Narcissist: Can't Afford Empathy (Dialog with Edwin Rutsch)

Uploaded 11/2/2013, approx. 52 minute read

Hi, I'm Edwin Rutch, and this is Dialogues on How to Build a Culture of Empathy, and once again, I'm here with Sam Vaknin. Thanks again for joining me for this discussion, Sam.

Thank you for having me yet again.

So I think our third dialogue is our third dialogue. And the last time we talked, we used the empathic listening process. And so we wanted to do that again, just go into reflective listening and empathic listening, and see, kind of follow up on our last discussion and talk about, I think it was like you had a topic here. I think I came up with a few answers on how to co-opt cold empathy to induce narcissists and psychopaths to play by the rules.

And so perhaps the topic is using cold empathy to induce social conformity and narcissists and psychopaths. So let me just start with reflecting what you want to talk about and maybe what your experiences were from last time.

So just to recap for those who haven't seen the previous dialogues, cold empathy is exactly like normal healthy empathy, but without the emotional component. It's the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, but without emoting, without feeling that person's feelings, without experiencing the other person's feelings.

So in the previous dialogue, I was able to put myself in your shoes. I had no emotional reaction, even when you were describing, you know, some difficult things or when you were expressing your own emotions. I had no emotional reaction whatsoever.

I related only to the data that you have dispensed, but not to the emotional correlate of these data.

On the other hand, you were able to co-opt me, you were able to convince me to empathize with you because that was your condition for providing me with narcissistic supply, the interview. So it got me thinking that cold empathy can be used to dictate or to convince narcissists and psychopaths to play by certain roles.

Okay. Well, let me reflect back what I'm hearing so far.

Then in our last dialogue, we used the empathic listening and that you were reflecting, but you were using cold empathy and you didn't, you were just sending back the data that I was sending you, but there was no feeling. You had no feeling attached to that.

So you were seeing that perhaps this approach could be used in some way with narcissists and psychopaths and that's kind of where you are now.

Yeah. So it seems that if the condition, for instance, if the condition for giving the narcissistic supply, if the condition for gratifying a psychopath, providing the psychopath with benefits or fulfilling the psychopath's goals, providing the narcissist with attention and adulation, if the condition for all these is that the narcissist and psychopath empathize with the source of these benefits, with the source of narcissistic supply, etc., I think the narcissist and psychopath won't empathize. They will accept this condition and they will be able to put themselves in the source's shoes, so to speak.

It's true that they would have no corresponding emotions. It won't make them more human, it's not the real equivalent of empathy, but at the very least it would enable them to see the other person's point of view, which is very rare for narcissists and psychopaths.

So kind of conditioned empathy, conditioned empathy, like you want narcissistic supply, you first have to empathize with me, first have to listen to me, you first have to see me, you want psychopaths, you want money, you want some other kind of benefit, you first have to put yourself in my shoes.

So making empathy, even cold empathy, making empathy a precondition for complying with the expectations and wishes and needs of psychopaths and narcissists, and I'm talking about a therapeutic setting in therapy.

Okay, you're saying that perhaps the empathic listening could be used with psychopaths and narcissists in the sense that these are the rules that they have to follow. This is the procedure they need to follow, but that they're getting the supply, what you call supply, from this process, but in the process they're having to empathize with the other person.

So there's something kind of going on there where they're getting what they're getting.

Exactly what you've done, exactly what you've done to me. In the previous dialogue, that's exactly what you've done to me. You've told me in effect, if you want this interview, you have to play by these rules, and these rules include empathic listening and empathic reflection.

These are the rules. It's a take it or leave it situation. So I have leveraged my cold empathy, I have used it in order to listen to you. Actually, I was listening to you and I was able to see you, that it evoked no emotional reaction in me, is in my view, besides the point, because it was still empathy in the technical sense, only without the emotional component.

So you're saying that I kind of set the rules, and if you were to have the interview or the dialogue, that those were the rules and you had to play by the rules, and that it did cause you to empathize with me, because that was the rules of the game, in a sense.

Was there more to that, or did I get that?

No, sorry. What's the sentence? I'm finished?

Yeah, I'm fully heard. Yeah, so the one thing that comes to me is I just did a session called Focusing, and it's a process, I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it's a process that was designed, developed by Gene Gendlin, who is a student of Carl Rogers, and I'll give you a pause here to reflect, if you're wanting to reflect me to that point.

Oh, to reflect you? Tell me, sorry, I thought you said I'd give you a pause to reflect. No, uh-huh. I interpreted it like I'd give you a pause to think.

Yeah, yeah, to reflect. Sorry, to reflect you. Yeah, sorry, sorry.

You have mentioned a therapeutic process called Focusing, which was developed by Gendlin, one of Carl Rogers' students, and you were about to explain what it is, I hope.

Yeah, and what it is, is to focus, and I actually did the process with someone in Australia who's a focusing teacher or practitioner, and what you do is you come into a felt sense, like what is it that I'm feeling, like what is in my body, and I would share the feeling, oh, I have a little anxiety in this part of my body, and the person would reflect back what it was that I was feeling, and on the edge of my, you know, how feelings change from one moment to the next.

That feeling, if I just stay with it, and hear it reflected, or hear it, it actually changes, and the person would just, and I would keep sharing, what is it that I feel, and they would reflect what I felt, so it was a whole journey of emotions would come up and they would reflect what I was hearing so I was kind of like wondering what that would be like for you to share what you're actually feeling, what are the sensations in your body, and I would reflect that.

You have described, focusing sounds a bit like a stream of consciousness. It's a description of inner states, in this case, the inner state of the body, or psychological aspects of bodily sensations, such as anxiety, and so on and so forth.

So one of the participants describes, presumably on a minute by minute basis, what's going on with him in his inner landscape, and the other participant reflects to the first one what he has heard and what he has understood.

So it would strike me as kind of an empathic listening, but more limited to psychological aspects of bodily sensations and so on.

Yeah, it's focused, it's on the bodily sensations, and the bodily sensations evolve and change, and they move, you can note, at least I noticed it, move through the body, and one feeling came up, and then another feeling came up, and it was the sharing.

I was sharing those, and I kind of went on this emotional journey with this person, empathizing and listening to me as I went on that journey.

So you're describing an experience you've had with someone from Australia, where you toyed with the focusing, and so you were the one who was describing his inner feelings.

The only thing I don't quite understand is when you say feelings, for instance, I have a pain in my hand, or is it I'm anxious right now? Is it more psychological or more physiological? What is it that you understand?

Yeah, I'm hearing you're wondering about what type of sensation? Is it a physical pain, or is it a psychological pain? And it's anything, it's any felt sensation. So it's really about what is the felt sensation in your body, sharing that felt sensation in real time as it evolves.

So both physiological and psychological, anything. And the other person reflects that to you, and that should create a kind of shared experience, I assume.

And you're wondering if it's a shared experience. The reason I mentioned that is because you talked about cold empathy, is you were saying that you had no feeling, and I was wondering, what is the bodily sensation that you have in your body?

So that's kind of my curiosity, is what are the felt experiences that you do feel, since you said you had no feeling related to what I was saying, but what do you feel?

Yeah, my statement that I had no emotional correlate, that I had no emotions attendant to my reflection of you, provoking you the thought of what was it that I did feel, I must have felt something.

So what was it that I did feel? And you think that focusing might elicit the true picture of what it is that I'm feeling or have felt and so on.

But just a comment here, perhaps out of protocol, but still very crucial. I make a distinction between sensations and emotions. And so sensa or sense input or sense output, sensations are, I would think, more physiological in nature.

And so definitely when I was talking to you, I must have had, I don't recall, but I must have had some physiological sensations. Whether they are directly related or connected to what you were saying, I'm not sure. Whether they were directly related or connected to what I was saying to you, by way of reflecting you, I'm also not sure.

But one thing I did not have at all, I did not have emotions in the colloquial sense of the word, like I didn't have pity, or I didn't have anger, or I didn't have love, or I didn't have faith. I didn't have any of the huge panoply of what normal people in street talk call emotions.

Yeah, I did feel, I felt heard up to that point and I was done. So I'm glad to shift now to listen to you. And so you're saying that you, in our last dialogue, that you must have had sensations in your body, but you didn't have emotions. And that you didn't have the emotions of love or pity or some other ones.

But you did have, you feel it, you think you probably had some sensations and you differentiate sensations from emotions.

I also have not decided in my mind yet whether empathic reflection using cold empathy has the same value, therapeutic or communicative, communication wise, whether it has the same value as normal empathy used in the same circumstances.

So I don't know if cold empathy is a constricted variant of warm empathy, or is it an entirely different beast, entirely different animal.

And if you have a normal person reflecting you, they are bound to use proper empathy with an emotional correlate with emotional responses. And if you have me, it's more or less like talking to a computer. I mean, I'm sure that could easily, we could easily program a computer to reflect back to you what you have said, by changing you know pronouns and tenses and so on. So I'm not quite sure what is the value added of using cold empathy.

But the only thing I'm sure of is that you can use cold empathy to condition narcissists and psychopaths and reinforce certain behavior of that I'm sure.

So you're not sure about the relationship of cold and warm empathy and the reflective process that you could just have a computer that kind of reflects back the data, the cold empathy.

But you're not clear about the relationship of cold and warm empathy and a reflective process.

And there was another part to it I don't think I got.

Yeah, it's okay. But the only thing I am sure of is that this process of empathic reflection or whatever you want to call it, this process can be used to condition narcissists and psychopaths and to reinforce certain behaviors or suppress others. So I'm sure of that.

The cold empathy can be used to change, to modify the behavior of narcissists and psychopaths in a therapeutic setting by providing them with incentives. So when linked to an incentive structure, the outcomes can be behavior modification.

Okay, so you see this empathic listening, the empathy circle or the empathic listening, that having that as the structure, you feel that it can actually change a psychopath's or a narcissist's behavior. And especially if it's linked to some kind of an emotion or something that the psychopath and narcissist get. So they feel that they're getting something out of it. And so they're willing to do it. And they have an incentive to do it. And having that training or doing that could be used as a tool to affect the behavior of a narcissist or psychopath.

I am definitely perfectly correct.

Yeah, you had mentioned a therapeutic setting, and I'm imagining it in a relationship as well, because we did an empathy circle, and a woman was in it that she actually saw this last interview that we did, and she was very taken by it, because she's recovering from two relationships with narcissists. And so she's in a support group and you know, women support group of women dealing with narcissists.

So you had a circle, an empathy circle in which there was a woman who is recovering from a relationship with narcissists, and it does take recovery. She has watched the latest interview we've done. She was taken by it, affected by it, I assume.

Yeah, so the point that was up to that point is that, now that you did get that, the point was that you'd mentioned therapeutic setting, and I'm wondering about...

And you were thinking about relationships.

And I'm thinking about relationships, like with a family that, you know, I know a couple of people that say, well, my mother was a narcissist, you know, my mother has some narcissistic qualities, love her dearly, but they're, you know, I think in fact we all have actually some kind of narcissistic kind of capacity and qualities to us. And maybe even the society is very narcissistic in a lot of sense. So if you can bring into a family situation, done an empathy circle, like this is the rules, we're going to spend so much time every day or every couple days in an empathy circle where everyone uses this reflective listening as a process, I think it could really do a lot to heal the relationships.

So you think we should not confine the conversation to a therapeutic setting, but you think it can, the same principle can be applied in a variety of relationships, between spouses, between the parents, children, and so on and so forth. You think that if, for instance, there will be an established procedure of having an empathy circle once a day or once a week, it doesn't matter. And with implementing or applying this principle of give and take, you know, you give me empathy, I give narcissistic supply, whatever. If this principle can be applied, you believe it would have a healing effect on many, many relationships.

Yeah. And that was the main thing was to take it out of just the therapeutic, because I don't see myself as a therapist. I really am looking at cultural change. And I feel that the empathy kind of got locked away in the therapeutic setting, and it really needs to be brought into the cultural social setting.

You don't believe that empathy should be confined to therapy alone. You think it's too narrow a setting for empathy. You think empathy is a cultural social thing, and it should be expressed in cultural social contexts and settings.


So you believe that everything we are discussing should be applied to a broader canvas, a variety of relationships, society at large, potentially the culture and so on.

Yeah. I feel fully heard. Thanks.

And I want to add that I think intuitively, when someone finds himself or herself in a relationship with a narcissist, be it with a mother, with a spouse and so on, I think they intuitively do that. I think they very often demand empathy or at the very least demand being listened to and being seen in return for the provision of narcissistic supply or some other benefits.

So we know in many family situations where you would tackle a narcissist, in a family setting, you would tackle a narcissist, and you would give that narcissist money just to be able to continue to interact with this narcissist, to be heard by these narcissists, to be seen by these narcissists. So you are buying the narcissist's cold empathy with money or with other benefits, with attention, with adulation, with admiration, with money.

So, these trade-offs or proper trades between benefits and cold empathy, I think are already taking place wherever there's a relationship with a narcissist.

So you're saying that there's already kind of a trade going on in society between perhaps families and a narcissist in a family or in any kind of relationship, that people are giving the narcissist something in exchange for the narcissist giving back something, some kind of attention or something.So these trades already happen at some level within society.

Yes. I, for instance, because I correspond with many victims of narcissism, and I've been doing it for 17 years now. So by now, thousands of them. I know, for instance, that it's a common technique, for an abused wife, let's say, with a narcissistic husband. So she gives him adulation, attention, with narration, and so on, so forth. On condition that he kind of notices her, caters to some of her needs, puts himself in her shoes from time to time.

Like, give me a cold supply and I'll give you everything you need. I'll give you a narcissistic supply in the case of a narcissist. Or I'll give you money if it's a psychopath. Or whatever. So I think these trades are already taking place. They are not formalized. They're not formalized, and they haven't, in my view, been studied and so on. But I think they're pretty common.

So these trades already happen in society, that there is some kind of a trade going on with psychopaths or narcissists and their partners or others. And that they haven't, these trades that go on haven't been studied and that they haven't been made formalized. And it sounds like maybe you're thinking of doing an empathy circle as a very formalized structure in that way for doing those trades.

Last point before I'm fully heard is, consider, for instance, politicians. There are no rigorous studies of the prevalence of narcissism and psychopathy among politicians. But it stands to reason that narcissists would gravitate to politics because they can garner narcissistic supply and yield or wield power over other people, etc. So it's a highly narcissistic profession, politics. It stands to reason that many politicians are narcissists.

What is the trade that we as a society have with a narcissistic politician?

We will give you power. We will give you adulation. We will give you attention. We will give you admiration. We will give you all the narcissistic supply you want. And you, from time to time, put yourself in our shoes, consider our needs, cater to our wishes, see us, hear us.

So the narcissistic politician is participating in exactly this trade, this social trade. He is getting narcissistic supply and he's giving back cold empathy when he considers the needs, wishes, priorities, and preferences of his electorate, of the voters.

I see you're saying that within society that narcissists might tend towards politics, and there's a relationship between the narcissistic politician and the voters, people supporting them, and that the narcissist is getting power, they're getting adulation, they're getting all these different qualities, and these things that they're getting is what you're calling narcissistic supply.

And the kind of trade-off there is at some point the voters are saying, you give us some attention to our needs. And so there's...

You give us some, in effect, simulated or cold empathy. If you need to, even pretend that you care for us, but show us that you care for us. Show us that you do take into account our needs, our priorities, our wishes, you take care of if there's a disaster, you are there. Show us, even act, we don't mind, just pretend that you're empathizing with us. We know that you are a narcissist. We know that you're incapable of really empathizing, but give us the show.

That's also okay. Give us the cold empathy.

And I think politicians use cold empathy in their interaction with electorates, voters, and nations.

So the politicians are actually using cold empathy with their constituents. And it's almost as if the constituents just put on a show, at least, of having empathy for us. And we'll be satisfied with that, even though we... I don't know if you're saying that they're saying that, oh, we know that you're a narcissist, but at least put on a show that you're not narcissistic. Put on a show that you do care about us, and we'll kind of be happy with that.

And they're very pissed off when the politician doesn't put on the show.

So when Bush didn't visit Katrina after the hurricane and so on, the voters were very angry. So they're very angry when something breaks in the theatrical production of cold empathy, the voters.

That's it. I'm fully heard. Yeah.


What I'm wondering about, again, is that felt sense of what does... I'm wondering, what is the felt sense for you of cold empathy, what you're calling cold empathy? What does it feel like as bodily sensations to you?

That's a question.

Oh, you just reflect the question.

You're wondering what would be the bodily and psychophysiological reactions while I'm engaging in cold empathy, while I'm reflecting back at you, using my cold empathy, because I have claimed that there are no emotions. What else am I thinking?

There must be other sensations, and you're wondering what they are.

And I'm wondering now, even with that focusing approach, what is the sensations that you're feeling within your body is what I'm wondering.

And I'm wondering if you would be able to be willing to share some of those too.

So you're wondering, one, what are the sensations even in this process that we're undergoing right now? And you're also wondering whether I'd be willing to share them.

I feel fully heard. Thanks.

Yeah, I would be willing to share them, of course.

The problem is that there's nothing to share.

Because I'm a narcissist, so when I'm focused on obtaining narcissistic supply, perhaps there is something to share, actually.

Wait a minute. I'm retracing. Let's start from the beginning.

I'm a narcissist, so when as a narcissist, I'm focused on obtaining narcissistic supply, I'm more or less like a laser beam.

The remainder of reality is excluded, so I'm not aware of my environment, physical or, so I'm not aware of the room or what's happening in my peripheral vision and so on, completely focused on obtaining supply and on my source of supply.

And my body is very, very tense. It's a little like flight or fight reaction. I'm very tense. I'm sure my adrenaline levels are very high, not only in this conversation, generalistic, but also in this conversation, because for me, it's the main aim of this conversation. The main goal is to derive and extract from you and from the viewers later, narcissistic supply.

So for me, it's a classic narcissistic supply rich situation. So whenever I'm in such a situation, granting an interview or having a conversation such as this one or whatever, the closest I can describe it would be flight or fight reaction.

So I'm sure that my adrenaline level is very high. I'm sure that I have stress hormones coursing throughout my body. I feel stressed. I feel anxious, but goal oriented anxiety.

It's not like diffuse anxiety, but like this is what I have to do and I am about to achieve it and I'm about to cross the deal.

A little like deal making, like closing the deal.

Okay. So for you, you started talking about some things and then like, oh, I don't feel anything. Then you are to scratch that because you did notice some kind of a sensation. So you are to scratch the initial comments.

And then what you were noticing is that you have a laser focus and that that laser focus, you exclude other experiences and that you focus on the person or the situation and it's wanting to get some kind of supply. And there's a quality of anxiety around that.

And you're saying that the stress hormones are probably very high because there's a bodily sensation of stress, but a very deep, very focused on the person that you're talking with to kind of get something from them. And that you're not only that, but also from the viewers, the people who are viewing, wanting to get something from them.

So there's a real tense focus and that you're, I think you're saying that you were feeling that at the moment as well.

Yes. So it's a combination of tunnel vision, flight or fight reaction, extreme stress, albeit not filter stress, but now that I'm made to think about it, now that you've made me think about it, I notice for instance that I'm sweating, that I'm twitching, that I have ticks. So it's extreme stress.

Now, narcissistic supply is so critical to me. It is the foundation of my function. Without narcissistic supply, I'm rendered completely dysfunctional. And I need narcissistic supply every second of the day, every minute of every hour, 24/7. Otherwise I crumble.

Narcissistic supply is the exact equivalent in my view of a drug, of drugs, you know, I'm addicted, I'm not an addict. My bodily reactions are akin to the bodily reactions of an addict who is on the verge, on the constant verge of cold turkey, going cold turkey. That's how bad it is.

So it's not only with you in this conversation, it's generally, this is my state of being. I'm like a high strung wire. It's my state of being. I'm like that all the time, all the time, including the question.

You're talking about your state of being. You're always this high strung state of being. And you're sweating, you have twitching. It's very highly stressed. And it's always, it's like a drug addict who's on the verge of going cold turkey. So it's like you're needing something or you're calling supply.

And that there's a real focus and an anxiety about obtaining that. And you laid out a couple of things. I'm not sure if I heard all of those.

No, you're not perfect. You're reflected it perfect.

So and this, the last point I'm making before I'm fully heard is that I think that's one of the reasons why it's very difficult for me to empathize because…

Looks like the connection got to the connection got a little dropped there.

You're saying that it's difficult for you to empathize because and then we didn't hear it.

Yeah, I was sorry, I saw the connection. It's different for me to empathize because empathy, expressing it, experiencing it, sharing it requires energy. And I am in a constant state of depletion because of this need to pursue, because of this pursuit, because of this need to secure narcissistic supply, attention, admiration, whatever, because of this cost of need, I am depleted.And I simply don't have energy for other people. I hardly have enough energy for myself.

You know, so I think that's why I think it's a survival mechanism.

Like, don't use this scarce energy on someone else. You need all of it. You know, it's like a warning or a red alert. Don't do that. You need all of it. Don't. It's very scarce.

Oh, you're in a constant state of stress and and on the edge, like you're saying, of an addict of this resource that you don't have. And it's a very stressful feeling. And it's a wanting, wanting attention, wanting the adulation, wanting those feelings to come. That's what you're calling supply. Being in that constant state of stress, you don't have anything to give, I guess. It's you don't have no energy. There's no energy. You're like on the edge. It's almost like a survival mode. It's like constant survival.

Yes, exactly. I'm depleted. I'm simply depleted.

And so feel very depleted. It's like just no energy, just totally depleted.

Imagine that you hadn't drunk water in five days. You haven't had a drop of water in five or three days to make it more realistic. You haven't had a drop of water.

Your thoughts, everything, your entire essence and quintessence and being and mind, everything would be focused on finding water.

I don't think you're going to have energy for anything else or for anyone else. I don't think you'll be able to empathize if you are that thirsty. And I'm constantly that thirsty.

So you're making an analogy that it's like not having had water for three days. You're always so thirsty that you just don't have energy for anyone else. You don't have any space, energy for everyone else that you're constantly in that state of just not having enough to drink enough. And so you just don't have any empathy. Can't have empathy for others because you're in such a state of thirst.


So I'm wondering what is it? Is that the state that you're, I'm just wondering, that's the state that you're in now, I guess, is that state of thirst.

And I'm wondering how is it, where is it located in your body? If you look at the landscape within your body, like where is it located and how does the landscape shift and move?

Having accepted the physiological analogy that I've made to thirst, you're wondering where in my body does it manifest or express itself most potently, most strongly. And so you ask me where in my body do I feel it moves?

Yeah, it's more like what is the physical landscape within the body? Where does the focus move? Like I had some anxiety when I did this focusing, I just had a fight with my girlfriend and it was like, I felt this kind of a deep kind of anxiety within my chest. And it was almost like a nausea. It was like so deep. I almost felt nauseous in terms of wanting to vomit. And as I shared it, the feeling changed and it got bigger and it got smaller and it went to my head and it moved. And I was just recounting the physical sensations as they moved and transformed. And so I guess I was just wondering, what did it, what is the landscape of your bodily sensations at the moment?

You describe the experience you've had while focusing. You said that you had some, you quarreled with your girlfriend and so you had very strong anxiety centered around your chest and you even you had nausea, you felt like throwing up.

But as you progressed with the focusing exercise, you said that it got dispersed. It went up to your head and sort of spread, became less concentrated and more spread throughout your body.

And you were wondering what would be equivalent in my case.

Yeah, I feel fully heard.

One thing is very important, one distinction is very important to make.

You have described a reaction to an event. Your inner state was reacting.

My inner state is quintessential. It's permanent and proactive. It has very little to do with the outside world. It's there. It's my state of being. It's existential.

And if I have to compare it to anything in psychology, it would be to a panic attack.

I'm in a constant state of a panic attack and the panic is, would I be able to secure the next dose of narcissistic supply?

So it's a classic panic attack, you know, simulated chest pains, headaches, kind of combination stroke and heart attack on a permanent basis.

Imagine you were having a stroke or a heart attack combined throughout your life, every minute of your life. That's more or less what I'm going through.

So it's very, very, yeah, sorry. You're saying that I was reacting to my girlfriend and that was like a reactive kind of a quality to it. And what you're saying is that what your state is, is like a constant panic attack where you have chest pains and different sensations that are involved in panic, but it's a constant given state that you're living, you're experiencing.

Yes. And it has to do with the uncertainty regarding my ability to secure the next dose of narcissistic supply.

And this ties in with empathy, because sources of narcissistic supply, the vast majority of sources are other human beings, other people. So if I were to empathize with them, warmly, properly, healthily, I would not be able to objectify them as sources.

It would exclude my ability to use them as sources of supply.

Because to derive and to extract supply from someone, I need to be manipulative, exploitative. Sometimes I need to lie. And I always need to create a kind of shared psychosis.

So I need to objectify and dehumanize that person. I need to treat that person as a source. That's why I'm using the word source, because source is impersonal.

But actually when I say source of narcissistic supply, I'm referring to other people. If I were to empathize properly and healthily, I would not be able to extract narcissistic supply.

And without narcissistic supply, I would crumble to bits and pieces in a split second.

It's existential. My survival depends on my inability to feel empathy.

So your survival depends on not feeling empathy, because it's a sense that if you did feel empathy, you would just crumble.

And you're trying to objectify people, calling them a source, because that's the way that you can more easily by objectifying them, it's easier to manipulate them and to get what it is that you want.

Exactly. That means people for me are sources of gratification, objects. I must dehumanize them. I must denude them of their humanity in order to convert them to sources of supply.

And if I weigh empathy, having healthy empathy with narcissistic supply, narcissistic supply is far more important to me than the need to be normal or healthy or feel empathy.

I need narcissistic supply above everything else. There's nothing I will not do for narcissistic supply. And there is no one I will not do anything to if I'm in need of supply.

It's exactly like a junkie. Junkies would rob their own mother to obtain the money to buy the next dose. There's no empathy there. It's a drug addiction.

So you're really making it an analogy to drug addiction that the need for the supply, adulation, the tension and whatever, all those different feelings is so great that you would do anything for that, especially since if you don't have that, you would kind of cease to exist, you would fall apart.

And so if you were weighing having empathy for someone or just kind of getting something from them, from the source, that you would always choose the supply, trying to get that from people, because if you don't, you would fall apart.

And finally, before I fully heard, don't forget that I have been objectified and dehumanized. I have been treated as an object, and I've been severely abused in my early childhood.

So I have learned that this is the way people relate to each other.They objectify and dehumanize and abuse. It has become my modus operandi. It's something that I grew up in. I was conditioned to be a narcissist. It didn't just happen, you know, it was a process. Acquired.

It didn't just happen. It's like it was a conditioning that kind of brought you to the situation that you're in.

You told me about your childhood. And yet, you did not become a narcissist. I wonder if you can elaborate on that.

Yeah, so I talked about my childhood, and I didn't become a narcissist. And if I would elaborate on that, you're saying, yeah.

Yeah. I'm fully heard. If you care to.

My parents came from Germany through, you know, they were refugees. So they went through a lot of really difficult situations.

My father, he was in Northern Poland, what's now in Northern Poland in East Prussia. And when the Russians came in, he was hid in the barn, and they killed everybody in his family.

I asked you about your childhood. And so you began by giving a bit of a background on your parents. You said that your parents were Germans, essentially, who lived in Eastern Poland, in Gdansk or something, probably. And as the Russians invaded, they killed your father's entire family while he was hiding in a barn. So that must have been, I don't know how old he was, but that must have been an extremely traumatic experience. I mean, I suppose he heard it.

So and yeah, he went, you know, after they were all killed, you know, he went into the house and saw them, you know, all shot. And I mean, it's even worse than that in terms of his sister was still actually alive. And she had said, when the soldiers come again, I'm going to ask them to shoot me because she had been shot through the spine was paralyzed.

And so he went and hid and then, you know, later some work soldiers came and he heard a shot. So she was actually shot. And so anyway, so that was quite a horrific experience for him.

Then he was in a Russian concentration camp. Later he was caught. And so then for, you know, like six, seven, ten years was a refugee and eventually immigrated to the United States.

The case was even worse than than you described before. And you give additional details as to what has happened there, which must have must have rendered the whole event even much more traumatic than I thought.

And then you indicated that your father ended up in a Soviet concentration camp, which must have been a horrible experience. And then he later on became a refugee. But then finally he immigrated to the United States. So there was a sizable chunk of his childhood and adolescence, where he spent in the most horrifying, dramatic environment conceivable.

Yeah. And the same with with my mother, who they were in another part, they were in my father's part of what's now Poland. My mother was in the Polish part.

And the same similar thing happened when the Russians came in with her and her family, except it was not just women and children. But there was, you know, like gang rapes, you know, all kinds of really horrible kind of situations, you know, happening with them as well.

And, you know, refugees and really being abused as they were as you were when, when, you know, ethnic groups are kind of kicked out of a country, like they were kicked out of Poland. There's all kinds of abuse along the way, just like happened in India or anywhere else.

So mother came from a similar background to your father. She also has went through her own personal ordeal, which being a woman was different to your father's, but still equally traumatizing and horrible. And she was from another part of Poland, but still, when the Russians came in, they deported all the folks that show the Germans who live there. And so they both come from extremely, extremely traumatic experience.

Yeah. So for my mother, you know, I think this really affected her. And she has a kind of a quality where it's really hard to kind of when talking with her to really have her here, you know, I mean, and it changes. But if there's considered a little bit of a narcissistic quality to it in that it's almost like she doesn't know anything else. It's like she'll just talk and talk. And if I'm talking, she doesn't really hear. It doesn't feel like she really hears always, you know, what I'm saying. And it's like she always has to talk, you know, she always needs kind of attention. And so it's a little, you know, it's somewhat narcissistic in that sense.

Before I reflect, just before you understand, she talks, the things she says, have anything to do with what you were talking about?

No, it's like she'll talk and talk and talk and talk. And then she says, why aren't you saying anything? And I said, OK, well, I'll start talking. And then as soon as I started talking, she starts talking again. And so it's like I almost give up like I'm not going to say anything because, you know, it's like she'll just talk over me, you know, it's like not really listen.

So you feel that probably owing to her life experiences. It's very difficult to conduct a true dialogue with with your mother in which you will be heard as well as here. You feel that your mother is incapable to effectively listen to you and hear what you're saying or even to let you speak.


She tends to dominate and monopolize the conversation and talks over you and so on. And you believe that this might indicate some narcissistic trait. It might be a narcissistic behavior.

Yeah. And I understand that where it comes from, from all this trauma, you know, kind of growing up.

So what was interesting is I've been trying to listen more because my family is, you know, evangelical Christians, so very conservative. And, you know, I was more on the progressive side. So I've been at least when I growing up, I had a lot of fights and arguments with them about that. I'm right. No, I'm right you're wrong.

And so kind of one way I dealt with it was to get into kind of a fight mode.

But then as I learned more about empathy, I've been trying to just hear and empathize with them more.

Your family are evangelical Christians, and you found yourself on the more progressive end of the religious spectrum. And so inevitably, and probably also because you were an adolescent, it's typical behavior. You were a bit you found yourself involved in conflicts and debates and arguments and so on.

And at the beginning, you reacted by being very competitive by fighting back and insisting on your position and so on. But later on, you've acquired, you have decided or you've acquired skills of listening, empathizing, being able to absorb what the other party was saying and so on.

So I understood from you, at least implicitly, that this whole history has led you to your interest in empathy and in listening and reflection.

Yeah, it was actually I right after, you know, I was about 17, 18, I took off traveling and traveled around the world for 10 years. So kind of had a lot of adventures, learning, you know, being with a lot of different people. So I think that really kind of changed me a lot, too.

So in your late adolescence, you embarked on a kind of trip around the world. And you've come across different people, different cultures, different sensitivities, and so on and so forth, and you think this has formed you. This has made you more amenable and even susceptible to other people's points of view and what they have to say. So you became a better listener.

Yeah, and really valuing empathy.

And then so I really kind of bring it into the family now.

There's a lot of stories I could tell about how successful it's been because it's been really quite successful in terms of strengthening the connections.

But I don't want to go on too long, I want you to have a chance to share too.

So no, I don't mind at all. It's fascinating, actually.

So you say that you are now applying the skills you're required as far as empathy goes within your family circle. And you believe that it has had a positive effect in some respects, enhancing communication, possibly, and another effect.


So you're pretty happy that you were chosen to do that.

Yeah, for one story, then since you're willing to go on, that there was a conflict story between my sister-in-law and my mother. There was like a real argument started and they were pointing fingers and don't talk to me that way. And like just, and this was on Christmas day, you know, the evening, and it looked like everything was going to blow up. And then I kind of stepped into it, then it was kind of a terrifying experience. But I started empathizing with both sides.

So to my sister-in-law, so it's saying, oh, I'm hearing you say this, I'm hearing just the reflection, which we're doing, which you and I are doing now. And she started calming down.

And then I started doing the same thing with my mother, kind of doing the empathic listening.

And we just kept going back and forth for almost 10 minutes, I was empathically mirroring both of them. And so I'll catch up to that point.

You just described an incident or an instance of using these skills that you've acquired, where your mother and your sister-in-law had an altercation on Christmas Eve, and to prevent an all out disaster, you stepped in, and you started reflecting both parties. And by saying, you know, I hear youI hear you, I hear that you're saying this, a sister-in-law, and then similarly to your mother, and the tension abated, and confrontation was about it.

Oh, no, that's, I was only, it only abated a little bit. Then once it abated enough, I asked them to start talking to each other and saying, would you now speak with, you know, each other and reflect back and don't shift until the person feels fully heard. So kind of the empathic listening that we're doing.

And they said, oh, okay. And then one would start sharing. And then the other one would want to react right away. And I said, no, no, we have to wait until she feels fully heard, and she says she's fully heard before it's your turn to speak back. And so I kind of created that dialogue with them. I had to kind of keep it on track because they would want to always react. And then the whole family gathered around and it turned into this whole family empathy circle.

So you, impromptu, on the spot, kind of, talk to your sister-in-law and your mother how to do empathic listening. You introduce them to the ground rules, you can talk until the other person said that he's fully heard, she's fully heard, and so on. And so they tried it and it seemed to work to some extent.

And then the rest of the family joined in and it became a family wide empathy circle in which these techniques of empathic listening and empathic reflection were used by, presumably by everyone.

I'm just wondering, yeah, sorry.

And just the last piece that I'll put in there. But with my mother, she would start, she would talk and talk and talk and talk. And it was like, you know, say so much. And she tells stories that kind of weave and wind and, and she goes on and on.

So I said to her, when you tell stories that are so long, I get lost. Can you reflect what I said? She says, I forgot.

It was too long, way too long. Ten word sentence, ten word sentence, way too long.

So your mother tends to go on tangents and, you know, weave complicated thousand and one nights stories and so on. And so you told her when you do this, I get lost and I, I don't see the point or keep missing the point and so on. And then you asked her to reflect what you had said. And she said that she had forgotten.

Yeah. And then I said it again. I said, when you tell long stories like that, I get lost.

And then she says, and can you reflect that? She says, oh, I'm so confused.

Yes, I was wondering how she treated it because he said she was much better at talking than at listening. And listening is a crucial component of a empathic listening.

Yes. So I was wondering how, and you kind of answered it. So you said that you repeated the sentence again to her and asked her to reflect it, which seemed to have confused her. And she said, I'm confused. That was her reaction.

Yeah. And I had to repeat it like about five times until she finally could just say the simple sentence of, oh, when I tell long stories, you feel confused. I mean, just that little part, you know, but she did say it eventually, you know, so it's finally had to kind of train her to, you know, not be so absorbed in what's going on in her, but to be able to listen to others and be able to hear and reflect them.

So I mean, it's just, this is just one story out of a lot of stories of how I'm kind of bringing the empathy into my family is having really great effects and healing a lot of the dysfunction, I guess, or this miscommunication.

Right. So having failed twice, you persisted, you kept repeating the sentence and think she got it and was able to reflect, accurately, the contents of the sentence, if not the verbiage. And you said that this is just one example of many in which you are implementing these principles, and in this case, in the family circle, and to good effect.

Yeah, good. Yeah. So I feel fully heard with that. I feel fully heard.

Your mother's story is very interesting.

Assuming for a minute, although she hasn't yet had, I mean, she hasn't been diagnosed by anyone, and so on, but assuming for a minute that she does have some narcissistic personalities or behaviors.

And you asked me to be honest, and in this conversation, and it's a prerequisite, and it's a rule of the game, so I abide. So do I, I also feel resistance throughout this conversation. So that's where your mother and I tie in.

I have a very strong incentive to collaborate with you. So that's why I'm suppressing my resistance.

But it doesn't mean it's not there. And my resistance wears many forms. But let's stop here to allow you to reflect.

So you're saying that that my mother has resistance to doing the reflection and that you're seeing a parallel to your situation that, on one hand, you're willing to do the reflection. But on the other hand, that you have a real strong you're feeling a constant resistance to the reflection.

Yes. As I said, I have a very strong incentive to proceed and abide by your rules. And that incentive is narcissistic supply. But that doesn't mean that I'm not feeling resistant. And so the resistance wears many forms.

So I question the sagacity, I question the wisdom of engaging in this kind of exchange. Couldn't we have been much more fruitful? Could we have been much more constructive, using another type of exchange? I'm questioning my ability to be fully sincere. Not that I'm lying or misinforming you, but I'm questioning my ability to be aware of the truth in me. So I don't know how productive and how truthful it is.

But all these are forms of resistances. All these are kind of resistances. I'm trying to find an excuse to break it off. Because I am averse to touchy feely, you know, I'm very aversive.

But on the other hand, I have a very strong incentive. I think this series is very, very interesting, not only the viewership, not only narcissistic supply.

But then we are creating something interesting. I don't want to say unique, but it's interesting.

The viewership numbers prove it to me and people find interest in it. So I would feel it would be a great shame and pity to break it off just because I have some psychological resistances, which are related to my narcissism. Because I'm the omniscient, I'm the omnipotent, I'm the boss, I'm the alpha male.

But here you're forcing me to be your equal. And I'm abiding by the truth. I am your equal.

But it generates, of course, narcissistic injury of some kind.

So what I'm saying is these resistances are in the background, in the rear, their heads, ugly heads, not ugly heads, but they rear their heads repeatedly.

You asked me to describe what's happening inside me. So that's one thing that's happening inside this concept. What is it doing? Can't we do it differently? Is it the right thing to do?

You know, this whole thing is happening.

Uh, so you're recounting what's happening inside yourself. And you're finding that, on one hand, you know, you're willing to do this empathic listening, but that there's an ongoing kind of a resistance and that resistance kind of manifests itself in different ways, comes up.

I think you can even say rears its head or ugly head or whatever.

And one of the resistance that you're feeling is, well, couldn't we be doing this a different way? Isn't there some other way of doing this?

There was another resistance, there was a couple, there's just different ways of resisting. Like, you know, yeah, but you had different ones, but I'm not sure I got each of those.

Yeah they're not very important. Just giving examples.

But one minor correctional point that I didn't make clear is that it's not that I'm willing to do it. It's not that I'm acquiescing or I'm coerced. I want very much to do it because I think that we're creating not only a source of supply, but is value.

So I want to do it. I'm looking forward to doing it, but I cannot suppress my narcissistic injury, my resistances, my grandiose reactions, my rage. I cannot suppress.

So it's like I have a multiple personality. Like I have two personalities. One of them, one personality wants very much to work on it and sees value in what we're doing and so on. And the other one keeps nagging at the first personality and saying, what is it that you're doing? Isn't it stupid? Why are you doing this? Couldn't you do, have done it much better? Couldn't you have done it differently? Is this the right thing to do? I don't have to waste time, etc.

And this by the way, is the constant state of the narcissist. This duality, it's a constant battle between the false self, which is a concoction and invention and other elements in the personality that are suppressed.

And so there's always this kind of multiple personality disorder going on. And it is tied to empathy, but that's the next part.

So you're seeing it as kind of actually two, it's almost like different personalities. One is wanting to do this because you see that it might have some benefits and wanting to kind of explore it and try it and do it, doing the reflective empathic listening.

And then the other is like, well, isn't there other ways? You know, kind of more of the sense of wanting to be grandiose or these other parts.

So you have these two parts that are kind of going back and forth between each other. And then you're seeing that as a part of the narcissistic experience that you have of always being kind of on that edge between the two.

Yes. This inner conflict is the kernel of narcissism.

So this conflict between these different ways of being, you're seeing as the kernel of narcissists.

Narcissists are shattered people. They are fractured people, fragmented.

This ties in with empathy, which is the last part of this realm, my realm before I'm fully heard. This ties in with empathy.

I were to choose to empathize with people properly and healthily and so on, I would have to sacrifice my narcissistic defenses.

I have defenses against this inner fragmentation and the defenses are I am perfect. I'm brilliant. I'm omnipotent. I'm omniscient. These are the defenses. I know that I'm a broken vessel. I know that I'm damaged goods, but to defend against that, against this extremely painful realization, I have these narcissistic defenses.

We call it compensatory narcissism. I compensate.

But if I empathize with another person, then I can't be omnipotent. To empathize with you means to be you to some extent, to be equal to you, to be able to put myself in your shoes, means that you and I are interchangeable.

But how can we be interchangeable if I'm godlike? If I'm omniscient, if I'm omnipotent, definitely you're not omniscient. You're not omnipotent. I am.

So if I empathize, I have to sacrifice my narcissism. If I sacrifice my narcissistic defenses, I experience this inner fragmentation and shattering, which is a pain beyond description. It's life-threatening, definitely.

I believe that if I lose my narcissistic defenses, I will commit suicide. My narcissistic defenses guarantee my life.

They stand between me and the overwhelming pain that is the world.

To empathize, I need to sacrifice this. I need to remove them, thereby exposing myself to potential mortal danger.

So, you're seeing this conflict between yourself, between parts of yourself, and that you create the kind of protection for yourself, and if you were to remove the protections that you would kind of shatter and totally be like your, you'd commit suicide because, because it's so painful.

I don't know if it's, it's, there's some, yeah, for some reason, it's so painful. There's so much pain that you would commit suicide.

So you have to have, you have these defenses and it's really, you're relating it to empathy because, I guess one of the defenses is that you're kind of superior and God-like and above everyone else.

And then to empathize, it puts us on an equal kind of a footing, an equal space. And that's maybe threatening or it has potential to bring up the pain, bring up the pain.

And that pain is so overwhelming that to experience that you would maybe just commit suicide rather than deal with that pain.

So you have all these defenses kind of built up to kind of avoid that pain.

And like every defense, it isolates you from the world.

What is a defense? What is a defensive wall? What is a castle? It's isolated from the world, it doesn't allow you to access other people and doesn't allow other people to access you.

Hence the lack of empathy. Lack of empathy is the derivative of narcissistic defenses. It's an inevitable outcome of narcissistic defense.

Oh yeah. So the defenses that protect yourself actually create a wall against connecting with others and empathizing with others because you have to protect yourself, but that protection creates this disconnect and lack of empathy with others.

Yeah. I'm fully heard.

Okay. Yeah. I guess the one thing that came up to me was I'm willing to empathize with every part of you in that sense. Like, you know, that part, the other part, the wall part, the pain part.

So for me, the empathy is to empathize with all the different parts and that they're all fine.

They're all kind of equally valid and worthy, worthy of being empathized with.

You say that you make no discrimination or you don't discriminate between the various parts of me in terms of your ability and willingness to empathize with them. You're willing to empathize with all the structures and constructs that together make me. That would be the pain, the wall, the defenses, and, and everything else.

You see no problem with empathizing with any of these parts and all of them put together.

Yeah. They're all valid parts of the human experience.

No need to reflect. They're all valid parts.

Yeah. So, yeah. So that's what's coming.

I'm also thinking about the time we've gone for a little bit over almost an hour and a half. We had a little setup time.

So I'm not sure how I'm, I'm fine with continuing the conversation again.

So would I. I would like to discuss next time, if you're amenable to suggestions, I would like to discuss next time.

You mentioned the keywords human experience. I would like to try to compare your human experience with my human experience. I'm a human being, despite appearances of a human being and you're a human being. So we are different types of human beings. I've been diagnosed as a narcissist. So I have a different human experience. I would like to try to compare them, maybe using some empathy techniques.

And because I think my inner experience is dramatically different to yours. And well, I hope so, at least for you. So it raises the question in which sense are we both human?

What's a common denominator? What is our humaneness? If we're that radically different?

So first we have to establish if we are radically different. And if we do discover that we are radically different, as we are being told by psychology textbooks and so on, then in which sense are we both members of the same psychological species? In which sense are we both human?

And of course, this is the core of empathy. It's exactly the main, the crux of what is empathy.

Because if there is no common humaneness and human experience, if we have no common denominator, then how can we empathize at all? Maybe we're misleading ourselves, deluding ourselves. You know, in psychology, there is the issue of intersubjectivity.

So many philosophers say that it is not possible to empathize. If so, it's a factor that means like, it's not, it's not possible at all, that we delude ourselves into believing that we can empathize. But actually, it's not possible because our minds are not accessible. And we are using private languages, and no dictionary exists between us, etc.

So there is this philosophical consideration. You don't have to reflect me, I'm just talking about the future talk.

So if you're up to it, we can try to compare human experiences and discover what is it that unites us? What is the bridge between us that allows us to empathize with each other? And maybe we'll discover that there is no such bridge, that empathy is excluded, you know, between the two of us because I'm a narcissist.

And maybe we will discover the common denominator, the bridge that allows you to cross over to me. And maybe, in reverse form, allows me to cross over to you.

I think we need to tackle our humanness. What makes us human?

Well, I will reflect, you said you were saying I didn't need to reflect, is that we can have another dialogue and look at what is how are we different or how are we the same? And is there some kind of a connection there and really kind of explore what is the qualities that we have? And what are our experiences? And if we go deep enough, where is the humanity, that common humanity?

And then you're bringing up, maybe even, it's not even possible to empathize as some philosophers to say that that's something that's not even a possibility. So keeping that an awareness of that too.

But to kind of do an exploration of really hearing where we are, understanding who we are as people, as humans, and as human beings and where is this, maybe where is the overlap in our humanity?

But it's, in our case, you and me specifically, it's going to be pretty unique because I am a narcissist.

Part of the definition of pathological narcissism is severe deficiency in humanness. So I'm like a quasi-human, pseudo-human, not full fledged human.

It's a little like you would have an alien. It's a little like having an alien on the other end and trying to see whether you can empathize with an alien in effect. It's an interesting question. Can you empathize with an alien?

You're saying that you see yourself as a narcissist, that you're an alien and it's like an alien and is it possible to empathize with an alien? Is that even a possibility?

Do I have any sufficient residual, sufficient residue of humaneness that will allow you to really empathize with me, understand me, and communicate with me effectively? Or am I so removed that I am from Mars and no empathy is possible?

So is there something, is there a humaneness within you or are you so removed from this humanity that you're like from Mars from like a totally different space and is that even possible to empathize with you?

Because psychology textbooks claim that both psychopaths and narcissists miss critical dimensions, critical parameters of being human.

Empathy, but not only empathy.

So they claim, it's not my claim, they claim these authorities in psychology, they claim that narcissists and psychopaths are partly human or deficiently human or whatever. So that's why I think the conversation between us could be of great interest. It's not like two normal people try to find a common denominator.

It's like a normal person and something as close to possible to an alien as you can get on Earth.

So this could be an interesting conversation. It would be with the normal person, what you're calling a normal person and something that's like an alien on Earth and that there's philosophers or academics or whatever are saying that, you know, narcissists, psychopaths don't have these capacities or empathy. And so what will kind of happen next?

Yeah, I'm fully heard and I think we're fully done.

Yeah, I think so. Well, that was great. So yeah, we'll set a schedule and continue the conversation. So I'll thank you for spending this time. And with that, I'll actually stop the recording. So stay tuned

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