Background

Why Abuse Survivors are DISBELIEVED: Narcopath’s Double Face (Isolation, Compartmentalization)

Uploaded 12/24/2023, approx. 42 minute read

My name is Sambakhnin and I'm an honorary member of the Hell's Angels.

Oops, wrong video.

My name is Sambakhnin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and you know the rest, visiting professor, currently on the faculty of CEAPs.


Today we are going to ask the question why people disbelieve victims and survivors of abuse? When you try to communicate your experiences, why do people invalidate you?

Some people say you're exaggerating. Others say you're crazy. And quite a few say that you're both.

Why is that?

The experience of having been with the narcissist, of having shared the fantasy, of having teamed up in a couple, in a friendship, in a workplace with a psychopath, these experiences are after all human experiences.

Where's the barrier? Why is it so difficult to accept the veracity and the proportionateness, proportionality of the victims' accounts?

Why do we tend to dismiss the victims, to ignore their testimonies, to play down what had taken place?

The narcissist and the psychopath offer you a tundra, a wasteland of missed opportunities, pain, abuse, coercion, and worse.

And yet, when you have emerged all wounded and bleeding and scarred, there's no one there to hold your hand, simply because people reject and deny the possibility of any of this ever having taken place.

But why is that?

This is the topic of today's video. And as usual, I'm going to introduce you to a few theories in psychology and to some new concepts, or at least concepts new to you, I assume.

Let's start with the psychopath.

You know, in Auschwitz, there were SS people, SS guards, SS commanders, SS bureaucrats, and of course, SS doctors.

These people spent the day killing other people, cremating their remains, breaking apart families, torturing inhumanly.

And then, come evening, it was a nine to five job, come evening, they would go back to their families, to their beloved dogs, to their cherished and sometimes worshipped children, to their wives.

And these people were good fathers. They shed a tear when a dog died. They embraced the children and helped them grow. They played the piano. They were sentimental. They were romantic. They knew how to do intimacy well.

And none of this, none of this was make-believe. This is the crucial fact. These people were not acting the husband. They were not pretending to be a good father. They were great husbands and good fathers and pet owners.

And generally, pillars of the community have helpful members in their societies, altruistic and charitable and giving and kind and caring and all in all, agreeable and nice.

How could they have reconciled what they've been doing throughout the day and sometimes at night when there were transfers of people from all over Europe?

How did they reconcile what they've been doing during the day and this other existence as a normal, empathic, compassionate and affectionate human being?

How did they put the two parts together? Where was the seam line? Where was the boundary? And how did they succeed to cross this border in such a facile manner so easily, almost imperceptibly?

So, this process is known as compartmentalization. I've been asked once if psychopaths are capable of positive emotions. Can they love? Yes. The answer is yes, actually.

Psychopaths are capable of loving, loving deeply. They are capable of acting as good people.

And they compartmentalize their psychopathy, the psychopathic side. It's as if there is a partition which reaches all the way to the stars, which divides them to two people, two persons.

Now, this is not multiple personality disorder because there's no dissociation involved, not even minimal. The psychopath in this case is aware of both his parallel lives. He's aware, fully conscious of what he's doing when he is in the concentration camp or the examination camp or the examination camp and what he's doing at home in the evening with his kids.

So, there's awareness there, there's self-consciousness. And so, the explanation cannot be dissociation. The explanation cannot be dissociative identity disorder, multiple personality. No, that's not the case here.

What's at work is a defense mechanism known as compartmentalization in conjunction with the first cousin of this defense mechanism known as isolation.

We're going to discuss it a bit later. But before we come to these defense mechanisms, it's important to understand that the narcissist and the psychopath divide the world into an in-group and an out-group. They show one face to the out-group. It's a mask, it's a persona, it's play acting, it's thespian, it's not real, it's pretension.

This mask and persona usually are prosocial, communal, altruistic, charitable, kind, nice, loving, caring, saving, rescuing, healing and fixing face. It's the public-facing facade, public-facing shell of the narco-path, the narcissist and the psychopath.

And then there's the in-group. The in-group is the narcissist and psychopath's nearest, if not dearest, a wife, children, close friends, neighbors, colleagues. That's the in-group.

The narcissist with the in-group, the narcissist is actually real, is exactly who he is. That's not the true self.

I've heard self-styled experts saying that the narcissist shows his true self with his intimate nearest and dearest. That's not true at all. The true self is deactivated, disabled, ossified, dead for all intents and purposes, psychodynamically dead. That's not the true self. It's the false self. The narcissist shows, grants access to his false self when he is with his family, when he is with his friends. Then he allows the false self to show. He exhibits the false self. He doesn't firewall it. He doesn't defend it. He doesn't falsify. He doesn't reframe it. He is not defensive.

When he is with the out-group, I don't know, the workplace, church, the authorities, then he acts. That's a mask. That's a persona. That's not who the narco-path is.

So there's an in-group and out-group. And this makes it very difficult for victims and survivors of the narco-path to be credible, to be believed. Because people who have known the narcissist, people who have interacted with the narcissist, they deny the victim's experience. They invalidate the survivor's claims. They say, "What's wrong with you? The narco-path is a nice guy. He's so helpful. He never harmed me." On the very contrary, he lent a helping hand whenever needed. He was caring. He was kind. He was nice.

So the out-group, the experience of the out-group is diametrically opposed to the experience of the in-group. And the members of the in-group, therefore, are never believed by the members of the out-group.

This involves, of course, Machiavellianism, one element in the dark triad and the dark tetrad personalities.

Machiavellianism is a form of manipulativeness, the need to manipulate other people. The belief that the only way to secure beneficial outcomes from the environment is by controlling and manipulating and deceiving and playing with the minds and the power of other people.

So it's a power play. And so within the power play, it's a topsy-turvy world. It's a Humpty Dumpty world.

For example, falling in love is perceived by the psychopath and the narcissist as defeat. Defeat, because catching emotions renders you weak and vulnerable.

And then because they cannot admit that they are weak and vulnerable, they blame the victim. They cast the survivor as a manipulative abuser. You made me fall in love with you. You manipulated me into emotions. I am the victim. You are the abuser, says the narcissist.

The narcissist perceives emotions as weaknesses. And anyone who induces emotions in the narcissist, anyone who causes the narcissistweaknesses. And anyone who induces emotions in the narcissist, anyone who causes the narcissist to experience emotions is an abuser and renders the narcissist a victim.

That is the core belief that underlies narcissistic modification.

So that's an example of the upside down world of the narcissist and the psychopath and why it's extremely difficult to explain to people to somehow communicate to them what's going on.

Because the narcissist will be furious at you precisely because he had fallen for you. The narcissist will resent you and become aggressive and even violent if you offer advice and help and support.

Because offering advice implies that he is not all-knowing, he is not omniscient. Offering support implies that he is not all-powerful. So that is considered, offering help and support and advice are considered to be attacks. They are considered to be aggressive acts intended to humiliate and shame the narcissist and the psychopath.

They would react very badly to this. So it's all a mirror image of the world. The world is among normal healthy people. Offering advice is commendable. Offering support and help are nice acts, kind acts.

But with the narcissist and psychopatheverything is exactly the opposite.

For example, the only time the narcissist and psychopath would become honest with you, the only time they would communicate to you what's going on inside themselves is when they are ready to discard you, when they are ready to move on, or when they are planning to destroy you, somehow to harm you or damage you, then they don't care anymore to put up the facade.

So they allow themselves to be totally honest about who they are, what they want, their emotions, their cognitions and everything.

The only time you gain real access to the internal world of the narcissist and psychopath is when something is afoot, something not good.

So what I'm trying to tell you is you are disbelieved because the narcissist and the psychopath show one face, which is public facing, one face to the outside and one face inside.

There's an in-group and out-group. And the behavior of the narcissist and psychopaths are very different with the out-group, totally opposed to their behaviors with the in-group.


Second thing, in the distorted sick minds of narcissists and psychopaths, everything is reversed.

So when you try to communicate it to normal, healthy people, they just can't grasp it. When you tell a normal, healthy person, "I offered my narcissist advice and he became very aggressive," no one would understand this. It's not possible to communicate this. It's so sick, so outside the purview and remit of a typical experience of a human being.

And narcissists and psychopaths also engage in decoy behaviors. They behave in ways that attract attention elsewhere, distract, like slight of hand of a magician.

So while you are focused on one thing, the real events are taking place elsewhere and you end up miscommunicating what has happened and so on.

So this is the general background where you're just disbelieved.

But how does a narcissist and how does a psychopath manage this? How do they pull this through? How do they succeed in maintaining this parallel, double life, two concurrent personalities, which are mutually exclusive, have nothing in common?

How do they succeed to do this without dissociation and without egotistony, without discomfort, without a sense of dissonance, without the feeling that something is wrong, something is awry, something is not as it should be?

Narcissists and psychopaths are not dissonant. Mostly they're egosyntonic. As long as things go well, of course, they become highly dissonant and egotistonic and depressive when things go bad.

But when things as long as things go well, they're okay with themselves. They don't feel that anything's wrong. But how can you murder 20,000 people during the day and then play with your kids and make love to your wife and not feel that anything's the matter?

Not feel that something is not as it should be. How is this accomplished?

Even more, consider for example, comorbidities, someone who is both a narcissist and a borderline.

Borderline is the exact opposite of narcissism. In narcissism, there's no empathy and the narcissist has no access to his positive emotions.

In borderline, there is empathy, although diminished, and there is too much access to positive emotions.

Positive emotions overwhelm and swamp the borderline. She becomes dysregulated.

So how can someone have narcissism and borderline, a very common comorbidity?

Again, the answer is compartmentalization and isolation.


Similarly, malignant narcissism.

Malignant narcissism involves psychopathy, sadism and narcissism.

But narcissism and psychopathy are the exact opposite, actually.

The narcissist relies on other people for the regulation of his sense of self-worth.

So the narcissist is exactly like the borderline, is dependent upon other people, upon external regulation.

The psychopath, on the other hand, couldn't care less about narcissistic supply.

He doesn't give a hoot about other people. He's a lone wolf in many cases.

So how could someone be both a psychopath and a narcissist?

How can we put together these comorbidities?

Again, the answer is compartmentalization.

Okay, it's time to explain to you, start to discuss compartmentalization and isolation.

And bear in mind all these questions that I've raised about comorbidities, about psychopathic behavior followed by loving behavior, about all these discrepancies, all these splits in the same individual.

Bear this in mind when I discuss the defense mechanisms known as compartmentalization and isolation.

These are defense mechanisms and they are at the heart, they enable, they're the engine behind multiple very phenomena that are very relevant to cluster B or generally to personality disorder.

So for example, compartmentalization and isolation is defense mechanisms.

They are the foundation of dissociation, of splitting.

Even when you concentrate on something, when you focus on something or your attention is riveted by something, actually you are compartmentalizing.

Similarly, cognitive dissonance is often resolved via compartmentalization and isolation.

I mentioned comorbidities and self-states.

I encourage you to watch my video on IPAM, the intrapsychic activation model.

Self-states also involve compartmentalization and isolation because many self-states are mutually exclusive.

Think for example about coping with death.

You know that you're going to die. All of you are going to die. I have breaking news for you, recent discovery, I'm going to die also.

Everyone is going to die, but we forget about death. We put it aside. We lock it in a box behind a partition, behind a wall with no window. We continue with life. We proceed with our affairs and petty squabbles and arguments and plans and goals as if there's no tomorrow, as if we're never going to die.

That's an example of compartmentalization.

Similarly, addictions like alcoholism, situation is bad at home. There's strife, there's acrimony, there is dysfunction in your marriage with your children, with your wife, with your husband. And so you immerse yourself in your work, your overwork, keeping busy, working, thereby forgetting about home and its problems.

That's a form of compartmentalization.

And so compartmentalization is a bit like role play, but in compartmentalization, you usually play two roles. One role is grounded in reality, and one role is surrealistic. One role is dreamlike, is not also experienced as fully real.

And the other role is real. One role is internal, responsive to changes in the internal environment. And one role is external, responsive to changes or mutations in the outside environment.

So these are characteristics of compartmentalization and isolation.

But what are these defense mechanisms?

We've just seen how important, how crucial they are. They allow us to survive in effect.

That's an example of compartmentalization.

Compartmentalization is a defense mechanism in which thoughts and feelings that seem to conflict or to be incompatible are isolated from each other in separate and apparently impermeable psychic compartments in the mind.

In classical psychoanalytic tradition, compartmentalization emerges in response to fragmentation of the ego, which ideally should be able to tolerate ambiguity and ambivalence.

So when we witness extreme compartmentalization, we can be pretty sure this underlying mental illness or severe mental health problem.

That's why narcissists and psychopaths compartmentalize all the time. That's why they are capable of leading two lives, six lives, nine lives.

And it's very reminiscent of multiple personality, but it's not because they are fully aware of what's happening.

Isolation.

I'm reading you definitions from the American Psychological Association dictionary.

Isolation in psychoanalytic theory, a defense mechanism that relies on keeping unwelcome thoughts and feelings from forming associative links with other thoughts and feelings with the result of the unwelcome thoughts and feelings are rarely activated.

So isolation is when you have a thought, when you have a feeling that is very uncomfortable, very good, is stunning, very dissonant.

You don't want to have this feeling. You don't want to have this thought. So what you do, you isolate them and you do not link them to any other thought or feeling.

And so they remain deactivated.

This is isolation and compartmentalization.

As you can see, they are close cousins.

I'm going to mention something regarding psychoanalysis. I'm going to come back to it a bit later.

Isolation is a defense mechanism. The subject isolates a thought, a cognition, an emotion, an event, and prevents it from becoming a part of the continuum of significant experience.

So it's like in isolation, we slice off uncomfortable facts, uncomfortable thoughts, uncomfortable emotions.

We do not integrate it into our experience. Of course, this creates discontinuities.

And that's why compartmentalization and isolation are the defense mechanisms that put together yield dissociation, lead to dissociation.

Freud wrote in 1926, when something unpleasant has happened to the subject, or when he has done something which has a significance for his neurosis, the subject interpolates an interval during which nothing further must happen, during which he must perceive nothing and do nothing.

The experience is not forgotten, but instead it is deprived of its affect and its associative connections, are suppressed or interrupted so that it remains as though isolated and is not reproduced in the ordinary process of thought.

Isolation very frequently occurs in session, especially in obsessional neurosis.

I have a video dedicated to it.

And it's very reminiscent of repression in hysteria. It's connected to splitting, connected to dissociation.

But make no mistake about it. Compartmentalization and isolation are much more foundational.

Dissociation and splitting are defense mechanisms that are derivative, that are secondary.

For example, the baby is unable to accept the fact that mother could be frustrating, that mother could be a bad object. Baby wants to eat, wants to suckle. Baby wants attention. Baby is wet. Baby is hungry.

And yet, mother is not paying attention to baby or does not immediately gratify baby, doesn't cater to baby's needs immediately.

So that infuriates baby, the frustration and so on. But he cannot accept that mother is a source or could be a source of frustration.

In other words, that she is bad.

So what baby does, he compartmentalizes the experience of hunger and he isolates it. He puts it aside in order to preserve the all good mother. Only later, when this becomes impossible, because there have been too many instances of frustration, or because of frustration to become very deep, only then baby is unable to continue to isolate and compartmentalize.

And instead, what baby does, he splits. He uses compartmentalization and isolation, combines them, and then he doesn't isolate the event. He doesn't isolate the feelings he has. He doesn't isolate his many cognitions. He doesn't isolate the experiences. He isolates himself from mother and mother from himself. He becomes all bad. Mother becomes all good.

So for the first time, he is unable to integrate mother. And so there's splitting.

Splitting, of course, leads later on to separation and divisuation and so on and so forth.

You can see the crucial importance of compartmentalization and isolation as defense mechanisms.

Once the baby has split the unitary entity that mother used to be, baby begins to realize mother's externality. The fact that mother is separate, that he is not mother and mother is not him.

In other words, the baby then begins to understand that there's an external world out there which leads baby to separate, individually, and to object relations.

But initially, the baby just compartmentalizes and isolates, puts aside everything that bothers him up to a point.

Okay.

Similarly, I mentioned that compartmentalization and isolation are at the core of dissociation.

When you act in an isolated moment in a way that logically defies your own moral code, or when you're engaged in a duty or a chore that is extremely unpleasant, but I mean like horrible, dis-regulated, or when you have an urge and desire that you reject, that are either socially unacceptable, cannot be sublimated, or somehow contradict your self-image or self-perception.

Or when you want something very much, but there's no way you could get it. In all these cases, you would tend to compartmentalize. You would tend to put these things aside somehow, isolate them, lock, put them in a room and lock the door and throw the key, box them in.

But if the situation, the unpleasant situation, the egotistonic situation, the dissonant situation, the uncomfortable situation, the threatening situation, if they continue, if they become more intense, then at some point the only solution would be to dissociate them, to cut them off, to forget about them, and then to repress the information.

So dissociation and repression.

Another solution, of course, is to pretend that you're not there, depersonalization, or that this is not really happening, derealization.

These are all dissociative defenses, and dissociation is founded on compartmentalization and isolation, taken to extreme.

The irony is that splitting and dissociation and projection, same with projection, and all these mechanisms, especially infantile primitive defense mechanisms, they are all founded on compartmentalization and isolation.

There are extensions of exaggerations, or magnifications, or amplifications of compartmentalization and isolation on the one hand, and on the other hand, they negate compartmentalization and isolation.

They take over. They replace the substitute for compartmentalization and isolation.

So there's a lot of conflict involved in the transition from compartmentalization and isolation to splitting, to dissociation, to splitting, to projection.

There's a lot of conflict involved in this, because when you compartmentalize and isolate, you don't lose your memory. You don't, and because you have continuous memory, you have a sense of selfhood, a sense of personhood, a sense of core uninterrupted, continuous, continuous core identity, not disjointed, but joined together.

In short, you have a sense of yourself, of becoming, of being.

When you compartmentalize and isolate, at no point do you feel estranged from yourself, alien, not you.

But when you begin to split, when you transition from compartmentalization and isolation to splitting, to dissociation, to splitting, and projection, this creates inner conflict, dissonance, very often cognitive dissonance.

And to avoid cognitive dissonance, the mental comfort and anxiety caused by having conflicting values, conflicting cognitions, conflicting emotions.

To avoid cognitive dissonance, again you need to resort to compartmentalization and isolation.

So it's a very ironic, or if you wish, a form of ironic rebound. It's a very ironic circle.

You start with compartmentalization and isolation.

When you're overwhelmed, overwhelmed, too much discomfort, too much fear, too much strength, too much unpleasantness, too much frustration, too much, when you're overwhelmed, you transition from compartmentalization and isolation.

You discard them, you transition to more extreme forms of dissociation, splitting, and projection.

But this creates dissonance, because you know that what you're doing is not okay, not true, not fair, not fact-based, not evidence-based.

Deep inside you know this.

So then to resolve the dissonance, you resort yet again to compartmentalization and isolation.

So it's a cycle. It's a cycle.

Whenever you're confronted with abuse, with trauma, with fear, with threat, etc., etc., you start off by compartmentalizing the information that is uncomfortable or challenging.

It could be your cognition, your emotions, your experience, events in your environment, other people, etc.

You start off by compartmentalizing, by isolating the effects, by not allowing this information to acquire an emotional power, to be empowered emotionally.

So this is isolation compartmentalization.

And then when this fails, you transition to primitive defenses, and then they create cognitive dissonance, and you go back to compartmentalization and isolation, and the cycle starts all over again.


Now this would explain the vicissitudes, the changes in apparent personality of the psychopath and the narcissist, because at some stages, in some phases, some periods, they're engaged in splitting and projection and projective identification and dissociation and all other defenses, and then owing to internal dissonance, they resort to compartmentalization and isolation, and they appear to be a lot more normal.

They appear to be not themselves, until the frustration accumulates again, or the fear, or the hatred, or the envy, negative affectivity, anger, rage accumulates, threatens to disregard them, and then they engage again in defenses, in classical defenses.

So narcissists and psychopaths fluctuate between compartmentalization isolation and primitive defenses.


Okay.

Psychoanalysis. In psychoanalysis, they consider that isolation separates thoughts from feelings, whereas compartmentalization separates cognitions from each other if they're not compatible.

So compartmentalization is a cognitive distortion, and isolation is an effective defense, divorcing feelings and emotions from thoughts, from events, from experiences, so as not to get dysregulated and overwhelmed.

It is interesting that compartmentalization is a cognitive distortion, because those of you who have been abused by listening to my videos know or recall that grandiosity is a cognitive distortion.

Indeed, grandiosity is actually a form of compartmentalization, because it compartmentalizes reality. It rejects reality. It incarcerates reality. It imprisons reality in a box or in a cell and throws the key.

Grandiosity denies reality, but does not repress it.

So grandiosity is a cognitive mechanism, a way to choose between reality and fantasy cognitively, something known as paracosm.

The choice is cognitive, and it involves compartmentalization in the sense that the two bodies of information, the body of information related to reality as it really is, and the body of information relating to reality as the narcissist wants it to be, fantasy.

So these two bodies are not allowed to get in touch with each other. There's a firewall, there's a partition, and this is compartmentalization.

And we call this process grandiosity.

So compartmentalization is cognitive distortion.

Now, compartmentalization, and to some extent isolation, but mainly compartmentalization. They're linked to another defense known as intellectualization or rationalization, some of you may be acquainted with.

It's justified using pseudo-rational arguments to justify one's conduct, one's choices, one's decision, even when they actually cannot be justified.

And of course, this requires compartmentalization. Again, a rejection of reality, a rejection of accepted morality, a rejection of societal expectations, a rejection of sexual streets, a rejection, isolation, compartmentalization of out there and in here.

This distinction between internal and external. Internally, what I did was justified by the fantasy that I exist in, and this is rationalization. It involves cognitive grandiosity as a cognitive distortion.

And everything that other people have to say, the common sense, the accepted mores, the laws, all these is rejected.

So it's connected to rationalization.

There's a rare phenomenon known as neurotic typing.

Some neurotics, in the classical theory of neurosis, some neurotics divide everything.

Classify everything into mutually exclusive, airtight categories. This is known as neurotic typing.

It's a defense. It's a defense against discrepancies, against conflicts, against dissonance, against disagreement between cognitions, between emotions.

The neurotic is very fragile, very brittle, very broken. And so the defense is by breaking everything into cells and boxes and classifications and so on.

This is known as neurotic typing.

Now, just to be clear, neurosis is no longer an accepted or valid clinical diagnosis nowadays, regrettably.

And so everything I'm telling you right now has to do with schools of thought in psychology that are no longer considered valid and that are highly disputed and debatable.

Otto Könberg, by the way, suggested that the main role of the therapist is to undo compartmentalization.

He called it bridging intervention.

So you have to open these cells, you have to open these rooms, you have to destroy these walls, and you have to connect contradictory compartmentalized components of the patient's mind.

You have to somehow bring together these contradictory emotions, these conflicting cognitions, bring them together fearlessly and allow the patient to integrate them, to create a cohesive, coherent, unitary mind.

Of course, this implies that compartmentalization and isolation create vulnerabilities.

Indeed, the narcissist and psychopath, the quintessence and epitome and reification of compartmentalization and isolation.

They use these mechanisms like hundreds of times a day, unknowingly, of course.

But this renders them very vulnerable.

The narcissist is actually extremely fragile. Pathological narcissism is a compensatory mechanism, compensatory strategy for survival.

The psychopath, on the other hand, pretends that all other people are instruments or tools and that goal orientation would protect him from the onerous risks and dangers of the environment.

And of course, it's an illusion. The psychopath is self-deluding and so does the narcissist.

These are very damaged people. And compartmentalization, which could be in principle positive, could be negative, is never integrated within the psychopath and the narcissist.

They need to constantly compartmentalize, constantly.

For example, the narcissist is constantly exposed to challenges, to his grandiosity. Reality challenges the narcissist's grandiosity.

And of course, reality pushes back against the psychopath in his relentless, ruthless and callous pursuit of goals, forces him to become more and more self-destructive and reckless.

So this inability to integrate emotions and cognitions, to create something that feels like me, a self, a unitary core, an identity, this failure is detrimental, deleterious, is very dangerous.

These vulnerabilities may be hidden, but they undermine any possibility of self-esteem.

That's why narcissists require constant feedback from the environment known as narcissistic supply in order to regulate their sense of self-worth.

Because how can you construct your self-worth if you don't have a self? You need a self. Self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence. There's a self there, you know?

And if you don't have a self, because everything is broken to shards and small pieces and everything is kaleidoscopy and everything is separated from everything via compartments and everything is isolated, you don't have a self.

You cannot have self-esteem, you cannot have self-organization. Personality becomes chaotic and totally disorganized.

And whenever you're confronted as a narcissist or a psychopath with a negative self aspect of some kind, this causes a total collapse, total disintegration.

The brittleness and fragility are enormous because there's no integration, because there's no core, because there's no nucleus.

And this is true also in traumatized people, people with post-traumatic stress disorder and CPT-SD, complex trauma.

They also tend to compartmentalize, positive from negative self-aspects, because people with CPT-SDCPTSD or PTSD, they can't, they're not strong enough to cope with self-criticism, with aspects of themselves which are less than perfect, negative thoughts, negative emotions. They're not strong enough to do this.

So they instantly compartmentalize and isolate these, put them aside and ignore them, aware of them somehow, dimly, but they don't allow the negative aspects or the negative dimensions to be active.

So in PTSD and complex trauma, we have a clinical picture which is very reminiscent of narcissism and psychopathy, actually. Makes it very difficult.

The differential diagnosis is very blurred and very fuzzy.

When you're traumatized, and if you're healthy, a healthy person who's been traumatized, and even if you're not healthy, for example, borderline personality disorder, you're likely to respond with auto-plastic defenses.

You're likely to blame yourself. You're likely to ask yourself, what have I done wrong? How am I guilty? What could I have done differently? And so on.

These auto-plastic defenses trigger in you the bad object. They trigger in you the voices that keep telling you how unworthy you are, how unlovable you are, how bad, how stupid, how ugly and so on.

In the wake of trauma, these voices can be overwhelming and push you even to suicide.

So a major defense against this, the bad object, post-traumatically, is compartmentalization and isolation.

If you ignore the negative aspects of yourself, if you ignore your mistakes, if you ignore your proclivities, if you ignore your negative self-aspects, you can nurture your positive self-concept. You can keep it safe through the use of compartmentalization.

This is especially, by the way, especially true in sexual trauma.


I promised to give you a review of early psychoanalytic literature. And so isolation in psychoanalytic literature is a defense mechanism which is characteristic, as I said, of obsessional neurosis.

The links of a thought, idea, impression or feeling with other thoughts or behaviors are broken. They're broken by means of pauses or rituals or magical formulas or other obsessive-compulsive devices or by means of mild dissociation.

Freud wrote in the Neuropsychosis of Defense, he conceived of defense in hysteria as well as in phobias and obsessions as a form of isolation.

He said defense against the incompatible idea is affected by separating this idea from its effect. The idea itself remains in consciousness even though it is now weakened and isolated because it has no emotional correlate, no emotional power.

There was a famous case of Freud known as the Rat Man. In this case, Freud wrote about isolation.

He didn't name it isolation at that stage, but he wrote about it.

He wrote in this case that in contradistinction to hysteria, where there's amnesia and the amnesia is proof of successful repression, he said in obsessional neurosis, and I'm quoting, "The infantile preconditions of the neurosis may be overtaken by amnesia, though this is often an incomplete one.

The trauma, instead of being forgotten, is deprived of its affective cathexes, deprived of emotions, so that what remains in consciousness is nothing but its ideational content, which is perfectly coherent and is judged to be unimportant."

What he says actually is that when a traumatic event or memory or experience, when a cognition or emotion that you reject, a thought that you find reprehensible, and when you conflict or confront with your own values of self-perception and self-image, when any of these things happen, you could, very often, compartmentalize it.

How do you do that? You don't invest in it emotionally. It becomes a bit of information, like the sun is shining, or today is the 24th of December. It becomes a bit of information.

And without emotions, because it's not associated with emotions, this is the isolation, isolation from emotions.

Because it'sinside. It cannot create, for example, an up-reaction in therapy.

Freud linked isolation as a defense mechanism to other defense mechanisms, including, by the way, another defense mechanism, which I will discuss in the future, called undoing.


Okay. Freud proposed that when an unpleasantness has occurred, or some act of significance to the neurosis has been performed, the person, I'm quoting, "interpolates an interval during which nothing further must happen, during which he must perceive nothing and do nothing." This is reminiscent of the freeze reaction.

But pay attention. Compartmentalization and isolation are not repression. Isolation accomplishes defense without amnesia.

Repression involves amnesia. Repression is dissociative. Isolation is not.

As Freud wrote, "The experience is not forgotten, is not forgotten, but instead is deprived of its effect of the emotions, and its associative connections are suppressed or interrupted, so that it remains as though isolated and is not reproduced in the ordinary process of thought."

It's kind of mini or repression light without the cost of amnesia. Isolating said Freud is involved in the normal exercise of, for example, concentration, fending off what is unimportant or irrelevant to a specific concern.

So, Freud believed that compartmentalization and isolation are daily occurrences, daily defenses.

His daughter, Anna Freud, in 1946, suggested that severing links between associations also isolates ideas from effects, from emotions.

This technique of defense, used in obsessional neurosis, gives rise to the, what she called, "affective blanching" of much of experience.

That means recalling the experience, maybe even in details, but without any emotional reaction.

And she said there's an inordinate emphasis on behavior that has magical significance in severe cases. She's actually referring to obsession compulsion, where rituals fend off catastrophizing, fend off anticipated horrible scenarios of catastrophe.

In 1959, two years before I was born, and I don't believe it's a coincidence, Isla proposed that isolation has two forms. One in which both the separated ideas remain in consciousness. The other form is where an idea can remain in consciousness only as long as it's not associated with an emotion, only as long as its affective charge is not in consciousness.

And so there's been a lot of work done on isolation and compartmentalization, whether it applies to ideas, to actions, to events, emotions, and so on and so on.

Ferdy Hill in 1945 cited instances of the usage of isolation to refer to the separation of the sensual and tender components of sexuality from the more animalistic aspects, to the splitting of good and bad selves and good and bad objects, which is how I use it in my work.

In my work on self-states, isolation and compartmentalization are the first lines of defense against getting in touch with the bad object.

The bad object contains a reservoir of early childhood shame, which is life-threatening. The narcissist spends his entire existence, to his last breath, trying to not get in touch to avoid contact with this reservoir of shame in the bad object.

And one of the more common mechanisms that the narcissist uses in order to not experience this shame and not dysregulate is compartmentalization and isolation.

And what happens with modification is that all the defenses are disabled. There's a process known as decompensation. All the defenses are disabled, including compartmentalization and isolation.

And the narcissist then gets in touch, willingly, unwillingly and involuntarily gets in touch with a shame-infused, shame-immersed bad object inside him, which drives him to dysregulate like a borderline and entertain suicidal ideation.

I'll summarize by describing the seven types of isolation in the literature.

The first original was Ziegmann Freud, as usual, in 1926. He used the term isolation as a defense, which after a painful event has taken place, interpolates an interval during which nothing must happen.

You remember. The second meaning is also Freud. He used the expression or used the word isolation for the capacity to keep irrelevant details away from the mind while concentrating on a task.

I mentioned this as well.

Otto Fenichel in 1939 and later in 1945 used the term isolation for the tendency of the part of some patients to carry on their whole analysis in a peculiar non-conjunction with the rest of their lives.

It's as if the analysis, the therapy, has nothing to do with life. It's a fantasy. It's a paracosa.

So some patients, when they come to some clients, when they come to therapy, they compartmentalize and isolate the therapy.

Fenichel also used the term to describe the occasional delinkage, disconnect between affectionate and sensual currents of love seen in eudopelific, sated neurotics.

Never mind.

The fifth meaning of isolation and compartmentalization is the tendency to keep libidinal and aggressive feelings apart.

You remember that libido is the force of life. It includes errors, which is the force of sex.

Aggression, as Freud later admitted and accepted and acknowledged, aggression is to do with death. It's a death force. It's fanatic. It's destrudo against libido. Or mortido against libido.

So Fenichel suggested that we use isolation and compartmentalization to keep the force of life separate from the force of death.

So, for example, to keep sex separate from aggression, which is a very useful thing to do.

And Anna Freud in 1946 introduced the term isolation of affect, emphasizing that severing the links between an ID and its affective accompaniment, affective charge, also constitutes a form of isolation.

I'll discuss it a bit more later.

And finally, Kurt Eisler, 1959, I mentioned, used the term for this purpose, but also for the egos keeping two related and conscious ideas apart since putting them together would cause anxiety and suffering.

Now, most of these seven usages today are no longer perceived as valid or accurate.

Today we use the term isolation and compartmentalization, even in psychoanalytic literature, in the sense that Anna Freud suggested isolation of affect.

It's a particular subtype of the mechanism called isolation.

This unconsciously operative maneuver, it consists of the ego separating a disturbing or painful event or ID from the feelings that accompany painful events and ideas.

As a result, the individual is left only with an intellectual awareness of the event with not apparent threatening emotions, emotions that threaten stability, inner stability.

And so aggressive thoughts, for example, stabbing someone with a knife, which I'm sure by now most of you would like to do to me, or erotic impulses, the wish to have sex with someone, which I'm sure most of you don't have with me.

This might appear in consciousness as meaningless, feeling less thoughts.

So it neutralizes the emotional charge of certain conditions, which could be socially unacceptable or even criminal or dangerous.

Anxiety and guilt consequent upon such desires are held in abeyance as relation of effect is frequently seen in obsessional personalities.

Finally, I would like to mention a very, very obscure concept from psychoanalysis known as doublet, or doublet in typical American mispronunciation.

Doublet is a designation for the doubling of an object by means of which, for the unconscious, a second object acquires the meaning of the first object.

So two objects with the same meaning instead of one. Two objects are there, and they're both imbued with identical meaning.

So in personal relations, for example, in dreams and creative writing, this leads to a distortion of the perception of reality.

And then there's a need to isolate. There's a need to isolate one of the two.

And so doublet is intimately connected with isolation.

Experiences and characteristics are distributed between two objects. When their appearance in one person would reveal, so if the two were in one person, if you became aware that two objects represent actually the same thing, have the same meaning, this would reveal your wishes and your repetition compulsions, which you would find very uncomfortable, very dissonant, anxiety producing.

So by imbuing two objects with the same meaning, you can actually lie to yourself, you can deceive yourself into believing that there is no forbidden wish here, and there's no repetition compulsion.

And the other case is when the contrariness of your urges and wishes, when they are really, really out of the pail, you know, beyond the pail, they're totally unacceptable.

Then you can't unify these urges and strivings and wishes in a single object, and you split them.

And when you split them, divide them between two objects, they become acceptable suddenly.

So this also involves a form of isolation and compartmentalization.

But I will discuss doublet separately in a separate video, because narcissists and psychopaths do it a lot. They displace, they attribute the same meaning to two objects.

And this way, they don't feel that they're doing anything wrong. They don't feel that they're repeating their actions as if there's no process of learning, no lessons from one's experience.

They split the dividing of the meaning of the misattribution of the same meaning to two objects, create the illusion that it's a new situation.

So there's no repetition, and also creates the illusion that the wish or the urge or the drive are socially acceptable. They're not to be suppressed or repressed by the ego. They're okay.

And this is a mechanism that narcissists and psychopaths do. It's very disorienting, because they behave with two people or two workplaces or two friends or in an identical way when they're actually not identical.

This creates a lot of confusion. No one discusses it. I'll discuss it separately in a separate video.


Wake up. Those of you who fell asleep, which is, I'm sure, the vast majority of the audience.

Okay, it's time to say Merry Christmas and ho ho ho and everything else.

And see you after Christmas, because I, as you can see, am also celebrating.

It's a Jewish holiday for those of you who haven't known, because Jesus was a Jew through and through.

It's something to contemplate over Christmas.

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