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Spiritual Self Defense And Healing In Narcissistic Abuse

Uploaded 7/7/2023, approx. 41 minute read

Okay, Chavatsalim and Chavatsalot. Look it up.

Today's topic is spiritual self-defense.

Spiritual, you say. Is anything wrong with you, Sam? Are you more drunk than usual?

Actually, it's my first sip of the day. And had I been inclined to adhere to the delusional disorder known as religion, I would have said, "Oh my God!"

But since I'm not, I should just say, "Heaven forfend." Look it up again.

Two look it ups in one video. That's a bumper crop.

Okay, my name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University, Westorbandong, Russian Federation, and a long-time member of the faculty of the Commonwealth of International Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge United Kingdom, Toronto, Canada, with an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

And this consumed half the video. Let's see what time we have left for the actual topic.

The actual topic is spirituality and how spiritual self-defense is essential in the recovery and healing from narcissism.


But what is spirituality? How can we use a word without defining it well? What about the role of terminology?

So here's the thing. We human beings, we are creatures made of dreams. Our fabric is the fabric of fantasy and language constitutes us, makes us, helps us to become. We bring other people into existence and into our lives via speech, via imaginings, and through the good services of dreaming and fantasizing. We are ethereal and ephemeral, passing thoughts.

And so, although we can be clinically and technically reduced to cells and then to atoms and then to quarks and atomic particles, still there is this extra something which science and philosophy hitherto have failed to capture. This extra something is called consciousness, it's called the soul, it's called the spirit. It's been called many things throughout the ages.

But we all know that even if we were to drill down layer after layer, layer level after level, we would still be, we would still remain face to face with this apparently unresolvable enigma of what it is that makes us who we are.

What is this essence? What is the quiddity of being human?

And so we, some people call it spirituality.

The truth is that there is a bridge between the mind, the abode of the spirit, supposedly, and the brain, the hardware and the software. And this bridge is language. Using words and narratives, pieces of fiction, stories, we organize external reality, but even much more importantly, we affect our internal landscape.

It has been proven beyond any doubt that words, for example, rearrange the brain on a physical level. They rewire the brain. It's been proven that exposure to messaging does change the frequencies of waves emitted by multiple units, multiple units of neurons. It's been proven that stories can affect and shape behavior.

So language is the bridge. We mediate ourselves and the world. We introduce each other to one another via language, via words, via narratives, via stories, via hopes, via dreams. Stuff that no scientist can capture in any vial can never be studied in a laboratory and evaporates the minute you try to nail it down.

Call it the spiritual uncertainty principle.

Spirituality is a concern for, or sensitivity to, things of the spirit or the soul. And it is frequently opposed, or posed in contradistinction to materiality.

So there's material and there is spiritual. And as I just explained, this is grossly misleading because the brain is neuroplastic and abstracts, abstract thinking, words, symbols, rewire and change the brain fundamentally, profoundly, and very often irrevocably.

So this is where spirituality becomes a facet of materiality or the other way around.

Materiality is just a manifestation of some abstract principles and some linguistic concepts.

And so no healing and recovery from narcissistic abuse or any other type of abuse or any other type of trauma for that matter is complete without this dimension.

They land in between the material and the spiritual.

No process of personal transformation, of regaining one's mental health, functionality, no such process is complete without catering to the body, which is the hardware, catering to the mind, which is the software, and then taking care of the language that bridges hardware and software.

This is known in psychology as the spiritual factor.

Any moral, religious or mystical belief that somehow plays a role in processes, behaviors, emotions, thoughts, cognitions, somehow alters our internal environment, introduces inhibitions or disinhibits, somehow affects the brain in ways that can be visualized in functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Any such belief, any such article of faith, any such mystical experience, any such religious practice, any such moral teaching that interface with, get entwined with, and interlaced with our hardware, the brain itself, thereby changing our minds in effect.

These are known as spiritual factors.


Now, I don't want to venture too far. When people take things to extreme, they come up with nonsensical phenomena and nonsensical claims.

One such example is spiritual or faith healing, the treatment of psychological illness by means of remote praying, laying hands on people, and so on and so forth.

It is possible that certain placebo practices can and do have an effect on measurable physiological and psychological outcomes. It's even likely, I would say.

So, if you believe that people laying hands on you can change the state of your mind, your mood, and your emotional regulation, and your mood and ability, if you believe in that, it can come to pass.

Your belief is the critical factor, not the outside environment and not any actions or inaction by anyone.

In effect, you are in charge of your own psychology. You have the absolute power to impact it, to alter it, to get ahead with it, to stop it, to get rid of unwanted elements, to introduce new ones. You are the master of this house of your so-called soul or spirit.

And whatever tools may be of help, prayer, laying of hands, mystical experiences, if they work, if they induce you, the change that you seek, by all means.

Psychotherapy, to a large extent, is a superstitious practice. It is not founded on hard science.

Psychology is not a science. Absolutely not. It's a pseudoscience. It doesn't resemble physics.

My PhD is in physics, I can tell. It does not resemble physics. It does not resemble even mathematics.

The manipulation of abstract symbols via axioms and rules of derivation and reference. It's not as rigorous even as this.

The subject matter of psychology is you. And you change from one minute to another. You absorb information from the environment. You then react to it by modifying yourself, by using different self-states.

You can't be measured twice. You can't repeat any experiment in psychology. That's the great replication crisis.

So forget all this nonsense, that psychology is a science, and when you attend therapy, you're talking to a scientist. You're talking to another person.

That other person has had exposure to the thoughts and ideas of previous generations of psychologists. That other person has seen other people like you in your condition, with your circumstances, with your needs, with your fears, with your trauma, with your pain and hurt.

Yes, that other person, the psychotherapist, has something to offer you.

But whatever it is that he or she offers you is not science. And in this sense, psychotherapy is indistinguishable from religious practice. It is the use of words to affect change in a tissue in your body known as the brain.

That is all the talk therapy does. It changes your brain and hopefully, consequently, has an effect, a long-lasting effect on your mind.

That is precisely what happens in a church or in a synagogue or in a mosque or in a monastery.

People use words, written words in scriptures, spoken words in sermons. People use words to change your mind.

So faith healing, religious healing, spiritual healing are for all intents and purposes forms of psychotherapy.

Mental healing is the process of alleviating or attempting to alleviate mental or physical illnesses through the power of the mind.

Typically, using such methods as visualization, suggestion, the conscious manipulation of metaphorical energy flows, psychic healing or faith healing, that is a treatment of physical or mental illness via spiritual means.

Everything is symbolic. The words used by spiritual or psychic healers, their symbols, their metaphors, their allegories.

Similarly, crystal healing uses a physical object, a crystal, to reify, to embody, to symbolize the process of internal healing that only you can induce in yourself.

You see, you are in charge, always. Nothing comes from the outside. Everything that you attempt to do with other people amounts to triggering psychotherapy, spiritual healing, crystal healing, faith healing, religious healing, all these forms of healing are triggers.

They trigger in you cascades of emotions, of memories, they alter your identity, your perception of the past, your hopes for the future, they make you a different person.

All this has to do with a concept known as the empirical self.

We all have two types of self, the nominative self and the empirical self. The empirical self is the self that you know. It is not the self itself. It is not the self that knows. It is the self as you know it.

So each one of us has a self.

In my work, it's not unitary, it's an assemblage of self states.

But each one of us has this organizing principle, hermeneutic explanatory principle. Each one of us has this core that somehow guides us and provides us with the illusion of a continuous identity across time and space.

And then we know that this self exists.

But who does the knowing? Who knows? Who is it in us that knows that we have a self?

It's another self. It's the empirical self.

So in the psychology of William James, the empirical self consists of two elements, the material self, which is everything material that can be seen as belonging to the self, neurons, the brain, etc.

But it is coupled with the social self, as perceived by other people, and the spiritual self, the self that is closest to one core subjective experience of oneself.

So according to William James and other thinkers in the 19th century, we didn't have a single self. We had an infinite regression of selves. We had what I call in my work, Hall of Mirrors.

There is a self somewhere there, or an assemblage of self states, doesn't matter. A repertory of self states. There is a self.

And then there is this self as seen by other people, and that is the social self. And then there is this self as it is experienced by us, experienced by you, the way you experience yourself.

And that is the empirical self. It's the me. When you say me, when you say this is the experience of yourself.

So earlier thinkers in psychology made a distinction between I and me. Me is the way you experience the I. And the I is the nominative self. The self is nowhere of the self rather than the self so known.

These are the two types of self.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because it seems that the nominative self, when it observes the empirical self, does create change in the empirical self.

This is very reminiscent of quantum physics.

When we observe an elementary particle in quantum physics, we change its direction and its position and its momentum.

In order to observe an elementary particle in physics, in the world, we have to bombard it with photons, with light particles. The light particles hit upon the elementary particle that we are observing and transfer energy to it so that they change the direction, momentum and position of the particle being observed.

Similarly, when the nominative self observes the empirical self, the very act of observation, the very act of self-consciousness, the very process of being self-aware, the very concept of the existence of a self, all these things, all these processes change the self.

So introspection, observing yourself, becoming self-aware, developing a self-image, a self-perception and a self-conception, they change the self.


Now what does religion do? What does spirituality do? What do mystical experiences do?

They take you outside your body. They force you to observe yourself from the outside. They encourage self-awareness, self-conception, self-consciousness.

In short, the spiritual dimension of healing and recovery enforces, enhances, buttresses, strengthens the nominative self when it observes the empirical self.

And because introspection this way becomes much more intense, much more filled with energy.

The changes that are subsequent are much stronger.

Religion, spirituality, mysticism force you into a highly intensive form of introspection by coercing you in a way to stand aside and see yourself via the gaze of an agent, for example via the gaze of God, via the gaze of some mystical principle.

Suddenly you perceive yourself from the outside and this is a tremendous impact on your empirical mind, an impact which invariably is a healthy impact as it changes you for the better, makes you stronger and more resilient.


This lecture is a time travel. I've gone back to proto-modern psychology, the psychology that just started to emerge in the 19th century, in Germany, a little later in France and Austria and at the same time in the United States.

Why am I going back that far? What's wrong with cognitive theory? What's wrong with even psychoanalytic theory? Why do I have to go 150 years back?

Because we lost something along the way.

Freud, Sigmund Freud and Wund and other psychologists, they tried to convert psychology into an exact science similar to physics or chemistry.

Freud said that he is describing the dynamics of the mind the same way Newton described the dynamics of bodies.

Wund created a laboratory to study psychology and that was in 1895.

The Germans and the Austrians, when they took over a psychology, they tried to render it an exact science, perhaps, to biology or even to medicine.

But psychology cannot be reduced to materialism.

Psychology is not the sum total of the components that make our brain or our intestines or even our body.

Psychology deals with the emergent phenomena, with the epiphenomena.

Psychology deals with behaviors and traits and cognitions and emotions that are irreducible to the heart of the hardware that produce them.

Think of it this way. If you take oxygen and you take hydrogen, oxygen is not wet, hydrogen is not flowing, but if you put oxygen and hydrogen together you get water. Water is wet, water is flowing, unlike oxygen, unlike hydrogen.

We call this emergent phenomena or epiphenomena. It's the same with the human body and the human brain.

If we were tomorrow to obtain 100% knowledge about every nook and cranny and crevice of the brain, we would still not understand the human mind because the human mind is not the combination of all the various aspects and parts and structures of the brain.

It's not. It is an epiphenomenal. It's an emergent phenomenon.

It's like the wetness of water. The wetness, the fact that water is wet does not come from oxygen, does not come from hydrogen.

And never mind how much knowledge we acquire about the molecule of water, we still can't say why it is wet. We can't reduce it. It's irreducible.

And the psychologists that preceded Sigmund Freud, I think to a large extent the German schools and the Austrian schools corrupted psychology. By imbuing it grandiosely with a pretension to science, they destroyed the irreducible spiritual dimension of psychology.

Spiritual not in the sense that I believe in God or I believe in souls or I believe in spirits. I don't believe. I'm a scientist. I observe.

But spiritual in the sense that if we use certain techniques such as words, such as narratives, such as mystical experiences, such as religion itself, such as prayer, these should become legitimate techniques in psychotherapy.

And as long as psychology pretends to be a science, it gives up on numerous extremely effective therapeutic tools. Prayer, for example, praying to God is a highly effective tool of therapy.

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to discuss it in psychology because psychology is a science. It is serious. Psychologists are scientists.

This is an example of grandiose narcissism in action, actually. So that's why I go back to the psychologists of the 19th century that preceded Freud.

And at that time, there was a distinction between what was called as the Geistes wissenschaftliche Sichologie. I'm sorry, this is German. The Germans put together multiple nouns and create the longest words in human history. So Geistes wissenschaftliche Sichologie is one such word.

The Germans divided the German psychologists that preceded Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis and Wund and his laboratories. The German psychologists, which were closer to William James, for example, in thinking at least, they divided psychology or the study of the human mind. They divided it to two types, the spiritual type of study and the natural type of study.

The Geistes wissenschaftliche Sichologie and the Natur wissenschaftliche Sichologie. So these were the two types.

The spiritual study was defined by German academics in the 19th century as the psychology which deals with the science of the mind or the spirit.

German psychologists at the time were Cartesian. They accepted the duality of mind and body, which was first described rigorously by René de Carre in the 17th century.

So they said, "We need one branch of psychology to study the mind, to study the spirit, and we need another branch of psychology to study the body, to study the brain."

And so the first branch, the spiritual branch, was intended to encompass the moral, spiritual, historical, and human aspects of behavior. And it's very similar to what we call today social sciences.

The natural branch of psychology was intended to be experimental, was founded on experiments and laboratory techniques.

And the Germans at the time, the German psychologists, they said, "You can use experiments, you can study psychology in the laboratory, but this is likely to limit your knowledge. You can study only specific classes of phenomena, for example, perception, for example, memory. These you can study in the laboratory.

But there are many things you cannot capture in a laboratory and you cannot study via experiments. These techniques, the Germans said, "are inappropriate for studying higher mental processes, such as language, social interactions."

And so the early German psychologists, the ones before Wundt and before Freud, they legitimized the spiritual treatment of trauma. And in the recovery and healing from narcissistic abuse, we need to reintroduce this dimension into any and all treatment modalities.

We need to accept that people are not laboratory rats. They are not basic animals. People have a mind and we still know close to nothing about the mind.

In millennia of practice and learning, we have come to develop very effective techniques of modifying the mind, treating the mind, healing the mind, anything from yoga and meditation in the East to religion, monotheistic religions in the North, in the West.

And to discard all this wisdom of generations, thousands of generations, to discard all this wisdom and to say, "No, prayer has not place in therapy." Mystical experiences have not place in therapy. Faith has not place in therapy. The placebo effect has not place in therapy.

Self-conviction, self-persuasion, self-suggestion, even hypnosis have not place in standard therapy. This is wrong. It's even worse than wrong. It's stupid because these are by far the most efficacious techniques we have to treat trauma.

Religion, mystical experiences, faith, self-regulation and self-modulation via belief, via auto suggestion, these are far, far more efficient than any therapy I'm aware of.

And yet we don't use them.

Psychologists regard religion as competition. They regard spirituality as an incursion on their sacred territory and turf.

Very few psychologists use spirituality in their practice.

The Germans at the time had another concept, "Pvastäinde sichologi," "Understanding psychology." It was an approach to psychology advocated by a philosopher actually. His name was Wilhelm Dille.

Dille argued that psychology belongs to the human sciences and not to the natural sciences. He said that psychology can never be explained using natural laws like the laws of physics. He said that for psychology, the object of understanding is lived experience, a Leibniz in German.

The goal must be the articulation of the meaning of the process from the perspective of the person living it.

It was an amazingly right direction. It was the right direction for psychology.

And then psychology was hijacked and abducted by one of these scientists, one of these physicists. There was physics in the end of the 19th century was all the craze.

Physicists like Albert Einstein became celebrities. They were like the rock stars of the period.

So psychologists also wanted to be rock stars. They also wanted to be physicists. And they dumped the approach of understanding psychology. They dumped Dille's writings.

But his work was genius. He said that the only guide to psychology is the lived experience, the way we experience life itself and what is the perspective of the person as he experiences his life.

And he said that the aim of psychology is to heal and to cure people. It's a branch of the social sciences. It's a branch of medicine, if you wish, but not of physics.

And he said, how are we to help people? How are we to cure people? If we don't consult them, if we don't talk to them as equals, if we don't inquire as to how they experience their existence, their pain, their trauma.

And this led later to the development of phenomenology and to some extent existentialism.

Existentialism is a school of philosophy. It started actually in the 17th century with Blaise Pascal and later with the Danish philosopher, C. S. Kierkegaard and with the German philosopher, Freud.

Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous author, was an existentialist. He was a philosopher of science.

But existentialism is a rigorous philosophical discipline, was first described by Martin Heidegger, another German. I don't know what's happening today. It's a German lecture.

Heidegger came with the concept of the sign, which I will describe a bit later.

And then there was the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, and so on and so forth.

Existentialism was a rebellion, rebellion against the robotic scientific philosophy, a rebellion against science as a guide in human affairs, an emphasis on the human condition rather than the study of the human condition.

So existentialism said that human beings are thrown their trust into the world. The world is given. The world is contingent. There's nothing you can do about it. It's a take it or leave it proposition.

And when you encounter the world through your subjective consciousness, you feel condemned. You feel as if you've just received a life sentence with a death sentence following it.

It's as if the whole world is a huge prison.

In order to convert the world from a menacing form of incarceration to a livable, even lovable experience in order to accomplish this feat, you need to imbue the world with meaning. You need to use your values and your authenticity to render the world less absurd, less purposeless. You need to perform this task of changing the world in order to render it acceptable and palatable. The alternative is suicide.

So when you take on the world the way a baby takes on the world in the separation/individuation phase at age two years, the baby lets go of mummy, he says goodbye to mummy and he explores the world.

Sartre says that this project of exploration continues throughout life. It's a lifelong project.

And because you are constantly exploring, constantly learning, permanently or perpetually changing, you never have a fixed essence. You never have an inherent nature. You never have a core identity. You never have a unitary self.

Now you're beginning to see the philosophical roots of my thinking.

By accepting this burden of the responsibility to change the world with your decisions and choices, it's a burden because it's a responsibility and you will be held accountable and you will pay the price if you make the wrong decisions and choices.

But you lovingly accept this price. You know that the cost of life is worth, worth it. The price is worth the price.

And so you accept your fallibility, your imperfection, in short, your humanity.

In the recovery and healing from narcissistic abuse, you need to accept that you have made mistakes. You need to accept that you had contributed to your own abuse and that to the trauma that had been inflicted on you. You need to realize that you have made wrong choices, wrong decisions. You need to assume responsibility for your part of the calamity that had befell you. This is not moral responsibility. The abuser is morally responsible for abusing you. You were victimized, you were abused through no fault of your own. You were not guilty.

It's not a question of guilt. There's a big difference between guilt and responsibility. You're not guilty for having been victimized, but you're responsible for having found yourself in the condition to be victimized, for having generated the circumstances, for having been less vigilant, for not loving yourself enough, for having chosen the wrong mate, etc., etc., mate selection, etc.

Existentialism places on your shoulders the burden of choice and all the consequences of your decisions.

In this sense, existentialism makes you more human.

And as existentialism emphasizes your contribution to the world, you shape the world in your own image.

But to do so, existentialism is forced to introduce concepts such as alienation, authenticity, freedom, in short, the human spirit.

Existentialism, ironically, is a spiritual movement.

Existentialist philosophy is a highly spiritual philosophy, similar to humanistic, existentialist psychology, I'm sorry, is a highly spiritual form of psychology, similar to humanistic psychology.

I recommend to victims of narcissistic abuse to avoid the materialistic, pseudoscientific treatment modalities, starting first and foremost with psychoanalysis and all the psychoanalytic and psychodynamic schools. They're wrong for you.

You need to accept responsibility for your contributions to what had happened to you. And so you need to modify yourself via, for example, cognitive behavior therapy. You need to use every tool at your disposal.

So you need not neglect the spiritual aspect of you, the mind and all the techniques available to you to modify your mind in a way that would be conducive to much better outcomes in the future.

So you need to resort to psychotherapies and treatment modalities that are holistic, comprehensive and collaborative types of treatment where the therapist is your equal.

Together with you, the therapist explores your inner landscape. The therapist and you form an alliance, a therapeutic alliance, seeking together your recovery, your healing.

The therapist is not superior to you. He's not a scientist. He's not a medical doctor. He's not dictating to you. He's there to facilitate. He's there to help, but you own the process.

And it is only you through your powers of belief in conviction and suggestion and faith. Only you can change yourself sufficiently to reintegrate with society, function again and avoid such mistakes in the future.


Trauma is a learning opportunity. It should not be wasted by limiting ourselves to a repertory of techniques which are essentially manipulative and materialistic. That would be a serious mistake.

Existentially, psychology is a general approach to psychological theory and practice. It derives from existentialism. It emphasizes the subjective meaning of the human experience, not the objective theory, but the subjective experience, the uniqueness of the individual and the personal responsibility reflected in every choice you ever made. It was pioneered by the Swiss existential psychologist Ludwig Binsvanger. You never heard of him probably. It's a great pity.

The existentialist psychology, in my view, if it is coupled with CBT or schema therapy, is the most powerful combination in tackling trauma.

And then, having graduated existentialist therapy, you should try logotherapy. I have a video dedicated to logotherapy on this channel.


Existentialist psychology or existential psychology has a central concept. It's called being in the world.

In the theory of existential psychology, clinical approach, being in the world is typical only to humans.

According to existential theory, being in the world is a uniquely human experience. Animals, inanimate objects, abstract concepts, symbols exist. They have a being, but they don't have a being in the world. A being in the world emerges as a concept in Germany that is very similar to das Sein, the term used by Martin Heidegger. I mentioned it earlier.

And in France, in Germany and in France, almost simultaneously, what it means is being is an act. It's not a passive state. Being is not inert. It's not like something you don't have to think of, something that happens to you, your kind of passive recipient of the process of being.

No, according to existential theory and existential philosophy, existential psychology, human existence is an activity. It's not a state. It's not a condition. It's not a circumstance. It's an activity.

Human beings, their being is about becoming. They constantly become. Change is being. The world is a much richer and more meaningful ground for human life.

It's not the environment. The environment is a given. The environment is there. The environment is a precondition. It's a take it or leave it proposition. I mean, that's it. That's your environment.

No, the world includes multiple environments. So you have a choice where the environment, the concept of environment is devoid of choice. Renders your passive hostage, kidnapped somehow.

The concept of world in existential psychology is much more nuanced, much more diverse, much more pluralistic. The world is a sum total of all environments, environments that exist, but even much more importantly, environments that you can make happen, environments that you create, environments that you make with your own choices and decisions, environments that reflect who you are, environments that suit you much better than environments created by other people.

In short, you create your own world. Being in the world is about meaning. It's about growth. It's about reconstruction. History and healing is about creating a world in which you are not traumatized, about creating an environment in which you are not in pain, shifting, moving away, using your power, your agency, your self-efficacy, your autonomy and your independence to say, I'm out of here. I'm out of my trauma. I'm out of my pain. I'm out of my heart because I am an agent of action. I have the power. Only I have the power because I'm a human being. I have the power to create the world. Human beings are creators of worlds because the universe is a dream.

Any physicist would tell you this. The universe is made of abstracts, not of matter.

And so we can dream the universe into existence. We can fantasize other people into our lives and similarly we can fantasize them out of our lives.

We are in control. That's the message of existential psychology.

When you attend other types of treatment, you are called patient. You are the patient. It's as if you are not in control, as if you are somehow too sick, too ill, too dysfunctional, too defective to do anything about your life. And you come to the therapist and the therapist is going to fix you. You need fixing.

That's not the attitude in existential psychology.

In existential psychology, you are the fixer. You are the healer. You are the rescuer. You are the savior. You are your own messiah. No one else is coming to save you. No one else can, even if they want to. Isn't this the greatest lesson, the biggest lesson in abusive relationships?

No one can save you. No one can help you. There is no rescue. You are all on your own.

This is the bad news and this is also the best news imaginable.

Because you are all on your own, you need no one to change, to heal and to recover and to reassert yourself and to regain your consciousness.

So the very concept, the very idea of identity yourself in existential psychology is a dynamic process. That's why I'm much closer to existentialism than to other schools of thought because existentialism is dynamic.

And in my work, there's no unitary fixed self. In my work, there are assemblages of self-states that are very dynamic and change all the time.

I keep saying that men, human beings, man is not a pond or a puddle. Man is a river. Man is in flux. You never meet the same person twice.

So there's a world design in existential psychology, a person's worldview or fundamental orientation, attitude to life. It's the essential model of being in the world.

Each and every one of us has this model, this narrative. Each and every one of us has this theory about the world, the internal working model, a theory of mind. We all try to make sense of the external environment, the universe, other people by telling ourselves explanatory, organizing hermeneutic stories.

So the world design is a concept that was introduced by the existential psychologist Ludwig Binsvanger, which I mentioned earlier. The person's world design includes the way in which a person integrates the totality of his or her personality with the world.

She experiences the world.

But what is experience? What does it mean?

When you use the word experience, what does it mean? It means the meeting point, the connection between who you are in the world.

When you, your personality, your essence, when you meet the world, when you clash with the world, when you interface and interact with the world, then you generate experience.

And if you study this experience, if you focus on this experience, you learn everything you need to know about the world and about yourself and about yourself in the world.

So understanding a person's world design is essential to understanding the person.

This is the French concept, a French-German concept. Heidegger called it the sign. Heidegger was a philosopher and he has written the most incomprehensible texts in human history, I think.

I don't understand the word he's saying most of the time. But luckily the sign is a concept that is accessible.

So Martin Heidegger said that the sign is a particular kind of being. It's a form of being that is manifest in humans. Humans exist as the sign. The sign is the way humans exist. It's the way of being. And it allows humans access to a larger question of being in general. Not only their being, but generally being.

Like what is existence? What is the world?

So the sign is the principle of being.

And because people experience the sign, because they experience being, they can understand the being of other things, of animals, of the world, and potentially of abstract entities like God and so on. So people feel that they exist because exactly like the rest of the world, they experience the sign. The sign gives them access to the world. Their own being is the key to the world's being.

Now, in existential psychology and in existential therapy, we use the concept of the sign because if you have the master key to the world, then you're in charge. It empowers you. No trauma can destroy you. No pain can demolish you. No hurt can eradicate you. You are the master key. You are the master. You are God-like but in a good way, not in a grandiose way. You're God-like because the sign is God's mind. God made things happen. Yes, He's the Creator. God brought being into being. God is the source of being. God is the ultimate sign.

But you are a particle of God. You have as much the sign as God, only on a much smaller level, more diminutive.

But in this sense, God is in you and you are in God.

And so praying to God, mystical experiences, faith, these are all ways of connecting to yourself. And that is why they're so effective. They're so effective because you're inducing change in yourself by identifying with the world or with God, if you wish, via the bridge of being.

What is common to you in God? What is common to you in the world? Being. It's the only thing that's common to everything. God exists. Whatever else we may say about Him, the only thing that is indisputable across religions and faiths is that God exists.

But you exist also. You're much more limited than God of course by any attribute. But you still exist.

And for the brief moment that you are on this planet, you exist the same way God exists. You both access the same principle, which is the principle of the sign.

And essence. Essence is the ontological reality at the core of something that makes it what it is and not something else. You are unique and special, not in the grandiose narcissistic sense. You are unique and special because you are who you are and you are also not anyone else.

So your uniqueness, your specialness, your essence, they have a positive dimension and they have a negative dimension. They have a positive definition and they have a negative definition.

On the one hand, you are you. On the other hand, you are not anyone else. Positive identity and negative identity. You are necessarily you. You can never be anyone else.

Nevermind how hard you try. Your essence is necessary. It's a great argument against suicide. Your essence is necessary to the world.

If you take yourself out of this world, the world will never be the same.

You see all the trillions of stars and billions of galaxies, God himself, billions of people on earth, probably trillions of aliens, sentient and intelligent, more than us. This totality of creation, if you kill yourself, would no longer be the same, ever by definition.

If you remove yourself from reality, you are changing the entire universe to the furthest atom in the furthest galaxy. That is the power that we have. We have this power and it is the power of God because we are beings and God is a being. God is a different being, qualitatively and quantitatively, but we are united in existence and we do have the power, power of choice, to alter, to transform and to change God's creation, for example, by committing suicide.

But we can also change God's creation by healing, by behaving differently, by making choices and decisions, by being ourselves or by not being ourselves.

In short, everything you do has universe-wide implications, universal implications. This is your essential property.

Concept of essence in psychology is relevant to discussions of personhood, including questions of human agency in the self. It is important for personality theories. It's not incidental. It's not a fringe issue.

We have essential properties. There is an essence there. Maybe there is no unitary self, but there is an essence and this is known in psychology as essentialism. It's intimately connected with the concept of authenticity and inexistentialism.

In psychotherapy and counseling, authenticity is genuineness, caring, because if you are authentic, you are genuine, you are not fake, you are who you are, you don't imitate other people.

There's a famous example of the waiter in Jean-Paul Sartre's book when he sees a waiter. He says the waiter is not authentic because the waiter is imitating other waiters before him. He's imitating waiterhood, so he's not authentic.

To your essence, if you are loyal to your essence, you're authentic, you're genuine, you're never fake, you're never pretend, you never act according to other people's expectations, you're never people please.

And similarly, you never coerce people, you never abuse people, because coercing and abusing people provides you with false information about other people, about the environment and about the world at large.

And when you are fed with false information, it falsifies you. Truth is the foundation of your essence and your essence is the foundation of your authenticity.

Take away any one of these bricks and the whole edifice collapses.

You need to be surrounded by truth, external and internal, in order to be true to yourself.

If you're fed by falsehoods, if you're surrounded by fake people, you will never be true to yourself. Never.

And a huge part of healing from narcissistic abuse and recovery is to expunge, to purge toxic people, fake, fallacious people in your life, on the one hand, and to insist on truth in all your transactions with other people and with the world at large.

A therapist supposedly should provide you the truth. He should be caring, he should care about you. If you care about someone, you never lie to them.

Caring goes hand in hand with truth.

What is the test of love? Are you being lied to? If you're being lied to, that person doesn't love you. That's the only test I accept.

Some people will say, "Yeah, but you have to lie. I lied to her because I didn't want her to be hurt. I didn't want her to be in pain." That's not love. That's manipulation.

Caring and love are predicated on 100% truth telling, however painful.

And the therapist supposedly provides you with this, provides you with a mirror where you can see the truth, and he does it in a caring and loving fashion.


In existentialism, authenticity is a mode of being. Humans can achieve authenticity by accepting the burden of freedom, the responsibility of choice.

When you say, "I'm in charge. My decisions and choices shape the world," at that moment you become authentic. That is authenticity.

When you don't deflect, when you don't lie, when you don't prevaricate, when you don't excuse yourself, when you don't shift the blame, when you don't guilt-trip, when you face the world bravely and you say, "This is me. This is what I've done. And this is a price I have to pay for better or for worse." At that moment, you are 100% unadulterated you. That is authenticity.

Authenticity is freedom to choose, choice, and the responsibility that comes with choice.

Constructing your own values and meanings in a universe that otherwise is meaningless. You imbue the universe with meaning. The universe is an object. A glass is meaningless unless you fill it with wine.

At that moment, it acquires its functionality. It acquires its reason to be. The universe is meaningless without us.

Had all the sentient, intelligent creatures in the universe vanish, the universe would have been rendered dead. A dead object. A meaningless object.

And even in religion, for example, in the Kabbalah, God created sentient, intelligent beings because He needed them to heal Him and to complete Him. They have a mission. And the mission is to allow God to be.

Human beings are the design of God. Human beings are God's being in the world, state and principle. That's how important we are.

And this leads me to humanistic psychology.

Humanistic psychology was an approach in psychology. It flourished between the 1940s and the 1970s. It clashed with behaviorism. It was a big mess.

And even today, some humanistic techniques and so on and so forth are visible in psychotherapy and counseling. It derives from ideas in existentialism and phenomenology. It focuses on the individual's capacity to make choices, create their own lifestyle and actualize themselves in their own way.

You heard of mass laws, self-actualization.

The approach of humanistic psychology is holistic. And the emphasis is on the development of human potential through experiential means.

Humanistic psychologists believe that you can realize your potential only via experiences. You cannot learn things. You have to experience them.

Even when you do learn something, you have to put it to use. Only when you put it to use, you learn. Learning is predicated on being and being is predicated on experience.

The approach is very interesting in this sense.

And humanistic therapy sessions are amazing.

Humanism, humanistic psychology breaks all the barriers. For example, it encourages transference, even bodily contact, which today would be considered probably a criminal.

So they analyze the unconscious and they accept certain psychoanalytic tenets as a precursor to modifying behavior, but they are much closer to existentialism.

So those of you who want, I encourage you to read works by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Ronald Myers, humanistic theory, human potential movement and so on and so forth.

I'm mentioning these schools because I think victims of narcissistic abuse, traumatized, bleeding, wounded, broken, as they are, they don't need therapy that would be analytical and cerebral and scientific. They need a hug. They need a hug. They need warmth. They need to reacquire their power. They need to be empowered. They need to become a genet. They need to believe that their agency can change the world and themselves. They need to acquire some conviction in the power of faith. They need to self administer placebos if needed. They need a much more human approach and existentialism on the one hand places the burden of choice and responsibility on the individual, but on the other hand, it's very, very warm and caring because the emphasis of on subjective experience.

Same with humanistic psychology, same with logotherapy. CBT is a technique. It's like fine tuning.

So it's recommended as an adjunct to these therapies.

In humanistic psychology, there's something called the fulfillment model. It's a basic type of personality theory. It is based on the assumption that the primary motivation for behavior is self-fulfillment or self-actualization.

There is a drive to realize one's innate potentials.

In life, we feel that we can do something. So we want to do it. We feel that we can become someone. So we want to become that someone. I don't know.

Mothers feel they can become mothers so they have children. Intellectuals feel that they can become intellectuals and they become intellectual. This is called self-actualization and it's the self-fulfillment model or the fulfillment model.

This is the primary motivation for behavior.

According to humanists, everything we do, including self-destructive acts, self-defeating and self-handicapping behaviors, they're all geared towards self-fulfillment.

Not attaining self-actualization is very painful and very traumatic.

So sometimes people punish themselves for this kind of failure and humanistic psychology teaches you not to. It's part of the human potential movement. It's an approach to psychotherapy in psychology that emphasizes personal growth, interpersonal sensitivity and greater freedom and spontaneity in living.

I refer you to the work of Frederick Perls, an amazing thinker, German, of course, needless to say, but he moved to the United States to his credit and he was an influential force in the development of human potential movement.

The general perspective is we are humans, we have potential, we need to realize it.

Abuse such as narcissistic abuse prevents us from realizing our full potential, obstructs us, doesn't allow us to self-actualize and self-fulfill and become who we should become, who we are, who we could be.

And so the way to counter narcissistic abuse is to thrive, to prosper, to succeed, to experience, to become who we could always be, to realize our potential, to actualize ourselves.

Not revenge, not revenge, because revenge is the perpetuation of abuse by other means.

Revenge means you're still attached to your abuser and these schools in psychology tell you, "Forget your abuser. Your abuser was part of the world because you are in control of the world, you can just eliminate him and move on and thrive and this is the only thing you should pursue and do not become a victim, do not disempower yourself, realize how close to God you are at any given moment."

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