Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 63
Narcissism, Pathological Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the Narcissist,
And Relationships with Abusive Narcissists and Psychopaths
Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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1. Interview about Nothingness (News Intervention)
Sam Vaknin ( https://samvak.tripod.com/mediakit.html ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
is Visiting Professor of Psychology, Southern Federal University,
Rostov-on-Don, Russia and Professor of Finance and Psychology in SIAS-CIAPS
(Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies).
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Our focus today is the proposal of “nothingness” in a specific sense by you. To start in negation, what is not “nothingness,” in your sense?
Professor Sam Vaknin:
Nothingness is not about being a nobody and doing nothing. It is not about self-negation, self-denial, idleness, fatalism, or surrender.
Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, what is nothingness?
Nothingness is about choosing to be human, not a lobster. It is about putting firm boundaries between you and the world. It is about choosing happiness - not dominance. It is accomplishing from within, not from without. It is about not letting others regulate your emotions, moods, and thinking. It is about being an authentic YOU.
Jacobsen: How does this nothingness connect to Neo-Daoism and Buddhism?
It would be best to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ePaN70SyM&t=1s
Jacobsen: We live, as many know, in an era of narcissism. You brought this issue to light in 1995, particularly pathological narcissism. What are the roots of the ongoing rise in individual and collective narcissism?
The need to be seen and noticed in an overcrowded and terrifyingly atomized world. Ironically, narcissism is a cry for help, a desperate attempt to reconnect. There is no such thing as an “individual”: we are all the products of our interactions with others (object relations). But, increasingly, technology is rendering us self-sufficient and isolated. So, our social instincts metastasize into narcissism: dominance and hierarchy replace sharing and networking.
Jacobsen: How does one choose happiness over dominance, authenticity over being fake, and humanity rather than lobster-kind, with this form of nothingness?
We need to choose happiness over dominance (be human, not a lobster); Choose Meaning over complexity; Choose fuzziness, incompleteness, imperfection, uncertainty, and unpredictability (in short: choose life) over illusory and fallacious order, structure, rules, and perfection imposed on reality (in short: death); Choose the path over any destination, the journey over any goal, the process over any outcome, the questions over any answers Be an authentic person with a single inner voice, proud of the internal, not the external.
Jacobsen: What is the importance of living a life worth remembering in the philosophy of nothingness?
Identity depends on having a continuous memory of a life fully lived and actualized. At the end of it all, if your life were a movie, would you want to watch it from beginning to end? Nothingness consists of directing your life in accordance with an idiosyncratic autobiographical script: yours, no one else’s. Being authentic means becoming the single story which only you can tell.
Jacobsen: What type of personality or person can accept nothingness in its fullest sense?
Only those who are grandiose are incapable of Nothingness. Grandiosity is the illusion that one is godlike and, therefore, encompasses everything and everyone. Grandiosity, therefore, precludes authenticity because it outsources one’s identity and renders it reliant on input from others (hive mind).
Jacobsen: How is nothingness an antidote to narcissism?
Narcissism is ersatz, the only self is false, others are instrumentalized and used to regulate one’s sense of faux cohering oneness. Nothingness is echt, harking back to the only true, authentic voice, eliminating all other introjects, not using others to regulate one’s internal psychological landscape. Narcissism is alienation, it interpellates in a society of the spectacle. Nothingness gives rise to true intimacy.
Jacobsen: What is the ultimate wisdom in the philosophy of nothingness?
Identify the only voice inside you that is truly you. Peel the onion until nothing is left behind but its smell. Rid yourself of introjected socialization. Become.
Jacobsen: Then, to conclude, what is the motto or catchphrase of nothingness in this sense?
Do unto yourself what you want others to do to you.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Vaknin: Much obliged for having me. Always a pleasure.
2. Questions about Narcissism
The behaviors of the narcissist can be modified, given the right mix of incentives and disincentives. One way is to leverage the narcissist’s grandiosity to accomplish therapeutic goals. Another is to threaten him (or, increasingly, her) with loss or abandonment.
But the core of pathological narcissism is hardened and not amenable to any intervention. The single exception is grandiosity (False Self cognitive distortion) which can be effectively eliminated with Cold Therapy.
This core includes the following seemingly immutable elements:
Confusion between external and internal objects (introjects)
Impaired reality testing
Outsourced ego and ego boundary functions
External locus of control, persecutory objects, and paranoid ideation, hypervigilance
External regulation of inner processes, cognitions, affects, and moods (narcissistic supply)
Approach-avoidance repetition compulsion
No object relations, autoeroticism, solipsism
Objectification and instrumentalization of others, no self- or other-boundaries
Positive affectivity walled off, only negative affectivity expressed
Pathological narcissism is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence. The source of the abuse or trauma is immaterial - the perpetrators could be parents, teachers, other adults, or peers. Pampering, smothering, spoiling, and "engulfing" the child are also forms of abuse - see these:
Narcissistic and psychopathic parents and their children - click on the links:
The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism
No rigorous studies link pathological narcissism to events in utero.
“Dead mother” (Andre Green, 1978) or not “good enough mother” (Winnicott): absent, selfish, depressed, parentifying, instrumentalizing, idolizing, overprotective
Prevents separation-individuation (clinging, punitive)
Intermittent reinforcement (idealizing then devaluing, hot and cold) leads to splitting defenses
Intimidating (not safe or secure base)
Introjections of object-representations (You could conceive of the introjects as a cloud that surrounds the empty schizoid core. Introjects are always active, never silent. They inform the self-states and sometimes trigger them.)
Emotional blackmail and guilt-tripping
Shared psychosis (shared fantasy)
Isolation of the child
Dissociation of positive emotions (acquired as a response to frustration, absence of, and rejection by primary caregivers)
Formation of godlike imaginary friend in a paracosm. Coalesces into the False Self as the True Self loses functionality.
The roles of the False Self during this range of ages are geared more to protect the child and preserve a façade of normalcy than to obtain narcissistic supply (see http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/faq48.html )
Desire for narcissistic supply first appears usually no later than age 6 and, most typically, between the ages of 3 and 4.
It is not clear whether “feeling special or unique” is the outcome of having obtained narcissistic supply – or its cause. But they are inextricably interlinked.
Fluctuations in the sense of self-worth reflect the ebb and flow of narcissistic supply. They are, therefore, entirely reactive. The narcissist’s sense of self-worth – exactly like the stabilization of his disturbed identity – are outsourced (“hive mind”).
10 years old +
Intimate Relationship Cycle (intermittent reinforcement: idealizing then devaluing)
-Co-Idealization: Grooming/Love Bombing/Shared Fantasy
-Devaluation and discard (either owing to divergence from the introject/snapshot or in the wake of attempted bargaining) – download maps here: https://samvak.tripod.com/abuse.html
Narcissistic Mortification (rare):
- Public shaming/humiliation in the presence of meaningful others
- Decompensation (inactivation of all defenses and collapse of the False Self)
- Reframing (“I made this happen” or “Malevolent, persecutory objects made this happen) leads to reboot of defenses and False Self
Anxieties of the Narcissist
Separation insecurity (abandonment or separation anxiety)
Public shaming and humiliation
Success and its attendant demands and expectations
Failure or, more precisely, getting caught or found out in a situation that cannot be explained away, justified, or reframed
Commitment, investment (especially with avoidant-dismissive attachment style)
Loss of control over anything, everything, and everyone
Being ignored or forgotten (“not seen”), obscurity
Relative positioning (inferiority or inadequacy compared to others)
Being in need of advice or help, not being self-sufficient, being dependent, or outmaneuvered
Mortification cannot occur before puberty when the process is socialization is complete and peers becomes the main reference group.
Mortification leads from the False Self to what remains of the True Self (empty schizoid core).
The transition from True Self to False Self involves fantasy, not merely or even mainly dissociation.
Is the dissociation of positive emotions instantaneous or does it occur over a period of time/tries? We don’t know. It stands to reason that it is a process that involves Pavlovian operant conditioning: frustrated attempts lead to emotional numbing and the repression of all emotions attendant upon attachment and bonding.
The dissociation of positive emotions and the formation of the False Self are concurrent and unrelated processes: two strategies to avoid pain and hurt. There is also no universal timetable, it is highly idiosyncratic. But the False Self is fully formed by age 9. These are concurrent defenses and they are processes, not events.
There are multiple treatment modalities which deal with toxic introjects, most notably Gestalt, CBT, shadow work, inner child work, and so on.
Narcissists want to get rid of their inner critic/internal introjects
But, emboldening and empowering the narcissist may render him more abrasive, exploitative, dysempathic, and antisocial. The introjects keep him in check.
The narcissist’s anxieties depend on the specific content of the introjects. Every individual has different introjects. Introjects criticize and berate and foster anxieties, not fear.
Narcissists mostly would have separation insecurity (abandonment anxiety). They have identity disturbance, but it is efficaciously masked with the pseudo-identity of the False Self. They are unlikely to experience any other source of anxiety on the lost above.
By far the greatest anxiety is associated with an anticipated inability to secure narcissistic supply:
3. Interview about Narcissism (News Intervention)
Prof. Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited (Amazon) as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction. He is Visiting Professor of Psychology, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia (September, 2017 to present) and Professor of Finance and Psychology in SIAS-CIAPS (Centre forInternational Advanced and Professional Studies) (April, 2012 to present). Here we talk briefly about his work on narcissism, generally.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Your raison d'être is narcissism. "Narcissism" is rooted in the Greek myth of Narcissus. Narcissus rejected a nymph, Echo. His punishment: eternal love with his reflection in water. Narcissists, as you state, love their reflection, not themselves. This raises the distinction between the False Self and the True Self. What distinguishes the False Self from the True Self?
Professor Sam Vaknin:
The True Self is the unconstellated (unintegrated) precursor to the Self. It includes introjected object-representation (voices and inner objects – “avatars” – which represent caregivers, such as parental figures).
Abuse during the formative years disrupts the integration of the True Self and its replacement by a False Self: a godlike construct that performs several functions.
1. It serves as a decoy, it "attracts the fire". It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By inventing it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation – in short: to the abuse – inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a cloak, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.
2. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: "I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment." The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter other people's behaviour and attitude towards the narcissist.
In a full-fledged narcissist, the False Self imitates the True Self. To do so artfully, it deploys two mechanisms:
It causes the narcissist to re-interpret certain emotions and reactions in a flattering, socially acceptable, light. The narcissist may, for instance, interpret fear as compassion. If the narcissist hurts someone he fears (e.g., an authority figure), he may feel bad afterwards and interpret his discomfort as empathy and compassion. To be afraid is humiliating – to be compassionate is commendable and earns the narcissist social commendation and understanding (narcissistic supply).
The narcissist is possessed of an uncanny ability to psychologically penetrate others. Often, this gift is abused and put at the service of the narcissist's control freakery and sadism. The narcissist uses it liberally to annihilate the natural defences of his victims by faking empathy.
This capacity is coupled with the narcissist's eerie ability to imitate emotions and their attendant behaviours (affect). The narcissist possesses "emotional resonance tables". He keeps records of every action and reaction, every utterance and consequence, every datum provided by others regarding their state of mind and emotional make-up. From these, he then constructs a set of formulas, which often result in impeccably accurate renditions of emotional behaviour. This can be enormously deceiving.
Jacobsen: Why does the narcissist love their “reflected-Self,” as in the myth of Narcissus, rather than their True Self?
Because it provides all the above-mentioned functions. For the same reason that people love god. It is a proxy ideal parental figure and it renders the narcissist divine-by-association: omniscient, omnipotent, brilliant, perfect, infallible, and so on. Gradually, the narcissist comes to identify himself (or herself) with the False Self (which started off as a fantastic imaginary friend in a paracosm). Looking at it this way, narcissism is a private religion: the False Self is the deity, the narcissist is the worshipper, and the True Self is the human sacrifice.
Jacobsen: What differentiates the Ego, the Superego, and the Self? What is the nature of narcissism regarding these, in general?
I regard the trilateral model as metaphorical, not as “real” or “objective” in any sense.
The False Self pretends to be the only self and denies the existence of a True Self. It is also extremely useful (adaptive). Rather than risking constant conflict, the narcissist opts for a solution of "disengagement".
The classical Ego, proposed by Freud, is partly conscious and partly preconscious and unconscious. The narcissist's Ego is completely submerged. The preconscious and conscious parts are detached from it by early traumas and form the False Ego.
The Superego in healthy people constantly compares the Ego to the Ego Ideal. The narcissist has a different psychodynamic. The narcissist's False Self serves as a buffer and as a shock absorber between the True Ego and the narcissist's sadistic, punishing, immature Superego. The narcissist aspires to become pure Ideal Ego.
The narcissist's Ego cannot develop because it is deprived of contact with the outside world and, therefore, 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, and to other life crises and circumstances. He is brittle and prone to be broken rather than bent by life's trials and tribulations.
The Ego remembers, evaluates, plans, responds to the world and acts in it and on it. It is the locus of the "executive functions" of the personality. It integrates the inner world with the outer world, the Id with the Superego. It acts under a "reality principle" rather than a "pleasure principle".
This means that the Ego is in charge of delaying gratification. It postpones pleasurable acts until they can be carried out both safely and successfully. The Ego is, therefore, in an ungrateful position. Unfulfilled desires produce unease and anxiety. Reckless fulfilment of desires is diametrically opposed to self-preservation. The Ego has to mediate these tensions.
In an effort to thwart anxiety, the Ego invents psychological defence mechanisms. On the one hand the Ego channels fundamental drives. It has to "speak their language". It must have a primitive, infantile, component. On the other hand, the Ego is in charge of negotiating with the outside world and of securing a realistic and optimal "bargains" for its "client", the Id. These intellectual and perceptual functions are supervised by the exceptionally strict court of the Superego.
Jacobsen: How do narcissists manage the balance between their sadistic superego and False Self?
The irony is that narcissists are “self-less”. The narcissist's True Self is introverted and utterly dysfunctional. In healthy people, Ego functions are generated from the inside, from the Ego. In narcissists, the Ego is dormant, comatose. The narcissist needs the input of and feedback from the outside world (from others) in order to perform the most basic Ego functions (e.g., "recognizing" of the world, setting boundaries, forming a self-definition or identity, differentiation, self-esteem, and regulating his sense of self-worth). This input or feedback is known as narcissistic supply” .Only the False Self gets in touch with the world. The True Self is isolated, repressed, unconscious, a shadow.
The False Self is, therefore, a kind of “hive self” or “swarm self”. It is a collage of reflections, a patchwork of outsourced information, titbits 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. This discontinuity accounts for the dissociative nature of pathological narcissism as well as for the narcissist’s seeming inability to learn from the errors of his ways.
In healthy, normal people ego functions are strictly internal processes. In the narcissist, ego functions are imported from the surroundings, they are thoroughly external. 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 supply as mere extensions of himself and he appropriates them because they fulfil crucial internal roles and, as a result, are perceived by him to be sheer internal objects, devoid of an objective, external, and autonomous existence.
The narcissist is an even more extreme case. His Ego is non-existent. The narcissist has a fake, substitute Ego. This is why his energy is drained. He spends most of it on maintaining, protecting and preserving the warped, unrealistic images of his (False) Self and of 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 present and to plans for the future. It incorporates memory, anticipation, imagination and intellect. It defines where the individual ends and the world begins. Though not coextensive with the body or with the personality, it is a close approximation.
In the narcissistic condition, all these functions are relegated to the False Ego. Its halo of confabulation rubs off on all of them. The narcissist is bound to develop false memories, conjure up false fantasies, anticipate the unrealistic and work his intellect to justify them.
The falsity of the False Self is dual: not only is it not "the real thing" – it also operates on false premises. It is a false and wrong gauge of the world. It falsely and inefficiently regulates the drives. It fails to thwart anxiety.
The False Self provides a false sense of continuity and of a "personal centre". It weaves an enchanted and grandiose fable as a substitute to reality. The narcissist gravitates out of his self and into a plot, a narrative, a story. He continuously feels that he is a character in a film, a fraudulent invention, or a con artist to be momentarily exposed and summarily socially excluded.
Moreover, the narcissist cannot be consistent or coherent. His False Self is preoccupied with the pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist has no boundaries because his Ego is not sufficiently defined or fully differentiated. The only constancy is the narcissist's feelings of diffusion or annulment. This is especially true in life crises, when the False Ego ceases to function.
The narcissist’s superego is comprised of infantile, harsh, sadistic introjects. It is frozen in time, in an early stage of personal development, devoid of reflective self-awareness. It is much closer to the Id and leverages its aggression against the self.
The narcissist is besieged and tormented by a sadistic Superego which sits in constant judgement. It is an amalgamation of negative evaluations, criticisms, angry or disappointed voices, and disparagement meted out in the narcissist's formative years and adolescence by parents, peers, role models, and authority figures.
These harsh and repeated comments reverberate throughout the narcissist's inner landscape, berating him for failing to conform to his unattainable ideals, fantastic goals, and grandiose or impractical plans. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is, therefore, catapulted from one pole to another: from an inflated view of himself (incommensurate with real life accomplishments) to utter despair and self-denigration.
Hence the narcissist's need for Narcissistic Supply to regulate this wild pendulum. People's adulation, admiration, affirmation, and attention restore the narcissist's self-esteem and self-confidence.
The narcissist's sadistic and uncompromising Superego affects three facets of his personality:
1. His sense of self-worth and worthiness (the deeply ingrained conviction that one deserves love, compassion, care, and empathy regardless of what one achieves). The narcissist feels worthless without Narcissistic Supply.
2. His self-esteem (self-knowledge, the deeply ingrained and realistic appraisal of one's capacities, skills, limitations, and shortcomings). The narcissist lacks clear boundaries and, therefore, is not sure of his abilities and weaknesses. Hence his grandiose fantasies.
3. His self-confidence (the deeply ingrained belief, based on lifelong experience, that one can set realistic goals and accomplish them). The narcissist knows that he is a fake and a fraud. He, therefore, does not trust his ability to manage his own affairs and to set practical aims and realize them.
By becoming a success (or at least by appearing to have become one) the narcissist hopes to quell the voices inside him that constantly question his veracity and aptitude. The narcissist's whole life is a two-fold attempt to both satisfy the inexorable demands of his inner tribunal and to prove wrong its harsh and merciless criticism.
It is this dual and self-contradictory mission, to conform to the edicts of his internal enemies and to prove their very judgement wrong, that is at the root of the narcissist's unresolved conflicts.
On the one hand, the narcissist accepts the authority of his introjected (internalised) critics and disregards the fact that they hate him and wish him dead. He sacrifices his life to them, hoping that his successes and accomplishments (real or perceived) will ameliorate their rage.
On the other hand, he confronts these very gods with proofs of their fallibility. "You claim that I am worthless and incapable" – he cries – "Well, guess what? You are dead wrong! Look how famous I am, look how rich, how revered, and accomplished!"
But then much rehearsed self-doubt sets in and the narcissist feels yet again compelled to falsify the claims of his trenchant and indefatigable detractors by conquering another woman, giving one more interview, taking over yet another firm, making an extra million, or getting re-elected one more time.
To no avail. The narcissist is his own worst foe. Ironically, it is only when incapacitated that the narcissist gains a modicum of peace of mind. When terminally ill, incarcerated, or inebriated the narcissist can shift the blame for his failures and predicaments to outside agents and objective forces over which he has no control. "It's not my fault" – he gleefully informs his mental tormentors – "There was nothing I could do about it! Now, go away and leave me be."
And then – with the narcissist defeated and broken – they do and he is free at last.
In the patient with a personality disorder, the sadistic and disparaging inner voices that constitute the Superego (in Freud’s parlance) are implacable. If the patient is successful these introjects, or inner representations (of narcissistic parents, for example), become virulently envious and punitive. If the patient fails in his endeavours, these internalized avatars feel vindicated, elated, euphoric and morally justified in their quest to inflict pain and castigation on the patient.
But why does the patient not resist? Why doesn’t s/he rebel against these embedded tormentors, at least by doubting their omniscience, infallibility, and veracity? Because it feels good to satisfy them (it feels good to cater to mother’s emotional needs and thereby to be a “good boy”, for example). It is a masochistic Stockholm Syndrome, a shared psychosis (follies a plusieurs). The patient doesn’t experiences these harsh juries sitting in judgement over him, his traits, skills, and actions as alien, but as an integral part of himself. Their gratification at his self-immolation is also his.
Jacobsen: What is the fundamental difference between individuals with low to moderate narcissistic tendencies and individuals with a formal diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Len Sperry distinguished between narcissistic style and narcissist disorder. Millon contributed the mezzanine level: narcissistic personality. These are gradations. The differences between these three reflect a higher intensity, all-pervasiveness (effects on all realms of life) and the escalation of the effects of the various narcissistic behaviors and traits on the individual and on his human environment.
Jacobsen: Narcissism comes with internal processes and externalized behaviours, including abusive. What is the internal landscape, or matrix of cognitive and emotional processes, of a narcissist? What are the externalizing behaviours of narcissism, the signifiers?
Both types of narcissists – overt and covert (fragile, shy, vulnerable, inverted) – are invested in extracting narcissistic supply to regulate their fluctuating sense of self-worth. They also lack empathy.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM, 2013) includes a dimensional model of NPD.
The DSM V re-defines personality disorders thus:
According to the Alternative DSM V Model for Personality Disorders (p.767), the following criteria must be met to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder (in parentheses my comments):
Moderate or greater impairment in personality functioning in either identity, or self-direction (should be: in both.)
The narcissist keeps referring to others excessively in order to regulate his self-esteem (really, sense of self-worth) and for "self-definition" (to define his identity.) His self-appraisal is exaggerated, whether it is inflated, deflated, or fluctuating between these two poles and his emotional regulation reflects these vacillations.
(Finally, the DSM V accepted what I have been saying for decades: that narcissists can have an "inferiority complex" and feel worthless and bad; that they go through cycles of ups and downs in their self-evaluation; and that this cycling influences their mood and affect).
The narcissist sets goals in order to gain approval from others (narcissistic supply; the DSM V ignores the fact that the narcissist finds disapproval equally rewarding as long as it places him firmly in the limelight.) The narcissist lacks self-awareness as far as his motivation goes (and as far as everything else besides.)
The narcissist's personal standards and benchmarks are either too high (which supports his grandiosity), or too low (buttresses his sense of entitlement, which is incommensurate with his real-life performance.)
The narcissist finds it difficult to identify with the emotions and needs of others, but is very attuned to their reactions when they are relevant to himself (cold empathy.) Consequently, he overestimates the effect he has on others or underestimates it (the classic narcissist never underestimates the effect he has on others - but the inverted narcissist does.)
The narcissist's relationships are self-serving and, therefore shallow and superficial. They are centred around and geared at the regulation of his self-esteem (obtaining narcissistic supply for the regulation of his labile sense of self-worth.)
The narcissist is not "genuinely" interested in his intimate partner's experiences (implying that he does fake such interest convincingly.) The narcissist emphasizes his need for personal gain (by using the word "need", the DSM V acknowledges the compulsive and addictive nature of narcissistic supply). These twin fixtures of the narcissist's relationships render them one-sided: no mutuality or reciprocity (no intimacy).
Pathological personality traits
Antagonism characterized by grandiosity and attention-seeking
The aforementioned feeling of entitlement. The DSM V adds that it can be either overt or covert (which corresponds to my taxonomy of classic and inverted narcissist.)
Grandiosity is characterized by self-centredness; a firmly-held conviction of superiority (arrogance or haughtiness); and condescending or patronizing attitudes.
The narcissist puts inordinate effort, time, and resources into attracting others (sources of narcissistic supply) and placing himself at the focus and centre of attention. He seeks admiration (the DSM V gets it completely wrong here: the narcissist does prefer to be admired and adulated, but, failing that, any kind of attention would do, even if it is negative.)
The diagnostic criteria end with disclaimers and differential diagnoses, which reflect years of accumulated research and newly-gained knowledge:
The above enumerated impairments should be "stable across time and consistent across situations ... not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment ... are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma)."
It is important to note that the DSM is used mostly in North America. The rest of the world uses local variants of the ICD.
There is a revolutionary paradigm shift regarding personality disorders in the 11th edition of the ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems), published by the WHO (World Health Organization). Watch this video for more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZB0JE4mzaw
Jacobsen: Those externalized behaviours can be abusive, e.g., narcissistic abuse. What is narcissistic abuse?
In 1995, I coined the phrase “narcissistic abuse” to describe a subtype of abusive behavior that was all-pervasive (across multiple areas of life) and involved a plethora of behaviors and manipulative or coercive techniques.
Narcissistic abuse differed from all other types of abuse in its range, sophistication, duration, versatility, and express and premeditated intention to negate and vitiate the victim’s personal autonomy, agency, self-efficacy, and wellbeing.
The victims of narcissistic abuse appeared to present a clinical picture substantially different to victims of other, more pinpointed and goal-oriented types of abuse. They were more depressed and anxious, disoriented, aggressive (defiant reactance), dissociative, and trapped or hopeless owing to learned (intermittently reinforced or operant conditioned) helplessness. In short: they were in the throes of trauma bonding (Stockholm syndrome), a kind of cultish shared psychosis (folies a deux).
Repeated abuse has long lasting pernicious and traumatic effects such as panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disturbances, flashbacks (intrusive memories), suicidal ideation, and psychosomatic symptoms. The victims experience shame, depression, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, abandonment, and an enhanced sense of vulnerability.
C-PTSD (Complex PTSD) has been proposed as a new mental health diagnosis by Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University to account for the impact of extended periods of trauma and abuse.
Jacobsen: For the most extreme cases of narcissism to the most minute, what are the principles for dealing with them if one cannot enact the no contact rule
Here is a video that describes all the techniques I know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euGhNMifaw8
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Thank you again for your patience and perseverance!
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Narcissism seems lifelong, immutable. You have commented, eloquently, about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the lifetime ‘devoured’ by it, in an Instagram post (vakninsamnarcissist, 2020). Yet, your intervention, Cold Therapy, is effective with Narcissism (and depression). What was the original insight into the first developments of Cold Therapy?
Prof. Sam Vaknin:
That, exactly like Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a post-traumatic condition, a form of complex trauma. So, Cold Therapy is based on two premises: (1) That narcissistic disorders are actually forms of CPTSD; and (2) That narcissists are the outcomes of arrested development and attachment dysfunctions. Consequently, Cold Therapy borrows techniques from child psychology and from treatment modalities which used to deal with PTSD.
Jacobsen: In “Cold Therapy and Narcissistic Disorders of the Self” (Vaknin, 2018), you list “four misconceptions about pathological narcissism.” Why have those been the misconceptions, in particular?
Pathological narcissism is not merely a regression to an earlier childhood developmental phase, although such infantilization is a core psychodynamic of the disorder. There is so much more to it than that!
It is also not only a psychological defense, although narcissistic defenses and cognitive distortions play a key role in the pathology.
Narcissism is not simply an organizing principle or a schema, though, like every addiction (to narcissistic supply, in this case), it helps the addict to make sense of the world (is hermeneutic) and provides goal-orientation and direction. It comes replete with rituals, order, and structure (is an exoskeleton).
Finally, it is not strictly a personality disorder. The personality is intact and highly adaptive. Narcissism is a post-traumatic condition, amenable to trauma therapies. Like in every other form of complex trauma, emotions get dysregulated or repressed and cognitions get distorted.
Jacobsen: How are narcissistic disorders complex post-traumatic conditions, and forms of arrested development and attachment dysfunctions? How are both pampering and punishing a child, or an adolescent, forms of abuse in the creation of a narcissist?
Pathological narcissism is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence. The source of the abuse or trauma is immaterial - the perpetrators could be parents, teachers, other adults, or peers. Pampering, smothering, spoiling, and "engulfing" the child are also forms of abuse because they do not allow the child to separate from the parent and to confront reality as an agent of personal growth and development.
Narcissistic and psychopathic parents and their children - click on the links:
The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism
The early childhood traumas of the narcissist prevent him (or her) from completing the process of separation-individuation. S/he is not permitted to develop boundaries and to become an individual. S/he freezes in time as a Puer Aeternus, a Peter Pan.
The narcissistic child reacts by avoiding the offending and hurtful parent, an insecure attachment style that becomes entrenched throughout the lifespan. He creates the False Self and outsources many Ego boundary functions, rendering him dependent on the appraising gaze of others to buttress his grandiose, inflated self-image. Gradually, he develops an addiction to confirmatory input (narcissistic supply) because he cannot regulate and stabilize his internal environment without it.
Jacobsen: What portions of the nervous system in early childhood and early adolescence seem most impacted by the long-term abuse and trauma to create Narcissism, if known?
Not known. There are many studies about the neuroplastic effects of childhood abuse and trauma on the brain, but none of them is specific to NPD. There are studies about brain abnormalities in Borderline and Antisocial Personality Disorders (psychopathy).
Jacobsen: How are narcissistic disorders interpersonal disorders rather than disorders of the self?
The concept of “individual” which regrettably permeates modern psychology is counterfactual. We are formed fully via relationships with others. To conceive of the Self as an outcome of narcissistic introversion (Jung) is disastrously mistaken.
Disorders of the personality are, therefore, problems in inter-relatedness (as the object theorists in the UK in the 1960s had postulated). Narcissism is no exception. The DSM V has adopted this stance in its Alternate Model of NPD (p. 767). I had been advocating it since 1997.
Jacobsen: What are the goals of Cold Therapy?
The main two therapeutic goals are to render the False Self redundant and so drive it to atrophy (“use it or lose it”) and to eliminate the need for narcissistic supply and the dysphorias that accompany its deficiencies.
In short: to get rid of the grandiosity dimension in Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
To process trauma via skilled reliving (owning the trauma and surviving retraumatization);
To foster more adaptive functioning that is not dependent on outsourced regulation, cognitive distortions (like grandiosity), and artificial constructs (like the False Self);
Replace negative coping (such as avoidance, withdrawal, defiance, or fantasy) with positive coping strategies;
To integrate distressing materials (thoughts, feelings, memories);
To lead to the internal resolution of dissonances, resulting in an equilibrium and homeostasis;
Help the client to evolve life skills such as resilience, empathy, and ego regulation.
Jacobsen: Why are no known, well-established therapies effective in the treatment of narcissistic disorders?
Replaces problem behaviors with constructive ones via conditioning and reinforcement
Changes negative automatic thoughts and schemas that lead to attributional and other biases as well as errors in order to alter problematic behaviors and dysfunctional feelings and behaviors.
Third wave of behavior therapy:
Primacy of therapeutic relationship, learning principles, analyze triggers and environmental cues, explore schemas and emotions, utilize modelling, homework, and imagery.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Developed by Linehan in 1993 to treat BPD, but used with other personality disorders and disorders of mood, anxiety, eating, and substance abuse. It is deployed mainly with female patients in inpatient or residential settings.
Emphasizes emotional and affect regulation rather than cognitions.
Concerned with how were schemas formed via dialectic conflicts: seeks to connect affect and need to cognitive inference processes and belief systems so as to be reinterpreted with greater self-awareness
Identifies fixation or perseveration causes by early developmental deprivation and protective attentional constriction
Examines effects of negative reinforcement through emotional avoidance or inadequate coping skills rewarded through the partial reinforcement effect
Involves individual therapy, group skills training, phone contact, and therapist consultation. Focuses on using validation and problem solving to counter severe behavioral dyscontrol, issues of quiet desperation, problems of living, and reducing incompleteness.
Cognitive Behavior Analysis System of Psychotherapy (CBASP)
Developed by McCullough and adapted by Sperry. Not used with BPD.
Clients learn to analyze life situations and manage daily stressors. They evaluate which thoughts and behaviors prevent desired outcomes.
Elicitation and remediation: questions about the situation, the client's role and functioning in it, and the desired outcome lead to a revision of counterproductive behaviors and cognitions.
Replaces emotional reasoning with consequential one.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Developed by Teasdale.
Fosters aware focus on thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the present with an attitude of acceptance and without analysis or judgment.
Developed by Sperry
Pattern: predictable, consistent, self-perpetuating style of thinking, feeling, acting, coping, and self-defense. Can be adaptive (competent) or maladaptive (inflexible, ineffective, inappropriate, cause symptoms, impair functioning and satisfaction).
Therapy consists of replacing hurtful maladaptive patterns (situational interpretations and behaviors) with helpful adaptive ones.
Developed by Young
Changes maladaptive schemas: 18 enduring and self-defeating ways of regarding oneself and others, arranged in 5 domains. Schemas are perpetuated through coping styles: schema maintenance, avoidance, and compensation.
Schemas can be reconstructed, modified, interpreted, or camouflaged.
TABLE 1.2 Maladaptive Schemas and Schema Domains
Disconnection and Rejection
• Abandonment/Instability: The belief that significant others will not or cannot provide reliable and stable support.
• Mistrust/Abuse: The belief that others will abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage.
• Emotional Deprivation: The belief that one’s desire for emotional support will not be met by others.
• Defectiveness/Shame: The belief that one is defective, bad, unwanted, or inferior in important respects.
• Social Isolation/Alienation: The belief that one is alienated, different from others, or not part of any group.
Impaired Autonomy and Performance
• Dependence/Incompetence: The belief that one is unable to competently meet everyday responsibilities without considerable help from others.
• Vulnerability to Harm or Illness: The exaggerated fear that imminent catastrophe will strike at any time and that one will be unable to prevent it.
• Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self: The belief that one must be emotionally close with others at the expense of full individuation or normal social development.
• Failure: The belief that one will inevitably fail or is fundamentally inadequate in achieving one’s goals.
• Entitlement/Grandiosity: The belief that one is superior to others and not bound by the rules and norms that govern normal social interaction.
• Insufficient Self-Control/Self-Discipline: The belief that one is incapable of self-control and frustration tolerance.
• Subjugation: The belief that one’s desires, needs, and feelings must be suppressed in order to meet the needs of others and avoid retaliation or criticism.
• Self-Sacrifice: The belief that one must meet the needs of others at the expense of one’s own gratification.
• Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking: The belief that one must constantly seek to belong and be accepted at the expense of developing a true sense of self.
Overvigilance and Inhibition
• Negativity/Pessimism: A pervasive, lifelong focus on the negative aspects of life while minimizing the positive and optimistic aspects.
• Emotional inhibition: The excessive inhibition of spontaneous action, feeling, or communication—usually to avoid disapproval by others, feelings of shame, or losing
control of one’s impulses.
• Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness: The belief that striving to meet unrealistically high standards of performance is essential to be accepted and to avoid
• Punitiveness. The belief that others should be harshly punished for making errors.
Developed by Kernberg
Infants form internal representations of self-others (objects) connected via affect. A personality disorder occurs when positive and negative representations fail to integrate later in life. Such splitting affects all relationships, including the therapeutic one.
Transference to the therapist exposes the faulty relationship template and allows for its empathic correction. Identity integration is accomplished as the patient experiences negative emotions in a safe environment.
Developed by Bateman and Fonagy.
Experience secure attachment and enhancing impulse control by empathically and insightfully reflecting on and correctly labelling one’s state of mind, especially one’s powerful emotions, and cognitive errors. This leads to improves relational skills.
Developed mainly by Blocher, Citright, and Sperry
Regards problems in personal growth and needs satisfaction on a dimensional continuum from disordered to adequate to optimal.
Developed by Vaknin
Jacobsen: What are the first steps in formal identification and opening treatments of a narcissist with Cold Therapy?
The client present with a diagnosis of NPD by a clinician.
Cold Therapy consists of the re-traumatization of the narcissistic client in a hostile, non-holding environment which resembles the ambience of the original trauma. The adult patient successfully tackles this second round of hurt and thus resolves early childhood conflicts and achieves closure rendering his now maladaptive narcissistic defenses redundant, unnecessary, and obsolete.
Cold Therapy makes use of proprietary techniques such as erasure (suppressing the client’s speech and free expression and gaining clinical information and insights from his reactions to being so stifled). Other techniques include: grandiosity reframing, guided imagery, negative iteration, other-scoring, happiness map, mirroring, escalation, role play, assimilative confabulation, hypervigilant referencing, and re-parenting. It is proving to be an effective treatment for major depressive episodes (see this article about the link between pathological narcissism and depression and this article about depression and regulatory narcissistic supply in narcissism).
More about the therapy:
Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, as the series of therapy sessions conclude, and as the patient lives out life after Cold Therapy, what are the preliminary outcomes from your early research?
We have been following up on 63 clients over the past 10 years. The results are promising (although the sample is way to small and self-selecting to provide any statistically significant validation to the treatment modality):
Major depression and anhedonia have vanished without a trace, with no remission;
The need for narcissistic supply had disappeared entirely;
The clients have altered their lifestyles radically, had re-established contact with estranged family and friends, and became much more gregarious.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Vaknin: Thank you again for your interest in my work.
Vaknin, S. (2018). Cold Therapy and Narcissistic Disorders of the Self. Journal of Clinical Review & Case Reports, 3(6), 29-36. https://doi.org/10.33140/JCRC/03/06/00005
vakninsamnarcissist. (2020, January 31). [Prof. Vaknin reflects on life with NPD and the creation of Cold Therapy]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/B7-0NCdgQxg/.
 Vaknin’s Instagram post (2020), in full, stated:
What a cruel irony it is
that I have developed Cold Therapy - the first ever effective treatment (cure,
really) for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) - too late to benefit from
I am 59 years old, my health is failing. My mental illness had consumed my life - is still devouring it - as surely as the bush fires ravage homes in Australia, leaving only the ashes of Me behind.
I will block anyone who gives me the feel good New Age crap about how it is never too late in life. Life has an expiry date beyond which it is all blood and tears and stools and wallowing in your own stench of decomposing physical and mental decrepitude. So back off with your American anodyne platitudes about how every age has its charms. Old age sucks 100%. We lie to ourselves about it in order to survive somehow in the face of our own vanishing dismemberment.
NPD is the slowest invisible cancer - but of the soul and mind. It is spiritual AIDS with nothing to abet it. It is all-pervasive, relentless, and merciless. It starts at age 3. It causes people around the narcissist to hurt and torment him purposefully and profusely as a way of getting back at him for his egregious abuse. It is Inferno and I have been its Dante since 1995. No Beatrice can help me, no god, no healer. I have been doomed by my own progenitor to a life of itinerant, profound, debilitating hurt, unlovable, shunned like a leper, feared and loathed and mocked in equal measures.
It is with impotent rage that I bequeath Cold Therapy to a world I care nothing for or about. Rage at the injustice of healing and aiding millions with my pioneering work since 1995 - except the only person who most deserved my love and my devotion and my succor: Sam.
See vakninsamnarcissist (2020).
 Vaknin, in “Cold Therapy and Narcissistic Disorders of the Self” (2018), stated:
a. It is not only a regression to an earlier childhood developmental phase;
b. It is not merely a psychological defense;
c. It is not simply an organizing principle or a schema;
d. It is not a personality disorder.
See Vaknin (2018).
5. Interview on Giftedness and IQ (News Intervention)
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You have been measured three times with a high IQ, an understatement. An IQ between 180 and 190, between ages 9 and 35. You referred to this in some writings, in passing, including pages 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, of epigrams, in an interview with Richard Grannon (2018), with Smashwords (2014), and on a YouTube video answering viewer questions. It has been mentioned in an article by Gavin Haynes (2016), too. With the IQ scores of 185 at age 9, 180 in the army at age 25, and 190 in prison at age 35 (vakninsamnarcissist, 2018; RICHARD GRANNON, 2018), presumably on a standard deviation of 15, what was the reaction of family, friends, peers, community, even the psychometricians or psychologists administering the tests each time?
Prof. Shmuel “Sam” Vaknin:
First, let me clarify than any result above 160 (some say, 140) is not normatively validated: it is rather arbitrary and meaningless because there are so few people to compare with (the sample is way too small). Matrix IQ tests are better at validating higher results, though.
Everyone always loathed me. I am a sadist, so from a very early age, I have leveraged my IQ to taunt people, hold them in contempt, and humiliate them. This did not endear obnoxious me to anyone. My own teachers sought to undermine my academic career, peers shunned or attempted to bully me (they failed), my mother detested me, my father pendulated between being awe-struck and being repelled by me. Both my parents beat me to an inch of my life every single day for 12 years.
Jacobsen: To you, as a scientific person, what defines intelligence?
Anything that endows an individual with a comparative advantage at performing a complex task constitutes intelligence. In this sense, viruses reify intelligence, they are intelligent. Human intelligence, though, is versatile and the tasks are usually far more complex than anything a virus might need to tackle.
Jacobsen: What defines IQ or Intelligence Quotient?
The ability to perform a set of mostly – but not only - analytical assignments corresponding to an age-appropriate average. So, if a 10 year old copes well with the tasks that are the bread and butter of an 18 years old, he scores 180 IQ.
IQ measures an exceedingly narrow set of skills and mental functions. There are many types of intelligence – for example: musical intelligence – not captured by any IQ test.
Jacobsen: What defines giftedness, to you? Even though, formal definitions exist.
Giftedness resembles autism very much: it is the ability to accomplish tasks inordinately well or fast by focusing on them to the exclusion of all else and by mobilizing all the mental resources at the disposal of the gifted person.
Obviously, people gravitate to what they do well. Gifted people have certain propensities and talents to start with and these probably reflect brain abnormalities of one kind or another.
Jacobsen: Inter-relating the previous three questions, what separates intelligence from IQ from giftedness, i.e., separates each from one another?
IQ is a narrow measure of highly specific types of intelligence and is not necessarily related to giftedness. Gifted people invest themselves with a laser-focus to effect change in their environment conducive to the speedy completion of highly specific tasks.
Jacobsen: What defines genius?
Genius is the ability to discern two things: 1. What is missing (lacunas) 2. Synoptic connections.
The genius surveys the world and completes it by conjuring up novelty (i.e., by creating). S/he also spots hidden relatedness between ostensibly disparate phenomena or data.
Jacobsen: How does genius differentiate from intelligence, IQ, and giftedness?
A genius can have an average IQ or even not be analytically very intelligent (not be an intellectual). Some craftsmen are geniuses. Musicians, athletes, even politicians.
Jacobsen: What happens to most prodigies, or adults with exceptionally, profoundly, or unmeasurably high IQ?
A majority of them end badly. IQ is a good predictor of academic accomplishments, but not much else. Character, upbringing, mental illness, genetics, nurture, the environment (including the physical environment), sexual and romantic history matter much more than IQ.
Many “geniuses” with a high IQ (Mensa types) are dysfunctional and deficient when it comes to life, intimacy, relationships, and social skills. Additionally, as Eysenck had correctly observed, creativity is often linked to psychoticism.
Jacobsen: What are the optimal things for raising gifted children and prodigies, and for resuscitating drifting adults with exceptionally, profoundly, or unmeasurably high IQ, if at all possible, to productive and healthy lives?
All interventions are somewhat effective only during childhood and adolescence, up to age 21. Afterwards, it is an uphill battle.
The most crucial thing is to never remove the gifted child from his peer group (as was done to me). I am also dead set against academic shortcuts.
The gifted child should follow the same path as everybody else but feed his voracious mind with extracurricular enrichment programs and materials.
Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?
The usual suspects: Einstein, Newton, Freud, da Vinci, other polymaths who had upended every discipline or field that they had turned their scintillating minds to.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Vaknin: The opportunity is all mine.
Hayne, G. (2016, September 8). I Spent a Day Trying to Get to Know a Real-Life Narcissist. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/nney4k/narcissism-interview-chosen-ones-gavin-haynes.
National Association for Gifted Children. (2019). A Definition of Giftedness that Guides Best Practice. https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Position%20Statement/Definition%20of%20Giftedness%20%282019%29.pdf.
Prof. Sam Vaknin. (2020, September 19). Narcissistic Buffet: Answering Your Questions (Well, Sort of) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiHeS8fMsoE.
RICHARD GRANNON. (2018, September 12). THE SAM VAKNIN INTERVIEW - HOW NARCISSISM IS FORMED IN A CHILD GENIUS & THE HIVE MIND [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W89fG8220D8.
Smashwords. (2014, October 19). Interview with Sam Vaknin. https://www.smashwords.com/interview/samvaknin.
Vaknin, S. (n.d.a). Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 2. samvaknin.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin2.html.
Vaknin, S. (n.d.b). Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 3. samvaknin.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin3.html.
Vaknin, S. (n.d.c). Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 4. samvaknin.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin4.html.
Vaknin, S. (n.d.d). Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 5. samvaknin.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin5.html.
Vaknin, S. (n.d.e). Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 7. samvaknin.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin7.html.
vakninsamnarcissist. (2018, June 13). [Prof. Vaknin provides some biographical information on IQ test scores]. Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj_r-KaAckn/?hl=en.
 Vaknin (2018) in Instagram stated, “My IQ was tested every time I got myself into serious trouble: at age 9 (result: 185), in the army (180), & in prison by an orthodox religious psychologist who made me his pet project (190). There are only 60 people in the world with IQ 185 & only 7 with IQ 190. It gets pretty lonely pretty fast. Being the sadistic asshole that I am, I am fond of saying that the gap in IQ between me & the average human is far bigger than the difference between that human & an orangutan (or a chimpanzee).” See vakninsamnarcissist (2018).
 “Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 2” states:
At the age of 9, I was sent to study in the Technion - Israel's leading technological university. I have been diagnosed with 180 IQ. It was my lowest score in 3 IQ tests I have taken over the decades. There started my love affair with physics…
…At a very early age I discovered that I lack the most basic life and social skills. I had only one thing going for me: my formidable intellect (there are only 6 other people in the whole wide world with my IQ). So, I deployed it to construct a shelter, a bubble, replete with its own rigid rules and defenses intended to shield me from the life-threatening hurt that the world was inflicting on me daily. This bubble was a self-constructed mental asylum with me as the sole inmate…
…Women also feel inferior & inadequate faced with my 190 IQ.
See Vaknin (n.d.a).
 “Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 3” states:
These are for lesser mortals with an IQ score inferior to my stratospheric 190.
See Vaknin (n.d.b).
 “Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 4” states:
There were two of us. I was not alone inside my body. Physiologically, I was supposed to be twins: I have two urethras, two sets of teeth, and, at an IQ of 185, probably double the brain. It’s as though, denied their birth, this duo haunts me, an inbound, coupled poltergeist…
… My IQ - 190 - is literally
off any known chart. There are only 8 people in the entire world with this
level of intelligence and I am one of them.
I used to be so proud of this fact. Now I realize that I am cursed. My IQ is a rare incurable disease…
See Vaknin (n.d.c).
 “Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 5” states:
I have 190 IQ and I make sure that my interlocutors are well appraised of this daunting fact…
See Vaknin (n.d.d).
 “Sam Vaknin's Instagram Epigrams – Page 7” states:
So, I harnessed my formidable intellect - all 190 IQ points of it - to write my user's manual…
…After all, how does one succeed to not bore to tears someone with 190 IQ and encyclopedic knowledge?...
…They run away screaming to the waiting arms of the first man available because they find out that I am a reptile or a computer simulation or a robot with a brain who is about 10 times more potent than an average one (fact: I have 190 IQ). It is like being trapped in a futuristic sci-fi yarn with an alien life form, albeit carbon-based.
See Vaknin (n.d.e).
 See Prof. Sam Vaknin (2020).
 “A definition of Giftedness that Guides Best Practice” (2019) states:
Students with gifts and talents perform - or have the capability to perform - at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential. Student with gifts and talents:
• Come from all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata.
• Require sufficient access to appropriate learning opportunities to realize their potential.
• Can have learning and processing disorders that require specialized intervention and accommodation.
• Need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally as well as in their areas of talent.
• Require varied services based on their changing needs.
See National Association for Gifted Children (2019).
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Sorry for the delay, folks, and Prof. Vaknin, I had some equine (horsey) matters. For those who would like to see previous sessions with Prof. Vaknin, please see the links at the bottom of this session – 5th of 10 so far, the tedious sessions come in print with footnotes and references, so academic accoutrement; the more flowing, natural sessions come from readings by Prof. Vaknin on YouTube. He reads both interviewer and interviewee text, then interprets and interpolates for education and entertainment. Let’s start on a general question, what defines faith and religion? Lots of extant definitions.
Prof. Shmuel “Sam” Vaknin:
Religion is a sublimated (socially acceptable) form of delusional disorder whose contents include a supreme being or power which dictates a code of conduct and sanctions transgressors. Religion is the institutional manifestation of this mental illness, hijacked by psychopaths and narcissists for purposes of attaining power and riches.
Jacobsen: Why is the vast majority of the world beholden to religion or faith, attempts to connect with the so-called transcendent and metaphysical, trying to make their lives isomorphic with their ‘holy’ figures, and so on?
The vast majority of people are in a constant state of anxiety. Religion, mysticism, the occult and affiliated derangements are anxiolytic (mitigate anxiety). They are also forms of escapism from unbearable reality via self-imposed psychotic delusions.
On a deeper level, people use religion and its institutions to constrain evil, antisocial behaviors, and negative affectivity (such as anger and envy). Religion is a pillar of communality and the status quo. Historically, when it had failed in this mission, religion had witnessed the rise of belligerent reformers such as Jesus and Martin Luther.
Jacobsen: Similar to the previous question, though on a different track of thought, what is, and is not, practically useful in religious scriptures, the purported biographies of the lives of religious leaders, and traditional rituals in faiths?
Religion is a mental illness, both individual and collective. The content of its delusions had always been tailored by the elites to rein in the masses.
From the elites’s point of view, religion is, therefore, a useful tool of social control.
From the viewpoint of the masses, it guarantees protections against social unrest, malevolent misconduct, arbitrary subjugation, and injustice. It ameliorates the anxiety and fear that these pernicious social phenomena evoke in individuals and in their collectives.
Religion is indeed “opium for the masses”, but it has its utility in guaranteeing a structured order for all, founded on predictable and reliable ethics and codes of conduct.
Jacobsen: When metaphysicians, religious philosophers, and theologians opine about the existence and attributes of gods, what do these opinions, typically, state about their cognition and reality-testing abilities?
Even renowned scientists, thinkers, and intellectuals can be or become delusional. But it is not as simple as that.
To start with, “religion” is an all-inclusive umbrella term, a big tent. Even among the Abrahamic monotheistic religion, there are vast hermeneutic differences.
The three major monotheistic religions of the world - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - can be placed on the two arms of a cross. Judaism would constitute the horizontal arm: eye to eye with God. The Jew believes that God is an interlocutor with whom one can reason and plead, argue and disagree. Mankind is complementary to the Divinity and fulfills important functions. God is incomplete without human activities such as prayer and obeying the Commandments. Thus, God and Man are on the same plane, collaborators in maintaining the Universe.
The vertical arm of the cross would be limned by the upward-oriented Christianity and the downward-looking Muslim. Jewish synagogues are horizontal affairs with divine artifacts and believers occupying more or less the same surface. Not so Christian churches in which God (or his image) are placed high above the congregation, skyward, striving towards heaven or descending from it. Indeed, Judaism lacks the very concept of "heaven", or "paradise", or, for that matter, "hell". As opposed to both Islam and Christianity, Judaism is an earthly faith.
Islam posits a clear dichotomy between God and Man. The believer should minimize his physical presence by crumbling, forehead touching the ground, in a genuflection of subservience and acceptance ("islam") of God's greatness, omnipotence, omniscience, and just conduct. Thus, the Muslim, in his daily dealings with the divine, does not dare look up. The faithful's role is merely to interpret God's will (as communicated via Muhammad).
But the very concept of “god” – which is a narrative, an organizing principle, and an interpretative-explanatory tenet - is not necessarily incompatible with other dominant constructs, such as science. All human systems of thought rely on beliefs, implicit or explicit.
If neurons were capable of introspection and world-representation, would they have developed an idea of "Brain" (i.e., of God)? Would they have become aware that they are mere intertwined components of a larger whole? Would they have considered themselves agents of the Brain - or its masters? When a neuron fires, is it instructed to do so by the Brain or is the Brain an emergent phenomenon, the combined and rather accidental outcome of millions of individual neural actions and pathways?
There are many kinds of narratives and organizing principles. Science is driven by evidence gathered in experiments, and by the falsification of extant theories and their replacement with newer, asymptotically truer, ones. Other systems - religion, nationalism, paranoid ideation, or art - are based on personal experiences (faith, inspiration, paranoia, etc.).
Experiential narratives can and do interact with evidential narratives and vice versa.
For instance: belief in God inspires some scientists who regard science as a method to "sneak a peek at God's cards" and to get closer to Him. Another example: the pursuit of scientific endeavors enhances one's national pride and is motivated by it. Science is often corrupted in order to support nationalistic and racist claims.
The basic units of all narratives are known by their effects on the environment. God, in this sense, is no different from electrons, quarks, and black holes. All four constructs cannot be directly observed, but the fact of their existence is derived from their effects.
Granted, God's effects are discernible only in the social and psychological (or psychopathological) realms. But this observed constraint doesn't render Him less "real". The hypothesized existence of God parsimoniously explains a myriad ostensibly unrelated phenomena and, therefore, conforms to the rules governing the formulation of scientific theories.
The locus of God's hypothesized existence is, clearly and exclusively, in the minds of believers. But this again does not make Him less real. The contents of our minds are as real as anything "out there". Actually, the very distinction between epistemology and ontology is blurred.
But is God's existence "true" - or is He just a figment of our neediness and imagination?
Truth is the measure of the ability of our models to describe phenomena and predict them. God's existence (in people's minds) succeeds to do both. For instance, assuming that God exists allows us to predict many of the behaviors of people who profess to believe in Him. The existence of God is, therefore, undoubtedly true (in this formal and strict sense).
But does God exist outside people's minds? Is He an objective entity, independent of what people may or may not think about Him? After all, if all sentient beings were to perish in a horrible calamity, the Sun would still be there, revolving as it has done from time immemorial.
If all sentient beings were to perish in a horrible calamity, would God still exist? If all sentient beings, including all humans, stop believing that there is God - would He survive this renunciation? Does God "out there" inspire the belief in God in religious folks' minds?
Known things are independent of the existence of observers (although the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics disputes this). Believed things are dependent on the existence of believers.
We know that the Sun exists. We don't know that God exists. We believe that God exists - but we don't and cannot know it, in the scientific sense of the word.
We can design experiments to falsify (prove wrong) the existence of electrons, quarks, and black holes (and, thus, if all these experiments fail, prove that electrons, quarks, and black holes exist). We can also design experiments to prove that electrons, quarks, and black holes exist.
But we cannot design even one experiment to falsify the existence of a God who is outside the minds of believers (and, thus, if the experiment fails, prove that God exists "out there"). Additionally, we cannot design even one experiment to prove that God exists outside the minds of believers.
What about the "argument from design"? The universe is so complex and diverse that surely it entails the existence of a supreme intelligence, the world's designer and creator, known by some as "God". On the other hand, the world's richness and variety can be fully accounted for using modern scientific theories such as evolution and the big bang. There is no need to introduce God into the equations.
Still, it is possible that God is responsible for it all. The problem is that we cannot design even one experiment to falsify this theory, that God created the Universe (and, thus, if the experiment fails, prove that God is, indeed, the world's originator). Additionally, we cannot design even one experiment to prove that God created the world.
We can, however, design numerous experiments to falsify the scientific theories that explain the creation of the Universe (and, thus, if these experiments fail, lend these theories substantial support). We can also design experiments to prove the scientific theories that explain the creation of the Universe.
It does not mean that these theories are absolutely true and immutable. They are not. Our current scientific theories are partly true and are bound to change with new knowledge gained by experimentation. Our current scientific theories will be replaced by newer, truer theories. But any and all future scientific theories will be falsifiable and testable.
Knowledge and belief are like oil and water. They don't mix. Knowledge doesn't lead to belief and belief does not yield knowledge. Belief can yield conviction or strongly-felt opinions. But belief cannot result in knowledge.
Still, both known things and believed things exist. The former exist "out there" and the latter "in our minds" and only there. But they are no less real for that.
Jacobsen: Of the arguments for the existence of any god, what ones, in a principle of charity, seem the most reasonable? Of the arguments for the existence of any god, what ones, in ignoring the principle of charity, seem the most unreasonable?
Could God have failed to exist (especially considering His omnipotence)? Could He have been a contingent being rather than a necessary one? Would the World have existed without Him and, more importantly, would it have existed in the same way? For instance: would it have allowed for the existence of human beings?
To say that God is a necessary being means to accept that He exists (with His attributes intact) in every possible world. It is not enough to say that He exists only in our world: this kind of claim will render Him contingent (present in some worlds - possibly in none! - and absent in others).
We cannot conceive of the World without numbers, relations, and properties, for instance. These are necessary entities because without them the World as we known and perceive it would not exist. Is this equally true when we contemplate God? Can we conceive of a God-less World?
Moreover: numbers, relations, and properties are abstracts. Yet, God is often thought of as a concrete being. Can a concrete being, regardless of the properties imputed to it, ever be necessary? Is there a single concrete being - God - without which the Universe would have perished, or not existed in the first place? If so, what makes God a privileged concrete entity?
Additionally, numbers, relations, and properties depend for their existence (and utility) on other beings, entities, and quantities. Relations subsist between objects; properties are attributes of things; numbers are invariably either preceded by other numbers or followed by them.
Does God depend for His existence on other beings, entities, quantities, properties, or on the World as a whole? If He is a dependent entity, is He also a derivative one? If He is dependent and derivative, in which sense is He necessary?
Many philosophers confuse the issue of existence with that of necessity. Kant and, to some extent, Frege, argued that existence is not even a logical predicate (or at least not a first-order logical predicate). But, far more crucially, that something exists does not make it a necessary being. Thus, contingent beings exist, but they are not necessary (hence their "contingency").
At best, ontological arguments deal with the question: does God necessarily exist? They fail to negotiate the more tricky: can God exist only as a Necessary Being (in all possible worlds)?
Modal ontological arguments even postulate as a premise that God is a necessary being and use that very assumption as a building block in proving that He exists! Even a rigorous logician like Gödel fell in this trap when he attempted to prove God's necessity. In his posthumous ontological argument, he adopted several dubious definitions and axioms:
(1) God's essential properties are all positive (Definition 1); (2) God necessarily exists if and only if every essence of His is necessarily exemplified (Definition 3); (3) The property of being God is positive (Axiom 3); (4) Necessary existence is positive (Axiom 5).
These led to highly-debatable outcomes:
(1) For God, the property of being God is essential (Theorem 2); (2) The property of being God is necessarily exemplified.
Gödel assumed that there is one universal closed set of essential positive properties, of which necessary existence is a member. He was wrong, of course. There may be many such sets (or none whatsoever) and necessary existence may not be a (positive) property (or a member of some of the sets) after all.
Worst of all, Gödel's "proof" falls apart if God does not exist (Axiom 3's veracity depends on the existence of a God-like creature). Plantinga has committed the very same error a decade earlier (1974). His ontological argument incredibly relies on the premise: "There is a possible world in which there is God!"
Veering away from these tautological forays, we can attempt to capture God's alleged necessity by formulating this Axiom Number 1:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible world) if there are objects or entities that would not have existed in any possible world in His absence."
We should complement Axiom 1 with Axiom Number 2:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible world) even if there are objects or entities that do not exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
The reverse sentences would be:
Axiom Number 3: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible world) if there are objects or entities that exist in any possible world in His absence."
Axiom Number 4: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible world) if there are no objects or entities that exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
Now consider this sentence:
Axiom Number 5: "Objects and entities are necessary (i.e. necessarily exist in every possible world) if they exist in every possible world even in God's absence."
Consider abstracta, such as numbers. Does their existence depend on God's? Not if we insist on the language above. Clearly, numbers are not dependent on the existence of God, let alone on His necessity.
Yet, because God is all-encompassing, surely it must incorporate all possible worlds as well as all impossible ones! What if we were to modify the language and recast the axioms thus:
Axiom Number 1:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible and impossible world) if there are objects or entities that would not have existed in any possible world in His absence."
We should complement Axiom 1 with Axiom Number 2:
"God is necessary (i.e. necessarily exists in every possible and impossible world) even if there are objects or entities that do not exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
The reverse sentences would be:
Axiom Number 3: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if there are objects or entities that exist in any possible world in His absence."
Axiom Number 4: "God is not necessary (i.e. does not necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if there are no objects or entities that exist in any possible world (despite His existence)."
Now consider this sentence:
Axiom Number 5: "Objects and entities are necessary (i.e. necessarily exist in every possible and impossible world) if they exist in every possible world even in God's absence."
According to the Vander Laan modification (2004) of the Lewis counterfactuals semantics, impossible worlds are worlds in which the number of propositions is maximal. Inevitably, in such worlds, propositions contradict each other (are inconsistent with each other). In impossible worlds, some counterpossibles (counterfactuals with a necessarily false antecedent) are true or non-trivially true. Put simply: with certain counterpossibles, even when the premise (the antecedent) is patently false, one can agree that the conditional is true because of the (true, formally correct) relationship between the antecedent and the consequent.
Thus, if we adopt an expansive view of God - one that covers all possibilities and impossibilities - we can argue that God's existence is necessary.
What about ontological arguments regarding God's existence?
As Lewis (In his book "Anselm and Actuality", 1970) and Sobel ("Logic and Theism", 2004) noted, philosophers and theologians who argued in favor of God's existence have traditionally proffered tautological (question-begging) arguments to support their contentious contention (or are formally invalid). Thus, St. Anselm proposed (in his much-celebrated "Proslogion", 1078) that since God is the Ultimate Being, it essentially and necessarily comprises all modes of perfection, including necessary existence (a form of perfection).
Anselm's was a prototypical ontological argument: God must exist because we can conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. It is an "end-of-the-line" God. Descartes concurred: it is contradictory to conceive of a Supreme Being and then to question its very existence.
That we do not have to conceive of such a being is irrelevant. First: clearly, we have conceived of Him repeatedly and second, our ability to conceive is sufficient. That we fail to realize a potential act does not vitiate its existence.
But, how do we know that the God we conceive of is even possible? Can we conceive of impossible entities? For instance, can we conceive of a two-dimensional triangle whose interior angles amount to less than 180 degrees? Is the concept of a God that comprises all compossible perfections at all possible? Leibnitz said that we cannot prove that such a God is impossible because perfections are not amenable to analysis. But that hardly amounts to any kind of proof!
Is God an
external object - or an internal one? Is He a mere voice in our heads - or is
He out there? Psychosis occurs when we confuse and conflate our inner world
with outer reality. In this sense, all religious prophecy is psychotic and all
religious faiths are manifestations of psychosis.
Julian Jaynes (“The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, 1976) was the most forceful advocate of the idea of bicameralism and the bicameral mind: that supernatural revelation was merely how some people experienced a channel of communication between their cerebral hemispheres. Modern day ambient noise, information pollution, stress, and abnormal living conditions in cities served to suppress and extinguish this intracranial exchange, except in cases of schizophrenia. Instead, we developed compensatory introspection, self-awareness, and consciousness.
There is, of course, the added problem of false prophecy: how to tell the ersatz from the echt. Most false prophets are not crooks: they sincerely believe in the authenticity of the provenance of their message and mission.
But does all this really matter? Whether these voices are mere hallucinatory neurological artifacts or the true Word of a god is immaterial as long as they affect the lives of millions, as they all too often do.
mysticism believes that humans have a major role: fixing the results of a
cosmic catastrophe, the shattering of the divine vessels through which the
infinite divine light poured forth to create our finite world. If Nature is
determined to a predominant extent by its contained intelligences, then it may
well be teleological.
Indeed, goal-orientated behaviour (or behavior that could be explained as goal-orientated) is Nature's hallmark. The question whether automatic or intelligent mechanisms are at work, really deals with an underlying issue, that of consciousness. Are these mechanisms self-aware, introspective? Is intelligence possible without such self-awareness, without the internalized understanding of what it is doing?
Kant's third and the fourth dynamic antinomies deal with this apparent duality: automatism versus intelligent acts.
thesis relates to causation which is the result of free will as opposed to
causation which is the result of the laws of nature (nomic causation).
The antithesis is that freedom is an illusion and everything is pre-determined. So, the third antinomy is really about intelligence that is intrinsic to Nature (deterministic) versus intelligence that is extrinsic to it (free will).
The fourth thesis deals with a related subject: God, the ultimate intelligent creator. It states that there must exist, either as part of the world or as its cause a Necessary Being. There are compelling arguments to support both the theses and the antitheses of the antinomies.
Jacobsen: You have written on, or have been interviewed about, religion with references to atheism, anti-theism, and agnosticism. In one interview, you identify as an agnostic. In an article, you identify as an anti-theist. You defined atheism as a religion or another faith, too. With agnosticism and anti-theism as self-identifications while atheism seen as another religion/faith, what is the current reasoning for agnosticism and anti-theism with more time passing from the words in the publications, if any?
"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New, he would be insane"
In answer to your question, I would like to incorporate the full text of reference 4 in your question, amended to reflect my current views.
Is ours a post-religious world? Ask any born again Christian fundamentalist, militant Muslim, orthodox Jew, and nationalistic Hindu. Religion is on the rise, not on the wane. Eighteenth century enlightenment is besieged. Atheism, as a creed, is on the defensive.
First, we should get our terminology clear. Atheism is not the same as agnosticism which is not the same as anti-theism.
Atheism is a religion, yet another faith. It is founded on the improvable and unfalsifiable belief (universal negative) that there is no God. Agnosticism is about keeping an open mind: God may or may not exist. There is no convincing case either way.
Anti-theism is militant anti-clericalism. Anti-theists (such as myself) regard religion as an unmitigated evil that must be eradicated to make for a better world.
I am a militant agnostic when it comes to the question: “Does God exist?”. I have reached the conclusion that there is no way anyone could ever answer this question. The query, as posed, is unresolvable in principle. There is no procedure or theorem that could ever lead to its resolution one way or another.
But God is NOT the same thing as religion. Religion consists of an ensemble of rituals and institutions with a social agenda. I am dead set against it. I am a fundamentalist anti-theist, therefore, not only a militant agnostic.
Authors like Tremblay and even Dawkins label religion a swindle and mental terrorism – befitting epithets, fully validated by its gory history. There seems to be an inextricable link between the belief in the afterlife and immorality, rather than morality.
Many authors castigate religion's intolerance coupled with its ever-shifting philosophical goalposts. Its dogmatism leads to a loss of experiential richness and to negative cognitive consequences to both the believer and his milieu.
Religion scams people with false promises of the hereafter, its texts are objectionable, it is unnatural, and it promotes falsities. In other words, it is a criminal enterprise.
Bogus arguments from design had been dealt with in the works of George Smith, Michael Martin, and Corey Washington: complexity and order do not a design make.
Still, we need to distinguish between established religions and cults or sects. Moreover, theocracy is not merely the rule of religion (lexically correct): in the real world, it is the misuse and abuse of religion by rulers and elites.
The purported existence of God has been scrutinized in a plethora of discoveries, theorems, hypotheses, and theories in the exact sciences and in formal logic.
Consider this example: it can be proven that God cannot and does not exist ("strong atheism") because having a God leads to either meaninglessness or to contradictions or to both. But this is precisely the Gödel theorem: formal logical systems can be either complete or consistent, but never both.
As Freud correctly noted a century ago, religion is a mental pathology. You cannot rationally argue with people whose judgment and reason are suspended. Distinctions between personal and objective beliefs are lost on delusional fanatics.
Religious people have faith in a god because it fulfills basic and entrenched (and unhealthy) emotional needs - not because its existence can or has been proven. We all - even atheists - hold irrational beliefs to some extent. Religion just happens to be a particularly virulent and insidious strain of irrationality.
Jacobsen: If you survey the landscape, not of the traditionally defined as religious but, of the anti-theists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, and the like, what seems like the status of them, e.g., growing and healthy, unhealthy and declining, on the assertive, on the defensive, etc.?
There are emerging battle lines between the regrouping forces of reason and the resurging Dark Ages. This is the real Armageddon that is upon us.
But religion is only one penumbral force which combats rationality and the scientific method. Conspiracy theories; the occult; philosophical schools like deconstruction; political correctness and woke movements; truthism (fake news and misinformation online); the virulent rejection of authority, intellect, and expertise (malignant egalitarianism) – I regard all these as far bigger threats.
Jacobsen: Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, comprise the most significant religious populations in the world, in absolute numbers. Yet, social ideologies and political philosophies seem to metastasize into dogmas, as well. What social ideologies and political philosophies seem as if dogmas akin to religions/faiths, and why? These could include political leaders as religious leaders as part of the examples. You have written on Islam and Liberalism, as two examples in comparisonand contrast.
All ideologies mutate into secular religions with their own churches, hagiography, and rituals. Religions are forms of victimhood movements (martyrology) and all social activism and woke movements tend to become dogmatic and exclusionary, with a claim on possessing a monopoly on the truth.
But there is an especially worrisome contemporary development: the confluence of narcissism, oligarchy, and religion.
I coined the neologism “theochlocracy” to describe the noxious mixture of theocracy and ochlocracy (mob-rule). Yet, as distinct from the former, in a theochlocracy, church and state are constitutionally separated. The power is not in the hands of the clergy, but, putatively, in the hands of the people and its representatives. Theochlocracies are often also democracies. Religion – in all its faux-manifestations – is imposed on non-believers and nonconformists by mobs and by populist collectives or organizations who claim to represent “public opinion”.
These self-appointed tribunals seek to enforce mores and values they deem to be “universal” and indisputable (usually by virtue of their divine and epiphanic origins.) Such is the threat implicit in these proceedings that they often result in self-censorship and self-denial on the part of their targets and victims. Bible – or Qur’an – thumping give rise to terror and to the suppression of free speech and unmitigated self-expression. The penalties for transgressors range from ostracism to physical harm.
On the level of individuals, theochlocracy is a form of malignant narcissism.
The narcissist is prone to magical thinking. He regards himself in terms of "being chosen" or of "being destined for greatness". He believes that he has a "direct line" to God, even, perversely, that God "serves" him in certain junctions and conjunctures of his life, through divine intervention. He believes that his life is of such momentous importance, that it is micro-managed by God. The narcissist likes to play God to his human environment. In short, narcissism and religion go well together, because religion allows the narcissist to feel unique.
This is a private case of a more general phenomenon. The narcissist likes to belong to groups or to frameworks of allegiance. He derives easy and constantly available Narcissistic Supply from them. Within them and from their members he is certain to garner attention, to gain adulation, to be castigated or praised. His False Self is bound to be reflected by his colleagues, co-members, or fellows.
This is no mean feat and it cannot be guaranteed in other circumstances. Hence the narcissist's fanatic and proud emphasis of his membership. If a military man, he shows off his impressive array of medals, his impeccably pressed uniform, the status symbols of his rank. If a clergyman, he is overly devout and orthodox and places great emphasis on the proper conduct of rites, rituals and ceremonies.
The narcissist develops a reverse (benign) form of paranoia: he feels constantly watched over by senior members of his group or frame of reference, the subject of permanent (avuncular) criticism, the centre of attention. If a religious man, he calls it divine providence. This self-centred perception also caters to the narcissist's streak of grandiosity, proving that he is, indeed, worthy of such incessant and detailed attention, supervision and intervention.
From this mental junction, the way is short to entertaining the delusion that God (or the equivalent institutional authority) is an active participant in the narcissist's life in which constant intervention by Him is a key feature. God is subsumed in a larger picture, that of the narcissist's destiny and mission. God serves this cosmic plan by making it possible.
Indirectly, therefore, God is perceived by the narcissist to be at his service. Moreover, in a process of holographic appropriation, the narcissist views himself as a microcosm of his affiliation, of his group, or his frame of reference. The narcissist is likely to say that he IS the army, the nation, the people, the struggle, history, or (a part of) God.
As opposed to healthier people, the narcissist believes that he both represents and embodies his class, his people, his race, history, his God, his art – or anything else he feels a part of. This is why individual narcissists feel completely comfortable to assume roles usually reserved to groups of people or to some transcendental, divine (or other), authority.
This kind of "enlargement" or "inflation" also sits well with the narcissist's all-pervasive feelings of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. In playing God, for instance, the narcissist is completely convinced that he is merely being himself. The narcissist does not hesitate to put people's lives or fortunes at risk. He preserves his sense of infallibility in the face of mistakes and misjudgements by distorting the facts, by evoking mitigating or attenuating circumstances, by repressing memories, or by simply lying.
In the overall design of things, small setbacks and defeats matter little, says the narcissist. The narcissist is haunted by the feeling that he is possessed of a mission, of a destiny, that he is part of fate, of history. He is convinced that his uniqueness is purposeful, that he is meant to lead, to chart new ways, to innovate, to modernise, to reform, to set precedents, or to create from scratch.
Every act of the narcissist is perceived by him to be significant, every utterance of momentous consequence, every thought of revolutionary calibre. He feels part of a grand design, a world plan and the frame of affiliation, the group, of which he is a member, must be commensurately grand. Its proportions and properties must resonate with his. Its characteristics must justify his and its ideology must conform to his pre-conceived opinions and prejudices.
In short: the group must magnify the narcissist, echo and amplify his life, his views, his knowledge, and his personal history. This intertwining, this enmeshing of individual and collective, is what makes the narcissist the most devout and loyal of all its members.
The narcissist is always the most fanatical, the most extreme, the most dangerous adherent. At stake is never merely the preservation of his group – but his very own survival. As with other Narcissistic Supply Sources, once the group is no longer instrumental – the narcissist loses all interest in it, devalues it and ignores it.
In extreme cases, he might even wish to destroy it (as a punishment or revenge for its incompetence in securing his emotional needs). Narcissists switch groups and ideologies with ease (as they do partners, spouses and value systems). In this respect, narcissists are narcissists first and members of their groups only in the second place.
God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist's wet dream, his ultimate grandiose fantasy. But God comes handy in other ways as well.
The narcissist alternately idealizes and devalues figures of authority.
In the idealization phase, he strives to emulate them, he admires them, imitate them (often ludicrously), and defends them. They cannot go wrong, or be wrong. The narcissist regards them as bigger than life, infallible, perfect, whole, and brilliant. But as the narcissist's unrealistic and inflated expectations are inevitably frustrated, he begins to devalue his former idols.
Now they are "human" (to the narcissist, a derogatory term). They are small, fragile, error-prone, pusillanimous, mean, dumb, and mediocre. The narcissist goes through the same cycle in his relationship with God, the quintessential authority figure.
But often, even when disillusionment and iconoclastic despair have set in - the narcissist continues to pretend to love God and follow Him. The narcissist maintains this deception because his continued proximity to God confers on him authority. Priests, leaders of the congregation, preachers, evangelists, cultists, politicians, intellectuals - all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God.
Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogynism freely and openly. Such a narcissist is likely to taunt and torment his followers, hector and chastise them, humiliate and berate them, abuse them spiritually, or even sexually. The narcissist whose source of authority is religious is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked mastery. The narcissist transforms even the most innocuous and pure religious sentiments into a cultish ritual and a virulent hierarchy. He preys on the gullible. His flock become his hostages.
Religious authority also secures the narcissist's Narcissistic Supply. His coreligionists, members of his congregation, his parish, his constituency, his audience - are transformed into loyal and stable Sources of Narcissistic Supply. They obey his commands, heed his admonitions, follow his creed, admire his personality, applaud his personal traits, satisfy his needs (sometimes even his carnal desires), revere and idolize him.
Moreover, being a part of a "bigger thing" is very gratifying narcissistically. Being a particle of God, being immersed in His grandeur, experiencing His power and blessings first hand, communing with him - are all Sources of unending Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist becomes God by observing His commandments, following His instructions, loving Him, obeying Him, succumbing to Him, merging with Him, communicating with Him - or even by defying him (the bigger the narcissist's enemy - the more grandiosely important the narcissist feels).
Like everything else in the narcissist's life, he mutates God into a kind of inverted narcissist. God becomes his dominant Source of Supply. He forms a personal relationship with this overwhelming and overpowering entity - in order to overwhelm and overpower others. He becomes God vicariously, by the proxy of his relationship with Him. He idealizes God, then devalues Him, then abuses Him. This is the classic narcissistic pattern and even God himself cannot escape it.
In a narcissistic culture or civilization, these warped relationships - between individuals, their God, and their institutional affiliation - are magnified. Nowhere is this more true - and is theochlocracy more evident - than in the United States of America (USA).
Jacobsen: As you have written on religion a lot, what needs to happen to religion/faith in a self-centered era for survival of the species?
Narcissism is the new religion. In an age of godlike technological self-sufficiency, everyone is rendered both a deity and a worshipper of themselves. This new religion is distributed: billions of equipotent divine nodes, one man or one woman cults and loci of worship.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Vaknin: A pleasure as always.
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Vaknin, S. (2016, January 14). Islam and Liberalism: Total Ideologies. Medium. https://samvaknin.medium.com/islam-and-liberalism-total-ideologies-2eae7eaeb312
Vaknin, S. (n.d.b). Sam Vaknin’s Instagram Epigrams – Page 4. samvak.tripod. https://samvak.tripod.com/instagramvaknin4.html
 “religion” states:
religion, human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death. In many traditions, this relation and these concerns are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic or naturalistic forms of religion, they are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world. In many religions, texts are deemed to have scriptural status, and people are esteemed to be invested with spiritual or moral authority. Believers and worshippers participate in and are often enjoined to perform devotional or contemplative practices such as prayer, meditation, or particular rituals. Worship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life.
See Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021).
Since the earliest humans walked the earth, individuals have wondered where they came from, why they’re here, and what it all means. Religion, by and large, represents society’s attempts to answer those questions. While it isn’t always able to achieve that goal, it often succeeds at providing followers with structure, a code of ethics, and a sense of purpose. The promise of an afterlife, a core tenet of most organized religions, is another key motivator for followers, as this belief serves an important psychological function.
See Psychology Today Staff (2022).
“Philosophy of Religion” states:
Ideally, a guide to the nature and history of philosophy of religion would begin with an analysis or definition of religion. Unfortunately, there is no current consensus on a precise identification of the necessary and sufficient conditions of what counts as a religion. We therefore currently lack a decisive criterion that would enable clear rulings whether some movements should count as religions (e.g., Scientology or Cargo cults of the Pacific islands). But while consensus in precise details is elusive, the following general depiction of what counts as a religion may be helpful:
A religion involves a communal, transmittable body of teachings and prescribed practices about an ultimate, sacred reality or state of being that calls for reverence or awe, a body which guides its practitioners into what it describes as a saving, illuminating or emancipatory relationship to this reality through a personally transformative life of prayer, ritualized meditation, and/or moral practices like repentance and personal regeneration. [This is a slightly modified definition of the one for “Religion” in the Dictionary of Philosophy of Religion, Taliaferro & Marty 2010: 196–197; 2018, 240.]
See Taliaferro (2021).
‘Faith’ is a broad term, appearing in locutions that express a range of different concepts. At its most general ‘faith’ means much the same as ‘trust’. This entry is specifically concerned, however, with the notion of religious faith—or, rather (and this qualification is important), the kind of faith exemplified in religious faith. Philosophical accounts are almost exclusively about theistic religious faith—faith in God—and they generally, though not exclusively, deal with faith as understood within the Christian branch of the Abrahamic traditions. But, although the theistic religious context settles what kind of faith is of interest, the question arises whether faith of that same general kind also belongs to other, non-theistic, religious contexts, or to contexts not usually thought of as religious at all. Arguably, it may be apt to speak of the faith of a humanist, or even an atheist, using the same general sense of ‘faith’ as applies to the theist case.
faith, inner attitude, conviction, or trust relating human beings to a supreme God or ultimate salvation. In religious traditions stressing divine grace, it is the inner certainty or attitude of love granted by God himself. In Christian theology, faith is the divinely inspired human response to God’s historical revelation through Jesus Christ and, consequently, is of crucial significance.
No definition allows for identification of “faith” with “religion.” Some inner attitude has its part in all religious traditions, but it is not always of central significance. For example, words in ancient Egypt or Vedic India that can be roughly rendered by the general term “religion” do not allow for “faith” as a translation but rather connote cultic duties and acts. In Hindu and Buddhist Yoga traditions, inner attitudes recommended are primarily attitudes of trust in the guru, or spiritual preceptor, and not, or not primarily, in God. Hindu and Buddhist concepts of devotion (Sanskrit bhakti) and love or compassion (Sanskrit karuna) are more comparable to the Christian notions of love (Greek agapē, Latin caritas) than to faith. Devotional forms of Mahayana Buddhism and Vaishnavism show religious expressions not wholly dissimilar to faith in Christian and Jewish traditions.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (2017).
 See Vaknin (n.d.a) about differentiation between the terms and personal anti-theism, Smashwords (2014) about family and himself, and Vaknin (n.d.b) about Ghandi’s earlier life.
 “Interview with Sam Vaknin” (2014) states:
Q: What was your family's
attitude toward religion?
A: My parents vacillated between ridicule and disdain and bouts of devoutness. On the average, we were a mildly traditionalist family: selectively observed a few religious commandments and rites. Two of my brothers flirt with fundamentalist Judaism (more charitably known as Orthodoxy). I am agnostic. I do not waste my time on questions the answers to which are, in principle, unknowable.
See Smashwords (2014).
 “Atheism in a Post-Religious World: Book Review” (n.d.) states:
Is ours a post-religious world? Ask any born again Christian fundamentalist, militant Muslim, orthodox Jew, and nationalistic Hindu. Religion is on the rise, not on the wane. Eighteenth century enlightenment is besieged. As the author himself often admits, atheism, as a creed, is on the defensive.
First, we should get our terminology clear. Atheism is not the same as agnosticism which is not the same as anti-theism.
Atheism is a religion, yet another faith. It is founded on the improvable and unfalsifiable belief (universal negative) that there is no God. Agnosticism is about keeping an open mind: God may or may not exist. There is no convincing case either way.
Anti-theism is militant anti-clericalism. Anti-theists (such as Tremblay and myself) regard religion as an unmitigated evil that must be eradicated to make for a better world. This treasure of a book - it is incredible how much the author squeezed into 50 pages! - is about anti-theism.
See Vaknin (n.d.a).
 See Ibid.
 “Islam and Liberalism: Total Ideologies” states:
Islam is not merely a religion. It is also — and perhaps, foremost — a state ideology. It is all-pervasive and missionary. It permeates every aspect of social cooperation and culture. It is an organizing principle, a narrative, a philosophy, a value system, and a vade mecum. In this it resembles Confucianism and, to some extent, Hinduism. Total ideologies are both prescriptive and proscriptive: by prohibiting certain kinds of activities and types of conduct, they cohere the pent-up energies (“libido”) and narcissistic needs of their adherents and channel these forces towards predetermined goals, both constructive and disruptive (or destructive).
Judaism and its offspring, Christianity — though heavily involved in political affairs throughout the ages — have kept their dignified distance from such carnal matters. These are religions of “heaven” as opposed to Islam, a practical, pragmatic, hands-on, ubiquitous, “earthly” creed.
Secular religions — Democratic Liberalism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Socialism and other isms — are more akin to Islam than to, let’s say, Buddhism. They are universal, prescriptive, and total. They provide recipes, rules, and norms regarding every aspect of existence — individual, social, cultural, moral, economic, political, military, and philosophical.
See Vaknin (2016).
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