Narcissist’s Extrinsic Values How You Adopt The Fantasy Ratchet

Uploaded 1/30/2024, approx. 26 minute read

In the most incisive novel ever written about Gnosticism, Oscar Wilde says, "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." This is a quote from the picture of Dorian Gray.

And if you haven't read this book, rush, rush, purchase it and devour it.

It's an amazing mystery combined with psychological analysis of the Gnosticism's refusal to grow up and grow old.

Price of everything, value of nothing.

Do Gnosticism have values?

The surprising answer is they do, but of the wrong kind.

My name is Sam Vaknin.

I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of CEOPS, Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge United Kingdom, Toronto, Canada and Lagos, Nigeria.

What is a value?

We keep banding about the word values.

You don't have values.

Your values are wrong.

You should have some values.

I have the right values.

But what is a value?

A value is a confluence, a meeting place, an intersection between two psychological processes.

How I would like to see myself and how I would like the world to be known also as ego ideal.

How I imagine myself, the best version of myself in my own mind.

And how I would like the world to function.

A utopian view of the world, of course, totally catering to my needs and in accordance with my preferences, predilections, proclivities, biases, prejudices and so on and so forth.

That's the first psychological process.

Imagining oneself within a world that is accepting and causing a world one can belong to.

The second psychological process is how the world should be, ought to be.

How should I be?

How should I behave? How do I ought to conduct myself and comport myself in a variety of environments? So the first psychological process is about fantasy. Imagining myself in a world that is perfectly suited to me. And that's a kind of fantasy. And the second process is a moralistic, super ego kind of process somehow connected to conscience and a harsh inner

critic. How should I be? How should the world be? How we ought to behave, etc. etc.

So moral codes, laws, regulations, they have to do with this.

Whenever there's a match between fantasy and moral edicts and tenants, whenever there's a match between reality and one's conscience, whenever there's a match between the ego ideal and how one kind of subsists in the world, accomplishments, one's biography, whenever there's a match between these two processes, we get a value.

So to define value, value is the meeting point between how we view ourselves and the world we live in, ideally, and how we think the world should conduct its affairs and how we should fit into the world.

Whenever there's a match between these things, we have a value.

A value, therefore, is a principle, a moral, social or aesthetic principle accepted by an individual or by society as a guide to what is good, desirable or important.

Of course, values impute worthfulness, worthiness, usefulness, importance.

When we ask ourselves, is this worthwhile?

Is this desirable?

Is this important?

What we do, we employ values as a kind of filtering mechanism, as a kind of arbiter.

So our values dictate to us how we view other people, how we view possessions and objects, how we view the world at large, and above all, how we see ourselves inside all these frameworks, within these environments, subjects to all these circumstances, and interacting with other people.

Values, therefore, have a massive regulatory impact and function.

They're very important when one is valueless, one is valueless, not worthwhile.

The bad object inside the narcissist, for example, keep broadcasting to the narcissist. You have no value.

Not only do you have no values, but you have no value. You're worthless.


This involves value judgment, an assessment of individuals, objects, or events in terms of the values held by the observer, rather than in terms of intrinsic characteristics, objectively considered.

In some areas, for example, aesthetics or morality, there's no objective right and objective wrong.

So in these areas, the only guide and compass are values, and value judgments are very common.

But in hard sciences, like physics, for example, value judgments are considered actually not desirable, undesirable because they distort our utterly objective fact-based, evidence-driven thinking.

So values are not good in every environment.

Because one could say that values are good when we judge beauty and symmetry, or when we judge what's right and what's wrong, all our values are organized in a value system.

The moral, social, aesthetic, economic, and religious concepts accepted either explicitly or implicitly by an individual or a particular society, and very often by an individual in a particular society.

Okay, let's general introduction to values.

In view of all this, do you think narcissists possess values?

The surprising answer is they do.

We divide values to clusters, and there are intrinsic clusters and extrinsic clusters, intrinsic values and extrinsic values.

Intrinsic values involve empathy, intimacy, self-acceptance.

This openness to challenge and to change, this interest in the rights of others, inequality, the perspective of other people, and the living world.

So there's what we call in the five-factor model of personality, there is enhanced or increased openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

These are people with intrinsic values.

People with extrinsic values are very different.

They judge everything differently.

They are attracted to prestige, status, power, image, fame, wealth, money.

This is not necessarily greed, for example.

It's not about hoarding money.

It's about the power that money affords, the visibility that money affords.

People with extrinsic values are strongly motivated by the potential or the prospect of individual reward, praise, attention.

They're more likely to objectify people, to exploit other people, to behave rudely, aggressively, contemptuously, to dismiss social impacts or mores and environmental impacts.

These kind of people have little interest in cooperation or in community.

On the very contrary, they regard community, society, government as intrusive, as enslaving, as something to be resisted.

People with a strong set of extrinsic values are more likely to suffer from frustration, dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, anger and compulsions, including repetition compulsions.

They're very likely to be aggressive, externalized aggression.

So as you see, intrinsic values versus extrinsic values, and all of you have already reached a conclusion and quite convinced that the narcissist is possessed of extrinsic values.

He has extrinsic values, but no intrinsic values.

Are we born with these values?

No, we are not.

Values are shaped by cues and responses and stimuli that we receive from other people by prevailing worries and conventions and scripts in society.

In other words, values are inculcated in us via the twin processes of socialization and acculturation and through the good services of social change or socialization agents, especially parents, role models, influential peers and so on.

So values are molded by all aspects of society, including politics, by the way.

So if people live in an environment that is essentially cruel, disempathic, grasping, avaricious, they are likely to normalize these aspects of society.

They are likely to internalize these aspects and to absorb the dominant claims of the hegemony, dominant claims of the elites in this kind of society.

And translate them, these claims into values that these values are perceived as internal.

These values are perceived as chosen by the individual, selected.

These values are perceived as something that comes from the inside.

But the reality is they are adopted from the outside.

And never mind how anti-elitist, anti-intellectual, freedom fighting, resistant person you are, your values are always social.

And in the overwhelming vast majority of cases, they reflect the elites point of view, elite claims, the elites manipulate you into adopting values and then deceiving yourself into believing that these values are actually yours.

And so values feed on each other. They create feedback loops.

If you believe in a value, and again, usually you mistake values to believe that they are your own values, but if you believe in a value, it's likely to affect your behavior.

And the more you behave in a certain way, the more it upholds and buttresses and enhances your value.

This is a kind of confirmation bias. You don't want your values to be challenged.

So you act in a way that supports your values, externalizes your values and protects them.

Something called reaction formation is involved in this. It's a form of defense mechanism.

And I've dealt with it, dealt with it in other videos.

So if one lives in this kind of environment, which is, you know, capitalism, capitalism, for example, is such an environment, then one is likely to develop extrinsic values.

But if you live in an environment where, you know, there is solidarity, there is empathy, social norms involve avoidance of poverty and destitution, kindness, sharing, empathy, community, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

These values, these kind of characteristics of society are likely to be internalized as intrinsic values.

All this process is known as values ratchet. It's a kind of policy feedback.

The values ratchet operates at the societal level, but also at the individual level.

A strong set of extrinsic values develops as a result of an environment which is insecure and does not fulfill your needs, where you feel unsafe and you catastrophize and you constantly anxious, you're likely to develop extrinsic values because they are protective.

If you're famous, if you're rich, if you're powerful, you need not to be anxious.

The kind of defense mechanism, it's compensatory.

Extrinsic values, ironically, are supposed to allay and ameliorate and mitigate your anxiety and insecurity.

But what they do is they generate further insecurity and render your needs even more unfulfilled.

This has to do with the fact that society is perceived by people with extrinsic values as zero sum.

If someone gets rich, it means you cannot get rich.

If some men sleep with most, if women sleep mostly with some men, then you're not likely to have sex, etc.

Everything is perceived as zero sum, win-lose situation.

When you have extrinsic values, if you don't prevail, if you don't accomplish, if you don't attain, if you don't obtain, if you're not grasping, if you're not successful, then you're a loser, failure, and your insecurity increases and your needs are left unmet.

Extrinsic values, exactly like intrinsic values, are self-enhancing, self-enhancing feedback loop.

There are issues with values which are very important to understand when we discuss pathological narcissism on the individual level and on the social level.

Take for example the shifting baseline syndrome.

It was first described by biologist Daniel Pauly.

It was at a time when he wrote the article which described the shifting baseline syndrome, he was referring to our relationship to ecosystems, a relationship with a planet.

But it's just as relevant in any type of niche or ecosystem, in politics, in academia, in dating.

It's generally applicable.

We perceive the circumstances of our existence as normal and unexceptional regardless of how cruel, sparse, and unusual they are.

In short, we tend to normalize. We tend to normalize things. The baseline keeps shifting.

So over the generations, we adjust to almost any degree of deprivation, oppression, destitution. We imagine it to be natural, immutable, the way it should be and the way it has always been. We get accommodated, things get normalized, we get used and habituated, and we react accordingly.

Another thing to realize about the values ratchet or the policy feedback thing, if for example you live in an environment where everyone has their needs more or less met and they have their needs met without payment.

Let's take an extreme example where for example healthcare and education and so on are meted out or given or doled out without payment.

Similarly, on the individual level, dating is smooth, there are no disruptions and so on and so forth.

So everyone gets their needs met.

If you live in such an environment, you will develop the belief that it is normal to care for strangers and it is abnormal and wrong to neglect people and abandon them.

You would develop the value system within which meeting other people's minimum needs is the main value, the dominant value that dictates all others and not meeting people's needs, abandoning and neglecting them, allowing them to wither and die, this is evil.

So intrinsic values are reflective of policies in society.

If you live in a country where people are left to die, this embeds in you the idea that you have no responsibility towards the poor or the weak.

Again, we are not born with any values whatsoever, not a single one.

There's no such thing as a core value or core values.

Our values are shaped by our interactions with other people.

They are relational.

They are the outcome of the social environment and they are always on the spectrum between extremely intrinsic and radically extrinsic, somewhere in the middle.

People who are more into or closer to the intrinsic pole, as I said, there are high levels of self-acceptance, strong bonds of intimacy, powerful desire to help other people, empathy, nice, the nice, the kind, the generous.

People who are more attuned to external signifiers, such as fame, financial success, image, attractiveness are going to be very self-centered.

They seek praise and reward from others, attention, narcissistic supply, they're in short narcissistic.

There's been research across 70 countries, seven zero, and it suggested that intrinsic values are strongly associated with an understanding of others, tolerance, appreciation, cooperation and empathy.

Narcissists, therefore, have no intrinsic values whatsoever.

People with strong extrinsic values, according to this study and others, tend to have lower empathy, stronger attraction towards power, hierarchy and inequality, greater prejudice towards outsiders in the weak, less concern for justice and even the natural world.

And these clusters exist in opposition to each other.

As one set of values strengthens, the other weakens.

Can you transition from intrinsic to extrinsic values?

Of course you can.

If you've been traumatized, if you've been abused, you're likely to develop extrinsic values to compensate for your intrinsic values that have led you to being abused and traumatized.

You reject your intrinsic values because you begin to perceive them as a form of weakness.

You develop the belief that you have misjudged the world.

The world is hostile, the world is cruel, the world is evil and bad and you are better off, much better off, with extrinsic values rather than intrinsic one.

People therefore, in the throes of trauma, complex trauma, CPTSD for example, they're likely to switch from intrinsic values to extrinsic values.

Narcissists are exposed to a very harsh environment in early childhood.

So they're used to, they're exposed to, they're habituated with extrinsic values.

They've never had and never will have intrinsic value.

They don't need to switch, they don't need to transform.

They're already fully equipped to deal with a world which is perceived as frustrating, aggressive, wrongly constructed, not as it should and ought to be.

People at the extrinsic end, however, are much less happy.

Even if they're rich, even if they're famous, even if they're strong, even if they're well connected, even if they're super accomplished, you know, everything you envy.

These people with extrinsic values tend to report much higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, envy, dissatisfaction.

People with intrinsic values are much happier.

That's a fact.

Societies in which extrinsic goals are adopted as the prevailing social order.

These societies are usually unequal, uncooperative, lacking in solidarity and communal values and structures.

Societies with deep intrinsic values are exactly the opposite.

There's been an experiment.

People with strong extrinsic values who were given a resource to share, rather than share the resources, they exhausted it.

They just used it up.

They refused to share it with anyone.

People with intrinsic value who were given the same resources started by sharing it.

The people with extrinsic value, when they were asked why, why didn't you share the resources?

Those are not for everyone.

They said that they wanted to take more than was their due.

They wanted more than their fair share.

So extrinsic values also involve a kind of dishonesty, unfairness, a willingness to gain the world, a willingness to con and to deceive, in effect.

Extrinsic values are strongly associated with specific types of policies and consequently some variants of politics, interests oriented politics, individual interests oriented, selfish, egotistical policies.

And usually within societies that emphasize extrinsic values, the elites use three forms of mass manipulation.

The first is they generate a sense of threat and fear.

There were experiments done and in these experiments, I refer you to studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.

So in these experiments, we found out that people feel threatened or insecure as they gravitate towards extrinsic goals.

If people are pushed to be ambitious, competitive, ruthless, callous, geared toward external accomplishments, status symbols, fame, richness, money, trophy spouses and so forth.

When they are pushed to behave this way, they comply because people always comply with societal edicts and directions, especially handed down from the elites, but they feel bad.

They feel threatened.

They feel insecure.

And they are perceived dangerous in this cause, in an extrinsic course of action.

For example, will I be breaking the law, the issue of criminality?

Am I actually acting as some kind of terrorist, even on an individual level?

There are all kinds of deficits and deficiencies, especially emotional ones.

This with the other, the other is an engine of negative identity formation.

I'm not me, but I am not you.

My identity is not you.

That's my identity.

That's called negative identity formation.

So I'm not white by virtue of being white, but I'm white by virtue of not being black.

So there's a lot of antagonism, which is a strong element in personality disorders.

For example, narcissistic personality disorder.

So a lot of antagonism.

Antagonism involves aggression.

Aggression involves apprehension regarding retaliation and retribution.

It's very conflictive.

People who are conflict averse feel very insecure and unsafe.

This triggers short term survival responses, which are very similar to responses to trauma and the protection of one's interests and denying other people's needs and rights.

This is a price.

This carries a price tag.

People are aware of this and this makes them fearful, terrifies them.

Now, the second method that elites use in extrinsic societies, societies which are essentially narcissistic, narcissistic civilization.

So the first method is to intimidate and scare and sow fear among the population.

The second method is to create new frames, new structures of thought through which we perceive the world.

For example, you could conceive of taxation as a burden or you can conceive of taxation as a form of redistribution, form of justice.

So less tax in the first case would be a relief.

Less tax in the second case would be a lack of empathy.

So you can see taxation as a bad thing, which should be remedied or as a very good thing, which should be actually increased and enhanced.

It all depends on the elites, how they define things for you, the frameworks of thinking and relating that they provide.

And in societies with extrinsic values, the elites are very narcissistic.

So they would construct ways of thinking, forms of cognition, which would force you to gravitate to some kinds of behaviors which would benefit the elites, for example, to consume or to be on social media.

The third method is to invoke the values ratchet.

When you change the way society works, values shift in response.

So the elites engineer all kinds of social upheavals, privatization, free markets, austerity, especially for the poor, inequality, even reactions to pandemics.

These situations shift baselines, normalize what used to be abnormal.

All the time there's new normal.

It's as if the ground is constantly quaking and shifting.

The social cues we receive generate insecurity and a sense of threat.

And then we tend to follow the elite like a herd would follow the shepherd.

We become sheeple.

Even those who rebel against the elites, even those who resist the elites do so using instruments provided by the elites, channels constructed by the elites.

They use language invented by the elites.

There's no way to avoid the elites.


And so it's an illusion.

The elites foster an illusion of freedom.

Democracy is a great example.

Voting, not democracy, voting is a great example of such a delusion.

These instruments are used by narcissists in individual situations as well.

Narcissists induce fear, insecurity, a sense of unsafety and instability.

Narcissists all the time shift the goalposts, redefine things, create new frameworks of reference, new structures of thinking, the way we perceive the world and so on and so forth.

So unlike psychopaths, they do so unintentionally because that's the way they are.

Psychopaths do it intentionally and this is known as gaslighting.

And finally, narcissists constantly normalize the abnormal.

They tell you this is the new normal.

If you want to live with me, if you, you know, this, this what used to be crazy is now normal.

Analyze it, accept it and act accordingly.

Values in the hands of narcissists are very powerful instruments.

It's not that they don't, narcissists don't have values.

They have values.

They have extrinsic values, but they're trying to convince you that their extrinsic values should be your intrinsic values, trying to force you to internalize these values as your own.

And this is a core feature of the shared fantasy because in a fan, the fantasy is divorced from reality.

As it is divorced from reality, any set of values can fit.

Values that are non-responsive to reality are very dangerous because they perpetuate fantasy as a substitute for reality.

They don't give you any guidance.

They're not a real compass.

You can't trust such values to tell you what's right and what's wrong about yourself and about the world around you.

And they, this kind of fantasies, which are value-based fantasies, they reshape you.

They reshape you to become not yourself, to deny yourself in effect.

How I would like myself to be, the narcissist tells you, you would like to be my perfect match in a shared fantasy.

How would I like the world to be?

The narcissist tells you, you would like the world to be my fantasy.

How should the world be?

The narcissist tells you the world should accord with my fantasy, should conform with my fantasy, should comply with my fantasy.

And how do I have to be?

How should I be?

How do I ought to be?

The narcissist answers, you ought to be what I tell you to be and you should be a figment within my fantasy.

And then the organizing principle of fantasy reconciles all these answers artificially and you feel that a value has emerged.

Your values emerge from the erroneous and fictitious answers and wrong answers that the narcissist provides you with.

You allow the narcissist to replace your own judgment with his.

And then he creates a hermetic internally consistent universe.

And within this internally consistent universe, you are the way you should be and ought to be.

The world is the way it should be and ought to be.

You're in the way you are, you like because of the rewards provided by the narcissist, the way the world is, is the only way to obtain these rewards.

So you like it as well.

And you believe that you have found your resting place, the ultimate value system.

What you don't realize is this is not only a closed universe, but a totally unrealistic one.

It's a dreamscape which soon turns into a nightmare.

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