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Pandemic Taught Us Humility - Can Give Us Purpose: Back to Village, Communal Therapy

Uploaded 5/18/2020, approx. 26 minute read

So much for your time and presentation, sir. I think it was really helpful for people and especially for the children.

So we will move to Dr. Sam Vaknin.

Dr. Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-Love, and he is a visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University, Russia, and he is a professor of finance and psychology in Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies. And he is an editorial board member of many journals, and he is really a good YouTuber. I found his videos are really useful.

This is personally I'm saying. I saw your videos, your lectures, it's really useful for the people and for the people who are suffering from addiction disorders and other mental disorders.

So we will not waste time and we will listen to Dr. Sam Vaknin lecture.

I think I'm muted. I'm muted.

Okay.

So my name is Sam, Sam Vaknin, and there is extremely little I can add to practitioners with your range of experience and exposure. Nor do I wish to actually.

I would like instead to be a bit of an enfant terrible and an iconoclastic and to suggest a different point of view, perhaps.

First of all, let's start with the basic fact that we have been doing psychotherapy for 150 years and we have been failing for 150 years.

Psychotherapy is an abysmal failure, the discipline. It's easy to prove the prevalence and the incidence of mental health disorders in the population at large has been growing exponentially over the past few decades.

And so a discipline that is intended to heal and fails to heal, which is its main goal, supposedly, this discipline is a failure.

If we were to have a cancer therapy aimed at a group of cancers and the result would have been an explosion in the prevalence and incidence of these cancers, we would never say that this discipline, sub-discipline, is a success.

We must be humble and we are not.

As practitioners, as therapists, as psychologists, as psychiatrists, as miserable professors of psychology, such as myself, what we lack in dollops is humility.

We are not humble. We refuse to accept that we had failed. We had failed our patients and clients, of course, on a mass scale. I'm not talking about individual cases.

And we have failed for two reasons.

First of all, we keep pretending that psychology is an exact science when it is neither exact nor a science.

And the second reason is that we have established guilds, professional guilds and monopolies and cartels of practitioners.

And we exclude, forcibly, by force of law, on pain of punishment, on pain of imprisonment. We exclude huge groups of people who can be as helpful as we are and very often more helpful than we are.

Now, this pandemic, psychology, I don't know who will survive this pandemic, but psychology will not.

Psychology, the way it had been practiced until today, will not survive this pandemic simply because two billion people, rough estimate, are going to have mental health problems. These are two billion new patients, not the existing ones. They are on top of the existing ones.

It is estimated that anywhere between 40 and 50% of the global population will suffer mental health disorders that require intervention.

We are not equipped numerically. We are not equipped in any other way, logistically, strategically, as a profession, to cope with this tsunami.

We are not.

We will have to open up our ranks. We will have to introduce other groups of responders, practitioners and helpers. We will have to incorporate family members, neighbors, good friends, the neighborhood clown. I don't know. We are going to have to include the government. We are going to have to cooperate rather than monopolize, as we have been doing until now.

And this is part of a bigger picture.

This pandemic teaches us that we need to rethink and probably discard the organizing principle of society, at least Western society. The organizing principles were narcissism, grandiose narcissism, and malignant individualism.

These were the organizing principles that have prevailed over the last 200 years. And look at the mess we are in, directly attributable to these two principles, grandiosity, malignant individualism, the rule of the jungle.

And so we will need to rethink these things and probably discard them.

There is, of course, place for individual therapy. There is place for resilience, principles of resilience. There is place for mindfulness and many, many other wonderful things.

But I think we need a society-wide solution.

I don't think individual therapy will be of great use, honestly. No offense to anyone on this screen. I don't believe you can do a lot of good, simply because you are individuals, you are one.

So you can help 10 people, 20 people, 50 people. We need each one of you to help a million people.

It cannot be done unless we change society itself, the way it's structured, the organizing principle, the hermeneutic and exegetic and explanatory principle, the principle that imbues society and social interactions with meaning.

We need to change the meaning, not the techniques, not the strategies, not the way to cope.

The problem is a problem of lack of meaning. The virus reifies this lack of meaning, of course, because it slaps us in the face and tells us you are meaningless. You are meaningless. It kills us randomly and meaninglessly.

In this sense, it's only a reification.

So I think there are two solutions that we would need to implement on top of the foundation of therapy.

We need to find agendas, new agendas, new projects, global projects, global agendas to give meaning to life. People need to belong to these movements.

And of course, at the beginning, as long as physical distancing takes place, these movements have to be virtual or digital.

But it's been done before. Arab Spring was organized through Twitter. We have social media. We are geared. We have the infrastructure. Look what's happening with environmentalism, where teenagers took over the movement.

So we need new projects, new agendas, new secular religions, new ideologies in the good sense of the word. We need to mobilize people. We need to make them belong. We need to give them meaning again.

No amount of mindfulness would do this. And their resilience critically depends on their collaboration with other people.

And the second thing we would need to do, we would need to go back to the African village.

It takes a village to raise a child. We all know this.

And yet we had forgotten this. We had abandoned the village. We had abandoned our village.

We are atomized. We are alienated. We are isolated long before the virus had struck.

This virus is nothing if not the accentuation, the reification of trends that started decades ago. This virus just put a mirror to our face.

It has done nothing. It has killed 300,000 people. And that is horrible. But in itself, it's not the kind of medical threat, for example, that other diseases are. It's not a medical issue. It's a psychological issue.

This virus has shown us who we are.

And now there's a concept in my field. I teach personality disorders. It's called narcissistic mortification. Narcissistic mortification is a big narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury or narcissistic wound is when your grandiosity is challenged. Narcissistic mortification is when your self-perception is challenged. When your self-identity is challenged, the way you perceive yourself.

And then you have mortification. We have been mortified by this virus. Our very core identity values, organizations, institutions, everything has been challenged by this virus.

And I regret to say we didn't come out with flying colors.

The crisis hasn't started yet. And we have all disintegrated and fell to pieces as individuals, as institutions, as nation states, you name it. We did not excel.

Yet it is, of course, not too late.

I would like to end by mentioning what this virus had done to us.

This virus, as I said, was a mass of collective narcissistic injury or mortification. As a species, the virus showed us that nature matters, that we are an integral part of nature.

There was a philosopher by the name of Descartes, and he created the Cartesian view of the world. He broke the world apart, observer and observed, we and nature.

That is, of course, a fallacious dichotomy.

We are small, we are interdependent.

I'm sorry, there's a problem with the...

Can you hear me now?

Yes, I can hear you now. Can you hear me?

Yes.

Okay.

Now, had I been conspiracyminded, I would have thought someone silenced me on purpose. But I'm not. I'm kidding. I was not kidding, by the way, two more minutes.

Yes, yes, you can take your time.

So as a species, we were reminded to be a part of nature. We were humbled. We were humbled by the virus.

What is a virus? It's not even an organism. It's a package. It's protein enveloped, lipids and enveloping an RNA's figment. It's a nothing thing. Nature sent us an agent to humiliate and humble us.

And so we have learned how interdependent we are, how small, how insignificant.

And we perhaps, this will teach us to modify and moderate our defiance, our contumaciousness towards nature.

And then the virus challenged our omnipotence, our sense of omnipotence.

We discovered that there are limits to our growth, to our growth economically. There are limits to our medicine.

We had this notion of medicine as all powerful.

We're not omniscient.

There was a failure of our grandiosity on this level too. We are vulnerable. We're all fallible. We can all die at the moment's notice. We are fragile. Our social institutions are not bulwark. They're not a firewall against anything.

So we are very anxious. We're very anxious.

One of the main reasons I think we're very anxious is not because we have lost jobs only. Some of these jobs, many of these jobs will come back. Everyone knows that.

It's not because we have been socially isolated for two months. 11% of the population of the United States are single and they are isolated for years.

I don't think that's the core reason for the anxiety. I think the core reason for the anxiety is the challenge to our grandiosity which had grown beyond measure in an increasingly narcissistic society, narcissistic civilization.

I refer you to the studies of Twenge and Campbell. College graduates are five times more grandiose and more systemic than 10 years ago.

We have grown. We have developed, to use a Greek word if I remember correctly, hubris. We have developed hubris.

And the virus, ironically, might be the best thing that has happened to us. It's a reset button. The price is high.

But the price in human affairs is always high. It is not true that the ideogram for crisis is the same ideogram for opportunity in Chinese. That's a myth. It's not true.

But it's a pity because it should have been. Every crisis is an opportunity. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity, the more total the crisis, the more total the opportunity.

We have a total opportunity to reboot. If we miss this opportunity, we should grieve. We should grieve much more than we should grieve for the victims of the pandemic.

Their death endows us with a legacy and an obligation to reform and to change or all this sacrifice would have been meaningless, and in vain.

Thank you.

Thank you so much for Dr. Sam.

So now we will move to panel discussion. And before that, I would like to thank you to all our speakers. Your presentation was really informative. And I really hope people will learn something and enjoy it. I really appreciate your presentations and your time.

So we will move to panel discussion. And we have people here if anyone is having any questions.

Yes, Dr. Elia, I will unmute you. Here you are.

I just want to say, Dr. Sam, thank you for your passion. Thank you for challenging all of us to have a paradigm shift, basically, about the way that we view the world and our contributions to this virus and how we respond to it.

I've never heard what you said before, but it stretched my mind. And that's always a good thing. When we get older, gray hair, it doesn't happen very often.

So your challenge, I take it to heart and I appreciate it. And we will have to have totally out of the box solutions. Just like you said, your speech really resonated with my heart. I'm going to think long and hard about it the rest of the day. And the days to come.

And anyway, I hope that you and I can collaborate with neighbors, North Macedonia and Greece.

Once it's over, we can even meet. Not shake hands, not shake hands, but meet. Six feet apart.

Shivani, is this being taped? The whole webinar, are you taping it?

Yes, great. That's very good. If you need, we can send you. If you want to listen again.

Yes, I'd be delighted. I would like to upload it to my YouTube channel if there's no objection to the other participants.

Yes, I will send you.

I have 30 million views, so you will all benefit.

Yes, I know. Even I'm following your YouTube channel.

Yeah, well, my condolences. My apologies.

Thank you so much.

For people that are interested, if they can all go to the chat room and if they want to connect with us, they can connect through our LinkedIn profiles. Yes. So anybody that's listening, if you click on the chat at the very bottom, you'll open up the screen on the right side of your screen. And then you can...

So I would hope Dr. Kehr and Dr. Sam, Dr. Prashant, just put your LinkedIn if you want to. I did that. But if you want people to connect with us that way, that's an easy way for them. And just let us know that you're part of this conference so we know kind of where you're coming from. That would help.

I see that there are seven messages in the chapter. Eight, correct your name.

Yes, yes.

Actually, we have Dr. Sean. He would like to say something.

Oh, I was just saying that one concept that you brought up, Dr. Sam, was the idea that this is lessons to be learned from this. And if we miss out on the lesson, that is going to be the worst part of this. Much more than just the pandemic sicknesses, that we are experiencing life in a new way. It is our new normal.

And as we learn how to navigate ourselves through it, we share that information with other people. And eventually, your big picture may happen.

Eventually, the concept of lesser levels of narcissism and more value towards working and collaborating may occur just from the understanding of looking around at what life brought us from this experience. So I agree.

I hope so.

I don't agree that therapy has been without benefit.

I think that when we look at the research, we can see, unfortunately, a negative effect size on certain types of counseling.

But it's usually when it's isolative counseling, like a kid who goes into counseling, and he's actually dealing with stuff at home, and the parents aren't in the counseling.

Or you have a spouse that goes to counseling, whether or not working together on something, which leads also to a narcissistic kind of way of approaching the counseling situation and leads to that unfortunate concept that I brought up earlier of the identified patient.

But this kid, the person is the problem versus maybe we're looking at a global situation within the household, within the school setting, within some type of group environment.

My comment, just to clarify, my comment was epidemiological. So it was an epidemiological comment.

When you have a discipline in medicine, any discipline, and ostensibly psychotherapy is somehow remote, remote cousin of medicine.

But when you have a discipline in medicine, where you were, you know, the prevalence and incidence is increasing exponentially. Discipline is doing something wrong. It's exactly the situation we're having with COVID-19 right now. It's been six months already. And we've been we've been doing some things probably not right. We'll derive lessons later.

So when you have in the medical field cancer, and you have a cancer of the thyroid, you take a radiation and you take certain chemicals to fix that thyroid cancer.

Now, with psychological issues, why you got depressed, and why I got depressed, and why Karen got depressed, and why I got depressed are all four different reasons.

Exactly what I said, it's not the science. It can never be a science. I agree with you.

Yeah, there's no clinical, there's no clinical entity like in medicine.

The concept of clinical entity in psychology is is dubious. I don't want to go into this because I think, I'd love to do it face to face.

I think it's important because people are seeking out counseling.

And one of the things that you bring up is like, if you seek it out, but what are you going to do? What are you going to do for yourself and the bigger society out there?

Because I can't fix anybody, I can guide them. I can show them ways that they might look at something differently. I can help them with problem solving.

But ultimately, as a therapist, as a counselor, I'm not there to change them, I'm there to get them to learn how to change themselves. When they are changing themselves, then you see the bigger picture.

But right now, you do have a whole generation that's grown up with this understanding of somebody's going to support me, somebody's going to give me something to help me through this. Somebody's got to modify it for me. Somebody's got to accommodate it for me.

Learned helplessness.

Yes. I think Dr. Karen had her hand up, but we need to hear from her as well.

Dr. Karen, go ahead.

Yes. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Thank you, Dr. Sam, for your presentation.

You mentioned earlier.

Thank you, happy birthday.

Thank you so much. It feels good to be here. But you mentioned earlier that a lot of people are seeking individual therapy. Yet you mentioned that in the midst of this time, it's not enough.

The statement was made that each one of us must reach a million people. And I'm of that same mindset.

Can you speak to how do we do that? How do we reach a million people?

As a practitioner, we are doing the virtual therapy thing, and we're doing as much as we can to help as many people as we can.

You have 30 million followers, so that's a platform that's very effective.

But overall, how would you say that in addition to providing therapeutic services to people, how do we reach that million people, each one of us?

I will defer to my colleagues here who are actually practicing therapists. Although I do provide counseling, it's not my main thing. My main thing is teaching.

But before I get off the stage, so to speak, that was precisely my message that rather than think how to amplify individual therapy via digital means, rather than think that way, I suggested a totally different agenda.

An agenda of belonging, of community, of the African village, of global projects, of global ideologies, of new secular religions, of global movements.

I think we can't reach this million people. But if we give their life a meaning, we have reached them, however indirectly. If we give them a direction, if we give them a purpose, that's logotherapy in a way. Let's call it mass logotherapy, Viktor Frankl.

If we do this, and if we re-establish community as the organizing therapeutic principle, because right now, Dr. Sean aside, because Dr. Sean is a good therapist, a therapist who knows his limitations, a therapist who is an integral part of an organic fabric, a fabric which includes friends, family, community, job, workplace. So he knows his place.

But I regret to say that the majority of therapists are grandiose, and they do not know their place. They are god-like. They act as though they are god-like. And they foster an agenda, learned helplessness in the patient.

So patients end up going from one therapist to the next, as they would have gone in earlier days, to spellcasters or fortune tellers.

So I think therapy has to be paradigm shifted from the individual therapist as an omniscient, omnipotent figure, which is Freud, by extension, to community, communal therapy, where therapy is just one pretty minimal tool.

I was in private practice for 18 years before I exited and changed the course of my career, and I don't practice anymore.

But even at the time, I had a full practice, and it was never marketed. It was all word of mouth. It was built organically. When people would come in, I would say the goal of therapy is for you not to be in my office, but to go out and live a happy life. And I'm going to give you the tools and hold you accountable, and you go out and do it.

Now, under these circumstances, I think the million people that Dr. Sam talked about can happen in a variety of ways, certainly through social media, through the followers that you have, and your sphere of influence.

Some people's sphere of influence is 300 people, and others is 300,000 people. YouTube, through LinkedIn, obviously LinkedIn has become now the go-to place in order to do business, honestly, because of the way we are.

Any social media platforms, where you get the message out, whether it's Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook Live, or whatever videos you do, to continue to spread the message of love, hope, and optimism in the midst of this adversity, and to get off our high horse, like Dr. Sam said, we're just people.

And yes, Dr. Sean is the one practicing, and you seem to know, I love what Dr. Sam said about you, that there are certain limitations, and it's okay to suck at things from time to time, and to have some form of humility, just because we have a doctor in front of our name, we're not God. It's just a degree that we got.

But to have compassion, love, and kindness, and to treat one another that way, because we're all interconnected with nature, and with one another, regardless of what country we live in, regardless of our socioeconomic status, regardless of our religious affiliation, regardless of our ethnicity and nationality, we are all connected.

And this pandemic has really proven that it came here to humble us, and to teach us some very, very important lessons.

So I think that we have an opportunity, and I hope we take it to shift, to have a major societal shift in the way that we treat one another, that the way we treat this world that we live in.

And if we don't take advantage of this opportunity, all the people that have died and are suffering, and the 2 billion people that Dr. Sam talked about, will have happened in vain.

So I hope people will wake up, and it's our responsibility, I believe, to share that message, just like we did here. Maybe here we had 210 people listening today, but then we share it, and that becomes 2,000 or 20,000.

And there's a movement towards compassion, love, kindness, and understanding of one another. So I thank you for your message, Dr. Sam.

Thank you.

I just want to add two sentences.

First of all, I guarantee tens of thousands of viewers, just give me a video, I give you money by guarantee. So I upload the video, we will have massive viewership. I have no doubt about this.

Second thing, social media is social. I mean, I fully agree with you. Social media is the transition from individual one-on-one therapy, which is needed and necessary and should not be discarded, of course, to a more communal form of therapeutic interventions.

The therapeutic interventions, it doesn't have to be a structured therapy. If I tell you I love you, that's a therapeutic intervention. If I tell you there's hope, stay strong. That's a therapeutic intervention, of course, and everyone will tell you this.

So social media is exactly this example. We need to mobilize and leverage social media to do mass therapy.

Why?

Because this is a mass crisis, not an individual crisis. It's a mass collective. It's a crisis of the collective, not only of individuals in the collective. The whole collective is threatened.

And we need to administer collective therapy and therapy to the collective. Once the collective heals, usually the cells in this organism also heal.

So this is the power of religion. I'm agnostic, don't misunderstand. But this is the power of religion. Religion provides you with a healing message, reified in an organization.

So once you belong to the organization, you subsume by osmosis the healing message. Religion is a form of mass therapy to cut a long story short.

Mass therapy with a chief therapist Jesus Christ. It's a form of mass in the case of Christianity. It's a form of mass therapy.

That's all I'm saying. We need to think big to cut a long story short. We need to think big in order to be humble. We need to think big, not to be narcissistic and grandiose, but we need to think big because we are faced with an unprecedented challenge as far as mental health.

I think one of the things that you're discussing is what we might call a milieu, which is the idea of everybody's kind of on the same page, thinking in the same way, using the same kind of language, same words, same thoughts, they're hearing the same kinds of things.

The milieus are what we attempt to set up in home situations and schools so that they can take care of each other.

Because the therapist or the school psychologist can come in once a week, even once today, still not be in that person's existence all the time. So teaching them how to interact with each other and watching how they interact with each other and learning from them, not necessarily teaching them anything, but knowing, okay, this is how this group of people interacts together.

Maybe if they have the ability to collaborate more, they might be able to find more peace within themselves. And we're going to show them how to do some problem solving.

So it's not necessarily about what happened to you. And I grew the spirit so I could do this, you know, while I'm doing counseling. It's not only a therapeutic intervention, but it's also like, what can you do on your own all the time?

And that's really what the mindfulness, everybody talks mindfulness now. I don't think everybody really gets the concept of mindfulness, but they know that it has something to do with thinking about stuff the way it is right now, you know, and trying to be in the present moment. And it's the hardest thing in the world. It's an easy concept and extremely difficult.

So one thing that we can do as mental health providers is just supply that milieu environment, supply that this is how you guys can work together.

And I learned that from working in a residential treatment center for a number of years, where everybody kind of has to be on the same page in order to help that kid.

If I may just interject or react to the show.

I've got another meeting like in two minutes. I know our time is up. So I'm going to have to, you know, in a couple of minutes.

Thank you. I just wanted to say, I just want to say it sounded a bit like you're talking about conformity. And that was not my intention. Of course, on the contrary, I think we should know, I mean, I know I misunderstood, I know I misrepresent what you're saying, but some people might have understood it this way.

And actually, when we say milieu, when we say this, it also includes protocols for managing dissonance and conflict. So conflict management protocols, dissonance reduction protocols, anxiety reduction protocols, functional anxiety reduction protocols. All these are the tools that we should give the people. And we should give them a mass. We should give them, we should like, in other words, what I'm saying is maybe we should transition from therapy to teaching and education.

Well, you just said it. This is where our children do begin to learn this. When they feel safe and secure in their classroom, they can project this and generalize it out to the world. But when they don't have those environments available to them, we are right now. Yes. And we say, okay, we're on hold right now, we don't attempt to fix the world. But we keep giving the energy. And in my case, it's to our children.

I saw that I cut myself off because I know that we're out of time.

Yeah, we're out of time.

Very nice.

Thank you so much for your contributions and everyone's listening in. I hope it was informative and uplifting.

Thank you so much.

I just wanted to add a comment as a viewer that I found this all very helpful for all of the speakers that were part of it because I love the idea of mass therapy as we provide counseling through our counseling agency. And I just, I think we do need to think outside the box and that fits with that psychological flexibility of coping differently and bringing different approaches to the individual therapy to the individual struggling and the crisis that I think we're going to see after after this pandemic.

So I personally just very much appreciate all that that you guys brought.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you so much, everyone.

Thank you so much to each and every speaker. A really great meeting to everyone here and I appreciate everyone's time and effort and a huge thanks for every speaker for this informative talks and the experience you have shared with us. I hope this knowledge will help others in this pandemic situations and they can cope with this crisis.

Our team, the Talks Media Limited, would like to say thanks to each and individual who joined us today. We really hope we made this webinar productive here.

Thank you.

Thank you, Shivani.

Appreciate it.

Thank you so much.

Thank you Dr. Eliana and everyone. Thank you.

Everyone. Bye-bye. Stay connected. Take care of your health.

Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day. You too. Bye-bye. Ciao. Bye-bye.

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When We Lose the Plot, Fall Apart: Narrative Failure

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the role of narratives in mental health and mental illness. Healthy individuals have multiple narratives for different situations, while mentally unhealthy individuals have one rigid narrative at a time. In mental illness, the individual creates multiple selves, each with its own narrative, to cope with various situations. Vaknin uses the examples of virtue signaling and depression to illustrate how narratives can impact mental states and mental illness. Narratives can override and camouflage mental illnesses, demonstrating their powerful influence on individuals.


Abuse Victims, Beware Common Sense Is Harmful Nonsense ( 12 Myths Debunked)

Professor Sam Vaknin debunks several myths in this transcript, including the idea that venting is good for you, empathic people read others well, and positive psychology works. He also discusses the link between gender identity, autism, ADHD, and other mental health disorders. Additionally, he argues that group brainstorming can lead to anchoring, groupthink, and pressure, and that personality and IQ are not stable in adulthood. Finally, he disputes the myth that people use only 10% of their brain capacity.

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