Think You Know Narcissists, Borderlines? Think Again! (With Ruan de Witt)

Uploaded 6/8/2021, approx. 1 hour 2 minute read

I record as well.


Are you right for us to launch straight into it and we just see where we go?

I do have a list of questions. Do you want me to touch on them now or are you okay?

Let's just charge ahead.

Spontaneity is the mother of necessity or something like that.

Let's go ahead.

I like it.

Well, in that case, Sam, it's an absolute pleasure having you with us today.

Our listeners, I'm sure, are going to get a lot from this conversation.

Just to set the scene for anyone who's not familiar with your work.

Professor Vaknin has a background originally in physics. If you wanted to talk to him about chronons and quantum mechanics, he's got another life in there. He's a medical doctor. He's a professor of finance and he served as an advisor to several governments for a long period of time. He's an author. He's written lots and lots of books, including Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism, Malignant Self-Love.

Thank you. You've got a YouTube channel with 170,000 subscribers and you have over 805 videos on there. You're very prolific, I guess, to where the conversation will go today, which is in psychology.

You are a professor in psychology. Many would regard you today as an expert in the field of narcissistic personality disorders, so MPD. That's really what we want to share with some of our listeners today.

So maybe let's just launch straight into it, if that's right with you.

Yes, please.

Please go ahead. Absolutely.

I forgot my main qualification. I'm an insomniac 60-year-old.

Well, given how much you've done in life, that's probably not a surprise.

It's believable, isn't it? It's credible.

All right. So Sam, we often hear people talk about narcissism. They'll say things like, oh my gosh, my ex was such a narcissist, or my boss is a narcissistic maniac.

And I guess in the world of psychology, when we talk about narcissism as a pathology, as something that's gone wrong, it's very different to someone who has a narcissistic trait.

So maybe let's start with that.

Can you set the scene for our listeners? What is narcissism as a trait and what is narcissism as a disorder where it's gone deeper than that?

Well, we don't use the word trait because narcissism is a complex of traits and behaviors, but we do use the phrase narcissistic style, which was coined by a scholar by the name of Lynn Sperry.

So Lynn Sperry was the first to suggest that there is a distinction, should be a distinction between narcissistic style and the narcissistic disorder.

Now, the disorder is merely a malignant form of the style where the style, for example, might be abrasive and a bit antisocial. The disorder would add to that lack of empathy, where the style would be self-centered and a bit egotistical. The disorder would be exploitative and abusive.

So it's simply a malignancy of exactly like cancer is a malignancy of the healthy self.

Now, the narcissistic style is becoming more and more common because it's a positive adaptation in our civilization. Self-promotion, the mid-generation, self-centeredness, social atomization, the collapse of institutions such as family and community. Et cetera, force us to become self-sufficient and self-contained and self-referential.

So we, all of us gradually are developing in narcissistic style as a way of coping with our reality, which is harrowing and dystopian.

But the disorder itself is involves a bewildering multiplicity of pathological processes, defense mechanisms, gone awry, childhood traumas converted into other forms of trauma. I mean, it's a much more complex landscape than the style.

The style is simply a set of strategies, coping strategies, which had coalesced into something coherent and cohesive, while the disorder involves a massive disruption in almost every conceivable dimension of personality, identity and functioning.

And what sort of percentages of men and women in the Western world suffer from NPD?

Actually, we have good statistics in other places as well. For example, India, Egypt, China, Russia.

So by now, we know much more than we used to 20 or 25 years ago.

Here's the thing. In the past, we used to believe that 75% of all people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are men and 25% are women. Today, the ratio is 50-50.

And actually, there's a very worrisome phenomenon where women are becoming gradually more narcissistic than men. And we think the number of women is beginning to exceed the number of men.

And we think, I mean, one of the hypotheses why this is happening is that traumatized women, women who had been traumatized in intimate relationships, tend to develop narcissistic defenses, tend to become narcissistic. And so they tend to present with such a variety of intense narcissistic symptoms that they cross the threshold into narcissistic personality disorder.

But it's a different type of narcissistic personality disorder because it is situational. It's reactive. It's not something that had happened to them in early childhood. So we might as well call it late onset pathological narcissism.

So we are beginning to see, therefore, a panoply, a zoo of narcissistic disorders.

We see post-traumatic narcissism.

So narcissism is a reaction to trauma, whether in early childhood or late in life. We see constitutional narcissism, which usually is allied or aligned with psychopathy. We see grandiosity, which is an integral feature of borderline personality disorder and all the antisocial personality disorder spectrum.

So we're beginning to understand, we're beginning to reconceive of narcissism in several ways.

First, we are beginning to consider narcissism a form of post-traumatic reaction, a kind of post-traumatic disorder.

Then we're beginning to reconceive of narcissism as an addiction, a type of addictive personality, because narcissists are addicted to narcissistic supply. They're addicted to input from the environment in order to regulate their internal landscape.

And finally, we are beginning to realize that actually all these distinctions, all these differential diagnosis between psychopaths and narcissists and borderlines and history, they're bullshit. Sorry for the rough language.

We can talk. They're utter nonsense.

And so, for example, the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases, which is the world's DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is used mainly in North America, the more precisely in the United States. The rest of the world is using another book. And that other book is titled The International Classification of Diseases, ICD. The latest edition of the ICD, edition 11, had eliminated all these diagnoses. They're gone. And they have a single diagnosis, personality disorder.

So now, in the rest of the world, you are diagnosed with a personality disorder with narcissistic emphases, personality disorder with psychopathic emphasis or overlay. So it's very antiquated thinking to say, oh, he's not a narcissist, he's a psychopath, or he's not a narcissist, he's a borderline.

We're beginning to understand that all of these, especially narcissism and borderline, are post-traumatic artifacts. And that they share, they're so much in common, and so many crossovers, and so much comorbidity. In other words, they are so common together in the same patient that all these distinctions are totally besides the point and wrong, simply wrong.

How would you tell if you were in a relationship with someone and they started displaying personality concerns, particularly narcissistic concerns? What are the sorts of warning signs that some of our listeners might look for that would flag that there might be a narcissistic issue there, specifically narcissistic?

Well, the first red alert, by far the most dominant, most important, is a lack of empathy.

Now, narcissists have what we call cold empathy. Cold empathy is cognitive empathy coupled with reflexive empathy. In other words, they are able to read you well, they're able to spot your vulnerabilities.

And once they had spotted your vulnerabilities, they intruded, they invaded you via the chinks in your armor. So they're very good at treating your weak spots, your frailties, your fears, your wishes, and then leveraging this to take over you, essentially, to launch a hostile takeover.

But they don't have the emotional correlate. In other words, they may notice that you are said, but they will not feel said, consequently. They will not even understand what it means to be said. They will not empathize, therefore.

So a lack of empathy. A lack of empathy manifests on a first date, or a second date, or an initial relationship. A lack of empathy manifests in two ways.

When the person is hyper-intellectualizing, in other words, when everything goes through the mind, but nothing goes through the heart.

So when there's a lot of analyzing, a lot of analysis going on, when the narcissist analyzes you all the time, breaks you to pieces, disassembles you, puts you together, synthesizes you, and deconstructs you all the time. It's like you are a lab rat, you know, like you're an experiment in psychology, and the narcissist keeps trying to put you together in his mind.

So this is a very telling sign, hyper-analyzing you without concomitant emotional reactions, doing it as one would do to a laboratory mouse or a rat.

The second thing is, even when you are in need of support and support and understanding, even when you show overt signs of being in distress and so on and so forth, the narcissist is extremely unlikely to react, or is likely to react with aggression because you're weak and contemptible.

So we call this inappropriate affect. The narcissist reacts wrongly. He loves at the funeral. He finds tragedy funny, and he finds your distress contemptible because it means you're weak.

So wrong reactions, inappropriate affect. These are the two, I think.

And then you can observe the narcissist in action. Is he trying to take over you, to control you, to micromanage you, to tell you what to do, where to put the keys, when to go to the toilet, why have you been there for too long? He chooses the wine. He orders the dishes. He doesn't bother to consult you. I mean, he takes over. He micromanages your life from the first moment.

Another very telling sign is how does he treat people he perceives to be inferior to him, like cab drivers, waiters, service providers. How does it treat them? He perceives people to be inferior. If he berates them and demeans them and attacks them and insults them and humiliates them, then he's very likely a narcissist because narcissist immediately establish hierarchies, hierarchies of power.

Narcissists are engaged constantly in power plays.

Another very telling sign is if he immediately tries to establish his superiority.

And so he scans you and he finds the only area where he's superior. And then the rest of the evening, the rest of the date revolves around that area where he's superior.

So if you're more athletic, he's not going to dwell on this. But if you know a lot less about biology, the rest of the date will revolve around biology because that's where he can be superior.

So focus, focus on superiority.

And finally, another side, there are many, I mean, there are numerous.

Another sign is an external locus of control. If the narcissist plays the victim, plays the victim, intends to claim that all his defeats and failures and mishaps and wrong decisions were brought about because of other people's envy or because he's not, he's a misunderstood figure or because society is wrongly constructed and wrong principles.

So always blaming someone else, an institution, another person, his boss, his ex-wife, you're naming, if he has alloplastic defenses, if he tends to blame other people constantly. Here's the thing. The minute you, you come across a narcissist on a date, in the workplace, in a presentation, never mind where, you immediately feel ill at ease, immediately. There's something wrong. Something is his gun or ride. There's something creepy. It's like the parts of the narcissist don't fit together, a badly assembled robot, you know? It's like there's something, there's a glitch in the software. It's like a badly run simulation of a human being. It's like an android, but of the first generation, not yet fully ironed out, you know?

And so you have this, you have this ill at ease feeling. It's something, and this is called the uncanny valley. The technical term for this, this feeling is the uncanny valley because there was a Japanese roboticist, Masahiro Mori. And in 1970, he suggested that when robots come to resemble human beings to the maximum, we're going to feel very uncomfortable around robots.

So, because they are so, they would be so close to human beings, they would resemble human beings, they would simulate human beings so well, but there would still be something missing. The robotic essence, if you wish, the robotic essence, we're going to spot this because we are not robots. We're going to spot another species. We're going to have this problem with artificial intelligence as well.

And so that's why compare narcissists to forms of artificial intelligence or aliens from another planet who body snatch human bodies. And then, you know, of course they are not the human beings, but they are so deficient and defective human beings that they defy the definition itself. They defy the word. They're not human in the full sense of the word, absolutely.

And we are uncomfortable around pseudo humans, quasi humans, wannabe humans, imitation humans, simulation humans. We feel very uncomfortable.

So why do women ignore this gut feeling, this uncanny valley?

Because they're lonely. They're self-deceiving. They want to believe. They want to hope. They crave and long for a relationship. They're going to overlook anything and everything. That's the truth. The truth is, had people listened to their gut instincts, all narcissists would be utterly isolated. No one would have any dealings with them.

But people deny their intuition. They bury it because their intuition tells them, run for the hills now.

So is there something charming and engaging about that projection that the narcissist gives off? Does that play at all?

Narcissists are not charming or engaging, but the narcissist has a very simple trick up his sleeve.

The narcissist idealizes you.

So the narcissist idealizes you and then projects to you. He's your idealized version.

So the narcissist focuses on you like a laser beam. He acts as though you're the most interesting person in the world that he had ever come across. He makes you feel so elevated, elated, and superior. He infects you with his own grandiosity. He idealizes you and then he lets you see, he lets you witness your own idealized version. So he actually makes you fall in love with yourself.

It is not that you find the narcissist charming. It's that you find it charming that the narcissist finds you charming. That's what charms you. The narcissist finds you charming or pretends to find you charming and you find this irresistible because you want to be charming. You want to consider yourself irresistible and this is the message the narcissist is sending you. There's no one like you. You're amazing. You're hyper intelligent. You're the most gorgeous person I've ever seen. Drop dead gorgeous. You're this, you're that, you know, and you want to hear that. It's addictive. It's an addictive message. You're actually, when you fall in love with the narcissist, you fall in love with yourself.

I compare the narcissist to a hall of mirrors. When you enter the hall of mirrors, it's empty, just mirrors. When you enter the hall of mirrors, you see yourself reflected a thousand million times. Who can resist this? No one can.

Is that what we commonly hear refer to as love bombing? That phase when, as you said, the laser lighting you, you are absolutely overwhelmed with their affection and their adoration of you.


That is a lump, lump bombing phase and it's followed by the grooming phase.

The lump bombing phase is idealizing you and exposing you to your own idealization, which no one can resist. It becomes totally addictive. That's why this is the essence of trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding has two pillars. One pillar is co-idealization where the narcissist idealizes you and in return, you return the favor, you idealize the narcissist.

So there's co-idealization. That's one pillar of trauma bonding.

And of course, when you feel idealized, it is so addictive that you can't let go. You need the source of idealization next to you. You can't let go.

And the second pillar of trauma bonding is what we call intermittent reinforcement.

The narcissist conditions you, gets you addicted, very much like social media body. The narcissist gets you addicted to your own idealization and then he withdraws it abruptly. He just goes back and exactly like a drug pusher, you would chase him because you need the next fix.

So this creates extreme bonding. It's known as trauma bonding.

The trauma is the intermittent reinforcement.

And so lump bombing is this co-idealization phase and it is followed by grooming.

Grooming is simply a set of procedures, strategies, and instructions on how you should behave if you want me to continue to idealize you. So this is what you should do if you want me to continue to be in your life and to become the unwavering found of your idealization.

And of course, you're an addict by now. You would do anything. You would steal money from your mother. You would do anything to continue to get the drug, to get your fix.

So I think in your book you refer to an inverted narcissist as the victim of a narcissist.

It's almost this impression of someone that's been pressed up against a narcissist and it's the flip of that.

Is that sort of that dynamic that you're describing there?

No, the inverted narcissist is a narcissist. It's a subspecies of covert narcissist.

The inverted narcissist is a covert narcissist who obtains her narcissistic supply via another narcissist. So she is a parasite, narcissist. She creates a symbiosis. She creates a symbiosis with another narcissist.

The inverted narcissist, because she is a covert narcissist, cannot, is too lacking the confidence to go out on her own, to strike out on her own and obtain supply.

So what she does, she teams up with someone like me, you know, with a narcissist, novert or grandiose narcissist. And then he obtains the supply and she busks in his glory.

It reminds me that in the 19th century in Germany, if you were married to a doctor, if you're a woman and you were married to a medical doctor, you were called Frau Doctor, Mrs. Doctor. So his glory, his academic accomplishments reflected on you as a woman, even if you've never attended elementary school, you were still called Frau Doctor.

So it's the same with the inverted narcissist.

Think about it as the sun and the moon. The moon doesn't have its own light, but it reflects the light of the sun and the moon is the inverted narcissist. The sun is the overt narcissist. Sounds extremely toxic.

I guess I want to go back to this phase that you were describing.

So initially your love bombed, you're put in the laser of the last of the narcissist. You feel amazing. And then you're groomed, as you said. Can you walk our listeners through what happens beyond that point?

Beyond that point, we have something called shared fantasy.

It's pretty shocking and amazing that not a single one of the self-styled experts on narcissism online even mentions shared fantasy because it is by far the main mechanism of relationships with the narcissist.

Anyone who had bothered to read the academic literature should have been acquainted with it. And it shows me that these so-called experts online don't have a clue about narcissism and have read nothing about it.

You're talking about toxic environment. YouTube is a toxic environment. Absolutely.

Because there are many essentially con artists with and without academic degrees.

Okay, don't get me started.

Okay, let's revert to your question.

The next phase is known as shared fantasy. It was first described in 1989, not by me, by Sander, S-A-N-D-R, who was a scholar of cluster B in narcissism.

So the shared fantasy is an extremely complex, extremely complex relationship. And this is also the source of the trauma of narcissistic abuse because the shared fantasy acts or operates on multiple layers and dimensions and processes.

It would take like a whole book to describe a typical run-of-the-mill pedestrian shared fantasy, let alone a shared fantasy between two really unique people. Let's say a very intelligent narcissist and a very accomplished woman that would create a shared fantasy, which is kaleidoscopic and even more difficult to describe.

But in a typical shared fantasy, the narcissist is trying to convert his intimate partner. And I'm going to use stereotypically, I'm going to use a man and a woman, but genders are utterly interchangeable. Gender pronouns are utterly interchangeable.

So in a typical shared fantasy, the narcissist is trying to convert his intimate partner into, first of all, a bad object, what we call a persecutory object. In other words, he's trying to convert her into an enemy in his mind.

The first stage is called snapshotting. The narcissist takes a snapshot of his intimate partner. He internalizes the snapshot, and then he photoshops it.

The process of photoshopping is idealization. So he idealizes the snapshot. The snapshot is what we call introject in clinical terms. He then proceeds to interact with the snapshot, not with the real person ever, never with the real person, only with the snapshot.

But inevitably, the real person begins to diverge from the snapshot because she is real. She learns things, she grows, she evolves, she moves away, she gets a new job, she meets new people, she diverges from the snapshot.

The snapshot is static. That pieces off the narcissist, and that renders her an enemy because she is challenging the internal equilibrium of the narcissist, precariously balanced on all these introjects remaining static. It's a condition for the narcissist's sanity that these introjects or snapshots will never ever change.

That has to do with other issues, abandonment, anxiety, object inconsistency, and so on.

So the intimate partner inevitably threatens the narcissist in her peace, harmony, and equilibrium. So she becomes an enemy.

The first stage in shared fantasy is converting the intimate partner into a bad object, a threatening object.

Then the narcissist proceeds with the first type of narcissistic abuse because there are two types of narcissistic abuse.

When I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in 1995, I thought there was only one kind, and I was wrong. There are two types of narcissistic abuse.

In this phase, in this initial phase of the shared fantasies, there is a special type of narcissistic abuse. And it is intended to test the partner, to see if she is loyal, if she will walk away when she's abused, if she's resilient, if she's strong, and if her love is true.

So the narcissist abuses egregiously his intimate partner to test her, to see if she's a keeper, if she will stay.

The second reason is to transform her into a bad object because of course such abuse creates bad blood and a lot of hostility in the partner, which affirms the narcissist's view that she is a persecretary object.

And the third reason is because the narcissist is about to transition to the next phase in the shared fantasy and convert his intimate partner into a mother figure, a maternal figure.

But to do that, he must first ascertain, he must make sure that she will not abandon him, that she will not betray him.

So to do that, he abuses her. The abuse is a pre-qualification test. Are you going to love me unconditionally? Never mind what I do to you. If the answer is yes, you can be my mother. If the answer is no, if you cheat on me, if you betray me, if you abandon me, you cannot be my mother.

So this is a job interview.

Then the third phase within the shared fantasy is the maternal phase, where the narcissist converts his intimate partner into a mother figure, the mother he never had, and reenacts with her all the conflicts he used to have with his mother, the early childhood conflicts, hoping for a different resolution.

Of course, at this stage, because he's a mother figure, it's incestuous to have sex. So most of these relationships devolve into sexlessness.

The woman at this stage has two options. She can acquiesce, she can accept, she can play along, and then she will remain an eternal mother figure in the narcissist's life. And the relationship can continue for 40 years, unhindered and unobstructed.

The second option for the woman is to say, wait a minute, what's going on here? I have a list of demands. I insist on commitment. I insist on investment. I want to build a home. I want to have a family. And this is called the bargaining phase.

When the woman enters the bargaining phase, she no longer qualifies as a mother. She had failed as an eternal figure. And the narcissist wants nothing further to do with her. He wants her gun. And on this, depending on the narcissist, there's a series of strategies to push her away. The narcissist eliminates all the intimacy, loses interest, becomes absent and indifferent. Some narcissists push the woman to cheat. And of course, when she cheats, they have the pretext to end the relationship. But they push her actively. They introduce her to men. They get her drunk and send her away. I mean, you can't imagine. I mean, this active strategy to get her to cheat. So some narcissists do that. Some narcissists become abusive. And that's the second type of narcissistic abuse, but that's extreme abuse. Some narcissists insist on kinky sex, which they know full well, the woman would reject. For example, they insist on three sons or group sex. So there's a variety of strategies in the bargaining phase to push the woman away and get rid of this unwanted relationship.

And then there's a brief interlude and the narcissist moves on to love bombing the next target. And sometimes that love bomb can go back to the original target. Can it cycle back on itself? It depends. If the narcissist had experienced something called narcissistic modification, again, it's pretty amazing that none of the other experts online, so-called experts, third-side experts, mentions modification. This modification has been described in 1957. And it's a foundational process in narcissism. I mean, I'm pretty amazed at the low quality of the so-called information online.

And so if the woman succeeds to modify the narcissist, he's never going to come back to her again. He's never going to hoover her.

Hoovering is a word I coined in 1997 to describe the process of kind of re-obtaining, re-engaging, re-acquiring the original supply.

That way, that was a word you coined as well. I didn't realize it was- I found most of the words that you know I coined between 95 and 97.

Flying monkeys, hoovering, narcissistic fleas, somatic narcissists, cerebral narcissists, narcissistic abuse, you name it, I coined it. I also borrowed words. I also borrowed words from psychoanalysis, like narcissistic supply, false self, and I redefined them.

And so they're used today the way I imbued them with new content or meaning.

So the overwhelming majority of the language in use today, I coined between 95 and 97 because there was no language. There's simply no language.

I wanted to communicate insights and this new understanding, new comprehension, but I didn't have the language.

So I had to coin new words, new phrases 10 a day. I mean, dozen a day, I mean, every day.

Well, they've stuck around.

Yeah, it's common practice. I mean, that's the lingua franca. That's the language of narcissism also even in academic publications.

So, oh yeah. So we're up to hoovering.

So hoovering, the narcissist, when I coined the phrase in the word in 97, I thought that narcissists always hoover.

And when you go back to the articles that I wrote then, which are available online, still available online in the way back machine and so on, you will see that I was wrong there.

And when I said the narcissist, I was wrong very often, by the way, between 95 and 97. Don't misunderstand. So I said that narcissists always hoover.

That's not true. Narcissists are hoover.

Sorry, Sam, just as a quick asterisk for our listeners who may not be familiar with the concept of hoovering.

Do you mind just doing a quick little sidestep to that?

And then hoovering is simply when the narcissist recycles all intimate partners, previous intimate partners, exes, and previous sources of supply, narcissistic supply. So he recycles them. He comes back to them. He can come back to them after a week, four months, sometimes 20 years. They are in his address book forever. That's it.

And he recycles.

And of course, because he has a snapshot, when he recycles them, he is astounded that they're not the same, that they're changed, because he's actually recycling the snapshot, not the real person.

And so he might revert or return to an old source of supply, an old intimate partner, and discover that she's a grandmother. And this would shock him no end, because in his snapshot, she's 30 years old and just waiting for him, frozen in time, waiting for him to return.

She didn't get married. She didn't have children. She doesn't have grandchildren. And all this is very shocking to the narcissist.

Time stands still in the narcissist's mind, because he inhabits, he's very solipsistic. He lives exclusively in an internal universe.

And he, like the psychotic, he confuses external objects with internal objects.

And the first to make this observation was not Sam Vaknin, it was Otto Kernberg, who is probably the father of the field. And Otto Kernberg suggested the border lines and narcissists are actually psychotic or near psychotic. And he was very right about this.

They all confuse the external with the internal.

And so, but not all narcissists hoover.

That was my mistake. When the narcissist is mortified, he never hoovers.

Now what is mortification?

Mortification is when the narcissist's grandiosity is efficaciously challenged, efficiently challenged, in public, in front of meaningful or significant others. And it involves shame and humiliation.

So there are several components, ingredients, necessary ingredients in mortification, must be public. It must challenge grandiosity successfully, shatter, demolish the grandiosity. It must be done in front of other people, witnesses who mean something to the narcissist, witnesses who are meaningful, significant to the narcissist. And it must involve shame and humiliation, which are unbearable.

If you put all these four elements together, you have mortification and the narcissist will never, ever come back to you because mortification is life-threatening. It disables all the narcissist's defenses.

And then he is, actually he becomes a borderline. He is exposed to the external environment and he becomes enormously dysregulated to the point of suicidal ideation. So he will never take the risk that you will do it to him again, your gone, it.

I want to ask you to dive into the mind of a narcissist for a moment, because I feel like we haven't really, we haven't really gone down that path.

So what goes on in the mind of a narcissist and how do they see the world? And I guess that'll put a lot of our previous conversation in context as well.

They don't see the world. It's very easy. They don't see the world at all.

They have extremely impaired reality testing. They have severe cognitive deficits. They have no access to positive emotions. They don't have the rudimentary tools or instruments to see the world.

Because if you want to understand the social environment, for example, you can't do that if you don't understand emotions and you don't have empathy. If you want to gauge what's going on, if you want to predict, extrapolate, hypothesize what might happen, you need to take into account elements which are not accessible to the narcissist.

For example, these cognitions are very distorted, very sick because they are filtered through his grandiosity and fantasy.

Grandiosity is a fantasy defense. So narcissism is a fantasy defense writ large.

Of course, fantasy by definition is the opposite of reality. It's a divorce from reality.

So he doesn't see the world. What a narcissist has is a playground or a space which is occupied essentially by two very important things.

One is fantasy. So it's a fantasy space, a fantastic space.

And within the fantastic space, there are narratives and the narratives unfold very much like a series of Netflix.

So the narcissist experiences his life as a movie, as an unfolding movie.

This is one thing.

The second thing in the narcissist's mind is introjects or internal objects.

There is an enormous amount, an enormous number of internal objects, much more, a much bigger number than in a healthy person's mind.


Because the narcissist converts everyone and everything into an internal object.


Because the narcissist needs to be in control and he can control only internal objects. He can never control external objects.

And he has abandonment anxiety. He doesn't want to be abandoned exactly like the borderline.

So he creates this space which is occupied by fantasies, which are narratives. The narratives organize internal objects in meaningful, in ways that are meaningful to the narcissist and in ways that do not threaten, do not threaten him with abandonment, for example.

So we call this situation object constancy.

The narcissist creates internal object constancy. In other words, he can't trust you not to abandon him, not to betray him, not to cheat on him, not to deceive him. He's a bit paranoid.

So what he does instead, he internalizes you. He converts you into an internal object and then he embeds you in a story, in a piece of fiction, which is his fantasy, and then you're safe. Then you're safe because then he controls you 100%.

Consequently, narcissists have precious little contact with reality.

The problem is exacerbated even further by the fact that narcissists, exactly like borderline, experience what we call dissociation. Dissociation has three elements.

Amnesia, narcissists simply forget. I have a database of well over 2,000 narcissists, which I had accumulated since 1996, and I have a subsection of my questionnaire. If you're diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, you provide me with a letter from your diagnostician, a testing that you had been diagnosed, and then you're eligible to join my database.

I administer to you a test of 680 questions, and you answer all these questions.

One module in the test is about dissociation, and so what I had discovered to my other show is that narcissists dissociate away, forget, very close to 90% of their lives. That's nine zero, not 19. Very close. It's crazy. It's crazy totally. This is amnesia.

Another thing they have is depersonalization. It's when they feel like they suddenly are taken over by another personality, or that they're acting, but it's not there for acting. Someone else is acting. It's a bit like demon possession, if you wish.

The third element is derealization. When very frequently, narcissists feel that reality is not real, that it's a bit hallucinatory.

But these are more rare. Depersonalization and derealization are much more common with borderlines, much more common with borderlines.

Amnesia is very common with narcissists, and it's dissociation.

Now, the narcissists react to dissociation in two ways.

They confabulate. They try to construct reasonable hypotheses as to what may have happened, because they don't remember what had happened. They say, well, I don't remember what had happened, but likely this is what had happened, and then they believe in it. Then it becomes reality.

So they confabulate. They bridge over the memory gaps, which invented stories, and then they believe these stories.

This is mechanism number one, and the second mechanism is what we call self-states, or sub-personalities, or pseudo-identities.

Narcissists, borderlines, they don't have a unitary self. They don't have a unitary personality. The self did not constellate. It did not integrate.

So there's no core. And of course, if you have no memory, you have no identity. So they don't have an identity as well.

There's nobody there. It's an absence. It's an emptiness.

What they have instead, they have fragments of the self. And these fragments have specific characteristics. And these fragments are used, deployed in a variety of circumstances.

So for example, when the borderline feels threatened with abandonment or rejection or humiliation, when she's stressed, she is likely to become a secondary psychopath. A secondary psychopath is a psychopath who experiences empathy and emotions. So the borderline becomes secondary psychopath. She trots out, she takes out the secondary psychopathic self-state. And this self-state protects her because she's feeling stressed and humiliated and abandoned and terrified and so on. She becomes a psychopath and now she's okay.

It's the same with the narcissist. You could easily say that the narcissist grandiosity is an overwhelming self-state.

Now, this sounds a lot like multiple personality. And indeed, I suggest that narcissism and narcissistic disorders, because borderline is a narcissistic disorder, that narcissistic disorders are actually dissociative post-traumatic states. In other words, they are very, very close to multiple personality. And in some respects, they're indistinguishable.

Of course, the narcissist, by definition, has at least two personalities, the false self and the true self. By definition, that's the definition of narcissism. So at least two.

And anyone who has spent any time with a borderline, especially in an intimate relationship, anyone will tell you how the word borderline suddenly switches and becomes an entirely different person, utterly different. It has nothing to do with the original. Anyone will tell you this, who has ever spent more than four days with a borderline.

So something is happening there. The self-states take over, then they recede. The only difference between borderline and a narcissist is a narcissist.

And people with dissociative identity disorder, people with multiple personality disorder, the only difference is that in multiple personality disorder, which today is called dissociative identity disorder, in this kind of disorder, there is a host personality. There is a core. There is someone personality that moderates the other personalities. This host personality makes decisions, can be communicated with, and is the core of the person.

In many ways, narcissists and borderlines are clinically in much worse shape than people with multiple personality disorder, because they do not have a host personality. They do not have a core personality. No one is moderating. No one is in control. It's utter, discombobulated, unmitigated chaos, which is precisely what Kahnberg described. He called it the inner emptiness. And Seinfeld called it the empty schizoid core.

So in your videos, you talk about how if you are in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, with someone who is effectively an empty shell, there's not much you can do to help them. Can you talk about that scenario a little bit? What would you do if you realize, oh my gosh, I think I'm in a relationship with a narcissist, or I might be related, you know, parents or, you know, brothers, sisters, or maybe even your boss at work? Like, what do you do in those dynamics? And what can be done?

You can't help them because there's no them. You can't help someone whose main attribute is absence.

Narcissism is not about presence or existence. It's about absence.

Narcissists and borderlines to some extent, but narcissists more.

Narcissists are the only entities of absence that we know of. They are entities of absence.

Yes, it's mind boggling. They can't help them because there's nobody there to help. There's nobody there to help, which is not the case with borderlines, but with narcissists, nobody there.

It's an extreme state. It's a little like schizoids.

Schizoids also have a big problem with this. Schizoids and narcissists are states of absence, entities of absence. You can't help them. You can help on yourself. You can help yourself by adjusting your expectations, by reframing the situation and by reconceiving of the narcissist as something else.

So first of all, adjust your expectations. Expect nothing. Expect nothing.

Then reframe the situation. Don't tell yourself, for example, I'm his intimate partner because narcissists are incapable of intimacy or partnerships.

So it's a meaningless phrase. Tell yourself, I'm having a great time with him. It's a fun thing.

You know, for example, reframe the relationship because language affects your consciousness. Your consciousness creates moods and emotions in you. If you misspeceive the situation, if you miss label the circumstances, if you develop expectations, you're going to end up being very depressed and very frustrated, perhaps angry and aggressive.

Why do you need all this? What for? The narcissist is a delight to be with sometimes. Take it if that's what you want, but don't expect anything, anything much more than this. Don't expect depth and profundity and connection and intimacy and love and empathy and don't.

And if all these are prerequisites, if all these are sine qua nonce, conditions without which you cannot survive, then walk away. You're never ever going to get this from narcissists.

At best, if the narcissist is hyper intelligent and a big psychopathic, he's going to provide you with a simulation, but it's built on sound.

The first test, the simulation crumbles.

So you don't want to build your entire life constructed on the foundation of quicksand, you know.

And then the last piece of advice is reconceive of the narcissist.

The narcissist is like the latest smartphone. It's like iPhone 12. It has numerous apps. It's great fun. You can download things. You can do numerous things with him. He's adventurous. He's usually a risk taker and a novelty seeker. He is a delightful partner for some things, etc.

If this is what you want, if this is what you're in a phase in your life, for example, that you want to experiment a bit, you want to be adventurous, you want to take risks, you seek novelty, and you want to partner with essentially a child who's narcissist is two years old in most cases.

Well then, you know, if you are maternal, you're very strong maternal instincts and you want to mother someone, well, that's narcissist is a perfect fit for you. There's no hard and hard and true rule. There's no kind of heuristics or rule of thumb to say, you know, it depends.

The answer is depend. It depends.

Some women end up being very happy with narcissists because the narcissist is the eternal child, the puer aeternus, the eternal adolescent, and they want to be the eternal mother. They're not really concerned about being intimate partners. They're not even concerned with sex. They are willing to render themselves asexual or to cater to the sexual needs, to outsource the sexual needs.

So there are as many arrangements as there are couples, and that is true for the narcissist as well.

But if you're a typical person, our biological equipment, hormonal equipment, our psychological predispositions and proclivities and so on, we need, we need like food, like air. We need intimacy. We need love. We need support. We need many, and this can never ever be provided by the narcissist.

And anyone who believes otherwise is what I call a malignant optimist.

If you earlier in our conversation, you described that path in a little bit more detail where you decide, okay, well, I can't find the strength to leave, or I don't have the resolve, or for whatever reason, you decide to stick it out in a relationship with a narcissist and you can't successfully reframe yourself as you've described.

Do we have any idea from the literature or from your experience on what that actually does to someone in terms of long term health outcomes for them or what that does to their own mental space, being in close contact with a narcissist for a long period of time?

If you are not, if you don't do any of the three things I mentioned, adjust your expectations, reframe the relationship and reconceive of the narcissist.

I don't do any of these three.

You will immediately embark on or get involved in the process of traumatization. You will start being traumatized and the trauma will accumulate. And that's a condition known as complex trauma.

So complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

The traumas are daily. The traumas are hourly. The narcissist traumatizes you in myriad ways. And someone is honking endlessly outside. It's one of the noisiest cities imaginable. Simply horrible.

You're in Skopje.

Right now in Skopje, I returned from Russia and the United Kingdom and Hungary where I used to have clinics and so on. I returned to be here because my wife is here. So I wanted to be with her during the pandemic. I didn't want to leave her alone.

Actually, do you mind if I ask you a question along those lines?

So you mentioned earlier that, and you have on your other videos that you were diagnosed as someone with narcissistic personality disorder twice. And we didn't talk about this, but the variety that you sort of expressed as grandiose.

So what does that mean for you in your life? And I guess how did that play out?

Because you're married and you're a professional. How has that journey been? And how has being so vocal and open about your own personal situation affected your work and I guess how you put yourself forward?

I'm actually a hybrid and what we call comorbid narcissist. I was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

So what people misunderstand is that my work is not autobiographical at all. The vast majority of things I had written do not apply to me at all.

There's a hybrid borderline narcissist. In a typical hybrid of borderline narcissist, the borderline is always dominant. The narcissist is always recessive. Narcissist is a secondary diagnosis. Primary is always borderline.

So my primary diagnosis is actually borderline. My secondary is grandiose narcissist. So it's not autobiographical and there's very little to learn if you're a pure narcissist.

I've been diagnosed only with narcissistic personality disorder. There's very little to learn from my life because for example, borderlines have empathy and they possess positive emotions. So that's why I'm very reluctant usually to talk about myself because it could mislead people seriously. People misidentify me as the epitome of the narcissist because I was the first, historically, I was the first narcissist ever to admit that he's a narcissist online. I was the first outed narcissist. There was no one before me. Now there are others, there are others online who are outed narcissists and so on. But even these narcissists for example, they had been diagnosed usually also with psychopathy. So even they are not pure and a lot of what they're saying is sheer unmitigated nonsense.

But a typical narcissist is actually capable of maintaining a long-term, very fruitful marriage. As a narcissist maintains one island of stability in his life and the rest is chaos. So a narcissist could have a career with the same company for 40 years and end up being the chief executive officer of the company. But at the same time, divorce five times and have 19 children in and out of wedlock. So the island of stability is the career and his personal life is chaotic or vice versa. The island of stability is the marriage which lasts 20, 30, 40 years. But in these 40 years, he had changed 19 jobs. So he has an unstable career, very pathetic, itinerant career. So there's always an island of stability, it's very important.

This distinguishes the narcissist from the psychopath. The psychopath has no island of stability. Everything is chaotic. Same with the borderline. Everything is chaotic, not with the narcissist.

So this gives hope to spouses and so on of narcissists because there are many narcissists who maintain this island of stability.

And for example, they're very faithful. They never cheat because the island of stability is critical to them.

Again, there's a lot of nonsense online myths and so on because you know, narcissists always cheat. Absolutely untrue. So that's why I'm essentially evading your question because any answer I may give you would be tainted. Tainted by my dual diagnosis.

I was also subjected to a documentary where supposedly I was diagnosed with psychopathy. But again, it's untrue. It's a misrepresentation because I didn't score high enough. The cutoff rate for psychopathy in North America is 30-3-0 on the PCL-R, which is the dominant test for psychopathy. Robert Hare's test. And the cutoff rate in Europe is 19, including on the short form of the test. And I scored 18. So I'm a near European psychopath, but I'm very far from an American psychopath. I could never start an American psychopath, which breaks my heart.

Well, that's probably a relief for everyone involved, including your wife.

It's a relief for the competitor actors. I would have made a great American psychopath. I'm so heartbroken.

I only watched that movie recently and I loved it. I mean, he's a narcissist as well, right?

All psychopaths have grandiosity. It's not narcissism, it's grandiosity. And all borderlines have grandiosity. So grandiosity is going through all class debates, actually.

Right, right, right. Can I ask you one more question? Do we have time?

Yeah, please go ahead.

So you talked about grandiosity specifically in context of narcissism. And in your writing, you talk about the introverted narcissist. Can you expand a little bit on the subtypes of narcissism and what people might see expressed?

Today, we distinguish between two major forms of narcissism. And this distinction is enshrined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. So it's not widely accepted, it's mainstream. It was first suggested in 1989 by Akhtar, Akhtar and Cooper, the late Cooper. Cooper died last year.

So these two scholars suggested that we're getting narcissism wrong and there's another type of narcissist. And the first type is what used to be called phallic narcissist, very suggestively, and became to be known as overt or grandiose narcissist. It's the confident egosyntonic go-getter, daring do in your face, defiant antisocial narcissist. That's a classic type.

But there's another type which is also known as covert, covert or shy or vulnerable or fragile or what have you. And that's a narcissist who is very different to the overt or grandiose type. It's a narcissist who is incapable of obtaining supply by himself, because he's very avoidant, he's socially phobic, he's shy, he's very fragile and any criticism and disagreement break him apart. And so he withdraws and he's very frustrated because he cannot obtain supply. So he also becomes passive aggressive. That's the second type, overt narcissist.

The most recent cutting edge studies, we are beginning to think that overt grandiose narcissists are actually another name for psychopaths. We're beginning to unify psychopaths and overt grandiose narcissist. We think they're one and the same.

And the real narcissist are compensatory. These are the covert narcissists because they're compensating for any inferiority complex. They feel inferior. They're compensating by feigning grandiosity or teaming up with grandiose people.

So these are the two major distinctions. And then there are many, many other subtypes.

So for example, taxonomy that I had suggested between somatic and cerebral. The cerebral narcissist obtains narcissistic supply by leveraging his intelligence, his intellect, his intellectual accomplishments, etc. But is usually sexless, celibate. He doesn't, he resents his body. He rejects his body. And therefore he rejects his sexuality as well.

The other type is a somatic narcissist who is less endowed up here, less brain, more muscle. And so this kind of narcissist leverages his body to obtain narcissistic supply. And that includes, of course, bodybuilding, sexual conquests, any use of the body to obtain narcissistic supply.

So these are two subtypes. They are not constant. The cerebral can become somatic.

When, for example, the cerebral is abandoned by asource of narcissistic supply, when a shared fantasy crumbles, the cerebral becomes somatic.

It is to capture another victim, another prey, another intimate partner, he needs to have sex with her. So he then becomes somatic.

So that's another distinction we have, another type of taxonomy that we have.

And there are many other taxonomies, though. There's one suggested by Westin, which is a scholar, Charles Westin, others.

So by now we have a proliferation of about 10 or 15 types of suggested types of narcissists, but somatic cerebral, inverted grandiose and overt, overt, covert, these are the major distinctions, major subtypes.

Are they formed in the same way? Is it the same sort of trauma early on in life that could create those sorts of patterns? Or?

Yeah, it's a good question. There's a debate about this.

We all agree, all scholars agree that the etiology, the cause of all types of narcissism, with no exception, is early childhood trauma, but an abuse.

But there are many types of trauma and abuse.

Generally, early childhood abuse is when the child is not allowed to develop his or her own boundaries. The self is not allowed to constantly and to integrate, and the child is not allowed to separate from the parent and to become an individual. That's the widest definition of abuse.

Now, within this space of abuse, there are two types.

One type is when bodily integrity and psychological integrity are invaded aggressively. So that would be physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse. This is invasion.

And the second type is when the child is prevented from gaining access to reality. So when the child is idolized, industrialized, when the child is spoiled, hampered, when the child is instrumentalized, becomes an instrument to realize the parent's unfulfilled fantasies and wishes. When the child is parentified, when the child is forced to act the role of a parent, when there is incestuous, when there is ambient incest, the child becomes the parent's spouse or substitute spouse.

So all these are also forms of abuse.

Depending on these etiologies, we get the different types of narcissism.

Now, there was a scholar by the name of Rothstein, Grothstein with G.

And he suggested that all children who are exposed to abuse go through phases.

The first thing they want to do is because they are not allowed to become individuals and so on. It's very painful and very frustrating. The first thing they want to do is to get rid of the frustration and the pain and the negative emotions and so on and so forth. And because these children are a bit more advanced in age, between two and six, they are unable to split, they're unable to divide the emotions and to project the negative emotions onto someone. They're unable to do this anymore. The splitting mechanism is lost.

So what they do instead, they try to numb the feelings, numb the emotions, and create an imaginary friend and this imaginary friend within something called paracosm. It's an imaginary friend within an imaginary universe, fantastic universe. And this imaginary friend is everything the child is not. The child is helpless. The child is helpless. This imaginary friend is omnipotent, all powerful. The child cannot predict the behavior of adults. This imaginary friend is all-knowing, is omniscient, et cetera. So this imaginary friend is perfect, is brilliant, is never wrong, et cetera. So infallible.

This imaginary friend is everything the child is not. And it serves as a decoy. It shields the child from abuse. The abuse is now decoyed, redirected at the imaginary friend. He bears the burden. He absorbs the pain and the hurt, this imaginary friend, and the child is unmolested.

So these are the two mechanisms, basically, emotional numbing and this.

The emotional numbing is very common in PTSD, post-traumatic conditions. When the child fails, fails with the imaginary friend and fails with the emotional numbing, we have borderline.

Then we have borderline. The child remains stuck in emotional dysregulation. The emotions overwhelm the child. He is drowning in the emotion. He has no skin. Everything hurts. Everything is huge pain and so on.

There's dysregulation, liability, and suicidal ideation is very common. 11% of borderline is commit suicide.

But when the child progresses and succeeds, succeeds with emotional numbing and with the imaginary friend, we have a narcissist. That's more or less our current thinking on the topic.

But I guess that friend that I've built was a childhood friend. It's the false self. It's God, actually. That's why I compared narcissism to a private religion.

I think the child discovers God, but discovers it idiosyncratically. The child is alone and discovers a God-like figure, divinity, and creates a private religion.

And exactly like in ancient primitive religions, this new God, this Moloch, demands human sacrifice. And the child sacrifices himself to this God. He sacrifices his true self.

What is the true self? It's human sacrifice.

So the child sacrifices his true self to this new God, the false self. And from that moment on, there's a religion.

The child, the false self is divinity. The child is the worshiper.

And there's been a binding act of human sacrifice which sealed the covenant.

Exactly like God and Abraham sealed the covenant. And from that moment on, it's a religion.

And the narcissist is some missionary. Exactly like in Christianity, narcissist is a missionary. They're trying to convince you that they are really perfect and geniuses and great. They're trying to convert you to their religion.

So they're very missionary.

You know, you see a lot of religious undertones and overtones in Nazism. That's why I believe that the future distributed religion is going to be Nazism. I think Nazism would be the religion of the future.

I mean, forget Christianity, forget all this. Nazism is a religion of the future where everyone is both a God and a worshiper and the temple. And everyone is a self-sufficient, self-contained, solipsistic God.

And so it's a very religious, it's a mega religious transformation the age we're in because we are all converted into gods. We are all being transformed into gods, lesser gods, higher gods, but gods.

And we're going to end up in a distributed network of gods.

The prevalent metaphor of today is the network, of course.

So a new religion would be a network religion. It would be a distributed religion by definition. Everyone is a node, a node in the religion. And everyone is a God in the religion.

I mean, we are in a state of malignant egalitarianism. We're all equal. No one is advantage over anyone.

Your truth is as good as my truth, your facts as good as my facts, alternative facts.

So we are only in a situation where I call it malignant egalitarianism.

And of course, no one will accept any position less than God in this reality. I will not let you be God. Who are you? You're equal to me. I'm equal to you. If you're God, I'm God also.

Whoa, whoa. How like how archetypal, first of all, as you describe the sacrifice of self, I just had all these connections go off in my mind as you, you know, walk through that.

It's pretty somber to think that we're all ending up in a space where we're in this distributed religion of self.

Why do you think that's happening?

Because we lost the alternatives.

Religion in the past was a total solution. It wasn't about God. Religion provided you with social prescriptions, told you how to live your life, gave meaning to your life. Religion incorporated folklore and mythology and botany and zoology. I mean, religion was science. Religion was today's science. Religion was a total solution.

And in some societies and cultures to this very day, it is a total solution, for example, in certain Muslim societies, among ultra orthodox Jews.

Everything you need to know is in these sacred writings. You don't need to go outside. It's a self-contained hermeneutic space. Everything is there.

So, but then religion spawned institutions. It spawned monogamy, and then family, and then church, and then state.

And then I mean, when we undermine religion, when we destroy it really, I'm not religious, by the way. Let me be clear. Yes, I'm ferociously hateful of religion. I consider God to be an infantile projection and so on and so forth. I have a very, very dim view of religion, religious people and the nonsense that is known as God and so on.

So, let me be clear. What I'm saying is not religious propaganda, but it's a fact.

When we dispense with religion, we left a void. And that void was not only an issue of who is ruling the universe. It wasn't a void which was limited to the question, is there a supreme being?

It was a total void because religion was total.

We dispense not only with God as the prima, prima movements, not only with God as the mover and shaker. We dispense with everything that came with religion. We dispense with morality.

And instead we have moral relativism. We dispense with intergender relationships, the very concept of gender roles. We dispense with family. We dispense with community. We dispense with charity. We dispense with villages. We through the baby, the bathtub, and the bathroom. Nothing was left. We created a total void where there was a total solution.

And now this condition is called anomie. It was first described by Emil Dukheim, the sociologist, a hundred years ago. Dukheim presciently and eerily had described our civilization right now, the current phase in civilization, to perfection a hundred years ago. Amazing guy. And of course he was Jewish. So Emil Dukheim, well, that's my anti-Semitic string. I can afford it. I'm a Jew.

So small times you were born in Israel, right?

Yes, I was born in Israel.


And I'm of Moroccan descent and Turkish descent, but I was born in Israel, born and grew up to my teens in Israel. Then I left Israel.

So this is called anomie. This condition of total emptiness is called anomie.

Now there are two options, nothingness and narcissism. It's the only two options.

Narcissism is when you try to fill in the void that was left in the wake of religion and its spawned institutions.

This rationality failed to provide a total solution.

It failed.

And it failed for good reason, which Kurt Gödel, the magician, mathematician, I mean, he pointed out that rationality by definition can never be complete and can never be true.

So rationality failed as a total solution and it left an enormous void.

And now people face two choices.

First solution is to say, okay, I will become my own source of meaning. I will eliminate the void inside myself by rendering myself the frame of reference. I will become my own total solution. I will establish internal institutions, internal objects. I will conduct internal dialogues. I will become self-sufficient with the aid ofso that's it. I will not need anyone.

And this is solution number one and it's known as narcissism. And solution number two is nothingness. Nothingness is a hell of a lot more difficult.

It was first described in the West, first described essentially by Heidegger and then Sartre called an element of nothingness, authenticity. It simply means that you treat yourself like an onion. Onion has layers. You begin to remove the layers.

You see, this belief that I have, is it really mine or did it come from my mother? It came from another, the hell with it, I'm discarding it.

This behavior, this behavior that I have, is it mine or am I imitating someone? Oh, I'm imitating someone. If that, I'm getting rid of this behavior. This, what appears to be trait of mine, is it really a trait or is it peer pressure?

Wait a minute. If I remove all my friends in my imagination, will I still behave this way? No.

Then forget this behavior. I'm never behaving this way again.

And so you peel the onion. You peel the onion layer by layer by layer. You become authentic. What is left of you get rid of all the layers, the smell of the onion, the smell of the onion lingers. That's who you are, not the layers, the smell. This is your essence. This is who you really are.

And yes, when you remove all the layers, you minimize yourself. No question. It's the opposite of narcissism. It's the antidote to narcissism because in narcissism, you expand to become the universe. We call this process in psychosis hyper-reflexivity.

Psychotics do this. Psychotics believe that the world, they are the world. If they have an internal voice, they think it's external because the psychotic says, I am the world. My internal voices are out there. They're in reality. They are reality.

Narcissists do the same. They expand to become the universe. Nothingness, which is the principle I'm working on now, is exactly the opposite.

It's becoming the big bang. It's becoming the infinitesimal point, the point that has no dimensions. And that point is you. After you had removed all the layers of society, socialization, your mother, your father, your teacher, your ex-wife, your future wife, your current wife, after you remove all these peers, media, influences of media, influences of social media, you remove and remove. It's a lot of work. You remove and remove and remove.

And suddenly, here's you. You're there. That's you. That's you. Take it on a bit. You take it.

Your hands forth will maintain an authentic life. Your core will be unbreakable and 1000% resilient. There will be no influences from the outside ever.

It doesn't mean you will not collaborate with people. On the contrary, it will make you much more sociable and social because you will not be afraid of contamination, of undue influences, of manipulation. You will not be a conspiracy theorist because you will know yourself. What is it all about? Go back 2000 years. Know thyself, 2500 years. Know thyself.

Know thyself.

Not Wahl-Eckers, the ancient Greeks.

And this is the antidote to narcissism.

But how many people can embark on such a project?

I'm asking you. Not many. Maybe a few saints. Maybe a few true gurus, the ones you don't see on YouTube.

I don't know. It's enlightenment. This is the essence of enlightenment. It's not ego death. It's not ego death because ego death is a Western distortion by con artists of Eastern mysticism and so on. It's not ego death.

It's actually the opposite. It's strengthening your ego. It's defining clearly and unambiguously what your ego is. Not what others tell you it is, but what it is really.

Getting in touch with your essence, totally. And that is enlightenment, of course, because all the other disappear.

This might be a silly question, but could a narcissist or someone who's already been damaged to the point of becoming a narcissist go through a process like that, in theory?

No, because they're already dead.

The narcissist, yeah, first of all, he's an absence, but the narcissist has no smell of the onion. Only layers. The narcissist is only the layers.

There's no smell.

Nothing will linger if you remove all the layers.

It's sort of, I mean, there's a lot of pop psychology, which, you know, pushes, or I guess general psychology pushes empathy, sympathy, support for people with mental illness.

And, you know, when we tease out narcissism, as we have over the course of this conversation, you kind of get to the end and the answer is you accept or you leave. And that, I mean, it's not really the ideal solution, but I guess it's like, I don't know, what do you make of that?

The narcissist would be the first to tell you, take it or leave it my way or the highway.

Listen to the narcissist. He's telling you the truth. Nothing to be done.

You know, there is this American obsession, American, I don't know what to call it, grandiosity in a way.

Every problem has a solution and every risk should be avoided. That's the American way of thinking.

Well, I have a surprise for you. Many problems don't have solutions and you cannot avoid all the risks. This is reality. America's delusional.

Not every problem can be solved. Forget the self-help gurus and scammers and swindlers who masquerade as public intellectuals and so on. Not every problem has a solution.

Narcissism has no solution, no cure.

Some elements of narcissism can be tweaked and modified. For example, behaviors can be modified.

Abrasive behaviors, antisocial behaviors can be modified successfully. I came up with a new treatment modality called therapy, where I essentially eliminate the false self and grandiosity.

But these are elements of narcissism. The rest remains.

The narcissist remains.

He's just not grandiose. He doesn't need supply anymore. But he's the same a-hole as before. He likes empathy, he's exploitative, he's predatory and saying nothing to him.

If we destroy the soul of a child, and don't ask me what is a soul, I know it doesn't exist, metaphor. If we destroy the soul of a child, it's such an early stage. There's no child, nothing is left. If you kill the child when he's two years old, the body continues somehow. It's a zombie. Somehow the body continues.

And of course you can teach this old, this young dog new tricks, how to speak, how to obtain a degree, how to be a world-class intellectual. But who is there? Nobody. There's nobody home.

Now you can say, but who are you, Sam Vaknin? I mean, who is talking to me, you can ask. If I'm not here, if I don't exist, who is the one doing the talking? What entity controls his processes and so on? To a very large extent, these are automated processes.

And that's why I keep comparing narcissists to artificial intelligence. We can definitely create computer procedures which will yield and give rise to coherent speech, meaningful speech. We have programs that write beautiful poetry. Poetry. We have programs that administer therapy, psychotherapy, and they do it well. They pass the Turing test.

In other words, an observer cannot tell if it's a human output or computer output. Computer becomes indistinguishable from a human. Can we simulate a human? Of course we can. We do it daily. Of course we can.

Why do you think people bond emotionally, get attached emotionally to the smartphones? These fast smartphones are approximations of humans. Take the smartphone away from someone, see the reaction. It's a highly emotional reaction.

And smartphones are at 5% human. In the future, we will have androids who will be 95% human. But would anyone say an android has a soul except in Blade Runner? I don't think so.

There's a lot in there. I'm conscious of time as well, Sam.

Yeah, I think we're exhausted the topic and our viewers.

I'm incredibly grateful and I'm sure our viewers and listeners are as well for your thoughts, your insights.

Thank you. Thank you. To everyone out there who wants to learn more, Sam's got an incredible YouTube channel. He's got just a huge amount of information out there. Look him up. It's incredibly insightful.

Thank you. Thank you, Ron.

It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Just stay on, please, because I want to talk to you about logistics. Thank you. I'm going to stop the recording. Yeah. ###

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