Take These 4 Steps BEFORE Therapy for Narcissistic Abuse (with Daria Zukowska Clinical Psychologist)

Uploaded 3/27/2023, approx. 27 minute read

Sohello everyone, we have a special guest today. Some of you may know him. If not, I would like to introduce him. It's a professor, Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and Professor of Finance and Psychology in SIAS-CIAPS Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies.

Hello, Sam.

Hello, just two corrections. I'm a former visiting professor of psychology. And now I resign my post as a professor of psychology. I'm only a professor of finance. So psychology is in my past, but still on my mind.

OK, then. So today I would like to ask you some questions about how narcissists are affected us and how narcissist's voice becomes ours.

I think it's really important thing to understand in the healing journey for everyone who was affected by narcissists.

So so yes, maybe let's start by describing like a typical profile of a victim of narcissist abuse.

Narcissists team up. They create couples. And we are talking only about intimate relationships, but actually everything they're about to say applies to friendships, the workplace, studies. All relationships with narcissist are structured the same way because narcissists don't recognize or experience intimacy.

As far as the narcissist is concerned, there is no such thing as intimate relationship. All relationships are the same and the goal of all relationships is narcissistic supply.

The intimate partner provides also services, sometimes sex, sometimes other things. But generally the narcissist doesn't have a preference for any specific type.

If you provide the narcissist with what he needs, then you're good to go.

So many narcissists team up with psychopaths, for example. Many narcissists have borderlines as partners, co-dependence or just normal, healthy, regular people.

It is a myth. It's not true that narcissists have a preferred type.

Narcissist couldn't care less if you have empathy because they go online and I see many victims and self-start victims, so-called empaths, I don't know what else. They keep saying the narcissist chose me because I'm a good person, because I have empathy. Narcissist couldn't care less if you have empathy. He doesn't have empathy. He doesn't need empathy. He needs supply and services.

So the narcissist is indiscriminate. He's promiscuous.

But it is true that certain types of people are more attracted to narcissists.

So for example, borderline, people with borderline personality disorder would be more attracted to narcissists. And the same goes for dependent personality disorder, also known as co-dependency.

Co-dependence and borderlines are the most attracted to narcissists because narcissists provide them with the illusion of safety and external regulation.

The borderline cannot regulate her emotions. She cannot control her moods. She has mobility. She has dysregulation. And she outsources her mind, her internal processes, to the narcissist. So he becomes a part of her mind. This is known as external regulation.

The co-dependent teams up with the narcissist because the narcissist is delighted to take over all the daily functions to control the life of the co-dependent because the narcissist feels grandiose. He feels like he's godlike.

So the co-dependent allows the narcissist to feel godlike. And the borderline allows the narcissist to feel like her best friend, her rock, the one who calms her down, the one who gives her inner peace, the one who reduces her anxiety, the one around which she feels stable and safe and wonderful.

So that's why they are attracted to narcissists.

Okay, I understand. So how has it come that narcissist's voice is becoming ours? Like, how would these processes look like?

The narcissist does what Josef Goebbels said. Josef Goebbels said if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it's true.

The narcissist's secret source, his secret technique is repetition. The narcissist simply repeats. He has a limited repertory of sentences. Some of these sentences are highly positive. They are sentences of idealization.

So in the love bombing phase, the narcissist would repeat the same sentences, but they would be positive sentences. They would idealize.

And also has a repertory of negative sentences. And when he abuses you, he will repeat these negative sentences.

Now we have known since 2006 that if you repeat the same sentences again and again, they have an impact on the brain. They somehow affect the brain.

It's very similar with music. It's the same with music.

But we didn't know how it's done. And now we know how it's done. It's a process called entraining.

It seems that if you repeat the same sentence again and again and again, and if you are a figure of authority, if there's an asymmetry of authority or perceived as an authoritative figure, or if the other person is dependent on you, so there is an asymmetry of power or asymmetry of trust, then these sentences would synchronize your brainwaves with the abuser's brainwaves.

There will be a synchronization of brainwaves, literally physical brainwaves. So your brain would become a replica of the abuser's brain.

It's terrifying. It's much more than brainwashing. It's much more than brainwashing. It's simply taking over your brain and making your brain an extension of the abuser's brain.

And that is known as entraining.

Now we discovered entraining in music. We found out in experiments conducted 10 years ago that when people play music together, their brains become one brain. All the brains of the members of a rock band or a pop group, all the brains of all the members, the drummer, the bassist, the singer, all the brains begin to emit somewhat tenuously identical wave patterns.

They become essentially a single brain, like a colony, like a hive, a single brain.

And this is what happens in abuse.

The abuser creates a single brain with you. So effectively this is merger and fusion.

From that moment on, the only voice is the abuser's voice. You don't have a voice anymore.

Because the abuser has taken over your brain, his voice is the only voice, of course. His voice synchronizes your brain with his brain.

And so gradually his voice silences all the other voices in your mind.

Now, just to be clear, all people, including healthy people, have internal voices. These internal voices are known as introjects. These internal voices belong to very significant people in your life.

So you have an internal voice of your mother, a voice of your father, an important teacher, peers, influential peers, even media figures, even role models, even politicians, even influencers. They create inside you an introject, a voice.

When you are exposed to narcissistic abuse, via the process of entraining, all these voices, without exception, they are silenced. And the only voice in your head that resonates in your head is the abuser's voice.

Now, sometimes the voice of the abuser will collaborate with other voices inside your mind in order to accomplish some manipulative goal.

So, for example, if you have a voice of a mother, an introject of your mother, and this voice is telling you, you are not good, you are bad, you are failure, you are unworthy, so the abuser will collaborate with his voice. His voice will create a coalition with your mother's voice and will amplify it.

So, ultimately, what is left in your mind are only the negative introjects, only the introjects that put you down, only the introjects associated with what we call a bad object.

The abuser convinces you gradually that you are bad, inadequate, insufficient, a failure, a loser, ugly, stupid, and so on and so forth.

And he does this by creating these alliances of similar voices inside your mind.

And this is why when the abuser is done, his voice remains inside your mind.

So, after this process, and when we are, you know, after a relationship, any kind, with a narcissist, can we become NPD then, after this kind of abuse?

It's well documented that people who suffered from complex trauma, CPTSD, begin to display narcissistic and even psychopathic behaviors. They acquire some superficial psychopathic and narcissistic traits. Their empathy is reduced dramatically. The capacity to empathize is dramatically reduced. This is common to all trauma victims, have difficulties with empathy.

And so, for a little while, a few months, up to a few years, your behavior is a victim of abuse, prolonged abuse, could become indistinguishable from the behavior of a narcissist or even a psychopath.

But luckily, this is reversible, as the effects of the trauma were off, as you go, as you're exposed to therapy, which you should, if you're a victim of narcissistic abuse, you should attend therapy.

Then, these traits and behaviors gradually disappear. So, this is artificial, this is superficial, this is not life form.

Okay. So, after this, when we decided that we are going to the therapy, any kind, what we should do first, before we start any kind, like, you know, gushed out or internal family system or, you know, psychodynamic, doesn't matter.

But what is the most important thing to do with this, especially, you know, with this voice?

Because if this voice is affected us, then this voice can take any method and, you know, any experiment, any exercise that we can learn to use this against us, isn't it?

Yes, very true. It's very true. This voice co-ops, it uses anything you learn, anything you learn, especially anything you learn about yourself, and then uses it against you.

It's like, you know, when you're arrested in the United States, they tell you anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. So, it's the same.

The first thing you need to do as a victim is stop considering yourself a victim. You have been victimized. It doesn't make you a victim. In other words, don't adopt victimhood as an identity. Don't become a victim as a definition of who you are. You're not a victim, you have been victimized.

That's the first thing.

The second thing, you must recognize your contribution to what had happened.

If you deny that you have had any contribution, if you say, "I was a perfect angel, I was a perfect angel, and my abuser is a perfect demon, he's the devil," you know?

And so, it was an accident. It could have happened to anyone. "I did nothing wrong. I did not contribute anything to it."

Then you will never heal. You will never heal, and you will repeat the same mistake again and again and again.

All people who are victimized by abusers, especially by narcissists and so on, do contribute to their own abuse, and they need to ask themselves, "What did I do wrong?"

For example, maybe the way I'm selecting intimate partners is wrong. Maybe I had psychological needs, and the narcissist fulfilled his needs in the wrong way. Maybe I wanted to be abused in some way. This is known as projective identification, because I consider myself a bad object which should be punished.

Maybe I have self- destructiveness and self- defeat and the urge to self- punish, because I self- love or I don't love myself enough. Maybe there is a self- love deficit.

So, the first stage, I am not a victim. That's not my identity. I have been victimized.

The second stage, I contributed to my predicament. I contributed to the situation that I find myself now.

How? How did I do that? And how not to do this again?

The third phase, and this is before going to therapy, the third phase is to say, "I have voices talking to me inside my head," which is totally normal by the way, every human being has. I have voices. For example, if you have a conscience, whenever you want to do something, your conscience tells you, "Don't do this. This is wrong. It's not okay to do this." So, your conscience is a voice inside your head that tells you what is right and what is wrong. It's an example of an introject.

So, the third thing you need to do, the third step, is to ask yourself, "Which of these voices are mine and which of these voices are not mine? Which of these voices are authentic and which of these voices are inauthentic?"

And now, how would you identify? How would you know?

That was another question, how to recognize which voice is which.

There's actually a very simple way. You have a voice of a mother inside your head.

And to prevent egodystony, to prevent discomfort, to prevent inconvenience, you lie to yourself and you say, "This is not my mother's voice. This is my voice."

So, very often, we adopt the introjects as us. We identify with the introjects.

The process is called identification. We identify with the introjects.

In order to prevent egodystony, to prevent extreme dissonance, to prevent anxiety, we say, "These voicesare my voices. These are authentic voices." And actually, they're not. They're your mother's voice. They're your abuser's voice. They're not your voice. How do you know? How can you tell?

I'm going to give you one simple rule. If the voice is negative most of the time about you, if the voice puts you down, criticizes you all the time, never gives you a compliment, tells you that you're bad, inadequate, insufficient, unworthy, failure, stupid, ugly, and so on. If these are the messages of the introject, if these are the automatic thoughts generated by the voice, this voice is not yours.

Simple. A voice that is yours will be reality- based, reality- tested, and balanced. It could be a balanced voice. So, this kind of voice sometimes will tell you, "Bravo, you did a good thing. You should congratulate yourself. You deserve a glass of wine or a new handbag." Or this kind of voice will tell you, "You see how he's looking at you? You're beautiful." Or this voice will tell you, "Look at how much you've accomplished in life." And sometimes this voice will tell you, "You really screwed up. You didn't think to the end. Next time, think to the end."

So, a voice that is yours is like the voice of a good friend, or like the voice of a truly loving mother or a truly loving father. It's a voice that is reality- based and balanced. A voice that is 95% of the time negative and wants to pull you down and put you down and destroy you and criticize you harshly and so on is sadistic voice that is never, ever your voice. Never.

So, this is stage three.

Stage three is to identify the voices that are not your voices.

And stage four, and the last one before you go to therapy, is to silence these voices. Whenever the voices which are not you, the inauthentic voices, begin to criticize you or use bad object characterization of you, you silence them.

How do you silence them?

You say, "Shut up." So, you say, "Shut up now."

Okay, if it's not working, just shut up. It does work. If you intervene early in the voice, you don't let it speak. You use your voice to silence it.

You say, "Shut up. I don't want to listen to you. I know you don't want. I know you're my enemy. I know you don't like me. I know you don't want."

So, you don't let the voice speak. You flog it with your own messaging.

At the beginning, you look at it, but after a while, these voices will be silenced because they will not be able to express themselves.

We have a principle in psychology. It's called the principle of mental economy. Anything that cannot be used will atrophy and die.

So, if there is something inside you that you cannot use, you will lose it. It's called use it or lose it.

If you have voices inside you and you keep silencing them all the time, finally they will die because they are not needed anymore.

This is the principle of mental economy. And this is what we do in CBT, in cognitive behavior therapy.

We identify negative automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts such as, "I will always fail," or "I'm very fat," or "I'm ugly. No one would want to date me." These are negative automatic thoughts.

And then what we do in cognitive behavior therapy, we demonstrate to you that these voices are wrong.

And how do we do that?

We force you to use other voices. We force you to use other information. This other information contradicts the voice.

And whenever the voice comes up, you use that information.

So, for example, if the voice says, "You're ugly. No one will ever date you." You say, "But it's not true. I dated five men in the last ten years."

And this is a voice. This replica, this response to the negative voice, is like another voice.

So gradually the automatic negative voice shuts up and disappears.

CBT is the most successful treatment modality in the world. It's the most efficacious, most efficient treatment there is.

And this is exactly what it does. It silences automatic negative thoughts.

So you should apply self-CBT to some extent.

Then when you're finished with these four phases, you're ready for therapy.

If you go to therapy before you finish these four phases, the last assist inside your mind will take over the therapy, will dominate the therapy, and will abuse the therapy against you.

And this is why victims, or people who consider themselves to be victimized, complain that the therapist becomes a friend of the narcissist.

The therapist is compromised by the narcissist. And that is quite true. It's true when the narcissist is there because the narcissist is charming and manipulative and so on. But it's also true when the narcissist is not there. The therapist will react very strongly to the narcissist's voice.

And so the therapist needs your help also. The therapist also needs your helpbecause if you come to the therapist and you're still contaminated, adulterated, infected with the narcissist's voice, it will make it very difficult for the therapist as well.

And very often the therapist will make a mistake and believe that voice, not you, and begin to collaborate with that voice against you, even a well-trained therapist.

Everyone knows in the field, in the profession, everyone knows that the most difficult patients to treat are narcissists and borderlines. Everyone knows this.

And the reason it's very difficult to treat them is that very often they corrupt the therapy. They contaminate the therapy. They infect the process of therapy.

And so the process is destroyed from the inside because the narcissist corrupted the therapist, corrupted the therapy, and it's no longer helpful.

So don't bring the narcissist with you to the therapy. Even if the narcissist is inside your head, don't bring him with you to the therapy.

That's all I'm saying. Now I'll put my glasses back.

Yeah, I do agree, especially what you said before that.

What I can see when I'm working with people, that the main problem is a lot of them, they don't want to take their responsibility for what was their impact there.

And this is the main point where they stuck.

They cannot move when they will not take this responsibility.

I can tell even in my own therapy, the first thing that I made was like, yes, I'm taking my part and I'm taking responsibility.

And I can say that that was the most important thing on the beginning.

I think that because then people, yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead.

I think there are two problems.

If you don't admit your role, if you don't admit your contribution, maybe it's not responsibility, but if you don't admit your contribution to the abuse, there are two problems with it.

First of all, it means that you are an object. You're objectifying yourself.

If you didn't do anything, if you didn't contribute anything, then you are like an object.

The narcissist comes and he uses you like an object and he goes.

So you are objectifying yourself. You are taking away your autonomy. You are taking away your agency. You don't have.

So this is the first outcome.

The narcissist wants to objectify. This is what the narcissist wants to do. He wants you to feel like an objectand you're helping himwhen you say, I'm an angel. He's a demon. This was an accident. You're helping him because that means you are not a human being.

Human beings make choices. Human beings make decisions. Human beings are responsible for their actions. Human beings are responsible for their inaction. Human beings are not just there. Things don't just happen to human beings. That's why I don't like the phrase in magnet.

You're not a magnet. Magnets are passive. Magnets do nothing. They're just there. You're not a magnet. You're a human being. You're an agent.

So don't collaborate with the narcissist to convert you from a full-fledged human being to a magnet.

The second problem, if you don't admit your contribution, your role, the second problem islearned helplessness.

If you were abused to this extent and you could do nothing about itand you did nothing, then you're helpless. You're absolutely, totally helpless. You're impotent.

So this is called learned helplessness.

So if you are helpless, you're helpless means you can be abused again and again and again. It will happen to you endlessly until you die because you're helpless.

There's nothing you could do. There's nothing you did do. You were just there waitingand the abuse came from nowhere. You had nothing to do with it.

So if this happened to you once, maybe it can happen to you again.

When we interview survivors of car crashes, airplane crashes and natural disasters, this is the biggest problem.

There is nothing you can do when you are in an airplane and the airplane crashes. Nothing you could do.

So these people learn that they are totally helpless. And so at that moment, they develop PTSD. Most traumatic stress disorder happens only when you feel that you are a thousand percent helpless.

If you believe that you can do something, if you believe that you have agency, you will never develop PTSD. Never. As long as you believe that you can still do something, still affect your destiny, still make choices that will determine your life. As long as you believe this, you will not be traumatized.

Trauma is when you are a helpless object, like a baby, like a six-month-old baby.

So the narcissist infantilizes you. He regresses you. He makes you like a baby.

And then when I go to forums of victims and so on, they all sound like big babies. There is nothing they could do. They were just like a baby.

And someone came and slapped them or beat them up. I don't know. It's not true. These people are not babies. There is a lot they could have done.

Many choices they could have taken and many decisions they could have made, they did not make them.

And they made other wrong choices and decisions and they refused to face this fact.

How will they ever heal? How will they ever get rid of a trauma? And how will they ever avoid making the same mistake again?

Yes, thank you for this. And thank you Sam for these four steps.

Before therapy, what people should do before they start looking for a professional or whoever they want working with.

Because I think it's really important to understand that this is different kind of abuse than the other ones.

So thank you so much for this. Have you got any advice or would you like to say something to people?

Because I don't have any question about that.


Narcissistic abuse is a unique experience. And that is the reason that I coined the phrase "narcissistic abuse"because people ask me immediately, "Why do you need a special type of abuse? Why don't you just say abuse? Why do you say narcissistic abuse? What's so special? What is special is this.

Typical abusers, they want something from you. They want to take your money. They want to have sex with you. They want to humiliate you. They like to humiliate you. They enjoy causing you pain. But they are very goal- oriented and highly focused.

Abuse is highly specific. That's why we have financial abuse, legal abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse.

Because abuse is narrow. It's unique, like a tunnel. Narcissistic abuse is total. Total.

The aim of narcissistic abuse is to kill you mentally, to deprive you of autonomy, agency, independence, to take over your mind, to inject into you powerful introjects that you will mistake and you will think they are you, to prevent you from diverging or deviating from an idealized image inside the mind of narcissists, to cut you off family and friends and support networks, to deny you the opportunity to travel, work, or gain any form of independence.

So it's a total attack.

I compare other forms of abuse to conventional war, while narcissistic abuse is nuclear war.

No one survives. No one survives except the narcissist.

So this is why you cannot think of narcissistic abuses as just another type of abuse. The damage is total to your body, to your mind, to your ability to think, to your ability to feel, to empathize, to survive, to function. Everything is damaged completely, massively.

You need, in other words, to rebuild. You need reconstruction.

While other forms of abuse, not narcissistic abuse, you need recovery. After narcissistic abuse, you need reconstruction.

Not recovery. Recovery is not enough.

You need reconstruction.

Because you can recover from some effects, from all minds, but you will still be destroyed, demolished.

You need to rebuild yourself.

Thank you. That's true. Thank you so much for the phrase that you coined.

Thank you for your knowledge, because it's priceless. And thank you for your time. It was good to see you.

Thank you for having me. Thank you. Thank you. Bye.

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