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Narcissist: Traumatized Child Invents God, Then Abuses (with Charles Bowes-Taylor)

Uploaded 4/13/2020, approx. 53 minute read

Yes, good afternoon. Thank you for calling.

And thank you for your time on this interview, Sam. I really appreciate it.

My pleasure.

Shall we not talk about coronavirus, Sam?

It's entirely up to you.

Sam, you're a real pioneer in this field. You've been involved in it in the last 25 years, I think, and you've coined a lot of the terms that we all use today, narcissistic supply, different types of narcissists, etc.

That's quite accurate, although narcissistic supply was not coined by me. It's a coinage from 1938.

What I did is I took quite a few terms and phrases used in other branches of psychology, and I've adopted them to describe narcissism and narcissistic abuse.

But you're right that I've coined the overwhelming vast majority of the rest of the language, including narcissistic abuse, ghosting, hovering, I mean, you know, trying monkeys, narcissistic fleas also.

Yeah.

Yeah.

So, Sam, I mean, I'm familiar with your material. I've watched your seminars and your broadcasts over and over, and I think your insight is remarkable. So I just want to say that, Sam, in some of your recent seminars, you highlight the fact that when you're dealing with a narcissist, that there's nobody there. You keep saying that it's an illusion. Could you elaborate on that?

Yes, I could. Shockingly. Do tell me though, are we being recorded? Are you sure of that?

Yes, we are.

Yes.

Yes, we are. Great. Okay.

Well, the narcissist is a product of childhood trauma and abuse.

Of course, there are two developmental pathways to narcissism. One is when the child is elevated, put in a pedestrian or conflated with a pedestrian, and is pampered and spoiled and isolated from the environment and so on and so forth. And therefore, the parent assumes the role of a boundary. It is the parent that isolates the child from reality, which is a very good definition of a boundary.

And so because the parent assumes the role of a boundary, the child is not allowed, cannot technically separate from the parent and individually, cannot become an individual.

And so when the child cannot become an individual, he or she, most often he doesn't simply. He does not become an individual. He does not become.

There's not becoming in this developmental pathway.

The other developmental pathway to narcissism, both of them lead to narcissism.

The other developmental pathway is via classical forms of abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological and verbal abuse, and so on and so forth. And these also constitute, of course, a breaching of boundaries, a breaching of emergent boundaries. The child in both cases is unable to form an individual, an entity separate from the rest of the world.

Now in this sense and only in this highly restricted sense, narcissists are actually codependents because it's the same dynamic with a codependent. The codependent seeks to merge or fuse with a significant other.

The narcissist similarly has no existence in the absence of merging and fusing with outside voices. The narcissist has no self. Actually has no self and no ego. That's the irony. Narcissists are often called or computed with egotists. They don't have an ego. That's precisely the problem. And because they don't have an ego, in other words, they don't have the regulatory agency that instructs a human being as to what is acceptable and not acceptable and what are the consequences of his actions in the world. Narcissists don't have this.

So what they have to do, they have to outsource these functions. They apply, they supplicate, they bank, they coerce, they cajole others to give them the kind of input and feedback which will allow them to form an opinion of themselves and of the world around them.

And in this sense, the narcissist's mind is a hive mind. It's a collage. It's a kaleidoscope. It's an amalgamation of thousands of inputs and feedbacks on a minute, second by second basis.

And then there is no integration of these voices. It's another problem because there is no controlling self. There's no controlling executive as we call it in psychology. There's no integration of these voices.

So they compete within the narcissist. There's a constant state of dissonance, which explains why the narcissist is so compulsive and so obsessive and so demanding and so unaware of other people's existence as three dimensional beings. He is so preoccupied in trying to create, to generate an identity core by kind of reconciling all these voices that he has no time for empathy or for any other outward or object related functions.

This is very similar to the situation in borderline personality disorder. In borderline personality disorder, we have something called identity diffusion. It's when the borderline person with borderline does not have an identity core. She shifts, I'm saying she, because most borderlines are women. She shifts and changes everything. Values, opinions, preferences, wishes, needs, loved ones, hated ones.

Mechanisms such as splitting render some people idealized in the next day or the next minute devalue.

So there's no stability, no continuity, no constancy, both in the inner landscape of the narcissist and in the inner landscape of borderline. And of course, no wonder that many borderlines are grandiose because and with this I will finish this extremely long answer because grandiosity is a way, it's a narrative, it's a coalescing narrative. It's a narrative that allows the narcissist and the borderline to interpret the world, to organize the world. So it's an organizing principle.

In this sense, grandiosity is a cognitive deficit. It impacts the narcissist's ability and the borderline's ability to perceive reality properly. It's a filter kind of, and it's a model of the world. It's what we call a theory of mind or a theory of the world. It's a model of the world, which is highly unrealistic. It creates an impaired reality testing, but the narcissist needs this narrative. He needs this script, this unifying script, because otherwise it would be a horrible thing. Otherwise it's terrorizing because if you don't have this unifying principle, if you don't have this narrative strand, the world does not make sense. It's meaningless.

It's confusing when you look at a narcissist and they seem to be a person. There seems to be something there, if you know what I'm saying.

But what you're saying is that there isn't a real, there is no sense of identity that is changing all the time. I think that's what you're saying.

Yes, I'm saying that the narcissist is a classic shape shifter. One of the reasons narcissists believe themselves to be the next step in the evolutionary ladder is because truly, truly they are easily comparable to artificial intelligence, to extra terrestrials, to shape shifters and so on.

The narcissist puts on a great simulation of a human being.

In 1970 there was a roboticist, Japanese roboticist, of course, Masahiro Mori. And Mori coined the phrase uncanny valley. He suggested that as robots become more and more human-like, as they become more and more humanoid, people will feel less and less comfortable with them, will feel more discomfort when confronted with them.

The narcissist is exactly this. It's a humanoid, a humanoid robot. It's a simulation. It's a computer simulation externalized or projected or holographed over them. And it's done to perfection, almost to perfection.

There's something missing. There's a kind of off-key note somewhere in the background.

And people feel that, and they feel very uncomfortable when they're in the presence of narcissists, but they cannot say why. And the reason is that, as Kernberg noted in 1975, he preceded me by some years.

Kernberg suggested that at the core of narcissists and borderlines, there's an emptiness, a void, deep space. I evolved this concept a bit, and I'm suggesting the concept of a Hall of Mirrors.

I think the narcissist is a kind of Hall of Mirrors, which would explain the narcissist's ability to get intimate partners addicted to him.

The narcissist inexorable and amazingly potent, amazingly powerful, honed over intimate partners.

In other words, it's a good explanation for the reasons for trauma building with the narcissist.

And the Hall of Mirrors simply states that when you're trying to interact with the narcissist, the narcissist puts up a carnival sort of Hall of Mirrors.

And then what you're interacting with actually is an idealized image of yourself. So the narcissist idealizes you and then invites you inside, invites you into his Hall of Mirrors.

And the narcissist extends this invitation by exposing for a minute his true self, the wounded child inside.

Now, no woman can resist this.

No man, no man to say.

And many men, and many men, yes, if they're nothing.

So it's a call, it's a primordial call.

We, all of us men and women, you know, we tend to be very protective of children, especially wounded, tortured and traumatized children. We tend to love them. We tend to shield them.

So this is precisely the sequence. The narcissist exposes his inner tormented, tortured, traumatized, crying child. The intimate partner gets hooked.

And then the narcissist withdraws this child and instead presents, puts forward a Hall of Mirrors.

At that stage, the intimate partner falls in love with her reflection, but not with her true reflection, obviously with her idealized reflection.

And for many of the intimate partners of narcissists, this is the first time in their lives that they experienced self-love.

Yeah. Many of these intimate partners are actually traumatized codependents or borderline women or otherwise damaged, broken and wounded people.

And so for the majority of the lives of these potential intimate partners, they didn't experience, they didn't have a chance to experience self-love.

Actually, many of them are self-loathing, self-destructive.

And so the narcissist for the first time allows them to fall in love with their own reflection.

In other words, with themselves.

Now, look at the irony. What the narcissist does to his intimate partners is actually to convert them into narcissists because they fall in love with their own idealized reflection, which is precisely, which is a very good definition of the narcissistic psychodynamic.

The narcissist falls in love with his own idealized grandiose reflection.

And he does this to his intimate partners. He idealizes them and then he lets them fall in love with their idealized image.

He infects, he's contagious.

He's a narcissism is a pandemic and the virus is the narcissist in this sense. And he's contagious and he exactly like the virus. Viruses use the cellular mechanisms to replicate.

And narcissists are doing the same. They invade your mind and they use it to replicate. They replicate by converting you into a narcissist and it's a small wonder that there are so many comparisons online between narcissists and vampires.

Vampires do the same exactly. They infect you by biting your neck.

So you see, that's the reason for the fascination with narcissism because it taps into so many archetypes in both ancient archetypes and future futuristic archetypes, science fiction archetypes.

And it combines it's a bridge between past and future.

It's narcissism is a hell of a lot more than a mental health disorder. It's a metaphor for our times. It captures perfectly our civilization.


Sam have you seen an exception where a narcissistic personality disorder is formed or there's with psychopathy where there has not been abuse in childhood in whateveror there's with psychopathy where there has not been abuse in childhood in whatever form. Have you ever seen an exception to that?

No, just to clarify, most people make the mistake of believing that my work is autobiographical, that I'm describing myself. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm the father of the three. I was the first to discuss narcissism online in 1995 and for well over 10 years I've been the only one. My website has been the only website and my support groups for victims of narcissistic abuse have been the only support groups.

So during this period and much into this very day, I have amassed a database of 1736 as of yesterday. People diagnosed officially with narcissistic personality disorder.

I then and they volunteered of course, yes. So I then administered to them a test of 687 questions known as the MMPI-2. It's a personality test that cannot be faked because it has protections, inbuilt protections, fake wrong questions, misleading questions, all kinds of things like that. So you can easily find out when the person is lying.

And so I've administered to all of them this test and I have a database which is by far the largest in the world.

For you to understand, the biggest studies ever conducted on narcissism by Twenge and Campbell, these studies included 30 people, 3-0. My database has 1,700 people.

So my work is based on that and therefore I can provide authoritative answers about literally any dimension of narcissism. And my answers are much more authoritative than anyone else's.

And so I can tell you with authority, there is not a single case that I've come across of a narcissist, don't confuse this with a psychopath, of a narcissist that is not the said outcome of childhood abuse. It's different for psychopaths.

Psychopathy in all likelihood is actually a brain disorder. I'm saying we because I teach neuroscience and psychiatry. I'm not a professor, neuroscience and psychiatry. So I allow myself to use we.

So we have overwhelming evidence that the physiology and the neuroscience of psychopaths is substantially different to that of normal people. So substantially different that you might as well say they're different species.

For example, they don't sweat when they are exposed to certain stimuli. Their skin conductance, electrical charge in the skin remains absolutely the same regardless of circumstances. They do not have a fear reaction. They are fearless.

So because they are courageous, they simply don't have a fear reaction. The activity in their amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and so on is so massively different that you might as well, as I said, be looking at another species.

So it does seem that psychopathy, true psychopathy, by the way, because we need to differentiate true psychopathy from antisocial personalities. But it seems that a true psychopath is simply an accident of nature, which is exactly what the father of the field of psychopathy, Cleckley. Cleckley and Cartman suggested in the 1940s, Cleckley in his famous masterpiece, The Mask of Sanity, which by the way, which by the way, is available for download, freely online.

So in The Mask of Sanity, Cleckley was the first to suggest that psychopathy is so alien that it must be a brain disorder. And he was right. He didn't say it's a brain disorder. He said it's a biological problem. And he was right.

Sandy, the other thing I wanted to, and you've mentioned this in some of your recent seminars, is the aspect of addiction with co-dependence and with narcissists. I think, and I'll be interested in what you have to say, that co-dependence and narcissists are cut from the same cloth.

We just take different trajectories.

But what's interesting to me is that a lot of narcissists have addictions that proves that narcissists have feelings because addiction is all about changing how we feel about ourselves and the co-dependence have addictions too.

And what I think is really not, I mean, for example, the condition of love addiction, which only came to the fore, I think about 40 years ago, the first 12 step group was formed for love addiction.

I think a lot of co-dependence don't understand the addictive dynamic between the co-dependent and the narcissist. So I'd be interested to hear what you think.


Well, first of all, one of the functions of addiction is mood regulation. That's true.

And no one has ever claimed to the best of my knowledge that narcissists don't have moods. They're actually very moody.

And in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, edition five, the latest edition published in 2013, narcissism, now officially includes a mood damage. So they describe dysphoria, depression as an integral part of that.

So which I've been suggesting for one of the 30 years, I absolutely think that narcissism could be amply described as a depressive disorder if you wish to do so.

So there is a mood, an issue of mood dysregulation, which is of coursevery common in mood. Lability is very common, for example, in borderlines.

And so that's one thing.

Second thing, it's not true that narcissists don't have emotions. There's no such thing as a human being without emotions, even psychopathic emotions.

The thing is that narcissists repress their emotions. They have no access to their emotions.

And the reason is very simple. There's a lot of pain there. There's a lot of hurt and they are afraid that if they touch upon their emotions, they will disintegrate and become suicidal, which most of them do, for example, in certain settings in therapy.

So borderlines don't have this defense mechanism.

There was a guy, one of the researchers of borderline suggested that borderline personality disorder is a failed attempt at narcissism. And this is the source of the phrase failed narcissism.

People confuse failed narcissist and collapsed narcissist. A failed narcissism is a phase in the development of borderline personality disorder. A collapsed narcissist is a narcissist who failed at obtaining narcissistic supply.

So there's a big difference between the two. At any rate, the narcissist succeeds when the borderlines, with borderline, fails. The narcissist succeeds to firewall his emotions. He succeeds to isolate his emotions so that he has no further access to them.

And the borderline fails in doing this. And because the borderline fails in doing this, the borderline experiences raw, powerful, overwhelming emotions all the time. And that's why 10% of borderlines can be suicide successfully. I mean, the emotions in a borderline are like permanent tsunami. They are constantly drowning in their emotions.

And this is precisely what the narcissist is terrified of. That's why the narcissist wolds off his emotions.

But even though the narcissist keeps his emotions at bay, the negative emotions are allowed to surface because they have a survival value.

So narcissist, for example, can and do get very angry. That's narcissistic rage. Narcissists are envious and so on. These are emotions, obviously.

And to regulate these emotions as well as the mood, narcissists have a high dual diagnosis. In other words, narcissists very often abuse substances, for example, reckless driving, pathological gambling, shopaholism, and of course, walkaholism.

Walkaholism is very prevalent among narcissists.

Now, narcissism is an addiction by definition. It's an addiction to narcissistic supply.

And therefore, the very question of whether narcissists have addictions is wrongly phrased. Narcissists are addicts. Their narcissism is their addiction. It's an addictive personality disorder.

It's the ultimate addiction.

Yes, it's the ultimate addiction because their addiction regulates their being, their existence, regulates their identity, regulates who they are, not only what they feel, which is the normal addict, the normal addict, the alcoholic, the drug abuser, they regulate how they feel.

The narcissist uses his addictions, including substance abuse and so on, to regulate who he is, not how he feels, but who he is, his identity.

Now, the same goes for the codependent. The codependent is an addict, of course. He's addicted to a significant other. The codependent is a private case of a narcissist in this sense.

The narcissist is dependent on hundreds of others, on thousands of others, on millions of others, if he's a politician. The codependent is addicted to one person, but it's only a matter of degree and quantity.

Qualitatively, these are both addictions that regulate the internal dynamics and the inner landscape of the person.


Now, the emphasis is different. The narcissist's emphasis is cognitive. Narcissistic supply is a cognitive supply.

The narcissist uses a form of empathy, which I dubbed cold empathy, which is essentially cognitive empathy.

As opposed to emotional empathy and warming.

As opposed to full-fledged empathy, which is reflexive, cognitive, and emotional.

The narcissist uses cold empathy to scan people around him, to isolate, to find, to ascertain who could be a source of supply, and then to extract supply. So supply in this case is totally cognitive.

The codependent supply is emotional, not cognitive.

And it is true that codependents and narcissists have identical developmental trajectories. They are exposed to the same triggers and stimuli in childhood. They're exposed to abuse in both developmental pathways that Afo mentioned.

And they make different choices. The narcissist chooses to emulate, to become his abuser.

And the codependent chooses to merge with the abuser because the codependent believes, unconsciously, that merging and fusing with the abuser would allow her to control the abuse.

Obviously, if you are one with the abuser, whatever is happening to you is under your control because you are the one abusing yourself from that point on.

And the narcissist becomes an abuser, counter- abusers.

And in this sense, narcissists are what we call counter-dependence.

So actually, we have two forces at play, codependence and counter-dependence.

One of the manifestations of which is narcissism and another manifestation is psychopathy.

So whether you become the end abuser or whether you become the abuser, these are the two choices you face as a child.

Now, luckily, the vast majority of children, the overwhelming vast majority, just to be clear, survive abuse. And throughout their lives, they're totally normal and healthy.

It's a tiny minority, a very tiny minority, who adopt unconsciously, who adopts the less healthy trajectories of narcissism and codependence.


Sam, are you saying that narcissism is a choice?

Well, to some extent it is.

Obviously, when you're a child, because typically narcissism evolves between the ages of four and nine. Obviously, at this age, you're not autonomous enough, even objectively, you're not autonomous enough to make choices of any kind.

But there is one realm in which you are king, even though you are four-year-old, even though it's a four-year-old, there's one realm which is totally under your control. And that is your internal, your mind. No one can touch your mind.

When you talk to torture victims, victims who've been tortured in various dictatorial and authoritarian regimes, they keep telling you, they touched my body, they destroyed my body, but they couldn't touch my free thinking, my mind.

It's the same with a narcissist. As a child, a narcissist's body is tortured.

There are attempts to invade his mind via psychological abuse and verbal abuse, but the child's refuge, sanctuary city, only refuge, and only shelter, is within himself.

So the child withdraws in, inwards, and establishes a citadel, a fortress, impregnable and impermeable to the outside.

And in order to cope with the demands of reality, and in order to interact with other people, his abuses included, he creates an imaginary friend. And that imaginary friend is everything the child is not.

The child is helpless. This imaginary friend is omnipotent. The child cannot predict the future because adults around him are narcissistic or unpredictable or crazy-making.

So the imaginary friend is omniscient, knows everything. The child is told consistently that he is a bad and worthy object or that he is deserving of love only conditionally.

The imaginary friend is perfection, is a perfect being.

And of course, immediately it springs to mind that the imaginary friend is God. It's omnipotent, omniscient, perfect, that's God. It's a good description of God.

Spinoza would have agreed. So it's a good description of God.

And in this sense, what the child creates at age four is a religion. The child comes up with a private religion where there isn't a God, a God-like figure, a divinity. And the child worships this divinity.

He allows this divinity to intercede on his behalf with the outside world and with his abusers.

And it's a decoy, all the pain, all the hurt, the false self.

The name of this imaginary friend is the false self. All the pain and the hurt reside with the false self.

The false self firewalls the child.

The child is one step removed from all the vagaries of life, from all the torture that is in torment that is inflicted upon.

And so it has a decoy function, but this is actually also the function, for example, of the church. It's an intermediary between us and God.

So it's a private religion. And there's one worshiper, that's a child, and there's one divinity, that's the false self, this imaginary friend.

And of course, like in every religion, there's also human sacrifice. And the human sacrifice here is the true self.

The child strikes a phaustian deal with the false self.

The false self is very demonic, is very devil-like, satanic in a way.

So the child strikes a phaustian deal with this entity, with this divine entity.

The child says, listen, I will sacrifice myself to you, but you protect me. You not only protect me, you make me great. You make me overwhelmingly great. You make me infinitely great.

And these are the root causes of grandiosity.

So this is the deal, that this is the phaustian deal, that the narcissist has to live with for the rest of his life.

Because that's, that he strikes this deal when he's four, but it's still absolutely valid when he's 40.

A deal with the devil, Sam, you said it's almost demonic.

Well, the false self is a kind of, I said it's a phaustian deal.

You can't strike a phaustian deal with God. So it's a phaustian deal.

The child sacrifices his true self. In other words, the child sacrifices himself, he sacrifices his soul to this false self, this divine entity.

And that would mean that this divine entity is devilish. It's like the devil in, you know, in the middle, middle ages or in guesses work.

Yeah.

And Sam, I know you're doing work with cold therapy, I think, where you're treating people as narcissists, as children, not as adults.

You said that's one of the problems with traditional therapy with narcissists, which makes a lot of sense.

But how come before your work, there has not been a cure for narcissism per se?

I have no idea, honestly.

Seriously. I mean, I am shocked that no one had realized that narcissists are actually children.

Everyone admits throughout the literature that narcissism is a case of arrested development.

Everyone says long before me that narcissism is a dysfunctional form of attachment, which is attachment is formed in childhood, not later.

So everyone admits from the earliest thinking about narcissism, starting with Freud in 1914-15, you know, it's the earliest thinking.

I mean, everyone says that narcissism is a childhood affliction and yet no one, not a single theorist, theoretician, not a single therapist or practitioner ever thought about the simple idea that if narcissism is a case of arrested development and there is a trapped child inside, we need to use child psychology.

And I'm pretty shocked by this omission. And I think it's telling. I think it's telling because, you know, for a very, very long time, child abuse was a taboo topic. Like you couldn't really talk about sexual abuse, child abuse.

Freud was castigated and penalized in effect for daring to talk about the role of children and child abuse in the family, in the middle class family.

And well until the 70s, the topic of child abuse was taboo.

And then when we did finally grudgingly started to tackle the topic of child abuse within a man's castle, within the home unit, the household unit, we did it in a very absurd and circumspect manner. We didn't really attack the problem head on.

So I think that's the first reason.


The second reason, I think we are terrified to admit that appearances are not substance. Our entire society is based on signaling, on signals. When we see an adult, we would feel very unsafe.

I mean, if I were to tell you that some adults are not adults, you would feel very unsafe because you wouldn't know how to trust people, who you can trust, and with what.

We are utterly based on signaling.

There is a policy, there is a cognitive deficit, cognitive bias called base rate deficit or base rate bias.

We discovered in studies, including very recent studies by Dana Rael and others, we discovered that people believe in face value, 95% of all statements, immediately, uncritically, without checking anything, without talking to anyone, immediately accept 95% of everything they're told, however outlandish.

And this is well documented. It's called the base rate. You can look it up.

And so people need to trust and to believe. If we undermine the foundation of trust, if we undermine the value of signaling, we are undermining actually our social contract and our ability to operate in teams and cooperatives. We undermine the foundations of the success of our species.

So I'm actually doing exactly this by claiming that some adults are not what they see. I'm actually saying signaling sucks. You cannot trust people.

It's deceptive.

It's subversive. It's a subversive message because it says you can't trust what you see.

You are seeing another, but it's not another. It's the same, like saying, listen, some people are inherently evil and malicious, but you can't identify them. I'm not giving you any tool to discern who is evil and malicious. I'm just telling you, some people are evil and malicious.

Imagine the impact is going to have on you.

And we are facing this with a pandemic, with COVID-19, because we are being told there's something in the air that's going to kill you.

But we are not given tools to identify this something. Look at the impact this had. Look, it destroyed our civilization literally.

So saying some people are malicious and evil, some people are children, but there is no way to tell who these people are is exactly like saying there's a virus in the air and it's going to kill you, but there's no way to tell where it is.

You know, personally, I didn't know the person I was with was a female COVID somatic narcissist, but my instinct told me to get away. And that's what I did.

But what I, you talk about this a lot in your seminars as well.

The people that I, in my experience, I see so few people co-dependence leaving narcissists and so few.

And you've said yourself, and I'm going to quote you, it's a big, big problem. What are your thoughts on that, Sam?

Well, everything is a choice and choices reflect needs. When the codependent remains with the narcissist, she remains because the narcissist caters to very profound needs that she has.

And because no one else can do it better, he's the best provider, is a best practice provider.

And she realizes this. She had tried so-called normals or neurotypical people before she had tried psychopaths, teacher and she settles on the narcissist because he does the work best.

The problem is that her needs are pathologized. So it is wrong to focus on separating the codependent from the narcissist. It's much better, much more profitable, much more appropriate to tackle the pathology, the fact that her needs are pathological and to try to somehow tackle these needs.

By the way, this is something we do very successfully. For example, borderline personality disorder, which is a form of codependency in a way. Borderline personality disorder, we have an exceedingly successful therapy, possibly the second most successful after CPT. And that's dialectical behavior therapy, DPT. DPT is very successful with borderlines. Within one year, 50% of borderlines lose their disorder.

So what is more profitable? To try to separate the borderline from her much needed narcissist or to try to get rid of her borderline personality disorder so that she no longer needs it.

I think the emphasis is wrong because today we are focusing on teaching internet partners of narcissists either how to cope with them one way or another, survival strategies, manipulative strategies, and so on, or to go no contact.

In other words, how to separate from them.

I invented all these strategies by one. The only one I did not invent was Gray Rock, which is a wonderful strategy, by the way. And my only regret actually has come up with it.

But I did. But I invented all the rest. I invented mirroring, I invented no contact, I invented all these techniques.

And yet I'm saying that this is the wrong focus. The focus should not be on the narcissist. The narcissist is a symptom akin to fever, akin to temperature. It's a fever.

The fact that you have a narcissist in your life says that something is wrong with you, not as a value judgment, not that something is wrong with you morally. But it means there's some dynamics in you, some psychological dynamics in you, a problematic, and you need a problematic person to cater to them.

It's almost like the focus that I see with people who are still in narcissistic relationships, the focus is all on the narcissist. And I admit the same thing happened to me.

But now what I do is I focus on the work that I need to do on myself. And I own that. I think that's very, very important because you've also said numerous times, stop demonizing the narcissist. You've said that on a number of occasions.

Yes, because people are converting this into a morality play. Good versus evil. The devil versus God. I don't know why. It's totally out of control, it's all there. It's a defective, problematic human being that you're living with.

And you need to work on yourself so that you don't need this person anymore in your life.

It's kind of like alcoholism, Sam, that alcoholism is the tip of the iceberg that what lies beneath that alcohol isn't really the problem. It's the same sort of thing.

Yes, exactly. And I actually suggest in the new work that I'm doing, I branched out, I'm not dealing with other personality disorders with addiction.

So I came up with a new theory of addiction, which is making the rounds right by the way. And in my new theory of addiction, addiction is actually the natural state. It's actually a healthy, natural state.

It's just when addiction combines with mental health disorders that it gets out of control and help us functioning and happiness.

But I asked the very, the very simple question, which again, to my utter shock, no one has ever asked.

If addiction is an abnormal state, if it's a pathological state, why 42% of our brain is dedicated to addiction? 42% of all the structures and surfaces of our brain are dedicated to fostering, to creating addiction, and then to processing the outcomes of addiction. Why would our brain be built this way if addiction was the wrong thing for us?

It's the same like saying 10% of our brain is dedicated to thinking, but thinking is pathological. Nature never invents structures that are not necessary.

Addiction has multiple very crucial and very beneficial functions. But when it combines with mental health disorders, it becomes alcoholism or substance abuse or blood addiction or sex addiction or internet addiction.

We get addicted to the most unbelievable things. Addiction is a mode of relating to the world, to anything in the world. It's not true that there is something inherent in alcohol that makes you addicted.

This whole theory that alcohol is a brain disorder is here unmitigated nonsense.

Alcohol has obviously effects on the brain, but it also has an effect on the liver. Would you say it's a liver disorder? Of course not.

Alcoholism, the use of alcohol for addiction is simply an environmental choice.

By the way, when we cure the alcoholism, the person gets addicted to sex. When you cure the sex addiction, the same person gets addicted to pornography.

It's cross addiction, absolutely.

Yes, addiction is a state of being, not a particular choice of the addictive substance or circumstance or people over it.

What do you say, Sam? You came up with a no contact. I personally did that, and it was quite difficult because I think if a person doesn't understand hoovering, for example, that you think that the narcissist is coming back because he or she loves you. Of course, that's not the case.

My choice was at the time to say absolutely no contact.

What are your thoughts there, Sam, in terms of breaking off or getting free from the narcissistic relationship?


All the other strategies, the seven I had invented, the one I hadn't invented, all of them are far inferior and honestly counterproductive, far inferior to no contact.

No contact is the only viable, healthy strategy.

Here's how to convince yourself to go no contact.

If you understand and realize that the narcissist is not a malevolent vicious entity, not a demon, but a child, simply a child, it will be far easier for you to go no contact because your expectations of a relationship are adult expectations, even as a codependent, but your expectations are adult expectations.

Even the codependent, for example, expects empathy and compassion, affection, comfort. You have adult expectations, but if you realize that the target of your expectations is a child, you would let go. You would let go.

Now, some people say, when I propose this, this way of thinking, some people say it's even more difficult to let go of a child than to let go of another.

Well, that depends. If your state of mind is such that your maternal or paternal instincts are misdirected to that extent, you have to work on it, so that something is missing in your life.

For example, real children, maybe. If you have such a need to parent, it's either because you were forced to parent as a child, you were parentified, or because you want to parent right now as an adult and you didn't come around.

Don't marry a child. Make one.

It's interesting, Sam, because I had that experience with the narcissist. I saw a child there. I did not see an adult. I get that completely. I saw that.

Sam, there was something else that you said as well in one of your, again, your recent interviews where you were describing narcissistic decompensation as being absolutely terrifying for the narcissist. I think you even made a reference to one of Salvador Dali's paintings.

It's difficult for codependents to understand, but the whole principle of that, the narcissist is only interested in narcissistic supply, so the narcissist doesn't see us as people. They have batteries to be thrown away, or toasters, or computers. It's only for narcissistic supply.

When they do not have that supply, that decompensation, maybe you could elaborate there.

Yeah, sure.

It's not necessarily that the narcissist doesn't see other people as people. He sees them as service providers, as you would see, for example, in electrician. He sees them as service providers. They are supposed to provide narcissistic supply. The narcissistic supply is needed for the simple fact that in the absence of narcissistic supply, the narcissist is blind, deaf, and dumb.

The narcissist has no reality testing. He has no access to reality, and he has no ability to self-assess, to evaluate himself. He needs people to tell him constantly, this is who you are. This is how you are. These are your boundaries. This is what you're good at, and so on and so forth. This is reality, and you should not do this, or you should do this.

He needs this constant input. This input, this kind of inputs are generated from the inside in healthy people by what Freud called the ego.

The narcissist doesn't have this, so he needs this constant input from the outside, not only to buttress his inflated, fantastic grandiosity, but simply to survive, to realize what is what, who is who, what can and cannot be done, and what would be the consequences, harmful or other, of his actions.

He needs people because he's blind. He needs a guiding, a guide dog, if you wish, and people are his guide dog.


Now, in the absence of narcissistic supply, the narcissist is groping in the dark in a room full of razor blades. It's full with knives and razor blades, and he is groping in absolute peach darkness in this room. Can you imagine how terrifying this is?

Gradually, all these defense mechanisms shut down. They shut down because defense mechanisms rely crucially on inputs from the environment.

What defense mechanisms do, they process input from the environment, they reframe it so that it's not ecosystemic. In other words, they take input from the environment, they change it a bit so that you feel comfortable with it, and this is what the main role of defense mechanisms, all of them, by the way.

But when the narcissist, because the narcissist has no access to information from the environment, all this defense mechanism shut down, stop working.

At that point, he is in direct contact with the razor blades and the knives, and he is constantly cut, cut again and again. Some of these are paper cuts, some of them are very deep, life-threatening cuts.

And this is the process of decompensation.

And so at some point, the narcissist bolts out of this metaphorical room, and that's what we call acting out. The narcissist bolts out of the room by either resorting to reckless self-endangering, self-destructive acts.

It's kind of, if I annihilate myself, I will not be cut anymore. Or I destroy the room, which is much more frequently, what narcissists do.

So they destroy their marriages, their businesses, their nations, if they are politicians, Adolf Hitler.

I mean, so either of these two, because if you take someone like Adolf Hitler, his main problem in the last two years of his room was narcissistic supply. He was not as revered and as admired as before, he was beginning to fail.

And so ultimately, he gave direct instructions to his minister of industry, Albert Speer, to destroy Germany, to simply to destroy all railways, all hospitals, all cities in Germany, to destroy this room, to destroy this metaphorical room, which keeps hurting him and so on.

So this is the process, the process is unimaginable to someone who is not a narcissist. It feels a lot like, let's say, amputation by millimeter. Like you are being amputated millimeter by millimeter, sliced like salami, millimeter by millimeter, and having to watch this happen.

And none of this can be put back together.

There's a feeling of doom, because you, the narcissist is convinced when this is happening, that the process is irreversible, which is wrong, by the way, the minute it gets supply, everything is put back together. This is the glue. Supply is the glue that holds everything together.

But when it is happening, it's harrowing and, and absolutely terrible. I mean, it's a horrible, it's a nightmare that you cannot wake up from it.

The same process happens with borderline personality disorder when they are rejected or abandoned. When people with borderline personality disorder are actually rejected or abandoned, or they anticipate rejection and abandon, they go through an identical process.

The process is so identical that I think abandonment and rejection is the equivalent of deficient narcissistic supply.

So I think actually in the borderline psychodynamic, borderline psychological landscape, relationships with other people with their so-called significant other is narcissistic supply.

But I think that's why borderlines keep failing in their relationships, because it's not a real relationship. It's a narcissistic supply in the form of a human being.

And in this sense, of course, borderlines are co-dependence.


Sam, the somatic narcissist as an example, if I looked at it from the outside, we would say, for example, he or she is promiscuous, but it's not about the sex, is it? It's about narcissistic supply.

Yes, sex is a mode of communication. You can use sex to communicate a power matrix or power ratios. So many people use sex to overpower other people and to establish a hierarchy. For example, in prison, sex is used among men to establish a hierarchy, even if these men are utterly heterosexual. Rape is not about sex. There's not a single sexual element in rape. It's all about power.

Sexual assault is a combination of power andliberty, freedom, unbridled freedom. So sex is simply a language. It's a language. And that's why we are perfectly capable of having sex with emotions, sex without emotions, and sometimes switch between the two or the same day.

So if sex is a language, we need to ask ourselves, what is the somatic narcissist trying to say with sex?

Well, to him, sex, not the sex itself, but two elements in the sex constitute narcissistic supply.

First of all, the chase and the conquest. And the second thing is the performance. So somatic narcissists ironically would be very concerned with how much pleasure they are giving their partner. So they would, for example, ask the partner, how many orgasms she has had? How many times she has orgasm? And they keep like a ledger, you know? And they would, so they are, it's very ironic by the way.

Somatic narcissists are focused on pyrotechnics, the pyrotechnics of sex.

And in many ways, sex with them is highly mechanical, but they are concerned with the effects the sex has on their partners, because this is the only objective measure of success.

So the somatic narcissist's sex is about performance and success in both fields, conquest and actual intercourse.

Do they somatic narcissist enjoy sex then?

No, exactly like histrionic women.

We have numerous studies that show that histrionic women are the women who are overly seductive, overly flirtatious, hypersexed in some cases, not in all cases, but hypersexed in some cases. They're the kind of women who steal other women's husbands, you know, this kind of thing.

So we have numerous studies that show that histrionic women are actually what used to be called frigid women. They are women who absolutely abhor and devastate. They are not interested in sex at all.

And yet, they dedicate an inordinate amount of time to their appearance, to seduction, to flirtation, to teasing, and to ultimate intercourse.

And so both the somatic narcissist and the histrionic women, women, women, they're both not interested in sex. It has not to do with sex, nor do they enjoy sex at all.

For example, a somatic narcissist would never enjoy sex in an intimate relationship. And a somatic narcissist would have erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation with a woman who would show interest in him. A woman who would initiate the sex, because he needs to conquer. It's a power element. He needs a success in the performance and the power.

So if a woman were to come to a somatic narcissist and pick him up, initiate, come on to him. He's very likely to perform very poorly, if at all.

Sam, do narcissists know what they're doing? And in other words, before you answer, you said something again recently that really interested me. You spoke about the difference between awareness and insight.

So an awareness for me can be, I know that I'm doing something, but the insight means I'm able to travel inside and say, what is this thing in me?

So that was an interesting point that you made.

So do they know when they're doing these things, whether they're cerebral or somatic, do they know what they're doing?

Of course they know what they're doing.

Very few of them are retards. They know what they're doing. Of course, the distinction between awareness or self-awareness more precisely.

And an insight is not mine. It's Freud's.

Freud said that it's not enough to know what you're doing. If you want to affect change, you need an emotional reaction to what you do.

For example, if you're doing something and then you feel that it's wrong, your conscience is superego in Freud's terms, you know it's wrong, then you're not likely to do it again.

So it affected change. The emotion attached to your action affected change. That's the insight.

Insight also has to do with understanding yourself, who you are, your identity, your inner processes and so on.

Now, narcissists are fully aware of what they're doing. They are fully aware of the distinction between right and wrong. That's the reason narcissism is not accepted with the exception of one case.

Narcissism has never been accepted as a mitigating defense in the case of crimes. So it's not a guilty by reason of insanity defense.

Because narcissists know full well what's the difference between right and wrong. They know what they're doing is wrong. They just don't care. They're not empathic.

So they don't grasp intuitively or otherwise, not even cognitively the effect that their actions have on others. And they're proud.

They're proud of the disorder. They consider the disorder. They think that disorder makes them unique. They think that the narcissism is the next step in the evolutionary ladder.

So they are the superior ratings. They are, you know, all others are like, they are the chromones and all other people on the underdogs. So they're very proud of it.

Now, I can prove to you that narcissism is a choice or more precisely, narcissistic traits and behaviors are actually choices, cognitive choices. I can prove it easily.

If you go to jail and you are a narcissist, your behavior will change dramatically. For example, no narcissist in his right mind would be grandiose in jail because he won't survive for long.

So when you see narcissists in prison, their behavior is conformist, socially acceptable, empathic, compassionate, understanding, etc. They need to coexist and survive with very, very dangerous people. So suddenly they're not narcissists anymore.

The fear instilled by prison renders narcissists suddenly totally normal.

How come?

If there is a constitutional problem, for instance, if you have to be a colossus, you're unlikely to lose it if you travel to another country. If you have to be a colossus, you have to be a colossus and destroy it. If it's a clinical entity, in other words, if it's a disease, you're not likely to lose it in prison or in the army or in the hospital and so on. But it's a fact.

That when narcissists change environment, for example, they're in the army or they're in prison, they, especially in prison, because the army is a more regulated kind of, but in prison, definitely, narcissists lose their narcissism, locks, token, barrel, no trace of it is left because of the external threat. It shows me it's a learned, acquired behavior that is totally under the control and choice of the narcissist.


Let's use the example of alcoholism where alcoholics get sober, they stay sober for a long time, and they do that solely because they don't want to feel the way they did when they were drinking. It's a horrible life.

So they made the choice to get sober.

So surely the life, the inner landscape, the life of the narcissist must be a foot of terror and shame.

And so my question is, why would at least one of them or two of them say, I don't want to be like this anymore. I want to change.

Well, I'm not sure where you get your statistics from.

Narcissism is a positive adaptation. In other words, it helps the narcissist to obtain favorable outcomes in the world.

We live in a narcissistic civilization. It pays to be a narcissist.

Actually, New Scientist, which is a very respected academic magazine of science, had a cover story in July 2016.

Parents teach your children to be narcissists.

So narcissism is becoming the bottom. Narcissism is in the White House, undoubtedly.

Many narcissists are, you know, political leaders in many countries. Narcissists are in show business, in law enforcement, in the media, I mean, you name it. Narcissism is a positive adaptation.

Very few narcissists are good at stalling. So very few of them feel shame, as you have said. And if they do feel shame, likely they're not narcissists, but borderline. So very few narcissists have an incentive to change.

For example, imagine that by some quirk of fate, I was invited to be the psychotherapist of Donald Trump. What on earth, what on earth could I say to Donald Trump? Don't be a narcissist. Why? He's president of the United States. He's a multi-billionaire. He's a reality TV star. Why not to be a narcissist? It's a strategy that worked for him. He has no incentive to not be a narcissist.

And the more we, I mean, our current civilization with its social media, with its incentive structure, rewards, with its exposure, with narcissism is built into our technology, our very technologies.

Narcissist is beginning to infiltrate our language. Narcissist is everywhere. Narcissist is an organizing principle of modern spectacle civilization.

In 1968, there was a guy called Gidebo. Gidebo wrote a book, a stunning, fascinating, but very difficult to read book, Society of the Spectacle. And he said that emphasis will be put on spectacles, on appearances, on games. You know, famous for being famous. And it's a prescient prediction.

Another famous book in 1974, Christopher Lasch, was the book, The Culture of Narcissism. I mean, people saw it coming even much, much before that, a hundred years ago. There was a guy called Emil Eys in Vienna, a sociologist. And he wrote a book about suicide. And another book about what he called Anoli. And he predicted the rise of narcissism. And of course, Sigmund Freud himself wrote an essay in 1914-15 linking narcissism to some societal phenomena. It's, we all saw it coming.

Today, we would be doing young people a disservice if we disable the narcissism.

But then, Sam, it begs the question, the inner landscape, I mean, are narcissists happy? Are they content? Are they?

Of course not. The vast majority of them are very happy. Why not?

Give me one reason why not.

Well, when they don't have narcissistic supply.

When they don't have narcissistic supply, when they hit rock bottom, they come to me for cold therapy, of course. But this isn't a tiny, negligible, invisible minority. The overwhelming majority are very adept at manipulating and leveraging and using other people, institutions, subverting protocols and rules and laws, especially the ones who are crossovers from narcissism to psychopathic narcissism, what Könberg used to call malignant narcissism.

And so narcissism, very little incentive or reason to feel bad, ashamed, deprived.

And so the subgroup of narcissists, passive aggressive narcissism, they feel, you know, there's another group called covert narcissism, covert narcissist are simply in effect collapse narcissism. These are narcissists who cannot obtain supply because their personality structure is such, they're shy, vulnerable, fragile, avoidant in a way.

So these subgroups, which are very small subgroups, they, but they're not, but you know what, they're not really narcissists. The covert narcissist is a kind of a cross between passive aggressive and narcissists. Inverted narcissist, which is clinical diagnosis, I invented. Inverted narcissist is a cross between codependent and these are the hybrids and they are very tiny minority.

The overwhelming vast majority of overt narcissists, classical narcissists are utterly happy with their lives and the more time passes and the more our civilization changes, the more happy they are because they are truly far better adapted to the world of Instagram and the world of Donald Trump and you know what, into the world of COVID-19, then all the rest of the healthy, so-called healthy normal population is.

And the covert narcissist, you say they are not real or complete narcissist. I didn't quite understand that.

The covert narcissist is a cross between passive aggressive personality disorder, negativistic, negativistic personality disorder and a narcissist. Yes, it's a fortunate narcissist, but because it's a collapsed narcissist, a narcissist who cannot obtain supply owing to his personality structure, then he resorts to passive aggressive measures of obtaining supply via third parties or by sabotaging and undermining people.

And so we have, for example, on a societal level, we have a whole community of such people. They're called insults, involuntary settlements. These are men who fail to obtain dates and obviously fail to have sex. And so they blame this on themselves. They are passive aggressive, but they blame themselves. They say that they are ugly, they are misfits and so on, but they are also furious at women for not giving them sex.

So there you have a kind of a petri dish of covert narcissists.

Narcissists who fail in obtaining supply. They are somatic narcissists. They fail in obtaining supply.

And so they exercise passive aggression to cope with this.

Why are covert narcissists somatic, Sam?

No, these are somatic covert narcissists.

Oh, somatic covert. Oh, I see. Yes. I understand.

No, you can be somatic covert narcissists, rebel covert narcissists.

And then just a last question, because I see we over an hour, but you've mentioned about reclassifying narcissism as a dissociative disorder rather than a personality disorder, Sam. Could you elaborate on that?

Actually, that's half the equation. I suggest that narcissism is actually not a personality disorder as well, but a post-traumatic condition.

Obviously, when we have a trauma and there are changes in personality, we immediately classify them as post-traumatic changes. So these would be post-traumatic conditions, but the post-trauma, in this case, yielded extreme dissociation.

And we have a precedent for that.

Mm-hmm. In the sixties, we had something called multiple personality disorder. It was a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, which today is called dissociative identity disorder. It's when a person is exposed to extreme, usually sexual abuse. That person fractures and generates a whole group of personalities. And these are called alters, alternative personalities. And they congregate around the central personality called the host.

And I'm suggesting that narcissism is exactly a private case of multiple personality.

I think what happened, the narcissist as a child had been exposed to so much trauma and abuse that he couldn't take it anymore. So what happened, his personality as a child broke in half. There were two halves. One half was projected outside, and that's the false self. And one half remained inside, and that's the true self.

So every narcissist, by definition, has two personalities. Everyone agrees with that. It's not me. And everyone is saying this.

But what I don't understand, if everyone is saying this, why not say that narcissism is a case of multiple personality? I mean, by definition, it has two personalities, not one. So I think if we begin to look at narcissism from three angles, one, it's a childhood psychology problem. Two, it's a post-traumatic disorder. Three, it's a case of multiple personality.

This is a very hopeful message. Why? We don't know how to treat narcissistic personality disorder, but we have perfect tools with a huge success rate in dealing with childhood disorders, trauma-related disorders, and multiple personalities. So we have tools to cope with this. We know how to treat these disorders. So if we just shift the way we look at narcissism, if we put all these tools together, we get cold therapy, which is exactly what I do.

Gosh, Sam, well, this has really been absolutely fascinating and informative. Thank you. Really, really thank you for your time, Sam.

Thank you for having me.

And I hope you have a good afternoon further. You too. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, thank you.

Okay, bye-bye. Bye.

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