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(Psychological) Resistance Not Futile, Just Bad FOR YOU

Uploaded 1/25/2022, approx. 22 minute read

Okay, Bon Bonin, it's time to wake up and face harsh reality in the Sam Vaknin horror show.

My name is still Sam Vaknin, and I will forever be the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm also a professor of psychology, which is a main reason why this video will deal with psychological issues.

A no-brainer, I assume. I hope.

So today we are going to discuss resistance. Resistance is futile out there, but regrettably, it's very efficient in here.

And today I will try to explain why I use the word regrettably.

What's wrong with resistances and how they lead us astray?

Stay tuned, because resistances are possibly the most ancient topic in psychology. They had first been described by Bleuler and Freud about 130 years ago. And yet they are still very far from fully understood. They're still enigmas. So I will attempt to shed some light on this very dark topic.

Resistance is the coherent deployment of psychological defenses in order to cope with egodystonic information about oneself. You got that, Shoshanim. I bet you didn't. So let me try and help you, because I'm such a nice altruistic guy.

So resistance is when people use psychological defense mechanisms.

Now we have many psychological defense mechanisms. For example, denying something, denying a fact, is a psychological defense mechanism. Repressing information, conveniently forgetting it or cutting it off consciousness. That's called repression. And it's a form, it's a defense mechanism. Dissociation is a first cousin of repression. Then we have intellectualization or rationalization, where we try to explain how heinous and odious acts in a way that would feed our self-image and other people's expectations of us.

So resistances are ways, in other words, to falsify reality. And so resistances use, they deploy psychological defenses.

Psychological defenses are filters. In a way, they are cognitive distortions.

Psychological defenses help us to render reality more livable, more survivable, more palatable.

Reality is harsh. If we were to face reality without defenses, without these firewalls, without these protections, we would fall apart. We would disintegrate.

And like borderlines, we would act out. It is commonly said that people with borderline personality disorder have no skin. They're in direct touch with reality. Their defenses are not working well, a process called decompensation.

So resistance is not the same as defense mechanisms or defenses.

Resistance uses defenses. So defenses are like infantry, and resistance is like the commander in chief, specific commander in chief with orange hair. Yes, I couldn't resist it.

Now, I also said at the beginning of this torturous video that resistance is used to cope with egodystonic information about oneself.

Again, let me break it down. Very often we are exposed to information which makes us feel uncomfortable, makes us feel bad about ourselves, about others, about our relationships, about the world at large, etc.

And this discomfort or pervasive unease is what we call egodystony. So some information has the capacity to drive us into an egodystonic state.

And we need to defend against this information. We need to fend it off. We need to somehow ignore it or bury it or eliminate it or erase it or eradicate it or delete it or do something with it.

And this process of doing something with this kind of information that is uncomfortable, the process of doing something with this information is what we call resistance.

Now, resistance is an organizing principle. Resistance is an algorithm that puts together, optimizes psychological defenses to obtain a self efficacious outcome. In other words, you could think of resistance as Google's or YouTube's algorithm.

It selects defenses according to environmental cues, according to the information that has to be tackled. So it then selects defenses and the resistance puts these defenses together in a kind of a strategic pincer movement, puts them together in order to encircle, besiege the information and then eliminate.

It's very similar to the way the immune system works. The system of immunology in the body does essentially the same. It has multiple types of organs and multiple types of bodies in the blood, for example, antibodies, bacteriophages and so on. And what they do is they engulf foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. They engulf them and then they digest them or they dismember them or they destroy them or they disable them or they destroy cells which are infected.

So the immunological system in the body and the immunological system in one's psyche, in one's psychology, essentially are identical.

Resistances use psychological defenses to dismantle and destroy the aspects of information which could create egodystony.

Now, this is on the individual level, but we have the same identical process on the collective level. So resistance could be a collective response.

Additionally, certain cognitive behavioral patterns are also resistances.

One very famous example is what Frued called repetition compulsion. The repeating, dysfunctional, self-defeating and self-destructive behavior patterns in a compulsive way. You can't help it. You keep repeating this. You keep choosing the wrong or selecting the wrong mate. You keep managing your relationships in a way that guarantees failure. You keep running your business into the wall, defeating yourself.

So this is repetition compulsion if you keep doing it time and again and you can't help it.

And it's a form of resistance in effect.

So certain cognitive behavioral patterns are also resistances. It's very important to understand that all these operate on the individual level, but as I said, equally on the collective level.

And that's where it gets really, really dangerous.

Because on the collective level, the self-defeat and self-destruction can metastasize.

And it usually generates, fosters, engenders all kinds of crises, which become very fast, totally unmanageable.

There are four groups of resistances. And I'm going to go through all four because I'm sadistic.

Okay, Bao Vazonim.

Group number one, comfort zone preservation.

Resistances whose main role is to preserve the comfort zone. The comfort zone is a set of behaviors, choices, and decisions, coupled with cognitions and emotions that make you comfortable.

You know the ropes. You can predict what's going to happen. You feel familiar. You feel you are in familiar territory.

So comfort zone preservation is about maintaining control by rejecting the unfamiliar, the countervailing, and the challenging.

And this fosters a sense of safety, predictability, stability, certainty, agency, and self-efficacy.

Within the comfort zone, we feel good because we feel empowered and enabled. We have this information asymmetry. We know everything there is to know about the comfort zone, and we know next to nothing about everything outside the comfort zone.

So we tend to preserve the comfort zone, defend it with our lives, fight for it, and fend off challenges and challengers to the comfort zone.

We even become hostile. We can become even violent.

Some resistances are intended to preserve the integrity and the boundaries of the comfort zone, to render the comfort zone functional and active, to preserve the comfort zone in the face of onslaught of information, data, other people, relationships, interactions, societal mores, authority, authorities, anyone, anyone who threatens to upend the balance and the equilibrium and the homeostasis of the comfort zone is met with comfort zone preservation resistances.

The second type of resistance is the oldest, or the first one described actually.

Coffee break. You're lucky you don't smoke, would have taken five minutes. Okay

The second type is resistance to dread and panic inducing insights and interpretations.

So this is the oldest, the first described type of resistance in writings by early psychoanalysts, Freud himself included.

Whenever we are exposed to an insight, someone, a close friend, a therapist, a mother, you know, a neighbor, a colleague, puts a mirror to you, shows you something about yourself that you were not aware of or that you preferred to not be aware of.

This is called insight.

Now insight has two components, cognitive and emotional. When we digest the insight cognitively, we then have an emotional reaction to the insight.

We all have myths and stories about ourselves, our self image and self perception are totally unrealistic, they're divorced from reality.

And so when we are confronted with insights, especially in a structured way, for example, in therapy, when we are confronted with the truth about ourselves, with the interpretation of our unconscious processes and the resulting conscious content, when we are confronted with analysis and criticism of our choices, decisions and behaviors, when new light is shed upon who we are and what we doand why we do what we do, this is insight and the interpretation of the insight.

And so we become very defensive, we become very resistant to learning, we fight back, we deny, we walk away, we refuse, we become aggressive, we counter attack, we devalue the source of the insight, whatever, these are all types of resistances.

And the reason is that if we were to really accept the insight and the interpretation, we would have a panic attack, we would have anxiety. This is dread inducing, angst inducing.

So resistance to insight and interpretation is intended to reduce anxiety. It's anxietymitigating and ameliorating.

In other words, it's anxiolytic.

Okay, the third group of resistances are known as cognitive distortions.

These are resistances intended to buttress, to uphold, to support, to prove a fantastic, inflated, grandiose or otherwise unrealistic sense of self-worth and self-image and self-perception.

So when you have a view of yourself that is widely divorced from reality, you would need to defend this view much more vigorously because of what I call the grandiosity gap.

The gap between reality and the way you see yourself is very hurtful, potentially mortifying, and to avoid this pain, this hurt, you would distort your thinking processes. That's why it's called cognitive distortions.

And you would reframe reality, you would perceive it wrongly through a filter, through a lens, darkly usually.

So by resisting your own thinking and reality, you would then support, uphold your grandiose sense of self-worth and inflated self-perception and self-image. That's the third family.

The fourth family of resistances. These are resistances intended to cement and defend a narrative, a story, a piece of fiction, which provides meaning and structure.

Now, meaning is by far the most important thing psychologically. We can survive without food and without water even, to a certain degree without air, but we can't survive when we can survive without loved ones. Sometimes we want to survive without loved ones, but we can't survive without meaning. We need to make sense of the world and we need to make sense of other people, otherwise we feel seriously threatened.

And so what we do, we create narratives, we create stories, and we embed the environment and everyone around us in these stories, in these plays.

It's like writing theater plays, Shakespeare said it, we're all on a stage.

So these narratives allow us to continue to live, to survive, to go on, to function somehow, because we don't feel anymore that we inhabit a meaningless, senseless, coincidental, incidental world.

We feel that we get a hold, we have a handle on what's happening, and we can, to some extent, predict because everything makes sense. Everything is logical, everything can be reasoned with, everything A follows B, causation, for example, is this kind of narrative.

We know in physics that it's a very dubious proposition, but people use causation as a form of narrative.

So narratives provide meaning and structure.

In other words, the narratives are organizing and hermeneutic principles.

Narratives allow us to organize reality in a way that would make sense to us, and then interpret the alleged interactions and connections between the parts of reality in our narrative.

So we would tend to interpret our narrative and the structure of our narrative.

On the collective level, there are meta-narratives or mega-narratives.

For example, science is such a narrative. It attempts to make sense, to reorder the world, to introduce structure into chaos, and then to make sense of it all by interpreting.

By interpreting what we so-called discover, that's science.

Politics, a political affiliation, a professional affiliation, your profession, academic degree, whatever, politics, they make sense of the world for you. They introduce meaning and direction and goals into your life. The same with religion.

These are all narratives, and so there are some resistances whose role is to cement the narrative, to render it cohesive and coherent and not susceptible to attack, to block all vectors, offensive vectors, so that no information can actually crack the narrative somehow, crack it wide open.

And these resistances also defend and protect the narrative. They firewall the narrative so that it's not subjected to what could be perceived as malevolent or malicious deconstruction, or even well-meaning deconstruction.

Narratives are very often sacred. Science is a secular religion.

And so narratives provide us with direction and goals, as I said, and they help us to make sense of the world, and they help us to make sense of others.

So for example, what we call a theory of mind is a narrative. A theory of mind is our understanding of what makes other people tick, what motivates them, our perception of the psychology of other people, their psychodynamic, psychological processes.

This is called the theory of mind, and it's a narrative.

Similarly, what is called the internal working model, or IWM, is a narrative.

It's the way we organize our understanding, our comprehension, of our place in the world, reality, and other people in reality, and how they relate to us.

So internal working model, the theory of mind is a private case of the internal working model.

And these are narratives, and we defend them tooth and nail and claw. We are very defensive about our narratives.

Sometimes we kill other people because of narratives. People kill each other because of an allegiance or affiliation with a football club, with a nation, with a religion.

These are all narratives.

So people become very aggressive and very violent when you try to attack a narrative to challenge it, to confront it head on. They are very invested, emotionally invested, cathected, they have cathexis in the narrative.

In fact, such individual and collective narratives can be construed as resistances writ large.

In other words, while the prevailing view is that resistances are used to kind of protect and defend narratives, I think that narratives are in effect resistances.

They're just so big, and so complex, and so multilayered that we fail to see the resistance element in them.

Because most resistances are very primitive. They're like in your face, go away.

But narratives are most sophisticated and more subtle. But narratives do the same thing.

The main function of a narrative is to distinguish between you and others. It's to create a sense of identity, continuous identity.

And so narratives are very involved with questions of memory.

When you look at history, for example, with the very discipline of history, history is a narrative by definition. It's a story. It's a narrative by definition.

So history is a resistance, because it's intended to classify, categorize, exclude, include, and it imbues you with a sense of continuity and identity and memory.

Now, resistances are externalized. In other words, resistances can be observed, and they can be observed not only by trained observers, but they can be observed even by simple people.

People will sometimes tell you, listen, you're not open to learn. What's wrong with you? Why would you keep repeating this? Or why won't you listen? Why are you so hard-headed or hard-headed or stubborn or obtuse?

These are all colloquial ways of saying, why do you have resistances?

So resistances are externalized. They can be observed from the outside, and they have an effect on other people, because if you are very resistant, it's going to have an impact on your relationships in a variety of settings, your workplace, marriage, your intimate, your committed relationship with your neighbors, your colleagues.

Resistances have an impact on behavior, and therefore, they have an impact on the outside environment.

So people have to take into account your resistances. It's not a minor issue. It's sometimes a very problematic thing.

But resistances are mostly externalized.

Resistances are often linked, always linked, actually, to what we call negative affectivity.

I mentioned at the very beginning, when we were all much younger, that resistances erupt or emerge or are activated when you feel uncomfortable, when you feel egodystonic, when you feel ill at ease.

So by definition, resistances are linked intimately to negative effects, negative emotions.

Negative emotions, negative affects, can be both interiorized, internalized, and externalized.

So it stands to reason that resistances can be both externalized, but also internalized, which is a new way to think about resistances.

The entire literature until this very day has dealt exclusively with externalized resistances. But resistances, being intimately linked and triggered by negative affects, can be internalized exactly as we internalize negative affects.

So one way, one conduit for the internalization of resistances is aggression.

Now, resistances are always aggressive. They're always a defense. They're always an attack. So they're offensive and defensive.

The main aim of resistances is to eliminate sources of unease, discomfort, and frustration.

This could be another individual. So devaluation is a resistance.

This could be a whole environment. This could be another collective. This could be an uncomfortable piece of information or insight or interpretation, whatever it may be.

A resistance is the channeling of defenses, coupling them with aggression in order to eliminate an outside source of egodystony.

So by definition, resistances are aggressive.

But aggression is a kind of negative affect. Well, it's not exactly a negative affect, but it's linked to negative affect.

So aggression is no exception. It can be internalized and it can be externalized. Negative affects, negative emotions such as envy, anger, etc., can be internalized, can be externalized. Aggression can be internalized, can be externalized.

And resistance is both. Negative emotions that yield aggression.

So definitely resistances can be internalized and can be externalized.

Consider, for example, depression. Depression is a form of internalized self-directed aggression, but depression is also a resistance.

Because what's the main aim of depression? Cutting you off from the world.

The main effect of depression, the main outcome, the main consequence of depression is avoiding contact with the world, avoiding interactions with others, denying or shunning reality. Depression is self-containment, total psychological self-sufficiency. It's bad, it's sad, it drives you mad, but it also isolates you from further adverse stimuli.

In other words, when you're depressed, at least you're not exposed to additional stressors which are inherent in any interactions with other people. Depression is a form of internalized self-directed aggression, which is essentially a resistance.

But aggression, of course, can be also externalized. We are all acquainted with externalized aggression. For example, psychopaths externalize aggression. Narcissists, to some extent, not fully externalized aggression, or externalized aggression, to some extent.

Aggression can be internalized as a resistance, can be externalized as a resistance, but it can be also sublimated or even institutionalized.

So we have aggression, institutional aggression, in the army, in the police, in medical surgery, operating room.

And so these forms of institutionalized or sublimated, socially acceptable aggression, are in many ways, reification of resistances.

Because what's the role of an army? The role of an army is to keep invading enemies out. What's the role of the police? To keep criminals out. And what's the role of medical surgery? To keep disease out.

These are, in many ways, reified resistances. Society rewards sublimated aggression, for example, in sports or in business. And this social approbation is anxiolytic and anti-depressant. It reduces anxiety and depression.

So on the collective level, we have resistances which manifest as socially acceptable, sublimated aggression, in which society rewards, and by rewarding them, reduces anxiety and depression.

It's exactly the same function, exactly the same function, as with an individual.

Individuals use resistances in order to fend off enemies' hostile information.

So individuals use resistance aggressively to fend off insights and interpretations which are uncomfortable. And then they feel less anxious and less depressed.

Society does the same. Society uses resistances in the form of aggression, sublimated, institutionalized aggression. And then by rewarding these behaviors, it reduces anxiety and depression.

What about mood? Mood is reactive to affect. If you have negative affect, you're likely to have a negative mood. If you have positive affect, vice versa, hence positive psychology.

But because mood is linked to affect, exactly like resistances, mood can be externalized as well.

But how do externalized expressions of effects and over-tendent moods, how do they appear to outside observers?

I'm grateful to Dr. Dalia Jukovska for raising this question, and I will tackle it in a minute.

Important to realize that some resistances are wholly externalized, and some resistances are wholly internalized, but that is very misleading. They appear to be wholly externalized or wholly internalized. I'm sorry, but that's very misleading.

All resistances and mood is a resistance. Depression and so on. It's a resistance. Mood is a resistance. Negative affectivity is linked to all resistances. So it is linked to moods as well.

Aggression is the vector of resistance.

But everything is both externalized and internalized. It's like an iceberg. An iceberg, there's a small part that protrudes above the ocean level. There's the big bulk of the body under the sea.

So this is very critical to understand, because one way to modify externalizations, to modify externalizations, to modify the external adverse bad outcomes of moods, of aggression.

One way to do this is to tackle resistances on the individual and collective level, to dismantle these resistances, to render them obsolete or unnecessary, to change the discourse so that resistances would no longer be needed, for example, by becoming a lot less combative and conflictive.

Civilization is about harnessing resistances and defenses. And yet we've made a poor job of it, especially lately.

And maybe it's time to return to a civil discourse, simply because it renders resistances and the aggression and negative affects and the moods attendant upon resistances or as forms of resistances, it renders them unnecessary.

So from the outside, people tend to monitor the visible part. The tip of the iceberg, which is about 10% of the iceberg, they monitor the visible part. The visible part are the actions of others.

They don't involve, people don't involve themselves with deeper strata, with deep questions, people hate to overanalyze, overthink. They don't care about behavioral etiology, reasons, causes of behavior.

And so we have this, this kind of pop phenomenological psychology. Like who cares? People say, who cares? I care about actions, I care about consequences of actions, especially to me, as far as I'm concerned, but I don't care why people do what they do. I don't really care what they do when they do.

And so videos, for example, which deal with the psychology of narcissists, why they do what they do, get a lot fewer views than videos that deal with how to, advice and tips, because people care about outcomes, they're very bottom line oriented.

And that's an enormous mistake.

If you don't understand the 90% of the iceberg under the water, you're very unlikely, very unlikely to have any effect, any noticeable effect on the 10% above water.

If you want to change the way resistances shape our world to the worse, if you want to affect the way people aggress towards each other, if you want to imbue people with positivity and counter negative affectivity and moods, mood swings, mood lability, want to accomplish all these things.

The first thing you need to do is understand people, not judge them, not manipulate them, not observe them and monitor them, understand them.

And how can we understand them?

If we keep relating only to the externalized manifestations of very deep processes, such as resistances, depression being one of them, aggression being the two, the instrument, how can we accomplish anything if we keep focusing on the externalization and ignoring the internal submerged parts of all these pernicious psychological phenomena?

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