Reverse Psychology CPTSD, Intermittent Reinforcement, Reactance, Strategic Self Anticonformity

Uploaded 11/13/2022, approx. 16 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

I am also the professor of psychology in blue.

Yes, I am having my blue period in my gartero.

Today we are going to discuss reverse psychology, the mysterious science of making you do what you didn't even contemplate doing, how to get you to behave in ways which do not conform to who you truly are or who you thought you are.

So we start with CPTSD of course, complex trauma or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. It's the new buzzword. CPTSD is the new black.

CPTSD easily becomes psychopathy. Victims of complex trauma act in ways which are indistinguishable from psychopaths.

They become, for example, defiant, contumacious, reject authority and reckless. Many of them develop grandiosity and so become very much like narcissists. They have at the very least narcissistic style and all of them become emotionally dysregulated to the point that there is a major school in psychology which suggests to eliminate the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and replace it with emotional dysregulation disorder.

So CPTSD actually results in cluster B personality disorders, which is exactly why I am proposing that cluster B personality disorders are forms of, yes you guessed it right, CPTSD.

CPTSD also involves self-destructiveness, self-defeating strategies, self-hatred, self-rejection and a variety of behaviors which border on self-annihilation and damage the individual even further.

It's as if the individual had internalized the point of view of the abuser and regarded herself or himself as a bad object, an object that should be punished or somehow eliminated.

Consider, for example, intermittent reinforcement. We have fancy names for everything in daily life because that's what makes us psychologists, revered, adored and admired. No wonder the majority of psychologists are probably narcissists.

Okay, enough with the rant.

Intermittent reinforcement is hot and cold, behaving in ways which are unpredictable and introduce uncertainty and indeterminacy into relationships.

Today I love you, tomorrow I hate you, today I embrace you, tomorrow I reject you, today I'm hot, tomorrow I'm cold.

And this, of course, creates reactions in the unfortunate recipient of the intermittent reinforcement. I'm almost tempted to say victim of intermittent reinforcement because intermittent reinforcement has many pernicious effects, psychological effects.

Anyhow, two of these effects are dissonance and ambivalence. Ambivalence is to hate and to love someone at the same time, to have conflicting emotions or cognitions regarding the same person.

And the reason is that the abuser who engages in intermittent reinforcement is actually perceived as two separate people. This is called splitting. It's an infantile defense mechanism.

When you're abused, when you're subjected to intermittent reinforcement, you split the abuser in two. There is the all good person and there is the all bad person, like Jekyll and Hyde, like multiple personalities.

Ambivalence and dissonance yield intolerable anxiety and no one can tolerate anxiety, not even the strongest person on Earth, not even Elon Musk.

So to ameliorate anxiety, you might fantasize about the abuser being dead. In extreme cases, you may fantasize about killing the abuser. You see, killing the hated external object preserves the loved, cherished, cathected internal object.

When you kill in your fantasy, your abuser out there, it still leaves in your mind the internal object that represents the abuser and that internal object is still idealized and very much loved.

Another mechanism of coping with intermittent reinforcement is to preserve both the external and the internal objects by redirecting your aggression and hate at yourself.

Okay, so what's the connection of all these to reverse psychology?

Because the reactions that I've described to intermittent reinforcement are actually instances of reverse psychology, instances of something which we call clinically strategic self-anticonformity.

Yes, you've heard it here, first. Strategic self-anticonformity.

This is the main strategy that victims of intermittent reinforcement use.

And so we segue seamlessly into the area of reverse psychology.

Reverse psychology is a technique or a series of techniques. It is asserting, promulgating, claiming, upholding a belief or behaving in a way that is the exact opposite of the desired outcome.

I want you to do A, so I do anti-A. I want you to behave in a certain way, I behave in the opposite way. I want you to believe something so I state the opposite.

The expectation is that this approach encourages the subject of the reverse psychology, the subject of this persuasive technique, to do what is actually desired.

So if I kind of praise, if I uphold or if I support a certain position, a certain opinion, a certain belief system and so on, I expect you to actually oppose me. But I want you to oppose me. This is my hidden agenda. This is my secret motivation.

I want you actually to adopt the opposite position because that's my real position. I believe, for example, that cheating is wrong. So I'm going to say cheating is right. And I would expect you to say, no, you're wrong. Cheating is never right. Cheating is always wrong, which is what I do believe deeply inside.

So reverse psychology involves deception. I'm sorry to say. It's the only time in psychology where deception is not only permitted, but actually encouraged.

Reverse psychology relies on a psychological phenomenon known as reactance.

Now reactance is very common in psychopathy, actually. A manifestation of reactance is what is known as defiance. Strictly speaking, clinically, reactance is when someone has a negative emotional reaction to being persuaded. He perceives persuasion as coercion. This kind of person has very strict and firm and rigid and inflexible and intransigent boundaries.

So whenever you try to change his mind, to convince him of something, to sell him on something, he perceives this as an attack, an intrusion, an invasion. His heckles go up and he becomes very defensive. This is called reactance.

So if you advocate a certain position to a reactant person, to a person with reactance, they're likely to adopt the opposite position. If you try to convince them to do something, they're likely to do the opposite. They are nono bears.

Knowing this, you can reverse engineer the process, socially engineer people with reactance. By claiming something, by stating a believer or an opinion, you can actually force them to adopt, to accept, to support, to propagate the opposite opinion or belief. If you really want them to do something, all you have to do is tell them to not do something and then they will do it.

So this works on people who are naturally reactant, people with very strong resistances.

People who are more compliant, people who are people pleasing and so on and so forth, are not good subject matter, not good subject material for reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering works best with people who are narcissistic, people who are antisocial or psychopathic, people who are grandiose, etc.

In short, reverse engineering should be a major technique in dealing with cluster B personality disordered people.

Indeed, reverse engineering is built or baked into my new treatment modality cold therapy.

Now, the person being manipulated with reverse engineering is usually unaware of what's going on. And yes, I'm using the word manipulation judiciously.

Reverse engineering involves deception and it involves manipulation. It's an influence technique.

It is also known in clinical circles as psychological reactance, a psychological reactance technique.

The idea is to create a hyper-arousal state. When freedom is limited, when freedom is threatened, when there is a perception of limitation of liberty, people with reactance, people with resistances, people with strong defense mechanisms, people with grandiosity and other cognitive distortions, such as the Dunning-Kruger effect, these kind of people, when they believe that their freedoms are encroached upon, tend to use psychological reactance. They tend to act exactly the opposite of what is demanded and expected.

We saw an instance of this play out during the COVID-19 pandemic. People with high reactance and high resistance refused to take the vaccine. And they refused to take the vaccine just because they were told so. They refused to take the vaccine. They refused to be vaccinated just because authority figures recommended the vaccine, just because there were vaccine mandates.

So, unwisely, vaccine advocates did not use reverse psychology. They could have easily used reverse psychology.

For example, they could have created scarcity. Scarcity is a reverse psychology technique. You create the impression that there's not enough to go around, and then people compete for the little there is.

So, you force them actually to become consumers. Consumerism is based on scarcity. We encourage people to buy things they don't need just because there is a limited supply.

The higher the stake or the perceived stake, the more freedoms are endangered or perceived to be at risk, the more the arousal.

Arousal is directly correlated with the belief, the conviction that your freedoms are about to be somehow confined or restricted.

People prefer to be free to select what they like. When you take away freedom, they are strongly motivated to restore it.

And this is exactly the foundation of reverse psychology.

You create the impression, the wrong impression, the deceptive impression that you're about to limit specific freedom, thereby pushing people to act to restore this freedom.

But this is exactly what you wanted them to do. You were manipulating them. You were misleading them.

Psychological reactance is the idea that people would want something more if they are told that they cannot have it, freedom included. It's intimately linked with almost all techniques of reverse psychology.

I'm going to review all the techniques at the end of the video.

Another technique that I mentioned at the commencement of this video is strategic self-anticonformity.

Strategic self-anticonformity is when a person advocates a position opposite to their true thought or conviction.

As I said, I believe that cheating is wrong. I'm going to advocate that cheating is right. I'm going to do that to get a rise out of you, to create a state of arousal or hyper-arousal. And so then you'll be motivated to defend the position that cheating is wrong, which is actually really my position. I've misled you. I lied to you about my position so that you end up supporting my position.

Reverse psychology involves hiding the fact that you're using it, hiding the fact that there's persuasion involved, and of course hiding the fact that there's deception involved.

Marketing techniques such as do not click this link, do not push this button, or steal this book, they all involve reverse psychology and more specifically strategic self-anticonformity. They relate to the expected negativity or disagreeableness from the influence target.

Now in psychotherapy, we sometimes use elements of reverse psychology. For example, there's a technique called paradoxical intervention or prescribing the symptom or anti-suggestion or whatever you want to call it. The therapist frames a message so that resistance to the message promotes change.

I will give a few examples a bit later on when I discuss the specific techniques of reverse psychology.

One article said that such interventions in therapy, I'm quoting, can have a similar impact as humor in helping clients cast their problems in a new light.

By going with, not against the client's resistance, the therapist makes the behavior less attractive, not more so.

And this is of course at the core of the famous technique of reframing. When reframing is done right, the therapist pretends to agree with the cognitions, the emotions, the beliefs and the values of the client.

I repeat, the therapist fakes it. He pretends to agree with the client about everything. He reaffirms these beliefs and values and opinions out loud. He makes the client realize how ridiculous everything is.

By repeating your opinion to you, I am mirroring you. Mirroring is a critical component of reverse psychology. You see yourself in the mirror. You realize how stupid you sound, how wrong your views are, how off the mark your opinions, how distorted your beliefs and how corrupt your values.

All I have to do is put a mirror to you and this leads to reframing.

In interpersonal relationships, reverse psychology is implemented very often. It is used as a manipulative persuasion tactic, I would call it the negative form of reverse psychology, or it is used as a helpful method to benefit the recipient.

So what techniques are we talking about?

I am going to mention just a few. There are many more. I already mentioned mirroring where you just repeat to the person what they have said in a way that makes clear how wrong or ridiculous this is and induces change via reframing.

Another technique is tough love. Simply being harsh, being strict, being disciplinarian, being a parental figure, not letting you off the hook, arguing to the end. Delving deep. These are all forms of tough love.

Thank you, I said. It is okay. Go to rest.

Tough love is a reverse psychology technique.

Another technique involves challenging.

Prove me wrong. I am going to say something. Prove me wrong. I want you to prove me wrong. What I am stating is wrong. I know it is wrong. I believe it is wrong. But I want you to adopt my point of view. I want you to agree with me that it is wrong.

So I am challenging you.

Another way to challenge you is prove me right. For example, when I treat narcissists, I co-opt their grandiosity. I collaborate and collude with their grandiosity. I tell them prove me right. Prove that you can overcome this obstacle. Prove to me that you can overcome this resistance.

Or I challenge them and say I don't believe that you can do that. I don't believe you can do that. That is a provocation. It is a form of challenging.

Provocation is a technique where I say something that I know will trigger you, push your buttons, cause you to decompensate, disintegrate in a way and act out within the channel, the sublimatory channel, the socially acceptable channel that I am providing.

So provocation is a form of challenging. Prove me right. Prove me wrong. Prove to me that you are strong enough to overcome your disorder. Prove to me that you can do this. I don't believe you. I don't think you can.

Another form of reverse engineering is pseudo-humility. It's also known as fishing for compliments.

I would tell you, for example, am I not seriously ugly? And even if you do think factually that I'm seriously ugly, you would tell me no, you are actually very handsome, Professor Vaknin. You're the most handsome professor of psychology on your channel, which no one can dispute, I think.

Anyhow, by being pseudo-humble, it's called pseudo-humility, by displaying fake or false modesty, I am forcing you to tell me what I want to hear.

And that is a technique that narcissists use very often. They use pseudo-humility to coerce you into providing narcissistic supply.

No one feels comfortable to tell the truth all the time.

Actually, according to studies by Arieli and other people, other scholars, most people lie all the time. And they lie all the time, white lies, small lies, lies that reduce the friction in daily life. They lie all the time because they're prompted to lie.

A waiter comes to your table and asks, was the food okay? No, the food sucked, but you would never say it. You would say yes, the food was okay. That's what he wants to hear. Someone tells you, post a review on my website. Many of you will. I tell you, I'm ugly. You would respond mostly by telling me I'm handsome. And no, don't tell me the truth. Please, no comments with the truth. I beg you.

Okay, Shoshanim, I trapped you into giving me a compliment.

The next strategy is known as inconsistency.

You act in ways which defy previous knowledge about you. For example, everyone thinks that you are very amicable, people-pleasing, nice guy, and suddenly you act abrasive, aggressive, almost violent. You use foul language. You break things.

This creates in people around you the need to restore the equilibrium, to move you back to your previous position, to reaffirm their views of you. In short, it creates a dissonance.

So, by behaving this way, you can manipulate people and modify their behavior by being inconsistent. Indeed, abusers use intermittent reinforcement as a form of reverse psychology.

And this is why I started this video with intermittent reinforcement.

Then there's nagging.

The more you nag, the higher the chances that the person will bulk, resist, and even become aggressive. So, nagging is a way to ensure that someone doesn't do something you don't want them to do.

For example, if I don't want you to spend money, I will nag at you to spend money all the time. At some point, even if you love to spend money, even if you engage in retail therapy daily, you would stop spending money just to spite me, just to demonstrate to me that you have autonomy and agency and you will not succumb to my nagging.

Nagging is a great tool to reverse unwanted behaviors, to desensitize people, and to stop counterproductive, self-defeating choices and decisions.

Nagging, reverse engineering, reverse psychology. You never thought about it this way, have you?

And finally, there's denigrating. When you pile on someone, when you attack someone constantly, you make him the underdog, and then you encourage people around to defend him, to protect him, to act altruistically and charitably.

When you render someone the outcast, the pariah, the underdog, but with an element of injustice, clear, ostentatious injustice, you actually induce in other people behaviors which are socially conformant, socially acceptable, and very helpful to society.

So denigrating someone, rendering someone, underdogging someone, that's a way of reverse psychology, engaging in manipulative reverse psychology.

Okay, that's an overview of everything. I hope you have a nice day.

And that's, of course, reverse psychology, because I don't hope you have a nice day. I'm Sam Vaknin, the author of Malina's Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. Why would I hope that you have a nice day?

Okay, shoshanim. Thank you for listening

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