Trust Your Gut: Victimized, not Victim (Interview with Caroline Strawson)

Uploaded 3/23/2021, approx. 1 hour 18 minute read

Hi there, and welcome to my YouTube channel.

My name is Caroline Strawson, and I'm a trauma-informed therapist and coach, really on a mission to help you heal narcissistic abuse through a trauma-informed lens.

Now, my episode today was with an interview with Professor Sam Vaknin. Now, Sam is author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and we had, well, really a two-hour interview. What was scheduled as maybe 45 minutes just went on, and we had just the best conversation, and it was really, really interesting, and we recorded the whole lot for you, so you're going to see the live, raw, unedited version of all of this, because then you can see the questions that I was asking Sam, some of the comments that he was making, and a lot of the stuff in the line of work that I do, I completely agree with him. However, there were some things that I challenged him on, because I approach everything very much through that trauma-informed lens, so rather than really looking at the pathology of things, which I know Sam really agrees with me as well. We were looking at some other elements.

Now, I will warn you there will be some trigger warnings through all of this, particularly towards the end of the interview. We talked a lot about being a victim and victimhood, and that was probably the one thing that I perhaps disagreed with Sam about, about maybe our approach to how we perceive people who have been victimised by narcissists.

It was just a fascinating interview, and I hope you really, really enjoy it. I'd love to know what your comments are around this.

Sam even gave me a compliment and said I asked some really, really good questions, because I literally felt like, as I was talking to him, I thought, oh yeah, I'd love to know this, what are your thoughts on that?

Because obviously, I work with those who are victimised by narcissistic abuse, and Sam was actually the first person to coin the phrase, narcissistic abuse recovery.

So, it was really fascinating with all of his decades of work and academia around this, and also his own personal experience of how we could really talk and really try and shift people of how they perceive narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder.

Both of us are in a lot of agreement around the DSM and the pathologising of all of this and almost dehumanization of it. So, it was a really interesting interview. I hope you really enjoy it.

We've said we'll have a follow-up one as well. So, it is almost two hours long, so maybe go and grab yourself a coffee or a cuppa or something, so you can sit and watch all of this, or maybe watch it in chunks. It's entirely up to you, but I hope you really enjoy it, and please, any comments or questions or anything, maybe next time I interview Sam, you'd maybe like me to ask him as well, that I would love to share that with you, but I hope you can see, you know, my real passion for you watching this is to know that, A, there is hope, secondly, you're not on your own, I believe you, and I've been exactly where you are now, and equally that how you feel right now isn't your fault.

This is your nervous system responding to your perceived threat of danger.

So, enjoy the interview, let me know any feedback, and I have to say a big thank you and lots of gratitude to Sam for allowing me to spend that time with him, to interview him, quiz him, challenge him, asking all of those questions.

So, enjoy the interview, and I'll catch up with you in the next episode on my YouTube channel, but please again, if you haven't hit like and subscribe, please do so, hit the bell, because then you will get all of the next episodes jumping into your inbox as well.

So, enjoy.

Now, a lot of people will want to know, certainly from my audience, is where this passion comes for you to talk about narcissism and personality disorders. You know, where does this come from?

Because I know this is really what you focus on, and you have this real passion.

Right. I've been doing this for 26 years. I've seen on your website that you are a narcissistic abuse coach. And narcissistic abuse is a phrase that I coined in 1995.

And I thought when we were having that conversation about all of that, I mean, it's and this is why I'm really interested, obviously, in talking to you, because we use this word now, very fluidly in our society, sometimes correctly, very often incorrectly as well.

And I think, again, the approach I come is very from a trauma informed perspective in all of this. That's why I'm really interested in talking to you around this, because 26 years is a long time to be studying this.

Yes, indeed. When I started the whole thing in 95, there was nothing online. I maintained the first website and the first six support groups for victims. And that had lasted for nine years. I was all alone for nine years. There was absolutely no one else.

But more importantly, I had to invent the entire language or most of the language that is in use today, because there were no words, there were no words to describe what was happening.

And you know, in the absence of words, there's no consciousness.

Words create consciousness, people were grappling in the dark, trying to try to convey and communicate why their experiences are idiosyncratic, why their experiences are unique. They're not like typical abuse, something else is happening. And they lack the words.

So I rummaged through psychoanalytic literature and I picked up phrases like for sale from Winnicott, I picked up narcissistic supply from Fennico, but I was still short, I was still short of many words.

So I had to come up with my own words. So for example, devalue and discard, or somatic narcissist, or cerebral narcissist, or narcissistic abuse itself, or hovering, or flying monkeys.

We need a narcissistic dictionary, don't we?

Yes, we do.

We do because the experience of narcissistic abuse is like nothing else.

I'm a professor of psychology, I teach personality disorders in general, and I teach trauma. I teach neuroscience of trauma and psychology of trauma.

And I can tell you that there is nothing which comes close to narcissistic abuse. And if you're interested, I will, I will elucidate why.

I would love to hear more about that, because I think what you highlight is something that even when there was nothing out there about this, and even though now there is stuff there about this, there is this complete lack of understanding of how someone feels when they are going through narcissistic abuse, narcissistic trauma.

And I just think those people you were working with over those nine years, for instance, you know, they had nothing and what they must have been going, I mean, you know, it's hard enough nowadays anyway, but back then as well.

Absolutely horrible.

Within the first year, within the first year of my presence online, I've written my book in 95, then I placed it online free of charge. And then in 90, by 97, that's one and a half years later, I've had 250,000 members in support groups. That's when there was no internet. I mean, there was literally no internet. I understood the extent, the enormous extent of distress.

And even to this very day, in my view, narcissistic abuse, perhaps like most human experiences is non communicable in its essence.

And what's amazing about narcissistic abuse is each experience is unique, is tailor made, is customized.

Typical abuse, because abuse is a topic that's been in the headlines for 80 years, at least. First cases of abuse had been described by Freud himself in the 100 years ago.

But abuse tend to be a cookie cutter phenomenon. All abusers are more than just all abusers are molded, you know, they use the mold.

They all the same. Narcissists tailor the abuse. They don't only tailor the abuse, but narcissistic abuse is what I call total abuse. Total abuse means that the narcissist targets every dimension, every vector, every aspect of everything, your personality, your life, your friendships, your family, your past history, your confidence, confidences, your information that he leverages against you, legal aspects, financial aspects, the children, community property. I mean, you name it.

Narcissistic abuse is like the disorder itself, all pervasive.


So why do you think that happens? Why do you think then narcissistic abuse is so different than other types of abuse?

So like you say, it's almost like, you know, other abusers, so to speak, you know, from a kind of trauma informed perspective, we can kind of look at, like you say, this cookie cutter approach of how it happens, why they're doing it, what happens with the victims, etc.

Why is it so different than with narcissists?

Because narcissists are supposed to typical abusers, don't regard what they're doing as abuse.

Here's the thing. The narcissist relates to his intimate partner, not as an external object, but as an internal object. He snapshots, he takes a snapshot of the partner and then he photoshops the snapshot.

And this process is called idealization. So he refers from the first minute, actually, he begins to refer to an idealized internal object within his mind. And this internal object in his mind starts interacting with other internal objects in his mind, proceeding his intimate partner, his mother, his father, peers, influential figures and so on.

And so the narcissist lives inside his mind and he manipulates the internal objects and he coerces them into dialogues and interactions and so on.

And you are not an external object. So he does not perceive anything he does as abusive. He perceives it as a mode of communication or a mode of control or a mode of securing, making sure that there will be no ultimate abandonment.

Narcissists have abandonment anxiety.

And that's so interesting, Sam, because I think a lot of what I talk about, and I think this is kind of what you're saying as well, is that intention versus impact.

You know, the intention of a narcissist isn't necessarily to abuse their victim, so to speak. It's all about within.

It's about, you know, not feeling abandoned, not feeling worthless.

But the impact of that intention then is it becomes abusive to the person that they are perpetuating that to.

That's very true.

And in this sense, of course, the narcissist is distinct from other personality disorders. For example, the borderline, when she anticipates abandonment or rejection or humiliation, let alone when she is actually rejected or humiliated or abandoned, the borderline switches into a mode of behavior, which is essentially secondary psychopathy, not primary psychopathy, secondary psychopathy.

Secondary psychopathy is a psychopath who has empathy and emotions. So she becomes a secondary psychopath, and she dissociates, of course, what she's doing, but she is intentional. She wants to inflict harm. She wants to punish. She wants revenge. She wants restoration of a sense of justice and equilibrium. She is goal-oriented.

The psychopath is the same. The psychopath is goal-oriented. So is the paranoid. So is the schizoid.

The only personality disorder of all 12, the only personality disorder which is not goal-oriented in the sense that the narcissist is not hell-bent on inflicting abuse, nor does he statistically enjoy his actions contrary to myths online.

So the narcissist is so focused on his needs, on, for example, the need to avoid abandonment, the need to regulate his sense of self-worth, the need to forestall depression or mood lability, etc. He's so focused on his needs that you are collateral damage.

The intimate partner is just a byproduct. What's done to the intimate partner is a side effect, and the intimate partner is collateral damage.

The narcissist has to, the narcissist invests all his energy, all his mental resources in maintaining the precarious house of cards, which is a narcissistic personality. He has nothing left to give you. He's depleted. He's depleted. He's depleted from the first minute he gets out of bed. He's utterly depleted. He's in a state of constant unmitigated exhaustion, and he has nothing left to give you.

And so if you make demands, for instance, or have expectations, then you are threatening this balance, this equilibrium, that he had worked so hard to maintain, and you become a threat. You become a menace.

From a trauma perspective, that threat, that danger then, obviouslydysregulates their nervous system, and they're going to react accordingly.

They, of course, have a flight or fight reaction, actually, to you.

Similarly, when you display autonomy, personal autonomy, when you show your independence, this is a threat because it heralds, it's a harbinger of ultimate abandonment. The narcissist interprets your independence and autonomy as a signal, I'm about to abandon you. I'm about to go away.

Moreover, when you are being you, simply you, not ostentatiously, not conspicuously, just being you, you diverge and deviate from the internal object, from the snapshot. These divergences between you and your representation, your inner representation in the narcissist's mind, these divergences create what we call dissonance, and the dissonance creates anxiety.

So any display of autonomy or independence, or even mere existence, any reminder that you exist outside his mind, provokes in the narcissist enormous anxiety, and he needs to ameliorate and control this anxiety by reducing you into an object, mummifying you.

Hence, when the isolation comes into play, they almost want to isolate you, so you need them, and that obviously then calms their system with all of that.

So when we think about all the other personality disorders in this then, Sam, what makes the narcissist then so different? Why is the narcissist so different then from the other personality disorders?

I like your questions. To the point and the highlight, important issues, I think.

The difference between, I never give compliments, so just a commentary on the interview.

I'm going to take that for a moment and let that say.

Sorry about that.

The difference between the narcissist and other personality disorders, perhaps with the exception of the borderline, because Kernberg, for example, Otto Kernberg had believed in the 70s that narcissism and borderline are actually indistinguishable disorders on a spectrum but indistinguishable, and both of them are on the verge of psychosis, and that's why he called it borderline. It's on the border between neurosis and psychosis, but narcissism and borderline are the only ones with what we call a schizoid empty core.

So in the 1960s, there was a school of thought in psychology. It was called the British Object Relation School, and we had Fairbairn, we had Guntrip, we had Winnicott, and much, much later we had Seinfeld, and so on, and they were the British school. And what they had said is that there's an emptiness where a human being should have been. There's an emptiness where a person should have been, and this is the empty core of the narcissist and the borderline.

And I will not go right now into the reasons why this empty core forms. It has to do with not good enough parenting, or wrong upbringing, or what Andrei Green called a dead mother. Andrei Green described a dead mother. That's a mother who is absent, selfish, parentifies the child, etc., and so these children do not form a self. They have no self.

Jung called this process constellation. So these children don't have a constellated self.

Moreover, and that's the irony, narcissists don't have an ego. Narcissists are ego-less, not egotists. They're ego-less. They don't have an ego, and there are two reasons why they don't have an ego.

First of all, they're isolated from reality. Many narcissists are pampered and smothered and spoiled and put on a pedestal. They don't have object relations.

In other words, narcissists and borderlines and so on, didn't go through the phases of interacting with other people, other than mommy, other than oneself.

So in the absence of friction with reality, and in the absence of friction with other people, this lack of input rendered the narcissist and the borderline selfless, ironically, or ego-less.

And so what they need to do, they need you to serve as an intimate partner. They need you to serve as a surrogate self, as a substitute ego, and as a good enough mother. These are your roles.

Your roles are to regulate the ego functions of the narcissist. Your role is to serve as an external memory of the narcissist, because the narcissist is dissociative. His memory is short, he's discontinuous. He needs you to maintain the continuity. And above all, he needed to act as a good enough mother so that he finally can experience proper parenting or proper mothering.

And he pushes you, he coerces you, he co-ops you, he manipulates you into these positions.

And if for some reason you refuse, you bolt, you push back, you become the enemy.

This is not about adulating him only.

Actually, the narcissist wants you to admire him as a motherhood. He wants you to look at him, he wants you to give him the gaze of a mother.

Now, of course, every mother admires the son or daughter admires a kid. He's a kid, and he wants you to love him and admire him as a motherhood unconditionally. So he tests you. He tests, he wants to make sure that you are a good mother, so he misbehaves.

Like a toddler would, to try and... Like a toddler would, yeah. Testing those, but I mean, I do a lot of internal family systems in the work I do.

So what you're talking about there, again, it just reinforces that. That lack of self and then the protector parts are coming up to try and distract, soothe, numb out, like dissociating from feeling the pain of that lack of self.

And again, that can come out from the victims of narcissistic abuse. That can also come out in many different formats. The same for a narcissist.

But actually the ultimate, just as you were saying in all of that, is that lack of self. That danger of that core wound, not wanting to feel like that, and desperately then looking to soothe that wound, that lack of self.

You've mentioned internal family system where the self plays a very critical role.

It's a problem to apply internal family system to a narcissist precisely because if they don't have a dysfunctional self, they don't have a self.

It's like if they've got a false self in some respects.

Yes, but the false self is not a self. It's a very unfortunate phrase coined by Donald Winnicott. It's not a self. It's not a self in any sense, by the way. For example, the false self is theopposite of the ego. The ego's main role is reality testing. The main role of the ego is to get you in touch with reality so that you have feedback that tells you which actions you should avoid and which actions are proper. That's the main role of the ego.

The false self does exactly the opposite, removes you from reality, isolates you from and falsifies reality for you, creates in other words, a fantastic space. The false self is a fantasy defense writ large.

It has nothing to do with the self or with the ego. So it's a very unfortunate phrase.

What you highlight there is how things then do get misinterpreted.

So again, from that internal family systems, I suppose people use that language because they're trying to help other people then gain a sense of understanding, but actually from an academic perspective, like we say, it's incorrect.

But do we say that then because it makes the victims feel better about it or are we doing disservice then because actually it's not the actual facts of the situation?

So again, from the internal family systems, the protector part, so to speak, become how the narcissist will live their life, just the same as other people will then live their life.

And I suppose that term false sense of self, you know, is that we create these things to try and make people feel better.

And I think, again, I mean, we could talk for so long about all of this, Sam, is

are we using language incorrectly and are we, even from the term of medicalising narcissistic personality disorder and all these other disorders, are we doing a disservice in doing that as well?

Because are we actually then looking at root cause trauma and all of that elements? You know, that doesn't mean it excuses behaviour, but it gives an explanation.

So is the DSM there then to explain, to excuse or to give us a semblance of understanding? But actually, is that the reality of the understanding of all of this?

No, I hold a very dim view of most of the texts that pertain to narcissism, starting, of course, with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is still very categorical. So it's a list of lists.


And I'd love you to talk more about that, because I feel exactly the same. I feel like it's a way of professionals to diagnose something as a symptomatic of something as opposed to root cause and then supporting people on, you know, maybe the etyology, the etyology is totally missing in the DSM.


The DSM is symptomatology and behavioural observations, but etyology is missing, dynamics is missing. It's totally non-dynamic. It's a static book.

They're trying now with the alternative models. They have alternative models. They're trying. At the very end, page 767, they're trying somehow.

I've seen that being brought in a bit more with narcissism as well, you know, bringing in more of that covert element and, you know, element of that.

More dysregulation.

Yeah, as opposed to just the nine traits and everything.

So I'm holding a very, very dim view.

Language breaks down. How do you describe a non-entity?

Yes. Language breaks down. Our language is predicated on existence. We deal with objects. We deal with people. We deal with entities. It's entity-based. Language breaks down and I find it very useful to borrow from Zen Buddhism or from when I try to relate to narcissism.

Now, of course, if you look at internal family system, then the false self has rescuer functions and protective functions. But when you look at transactional analysis, there's the child and the adult.

Yeah. And so, of course, you can borrow metaphors from a variety of, you know, discipline approaches. But these are metaphors. That's a problem. It's one step removed. It's notremoved.

It's not the essence. It's an allegory. And allegories can only go so far.

I can talk to you now about psychopathy and I'll be touching the essence of the psychopath. I'll be touching his real core. I'll be touching him.

I can talk to you about borderline and I'll be touching her. I'll be really, really, really talking about her, describing her. And I posted a series of videos about borderline. In the comments, women mostly, diagnosed with borderline personality disorders, they say, yes, you're describing me. Yes, that's me. Because I can touch the core. That's the essence. It's extremely difficult to do with narcissists.

How do you discuss meaningfully emptiness? What is the sound of one hand clapping in the forest? Language breaks down simply.

So do you think then that in an ideal world, we shouldn't have the DSM, we shouldn't diagnose, we should look at more root cause? And do you think then from a narcissism perspective, then, because again, it's a word we hear much, much more now.

I know social media obviously holds one of those reasons, but do you think as well there are more narcissists in the world now than there were 20 years ago, 40 years ago, a hundred years ago? Or do you think it is always been there and the same roughly amounts of people in the world? Or do you actually think that it is becoming more prevalent now?

And why?

If so, well, first of all, there are alternatives to the DSM. For example, I strongly recommend the PDM, which is the psychodynamic diagnostic manual.

PDM is very deep. It includes the dynamic aspects. It includes the geologies and so on.

Regrettably, it is limited to one way of looking at psychology, which is the psychodynamic psychotherapies.

So that's regrettable, but it's far preferable to the DSM.

Had I, if I had my way, which would have pleased me no end, what I would have done, I would have created a diagnostic manual based on literature.

So when I wanted to describe psychosis, I would have borrowed writings from Tolstoy. If I wanted to describe certain types of narcissists, I would have borrowed Bazorka from War and Peace, Tom Swann's War and Peace. I would have compiled the diagnostic manual entirely borrowing from works of literature, because no one had better insight, more penetrating insight, than authors of fiction, good authors of fiction. No one can come close to this.

And of course, Freud was much more an author than a psychologist.

Do you think that's because they have more of a skill of using word to explain, as opposed to maybe other people who aren't approaching it necessarily from this perspective of the reader, the understanding they're approaching it from a different dynamic?

I think there are two reasons, actually.

First of all, rightly noted, the writing is language is the skill of authors, not the skill of psychologists. And the barrier of language is insurmountable because psychology is a form of literature. It's not a science, can never be a science. And as a form of literature, it's very lacking.

The texts are badly written. The texts do not convey too many things. So there are lacunas and deficiencies in the texts, in the scriptures of psychology, because it's a bit religious, it's a bit of a religion.

That's the first thing.

The second thing is, psychology has an aspiration to science.

Psychology is a wannabe science. And all psychologists pretend that they are physicists, which I am, by the way, I have a doctorate in physics. So all psychologists pretend that they are physicists.

And so they take this position, I'm just observing. I'm an observer. I'm cool-headed. I'm analytical. I collect numbers and then I analyze them statistically. And that puts me on par, on par with physicists and mathematicians, because I use statistics.

This Cartesian detachment, there is the patient and there is me. And I have nothing in common with the patient. I'm just observing him as I would observe an insect, a curious insect.

This detachment is a hindrance. It's an obstacle. And it does not exist in the writings of Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky identified with his characters. He penetrated them via insight and via identification. He became them.

And the only psychologist that comes to mind who had attempted this is R. D. Lane, LAI G. Yes. This is the only one.

And maybe Carl Rogers with humanistic psychology. They're the only ones, I think, and all the others were playing at being scientists, pseudo-scientists.

So when we talk about that, because obviously, if you think about those then, on the whole, as a society in general, you know, I know we've obviously got psychiatrists as well, but from a psychology perspective then, from a diagnosis, you know, those then that are victims of a narcissist and those who are a narcissist, how do we move forward in a society then? How do we support those who've been, you know, words we use abused by a narcissist, but then the narcissist doesn't necessarily think it's abuse, going back to the intention and impact again.

So how do we do that? Do we look for diagnosis? Do we look for a different way of looking at those who've been involved with a narcissist? Do we look more at trying to support a narcissist through all of this?

Because again, you know, I've never seen any research, certainly from my perspective, where I've seen a narcissist has been diagnosed with NPD to then go on and leave, lead a really flourishing life with really deep, meaningful relationships. I've not read anything about that.

I know there are things out there for improvements, etc., but I haven't necessarily seen anything, you know, and you'll laugh at this, Sam.

I had, I remember having a big debate with somebody a while ago actually, a lady who was a prison officer and she was saying, we've been working with lots of narcissists in the prison and we can heal them, you know, we're curing them, we're really helping them and everything. And I said, can you just tell me then what is the consequence of them looking like and perceiving that there is improvement while they can get released early? And she couldn't get her head round then that actually, could it possibly be that they're so manipulative that they can see the consequences of therapy with you to get the result that they want?

And I think as a society, we want to think of people to be able to be healed and get better and cure and everything else. And I think that probably lies in the problem in some respects.

So, you know, if we're looking at the victim and the narcissist themselves, how do we collaborate this in our society today?

So that when someone says, I'm dealing with a narcissist, people don't get the eye rolling, no one believes you, etc. And that actually makes the victim feel even worse and devalued.

But equally then, an understanding from a narcissist perspective, not to excuse behavior, but to give a level of explanation.

Generally, there's a medicalization and labeling of the human condition. We have isolated traits and behaviors. We have amalgamated them into syndromes and we label them and then we medicalize them.

Yeah. And this tendency is regrettable. It's counterproductive because it puts people in boxes and because it tempers with their minds and we don't know enough about the mind. We don't know enough about the mind, let alone about the brain. We're no close to nothing.

And so this is narcissistic grandiosity actually on the part of professionals.

That's one commentary.

You asked me if there are many more narcissists than there used to be. I don't think so. I think there's a growing awareness. I think there is economic incentive to identify people as narcissists, both by professionals and by the cottage industry that has sprung around narcissists, narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and so on.

No offense meant. So there's an economic incentive, of course, to aggrandize the problem or shed light upon it or put it in the limelight. And I don't think it's the core clinical entity is any different than it had been, let's say, 2,000 or 5,000 years ago.

What I do think is happening is that people don't realize that narcissism is a positive adaptation.

Pathological narcissism had allowed the child to survive in very adverse circumstances, allowed the child to emerge as a relatively functioning individual. And so the child is very, the child turned adult is very likely to give up on this positive adaptation because it had kept him alive. He's emotionally attached. He's affected, he's emotionally invested in his condition. Other people regard it as a disorder. He doesn't. He regards it as an evolutionary advantage and a personal adaptation, which was very positive.

Hence why we don't get many diagnoses because a diagnosis comes from someone saying, hey, I think I have a problem. I'm going to get a diagnosis.

And of course, just as you highlight, if they don't think they have a problem, why would they go and seek a diagnosis? It's much worse.

It's not that they don't think they have a problem. It's they think they have an advantage. They perceive their narcissism as the next step in the evolutionary ladder. Narcissism made them resilient and strong and survivors.

And here's the breakdown in communication between victims and narcissists.

Narcissists are abuse victims. They're victims of abuse.

Correct, I agree.

They're victims of abuse who had chosen, settled upon a specific solution.

Others have settled upon codependency. Others have settled upon borderline. Others have settled upon.

I love that analogy. I just think, you know, I hope the listeners take that in. It's a, you know, from a codependency, borderline narcissism.

It's an adaptation to protect ourselves from feeling pain.

Yeah, it is.

And victims of abuse should understand that we are all in the victim community.

This is a single victim community.

It's not victims against narcissists. It's a single victim community in which some of the victims had adopted abrasive antisocial behaviors.

So we need to focus on these behaviors, not on any alleged disorder or condition.

Because recent studies, starting with Judith Herman, who had coined the phrase complex trauma or complex post-traumatic stress disorder, shows she's a bit of an authority on the topic, shall we say.

Judith Herman herself says that there is no distinction between a CPTSD victim, a complex trauma victim, and a narcissist or a borderline.

Yeah, which makes the DSM then, just like you say, you could almost look at the DSM and go, yeah, complex PTSD.

So today, today there's a big drive and probably it's going to happen. There's a big drive to amalgamate and to convert borderline personality disorder into a post-traumatic condition.

And there's a similar drive going on, for example, in Australia and so on. The drive that I must say I initiated 25 years ago to reconceive of personality disorders, especially close to B, as post-traumatic conditions.

And the minute we do this, victims can develop inner peace.

So on that then, because I know people will be listening to this thinking, oh, you're giving a lot of air time to the narcissist here. We're almost starting to feel sorry for the narcissist, but look at what they did to me. Look at what they do to other people.

So almost in response to that, how do we then amalgamate, just as you were saying, that knowledge of knowing it's abusive with behaviors, but also trying to gain a level of understanding without almost denigrating and devaluing the experience of somebody who has been the victim of narcissistic abuse?

First of all, it's politically incorrect to say, but studies by Judith Herman and many others have led to the conclusion that victims of abuse become abusers.

Actually, the vast majority, well over 80% of victims of abuse, engage in narcissistic and psychopathic behaviors, including defiance, impulsivity, reckless behavior, promiscuity, substance abuse, etc.

In other words, it's a fluid state.

You can start off as a victim and end as an abuser, and you can start off as an abuser and end as a victim. And you can start off as a victim, as a child, and end up being an adult abuser.

So it's wrong to demarcate and delineate. There is no dividing line. There is fluidity between personality disorders as well, which is why the next edition of the International Classification of Diseases, edition 11, eliminates personality disorders altogether. And it is a single diagnosis, personality disorder.

So it's almost then it's the adaptation of behavior in response to trauma.

We should focus, we should focus not on the self-aggrandizing distinction between so-called empaths, many of whom are actually covert narcissists and narcissists and psychopaths, and I don't know what, every narcissist has a psychopathic face, every psychopath becomes narcissistic, every borderline becomes psychopathic, every borderline becomes narcissistic, they're all intermeshed, it's a single disorder.

And here's the breaking news, every victim becomes narcissist, every victim becomes psychopath, every victim becomes borderline at given times. It's all a river, we all flow into each other. It's not an accident, it's not a coincidence that narcissists end up with victims.

You could ask yourself, why are there victims to start with?

Correct. There are victims because of this resonance.

So how do we in a society then bring some resolution to that if we're looking to move forward?

Because we can have all these explanations, we can change the list of personality disorders down to one, we can gain this understanding, but as a world, as human beings then, how do we find resolution in this? Where do we focus? What do we do? How do we support people who have been through this?

And also, at what point then do we devote the time then to the abusers in that moment?

Because I get we can move from victim to abuser to evicted. Where do we draw the line with all of that? And where do we as a society then, you know, spend the time and the support in all of this?

How do we do that?

What do you think?

I think we should focus on self-defense. We should focus on teaching people how to develop and enforce boundaries.

Yeah. How to, we should be much more how to oriented.

We are unfortunately too focused on diagonals, demonizing, demonizing. We are too focused on denial and splitting.

The narcissist is all bad, I'm an angel. That's splitting.

And that's a childlike way of viewing things, you know, careful angel.

It's a splitting defense. It's a defense typical of narcissists and borderlines.

Because it's a childlike behavior going back to infantile.

It's infantile.

And many victims engage in this defense and don't realize that just by using this defense, they're actually narcissists and borderlines. So we should get rid of all this. We should focus on self-defense, boundaries, proper behavior, reactivity, how to react. We should educate survival because many victims will never abandon the narcissist.

We have to finally accept this.

Yeah, that bonding, that addiction to the.

Yes, it's trauma bonding.

And, and here's the thing. The victim is a child, the narcissist is a child and they share the same childhood. They emanate, they have a common source, they have a common fountain.

They just found it's a way of adapting from a codependent to a narcissist.

There are two children and they share the same horrendous childhood. So, and they're inner children bond and bind and attach. It's the inner children that attach, not the adults.

There are no adults there in most cases. So we should give up on this notion that, you know, and we should begin to teach people survival strategies within such relationships because they're never going to give up and then they're never going to leave.

So do you think it's possible then, because I get asked this question a lot, you know, is there any way I can stay in this relationship with a narcissist and it be a really loving, deeply connected relationship?

You know, is there any way then, if we're talking say, narcissist codependent, let's just use that analogy to start off with, is there any way for a narcissist and a codependent to actually have a fully functional relationship together within the parameters then of past trauma?

Narcissism and independence are an easy case because their psychological needs correspond. They cater to each other's psychological needs.

The main need of the codependent is to regulate her internal environment via an external agent, via an intimate partner. It's the same with the borderline, same with the borderline.

So these are easy matches.

The problem starts when there's a mentally healthy person, not a codependent, not a borderline, mentally healthy person and a narcissist. That's where the problem starts.

Codependents and borderlines are happy, gratified when they're in a relationship with a narcissist. That's precisely the problem.

Do you not think that's their version of happiness?

And I get to them, it might seem happy, but when we say, okay, well, if a codependent is getting that secondary gain, and I get that from being in a relationship with a narcissist, like you say, they're like magnets, they're feeding that external need within both of them.

But again, then, are we saying then that a codependent and a narcissist can live happily ever after in this relationship?

That doesn't strike me as being, I certainly know that I was a codependent. And when I look at, say, the relationships I had, both from a partner and even a friendship perspective, yes, in some way, it was serving me, so to speak, equally with them. But I still think I realized it was toxic on some level. It's absolutely toxic.

Yeah, let's say with my friendships, I think it took me longer to recognise that element within a friendship capacity. And even when I was, say, with my ex-husband like this, you know, I realised things weren't right for many, many years, but I didn't leave. I still stayed. I still stay.

Yeah, I still, if you said, were you happy then in those years, I'd have said no. I recognise that something wasn't right, but it felt more dangerous to leave to my system than to stay.

This raises a very interesting topic in the philosophy of psychology. Until the 1960s, perhaps 80s, depends. We had this concept of normal, normal versus abnormal, healthy versus pathological, good for you versus toxic. We no longer have these.

What we have instead are two questions. Are you happy? Are you egosyntonic in your condition, in your situation, in your circumstances?

And the second question we have, are you functional? Do you function properly in a variety of settings?

Now, if the answer is yes and yes, you could be a psychotic in account and we should not intervene because you're happy and you're functional, end of story.

Correct, yes.

If the answer is no and yes, we should intervene because you should be happy and you should be functional.

So many codependents, with many codependents, the answer is yes and yes. I am happy and I am functional. There, we should not intervene. Never mind that objectively, it's an abnormal state in the statistical sense. It's unusual and never mind that it doesn't allow, for example, for personal growth. So it's growth stunting. We can judge it from outside. We can say, well, if I were to choose, I would have never chosen this kind of relationship.

Do you think that then is, as a society then, we're almost looking at relationships from a narcissistic perspective then, in that we look at relationship.

We do this all of the time and we say, oh, he should leave, or she should leave. How can she be happy? And we're almost, our past experiences, our assumptions, our judgments, we are really projecting onto other people.

Well, not if you're a good professional.

Yes, correct.

A good professional, you should not bring your prejudices, middle-class prejudices or whatever. You should not bring even your prejudice.

But as a society, people do that, don't they? We see it in the press, we see it everywhere where people are making assumptions and judgments and actually, I will get people message me and say, my friend's in a narcissistic relationship, what can I do?

I say, well, does she recognize that? Has she come to you to ask for help?

Well, no, it's like, well, find a way to let her know that you're there as her friend and if she is ever ready, then you're there.

But you cannot make someone see something that they don't see in that moment.

It's a very pertinent point because very often it is society, social pressure, culture, the cultural context, expectations by peers and family and friends. These create the distress, these create the unhappiness, and these create the dysfunction.

So for example, today, we are reconceiving completely of trauma. We no longer regard trauma as a clinical entity, an objective thing. We can take 10 people, expose them to the same set of circumstances or events, and only two of them would be traumatized and eight wouldn't know what you're talking about.

So trauma is a subjective experience.

And we had discovered in many, many studies that trauma is actually a social construct. People are traumatized because they are expected to be traumatized. Other people are telling them, wow, that's a really bad experience. Don't you feel bad? Don't you feel horrible? And then they say, wait a minute, if so many people are saying that I should feel horrible, I'll feel horrible.

So trauma is in use.


And going back to the beliefs, like you say, you know, you could have two people involved in a car crash, one of them gets PTSD, the other one doesn't. But if the one who does get PTSD has been living in an environment where they always feel like they're not worthy or they're not good enough as well, and then they're in this situation, I'm powerless again, and it just gets stuck.

So like you say, it's very much about our past experiences that are dictating our adult experiences and traumas.

For example, we discovered the very strong correlation between the tendency to be traumatized and suggestibility.

Yeah. And ability, imagery, ability to conjure imagery, and so on past experiences, of course, social and cultural mores.

And so it's trauma is a totally subjective issue.

So if a codependent comes to you as a therapist and tells you I'm unhappy in this relationship, I don't feel fulfilled, I cannot grow, it doesn't allow me my dependence on autonomy in any way, shape or form.

It's of course you should help, of course you should help exit the relationship.

But there are numerous others who would tell you that they're perfectly happy and perfectly functional. And they live with a-holes, they live with jerks, they live with horrible people. Their partner is a prime abuser, including physical beatings and battery and what have you. And they're happy. The happy is a luck, and they're functional.

There we should not intervene. There is no objective measure of happiness.

Right, because as a society, so many people assume then that they can't be happy, they can't be okay with that.

And people, and again, I think that comes down to, I had a conversation with someone about this the other day, you know, I would need to feel like we need to do something. I had something about, I got my Covid vaccine the other day, and I was lucky. But I had this well-meaning, absolutely this well-meaning.

You don't look 70.

Well, I know. I had this well-meaning private message that gave me sort of this fear message of the fact if I was going to have a vaccine, I was potentially putting my life in danger and I'd end up dying and leaving my kids without a mom, etc. Now, I know her intention as such was to warn me, to be a nice person, so to speak. To me, when I go deeper with this, her intention was not about me. Her intention was what she thought in that moment was the right thing to say for herself. It wasn't about me, because if she'd actually have thought about me in that situation, nobody would send a message like that to another mum to try and make them really fearful about a decision I took a while to make myself.

So again, I think we've come back to that intention and impact. I think as a society, most people's intentions are very good, they're very pure, but actually they're very driven from what's going on inside themselves, and with that becomes the impact of that.

Let me put the labels to this language, a common language.

So two things are at play.

The first one is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is our need to be surrounded by like-minded people who would confirm to us that we are right, that we are right. It's a grandiose defense.

So if we think that a certain type of relationship is bad for you, if I think this type of relationship is bad for you, I want you to agree with me. If you disagree with me, you're challenging my grandiosity. All my defenses are up and I become very aggressive.

Is that challenging your grandiosity or is it challenging your sense of self in the fact that you as yourself can make the right choices and decisions?

No, confirmation bias has to do with grandiosity and safety, sense of safety. So that's why people create echo chambers and fault silos on the internet, on social media. They want to be surrounded by, you know, all Trump supporters want to be surrounded by Trump supporters. They wouldn't welcome a progressive liberal who would challenge some of their assumptions. They would, you know, so it's the same here.

Narcissists are bad. Victims of narcissists are all good, splitting defense.

And then if you disagree, you are challenging the world order. You're challenging order and structure. You're destabilizing the cosmos, not only the, so this is one thing.

The second thing is, of course, the rescuer or savior mentality. People want to rescue and fix other people, fix their lives.

But for themselves, not, I know the impact could be they might help someone, but it's about themselves, isn't it?

Yes, rescuer and savior mentality is a grandiose defense.

And so they want to rescue and fix other people's lives, rescue them from bad relationships. And they get extremely agitated and irritated and aggressive if you disagree to be saved. I mean, they will bump you in the head and save you. And they will paralyze you and save you.

So I am not saying I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse, and I invented the complex strategy of no contact. I was the first to suggest no contact, which is an interlinked set of 23 strategies. It's not as simple as it sounds.

It's breaking that addiction, isn't it? It's a tough thing to do.

I would be the last person to invalidate or dispute the experience of victimhood because I was the first to describe it. I am entitled to say what I'm saying, as not many people are.

And so I agree that there are groups of people who are victimized by narcissists. Narcissists victimize. That's what they do. This is their adaptive.

The narcissist says, I'm going to be the abuser from now. The hell with being a victim doesn't suit me. So there are real victims.

However, we must understand two critical things.

Victimhood is decided only by the victim. If we try to take this decision-making power away from the victim, we are victimizing her. We are invalidating her. We are infantilizing her. We are doing to her what the narcissist is doing to her. If we tell her, are you crazy? You shouldn't stay in this relationship. We are abusing her.


I love this. And I use an analogy of our nervous system with this, like a ladder. So if you've got a victim who's already at the bottom of the ladder in a freeze response, and you're saying, just leave, just go, and they're already feeling weak, not good enough anyway for staying potentially, you're actually further abusing and gaslighting them and making them actually even worse. You are.

You're actually colluding with the abusers.

Even though the intentions of them is coming from a good place because they just want to make you happy, so to speak.

Either from a good place, either from a good place or from a grandiose place. We are not quite sure.


And the second thing, so this is the first thing.

Victimhood is defined exclusively by the victim.

And the second thing is there is no distinction, psychodynamic, analytical, clinical. There is no distinction between victims of complex trauma, narcissists, borderlines, and even psychopaths. There is no distinction that we can make as psychologists.

So the only thing to focus on is not demonizing the other side or whatever, because you can end up demonizing yourself actually. If you demonize a narcissist and then you gain some self-awareness, you suddenly discover that you had been acting narcissistically in the past few months.

What then? What then?

So instead of all these messages, we should focus on survival tactics and strategies.

How to self-defense.

It's almost irrelevant about any label, so to speak. It's how do you feel? Are you happy? Do you feel content? Do you feel like you're living the best version of your life?

And if the answer is no, well, how do we change that? Does that mean you exit a relationship? Where is that coming from?

And let's work on that.

So I think what you highlight is a really great point. And it goes back to even the stuff we were talking about at the start.

Labels, we use labels, and yes, they can be very validating for people as well. But the flip side of that, there's a whole host of others.

Like you say, we demonize. It becomes then about us and them, so to speak.

But I do get when you're in that abusive relationship or coming out of all of that, and you're in that kind of real defense, fight, flight and freeze, the last thing they want to do is almost feel sorry for the abuser in some respects.

And I think that, like you say, it almost comes in stages, so to speak. I think it's working on yourself initially, having a little bit of understanding of the dynamic.

But the fact of really understanding, just as we've been talking about here, the dynamic of a narcissist, I think, if you have a conversation with someone who's coming out of a relationship with a narcissist and you start to talk about the narcissist trauma in their childhood, they're not going to want to hear that at that stage because that takes away their victim feeling, so to speak.

And whilst it doesn't excuse it, it can give an explanation, but I don't think people are ready to hear that right at the start of a healing journey for them as well.

But I think this is where hopefully people like you and I can educate around all of this. I know you're way more of an expert and been doing this far longer than I have as well.

But I love the fact that you're coming from a place, and this is where I totally believe in as well, that it's good for understanding, but labels can be really detrimental in all of this too.

And we've got to look beyond that in a society because we live in a world where there is so much judgment. There is so much assumption. If you don't agree with what I say, then you're wrong. I'm right.

And then everybody's in this defense mode. Even more at the moment with coronavirus, you can almost see everybody simmering away and wanting a reason to fight back and everything.

And I think everything that you've spoken about today just highlights that we need more education around all of this. We need an understanding.

It doesn't excuse, but it can help explain and give us an understanding. And that in itself can help people realize it's not your fault, it's circumstance, it's childhood and everything else as well.

And I think that's such an important point for people to realize.

What worries me?

First of all, I don't think the victim should feel sorry for the abuser. I'm all against this.

Many people come to me where they think in counseling sessions, they go to marriage counseling, and they come out and they feel like the counselor, probably because they're ill-educated. Again, not their fault, just society as a general with a counselor in that situation, because they feel like they're trying to understand the narcissist's behavior and give reasons why. And it really invalidates the experience then of the other person who sat there and they come away feeling even worse.

I think we should disentangle a few of these concepts.

Understanding the narcissist, where he comes from, his dynamics and stone, is not invalidating the victim's experience. invalidating the victim's experience is saying you're not a victim and the narcissist's behavior is not abusive and you're wrong and you're crazy. That's invalidating.

But understanding the other side, having a more nuanced perception of reality, avoiding labels, or demonizing at least, is helpful to the victim. It's helpful to the victim because she needs to understand her role, her contributions, definitely if she wants to avoid a similar situation in the future. She needs to understand why the abuser behaved the way he had done because if the abuser is perceived as an impersonal natural disaster, something that has just happened, it absorbs the victim from any role or contribution and that's bad for the victim.

And if the abuser is perceived as a malevolent demonic entity, then the abuser would tend to consider herself as a magnet like the eternal victim and would be stuck in a victimhood stance for the rest of her life, and would even elevate victimhood into a dimension of identity. So victimhood would become her identity.

That secondary gain in some respect from curating the victim.

These are pitfalls that a victim should avoid. It's the victim's interest to avoid these pitfalls. They need to see the abuser for what is a very deficient and problematic human being and it would allow them to transform their experience into a meaningful one.

Because if you are subject to a natural disaster, to a virus, then it's not a meaningful experience. It has no meaning. And if you're subject to a demon or a devil, it equally has no meaning. And if you're a magnet, then you're totally passive. You're passive. That is not conducive to mental health.

And if victimhood becomes your identity, you will attract abusers endlessly because you will want to validate your position as a victim. This will have become your comfort zone.

Yeah. So you would want to continue to be a victim.

That becomes familiar to you.

Familiar, the comfort zone, you know, the rules. It's a plus. It aggrandizes you. It makes you feel at home when you're a victim.

So you would tend to attract abusers really because this is who you are. You're a victim. It's a positive thing. These are horrible, horrible pitfalls. These are horrible traps.

And regrettably, I can say from monitoring online, the online situation, majority of victims online, as many victims offline, majority of victims online had already fallen into many of these traps. And many of them are in a hopeless situation, which has nothing to do with the abuser. The abuser is long gone. They are now perpetuating the abuse self perpetuating.

But do you not think that when we think about the online is because people don't understand because we've medicalized narcissistic personality disorder.

So if someone almost uses the word narcissist, and, you know, people, well, is there a diagnosis? How do you know that they are? That there's this feeling like that sometimes these victims of narcissistic abuse have to almost explain to other people then why they feel like that, because it's this word in our society that is so misunderstood. And really, it's like, like we say, it's a host of behavior traits, you know, that show up in lots of different elements of somebody's life.

But if you call someone a narcissist, because it's you so freely, so to speak, it's almost like because on the surface, externally, well, when I look at your relationship with your other half or your mom or your father, it looked like it was a really good relationship. Because obviously on the surface, the narcissist would normally behave in a certain way publicly. And then obviously behind closed doors, it can be very different.

So how does that then, how does say a victim say that they are involved with a narcissist or been a victim of narcissistic abuse? Do you think so that it doesn't feel like they're in being invalidated? Are we basically saying that anybody who feels they've been the victim of narcissistic abuse, if they want to share their experience, and again, many don't and some do because they want to validate all of that, are we saying don't use that word, focus on yourself, gain some education and understanding around all of that.

But many people obviously won't do that.

And with this, then it almost and what comes up is almost like those people then who've been victims of narcissistic abuse, we've got online people saying they've been victims of narcissistic abuse and they haven't, which then almost pushes underground even more because they feel even worse. They're saying they've been in a narcissistic relationship. They're getting on with their life now. It looks like everything is okay. Why aren't I doing that?

And it actually makes them feel even worse. It's almost again, society is almost gaslighting them and invalidating their experience. You're weak, you can't cope. You're not good enough because look, they were in that narcissistic relationship and they're fine now.

If I'm saying I was, but I'm not, then maybe it's me. Maybe I'm weak. Maybe I'm helpless.

And we've got this kind of juxtaposition then in our society there where the ultimate goal is we want everyone to try and live a happy and thriving life.

So how do we resolve that?

I think the question, I think instead of saying I'm a victim, we should say I had been victimized.

Yes. Oh, I love that. I did a training on this the other day. I said, we need to say you have been victimized by a narcissist. They are the abuser and what you have is narcissistic trauma from the narcissistic abuse.

So you're victimized by the narcissist having narcissistic trauma by the narcissist who has abused you and victimized you.

Yes. And it's not who you are. It's not what had happened to you is not who you are.

What had happened to you if you take the right steps will never happen to you again. It's not preordained.

It's not preordained.

It's not inevitable.

Yeah. You can learn how to not experience this again. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if I were mugged and I would henceforth define myself as a mugging victim.


Everyone would think I'm nuts.

I love that analogy.

And many, many times when there is a power of symmetry in relationships, for example, in coercive control, when there's a power of symmetry, victims tend to define their entire identity via the abuse.

So rape victims, for example, do go about for the rest of their lives defining themselves as rape victims. When you ask such a woman, when you interview such a woman, she would say, I'm a rape victim. Really? You're also professor of English. You're also well traveled. You also meet a 70 tall. You also have brown eyes.

What do you mean you're a rape victim?

Rape is an incident. It's not a determinant or dimension of your identity in any way, shape or form. It had happened to you.

So again, we're back to the language element of all of this. We're back to the use of language and how really as a society we misuse language with our understanding.

So how do we get around that?

Part of a much bigger trend.

Victimhood and victimization have become bad honor. They have become the new thing.

It's like a bad honor. They become a fad.

They're a fad.

They're a fashion. Everyone is trying to find a victimhood niche.

You're a victim because of yourself.

Why do you think that is?

Do you think it's, we're so starved of connection in our world today?

It's almost like, where can I gain connection, so to speak?

Oh, this is how I'm going to gain connection.

Because then they feel part of something. It validates them being part of something bigger.

Because we are so isolated now.

I think belonging and acceptance have something to do with it, of course.

But it raises the question, why would you choose to belong to a victimhood club? Why not belong to a superior club?

But again, isn't the use of that word belonging to a victimhood?

Isn't that the choice of our language with that? Isn't it a kind of a hope club in that it's validating you're not the only one?

No, these people don't want to exit the victimhood. They're emotionally invested in the victimhood. They perpetuate it. They idolize it. They glamorize it. It's glamorous. They make a lot of money off it. They create social networks within the victimhood movement. It fulfills. It fulfills.

It is like a drug addiction. Drug addiction has nothing to do with the drug. The drug fulfills social functions. The drug fulfills psychological functions. The drug has numerous functions. That's why it's so difficult to get rid of a drug habit. Because it doesn't only cater to your synopsis.

For example, drug users, they get involved and enmeshed in social networks of other drug users.

Victimhood has become the new drug of choice, the new fashion and the new fat fat. There are victims of narcissistic abuse. There are minorities which are victims. Sexual orientations are victims.

The European Union defines itself as a victim of the vaccine manufacturers. Victimhood is the new language.

If you want to drive your point across, if you want to communicate, you must present some victimhood stance. You must choose some victimhood niche.

Now, the European Union is the largest economy on earth. And yet, if you listen to the leaders of the European Union, they present themselves as victims of unscrupulous, avaricious vaccine manufacturers in the United States.

Victims. They don't say we can demolish these vaccine manufacturers in a jiffy if we want to, because they were the greatest economic power on earth. No, they're victims.

Britain adopted the victimhood stance in Brexit. Britain was a victim of the European Union. Everyone is a victim.

And so, of course, real victims of narcissistic abuse would feel good in such an ambience, such an environment that would have no incentive to exit the victimhood position.

So do you think, do you not think that is a sweeping statement of everybody, that everybody then who becomes a victim of narcissistic abuse almost wants to wear that as a badge of honor for the rest of their life?

Not everyone.

I was just going to say, because I find that I get, and again, this goes on the journey in some respects, that initially, of course, being around other people, because you suddenly realize, hey, this isn't just me. This didn't just happen to me in this world because of me.

And it starts to open people's eyes to recognize it is about them, not them as the victim, so to speak, that there are reasons why, because surely, then, if this happens to other people in, yes, different ways, but sort of, you know, similarities, then that surely must mean then it isn't about me.

And that starts this process then of understanding from themselves and also from the narcissist so that they can move beyond all of that, too.

You know, for me, I just see it as part of a process, so to speak. But I think it needs to be more aware. I think we need more aware.

But the majority of victims online have been online for four years or six years. People brag that they've been watching narcissism videos for six years.

But again, do you not feel like that that is a judgment of them or that they are judging them?

It's bad, pathological, it's grandiose, it's narcissistic, to remain a victim for life and to be proud of it.

And I agree with you on that. But again, from a judgment perspective, is that actually, if we're judging somebody else, does that say more about us and the person themselves?

Because if we want to help them without judgment and actually support them in this to maybe get them out of that victimhood mentality, so to speak, is us judging them, conducive to the environment for them?

No, I'm not judging them in the sense that I am trying to impose my values or my worldview or my preferences concerning mental health on them.

If they are happy in this environment, and if it allows them to be functional, then as we had said before, good for them.

But I still, I still have a mind. And I still am allowed to express an opinion. I still can say that a codependent narcissist relationship is sick, it stunts growth. It's a problem. It's problematic.

I can say this, what I cannot do is enforce this view on the codependent narcissist.

I can say that people who are perpetual professional victims, who wear their victimhood as a badge of honor or on their sleeve, who elevate their victimhood into a self-aggrandizing statement, claiming that they're angels, blameless, flawless, etc., who refuse to countenance their contribution or role in what had happened to them.

I can still say this is dysfunctional, this is unhealthy, this is narcissistic, and so on. I'm not the only one who is saying this.

In October last year, there was a study published by GABAI, G-A-B-A-Y, and others about the construct of, they called it the T-I-V construct, the tendency for interpersonal victimhood.

They discovered a psychological construct among people, which predisposes them to play the eternal victim.

Now, Cartman, in his drama triangle, there's always a victim, a rescuer, and an abuser, and what Cartman had discovered, I mean unambiguously, is that victims often become abusers.

Abusers become rescuers, rescuers become victims.

This is a total truth, that's why it's called the drama triangle, because each participant takes different roles at different times, so there's a lot more to victimhood than meets the eye.

I agree with you.

And when I see, for example, the self-styled empaths online, my skin crawls. These are people who had discovered their claim on fame. They had discovered a reason to live. They revel in their victimhood. They cherish it. They nurture it. They have competitions.

Who is more victim than the other? Who's abuser was more abuser than the others?

I do see that.

It's utterly sick, sick scenery. The scene there is sick to the core. These are sick people.

My suspicion is that narcissists cover narcissists. I can't diagnose them, of course, from afar, but they strike me as covered narcissists.

And trust me, I know a thing or two about covered narcissists.

So this is what I'm railing against, that narcissists victimize people. I'm the first to have said it, that the narcissistic abuse is a more horrendous, conceivable type of abuse. I'm the first to have said it, that there are numerous real victims who want to not be victims anymore, no question about it, that we should help them, of course. Should we collaborate with people whose victimhood is a dimension of their identity, the cause for pride, a vehicle for celebrity?

No, no, because these people had converted from victims to narcissists. And that's not some vaccine we see in this.

This is Judith Herman, the Judith Herman, not Pete Walker with his misrepresentation of CPTSD, but Judith Herman, the real McCoy.

So it's time that we speak up. We are terrified by these people because they are numerous and because they are aggressive.

Do you not think then, with everything you are saying, and again, we go back to the medicalization, the DSM, whether it be codependent, narcissist, borderline, empath, any of those things, that really what we should always be looking at is root cause.

It starts with you as the self, and then we look at that understanding then of the dynamic sense of that relationship.

And if you're happy, great, carry on, so to speak, as obviously there's a duty of care, there's danger, so to speak, involved.

But other than that, do you think we need more education than around people recognizing the sense of self of what, like you say, being happy, creating those boundaries, recognizing that regardless of what somebody is as a label, so to speak, it's all irrelevant. It's all irrelevant. It's actually about you.

But there's a barrier to this education.

The investment in victimhood as a defining dimension of identity is a barrier to education.

But do you not think then what's the root cause then of that victimhood? Where does that come from?

Because when I think, and I totally agree with the majority of what you're saying, it's almost like, but if that person then is sitting in that victimhood mentality, why? Why are they doing that? Where's that coming from?

They don't want to find out why.

Correct. It threatens.

But there will be some that do.

And I get, just like a narcissist, just like somebody else, you can't help someone who doesn't recognize that there's a situation that they need to be helped from. You can only help someone if they say, hey, something isn't right. I'm not happy. I need some support with all of them.

Even more basic, you can't help someone who refuses to become self-aware or to introspect. Someone can disagree with you whether the situation requires help. Someone can tell you, no, my situation is perfect. I'm happy.

But if she or he refuse to learn, refuse to become self-aware, refuse to introspect because it threatens their emotional investment in something.

You see, narcissists are the same. They refuse to become self-aware and so on because if a narcissist really looks at himself in the mirror, it's a pathetic figure. It's a dysfunctional, pathetic child.

And this is the process of mortification, which narcissists try to avoid at any cost. Mortification is becoming introspective, becoming self-aware.

The same with these invested victims. They don't want to hear the latest studies.

On my channel, for example, I always rely on the latest studies, the cutting-edge studies. They're furious. They're absolutely furious when they hear that Judith Herman thinks that victims of CPTSD are actually narcissists and psychopaths, or that borderline is a form of secondary psychopathy, or they go crazy. They go apeshit.

That's because we've put so much to these labels because we see them as bad and they don't want, no one wants to see themselves as bad, so to speak.

And again, if we're looking down to the root cause of it, rather than labeling, and because these words so hold so much weight.


I'm sorry. I gave the wrong examples. They are not interested to learn, for example, what role they have, what contributions they may have.

Yeah, they refuse. They absolutely refuse. It's adamant. It's aggressive. It's violent and it's vile.

But isn't that then when we look at the narcissist on exactly the same level, the ownership and responsibility, and we look at, you know, if we're coming, and I try and do this, you know, I try and look at things from a place of compassion because I know if I'm not getting curious and being compassionate about a situation, I'm not as myself.

I'm bringing other past staff into the equation of what I am saying, you know, it's past experiences that are showing up so that if we can try, and obviously, who knows when this would ever happen in our world, so to speak, that if we can try and look at everybody with compassion, but curiosity as well to gain understanding, doesn't mean excuses behavior, but to gain explanation.

But it just seems like, again, that our society is filled with judgment, lack of compassion, you know, words hold so much weight.

There is no ownership and responsibility, so to speak, which is okay if that's how people want to be at the end of the day.

But then how do we move forward then in a space where those that do want to be helped, that do want to take ownership, that do want to take responsibility, they do recognize things aren't right? How can we support them better?

Because I know I've got to leave a long time for you.

We can help them to get to know themselves. We can then provide them with tools to develop boundaries. We can then teach them strategies of self-defense, survival if they choose to, coping, we can focus on practicalities.

There's a problem with tribalism, there's a problem with atomization, the social fabric has been rendered apart, there's no social consensus anymore, it's everyone to his own, and everyone pulls together in tribes. And the tribes, there's a lot of hostility between the tribes, it's in politics, it's in science, it's everywhere. It's not only in this space of narcissists versus victims, it's always someone versus something, someone. The versus thing is, you know, so a victim who really wants to get on with a life, live a better, healthier life, accomplish perhaps different outcomes, be more self efficacious. There are numerous tools in psychology to help her. This is not new, this has been going on for decades. We have no problem to teach someone how to be self efficacious, how to develop a sense of agency, how to own her role and contributions in her relationships, how to design her relationships to work, how to exit dysfunctional relationships, and how to identify them, how to fend off abuse, even this, what tactics, it's all there, it's a rich treasure.

But people are far less focused on self-transformation, self-awareness, introspection, and betterment, and evolution in personal development and growth. They're far less focused on this than they have been in the times of Abraham Maslow, for example.

There has been a shift from self-improvement, self-help, which was the big rage in the 80s and the 90s, there's been a shift from this to victimhood and tribalism. This is a societal trend.

The poor victims of abuse, narcissistic abuse, they're not an isolated incident. It's not that something is wrong with them. We're all the same. Even I, when I look at myself, I belong to tribes. For example, I am super rational and I detest religious people and their infantile projections of gods and angels, and I don't know what, and I'm very aggressive about it, and I bit, you know, them, and I shouted them, and I would decapitate them if I could, like ISIS, you know?

So this is my tribalism. I react allergicly to religious people. I think they're stupid. I think they are victims. This is my tribalism. Everyone belongs to a tribe, and I do feel that I'm victim.

But do you not then see, even with what you're saying there from that judgment perspective, because of your past experiences, what you feel in that moment is being projected onto them.

Like you say, you know, I have this, you know, hatred of religion, etc. And, you know, I agree. I'm not a religious person, but equally, I wouldn't necessarily get into a debate. I'd happily debate it, but it certainly wouldn't bring up in me that need to show them how wrong they are, because that would then mean I am right. And not even necessarily in the right, wrong status of all of that.

It's almost like, in a society, why does someone have to believe and feel and think what I think?

Well, just a second, I'm running out of battery.

Oh, okay, then.

Work yourself in. I know.

So I will let you go in a moment. It's just such a fascinating discussion and everything. And I know everyone will really, really enjoy listening to all of this, because it's so real. It's so important to talk about one of this.

It's not about who's right and who's wrong. Who's right and who's wrong is a legitimate discourse. It's about power. It's about power and aggression.

Okay, so why do you build a need then, say from a religious perspective, to get them to know how stupid they are?

Because modern modern civilization, modern existence, the postmodern condition fosters a lot of aggression and does not provide legitimate venues for discharging this aggression. In the past, we provided legitimate venues for discharging aggression, but political correctness and numerous other developments blocked all the venues to the discharge of aggression.

And so we now discharge aggression and we engage in power plays with everyone all the time. Does that make it right?

Sorry. Does that make it right?

So when we talk about that power, you ask me what's happening.

That's what's happening. That's what's happening. I don't know if it's right or wrong, but this is the situation.

Now, of course, victims engage in aggression against narcissists. Narcissists engage in aggression against victims. I engage in aggression against religious people. It's all aggression based. It's a power play. It's a very, and so it excludes meaningful conversation. It includes transformation. It definitely excludes self-awareness and introspection. And these are the tools of psychology. The tools of talk therapy are insight, which is introspection and self-awareness, conversation, talking. All these are excluded. Therapies are becoming less and less and less efficacious.

I agree with you. I do a lot of somatic work in what I do.

And again, from the cognitive perspective, you can say you're good enough till you're blue in the face, but it's not necessarily going to change what you feel in all of that. You have to work on that element.

And I think, like you say, from a talking therapy perspective, of course, it has a place because you're someone listening to you, validating your experiences. But is it actually going to get to the root cause of all of that as well?

And I think just everything you've highlighted, Sam, I think it's just down to more education and almost live and let live if that's how people want to be, if that's what they want to behave like.

But creating platforms, I hope, like I do, like you do, that people can realize that it doesn't have to necessarily be like that. This is about you.

And there is an opportunity for you to learn and grow and live the best life you can possibly do. And if people want to sit in the tribes and the victim hoods and everything else, then that's OK.

I think the sad part for me in all of this is thinking that if people are sitting in that victim hood mentality, so to speak, why are they doing that? What has led them to feel that and accept in some respects that that's good enough for them to live their life like that?

And that's what I find sad in all of this, that the people who do and they do, absolutely, they say sitting in victim hood for the rest of their life.

And there's that element for me where I think, wow, they think that that life they're living, and again, that's me almost assuming that they're living less of a life because they're sad like that, that they feel like their life is only worthy of that because there is so much more out there for us to live and joy, you know, connect, talk to other people.

And I just think if you grow up being noticed only when you're a victim, if you have utility to your parents only when you're a victim, if you're told that you're unworthy, your self-esteem is low, your sense of self-worth is fluctuating or non-existent, then you would tend to gravitate naturally to a state of victimhood because that's your comfort zone. And you know that as a victim, you're going to get attention, you're going to get compassion, you're going to get love, you're going to get support and support.

Covert narcissism right there.

Victimhood guarantees favorable outcomes from the environment which you believe wrongly, always wrongly, that you cannot get any other way.

Maybe I'm not worthy of love, but I'm very worthy as a victim. So don't love me as who I am. Love me is what it happened to me. Love me because of what it happened to me. Don't love me as who I am.

Correct, because that's their version of love, that's their blueprint of actually what love is, you know, they don't realize love isn't necessarily a healthy love.

Here, like that.

And again, we have a confluence between narcissist and victim.

Yeah. The narcissist had learned as a child that he can be loved only when and if he performs.

Yeah, conditional.

And the victim had learned that she can be loved only if and when she performs as a victim.


Both of them are performance-based, both of them believe that love is conditional.

So both in some respects are co-dependence, they're both lacking in themselves, correct?

Yes, absolutely.

Narcissism is a form of co-dependency, extreme form actually of co-dependency.

There's a narcissist depends for his life on other people and their input. He has no internal environment. Everything comes from outside.

It's, you see the similarities, the amazing similarities.

The starting point, absolutely, in all of this.

So I'm so I suppose in round up then, if you had to give, because I'm thinking of myself here, I'm going to be a bit selfish at the end here now.

So me being in the space I am online and everything else, what would you say to me are the top three things you'd like to see more of from those in my space as well online? What would you like to see more of?

So if you were my business coach, so to speak, to create change, to create impact, to create this sense of maybe more understanding, okay, what would you say is the top three things you would like to see more of in that online space?

Number one, love yourself. Yeah. Don't love, don't love, love. Yeah. Don't be in love with love. Don't, don't love yourself because others tell you that you're lovable or because others love you. Love yourself. Nevermind regardless of what other people still do and love yourself regardless of whether you have other people in your life at all.

I love that. That analogy of being loved as opposed to being lovable, you are lovable regardless.

But if you're in a room with 100 people, they're not all going to love you. It doesn't mean you're not lovable, it just means they don't love you.

You should not be, you should not, your sense of self-love should not be derivative. It should not be an outcome of other people's judgments or gaze or whatever. It should be totally independent and should proceed even in the absence of other people.

Now many, many people are in love with the idea of being in love. So they are infatuated with infatuation. That's an unhealthy state.

The second piece of advice, if you have the slightest inkling of a shadow of a possibility that something is wrong, walk away. If you don't like the way he raises the fork to his mouth on the first date, walk away.

So any red flag, any red flag.

Even something that looks totally irrelevant. I don't know, he was talking to the waiter in the restaurant and he wasn't looking at him. You didn't like it. Walk away.

Do not, do not reframe or speculate or mitigate or don't argue.

That's a hard thing to do, isn't it?

Do not argue with yourself and do not let your loneliness dictate your future state of victimhood.

I love that. Do not let your loneliness dictate your future state.

Because the antecedent of victimhood is loneliness.

So if something strikes you as wrong, it is wrong. Trust your gut a thousand percent, not a hundred percent, a thousand percent.

We have more neurons there, don't we? You know, we have more information going from our gut to our brain than our brain to our gut.

Actually, if you're interested in the numbers, for every million bits of information that we ignore, we process 55. Wow. Million bits of information do go in, but we don't, we are not aware of it.

Sam, I've ignored millions and millions over here. Why trust the 55?

Why trust the 55 and not the million? Absolutely, yeah. Your brain is telling you something. You don't like something. I mean, you go, you get up to go to the toilet and he kind of looks away shiftily. Walk away, trust your gut, 100 million percent.

The last advice, you confine me to three, so the last bit of observation or advice I would give, it is extremely tempting to abuse your abuser.


It's a path of no return. This is the real abuse. If you abuse your abuser, your abuser will have succeeded to convert you into a clone, into a clone of himself, which is what he had wanted all along.

He had wanted you to disappear and reappear as he's copying. If you abuse your abuser, you will have become his copy. Don't give him what he wants. This is precisely what he wants. Maintain your core, maintain your values.

I love that.

And I think, again, you know, all of these are so much harder to put into practice in real life because people do want to get back at their abuser and everything and fight as such because, again, I think it goes back to in some tiny element, they think they're going to have this epiphany because as a society, we like to think there's good in everybody, so to speak.

So, you know, maybe if I say this, they revert almost being that toddler. What behavior can I do to get you to recognize all of this and turn into the nice person, so to speak, and all of that?

But yeah, I totally agree. You're giving your energy to someone where they're not going to change. That's who they are. You need to put that energy into yourself. And I think that's such an important point, it really is, because sadly, again, many people do that. They get hooked into the back and forth, which is why no contact is so important as well.

You know, you get back in those endless messages and emails back and forth. You're actually feeding what the narcissist wants you to do.

Yeah. And I've absolutely, I mean, oh my goodness, I could sit and talk to you all day about it. I love, I love how you bring the whole sort of science element into this, but in a really understandable way, actually, I think, you know, that that's really important, I think. It totally comes across as well, Sam, because you're putting it in a context of real depth and knowledge, but in a way people can understand.

And I just hope, you know, anyone who listens to this, just bring a bit more compassion into how they behave and, you know, whether they are the victim or victimized by the narcissist or indeed the narcissist or anything, that there is that element of, you know, and I hope that came across with both of us here, of this understanding of all of this, of this not blaming anybody, not kind of, you know, labeling, but really trying to gain some insight and understanding really into the root cause of all of this. And maybe what we can, we can all do better in this world to try and help with all of that as well.

So any final words that you want to say before we end?

No, it's been a pleasure. And let's see if people ask questions and so on. We may do some follow-up.

Yeah, I would absolutely love that. I really love that. You know, I've got a big community of people that I know they might even watch that and they will feel triggered by some of the stuff we've been speaking about, but you know what, bring awareness to that and, you know, let's see what else comes up down the line.

So thank you so much, Sam. Thank you for having me on time today. And, and I look forward to speaking to you soon.

Take care. You too. Bye. Bye.

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