Narcissistic Abuse? Do/Don't Do! (Convo with Dr. Hema Bajaj)

Uploaded 11/1/2020, approx. 43 minute read

A very warm welcome to all my audiences and to our special speaker today.

So today is a very important topic personally for me as well. And especially because in India, this topic is not really talked about very often. So we have with us a known personality. A lot of you may know him, a lot of you may not know him, but I'm sure after the talk, you may want to go up and look up his body of work on this particular subject that we're going to be talking about.

The title of the talk today is toxic relationships. We talk about what exactly are toxic relationships? What is emotional abuse? What are the coping mechanisms and how can you recognize a narcissist abuse really? And what does it basically?

So let me welcome Sam Vaknin. He's an Israeli writer. He is the author of Melancholy self-love: Narcissism, the pioneering work about narcissistic abuse. His work is quoted well over 1000 scholarly publications in over 3000 books. He has a wide social media presence on topics not limited to narcissists, psychopaths and abuse with more than 32.1 million viewers and 145,000 subscribers. That's huge. He is a certified psychological counseling by the techniques that he is certified into is by brain bench. He has served as an editor of mental health disorders categories in the open directory, pro-narcissist about relationships with abusive narcissists. He has work published on many other websites, mental health matters, mental health, sanctuary, mental health today, Karthi's mental health review and others. He writes a column for Bella online on narcissism and abusive relationships and is frequent contributor on a lot of websites. He served as an author of the personality disorders topic, narcissist personality disorder topic, the verbal and emotional abuse topic and spousal abuse and domestic violence. All four on suit one zero one. He has made flim appearances and has been a speaker in a lot of conferences. So welcome, Sam. I'm very happy to have you here and to tell you frankly, it was super difficult for me to concise your profile into one page profile. There's so much and you still manage to miss the most important thing.

I'm a professor of psychology in the Southern federal university. I'm also obliged by my contract to mention that I'm a professor of finance and a professor of psychology in the global outreach program of SIAS-CIAPS known as the center for international advanced and professional studies. I apologize that I have to mention it by my contact. Thank you for adding that time to any public appearance. I'm compelled to it.

When I started my work in 1995, there was definitely no public awareness of narcissism. The last major studies of narcissism were in 1974 by the likes of Franz Kogut and Otto Kanberg and others. And before that, there were studies of narcissism.

The beginning of the century, there was absolutely no interest in narcissism. Definitely you couldn't find anything online. So I put up the first website on narcissism and for nine years, the only website on narcissism. I also established six support groups for victims of narcissistic abuse and they were the only support groups again for nine years.

And I suggested at the time to make a distinction between toxic relationships, emotional abuse, narcissistic abuse. I've been asked many, many times, why did we need yet another label? It was enough to say abuse. Why we needed to come up with a subspecies or subtype of abuse called narcissistic abuse.

Well, the reason is that narcissistic abuse is very much unlike, not like classical abuse in relationships. And toxic relationships is yet another matter.

So let's try very briefly to delineate the differences between the three.

Yeah. A toxic relationship is any relationship, whether it involves abuse or not, any relationship within which you cannot set boundaries and within which you cannot evolve, grow and develop personally to self actualize your potential, to borrow a phrase from Maslow, Edward Maslow.

Any relationship like this, even if your partner is the best, most loving, most caring, most doting, most pampering, most spoiling, most accepting, most warm partner, if he does not allow you to set boundaries, have a private sphere to pursue your interests, to develop, to evolve, to grow, to have a separate life, then it's a toxic environment.

Now we have such relationships, for instance, when one of the partners is co-dependent or one of the partners is a borderline, a person with borderline personality disorder.

In many of these relationships, there's actually no abuse whatsoever. But they stunt, they stultify, they suffocate and they stagnate the members of the diet, the members of the couple.

And so they're toxic.

Then we come to abuse. Abuse is many forms, of course. They are the classical forms of abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse. They are less classical forms, financial abuse, legal abuse.

And then there's a whole class of abuse which has to do with exactly the opposite, pampering, doting, spoiling, isolating you from reality, from the friction with reality, which enhances learning and growth and personal development, putting you on a pedestal, telling you that you can do no wrong.

But over being overprotective, this is also a form of abuse because it doesn't allow you to develop boundaries. Anything that doesn't allow you to develop boundaries, anything that doesn't let you fend off for yourself, anything that doesn't permit inner processes, inner dynamics to develop, anything that cotton balls you, that mummifies you, renders you a mummy, anything of that nature is abused as well.

So this is classical abuse, narcissistic abuse, which is a phrase that I coined. I coined this phrase for good professional reason. It's totally different to the first types. It's not a toxic relationship and not abused in any form.

Narcissistic abuse is when your partner negates, vitiates, viciously attacks on multiple vectors, your existence as a separate entity, uses aggression and transformations of aggression to eliminate you, to make you vanish, to disappear you. It is an existential type of abuse.

Other types of abuse target some dimension. If your partner mocks you, he targets your intellectual own inferiority. If your partner steals your money, that's financial abuse. All other types of abuse usually target one or two dimensions.

Narcissistic abuse targets you as an entity, as a separate individual and tries to eliminate you.


Because the narcissist is not interacting with you. Narcissism, pathological narcissism, is the inability to distinguish external objects from internal objects. The narcissist internalizes external objects. He takes a snapshot of you. He interiorizes this snapshot and he continues to interact with that idealized snapshot, not with you.

Gradually you diverge from the snapshot. The snapshot is static. Snapshot is perfect. Snapshot is idealized and you diverge from it. You become different. You learn new things. You develop new skills. You have new friendships. You go on trips. You begin to diverge from the snapshot.

The narcissist resents this because it threatens his sense of safety and security that he will not be abandoned. So it threatens what we call object constancy, object permanence.

Narcissist needs to believe that he is 100% in control of you, that you will never abandon him, never leave him. He will never lose you. The only way to do this is to kill you. It's the only way.

As you diverge from the snapshot, the narcissist resents you for not remaining faithful to the original snapshot.

So he begins to punish you. And gradually he wants you gone. He wants you to disappear because you keep challenging the snapshot. You keep rendering the narcissist insecure, unsafe, frightened and anxious. You become a source of frustration and a provoker of aggression.

And he wants you gone. He wants you gone and he wants you to stay.

And this is of course what we call in psychology ambivalence. He has ambivalent feelings about you. He loves you. He hates you. He wants you there. He wants you gone. He wants you to conform to the snapshot. If you conform too much to the snapshot, you're dead. You're dysfunctional.

So it's a no-win situation.

And this is the core of narcissistic abuse, the attempt to eliminate the frustrating object, you.

Can you please give examples on how can a person recognize that, okay, you know, now this is an abuse. It's not a healthy criticism and it's bordering to an abuse.

And I am in a relationship with a narcissistic disorder person. How can we find that out?

It's a very good question because it's really difficult to tell, but I will give you one principle. We'll try to keep this event to the simplest possible, you know, rules of thumb so that it's practical for people.

Yes. I'll give you one single test. If he is constantly unhappy with who you are, constantly is trying to change you, modify you, influence you, affect you, direct you, misdirect you, prevent you. And if he constantly interferes in your life and micromanages it, but based on discontent with who you are, some people are control freaks and they want to micromanage your life, but they want to micromanage your life and they are happy with who you are. They accept who you are.

The narcissist wants to micromanage your life to control you and to modify you because he is profoundly unhappy with any change in you, any glimmer of growth, any hint of personal autonomy, any sign of independence. He wants to put you down. He wants to suppress you. He wants the spark in you, gone. He wants you to become zombified and non-responsive, non-objecting, non-challenging, non-contesting, fully obedient, fully compliant, fully submissive, utterly malleable piece of clay that he can sculpt into what he wants at any given moment according to his perceived needs.

So the way you are is a challenge. It's an insult. It's an injury. It's bad. He wants it gone. He does not want you to have anything outside the remit of the relationship as he and only he defines it.

If he is constantly unhappy with you, constantly critical, constantly mocking or deriding or decrying or chastising or hectoring or preaching or analyzing, or if it's a constant background activity, it's narcissistic abuse.

It also sounds very intense. It gives me a thought, you know, why would someone want to be with a person like that?

But in spite of saying that, I know a lot of people who are into relationships like this, what takes the becoming of a narcissist?

First of all, it's very important to understand that narcissism is not merely a mental disorder. It's what we call a culture-bound syndrome.

In other words, it's heavily influenced by cultural and societal context. In some cultures and societies, narcissism emerges naturally out of the ethos, the values, the belief system that permeate and pervade that nation, that culture, that society, that period even, period in history.

So narcissism goes up and down. It's not merely a clinical entity. It's not maybe like tuberculosis. It's something that is heavily influenced.

In some cultures, for example, where men are considered superior, as a chauvinistic, patriarchal, anti-female, fear of female sexuality and female autonomy and female independence and so on, relationships will tend to gravitate to narcissistic abuse without necessarily the presence of the clinical entity of narcissism.

But there will be narcissistic behaviors and traits which conform to societal values and mores. In some periods in history, psychopathy and narcissism are the bone tone, for example, Nazi Germany and perhaps today's United States, when narcissism and psychopathy are the way to go.

In July 2016, new scientists came up with a cover story. New Scientist is a very prestigious academic magazine and came up with a cover story.

Parents teach your children to be narcissists. They are academics and scholars who claim that narcissism and psychopathy are positive evolutionary adaptations and they use phrases like high functioning narcissists, productive narcissists.

Many, like Dutton and other, Maccoby, they claim that we should put psychopaths in charge of corporate affairs, business, politics, some branches of medicine like surgery.

So you see, you can't divorce narcissism from other social memes and social trends and social beliefs and so on.

So in some societies, naturally, the natural mode of relationship would be narcissistic abuse. It would be the common, the common mode where the man has a right to mold, to mold his wife, to shape her, to sculpt her. He has a right, an inbred cultural societal right to control her and micromanage her life and to deny her autonomy and independence and growth and development and education and access and power.

I can mention societies which are not necessarily backward societies. For example, Russia. In Russia, this is where I teach. This is definitely the evidence.

The men has all the rights, possibly because there are much, the number of women is much higher than the number of men. There's a deficiency of men.

So men can dictate the conditions and terms.

In other societies, narcissistic abuse is meted out by women, not by men in some societies. For example, I think that in Western societies like Canada, United States, Israel, women are beginning to be much more narcissistic and by consequence, much more abusive than men.

I was coming to that question, whether it is gender specific? No, it's not gender specific.

For example, in the 1980s when narcissistic personality disorder was first entered the Bible of the profession, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in North America at least, the number of men, the number of people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, the number of men diagnosed was about 76%. Something like four-fifths of all people diagnosed with NPD were men. Today, it's 50-50.

It seems that narcissism is closely correlated to gender roles, closely correlated to the masculine gender role. Playing the men, acting as a man, implies heightened level of narcissism.

And so when women begin to act as men, and more specifically as psychopathic men or narcissistic men, when actually we have reached a situation in the West that we have uni-gender, we have this one gender with two types of genitalia.

As far as gender role, there is no distinction anymore between men and women in the West. So

there, you see the incidence and prevalence of narcissism explode among women to the point that they're equal to men.

And my belief is that in a few years, there will be more women narcissists than men because they are still very excited by being able to be men. Men-woman is not biology. Biology is male-female. Biology is genitalia. Biology is hormones. Male and female is biology. Men-woman is land, is acquired, is socialized, and is not dependent on genitalia.

We have in North Albania, we have situations where women assume the role of men, and they have the right to sit in coffee houses and smoke in public, which is inconceivable for an Albanian woman. But she decides no longer to be a woman. She decides to be a man. She dresses up as a man. She flattens her breasts with a special device, and she sits in coffee houses and smokes in public. And it's okay. She's treated as a man, as far as property rights and everything under the canoe.

So being a man is a decision. And it seems intimately connected with heightened narcissism and some antisocial behaviors, such as defiance, reactance, lack of impulse control, goal orientation, and so on.

So coming back to your question, in patriarchal, more conservative, more traditional societies, the preferred relationship model would be narcissistic abuse. That would be the prevalent preferred relationship model.

And in some societies, aggression, including physical aggression, like battering and domestic violence would be a mode of communicating love and affection.

I have heard with my own ears, women say, he stopped beating me up. He doesn't love me anymore. Or he's so jealous of me. Every time I look at a man, I know when I come back home, he's going to beat the hell out of me. But that's because he loves me.

They identify aggression, physical aggression, beating me with love. There's no universal rule in psychology. Psychology is about the human mind. The human mind is not the same in India, in Indonesia, in Nigeria and in Russia and in Israel and in the United States. It's not the same. It's influenced by so many factors and determinants that we can't generalize and we should not generalize.

Yeah, very well said. It's very individualistic to every person and plus every country as well based on their culture. That's why I don't believe psychology can ever be a science.

I think it's absolutely out of the question.

Yeah, well said.

Sam, I want to bring a little focus on the fact that you mentioned that putting a person on a pedestal can also lead to actually making the person inclined towards narcissistic behaviors. Can you elaborate a little more on that?

Because it's not very uncommon, especially in our country for people to be very doting and supportive of children even after 18 years old. So we all live with our parents until for long years. We are still dependent on them for a lot of things.

So I want you to talk a little more about that.

First of all, in adults, there is the equivalent of late onset narcissism, adult narcissism. And I mean, this is called acquired situational narcissism.

There has been a series of studies by a professor called Millman in Harvard University and he studied rock stars. And he discovered that rock stars were not narcissists before they became rock stars. But the exigencies and the pressures and the inducements and the exposure, the incentives and the pressure from fans caused them to become narcissists.

And they were, after they had become rock stars, they had been diagnosable as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

So yes, life circumstances can induce narcissism.

Actually we are discovering that victims of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is very common in relationships with narcissists, victims of CPTSD are indistinguishable from borderline personality disorder. So CPTSD and today there are major scholars who are trying to re-conceptualize borderline personality disorder as a form of complex trauma. And I am trying to re-conceptualize narcissistic personality disorder as a post-traumatic condition.

So we see that many situations in life becoming a celebrity, being traumatized, induce personality disorders of varying types. And so personality disorders can definitely be reactive and be in a way acquired.

Now, putting someone on a pedestal is not elevating that person. It's imprisoning that person. It's placing this person in a golden cage of expectations.

Bob Dylan learned it the hard way. When he had one style of music and then he wanted to experiment, his fans turned viciously against him, attacked him rapidly, started to hate him. He was penalized and punished horribly for daring to experiment with his music, to try to grow, to develop, to express himself. He was not allowed to.

When we put someone on a pedestal, we put a child on a pedestal, it's even worse. I'll come to it in a minute.

But even when we put an adult on a pedestal, this is incarceration. There is a public eye, no privacy. There are expectations that even when violated, the person is penalized harshly. There is replacement of one's true self with a false self imposed by the public. The public could be two people, mother and father. The public could be one person, an admiring sibling. Doesn't matter. Public doesn't have to be 20 million people.

When you are put on a pedestal, even by an admiring sister, it's a problem. You can't be yourself anymore. You're beginning to act. You're beginning to fake. You're beginning to divorce yourself gradually.

What did we say about narcissistic abuse?

It's when you are not accepted as you are. The narcissist doesn't want you as you are. He wants you as an idealized person, as he wants you, not as you are.

If someone admires you, he doesn't want you to be as you are. He has idealized you.

Idealization, idealizing someone, is objectifying someone. When you idealize someone, you render her an object.

How can you change someone, only if she's an object? An inert, unmoving, malleable, available object, which you can then sculpt like Michelangelo, you know? Sculpt it in a way that corresponds to your values, beliefs, ideals, prejudices, biases, so on.

When this is done to a child, it's soul destroying. It induces lifelong pathology.


The most important role of a parent is to push away the child, most important, not to love. Not to love. Love is number two. A good enough parent, the main contribution to a child's life, is pushing the child away.

The child needs to separate from the parent in order to become an individual. Separating from the parent is a very traumatic and frightening process. The parent needs to serve as what we call a safe base.

The child needs to know that he will not be punished if he separates from the parent, if he goes away, if he explores the world, if he ventures out, if he's curious, if he individuates, if he becomes an individual, he will not be punished.

Now, many parents are selfish, immature, narcissistic, depressive, exploitative, objectifying, instrumentalizing the child. They use the child to gratify their own wishes and dreams. These are bad parents.

Andrey Green called this kind of mother in 1981, dead mother. These are dead parents, are bad parents, because they broadcast to the child the message. I'm going to love you. I'm going to admire you. I'm going to worship you. I'm going to protect you from reality. I'm going to defend you from the consequences of your actions. You will never pay for your misconduct and misbehavior as long as I'm alive.

But here's the price. You will never leave me. You will never leave me. You will never become your own person. And you will serve me for the rest of my life.

Here's the deal. I love you conditionally. My love is conditioned on your performance. And your performance is conditioned on my wishes, on my needs, on my dreams.

You're not going to live your life. You're going to continue to live my life. You are going to die. I wanted to be an actress. You're going to be an actor. I wanted to be a medical doctor. You're going to be a medical doctor. I wanted to be a pianist. You will be a pianist. For me.

For me. You will be the reification of my unfulfilled dreams and wishes and hopes. And you will never leave me. Never.

Because if you leave me, you're a bad child. You're a worthy child and I will not love you anymore. And while you're with me, you will serve me in a variety of ways. Maybe physically. Maybe emotionally. There's a lot of emotional incest. A lot of emotional incest. Very, very unhealthy dynamics.

And the child cannot grow. Cannot separate. Cannot individuate. And remains a child for the rest of his life. This is called the Peter Pan syndrome. Or Puerh Aeternus in psychoanalytic literature.

A lot of times you are stuck with a parent or a relationship which you cannot leave and get out of.

So what is your suggestion for people who are currently in a relationship with a narcissist? Could be an intimate partner. Could be a parent. Could be a close friend who they're living with or a husband or a wife.

What's your recommendation for them? How? What is the strategy to cope with a person like this? There's no such thing.

You cannot leave the relationship. End of story. Unless you're amputated, amputated and quadruplegically, you can leave the relationship. And even then you can leave the relationship.

There is no such thing. All these excuses is because you do not want to leave the relationship. You don't want to leave the relationship because there are financial benefits to staying in the relationship. Or because you like to own property. Your own. Because it will create chaos and mayhem in your life. And you're not willing to cope with them. Or because you had told yourself that special people have privileged status in your life.

For example, I do not buy any, I've never in 26 years since I invented the phrase narcissistic abuse. I have yet to come across a true and good reason to not leave a relationship with a narcissist. I have yet to hear such a reason.

You should treat everyone who is a narcissistic abuser in your life the same way. Your mother, father, your own children, your husband, your boss. If you leave your job, there may be a tremendous drop in your income and you will be forced to eat bread for a while. No big deal. If you leave your husband, you will not be living in the sumptuous palace that he had built for both of you. No big deal. If you never see your son again, it's going to break your heart. No big deal.

You need to walk away and there is no excuse not to walk away. If you're not walking away, it's because you don't want to walk away. Ask yourself why. Ask yourself what is more important to you than your peace of mind, than your mental health, than your longevity. What's more important to you than these things.

Are you into a narrative, a piece of fiction, a movie, a story that you had created in your head? Are you so adverse to pain? Are you so fragile and vulnerable? What are you made of candy or sugar? Rain will melt you. What is it about you? Why do you reject life?

Because life is pain. Growth is pain. Change is pain.

Why do you reject life? To stay with a narcissist, to remain in a relationship with an abuser, by the way, not only narcissist, any abuser, is to choose death, to reject life, to renounce what life has to offer and the price and the cost of these offerings.

But we live in an age, we live in a period of history where we refuse absolutely to assume any risk and we avoid pain and hurt. If anything is risky, it's bad. If anything is painful, it's bad. If anything hurts you, you should avoid it. All three are wrong. Risk, pain, hurt, a good, almost exclusive engines of growth, development, and the only pathway to happiness. Everything has a cost. There's no free lunch.

So I'm sorry, but I reject the premise.

Yeah, I like this.

So Sam, coming to the follow-on question is, now we want to get away from that relationship and walk away from there. Is there a way to amicably end it?

Because at times the other person may not want to leave you and you don't want to be an enemy of that person and maintain things normally.

I think it's a bit too late to ask this question.

A narcissistic abuser by definition is your enemy. He's trying to eliminate you.

What you're asking actually is, can we convert an enemy to a friend?

Now I can tell you, a narcissist or not, it's usually not possible.

An enemy, a hater, someone who negates and vitiates your identity, your separateness, your growth, your inner peace, your mental health, your happiness. That's not a friend. He's an enemy.

How likely are you to convert an enemy to a friend? Not very, if at all.

So you should treat him as an enemy and you should plan and you should act and you should prepare for the worst because he is your enemy. No one says that you should be rude. You should not provoke enmity. You should not provoke aggression. You should not be rude. You should not be uncivil, but you should be assertive. You should be firm. You should be clear about what you want, about what you need, about the red lines, about your boundaries. You should present this information in a concise and precise manner to the other party, saying, these are, this is what I want. This is what I need. I will not go beyond this red line. I will not accept this and I will accept this. These are there for my boundaries. If you breach my boundaries, I will do this to you. This will be the cost. If you don't breach my boundaries, I'm willing to make the following concessions.

We can end it this way or we can end it this way. The communication should be detached, called formal, preferably through a profession, like an attorney or an accountant. But if not, it should be clear and precise, but it should not be hostile, should not be rude, should not be uncivil. If he reacts in a hostile, rude and uncivil manner, it compromises him.

In any case, you win.

But important in the main problem of victims, the number one, two and three problem, they don't know what they want. They're ambivalent about what they want. They want to live. They don't want to live. They're in love. They hate the guy. They love the guy. They miss him. They want him back. No, they don't want him back. They're willing to accept this. No, they're not willing to accept this.

Actually, why not accept it? They're not. They're discombobulated. They're totally all over the place. There's no way to win a war.

The first task of a victim of narcissistic abuse is to talk to whom? Not to her abuser, to herself, to ask herself, who am I?

Because in years of narcissistic abuse, the victim loses her identity, loses her core. She borrows many elements of identity from her abuser. She merges with her abuser. She fuses with the abuser, especially if she's codependent. Her identity becomes the abuser's identity. She needs to separate these two. She needs to ask herself, these elements, are they mine? Or did I borrow these elements from him?

His voice is in my head. It's called introject. The process is called introjection. It has a name. His voice is in my head. It drowns out my voice. I need to shut him up. I need to shut him up there. I need to listen to me. Who am I? Who am I? What do I need? What do I want? What am I willing to pay for what I want? What are my boundaries, acceptable and non-acceptable behavior?

If someone bridges my boundaries, how do I make him pay? If someone is within my boundaries, how do I collaborate with him?

You need to get certain clarity about reconstruct. Jung called it constellation. Reconstellate yourself. Rebuild yourself. You've been devastated by an invasion of the body snatchers. That's your narcissistic abuser.

You need to rebuild the city. You need to rebuild the city and the fortress and the walls and the firewalls. And only then can you embark on the next stage, communicating with him.

Because when you communicate with your abuser, you better know who you are. He has a panoply plethora and arsenal of techniques and tactics to destabilize you, to sow confusion, to confuse you, and to make you doubt yourself.

You need to be with a very strong core in Cornell to interact with an abuser, let alone negotiate with an abuser.

I viewed a lot of your videos before actually coming for this particular talk because I myself didn't know so much about it. And you spoke about discard from a narcissist or being in no contact with a narcissist and then some of them come back to you again.

How do you bridge that pattern?

Well, here's a simple rule in psychology. Whatever you do is a choice. And whatever you choose is good for you. You never choose to do anything that's bad for you. That's a myth.

There are, of course, there is a tiny, tiny sliver of minority, which are so self-destructive that they commit suicide.

But essentially, I mean, the overwhelming vast majority of humanity, whatever they do is a choice. Everything is a choice. There is nothing in human conduct or behavior that is not a choice. Everything is a choice.

And being relatively rational entities, whatever we choose, we choose because it gratifies something. It provides something. It's good in some way.

The codependent is haloed back to her narcissist because he still has something to offer her, which outweighs the disadvantages.

So what he has to offer, he offers her what I call shared fantasy. He allows her to merge with him. He provides her with psychological functions that she cannot provide internally.

So she relies on him for some psychological functions that she cannot generate internally. He shields her from reality. He provides an imaginary fantastic space. He shields her from reality. He's functional. There's something she's getting from him. Only when she hits rock bottom in the sense that what he has to offer her is insufficient to cover up for the shortcomings and disadvantages and pain and hurt. Only then she will not be hovered back.

What can we do to help these people?

That's the answer. Because their choice is rational. You can't help. I mean, it would be irrational of me to tell a codependent don't go back to your narcissistic abuser because if she's contemplating it, let alone doing it, she must have an excellent reason to tell her you're wrong, is to position myself in the position of her abuser. Her abuser is telling her you're wrong.

Imagine a codependent comes to me and says, I want to go back to my narcissistic abuser. I tell her, what are you stupid? Are you insane? Can't you see what's happening? You should never go back. That's what her abuser is doing to her. I'm stepping into the shoes of her abuser.

It shows fundamental, profound disrespect for her. As though she's a child incapable of analysis and rational thinking, incapable of knowing what's good for her, incapable of making choices, bad therapies do this. They supplant their own judgment, their own decision making for the patients, for the clients. That's wrong. You should never become the client's father or mother or guru.

Freud warned against this. He said he called it transference and countertransference. These are pathological processes in therapy.

So a codependent wants to go back to her abuser. Probably she's getting something out of it. Trust her enough to assume that when the equation is on balance, she will not go back. Nevermind how hard he tries to move her.

And then the work starts. The minute she hit rock bottom and decided to not go back. That's when we should step in and intervene, provide her with tools to tell apart who she is, to disentangle, disentangle the enmeshment, break the trauma bond, break the merger and the fusion, the single organism with two heads.

We can help her with that. We can help her to discover who she is. We can help her to develop boundaries and communication protocols with her abuser. I mean, that's when we should step in.

But as long as she's in two minds, whether to go back or not, walk away. No way to help her. Only reality can wake her up. You can't.

And if you're trying to force your view on her, you're abusing her.


So, Sam, you know, can you love your narcissist enough to heal him or her?

Narcissism is not even COVID-19. Narcissism is not something that is grafted onto the narcissist, like a tumor. It's a very big tumor that you can excise. I don't know what your specialty.

I'm also a medical doctor. So it's a systemic thing. It's not that the narcissist has narcissism. The narcissist is narcissism. There's no question of healing. There's not even a question of changing. The narcissist can modify behaviors if he sees the benefit.

So if you provide him with rational inducements to alter antisocial, abrasive, offensive behaviors, he will. He will. CBT is very successful with this.

Variants of longevity, such as EMDR, schema therapy. We have a monopoly of therapies which work well in modifying certain mind you very, very small subset of narcissistic behaviors because we show the narcissist that not modifying the behavior undermines his grandiosity, his superiority and his counterproductive.

So being goal oriented, if he's a psychopathic narcissist or in pursuit of narcissistic supply, he says, you know what? You're right. If I modify behavior one, seven, and nine, I'm going to obtain more supply. I'm going to reach my goal faster and more assuredly. So I'm going to modify my behavior.

But this is not to do with the core or with the essence. The narcissist is his narcissism and the psychopath is even more his psychopathy. There's no way to change this, to cure or to heal.

I've come up with a new treatment modality called therapy. And even I don't claim, even I don't claim that my therapy heals the narcissist or cures the loss. My therapy gets rid of the narcissist false self and reduces the narcissist needs, eliminates the narcissist's need for narcissistic supply.

But even this is a behavior. It's not the core. It's a behavior. I'm converting the grandiosity, narcissistic supply, the false self into other psychodynamic processes. I'm using the energy instead of lighting a bulb to open my computer. I mean, I'm re-channeling, redirecting the energy. That's all I'm doing. Let's call therapy.

Call therapy is an amalgamation of 43 therapies. I took the techniques of 43 therapies, treatment modalities, and I merged them. Merger. It is by far, by far the most powerful therapy ever.

Not because I'm such a genius, but because I put everything together. It's a compendium. It's a psychopedia.

And even this therapy has super minimal effect on the narcissist. For example, he doesn't develop empathy. He cannot perceive other people as external objects. He doesn't become compassionate. I mean, he still is largely inhuman. And I'm using the word inhuman very judiciously.

People have been criticizing me for saying that narcissists and psychopaths are less than human. They say that's hate speech. That's not hate speech. That's a scientific observation. What makes a human human?

First of all, empathy. Number one, empathy is the foundation of a theory of mind, a theory about how other people operate, what makes them tick. It's also the foundation of morality. So empathy is at the core of all interpersonal relationships.

Second thing is emotions. Emotions are intimately connected to cognition. Some say that emotions are a subtype of cognition. And the third thing I would say is a perception of oneself that is both boundaried and realistic.

Realistic. So reality testing with regards to oneself and to others.

Put the three together, you get a human being. Can you have a human being without empathy? Maybe. Can you have a human being without emotions? No. No. Can you have a human being without boundaries, external, internal? Yes, but a very sick human being. That would be, for example, a psychotic.

Now, can you have a human being without all three?

Empathy, emotions, and perception of external and internal? No way. I'm sorry. No way. I don't recognize this life form as human. It's a life form. It's carbon-based. And it shares many things with other humans, for example, hardware. But as far as software, it's a different operating system.

So is there something like healthy narcissism?

I read up about this also in some article, which they said, you know, like you also mentioned right now, a lot of countries, in fact, say that narcissists should be on corporate jobs and leading the countries and for growth.

So how do you think a narcissist can contribute to the society?

Narcissists cannot contribute to society. A narcissist is someone diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, a very destructive and self-destructive person, and he cannot contribute to society. Even when he contributes to society, at the end, he will destroy everything he had contributed.

Examples, Adolf Hitler, to some extent, Donald Trump.

So narcissists cannot.

Someone with narcissistic, Theodore Millon, the scholar Theodore Millon, called narcissistic personality or narcissistic style is distinct from a narcissist.

Narcissism, pathological narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, is a clinical entity. It's a severe mental illness. These kind of people cannot contribute.

People with narcissistic style, behaviors, traits, personality, well, depends. In some contexts, they can contribute.

And does everyone have narcissism? Yes, of course. Is it on a spectrum? No.

Healthy narcissism has nothing in common with malignant narcissism. As Freud himself said, Freud coined the word narcissism in 1914, and he said there are two types of narcissism, primary narcissism and secondary narcissism, and they have nothing in common.

I fully agree. I don't agree with everything for instance, but I fully agree with this. They have nothing in common.

Healthy narcissism, for example, is subject to reality testing. It's a very realistic self-assessment.

It's telling yourself, I know what I'm strong at. I know what I'm weak at. I know my limitations. I know my talents. I know my skills. I know my capabilities. I know what I can accomplish and cannot accomplish. I know when I need other people to work with, collaborate with. I know my needs, emotional and other ways.

That's healthy narcissism. It's a foundation of a well-regulated sense of self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence. It has nothing whatsoever to do with malignant narcissism.

Perhaps it's unfortunate that the same word is used. Healthy narcissism relies on a reality test or reality testing where malignant narcissism is a fantasy. It's a delusion bordering, as Kernberg said, on psychosis. It's very, very, very sick.

If you want to see a malignant narcissist in operation, watch the movie Joker. Joker in the movie created a mass movement. Mass movement with values, some of which are positive values.

For example, equality, income equality. Attack on the celebrity culture. Some of the values that Joker propagated were actually positive values.

When narcissism became a cottage industry with billions of dollars, who had never studied the topic, who never heard of the topic, overnight declared themselves to be experts on the topic. It's deplorable, absolutely deplorable. Many of them are online, sporting the title doctor.

But when you go to check who these people are, did they ever publish a paper on narcissism? No. Are they teaching personality disorders on narcissism in their own universities? No. Are they teaching in a new university? No.

Some of their doctorates are irrelevant. I mean, it's an abomination, what's happening.

But people discover there's a lot of money. Suddenly there's this explosion of self-styled experts. There are very few experts, and these experts are not online.

The world's leading psychological experimentalists on narcissism, John Twenge and Keith Campbell, and they're not online.

Kernberg is not online. The real experts, the giants of the field are not online.

Even I, which maybe I'm not in this august company, although I contributed more than these people actually, but even I deeply regret that I am driven by a missionary, educational instinct or reflex, but I'm paying a very, very serious personal price for being exposed to the cesspool that is social media.

And these scholars and academics, they don't want this. They don't want this. All the knowledge we have about narcissism emanates from 10, 15 scholars, and not one of them is online. And those who are online never heard of narcissism before they became overnight experts. It's really, really shameful and disgraceful. And they propagate and spew the most incredible nonsense.

I'm a lone scholarly voice. I am a professor of psychology and I teach narcissism and I'm alone in this, but I can't fight these people alone. And because they tell victims what they want to hear, they perpetuate the state of victimhood and they glorify the state of victimhood.

If you're a victim means you are superior. So you should remain a victim.

People don't want to hear, for example, that names of narcissists are transformed into narcissists and psychopaths by the experience. They don't want to hear. They don't want to hear that they had been infected, like vampires, you know, they've been beaten. And now they are acting as narcissists and psychopaths, which they do. They don't want to hear this.

And they don't want to hear that they didn't become a victim by mistake, that it was a choice, that something is wrong with them to have made this choice. They should look, first of all, at themselves. What's wrong with me? Not what's wrong with my abuser.

They don't want to hear this message. And they don't want to hear the message that they are not morally superior to their abuser.

In colluding with the abuse, abuse is a tango. Abuse is a dance macabre. It's a collaboration. It's a collusion. It's a conspiracy. It's a cult. They don't want to hear it. They want to consider themselves magnets.

Magnets have no will. Magnets make no choice. Magnets make no decisions. Magnets are poor, passive, totally innocent creatures who have been devoured by the world, you know?

And this is the message that you get in 99.9999% of YouTube channels. Why?

Because it sells. I could generalize and say that all narcissists are self-aware. It's not a question of self-awareness. It's a question of how they interpret the same information.

If I am abrasive and obnoxious and aggressive as a narcissist, I will know, I will be self-aware that I'm like that. And you will be aware that I'm like that because you will be at the receiving end of my aggression and obnoxiousness and abuse. So I'll abuse you. And I will tell myself I'm abusing her. I am self-aware. And you will tell yourself he's abusing me. So we both agree on something. You're being abused. We both agree.

But you will interpret it differently to me. I will say I'm abusing her because I'm superior to her. It's good for her. I will reframe. I will create what we call an egosyntonic narrative, a narrative that I feel comfortable with, that enhances my grandiosity, that supports my self-image and self-perception, delusional and fantastic as it is.

So narcissists are fully aware of who they are, how they behave, but they don't regard it as a disorder or a problem. On the contrary, they say that these particular traits and behaviors which other people find objectionable, these behaviors and traits render them winners. This is what makes them creative. This is what guarantees accomplishments. This makes them pillars of the community and the successes that they are. They regard the disorder, what you call disorder as an evolutionary advantage. They worship their disorder. They're emotionally invested in their disorder, but you can't worship or be emotionally invested in something you're not aware of. You are aware, but you cast it in a positive light.

So yes, most narcissists are self-aware, and those who are self-aware are very, very proud of the narcissism and will never let it go. They're in love with their disorder. They're infatuated with the effects of their disorder because they think their disorder renders them self-efficacious.

The disorder allows them to extract beneficial outcomes from the environment, gives them enhanced agency.

Many of them say that they are the next step in the evolutionary ladder. They agree with me that they're not human. They are superhuman. They're the next stage. They're serious about it.

So thank you so much, Sam. And I wanted to give a last message to everybody who has realized and is aware that they are in an abusive relationship to the one message for the abuser and one message for people who are in their relationship, the victims.

Abuses have very little incentive to not be abusers because the number of women with, for example, if it's a man, we said earlier that there's equal number of men and women or narcissists.

But abuses, the number of, for example, if it's a male abuser, number of women with daddy issues, number of damaged, broken, mentally ill women, the reservoir of potential prey and victims is infinite in terms of a single individual. So there's no incentive to modify your behaviors, especially if modifying your behaviors is perceived as a narcissistic injury.

Modifying your behavior means that you're weak, that you're inferior, that someone is dictating to you, that you know, and you're God, you're God like being God like your perfection. Nothing should be altered. Nothing should be changed. You should definitely not listen to outside advice, to exhortation, to criticism, to demands. You should never bargain. You should never compromise.

So both psychologically and practically, abuses have no incentive to change. Victims have every incentive to change.

The problem with victims is that they're not self-aware. Actually, ironically, victims are not self-aware, not narcissists.

The problem with victims is it takes them an inordinately long time to accept that they're victims, partly because it negates their narcissism. So they can accept their victims and having accepted the victims, they start to bargain. It's okay. I've just realized this is wrong. I'm going to talk to my abuser and modify his behavior.

So they have unrealistic agenda. It's all delusional. It's all fantastic. They refuse to let go in numerous myriad ways.

The problem is with victims, not with abusers. The sooner the victim realizes that she's a victim, the better. And the sooner she strives to change this status to get rid of it, the better.

The thing is that there is a whole industry, as I said before, who perpetuates, people who perpetuate victimhood, glorify victimhood, leverage victimhood for sometimes financial gain, and sometimes just to have power over other people, like foreign moderators and so on.

And because victims have an interest to remain victims, it's egosyntonic. It's good, feels good, feels fuzzy. It's morally self-justified. And it excuses you from responsibility and guilt.

If it happens again, it's something constitutional. It's like a biological thing. What can you do? Who are you? You're a victim. That's who you are. That had become your identity.

Not a behavioral choice, but an identity. People are heavily invested in their identity. If you're a fan of a football club, it becomes part of your identity. If you follow Donald Trump, it's part of your identity. I mean, identity is impossible to challenge. I deal with that in my latest video as well.

And so when the victim's victimhood becomes a determinant and dimension of our identity, forget about it. There's no way to change this exactly, as there's no way to change the narcissist because narcissism is his identity.

And so the two collaborate. The narcissist seeks victims and make no mistake about it. Victims actively seek abusers because their comfort zone is being abused. To be abused is their comfort zone.

And they seek abusers vehemently, adamantly, fervently. And they adore abusers because abusers make them feel comfortable. These women feel good only when they feel bad. And so they need someone to make them feel bad. And if he doesn't, there's something called projective identification. They force you to abuse them.

Now, is this a fringe phenomenon? No. It's the majority of victims.

And this is my anger and fury at the online environment at YouTube, most specifically YouTube, because it enhances and amplifies these tendencies, doesn't negate them or contradict them, doesn't help the victims to stop being victims, but perpetuates victimhood in a variety of ways.

So both parties are not innocent. They are not saints here. They're not men. They're not innocent.

The narcissist's comfort zone is to abuse others. The victim's comfort zone is to be abused.

They collaborate. They create a shared psychosis or shared fantasy within which both of them delusionally and fantastically are infatuated in love, complement each other. Two parts of the same whole merge and fuse and relegate to each other functions, psychological functions. We call them ego functions.

So the codependent or the victim or the intimate partner, I call them the insignificant others. She fulfills ego functions for the narcissist and the narcissist does the same for her. It's working.

These relationships are functional, not dysfunctional. That's why they are absolutely hellishly difficult to break.

Trauma bonding may be pathological, it is, but it's working. Exactly as narcissism may be a dysfunction or a pathology, but it is a positive adaptation. It helps you to survive, to thrive and to succeed.

In today's world, what is better to be? A nice guy or Donald Trump. Donald Trump, he's the president of the United States. He has all the beautiful girls. He has the billions in the bank or so he claims. He has the fame. He has the celebrity. He has the orange hair. What do you have? What do you have?

Non-narcissist, nothing, nothing. So it pays to be a narcissist. It's a positive adaptation.

And now it pays to be a victim. It's a positive adaptation.

Thank you so much, Sam. I have so many comments from people here. Everyone is very thankful to you. It was really, really insightful and we want to thank you for the contribution that you are to the society at large.

So I want to thank all the audiences who are watching this live and also thank you to people who will watch a replay of this later. And this is Dr. Sam Vaknin with us live and I am Dr Vaknin. I will see you again next week, same time with the different guests.

Thank you so much.

Thank you.

Thank you, everyone.

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