this stage has two options. She can acquiesce, she can accept, she can play along, and then she will remain an eternal mother figure in the narcissist's life. And the relationship can continue for 40 years, unhindered and unobstructed.

The second option for the woman is to say, wait a minute, what's going on here? I have a list of demands. I insist on commitment. I insist on investment. I want to build a home. I want to have a family.

And this is called the bargaining phase. When the woman enters the bargaining phase, she no longer qualifies as a mother. She had failed as an eternal figure.

And the narcissist wants nothing further to do with her. He wants her gun.

And now depending on the narcissist, there's a series of strategies to push her away. The narcissist eliminates all intimacy, loses interest, becomes absent and indifferent. Some narcissists push the woman to cheat. And of course, when she cheats, they have the pretext to end the relationship. But they push her actively. They introduce her to men. They get her drunk and send her away. I mean, you can't imagine. I mean, it's an active strategy to get her to cheat. So some narcissists do that. Some narcissists become abusive. And that's the second type of narcissistic abuse. But that's extreme abuse. Some narcissists insist on kinky sex, which they know full well the woman would reject. For example, they insist on threesomes or group sex. So there is a variety of strategies in the bargaining phase to push the woman away and get rid of this unwanted relationship.

And then there's a brief interlude and the narcissist moves on to love bombing the next target.

And sometimes that love bomb can go back to the original target. Can it cycle back on itself?

It depends. If the narcissist had experienced something called narcissistic modification. Again, it's pretty amazing that none of the other experts online, so-called experts, surfside experts, mentions modification.

This modification has been described in 1957. And it's a foundational process in narcissism. I mean, I'm pretty amazed at the low level of low quality of the so-called informational life.

And so if the woman succeeds to modify the narcissist, he's never going to come back to her again. He's never going to hoover her. Hoovering is a word, a word I coined in 1997 to describe the process of kind of re-obtaining, re-engaging, re-acquiring the original supply. That was a word you coined as well. I hadn't realized it was- I tell most of the words that you know I coined between '95 and '97.

Flying monkeys, hoovering, narcissistic fleas, somatic narcissists, rebel narcissists, narcissistic abuse. You name it, I coined it. I also borrowed words from psychoanalysis, like narcissistic supply, false self, and I redefined them. And so they're used today the way I imbued them with new content or meaning.

So the overwhelming majority of the language in use today, I coined between '95 and '97 because there was no language. There's simply no language.

I wanted to communicate insights and this new understanding, new comprehension, but I didn't have the language. So I had to coin new words, new phrases, ten a day. I mean, dozen a day. I mean, every day.

Well, they've stuck around.

Yeah, it's common practice. I mean, that's the lingua franca. That's the language of narcissism also even in academic publications.

So- Oh, yeah. So we're up to hoovering.

So hoovering, the narcissist- when I coined the phrase in the word in '97, I thought that narcissists always hoover.

And when you go back to the articles that I wrote then, which are available online, still available online, in the Wayback Machine and so on, you will see that I was wrong there.

When I said the narcissist would- I was wrong very often, by the way, between '95 and '97. Don't misunderstand.

So I said that narcissists always hoover. That's not true. Narcissists hoover- Sorry, Sam, just as a quick asterisk for our listeners who may not be familiar with the concept of hoovering, do you mind just doing a quick little sidestep to that and then-

Hoovering is simply when the narcissist recycles all intimate partners, previous intimate partners, exes, and previous sources of supply, narcissistic supply. So he recycles them. He comes back to them. He can come back to them after a week, four months, sometimes 20 years. They are in his address book forever. That's it. And he recycles them.

And of course, because he has a snapshot, when he recycles them, he is astounded that they're not the same, that they're changed.

Because he's actually recycling the snapshot, not the real person. And so he might revert or return to an old source of supply, an old intimate partner, and discover that she's a grandmother. And this would shock him no end, because in his snapshot, she's 30 years old and just waiting for him, frozen in time, waiting for him to return. You know, she didn't get married, she didn't have children, she doesn't have grandchildren. And all this is very shocking to the narcissist. Time stands still in the narcissist's mind.

Because he inhabits, he's very solipsistic. He lives exclusively in an internal universe. And he, like the psychotic, he confuses external objects with internal objects.

And the first to make this observation was not Sam Vaknin, it was Otto Kernberg, who is probably the father of the field. And Otto Kernberg suggested the borderlines and narcissists are actually psychotic or near psychotic. And he was very right about this. They all confuse the external with the internal.

And so, but not all narcissists hoover. That was my mistake.

When the narcissist is mortified, he never hoovers.

Now, what is mortification? Mortification is when the narcissist's grandiosity is efficaciously challenged, efficiently challenged, in public, in front of meaningful or significant others. And it involves shame and humiliation.

So there are several components, ingredients, necessary ingredients in mortification. It must be public. It must challenge grandiosity successfully. Shatter, demolish the grandiosity. It must be done in front of other people, witnesses who mean something to the narcissist. Witnesses who are meaningful, significant to the narcissist. And it must involve shame and humiliation, which are unbearable.

If you put all these four elements together, you have mortification and the narcissist will never ever come back to you because mortification is life-threatening. It disables all the narcissist's defenses.

And then he is actually, he becomes a borderline. He is exposed to the external environment and he becomes enormously dysregulated to the point of suicidal ideation.

So he will never take the risk that you will do it to him again.

Your gone, you delete it.

I want to ask you to dive into the mind of a narcissist for a moment because I feel like we haven't really gone down that path.


So what goes on in the mind of a narcissist and how do they see the world? And I guess that will put a lot of our previous conversation in context as well.

They don't see the world. It's very easy. They don't see the world at all.

They have extremely impaired reality testing. They have severe cognitive deficits. They have no access to positive emotions. They don't have the rudimentary tools or instruments to see the world.

Because if you want to understand the social environment, for example, you can't do that if you don't understand emotions and you don't have empathy. If you want to gauge what's going on, if you want to predict, extrapolate, hypothesize what might happen, you need to take into account elements which are not accessible to the narcissists.

For example, these cognitions are very distorted, very sick because they are filtered through his grandiosity and fantasy.

Grandiosity is a fantasy defense. So narcissism is a fantasy defense writ large.

Of course, fantasy by definition is the opposite of reality. It's divorce from reality.

So he doesn't see the world.

What a narcissist has is a playground or a space which is occupied essentially by two very important things.

One is fantasy. So it's a fantasy space, a fantastic space.

And within the fantastic space, there are narratives and the narratives unfold very much like a series of Netflix.

So the narcissist experiences his life as a movie, as an unfolding movie.

This is one thing. The second thing in the narcissist's mind is introjects or internal objects.

There is an enormous amount, an enormous number of internal objects, much more, a much bigger number than in a healthy person's mind.

Why?

Because the narcissist converts everyone and everything into an internal object.

Why?

Because the narcissist needs to be in control and he can control only internal objects. He can never control external objects. And he has abandonment anxiety. He doesn't want to be abandoned exactly like the borderline.

So he creates this space which is occupied by fantasies, which are narratives.

The narratives organize internal objects in ways that are meaningful to the narcissist and in ways that do not threaten him with abandonment, for example.

So we call this situation object constancy. The narcissist creates internal object constancy.

In other words, he can't trust you not to abandon him, not to betray him, not to cheat on him, not to deceive him. He's a bit paranoid.

So what he does instead, he internalizes you. He converts you into an internal object.

And then he embeds you in a story, in a piece of fiction, which is his fantasy. And then you're safe. Then you're safe because then he controls you 100%.

Consequently, narcissists have precious little contact with reality.

The problem is exacerbated even further by the fact that narcissists, exactly like borderline experience what we call dissociation.

Dissociation has three elements.

Amnesia, narcissists simply forget. I have a database of well over 2000 narcissists, which I had accumulated since 1996. And I have a subsection of my questionnaire. If you are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, you provide me with a letter from your diagnostician, a testing that you had been diagnosed. And then you are eligible to join my database. I administer to you a test of 680 questions. And you answer all these questions.

One module in the test is about dissociation. And so what I had discovered to my other shmooze is that narcissists dissociate away, forget, very close to 90% of their lives. That's nine zero, not 19. Very close. Some of them are crazy. It's crazy, totally.

So this is amnesia.


Another thing they have is depersonalization. It's when they feel that they suddenly are taken over by another personality, or that they're not, they're not, they're acting, but it's not there or acting. Someone else is acting. And it's a bit like demon possession, if you wish.

And the third element is derealization, when very frequently narcissists feel that reality is not real, that it's a bit hallucinatory. It's kind of, you know.

But these are more rare. Depersonalization and derealization are much more common with borderlines, much more common with borderlines.

Amnesia is very common with narcissists. And it's dissociation.

Now, the narcissists react to dissociation in two ways.

They confabulate. They try to construct reasonable hypotheses as to what may have happened, because they don't remember what had happened. They say, well, I don't remember what had happened, but likely this is what had happened. And then they believe in it. Then it becomes reality.

So they confabulate. They bridge over the memory gaps, which invented stories. And then they believe these stories.

This is mechanism number one.

And the second mechanism is what we call self states or subpersonalities or pseudo identities.

Narcissists, borderlines, they don't have a unitary self. They don't have a unitary personality.

The self did not constellate. It did not integrate. So there's no core.

And of course, if you have no memory, you have no identity. So they don't have an identity as well. There's nobody there. It's an absence. It's an emptiness.

What they have instead, they have fragments of the self. And these fragments have characteristics, specific characteristics. And these fragments are used, deployed in a variety of circumstances.

So, for example, when the borderline feels threatened with abandonment or rejection or humiliation, when she's stressed, she is likely to become a secondary psychopath. A secondary psychopath is a psychopath who experiences empathy and emotions.

So the borderline becomes secondary psychopath. She trots out, she takes out the secondary psychopathic self state. And this self state protects her because she's feeling stressed and humiliated and abandoned and terrified and so on. She becomes a psychopath and now she's okay.

It's the same with the narcissist. You could easily say that the narcissist grandiosity is an overwhelming self state.

Now, this sounds a lot like multiple personality. And indeed, I suggest that narcissism and narcissistic disorders, because borderline is a narcissistic disorder, that narcissistic disorders are actually dissociative post-traumatic states.

In other words, they are very, very close to multiple personality. And in some respects, they're indistinguishable.

Of course, the narcissist by definition has at least two personalities, the false self and the true self. By definition, that's the definition of narcissism.

So at least two. And anyone who has spent any time with a borderline, especially in an intimate relationship, anyone will tell you how the borderline suddenly switches and becomes an entirely different person. Utterly different.

It has nothing to do with the original. Anyone will tell you this, who has ever spent more than four days with a borderline.

So something is happening there. The self-states take over. Then they recede. The only difference between borderline is a narcissist and people with dissociative identity disorder, people with multiple personality disorder. The only difference is that in multiple personality disorder, which today is called dissociative identity disorder, in this kind of disorder, there is a host personality. There is a core. There is someone, a personality that moderates the other personalities. This host personality makes decisions, can be communicated with, and is the core of the person.

In many ways, narcissists and borderlines are clinically in much worse shape than people with multiple personality disorder because they do not have a host personality. They do not have a core personality. No one is moderating. No one is in control. It's utter, discombobulated, unmitigated chaos, which is precisely what Kamburg has described. He called it the inner emptiness. And Seinfeld called it the empty-skisoid core.

So in your videos, you talk about how if you are in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, with someone who is effectively an empty shell, there's not much you can do to help them.

Can you talk about that scenario a little bit? What would you do if you realize, oh my gosh, I think I'm in a relationship with a narcissist, or I might be related, parents or brothers, sisters, or maybe even your boss at work. What do you do in those dynamics and what can be done?

You can't help them because there's not them. You can't help someone whose main attribute is absence.

Narcissism is not about presence or existence. It's about absence. Narcissists are the, and borderlines to some extent, but narcissists more.

Narcissists are the only entities of absence that we know of. They are entities of absence.

Yes, it's mind-boggling. They can't help them because there's nobody there to help. There's nobody there to help, which is not the case with borderlines.

But with narcissists, there's nobody there. It's an extreme state. It's a little like a schizoid.

Schizoid also has a big problem with this.

Schizoids and narcissists are states of absence, entities of absence. You can't help them. You can help on yourself. You can help yourself by adjusting your expectations, by reframing the situation, and by reconceiving of the narcissist as something else.

So first of all, adjust your expectations. Expect nothing. Easy. Expect nothing. Then reframe the situation. Don't tell yourself, for example, I'm his intimate partner because narcissists are incapable of intimacy or partnerships. So it's a meaningless phrase. Tell yourself, I'm having a great time with him. It's a fun thing.

You know, for example, reframe the relationship because language affects your consciousness. Your consciousness creates moods and emotions in you. If you misspeceive the situation, if you miss label the circumstances, if you develop expectations, you can end up being very depressed and very frustrated, perhaps angry and aggressive.

Why do you need all this? What for?

The narcissist is a delight to be with sometimes. Take it if that's what you want.

But don't expect anything much more than this. Don't expect depth and profundity and connection and intimacy and love and empathy. And don't.

And if all these are prerequisites, if all these are synnaquana, conditions without which you cannot survive, then walk away. You're never ever going to get this from a narcissist.

At best, if the narcissist is hyper intelligent and a bit psychopathic, he's going to provide you with a simulation, but it's built on sand.

The first test, the simulation crumbles. So you don't want to build your entire life constructed on the foundation of quicksand, you know.


And then the last piece of advice is, reconceive of the narcissist.

The narcissist is like the latest smartphone. It's like iPhone 12. It has numerous apps. It's great fun. You can download things. You can do numerous things with him. He's adventurous. He's usually a risk taker and a novelty seeker. He is a delightful partner for some things, etc.

If this is what you want, if this is what you're in a phase in your life, for example, that you want to experiment a bit, you want to be adventurous, you want to take risks, you seek novelty, and you want the partner who is essentially a child, who's a narcissist, who's two years old, in most cases.

Well then, you know, if you are maternal, a very strong maternal instance, and you want to mother someone, well, narcissist is a perfect fit for you. There's no, there's no hard and true rule. There's no kind of heuristics or rule of thumb to say, you know, it depends.

The answer is depend. It depends.

Some women end up being very happy with narcissists because the narcissist is the eternal child, the Puer Aeternus, the eternal adolescent, and they want to be the eternal mother.

They don't, they're not really concerned about being intimate partners. They're not even concerned with sex. They are willing to render themselves asexual or to cater to the sexual needs, to outsource the sexual needs.

So there are as many arrangements as there are couples, and that is true for the narcissist as well.

But if you're a typical person, typical person, our biological equipment, hormonal equipment, our psychological predispositions and proclivities and so on, we need, we need, like food, like air. We need intimacy. We need love. We need support. We need many, and this can never ever, ever be provided by the narcissist. And anyone who believes otherwise is what I call them a lignant optimist.


If you, earlier in our conversation, you described that path in a little bit more detail where you decide, okay, well, I can't find the strength to leave or I don't have the resolve or for whatever reason you decide to stick it out in a relationship with a narcissist and you can't successfully reframe yourself as you've described.

Do we have any idea from the literature or from your experience on what that actually does to someone in terms of long-term health outcomes for them or what that does to their own mental space, being in close contact with a narcissist for a long period of time?

If you do not, if you don't do any of the three things I mentioned, adjust your expectations, reframe the relationship and reconceive of the narcissist, if you don't do any of these three, you will immediately embark on a whole new path. You will embark on a, or get involved in the process of traumatization. You will start being traumatized and the trauma will accumulate and that's a condition known as, that's a condition known as complex trauma. So complex post-traumatic stress disorder. The traumas are daily. The traumas are hourly. The narcissist traumatizes you in myriad ways and someone is honking endlessly outside. It's one of the noisiest cities imaginable. Simply horrible. You're in Skopje. Right now I'm in Skopje. I returned from Russia and the United Kingdom and Hungary where I used to have clinics and so on. I returned to be here because my wife is here. So I wanted to be with her during the pandemic. I didn't want to leave her alone. And so... Actually, do you mind if I ask you a question along those lines?

So you mentioned earlier that, and you have on your other videos that you were diagnosed as someone with narcissistic personality disorder twice. And we didn't talk about this, but the variety that you sort of expressed as grandiose.

So what does that mean for you in your life?

And I guess how did that play out because you're married and you're a professional.

How has that journey been and how has being so vocal and open about your own personal situation affected your work and I guess how you put yourself forward?

I'm actually a hybrid. I'm what we call a comorbid narcissist. I was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

So what people misunderstand is that my work is not autobiographical at all. The vast majority of things I had written do not apply to me at all.

There's a hybrid borderline narcissist. In a typical hybrid of borderline narcissist, the borderline is always dominant. The narcissist is always recessive. Narcissist is a secondary diagnosis. Primary is always borderline.

So my primary diagnosis is actually borderline. My secondary is grandiose narcissist. So it's not autobiographical and there's very little to learn if you're a pure narcissist or if you're diagnosed only with narcissistic personality disorder. There's very little to learn from my life because for example, borderlines have possess empathy and they possess positive emotions. So that's why I'm very reluctant usually to talk about myself because it could mislead people seriously. People misidentify me as the epitome of the narcissist because I was the first, historically, I was the first narcissist ever to admit that he's a narcissist online. I was the first outed narcissist. There was no one before me. Now there are others. There are others online who are outed narcissists and so on. But even these narcissists, for example, they had been diagnosed usually also with psychopathy. So even they are not pure and a lot of what they're saying is sheer unmitigated nonsense. So but a typical narcissist is actually capable of maintaining a long term, very fruitful marriage. The narcissist maintains one island of stability in his life and the rest is chaos.

So a narcissist could have a career with the same company for 40 years and end up being the chief executive officer of the company. But at the same time divorce five times and have 19 children in and out of wedlock. So the island of stability is the career and his personal life is caretized or vice versa. The island of stability is the marriage which lasts 20, 30, 40 years. But in these 40 years, he had changed 19 jobs.

So he's an unstable career, very pathetic, itinerant career.

So there's always an island of stability. It's very important.

This distinguishes the narcissist from the psychopath. Psychopath has no island of stability. Everything is caretized.

Same with the borderline. Everything is caretized, not with the narcissist.

So this gives hope to spouses and so on of narcissists because there are many narcissists who maintain this island of stability.

And for example, they're very faithful. They never cheat because the island of stability is critical to them.

Again, there's a lot of nonsense online myths and so on because you know, narcissists always cheat. Absolutely untrue.

So that's why that's why I'm essentially evading your question because any answer I may give you would be tainted. Tainted by my dual diagnosis.

I was also subjected to a documentary where supposedly I was diagnosed with psychopathy. But again, it's untrue. It's a misrepresentation because I didn't score high enough. The cutoff rate for psychopathy in North America is 3030 on the PCLR, which is one which is the dominant test for psychopathy.

Robert Hare's test. And the cutoff rate in Europe is 19, including on the short form of the test. And I scored 18. So I'm a near European psychopath, but I'm very far from an American psychopath. I could never start in American cycle, which breaks my heart.

Well, that's probably a relief for everyone involved, including your wife. It's a relief for the competitor actors.

Yeah, I would have made a great American cycle. I'm so heartbroken. I only watched that movie recently and I loved it. I was like, that one.

It's an incredible.

So he I mean, he's a narcissist as well, right? Right. All psychopaths have grandiosity.

So it's not narcissism. It's grandiosity and all borderlines have produced. So grandiosity is all close to this, actually.

Right. Right. Right.

Can I ask you one more question? We have time. Yeah, please go.

Has your so you talked about grandiosity specifically in context of narcissism and in your writing, you talk about the introverted narcissist.

Can you expand a little bit on the subtypes of narcissism and what people might see expressed?

Today, we distinguish between two major forms of narcissism and this distinction is enshrined in the diagnostic and statistical manual.

So it's not widely accepted. It's mainstream. It was first suggested in 1989 by Akhtar Akhtar and Cooper, the late Cooper Cooper died last year.

So these two scholars suggested that we're getting narcissism wrong and there's another type of narcissist.

And the first type is what used to be called phallic narcissist very suggestively and became came to be known as covert or grandiose narcissist.

It's the confident ego, synthetic go getter. Daring do in your face, defined a little psychopathic anti-social narcissist.

That's a classic type, but there's another type which is also known as covert or shy or vulnerable or fragile or what have you. And that's a narcissist who is very different to the overt or grandiose type.

It's a narcissist who is incapable of obtaining supply by him, narcissistic supply by himself because he's very avoidant. He's socially phobic. He's shy. He's very fragile and any criticism and disagreement break him apart.

And so he withdraws and he's very frustrated because he cannot obtain supply.

So he also becomes passive aggressive. That's the second type of narcissist.

The most recent cutting edge studies. We are beginning to think that overt grandiose narcissist is actually another name for psychopaths. We're beginning to unify psychopaths and overt grandiose narcissist. We think they're one and the real narcissist are compensatory. These are the covert narcissist because they're compensating for any fear or any complex. They feel inferior. They're compensating by feigning grandiosity or teaming up with grandiose people.

So these are the two major distinctions. And then there are many, many other subtypes.

So, for example, taxonomy that I had suggested between somatic and cerebral.

The cerebral narcissist obtains narcissistic supply by leveraging his intelligence, his intellect, his intellectual accomplishments, etc.

But he's usually usually sexually celibate. He doesn't. He resents his body. He rejects his body.

And therefore he rejects his sexuality as well.

The other type is a somatic narcissist who is less endowed up here. Less brain, more muscle.

And so this kind of narcissist leverages his body to obtain narcissistic supply. And that includes, of course, bodybuilding, sexual conquests, any use of the body to obtain narcissistic supply.

So these are two subtypes. They are not constant.

The cerebral can become somatic when, for example, the cerebral is abandoned by a major source of narcissistic supply.

When a shared fantasy crumbles, the cerebral becomes somatic.

It is to capture another victim, another prey, another intimate partner. He needs to have sex with her. So he then becomes somatic.

So that's that's another distinction we have, another type of taxonomy that we have.

Right.

And there are many other taxonomies. There's one suggested by Westing, which is a scholar, Charles Westing, others.

So by now we have a proliferation of about 10 or 15 types of suggested types of narcissists.

But somatic cerebral, inverted, inverted grandiose and overt, overt, these are the major distinctions, major subtypes.

Are they formed in the same way? Is it the same sort of trauma early on in life that could create those sorts of patterns?

It's a good question. There's a debate about this. We all agree, all scholars agree that the ecology, the cause of all types of narcissism, with no exception, is early childhood trauma, but an abuse.

But there are many types of trauma and abuse.

Generally, early childhood abuse is when the child is not allowed to develop his or her own boundaries. The self is not allowed to constellate and to integrate and the child is not allowed to separate from the parent and to become an individual. That's the widest definition of abuse.

Now, within this space of abuse, there are two types.

One type is when bodily integrity and psychological integrity are invaded aggressively. So that would be physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse. This is invasion.

And the second type is when the child is prevented from gaining access to reality.

So when the child is idolized, adestalized, when the child is spoiled, hampered, when the child is instrumentalized, becomes an instrument to realize the parent's unfulfilled fantasies and wishes. When the child is parentified, when the child is forced to act the role of a parent, when there is incestuous, when there is ambient incest, the child becomes the parent's spouse or substitute's spouse.

So all these are also forms of abuse.

Depending on these etiologies, we get the different types of narcissism.

Now, there was a scholar by the name of Rothstein, Grothstein, with G. And he suggested that all children who are exposed to abuse go through phases.

The first thing they want to do is because they are not allowed to become individuals and so on. It's very painful and very frustrating.

The first thing they want to do is to get rid of the frustration and the pain and the negative emotions and so on and so forth.

And because these children are a bit more advanced in age, between two and six, they are unable to split, they are unable to divide the emotions and to project the negative emotions onto someone. They are unable to do this anymore. The splitting mechanism is lost.

So what they do instead, they try to numb the feelings, numb the emotions and create an imaginary friend. And this imaginary friend within something called Paracosm, it's an imaginary friend within an imaginary universe, fantastic universe. And this imaginary friend is everything the child is not. The child is helpless. This imaginary friend is omnipotent or powerful. The child cannot predict the behavior of adults. This imaginary friend is all-knowing, his own issue, etc. So this imaginary friend is perfect, this imaginary friend is perfect, is brilliant, is never wrong, etc. So infallible. This imaginary friend is everything the child is not. And it serves as a decoy. It shields the child from abuse.

The abuse is now decoyed, redirected at the imaginary friend. He bears the burden, he absorbs the pain and the hurt, this imaginary friend, and the child is unmolested.

So these are the two mechanisms, basically.

Emotional numbing is very common in PTSD, post-traumatic conditions.

When the child fails with the imaginary friend and fails with the emotional numbing, we have borderline.

Then we have borderline. The child remains stuck in emotional dysregulation. The emotions overwhelm the child. He is drowning in the emotion. He has no skin. Everything hurts. Everything is huge pain and so on.

There is dysregulation, lability, and suicidal ideation is very common. 11% of borderline commit suicide.

But when the child progresses and succeeds, succeeds with emotional numbing and with the imaginary friend, we have a narcissist. That's more or less our current thinking on the topic.

But I guess that friend that I've built was a childhood friend. It's a false friend. It's the false self. It's God, actually. That's why I compared narcissism to a private religion.

I think the child discovers God, but discovers it idiosyncratically. The child is alone and discovers a God-like figure, a divinity, and creates a private religion.

And exactly like in ancient primitive religions, this new God, this Moloch, demands human sacrifice. And the child sacrifices himself to this God. He sacrifices his true self. What is the true self? It's human sacrifice.

So the child sacrifices his true self to this new God, the false self.

And from that moment on, there's a religion. The false self is the divinity. The child is the worshiper.

And there's been a binding act of human sacrifice, which sealed the covenant. Exactly like God and Abraham sealed the covenant. And from that moment on, it's a religion.

And the narcissist is a missionary. Exactly like in Christianity, narcissist is a missionary. They're trying to convince you that they are really perfect and geniuses and great. They're trying to convert you to their religion.

So they're very missionary.

You see a lot of religious undertones and overtones in narcissism. That's why I believe that the future distributed religion is going to be narcissism.

I think narcissism would be the religion of the future. I mean, forget Christianity. Forget all this. Nastism is a religion of the future where everyone is both a God and a worshiper and the temple. And everyone is a self-sufficient, self-contained, solipsistic God.

And so it's a very religious, it's a mega religious transformation the age we're in.

Because we are all converted into gods. We are all being transformed into gods. Lesser gods, higher gods, but gods.

And we're going to end up in the distributed network of gods.


The prevalent metaphor of today is the network, of course.

So a new religion would be a network religion. It would be a distributed religion by definition.

Everyone is a node, a node in the religion. And everyone is a God in the religion.

I mean, we are in a state of malignant egalitarianism. We're all equal. No one is advantage over anyone.

Your truth is as good as my truth. Your facts are as good as my facts, alternative facts.

So we are only in a situation where I call it malignant egalitarianism.

And of course, no one will accept any position less than God in this reality.

I will not let you be God. Who are you? You're equal to me. I'm equal to you. If you're God, I'm God also.

Well, whoa.

How like archetypal, first of all, as you describe the sacrifice of self, I just had all these connections go off in my mind as you walk through that.

It's pretty somber to think that we're all ending up in a space where we're in this distributed religion of self.

Why do you think that's happening?

Because we lost the alternatives. We lost the alternatives. Religion in the past was a total solution. It wasn't about God. Religion provided you with social prescriptions, told you how to live your life, gave meaning to your life. Religion incorporated folklore and mythology and botany and zoology. And religion was science. Religion was today's science. Religion was a total solution.

And in some societies and cultures to this very day, it is a total solution, for example, in certain Muslim societies, among ultra-Autodox Jews. Everything you need to know is in these sacred writings. You don't need to go outside. It's a self-contained, hermeneutic space. Everything is there.

But then religion spawned institutions. It spawned monogamy and then family and then church and then state.

And then, I mean, when we undermine religion, when we destroy it really, I'm not religious, by the way. Let me be clear.

Yes, I am ferociously hateful of religion. I consider God to be an infantile projection and so on and so forth.

I have a very, very dim view of religion, religious people and the nonsense that is known as God and so on.

So, let me be clear. What I'm saying is not religious propaganda, but it's a fact.

When we dispense with religion, we left a void. And that void was not only an issue of who is ruling the universe. It wasn't a void which was limited to the question, is there a supreme being?

It was a total void because religion was total.

We dispense not only with God as the pre-Mum, pre-Mum, movitz, not only with God as the mover and shaker. We dispense with everything that came with religion. We dispense with morality. And instead, we have moral relativism. We dispense with inter-gender relationships, the very concept of gender roles. We dispense with family. We dispense with community. We dispense with charity. We dispense with villages. We dispense through the baby, the bathtub and the bathroom. Nothing was left.

We created a total void where there was a total solution. And now this condition is called anomi.

It was first described by Emil Eysenck, the sociologist, a hundred years ago.

Eysenck, presciently and eerily, describes our civilization right now, the current phase in civilization, to perfection a hundred years ago.

Amazing guy. Of course he was Jewish. So Emil Eysenck, well, that's my anti-Semitic string. I can afford it. I'm a Jew.

So, Emil Eysenck.

So small times you were born in Israel, right?

Yes, I was born in Israel.

Yeah. I'm of Moroccan descent and Turkish descent, but I was born in Israel. Born and grew up to my teens in Israel.

Then I left Israel.

So this is called Anomi, this condition of total emptiness. It's called Anomi.

Now there are two options.

Nothingness and narcissism. It's really two options.

Narcissism is when you try to fill in the void that was left in the wake of religion and its spawned institutions.

This rationality failed to provide a total solution. It failed for good reason, which Kurt Gödel, the magician, he pointed out that rationality by definition can never be complete and can never be true.

So rationality had failed as a total solution and it left an enormous void.

Now people face two choices.

First choice is to say, okay, I will become my own source of meaning. I will eliminate the void inside myself by rendering myself the frame of reference. I will become my own total solution. I will establish internal institutions, internal objects. I will conduct internal dialogues. I will become self-sufficient with the aid of technology.

So that's it. I will not need anyone.

And this is solution number one and it's known as narcissism.

And solution number two is nothingness.

Nothingness is a hell of a lot more difficult.

It was first described in the West, first described essentially by Heidegger and then Sartre.

Sartre called it called an element of nothingness, authenticity. It simply means that you treat yourself like an onion.

Onion has layers. You begin to remove the layers.

You see, this belief that I have, is it really mine or did it come from my mother? It came from another?

The hell with it? I'm discarding it.

This behavior, this behavior that I have, is it mine or am I imitating someone? Oh, I'm imitating someone. If that, I'm getting rid of this behavior. This, what appears to be trait of mine, is it really a trait or is it peer pressure?

Wait a minute. If I remove all my friends in my imagination, will I still behave this way? No. Then forget this behavior. I'm never behaving this way again.

And so you peel the onion. You peel the onion layer by layer by layer. You become authentic.

What is left after you get rid of all the layers? The smell of the onion. The smell of the onion lingers. That's who you are. Not the layers. The smell. This is your essence. This is who you really are.

And yes, when you remove all the layers, you minimize yourself. No question. It's the opposite of narcissism. It's the antidote to narcissism because in narcissism, you expand, to become the universe.

We call this process in psychosis hyper-reflexivity.

Psychotics do this.

Psychotics believe that the world, they are the world. If they have an internal voice, they think it's external because the psychotic says, "I am the world. My internal voices are out there. They're in reality. They are reality."

Narcissists do the same. They expand to become the universe. Nothingness, which is the principle I'm working on now, is exactly the opposite. It's becoming the big bang. It's becoming the infinitesimal point. The point that has no dimensions. And that point is you.

After you had removed all the layers of society, socialization, your mother, your father, your teacher, your ex-wife, your future wife, your current wife, after you remove all these peers, media, influences of media, influences of social media, you remove and remove. It's a lot of work. You remove and remove and remove and suddenly here's you. You're there. That's you. That's you. Take it on a limit. You take it.

Your hands-forth will maintain an authentic life. Your core will be unbreakable and 1,000% resilient. There will be no influences from the outside ever.

It doesn't mean you will not collaborate with people. On the contrary, it will make you much more sociable and social because you will not be afraid of contamination, of undue influences, of manipulation. You will not be a conspiracy theorist because you will know yourself.

What is it all about?

Go back 2,000 years. Know thyself. 2,500 years. Know thyself. Know thyself. Not welcoming the ancient Greeks.

And this is the antidote to narcissism.


But how many people can embark on such a project? I'm asking you. Not many. Maybe a few saints. Maybe a few true gurus, the ones you don't see on YouTube.

I don't know. It's enlightenment. This is the essence of enlightenment. It's not ego death. It's not ego death because ego death is a Western distortion by con artists of Eastern mysticism and so on. It's not ego death. It's actually the opposite. It's strengthening your ego. It's defining clearly and unambiguously what your ego is. Not what others tell you it is, but what it is really.

Getting in touch with your essence. Totally.

And that is enlightenment, of course.

Because all the other people disappear.

This might be a silly question, but could a narcissist or someone who's already been damaged to the point of becoming a narcissist go through a process like that?

In theory? No. Because they're already dead.

First of all, he's an absence. But the narcissist has no smell of the onion. Only layers. The narcissist is only the layers. There's no smell. Nothing will linger if you remove all the layers.

It's sort of, I mean, there's a lot of pop psychology which pushes, or I guess general psychology pushes empathy, sympathy, support for people with mental illness.

And when we tease out narcissism as we have over the course of this conversation, you kind of get to the end. And the answer is you accept or you leave.

And that, I mean, it's not really the ideal solution, but I guess it's like, I don't know. What do you make of that?

The narcissist would be the first to tell you, take it or leave it. My way or the highway. Listen to the narcissist. He's telling you the truth. Nothing to be done. You know, there is this American obsession, American, I don't know what to call it, grandiosity in a way.

Every problem has a solution and every risk should be avoided. That's the American way of thinking.

Well, I have a surprise for you. Many problems don't have solutions. And you cannot avoid all the risks. This is reality. America is delusional.

Not every problem can be solved. Forget the self-help gurus and scammers and swindlers who masquerade as public intellectuals and so on. Not every problem has a solution.

Narcissism has no solution, no cure. Some elements of narcissism can be tweaked and modified. For example, behaviors can be modified.

Abrasive behaviors, antisocial behaviors can be modified successfully. I came up with a new treatment modality called therapy where I essentially eliminate the false self and grandiosity.

But these are elements of narcissism. The rest remains. The narcissist remains. He's just not grandiose. He doesn't need supply anymore.

But he's the same a-hole as before. He likes empathy. He's exploitative. He's predatory.

I'm saying nothing to him.

If we destroy the soul of a child, and don't ask me what is a soul, I know it doesn't exist. A metaphor. If we destroy the soul of a child at such an early stage, there's no child. Nothing is left.

If you kill the child when he's two years old, the body continues somehow. It's a zombie. Somehow the body continues.

And of course you can teach this young dog new tricks. How to speak, how to obtain a degree, how to be a world-class intellectual.

But who is there? Nobody. There's nobody home.

Now you can say, but who are you, Sam Vaknin? I mean, who is talking to me, you can ask.

If I'm not here, if I don't exist, who is the one doing the talking? What entity controls these processes?

To a very large extent, these are automated processes. And that's why I keep comparing narcissists to artificial intelligence.

We can definitely create computer procedures which will yield and give rise to coherent speech, meaningful speech.

We have programs that write beautiful poetry. Poetry. We have programs that administer therapy, psychotherapy. And they do it well. They pass the Turing test.

In other words, an observer cannot tell if it's a human input, a human input or computer output.

Computer becomes indistinguishable from a human.

Can we simulate a human? Of course we can. We do it daily.

Of course we can. Why do you think people bond emotionally, get attached emotionally to the smartphones? These fast smartphones are approximations of humans.

Take the smartphone away from someone, see the reaction. It's a highly emotional reaction.

And smartphones are at 5% human. In the future we will have androids who will be 95% human.

But will anyone say an android has a soul, except in Blade Runner? I don't think so.

There's a lot in there. I'm conscious of time as well, Sam. I think we're exhausted.

The topic and our viewers.

I'm incredibly grateful and I'm sure our viewers and listeners are as well for your thoughts and insights.

Thank you. To everyone out there who wants to learn more, Sam's got an incredible YouTube channel. He's got just a huge amount of information out there. Look him up. It's incredibly insightful.

Thank you, Ron. It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Just stay on, please, because I want to talk to you about logistics. Thank you kindly. I'm going to stop recording.

Yeah.

The American stand-up comedian and writer, Harry Condabolo, once wrote, "The last place the colonizer leaves is your mind."

Those of you brave enough or self-hating enough are about to watch a talk or an extended excerpt from a talk I've had with Azam Ali.

Azam Ali is a very famous Iranian single from Iran. And in this talk, I suggested to her a new way of looking at narcissistic abuse.

The narcissist enters a shared fantasy with the maternal figure, his intimate partner.

You know this by now and he does this only in order to separate from the intimate partner, which represents the mother. He failed to separate from his biological mother. He failed to accomplish separation and individuation from his mother of origin.

So now he tries it again. A second chance, a second time with his substitute mother, his intimate partner.

So far, so well known. Nothing new.

The new thing in this conversation is when I explain that the intimate partner is expected to help the narcissist by acting the part of a rejecting, betraying mother.

The narcissist coerces her to behave this way. And if she refuses, he tries to punish her. And if this doesn't help, he devalues and discards her.

So either way, whether you collaborate or you resist, you will end up in exactly the same spot devalued and discarded.


But during the talk, I described dynamics that have been neglected online by scholars and even by myself in my previous videos.

Now, you don't have to watch the entire video. You can skip from one question to another because the first half of the video, more or less, I deal with things that you've been exposed to.

Those of you who are loyal viewers, those of you who have watched my previous videos, those of you who have watched the videos in my shared fantasy playlist, you know all these things.

There's nothing new there.

The second half of the conversation is new.

And so just skip the questions at your leisure and focus on the exchanges between me and Azam Ali, which present a new angle on narcissistic abuse.

It was a long interview and I went very deep into the shared fantasy concept, coercion, coercive snapshotting.

The narcissist needs you to fail him, to let him go.

And so ironically, if you're a good partner, you're the wrong partner for the narcissist.

I wish you an interesting hour with me and Azam Ali. And feel free to comment and ask questions and so on and so forth. I will, of course, ignore them as I always do.

Okay, Zoshani, have fun.

Okay, so we can dive in now.

So what brought me really to narcissism, just to give context in case in the event that I mention anything in this interview is, it's the first time I'm even speaking about this publicly, but my father left when I was four years old and my mother was very much like your mother. She was a dead mother and I never thought that my father had that kind of influence on my life because he left and it took many, many years for me to realize that those four years were enough for him to have an impact on my interpersonal relationships with men.

So I chose my father over and over again until, of course, I married my husband and he's wonderful.

So that's sort of the context of why I came to you and I can tell you single-handedly your work has helped me to realize and fully understand and comprehend what kind of personality I was really dealing with.

So I thank you for that and that was really the reason I wanted to interview you and also I realized as soon as I read your book that the word narcissist is one of the most misused words in the English language and that it really is a clinical identity, narcissism, a serious mental health disorder.

So I, and in this interview, I think one of my goals is besides having you enlighten everybody on the topic is I think in this age of social media we need to be extremely vigilant because you know narcissists are everywhere on the internet now and because of anonymity, it's an ideal place for them to target victims.

So we'll start with like the most basic.

So there's so many confusing typologies and I myself sometimes get confused, you know, overt, covert, sadistic, cerebral and even after listening to many of your lectures, I can't say I even understand the difference between let's say a sadistic narcissist and a psychopathic narcissist.

So can you in your own words tell us what is narcissism? What are the various forms and how is a narcissist form?

I'd like to introduce some structure into the mess.

The situation nowadays reminds me of the 19th century where there was when there was a proliferation of elements, chemical elements, but there was no periodic table. So they were all over the place, these elements and no one knew how they were interconnected. Same with elementary particles until the sixties. We had an accumulation, an inventory of elementary particles in physics and there was no table. There was no system of elementary particles. Now there is.

Nasticism is first and foremost a failure to transition from self preoccupation to other preoccupation.

In clinical terms, this is called the failure to transition from self object to object relations.

In typical healthy developmental path, the child starts off fused with a mother, merged with a mother and this used to be called the symbiotic phase. So child and mother were one. Mother brought the world to the child. Mother was a reification of the world. So the child identified with mother also as a way to identify with the world and to explore the world safely. And this is called a secure base. Mother is a secure base.

Then around the age of 18 months, the child starts to separate from mother. And the reason for the separation is that mother frustrates the child. She doesn't always meet the child's demands, however vocal. So the child gets frustrated.

This frustration teaches the child that he is not mother. That there is something or someone out there who keeps frustrating him.

So that is a break, a schism in the world. It's a breakdown of the universe.

Suddenly the child realizes to its consternation and shock and trauma that there are things out there which are uncontrollable and external.

The concept of external is exceedingly traumatizing because it's a threat. There's no control over the external.

So what the child does, he begins to gradually abandon mother. And this process is known as separation/individuation.

The child separates from mother and gradually becomes an individual by creating boundaries and then maintaining the boundaries.

Narcissists or children who would become narcissists as adults, they fail the separation/individuation phase. They never succeed to separate from mommy.

And that's because mommy is perhaps insecure and doesn't allow them to separate. Perhaps she's selfish and appropriates and expropriates them, consumes them in a way. Perhaps she instrumentalizes them. She uses them.

The mother uses the child.

Perhaps the mother parentifies the child. So the child has to act as a parent or as a substitute spouse.

In all these cases the child fails to separate.

Because the child fails to separate, he does not become an individual. Because he does not become an individual, he has no boundaries. And because he has no boundaries, he doesn't recognize the separateness and externality of other people.

So this precludes relationships with other people. This precludes what we call object relations.

This is one of the core elements of narcissism.


Now I'm not defining narcissism right now as it is being defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual there's a list of symptoms and a list of a descriptive list, a dimensional list of behaviors.

And if someone meets these symptoms and behaviors then he's a narcissist. He's, for example, incapable of empathy, envious, exploitative, etc. If someone is like this then he's a narcissist.

But these are the symptoms that solve the disease.

I'm now describing the etiology of the disease.

So the first issue is separation and habituation.

The second issue, because the child never becomes an individual, the child fails to develop a self or an ego.

So ironically narcissists are selfless. They don't have a self or an ego.

Narcissism, therefore, in existential terms, is the opposite of existence. It's absence.

Narcissism is absence where all people, healthy and even mentally ill, are present. They have a core identity. They have a self.

However deformed and thwarted, they still have a self. They have an ego.

If you use Freudian model, they have something.

The narcissist is an absence. It is what we call the empty schizoid core.

And this applies also to people with borderline personality.

So these are diseases of absence.

Because the narcissist cannot exist in principle, the narcissist needs to borrow his existence from the outside. He needs to import an existence from other people.

So what he does, he latches on to other people and he coerces them to provide him with a sense of existence, to help him to regulate his internal environment, for example, his sense of self-worth. The borderline coerces her intimate partners to regulate her moods and her emotions.

So these people use something called external regulation. People around the narcissist become subcontractors. And their job is to keep the narcissist alive or at least to allow the narcissist to experience existence, however vicariously.

Now this is life and death. And that's why narcissists are essentially very aggressive about obtaining narcissistic supply, about maintaining the shared fantasy. They create fantasies and they introduce you into the fantasy where you have to play a role.

And any defiance and any divergence and deviance from these allocated screens results in aggression, devaluation and discard.

So this is the second element in narcissism.


And the third element in narcissism is what I would call alien artificial intelligence.

By no definition that I'm aware of, what it is to be human is the narcissist human.

These are not even partial humans. And I'm not saying this in order to be pejorative or derogatory or, you know, this is not hate speech. This is simply the fact.

If you have no empathy, if you have no access to negative to positive emotions, if you are exploitative, if you are unable to accept other people as external objects separate from you, if you treat all people as instruments, instrumentalize them and objectify them, treat them as objects.

If you compel people to participate in a fantasy which is divorced from reality and then penalize them if they insist on remaining grounded in reality.

These are not human behaviors. The narcissist is more like an agency of some kind or an artificial intelligence program.

Narcissists emulate and mimic empathy, positive emotions because they are manipulative, they are Machiavellian.

But there's no inner resonance. That's why narcissists have called empathy, cognitive empathy, reflexive empathy, but no emotional empathy.

So they are users and takers, but they do all this pretty automatically. All this demonizing online of narcissists is malevolent scheming.

That's confusing narcissists with psychopaths.

Psychopaths are malevolent, malicious, scheming, goal oriented and ruthless and callous. That's psychopaths.

Narcissists are the same, but automatically, unconsciously, essentially, this is their essence. They can't help it. They don't sit around making plans on how to subjugate you. They just subjugate you because that's what they do.

And so, the way I describe narcissism now, you won't find it in any textbook and in any diagnostic manual.

But this is the core and essence of narcissism. These are empty shells who suck your essence in order to feel alive and coerce you into specific roles in order to maintain a fantasy within which they are godlike, omnipotent, omniscient and so on.


One last comment.

Narcissism is the exact equivalent of a primitive religion. It is a primitive religion.

When the child is exposed to trauma and abuse by a parental figure, an abuse can also mean smothering, pampering, idolizing the child.

Any denial of boundaries, any breach of boundaries, any isolation of the child from reality, for example, developing a sense of entitlement in the child. All these are forms of abuse.

When the child is exposed to trauma and abuse, the way the ancient Israelites were exposed to God's wrath, God's trauma and abuse, the God of the Old Testament is a parental figure, but it's a very abusive parental figure. It's a violent, aggressive, I would almost say malevolent parental figure, controlling, manipulative, threatening.

So when a child is exposed to this kind of parental figure, the child reacts the way Moses did. The child develops a religion because the parental figures are godlike. They are divinities.

So the child develops a religion. In this religion, the child comes up with a private God, a private deity known as the false self. And then the child, human sacrifices, the child sacrifices himself, his true self, to the false self. So this is human sacrifice.

And then the child merges with the false self and becomes empowered by his or her exclusive privileged relationship with this newfound deity.

Narcissism is therefore a primitive religion, and this is the force and power of narcissism. That's why it is so such a phenomenon that captures the imagination, invokes fears, and is almost inexplicable because we are using the wrong tools. We are using the tools of science. We are using the tools of psychology in an attempt to explain narcissism when actually it's a theological phenomenon. It's a private religion developed by a terrified child with a deity.

That's so fascinating. I mean, it is even if you've been fortunate enough never to be in a relationship with a narcissist. It's such a fascinating subject.

And I think one of the main reasons I love your lectures and, you know, when you look at your statistics on YouTube and there are those people who watch and listen all the way to the end, that's me.

So, you know, what I love about yours is you don't vilify the narcissist, you know, it's such a if you're someone like me that you don't subscribe to binary thinking, you don't think in terms of good, that's evil.

And that's why self help groups just don't work because they are really cesspools of vitriol and hate.

So I really appreciate your approach to it, which makes it incredibly. It's really better. Your book is better than any sci fi book I have ever read in my life. And I really appreciate also that you touched on the subject of abuse because I think that's another word that is quite misunderstood.

That there are so many various kinds of abuse. So I appreciate that you touched on that.


I quickly want to just touch on something else. Before I do that, I just want to say because there is a war on vocabulary and pronouns these days that even though you're using he and she they're all interchangeable.

I quickly want you to just if you can touch on what healthy primary narcissism is and when does it become pathological because you have said it's very essential in healthy development.

So if you can just quickly just touch up. I'll be brief. And this one.

Okay. In the first 18 months of life, the child, as I said, cannot tell the difference between itself and the world. So the child is the world, it's like the famous song, you know, we are the world. So highly, highly narcissistic song. So we are the world.

And then because the child cannot tell the difference between itself and the world, the child invests its emotional energy in itself.

As far as it is aware, he's investing it in the world because he is the world.

So he redirects his emotional energy at itself, sexual energy as well. So there's autoerotism. The child is sexually attracted to itself.

And the child falls in love with itself. All the emotional energy goes into the self.

This is known as primary narcissism. And it, for example, facilitates the formation of a coherent self, a process known as constellation or integration and so on and so forth.

Later on in life, the child takes the same mental energy, the same emotional energy known as cathexis.

So the child takes this mental energy and redirects it. Rather than invest it in itself, the child redirects it to the outside.

And this is the primordial foundation of object relations.

So rather than fall in love with himself, he falls in love with another person. Rather than being sexually attracted to itself, he becomes sexually attracted to another person.

So there's a redirection of this energy.

Now, if the child gets stuck at the developmental phase, for example, if the child cannot complete separation and individuation, then the child remains enmeshed, remains engulfed and consumed by the maternal figure usually.

And so the child cannot, the child having become an adult, cannot really tell the difference between itself and the rest of the world.

And so he remains stuck in a narcissistic phase.

Healthy narcissism, in healthy people, is a remnant of the original self-directed emotional energy that allows you to maintain or stabilize or regulate a sense of self-worth.

And especially self-confidence and self-esteem.

The difference between primary narcissism, which is healthy, and secondary narcissism, which is pathological, is that primary narcissism operates on the reality principle.

It recognizes your limitations, for example, and your strengths. It adheres to boundaries.

Primary narcissism realizes where you stop and other people begin.

So primary narcissism is grounded in reality. It has something called reality testing.

While secondary pathological narcissism is grounded in fantasy. It's an extended fantasy defense gone awry.

So secondary narcissism impairs the reality testing.

Narcissists cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. That's why narcissists actually never gaslight. They never lie. That's not true. Psychopaths do this.

Narcissists believe their own nonsense. They believe their own confabulations and stories and promises. They never future fake. They make you a promise. They believe the promise. They introduce you into their fantasy because they believe that fantasy is a reality.

So there is an enormous confusion that severely impaired reality testing with narcissism. And there are no boundaries. The narcissist has no boundaries because he has no self.

So the narcissist internalizes you. He introjects you. He converts you into what I call a snapshot, an internal object. And then he continues to interact with the internal object as if you have never existed.

So even if you're married to a narcissist, he would take a snapshot of you. Then he would Photoshop it. He would idealize it. And then he would continue to interact with the snapshot and ignore you completely.

You will come to the narcissist's attention if you deviate from the snapshot. If you diverge from the snapshot, you challenge the snapshot, undermine the snapshot with your independence, with your agency, with your personal autonomy. And that would enrage the narcissist because he would feel threatened. And he would then devalue you and discard you. He would consider you an enemy.

The narcissist prefers the internal object to you always because you don't exist. External objects don't exist for the narcissist as far as the narcissist is concerned.

So secondary narcissism is fantasy. Primary narcissism is reality.

And because you are grounded in reality with primary narcissism, you are self efficacious.

In other words, you are capable of obtaining positive outcomes and securing favorable results in your environment, acting in your environment and on your environment.

Primary narcissism, reality-based, self-efficacy, the ability to operate successfully and to make your life a success.

Secondary narcissism, fantasy, impaired reality testing, therefore an inability to operate in reality and on reality in a way which secures good outcomes, favorable outcomes.

So narcissists are failures by definition. Even when they are temporarily successful, they're going to destroy everything. They're very self-destructive.

Because not necessarily because they're malicious or malevolent, but because they can't read reality properly. They can't read social cues, sexual cues, other people. They have no empathy. They're devotional reality. It's a delusional disorder.


But there are also psychopathic narcissists, right?

Yes. About 3% of narcissists are what we call malignant narcissists. They are psychopathic narcissists.

And these are narcissists who obtain narcissistic supply by deploying psychopathic methods, psychopathic techniques, psychopathic strategies.

So they are likely to be, for example, reckless and defiant and contumacious or post-authority and impulsive when in the pursuit of narcissistic supply, they're going to trample over people. They're going to abuse people, exploit people, ruin people, hurt people, you name it, just in order to obtain supply.

The psychopath is going to do exactly the same thing, but in order to obtain sex or money or power or access or a luxury life.

So psychopathic goal-oriented, the narcissist is also goal-oriented, but he has only one goal, and that is not narcissistic supply.

So it would be good, actually, at this point, I was going to get into the, have you go into the phases, but since you ended there, can you tell us what is narcissistic supply?

The narcissist inhabits a fantasy, as I said, and his fantasy is founded on a cognitive distortion.

A cognitive distortion is known as grandiosity. It is an inflated, fantastic self-image, the self-perception, that is, counterfactual, defies reality and is extremely difficult to uphold because reality keeps challenging the grandiose self-image, obviously.

So the narcissist needs you to tell him that his self-image is accurate, that his false self is not false, that if he considers himself to be a genius, he is a genius, or handsome, he is handsome.

He needs external input, he needs input from the outside to regulate and to stabilize his belief in the fiction that undermines his life, the fiction known as grandiosity.

In clinical terms, we say that the narcissist regulates his sense of self-worth via input from the outside, and this input is known as narcissistic supply.

Well, if you could just describe what you call the three S's and also the difference between narcissistic supply and sadistic supply.

Actually, there are four S's. The narcissist, first of all, there's this myth that the narcissist is attracted to specific kinds of partners. That is not true. The narcissist couldn't care less if you're empathic because he doesn't do empathy. He couldn't care less if you're kind because he's not kind. And he couldn't care less if you offer him intimacy because he wouldn't know what to do with it.

So all this self-aggrandizing mythology that if you have fallen victim to a narcissist, it means that you're empathic and kind and amazing and angelic. That's utter, sheer, unmitigated nonsense.

Narcissists are promiscuous when it comes to the selection of partners. They are partner promiscuous.

In other words, they go with anyone. If you give the narcissist, if you provide the narcissist with two out of four S's, the narcissist would willingly team up with you and become your intimate partner. And the four S's are sex, services, personal assistant, chauffeur, cook, cleaning lady.

So sex, services, supply, sadistic and narcissistic, and safety to allay, to reduce, to mitigate the abandonmentanxiety.

If you provide your narcissist with two out of these four, you could be a psychopath. The narcissist would be with you. You could be another narcissist. And the narcissist would end up having a couple with you.

It's a myth. It's nonsense that there is tight constancy.

Sadistic supply is the narcissist's realization that he is about to experience pain and punishment by inflicting hurt and abusing another person.

So it's not what people think. People think that sadistic supply means that the narcissist enjoys inflicting pain on other people. That is sadism.

The sadist, the classical sadist, derives gratification from humiliating other people, from inflicting pain on other people, from torturing other people. That's the classical sadist, not the narcissist. The narcissist derives anticipatory gratification.

The joy of anticipation. He knows that if he hurts you, you're going to hurt him back. If he misbehaves, you're going to punish him. And it is the anticipation of this masochistic pleasure that I call sadistic supply.

The narcissist acts sadistically, tortures you, hurts you, causes you pain, humiliates you, shames you, debases and degrades you. All this is true. All this is true.

But he does this in order to make sure to experience masochistic punishment.

So this is sadistic supply.

Nastiest supply we discussed. It's the attention granted by other people that allows the narcissist to regulate his internal environment.

So this is a good time to get into, I mean, I really, when I first heard your, one of your lectures on the stages, the, is it five or six stages?

I can never remember. It feels like more.

But it's so, it's so phantasmic, the whole experience when you have a relationship with a narcissist that you don't realize how, how surreal it is until you try to explain it to someone else. And then you realize there's no language to really explain what it is, but you have created that language.

So if you could just kindly take us through the different stages.

You mean the shared fantasy.

The shared fantasy to the discard.

No, the whole thing is a shared fantasy. The whole thing is known as a shared fantasy. It has seven, it has seven stages.

I will not go right now to each and every one of the stages I'll describe in broad brush strokes.

What's happened?

When the narcissist decides that you could be an intimate partner, the narcissist love bonds you.

And the aim is to create something which I call the whole of mirrors.

What the narcissist does, he idealizes you. And then he exposes you to the, your idealized image. He exposes you to your own idealization.

So you begin to see yourself through the narcissist gaze. And it's very intoxicating and it's very addictive because you see yourself through the narcissist as an ideal figure.

Super intelligent, drunk, dead gorgeous, amazing, amazing, unprecedented. And it's, you know, no one can resist this. It's irresistible.

So the narcissist gets you addicted to his gaze and he maintains a monopoly on this gaze.

So if you were to break up with the narcissist, you would no longer be able to see yourself as this idealized God like figure. And you become addicted.

At that point, the narcissist draws you in. He leverages the love for me and the whole of mirror effect and he draws you in.

The whole of mirror works because the narcissist sees you the way a mother sees her child.

A mother idealizes her newborn baby. When the mother has a new baby, she idealizes the baby. Otherwise she wouldn't survive motherhood. It's a very onerous, onerous task. So she idealizes the baby and she loves the baby unconditionally.

The narcissist does the same. He idealizes you and then he offers you unconditional love.

In other words, the narcissist becomes your mother.

But for this to work, you need to become a child. If the narcissist is your mother, you need to become a child to benefit from this.

So the narcissist regresses you, infantilizes you, forces you to become an infant so that then you can regard the narcissist as your mother and get attached to the narcissist and bond with the narcissist as if the narcissist were your mother.

At that moment, it's too late for you. You have been infected. You are corralled and there's no way for you to live now because you have a second childhood with a mother figure and you're being idealized and you fell in love with your own idealized image. You're experiencing intoxicating self-love.

Now the narcissist leverages these newfound assets and compels you to become his own mother. He converts you to a mother figure.

So now there is dual mothership. He is your mother and you are his mother. And you have entered together the shared fantasy.

This is the essence of the shared fantasy.

Within the shared fantasy, the narcissist creates a snapshot of you, creates an internal object that represents you in his mind and introduces you.

This internal object, because you are his mother, this internal object is totally idealized. Mother is all good. Mother is always all good.

So your representation in the narcissist's mind is all good because you are mother.

But life compels you, forces you to deviate from the snapshot, to divert from the snapshot. You have your own friends, you have your own family, you make your own decisions, you go on a trip, you have your own job. I mean, you deviate from the snapshot.

This frustrates the narcissist the way he used to be frustrated as a baby with mother. So he frustrates the narcissist.

And so he begins to get angry. He begins to be aggressive. And then he converts you in his mind to a frustrating bad object. He transitions you from all good mother to all bad mother. A frustrating mother, a hateful mother.

And in other words, an enemy, a persecutory object.

So then he needs to separate from you. The whole exercise, the shared fantasy, is about re-enacting the narcissist's childhood and allowing him to separate successfully.

So he has converted you into a persecretary object, an enemy, and now he can safely separate from you because you're bad. You're a bad object.

So he devalues you. And then he discards you. And this is a symbolic reenactment of the separation from the original mother.

Now, there's nothing you can do about this. This is an inexorable process that unfolds and unfurls inside the narcissist's mind. Nothing you could say, nothing you could do, no behavior you could adopt would have secured any different outcome.

This is going to happen regardless of you because it's all happening inside the narcissist's mind and his interactions with the internal object.

And this is the end of the shared fantasy, the discard phase, where the narcissist experiences separation from the maternal figure.

And for a brief moment, he believes that he's on the verge of individuation, of healing and completing the original unresolved conflict with his mother, with his real mother, biological mother. Of course, it doesn't work. It doesn't work.

And then the narcissist needs to go through the same cycle again, sometimes with you.

So he re-idealizes you and starts from zero. And this is known as hoovering. And sometimes with others.

Narcissist is doomed, specifically, is doomed to repeat the original conflict with his mother, the mother who did not allow him to become himself, did not allow him to separate an individual. He is doomed to repeat this with umpteen women, if he's a man.

By the way, same dynamic applies to a female narcissist, also with her mother, not with the father.

So the female narcissist converts her male counterpart into a maternal figure. And of course, it applies to same sex.

This dynamic is universal. It's just the members of the couple. If one of the members of the couple is a narcissist, he forces the other one to become a mother. And he himself becomes a mother.

And this is the dual mothership. And this is how it goes, time and again, prepared to only go with him.

What you always say, Freud calls repetition compulsion.

Yes, this is the narcissist variant of repetition compulsion.

Yeah, but so you're saying basically the mother is the only one who can really, is the mother is the only one who helps us to individuate. It's not the father.

No, not the father. The father is not relevant to this.


Okay, actually, one very important thing that I want to touch on here. Thank you for taking us through the stages.

So if the ultimate goal of the narcissist is to keep repeating the cycle in order to separate and individuate, and he's doing this over the course of an entire lifetime, unsuccessfully. I mean, it's going to take a tremendous amount of energy, you know, because he needs other people to collaborate with them. And eventually, no one is going to collaborate because people want to express, you know, express their own autonomy and agency.

So what happens once they are able to introject, and they snapshot you in order to only deal with your introject, because they need you to remain stable across time.

So even if they get rid of the external object, the internal objects are still there. So they never really go away.

So what happens?

You have said that these accumulate a library of idealized objects or interjects. And as you say, and these remain psychodynamically active, to the extent that sometimes even if they're having sex, they could feel as if they're having sex with multiple partners.

So what happens to all these interjects that he's accumulated over the time, over time, and how does this affect future relationships? And how does it not even lead to a complete psychotic state?

It does.


But before I go there, I it's clear that I that I haven't been cleared.

The narcissist, the only reason the narcissist has intimate relationships, is not love, is not children, is not family, is not intimacy, none of these things. The only reason the narcissist enters a dyad, a couple has intimate relationships is in order to separate an individual. It's a compulsion. It's a compulsive thing. It's a repetition compulsion.

So the narcissist, if you are the narcissist's intimate partner, he wants you to make it easier for him to separate from you. He wants you to deviate from the snapshot. He wants you to undermine the shared fantasy. He wants you to be the bad guy. He wants you to become the enemy. He wants you to become the secretary of it.

This is the source of sadistic supply. He pushes you to reactively abuse him. He wants you to abuse him. So he abuses you sadistically.

So then you abuse him reactively. And that's great. That's precisely what you want.

He wanted you to justify the transition from an idealized mother figure to a total devalued enemy.

And so the more autonomous you are, the more independent, the more agentic, the more insistent, the more you disagree with him or criticize him, the more you abuse him reactively, the more conflictive you are, the more aggressive you are, the better.

That's exactly what he's looking for. He's looking for someone to make the separation easier.

If you are kind and nice and compliant and codependent and submissive, that makes it a hell of a lot more difficult to get rid of you. And getting rid of you is the point of the shared fantasy.

So this is very important to understand.

Most victims don't understand that.

So this is project identification, then. That's what he just...

Yes. He forces you to behave in a way that recreates his comfort zone and conforms to his expectations. Exactly.

Now, what happens if you are kind and nice and empathic and submissive and compliant? What then?

Well, that makes the narcissist very unhappy. And then he says she's doing it on purpose. She is passive-aggressive. She is being nice in order to frustrate me. She is being kind because she hates me. There's no winning. There's no way for you to win.

If you are the narcissist's enemy, if you abuse the narcissist, great. Then he can get rid of you with a clean conscience. If you don't, then you must be passive-aggressively undermining him. It also means you are his enemy. You are his enemy in any case.

He's going to convert you into the persecutory object in any case.

There is no winning strategy with a narcissist. Period.

Victims can't digest this. And they don't understand that they are totally interchangeable. They are fungible.

The identity of the victim is totally irrelevant. The victim is a placeholder from an eternal figure.

That's all. That's all.

You also coined the term. Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought you were finished.

I finished. Yes.


So one of the most, as I mentioned at the beginning, you've created so much of the terminology. And one of them is narcissistic abuse, which everybody utilizes that now.

But I would really like for you to just quickly tell us what are the various forms of narcissistic abuse, overt and also ambient emotional and mental torture tactics that narcissists employ to also, as you say, impair your reality testing as a victim so that they can.

Because at the end, you say it's just about power and being able to manipulate you, to control you.

So if you can just talk about the various kinds of narcissistic abuse so that people who maybe have experienced it and don't know that they have can relate to it.

Narcissistic abuse has two distinguishing features.

The first distinguishing feature, the narcissist wants to kill you. Kill you in the sense that he wants to take away your independence, your personal autonomy, your agency. He wants to disable you, deactivate you and render you inanimate.

The closest I can come to illustrating this is the scene in Psycho, the first, the famous movie by Ichiko, where Norman Bates, his mother has died. Yet he keeps the mummified body of his mother. And then every morning he takes her out of bed, he washes her up and he puts her in front of the window. And every evening he comes up and he puts her in bed and he kisses her forehead.

That's a narcissist ideal partner. That's how we want you to be.

So this is the first formar and distinguishing feature of narcissistic abuse. All other forms of abuse without a single exception are dimensional.

So financial abuse, legal abuse, I don't know, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse. They are all limited to a single dimension and they don't constitute an attack on your existence. They constitute an attack on some aspect of you, some dimension of you, but not on the very fact that you exist.

Narcissists cannot tolerate the fact that you exist because they don't do separateness. They've never experienced separateness.

Separateness threatens them. They need to annex you. You need to become an extension. You need to become an internal object.

So your externality, your extraneous features are threats. The narcissist needs to eliminate them.

So this is the first.


The second distinguishing feature is that narcissistic abuse is the entire repertory of abuse known to mankind. Entirely.

So in narcissistic abuse, you would find sexual coercion. You would find verbal abuse. You would find very often physical abuse, however attenuated, but some forms of physical abuse. You would find financial abuse. You would find legal abuse. I mean, you name it. It's in narcissistic abuse.

Typically, typical abusers have an M.O. - a modus operandi - method of operation. So if you are a financial abuser, you are likely to continue to abuse people financially, but you're not going to beat them up. You're not going to beat them up.

If you are a physical abuser, you're going to beat your wife up, but you're not, for example, going to resort to verbal abuse.

So just as an example, every abuser has a preferred method of operation. The narcissist makes use of every kind of abuse known to mankind. It's total coercion, unmitigated.

There's no respect. There's no way out. Everything is abusive.

Good morning is abusive.

The narcissist converts every human interaction, every exchange, every speech act, every element of body language, every expression and micro expression. Everything is at the service of putting you down, of abusing you, of deanimating you, of rendering you inert and inanimate. It's terrifying and people do react by freezing. It's a trauma response, a post-traumatic response.

Narcissistic abuse is traumatizing.


What about the... because all the verbal abuse, physical, sexual, all of that is such an obvious form of abuse, but what about the more ambient forms of abuse that you're not sure if they are abusing you, but they are over a period of time?

I know you said gaslighting is not unique to narcissists. I mean, it's not something narcissists do, perhaps psychopathic narcissists, but there are so many other forms of ambient abuse.

If you can just talk about that. I think the only form of ambient abuse that narcissists use is the fantasy itself, the shared fantasy, because they coerce you to renounce reality.

It's a little like the Inquisition in Spain, you know, they coerce you to renounce your religion.

So the narcissist forces you on pain of penalty and humiliation and, you know, silent treatment. He forces you to say you're right. This is not real. This is real. Your fantasy is real. Reality is not real.

My family hates me because you said so. The narcissist becomes the reality test of the victim so that the victim would accept and endorse and embrace and adopt everything the narcissist say, never mind how outlandish and counterfactual.

Nasties, therefore, create an immersive, total environment, which is the shared fantasy, where they develop a shared psychosis. They become, answering your previous question, they do become psychotic.

When you renounce reality to that extent, it acquires psychotic cues or elements. And then they force you to become psychotic as well.

And this is known as shared psychosis or shared psychotic disorder.

So this is the ambient abuse. It's not like the psychopath. The psychopath would make you doubt your own perception of reality. He would make you doubt your own judgment and opinions. This is gaslighting.

The psychopath would falsify things, for example, falsify the future or falsify the past. The psychopath would coerce you openly, would be violent or aggressive.

Psychopaths are far more direct. Nasties don't actually say, OK, now I'm going to create an ambience of terror, intimidation and abuse. This is coercive control. That's the behavior typical of psychopaths.


What the narcissist does, he tells you, this is reality from now on. You don't want to be in my reality. Do you hate me? Are you not my friend? Do you want me to walk away? Do you want me to not talk to you? Do you want me to punish you? Do you want me to abuse you?

So gradually you become a slave. It's a process of enslavement.

So if it's for the narcissist, a relationship is, as you say, a state of mind that is not based on reality. It's a fantasy world.

And therefore they will never recognize your individuality or your separateness. And in order to do that, they have to subsume you in order to internalize you.

So they're not really interested in any sort of intimacy because, as you just described right now, the fact that you are based in reality, you are an agent of reality.

And therefore you are the most important in one of your lectures, you say you are a Trojan horse. You have invaded their reality.

And if you don't collaborate, it's the biggest challenge to their grandiosity and they will have to discard you.

But the question I have then is this whole process must be so excruciating. So why is it hard for the narcissist? Why are they unable to abandon the fantasy world and inhabit reality if they keep repeating this cycle?

And each time, I mean, we didn't even get into, you've given me so much of your time already. We didn't even get into mortification and all of that.

But it must be so devastating for them.

So why are they unable to abandon the fantasy world?

With what tools?

The narcissist never separated from his mother. He never became an individual. He doesn't have a self. He doesn't have the interface with reality known as the ego.

What are the tools at the disposal of a narcissist to cope with reality or to integrate in it? Zero. None.

Would you expect an infant, an 18 months old infant, to embrace reality and operate in it and on it effectively? You wouldn't.

Narcissists are stuck in the mental age of 2 to 9 years old. Nine years old is a highly developed narcissist. Almost, I would say, high functioning narcissist.

The vast majority of narcissists are stuck at the age of 2 years old.

And the same expectations you have from a 2 year old, you should adopt. And then you would have flourishing relationships with narcissists.

The great mistake of therapists, for example, is that they interact with the narcissist as if he were an adult. They have adult expectations from the narcissist.

They try to strike an alliance with the narcissist. They try to develop a treatment plan with the narcissist. Are you kidding me? That's an 18 months old.

They should deal with, I mean, if you want to be successful with a narcissist in therapy, you should apply child psychology.

There's an infant sitting in the chair, you know?

And so they have no capacity to cope with reality or to operate in it and on it.

Zero. None. Not tools. No instruments. Nothing.

They have never grown beyond this age.

And fantasy is a defense that starts around age 6 months, according to Ben and Nick line, at least. It starts around age, it's a very primitive defense. It's very much like splitting and projection. It's one of a family of primitive defenses.

So this is a primitive defense and it's understandable to an infant.

And indeed, indeed, narcissists use all these defenses.

For example, they split. Splitting or dichotomous thinking is black and white thinking.

Today you are the narcissist's best friend. Tomorrow you are his worst enemy.

Something is either all good or all bad. There's no grain, no middle ground. This is splitting.

Narcissists also project a lot. They project onto you states of mind, moods, emotions and characteristics and traits that they find unacceptable in themselves. All these are defense mechanisms, typical to age 2, and the vast majority of them disappear after age 2.

Not with the narcissist.

So we know that the narcissist is stuck at a very early age.


And so the fantasy is the only place the narcissist can survive in.

And the reason the narcissist can survive in the fantasy is the control. He's utterly in control. He can rewrite the fantasy, rewire the fantasy, reinvent the fantasy, demolish the fantasy.

The problem is you're in the fantasy with him.

So if he were to alter the fantasy or transform it, you would need to adapt. And if you don't adapt, the narcissist would need to separate from you.

And this is precisely why the narcissist introduces you into the fantasy. He knows it's going to end badly. He wants it to end badly because he wants to separate from you.

That is what victims don't understand. Victims say, "But why did he push me? Why did he destroy everything? Why did he do it?"

Because that's the aim of the shared fantasy is to lead to a catastrophe which would allow the narcissist then to devalue and discard you as the enemy.

That's the entire game. That's the only purpose of this whole exercise.

Well, my goodness, it's so fascinating. I wish I could talk to you forever. I want to just bring it to you. So you have said there's absolutely no cure for narcissism.

So what would your advice be to survivors of narcissistic abuse or anyone who might be in a relationship with a narcissist and is having a hard time believing?


Number one, it's not your fault. There is nothing you could have done. Period, period, period.

Don't analyze. Don't study. Don't read. Don't think what could have been. Don't blame yourself. Don't say, "If I only had behaved differently, forget all this."

This is an inexorable process that is independent on you. You have nothing to do with it. You're interchangeable. You are just an excuse, a trigger. So don't feel bad. It's not your fault.

Second thing, it's never been real. It has never been real. It's been a dream. It's a dream state or a dreamscape. It's a fantasy.

You've been watching a movie. You've been watching a bad movie. That's all. It's a bad movie. It's over. Lights are on and time to leave the cinema. Cinema theater, you know.

Realize that what you have had with a narcissist was a piece of fiction, a movie, a theater play, a script. It was never real. You were never there except in the narcissist's mind.

And the narcissist solipsistically was interacting with himself only with himself and going through automatic motions in a script that will repeat itself after you and have repeated itself before you.

So that's number two.

Number three.

The narcissist did not choose you and the narcissist, therefore, did not choose to discard you.

Everything the narcissist had done has been dictated decades before you've met the narcissist.

You were not chosen or targeted by the narcissist. You just happened to be there. And you were amenable to the narcissist's dual mothership offer.

Maybe you should look into your own issues and see why you were rendered vulnerable.

But as far as the narcissist is concerned, you just happen to be there. You were no more than a coincidence.

And then the narcissist inducted you into the fantasy and then you fulfilled your role and you're out like an actor or actress.

You know, the run on Broadway is finished and you're fired. You're going to the next production.

So ask yourself, why did I end up being there to start with?

Because the narcissist transacted with you. It was a transactional transaction. He offered to you a second chance at the childhood. He offered to become your mother. He offered you an idealized image of yourself, which you found irresistible.

And then you colluded and collaborated with the narcissist in the unfolding of the shared fantasy, even though you grew increasingly uncomfortable and even though you were in pain.

Why? Why did you do any of these things?

Look deep into yourself. Do not exempt yourself from your contribution to what had happened.

If you say I'm an angel and I'm a magnet and things just happened to me and it's none of my responsibility and I had zero contribution to this and it's a force of nature or a natural disaster in which I've never been involved and never asked for.

You are setting yourself up for failure and a repeat because you are also subject to repetition compulsion.

You found yourself with a narcissist because both of you are into repetition compulsions.

So accept your personal responsibility and your contribution to your predicament.

Look deep into yourself and reform yourself so that it never happens again.

That's all I have to say to victims of narcissistic abuse.

Maybe one more thing.

You have been victimized, but you're not a victim. A victim is an identity. Your victimhood is not your identity. Your victimhood is an event that happened to you.

If you were mugged tomorrow, you would not become a mug victim for the rest of your life. A mugging victim for the rest of your life.

Even if you were raped tomorrow, you would not define your identity as a rape victim. Rape is a horrible thing, but it's an event. It's not a dimension of your identity.

Victimhood and victimhood stands at debilitating, paralyzing, disabling.

And they are exactly this is exactly what the narcissist wants you to feel.

The narcissist wants you to experience his own indispensability.

Like now that he's gone, I will never be whole again. His voice is inside my mind. I've been compromised forever. I'm a victim from now on. I've been stabbed and I've been branded. You're not the narcissist's property. And this incident in your life, however long it may have been, is just a part of your life. Not the totality.

And it's not who you are.

Thank you so much for that because I think I relate to it and it's one of the reasons I have never done well in talk therapy or even self-help environments.

Because in order to function there, you have to have a victim mentality.

And I'm sure you get a lot of grief for asking people to seek and search for their own role and why they ended up there.

I'm sure people call you a victim blamer quite more than you like to know for that.

But I think it's such an important component of this conversation.

I want to end with I want to come back to your philosophical side and end here.

And I'm going to embarrass you. Maybe you don't get embarrassed, but I want to read two very beautiful ideas as a lover of language. The way you describe insight and empathy are so beautiful that I really want to end on this positive note after traveling through the horror house of narcissistic personality disorder.

Actually, I'll read three quotes.

One is a quote that you said, which for me encapsulates the utter sadness and grief that you yourself as a narcissist would feel.

You said in one of your interviews that the conflict between the absence that I am and the presence that I wish I were is a conflict that is ongoing.

I was denied as a child. I was not allowed to become so, I never became and I remained an unfulfilled promise or a dream.

That makes that brings so much tears to my eyes.

And I think that having empathy and being able to understand that, actually even you as a narcissist suffer is also a very critical component.


Now I'm going to end on these two. And if you want to add anything to it, I just want to end on your poetic side on insight.

I love this human life is a process of becoming the environment acts upon our genes and helps us to become we are being formed as we go along.

So we are never the same from moment to moment, which is why psychology can never be a science.

Life is a process of becoming via insight, insight into who you are and insight into others because it is insight that creates empathy, and empathy crucially depends on having insight into your own Because who else is empathizing? If you don't know yourself, you cannot empathize.

Empathy depends on an eye who empathizes and such a self cannot constellate or come together without an immeasurable amount of cumulative insights, which gradually form into your identity.

Having an insight to yourself allows you to have insight into others. And this is called theory of mind.

On empathy, you said, learning is a derivative of comparison. We learn by comparing social media is founded on this concept.

Knowing is not enough. You need to emote to induce dynamics and change at the base of all this is empathy. It is the bridge and the crossing to other people.

It is only by comparing yourself with other people that you calibrate yourself, that you gain realistic insight about the world because other people are your reality testing. They are your viewfinder who help you to focus.

And empathy is another word for directed insight. When you have insight into yourself, when we have insight into ourselves, we call it insight. When we have insight into others, we call it empathy.

If that's not literature, I don't know what is.

I forgive me for paraphrasing some of it, but I'd never heard anybody describe insight, because often when you have caught the subject, when I talk about psychology and my interest in it, people say, well, I'm not interested in any of that stuff.

But I think developing insight is also critical if you have been victimized because I don't think of myself as a victim, even though I've lived a traumatic childhood.

I have this beautiful, we, every individual human being has this gift. The biggest gift is that we can create ourselves every day. Every day we can create ourselves anew.

And to do that, we need insight and empathy. And I really thank you for that.

I thank you for your immense contribution to the field of psychology. I think your book personally should be a textbook in schools.

I thank you for helping me, even if that was not your, even if you didn't set out to help people, you do know how many people you have helped. And I'm so grateful.

I want to, perhaps, interject with one last sentence.

I'm a bit, as you've indicated before, I'm embarrassed when I'm exposed to effusive things.

Perhaps because I haven't meant to him. So I feel a discrepancy between my motivation and the way I'm perceived.

People keep telling me you can't be a narcissist. That's not true. You're so empathic, you're smiling, you're cute, you're this, you're that.

And that's embarrassing because I am committed to truth and I'm committed to reality. I, my roots are as a physicist, I'm a scientist. So I feel it's a wrong theory, like it's a wrong theory.

And okay. But what I wanted to say something else.

The meeting between the narcissist and his victim is a meeting of two hungers. The victim is hungry for love and intimacy and acceptance. And the narcissist is hungry for existence.

The narcissist tries to become through the victim. The narcissist tries to exist through the victim.

But the sad irony is that the only way for the narcissist to exist through the victim is to abscond with her existence. And the only way for the narcissist to become through the victim is to deny the victim her own becoming.

And on the other end of the equation, the only way for the victim to obtain love from the narcissist is to stop being, to not be. And the only way for her to maintain intimacy with the narcissist is to become as much of an absence as he is.

And this is the predicament and the conundrum of the shared fantasy.

This is a meeting of two irreconcilable, incompatible hungers.

Thank you so much, Sam. I cannot thank you enough for your time. You've been so generous and for this conversation.

I hope one day when I'm somewhere where you are, I know you're in Europe right now. Yes?

Or do you?

You're originally from Israel. So hopefully I travel a lot to Europe. So hopefully sometime I'll be in your area and would love to invite you to one of my concerts. It would be an honor to meet you in person. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Sam. Bye bye. Thank you for having me. Bye bye. Good-bye. Thank you. ###

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