Watch, IF YOU DARE! Narcissist: Shocking New View (Part 2 of Interview with Sandy Ghazal Ansari)

Uploaded 11/29/2021, approx. 56 minute read

Do you think about the quote, Freud's quote comes to mind. I just have to catch you while we're passing through this topic and ask what you think it means in terms of your work with narcissism.

The lost object casts a shadow on the ego.

Freud did not consider, I want to answer you in a roundabout way.

Freud did not consider narcissism to be a process or an event or a phase or a stage.

He considered narcissism to be the defining feature of the personality.

You had narcissistic defenses, you had narcissistic phases, you had the personality, the development of the personality was born out of narcissism.

Jung agreed. It was one of the few points where Freud and Jung agree.

They don't agree how, because Jung says that narcissism works through introversion.

And Freud did not agree with that, but they both agreed that narcissism is the main force that creates the self, the personality.

And of course, Kohut, Kohut based his entire work on narcissism.

And Freud made a distinction between narcissistic and unacclic parts of personal development.

So he believed that narcissism is the way we interact with the self while all the other processes are unacclic and we interact with others, which leads me to the issue of objects.

Freud was very close to coming up with the idea of self-object and described very often situations where interactions with other people create dynamics that somehow affect personal development and growth in what he called at the time, ego development.

And I would today use the phrase self-development or personality development, which is not only ego, it was a wrong kind of phrase.

And so Freud, as usual, was the pioneer in pointing out that losses, including object loss, is critical in developing areas of the personality that are somehow submerged or what Jung later the shadow or the complexes and the complexes.

So he was a pioneer in this.

But of course, starting with Jung and object relations schools and all the way to Kohut and so on, there was a lot more work done.

And today our view is much more nuanced than this.

And we think, for example, that it's possible to perceive oneself as an object.

It's possible to develop internal hypervigilance.

In other words, the inner world, the inner universe is as populated as the outer world. And all the dynamics and processes that take place in the outer world or with outer objects also take place internally with internal objects.

It's almost like Lacan, mirroring.

Although I'm not a fan of Lacan to use a British understatement.

But mirroring is what I ask you about Lacan and the mirror stage and your ideas and why you might not like Lacan at some point.

Yeah. So if we take just the word, not the Lacanian, like Lacanian perception of the word interpretation of the word, but just the word mirroring.

Yes, I think mirroring is a critical principle.

Everything that happens inside is happening outside and everything is happening outside is happening inside. All processes, all dynamics, everything is reflected and re-reflective.

I call it the wall of mirrors.

This is the source of the power that narcissists have over us.

Narcissists, because of the defects, actually, because of the deformities in their personal evolution, in their growth and development, because of the developmental deficits, narcissists remain stuck in a certain developmental stage, which allow them actually to affect mirroring very efficaciously.

So they can mirror you like no other, exactly because they are underdeveloped. They grant you access to a wall of mirrors where you come face to face with yourself.

And so you become simultaneously an internal object and an external object. And you are capable, therefore, of developing object relations with yourself.

This is a process that only narcissists can make happen.

They become conduits. They become venues to the experience of object relations with yourself, which sounds like a bit of a contradiction, unless you suddenly realize that you could, in theory, become an external object and have relations with yourself as an external object.

If this is mediated via another person's gaze, and this is an excellent description of psychotherapy, it's exactly what we do in psychotherapy.

So the narcissist administers to you psychotherapy. It happens to be a malevolent psychotherapy with very bad outcomes, but it's a therapeutic process where he provides you with insight by allowing you to interact with yourself as an object.

And so you form object relations with yourself.

So this is the mirroring part.

And the lost object does cast a shadow, of course, and this has been developed much more in object relations schools and so on.

You remind me of a time when Winnicott would go on the radio and talk to mothers about their anxieties about being a mother and neutralizing their experience and moving them away from the Ferber Method.

And just his demeanor and his way of accessing mothers was very useful for that time.

I feel like you're doing this for people who are dealing with narcissists. Like, say a woman is, you know, married to a narcissist, then it's very difficult to handle those powerful emotions.

And you come onto the radio and help them understand what's going on, even though we're dealing with not a child or a baby, but it's an adult.

I get that sense from you that you're, you have that function for many people.

How do you feel about that statement?

People, especially victims of, I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse because in 1995, because I thought that narcissistic abuse is distinguishable and distinct from all other types of abuse.

In the sense that what a narcissist attempts to do probably reflexively as a predator, not because he's a scheming Machiavellian, you know, but he's a predator.

That's what he does, like a virus. The narcissist attempts to do is essentially annihilate you.

Annihilate you because as an independent external object, you threaten too many things.

I'm not going to it right now because I do it in many of my videos, but at some point you become the narcissist persecutary object. At some point you become his enemy.

And you become his enemy just by being, not by doing anything and not because you possess anything and not because of who you are, but just because you are.

And that is the distinction between narcissistic abuse and all other forms of abuse.

All other forms of abuse are goal oriented. Someone abuses you because he hates your guts or because he wants your money or because he wants to have sex with you or whatever.

The narcissist abuses you just because you are. Your existence threatens him on multiple, in a variety of ways, on multiple levels simultaneously.

He cannot afford, he cannot afford your autonomy and your agency. He needs to eliminate you as a self efficacious person.

And so it's geared toward annihilation via essentially merger, fusion, symbiosis and so on.

And what happens with a baby oftentimes when the mother is what Andrei Green called the dead mother, when the mother is a dead mother in the sense that she's depressive or selfish or dependent or childish and parentifies the child or instrumentalizes the child or abuses the child classically when the narcissist is the mother because the father is less relevant to the formative years.

But when the mother does all this, then yes, she is engaging essentially narcissistic abuse because in these early years, let's say up to age two narcissism is the main thing in child psychology.

Freud said it and almost everyone else said and to this very day, even the most modern secular psychologists who are not into Freud, they also say this.

Narcissism is the name of the game until age two years up to the point of separation and division for mother. Narcissism is it and it is narcissism that pushes the child away from mother.

Narcissism is the engine behind individuation.

And so when the mother abuses the child in any of the ways that I'd mentioned, refuses to allow the child to separate to develop boundaries and to become an individual. She's actually engaging in narcissistic abuse because she is violating this this engine of growth, which is not.

And so yes, true.

And indeed, the narcissist.

The narcissist acts as a mother, as a surrogate mother to his intimate partner.

What does the narcissist offer you in the love bombing and grooming phase?

The narcissist is offering you unconditional love.

He's saying I'm going to love you for who you are. I'm going to love you unconditionally. That's a maternal message.

He's acting as your mother or as your mother should have acted.

He's acting as the good enough mother, the Winnie Coteon good enough mother.

So this is his offer. He says I'm offering you a trade. It's a fauciant deal.

I will love you the way a mother does.

But in return, you will suspend your being.

That's a deal. And many women take it and they take it because who could resist the maternal love?

Who could resist the second chance to be loved properly?

And who could resist falling in love with herself via the mirroring process?

So it's an irresistible deal.

You can't say no to it, you know, and very few very few do very few say no.

But then you're trapped.

You're trapped because the narcissist reverts from a boudin of mother to a sadistic, withholding, frustrating mother.

And here we have the work of the likes of Gantri, who discussed, went in depth into these issues of frustrating, withholding mothers.

But not only Gantri, of course, but others.

Fairbairn's work is a stunning work in this area. And Winnicott himself.

So the narcissist reverts from a perfectly good enough mother to a withholding, sadistic, frustrating mother, the rejecting object, as it's called.

Becoming a rejecting object.

And you're thrown off balance.

You're thrown off balance, but you're already addicted to your own idealized image in the narcissist's gaze.

The narcissist made you fall in love with your idealized self.

With your, in Freudian terms, with your ego ideal.

The narcissist made it possible for you to be loved again.

And this time, as the reification of your ego ideal.

Who can resist this?

And so you are mourning, you're cast into mourning.

There's a prolonged grief reaction, prolonged grief disorder.

Because you're mourning not the narcissist, but you're mourning yourself.


You're mourning yourself.

You had died.

You had died and you had died twice.

As a daughter to a loving mother, the narcissist.

And you had died as an idealized image of yourself.

This very tough.

It's dual mourning.

At some point, the narcissist offers you a second Faustian deal.

You remember there was a first Faustian deal and there's a second.

He says, "Listen, I can't love you anymore. Unconditionally.

I'm reneging." Something narcissists typically do.

I'm reneging. I'm becoming now a sadistic withholding frustrating mother.

But there's a way out.

There's a way out.

I can still give you access to my whole of mirrors where you can see yourself as an idealized image.

You like that, no? It's a drug.

So here's my conditions as a pusher.

You're going to love me.

You're going to love me as a mother.

I loved you as a mother.

Now I can't anymore.

If you want access to the drug, you're going to love me as a mother, no?

And you're going to loveanymore.

If you want access to the drug, you're going to love me as a mother, no?

And you're going to love me the same way unconditionally.

But because I'm a hyper-vigilant and I'm a big paranoid, I don't trust you to love me unconditionally.

So I'm going to test you.

I'm going to abuse you.

I'm going to push your buttons.

I'm going to make sure that you really love me unconditionally.

Never mind what I do to you.

And this, of course, provokes narcissistic abuse.

So it's a two-phase interaction.

He is the mother, and you're the child, and you fall in love with yourself, with your idealized son.

And then you are the mother, and he is the child.

But now he's testing you to see if you're really a mother or just faking it because you need the drug.

So how to test?

He abuses you.

And if you survive the abuse, and if you're still there, and if you still love him, you are a good enough mother.

Because I work with children that have learning disabilities, and I've seen them grow up and have sessions with them while they're adults, I can see that there's a cognitive deficit.

There's an inability to have theory of mind at times that started as a result, I believe, of having a kind of learning impairment.

Oftentimes, children that have language-based learning disabilities or are on the autism spectrum have a hard time with perspective taking.

They can't put one foot in another person's shoes.

They're unable to go beyond their selves cognitively.

They can't understand literature very well sometimes, or they zone out when they're reading, because they can't relate to the characters, they can't put themselves in the shoes of the characters, or their classmates from a very young age.

It's like what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Was there early trauma, or a learning impairment, or both?

I just wanted you to speak to that a little bit.

I'm hardly an expert on autism spectrum disorders or all learning disabilities.

But I know a bit about the intersection with narcissism and trauma.

I've spent a lot of time studying trauma and dissociation, so I feel comfortable to talk about these things.

There are studies of high-functioning people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders.

These studies have shown that they can easily be mistaken for psychopaths or narcissists.

But there are not many studies about other forms of narcissism.

I think, again, common sense.

I think if a child is born and he has a learning disability, or he has autism, whatever that is, there's a huge debate what it is, if it's genetic, whatever that is, if he has autism, if he has a learning disability.

If he's gifted, I was born with 190 IQ. It's a curse. It's not a blessing.

So he's gifted as well.

More suffering.

If it's exceptional, for better or for worse, it stands to reason.

You don't need to be a genius and you don't need a two million dollar endowment from the National Endowment for the Sciences. You don't need... It stands to reason that such a child is going to suffer.

He's going to suffer... He's going to be excluded by his peers, shunned, ridiculed and mocked.

Even his own teachers and other role models and adult figures will be wary of him or shun him because he's energy consuming and difficult.

He's likely to suffer social exclusion and consequently is likely to develop deficits in reading social cues and reacting to social cues, which is one of the pillars of developing empathy.

So he's likely to have empathy deficits, he's likely to be dysempathic in some ways.

He's likely to have, later on in adolescence, he's likely to have difficulties with the opposite sex if he's heterosexual.

So sexual cues. He's going to suffer throughout his life, but definitely childhood, of cumulative, suffering-forcing deficits.

And so this kind of person is likely to be impaired when it comes to intimacy, when it comes to empathy, when it comes even to identity because if I'm right, when I said that there is no such thing as individual, that it's all relational.

It's like a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram and the shaded area is what we call individual.

So if a relational model is true and good and correct, then this kind of person will have identity disturbance.

Identity diffusion is adolescent, but then identity disturbance in later life.

This kind of person is likely to suffer from dissociation, a classic reaction to trauma, even mini trauma.

I mean, we had proven, we proved co-clusively in numerous studies that we react dissociatively to mini traumas.

So let alone prolonged traumas and so on.

So dissociation affects memory, affects personality continuity, affects cohesion, affects functioning.

And again, it's compounded. So it looks like ADD. It looks like ADD or ADHD. So it's again compounded and so on.

So for example, narcissists. Narcissists have cognitive distortions. Now, these cognitive distortions lead to impaired reality testing. Their divorce from reality, to cut a long story short, they live in their own cocoon where they are in Napoleon or Jesus or both.

The grandiosity, grandiosity is a cognitive distortion. It's a filter that reinterprets reality in a way that is egosyntonic, in a way that supports one's inflated self-image and self-perception.

Now, mind you, as Freud and Anna Freud and many others said, defense mechanisms do that. That's what psychological defense mechanisms do.

They reframe and reinterpret reality in a way that is egosyntonic, supportive of one's view of oneself. It's in self-perception.

But we're not talking about the defense mechanism. We're talking about defense's gun or eye, where everything is filtered and reality is falsified.

So this starts very early. Pathological narcissism starts at age two. Even in age four, it could be full fledged. Borderline, borderline personality disorder, which also is a pronounced grandiosity element, borderline starts at age 11, age 10, age 12.

Psychopathy, antisocial personality disorder starts at age five with conduct disorder.

So these are childhood diseases. These are childhood disorders. They are not adult disorder.

And one of the main problems in modern psychotherapies, in modern treatment modalities, they're trying to cope with these issues as if they were adult problems.

But psychopathy and narcissism and borderline and histrionic and many others, by the way, they are not adult problems. They are childhood problems.

And we should deal with them using with tools borrowed from child psychology.

And so I think it goes without saying the children with learning disabilities intellectually challenge children with with other types of neurodevelopmental disabilities, the developmental disabilities, autism spectrum.

All these children suffering creates mental illness, suffering creates mental illness.

It could be chemically induced suffering and not disputing the possibility that it's something in the brain, it's chemical.

So but still it's suffering. The subjective, the subjective correlate is suffering.

Suffering creates mental illness, period, nothing else.

So when you say that it's a it's a childhood, you know, illness, it it does take hold in childhood.

And yet you mentioned that it narcissistic personality disorder, at least that disorder should not be, you know, diagnosed until 18, 21, maybe even 25. And then there's an issue with, you know, what kind of intervention these children need to get.

I myself, I'm an educational therapist, so I get the first line of, you know, what to do when when the child is doing school refusal or they're having they're not getting good grades.

But other children will be sent to a psychiatrist and put on medication right away or or go to a psychotherapist that's not psychodynamic in in their practice.

So I believe that there's a huge problem in the field of child work, because, you know, these are some of the population that will end up, you know, having post traumatic syndromes as an adult.

I'm glad that you said post traumatic because I regard many personality disorders to be post traumatic syndromes or post traumatic.

Yeah, not personality disorders, but simply post trauma.

Yeah, forms of complex trauma. Judith, Judith Herman, who coined the phrase complex trauma and was the first to describe it. She fully agrees. She wants to abolish the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

She's a borderline. It's a traumatic post traumatic condition.

So, yes, this is trauma.

Now, childhood trauma generates literally most of the personality disorders we know of. And it's a personal cluster a not only cluster B, schizoid personality disorder, for example, it's a childhood trauma.

Early intervention is beneficial and can reverse can ameliorate the condition at the very least and sometimes reverse it completely.

So for example, proper early intervention.

Yes. Here's the problem now that you touched upon it. There is a huge battle, a maggot between essentialists and phenomenologists in psychology.

The essentialist schools like starting with psychoanalysis later psychodynamic schools and so the essentialist school believe that something is happening inside a process, series of processes, whatever something is happening inside that gives rise to observable phenomena such as behaviors, emotions, cognitions, etc.

So they say you should tackle the source, the root. You should tackle what's happening inside. You should tackle the essence.

And so they're called essentialists.

And the other school is phenomenologists. They say the hell with the essence. We don't even know there's an essence. We're going to tackle the phenomena. We're going to tackle the behavior, the automatic negative thoughts, the emotion, dysregulated emotions.

So we can identify the phenomena and then we're going to administer palliative care, so to speak. We're going to mitigate the phenomena. We're going to teach the person how to control their impulses or dysregulated emotions, etc.

Behavior modification. We're going to modify behavior if necessary.

Yeah. So and this is the phenomenological school.

Now the debate is this. The essentialists are saying, and at this stage as you notice, I'm not kind of I'm not taking sides.

The essentialists are saying if you don't tackle the essence, what all you are doing is you're eliminating or eradicating one set of phenomena and it's going to be replaced by another set of phenomena.

So the essence will manifest. The essence will be expressed.

Now we know this is this to be true with addictions. You get rid of one addiction and the addictive personality develops another.

It's well known. I used to work in rehab, alcoholic rehab, and the advice we gave on colleagues don't fall in love. Don't fall in love when you're treated because you will get rid of the alcoholism and you will develop love addiction.

So this is the essentialist view. The phenomenological schools, they say, who cares?

As long as we solve the problem, it's problem oriented. Let's solve the problem.

This patient has a problem. This is the problem. You must solve the problem.

He thinks he's ugly. We're going to change that. We're going to show him he's not ugly. And that should do the trick. Who cares why he thinks that he's ugly? His mother told him so what?

We need to take care of the consequences, not of the etiology.

And this is a huge, a huge debate. This the phenomenological school has faster results. The results are faster, more visible. And that might have to do with issues with insurance companies and also.

But I must admit that the psychodynamic schools and not to mention psychoanalysis, they have spectacular failures in treating, for example, personality disorders.

I think the when we pose it like that, it's an artificial choice. I think the other options, for example, I think trauma therapies may be very useful.

And strangely, they're not that widely used. Trauma therapies are very powerful, but they're not widely used.

I think some treatment modalities in child psychology, which are neither psychodynamic nor phenomenological, could be could be very effective with adults, especially immature adults with stunted development of growth and so on.

So you mean like play therapy?

Well, there are quite a few. I mean, starting with local therapy and you have you have no psychodrama and you have play therapy. There's no shortage. There's no shortage.

But we need to be a lot more flexible and we need to stop putting treatment modalities in boxes. And so we say if he's a child, he can be treated only with child psychology. Why? If he's an adult, no way are we going to use child psychology. Why?

Piaget has some amazing insights which apply to narcissists, even narcissists aged 60 like me.

So we need to be a lot more flexible and stop labeling things and stop categorizing things. You know, it reminds me of the what I've noticed in the psychoanalytic community that the psychoanalysts that are trained to work with adults or they just don't see children, they work with adults.

In just having conversations with them, they're a lot less, they're just more rigid in their own sort of ideologies and theories and things like that.

And then the analysts that are there's not that many. There's much less child analysts than there are adult analysts.

And they're, to me, just so much more flexible and able to work with even an adult in a lot more flexible way rather than just like, okay, lay on the couch or, you know, attack certain defenses or observe certain ones or, you know, they just have a different child analysts have a very different way that they interact with even adults. And the two don't work well together. The child analysts are on one camp and then the adult analysts are in another camp.

And anyway, it's interesting. It's true. It's true. I mean, it's true in gestalt, it's true in transactional analysis, it's true. I mean, you name it. It's always like that. There's a separation, a bizarre separation, mind you, between child and adult. Like you stop being a child at some point artificially, you are no longer a child, end of story, and you're this new being.

And the techniques that used to work until you were 17 and six months don't work when you are 18 and one month. You then the whole new set of techniques should be applied.

And of course, it's very artificial and not true. You asked about narcissistic personality disorder.

Why we cannot diagnose it. Why it's not recommended to use these diagnosis before age 18 and probably 25 more likely.

The reason is that many of these disorders, as they are captured in the diagnostic and statistical manual, at least until the text revision of edition 4.

And even as they're captured in the ICT, in the International Classification of Diseases, many of these disorders are actually social disorders.

If you look at the diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, you will notice that a big part of the diagnosis is culture bound.

Culture bound. It's responsive to social mores, social expectations, appropriate ways of behavior, proper sublimation, etc, etc.

And consequently, it would be utterly futile to apply, for example, the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder to a child.

Even the alternative model of narcissistic personality disorder, page 767 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 5, the alternative model, which is a dimensional model, no way it can be applied to children.

Because, for example, one of the main one of the core elements in the alternative model is intimate relationships.

So, but what is intimate relationships? What are? What is this thing? Is it really psychology? Is it mental health? I'm not quite sure.

The major defining feature throughout the personality disorders section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is disruption in interpersonal dysfunctioning, in interpersonal relationships.

But this is a value judgment. It's a cultural and social judgment. Interpersonal relationships are one way of organizing society.

It's an organizational principle. And who defines success? Who defines functioning and dysfunctioning in an age where every couple negotiates, negotiate their own contract, idiosyncratic contract.

So the whole thing is very fuzzy and very, you know, I don't like it.

In other words, what I'm trying to say, these are not clinical entities. I studied medicine. I studied medicine. We studied cancer or tuberculosis. These are clinical entities.

Tuberculosis is the same in Ghana, in Egypt, in Israel, in China and in Russia. But narcissistic personality disorder is not a clinical entity. It involves, as I said, values, judgments, cultural context, period and time in history, and so on.

So they cannot be applied to children, and it's not just various.

Well, I mean, just like they've been able to pull back the time in terms of detecting autism, I think that there are certain markers that can be detected in childhood that would suggest that that would be the trajectory.

Just like you said, it's a childhood, you know, disturbance, and it takes hold at a certain age, depending on the type of dynamic.

I'm just thinking about, you know, how in the future, how best to help these children and, you know, finding the right, you know, practitioner.

Well, you, since you're integrated in this field, and then you probably noticed that we are coping out. We are beginning to say, for example, contact disorder. Contact disorder is psychopathy for children. It's the antecedent of psychopathy in children.

We're going to say, wait a minute, contact disorder is 55% explained by genetic determinants, and another 27% or 28% is brain abnormality.

In other words, there's nothing we can do about contact disorder. It's out of our hands. It's genetics and brain. Goodbye.

Now the same, the same has happened with borderline personalities.

The big revival in the studies of borderline personality disorder was in the 1970s with the likes of Otto Kanberg, Grotstein and others.

So then they developed a series of therapies and treatment modalities to work with borderline.

And then Leinahan developed DBT. DBT is very successful with borderline.

And suddenly there was a term, suddenly there was a term and starting in the late 1990s, clinicians started to say, actually, borderline is a brain disorder. Actually, it's hereditary. If you had a few borderlines in your family, you're likely to be a borderline. You're more likely to be a borderline.

And they started to study the brains of borderline.

And so I see this as a cop-out. It's like relegating disorders to the basket case where the clinician would feel comfortable to say, it's not me. It's the brain. It's the genes. It's the family. It's not me. There's nothing I can do. It's not my failure. It's nothing I can do about it or very little I can do about it.

And so more and more, more and more disorders are relegated to the medicalised basket case. That's medications.

So depression pills, schizophrenia pills, autism, shortly, pills, borderline pills, psychopathy pills.

Now, there are attempts, serious attempts to render narcissistic personality disorder and abnormality of the brain regrettably for these people. They failed. They can't find anything.

But the medicalisation of psychology, rendering it psychiatry, is an attempt to give up on the vulnerable, on the mentally ill, on the susceptible, on the suffering, on the traumatised.

It's a cop-out attempt. It's simply the same way we close down mental institutions and we dump these people in the street as homeless.

There is a general tendency to not treat mentally ill people.

So you dump them in the street as homeless, you give them pills, you over-medicate them to oblivion, and you forget about them.

The idea is to forget about them.

Now, we are mocking and decrying the way mentally ill people were treated in the 19th century.

In many ways, it was more humane than today.

Yes, they were very cruel. They tried crazy methods. They hurt many of these patients, but they paid attention to the patient. They did their best. They tried somehow to heal.

There was an attempt to heal, misguided attempt, ignorant attempts, but there were attempts to heal.

Not to mention, of course, Freud and others who were active practitioners.

Today, there's no attempt to heal. There's an attempt to shun, to push away, to avoid, to hide, to bury, to bury these people.

They become invisible as homeless. They become invisible as over-medicated teenagers. They become invisible as people who die of opiate overdose because they're depressed and anxious.

I don't know what.

So there's a program of involuntary euthanasia going on against mentally ill people.

I had a Winnicottian question, or at least to see how you might spend your work through his lens.

How does a narcissist or person with narcissistic personality disorder, how does he inhabit transitional space, Winnicott's term of transitional space or transitional phenomena?

Because there's that sort of issue with reality testing.

And yet they're often in this in-between state of real and not real, where an individual or an attachment figure or partner is in the trenches of that transitional space with the narcissist.

Speaking of the narcissist being like a child, so are they all the time in transitional space?

It's an interesting thought.

No, I wish I could say yes, because that would have given hope.

I'm afraid not.

And the reason not, it's not only a suspension of reality, it's a suspension of the self.

If you want to use Winnicottian terms, it's a suspension of the true self.

So there's no one there to occupy any space, any space, comfort space, transitional space, real space. There's no one there. No one left there.

I was so hard pressed for a metaphor. I tried first to work with Winnicottian language and Fairbourn and Gunter, I tried to work with these guys, the British of the school of relations, 1960s.

But I failed. I failed because all of them discussed, all of them were centered around schizo-id phenomenon.

And narcissism can easily be described as schizo-id phenomenon. But still they failed.

And they failed when it comes to narcissism, I think. I think they failed or they didn't.

It's not that they failed because they tried. They didn't try.

But the language is not applicable.

And I think the language is not applicable because even Gunter, who is, I think, by far the most extreme of all of them, because he suffered, he himself suffered from a very egregious mother.

And he was a schizo-id. Don't ask. He was mentally ill. Gunter was mentally ill. He was treated actually if I remember by Winnicott.

So even Gunter, who went to the extreme, even he accepted that there is a residual core. He said, yes, there is an empty core, schizo-id empty core, which is a phrase coined by Jeffrey Seinfeld.

There is a schizo-id empty core, but there is someone there. So even Gunter accepted that there is someone there.

In narcissism, in pathological narcissism, there's a gradual, not so gradual actually, pretty abrupt replacement of existence with absence.

Narcissism is about absence, not about presence or existence, not about even the presence of an empty core.

Even an empty core is a dynamic structure. An empty core creates dynamics. It has its own energy. There's nothing there. I don't know even how to, I'm at a loss for words. It's not an empty schizo-id core. It is nothingness. There's nothing there.

So nothing generates dynamics. Nothing generates energy. There's nothing there. It's death.

Closest I can come to, closest similarly is death. It's a core of death.

And that leads, of course, to the work of Fedon.

I don't know if you're, Fedon, F-E-D-E-R-N.

Fedon came up with the opposite of libido, the antithesis of libido, the antonym of libido, called motado.

It was later renamed destodo.

Oh, yeah. I heard you talk about that. Yeah.

It's the energy of Thanatos. It's the energy of the death instinct.

I think, I mean, Freud and everyone were talking about libido, which is the energy of life, part of which is ewis, which is the sexual energy.

But libido is not sexual energy. Libido is the energy of life.

And the opposite is destodo, or motado, which Fedon in 1952 suggested.

And that is the force of death, the libido of death.

And that is narcissism. There is a core of death, not core. There is only death.

And there is the force of death. And the force of death is absence, not energy.

Not to be confused with the death drive? Sorry?

Not to be confused with the death drive? No, not to be confused with the death drive. No. It's not about drive. It's the motado. The studio is the energy, the energy of the death drive.

So narcissism doesn't have any drive, not life drive, not death drive. It is only this energy.

But this energy is a negative energy in the sense that it is absence. It is not dynamics. Not dynamic. It is the absence of dynamics, the absence of energy, the absence of anything, even the absence of a core, however empty.

Absence. Now, because of that, how is this absence created? How is it created?

The child generates an imaginary frame. Let's call it this way. An imaginary frame that becomes the false self. That is when it becomes the false self.

And it's inside transitional space. Sorry? Within transitional space, naturally. At the beginning, yes. But then what happens is the child... So now I'm using in my work religious metaphors. I'm saying the child is traumatized. The child is in trouble. The child is distressed. The child is mourning and grieving its own lack of actualization. But it doesn't allow the child to actualize, to separate individual. And there's a process of mourning and grieving. But what is mourning and grieving? You mourn something that had died. The child feels that it had died. And now what happens is the child creates the false self for various reasons. We're not going into it right now.

And yes, it's in a transitional space. But then I'm beginning to use religious metaphors. I'm saying the false self is God-like. It's a deity. It's a divinity. Because it's omniscient. It's omnipotent. It's perfect.

And what the child does, it engages in human sacrifice. It's like a pagan, very ancient religion or ritual.

There's this deity, the monarch, the false self. The child sacrifices him, his true self, as a human sacrifice to this deity.

At that moment, the child vitiates himself, negates himself, vanishes, vanishes. And all that's left behind is the false self.

That is where clinicians, theoreticians, that is where communication breaks down.

Because when I try to explain this, and I've spoken to the best and the greatest, it's difficult for them to grasp because they don't have this internal experience. It's difficult for them to grasp what I'm saying.

Unless you've dealt with a narcissist.

Well, yes, if you've dealt with a narcissist, there were intimations of death. There were intimations of death in the air.

It was a bit like living with a zombie, with a corpse.

So it's not that the child remains behind, that there is the deity and the worshipper.

Yeah? The deity and worshipper. No. No.

The worshipper self-immolates, commits suicide. It's like a suicide bomber.

The child commits suicide, sacrifices himself to this deity, thereby becoming one with it.

The offering is the bonding ritual. He becomes the false self. From that moment, only the false self remains.

The false self is a concoction. It is false, so it's utterly divorce from reality. And it cannot, therefore, occupy any space, not even transitional. It is its own space. It has its own narratives, rituals, dynamics. It's utterly divorce from reality.

And of course, the only equivalent we have is psychotic disorders.

And Kannberg, Kannberg was the one who said in 1975, "Borderline and narcissistic disorders of the self are pseudo-psychosis." He said, "They are on the border of psychosis." That's why he called it borderline.

And by the way, Kannberg to this very day does not make a distinction between borderline and narcissistic disorders.

He said, "They are one and the same." And he said, "They are on the border of psychosis." And he was right. This is a form of psychosis, but it's a mirror of psychosis, because in psychosis, the psychotic confuses internal objects with external. He thinks his internal objects are external.

The narcissist thinks the external objects are internal. So it's like a mirror of psychosis. It's pretty amazing.

Well, I mean, that is a bit of what transitional spaces is, is that there's this in-between state, between inside and outside.

But you're saying there's no in-between anymore. There is now just superimposed.

It's a little like the process that's known as identification. You know, you interject, there's interjection.

And following interjection, there's a phase called identification, where you become one with the interject. You believe the interject is you. You don't feel the interject is alien to you. You say, "This voice is my voice. It's not my mother's voice. It's my voice." So identification.

So there is a process of identification that is very immersive to the point that the child vanishes and reappears, resurrects as the false self.

That's why I'm using religious kind of similes and metaphors, because the child is creating a private religion. It's a private religion with a deity and a single worshipper.

And then the child, when he becomes a bit... becomes adolescent or adult, tries to convert you to his religion. He's trying to make you a believer in his religion, in the false self. He wants you to believe in the false self, and he wants you to worship the false self.

And this is narcissistic supply.

I have a false self, and the false self is, I don't know, I'm a genius. I want you to tell me that I'm a genius. I want you to believe in my false self as much as I believe in my false self.

So it's a missionary religion. The narcissist is converted.

Sometimes the narcissist converts 40 million people. Yes, if he's a politician. Yes.

I mean, sometimes wesee this with children, just even healthy children who are in their infancy, who aretheonly ones in their universe. There is a first-person perspective. Anything and everything belongs to their world and their world only. They don't have theory of mind yet.

This used to be known as the symbiosis phase.

Although very few theoreticians claim that there's only the child, what most theoreticians say about this phase that you have described up to age 18 months, what most theoreticians say that there is a self-object, and the self-object is made of the child and his mother.

So essentially it's like a dual object with duality, but the duality is invisible to the child. The child perceives mother and by extension the world, because mother is the world, the child perceives the world and himself as one.

But it's a self-object. And then following symbiosis, we don't use the term symbiosis anymore, but it used to be until the 70s.

So following symbiosis, there is a break, there's a kind of cataclysmic break. It's a very traumatic stage where the child realizes that there is separation.

An us-is-is never goes through this break. He's never allowed to separate. He's never allowed to set boundaries and so on. So he has two choices as a child. As a child, an us-is has two choices.

He can go along and merge and fuse and create a symbiosis, total symbiosis, with a symbiont being his mother, let's say.

But that means disappearing. It means suspending his own existence.

And the alternative is he can create a false end and somehow survive. In the first option of symbiosis with a mother who wouldn't let go, the child dies completely. Nothing is left behind. The self-object rigidifies, is rigid for life.

And there's no child. But the narcissistic solution, the child creates a false self and kind of teleports himself into the false self. He kind of hides himself inside the false self. So he survives somehow. Somehow there's a residual of the child, some act of creativity, ultimate act of creativity.

Amazingly, the Kabbalah, the Jewish Kabbalah, describes the relationship between God and his creation exactly this way. That God minimized himself to allow for creation to emerge because he was mentally ill and he needed creation to healing, this process of healing.

I'm not going to it right now, but there are many religious analogues to what I'm saying.

Narcissism is a private religion. Think of the narcissist as a fundamentalist, militant, terrorist. And his aim is to convert you to a paleo. Simple. ISIS.

But even with Winnicott, he didn't really say that the false, the true self is, I mean, is there really a true self? True. The word true is an ideology.

Well, I think what he meant is because Winnicott and others were talking about in terms of perception and perception of others.

So it was very relational. It was very relational.

I think what he simply meant is that the true self allows the individual to emerge from a proper self-perception to others.

And the false self is giving up on this capacity. So it was very relational.

It's not Freudian. It's not essence. He wasn't talking about something like ego, like the ego. He was talking about a relational model, like how people relate to each other.

When you're a child, the only way to relate properly to others, in other words, the only way to attain object relations, is to integrate the ego, to create a true self.

And that's very similar, by the way, not very different to Jung.

Jung suggested that a constellated self depends crucially on introversion. And that introversion is imbued with healthy narcissism.

He said the way to a constellated self is through narcissism. And he disagreed with Freud very strongly on this major point of contention.

So Winnicott was, in many respects, a Jungian, in effect.

He said, well, to create a self, you need to integrate a self.

And at that time there were people like Fairbairn and Beylind, who were saying that the ego is not integrated. The ego is broken.

There was disagreement.

Does the ego break down because of frustration and trauma, like Melanie Klein?

Or does the ego break down because of development, actually?

But they said there were egonuclei.

Egonuclei, and there were several types of ego, the libidinal ego, anti-libidinal ego.

Don't ask. A big mess.

And finally, there's a process of integration.

And so this is what Winnicott meant when he was talking about the true self.

It's an integrated self that allows the individual to safely engage in object relations.

While the false self, being false, does not allow this.

It hinders and obstructs object relations.

And in Gantrip said, Gantrip's contribution, based on Fairbairn, to a large degree, Gantrips' contribution, why does the false self not allow for object relations?

Because the false self is based on emptiness.

It's empty. There's nothing there. No tools.

And much later, Kenner took this from Gantrips and others, and he said, at the core of borderline personality disorder, at the core of narcissism, there is an emptiness.

And to this very day, the word emptiness appears in the DSM.

It's part of the diagnostic criteria of borderline.

And if you ask any borderline, they will tell you, yes, I feel empty. My life is empty. I'm empty.

This is the natural chain of...

But the thing where I think everyone fails, even Gantrips, or got the closest, Gantrips got absolutely the closest to the experience of the narcissism.

I think everyone fails to realize that narcissism is the death instinct.

It's the death energy. Narcissism is about not being.

The child is so traumatized.


The child is so traumatized that the child is focused on not being.

Because being is terrifying.

So the only solution, the chances, the only way out of this is to not be.

Okay, let me not be. Let me transport myself or teleport myself into an imaginary frame who will kind of protect me, God-like, and I will not be.

So narcissism is a solution of not being.

Not emptiness, not being, absence.

And I don't know even how to communicate this.

It's because language breaks down.


The lack.

The lack or the void.

I don't know. It's extremely difficult. Language deals with things.

But it's so powerful, though, this space.

It makes me think of your physics dissertation.

Normally, you know, Feuerstein, who was a philosopher of science, he said that science is not objective.

Science is a projection of the psychology of the scientist who is doing the science.

So, of course, when I had to create a theory in physics, of course, it reflects my inner world.

So in my universe, in the universe as I describe it, there's nothing.

Simply nothing, just time. Only time.

I succeeded by using only time to derive all of physics.

So by taking a single principle, I succeeded to derive every equation in physics.

There are about 40 scientists working on my theory now, 40 physicists, and each one of them in another field, and they derived all the equations.

Until now, we didn't come across a single equation we couldn't derive from my work.

And my work is a single principle. There's nothing except time.

So it's a theory of absence, a theory of nothingness.

Now, this is a writ large, if you wish.

And ironically, you have the nothingness.

Then a nothingness philosophy. It's all about nothing.

I'm an expert in nothing. It's nothing.

It's nothingness and it's nothing.

You could ask, how does one experience nothing?

I mean, okay, you can take me at my word that I'm a nothing.

You say, okay, I will go with you. You're a nothing.

But how do you experience this?

And who is doing the experiencing if you are nothing?

And of course, these are very deep philosophical issues.

Is there such a thing as I? Who is the observer? Who is doing introspection?

Should we separate like this an eye that introspects and an eye that is being observed?

Which was priestly suggested this.

It's that the concept of time is artificial. It's simply there is someone, there's an eye that observes, the eye that is observed.

So there is this level mind. So like who is doing this? Who is Sam Vakhni? Who is watching Sam Vakhni?

And if Sam Vakhni is an absence, how can Sam Vakhni watch something that doesn't exist?

Can we watch something that doesn't exist?

For example, the void, the void of space.

And these are very, very deep philosophical questions.

Suffice it to say that I don't agree that there is such a thing as an individual.

And I think the concept of self and I have been misconstrued badly.

Well, that brings me to my next question and psychoanalyst, Wilfred Bion.

Are you familiar with his work? Yeah. Especially if you're a clinian, of course.

So, you know, in group relations, there's a loss of the self.

You know, like when the Tavistock GR, a work that came out of Bion's work, I'm not sure if you're familiar with that.

So there's something that happens in groups where there's a loss of, you know, the individual identity.

You see this in the military. You see this in any group that it turns into like an organism with many heads.

But there's no there's a loss of identity to a degree.

And, you know, an individual's true self is definitely any individual, even the healthiest person that enters a group relations conference after the fifth day.

They've forgotten who they are.

Well, I'm going to put this on its head.

I think it is only in groups that we become.

I think when we are not in groups, we are not.

In other words, what you call true individuality and so on and so forth, because I dispute the existence of an individual, I dispute the existence of the self or I, I dispute the existence of a core.

I don't I think these are absolute obstructions that are very counterproductive, let alone counterfactual.

I think actually we become only when we relate and interact with other people, relate to and interact with other people.

And that's not only my view, of course, that is the core of object relations theories, theories, multiple.

And so I think when we are in groups, we show more of our identity than when we are not in groups.

And I think when we are not in groups, what's happening is we create what I call not what is called the imaginary audience.

Now, I just made a video about the adolescent narcissist. I saw that.

And so there is this suggestion idea of the personal fable and the imaginary audience.

The teenager walks around imagining an audience which follows him everywhere. And like everything it does is theatrical and dramatic because he's acting to an invisible audience.

And I think what you call our true individuality is an imaginary audience.

I think we walk around constantly being observed by imaginary figures like mother, father, friends, peers, teachers. You know, we carry these hundreds of people with us as an imaginary audience and we act to this audience and we call it our true individuality.

But actually, it's an intersection of all these gazes. And this intersection is us.

When we are in a real group, real people, the imaginary audience is suspended and you are free to acquire a new identity by intersecting with the members of the new group.

Because you suspend the imaginary audience, you're much more true to yourself.

Or as Sartre said, you are authentic.

Sartre described it exactly in this terms. He said to be authentic, you need to get rid of all the imaginary audience. You need to get rid of society. You need to get rid of your mother, your father. You need to get rid of introjects. You need to be free of it.

Yes, I attended three of these group relations conferences and the setup is, you know, after several days of the group as a whole, in a way projecting on each other and so on and so forth.

Obviously, there's facilitators. It's almost like there's like in with how Beyond worked, like there's an analyst or consultant to the group.

And at some point, they pull the individuals aside and like sort of, you know, give or the group as a whole gives back the projections to the individual.

So sort of by the end, you're not only re traumatized, but you have to like basically take back your projections and suck them up.

So there is some kind of transformation that occurs.

I'm going to segue to your cold therapy.

Before we go there, just a comment on what you had said.

The group, when you encounter a group, the group facilitates two processes. It legitimizes the suspension of the imaginary audience.

So all your introjects are suspended because the group gives you the power, the energy to suspend them.

Now, sometimes it's bad because the group can help you suspend your conscience and your morality if you're a member of the Nazi party, for example.

But the group legitimizes the suspension of the imaginary audience.

The imaginary audience is intimately linked to what could be called the superego or your conscience, your morality.

You derive all these from the imagineer.

How you manage authority.

Yeah, it's a space of introjects.

It's the introduction space, internalization space.

So the group legitimizes its suspension, deactivates it.

At that point, what is left?

Your authentic core, the core that is divorced, that is not the introjects. It's you, the real you.

At that point, you begin to interact with the group.

And the group becomes an audience and you're beginning to reform, reform yourself.

In Jungian terms, you begin to constellate.

You're beginning to reform a new self.

That's why people are very different in groups because it's a new self. It's totally new.

And so it could be a very benign process, very therapeutic, very, what could be very pernicious and dangerous, of course.


It's like a trick or a bath trip.

By the way, with the narcissist, exactly this.

Now we're using a different language to describe the wall of mirrors. The narcissist legitimizes for you to suspend your past. He makes you a person without identity, without memory and without history. He then interacts with your audience because he idealizes you. He's like your audience. He interacts with your audience and he legitimizes the formation of a new self, which this time is grandiose idealized. So he becomes your group. It's a one-man group. It's a count. This is a count. It's exactly the dynamic of a count.

Speaking of groups, yes. I think that you would still be very amusing at a psychoanalytic conference. Well then, there's only one way to find out. I'd be delighted if I get invited. There are several that would love to have you. It's my pleasure. Anytime. I gave a lecture recently at McGill University. So I described the model I'm creating for personality disorder. So now I may give a symposium. Also, I think your book, Malignant Self-Love, would be very much appreciated in Iran. Because there's a huge community of psychoanalytic thinkers and it's growing like wildfire and they really like to do wild analysis. So you better get that book translated before they decide to do it on their own and sell it. Actually, one of them threatened me. He said, "Can we agree on terms?" I said, "I don't think so." He said, "Well, in this case, I'll just translate it and I'll publish it. I'll not ask you."

I found it very funny. But they have conferences and they like to invite folks and obviously you could go virtually.

But they would love you. They just will love you.

I'm open to another conversation with you and I'm open to any idea you may have.

Yes, okay. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you. I appreciate it. Okay, bye-bye.

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