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Our Cluster B Future (with Dr. Martin Burckhardt)

Uploaded 12/23/2022, approx. 1 hour 10 minute read

Here we go. We are recording. Here we go.

I'm very much looking forward to our conversation today because I saw you in this long YouTube video with Richard Grannon was absolutely fascinated by the clarity, the brevity with which you conceptualize the clinical pictures of narcissism and borderline, which is the word borderline.

Reviews has been a deep problem for psychoanalysis. And your position is to me absolutely strange because you're on both sides on the mirror.

As I learned on the one hand, you have the narcissist recognizes his own greatness and the mirror image.

Nowthe other hand, you have the observer who looks at this from the outside.

How is this possible? How did you acquire this ability of biolocation? This is the ability to be at two places at the very same time.

It is.

Thank you for having me.

First of all, it is much less rare than online experts would have you believe. So-called experts.

Now, this is usually pretty introspective and fully aware, at least of their behaviors. Many of them don't realize the dynamics behind the behaviors, but they do realize their behaviors. They simply don't care or they justify the behaviors to conform to some kind of a grandiose script or narrative.

So self-awareness is not uncommon in narcissismas people would have you believe.

The observer stance, the Cartesian observer stance is very common in narcissism. It is actually in some cases, absolutely necessary because narcissists frequently go through dry patches of narcissistic supply and they need to observe themselves in order to self supply, in order to become their own audience.

So narcissism very often devolves into a state of solipsism where the narcissist is broken in two parts.

There's a schism, a schism in the narcissistic soul, if you wish. One part observes the other and provides the other with attention, admiration, adulation, and it's a totally self-contained system.

Very bizarre. Biographically wise, when did you find out yourself being a narcissist? How come that you found out?

I much prefer to focus on my own narcissism. That is my expectation. I'm not a professor of psychology. I don't want this to devolve into celebrity pornography.

We just step over that.

What interests me about your approach, and we will come to this, you describe narcissism and borderline as consequences of early childhood neglect, a psychological vacuum that materializes in the respective personality disorder.

To which I would like to add a comment of yours that I like very much. This is the stuff horror movies are made of.

So tell our listeners, how does a child turn into a narcissist or borderline? What's the beginning of this horror story?

Yes, well, borderline has clear genetic rules and involves a marketed brain abnormalities. So similar to antisocial personality disorder, also known as psychopathy in extreme cases, borderline seems to have its genesis or pathogenesis in factors which are not entirely dependent on nurture, on the environment, on a family setting.

Okay.

Narcissism is a different story.

We fail to find substantial brain abnormalities in narcissists, except when they are comorbid, except when they are also diagnosed with borderline and psychopathy. And we fail to find any indication that at this stage that it is hereditary.

So narcissism seems to be an environmental artifact, an environmental byproduct.

Narcissism is about internalizing the failure at an internalizing a loving gaze.

Here, the mother is not good enough to use Winnicott's expression. The mother is a dead mother to use Andrei Green's expression. She is absent. She's selfish. She instrumentalizes the child. She pedestalizes the child. She parentifies her. She in short, she objectifies the childor she's simply depressive, unable to cater to the child's emotional needs, etc.

Consequently, this child is not seen by this critical primary objectas we call itby my motheris not seen. And the child needs to inventto come up with a substitute gaze, a replacement for the mother's gaze. And this replacement is provided by an imaginary friend, a transitional object, so to speak, an imaginary friend. And this imaginary friend later becomes the false self.

Now, the imaginary friend is very parental. It is omnipotent. It is omniscient. It is God like. It is perfect. And it is all loving, all consuming, actually. So the this imaginary friend is everything the child is not.

The child is helpless. The child is unable to predict adult behavior. The child is terrified, etc.

And the this imaginary friend comes to the child's aid. In a sense, it's a primitive religion. It's a proto religion with one adhering, one adherent and one God.

And the child offers a sacrifice to this deity. The child sacrifices himself, he sacrifices his true self. This is human sacrifice, absolutely human sacrifice.

And then what's left is a monarch like deity, Babylonian or Assyrian deity or something.

And the child now at the mercy and under the auspices of this deity, this divinityprotected from the vagaries and pain inflicted by his mother. This deity also sees the child. This deity provides a substitutive gaze.

And so the child spends the rest of his life as an adult catering to this deity, interacting with his deity and ultimately merging with the deity to disappear completely.


What I like about your perspective about the emergence of narcissism is the idea in contrast to Freud who talked about primal narcissism, that is in fact an introjection.

You take this transitional object, put it into your self and create something like a primal, this primitive religion out of that.

I get a little bit back into the history ofbecause I was interested in the concept of borderline.

So I read Hylin Deutsch was probably the first to deal with the question of borderline, which she christened as the as if personality, which is really beautiful, like a simulation. And she lamented about the complete character void of a patient, the fact that the person completely dissolves into the outer world, that he becomes the slave of the outer world.

There was a striking characteristic of a female patient. There was, for example, Austrian noblewoman who had grown and were protected, cared for by nannies, but yet not the faintest problem to adapting to a criminal media. That was really funny. Would you agree with that? Is adaptability a particular characteristic of narcissism and borderline?

In the case of borderline, critical internal functions are missing or disabled. For example, the ability to regulate emotions. This is known as emotional dysregulation. The ability to stabilize moods. So this creates mood lability. The ability to maintain introjects. The borderline's introjects keep fading. She's unable. And I call it introject inconstancy, as opposed to object inconstancy, which is a wellknown construct in psychology.

Yeah, I like that very much. Yes, it's a great, great, great idea, great concept.

Yes, it's a new idea. It's shocking that it's a new idea, because it's at the core of borderline.

But never mind. So, introject inconstancy.

So the borderline is empty, because nothing is happening in the internal factory of the mind. It's an abandoned factory. And so she needs input from the outside. This is called external regulation. She needs input from the outside. She outsources her internal landscape to outsiders. And because she becomes critically dependent on this input for selfregulation, she is an infinitely malleable, mutable and adaptable.

It is her dependency so extreme that she would do anything to obtain the regulation, become a criminal, whatever it takes, become sexually promiscuous, whatever it takes.

The narcissist is a bit different. The narcissist does have internal intact, intact internal processes. But he suffers from cognitive distortions.

Because his experience of reality, the narcissist's experience of realityis mediated through an external construct, the false self. The false self, remember, is an imaginary friend out there.

And then later the narcissist merges with the false self. And the narcissist loses his ability to tell external objectsto tell apart external objects from internal objects.

Because the false self used to be out there when the narcissist merges with the false self, he loses the distinction between out there and in here, between external and internal.

So the narcissist needs other people to regulate his sense of selfworth, basically, but nothing else. Everything else is regulated via the mediation of the false self in a selfcontained, selfsufficient, solipsistic environment.


Now, this is extremely reminiscent of psychotic disorders.

In psychotic disorders, we have a phenomenon called hyperreflexivity, where the psychotic expands outwards and consumes the world, and then is unable to tell the difference between what's happening in his mind and what's happening out there.

This is exactly what's the same with narcissists, exactly the same. Their reality testing is short, is impaired, is finished. They're unable, because they're totally cognitively distorted.

But all the other processes, having been relegated or outsourced to the false self, there is no need for other people.

So let me summarize, because this has been a bit of a long way, a long answer.

No, no, no, no, I do. For the sake of our viewers.

The borderline outsources all her internal functions to an external regulator, for example, an intimate partner, she would adopt and conform to the external external regulator. If he is a criminal, she will become a criminal. If he's promiscuous, she will be promiscuous. She would adopt and conform. She takes on his shape, she shapeshifts, she's a shapeshifter.

The narcissist has no need for this kind of outsourcing, because the false self performs all these functions. And the narcissist identifies with the false self.

So there's no need for outsiders. The only thing that the false self cannot regulate effectively most of the time is the sense of self worth, which includes self esteem and self confidence and so on.

And this is where the narcissist outsources to other people.

But in the absence of supply from other people, the false self can take even over this function.

And this is self supply.

And then the narcissist becomes indistinguishable from a psychotic.

And this is the work of Kernberg, Otto Kernberg.

Yeah, I don't know. That's what he said. That's why he called borderlines. They are on the border between neurosis and psychosis.

And he said that narcissism and borderline are two sides of the same coin.

He didn't make this distinction and same same others also, for example, Gerstein, they also said that borderline is just failed narcissism.

There's a huge affinity between borderlines and narcissists, and they often transition.

Narcissists, for example, under enormous stress, narcissists who are mortified, they become borderline, they dysregulate.

And borderlines were under stress, for example, having been abandoned, become very narcissistic and psychopathic, they act out.

And I call this self states.

They have self states, borrowing on the work by Philip Romburg.

What I liked about this idea is, so it's beginning with a void, with a vacuum, that the narcissist has the ability somehow to maintain agency. So because it's somehow is kind of intact.

Whereas the borderline, he needs an object, he needs to outsource everything.

But both of them rely upon a heavy distortion of reality.

This reminds me of a wonderful essay that Freud wrote about the difference between neurosis and psychosis.

And he made this great thought experiment.

He imagines a young woman standing in front of the deathbed of a sister whose husband she dearly loves.

Now that the sister is dead, nothing would be in the way of this romance except for the pangs of remorse.

And this characterised the neurotic, she represses her own feelings for the sake of reverence.

But what does the psychotic do? She denies that her sister is dead, which is really beautiful.

So the hallmark of psychosis is a loss of reality. That's exactly what you diagnosed for narcissism and borderline in life that leads to and that leads to the question, if borderline has grown into a mass disorder, what does that have to do with our society?

Before I go there, just one correction for rigorousness sake, not correcting you, correcting myself for rigorousness sake.

The borderline also has a false self. Its functions are different, but she has a false self. One could say that both disorders start with a void, with a howling void, with a black hole where the mother's gaze should have been, where the mother's love and caring and holding and containment should have been. There is a hole. The narcissist fills the hole with a proactive, godlike false self. And the borderline fills the hole by extracting regulation from her environment through the agency of her false self.

So this is the difference between the two disorders.


Now, we have something called mass psychogenic illness. Mass psychogenic illness is actually a diagnosis in the text revision of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. It is now recognized widely that mental health disorders can go awry like a COVID-19 virus and can create pandemics.

So we now do realize that mental illness is contagious in principle. And there's a diagnosis for this. And yes, I would tend to agree with you that cluster B personality disorders have become mass phenomenal. And the reason they have become mass phenomenal is because they are right now positive adaptations. They help you to survive. They help you to thrive. They help you to function. They fend off suicidal ideation. They help you to interact with other people safely and efficaciously. They are self efficacious.

So cluster B personality disorders are best suited and well adopted to the contours and parameters of modern or post modern civilization.

We have created a civilization where certain types of personalities would be would obtain much better outcomes than others. And so we are encouraging this is called reinforcement. We are reinforcing these kinds of behaviors. And this kind we are selecting for these kinds of traits. This is natural selection.

If you're a narcissist, you end up in the White House. If you're a nice guy, you end up homeless.

So the good idea to be a nice guy. It's a good idea to be a narcissist.

Actually, in July 2006, the magazine, the science magazine, New Scientist came up with a cover story. And the cover story read parents teach your children to be narcissists.

We are talking about high functioning narcissists and high functioning psychopaths. People like Maccoby and Kevin Dutton and other scholars extolled, extolled narcissism and psychopathy is adaptation species white adaptations, which guarantee our survival in an increasingly harsh and merciless world, including the human world.

So this is why you're seeing the simply positive reinforcement and natural selection in action.

Women are becoming way more narcissistic and psychopathic than before, especially women.

And this is because of course, they have been abused and enslaved for so long. It's a reaction to this.

They have adopted the abuser stance.

They women are kind of saying, we will never be abused again, because we're going to become the abuser.

Now, this is exactly what happens in childhood. When the childhood is exposed to childhood abuse, the child has two options.

The child can say, I'm going to become codependent. I'm going to become a people pleaser. I'm going to, I'm going to gratify my parents in order to ameliorate the rage and wrath and mistreatment and abuse. I'm going to disappear, actually, I'm going to become an extension of my parents.

And this is codependency or dependent personality disorder.

And the other option is to say, I'm going to become my parents. I'm going to become an abuser. I'm going to abuse people. I'm going to hurt people.

Identification with the enemy.

Yes, I'm going to do that, because that's the only way to survive. That's the only way I'm not going to feel pain anymore.


And so we are seeing this on a civilization and species- wide scale.

Everyone wants to be an abuser. And the irony is that the path to becoming an abuser is by declaring yourself a victim.

Campbell, the famous sociologist said that we are transitioning from the age of dignity to the age of victimhood. And the reason people adopt a victimhood identity is because it pays. It extracts beneficial outcomes from the environment, money, power, exposure, you name it. It pays to be a victim.

But the irony is that if you impose your victimhood on other people and force them to modify their behaviors, you're being an abuser.

Victimhoods, victims can easily and do frequently become abusive.

Yeah, yeah. But the strange thing is like the outsourcing of education in early childhood, like giving away your child when it's even one and a half years old into a kindergarten or daycare. I mean, that's kind of a breeding of narcissism.

Is it because of the structurally that the maternal gaze is missing? Is it?

I think it's a much larger phenomenon, part of a much larger phenomenon. The hollowing out of social institutions and especially the family. The family was a repository of numerous functions until very recently in terms of history. It was in the family that you were educated. It was in the family that you learned a skill or a profession. It was in the family that you were catered to in terms of health care and final care. It was in the family that you were buried in the family plot.

The family, in short, fulfilled basically every function from cradle to grave.

And then we started to outsource many of these functions. We outsourced education. We outsourced health care. We outsourced senior care. We outsourced everything.

Living the family totally function less. Children are no longer raised in families even. Even this primordial function of getting pregnant and raising children is no longer carried out in intact families. It's carried out in single parent families and in divorced families.

So the family is no longer needed, which explains why the marriage rate had declined by 50%. That's 5-0% since 1990.

So I think the reason we farm out, the reason we send our children to be taken care of by total strangers, however qualified, is because we are no longer able to provide any meaningful services within the family.

It's not only the gaze that's missing. It's the care that's missing. There is parental absence. Parental absence can become the organizing principle of modern families.

And so to fulfill this absence, to fulfill this void, the state has stepped in in some cases, other institutions stepped in, and we have hollowed out the family.

Now this would have and does have already catastrophic implications. Catastrophic implications.

A parental gaze, especially a maternal gaze, is critical in the formative yearsup to age six, more or less. A fatherly gaze or a fatherly involvement are critical in the years afterwards.

Learning skills, functioning in society, sexual straits, they're all conveyed by fathers.

Now there have been experiments with parental absence or parental alienation, if you wish. For example, in the kibbutzim, kibbutzim are communal settlements, communal settlements in Israel. For many, many decades, children in the kibbutzim were raised collectively, not by their parents. They saw their parents once a week for two hours. And these children grew up to be very balanced, functional, happy, divorce rate is much lower.

I see your point, yeah.

So the question remains, there is a debate about the importance of the parental gaze, but I think that this debate misses the main point.

The children who grew up in the kibbutzim were not exposed to a parental gaze and were not exposed to a parental carebecause they were embedded in a value systemwhich did not encourage or support...

So it was an extended family, so to speak.

Yes, exactly. There was no value system of a nuclear family.

But the children who grew up in Toronto, in New York, in Leipzig, and I don't know where, they are not embedded in this kind of value system. They're embedded in a value system where the parental gaze and involvement are critical, and they're not getting it. And they're going to grow...

So it's about a psychological homelessness to a certain degree, what you're talking about.

Christopher Dash, he wrote this wonderful book, The Culture of Narcissism, and he talked about a thinly populated interior lifewhich is looking for a bad super-ego, which is really attacking all the others.

And I see... What I do see, I mean, this goes back to the '70sand it's the beginning of the digital age, I see a strong connection between narcissism, borderline, and our media world, how it looks like.

Just as I see in Freud's world, the world of hysterics and compulsive disorders, which is connected to the foundational, to kind of a change and shift in times.

How do you see this connection on the one hand, the computer age, on the other hand, narcissism and borderline?

There has been two...

We are confronted with so many shifts, so many tectonic shiftsthat it's unprecedented in human history. There's never been a period or epoch in human history with so many changes simultaneously.

Alvin Toffler called it at the timethe future shock, but he underestimated it. He was talking only about two or three trends.

We are confronted with at least 30, that's three zero identifiable trends. All of them earth-shattering, all of them tectonic, all of them mind-boggling, and all of them occurring simultaneously.

We are not equipped to deal with this. We're not equipped. We're dysregulating. We're falling apart.

Now, two of these trends, two of these 30, is one, the transition from substance or transition from emphasis on substance to emphasis on a spectacle, on a spectacle. That is the work of Guido Varena in the 60s.

Yeah, the sociocitatity spectatly.

Yeah, the sociocitatity spectatly.

Others, by the way, for example, Althusser with this concept of interpolation.

So, spectacle is needed when you don't have a parental gaze.

They miss this connection, both of them, Althusser and De Beauvoir and others, they miss this connection.

The reason we are transitioning to spectacle is because we need to be seen by someone. We need to make a spectacle of ourselves to be seen by someone.

And it long preceded social media. The need to be seen by someone is because no one saw us when we were children. We didn't get to internalize and introject the maternal gaze or the paternal gaze.

So, we are gaze- hungry for the rest of our lives.

And this explains the rise of social media and similarly.

Technology is a laggard. It's a lagging indicator. It never drives change. That's a total misconception of technology. Technology is a commercial capitalist response to emerging needs in the market. Very, very rarely, technology generates the market. It does happen. But even then, it's a response to a growing need of some kind.

Social media being a consequence of...

Yes, it's a consequence of hunger for attention. There's a hunger for attention. The currency of today, the main value added, the main commercial product is attention.

Yeah. I'm talking with Georg Frank, who was the inventor of the concept of attention economy in the late 80s, which is, I mean, it's pre-digital terms or pre-internet time, so to speak.

But the interesting part, which really fascinated me to a certain degree, is asking a very simple question.

What is scarce? Obviously, gold material stuff is not scarce anymore. The only thing which can be scarce is the attention of the consumer.

I can't read two books at the same time. I can't watch two movies at the same time and so forth.

But there's something strange. I'm going to take it as a new model of capitalism.

So now we have the emission of money. It's going from the state to the individual. It's going from the producer to the consumer, which is really weird because you do not produce anything more. You produce yourself to a certain degree.

It's just like exploiting yourself to the bitter end. I mean, that's one of the grimest changes in capitalism, I would say, so attention economy.

Yeah. So I mentioned in my previous answer that there are two trends that I would like to discuss, and I discussed one of them, which is the transition from substance to spectacle mediated via the attention economy. And this is because we need a gaze. We are hungry for a gaze.

The second transition, which is very interesting, I think, and I'm talking now in my head as an economist, I used to be an economist for 20 years.

The second change is a transition from stability to growth. In the vast majority of human history, people were concerned with stability. They wanted predictability. They wanted certainty. They wanted determinacy. They were economically invested in making sure that things work the same.

And then starting more or less in the 1920s and 30s, we suddenly evolved a penchant for growth. We no longer want stability. We want permanent change, but permanent positive change is measured by growth.

Nowto generate constant growth, you need to grow the population of consumers. So consumption and consumerism became a kind of religion underlying all economic thinking and theory.

And so today, capitalism interpolates, objectifies people, converts them into consumers, encouraging them to be atomized because atomized people consume more. It's compensatory. They compensate for depression and anxiety and loneliness by consuming.

So this kind of a new economy forces people or reinforces people to be alone, to be atomized and provides artificial gaze, kind of artificial gaze. The gaze is not only through social media. For example, if you buy an iPhone 14 and you use it in the street, people look at you. If you drive a Mercedes, people would look at you. So you're harvesting gaze. It's gaze harvesting.

And so these two pernicious, I consider them poisonous trends, converged.

And capitalism suddenly discovered the new commodity, gaze harvesting via attention. And this is where we are right now, I think.

Yes, symbolic capital as Bordeaux took it.

However, I see some strange things happening which are really induced by our digital aid.

To give you an example, I'm a friend with a plastic surgeon. And so I know a bit about the fantasies that drive people to undergo plastic surgery. And it's nothing unusual for someone to undergo surgery because she wants to resemble the profile pic of her avatar, which is really weird. This means that the personality itself has been outsourced, so to speak, and it is slipped over into the virtual, into the virtuality. And there, the larger- than- life logic prevails, movies, greatness fantasies, and the like. And this is the only way you, I'm totally totally in agreement with you, this is the only way that you can succeed as an influencer.

So the narcissist and borderline person would be kind of digital avant-gardists.

What do you say to that?

You need to shape yourself and mold yourself and reinvent yourself all the time on the fly.

In order to garner attention, or in other words, in order to generate an eternal gaze, a sense of eternal gaze, you need to escalate your performance because things get old.

So you need to shoot new movies, so to speak. You need to make new movies.

So of coursepeople would begin to regard their so-called personality as a persona, not as a personality. They would begin to regard themselves as masks, disposable, dispensable, interchangeable, and so on.

So people wear masks, they wear disguises in order to attract attention and secure the gaze, and they need to escalate all the time, and they're competing with numerous other masks.

And so the whole world is a theater stage to borrow from my contemporary Shakespeare.

So it's about simulation and simulacrum. We're not the first to discuss these issues.

It's about the Walter Benjamin, the reproduction effect.

People have objectifying themselves. Women are objectifying themselves as sexual objects. Men are objectifying themselves as power objects.

And they trade, they trade for examplesex, for access, or for gaze. They trade power for sex, etc.

But these are all artificial commodities because they do not reflect any inner stable essence.

So people have become rivers, they are in flux, and people are shimmering mirages, phatamorganas, you know. They're not real.

And today the big battle is emerging, a big battle is emerging, a big war. It is no longer about controlling attention. The next frontier is about controlling your reality. That is the essence of the metaverse. The metaverse is about who owns reality.

So the giants, the high tech giants, are now preparing themselves to fight it out over reality.

When one of them, a monopolist usually, will have secured reality, then within this reality you would be given the license to not be you.

Sartre was the one in the footsteps of, following the footsteps of Kierkegaard, was the one who understood that existence is painful. It entails angst.

And that being an authentic self is a lot of work.

And here the modern or postmodern environment gives you a license to not be, ironically, to become just a spectacle, just a play, just a show, just a movie, to be an actor and a director in your own movie.

But you know movies end at some point. And movies, there are many movies, and movies are narratives. They're not real.

So high tech companies understood that the next big commodity is fantasy.

But this is a very dangerous form of fantasy because it replaces reality.

The irony ispsychotic. Psychotic, exactly.

Yes, it's psychotic. Absolutely.

There's a confusion between external and internal.

Freud suggested that fantasy is a defense mechanism. And the role of a defense mechanism is to allow you to better function in reality, actually.

But the fantasy that is emerging now is not a defense mechanism. It is psychotic. It is a breakdown of reality.

And this is the huge danger.

I really like the idea that you made the connection to the giddable and associated with the spectacular. And I really have the idea that it all began in...

Professor, I think we are running out of time. Okay, let us say goodbye and then click on the same link. Just click on the same link and we will...

We start again. Yes, we start again.

Okay, so I'll say goodbye now. And we will talk in a minute or two.

Yeah, okay. No, not in a minute or two. I'm sorry. Five minutesbecause it will take time to save.

Okay, okay, okay, five minutes. See you soon.

Okay, we go.

Yeah. This is the second part, so we are good to go. Good to see you. I really like your idea about starting with giddable and associated spectacularly, society changing into a big spectacle. And I really get the feeling that society... The moment the theater left the stage, like the inside the edifice, inside the building, it got outside street theater, everything turned into theater. That's kind of an impression. I'm in front with an elderly actress and she's like 80 or something. And she, during her lifetime, she sees the appearance of so much bad actors outside. Everybody's playing a role, but he's really a dilettante. Really strange, strange ideas. And I think you're perfectly right in this regard.

So like society turned into a spectacle.

But there's something, the ideal loss of reality. I think you're deeply familiar with the thinking of Robert de Heer, to whom the psychopathology checklist goes back. And we asked the interesting question, where are all the psychopaths who are stupid enough to get committed, to get caught committing a crime? And you also gave the answer right away in upper management, in senior positions. And you may be interested in remarking that narcissists in borderlines are incapable of creating anything lasting, indeed of maintaining any form of permanence.

Nowit seems that our media world virtually breeds borderline in narcissists, who in Germany have already become accustomed to seeing these as if personalities in the highest offices, such as foreign minister, for example.

What are the political consequences of this development? And now we have to think of Shakespeare.

Is it like fair is foul and foul is fair, and the world is a stage and so forth?

Yes. I mean, you've been an advisor for governments, I read. It's really interesting. I've been to several, several governments, including very big governments like Nigeria. And so I think, again, it is always very good, especially two of us are intellectuals, it's always very good to embed current reality in much larger historical trends.

This is something very missing from the public discourse. Even many public intellectuals don't have the width or the panoramic view.

So of course, there has been a democratization of the spectacle.

When in times of ancient Greece, you know, there was a theater play. So how many people could attend? 200, 300.

Okay, you know, if the play was as successful as the mouse trap. So all the 20,000 citizens of Athens saw it. But that was highly unusual.

Today, tens of millions, sometimes billions of people are exposed to spectacles. There's been a democratization in the spectacle in two ways.

One, it's much more accessible. And the second is you can, as an individual, produce spectacles without any technological problem or obstacle. So barriers, barriers to entry, much lower.

And there is a disintermediation of content in the sense that we don't have gatekeepers, such as editors anymore. So there's been a democratization of the spectacle.

And because the spectacle is a form of fantasy, it is much more appealing than reality. And because it is much more appealing than reality, it replaces it very easily.

Yeah, it's extremely easy to replace reality with fantasy. The other way is much more difficult.

Now, politics have always been a form of spectacle, always. And so the politics naturally fell victim, the first victim to fantasy. And we have seen it in the 1930s in Germany and other places. fascism in Italy was a giant spectacle. Nazis, Nazism, the Nuremberg rallies and so on. This was spectacle. Hitler was a gifted theater director, if nothing else. So spectacle consumed politics long before our age, consumed politics.

And it is not an accident that politics became a spectacle at the age of the cinema.

Lennyfor reference style and others in the case of Hitler, there were similar identical situations in Italy and other places. So it all became blurred.

movie actors became presidents, reality TV stars became presidents. It all became one big, blurred, massive show, production show.

Yeah.

And then people, average pedestrian mundane peoplesuddenly acquired the power of producers and directors with technological tools and were able to have a voice which was denied to themin previous erasvia gatekeepers.

In the past, you couldn't just make a movie, you couldn't just write an article, we couldn't just publish a book, you needed to go through people who were qualified to turn you down.

And so this is not a situation anymore. Everyone is creating spectacles, minispectacles, bigger spectacles, and everyone wants his spectacle to be a dominant spectacle.

So likes on Facebook, and on YouTube, and so on, so forth, are not only a measure of popularity, but a measure of personal success and gradually become one determinant of identity, currency, currency and relative positioning, no, but also a determinant of identity.

Exactly.

So that's why you have influencers, celebrities are famous for being famous. It's a new identity that is emerging.

Today, I think there are two dominant identities, the victim and the influencer. These are the two characters in the modern theater play.

I see absolutely, I follow your path. We can speak of the end of representation. That means like 15th century, up to like the 20th century, and then you see a big, big crush of all these ideas of observance.

Now you get into it. It's like gettingentering a computer game like Donald Trump, getting into Twitter, etc. He's playing his place.

But what is a logic? It's a logic period. It's a period of play, I agree.

And you asked, you asked whether narcissism and borderline infiltrate or permeate or influence technology.

I think this disorders created the technology.

As I said before, technology is an outcome, not a driver.

So I think borderline narcissism has been rising because of the absence of gaze.

And you mentioned Christopher Lash, 1978. His book was published in 1978. That's a long time ago. People saw it coming, you know, in a strange way.

I have the idea that we're living in an epoch, which is like an interregnum. I like quizzing. I talked about the 14th century of the homo-ludens, which is, I mean, we are homo-ludens in the very same fabricate, but the differences, like in the 14th century, they had to deal with clockwork, yeah, and the cogwheel mechanism and stuff like that. And they had great problems dealing with all the new currencies, usually stuff like that.

So we have, it's like, I have the idea that the Vito Ugo quotation, likethere's nothing bigger than an idea, which has found its moment. That's really wrong. It's nothing bigger than an idea, which is dead. I mean, you've got all these zombiesbecause it's so easy. You get it under price. It's way cheaper to get into incorporate an identity, which is already fabricated.

And this is the very same, like the Hamlet situation, you get in the purgatory world, in the world of the feudal logic, etc. But in fact, something new is taking place. And that's why it is wrong.

Yes. I take your part of Hamlet. Shakespeare is a contemporary. I love that.

You raise a very interesting point nowwhen you mentioned homo-ludens and the 14th century.

Of course, this is a century of the plague. And what had happened after that was a seismic shift in economic power. Workers became much more valuable because they became much more scarce.

So the emphasis was on production, production of agricultural goods, production of commercial goods, etc. But today, the emphasis is on symbols. We are a symbol manipulating society. Well over 90% of us manipulate symbols. Only 2% engage in agriculture in the West. 2%.

So we are symbol manipulators. And that is the major difference between the 14th century and our century. The 14th century produced value. And this value had an objective quality to it.

The 21st century produces symbols whose validity and value critically depend on subjectivity. And it's questionable. It's the outcome of an agreement. And as we both know, agreements can be abrogated. If you create a bushel of wheat, it's a bushel of wheat. It's a bushel of wheat in Europe. It's a bushel of wheat in Nigeria. It's a bushel of wheat in China. It has an objective dimension to it. It's also very useful, but let's leave it aside. It's an objective thing.

They were living in reality. That's what I'm trying to say. We inhabit a Netherlands, not the country. Yes, the Netherlands. Yes, another world of fantasy where we manipulate symbols, but these symbols can never be real because they depend on an agreement. And all agreements are human made and therefore can be abrogated.

In other words, our existence is very tenuous. Our existence hangs on the balance every second. If the agreement shifts, if the agreement is broken, if the agreement changes, we are destroyed, essentially destroyedin essence, not only artificially.

So our existence is so precarious that it creates a enormous anxiety, a enormous depressionbecause we know that we live by the mercy of others, and others are often very cruel, capricious, sickle and unreliable.

One thing which is really interesting to me, and I wondered about it very much, is that the emergence of attention economy was not connected to Freud's thinking about the connection between the joke and economy, which is really beautiful because here the idea that the joke is kind of under-tunnelling of something. You get something cheaper, you get it, you get the shortcut, you get the easy way out.

And I mean, that's one of the reasons why attention economy can never create productive stuff because it's just selling something.

On a consumer side, it's getting something cheaper and the cheaper is horny. As Geitz's guy, there was a famous saying in the German public relations world, like Skehr says, "Breathe is horny." That's really, really strange.

But my question, I would go a little further and ask myself, okay, if everything turns out to be a spectacle, everything turns out to be a Shakespearean stage, what happens to the observer, for example, like the psychologist?

And you've pointed out, quite rightly, that psychology has taken refuge under the wing of statistics and is actually avoiding the big questions posed by classical psychoanalysis. And this has grim consequences.

Thus, multiple personalities disordered has outgrown borderline and most strange concepts have migrated into psychology. For example, the possibility that the patient cannot remember a trauma was taken as a proof that it had happened, actually happened.

This left psychology, so the 80s and 90s, to pursue satanic abuse and kindergartens that is not only falling into moral panic, but also to embark on a form of modern witch hunting.

And this kind of psychology, so to speak, quotation marks, confirms the evil dictum made by Kai Kraus, "Psychoanalysis is the disease whose therapy thinks it is."

How do you see that? I don't think psychoanalysis has anything to do with psychology.

I will try to, it's a bit of a strange statement, I'll try to explain.

Psychoanalysis and psychology, until Freud and after Freud, let's say until the 1960s, the object relations schools in the United Kingdom. Up until the 1960s, psychology was a form of literature. It was a literary endeavor and literary endeavor imbued with magnificent insights. It was a tribute to the human intellect and edifice, the likes of which have been very few in human history. But relatively indistinguishable from Dostoevsky, relatively indistinguishable from Kierkegaard, certain writings of Kierkegaard.

I mean, okay, it was a form of philosophy, a form of literature, a more rigorous one because the father, Sandmann Freud, fancied himself a scientist. He was a neurologist, so he thought he could create a mechanics of the mind. That's why he called it psychoanalysis.

It was hubris, of course, because the subject matter of psychology is human beingsand human beings are eternally mutable. The only thing fixed about human beings is change.

And when the subject matter changes all the time, you cannot replicate experiments, you cannot replicate studies.

And that's the famous replication crisis in psychology.

So until the 1940s, 1960s, psychology was an extension of literature, a much more rigorous extension of literature, observations, case studies and so on. But psychology was also largely founded on introspection. A lot of it was founded on introspection.

Freud's work is at least 70% introspective.

And then there was a mega change, behaviorism, and later on, experimentalism in psychology.

And psychology became a pseudoscience. Psychology became an attempt to resemble physics.

And of course, they had to throw out everything, Freud, everything Freudian, and not only Freud, but for example, object relations and psychodynamic theories.

There's a lot, except Freud, even his own daughter contributed massively to child psychology, and not all of it, and a lot of it contradicted Freud.

So it's not only Freud.

There was enormous wisdom and wealth, which were discarded the moment psychology attempted to become an accurate exact science, which it can never be.

And from that moment onwards, we devolved. We devolved into taxonomy, in the form of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and other such relatively nonsensical texts, insurance- driven texts. We devolved into scientism, scientism, an attempt to look scientific by deploying laboratory methods and statistics.


What are we talking about? Spectacle.

Modern psychology is a spectacle. It's a simulation of real science, which it is not and can never ever be in principle.

And we have discarded the legacy of giants. And I'm not talking only about Freud. There are giants like, you know, Gantry, Winnicott, we have Melanie Klein, even who was not a psychologist, by the way. So we have discarded this. We threw it to the trash bin because it was not about spectacle. It was about deep work, introspection, speculation, intellect, intellect.

We discarded all this in favor of number crunching, symbol manipulation, the spectacle of pseudo physics of the mind.

And this is where we are right now. A useless psychology.


How do I know the psychology is useless? Because it's not working.

A growing number of people are mentally ill. Psychology is doing something wrong.

Psychology is doing something wrong. It's as if I were an oncologist and a growing number of my clients would get cancer. Of course, I can't claim success.

So psychology is one of the most resounding intellectual failures in human history. Resounding because it had a wonderful beginning and then owing to spectacle, it discarded it.

It started with the Hollywood movie. It's all about Eve. You know that? About multiple personalities.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We go back in the history of psycho.

I'm really intrigued by psychoanalysis, but on a sphere which is really different.

If we go back in the history of psychoanalysis, we see that the question of the borderline scratches at the construction of the psychic apparatus, which Freud conceived as a super-historical quantity.

He said there is no negation or history or as he himself put it, this is the primal heart within us.

And the fact that Freud put this apparatus in this way, this had consequences.

Namely, it says the psyche is primordial. Everything is projection.

And for this very reason, Freud clashes with the sound of phantasy when the letter brings into play the importance of introjection.

Namely, this implies that the external world is much more significant.

Ultimately, this is my personal interest in psychoanalysis as well as my critique.

Because I have long studied the philosophy and psychology of the machine, I finally come to locate the unconscious not within ourselves, but in the outside world, which I speak of as a psychotope.

Don't borderline in narcissism point exactly in that direction into the outer world, into this psychotope, which is way more influential than father or mother, etc.

Yes, well, when Freud tried to grapple with the inconsistencies in the concept of libido, he had to break it down into narcissistic libido and object libido. And that didn't work. And then he plagiarized Adler, Adler's diathesis concept and so on and so forth.

To say that we are machines, the trilateral model, yes, Freud's work is very machine-like. The energy is transformed.

It's very machine-like. It's a physical view, which is, I think, why I gravitated to psychology because my PhD is in physics.

I see. My PhD is in physics. I'm a professor of psychology for many years, but initially longer, when I was much younger and the dinosaurs were dying, my PhD was in physics.

I also have a PhD in philosophy, so it's okay. I'm biased.

He was one of the physicists.

So the problem with this is that if you postulate a system which is a physical system, then it is going to react to the environment in highly deterministic ways.

Don't forget to throw it anti-seeded quantum mechanics.

Here is only view as Newtonian or at bestEinsteinian. These are deterministic views.

So a machine reacts to the environment deterministically. That's why it's predictable and so on and so forth.

And of course, people are not like that.

So then you need to begin to split hairs and to begin to say, well, certain kinds of energy do interact with the environment in ways which essentially are predictable, but there are so many such ways that it appears to be probabilistic.

And then you have to explain why there are such a multiplicity.

It defies Occam's reason. It defies parsimony. So why is there such a multiplicity?

And then you begin to contradict yourself.

Freud is the most self-contradicting intellectual in human history, in my view.

Everything has like six definitions and all six contradict each other, depending on the year.

And it's all because he refused to accept others as the determining factors in the emergence of identity. He refused to accept that humans are relational. He refused to accept that humans are like Venn diagrams. Venn diagrams have a common...

Yeah, I do know them.

Yeah.

Yeah.

Sharing a space.

Yeah.

So he refused to accept that humans are the outcomes of interactions and processes, they're dynamic rather than given or static.

And because he was grabbed, he couldn't accept it.

He was, in a way, he was like Einstein with quantum mechanics.

You know, Einstein said, "God doesn't play with dice." And Freud was saying, "God doesn't play with dice when it comes to our psyche."

He gave us an apparatus, which is determined and fixed and can be analyzed and can be...

But later schools realized that this was a catastrophic paradigm, paradigmatic mistake.

And that humans are outward oriented, public facing, and the outcome of their interactions.

And so today we went even further with Philip Bromberg, my work and so on, we talk about self states, not a single state.

So yes, borderline narcissism, they indicate very strongly that some identities can be fully derived, 100% derived from the outside. Some functions can be fully regulated or outsourced.

And if this is true, then Freud is wrong.

Yeah. There's something like an unconscious of the unconscious, which is really interesting, like all these electromagnetic apparatuses that Freud built. And he was the first one to invent these synaptic logic in the brain, it's sort of find out about that.

But he neglected all the mechanical aspect, or the scientific aspect about electricitymainly.

When he talks about the brotherhood and the army as being the first members of mass society, all that happened like in the 18th century, when these guys got electrified.

Do you know the stories of electrified moms in 1746?

Okay.

So I was really interested in this negligence of the prehistory. Obviouslyhe wanted to be a big philosopher. That's the reason why he built this perfect, perfect, perfectly metaphysical machine in a way.

But in my understanding, so this goes together with your self-state.

I have the idea that being electrified, being in a digitized network society means being connected. I mean, if you want it or not, being connected to other people, you're enforced to be a relational being, so to speak.

And thereforeI talk like since '93 about the individual instead of the individual, because it's like you're separating. It's like a nuclear machine.

In a way, it's true. That goes together with the idea of several states of personality, and you're just floating through it.

And after a while, you think, okay, why don't you transpose all these psychological locals to the outside world and think of all the machines and all the influencers that come in somehow as introjects, change and shape you.

That'sthe reason, one of the reasons why I came up in the end with the machine as a psychotalk.

But I understand machine not as a material device, but as mekhami, a betrayal of nature, like the old Greeks said. So it's much more cunning. It's a deceit of natureand like being able to fly above something and being an angel maker in a way.

So that's my understanding of the psychotalk.

Well, of course, in the Middle Ages, they regarded the hierarchy of angels as a form of device, as a machine. They portrayed it as a big clock, as a huge clock.

And the clockmaker metaphor, clockmaker metaphor, it's a device method.

Yes, it's a device metaphor.

You mentioned the outside and the inside. So Lacan, of course, I don't need to tell you, Lacan, with his course, the Reconception of the Unconscious.

Yeah. My work on self-states implies that they are triggered exclusively and automatically by the environment.

Yeah, makes sense. The environment determines you at any given moment.


There is the most recent interview with Richard Grannon, where I put everything together. I elaborate on everything. And I'm not sure that you've seen it, but if you haven't, I'm answering many of your questions there.

But all in all, we have to decide once and for all, are we internally determined, or are we externally determined?

You could say, why can't we have both? We cannot have both, because the environment changes so frequently. And its impact is so massive, that even if we were to have some internal regulation or internal control, it would definitely be overwhelmed.

So it would have become marginalized and irrelevant for the conversation.

I am firmly in the camp of everything is environment. Everything comes from other side.

Unconscious included. I'm not a fan of Lacan, but in this sense, I fully agree with him.

And so we are creatures of our environment.

So you could say, okay, well, great. Now we have interconnectivity. We have the internet. We have social media. That's the machine we've been waiting for. Now we can all be even more connected, even more regulated.

Unfortunately, no. Because what had happened is the machine we had invented was not founded on reality. It was founded on fantasy and external regulation.

In other words, it's a pathological machine. It's a pathological, it's a machine that capitalizes on pathology, enhances it, reinforces it, and benefits from it, profits from it.

So it's not a machine, because the initial phase of the internet in the 1990s was exactly about this, exactly about this, connecting people together, putting them together to allow them to... The world intelligence.

Yes. A new identity, yes. A global brain. And then it devolved. It degenerated.

There's a decadence of this idea. And it became about a spectacle and how you fit into the spectacle by objectifying yourself as a prop, a prop in the theater plane.

And so this is highly sick. It's pathological. The environment can determine your mental health, and of course, can determine your mental illness. It's just a choice you make. Diagnostic. I'm totally in accord with you.

But there's some difference in regards of the role of the machine.

For example, like even Lacan, he noted this wonderful connection with the alphabet as the beast, alpha-beast. And if you take this letter, which is A, I mean, this is top- down, and it originally meant the ox and the yolk. I was like 35 years old when I found out that I didn't see the visual counterpart of the epiphytatic sign, and it came up to the idea, okay, where obviously this machine shapes us, it's much more than anything else.

I do know my grand-grand-grandfather, but I do know the alphabet, which is 2,800 years old. So in a way, we are kind of slaves of the machine, and they give us certain liberties.

Our problem with the computer world is that we still stick to the days of representation, to the old ideas, that we can't really cope with the new ones.

And the reason why it's getting pathological, in my understanding, is because we are sticking to the old world, like in the Middle Ages, to the feudal system, like belief, etc., whereas the new world emerged like the clockwork, capitalism, usury, stuff like that. So we're in the midst of something, and that's a pain, and that's the reason why we get pathological amounts.

Yes, I'm a lot more fatalistic than you are. You're an optimist, and it's a much-needed dose of optimism. I welcome your optimism, because you're proposing a transition period. You're saying this is a transition period.

I think I beg to differ respectfully, of course, because I think we are being overwhelmed. I think you're overestimating our capacity to cope with change.

People can cope, of course, with one seismic change, one tectonic shift, two, three. I'm not sure they can cope with 30. Time will tell, of course, who is right. Time will tell who is right.

Of course, it's a transition to something. This is a tautology. It's trivial. Of course, it's a transition to something.

The question is, are we going to transition to a new model of reality, a new organizing principle, exegetic, hermeneutic context or framework? Or are we going to transition into total intellectual anarchy and chaos from which I am very afraid we will seek refuge in total fantasy?

From a political point of view, I would really follow your position, because I know about the 14th, 15th centuries. After this change and the tide, changing tide in the 14th century because of clockwork, etc., I mean, there was two or three centuries of civil war unrest, etc. It's a long story. It's a catastrophic story to a certain degree.

But on the other hand, there are these little shimmerings of hope because there's a new rationality.

And if you're getting into that, like start a program, for example, you see that forgetting about yourself is really beautiful.

My advice to any young person would be, forget yourself. Think about something else. Think about things.

Nietzsche has a wonderful saying that the love of the most distant things is the love of the specters and the things. And this is really beautiful. Forget yourself. Forget about charity, all that stuff, vokeness. Think of something new.

And then you get into some water which is not troubled.

Yes.

But when you tell young people that they think you're advocating fantasy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Forget about myself, forget about reality.

And now I'm at liberty to play video games for five hours a day.

What do you say? Do you have children, by the way? No, I don't.

If you had, Paul Vaczlebik's as if psychology, if you had a children. So what would be your final advice for like the next 20 years?

What should this kid do?

Don't buy into anyone's narrative. Construct your own. Avoid fantasy. Stick to reality. And don't take yourself too seriously.

I think this will be the three main pieces.

And then the rest follows.

It's a wonderful end for conversational. We just have, we stop recording, just have like a little aftermath talking.

So it was a pleasure. And I would say, yeah, it was a real pleasure for me.

One second, please. Let me see how to stop. Yeah, yeah. ###

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