Narcissism: The New Normal? (Mental Health Speak Show)

Uploaded 1/15/2019, approx. 47 minute read

I know that you, like you said, 98%, you're going to just be kind of teaching, you know, as you do. Would you do this in a way?

Now, we have a global audience. Can you speak as if you were doing a diagnosis of Americans? Can you do that for us today?

Because that's really the direction that I want to go because we have a large listening audience. I feel like we're in a bubble and I feel like we cannot see ourselves. We cannot objectively see ourselves right now as it relates to narcissism.

And you're outside of us. You're an expert. Can you help us?

Well, I'm not sure it'll be of help. Sometimes introspection and self-awareness are counterproductive, but I will do my best to provide.

It's just profound what you have taught and I know you know.

Thank you.

I know you understand this, but literally to be able to sit and talk to a person who's been influential in the work that you do.

Again, I just want to extend my thanks.

Don't worry about it.

My pleasure to be with you and I'm grateful to you for having me.

Okay. It's important to discuss these subjects and I think you're doing this to the community and to people at large over the world. We owe each other gratitude.

I'd like to welcome the Mental Speak family to the broadcast today. I'm your host, LaTonya Davison, licensed master social worker, a mental health therapist and social psychologist. And I have on, I'm honored to have on this gentleman. It's been many years for myself that I've been researching the topic of narcissism.

I know that right now, particularly for Americans now, we have a global audience, but Americans are in a very unique situation where we are what I believe locked in a bubble that is not allowing us for a perspective, a political aspect, social aspects.

I think it requires us to bring in those who can help us start to make sense to gain awareness, to gain a greater consciousness about who we are, what we become, what we are in the present.

And I really don't think we're able to see it objectively.

This gentleman is an expert on the topic, actually many topics, but specifically the topic of narcissism. And he is going to educate us today. He's going to enlighten us today. And hopefully we can be courageous enough to listen.

I don't think we're listening these days. I think we need to take the time to listen, to learn, and hopefully to apply the knowledge that's given to us today.

So I would like to welcome to the show, Mr. Sam Vaknin. And I want you to tell us about yourself, your background.

He says he's going to do 98% of the talking and I'm just going to sit back and let him indulge us.

Welcome to the show, Sam.

Thank you. Thank you for having me. You make me sound like an Indian guru, which I'm not.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm a professor of psychology in several universities. I've written a series of books about personality, of which is Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited in its 10th edition. I've written it in 1995. I started to write it in 1995 when there was utterly no awareness of narcissism, especially of the pathological kind.

Narcissism had been bandied around by cultural critics, such as Christopher Lash, by psychoanalysts such as Kohut or Kernberg and so on. But it's been limited to a very tiny circle of arcane scholars and no one simply knew about it. Lehman definitely didn't.

In 1995, I released the genie. I let the genie out of the bottle and I had to create a whole new language to communicate to people who are not adept in psychology.

This question is being debated to this very day. And I think it behooves us and would be also helpful to make a distinction between pathological narcissism as a clinical diagnostic entity, the equivalent of tuberculosis or cancer of the mind.

On the one hand, and in its most extreme form known as narcissistic personality disorder, and narcissism as a societal, cultural and historical organizing principle, an explanatory principle that allows us to understand the world around us.

So narcissism has these two facets and they are very often conflated and confused.

I started, my early work was with a clinical entity. I studied narcissistic personality disorder in individuals and in their interpersonal community, etc. Then I branched out into narcissism in politics and then from there into narcissism in society as mediated today via technology.

Like you said, I feel like you were one of the pioneers of actually discussing the topic online when I was initially researching the topic. Again, I want to say maybe 2012, 2013. There weren't a lot of people discussing this topic at all. It was pretty much your face was synonymous with this topic.

Do you feel like you're a pioneer of bringing narcissism to the forefront?

I was the only person to discuss narcissism online between 1997 and 2004. That's a fact. I had the only website dedicated to narcissism. I had the only support group dedicated to victims of narcissistic abuse and I coined 99% of the language everyone is using today. I coined phrases such as narcissistic abuse. I coined the phrase somatic narcissism, cerebral narcissism, no contact. I mean, you name it. 99% of the language is mine, ghosting, hoovering.

I had to. There was no language. In the absence of language, there's no insight. In the absence of insight, there's no change and no ability to transform and to develop and to evolve and to avoid dangers.

So I had to, first of all, invent the language and then following the language, I had to sort of disseminate it somehow. The internet was very helpful, frankly. The internet at that time was, there's very little to do with the internet of, shall we say, up to 2006 or 2007. These were two totally dissimilar technological phenomena.

The internet until 2007 was community oriented, a bit altruistic, a lot altruistic actually. Had to do more with the dissemination of knowledge, support, with providing access, with elevating people intellectually, emotionally and otherwise, etc.

The internet after 2006-07 became much more narcissistic and was me focused, became me focused. And later on, I think this phase, which is the third phase of evolution, the internet is becoming psychopathic.

So the internet reflects major social trends. I, for one, don't believe that technology engenders social trends. I think it's the culmination and reification of processes that take place in communities and in other organizational social units, such as families, nations, politics, etc.

And I think what happened is as people became more and more narcissistic, a fact that is documented in quite a few studies, most notably the studies of Twenge and Campbell and others, as people became more and more narcissistic, they demanded empowerment. They insisted on access. They wanted interaction with like-minded people in order to amplify and enhance their omnipotence and omniscience and alleged or self-imputed omnipotence and omniscience and so on.

So there was a lot of grassroots peer pressure. Those demands, the supply and the internet had been utterly transformed within fewer than three years.

I watched the, and I really appreciate the fly on the wall series. I hope, I hope you guys continue that you and your wife, Lydia's, it was wonderful to be able to just kind of observe and engage, but she made the point that, she herself was observing how volatile it had become towards her and towards yourself.

And you spoke about the fact that human beings are now becoming more machine-like, more of that left brain kind of logical, but to the point of, of almost being an android themselves, as far as the internet is concerned, is that what you're saying we're becoming more narcissistic as a result of our dependency on technology?

No, I'm saying exactly the opposite thing. I'm saying the technology had been created by these android people to gratify their needs and to amplify their alleged and self-imputed capacity.

I think what happened is as the number of people in the world increased, as the population exploded, when I was born, which is when the dinosaurs, lost dinosaurs roamed the earth, when I was born, there were 3 billion people. And today there's 7.6 billion.

It's much more difficult to be noticed. People need to feel that they are special, that they're unique. People want to be seen. They want to be noted, that they are being seen, that they are being observed, that they're being noticed.

And in the past, a hundred years ago, this was provided by the village. This was provided by the small town. This was provided by family members, extended family, nuclear family.

See, all these social units disintegrated, utterly disintegrated. Families are a long gone. Communities are nowhere to be seen. Towns have mushroomed and sprawled and became megalopolises.

I mean, it's very difficult today to be, to be embedded in any kind of social fabric and to receive from this social fabric the affirmation, validation that one needs.

So what happened is a process called atomization.

I think with, with early formative years of childhood, the child needs to be seen because to be, his survival depends on being seen. If he's not noticed, attended to by his parents and caregivers, a child can die.

So being seen is crucial, but it's very difficult to be seen when there's 7.6 billion others competing for scarce resources and scarce attention.

So narcissism has been on the rise because people want to render themselves unique, special, noticeable, apart from the maddening crowd.

And one way to do that is via social media and empowering technologies.

And so I think technologies reflect this need, not the other way.

Technologies were created to cater to this rising tide of narcissism.

And people have become machine like, when you say people have become machine like, it's interesting in as early as 1970, there was a Japanese roboticist. His name was Maury. And he came up with the concept of the uncanny valley. He said that the more robots resemble human beings, the more ill at ease we feel in their presence, the more uncomfortable we feel. I mean, the more the machine resembles, the closer the machine is to a human being, the more uncomfortable we feel.

And this he called it the uncanny valley, taking off on Freud. Freud coined the term uncanny. So I think it's the same with narcissists. We feel ill at ease, we feel uncomfortable because narcissists are good imitations of human beings.

However, they are not quite fully human beings. And the reason they're not fully human is because of cold empathy. I suggested a few years ago that narcissists actually do have empathy, cold empathy.

But cold empathy is machine like. It's cognitive. It's analytic. There's no emotional component in it.

And so narcissists lack empathy. They don't understand the minds of other people. They don't have a theory of mind. They don't know what it is to be human.

Because they lack empathy. It is true empathy that we understand what it is to be human. They have the narcissist lack the common experience of being human. They lack the archetype of all archetypes, humanity. And instead what they do, they create artificial mechanical ways of coping with this lack.

Sam, how do I reconcile when you say that, and this is the struggle for myself, whether it be personally or professionally, that a lot of the criteria for NPD, it sounds like people today though, it sounds like empathy is gone. It sounds like, or empathy has to be learned as well. Does that make sense? Like it's, I just, I hear a lot of what seems to be the norm now, but not under the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. How do I reconcile that?

Well, first of all, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual edition five, which was published in 2013, suggested an alternative model of diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder. And that alternative model placed emphasis on inability to attain intimacy, a pronounced lack of empathy, mood fluctuations or mood lability, and regulation of a sense of self-worth from the outside. So that goal orientation is directed by the outside.

In other words, the narcissist chooses what to do and what not to do in accordance with feedback from the outside that supports his grandiose self-image and self perception. He would embark on a course of action. If the course of action is unlikely to yield this feedback, he would abstain from it.

And this is the general description of the DSM 5. The DSM 4 is categorical in the sense that it provides nine diagnostic criteria, pathological envy, sense of entitlement, lack of empathy, exploitativeness, etc.

Any five of these nine criteria are satisfied, then you have yourself a narcissist.

A problem with the previous model, the nine criteria model is that it was possible for two people to be diagnosed as narcissists and to share only one diagnostic criterion, because you needed five out of nine. So one person could have one, one to five and the other one could have five to nine. So they would share only the fifth criteria.

I mean, force the committee of the diagnostic and statistical manual five to revamp the whole perception of narcissism. The minute they did this, the minute they revamped the way they viewed narcissism, it became a lot more general phenomenon. As long as the mental health profession limited itself to nine highly specific criteria, much fewer people could have been considered narcissists.

But the minute you start to talk in generalities, the minute you move from categorical, a categorical way of looking at narcissism to a dimensional way, the minute you start to say, well, people who cannot have intimacy, people who don't have empathy, it applies to a much larger chunk of the population by definition.

And indeed today, I think, I don't have numbers, but I think most people that I know have narcissistic traits and narcissistic behaviors and narcissistic defenses and so on.

I think narcissism is an all pervasive phenomenon today, actually to such an extent that I believe it is the organizing principle of our society, civilization and culture.

In other words, what I'm trying to say, I think we have created a civilization that is narcissistic and because it's narcissistic and increasingly more psychopathic, it pays to be a narcissist. It's a positive adaptation. It's rewarding. If you are a narcissist, you end up being president of the United States. If you are not a narcissist, you end up being homeless.

Survival. It's become a survival mechanism.

It's a positive adaptation.

That's the precise term. It's a positive adaptation in the sense that if you adopt this set of traits behaviors and behaviors, you're positively reinforced, you're positively rewarded and you can accomplish things. In other words, you have an impact on your environment that is beneficial to you. That is in accordance with your goals and so on.

So narcissism works, to cut a long story short in a narcissistic psychopathic civilization, narcissism works and anything that is anti narcissistic does not work.

Empathy doesn't work. Community doesn't work. Teamwork doesn't work.

It's now a weakness.

Donald Trump works.

Yeah. It's now considered a weakness to be empathetic.

Yeah. So here's the question. When you as a therapist, because therapy is not devoid of values. Therapy is culture bound. It's values oriented.

When you try to heal people, to cure them, you try to heal them and to cure them in accordance with some ideal type. Freud called it ego ideal.

You try to conform them to some mold or some set of criteria or some imaginary ideal person, which does not, who does not exist of course, or what we call normalcy. You try to make them more normal statistically speaking.

But if the very values change, then the whole profession of therapy should change because what have you, if empathy is not working anymore, if it's counterproductive, if it is obstructive, if it prevents the patient from obtaining her goals, from realizing her life and life's ambitions and so on.

We ask only two questions in psychotherapy, essentially.

The first question is, is the patient happy? Is the patient content? Is the patient egosyntonic?

That's the first question.

And the second question we ask, is the patient functional? Is there any area or set of areas in the patient's life which are adversely affected by the patient's mental constitution?

If the answer is the patient is happy and she's fully functional, then her set of values is irrelevant.

In other words, how do you take Donald Trump, how do you convince Donald Trump that he needs help?

Donald Trump is a psychopathic narcissist, extreme case, malignant. I vaingloriously consider myself an expert on the understanding of this condition more than most people alive.

And so I feel sufficiently qualified to make this statement.

Donald Trump is a seriously sick person, utterly malignantly narcissistic, bordering on psychopath, probably also psychopath.

But how do you convince Donald Trump to attend therapy? Why would he attend therapy?

His mental state was beneficial to him. He made money. He dated gorgeous women. He ended up being president of the United States. I mean, it worked for him.

His psychopathic narcissism was a positive adaptation. It brought him success, luck, money, and everything else that he set as his life's goals. He is functional. He is functional in the sense that he realized his life's ambition. So he's functional.

And if you ask him, he will tell you, of course I'm happy. I mean, he's egosyntonic. He doesn't feel bad. He doesn't feel uncomfortable. He doesn't feel ill at ease. He doesn't feel he has to change anything.

Why on earth would someone like Donald Trump attend therapy? What does he have to learn from a loser like the therapist?

In his world, therapists are losers.

And the problem is that more and more, our world is geared towards Donald Trump's.

There is a Donald Trump in the Philippines. His name is Duterte. There's a Donald Trump in Brazil. His name is Bolsonaro. There's a Donald Trump in Russia. His name is Putin. And one in Turkey is Erdogan. And one in Hungary. His name is Oban. And one in Britain. His name is Farage.

Donald Trump's are proliferating precisely because the structure of our civilization, our societies, our cultures, our political institutions and where the money flows, the transmission mechanisms of power and money, the nexus, all this is geared to promote, to empower, to enhance and to leverage and levitate people like Donald Trump.

Why on earth would they want to change? Our values are wrong. They are outdated. They are old-fashioned. They no longer work.

And in this sense, we are doing a disservice to our patients when we try to dissuade them from being narcissists.

Actually in July 2017, the science magazine, New Scientist, one of the two most important in the world, the other one being Scientific American. So New Scientist came up with a cover story. Teach your children to be more narcissistic.

You have a whole group of academics, Kevin Dutton, McCuby, others, you have a whole group of academics, scholars, pretty influential, pretty famous, who insist that narcissism and psychopathy are good things, that they are positive adaptations in a series of professions, that we should elevate narcissists and psychopaths to positions of power in politics, in business and so on.

That narcissists and psychopaths are creative. They are the yeast in our collective bread. They are the ones who come up with new arts, new culture, new books, new movies, new inventions, new science, new everything.

These people, these academics, they call, they invented, they coined the phrase, high functioning narcissists. Narcissists don't have empathy.

Yes, they abuse and exploit everyone in their ambit, including their so-called nearest and dearest. Yes, they are treacherous, they are treasonous, they are exploitative, they are liars, they are antisocial, sometimes criminalized, and they are grandiose, they are delusional, they have fantasies.

It's all very true, but they're happy, and they succeed, and you never argue with success.

You're describing any comment section on Facebook.

That's the problem we're faced with.

All I hear, every bullet point that you offer, I literally observe in any given topic, any given circle, any given dimension right now, that is a Facebook comment section.

The scary part is there will be no introspection. As you said, there's no ability. Why would we change?

It's interesting that you say that as far as therapy goes, and I consider it the most ethical thing I can do with the patients that I work with, is say are you happy? Are you functioning?

Really, all I could say is how do we minimize the effects that you have on your family, on those around you, even on yourself, because that's all I have.

They are going to pursue life as they see fit, and for me, ethically, my job is to help them to do such, whatever it takes for them to get resources, but at this point, treatment goals have just become how do we help you to not hurt other people? That's where I am in my work.

Our goals as mental health practitioners are becoming more and more limited.

We are beginning to lead a constricted life in the sense that we tinker. We can no longer change anything of essence, of substance, of quiddity, but we can only tinker.

We can modify some behaviors which are abrasive, socially unacceptable, and damaging. We can play a little with protocols, but we can't do much more right now.

We can't do much more because what used to be considered pathological had been rendered a positive adaptation, had been rendered useful and helpful to the patient's life.

It reminds me of Nazi Germany. In Nazi Germany, if you were not a psychopath, something was wrong with you. The positive adaptation in Nazi Germany was to have been a psychopath because people with psychopathy, people with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy, in Robert Hare's sense, these people rose to the top. They became the political leadership. They ran the SS. They ran the concentration camps and became fabulously rich. They ran the German industry.

I mean, only psychopaths were able to thrive in Germany, and Germany ruled the world for a while.

So what would have been your advice to a German patient? The German patient, listen, to be a psychopath is a bad thing. You should love the Jews. You should not hate the Jews. You should not torture people. You should not kill people.

That would have been an advice that conforms to the Judeo-Christian set of values. But it would have been an extremely bad advice because that patient would have immediately become an outcast, and it would have even endangered his life.

So, depends, psychology is context dependent. And the context right now is narcissism.

Long, long time ago, in 1995, I wrote an article, one of the first I've ever written about the topic, where I have warned that narcissism is the equivalent of a viral epidemic. And if not stopped, it will infect and affect everything.

You mentioned the comment section in Facebook, online forums, Instagram, other social media, the workplace, parishes, church parishes. I mean, all these places are infested and infiltrated with narcissism. And the minute there's one or two or three of them, the whole place is transformed and becomes narcissistic.

Because we all have healthy narcissism. Narcissism is the foundation of our sense of self worth, self esteem, self confidence. Without healthy narcissism, we're in very bad shape.

So we all have healthy narcissism. And what pathological narcissists succeed to do, they succeed to activate, activate, elicit this healthy narcissism, bring it to the surface.

There were two French philosophers in the 1960s, Louis Althusser and Guy Debord. Guy Debord wrote a book called The Society of the Spectacle. And Guy Debord said, we are entering a period where appearances will become much more important than reality, the image. That's why he called it Society of the Spectacle. He said images will become much more important than reality.

And Althusser, Louis Althusser, who ended up, by the way, the mental asylum, Louis Althusser warned us that these images create a process called interpolation. They force us to act unbeknownst to us. So he said that images have a huge power.

And this is what narcissists do, because the narcissist constructs at a very early age, the narcissist constructs a false self. That is a concept that I borrowed from Winnicott. He constructs a false self.

This self is false. It is godlike. It's not realistic. It's an image. It's a confabulation. It's a piece of fiction.

And so the narcissist is concerned with maintaining this piece of fiction. In other words, the narcissist is constantly producing a movie. He's a movie producer and a movie director. And he's concerned with the movie, not with reality.

And so when you're interacting with the narcissist, you're interacting with the image that he projects with his reflection, with this piece of falsity, prevarication and confabulation called the false self.

And so as Louis Althusser taught us, these images have a lot of power. They induce action. And so it's enough to have two or three narcissists in a group of 100 for all 100 people to become narcissistic.

And in this sense, many of the observations of this new group of academics, when they say that narcissists are like yeast, they are right. Narcissists are exactly like yeast. They are catalysts. They catalyze an enzymatic reaction that transforms everyone around them into narcissists.

And then of course, it's like the zombie apocalypse. These 100 narcissists, they transform 10,000 people and this 10,000 transform a million. And then the whole nation becomes narcissistic as you are, as you are experiencing right now.

And the question that I think for the listeners and for myself, how do we, again, if it's become us, how do we know?

And if we're asking, I've read that if we ask the question, am I a narcissist? It could be one of two answers. It can be the fact that you're asking the question means that you're not, or that if you can answer the question, yes, that you are, you know, are we all narcissistic at this point?

It's an unfortunate online myth that narcissists are not self-aware. It's utterly wrong.

Actually, the majority of narcissists are completely self-aware, but they are proud of their narcissism. They are self-aware. They are aware of it, but they are proud of it.

If you talk to narcissists as I've been doing for 23 years, I have the biggest, probably the largest database of interviews with narcissists, people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The minute I find one, I send them questionnaires and because they are narcissists, they answer them, thousands of people.

So narcissists, first of all, the majority of them knew because they had been diagnosed and also knew before they had been diagnosed that they were narcissistic.

But as opposed to non-narcissistic people, they were proud of it.

They considered narcissism the next stage, the next phase in human evolution. They consider themselves superior. They consider themselves the harbingers and the pioneers of a new type of human. Transhumanity, kind of transhuman variant. They regarded themselves as endowed with such gifts to humanity in some ironic way. They converted their narcissism into an act of altruism.

They said, yes, we may be, but we are doing this to advance humanity's cause. We are the unfortunate pioneers. We are actually self-sacrificial. We should be admired. We are saints because we are so superior and yet we deploy our considerable assets, which render us superhuman. We deploy it to help the less fortunate members of society who are not narcissists.

So there's a whole ideology that had developed around narcissism. An ideology which glorifies narcissism, renders it an asset, something to aspire to, a role model for imitation and emulation.

When you analyze speeches by the likes of Donald Trump and not only Donald Trump, Tony Robbins and numerous others who are different from their narcissism, they don't shy away from it. They just divide the world to winners and losers, me and others, superior and inferior. They don't shy away from their narcissism. They glorify it. They render it religious.

And here I want to say something that most people don't, I think, let's put it this way, didn't they didn't consider narcissism the way I'm going to present it right now.

Narcissism, pathological narcissism is in most, in the vast majority of cases, a reaction to childhood abuse. The abuse can be classic, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal, psychological abuse, but abuse can also mean putting the child in a pedestal, idolizing the child, considering the child and extension of the parent, rewarding the child when the child succeeds, so performance, using the child to realize the parents' unfulfilled wishes and fantasies and hopes, etc.. Whenever we don't allow the child to separate from the parent and to individuate, we have a situation that is abusive.

So some children, small minority, react with pathological narcissism. They develop pathological narcissism. And what do they do?

These children, these children create an entity, a separate entity called the false self. The false self is everything that the child is not. The child is helpless. The false self is omnipotent. The child cannot predict the behavior of his parents because they are narcissistic. The false self is omniscient. The child is told by the parents that it is bad and unworthy and deficient. The false self is perfect and brilliant.

So the false self is everything the child is not. We will easily, we easily see that the false self is actually God. It's God. The child had created God and narcissism becomes a private religion.

As the narcissist grows, he worships the false self and he makes a human sacrifice to the false self like they used to do with the Moloch in the Bible. And this human sacrifice is himself. The narcissist sacrifices himself, his true self to the Moloch of the false self.

The narcissist offers himself, the narcissist says, listen, I will annul myself. I will cancel out myself. I will annihilate myself. I will disappear. Just be with me.

Just yeah. I mean, here I am. I will disappear as a true self and I will reappear in your form.

And, and as you spoke so poignantly and it validated my own thoughts that the internet is waiting there for you to create an avatar for you to project that self onto.

Now you have a hologram to embody all that is your God. And then you present that being to everyone and say, look, look at this wonderful self for this creation that I've created and, and, and on and on and on. It's insane.

And it's a religious experience. The worshiper merges with God and becomes God by disappearing.

And that's narcissism. That's the best description of narcissism that I can come up with.

And so when the narcissist grows up, he and of himself, because there's no real self there, the true self had been sacrificed. So he speaks of his false self and of his disorder in religious terms.

Most narcissists will tell you that they are on a mission. Most narcissists will tell you that their life is cosmic significance. Most narcissists will tell you ever since I was small, I knew I'm destined to big things. Most narcissists will discuss themselves as divinities, as God like creatures at the very least, idols. Even if there are nobody's zero true losers in life, they would still convert their situation into some step on the way to, to grandeur and grandiosity.

So when you talk to someone like, or when you listen to someone like Donald Trump or similar narcissist, Donald Trump, for example, keeps presenting himself as a sacrificial lamb. You know, he's sacrificing, as everything he's doing is a sacrifice. Actually he openly says, I didn't need to be president of the United States. I'm doing it for you. You know, it's like Jesus. He sounds like the mutation of Jesus.

Hitler used exactly the same eschatology and religious speech. Hitler presented himself as the embodiment of the historical spirit of Germany and sacrificed himself. For example, he never got married when people asked him, why don't you, why didn't you ever get married? Hitler used to answer because I'm married to Germany.

And that is of course, immediately reminiscent of the Catholic church where nuns and monks are married to Jesus. That's why they don't have sex. That's why they don't get married.

In this sense, pathological narcissism is a new global religion, a new global cult. That is, it's the source of its power.

This is why it is becoming so all pervasive, prevalent, admired and propagated and so on. Because it embodies and is imbued with religious motifs and archetypes.

Jesus, sacrifice, God, omnipotent, I mean, they are echoes that go back thousands of years. Narcissism taps into what Jung used to call collective unconscious. It's a much more profound phenomenon than an asshole who is not empathic.

Yeah, this is the fourth Reich. I mean, that's what I hear.

We're an inflection point, absolutely at an inflection point.

And there is the possibility of the emergence of a new religion, not in the classic sense with a supreme being, but a new decentralized religion, a new network religion where everyone is God, a kind of distributed God where everyone is God. And together they are the God.

It reminds me of a story I read, science fiction story, I read a long time ago.

The story is about the scientists who connects all the computers in the world to each other. And when he finishes connecting all the computers in the world to each other, he asks this vast network of computers. He asks, who are you? Well, of course I'm God.

It's in this sense, a religion. We don't understand it, how dangerous this is.

It becomes the thought form where they call that the egregore where it's just one hive mind of Godlike beings.

What's the prognosis, Sam? What's, what's the prognosis? Do we hit the pinnacle and then, you know, it's downhill from there. How does this play out?

I don't know if it's downhill or uphill, obviously using phrases such as words, such as downhill and uphill implies value judgment.

A video I made two or three years ago is exactly about this, that narcissism is a hive mind. We are going to be transformed.

I think we are moving from more individualistic modes of relating to the world and to each other to more collective modes of relating to each other and to ourselves with distribution of power so that each one of us is God unto himself. So we have reduced God into the network and we had become gods, consequently.

Now the question is how well are we built to cope with our new role as God? Because throughout human history from, probably from prehistory.

I'm agnostic, don't misunderstand. I'm not espousing any religion. I personally have a very dim view of organized religion and an even dimmer view of God as a construct, supreme being and so on. So I'm not a religious person, it's important to say.

But what I am saying is from ancient prehistory, we had a very clear relationship between God and man. God had his roles, managed his roles, and they all collaborated more or less efficiently and well.

I think it's the first time in human history where we are humanizing, I mean, we tried it once with Jesus. We humanize God with Jesus. It didn't work too well.

So I think it's the second time we are trying to humanize God by reducing God to us. The first attempt had its problems.

What we are doing now, we are decentralizing God. We're converting God into the network metaphor. And it is the first time that we are subsuming God and digesting God and becoming God.

What will we pay for that? Do we have the tools, mental, psychological, organizational, societal, cultural, to cope with such a massive, unbelievable, incredible, unprecedented transformation? I don't know.

Narcissism is a reaction to that, obviously, because if I am God like suddenly, it can get to my head, you know, go to my head.

A few decades ago, two decades ago, a professor by the name of Millman in Harvard University came up with the idea of diagnosis or whatever you want to call it, of acquired situational narcissism. He said that it's true that most is formed or is fostered in early childhood, but there can be late onset narcissism, narcissism that is the outcome of changing life circumstances.

He studied rock stars. Rock stars were totally normal people before they became rock stars. And then they became rock stars and they scored very high on test for narcissism, like narcissistic personality disorder and MMPI 2.

So he said that they became narcissists late in life because their circumstances of their life changed.

And he called it acquired situational narcissism.

I think most of the narcissism that we see today in adults is acquired situational narcissism, not the pathological kind, not the clinical entity that we're used to.

Most of these people were never abused as children. Most of the normal folks, 10 years ago, they were okay. They were empathic. They were nice. They worked in teams. They were collaborative. They were happy, nice people.

Suddenly, 10 years later, they have no empathy. They have no intimacy. They are rapacious. They are predatory.

What on earth happened to these people in these 10 years?

They are 50 years old. They're 40 years old. They're 30 years old. It couldn't have been their childhood.

So this is late onset narcissism. This is acquired situational narcissism.

Okay. What has changed in the situation? What made them narcissists?

They didn't become rock stars. The majority of them didn't become rock stars.

What happened?

What happened is technology. They were empowered by technology.

Every person today, everyone in his dog can publish a book, make a television, make even normal people godlike. The power that a typical internet user has today at her fingertips, what happened is technology.

Technology rendered each and every one of us godlike. The things you can do today with your iPhone, multinational companies couldn't do in the 1960s. The total computing power in iPhone 6, which is an ancient rendition of iPhone. The total computing power in iPhone 6 far exceeds the computing power that NASA had when it sent them into the moon.

You can publish books. You can make radio shows. You can have TV emissions. I mean, you can do anything. You can do anything. You are omnipotent by virtue of technology and you are omniscient if you have access to Wikipedia.

So we have become gods in this transformation in our situation. This induced in us acquired situational narcissism, late onset narcissism.

And so we need to distinguish the classic construct of narcissism, which is a clinical diagnostic entity from late onset narcissism, which is much more common.

It's a little like diabetes one and diabetes two. Diabetes one is genetic in inherited, etc., and childhood. It's a childhood disease. Diabetes two is acquired much later in life owing to bad lifestyle. Wrong lifestyle decisions like no exercise, overeating and so on.

So we are having narcissism one and narcissism two. Narcissism one is a childhood disease. Narcissism two is circumstantial, the outcome of lifestyle choices and access to technology.

I want to ask you, this is something that's been on my mind because of the prognosis that we've been told, as you said, that there's no reason to change when it works.

But I do want to present to you, you've been doing this for quite a while, 23 years, right? How has it transformed you? Has it had any effect on minimizing your traits and can that apply to us?

I've been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder twice in the space of 10 years. And the first time I've been diagnosed, it was not included in the diagnostic and statistical manual four or five years before. So no one knew much, knew anything about it. So I didn't pay too much attention to a clinical entity that is just at its inception and there's no studies, no research or nothing. I didn't take it seriously.

Then in 1995, I've been diagnosed again with narcissistic personality disorder comorbid with other issues. And so this time I took it seriously.

That's when I started my work on the subject. And ever since then, I've been working on the subject.

In the last six years, I have developed a treatment modality, a therapy for narcissistic personality disorder and depressive illnesses. There is a strong connection between narcissism and depression. We can talk about it if you want, but I developed a treatment modality, which I dubbed Cold Therapy, and I've been training therapists all over the world. I just came back from Brazil and so on. And it's aimed and targeted at, specifically, narcissistic personality disorder, nothing else.

The work on cold therapy and teaching cold therapy and writing about cold therapy have transformed me. Obviously I haven't been treated with cold therapy because the first therapist will be certified next year. I hadn't been treated, but the very fact of working on it and developing it and being exposed to it somehow had an effect on me.

For example, I lost my need for narcissistic supply. This interview, not withstanding. No, really I don't need it anymore. I am utterly, utterly devoid of the compulsion to obtain narcissistic supply, which is enormous. Narcissistic supply is at the core, is the core fuel, schema, in narcissism, is the compulsive, uninhibited, non controllable need to obtain narcissistic supply. In this sense, narcissism is a form of addictive personality.

So I lost it. I don't need supply. I can go on for months and longer without any supply. And I'm not bothered in the least. That's an interesting development.

But with that exception, nothing much else has happened with that exception.

So it didn't have much of an impact on me.

I have applied cold therapy to 43 volunteers in various cultures, societies, countries around the world. And five years later, three to five years later, as follow-up, all of them have lost both depressive aspects. So I mean, there's no trace of narcissism there of any kind. They score very low on MPI, MMPI, etc. And they are not narcissists. I mean, today they cannot be diagnosed with narcissistic personalities.

So it seems that, but 43 is a tiny sample? Non representative, non representative.

And so I warn against any optimality.

Of course. I like anecdotal. I like anecdotal though. It works for me.

Yet it's taking into account the intractable nature of narcissism.

Yeah, it's all true. But all 60,000 a year die and this 43 hadn't.

So, you know, a key to a possibility, a potential, I'm warning. I'm being very disclaimer.

It seems I found some key. And if you're interested, I will tell you what is the underlying philosophy.

I would love to hear it actually.

I don't want to hijack your space now.

So cold therapy is founded on the belief that we had completely misunderstood narcissism. We cast narcissism as a personality disorder.

And what cold therapy says is actually narcissism has nothing to do with the personality, that the narcissist's personality is both intact and healthy, but has been subjected to such trauma in such torsion early on that the narcissist is in a permanent post-traumatic condition.

So first of all, cold therapy treats narcissism, it casts narcissism as a form of complex PTSD.

Second thing, the mistake of all other treatment modalities, and I know all of them by heart because I've used borrowed from all of them. So the mistake of all other treatment modalities is that they interact with the narcissist as though the narcissist were an adult.

But narcissists are not adults. Mentally narcissist are children.

So narcissism is a case of arrested development, perhaps the case, the most dominant case of arrested development.

The narcissist is frozen at age six or seven or eight or nine. And that's where it stops. That's it.

Interacting with a narcissist as an adult is utterly useless because you are talking to a nine year old. It's a child's psychology and it is constructed entirely as a form of child psychology, a child therapy.

So this is the second, the third observation is that narcissism is a form of attachment disorder. So it deals a lot with attachment cold therapy.

And the fourth observation is that narcissism is an addictive, an addiction, that the narcissist is an addictive personality and that the need for attention, adulation, admiration, affirmation, applause, input from the environment, feedback, this need is compulsive and a form of addiction, which is the outcome of conditioning and so nevermind. So we're talking reinforcement theory and addiction theory.

So if you put the four together, arrested development, post traumatic condition, addiction and attachment disorder, we know how to treat all four very effectively.

We have extremely effective therapies for trauma with addictions. We know how to treat this.

We do not know how to treat narcissistic personality disorder. We never succeed. I mean it's total failure, but we are extremely successful with these other four elements.

So if you treat narcissists as though they are traumatized children with addictions, the success rate is much higher and indeed it proved itself. Cold therapy is successful, because when I talk to the patient in cold therapy, patient number 44 is starting on Saturday. When I talk to a patient in cold therapy, I don't talk to her as an adult.

I deal with her addiction and I deal with her trauma and I completely ignore her functioning, her social structures. All this is utterly relevant to me because she is a child, a traumatized child who developed dysfunctional coping mechanisms, such as addiction, and who is incapable of attachment because of pain aversion. We know how to treat such children. We treat millions of such children exceedingly successfully.

Narcissists are such children.

Forgive me for tripping up on my thoughts and my words because I literally am in my head as you're speaking.

I've worked with trauma victims. I'm also a 14 year military veteran. I've worked with military vets, children with trauma, adults with trauma in the inpatient and the outpatient setting.

All I can see right now is exactly what you're saying that we deal with the individual criteria of each diagnosis. We've always been told that as a whole, no, you cannot treat a narcissistic personality disorder person. You can't do it. They'll tell you it's difficult to treat a borderline personality disorder patient, but exactly what you're saying, no, we're dealing with all the criteria, just going down the line and dealing with the criteria under each category. And as a whole, treating the whole person. Absolutely amazing and profound.

Since you have been involved in trauma, I mean PTSD, classic PTSD, that's and so on. You know, well, that people with trauma become much more narcissistic. It's one of the features of traumatized people that initially at least lose empathy.

They become self-centered. They become exploitative and demanding. They have a sense of entitlement and they develop fantasies. They withdraw from reality. They become delusional very often, etc.

These are the hallmarks of narcissism. They become narcissists simply.

Actually the irony is that the first observation that trauma leads to narcissism is well over 130 years old.

There was a guy called Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage was, I think a construction foreman and a steel bar penetrated his brain, damaged his brain. I mean, it was a horrible accident and destroyed the skull of his brain.

And he was heavily traumatized and the doctors at the time described a striking change in his personality. They said he used to be empathic. Now he's not, he used to be helpful. Now he's a thriving narcissistic personality disorder.

So we knew about the connection between brain trauma and physical brain trauma and narcissistic personality.

But what we fail to understand or fail to make the connection is that mental trauma is the exact equivalent to physical trauma. And this is mediated by neuroplasticity.

The brain is plastic. You can penetrate the brain with a steel bar or you can traumatize the brain. And in both cases there will be lasting damage. In both cases, the brain will rewire.

The artificial distinction between physical trauma and non-physical trauma is exactly this artificial, wrong.

And so anyone who has ever dealt with traumatized patients knows how self-centered, egotistical.

Toddler like.

Toddler like, whining.

I mean, narcissists they are. Everyone knows that. Everyone who has ever dealt with traumatized patients.

And so why we didn't we make the logical leap? If traumatized patients are narcissists, narcissists are traumatized patients.

Absolutely profound. And you know what, it's why they call what we do practice. It's ever changing and, you know, it's dynamic. And to me, this is something that can lead in a whole other direction.

It almost answers the question when I present, you know, well, what do we do now?

Well, it sounds like we have a person who's been at the forefront continuing to do the research, continuing to explore and give us the answers.

And it sounds like if someone who is, you know, where we before would tell a family member or loved ones, listen, you've got a narcissist. This is what you've got. Deal with it. Sorry. Don't know what to tell you. Get away.

Do you still give the same advice or is that starting to change? Because, you know, there was a time where you said, look, you've just got to abandon the person. Is that also going to change as well?

It was I who came up no contact in 1997. But now I'm offering hope via cold therapy.

Of course, I mean, I'm alone and I can only take these many people. And so I'm taking now patient number 44

The therapy itself is short, by the way, it's a three to four months. But after that, I usually take a year, sometimes a year and a half to analyze the patient notes, the case notes so as to create a coherent body.

And so in between patients, I also give seminars and certification seminars and so on.

Cold therapy is sometimes counterintuitive and definitely a bit, if I say so, a bit revolutionary, because that's not the view of narcissism. There's never been the view of narcissism.

Narcissism, initially in 1915, when Freud first suggested that the word narcissism was considered a regression. Like, you're a baby that has narcissism, then when you grow up you become an adult. If you go back to being a baby, you're sick. So it was a regression. Then it was this, then it was that.

And the most recent incarnation is that it's a personality disorder. I don't need to tell you. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is an insurance document. It's a document created for insurance companies.

Yes sir.

There's a lot of money, a lot of money riding on this definition. And that's why, for example, the committee of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 wanted to remove categorical model, they wanted to throw to the trash, as it should be, the nine diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV. But pressure from interest groups, pharmaceutical industry, all the money that's sloshing around prevented them from doing this.

So what they did, they copied, copy pasted the DSM-IV, but then they said, actually ignore it. We have an alternative model, which is much better. And it's a dimensional model.

So there's a lot of money sloshing around. So there are vested interests, strong. I can feel them now. I didn't feel them two or three years ago, but now that cold therapy is spreading. I'm beginning to feel the pushback.

The pushback never comes from professionals like you. Professionals like you are fascinated. They want to learn it. I mean, they are enamored with new therapies and concepts.

Solutions. We like solutions. We don't like capitalizing on illness.

And so pushback comes from academics or academic institutions allied with industry, from industry. That's where I'm getting the pushback.

So for example, if a seminar was supposed to have been organized in a specific European country, I would not, which I would not name, it's just been canceled because the pharmaceutical industry that country allied with the biggest university there, whose professors are at the pay of this industry and, you know, said it's unproven experimental procedure and therefore illegal to teach it, which is utter nonsense, of course. It's illegal to practice it, but not to teach it. So it's been canceledl.

So I'm beginning to see pushback, which is a good sign. It means that it's beginning to have an impact.

It means you're on the right path. I'll tell you this, that this is the reason why I stepped out to do an independent show where, outside of the mainstream, we can have these discussions, have these conversations and let people put the information in that directly into the hands of the people.

Um, I have a colleague, she's a clinical social worker and she directly takes my shows to her students. And so, her master's level students. So cold therapy will be known and I'm looking forward, you said it'll certified next year?

Yeah. Next September, the first certified therapist would be next September, about 40 days from now.

So as far as I'm concerned, you know, we won't worry aboutthe institutional, the ivory tower, control of information.

Not at all. No,

I know you're not. And we'll definitely support whatever you endeavor, because again, my goal this year is to actually be, first of all, to listen to those who have gone before us, who are teaching us the way to go. And I think you're one of those people, your work is profound, again. And I'm not just, you know, it literally is. I wish I had the terminology to express it, but I want people to actually be able to apply the knowledge to their life and whether it's, you know, gonna happen in our lifetime, I don't know. If it's going to happen this generation, I don't know. But I know that narcissism does not work for us. It's not working for us.

So yeah, it's dangerous, simply dangerous to the survival of the species. I'm not exaggerating. This is not hyperbolic. It's simply dangerous. It's beginning to be seriously dangerous.

Let me ask you something. I read on the Facebook page that you're a comedian.

I am. I do stand up comedy.

You do stand up comedy? Really?

I do here and there. I do. And let me tell you what it does, Sam, is it allows for the, and I'm sure you know this, think of all the inappropriate aspects of your mind that you go into, but you know everyone else does the same thing. It'll, it allows for me to go to that space with the work that we do and find the humor in it, because it can be so serious at times and it also, you know, it breaks the mold of the status quo. I can say the things that I cannot say about the industry, right? But I can go on the stage and I can say it completely and I can say it in a witty way, that also makes people laugh and makes them think at the same time. I don't know how it worked out. I'm just kind of rolling with it. It works.

Bergson and others suggested that sense of humor is a form of, as a kind of, the unconscious. And so I think stand up comedy is anti repression. It brings that, brings the unconscious up and this in, in a disinhibited way, it's very therapeutic.

It is a great work. That's what I call it. It's definitely in an alchemy. It's a form of alchemy as far as I'm concerned. And I put this out to my listeners. I'm very honest. I look back to my teen twenties. I was as narcissistic as one could be. I'm 40 now. And I like to think that I've done a lot of work and I want to extend the hope to others. I hope that this conversation helps people to be hopeful. it's funny because the conversation starts off. It's so bleak and I'm like, Oh, what happens now, Sam? But you're giving us hope and, and I'm excited about that.

In my own small way I hope.

Okay. Listen, send me the file. I'll upload it to my YouTube channel. It's massive, massive viewership and you have a great distribution to the audio file. So let's cover as much ground as we can.

Let's do what we can and let us know if you need anything in the future as far as a platform or distribution, anything like that. Thank you so much for your time.

No, thank you. It's been a pleasure.

It's been a pleasure. You have a good one.

Thank you. Bye-bye.

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