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Reimagining Narcissism in a Psychopathic World (Dunc Tank)

Uploaded 1/10/2019, approx. 40 minute read

Sam Vaknin is my guest today.

He joins us for a conversation about narcissism. He is a professor of psychology and a narcissist himself. He is the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and what follows is our conversation.

I'm here with Sam Vaknin.

Sam, thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

So I wanted to just lay the groundwork for the discussion we're about to have.

Could you tell us what is a narcissist? How is that different from someone who's just egotistical?

Well, morphological narcissism is both a clinical entity in the sense that it's the equivalent of a disease in the medical, classical medicine.

And on the other hand, it's also an organizing principle, an explanatory principle, a principle that can elucidate and enlighten us with regards to many processes.

What people say narcissists mean, you know, someone who is difficult and impossible to cope with and pleasant to be around.

And diagnosticians, mental health practitioners may mean someone who is having difficulties with the regulation of his sense of self-worth. He needs external output to regulate his sense of identity. And this external output is known as narcissistic supply.

Someone who has difficulties with intimacy, his relationship, the relationships with a narcissist are self-serving. They're shallow, they're superficial. Someone who is not genuinely interested in other people, including ostensibly intimate partners, someone who emphasizes personal gain and therefore is exploitative, is grandiose, is attention seeking, lacks empathy, although I suggest in my work that narcissists actually lack the emotional component of empathy. They have all the rest, and I call it cold empathy.

Someone who sets goals just in order to gain approval from others, and someone who's mood fluctuates in accordance with this input from the outside. These are the hallmarks of a typical narcissist.

Now, many people have narcissistic traits and narcissistic behaviors, or as Theodore Millon called it narcissistic style or narcissistic personality, and these do not amount to narcissistic personality disorder.

And within narcissistic personality disorder, the high end of the spectrum or the low end of the spectrum, depending on your vantage point, would be the malignant narcissist, which is essentially a psychopathic variant of narcissist, or compensatory narcissist, someone who tries to compensate for an innate sense of inferiority.

And then finally, there's a type of narcissist called covert narcissist. That's a narcissist who would very much like to be a narcissist, but doesn't know how to do it, doesn't know how to garner narcissistic supply, is shy, fragile, vulnerable, avoids the limelight, etc.

So he's usually very frustrated, passive aggressive, or just simply aggressive, scheming, cunning, and so on in the shadows, and usually takes a ride, hitchhikes on classical narcissist or other types of attention seekers in order to garner his supply vicariously.

Within narcissism, again, there are many subtypes, rebel narcissist, that's usually an intellectual, someone who uses his intelligence and intellectual pyrotechnics to elicit admiration and adulation from his environment.

And then there's the inverted narcissist, which is a sub-variant subspecies of the covert narcissist. And that's a covert narcissist who uses an overt narcissist to obtain supply indirectly or vicariously, a little like the moon and the sun.

So as you see, the field is fast evolving, proliferating, spawning numerous classifications, taxonomies, subspecies and sub-subspecies and so on and so forth.

And the reason for this sometimes unhealthy proliferation is because narcissism is not only a clinical entity, it's a state of mind. It's a state of mind that more and more typifies and characterizes our current civilization, culture, and society, thereby via the transmission mechanisms of technology and politics and so on, infecting, so to speak, ever larger swaths of the population.

Indeed, I was the first to compare narcissism to an epidemic and the spread of narcissism to the spread of a virus. I think epidemiological tools could be very useful in describing narcissism.

And that's why everyone is, that's why it's a buzzword, it's a hot button topic.

Right.

When you talk about this concept of narcissistic supply, that they need this external validation just to feel normal, almost like a drug addict, could you explain that concept a little bit? Like what does narcissistic supply look like? What happens when they don't get it?

Well, I'm starting to deviate from the orthodoxy. A big part of mainstream thinking I contributed to in my 25 years of work, but I'm starting to deviate from my own work. I'm starting to realize that narcissism is perhaps not strictly a personality disorder, maybe not even at all a personality disorder, but actually a post-traumatic condition. Post-traumatic condition that fixates the narcissist at an early stage of development.

So it's a case of arrested development. And of course, the narcissist is fixated at such an early stage or age that he cannot develop healthy attachments and healthy bonding.

Thereby, and this obstructs his ability to relate to other people and to foster intimate or even working relationships, etc.

So I regard narcissism as the post-traumatic condition, childhood pathology or child related pathology, and a case of arrested development coupled with attachment disorder.

Because of all this, the narcissist hasn't formed a clear core of identity. To a very large extent, one could say that the narcissist has no identity and not self in any meaningful sense of the word, where there should be a self, where there should be a human being or a person or personality, there's a void.

Because the narcissist doesn't have a self, he lacks all what Freud used to call ego functions. He lacks a lot of regulatory mechanisms, which healthy people use automatically, equivalent of driving a car, you know, thoughtlessly.

So one of the things he cannot regulate properly is sense of self worth. Where does he start? Where does he end?

This is known as boundaries.

What are his limitations? What are his capabilities, skills and talents? What is a realistic appraisal of his accomplishments, and so on and so forth.

Narcissist has a labile, totally fluctuating view of himself. No one can live like that. No one can endure these ups and downs on an hour by hour basis. It's eroding, it's energy depleting, it's utterly destructive.

So what narcissists try to do, they try to get other people to fulfill the functions that they miss internally. If they don't fully regulate their sense of self worth, they ask others to do it for them.

So normal people would say, well, you know, having surveyed my life and my accomplishments, it doesn't look that I'm that much of a genius. Narcissists can't give this answer, because there's a total lack of self awareness and total lack of access to inner constructs and total lack of inner constructs.

So what the narcissist does instead, he approaches people and says, excuse me, the other moment, am I a genius? Would you mind telling me?

And this is what is called narcissistic supply. The constant need for attention, but information bearing attention, not any kind of attention, that adds information because the narcissist is grandiose. It's another compensatory mechanism.

Narcissist is grandiose. He would block out, he would rule out any information that countersvies his information bias, taking place. A massive cognitive deficit in radiosity is a form of cognitive deficit.

And so he would block out this countervailing information and absorb, assimilate and incorporate only information that supports his self image and self perception as God-like omnipotent, omniscient, perfect, brilliant, and so on.

It is crucial to understand that by any stretch of the word, the narcissist does not exist.

Very early on, usually between the ages of four and nine, the narcissist has suspended his autonomous existence. And that's the reason he does not develop any identity or any self.

And he suspended himself, because it is the outcome of, of early childhood trauma and abuse.

And so to avoid the pain attendant on these trauma and abuse, what the narcissist does, he annulsed himself, he cancels himself out, but no one can exist as a non-entity.

So what the narcissist does instead, he invents an alternative entity called the false self.

The false self is everything that the narcissist is not.

The narcissist, remember it's a child. The narcissist is small and helpless.

The false self is omnipotent. The narcissist cannot predict the behavior of his tormentors and abusers. The false self is omniscient or knowing. The narcissist is told by his caregivers and so on that he is a bad and worthy object or a failed object or whatever.

The false self is of course, brilliant and perfect to absorb the pain and the hurt from acting as a decoy, acting as a firewall, if you wish to use a contemporaneous metaphor.

So the false self firewalls the narcissist and yet behind the firewall, there's no computing device. There's nothing there. There's only a void and inside the void somewhere in the recesses of the void, there's a tiny fossilized ossified child, wounded, bleeding and dead to all intents and purposes.

So it is the false self that is interacting with the world. That's the interface.

But because the false self is false, by definition, and it knows that it's false, it needs people, other people to tell it that it is not false.

The false self precisely because it is cognizant of its own falsity. It knows it is a prevarication.

So it seeks, it wants people to tell it, well, actually you're not false. It's true. You think you're omnipotent, you are. You think you're omniscient, you are. You think you're perfect and brilliant, you are.

And these are understatements. You're more than perfect and brilliant. The false self is godlike evidently.

And indeed I regard narcissism as a private case of a religion. It's a private religion where the narcissist cancels and suspends himself, sacrifices himself. It's human sacrifice.

The narcissist sacrifices himself to a Moloch, to an idol. That idol, that Moloch, that wooden god, is the false self.

It's no wonder most major religions, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, have buttered heads with narcissism. In all these sacred texts, you can find admonitions against egotism, against self-centeredness, against lack of empathy, against all the features and hallmarks and diagnostic criteria of narcissism because the enemy of religion is narcissism.

Narcissism is another competing religion. Anyhow, that's how I see narcissism.


That's fascinating. The idea that this imposter syndrome, they can't like break out of it and they just need more and more validation.

A lot of things, for one thing that people might say is there are definitely like uber successful people who might have narcissistic traits or who might be narcissists themselves, like people like Steve Jobs or prominent politicians, intellectuals. Can these people still be said to have a disorder if they're operating at that high of a level?

You forgot to mention Donald Trump.

Yeah, that's the elephant in the room, I guess.

I'll call you to Eric Fromm.

Donald Trump is in good company together with Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Who is Eric Fromm?

Sorry. Eric Fromm was a prominent psychoanalyst in the 1940s, 50s, 50s. It's a very loaded question in societies, civilizations and cultures, periods in history which are narcissistic and even psychopathic.

Narcissism and psychopathy are positive adaptations and to have been an empathic person was a negative adaptation to be discouraged.

Even in July 2017, a new scientist, which is one of the two leading science magazines in the world together with Popular Science, new scientists came with a cover story which exhorted and encouraged parents to teach their children to be more narcissistic because narcissism works, narcissism pays.

When society is sick and anomic, sick and anomic people thrive, they are perfectly adopted.

Of course, there is immediately the question of who decides what is sick and anomic? And the answer is that, of course, moral relativism has rendered all these observations suspect.

And yet, I think the test is in the pudding. Narcissism and psychopathy ineluctably lead to destruction, both self-destruction and the destruction of the very framework, frameworks that they upheld.

So narcissistic and psychopathic civilizations, cultures and societies and with an inverted big bang, they self-destruct.

You know, value judgments here. Only works doesn't work. Narcissistic and psychopathic societies work only in the short term. They never work in the long term. None of them.

There is not a single case in human history where societies and cultures characterized by narcissism and psychopathy survive to old age.

So perhaps with the exception of Rome. But Rome is a very complex case because it has several phases and a big part of Rome's history was actually the exact opposite of narcissism.

So if this is the test, then we are living in a self imploding civilization that is again, yet again, elevating to the fore highly pathologized individuals.

This has happened before in the 1930s and it ended, as you might recall, badly. I don't think we are that far from that stage.

I am very pessimistic about the immediate future. I think the wave of revolutions or slow motion revolutions that is taking place across the West at least, not only the West actually, across the world is leading us down this path.

On that same note, I was wondering, I mean, you know, there are, I guess within the context of our society, certain advantages then to being a narcissist.

I was actually, I was talking to a neuroscientist recently, James Fallon, who has the brain of a psychopath. He's not a violent guy. Actually, he's a little like you in the sense that he's a successful person who just happens to be carrying this baggage around, but he says he wouldn't change it for the world.

Now, I know that you also have been, I believe, diagnosed as narcissist. Do you see any advantages of that for you or how does that manifest itself in your life?

Oh, it's a fact that you're interviewing me, not the other way around. Yes.

So the answer I think is obvious. Yes, in a sick, pathologized, anomic, dysfunctional, unravelling society, people like me and like James Fallon, I'm diagnosed as a psychopath and as an artist. People like me and like James Fallon have advantages.

And now we have even labels. We are called high functioning narcissists, productive narcissists. There's a whole cohort in academia who latch onto successful narcissists. Of course, academia is a whore and it gravitates to where the money is and the power is. And now the money and the power are in the hands of narcissists and psychopaths. So that's where you will find a growing body of academics extolling narcissism and psychopathy as positive adaptations, which actually will propel the human species forward in its difficult path and in an increasingly hostile world, etc.

You can watch, for example, videos by Kevin Dutton who claims that successful leaders ought to be psychopaths. I think the answer to your question is that psychopaths and narcissists are the equivalent of mercury in the ancient thermometers. We rise as the body gets sicker.

Interesting. That's one of the things I wanted to ask you and I don't know how much you want to get into this, but I know that one of the problems with narcissism, with NPD, unlike a lot of other mental illnesses or even personality disorders, people with NPD tend to not want to humble themselves before a therapist or they don't like the idea of seeking treatment.

What brought you into a therapist's office? How did you react when you got the diagnosis?

No, I would rather that this interview be about the topic, not about me.

Sure.

No, no, no, of course.

Are there any treatments for narcissism?

It seems like a personality disorder. Is it something that doesn't fully go away, but can people with NPD live a happy, fulfilled life?

How would that even be possible?

Well, most people with narcissistic personality disorder are egosyntonic in the sense that they live well within their skins. They feel that they are the next step in the evolutionary ladder. They consider themselves superior. They regret the fact that they are surrounded by other inferior subhumans, but that's the unfortunate coincidence, the unfortunate circumstance in which narcissists have to survive, but they have no doubt that they are the next step and that together with artificial intelligence, they will rule the world.

In this sense, many narcissists and psychopaths, they feel that they are pioneering and eradicate the plankton and algae that today pass for humans. And I'm kidding you're not. Many narcissists and psychopaths are intelligent and they fully grasp the adaptive advantages of being narcissists and psychopaths in such a society. And that makes them even happier.

Narcissists easily manipulate systems or create systems that they can manipulate. They are pillars of the community. They reach the top of their professions in many professions. They gravitate towards professions which provide narcissistic supply, such as the medical professions, law enforcement, show business, the media, academia, and so on. These are high paying professions. So they are the elite, the new elites in the Western, not only, we used to be in the West, but today all over the world. It's a good world to be a narcissist and a psychopath in.

You must understand that. In this world, last 20, last 30 years, shall we say, it's great to be a narcissist and psychopath. It's rewarding, it's gratifying, and it pays.

So look at it.

So narcissists and psychopaths have very little to complain about and they don't.

Consequently, why would a narcissist and a psychopath go to a therapist to lose, and we face the competitive edge or the relative advantage he was endowed with?

I mean, think about Donald Trump, bordering in all probability on a psychopath. Why on earth would someone like Donald Trump attend therapy? He's the president of the United States. He's a multi-billionaire. He had his hand and other parts of him in every beautiful woman.

Give me one reason, one half reason, a hint of a shed over reason for someone like Donald Trump to attend therapy.

Or Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Duterte in the Philippines, or Erdogan in Turkey, or Viktor Orban in Hungary, or La Fauche in the United Kingdom, and the list is endless. Why would any of these actually seek in the head individuals attend therapy when they are heads of state, multi-billionaires, celebrities, etc. They don't have an incentive to do that, to attend therapy.

Attempting therapy means accepting implicitly a set of values. These values are anti-narcissistic and anti-psychopathic. These are values of empathy, of teamwork, of collaboration, of intergenerational responsibility, of long-term thinking and planning, of impulse control, of delayed gratification. These are the values that we try to parlay and to prefer in therapy.

But these values don't work.

If you're honest in today's world, you're an idiot, unmitigated idiot. If you are empathic, you are preyed upon and taken advantage of.

Only extremely stupid people adopt the values offered by therapists all over the world.

So narcissists have no incentive to change, because society has changed in a way that renders narcissism and psychopathy positive adaptations.

Therapy also implies a power matrix or a power structure. The therapist possesses privileged knowledge, superior knowledge, and then privileged information as the therapy progresses.

Therapists can call the shots and dictate directions, suggest strategies, etc. Therapists are not consultants. They're not advisors. They are parental figures, as Freud recognized. And that's why Freud came up with the concepts of transference and countertransference.

When the patient enters therapy, the therapist becomes father or mother.

Narcissists harbor very negative emotions and feelings towards authority figures, bosses, employers, therapists, government entities, etc.

They try to usurp the power structure. They try to co-opt people in power. They try to defy authority by becoming authority, etc. They undermine the subvert.

So in this sense, narcissism is a deconstructed narrative. It's a subversive text. Very long time ago in the 50s, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth together with Frenchmen, there were two Frenchmen who were Marxist philosophers. And they came with very interesting questions.

This is a story, of course, right?

Yeah, yeah.

One was upon a time where these two roamed the earth, but these two Frenchmen did exist. One of them was Louis Althusser, who ended up, by the way, in a mental asylum. And the other one was Guy Debord. And Guy Debord came with the concept of the society of the spectacle.

He said that reality is going to be replaced by a set of images, by a simulacrum, by simulation. That was a very daring observation in the mid-1960s. It was brilliant, because he predicted, he foresaw social media, the impact of television, and long before anyone else, actually.

So society of the spectacle. Althusser was even more prescient.

Althusser described something called interpolation. He said that various institutions, including diffuse institutions, such as advertising, they calculate us. They tell us what to do to translate his language into proper English. They kind of tell us what to do via a process that is very much like mind control or brainwashing.

And so if you put the two together, we live in a society where images tell us what to do. Images dictate to us our moods, decisions, choices, and moods, and inner processes.

And what are these images? These images are manufactured images. And who is the best in the world in manufacturing images? Narcissists.

The narcissist from age four has manufactured an image called the false self. There are no bigger experts in the world at manufacturing images than narcissists. No wonder that for a very long time, for decades, they controlled Hollywood. Television stations created industries that manipulate, manufactured and manipulated images because narcissists are walking, talking images. There is no one there. They are projected holograms beyond the hologram. There's a void. There's an emptiness.

And so narcissists are best adapted to today's world. I just made an interview with Richard Grannon on social media, the true toxicity of social media in two parts. And I explained how social media grew out of narcissism, did not foster narcissism, but is the reflection of narcissism.

Narcissism has been growing since at least the 1960s. And ever since then, it's only gotten worse.

And narcissism now is a cancerous process, has metastasized and invaded not only our mass entertainment, not only our digital devices and social networks and social media, not it is invaded and metastasize our minds.

We are conditioned now to think narcissistically and to even, and we are beginning to be conditioned to think psychopathically.

Why?

Because we are atomized. All the institutions that used in which we used to be embedded, the family, the community, the neighborhood, the city or the village, the town, the small town, not the 20 million people, megalopolis, but the small town, all the nation, all these institutions are disintegrated, evaporated. Nothing is left. We are floating like atoms in space tethered to ever receding ever smaller screens.

And so in this atomization, narcissism is king.

This must be understood.

Thus we are becoming narcissists and psychopaths, all of us to varying degrees.


Yeah, that's, I was reading a study recently, or it was just like a, you know, they asked kids from like 15 to 21 or something like that, what's, what job do you want? And the number one job they wanted was be like a YouTube star.

That's, it's interesting to see that.

I mean, it's definitely true, 20 Campbell, 21 Campbell conducted a series of impressive study, for example, the article Upright Sex, the article Upright Relationships, the sharp skyrocketing increase in anxiety and depression amongst the youth.

So we see the rise of attendant phenomenon, not only as a pathology, but as a lifestyle.

I would say that narcissism and psychopathy are becoming a lifestyle. As long as narcissism and psychopathy were a pathology, they could have been contained, you know, they could have been contained in volts.

The minute narcissism is becoming a fad, a fashion, in a lifestyle choice, we are doomed after it because narcissism and psychopathy have gone viral in the deeper sense of the word.

For people who aren't narcissists, how can you wait?

I think because based on what you're saying, I guess just based on experience, narcissism is a lot more common than we give it credit for.

How can someone identify if a person in their life is a narcissist and would you have any advice for someone in that position?

Well, if I described the set of criteria, right? I think everyone immediately would, I mean, everyone would diagnose everyone as a narcissist.

Sure.

First is I think the first thing would be a lack of true empathy, a lack of ability to sincerely relate to other people's needs, wishes, preferences, fears, priorities, fantasies, emotions, etc.

To perceive other people as three dimensional autonomous entities with a life of their own, not as extensions, not as introjects, not as internal representation, but as a separate entity with its own life, three dimensional.

So lack of empathy, I would say is the prime test.

The second, I think would be exploitativeness. The narcissist puts himself and his needs first to insist on immediate and instant gratification, would have no impulse control if he is not satisfied. Frustration immediately is translated into aggression.

And the narcissist wouldn't care what the cost is to other parties as long as he's satisfied his needs, his wishes, his plans, his fantasies, his priorities.

I would say that's the second test.

The third test is I think envy, a whole bevy, a whole bevy of negative emotions for most of which would be envy.

Pathological envy, destructive envy, the wish to reduce others to size and to perspective and to destroy other people.

So envy, but also explosive rage, also hatred, misdirected hatred, diffuse hatred, diffuse rage, everything is diffused. It's not state of mind, constant rage, constant envy, constant hatred. I think that would be another test coupled with paranoia.

Of course, narcissists are paranoid. What few people understand, and even I would say most clinicians don't understand, is that paranoia is a type of narcissism.

If you say the CIA is after me, it means you are sufficiently important to be pursued by the CIA. It aggrandizes you.

So conspiracy theorists and, and, and, so on, they're actually narcissists. So paranoia is a hallmark of narcissism.


Uh, I would say the fifth sign is cognitive distortions, cognitive deficits and cognitive biases, perceiving the world in bizarre ways. And I mean, utterly bizarre, blocking out relevant information, um, reframing other information rather than accepting social mores and conventions or other people's opinions or whatever. So very bizarre cognitiverelationship with the world.

And we say that it's a failed reality test to some extent.

And finally, I think the sixth sign would be a shared psychosis or shared psychotic disorder.

The narcissist creates a cult. The cult is founded on lies.

So there's a lot of pathological lying on confabulations where lies, where there are gaps even between the lies. There's confabulation or kinds of stories and narratives and so on.

Andtotal adherence and loyalty to the narcissist. It's a cult. It's a cult and I would say a militant cult and the death cult even.

And you, and, and, and all people in the immediate ambit and remit of the narcissist must obey the cult and belong to it.

Narcissists cease on this absolute obeisance.

And that would be the sixth sign.

There are many other signs, many, and you can find lists of 20 signs, 60 signs on the internet.

So there are many other signs, but if I had to select only six, these would be the six.

Unfortunately, as narcissism spreads like the California wildfire that it is more and more people could easily fall into these six criteria.


Um, I mean, if 20 years ago you would have identified one in 10 as someone like that today, I think one in two would be more likely your professors, your colleagues, your neighbors, people you meet your other students.

You name it, your spouse, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your children, your, I mean, everyone today it's all over the place.

And narcissism starts at an earlier and earlier age until about 15 years ago, we used to say that narcissism cannot be diagnosed before the age of 21 and then 18.

And now we believe that we can diagnose pathological narcissism, even at the age of 12, narcissism begins much earlier than before.

And as a, and I think this is influenced by technology, technology in ours, technology gives even children, adolescents, teenagers, gives them the powers that used to be reserved to adults only until 10 years ago.

Today, a kid of 10 years old can, you know, publish books, make a television program, espouses views and pretend to be 60 throughout the process.

So there is a lot of unhealthy empowerment, going on. And I think it has an effect. I'm kidding about that way.

This is a true, this is not a metaphor. It's a true case.

If you're a teenager, a kid, and you have an Instagram channel, I'm sorry, where you peel bananas, you just peel bananas and you have 16, 16.8 million followers, it's bound to get to your head.

Of course it's bound to me.

And indeed recently, I mean, not recently, relatively speaking recently, about 10 or 15 years ago, there was a professor Millman in Harvard university who suggested a new concept called situational narcissism. Situational narcissism is late onset narcissism.

Remember, we believe that pathological narcissism is created in childhood. It's a childhood thing.

Millman suggested that actually, there is late onset narcissism, circumstances which tend to reward narcissistic behaviors and traits.

So he studied actually rock stars. He studied rock stars, I think football stars, but definitely rock stars.

And he discovered that perfectly decent chaps, you know, the neighbor next door, when they become rock stars, they become utterly narcissistic and then they become narcissist. I mean, they score high on the narcissistic personality inventory test and on an MMPI two, which are the main tests we use to diagnose.

So they become narcissists even though a year before they became rock stars, they were utterly decent folk folks, you know, so he coined the phrase situational, acquired situational narcissism.

And I think many, many, many teenagers and so on are beginning to experience acquired situational narcissism.

I propose this, I'm going to hijack the interview just to explain, just to explain the many views.

When I keep saying, you know, narcissism is a result of childhood abuse, narcissism is rather a childhood abuse.

Everyone imagines massiated, children age four and three and two who are beaten daily and at night rate, you know, that's a typical image of abuse.

The worst possible fact.

Yeah. The one, yes, of course it's true. 18 physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, let alone sexual abuse are the classic forms of abuse of children and they result in a severe trauma and these traumas can lead to one of various solutions because they're very solutions.

So child can solve the trauma by becoming submissive and later on in life becoming codependent. The child can solve the trauma by internalizing the aggressor, internalizing the abuser, by saying, well, I will not be the abuser. I will never be a victim. I'll be the victimizer from now on.

And this is of course narcissism.

So reactions to abuse or can be to remain healthy, mentally healthy.

And most people do, by the way, a few people become narcissists and a few people become codependent. And that's one of the reasons we believe that there is a genetic predisposition to narcissism because in the same family, 10 siblings are abused. Only one becomes narcissist, the narcissist.

So it seems to be some genetic component coming back to abuse.

Abuse can be classic as I described, but abuse when abusers also less conventional forms.

For example, when you put a child or a pedestrian, when you idolize the child, when you use the child to realize your own as a parent, your own unfulfilled wishes and dreams, when you treat the child as an extension of yourself, if you get best marks in school, I will love you. If you don't, I will hate you. If you force the child to adopt a profession of vocation or an avocation, which caters to your own narcissistic needs, you know, you will be a famous pianist or famous violinist and that will make me proud, etc.

All these are forms of abuse.

Why?

Because both in the classical forms, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc., and in the non-classical forms, idolizing, treating as extensions, conditional love, in all these forms, the child's boundaries are not recognized. Either they are invaded physically or they are invaded mentally. The child is not allowed to separate from the parent and individuate to become an individual. The boundaries of a child are violated. The child is treated as never to be separated.

And we know, I mean, we believe that there is a process called separation and individuation, first described by Melanie Klein and then Vera Mahler. Separation and individuation are crucial processes where we separate from our parents, which is in itself a very frightening and traumatic experience. And we separate from them and then we individuate, we become individuals.

Narcissistic parents do not allow their children to separate and individuate.

And this is an intergenerational transmission mechanism of narcissism. The current generation are much more narcissistic than the previous generation. And their children will be much more narcissistic than they are. And their children's children will be even more narcissistic.

Because narcissism is passed on. It's contagious. They merge with their children. They fuse with their children. And they manipulate the children by guilt-tripping the child, by shaming the child, and by using the child and exploiting the child to gratify themselves.

And so this is not an epidemic that's going to stop. It's an epidemic that's going to evolve exponentially.

So if you were a parent, or even if you're someone who feels as though, oh, I might be a narcissist and I don't like that about myself, what steps could someone take to either mitigate the symptoms or when raising a child to prevent that from even starting?

We asked me about therapy. Unfortunately, right now, there are no effective therapies. There are some therapies succeed in modifying behavior, but it's not long term. And it's in the fringes and deals mostly with abrasive and antisocial behaviors, socially unacceptable and so on. We don't have any therapy with the exception of a therapy that I'm just developing, but it's very experimental. And I don't dare put it to the public that I found the solution, but I'm working on it.

So the exception of this therapy, whichI dubbed cold therapy, exception of cold therapy, all other treatment modalities, all other therapies, psychotherapies known to us have very little traction with narcissism.

So going to therapy is not a solution. I can't tell a perspective, a narcissist who is a prospective parent, for example, well, go treat yourself. It's useless. Self-awareness works to some extent, but narcissist needs for narcissistic supply are existential. Without this supply, they feel dead. They feel they don't exist. They feel annihilated, like the famous painting Galatea by Dali, where the you know, the image dissolves into a series of molecules.

Narcissists feel that they dissolve if they don't have supply. It's essential. It's like food and water and air. So they can't stop it. I can't tell the narcissistic parents, listen, be aware that you're a narcissist and curb your behaviors, change your behaviors. It won't work.

Simply won't work.

Regrettably, the only advice I have to a prospective parent who is absolutely convinced or has been diagnosed as a narcissist, in other words, been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder is to not have children, which is exactly the solution I chose.

I don't have children.


That's fascinating though. In terms of being in a relationship with a narcissist, do you think it's possible to have a successful romantic relationship with a narcissist or are there kinds of people who are more likely to get caught in a narcissistic, narcissist web?

Everyone is like, everyone is liable to be caught in the narcissist web. There is a Smith online that narcissists seek specific types. That's not true. Narcissists are equal opportunity abusers. You provide the narcissist with narcissistic supply. He's yours or you are his. So it's type, in constant and tight, nonspecific. Everyone could be a victim. Everyone can and does become a victim of narcissism.

Of course it's possible to maintain a long term. And even though it's a happy relationship with a narcissist, if you're willing, negate yourself, be completely subservient and submissive, lie, constantly adulate, admire, and adore the narcissist, provide the narcissist with a constant stream of reminiscences, with regards to his glory and grandeur, etc.

So if you're willing to kowtow and you know, you can survive with a narcissist, it's, and even be happy is whatever else you say about narcissists. They're very interesting people. They, you know, their life is technicolor. Most people's lives are black and white. Narcissists' lives are colorful. Narcissists' reckless, six risks and thrills is innovative because he has to constantly innovate to obtain supply on a regular basis.

Witness Donald Trump, who has reinvented himself. I don't know how many times at least four and so on. So there are rewards to living with the nurses, definitely rewards.

If you are an adrenaline junkie, if you love thrills and risks and so on, then narcissist is a person for you, but you have to pay a very high price. Narcissist will not countenance and tolerate your existence. You're a separate existence as an autonomous entity. That's out of the question. You are the narcissist's extension servant, the equivalent of his third arm and third leg as the narcissist would be utterly shocked to discover that he is disobeyed by his refrigerator. He would be utterly infuriated by your, your disobedience and argumentativeness or opinionated, counter utterly out of the question.

You do not exist. If I want your opinion, I'll give it to you. You'll drop everything you're doing and you'll do it now because my priorities and needs and so on are, foremost paramount, etc.

I mean, I think the picture is clear. You have to stop to exist in order to survive with the narcissist.

And then you have your rewards, you know, like every other addict, because living with a narcissist becomes fast, becomes an addiction. It's addictive. We know that, we know that intermittent reinforcement, hot and cold approach avoidance, they create addiction biochemically. I mean, neurotransmitters and so on, there's a biochemical reaction tointermittent reinforcement.

Narcissus uses intermittent reinforcement and bullying, which is a heightened form of reinforcement on a regular basis, hot and cold, unpredictability here today, there tomorrow, cycles, ups and downs, moods, liability, all these great addiction in the partner. And it's very difficult to get rid of this addiction. Even, even partners who have been abused to the absolute maxi moment beyond imagination still miss the narcissist solely, miss the days they had with the narcissist, miss this, you know, roller coaster.

One of the last thing I wanted to ask you, because clearly, I mean, you're putting out a message that isuseful, I would say to a lot of people and you're definitely warning people about the dangers of narcissism, telling people how to spot them.

I mean, you almost like ratting on yourself in a sense.

Um, I know it's a lifelong condition, but in your experience, does it get any easier?

I mean, do you think narcissists when they're 20 or more or equally reckless than there when they're 50, is there any hope at all for people with NPD?

No, antisocial and reckless behaviors tend to ameliorate with age that had been discovered in the fifties and sixties.

Psychopaths, for example, become much less psychopathic, under the age of 40, 45 borderline, people with borderline personality disorder, 50% of them lose the diagnosis after age 40. So after age four, between 35 and 45 after age 40, especially, there's an amelioration of many of the less savory aspects.

But on the other hand, now it becomes older, both destructive and self-destructive. So they keep losing, they keep losing spouses, families, money, business ventures collapse, everything. I mean, loss is the background music, the voice over the soundtrack of the narcissist life.

So these losses accumulate and they are very eroding, erosive. And the narcissist is very tired, exhausted and depleted by the end of his life. He's also become, he's also much older.

So as a wunderkind, you could have garnered narcissist's apply much more easily as a 25 year old somatic narcissist. It's much easier to get late or to conquer women if you're a man, etc.

And of course, when you are in your sixties, everything becomes much more difficult. Everything you do is jaded.

Uh, you are far less likely to attract the opposite sex if that's, if you're so inclined or the same sex, if you are so inclined. So sexual conquests are difficult. Romantic conquests are almost impossible. It's, it'smuch more difficult to obtain supply when you are older.

And the need for supply is constant, actually increases with age because you have to compensate for the dilapidation of your body and the stalling of your mind. So you need more supply.

So supply, the need for supply increases the ability to procure it or to secure it decreases. And this gap is harrowing. And at some point begins to be terrifying to the narcissist.


And other features, antisocial conduct or criminalized conduct, sadism, all these ameliorate with age.

So it's much easier to be a narcissist when he's older than when he's younger, but it's much less rewarding because he's likely to become a brooding melancholic, pessimistic, hopeless, grouchy, paranoid recluse, which is a typical profile of old age narcissist.

And even someone like Trump is actually this, this is a profile of Donald Trump. He's doing all this in full public view. But if you look at him objectively, that's precisely what is grouchy, pessimistic, paranoid, aggressive and so on. So it would have been easier.

It's easier to be with him, in some ways now, but it's also more difficult.


Sam Vaknin, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you.

My pleasure as well. Thank you.

All right, folks, that was Sam Vaknin and thank you for listening to Dunk Tank. See you next time.

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