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Unlimited Freedoms of Psychopathic Narcissist: Reactance Theory

Uploaded 3/6/2024, approx. 20 minute read

The narcissist and even more so the psychopath insist on maintaining unlimited freedoms.

The freedom to realize their dreams, to fulfill their wishes, to meet their expectations, to cater to their needs, to actualize their fantasies, unlimited, unrestricted, unconstrained liberty at all costs.

Why is that?

What is this obsession with unlimited freedom?

This is the topic of today's free-ranging videos.

Shoshanim and Shoshanot.

And a pro-narcissist and psychopaths, my name is Sam Dachnin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, the granddaddy of the narcissistic abuse field and a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of CEOPS Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies.


Today we deal with something known in psychology as reactance.

And like everything else, there is reactance theory.

Reactance deals, or the reactance theory deals with freedom, our relationship with freedoms.

How do we wish to maintain them?

The impact that constraining or restraining our freedoms has on us and how we react to such attempts and so on and so forth.

Re-cycophancy is a critical key clinical feature in psychopathy and narcissism for two reasons.

Number one, the narcissist and even most of the psychopath, they are defiant and they are consummations.

Consumations means they reject authority, they hate authority, they challenge authority, they're rebellious.

And so defiance is in your face, my way or the highway, take it or leave it.

These are all forms of defiance.

And consummation is doubting expertise, challenging or confronting government and institutions, conspiracy theories regarding cabal and elites and so on and so forth.

These are all forms of consummation.

They go hand in hand with defiance.

Defiance and consummations demand freedom because in order to be defined, in order to defy authority, to defy others, to defy any attempts to impose on you norms, mores, rules, laws in order to constitute yourself as a law unto yourself.

You are the giver of the law.

You are the law.

You are the sheriff and the posse and the judge and the jury and the executioner all rolled into one.

No one can tell you what to do.

You will never oblige.

You will never obey.

You will never conform.

You will never collaborate.

You will never accept outside dictates as to how you should behave.

Expectations, social expectations, social norms, social mores are all perceived as evil, as attempts to mind control or some forms of social engineering.

So defiance and consummations are a key component of reactance.

Reactance has to do with freedoms and defiance and consummations are perceived as the ultimate forms of freedom, standing outside society and spitting in its eye.

The second reason narcissists and psychopaths are reactant, sensitized to freedom, protective of their freedoms, real and imaginary.

On the quest to expand their freedoms and render them infinite and indefinite, the reason they are so obsessed with freedom, so addicted to freedom.

The second reason is entitlement.

Narcissists and psychopaths are entitled.

They believe themselves to be unique and special and by virtue of being perfect or godlike, they deserve special treatment, accolades, rewards, incommensurate with any effort, any hard work, any study.

There's no need to invest.

There's no need to commit.

There's no need to embark on an arduous, tedious curriculum.

Everything should fall into the narcissist and psychopath's lap out of the blue.

The narcissist and psychopath deserve the best.

The best doctor.

The best services.

The best room in the hotel.

The best everything.

The ultimate.

The most brilliant.

The most perfect.

The most amazing.

The most fascinating.

The most beautiful girl.

The most fleshy, the fleshy car.

They deserve all this and they deserve all this without having, without having done anything for it, not commensurate effort or investment, nothing.

They just deserve it.

So this sense of entitlement goes hand in hand with absolute freedom, the freedom to behave in any which way you wish without bearing the consequences of your actions, to act and do as you please without paying real life costs.

It's a form of divorce from reality.

And of course it has strong fantasy elements.

Put together defines consummationness and entitlement and you get an addiction to freedom, which leads us to reactance theory.

Reactance theory is a model.

It states that in response to a perceived threat to or loss of behavioral freedom, people experience psychological reactance, almost simply reactance.

It's a motivational state.

It's characterized by distress, anxiety, resistance, rebelliousness, the desire to restore that freedom that has been taken away or compromised or constrained or restrained, it is a fight for freedom.

Give me freedom, give me liberty or give me death.

That's the unwritten, unspoken motto of every narcissist in Saikopan.

And when they say freedom, they don't mean sublimated freedom, freedom that is socially acceptable.

They mean absolute anarchy to do it as they please, to treat other people as they see fit and to shape shift identity disturbance, to become different kinds of persons day in and day out.

So reactance is a reaction to the diminishment or perceived diminishment in freedom, a reaction that involves distress, anxiety, rebelliousness, resistance, and a strong irresistible desire to restore the freedom.

According to this model of reactance theory, when people feel coerced into a specific behavior, they react against the coercion.

They demonstrate an increased preference for the behavior that is restrained, that is constrained, that is forbidden, that is prescribed.

If you want people to fall in love, to be enamored, to become invested in, emotionally invested in, affected in any specific thing, mode of behavior, object, another person, just tell them they can't do it.

The minute you tell someone you can't do it, it's not allowed.

You will be punished if you do it, and so on and so forth.

Their motivation to do exactly this increases.

And this is true for healthy people.

Can you imagine the magnitude of this reaction in mentally unhealthy people, such as narcissists and psychopaths, who are invested structurally and functionally and psychodynamically in unbridled ability to act?

So one of the outcomes of restricting freedom, specific freedoms, is an increased preference for the restricted freedoms.

And in some cases when there is no impulse control, where there is contempt towards other people in society at large, where there are no boundaries and barriers to behavior, where there is no accurate reality testing, no understanding of the consequences of one's actions, because there are no proper ego functions, because there's no self there, there's no core identity, there's identity disturbance.

In all these cases, the transition from enhanced preference to action is smooth.

So it's a one-to-three sequence.

Number one, you prohibit the behavior.

You constrain it, you restrain it, you label it socially unacceptable, you condemn it, etc.

Number two, there is an enhanced preference for exactly this behavior.

There's a desire, an irresistible urge to engage in exactly this forbidden behavior, consider, for example, infidelity.

And number three, in the case of narcissists and psychopaths, there's no inhibition.

There is disinhibition.

They engage in the forbidden behavior.

They engage in the forbidden behavior simply and exactly to prove to themselves and to others that no one, but I mean no one, will tell them what to do.

No one will constrain their freedom.

No one will control them.

It's about control.

It's a power play.

Now all this has been described by Jack Graham, B-R-E-H-M, back in 1966, so there's nothing new about this.

This theory therefore assumes that people believe themselves to have freedoms to engage in specific behaviors.

This belief is a dimension of the core identity.

It's a determinant of the core identity.

Take away these freedoms or more precisely take away the conviction of the belief that they can act freely and people's identities are shattered, they're changed, for example, in inmates, in concentration camps or in prisons.

You break them down by taking away not only their freedoms but their hope or their belief that they could be free again one day.

Theories, the reactance theories, basic proposition is when a person perceives that any of her freedoms have been threatened or eliminated, psychological reactance is aroused.

So psychological reactance is the reaction to denied freedoms.

It's a motivational state because it causes action potentially.

In healthy people it just causes cognition, focus cognition, directional motivational cognition but they are sufficiently inhibited and bound to not act.

While in narcissists and psychopaths lacking boundaries, lacking impulse control, invested emotionally in defiance and consummation in your face and my way and you know take it or leave it and all these slogans, in narcissists and psychopaths the transition to action is immediate, smooth and unstoppable.

Reactance is therefore a motivational state that is directed towards the re-establishment of the freedom that had been threatened, taken away or eliminated.

And while reactance is the only reaction in healthy people and it's an inward state, it's motivational, in narcissists and psychopaths it translates into action.

Reactance is two manifestations.

As a motivational state it increases the individual's desire for or attractiveness of the goal that is served by the freedom in action.

Freedom is perceived as a means to an end.

Freedom is not an abstract thing.

Freedom is well defined in terms of consequences.

In short, freedom is an essential component of what is known as self-efficacy, Bandura's term.

So freedom is crucial because without freedom one would never conceive of goals, purpose, direction and one would have a meaningless life.

Goals are very attractive and they can be ranked by attractiveness.

And each goal comes with the corresponding freedom and these freedoms can be ranked by attractiveness according to the attractiveness of the goals.

So we can create a scale of attractiveness of goals and the freedoms attendant upon these goals or the freedoms that are preconditioned for these goals.

The more attractive the goal, the more attractive the freedom, the higher the reactance if this freedom is taken away.

It's a simple formula.

Even when the freedom has been eliminated there will be at least a temporary increase in the attractiveness of the activity or the goal that have been denied.

Ironically, when you take away someone's liberty, when you limit someone's actions, restrict them, restrain them, confine them, incarcerate them, imprison them, when you take away freedom, that person through reactance finds the missing freedom and the goals attached to this missing freedom much more attractive than they used to be before they had been forbidden.

They had been forbidden.

So forbidding something makes it more attractive.

Forbidding a freedom makes the freedom more attractive.

Denying a freedom makes it way more irresistible.

And the goals that go along with these freedoms also become much more appealing to the point of being irresistible.

And the second manifestation, so this is the first manifestation of reactance as a motivational state.

The second manifestation occurs only when the freedom has been threatened but not eliminated.

So the motivational state, the motivational expression of reactance has to do with denial of freedom, elimination of freedom.

Well the second type of reactance has to do when the freedom is threatened but hasn't been taken away yet.

It is an attempt by the individual to preserve the freedom rather than restore the freedom.

So reactance has two goals, either to restore a freedom that has been extinguished or to preserve a freedom that is about to be extinguished.

It's a battle for freedom which is two-pronged and therefore we come across behavioral expressions of reactants that appear dissimilar but they're actually the same.

At the core, at the heart of it, it's about freedom, its preservation, its continuation and its protection.

In general, freedom can be restored by exercising it or by attacking the agent responsible for threatening it or by engaging in behaviors that imply that one could exercise the threatened freedom or the denied freedom.

So you have three ways to communicate, to signal to the environment, "Hey, this freedom matters to me and I'm going to fight for it."

Number one, you can simply exercise it.

You can ignore any prohibition, any prescription, any law, any norm, any rule, any regulation and simply go on doing whatever it is that you want to do, preserving your freedom.

And this is the psychopaths and the narcissists way.

The second strategy is to attack the agent or agents, institutions, other people, collectives responsible for the threat to your freedom or the denial of your freedom.

Whoever took this freedom away from you or is threatening to take this freedom away from you, you can counter attack.

So we saw that, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were counter attacking the medical establishment, institutions and governments because they perceived these as agents about to take away cherished freedoms.

Brem, the aforementioned Brem in 1966, suggested that in mass persuasion propaganda, advertising, and so on, it's a communication that tells the audience what conclusion it must draw in order to produce negative attitude change.

So he suggested that some types of propaganda or advertising or education are sly and cunning.

And actually by denying some things or threatening to take away some freedoms and so on, they need us to act in ways which we want to act.

And similarly, a one sided argument tends to be less effective when the audience is aware that there are two sides to the issue.

If you accuse someone of having committed a crime and you don't allow that person to counter the claims to defend himself, these claims are much weaker and much less credible and believable.

So there is an intricate interplay in a series of protocols regarding the discourse of freedom.

Because freedom is an abstract convention, it's a social contract and it can be renegotiated and it's very susceptible and amenable to language.

It's very fragile and freedom is very fragile and very brittle.

There's a variety of non-social implications of reactants and they've been studied.

When an individual believes that he can choose anyone of several attractive alternatives and then finds that one of these alternatives is unavailable, the unavailable alternative tends to become more attractive than it used to be.

Just denying something makes it more attractive.

And if you're someone like a narcissist or a psychopath, this enhanced attractiveness becomes irresistible.


Defiance is about breaking the law, negating norms, breaching boundaries, violating rules and regulations.

It is the forbidden, it is the socially frowned upon, it is the anti-social, it is the criminal that are irresistible.

And irresistible just because they are forbidden.

These behaviours are not irresistible to the narcissist or the psychopath because of the nature of the behaviour, because of the goals attached to the behaviour.

These behaviours, these actions, these choices, these decisions are rendered irresistible to the narcissist and psychopath because it allows the narcissist and the psychopath to poke society's eye, to show everyone who is the boss, who is calling the shots, who is making the decisions.

No one will tell me what to do.

So there is a barrier, inhibitions, process of socialisation.

We teach people to not act on impulses and one of the major impulses is reactants.

We teach them to not act on reactants.

These social inhibitions and barriers don't exist in narcissism and psychopathy because in the case of the narcissist there is no ego and consequently there is no functioning super-ego.

And in the case of the psychopath, there is a reasoned decision to ignore society and everything it has to say, its norms, its morals and so on.


When people find that there is a barrier, for example a special tax, to one type of freedom, one choice, one decision, one object, one goal, there's a barrier.

Society is a group of people, the owners, someone has placed a barrier, an obstacle, an impediment to obtaining the desired outcome.

That desired outcome becomes even much more desired.

Barriers, prohibitions, restrictions, inhibitions render the forbidden items, the forbidden behaviours, the proscribed actions render them more attractive and to the narcissist and psychopath render them irresistible.

When the narcissist or psychopath are faced with social injunctions, social instructions to not behave in a certain way, this makes the action forbidden much more attractive and when they try to do something and there are obstacles and impediments and barriers placed by society or by others, it renders their goals much more attractive.

And this is why narcissists and psychopaths are compulsive, obsessive and ruminating.


Watch my previous video, posted yesterday about grudges.

Grudges is a form of reactance.

So the simple act of choice threatens and eliminates freedoms as far as the narcissist and psychopath are concerned.

When you tell the narcissist and psychopath, you have to choose.

You have to make a choice.

You can't have it all.

You can't have it all.

There's an opportunity cost here.

If you choose something, you give up on something else.

There's a fear of missing out, exaggerated to the point of compulsion, obsession.

So the narcissist and psychopath refuse to accept the very act of choice.

They don't have to choose.

They are entitled to everything.

They are allowed to do everything, mutually exclusive thing, totally contradictory things.

They can say and think and write and speak and act any which way they choose, contradicting themselves in the process without any problem because they do not accept the need to choose.

They do not accept the choices is built into the very fabric of reality.

In fantasy, you don't have to choose.

In fantasy, you can construct a universe that caters to absolutely all your needs, never mind how mutually exclusive and contradictory.

The thought of having to give up one alternative in order to select another arouses reactance and a consequent tendency for the less attractive alternative to become more attractive before the choice is made.

These are the thwarted mechanisms embedded in the narcissist and psychopath's mind.

Mind perceives the world as essentially unlimited and free of all constraints and restraints.

The narcissist and psychopath perceives themselves as predators and they should be allowed to roam free.

The savannah of human civilization, hunting for a never ending stream of prey and victims.

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