What Your Ego Does for You in Daily Life, Narcissism (Compilation)

Uploaded 10/5/2023, approx. 1 hour 41 minute read

So today we are going to discuss ego functions and how narcissism had evolved as a concept from Freud to Jung to Kohut to Raunai in reverse order, Raunai and to Kohut.

Now you see there's a big there's a great disagreement about what constitutes narcissism and this disagreement cuts wide and deep and even within the psycho-analytic community, not to say cult,

the disagreements are very profound.

Let alone when you exit psycho-analysis, when you exit psychodynamic theories, when you venture into object relations, the British school, other schools and then further, there's a serious problem to agree what is pathological narcissism.

And today I want to give you a view of the concept and its evolution from a historical perspective.

But before we go there, I'm going to answer one question as has become our habit.

One of you had written to me to ask what are ego functions?

I keep mentioning ego functions, ego functions. I keep saying that the narcissist has no ego, so he has to outsource his ego functions, he has to import them from the outside from other people.

And so what are ego functions?

I have discussed the ego in previous videos and I encourage you to watch them.

There is a big mess, big confusion about using the term.

And so for example, all the self-styled experts and one-of-be coaches and what have you, with or without academic degrees, keep saying that the narcissist has an inflated ego when actually the narcissist doesn't have an ego at all.

The narcissist is indeed selfless in the sense that he doesn't have a self, he doesn't have an ego.

Ego and self are not the same thing, by the way.

The self is more of a Jungian thing, ego is more of a Freudian thing, but the narcissist definitely doesn't have that entity, that construct that performs critical internal functions.

This is why the narcissist is parasitic.

It relies on other people to perform functions that usually are carried out internally by healthy people.

And what are these functions?

Number one, reality testing.

The ego's role is to alert the owner of the ego to reality. It's to tell the owner of the ego, listen, what you're going to do is wrong, it's going to have repercussions, it's going to have implications and consequences which are adverse, and you don't really want to do this.

So the ego monitors, the ego in a way is hypervigilant. It monitors the environment, it surveys reality, and it brings back information and data to the individual, trying to somehow modulate, moderate and control impulses and urges and drives, trying to modify behaviors in ways which would render them sublimated, socially acceptable.

So the ego distinguishes what occurs in one's own mind from what is happening simultaneously in the external world out there.

In other words, the ego is the personality construct that is in charge of informing the individual what objects are external and which objects are internal.

The confusion between internal and external objects in, for example, psychotic disorders, in narcissism, in borderline, this confusion is an outcome of an ego that is malformed or not fully formed.

Ego formation had been disrupted by trauma and abuse in early childhood.

The ego is ego negotiates with the outside world, it requires perceiving stimuli, evaluating them, classifying and categorizing them and predicting the outcomes of actions.

So reality testing is a crucial component of surviving in the world and functioning in the world and on the world.

In other words, reality testing is the foundation of agency, personal agency and self-efficacy.

Of course, reality testing can be distorted, can be, for example, reality testing deteriorates in stressful conditions under stress.

In reality testing can give way to delusions, to hallucinations and anyhow reality testing is very selective, we process only 5% of the information, the data that we get from the environment.

And reality testing also is clustered, it is divided into clusters.

So there are many deficiencies, there are many glitches and bugs in reality testing, but all in all it works well.

When the ego is healthy, when the ego is integrated, the reality testing works well.

If we observe deficiencies, chronic deficiencies, chronic malfunctions, in reality testing we can safely say that there is a problem with the ego, either organic medical problem or psychological problem.

Reality testing.

The second function is impulse control.

It is the ego which is in charge of managing aggressive or libidinal erotic wishes.

So it is the ego that postpones gratifications, that delays action, prevents immediate discharge or immediate release of the impulse via behaviors or even via symptoms.

So when we see someone who has problems with impulse control, we can safely assume there is a problem with the ego.

People who have trouble with anger management, road rage, sexual promiscuity, excessive substance abuse, binge eating, etc. These kind of people have a problematic ego.

Number three, regulation of affect, regulation of emotions and feelings without being overwhelmed, which is a prime indicator that for example people with borderline personality disorder, people with schizoid personality disorder and to a large extent people with narcissistic personality disorder don't have an ego.

For example, because the borderline is manifestly and overtly emotionally dysregulated, she is overwhelmed by her emotions and also she mislabels her emotions.

The narcissist and the schizoid had chosen a different solution. They had repressed their emotions so deeply that they no longer have access to positive emotionality, only to negative emotions.

And in the case of a schizoid, sometimes not even to negative emotions. So when emotions are absent, we know that they are not regulated and we can safely assume there is a problem with the ego.

The next function is judgment, the capacity to act judiciously, responsibly, in an adult manner, identifying possible causes of action, anticipating and evaluating likely consequences, making decisions as to what is appropriate in given circumstances.

Object relations that I keep mentioning all the time, that's an ego function.

Ego function, ego is what makes object relations possible and mutually satisfying.

Someone without an ego is incapable of having external object relations because they keep confusing external and internal objects.

The individual can perceive himself as a whole, complete, separate, bounded object entity, only when he perceives other people as similarly bounded and boundaried and separate. Separateness is critical.

If we don't perceive other people as separate from us, we merge, we fuse, we lose our own separateness.

And this is the role of the ego, object relations via separateness.

They see irony.

You can get close and intimate with someone only if you recognize their autonomy, their separateness that they are not like, that they are not you.

Okay, next thing, thinking, cognition.

Yes, believe it or not, the ego is responsible for logical, coherent and abstract thinking.

In stressful situations, we can see that thought processes become disorganized and chaotic, speech becomes disorganized. Word salad, for example, is schizophrenics. That's an outcome of the ego being overwhelmed by too much data, too much information, too many stressors.

The presence of chronic or severe problems in conceptual thinking is associated with a lack of ego or a totally fragmented ego, for example, in dissociative identity disorder, in schizophrenia, in demonic episodes, in bipolar disorder.

Next is defenses.

I keep mentioning defense mechanisms.

Well, all the defensive functions, all of them reside in the ego.

The role of defensive functions is to protect the individual. And they protect the individual by wording off, fending off, firewalling, input, data and information, which would be very powerful, very potent and identity threatening.

So defenses first develop in infancy.

And then we have very primitive defenses like splitting, denial, projection.

As we grow up, as we become adults, we develop much more sophisticated defenses, rationalization, for example, intellectualization.

And we develop internal boundaries between the ego, the superego and the ego to use Freud's tripartite model.

So the ego is responsible for defense makers.

Now, those of you who are possessed with more than 100 IQ, tiny minority admittedly, would immediately ask me, wait a minute, if defense mechanisms are intended to fend off information, to create an echo chamber, if they collude with a confirmation bias in the sense that they filter out information which is egodystonic and pleasant, challenging, etc., and how can this be reconciled with reality testing?

Defense mechanisms falsify reality. They falsify reality by excluding certain data and certain bits of information.

So if they falsify reality, how can the ego do both things at once, maintain reality testing and falsify reality?

It's a very good question.

And the answer to which is unknown.

I must tell you that this is one of the major conundrums in the concept of ego and in the derivatives, for example, ego therapy and self-theory, Kogut's self-theory, which we will discuss in the next video.

So there are internal inherent problems in the very constructive concept of the ego, and this is a major one, possibly the biggest one.

The next thing is synthesis.

I've just mentioned that the ego operates defense mechanisms. Some of them are very primitive, projection, denial, splitting, and they're supposed to die. They're supposed to disappear as we grow, mature, and become adults.

And then we have repression.

We have regression, displacement, reaction formation, intellectualizations, many other defense mechanisms.

Adults sometimes use defense, primitive defenses, but this is usually when they are seriously stressed in a crisis and so on and so forth.

But generally they're more mature. They're more mature because they have accomplished something called synthesis.

The synthetic function of the ego is the capacity to organize and unify other functions within the personality. It enables the individual to think, to feel, to act in a coherent and cohesive manner.

In other words, it is the core of identity.

When we say, for example, "Oh, I know this guy. I know he's not going to do this. It's against his character. It's not in character. This is the synthetic function.

The ego synthesizes everything so that it presents to the world a coherent, cohesive, not immutable, but close to immutable, close to unchangeable, definitely predictable version of who we are.

And this is our identity.

People come to rely on our identity. They come to expect certain things from us. They come to expect that we will not act in certain ways.

And it enables the individual to similarly rely on himself, an individual which is synthesized, whose ego is synthesized, or whose ego performs the synthetic function, is an individual who is at peace with himself. He knows himself. He knows his limitations. He knows his strong points. He knows what he can accomplish and what he cannot. He knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows to which behaviors he could expect of himself.

And often you hear people saying, "I can't believe I did this. This is so out of character. These are people with ego problems. They are most likely cluster B or some other personality disorder.

Only people with personality disorders, with severe seizures in the personality, with a disabled ego, would say something like this.

The identity is lifelong. It prevails. It exists largely unchanged throughout the lifespan.

Many things can change. Behaviors can change. Beliefs can change. Many things can change, but not the core identity.

Core identity persists throughout the lifespan.

And if someone acts in a way which is egodystonic, negates his core identity, and he himself is shocked by his behavior, then something is wrong with this kind of person.

The synthetic function of the ego includes the capacity to integrate potentially contradictory experiences, ideas, and feelings.

This is the beginning, the glimmering of an answer to the previous question.

This ability to synthesize allows the ego to reconcile somehow the reality testing, proper reality testing, with the reality falsifying qualities of defense mechanisms.

The ego synthesizes these two and subsumes them in what we call a narrative.

So the ego is in charge of creating narratives. It's the storyteller, it's the scriptwriter, it's the director of the movie that is alive.

And so the ego, for example, accommodates ambivalence. You could love someone and hate the same person. You could love someone and be angry at someone at the same time.

And it is the ego that synthesizes ambivalent feelings, ambivalent affects, ambivalent emotions, and somehow creates a narrative that accommodates both.

Obviously, the more intelligent you are, the more imaginative and creative you are, the easier it would be for your ego to function.

That's a major problem in personality disorders, because people with personality disorders who are intelligent and imaginative and creative, they create narratives. They don't have an ego, they don't have a functioning ego, but they have the synthetic function. They create narratives that compensate for the lack of ego.

And these narratives, because they are imbued with intelligence and creativity and imagination, these narratives are very difficult to contradict or to break.

In therapy, these people are so, they've got their act together when it comes to the narrative. They are so convinced of their narrative.

And of course, another name for this narrative is personality disorder.

So these narratives, people without an ego or with a dysfunctional ego or malformed ego or non-integrated ego, they come out with compensatory narratives known as personality disorders.

So these are the functions of the ego.

And I will not go into each and every one of them. Each and every one of them deserves its own video, because each and every ego function is very critical and so on.

But that's an overview.

According to Freud, Freud's theory is what we call a structural theory.

There's a model, there's a graph, diagram, and there are three parts.

Later he added more.

There are several principles.

It's a bit like the diagram of a physical machine, like a car.

And so it's a structural theory.

And there are libidinal errors or life-oriented impulses. There are aggressive, fanatic or death-oriented impulses. There's libido, there's drudio or mortido.

I mean, everything is neatly in its place. There's an id, the id is primitive, the id is childlike, the id has urges, the id cannot control, it's impulsive, it's reckless, it's crazy, and so on and so forth, a bit like your husband.

And there is the ego.

The ego controls the id, modulates it, modifies it, prevents it from acting crazy. There's a superego, which monitors both of them and supervises them, kind of judges them. As we call it, the inner critic, if it's highly sadistic.

And so, in Freud's structural theory, all these impulses are continuously in conflict. And they're in conflict with each other, and they're in conflict with other processes.

But they're all bound by the limits of reality, unless you're psychotic. Only psychotic people inflate out to embrace and fuse with reality.

So psychotic people have no boundaries, and they confuse internal with external.

And so, they have something called hyper-reflexivity. It's like they are like a big bank, like they're expanding suddenly, and they incorporate the entire universe.

This happens also in schizoid personality disorder. The schizoid person expands to include other people.

And he's so terrified of this process, because he's not psychotic, that he withdraws immediately.

So at first he expands, he gets terrified, and then he withdraws totally.

And then he's not in touch with anyone. He becomes a lone wolf.

That's a schizoid element.

And so, reality imposes strict boundaries, strict limitations on what the ego can accomplish, and on ego functions, and on all the drives and urges and energy which are embedded in the ego and in the totality of the model.

And these conflicts between these parts, if they are not properly managed, mainly by the ego, they lead to what Freud at the time called neurosis, neurosis or neurotic symptoms.

And today we don't call them neurosis anymore, but they lead to personality disorders and so on.

And the idea is to reestablish the checks and balances, to reestablish the harmony between these.

Each one has his role, and of course each role limits the other functions, the other constructs roles.

But conflict can be managed, can be avoided in order to generate psychological agency, in order to bring things to consciousness without disintegrating, in order to manage the energy that is pent up in the unconscious.

And of course, most importantly, in order to allow the ego to function, and in ego psychology, this is called defense analysis, and I will discuss, in my next video, I will discuss the history of the ego and how ego suddenly become narcissistic, when it's actually the exact opposite.

Ego is realistic, not narcissistic.

Ego would never be grandiose, for example.

So psychologists hope, try to help the patient gain control over structures, internal objects and processes, by actually strengthening the ego or building it up from zero, from scratch.

Just remember, ego is the opposite of narcissism.

So when we say ego death, we're actually saying someone should become a narcissist.

That's how much these gurus and mystics and coaches and experts, towards whom I have the most profound contempt, know what they're talking about, and how they all mislead you.

Thank you for listening.

Next lecture, the historical antecedents and development and evolution, was a very concept of narcissism.

You can learn a lot about narcissism and their relationships with other people, by listening to the next lecture, because this was the starting point.

People like Freud and Jung, they were shocked. They were shocked by narcissistic manifestations and narcissistic misbehavior and narcissistic traits within relationships, for example, between daughters and fathers, between sons and fathers, between husbands and wives.

They started the beginning, ironically, the beginning was relational.

They were studying relationships.

Only much later, with the development of personality theory and individual theory, only much later we atomized psychology.

So today we discuss the individual as though it is totally out of context, as though relationships don't matter, as though we could isolate an individual in a laboratory without anyone around and still learn everything about him, which is, of course, utter nonsense.

Psychology needs to go back to its roots.

Relationships, context, society, other people, emotions, like love.

Thank you for listening.

My name is Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

The narcissist's true self is introverted. It is dysfunctional.

In healthy ego, the true self, or more precisely a part of it called the ego, performs certain functions and these functions are generated from the inside, from the ego.

In narcissists, the ego being a part of the true self is dormant. It is comatose.

You could say that narcissists, ironically, have no ego or at least no functioning ego.

Narcissist needs the input and needs feedback from the outside world, from other people, in order to perform the most basic ego functions.

What are these functions?

For example, recognizing the world, setting boundaries, forming a self-definition and an identity, differentiation, self-esteem, regulating a sense of self-worth and many other important psychological maintenance functions. All of them are performed by the ego, which, as I said, with a narcissist, is dilapidated and decrepit and dysfunctional.

So the narcissist takes input from the outside, he takes feedback from other people. He seeks to be reflected in other people's eyes.

And this is what I call a "nosticism supply".

But it is only the forced self that gets in touch with the world.

The narcissist's true self is fossilized, isolated, falsified, repressed, unconscious. It is a shadow.

The false self, therefore, is a kind of hive self, kind of swarm self. It is a collage of reflections, a patchwork of outsourced information. It is garnered from the narcissist's interlocutors and laboriously cohered and assembled so as to uphold and buttress the narcissist's inflated, fantastic and grandiose self-image.

In healthy, normal people, ego functions are strictly internal processes. In the narcissist, ego functions are imported from his surroundings. They are foreign, external, not internal.

Consequently, the narcissist often confuses his inner mental psychological landscape with the outside world. He tends to fuse and merge his mind and his milieu. He regards significant others and sources of narcissistic supply as mere extensions of himself and his appropriativism because they fulfill crucial internal roles. And as a result, are perceived by the narcissist to be sheer internal objects, devoid of an objective, external and autonomous existence.

So to recap, other people in the narcissist's life perform functions for the narcissist, which in healthy people are performed internally, are carried out by internal structures.

Because people perform for the narcissist functions which are normally internal, he perceives them to be internal objects. He regards them as a part of himself, as an extension, another organ.

Now, seeing the narcissist's false self to acknowledge and interact with his true self is not only difficult, but may also be counterproductive and even dangerously destabilizing.

The narcissist's disorder is adaptive, it's functional, although admittedly it is very rigid. The alternative to this adaptation or maladaptation would be self-destructive, even suicidal.

Maladaptation is important in keeping the narcissist alive and functioning and more or less balanced however precariously.

This bottled up, this self-directed aggression, they are bound to resurface if the narcissist's various personality structures are coerced into making contact.

That a personality structure such as the true self is in the unconscious or preconscious does not automatically mean that it is conflict generated. It doesn't mean that it is involved in conflict or that it has the potential to provoke conflict.

As long as the true self and the false self remain out of touch in communicado, disconnected, conflict is usually excluded.

The false self pretends to be the only self. The false self denies the existence of another self, a true self. The false self is also extremely useful, it's adaptive as I said.

And so rather than risking constant conflict between the two, the narcissist opts for a solution of disengagement, repression or even dissociation.

The classical ego as proposed by Ziegmann, Freud, is partly conscious and partly preconscious and partly unconscious. The narcissist's ego is completely unconscious, it's submerged.

The preconscious and conscious parts are detached from it by early traumas and they form the false self together with the ego idea.

The superego is in healthy people, it constantly compares the ego to the ego idea. The narcissist is a different psychodynamic.

The narcissist's false self serves as a buffer and as a shock absorber between the true self and the narcissist's sadistic, panic punishing and immature super ego.

The narcissist aspires to become pure ego idea.

He has no ego, his super ego is threatening, life threatening, and so he ignores both of them and he sticks with the ego idea and this becomes the false self.

The narcissist's ego cannot develop because it is deprived of contact with the outside world.

And therefore the true self, the ego, endures no growth inducing conflict.

The false self is rigid.

The result is that the narcissist is unable to respond and to adapt to threats, illnesses, other life crises and circumstances.

He has no tools.

As I said the false self is rigid, the true self is out of touch with the world, so the narcissist is clueless, helpless and impotent in the face of reality, the face of life.

He is brittle. He is prone to be broken rather than bent by life's trials and tribulations.

What does the ego do in Freud's triadic formulation?

Well the ego remembers.

Ego evaluates, plans, responds to the world, acts in the world, acts on the world.

It is the lowest of the executive functions of the personality. It integrates the inner world with the outer world or in Freud's lingo the id with the superego.

The ego acts under a reality principle rather than a pleasure principle. This means that the ego is in charge of delaying gratification, of planning.

The ego postpones pleasurable acts until they can be carried out both safely and successfully.

The ego is therefore in an ungrateful position. It's on one hand unfulfilled desires, urges and drives produce unease and anxiety because they are not fulfilled.

On the other hand reckless fulfillment of desires is diametrically opposed to self-preservation and survival.

So the ego has to mediate these tensions. It has to acknowledge desires and urges and drives but then postpone them until circumstances are right or indefinitely.

So in an effort to thwart anxiety the ego invents psychological defense mechanisms.

On the one hand the ego channels fundamental drives. It has to speak their language, has to communicate with them. It must have a primitive, infantile component.

Then on the other hand the ego is in charge of negotiating with the outside world, of securing realistic and optimal bargains for his client. His client is the ego.

These intellectual and perceptual functions are supervised by the exceptionally strict court of the superego.

Persons with a strong ego can objectively comprehend both the world and themselves. In other words they are possessed of insight. They are able to contemplate longer time-stance, able to plan, able to focus, to schedule, to collaborate with other people to achieve goals and results, etc.

These kind of people, healthy people, the healthy ego, they choose decisively among alternatives and they follow their resolve. They are aware of the existence of their drives. They are prone to having desires and urges like everyone else but they control them. They channel them in socially acceptable ways. They resist pressures, social pressures, other pressures. They choose their course, they pursue it, they have an inner compass. It's called the sense of self-worth. Their sense of self-worth is not a means, it's stable.

The weaker the ego is, the more infantile and impulsive the owner of the ego, the more distorted he is of repossession, of his self and of reality.

A week ago he is incapable of productive work in the long run.

So the narcissist is an even more extreme case.

The narcissist's ego is not weak, it's non-existent.

The narcissist has a fake, substitute ego, the false self.

This is why the narcissist's energy is always drained, always depleted. He spends most of it on maintaining, protecting and preserving the warped, unrealistic images of his false self and his fake world.

The narcissist is a person exhausted by his own absence.

The healthy ego preserves some sense of continuity and consistency. It serves as a point of reference. It relates events of the past to actions at the present. And it relates these to plans of the future. It incorporates memory, anticipation, imagination, intellect. It defines where the individual ends and where the world begins. It's an interface, flexible, wise, informed, intelligent.

Though not coextensive with the body, though it is not coextensive with the personality, the healthy ego is a close approximation of both.

In the narcissistic condition, all these functions are relegated to the false self.

The false self, hollow of confabulation, the fact that it is false, not authentic, not genuine, a concoction, a piece of fiction, a narrative, an invention, a script. This fact of its philosophy, it rubs off on all the functions it carries out.

The narcissist is bound to develop false memories, a false biography, conjure up false fantasies, anticipate the unrealistic work his intellect to justify these fantasies, etc., getting more and more divorced from reality, failing the reality test more and more until finally it decouches completely. And in some extreme cases, it becomes psychotic.

The falsity of the false self is double. Not only is it not the real thing, the real McCoy, because it's not, the false self also operates on false premises. It is a false and wrong gauge of the world. It fazes the narcissist. It doesn't allow the narcissist to calibrate properly. It falsely and inefficiently regulates the narcissist's drives. It fails to thwart anxiety. It's not working well most of the time because nothing which is not grounded in reality cannot cope with reality properly.

And if you can't cope with reality properly, then you are dysfunctional. If you're dysfunctional, then you're anxious. And if you're anxious, you become compulsive. And so it goes.

The false self provides a false sense of continuity and of a personal center. It weaves and enchanted and grandiose fable as a substitute to reality.

The narcissist gravitates out of his self, out of his true self, out of his core and into a plot, a story, a narrative.

The narcissist continuously feels that he is a character in a movie, kind of a fraudulent invention, a con artist to be momentarily exposed and summarily socially ostracized and excluded.

Moreover, the narcissist cannot be consistent. He cannot be coherent. His false self is preoccupied with the pursuit of narcissistic supply.

The narcissist has no boundaries because his ego is not sufficiently defined. It's not fully differentiated.

The only constancy in the narcissist world is the narcissist feelings of diffusion, of imminent anulment.

This is especially true in life crisis when the false self, the false ego, ceases to function.

The narcissist then has no defenses from the world. He kind of breaks apart. Disintegrates, becomes a cloud of molecules from the developmental point of view.

All of this is pretty easily accounted for.

Narcissism starts in early childhood. It may have a genetic component. It may be based on a genetic predisposition, but it is a reaction to life's circumstances, mainly a variety of forms of abuse.

So it starts in childhood and the child reacts to stimuli, both internal and external.

The child cannot, however, control, alter or anticipate this stimuli.

Instead, the child develops mechanisms to regulate the resulting tensions and anxieties and fears that this stimuli provoke.

The child's pursuit of mastery of this environment is therefore compulsive.

The child is obsessed with securing gratification and gratifying the security.

Any postponement of the child's actions and responses forces the child to tolerate added tension, added anxiety.

It is very surprising that the child ultimately learns to separate stimulus and response. It's very surprising that any child ever learns to delay gratification.

This miracle of expedient self-denial has to do with the development of intellectual skills.

Intellectual skills and the socialization process put together allow the child to function properly in the world, in reality, in society.

The intellect is nothing but a representation of the world.

Through the intellect, the ego examines reality vicariously, without suffering the consequences of possible errors.

So the intellect is a little like a computer simulation.

The ego uses the intellect to simulate various causes of actions and their consequences.

And then it decides, the ego decides, how to achieve its ends and the attendant gratification, how to consequently reduce anxiety.

The intellect is what allows the child to anticipate the world, what makes the child believe in the accuracy and high probability of these predictions.

It renders the world less hostile, more predictable.

It is through the intellect that the concepts of laws of nature, predictability through order, these concepts are introduced through the intellect, causality, consistency, they are all mediated through the intellect.

But the intellect is best served with an emotional complement, a garnish of emotions.

Your picture of the world and of our place in the world emerges from experience, but experiences both cognitive and emotional.

Socialization is a verbal communicative element, but decoupled from a strong emotional component, it remains a dead letter.

Ask any psychopath.

An example.

The child is likely to learn from his parents and from other adults that the world is predictable, it is law abiding, it is orderly.

However, if his primary objects, in other words, his mother, his father, adult role models, if his primary objects caretakers, if they behave in a capricious, discriminating, unpredictable, unlawful, abusive or indifferent manner, this operates what the child does learn to expect from the world.

It hurts and the conflict between cognition and emotion then becomes powerful, overpowered, it is bound to paralyze the ego functions of the child.

The accumulation and retention of past events is a prerequisite for both thinking and judgment.

Both are in care if one's personal history contradicts the content of the superego and the lessons of the socialization process.

Narcissists are victims of such a glaring discrepancy between what other figures in their lives infringe and their contradictory behavior and causes of action.

Many adults let down children by saying one thing and behaving differently when the walk is not the talk.

Once victimized, the narcissist swears no more. He will not be a victim anymore. He will do the victimizing. He will become the abuser. He will be the superior figure that has the power to inflict pain on others.

As a decoy, the narcissist presents to the world his false self, but he false praying to his own devices, internally impoverished, undernourished, emotionally isolated, cushioned to the point of suffocation.

The true self degenerates, decays.

The narcissist wakes up one day to find that he is at the mercy of his false self, that he has been bodysnatch, that he is being abused as much as his victims are.

Everyone and her mother-in-law are now experts on cluster B personality disorders. It's all the rage. It's a money spinner.

So here's a message to these self-styled experts.

Autistic thinking is not the same, as autism spectrum disorder or more generally autism.

Autistic thinking has little to do with autism, despite the label.

Here's a piece of free advice.

I usually charge 500 euros an hour and here I'm giving it to you for free.

Go and actually study psychology under Professor Sam Vaknin preferably.

Or much easier and much more pleasant, watch this video to the end and you will be enlightened and educated and edified about autistic thinking and de-reistic thinking.

But not before we travel through multiple service announcements.

Now for those of you who don't want to listen to the service announcements, fast forward, find where the video starts, the actual content starts.

And for those of you who are curious as to what is happening in the esteemed, venerable Professor Sam Vaknin's life, this is for you.

Okay, first of all, my name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm a former visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University, who was still on a Russian Federation. I left when the war started and I'm a long time faculty member in CIAPS, Commonwealth for International Advanced Professional Studies in Toronto, Canada, Cambridge, United Kingdom and an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Here are the service announcements preceding the actual content of the video.

Number one, there's an artificial intelligence channel, artificial intelligence channel called Mindful Wealth Mastery. Link in the description. The channel summarizes the thought, the thinking of public intellectuals such as Jordan Peterson, Yuval Noah Harari and so on and so forth.

And among these public intellectuals, poor humble me. I'm also, my thinking and teachings are also summarized there.

Go to the channel, have a look around and please pay attention to the number of views. Hint hint. Enough Vaknin, enough self-congratulating and self-bragging. People might think that you're a narcissist.

Okay, a pro-poor narcissism. I'm honored and privileged to have been the latest guest in the Human Rights Podcast of the University of Cambridge. The podcast is called "Declarations" and it is put together by the Center of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge. It's available on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify. And again, there's a link in the description.

Now during this podcast, I've suggested a new approach to abuse involving dual concepts, murders versus boundaries. The host was Nima Jayasing and the panelist was Dr. Magyam Tanwir. And we dealt with the discourses regarding personal border violations in mental abuse versus boundary violations. It's very interesting because I identified several behaviors which are not considered abusive as actually abusive.

Go there and listen if you didn't have enough of a Vaknin dose for the day.

Overdose on Vaknin is the new black.


Next, as you well know, or some of you may know, I have a PhD in physics.

So there are several videos I've made about physics.

A theory that I came up with in 1984 in my PhD dissertation is now being elaborated upon by scientists all over the world.

So there are several videos on physics.

There are videos on economics. I used to be an economic advisor to several governments. I used to be the senior business correspondent of United Press International, UPI. I was and am still interviewed widely in all international media lately in Newsweek and RTL, TV, Hungary and so on and so forth. And I'm the current columnist in Brussels Morning, which is a European Union newspaper.

Now, all these contents and materials are available on my Vaknin Musings channel. Vaknin Musings channel.

And again, there's a link in the description.

Another channel that I maintain is about nothingness.

Finally, the last service announcement, I'm uploading academic papers, academic articles that I've published, that I've offered and published. And I'm uploading academic articles and papers where my work is cited. There's a total of 1,500 academic papers where my work has been cited. And I'm uploading all these to my page on

The top 0.5% of 270 million academics around the world. It's a huge honor. And I accept it.

And typically, atypically, I accept it with due humility.

Top 0.5% of all academics in the world confirmed by I'm also a member of their editorial board and other positions.

So these are the service announcements.

As I promised, today we're going to discuss a very fascinating topic, autistic and de-reistic thinking.

But before we go there, I want to mention a school of thought known as activism.

An activism is the proposition that minds arise and take shape through the precarious, self-creating, self-sustaining, adaptive activities of living creatures.

Young creatures regulate themselves by interacting with features of the environment.

Now, the insights of an activism went into my recent IPAM model, intra-psychic activation model.

There's a video on my channel dedicated to IPAM. And there are already a few papers published in academic journals about IPAM.

So an activism is a part of IPAM because it recognizes that the minds of creatures are the outcomes of regulatory or self-regulatory activities in the environment.

Now, the term an action was first introduced in a book called The Embodied Mind co-authored by Varela, Tomson and Roche and published in 1991.

At the time, the authors defined cognition as an action. And they defined an action as the bringing forth of domains of significance through orgasmic activity that has been in self-condition by a history of interactions between an organism and his environment.

Mentality, never mind how complex, never mind how sophisticated.

Yes, even my mentality has to do with living beings dynamically interacting with their environment.

From the activist perspective, minds cannot be described unless you specify all these interactions because they are at the heart of mentality and mentalizing in all their forms.

This leads directly to autistic, interistic thinking because these two types of cognitions are actually divorced from the environment and fly in the face of an activism.

Have fun, Jeladeem, the Jeladot. Look it up.

Interistic thinking, also known as Dereistic thinking, is the topic of today's video.

And what qualifies me to hacktor and preach and chastise and castigate all the plagiarists and self-styled experts out there?

My credentials.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of the first book on narcissistic abuse, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited first published in 1999 when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. I am also a former visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation. And I am a long-term member of the faculty of CIAPS, Commonwealth for International Advanced Professional Studies, with offices in Toronto, Canada, Cambridge, United Kingdom and an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Here you are. You stand the globe with me. Join Vaknin tours.

Okay, Neshamot. Look it up.

Let us delve right in. Enough with the nonsense, Vaknin. Let us delve right in and discuss autistic and Dereistic thinking.

Autistic and Dereistic thinking are ways of relating to reality, to personal experience, to logic itself and to other people, interpersonal relating.

Autistic and Dereistic thinking are fantasy-infused, based on fantasy.

However, they are technically speaking or clinically speaking cognitions.

Autistic thinking, as the name implies, deals with thoughts, with cognitions.

But these cognitions are somehow distorted. These are cognitive distortions.

The autistic thinking is narcissistic and egocentric, self-centered and self-absorbed. That's autistic thinking.

Dereistic thinking is totally fantastic. It revolves around fantasy and daydreaming. It is divorced from reality. It involves impaired reality testing.

Both autistic and Dereistic thinking are self-referential. They cause the individual to withdraw from the world and to focus upon oneself to the exclusion of all others, everything else, and even the logic, order and structure that rule the universe.

So these patients have illogical and idiosyncratic cognitions. Their thinking is very bizarre to the point that often they are misdiagnosed as schizotypal.

But the thinking, or I mean autistic thinking and Dereistic thinking, derive from an overarching and all-pervasive daydreaming or fantasy life.

In other words, they are not isolated figments or mechanisms that are not integrated well into other psychodynamics.

They form a part and parcel and very often the pivot or the axis of the total mental world, psychological universe, inner landscape of the person involved.

In this case, Dereistic cognitions, autistic cognitions actually form the internal universe of the patient so that everything becomes suffused with fantasy, dreams, highly unusual, very specific and unique to the individual thinking, idiosyncratic thinking, very stereotypical or concrete thinking, a defiance of logic and an inability to relate to other people as if they were real.

Of course, if you deny reality, also deny the reality of other people with the exception of plagiarists out there.

Okay, Shoshanim.

So we have a patient.

He is illogical. He is odd. He is weird. He misinterprets his own experience in ways which are delusional or strange. He has a very poor interface with reality. He misjudges reality.

And we have this kind of patient and they infuse people and events around them with completely subjective meanings.

It is on the thin line with psychosis actually because there are strong elements of hyper reflexivity and the usual confusion between internal and external objects.

These patients regard the external world as an extension or projection of the internal one.

Such patients often withdraw completely. They retreat into an inner private realm, unavailable to communicate and to interact with others.

This is very common in specific phases of the narcissistic cycle, for example, the schizoid phase.

And so there is a close affinity between narcissism and autism mediated via autistic thinking.

The narcissist is the only clinical case who engages in both autistic thinking and de-reistic thinking, depending on the phase in the cycle.

So narcissists are like Portman too. They are like a compendium of these types of counterfactual, unrealistic modes of thought and relating to the environment.

People with autism spectrum disorder, they engage in autistic thinking.

Narcissists, as I said, engage in autistic thinking and de-reistic thinking.

But autistic and de-reistic thinking are not limited to these mental disorders.

If we were to consider the belief in God and other supernatural beings as a form of delusional disorder, a mass psychogenic illness, the way I do, that's how I regard this idiotic nonsense.

Well, these are mentally ill people. Religious people are mentally ill. And some of them, not all of them, some of them can easily degenerate into autistic and de-reistic thinking.

For example, many of them believe that God himself is taking care of them specifically, personally, individually, monitors them, micromanages their lives and rewards them or punishes them according to their behavior or misconduct.

This is delusional, autistic, de-reistic thinking, self-absorbed and divorced from reality.

So we have an example of socially acceptable delusions which actually involve de-reistic and autistic thinking.

Similarly, paranoia, paranoid ideation is a form of narcissism. It's grandiose. The paranoid believes that he's at the center of some malign attention, malevolent conspiracy. He is so important that everyone is out to get him, to take him down.

So the paranoid engages in autistic and de-reistic thinking as well.

What I'm trying to say is that autistic and de-reistic thinking are crucial components of many mental illnesses and also many mentally ill but socially condoned behaviors.

Not only religion.

Political movements such as Nazism, for example, or communism, they engaged in autistic and de-reistic thinking. It's an exceedingly dangerous phenomenon.

And one of the main tasks in therapy, in psychotherapy, is to negate or to confront and to ameliorate and to subdue and to suppress and to repress autistic and de-reistic thinking by somehow confronting them with countervailing information, data and evidence.

This is precisely what is done, what we do in cognitive behavior therapy.

I'm not a therapist, I'm a counselor, but this is what is done in CBT.

So autistic and de-reistic thinking, if you go one level down and if you accept that emotions are a subspecies of cognitions, then of course autistic and de-reistic thinking would affect emotions as well.

More precisely, access to emotions.

Autistic and de-reistic thinking would deny the patient access to his emotions because emotions would be perceived as out there, external part of reality.

And so there will be a gap or a chasm or a schism, an internal fragmentation of the patient where, for example, the narcissist cannot access positive emotions and is left only with negative affectivity.

Access to emotions is totally denied in the case of the psychopath.

And in the case of the borderline, there's emotion dysregulation, which is also a direct outcome of misjudging her emotions, weighing them improperly, again involving autistic and de-reistic thinking.

It's a much neglected field and could be the key for future advances in the study and treatment of claustrophobic personality disorders, hopefully not by self-styled experts, their mothers in law and other plagiarists.

Ego is not pride. Ego is not vanity. Ego is not hotiness. Ego is not arrogance.

Do not listen to self-styled online gurus who have no idea what they're talking about. Ego is a construct postulated by Sigmund Freud as part of his model of the psyche.

The main role of the ego is to interface with reality and prevent us from doing crazy, id-driven things.

But the ego has many other functions, among them impulse control, regulation, and mental and many others.

Today's compilation, starting with this new video, will review, I'm going to review, all the functions of the ego.

And I'm going to start with the most important function by far, reality testing.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm a former visiting professor of psychology, currently on the faculty of CIAPS, Commonwealth for International Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge United Kingdom, Toronto Canada, and what else, Lagos, Nigeria.

Okay, egos and ego-ets.

We are going to discuss today the minefield of the ego.

And it is a minefield for a variety of reasons that I'm going to review.

I'm also going to point out serious mistakes in the literature, including scholarly literature, or maybe especially scholarly literature, starting with the earliest writings.

And I'm going to try to put the very concept of ego and the functions of the ego on more firm footing, at least when it comes to rigor and philosophical internal and external consistency.

Before we go there, I owe some of your response.

In several of my videos, I mentioned that the impact of incest on children is mediated via society.

In other words, the child is also affected by society's reaction to the incest.

Part of the trauma of the incest is actually socially induced in the child.

People ask me, "What do you base yourself on, Mr. Vaknin?"

Well, I'm referring to work by Boris Siralnik, CYRULNIK.

He did some work on resilience in children, and he based a lot of his writing on much earlier work by Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician turned psychoanalyst.

And Donald Winnicott wrote a very famous paper on hate and countertransference.

And within this paper, he made some very, very controversial statements about abused children and actually have a video here dedicated to this paper, and it's about how abused children love and like to be hated.

But apart from that, there was a lot of discussion about incest in Siralnik's work and so on so forth, and I refer you to these studies.

Okay, that's not the topic of today's video.

There are two ways that the ego can malfunction.

And when the ego malfunctions, you lose touch with reality.

You live inside your head.

You revert from externality or externalizing to internality or internalizing.

This is a subversion, a malignancy of a healthy process known as internalization, identification, introjection and incorporation.

The process first described by Melanie Klein later expounded upon by many others, Anna Freud and many others.

So, when the ego goes awry, something happens in the human mind, which I'm going to discuss at length in today's lecture.

But why would the ego malfunction?

What is the source of this breakdown, meltdown of the ego?

Well there too.

Number one, when there is a disruption in the formation of the ego or much later the integration of the ego or the constellation of the ego, depending which school or psychology you belong to.

When there is a disruption, in short, in the normal process of becoming a person, of developing a self, if you want to use this metaphor, self states, if you want to use Bromberg's and my metaphor, doesn't matter.

The metaphor doesn't matter.

The process of becoming you.

When there is a disruption in this process, the ego malfunctions.

This is one type of malfunction.

The other type of malfunction is when there is a misallocation of energy.

Freud postulated the existence of emotional energy, later named kafexis, a term that Freud detested and heated, by the way.

So Freud said that all of us have libido. It's a life force.

Part of it is Eros, which is the sex drive.

But libido is not limited to sex at all.

When it is sublimated, it leads to many other activities.

Generally it's a life force.

So Freud said that we invest libido. We invest libido in objects.

We invest libido in people.

We invest libido in activities.

And this is called libidinal investment, or kafexis.

Now we can invest our libido, our elanvital, our life force.

We can invest it in external objects.

And we can invest it in internal objects, something known as narcissistic kafexis.

But what happens when we are unable to tell the difference between external and internal objects for some reason, then the whole libidinal investment economy goes crazy, goes haywire.

And the libido, this energy is misallocated.

It's very important to understand any libidinal investment, any kafexis, even in external objects, leads to divorce from reality.

The minute your emotions get involved, coupled with your cognitions, of course, but mainly your emotions, that minute you are no longer in reality.

Freud himself suggested that when we libidinally kafex, when we emotionally invest in an external object, something also known as love, we lose sight of the true traits, qualities and features of that external object.

We love blinds us. Love blinds us literally.

We no longer see the object, the external object as she is.

We see only positive elements. We idealize the object.

This leads to object perfection.

And of course, when you love someone and they become totally idealized, then you would have only positive effects.

Freud himself, therefore, suggested, was the first to suggest, that love or any emotional investment in an external object, recognizing, even recognizing the externality and separateness of the external object, even then, leads to a partial divorce from reality, partial detachment from the object as it is.

Yet alone, when the emotional investment is directed inwards, not at external objects, but at internal objects, something known, for example, as megalomania, the precursor to narcissism, paranoia, schizophrenia, much later in the 70s, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder.

In all these cases, the emotional investment is directed inwards, not at an external object, but at internal objects, different types of internal objects in each case.

When our libidinal investment, when our energy is directed at an object, external or internal, we no longer perceive reality as it is, it impairs our reality testing. We regress, it involves regression, because the perception of the world is made of discrete objects is an adult realistic perception, reality principle, reality-based, evidence-based perception.

But the perception of the world is objects with which we are fused and merged and enmeshed. That's an infantile perception.

That is how a newborn would perceive reality. That's how a toddler would perceive reality prior to age 36 months, according to Margaret Mahler.

So, whenever we direct our emotional investment, our libido, whenever we affect an object, we idealize that object, we become in effect one with an object. This is love.

And this is love in the case of an external object, it's narcissistic investment in the case of an internal object.

And this leads to infantile regression founded on magical thinking, the omnipotence of thoughts and the magical power of words.

We become infants.

This is the impossible task of the ego.

If I had to summarize the ego's functions, all of them in one phrase, it is to fight off regression, to avoid regression.

Because regression is very easy. It's very soothing. It's very comforting.

We all want to be babies again, to be taken care of, to be held, to be contained, to be loved unconditionally.

This is the narcissist power.

He offers this to you as his intimate partner or friend.

So we all want this.

And it is the role of the ego to serve as a gatekeeper, to stand in the way of such regression.

One could therefore say something very surprising.

The main role of the ego is to prevent emotional cathexes. I know this is, especially to those of you who are initiated in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic schools and so on, I know this is mind spinning. It's difficult to wrap your mind around, but just bear with me for a minute because everything I'm saying is based on the writings of the giants in the field, as I'm going to delve into a bit later.

Every emotional investment in an external object or in an internal object leads to divorce from reality. That's what Vaknin does for it.

The ego's role is to provide you with reality testing, with a realistic assessment of the environment.

But how can the ego do this if you're emotionally invested in the environment?

Your emotions distort your thinking. Your emotions affect your judgment. Your emotions lead you astray. Your emotions falsify or reframe at the very least reality and your emotions lead ultimately to fantasy.

So the ego fights off your libido, fights off your cathexes, fights off, opposes, rejects, vehemently, assiduously, powerfully, aggressively, fights off aggressively your cathexes.

You can therefore say that the main function of the ego is to de-cathect.

Not cathexes, but de-cathexes.

Ego wants you to withdraw from the environment, to stand back, to put some distance between you and the reality that you have to appraise and assess and evaluate and assimilate.

You need to see reality as it is, objectively, without prejudice, without bias, without idealization, without devaluation, without any emotional reaction.

Ego forces you to de-cathect.

This creates a God Almighty internal dissonance and clash because you want to cathex. You want to fall in love, for example. Or you want to think that you are the greatest of the more brilliant and perfect, if you're a narcissist. You want to cathex. You want to invest your emotions somewhere.

The ego stands in the way.

Therefore, the ego, to some extent, could become your enemy.

If you're inclined to cathex and the ego prevents you from doing this, the ego is a sort of frustration.

A narcissist, for example, they don't tolerate frustration.

So this is another reason that the narcissist does not have an ego.

Whatever ego elements or ego nuclei, to use the language of Gantri, Fairburn and others, whatever ego nuclear exists, the narcissist represses them. He doesn't want them to manifest. He doesn't want an ego.

Narcissist doesn't want reality.

An ego is founded on the reality principle. And ego is another part, and it's a part of the ego, the superego, which the narcissist regards as even more of an enemy.

Narcissism is a rejection of the ego and of the superego. It's a defense against the ego and against the superego.

And luckily for the narcissist, he doesn't have a fully formed, full fledged, fully functioning ego.

So the battle, the dissonance is not as devastating as it could have been, which would have led to psychosis.

Because the narcissist's ego is fragile and fragmented and weak. The internal conflict or dissonance within the narcissist is moderate, mild, manageable.

Had the narcissist's ego been very strong, fully formed, fully functional, the internal battle between the narcissist, megalomania, the narcissist, narcissistic, cathectic in himself and the ego, this battle would have led to psychosis.

Could be an excellent explanation of psychosis.

The narcissist invests emotional energy in himself. He idealizes himself.

This is the essence of grandiosity. He doesn't want to see reality. He doesn't want to know the truth about himself. He doesn't want input from the environment, which is objective and calibrating. He doesn't want any of this, the narcissist.

And here's the ego.

And the ego is doing exactly this, bringing him news from reality, which he hates and detests.

So he hates the ego. He detests the ego and he wants to suppress and repress the ego. He doesn't want to have an ego.

The ego is reality, the narcissist, the narcissist is fantasy.

And when the battle is extreme, the narcissist, the person, not the narcissist, when the battle is extreme between ego and narcissistically bidonal investment, then we have psychosis because the rejection is total.

Something known as a mentia. I'll discuss it a bit later.

Okay. I hope you got this part.

Narcissists are engaged in narcissistic or egocentric self absorption. This is known as autistic thinking. And they are also engaged in fantasy infused cognitions. This is known as de-reistic thinking.

I have a video dedicated to that and in this compilation, I included it in this compilation.

It's reality alienation. It's an estrangement from reality and the only nagging construct within the narcissist, the thing that keeps reminding the narcissist that reality is out there, that they are external objects, that there are consequences, real life consequences to his actions.

That's the ego.

Narcissist hates his ego.

And again, luckily the narcissist's ego is fragmented, infantile, not fully formed.

So the narcissist prevails and the battle is not as ruinous and self destructive as it could have been.

Reality alienation is not limited to narcissism, of course, in hypnoid states, in what is known as twilight states, in all these conditions, mental conditions, we are a bit removed from reality. We are half within our internal world and half in reality or even 90% in our internal world and 10% in reality.

It's a kind of transitional twilight zone.

That's why it's called twilight states.

It's twilight zone between reality and external reality and internal reality.

And in all these conditions, the ego is disabled, deactivated or at the very least dysfunctional.

In very extreme states, we have amantia.

Amantia is de-cathexis, removal of emotional energy from both the internal world and the external world.

You see in narcissism, there is emotional investment. It's inwardly directed. It is narcissistically be-do, but at least there is some emotional investment.

But there are conditions where all emotional investment ceases, stops. There's no more emotional investment, not in the outside, not in the inside.

And then what happens?

A new universe, internal universe emerges.

It's a universe that reflects wish fulfillment. It has no leg in reality and no leg in the internal world.

It's like saying, I'm rejecting reality and I'm rejecting myself.

And now I'm going to reinvent another person, another world, and I'm going to be there. I'm emigrating to another planet. This is known as amantia.

Now the ego is founded on the reality principle. The ego is an evaluator of reality.

Ego ventures out to reality, surveys the scene, collects data and information, amalgamates them within cognitive models, cognitive maps, and brings the results to the host of the ego, to the person.

So the ego goes out and comes back and says, listen, don't do this. Don't act this way because if you do, consequences are going to be dire.

Or the ego goes out and say, you can do this. You can. You just, maybe you feel inferior and inadequate, but you actually can do it.

Or the ego goes out there and says, you know, that's a good person, someone you can trust.

So the ego is the bridge, the interface between the person and reality. Gauging reality is the main function of the ego.

And that is what is known as reality testing.

But the reality principle upon which the ego is founded is predicated, premised on postponement of pleasure.

Freud said that the reality principle is the antithesis of the pleasure principle.

Like the pleasure principle is for kids, for dysregulated people, for crazies, for the pleasure principle, it's instinctive, reflexive, instinctual, I'm sorry, reflexive.

It's a drive, it's a series of drives and it's inexorable and irresistible.

The pleasure principle, animalistic in a way.

Here comes the ego, which is a mature development, which leads us to adulthood.

And the ego teaches us to postpone gratification, to avoid pleasure.

This creates, of course, tension between the wish to please oneself and the realization that one would better not.

So the conflict between the reality principle and the pleasure principle, which takes place within the ego, creates anxiety, creates tension.

But here is something that most of the scholars, all the scholars actually, have missed.

Both the reality principle and the pleasure principle are founded on primary narcissism, on the initial grandiosity of the toddler.

Do you remember when the toddler, when the infant separates from mummy?

The separation requires grandiosity.

The infant says, I can take on the world. I'm godlike. Therefore, I can abandon mummy for a few minutes, of course, and explore the universe or my environment.

This requires a lot of grandiosity.

And together with introversion, which is another process, this leads to what Freud called primary narcissism.

Infant is a narcissist. Infant doesn't have an accurate perception of reality.

The infant underestimates the risks and overestimates its own powers, which is an excellent description of narcissism.

So the infant is a narcissist.

And Freud's mistake, if I'm allowed to criticize the master, is he didn't realize that the reality principle is highly grandiose.

He thought that only the pleasure principle is grandiose.

Freud said that narcissistic investment, narcissistically bidonal investment, leads to the gratification of the pleasure principle at the expense of the reality principle.

And that's where he was completely wrong.

The transition from pleasure principle as an organizing ruling principle to the reality principle as an organizing ruling principle is a transition between less developed grandiosity and more developed grandiosity.

I can prove it to you easily.

The reality principle involves grandiosity because the reality principle says if you delay, if you postpone gratification now, the outcomes in the future would be much better.

So there is an assumption underlying the reality principle that the ego is able to put the future into action. The ego is able to predict future outcomes. It's omniscience. The ego pretends to be omniscient. The ego says, I can tell you what's going to happen in the future. I know the future perfectly. I can predict the future without a fault. I'm never wrong about the future. I'm not going to give you my pleasure.

Ego says, I want to strike a bargain with you. Let's make a deal. You will postpone your immediate reflexive instinctual overwhelming irresistible gratification. You will postpone your pleasure. And I give you my word, says the ego, I guarantee that you will have much more pleasure in the future.

It's a famous marshmallow test. If you don't eat the single marshmallow now, in half an hour, you will get two marshmallows.

But of course, no one can predict the future. Anyone who claims to know the future and anything which claims to know the future are grandiose. These are grandiose, counterfactual, fantasy based claims.

The ego is grandiose in the sense that it pretends to know best. It tells the individual, let me control you. Let me micromanage you. Let me inform you about reality. Let me predict future outcomes because I am perfect. I'm infallible. It could rely on me 100%.

Forget the ego. The ego is an idiot. I am much more than the ego. I'm superior to the ego.

This is a dialogue of a narcissist. This is a monologue of a narcissist.

So for I was wrong.

Both the reality principle and the pleasure principle are grandiose manifestations.

When the ego goes awry, when it malfunctions, it produces outcomes which are manifestly pathological.

For example, catastrophizing in depression.

The ego of a depressed person keeps producing predictions about the future which are catastrophic and horrible.

So you become depressed because your ego keeps generating prophecies about the future which terrify you, which render you hopeless and helpless.

And this is an example of the ego's grandiosity when it's coupled with dysfunction.

Catastrophizing is a form of grandiosity because no one knows the future and yet you pretend to know the future.

Reality testing is the capacity to judge whether your cognitions, ideas and emotions which are forms of cognitions, whether they conform to reality. It's the ability to distinguish what's going on inside your mind from your perceptions, from your sensa, sensory inputs. It's the ability to tell apart fantasy from reality. It's the capacity to determine whether a mental image, a voice, a sensation arise from within yourself or somehow exist in the external world.

This is of course where psychotics fail. They confuse their internal images, their internal voices with the external world, something known as hyper-reflexivity.

Freud who else coined the phrase reality testing?

There's a debate, 1911 probably.

And I will not go into all the history of because there were four transmutations or four transformations of reality testing in Freud's work.

But Freud described reality testing as an emergent property, the outcome of personal growth and development, the ability to dedicate attention, judgment and memory to external phenomena.

Freud did not regard reality testing as an inborn innate trait or dimension or quality.

The newborn does not have reality testing. That's why the newborn can't tell apart himself and mommy. That's why the symbiotic phase, we no longer use the phrase symbiotic phase. I don't know why, by the way, I think it's very accurate and very powerful.

But babies merge with mommy, fuse with her, one with her and one with the world because she brings the world to him. She represents the world, she stands in for the world.

So baby is one with the world. It's oceanic, but it's not real. Baby doesn't have reality testing.

And Freud himself and many others later, Franz Alexander, we'll discuss some Winnicott.

All these giants, they realize the crucial role of reality testing in pathogenesis as well as in therapy, in treatment.

Ideas, experiences such as trauma, they are very frequently repressed. And so they cannot be subjected to rigorous analysis and inspection and examination and treatment.

And so we don't know if these ideas and experiences and memories are accurate because we never test them against reality.

And this is not 5% of your mind. This is 95% of your mind, also known as unconscious. 95% of your mind is never tested against reality.

And yet you inhabit your mind. You're a captive of your mind. You're a resident in your mind. So you are resident in fantasy.

We are all creatures of fantasies. We are all creatures of our dreams. We are all storytellers and spinners of narratives because our interface with reality is exceedingly limited.

Neuroscientific studies, neurobiological studies show that we process about 5% of data that we were exposed to. 95% are relegated to the unconscious, which is never tested against reality.

Ideas, experiences, memories that are repressed are crucial for the maintenance of mental health.

If we, for example, were to experience and re-experience and re-experience trauma, we would fall apart.

Rate traumatization is very dangerous in the wrong hands.

But what happens when we deny reality, when we repress it, at a point in life, in early childhood when we are still incapable to tell the difference between reality and fantasy?

Today as an adult, you can tell the difference between reality and fantasy. You know, for example, that I'm an external object, not an internal object.

But what happens if you're a kid, if you're two years old, and you can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and then for some reason you have to repress, you have to deny, you have to bury a huge amount of pain and shame and memories which were traumatic and experiences which were harrowing and threatening, and you have to bury all this.

These thoughts, these actions, these memories, these emotions, these cognitions that are repressed in you as a kid, as a two-year-old child, as a one-year-old child, as a three-year-old child, they're no longer accessible to reality ever. They're no longer subject to reality testing ever, except perhaps in therapy.

So they all function as unexamined, unrealistic, an unrealistic background, hinterland, and they gradually take over in thoughts and wishes and desires which are related to these repressed memories and ideas and experiences and emotions and cognitions.

These thoughts, wishes, or desires are experienced mostly as figments of fantasy.

Now what happens when you find yourself trapped permanently, perpetually in a fantasy?

Imagine you're in a nightmare and you can't wake up. What happens? Fear, guilt, shame, negative affectivity, confusing thinking with action, magical thinking.

So the people, people who have been exposed to extreme repression and denial and other defense mechanisms, splitting, projection, projective identification, people who have been exposed to all this at a very early age, they're trapped.

They're trapped in an eternal nightmare and they can't ever exit this nightmare.

The ego is disabled and therefore they're denied access to reality.

And so this is an important component of course of psychoanalysis and other psychoanalytic therapies to introduce the patient to his own trapped, globule, capsule, time capsule of fantasy and divorce from reality, but I will not go into it right now.

So reality testing initially has been used to differentiate psychosis from other pathologies.

Allegedly the psychotic had impaired reality testing and had a failure of reality testing while others didn't.

Today we know better. Today we know better.

There are gradations of reality testing. There's more or less impaired reality testing, even home healthy people.

Yet alone, among narcissists, borderlines and so on and so forth, there is extreme failure of reality testing in psychosis, even to the point of dementia, not dementia, but amnesia.

And there's a variety of partial failures or impairments of reality testing in other mental health conditions.

Of course, there is an underlying unspoken assumption here that reality exists. And there's another assumption that we can perceive it. And both assumptions are highly suspect.

Does reality exist? Is this such a thing as objective reality that is not mediated via the senses, that is not fitted into cerebral models in the brain? Is this such a thing?

Do we ever have access to reality as it is, as opposed to reality as it is perceived?

It's an open question.

I just published a polylog with it and such it and with my brother, Shimon Bakhny. It's available on the Good Men's Project. It deals exactly with this issue.

So very clear.

And the second question is, of course, can we perceive reality as it is, even if it does exist as it is, is our perception trustworthy? Can we rely on it?

The answer is, of course not. Our perception is constantly colored by psychological needs and expectations and fears and unconscious fantasies and our mentalities, our psyche.

We never perceive the way an instrument in a laboratory perceives, the way maybe artificial intelligence would perceive one day.

Our perception is mediated, filtered through membranes of emotions and memories and traumas and fears and wishes and hopes and wishes until it's no longer recognisable, until reality is no longer recognisable.

So how can we test reality? How can we use rational judgment to assess the accuracy of certain statements or convictions and so on and so forth? How can we be sure that we are not filtering out, avoiding, upsetting information, information that is countervailing? What about confirmation bias?

When we distort reality, what about cognitive distortions such as grandiosity that we are all subjected to, to some extent?

So reality testing can be suspended, can be distorted.

That's the work of Grossman in 1996.

We do exercise reality testing, of course. Our ego is an automatic pilot, autopilot. We don't control it, we don't say, "Okay, ego off, ego on." It's always there. It always mediates between us, the recesses of our mind, our drives and urges, our instincts and reflexes, our fears and wishes, our shame and guilt, our traumas buried and open wounds, our fantasies.

The ego mediates between all these baggage here and reality all the time on autopilot.

But it doesn't always work.

Reality testing is often suspended.

For example, when you daydream, reality testing is off. When you're watching a movie, reality testing is off.

So we could say that dissociation is the suspension of reality testing.

We could now conflate the two concepts. We could say that when reality testing is suspended to the extent that it never recovers with regards to a specific item in reality, specific piece of information, that's dissociation. It's irreversible suspension that is locus-specific, specific to a memory, specific to an event, specific to a person, specific to an experience. Highly specific, targeted suspension of reality testing is just a definition of dissociation.

The psychoanalytic view of reality testing, of course, is intimately linked with what used to be called in philosophy positivism. There is such a thing as reality out there, independent of us. It's a naive definition of reality. It's external, a possibly perceived landscape. They're irrespective of our perception.

And so, of course, this is wrong, as I made clear.

So reality testing in the writings of Sigmund Freud went through various metamorphoses and transformations and I think it would behoove us to have a look at the development of this genius thinking with regards to this particular concept.

Freud was in the habit of discarding old ideas in favor of new ideas. It's a very bad habit because many of his old ideas were even more potent, more accurate and more amazing and more thought-provoking than his newer ideas. And many of his new ideas were influenced by other thinkers and other scholars and other students, disciples and so on and so forth.

He was a people pleaser, in effect. One could say that Freud was a people pleaser.

Freud postulated that reality testing is an ego function.

And he distinguishes thought from perception. He distinguishes the inner world from external reality. That much hasn't changed in any of Freud's thinking.

He also intimately linked, closely linked reality testing with ego boundaries.

The minute you perceive or you realize the existence of external reality, automatically you acquire a boundary. That's where you end and external reality begins.

Now you begin to see, begin to realize the importance of separation and individuation in personal growth and personal development.

Among other things, separation from money allows the child to develop boundaries. These are the perimeter within which the self coalesces and constellates and becomes.

I've dealt with it in previous videos.

Now Freud has suggested, promulgated four theories of reality testing.

In 1911, 1917, 1925 and 1937.

The first theory was that reality testing provides for a distinction between subjective and objective.

The second theory was that yeah, reality testing provides for this kind of distinction between subjective and objective.

But with a proviso that only the pleasurable is assigned to the ego and everything that is not pleasurable is relegated to the outside world.

So the ego is the seat of pleasure.

In order to sustain the reality principle, in order to force the individual to confront reality, the ego dispenses pleasure.

It's like giving candy to a child.

The ego says, if you were to recognize reality without fear and without prejudice and without bias, you're going to have a lot of pleasure in the future.

And this is of course the ego's grandiosity because no one can predict the future with any certainty and no one has a monopoly on pleasure.

So it was a grandiose view of reality testing.

The third theory of reality testing dated 1925 was that it was the appearance and consolidation of the capacity to genuinely distinguish fantasy from reality and conception from perception, regardless of the drive-based economy of such judgments.

This was a major departure.

What Freud was actually saying, the ego would have emerged regardless of the id and the ego is not concerned with the internal feuds and conflicts and machinations between the various parts of the psyche.

Now, ego is there to guide you bravely and accurately into a properly assessed environment with objective data and the right guidelines.

Ego is evidence-based, contrasted, it's a trusted friend and conciliator, so to speak.

There was 1925, 12 years later, 1937.

Freud came up with the last of his reality testing theories.

He said it's the development of a finer capacity to scan how ones inner biases, internal biases have an impact upon the perceptions and the relationships with people in one's life.

So in 1937, Freud was among the prophets, the ancestors of object relations theories.

Now, that wasn't Freud actually, it was Adler, but okay.

Freud and Adler and others, they were beginning to talk about the psyche, one's psychology is relational, is having to do with other people.

So the main role of reality testing would be to identify biases and distortions and prejudices, realize that they are internal, that they have no bearing on external reality, and then interact with other people in a way which would be reality and evidence-based, in a way which would not reflect internal biases, prejudices, emotions, fears, wishes and so on.

So this was reality testing, it was people-oriented, object-oriented.

The impairment of reality testing, as I said, has many gradations.

Take dreams, for example.

In dreams, of course, reality testing is suspended, but in psychosis, it is lost.

In what he called perversions, no longer accepted in psychology, but at the time, in what he called perversions, the ego has a contradictory attitude towards reality.

One part of the ego accepts reality and one part of the ego denies that reality is real.

This is especially manifest in fetishism.

I will discuss it a bit later.

And then Freud came up with transitional phenomena, where both reality and non-reality coexist, and the issue of reality testing doesn't arise.

One could even say that transitional objects are kind of transitional phenomena, where the imaginary friend is both real, it's reified by an object, a real object like a teddy bear or a blanket.

So the imaginary friend is both real and not real.

And this is the power of the false self in the narcissist and borderline personality structure.

The false self is perceived as out there.

The false self is the only external object in the narcissist world. So it's out there and it's in here. It unifies the internal with the external and therefore the false self is definitely a transitional phenomenon.

Franz Alexander described neurotic characters as pathological personalities. He says neurotic characters function perfectly in life, but they don't always conform to the requirements of reality because they let unconscious infantile attitudes, wishes and representations take over from time to time. Their ego is compromised. The gauging of differences between internal and external worlds is at the core of reality testing.

And this is the single element that survived all the transformations and manifestations of Freud's and many others works.

Tell the difference between external and internal.

And that is why in my work, I keep emphasizing the narcissist's inability to tell the externality and separateness of objects. This is why his reality testing is impaired.

A little known phrase is the reality indicator.

Freud came up with it in the meta psychological supplement to the theory of dreams, which he published in 1960 and in 1970. The reality indicator makes it possible for the psyche to determine whether the experience is present or some memory.

So I don't know if how many of you have asked this question, but how do you know that what you're experiencing right now is real? How do you know it's not a memory? How do you know you're not a butterfly dreaming yourself or yourself during a butterfly? How do you tell these things apart?

And Freud suggested that there is something called a reality indicator and later integrated it with reality testing.

All this is because we are creatures of dreams. We by far default into a state of fantasy.

Healthy people, normal people, not only narcissists.

The difference between healthy people and narcissists, healthy normal people default into fantasy and rebound into reality.

The narcissist's country bound. He is trapped in the fantasy.

And not only is he trapped in the fantasy, he's trying to impose his fantasy on reality itself. He's trying to substitute his fantasy for reality and he's trying to force you to accept this with a shared fantasy, to accept the substitution, counterfactual and demented and fantastic as it is.

The narcissists are at the core of the psyche.

There's a proclivity to hallucinate.

But if previous experiences have been hallucinated, how can we make them present to perception? How can we make sure that what we're experiencing right now is not hallucination?

You see, when you're in a dream, very often you don't know that you're dreaming. And when a psychotic hallucinates, he doesn't know that he's hallucinating. He thinks it's reality.

How do you as a healthy normal person can tell?

Well there is a problem here.

The shocking answer is that you can't be sure that you're getting it right.

There is an instinctual kafexis. You're investing emotional, instinctual and drive energy in this process of interfacing and interacting with reality.

So this fogs up the ego. It blurs. It's like looking through a glass darkly.

The capacity of the ego to differentiate between past and present, internal and external, is hampered, is damaged, is impaired by this emotional instinctual investment, which happens all the time. You can't stop it. It's automatic. The intensity of your emotional investment, of your kafexis, the intensity of your instinctual investment may prevent the ego from differentiating between perception and hallucination.

We could therefore say that psychosis is kafexis out of control.

And we can absolutely safely say this about the narcissism.

The narcissism is cathexis out of control.

And of course we can say this about borderline because borderline is nothing but emotional dysregulation.

All these manifestations and forms of cathexis, gone awry.

Therefore effectively suspending or disabling the ego's ability to tell apart hallucination and fantasy from reality.

The successors of Freud, Winnicott for example, they emphasized another process that contributes to this distinction between reality and fantasy and external and internal.

And this process that has been emphasized by Winnicott and others is that external reality resists fantasized destruction.

That sounds very childish.

Winnicott says, if you want to know if something is reality or fantasy, try to destroy it.

If you cannot destroy it, it's reality. If you can destroy it, it's fantasy, destroy it in the mental sense, in the psychological sense, not with a hammer and not with explosives, but mentally.

If you can undo it, if you can reverse it, if you can deny it, if you can repress it, if you can eliminate it, it's fantasy.

If you can't do any of these things, if your defenses don't work, it's reality.

When Winnicott unwittingly touched upon something very important, reality is about decompensation.

Our defenses work against reality. Defenses are psychological defense mechanisms.

The main role of psychological defense mechanisms is to falsify reality, reframe reality, reject reality, repress reality, destroy reality, but they never succeed.

So this leads to decompensation.

Our psychological defense mechanisms break apart when they are pitted against reality because reality is stronger and objective and out there and untouchable.

So our defenses crumble. They fall apart. They disintegrate.

A process known as decompensation.

That's why I said in an interview, the interview with Michelle Paradis, I said to accept realities, to accept decompensation, to accept realities, to accept pain, loss, shame.

Reality is this. Reality is our inability to defend against it.

It's very hurtful and it is composed of losses, object losses and real losses.

And there's nothing we can do about it.

That's Winnicott's insight. Nothing we can do about it.

Reality, externality can be discovered by its capacities to resist the subject's destructiveness.

It's confers upon the analysis of negative transference, a preponderant role in treatment, but I will not go into it right now.

What about sex?

Is not sex or sexualization the bridge between the internal and the external? Isn't this the secret power of sex?

Sexualizing cognitions.

Sexualizing thought is a process that we observe in many mental health cognitions, mental illness, mental illnesses, mental health conditions.

For example, in obsessional neurosis, we observe the sexualization of thought.

These people derive sexual pleasure from the thinking process, from the content of the thought.

The process of thinking itself is sexualized. The act of thinking becomes sex in obsessional neurosis.

So achieving the result of thinking of the thought is experienced as arousal, sexual satisfaction. The thought is endowed with the power of action, and this is known as omnipotence of thought.

You don't need to have sex, you just need to think of having sex and you are sexually gratified. You are aroused.

This is an example of how even sex, which is 100% action and 100% thought and 100% emotion, it's everything.

Sex is the ultimate act. Even sex can be converted or reduced into magical thinking where thought equals action.

Thought is action and therefore thought is omnipotent. Thought of this kind becomes compulsive because sex is so gratifying, caters so much to the id, id's pleasure principle that it's addictive.

Sex is addictive, so thinking about sex becomes compulsive.

The act of sexual pleasure, which is derived from thought, becomes a prohibition of thought or inhibition of thought.

This is a very important observation.

I'm going to try to explain it.

In immature people, narcissists, obsessive neurotics, other types of immature people or people who have a massive problem with reality testing.

There's a confusion between thinking and action.

This is known as magical thinking, omnipotent thinking, never mind. It's a confusion.

Thinking is perceived as action.

If I think about sex, I'm having sex. If I think that I want someone to die, he would die.

So this is magical thinking.

And so if you become compulsive about sex, if you become a sex addict, and then you tell yourself, "I have to stop thinking about sex," porn addicts say this, "I have to stop thinking about sex," the problem then becomes that because thinking is identified with action, when you try to inhibit or prohibit the sexual pleasure that comes from thinking, you prohibit the thinking itself.

So whenever an individual with impaired reality testing is trying to prohibit the outcomes of his internal world, he prohibits the internal world itself.

I'm going to repeat this a third time because this is a very crucial insight.

You're a narcissist. You're a psychotic. You're an obsessional neurotic, whatever.

And your reality testing is impaired. You can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

So most of your life you spend in fantasy. In fantasy, it's safer, it's more efficacious.

You're immured and immersed in fantasy. Everything that happens happens in your fantasy.

When you think about doing something, you do it in your fantasy.

Therefore, your thoughts and your actions are one and the same because they occur or co-occur in the fantastic space, never outside.

Now there are consequences to these thoughts which are misperceived as actions in the fantastic space.

For example, if you think about sex, it is misperceived as sex and you have the pleasure of having had sex and you develop an addiction.

So if you try to eliminate, to eradicate the consequences of your thoughts, for example, the sexual pleasure that comes out of thinking about sex, you're going to inhibit the thinking about sex.

And if you try to control all the consequences and outcomes of your fantasy-based thinking you're going to inhibit, you're going to switch off the fantasy.

But the fantasy is all there is. You're going to switch off yourself.

Trying to eliminate the consequences of fantastic thinking, autistic thinking, the realistic thinking, trying to eliminate the consequences of fantastic thinking which is misperceived as fantastic action.

This leads to the destruction of the fantasy and because there's only fantasy, there's no reality, it leads to psychosis.

Which kind of psychosis?

A men's share, a men's shell psychosis.

The full dynamic complexity of splitting of the ego between reality and non-reality in these pathological conditions, we can see this in action in fetishism.

Unlike hallucinations, fetishes are not created by denial of reality but by subtle avoidance of reality or reducing reality into a part object.

You reduce reality to fit, to choose, to breath. You reduce reality or in this way you avoid the totality of reality somehow.

So there's symbolic transfer of your cathexis, your emotional investment into some part, part of the body, an object, whatever the case may be.

There are some fetishes we choose. So fetishes are somewhere between hallucination and reality.

Perception, hallucination and perception. Fetishes are kind of bridge between hallucination and perception and they are also the dividing line between psychosis and what Freud called perversion.

The splitting of the ego signals the ego's failure to build constructively on reality testing by interpolating between the instinctual demand and its gratification, the consequences of the envisaged cause of action, whether the repression of the demand or the postponement of satisfaction, they all fail.

So in thought, in cognition, in thinking, the consideration of reality for which real satisfaction is supposed to be gained has a decisive role to play.

So we are beginning to see a substitute for the reality principle.

Sometimes it is not the reality principle that is at play, but the consideration of reality.

And this is not only in mentally ill people. This is known as thought identity. It's not only in mentally ill people.

The current schools of psychology, even non-psycho-analytic schools, non-psycho-dynamic schools, accept that we don't have direct, disintermediated access to reality. What we have instead is thinking that reflects reality more or less accurately, more or less objectively.

So this is thought identity.

Thought identity.

Reality testing regulates actions under the secondary process, but subject to a representation of reality in the mind, a model, if you wish.

So we acquire a psychic apparatus and we kind of integrate it with the reality and pleasure principle.

The pleasure principle and the reality principle continue to operate, especially early on in psychic development. And the reality principle pushes us to renounce instinctual gratifications, to postpone them, to tolerate the resulting instinctual tensions and anxieties.

It's all true and external reality forces this adaptation to real events and subdues instincts.

And all this is still very true.

All these things operate initially, autoerotically, without an extraneous object, and then they're removed from the direct influence of the external world and they're integrated with the pleasure and the reality principle.

And all this, everything I've said until now, is still okay, is still valid, is still true.

But there is a superimposed layer, not only perception, not only fantasy, not only hallucination, not only impairment, not only suspension, not only these things.

Superimposed on all these things is thought, thinking, our thinking mind.

And perhaps this is where narcissists fail the most, because their cognition is distorted.

This control mechanism is not functioning. They don't have proper cognition. They can't superimpose it on all the mayhem and chaos of instincts versus ego versus reality. They can't create a cohesive, coherent structure.

That's why we say that narcissism and borderline personality organizations are chaotic, disorganized. There's no overlord. There's no master, which is essentially the cognition, cognitive process, cognitive map.

The narcissist, instead of cognition, actually has narratives.

Narcissist, for example, has a narrative about himself as superior, perfect, amazing, flawless and godlike. And he doesn't bother to cross-check this narrative with reality via the ego. He adheres to the narrative.

And this narrative is not necessarily fantastic as much as counterfactual. It's a theory of the world which is wrong.

Similarly, the narcissist's theories of mind which are wrong. All of the narcissist's cognitions are distorted, wrong, biased. It amounts to a total cognitive deficit in my view.

So narcissist doesn't have the main instrument, the main tool of self-regulation, self-control, self-awareness, self-acquaintance and ultimately self-efficacy.

The narcissist, in short, not only does not have an ego or a self, he doesn't have a mind.

This is nothing but the vapors or miasma of a truly nightmarish and bad fantasy. There's nothing there but a hollow ground, a projection. You could put your hand through it because it's a phantasm.

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