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Narcissist in Your Mind (with Dr Maryam Tanwir, University of Cambridge)

Uploaded 5/6/2021, approx. 45 minute read

I will start recording.

It gives me great pleasure to talk to Professor Sam Vaknin today. I was just reading his book, which has blown me away. Sam is the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. He's a visiting professor of psychology at Southern Federal University in Russia. He's a professor of finance and psychology in SIAS-CIAPS Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies. He runs a YouTube channel on the topic. I don't know anybody who has more subscribers than him on YouTube.

Welcome, Sam. Thank you so much for coming on this podcast.

Thank you for having me.

I was just reading your book. I just got delved into this knowledge about personality disorders, and I found you by a stroke of great luck, because some of the stuff that you talk about in Malignant Self-Love, I think no researcher has ever mentioned before.

And so I want to start by just asking you, how come you coined this phrase, narcissistic abuse?

I was diagnosed twice with narcissistic personality disorder long before I took any interest in psychology. And my life had unraveled and disintegrated, and I wanted to understand what had hit me.

When I started looking for literature, I find antiquated writings from 1915, 1914, Sigmund Freud.

The most recent thing I had found were writings by Kohut and Kernberg in 1974.

It seems that the topic of narcissism had languished and vanished from the academic setting.

Generally, psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud and Jung and so on were relegated to the back burner because they were not scientific enough in the eyes of the new emerging schools of psychology.

So the whole thing was forgotten. I had to describe what was happening to me and what I had done to people around me. I first and foremost had to come up with a new language.

There was simply no language to describe this phenomena, this pernicious phenomena.

So I had to come up with a new language.

First of all, I coined narcissistic abuse, but I coined 90% of the language in use today, at least popularly, not in academe, but popularly.

So anything from hoovering to flying monkeys to narcissistic fleas to cerebral narcissism, somatic narcissism, narcissistic abuse, devalue and discard, all these things I had invented in a single Anus Mirabilis, in a single year of miracles in 1995, in order to be able to communicate my inner, my sense and my experience of myself and what people around me had told me about their experience of living with me, surviving with me, working with me, loving me.

When I placed all these writings online, which was 1996, 1997, that was the only website on narcissism. And within less than a year, or less than two years, actually in 1999, there were 250,000 people in my support groups. That was at the time that there was no internet, literally, internet was at its inception, there's no YouTube, no Facebook, no social media, no nothing. It was utterly, it was just starting, it was incipient internet, and yet it attracted 250,000 people.

I realized that this phenomenon of narcissistic abuse is all pervasive, ubiquitous, and very bothersome to people. They were attracted to me, first of all, because for nine years, I've been a monopoly, I ran the only website on narcissism, and only support groups on narcissism online, there was nobody else until 2004.

So I was in a monopoly position. But additionally, I think they were attracted to me and my work, because I provided a language, finally, they had a language to communicate what was happening to them.

And so this is how it all started.

Okay, so I want you to just help me clear the air because people don't really understand narcissism. It's an overused abuse term, but you have talked about in your YouTube videos and your book about cerebral narcissist, somatic narcissist, covert narcissist, grandiose narcissist, could you just give me a snapshot of all of these? And maybe what is then some common threats that go through all of that?

The problem with narcissism, of course, is that everyone has narcissism, but a healthy form of narcissism, the kind of narcissism that underlies self esteem, self confidence, the regulation of one's sense of self worth, the glue, the glue that holds identity together.

Narcissism is simply the ability to conceptualize oneself to view oneself as an object in the best sense of the world. And therefore be able to develop self love, self regard, self respect, wherever the self is involved, there is bound to be narcissism.

Jung was the first to observe that the process of formation, constellation and integration of the self involves the inward investment of narcissism. cohort later expanded on this.

So everyone has narcissism. It is when narcissism goes awry, or when early forms of narcissism survive into adulthood, that we are faced with a problem.

As narcissism, like everything else in life, undergoes transformations, evolves, matures, is reposited and deposited in the appropriate places in the psyche.

If narcissism takes over, metastasizes, or if it remains in an infantile immature form, baby narcissism, then we have an individual who is regressive, who lacks self ironically, narcissist or selfless, but not in the usual sense of the word.

And so then we are faced with a problem.

Now, because each narcissistic individual is first and foremost, an individual, and only then narcissistic, the narcissism of that individual manifest differently.

So we have some people who are sex drive is much stronger. They're likely possibly to become somatic narcissist, we have some people who's who sublimate, they use their intellect to secure favorable outcomes from the environment. So these people are likely to become cerebral narcissists.

In other words, one's underlying narcissistic pathology is colored by one's predilections, proclivities, tendencies and propensities. One's personality is super, super imposed on one's narcissismand imbues it with highly specific content.

And that's why there's such a proliferation of subtypes of narcissism, because there is a proliferation of subtypes of humans.

Very simple. Narcissists are human, of course. And their humanity shines through the narcissism.

Now, narcissism is bad for the individual. It's bad for everyone around the individual. It's bad news all around.

And when these assets, one's sexuality, one's intelligence, one's ability to read other people, called empathy, when these assets are leveraged at the service of narcissism, narcissism becomes a potent and dangerous weapon.

So this is an overall view, I would say.


Great. And some primary characteristics that you talk about, which narcissists- I'm sorry, there's an outside noise.

Let's wait for the motorcycle to pass.

Could you repeat the question, please? Sorry.

And before I go deeper into my question, I just want the audience to understand, because most of them will not understand what you and I are talking about, because you've read all the books.

At least I've read one of the big books.

So narcissists basically do not have empathy. They don't have remorse. They are very self-centered. They have grandiose delusions about themselves. They mimic the emotions of others, because you talk about in one of your previous lectures that there is nobody there. There's no soul inside. They're taking everything from the outside and everything is just about them.

And I was in the same book that I was reading, you talk about personality disorders. And you mentioned in a lecture that schizophrenia, bipolar, all remain human. But you said that narcissists are however not human, because there's no soul. Could you elaborate on that?

Well, I don't use terms such as soul. I try to remain as scientific and disinterested as I can, an objective. Soul is a very charged term, which signifies nothing.

No one can define a soul. So I'm trying to avoid this kind of speech.

But definitely there is no core. There is no organizing principle. There's no coherent identity. There's no guiding light. There's no self. There's not even an ego.

Freud called it an ego. There's not even an ego. It's what we call an empty schizoid core. It's emptiness.

So the narcissist is not about existence. The narcissist is an absence. It's a devouring absence. It's like the nightmares and horror movies, you know? It's a devouring absence.

And in this absence, this absence is reactive. It's a reaction to fears. It's a reaction to catastrophizing. It's a reaction to hurt aversion.

The narcissist had withdrawn from the world because the world was too much to contemplate and to behold and to cope with. The world of the narcissist in early childhood was comprised of parents who were not good enough or even what Andre Green called dead parents or dead mother. These were parents who were selfish, absent, narcissistic themselves, parents who abused the child physically or sexually or psychologically, or on the other hand, parents who had instrumentalized the child, forced the child to realize their own dreams, pedestalize the child, idolize the child, protected the child and isolated the child from reality, thereby not allowing the child to evolve and to develop into a full-fledged mature adult.

Parents who had spoiled and pampered the child, converting the child into an entitled brat.

All these are forms of abuse because the overarching definition of abuse is when the parent refuses to allow the child to separate, to become an individual, to separate and individually. When the parents refuses to allow the child to develop boundaries so that the child never becomes a separate entity, the child remains an extension of the parent one way or another.

And then later on in life, the child tries to recreate this symbiosis, this merger and fusion with future partners, intimate business, doesn't matter, in all the relationships of the narcissist.

The narcissist tries again to not be, to materialize and actualize his absence.

Because what these parents teach these children is you don't exist except as my extension, you don't exist except as my mirror. You don't exist except as my parent, they parentify these children. You don't exist except as my ally and, you know, colluder. You don't exist as, except incestuously as substitute husband or substitute wife.

So these children grow up learning the lesson that any love they may have received was conditioned upon performance and that the ultimate performance accepted of them was to not be. They perfect the art of not being, of unbeing.

And they believe that by unbeing, they can secure future love. They need love, they seek intimacy, but they are too empty to either accept it or interact with it.

So they are what we call approach-avoidant.

They approach, but when they do receive love and intimacy, they avoid because they interpret automatically love and intimacy as annihilation, as pain, as hurt.

It's a very sad disorder because these people, narcissists, to some extent, were logic and borderline.

These people aspire and strive with everything they have to feel alive, if only for one minute, but they can never feel alive, of course.

They don't exist. They are the kaleidoscopic amalgamation of other people's opinions, views, feedback, what we call narcissistic supply.

So they need this input from the outside, just to reaffirm, time and again, that they're alive.

Narcissism, in a way, can be compared to self-mutilation and borderline. Borderline self-mutilate, they cut, they burn, they have promiscuous self-trashing sex, they self-objectify.

These are all forms of self-mutilation. And borderline self-mutilate for two reasons.

They want to numb their emotions. So their emotions are about to overwhelm them, to dysregulate them, they can't cope with the emotions, they're drowning.

So they want to numb the emotions, they drink, they do drugs, they have indiscriminate sex with strangers, they cut, they burn, all these to numb the emotions.

And the second reason is to feel alive. It's only when they cut, only when they burn, only when they are with another warm body, they feel alive.

It's the same with the narcissist, but the narcissist's methods, method of self-mutilation is not cutting, is not burning.

The narcissist self-mutilates by vanishing into another person, by not merging and fusing fusion, but by letting another person define him.

He self-mutilate by disappearing and reappearing via the gaze of other people. It's a bit, a slight of hand, a bit of a magic show.

He disappears and reappears, reappears and disappears. It's very unsettling in many ways.

And the narcissist's main problem, and I'm coming to a close with this answer, the narcissist's main problem is exactly like the psychotic's main problem.

And that's why Otto Kernberg, one of the forefathers, one of the ancestors of the field, a giant, Otto Kernberg sincerely believed that borderline and narcissism are forms of psychosis.

I tend to share the same view. I think borderline narcissists are dissociative psychotics. In other words, they have pronounced dissociation and they have many, many psychotic features.

And of course, what is psychosis?

Psychosis is when the patient cannot tell the difference between internal objects and external objects. He has a voice in his head, but he believes it's coming from the outside. He sees something in his mind's eye, but he thinks he sees it in reality.

So the confusion between internal and external. There's the same confusion with narcissists. They confuse external objects with internal objects. When they see a source of supply, when they see a potential intimate partner, they snapshot, they take a snapshot. Then they Photoshop the snapshot.

This process is called idealization. And then they continue to interact only with the snapshot, never with the external object, but they confuse the snapshot for the internal object.

They can't tell the difference. Their internal objects are totally external and all external objects are totally internalized.

And in this sense, they undergo a process called hyper reflexivity, which is very typical of psychosis.

So I tend to agree with Gunnell. I think narcissists, borderlines, they have multiple self-states, multiple personalities, multiple sub personalities, multiple pseudo identities. These identities are separated by walls of dissociation or forgetfulness, lack of memory. But these walls are permeable, so that the identities can communicate with each other, unlike multiple personality disorder.

So in borderlines and narcissists, there are multiple sub personalities, but they all communicate with each other.

However, under conditions of stress, mortification, abandonment, rejection, humiliation, public shaming, under these conditions, the walls break down.

And then we have the equivalent of psychosis. Then we have a total confusion between internal and external.

So narcissists are very sick people, very, very sick people. I think narcissism, and I'm saying this judiciously, I think narcissism is more or less as bad as schizophrenia, same level of severity, and problematics as schizophrenia.


And in terms of brand new narcissists that you talk about, and they have this sense that they are the most important, they are the best in the world, and every world, the whole world is watching them, and they just think much less of everybody around them.

The grandiosity gap, avoidance with age, or with failures. So what happens with age when there's a huge gap between the false self and the real self, it starts breaking down.

What have you seen so far?

No, we need to, we need to modify some of your statements.

First of all, I'm just going from your book and lectures. Okay.

Yeah, no problem. We need to modify my statements.


Okay.

First of all, we distinguish between two big families of narcissists, two major subtypes.

One is the overt grandiose used to be called phallic narcissists, but that's politically incorrect. So no one uses it anymore. So overt or grandiose narcissist.

And then the second type of narcissist is a covert or compensatory narcissist.

Overt and grandiose narcissist are widely considered today, nowadays to be a form of psychopathy in effect. Covert and compensatory narcissist are actually the only pure narcissists.

And these are people who have deep set insecurities, inferiority complexes. They're trying to cover up for these self perceived deficiencies and inadequacies. They're trying to cover up for it by presenting grandiose facade.

But narcissists, the narcissist grandiosity is about being the most, not necessarily the best, but the most. So the narcissist can say, I'm the most victim. I'm the most failure.

As long as the narcissist failure is unprecedented, unique, amazing, exceptional, it's okay. It's part of the grandiosity. The narcissist just wants to be unique.

It could be unique in failing. It could be unique in being scum of the earth, low life. It could be unique in being at the lowest possible rung of the social ladder. It could be unique in being a misfit, miscreant, a mutant, a zero or a hero.

So the emphasis in grandiosity is the extreme uniqueness, not the content of the grandiosity. So the content could be anything as long as it renders you, renders the narcissist unique.

And so some narcissists, for example, adopt morality and then they become the most extreme moral people. Some of them become altruists. Some of them become givers. So they're compulsive givers, charitable people to the extreme. They would give 99% of their wealth.

So all behaviors are subsumed under narcissistic grandiosity.

We could have gurus, public intellectuals, charitable people, altruists, lovers of humanity, and all of them are narcissists actually. It's just they exaggerate these traits to be considered unique.

So narcissism is an umbrella term for every behavior that is radicalized in order to render the narcissist special, unprecedented, and so on.

So this is the first comment.

Grandiosity gap is whenever there's a gap between the narcissist's locus of grandiosity, the narrative he had chosen to aggrandize himself, which, as you remember, may be a narrative of failure.

So, there's a distinction, there's a gap, an abyss between the narrative, the grandiose narrative, and reality. That's why, ironically, a narcissist can develop a grandiosity gap if his narrative of grandiosity is that he is an amazing colossal failure and then he succeeds.

So the success is going to constitute a grandiosity gap because his grandiosity relies on being a total failure and then he succeeds. It's a disaster. It creates a grandiosity gap and almost anxiety.

Grandiosity gap yields anxiety.


Now, what happens to the narcissist when there is a grandiosity gap?

He tries to close the gap and he tries to close the gap in a variety of ways. One way is to relocate, move himself physically to another pathological narcissistic space. Pathological narcissistic space is any space, digital, virtual, or real, like a church, a pub, a school. So where the narcissist can garner narcissistic supply by via sources of supply. So one way is simply to move to another space. Another way is to redefine the narrative of the grandiosity. So, for example, the cerebral narcissist can suddenly become somatic. He used to derive supply from his intellect and intelligence, but then for some reason there's a grandiosity gap and he becomes somatic. He now derives supply from his sexuality or his bodybuilding or whatever. So redefine the narrative, redefine the locus of grandiosity.

It's another solution.

A third solution is to discard and devalue sources of supply and acquire new ones. If these are intimate partners, there's a process called shared fantasy first described in 1989, not by me, by Sander. And a shared fantasy is the way the narcissist acquires new intimate partners and sources of supply within a fantasy.

Of course, the overriding overarching principle in the narcissist's life is fantasy.

Narcissism is an extreme fantasy defense bordering on what we call Parakosa. In other words, alternative reality, another universe. The narcissist is no longer with us. He resides in a totally fantastic space. And when I say total, I mean absolutely cellular, molecular. The fantasy is everywhere. When he makes coffee, he does it in a fantastic way. It's fantasy involved in absolutely everything. The fantasy, of course, is a defense mechanism, psychological defense mechanism, but in the narcissist, he took over and became both ubiquitous and dominant. Everything the narcissist does, everyone around the narcissist becomes, become figments of the fantasy. And the narcissist defends the fantasy firstly. Fantasy is always grandiose one way or another. And the fantasy is always self-referential. In other words, the fantasy is much less about reality in the world and much more about the narcissist.

And the result is that gradually the narcissist disengages from reality. His reality testing becomes impaired. He withdraws and retreats more and more into the fantasy world, which was another reason that Kernberg suggested that it's actually psychosis. He withdraws more and more and he becomes, with old age, he becomes kizuna in the behavioral sense. He avoids people. He avoids reality. He becomes a recluse, a hermit, solitary figure. That's very common in the trajectory, in the autobiography of narcissists.

Most narcissists finish life alone, utterly alone. And this kizuna defense allows the narcissist to preserve and extend and apply fantasy everywhere and defend it against challenges from the outside.


So you see, narcissism is much more than an a-hole or a jerk whonarcissism is much more than an a-hole or a jerk who misbehaves with people, who is abrasive, who is antisocial, who is unpleasant, who is hateful, who is obnoxious. It's much more than this. It's a complex of extremely intricate and interacting, coexisting multiplexes of figments, constructs, processes, defenses. It's one, if not possibly the most complex mental health disorder ever.

I find it, for example, much more complex than schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is pretty straightforward. You know, narcissism is a whole of mirrors where the narcissist's absence is reflected in these mirrors in a way that defies intuition and of course defies reality.

And when you wander into this whole of mirrors, when you're trapped by the narcissist, when you're love-bound, when you're groomed, he brings you into this whole of mirrors and where his absence used to be reflected, you get reflected. And because he photoshopped you before, he took a snapshot, he idealized you, what you see in this mirror is your idealized image.

You see thousands of reflections of yourself idealized. This is the narcissist's whole of mirrors. It's a long corridor with mirrors facing each other and you walk along these corridors and you see yourself.

And as you walk along this corridor, you get affected. Affected means you get emotionally invested in your own idealized image. That is why trauma bonding with the narcissist is almost indissoluble, almost unbreakable because you don't fall in love with the narcissist. There's nobody there. You can't fall in love with an absence. You fall in love with your idealized self.

It's very difficult to let go of this, maybe impossible. So we can talk about it later if you wish.

Wow, that was very informational. And you talk about it, but this all sounds really exhausting being a narcissist, hanging on to your delusions, feeding your false self with narcissistic supply and feeling no remorse, no empathy, mimicking the emotions of others. It sounds like a narcissist is not a very happy person and an exhausted one. It's exhausting, constantly deluding and trying to feed narcissistic supply from people around you.

Do you have true friends as a narcissist, even his friends or his partner, everything is there to give him narcissistic supply. So the way you're saying it, he is incapable of truly engaging in any sort of a relationship. It's only taking what feeds him.

Narcissists don't see other people. They don't see people. They are incapable of perceiving the autonomous, separate existence and agency of another person. They don't regard other people as people because they lack empathy.

Well, at least they lack emotional empathy. They have something called cold empathy. Cold empathy is cognitive and reflexive empathy combined.

So they're like predators. The tiger knows the antelope better than the antelope knows herself. So they're tigers, they're predators. They know you better than you know yourself through cold empathy. They scan you for vulnerabilities, chinks in the armor, weaknesses, neediness, and then they penetrate in every possible way. But they never see you as a separate entity.

Remember, narcissists subsist in a fantastic space where everything and everyone gets incorporated immediately via the snapshotting device. The snapshotting device is a popular name that I gave to what is known as introjection.

So they introject, they snapshot you, they convert you into internal objects. All communication, every possible dialogue, every interaction in the narcissist world takes place exclusively in his mind, never outside him, never even when he talks to you.

Hello, good morning, how are you? He's talking to the internal object in his mind that stands for you, that represents you, your avatar.

So it's a virtual reality. That's why I say that narcissists are forms of artificial intelligence. It's a virtual reality.

Because he has no warm empathy or emotional empathy, he's incapable of perceiving you as someone with needs, fears, emotions, preferences, ideas of our own. He resents the fact that you evolve and grow.

Because as you change, as you transform, as you progress, you deviate from the snapshot, you diverge from the snapshot.

And this threatens him in two ways.

It challenges the reality of the snapshot.

Because if you are real, the snapshot is not real. If the snapshot is real, you must be not real. One of you is a simulation.

If you evolve and develop and grow, the snapshot is undermined.

And the narcissist resents this because it threatens his worldview, threatens the precarious balance of his inner world.

You have become a threat, you become an enemy.

So narcissists, when you say narcissists only take, they regard people as social supply, it's all very true. But they're not taking from human beings. They're not taking from you. They are converting you into a more helpful or resourceful or functional snapshot.

They are using you as an excuse to construct an internal object, which would be conducive to harmony, functioning, and the very feeling of existence.

So if you collaborate with a narcissist, if you remain frozen in time, if you don't grow up, if you're mummified, you're the perfect partner, as you allow the snapshot to operate seamlessly.

And it is a snapshot that provides a narcissist with a much needed internal balance, much needed harmony, much needed ability to function in a sense of reality.

Even though internal objects are internal, even though they're in the mind of the narcissist, they are still to some extent real. They are the last vestiges of reality testing that the narcissist has.

If he lets go of these, he risks disintegration, psychosis. He risks losing it.

So the narcissist clings ferociously and desperately to his internal objects. He has nothing else but internal objects. He's taking from you, but he's not taking from you what you might consider relevant or important or human.

He's actually not taking anything from you. He's just using you. He's using you to construct the internal objects more favorably.

But he's very coercive. He's very demanding. He's very aggressive. If you refuse to collude and collaborate in the construction of his inner world, he will punish you. He will force you. He will demand.

And so he can be very domineering and over-winning, controlling and jealous and possessive. On the other hand, he can be, and then if he decides that you are no longer useful, he immediately withdraws and avoids and then pushes you away in a variety of ways.

And he does that because you're meaningless to him. You've always been meaningless to him.

This is what victims find extremely difficult to digest. They are commoditized. They're commodities. The narcissist commodifies them. They're interchangeable. They're dispensable. They're unrecognizable.

They're faceless.

Even a 20-year-old intimate relationship with another human being, with another person, with a wife, let's say, is meaningless to the narcissist. The narcissist would not hesitate to discard her. The miniature loses a functionality and replace her with someone within a month. A month is long, sometimes days.

And the reason is you're all anonymous to the narcissist, utterly anonymous. You're units of production.

It's like iPhones.

iPhones are very valuable things, but they're indistinguishable from each other.

You make the narcissist sound very ruthless. Is he happy in his world? Are narcissists happy when they get narcissistic supply? Are they ever happy but happiness? Does it fill them up?

Knock. If there's nothing inside, you say knock, knock. There's nothing inside.

Explain to me the inner workings of the insides.

Actually, I have a video about Buddhism and nothingness, which may address this issue, actually. And also, I made two videos about Jean-Paul Sartre and his concept of nothingness.


How does one, how does one, language breaks down when we are trying to talk about absence?

Our language is constructed materially around objects, especially Western languages.

So language itself breaks down. Hebrew, which is much more ancient language, my mother tongue, is much better at describing absence. But it's very difficult to describe the experience of absence and so on. Of course, an absence cannot experience anything, let alone happiness.

Absence, in the case of the narcissist, he inhabits a binary cosmos. Like an animal, he knows that he's feeling good or he's feeling bad. He's feeling uncomfortable or he's feeling comfortable. It's very primitive. And I repeat, it's very animalistic, very bestial.

It's not human. There are no nuances, shades of gray, multiplicity of emotions, nothing.

There's just, I'm okay, I'm not okay.


Psychopaths are even worse. Psychopaths are almost mono shade.

So narcissists develop anxieties. They're steeped in anxieties for a variety of reasons. Narcissistic supply is an anxiolytic. It's an anxiety-reducing medication.

No, narcissist self-medicates with narcissistic supply to reduce his anxiety.

So the narcissist essentially knows two states. I'm anxious, I'm not anxious. I feel good, I feel bad. What he calls I feel good, I feel bad actually means I'm anxious, I'm not anxious.

Now, the balance of anxiety and mitigated or ameliorated anxiety, this balance determines the type of narcissist.

Grandiose narcissist, overt narcissist, they are what we call egosyntonic. In other words, they're pretty comfortable with themselves. So their anxiety levels are much lower and they are much more often in a state of reduced anxiety.

Covert narcissist, compensatory narcissist, they're egosyntonic. That means they're not comfortable with themselves. They're filled with negative emotionality like jealousy, hatred, envy. So these covert and compensatory narcissists are much more often anxious than not anxious.

But these are the only two pseudo emotional states of the narcissist because anxiety is not exactly an emotion. It's the only two pseudo emotional states of the narcissist.

Narcissist experiences nothing but negative emotions. He experiences rage or anger, experiences hatred, experiences envy. He never ever, ever experiences any positive emotion of any kind, ever.

Sam, when we talk on the phone last time, you told me that you have the largest database of narcissists and you deal with them and you're currently researching on them.

Do narcissists that you work with ever have the self-realization themselves that they are narcissists?

Well, today they do because there is a label to which I had contributed and so they know that it's they're not to define themselves as narcissists, but from time immemorial, narcissists had realized that they're different. They, for example, consider themselves to be much more efficient, much more abrasive, much less amenable to social mores and dictates, so much more antisocial.

So narcissists of your, narcissists in the 70s or 80s would have described themselves in these terms. I'm tough. I'm rough. I'm efficient. I don't take nonsense. I'm a non-nonsense guy. I'm with my two feet on the ground. I don't play nice. Theynice.

They would have described themselves in this sense.

And today they're likely to add, well, probably I'm a narcissist.

So there is a lot of self-awareness when it comes to behavior. Narcissists are fully self-aware of all their behaviors, including abuse in all its forms. They know everything they're doing.

It's a myth that they're not self-aware. They're fully self-aware.

However, what they do, they glorify, they glamorize and aggrandize these behaviors. They say, well, I'm like that because I'm superior. I'm like, I allow myself to behave this way because I'm the next step in the evolutionary ladder.

You know, all other people are like monkeys to me. I'm the next step. I'm the next humanity. Or they say it works. My style may not be pleasant, maybe obnoxious, but it sure works. I'm a rich man. I'm president of the United States.

It works.

So civilization, modern day civilization, let's say starting in the 50s, rewarded narcissism and psychopathy, increasingly more psychopathy.

If you're a narcissist or a psychopath, you're considered today to be high functioning. You're considered to be much better suited to the world and to reality and to the exigencies of what's happening than someone who is not.

So if you confront a narcissist and you say I'm a narcissist, you're going to say, well, that's what got me here. That's what got me this lovely house, this load of money, my fame, my celebrity, because I'm a narcissist.

It's an evolutionary adaptation. It's a positive adaptation. It's an advantage, competitive edge.

Narcissists no longer see reason to be ashamed of their narcissism. On the very contrary, they're proud of it. They glamorize and glorify it.

Academia has joined. Many scholars nowadays talk about high functioning narcissists. There are scholars like Kevin Dutton, others.

They say that narcissists and psychopaths are uniquely adapted to certain environments like the military or the corporate world or surgery, the medical specialty of surgery.

They say, well, for these, to be a politician, to be a military commander, to be a surgeon, to be a corporate leader, for these things, we need narcissists and psychopaths. That's why nature created them. They're great. They should lead us. They should.

So there is a strong attempt to glorify and glamorize narcissists and psychopaths in academic circles.

In July, 2016, if my memory doesn't fail me, the relatively prestigious journal New Scientist came up with a cover story. And the cover story was, parents teach your children to be narcissists.

So there's a recasting, reframing of narcissism and psychopathy as actually good things, good for the individual and good for society.

I mean, the mores are changing. Not what used to be 20 years ago or 30 years ago when I started my work.

And you wrote an article also on Obama and I remember Trump is, again, a very famous grandiose narcissist, you think?

Trump is a grandiose narcissist, of course.

And any other examples publicly that you have found out, which fit the bill of cerebral narcissist or grandiose narcissist?

Eric, Eric Fromm suggested that Adolf Hitler was a malignant narcissist and so was Stalin. Although I think they were psychopaths actually.

And this brings us back to the issue that more and more we think that grandiose narcissists are actually psychopaths. So Hitler and Stalin are perfect examples because they were grandiose narcissists, but they can easily be characterized as psychopaths.

So that's Eric Fromm. Gerald Post, who was a profiler, I mean, chief profiler, I think, of the CIA, wrote a profile of Saddam Hussein, casting him as a malignant narcissist.

Obama was a cerebral narcissist. He is a cerebral narcissist. Donald Trump is probably a somatic narcissist.

Somatic?

Somatic?

But grandiose.

Okay.

So narcissism is, and now we have a whole crop of leaders, Bolsonaro, Duterte, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Duterte in the Philippines, possibly Modi in India, I don't know, but we have a whole crop of highly narcissistic and grandiose and even psychopathic leaders.

And in your book, you also write that narcissist is just so pervasive. It's just not personality traits. It's a personality disorder that you cannot really ever cure a narcissist. And you write that anybody who's in a relationship with a narcissist needs to not cure, but just quit, run away immediately. That's your advice you gave in the book. You can't cure narcissism.

You can't, there's nothing to cure. It's, as I would say, can I cure Mariam? Can I, how can I cure Mariam?

Narcissism is narcissism.

It's not cancer. It's not a disease that someone has. It is a disease that someone is.

So even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual says both editions, four and five, say that narcissism is all pervasive and affects every area of functioning. It's the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, it's not somebody.

I know. So you no more can remove the narcissism from the narcissist, then you can remove the narcissist from his narcissism. They are not two entities, eat one parasitic on the other. They're one and the same. The narcissist does not have an identity. He has an empty schismic core. He's a howling absence. He's deep space. He's a black hole.

And what remains is his narcissism. Take away his narcissism and literally nothing is left.

Literally, then only the absence is left. You can think of it as an onion. Even if you peel the onion layer by layer, layer by layer, layer by layer, and all the onion is gone. The smell of the onion lingers. Narcissism is the smell of the onion.

That means if you remove the narcissist completely, the narcissism would be left.

So narcissism is an organizing principle. It is an explanatory, hermeneutic principle. It's an explanatory principle. It's a worldview. It's a theory of mind. In other words, it's how the narcissist perceives other people, what makes them tick. It's a theory of the world. It's what we call internal framework.

So narcissism is the set of strategies that the narcissist, as a child, had chosen to shape himself into.

I always give an example from a famous book by Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo was a 19th century novelist in France. Victor Hugo wrote a book called The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And in one of the chapters, he described the comparticosis. Comparticosis were essentially travelers, gypsies, who used to kidnap children, babies, very tender babies, few days old. They used to kidnap them and put them in a bottle. And the child grew in the bottle, grew inside the bottle, and took on the shape of the bottle. And then they would break the bottle, and the child became a circus freak. People would come to work to watch the child in the circus, pay money, because he was in the shape of a bottle.

This is the narcissist. He grows up in a bottle of abuse. He takes on the shape of the bottle, breaks the bottle, the narcissist is still deformed. So the deformity is for life.

Nothing to be done. He had been abducted by bad upbringing, bad circumstancesis still deformed. So the deformity is for life. Nothing to be done. He had been abducted by bad upbringing, bad circumstances.

Your expressions are so powerful, they blow a person away. And I think that I was sitting with all my friends, most of them are academics, and we were discussing, and I told all of them to get the same book also because, by the way, I want to write a fabulous review on your book, it has actually blown me away.

But just, you've done just a big service to all of us. I was just thinking because we friends were sitting together and I told them what is a somatic narcissist, what is a covert narcissist, what is a grandiose one, cerebral one. And then suddenly there was a light bulb movement in everybody's lives. And they were like, Oh my God, my dad friend is a cerebral one. Oh my God, I know a grandiose one.

And suddenly everything started making sense about the way you've characterized them. And we have friends in our lives, we have people in our family, and somehow we didn't understand what was going on. It's just that through you, there has been a lot of clarity in this diagnosis. I think it's going to help us with identifying our friends, family, colleagues, there are lots of colleagues that we deal with also. And I think the clarity is incredible.

I wouldn't want to aggrandize what I had done, but my main contribution at that time in the 90s was to give language because language creates consciousness, language arranges memories, language clarifies things, organizes, makes sense, language imbues life with meaning. There was no language. I contributed the language, not necessarily the content, a lot of the content that I wrote at that time was taken from much bigger minds like Cote and Kernberg and so, but I contributed the language, no question about it.

And now in the past few years, I'm again making original contributions, I'm reconceiving of narcissism in totally new ways.

So there was a period of 20 years where I had not been original. I didn't contribute anything original.

At first I contributed the language, then I stopped being original. And then a few years ago, I started being original again.

So I wouldn't like to aggrandize myself and say that I, you know, but I did help in the sense that when you wanted to describe a cerebral narcissist before I came on the scene, you didn't even know what you wanted to say. You didn't, you couldn't organize it, you know. And then I told you, listen, this guy is a cerebral narcissist. And you said, wow, yes.

Now I understand. Yes. He's a cerebral narcissist, you know.

And I think that you be too modest. I'm not trying to realistic.

No, what I'm trying to say to you is I've never been accused of modesty.

I try to make you understand that my mother is a clinical psychiatrist and there are lots of people who come to her and she deals with a lot of personality disorders. And I got very interested in psychopaths and narcissists and schizophrenia. And I did a lot of research. I'm an academic myself. So I did a lot of research in many YouTube channels, many books. There are so many podcasts on psychopaths and narcissism. I listened to all of them because I was very interested.

Once I hit you on YouTube, I never went back to any one of them. Because even if you didn't coin everything, you coin narcissistic injury.

But sometimes the words that you use in your lectures or in your books, they are so powerful.

Like when you talk about the absence or when you saw there's nobody there, it just hits you because some of us who've been exposed to narcissist, everything becomes crystal clear, which that clarity I did not get through other researchers and professors.

Well, that's a perfect example, because I did not coin nor did I invent the concept of empty schizoid core that was coined and invented by a group of a British psychologist in the sixties. They were known as the British Object Relations School. And among them were Winnicott, Gantrip, big names, Fairburn. So they coined this. And then Jeffrey Seinfeld in 1991 expanded on it and he created the coherent concept of empty schizoid core.

So here's the perfect example. It's not my contribution. I was not original on this.

But what I do attempt very much to do in my, at least on my YouTube channel, because I'm also an academic. I mean, I teach in universities, I publish papers and so on, but on my YouTube channel, what I try to do is bridge the gap, bridge the abyss between academe and the masses and the public.

And I regret to say that my colleagues online in their YouTube channels are focused on making money, not focused on bringing the latest to the people. Their knowledge, if there is any, is antiquated, wrong, and they are absolutely obsessed with making money.

And I'm not, there's no, there's no advertising on my channel. I don't allow advertising on my YouTube. I'm not selling anything.

I think I have a mission to, as I did starting in the nineties, in the nineties, all these YouTube experts, so-called experts, self-styled experts, all these coaches and so on. When I started my work, there were teenagers, all of them were teenagers.

So I've been doing this for 30 years, spreading the word, disseminating the knowledge. And I keep doing this.

There are some original contributions. I contributed the language, definitely. There are some new original contributions that I'm making, but I rely on the shoulders of giants.

All these had been said before. It's extremely unfortunate that people with academic degrees and credentials lower themselves in a way, prostitute themselves for money. And very often compromise their integrity as academics.

I don't want to go beyond this, but I am very disappointed in what is happening online. I understand a victim of narcissistic abuse who would just go online and share her grief and share her pains and try to help others.

I don't expect from such a person, any rigor, any deep knowledge, any, but I do expect from a doctor, I do expect from a professor or an online doctor to have integrity, not to use, for example, terms which are not clinical terms and are very misleading like empath.

And yet all of them do, because they make a lot of money. I expect these self-styled experts and coaches not to perpetuate and propagate the victimhood status and mentality of people just to make money.

And yet that's precisely what they're doing.

No way.

Sam, we only watch your videos. We don't stop watching all of them ever since we've discovered you, but we're looking forward to your new books and new research and you're saying you're coming up with new theory, the new exciting information on narcissists.

And after talking to you, I'm actually feeling a bit bad for the narcissist. I'm feeling a bit sad for him.

You think we should be bad for them?

It's a tragedy. It's a human tragedy. It's a wasteland. Harvey Clutterer had observed already in 1942 that in an ordered proportion of what he called psychopaths, but today we know it's not psychopaths, it's narcissists and borderline, but he called them psychopaths because there's no words. There's no language.

So Harvey Clickley in 1942 had observed that a sizable proportion, trying to adjust the comment, a sizable proportion of narcissists and borderlines are actually highly emotional, highly intelligent people. Their emotional growth had been stunted by abuse. And so they reverted to an earlier form and it's an enormous waste.

I'm arguably one of the leading authorities on cluster B personality disorders. I know everything there is no narcissism. I invented some of it. I discovered some of it and yet emotionally I'm two years old. I'm two years old. I have never known positive emotions. My inner experience is that of utter howling emptiness. I'm a waste in every possible sense of the word because without emotions and emotional apparatus, there's a limit to self actualization and realization of potential. Potential is very limited when you don't have this critical tool.

For example, you don't get along with people, you know, you don't have to read people. I mean, you can read their vulnerabilities, but you cannot read their positivity, cannot read their totality. So it limits me. Of course, I'm age 60 and I've paid a horrible price. I haven't lived 10% of the life I could have lived.

And it's a tragedy by any definition, any waste is a tragedy. Anyways, narcissism had been a pandemic long before COVID and it's getting much, much worse.


Studies by Twenge, later Campbell, others had demonstrated between 1997 and 2018 that narcissism is on the rise among college students, admittedly, but seems to be on the rise among beyond.

And narcissism, as we look around, is clearly on the rise. It's associated with atomization, the breakdown of institutions, the exigencies of economic recessions, income inequality, envy.

I mean, narcissism is exploding in 1997. I coined the phrase narcissism epidemic later borrowed by Campbell and others. It's not an epidemic, it was wrong. It's a pandemic because you see narcissism on the rise in China, in Iran, in Israel, in Russia, wherever you go, it's become the bone tone. It's become the new thing, the new normal.

And narcissism is about waste of human potential as individuals, as collectives. No wonder we cannot get our act together in this pandemic. We cannot get our act together.

If we analyze, it's all narcissism, selfishness, entitlement, defiance, recklessness. These are all narcissistic features.

I mean, in a narcissistic civilization and society, self-efficacy, the ability to secure favorable outcome from the physical environment and from the human environment, self-efficacy is declining. Narcissism is very dangerous to the species, not only to individuals, because we are losing our edge as a species. We can no longer get our act together.

Those were profound words, Sam. With this thought, I want to thank you so much.

Thank you.

I was so honest, your thoughts, everything was a breath of fresh air. I look forward to talking to you again on some other multiple pastelic disorder. I look forward to your new books and I hope you come to Cambridge soon. I look forward to having a lecture in Cambridge with you, with my friends and big thanks.

It was a real pleasure talking to you.

Thank you and please thank Hayam for his help.

Yes, he's next to me. I'll share the podcast with you pretty soon.

I will not release the video until you had released the podcast.

Do you want me to release the video?

I can release the video today, as you wish.

It's your call, my friend.

He's a Muslim and he's fasting.

Thank you very much.

He will do it, but once he opens his fast and everything, so I can't push him on that.

No, I'm not pushing anyone. I'm just asking, do you want me to release the video before the podcast?

We can agree on a time because what happens is even if I do upload it tomorrow, it takes about a day to get approved.

So once you share the video with me, I'll take the audio from it and let's give ourselves 24 hours and we can upload it probably simultaneously.

So let me understand.

I will release the video, then I'll provide you with a link or I'll provide you with a file, then you will extract the audio and you will use it for the podcast.

He was saying share it with him first, he'll get the audio, then we'll release it together.

I'll raise it together.

Okay. Then I will upload the file and let you know.

Yeah, you can upload it on Google and share me the.

No, I'll send you with transfer.

I hope you're happy one day because you look like a really nice guy.

I'm not a narcissist at all.

I am a nice guy. I'm a nice narcissist. I'm the only nice narcissist.

I think you're a good guy.

I get good vibes.

Still, you're honestly everything is so nice.

I enjoyed the conversation sitting next to you.

I'm not going to feel sad because I think you're a good guy.

Well, okay. If you repeat it often enough, you may yet convince me.

Anyway, take care.

See you.

See you in Cambridge for sure.

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