Narcissist Needs You to Fail Him, Let Go (with Azam Ali)

Uploaded 8/5/2023, approx. 1 hour 1 minute read

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

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

Azam Ali is a very famous Iranian singer from Iran.

And in this talk, I suggested to her a new way of looking at narcissistic abuse.

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

You know all this by now, and he does this only in order to separate from the intimate partner, which represents the mother.

He failed to separate from his biological mother. He failed to accomplish separation and individuation from his mother of origin.

So now he tries it again.

A second chance, a second time with his substitute mother, his intimate partner.

So far, so well known, nothing new.

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

The narcissist coerces her to behave this way.

And if she refuses, he tries to punish her.

And if this doesn't help, he devalues and discards her.

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

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

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

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

There's nothing new there.

The second half of the conversation is new.

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

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

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

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

I wish you an interesting hour with me and Azam Ali.

And feel free to comment and ask questions and so on and so forth.

I will, of course, ignore them as I always do.

Okay, Shoshanim, have fun.

Okay, so we can dive in now.

So what brought me really to narcissism, just to give context in case in the event that I mention anything in this interview is, it's the first time I'm even speaking about this publicly, but my father left when I was four years old and my mother was very much like your mother. She was a dead mother.

And I never thought that my father had that kind of influence on my life because he left and it took many, many years for me to realize that those four years were enough for him to have an impact on my interpersonal relationships with men.

So I chose my father over and over again until of course I married my husband and he's wonderful. So that's sort of the context of why I came to you and I can tell you single-handedly, your work has helped me to realize and fully understand and comprehend what kind of personality I was really dealing with.

So I thank you for that.

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

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

So we'll start with like the most basic.

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

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

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

The situation nowadays reminds me of the 19th century when there was a proliferation of elements, chemical elements, but there was no periodic table. So they were all over the place, these elements, and no one knew how they were interconnected.

Same with elementary particles until the 60s. We had an accumulation, an inventory of elementary particles in physics and there was no table, there was no system of elementary particles, now there is.

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

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

In typical healthy developmental path, the child starts off fused with the mother, merged with the mother, and this used to be called the symbiotic phase. So child and mother were one. Mother brought the world to the child. Mother was a reification of the world.

So the child identified with mother also as a way to identify with the world and to explore the world safely, and this is called a secure base. Mother is a secure base.

Then around the age of 18 months, the child starts to separate from mother, and the reason for the separation is that mother frustrates the child. She doesn't always meet the child's demands, however vocal, so the child gets frustrated. His frustration teaches the child that he is not mother, that there is something or someone out there who keeps frustrating him.

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

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

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

So what the child does, he begins to gradually abandon mother, and this process is known as separation/individuation. The child separates from mother and gradually becomes an individual by creating boundaries and then maintaining the boundaries.

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

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

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

In all these cases the child fails to separate.

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

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

This is one of the core elements of narcissism.

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

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

And if someone meets these symptoms and behaviors then he's a narcissist.

For example, incapable of empathy, envious, exploitative, etc.

If someone is like this then he's a narcissist.

But these are the symptoms that solve the disease.

I'm now describing the etiology of the disease.

So the first issue is separation and habituation.

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

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

Narcissism therefore, in existential terms, is the opposite of existence, its absence.

Narcissism is absence where all people, healthy and even mentally ill, are present.

They have a core identity, they have a self, however deformed and thwarted, they still have a self, they have an ego, if you use Freudian model, they have something.

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

And this applies also to people with borderline personality.

So these are diseases of absence.

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

So what he does, he latches onto other people and he coerces them to provide him with a sense of existence, to help him to regulate his internal environment, for example, his sense of self-worth.

The borderline coerces her intimate partners to regulate her moods and her emotions.

So these people use something called external regulation.

People around the narcissist become subcontractors and their job is to keep the narcissist alive or at least to allow the narcissist to experience existence, however vicariously.

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

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

So this is the second element in narcissism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they are users and takers.

But and they do all this pretty automatically. All this demonizing online of narcissists is malevolent scheming.

That's confusing narcissist with psychopaths. Narcissists are malevolent, malicious, scheming, goal oriented and ruthless and callous. That's psychopaths.

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

Because that's what they do.

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

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

One last comment.

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

When the child is exposed to trauma and abuse by a parental figure, and abuse can also mean smothering, pampering, idolizing the child, any denial of boundaries, any breach of boundaries, any isolation of the child from reality, for example, developing a sense of entitlement in the child. All these are forms of abuse.

When the child is exposed to trauma and abuse, the way the ancient Israelites were exposed to God's wrath, God's trauma and abuse, God, the God of the Old Testament is a parental figure.

But it's a very abusive parental figure. It's a violent, aggressive, I would almost say malevolent parental figure, controlling, manipulative, threatening.

So when a child is exposed to this kind of parental figure, the child reacts the way Moses did.

The child develops a religion because the parental figures are God-like. They're divinities.

So the child develops a religion.

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

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

Narcissism is therefore a primitive religion, and this is the force and power of Narcissism.

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

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

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

So what I love about yours is you don't vilify the narcissist. If you're someone like me that you don't subscribe to binary thinking, you don't think in terms of this is good, that's evil. And that's why self-help groups just don't work because they are really cesspools of vitriol and hate.

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

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

I quickly want to just touch on something else.

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

I quickly want you to just if you can touch on what healthy primary narcissism is and when does it become pathological?

Because you have said it's very essential in healthy development.

So if you can just quickly just touch on that.

I'll be brief on this one.


In the first 18 months of life, the child, as I said, cannot tell the difference between itself and the world.

So the child is the world.

It's like the famous song, you know, we are the world. So highly narcissistic song. So we are the world.

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

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

So he redirects his emotional energy at itself, sexual energy as well.

So there's autoerotism.

The child is sexually attracted to itself and the child falls in love with itself. All the emotional energy goes into the self.

This is known as primary narcissism.

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

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

So the child takes this mental energy and redirects it rather than invests it in itself.

The child redirects it to the outside.

And this is the primordial foundation of object relations.

So rather than fall in love with himself, he falls in love with another person.

Rather than being sexually attracted to itself, he becomes sexually attracted to another person.

So there's a redirection of this energy.

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

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

And so he remains stuck in a narcissistic phase.

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

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

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

Primary narcissism realizes where you stop and other people begin.

So primary narcissism is grounded in reality.

It has something called reality testing.

While secondary pathological narcissism is grounded in fantasy.

It's an extended fantasy defense gone awry.

So secondary narcissists impairs the reality testing.

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

Psychopaths do this.

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

So there is an enormous confusion to severely impaired reality testing with narcissism.

And there are no boundaries. The narcissist has no boundaries because he has no self.

So the narcissist internalizes you. He introjects you. He converts you into what I call a snapshot, an internal object.

And then he continues to interact with the internal object as if you have never existed.

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

You will come to the narcissist's attention if you deviate from the snapshot, if you diverge from the snapshot, if you challenge the snapshot, undermine the snapshot with your independence, with your agency, with your personal autonomy.

And that would enrage the narcissist because he would feel threatened and he would then devalue you and discard you. He would consider you an enemy.

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

So secondary narcissism is fantasy.

Primary narcissism is reality.

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

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

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

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

So narcissists are failures by definition.

Even when they are temporarily successful, they're going to destroy everything. They're very self destructive because not because not necessarily because they're malicious or malevolent, but because they can't read the reality properly. They can't read social cues, sexual cues, other people. They have no empathy. They're devotional reality. It's a delusional disorder.

But there are also psychopathic narcissists, right?

Yes, about 3% of narcissists are what we call malignant narcissists. They are psychopathic narcissists and these are narcissists who obtain narcissistic supply by deploying psychopathic methods, psychopathic techniques, psychopathic strategies.

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

Just in order to obtain supply.

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

So psychopathic goal oriented.

The narcissist is also goal oriented, but he has only one goal and that is narcissistic supply.

So it would be good actually at this point.

I was going to get into the phase, have you go into the phases, but since you ended there, can you tell us what is narcissistic supply?

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

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

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

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

In clinical terms, we say that the narcissist regulates his sense of self worth via input from the outside.

And this input is known as narcissistic supply.

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

Actually there are four S's.

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

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

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

In other words, they go with anyone.

If you give the narcissist, if you provide the narcissist with two out of four S's, the narcissist would willingly come up with you and become your intimate partner. And the four S's are sex, services, personal assistant, chauffeur, cook, cleaning lady, so sex services, supply, sadistic and narcissistic and safety to allay, to reduce, to mitigate the abandonment anxiety.

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

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

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

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

The sadist, the classical sadist, derives gratification from humiliating other people, from inflicting pain on other people, from torturing other people. That's the classical sadist, not the narcissist. The narcissist derives anticipatory gratification, the joy of anticipation. He knows that if he hurts you, you're going to hurt him back. If he misbehaves, you're going to punish him. And it is the anticipation of this masochistic pleasure that I call sadistic supply.

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

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

So this is sadistic supply.

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

So this is a good time to get into, I mean, I really, when I first heard your, one of your lectures on the stages, the, is it five or six stages? I can never remember. It feels like more, but it's so phantasmic, the whole experience when you have a relationship with a narcissist that you don't realize how, how surreal it is until you try to explain it to someone else. And then you realize there's no language to really explain what it is, but you have created that language.

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

You mean the shared fantasy to the discard.

No, the whole thing is a shared fantasy. The whole thing is normal. It's a shared fantasy. It has seven, it has seven stages.

I will not go right now to each and every one of the stages. I'll describe in broad brushstrokes, what's happened.

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

And the aim is to create something which I call the Hall of Mirrors.

What the narcissist does, he idealizes you and then he exposes you to your own idealization.

So you begin to see yourself through the narcissist gaze and it's very intoxicating and it's very addictive because you see yourself through the narcissist as an ideal figure, super intelligent, drop dead gorgeous, amazing, amazing, unprecedented. And it's, you know, no one can resist this. It's irresistible.

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

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

At that point, the narcissist draws you in. He uses, he leverages the love for me and the Hall of Mirror effect and he draws you in.

The Hall of Mirror works because the narcissist sees you the way a mother sees her child. A mother idealizes her newborn baby. When the mother has a new baby, she idealizes the baby. That way she wouldn't survive motherhood. It's a very onerous, onerous task. So she idealizes the baby and she loves the baby unconditionally.

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

In other words, the narcissist becomes your mother.

But for this to work, you need to become a child.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the essence of the shared fantasy.

Within the shared fantasy, the narcissist creates a snapshot of you, creates an internal object that represents you in his mind and introduces you. This internal object, because you are his mother, this internal object is totally idealized. Mother is all good. Mother is always all good.

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

But life compels you, forces you to deviate from the snapshot, to divert from the snapshot. You have your own friends, you have your own family, you make your own decisions, you go on a trip, you have your own job. I mean, you deviate from the snapshot. This frustrates the narcissist the way he used to be frustrated as a baby with mother. So it frustrates the narcissist.

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

So then he needs to separate from you. The whole exercise, the shared fantasy, is about reenacting the narcissist's childhood and allowing him to separate successfully. So he has converted you into a persecretary object, an enemy, and now he can safely separate from you because you're bad, you're a bad object. So he devalues you.

Now, there's nothing you can do about this. This is an inexorable process that unfolds and unfurls inside the narcissist's mind.

Nothing you could say, nothing you could do, no behavior you could adopt would have secured any different outcome.

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

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

And for a brief moment, he believes that he's on the verge of individuation, of healing and completing the original unresolved conflict with his mother, with his real mother, biological mother.

Of course, it doesn't work.

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

So he re-idealizes you and starts from zero.

And this is known as hoovering.

And sometimes with others.

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

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

So the female narcissist converts her male counterpart into a maternal figure.

And of course, it applies to same sex.

This dynamic is universal. It's just the members of the couple.

If one of the members of the couple is a narcissist, he forces the other one to become a mother and he himself becomes a mother.

And this is the dual mother.

And this is how it goes time and again, perpetual remotely.

What you always say, Freud calls repetition compulsion.

Yes, this is the narcissist variant of repetition compulsion.


So you're saying basically the mother is the only one who can really, is the mother is the only one who helps us to individuate.

It's not the father.

No, not the father.

The father is not relevant.

Okay. Actually, one very important thing that I want to touch on here.

Thank you for taking us through the stages.

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

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

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

So what happens, you have said that these accumulate a library of idealized objects or introjects.

As you say, and these remain psychodynamically active to the extent that sometimes even if they're having sex, they could feel as if they're having sex with multiple partners.

So what happens to all these introjects that he's accumulated over the time, over time?

And how does this affect future relationships? And how does it not even lead to a complete psychotic state?

It does.

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

Narcissists, the only reason the narcissist has intimate relationships is not love, is not children, is not family, is not intimacy.

None of these things. The only reason the narcissist enters a dyad, a couple has intimate relations is in order to separate an individual. It's a compulsion. It's a compulsive thing. It's a repetition.

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

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

And that's great. That's precisely what you want. He wanted you to justify the transition from an idealized mother figure to a total devalued enemy.

And so the more autonomous you are, the more independent, the more agentic, the more insistent, the more you disagree with him or criticizing, the more you abuse him reactively, the more conflictive you are, the more aggressive you are, the better. That's exactly what he's looking for.

He's looking for someone to make the separation easier.

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

So this is very important to understand.

Most victims don't understand that.

So this is projective identification, then?

That's what he just...


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


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

What then?

Well, that makes the narcissist very unhappy. And then he says she's doing it on purpose.

She is passive-aggressive. She is being nice in order to frustrate me. She is being kind because she hates me. There's no winning. There's no way for you to win.

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

It also means you are his enemy. You are his enemy in any case. He's going to convert you into a secretary object in any case.

There is no winning strategy with the narcissist, period.

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

The identity of the victim is totally irrelevant. The victim is a placeholder from an eternal figure. That's all.

That's all.

You also coined the...

Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought you were finished. I'm finished.


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

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

Because at the end, you say it's just about power and being able to manipulate you, to control you. So if you can just talk about the various kinds of narcissistic abuse so that people who maybe have experienced it and don't know that they have can relate to it.

Narcissistic abuse has two distinguishing features.

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

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

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

So this is the first whole wall and distinguishing feature of narcissistic abuse.

All other forms of abuse without a single exception are dimensional.

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

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

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

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

So this is the first.

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

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

Typically, typical abusers have an M.O., a modus operandi, method of operation.

So if you are a financial abuser, you are likely to continue to abuse people financially, but you're not going to beat them up. You're not going to beat them up.

If you are a physical abuser, you're going to beat your wife up, but you're not, for example, going to resort to verbal abuse. Just as an example, every abuser has a preferred method of operation.

The narcissist makes use of every kind of abuse known to mankind. It's total coercion, unmitigated. There's no respect. There's no way out. Everything is abusive. Good morning is abusive.

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

Narcissistic abuse is traumatizing.

What about the...

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

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

If you can just talk about that.

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

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

The narcissist forces you on pain, on pain of penalty and humiliation and silent treatment. He forces you to say you're right.

This is not real. This is real. You're fantasy is real. Reality is not real.

My family hates me because you said so.

The narcissist becomes the reality test of the victim so that the victim would accept and endorse and embrace and adopt everything the narcissist says, never mind how outlandish and counterfactual.

Narcissists therefore create an immersive, total environment, which is the shared fantasy, where they develop a shared psychosis.

They become, answering your previous question, they do become psychotic.

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

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

So this is the ambient abuse.

It's not like the psychopath. The psychopath would make you doubt your own perception of reality. He would make you doubt your own judgment and opinions.

This is gaslighting.

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

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

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

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

Therefore they will never recognize your individuality or your separateness.

In order to do that, they have to subsume you in order to internalize you.

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

I love in one of your lectures, you say you are a Trojan horse. You have invaded their reality.

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

But the question I have then is this whole process must be so excruciating.

So why is it hard for the narcissist? Why are they unable to abandon the fantasy world and inhabit reality if they keep repeating this cycle?

And each time, I mean, we didn't even get into...

You've given me so much of your time already. We didn't even get into mortification and all of that.

But it must be so devastating for them.

So why are they unable to abandon the fantasy world? With what tools?

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

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

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

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

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

And the same expectationsyear-old, you should adopt.

And then you would have flourishing relationships with narcissists.

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

They have adult expectations from the narcissist.

They try to strike an alliance with the narcissist. They try to develop a treatment plan with the narcissist.

Are you kidding me?

As an 18-month-old, they should deal with, I mean, if you want to be successful with a narcissist in therapy, you should apply child psychology.

There's an infant sitting in the chair.

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


Not two.

It's no instruments.


They're beyond this age.

And fantasy is a defense that starts around age six months, according to Menonique Linerty. Starts around age...

It's a very primitive defense. It's very much like splitting and projection. It's one of a family of primitive defenses.

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

And indeed, indeed, narcissists use all these defenses.

For example, the split, splitting or dichotomous thinking, is black and white thinking.

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

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

This is splitting.

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

And the vast majority of them disappear after age two, not with the narcissist.

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

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

And the reason the narcissist can survive in the fantasy is the control.

He's utterly in control. He can rewrite the fantasy, rewire the fantasy, reinvent the fantasy, demolish the fantasy.

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

So if he were to alter the fantasy or transform it, you would need to adapt.

And if you don't adapt, the narcissist would need to separate from you.

And this is precisely why the narcissist introduces you into the fantasy.

He knows it's going to end badly. He wants it to end badly because he wants to separate from you.

That is what victims don't understand.

Victims say, but why did he push me? Why did he destroy everything? Why did he?

Because that's what he wanted.

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

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

Well, my goodness, it's so fascinating. I wish I could talk to you forever. I want to just bring it to you.

You have said there's absolutely no cure for narcissism.

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

Number one is not your fault. There is nothing you could have done.

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

This is an inexorable process that is independent on you. You have nothing to do with it. You're interchangeable. You are just an excuse, a trigger.

So don't feel bad. It's not your fault.

Second thing, it's never been real.

It has never been real. It's been a dream.

It's a dream state or a dreamscape.

It's a fantasy.

You've been watching a movie. You've been watching a bad movie. That's all.

It's a bad movie. It's over. Lights are on and time to leave the cinema.

Cinema theater, you know?

Realize that what you have had with a narcissist was a piece of fiction, a movie, a theater play, a script. It was never real. You were never there, except in the narcissist's mind. And the narcissist, solipsistically, was interacting with himself only with himself and going through automatic motions in a script that will repeat itself after you and had repeated itself before you. So that's number two.

Number three.

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

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

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

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

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

And then the narcissist inducted you into the fantasy, and then you fulfilled your role, and you're out like an actor or actress. The run on Broadway is finished, and you're fired. You're going to the next production.

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

Because the narcissist transacted with you. It was a transaction. He offered to you a second chance at the childhood. He offered to become your mother. He offered you an idealized image of yourself, which you found irresistible. And then you colluded and collaborated with the narcissist in the unfolding of the shared fantasy, even though you grew increasingly uncomfortable, and even though you were in pain. Why? Why did you do any of these things?

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

If you say, I'm an angel and I'm a magnet and things just happened to me, and it's none of my responsibility, and I had zero contribution to this, and it's a force of nature or a natural disaster in which I've never been involved and never asked for, you are setting yourself up for failure and a repeat, because you are also, you're also subject to repetition compulsion.

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

So accept your personal responsibility and your contribution to your predicament. Look deep into yourself and reform yourself so that it never happens again.

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

Maybe one more thing.

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

If you were mugged tomorrow, you would not become a mug victim for the rest of your life, a mugging victim for the rest of your life. Even if you were raped tomorrow, you would not define your identity as a rape victim. Rape is a horrible thing, but it's an event. It's not a dimension of your identity.

Victimhood and victimhood are debilitating, paralyzing, disabling, and they're exactly, this is exactly what the narcissist, how the narcissist wants you to feel. The narcissist wants you to experience his own indispensability.

Like now that he's gone, I will never be whole again. His voice is inside my mind. I've been compromised forever. I'm a victim from now on. I've been stabbed and I've been branded. You're not the narcissist's property.

And this incident in your life, however long it may have been, is just a part of your life, not the totality. And it's not who you are.

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

And I'm sure you get a lot of grief for asking people to seek and search for their own role in why they ended up there. I'm sure people call you a victim blamer quite more than you like to know for that, but I think it's such an important component of this conversation.

I want to come back to your philosophical side and end here. And I'm going to embarrass you. Maybe you don't get embarrassed, but I want to read two very beautiful ideas as a lover of language.

The way you describe insight and empathy are so beautiful that I really want to end on this positive note after traveling through the horror house of narcissistic personality disorder.

Actually, I'll read three quotes.

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

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

I was denied as a child. I was not allowed to become so, I never became and I remained an unfulfilled promise or a dream that makes that bring so much tears to my eyes.

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

Now I'm going to end on these two.

And if you want to add anything to it, I just want to end on your poetic side on insight.

I love this.

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

So we are never the same from moment to moment, which is why psychology can never be a science. Life is a process of becoming via insight, insight into who you are and insight into others because it is insight that creates empathy, crucially, depends on having insight into yourself because who else is empathizing?

If you don't know yourself, you cannot empathize.

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

Having an insight to yourself allows you to have insight into others.

And this is called theory of mind.

On empathy, you said learning is a derivative of comparison.

We learn by comparing social media is founded on this concept.

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

It is the bridge and the crossing to other people. It is only by comparing yourself with other people that you calibrate yourself, that you gain realistic insight about the world because other people are your reality testing.

They are your viewfinder who help you to focus.

And empathy is another word for directed insight.

When you have insight into yourself, when we have insight into ourselves, we call it insight. When we have insight into others, we call it empathy.

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

I forgive me for paraphrasing some of it, but I'd never heard anybody describe insight.

Because often when you have caught the subject, when I talk about psychology and my interest in it, people say, well, I'm not interested in any of that stuff.

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

I have this beautiful, we, every individual human being has this gift.

The biggest gift is that we can create ourselves every day. Every day we can create ourselves anew.

And to do that, we need insight and empathy.

And I really thank you for that.

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

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

I want to perhaps interject with one last sentence.

I'm a bit, as you indicated before, I'm embarrassed when I'm exposed. If you say things, perhaps because I haven't meant to him.

So I feel a discrepancy between my motivation and the way I'm perceived.

People keep telling me, you can't be a narcissist. That's not true. You're so empathic, you're smiling, you're cute, you're this, you're that. And that's embarrassing because I am committed to truth and I'm committed to reality. My roots are as a physicist, I'm a scientist.

So I feel it's a wrong theory. Like it's a wrong theory.

Okay, but what I wanted to say is something else.

The meeting between the narcissist and his victim is a meeting of two hungers.

The victim is hungry for love and intimacy and acceptance. And the narcissist is hungry for existence.

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

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

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

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

Is a meeting of two irreconcilable, incompatible hungers.

Thank you so much, Sam. I cannot thank you enough for your time. You've been so generous and for this conversation. I hope one day when I'm somewhere where you are, I know you're in Europe right now, yes?

You're originally from Israel. So hopefully I travel a lot to Europe. So hopefully sometime I'll be in your area and would love to invite you to one of my concerts. It would be an honor to meet you in person.

Thank you.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, Sam.

Bye bye.

Thank you for having me.

Bye bye.

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