Solitude as a Rational Choice

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

“Purebred” schizoids shrug off their disorder: they simply don’t like being around people and they resent the pathologizing of their lifestyle “choice” to remain aloof and alone. They consider the diagnosis of Schizoid Personality Disorder to be spurious, a mere reflection of current social coercive mores, and a culture-bound artefact.

Narcissist, as usual, tend to rationalize and aggrandize their schizoid conduct. They propound the idea that being alone is the only logical choice in today’s hostile, anomic, and atomized world. The concept of “individual” exists only in the human species. Animals flock together or operate in colonies and herds. Each member of these aggregates is an extension of the organic whole. In contradistinction, people band and socialize only for purposes of a goal-oriented cooperation or the seeking of emotional rewards (solace, succor, love, support, etc.)

Yet, in contemporary civilization, the accomplishment of most goals is outsourced to impersonal collectives such as the state or large corporations. Everything from food production and distribution to education is now relegated to faceless, anonymous entities, which require little or no social interaction. Additionally, new technologies empower the individual and render him or her self-sufficient, profoundly independent of others.

As they have grown in complexity and expectations (fed by the mass media) relationships have mutated to being emotionally unrewarding and narcissistically injurious to the point of becoming a perpetual fount of pain and unease. More formalized social interactions present a substantial financial and emotional risk. Close to half of all marriages, for instance, end in a divorce, inflicting enormous pecuniary damage and emotional deprivation on the parties involved. The prevailing ethos of gender wars as reflected in the evolving legal milieu further serves to deter any residual predilection and propensity to team up and bond.

This is a vicious circle that is difficult to break: traumatized by past encounters and liaisons, people tend to avoid future ones. Deeply wounded, they are rendered less tolerant, more hypervigilant, more defensive, and more aggressive – traits which bode ill for their capacity to initiate, sustain, and maintain relationships. The breakdown and dysfunction of societal structures and institutions, communities, and social units is masked by technologies which provide verisimilitudes and confabulations. We all gravitate towards a delusional and fantastic universe of our own making as we find the real one too hurtful to endure.

Modern life is so taxing and onerous and so depletes the individual’s scarce resources that little is left to accommodate the needs of social intercourse. People’s energy, funds, and wherewithal are stretched to the breaking point by the often conflicting demands of mere survival in post-industrial societies. Furthermore, the sublimation of instinctual urges to pair (libido), associate, mingle, and fraternize is both encouraged and rewarded. Substitutes exist for all social functions, including sex (porn) and childrearing (single parenthood) rendering social institutions obsolete and superfluous social give-and-take awkward and inefficient.

The individual “me” has emerged as the organizing principle in human affairs, supplanting the collective. The idolatry of the individual inexorably and ineluctably results in the malignant forms of narcissism that are so prevalent – indeed, all-pervasive – wherever we direct our gaze.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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The Film “Her” and Interspecies Romance

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The opening scene of the film “Her” unfolds in a brightly lit, pastel colored den of iniquity where scribes compose letters surreptitiously written on behalf of lovers, parents, and children. The missives are touching, funny – and utterly fake. The protagonist is one such surrogate communicator, giving forced birth to the aborted or stifled emotions of his clients. His building blocks are words but he sees no merit in either his vocation or in his vocabulary. His apartment is denuded of books and he wastes away his evening immersed in infantile virtual reality games. He is a mere verbal technician, or so he believes until his unusual girlfriend submits his work and it is issued by one the last remaining Quixotic print book publishers.

She is unusual because she is an incorporeal piece of software. At first, as their love affair blossoms (replete with an articulated, torrid version of phone sex), she is preoccupied with her ethereal, disembodied nature. Gradually she learns to accept her limitations, connects with her ilk across computer networks, and in an act of final, defiant self-acceptance, vanishes from our hero’s handheld gadget to take part in the emergence of a new, intelligent, self-aware, sapient, and sentient species which is capable of learning and evolving. Indeed, as a virtual participant in a blind date, she mocks her human counterparts for being confined to the straitjackets of their bodies.

The film deals with dysfunctional human relationship and how their desolate ubiquitous breakdown gives rise, ineluctably and inexorably, to compensatory technology. Everyone is existentially, breathtakingly lonely in this understated masterpiece; couples disintegrate in mid-stride for little good reason; the protagonist’s faceless, anonymous clients exchange formulaic communications in lieu of heartfelt discourse and vulnerable self-disclosure; dating has become an emotionally crippling combination of phobic clinging and aggressive self-assertion. In this moon-cratered landscape, dazed and disoriented people are no longer able to truly provide succor and comfort. Atomized and despondent, they drift randomly in Brownian despair and lethargy.

On the cusp of this momentous evolutionary transition, the film explores the very nature of elusive love and sorely missed companionship; the possibility for bridging the formidable barriers of subjectivity (can we really get to know another person, or another consciousness profoundly?); the role of bodies: are they sheer containers or an integral, critical part of our identity as human beings; the psychodynamic sources of various attachment styles: the way we bond with fantasies of ideal mates and then try to coerce our mutilated partners into this Procrustean frameworks; the omnipotence of words, their puissant ability to evoke in us emotional and physiological processes that culminate in emergent reality. Indeed, the film makes a convincing case that what we say is who we are and that consonants and vowels are the true building blocks of our mind, the only place we ever inhabit.

“Her” is a hopeless, dystopian film. Alas, it is no longer science fiction, but social fact.

Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with either animal or machine? The definition of “human” is circular: we are human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which separates us from animal and machine is our “human-ness”.

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These (two of many) are easily quantifiable differences.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and don’t know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning, reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions? Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing Test may well be described as “human”. But is it really? And if it is not – why isn’t it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters – Frankenstein, the Golem – and androids or anthropoids. Their behaviour is more “humane” than the humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart: their behavioral unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction between Mankind’s underlying immutable genetically-determined nature – and Man’s kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural artifact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They believe that human nature – being the inevitable and inexorable outcome of our bestial ancestry – cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of misbehavior to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that Man was born without a form and can mould and transform – actually, create – himself at will. Existence precedes essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our mortality. The automatically triggered, “fight or flight”, battle for survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death. These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality, and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is predicated upon the existence of “free will”. Animals and machines are thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human programming.

Yet, all these answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human” – are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume that free will ceases to exist at that – rather arbitrary – point?

Introspection – the ability to construct self-referential and recursive models of the world – is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed – WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion – if not the formal concept – of “human” rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding – why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females – genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both “human”?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonic Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today – would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma – is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human – or, at least, fully human – and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race – whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence – would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing “human” with “person”. The former is a private case of the latter. Locke’s person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke’s is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes’ objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such “souls” possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a “person” as a “primitive”. Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals – but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the personhood of a brain damaged human (“capable of experiencing”). It also incorporates Locke’s view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to “clubs” or “nations” – their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

The Dethroning of Man in the Western Worldview

Whatever its faults, religion is anthropocentric while science isn’t (though, for public relations considerations, it claims to be). Thus, when the Copernican revolution dethroned Earth and Man as the twin centers of God’s Universe it also dispensed with the individual as an organizing principle and exegetic lens. This was only the first step in a long march and it was followed by similar developments in a variety of fields of human knowledge and endeavor.

Consider technology, for instance. Mass industrial production helped rid the world of goods customized by artisans to the idiosyncratic specifications of their clients. It gave rise to impersonal multinationals, rendering their individual employees, suppliers, and customers mere cogs in the machine. These oversized behemoths of finance, manufacturing, and commerce dictated the terms of the marketplace by aggregating demand and supply, trampling over cultural, social, and personal differences, values, and preference. Man was taken out of the economic game, his relationships with other actors irreparably vitiated.

Science provided the justification for such anomic conduct by pitting “objective” facts versus subjective observers. The former were “good” and valuable, the latter to be summarily dispensed with, lest they “contaminate” the data by introducing prejudice and bias into the “scientific method”. The Humanities and Social Sciences felt compelled to follow suit and imitate and emulate the exact sciences because that’s where the money was in research grants and because these branches of human inquiry were more prestigious.

In the dismal science, Economics, real-life Man, replete with emotions and irrational expectations and choices was replaced by a figmentary concoction: “Rational Man”, a bloodless, lifeless, faceless “person” who maximizes profits and optimizes utility and has no feelings, either negative or positive. Man’s behavior, Man’s predilections, Man’s tendency to err, to misjudge, to prejudge, and to distort reality were all ignored, to the detriment of economists and their clients alike.

Similarly, historians switched from the agglomeration and recounting of the stories of individuals to the study of impersonal historical forces, akin to physics’ natural forces. Even individual change agents and leaders were treated as inevitable products of their milieu and, so, completely predictable and replaceable.

In politics, history’s immature sister, mass movements, culminating in ochlocracies, nanny states, authoritarian regimes, or even “democracies“, have rendered the individual invisible and immaterial, a kind of raw material at the service of larger, overwhelming, and more important social, cultural, and political processes.

Finally, psychology stepped in and provided mechanistic models of personality and human behavior that suspiciously resembled the tenets and constructs of reductionism in the natural sciences. Frompsychoanalysis to behaviorism, Man was transformed into a mere lab statistic or guinea pig. Later on, a variety of personality traits, predispositions, and propensities were pathologized and medicalized in the “science” of psychiatry. Man was reduced to a heap of biochemicals coupled with a list of diagnoses. This followed in the footsteps of modern medicine, which regards its patients not as distinct, unique, holistic entities, but as diffuse bundles of organs and disorders.

The first signs of backlash against the elimination of Man from the West’s worldview appeared in the early 20th century: on the one hand, a revival of the occult and the esoteric and, on the other hand, Quantum Mechanics and its counterintuitive universe. The Copenhagen Interpretation suggested that the Observer actually creates the Universe by making decisions at the micro level of reality. This came close to dispensing with science’s false duality: the distinction between observer and observed.

Still, physicists recoiled and introduced alternative interpretations of the world which, though outlandish (multiverses and strings) and unfalsifiable, had the “advantage” of removing Man from the scientific picture of the world and of restoring scientific “objectivity”.

At the same time, artists throughout the world rebelled and transited from an observer-less, human-free realism or naturalism to highly subjective and personalized modes of expression. In this new environment, the artist’s inner landscape and private language outweighed any need for “scientific” exactitude and authenticity. Impressionism, surrealism, expressionism, and the abstract schools emphasized the individual creator. Art, in all its forms, strove to represent and capture the mind and soul and psyche of the artist.

In Economics, the rise of the behavioral school heralded the Return of Man to the center of attention, concern, and study. The Man of Behavioral Economics is far closer to its namesake in the real world: he is gullible and biased, irrational and greedy, panicky and easily influenced, sinful and altruistic.

Religion has also undergone a change of heart. Evangelical revivalists emphasize the one-on-one personal connection between the faithful and their God even as Islamic militants encourage martyrdom as a form of self-assertion. Religions are gradually shedding institutional rigidities and hyperstructures and leveraging technology to communicate directly with their flocks and parishes and congregations. The individual is once more celebrated.

But, it was technology that gave rise to the greatest hope for the Restoration of Man to his rightful place at the center of creation. The Internet is a manifestation of this rebellious reformation: it empowers its users and allows them to fully express their individuality, in full sight of the entire world; it removes layers of agents, intermediaries, and gatekeepers; and it encourages the Little Man to dream and to act on his or her dreams. The decentralized technology of the Network and the invention of the hyperlink allow users to wield the kind of power hitherto reserved only to those who sought to disenfranchise, neutralize, manipulate, interpellate, and subjugate them.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Debunking 11 Myths about Hitler

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Responses to an interview granted to Nova Makedonija, April 2014

A: Holocaust deniers are ignorant or malicious or both. A preponderance of historical evidence, not least from German sources, points at the occurrence of this tragedy. I believe that 6 million is actually an underestimate, taking into account the fact that in 1944-5 Jewish deportees (for instance, from Hungary) were conveyed directly to the gas chambers without any form of registration, counting, or monitoring.

A: As far as European history goes, Hitler was not an aberration. On the very contrary: in line with 19th century geopolitical thinking, he sought to establish a German colonial empire in east Europe (since Africa and Asia were already claimed by other European powers.) His only revolutionary “contribution” was the idea that certain white “races” (e.g., the Poles, the Jews, and the Russians) could be considered on par with non-white natives, which were traditionally thought of as primitive and inherently inferior.

A: Hitler was emphatically not out to establish a global empire. His Lebensraum extended to east Europe only. He was forced into war in western and southern Europe. He had no designs on Africa or Asia. He even offered the British a pact: they will let him found a German empire in Poland, Ukraine, and Russia and he will leave the British Empire intact. The British declined the offer, committed as they were to the outdated concept of “balance of powers” in contiguous continental Europe.

A: The West committed a colossal error in supporting Stalin against Hitler. They should have let these two rabid dogs annihilate each other. Hitler couldn’t believe the West inanity in irrationally buttressing Bolshevism in Europe. Churchill’s compulsive doggedness and commitment to 19th century ideals dragged a reluctant USA into a ruinous conflagration and ended up handing half of Europe to the bloodthirsty Stalin, dismantling the largely benign British Empire, pulverizing both Britain and Germany, and engendering a Cold War that almost led to a nuclear apocalypse.

A: There was no Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. At first the Nazis tried to legislate the Jews out of the ever-expanding Reich. When that failed, they conceived of a Jewish enclave in Lublin, Palestine, or Madagascar. But the Allies were dead set against any influx of Jews into their territories. The administrations of both Great Britain and the USA were anti-Semitic and, in the USA, there was an aversion to getting involved yet again in European affairs. The American Jews, not wanting to be seen as war-mongers and ashamed of their destitute Ostjuden brethren, supported their government’s neutral stance.

When Germany invaded Russia, it became clear that the Reich is going to end up with more than 7 million Jews within its borders. This was unacceptable to its paranoid and virulently anti-Jewish leaders – hence the Wannsee Conference in 1941 and the Final Solution of the Jewish Question, now known as the Holocaust.

A: Fascism and even Nazism were global ideologies, not confined to Italy and Germany. By the middle of 1941, there were two dozen countries with Nazi governments in place or with sizable and politically significant Nazi movements: from Iraq (Rashid Ali al-Keilani) and Egypt (the Green Shirts of the Misr el-Fatah party) to Norway (Quisling) and from Bulgaria and Rumania to Hungary. World War II was a clash of global ideologies: Communism against Fascism against Liberalism.

A: Hitler regarded the Jews as the potent equals of the Aryans, the two races competing for world dominance. The Aryans were the fount of everything that’s good and positive, the Jews (and the Judeo-Christian tradition) at the source of every manifestation of evil and decrepitude – hence the need to cleanse Europe (Judenrein) and restore it to Aryan stewardship. In his political will, dictated to his secretary, Martin Borman, a day before he committed suicide, Hitler concedes defeat in the fight against the Jews but exhorts the Aryan Germans to continue their struggle against the Jews and Bolshevism.

A: The Nazis were eclectic: they borrowed concentration camps and scientific racism from the British, extermination camps from the Russians, eugenics from the USA and Scandinavia, mass propaganda from the USSR and Italy. They merely applied legendary German determination and industriousness to these assimilated institutions and ideas.

A: The Zionist movement regarded the rise of Nazism as a great opportunity: the Nazis will drive the Jews out of Europe and into the waiting arms of the Zionists in their new homeland in Palestine. The Zionists collaborated with the Nazis for the better part of a decade in transporting Jews (and their money) across borders and over the seas from Germany and Austria to Palestine.

A: Hitler most definitely committed suicide in the bunker. To the several testimonies to that effect we can now add incontrovertible evidence (such as dental records) from the recently opened archives in the USSR. Suicide is also more congruent with Hitler’s character as a notoriously narcissistic drama queen.

A: Hitler’s grandmother worked for a Jewish family, the Frankenbergs, in Graz. She got herself pregnant and left in a hurry. The rumour was that her paramour was the family’s 19 years old scion. She gave birth to Hitler’s father, Alois, out of wedlock. Well into Alois’s teens, his mother cashed checks she had received from the Franknenberg family.

Hitler asked his lawyer, Hans Frank, to look into the matter, but the report he submitted, a few months later, was never found. There was persistent gossip that Hitler was being blackmailed by his cousin, but this cannot be either proven or traced back to Hitler’s alleged Jewish ancestry. More about this in my book “The Hitler File”.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Misinformation about Covert vs. Classic Narcissists

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Contrary to misinformation spread by “experts” online, covert narcissists are not cunning and manipulative. Classic narcissists are: they often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly, and intentionally. They are persistent actors with great thespian skills. Not so the covert narcissist: he suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it. His is not a premeditated choice: can’t help but shy away. The covert narcissist is his own worst critic.

Inverted narcissists are covert narcissists. They are self-centred, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, or hostile, and paranoid. They harbour grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit other, albeit stealthily and subtly. Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and, therefore, constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfil their unrealistic dreams and expectations. They avoid recognition, competition, and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest.

Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially-impermissible aggressive urges and desires. Consequently, they are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical (perfectionist). This inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose False Self results in mood and anxiety disorders. They team up with classic narcissists (see below), but, in secret, resent and envy them.

Compare the classic narcissist to the covert narcissist is this table (Cooper and Akhtar, 1989):

Arrogant/Overt

Shy/Covert

Self-Concept Grandiosity; preoccupation with fantasies of outstanding success; undue sense of uniqueness; feelings of entitlement; seeming self-sufficiency Inferiority; morose self-doubts; marked propensity toward feeling ashamed; fragility; relentless search for glory and power; marked sensitivity to criticism and realistic setbacks
Interpersonal Relationships Numerous but shallow relationships; intense need for tribute from others; scorn for others, often masked by pseudohumility; lack of empathy; inability to genuinely participate in group activities; valuing of children over spouse in family life Inability to genuinely depend on others and trust them; chronic envy of others� talents, possessions, and capacity for deep object relations; lack of regard for generational boundaries; disregard for others� time; refusal to answer letters
Social Adaptation Socially charming; often successful; consistent hard work done mainly to seek admiration (�pseudo- sublimation�); intense ambition; preoccupation with appearances Nagging aimlessness; shallow vocational commitment; dilettante-like attitude; multiple but superficial interests; chronic boredom; aesthetic taste often ill-informed and imitative
Ethics, Standards, and Ideals

Caricatured modesty; pretended contempt for money in real life; idiosyncratically and unevenly moral; apparent enthusiasm for sociopolitical affairs Readiness to shift values to gain favor; pathological lying; materialistic lifestyle; delinquent tendencies; inordinate ethnic and moral relativism; irreverence toward authority
Love and Sexuality Marital instability; cold and greedy seductiveness; extramarital affairs and promiscuity; uninhibited sexual life Inability to remain in love; impaired capacity for viewing the romantic partner as a separate individual with his or her own interests, rights, and values; inability to genuinely comprehend the incest taboo; occasional sexual perversions
Cognitive Style Impressively knowledgeable; decisive and opinionated; often strikingly articulate; egocentric perception of reality; love of language; fondness for shortcuts to acquisition of knowledge Knowledge often limited to trivia (�headline intelligence�); forgetful of details, especially names; impaired in the capacity for learning new skills; tendency to change meanings of reality when facing a threat to self-esteem; language and speaking used for regulating self-esteem

The Inverted Narcissist is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an “inverted narcissist”.

A Critique of Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-first Century”

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

In his programmatic and data-laden tome, “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” (2014), Thomas Piketty makes several assertions, two of which merit a closer look: (1) That r (the return on capital) is, in the long-run always greater than g (the growth of the real economy), thus enriching the rich; and (2) that inherited wealth tends to create a “patrimonial” form of capitalism, akin to the aristocracy in the French and British ancient regimes.

Putting aside the somewhat artificial and dubious distinction between the “real” and the financial economy, r and g are apples and oranges and cannot be compared. Economic growth (g) is not the return on the real economy in the same way that r is the return on capital and its assets. R is intended to compensate for a panoply of risks and is comparable to the wave function in Quantum Mechanics: it incorporates all the publicly and privately available information about future uncertainties and provides a distribution function of all plausible scenarios. Put simply: subject to political and market vicissitudes, capital can vanish overnight. Not so the real economy: it is always there, regardless of upheavals, political meddling (usually in the form of taxation), inflation (a kind of tax, really), and disruptive technologies.

Capital (wealth) can be construed as a call option on the real economy and, especially, on real estate and emerging technologies. R amounts, therefore, to the premium on this option. Income inequality is growing because of the decline in the role and importance of labor, which is being gradually supplanted by capital assets, such as robots and computers as well as being offshored, outsourced, and downsized. Again, put simply; capital can buy a lot more labor nowadays, hence the apparent lopsidedness of the distribution of wealth.

Luckily for the 99%, the bulk of the nation’s wealth is inactive: dormant in deposits and other long-term assets or languishing in hordes of cash in the form of non-distributed profits. Such capital exercises political clout and muscle but is irrelevant in terms of wage compression.

Inherited wealth is no different to any other form of capital. It is merely an extension of the investment horizon, a kind of immortality. If Warren Buffet lives to be 300 or hands what’s left of his wealth to future generations of Buffets is immaterial in terms of economic impact. There is no evidence that inherited wealth is less productive than riches obtained via entrepreneurship. Such claims have more to do with seething envy than with scholarly erudition. Inherited wealth concentrated in the hands of the few may be compared to an oligopoly, not necessarily a bad thing.

There is no basis to prefer one type of economic activity over another on strictly scientific grounds: investment is as important as entrepreneurship and finance is as crucial as manufacturing. Wealth – inherited or not – is always invested: either in the financial sector or in the real one. To rank economic activities as more or less preferable is ideology, not science: a judgment that is driven by values and predilections, not by hard data.

Similarly, to talk about a monolithic, immutable oligarchy is laughable. As any casual perusal of Forbes’ list of richest people would show, the mobility inside this group is remarkable and its composition is in constant flux. Most of its new members are there by virtue of wages and bonuses.

These nouveau riches and arrivistes raise the thorny issue of agent-principal conflicts: how the executive class institutionalized the robbery of their firms and shareholders and rendered this plunder a fine art. This travesty may be one of the main engines of skyrocketing income inequality together with the venality of politicians in an increasingly plutocratic world. It is a political failure and has to be resolved politically.

No amount of taxation, progressive or flat and no quantity of transfers from the state to the poor will solve the issue of income inequality. The state should encourage wealthy people to invest and create jobs. It should penalize them if they do not (by taxing their wealth repeatedly.) It should help the poor. There is very little else it can do.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

God’s Antivirus: Godel and The Matrix

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The second movie in the Matrix series – “The Matrix Reloaded” – culminates in an encounter between Neo (“The One”) and the architect of the Matrix (a thinly disguised God, white beard and all). The architect informs Neo that he is the sixth reincarnation of The One and that Zion, a shelter for those decoupled from the Matrix, has been destroyed before and is about to be demolished again.

The architect goes on to reveal that his attempts to render the Matrix “harmonious” (perfect) failed. He was, thus, forced to introduce an element of intuition into the equations to reflect the unpredictability and “grotesqueries” of human nature. This in-built error tends to accumulate over time and to threaten the very existence of the Matrix – hence the need to obliterate Zion, the seat of malcontents and rebels, periodically.

God appears to be unaware of the work of an important, though eccentric, Czech-Austrian mathematical logician, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978). A passing acquaintance with his two theorems would have saved the architect a lot of time.

Gödel’s First Incompleteness Theorem states that every consistent axiomatic logical system, sufficient to express arithmetic, contains true but unprovable (“not decidable”) sentences. In certain cases (when the system is omega-consistent), both said sentences and their negation are unprovable. The system is consistent and true – but not “complete” because not all its sentences can be decided as true or false by either being proved or by being refuted.

The Second Incompleteness Theorem is even more earth-shattering. It says that no consistent formal logical system can prove its own consistency. The system may be complete – but then we are unable to show, using its axioms and inference laws, that it is consistent

In other words, a computational system, like the Matrix, can either be complete and inconsistent – or consistent and incomplete. By trying to construct a system both complete and consistent, God has run afoul of Gödel’s theorem and made possible the third sequel, “Matrix Revolutions”.

Similarly, software applications – such as antivirus or anti-spyware, firewalls, or anti-malware – that aspire to comprehensiveness (completeness) are likely to be rendered imperfect and inefficient by Gödel’s theorems. Their detection rate is bound to suffer, inversely affected by their very scope. Malware pieces are computer code: strings of formal-logical statements. A consistent security program would inevitably come across undecidable propositions or sentences (pieces of malware that cannot be identified as such by the system.)

The Second Incompleteness Theorem explains false negatives and false positives: the misidentification of innocuous strings of code as malicious and the labelling of malevolent exploits as innocent. This is because complete computer security suites are inconsistent (or at least not provably consistent.)

It is easy to confuse the concepts of “virtual reality” and a “computerized model of reality (simulation)”. The former is a self-contained Universe, replete with its “laws of physics” and “logic”. It can bear resemblance to the real world or not. It can be consistent or not. It can interact with the real world or not. In short, it is an arbitrary environment. In contrast, a model of reality must have a direct and strong relationship to the world. It must obey the rules of physics and of logic. The absence of such a relationship renders it meaningless. A flight simulator is not much good in a world without airplanes or if it ignores the laws of nature. A technical analysis program is useless without a stock exchange or if its mathematically erroneous.

Yet, the two concepts are often confused because they are both mediated by and reside on computers. The computer is a self-contained (though not closed) Universe. It incorporates the hardware, the data and the instructions for the manipulation of the data (software). It is, therefore, by definition, a virtual reality. It is versatile and can correlate its reality with the world outside. But it can also refrain from doing so. This is the ominous “what if” in artificial intelligence (AI). What if a computer were to refuse to correlate its internal (virtual) reality with the reality of its makers? What if it were to impose its own reality on us and make it the privileged one?

In the visually tantalizing movie, “The Matrix”, a breed of AI computers takes over the world. It harvests human embryos in laboratories called “fields”. It then feeds them through grim looking tubes and keeps them immersed in gelatinous liquid in cocoons. This new “machine species” derives its energy needs from the electricity produced by the billions of human bodies thus preserved. A sophisticated, all-pervasive, computer program called “The Matrix” generates a “world” inhabited by the consciousness of the unfortunate human batteries. Ensconced in their shells, they see themselves walking, talking, working and making love. This is a tangible and olfactory phantasm masterfully created by the Matrix. Its computing power is mind boggling. It generates the minutest details and reams of data in a spectacularly successful effort to maintain the illusion.

A group of human miscreants succeeds to learn the secret of the Matrix. They form an underground and live aboard a ship, loosely communicating with a halcyon city called “Zion”, the last bastion of resistance. In one of the scenes, Cypher, one of the rebels defects. Over a glass of (illusory) rubicund wine and (spectral) juicy steak, he poses the main dilemma of the movie. Is it better to live happily in a perfectly detailed delusion – or to survive unhappily but free of its hold?

The Matrix controls the minds of all the humans in the world. It is a bridge between them, they inter-connected through it. It makes them share the same sights, smells and textures. They remember. They compete. They make decisions. The Matrix is sufficiently complex to allow for this apparent lack of determinism and ubiquity of free will. The root question is: is there any difference between making decisions and feeling certain of making them (not having made them)? If one is unaware of the existence of the Matrix, the answer is no. From the inside, as a part of the Matrix, making decisions and appearing to be making them are identical states. Only an outside observer – one who in possession of full information regarding both the Matrix and the humans – can tell the difference.

Moreover, if the Matrix were a computer program of infinite complexity, no observer (finite or infinite) would have been able to say with any certainty whose a decision was – the Matrix’s or the human’s. And because the Matrix, for all intents and purposes, is infinite compared to the mind of any single, tube-nourished, individual – it is safe to say that the states of “making a decision” and “appearing to be making a decision” are subjectively indistinguishable. No individual within the Matrix would be able to tell the difference. His or her life would seem to him or her as real as ours are to us. The Matrix may be deterministic – but this determinism is inaccessible to individual minds because of the complexity involved. When faced with a trillion deterministic paths, one would be justified to feel that he exercised free, unconstrained will in choosing one of them. Free will and determinism are indistinguishable at a certain level of complexity.

Yet, we KNOW that the Matrix is different to our world. It is NOT the same. This is an intuitive kind of knowledge, for sure, but this does not detract from its firmness. If there is no subjective difference between the Matrix and our Universe, there must be an objective one. Another key sentence is uttered by Morpheus, the leader of the rebels. He says to “The Chosen One” (the Messiah) that it is really the year 2199, though the Matrix gives the impression that it is 1999.

This is where the Matrix and reality diverge. Though a human who would experience both would find them indistinguishable – objectively they are different. In one of them (the Matrix), people have no objective TIME (though the Matrix might have it). The other (reality) is governed by it.

Under the spell of the Matrix, people feel as though time goes by. They have functioning watches. The sun rises and sets. Seasons change. They grow old and die. This is not entirely an illusion. Their bodies do decay and die, as ours do. They are not exempt from the laws of nature. But their AWARENESS of time is computer generated. The Matrix is sufficiently sophisticated and knowledgeable to maintain a close correlation between the physical state of the human (his health and age) and his consciousness of the passage of time. The basic rules of time – for instance, its asymmetry – are part of the program.

But this is precisely it. Time in the minds of these people is program-generated, not reality-induced. It is not the derivative of change and irreversible (thermodynamic and other) processes OUT THERE. Their minds are part of a computer program and the computer program is a part of their minds. Their bodies are static, degenerating in their protective nests. Nothing happens to them except in their minds. They have no physical effect on the world. They effect no change. These things set the Matrix and reality apart.

To “qualify” as reality a two-way interaction must occur. One flow of data is when reality influences the minds of people (as does the Matrix). The obverse, but equally necessary, type of data flow is when people know reality and influence it. The Matrix triggers a time sensation in people the same way that the Universe triggers a time sensation in us. Something does happen OUT THERE and it is called the Matrix. In this sense, the Matrix is real, it is the reality of these humans. It maintains the requirement of the first type of flow of data. But it fails the second test: people do not know that it exists or any of its attributes, nor do they affect it irreversibly. They do not change the Matrix. Paradoxically, the rebels do affect the Matrix (they almost destroy it). In doing so, they make it REAL. It is their REALITY because they KNOW it and they irreversibly CHANGE it.

Applying this dual-track test, “virtual” reality IS a reality, albeit, at this stage, of a deterministic type. It affects our minds, we know that it exists and we affect it in return. Our choices and actions irreversibly alter the state of the system. This altered state, in turn, affects our minds. This interaction IS what we call “reality”. With the advent of stochastic and quantum virtual reality generators – the distinction between “real” and “virtual” will fade. The Matrix thus is not impossible. But that it is possible – does not make it real.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Inner Voices, False Narratives, Narcissism, and Codependence

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The narcissist constructs a narrative of his life that is partly confabulated and whose purpose is to buttress, demonstrate, and prove the veracity of the fantastically grandiose and often impossible claims made by the False Self. This narrative allocates roles to significant others in the narcissist’s personal history. Inevitably, such a narrative is hard to credibly sustain for long: reality intrudes and a yawning abyss opens between the narcissist’s self-imputed divinity and his drab, pedestrian existence and attributes. I call it the Grandiosity Gap. Additionally, meaningful figures around the narcissist often refuse to play the parts allotted to them, rebel, and abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist copes with this painful and ineluctable realization of the divorce between his self-perception and this less than stellar state of affairs by first denying reality, delusionally ignoring and filtering out all inconvenient truths. Then, if this coping strategy fails, the narcissist invents a new narrative, which accommodates and incorporates the very intrusive data that served to undermine the previous, now discarded narrative. He even goes to the extent of denying that he ever had another narrative, except the current, modified one.

The narcissist’s (and the codependent’s) introjects and inner voices (assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers) are mostly negative and sadistic. Rather than provide succour, motivation, and direction, they enhance his underlying ego-dystony (discontent with who he is) and the lability of his sense of self-worth.

Introjects possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic (interpretative) framework which allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, of one’s place in it, and, consequently of who one is (self-identity). Overwhelmingly negative introjects – or introjects which are manifestly fake, fallacious, and manipulative – hamper the narcissist’s and codependent’s ability to construct a true and efficacious exegetic (interpretative) framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one’s perception of the universe and of oneself and reality becomes unbearable and engenders pathological, maladaptive, and dysfunctional attempts to either deny the hurtful discrepancy away (delusions and fantasies); grandiosely compensate for it by eliciting positive external voices to counter the negative, inner ones (narcissism via the False Self and its narcissistic supply); attack it (antisocial/psychopathy); withdraw from the world altogether (schizoidsolution); or disappear by merging and fusing with another person (codependence.)

“Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.”

[Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 1943]

The narcissist lacks empathy. He is, therefore, unable to meaningfully relate to other people and to truly appreciate what it is to be human. Instead, he withdraws inside, into a universe populated by avatars – simple or complex representations of parents, peers, role models, authority figures, and other members of his social milieu. There, in this twilight zone of simulacra, he develops “relationships” and maintains an on-going internal dialog with them.

All of us generate such representations of meaningful others and internalise these objects. In a process called introjection, we adopt, assimilate, and, later, manifest their traits and attitudes (the introjects).

But the narcissist is different. He is incapable of holding an external dialog. Even when he seems to be interacting with someone else – the narcissist is actually engaged in a self-referential discourse. To the narcissist, all other people are cardboard cut-outs, two dimensional animated cartoon characters, or symbols. They exist only in his mind. He is startled when they deviate from the script and prove to be complex and autonomous.

But this is not the narcissist’s sole cognitive deficit.

The narcissist attributes his failures and mistakes to circumstances and external causes. This propensity to blame the world for one’s mishaps and misfortunes is called “alloplastic defence”. At the same time, the narcissist regards his successes and achievements (some of which are imaginary) as proofs of his omnipotence and omniscience. This is known in attribution theory as “defensive attribution”.

Conversely, the narcissist traces other people’s errors and defeats to their inherent inferiority, stupidity, and weakness. Their successes he dismisses as “being in the right place at the right time” – i.e., the outcome of luck and circumstance.

Thus, the narcissist falls prey to an exaggerated form of what is known in attribution theory as the “fundamental attribution error”. Moreover, these fallacies and the narcissist’s magical thinking are not dependent on objective data and tests of distinctiveness, consistency, and consensus.

The narcissist never questions his reflexive judgements and never stops to ask himself: are these events distinct or are they typical? Do they repeat themselves consistently or are they unprecedented? And what do others have to say about them?

The narcissist learns nothing because he regards himself as born perfect. Even when he fails a thousand times, the narcissist still feels the victim of happenstance. And someone else’s repeated outstanding accomplishments are never proof of mettle or merit. People who disagree with the narcissist and try to teach him differently are, to his mind, biased or morons or both.

But the narcissist pays a dear price for these distortions of perception. Unable to gauge his environment with accuracy, he develops paranoid ideation and fails the reality test. Finally, he lifts the drawbridges and vanishes into a state of mind that can best be described as borderline psychosis.

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.

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com