The case of the missing purse: a dream.

February 1946, Ohio, USA --- Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital --- Image by © Jerry Cooke/Corbis

February 1946, Ohio, USA — Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital — Image by © Jerry Cooke/Corbis


Sometimes I feel this crazy.

I just had an especially vivid and detailed dream and posted it over at Psychforums immediately on waking so I didn’t lose the details and “feel” of the dream. I asked people to try to interpret it for me so I’m going to include those responses too.

I just woke up very upset and angry from a very intense and vivid dream. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means because I feel like it’s important but there are parts that just make no sense if the central theme is correct.

It started out wonderfully. I was in some psychiatric hospital program and had a received a great deal of help in it. Later in the dream it seemed I was an inpatient but at the time the dream started I was an outpatient because my son had to drive me there (for some reason I wasn’t driving my own car or maybe he just wanted to drive) to attend some awards dinner where I was going to receive an award. I was incredibly popular among the other patients and I had a bearded psychiatrist (aren’t they all bearded?) that I loved. I felt like he had saved my life.

So my son and I made several trips, first to a cheap chain restaurant (I don’t know why I was eating dinner twice) and then to another store, then finally to the hospital awards dinner, where he dropped me off. I got a lot of hugs and congratulations and support from everyone. I had many friends in the program. I had no idea what sort of award I’d won and none were given out but I was having a great time. At one point two of my friends (both dx’d BPD) pulled me up on the stage to join them in an impromptu song and dance from a musical. I kept along as if I’d been rehearsing for weeks. At one point it became a medley and we broke into the theme from “Hair” (why?!?) and started throwing flowers everywhere and at each other. It was a great deal of fun and I wasn’t at all self-conscious even though I was dressed in a hospital gown (like an inpatient?). I’d never felt freer or happier. I felt love all around me from the audience and the other people on stage.

My son came to get me later but when I got in the car I realized I couldn’t find my purse. As in real life when this has happened, I panicked. My purse is like my life–and I had special medications in there that eased my psychiatric symptoms too (and that had been hard to obtain), as well as my house keys, car keys, credit cards, ID, money, and the zillion other important things women keep in their purses. I didn’t remember having it at all at the hospital function so we first went to the store and the first restaurant to ask if they’d seen it. They hadn’t so we went back to the hospital and asked the woman at the front desk if she had seen it. She said she had to go talk to someone and to wait a few minutes. After a little while, my psychiatrist came out and said they had found it, but couldn’t just give it to me. I would have to pass a “character test,” of the type they sometimes give candidates applying for jobs to make sure they’re honest or aren’t going to steal or lie or whatever.

Missing Purse

I looked at the test, which was about 40 pages long. None of the questions had anything to do with my purse or even with being “honest.” The questions made no sense and I couldn’t think. I was too upset by not having my purse and angry that I had to pass a stupid irrelevant test to get my own property back. I kept getting distracted by other things and couldn’t focus. After about an hour my psychiatrist asked me if I was done yet but I had only answered 4 questions. I was almost in tears by now and told him how upset and hurt I was that he didn’t trust me. He said he didn’t make the rules and could do nothing. He said don’t worry about passing, just answer the questions the best you can. One of the questions was a multiple choice “story problem” like an elementary school math test and the story was about someone with both my first and last name. I was impressed by that and showed everyone around that my name was used on the test letting them know I’m the only person in the country that has my name. I still couldn’t focus and the questions still didn’t make sense. I finally gave up and took the mangled sheets of paper with holes from too much erasing and rewriting to the person who was scoring, a cold woman in charge of testing. I was so angry and upset I ran down a long hallway into the psych unit and saw people there–really crazy people–dressed in straitjackets and lying around on gurneys and in wheelchairs. They were making strange sounds and babbling incoherently and didn’t seem like they knew what was going on. But then I saw one of my friends and told her what happened, then started crying hysterically. I knew the crying was mostly to get attention and sympathy. It was definitely manipulative, but I was extremely angry and upset so it was a way to vent my frustration too. My friend held me and the other people didn’t even seem to notice or care about my OTT behavior, because they were so out of touch with reality or what was going in.

I went off running to look for my psychiatrist to beg him to let me go and take my purse, after all he knew me and I was the recipient of an award. I finally found him and stood there in the doorway of his office in my hospital gown, sobbing but without tears. He looked at me coldly and said there was nothing he could do, it was hospital policy, and they were still working on the results.

Finally he and the woman who did the scoring came out together and told me I’d failed. I screamed at them that they told me I didn’t have to “pass.” They just looked at me. “What am I supposed to do?” I screamed in frustration. They told me I’d have to keep taking the test (and paying $100 each time to take it) until I passed before they could give me back my purse. I told them I didn’t have the time or the money for doing that and they had my car keys too. Again, they just looked coldly at me. They showed no empathy for my situation whatsoever. I felt so betrayed by this psychiatrist who I’d thought cared so much about me.

In frustration and rage, I ran out of the building and found myself in a slum area of a large city. I was running the wrong way. I’d apparently forgot my son was supposed to wait for me but I’d been in there for hours and maybe he’d left. I wasn’t thinking straight. I ran the other way and suddenly was running through a dark garage but that had neon-sparkly floors and walls and there were young gang members in there just hanging out. They looked threatening but I was too enraged to be afraid. I ran right past them and kept running. I jumped into a hole in the ground and found myself in someone’s slum apartment in the projects, cockroaches running everywhere. I kept running through and climbed out the window on the other side and ascended the fire escape. More gang members were sitting around but I kept running. I don’t even know where I was running; I wasn’t thinking at all, but I just had to run.

I woke up feeling incredibly angry and sad at the same time and decided to write all this down before it dissolved away the way dreams tend to do. I have no idea what it all means but I’m getting a few ideas.

My “purse” could have been my false self I’d recently shed in therapy (in the dream) and have had moments without through blogging and even at random times in real life, but that doesn’t explain why my therapist turned out to be such an asshole and betrayed me. It doesn’t explain the ridiculous test I had to take to get it back. I can certainly understand why I would have wanted the purse/false self back though, because although in the hospital I felt happy and free without it, in the real world I felt naked and victimized and crazy.

My psychiatrist could have represented my family, my mother in particular, who I felt betrayed me a long time ago. The slums represented a bleak and impoverished future that I fear so much. I always feel like I’m running frantically–but never sure if it’s toward or away from something.

I’m going to be thinking a lot more about the dream today, but I wanted to write it down while I was still in the dream-feel that follows awakening from such a vivid dream. I feel like this was really important and I need to understand what was really going on.

crazy_quote

Here are the two responses I’ve received so far.

1. What I get from it is that you are wanting a healing and are proud of yourself for recognizing your problem and work toward the healing, but it isn’t coming. You sometimes say you wish you could go to a facility, and your purse can’t afford it(?) Or, like me, sometimes you feel more normal, your true identity which your purse contains (but you can’t quite hold reliably). The trouble or conflict you are having is reaching the emotions (or cognitive acceptance) which you still haven’t, which is the test with your name on it. It perplexes you. You recognize it but can’t understand what it is you’re still controlled by (what you haven’t accepted yet).

I think the running through the ghetto(?) is your fear of an impoverished future without even the healing (if you give up trying because you leave the hospital, throwing away the test, living without your identity)?

There was a new video [Spartanlifecoach] which you might relate to. It is about he lizard, monkey and human parts of the brain and how the human part can become constricted (his theory, I don’t believe this is science.). And, it is unable to process emotions/memories. The monkey part of the brain (amygdala) being more reactive controls us. (Which matches my self-perception.). He says the human part can be exercised and process more easily things that it couldn’t. Maybe like re-parenting. But, he gives examples. And, mentions how it doesn’t have to be an emotional breakdown, just an acceptance “yeah, that happened.” There could simply be things you couldn’t realize. They were out of your view, yet when you realize them they’re relatively simple?

(I think that’s what happened to me a few months ago when I realized I had been projecting my mother at my ex. I thought it was going to be the worst thing I had realized yet — and it immediately turned into “yeah, that is it.” It seemed anti-climactic compared to what I braced myself for.).

Maybe it *is* just a cognitive test that you need to take. Not the emotional breakdowns (which sound like what I call dysphoria, and have come to see as not healthy to my TS. They can be fake, I think, where I’m sucking emotions out of myself for an unproductive purpose. Which sounds like after you threw the test away, and went to another ward where you spoke to a friend and cried, but not genuinely.).

*****

2. First of all the dream is symbolized in splits, the hospital is the same as the slums, the “two friends” are the same as the psychiatrist and the nurse. it is unclear who the son is, it does seem important though that he drove the car. same goes for the hospital and store. The contents of the purse seems to be your identity, on a deeper level a purse seems to be quite an obvious womb symbol.

So the dream goes from narcissistic perception of a family home, being in the phase of being praised and happy about your good looks (Hair, god.) and awesome achievements to this break with the restaurants and the purse and then suddenly your identity is lost and your parents have (found) your identity, but only want to give it to you when you prove to them that you are “honest”.

You have to pay them for giving you (back) your identity, you feel instead of enriching, they impoverish you. so when you cant pass this mysterious honesty thing you give up and land in an inner world with neither the narcissistic sparkle, nor an identity. everything seems impoverished and youre just running aimlessly.

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“Back from the Edge”–video about borderline personality disorder

Here is an excellent and informative video featuring three people who suffered and were successfully treated for their BPD. Marsha Linehan, a psychologist who also had BPD and developed DBT therapy for borderline patients, is also featured, as well as Otto Kernberg, an psychologist who specializes in NPD and BPD.

BPD is best defined as a severe lack of a sense of self which has its roots in abuse and often sexual abuse during childhood and adolescence but it also has a genetic component. Brain scans of people with BPD show their brains are actually wired differently. Self destructive behaviors such as cutting serve to help the sufferer regulate their emotions for the short term. Borderlines find their inability to regulate their emotions so painful and debilitating that many resort to suicide. One shocking statistic is that 8 – 10% of borderlines will ultimately either kill themselves or die of their self destructive behaviors.

Unlike people with NPD, medications that “turn off” the parts of the brain that overreact to emotional stimuli have been successful for treating and controlling BPD symptoms. Also, while people with BPD are more impaired in being able to function than people with NPD, therapy is much more likely to be successful.

Another narcissist* who wants help.

narcissus3_mythman

Occasionally I receive emails from people with NPD who have come across this blog and want to be cured. I posted about one of them in this post; yesterday I received another from a man who is considering reparenting therapy for his NPD.* He also plans to administer this therapy to himself due to the fact there are so few therapists willing or able to reparent a narcissist and because the few who do are extremely expensive. I’m not sure it’s possible to cure yourself of NPD, but if it is, I would love to find out more!

I have written about various healing methods in this article, but reparenting seems to be the most promising deep insight therapy that could work on someone with NPD, but only if the patient is both self-aware AND willing, as this man appears to be in his email. (I do not believe most malignant narcissists and psychopaths/sociopaths have any hope of being cured).

It always warms my heart to see a letter like his; I may just be one of those people Sam Vaknin calls a malignant optimist, but because I think NPD is really an elaborate defense mechanism adopted at a young age to protect a too-sensitive true self and may actually be a form of severe dissociation, I don’t think people like this man are beyond hope.

Here is the letter he sent. I love his analogy of curing NPD being akin to having a full skeleton transplant. 🙂

I’ve been reading your blogs on narcissistic personality. I first identified I have a problem with narcissism about six months ago and reading about it has been depressing, and very bleak. I’ve always known I’m self-centred and as a teen used to wonder why my empathy could more or less just switch on and off, often without my conscious control. But it is only since reading about NPD that I’ve realised what my issues actually are: I am convinced I have narcissistic personality disorder – I meet SO many of the criteria and as a method of getting by (or even ahead) in life I have trusted and enjoyed this system of habits and rules.

Narcissistic rage, while resulting in feelings of shame once an outburst had subsided, made me feel I was at least strong and able to defend myself from harm. It made me feel protected from being crushed or wounded, though in recent months I’ve realised it is simply an expression of me feeling crushed and wounded. One particular outburst directed at my lover left me reeling when I realised that if I stepped outside of my body and watched the argument happening, I’d have looked on myself with pity not fear. I’ve seen myself explode in senseless and bitter rage before and so it isn’t frightening to me anymore, it’s pathetic. There’s a line in the Annie Lennox song ‘Miracle of Love’ which I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately:
‘cool is the night that covers up your fears,
tender is the one that wipes away your tears,
there must be a bitter breeze to make you sting so viciously,
they say the greatest coward can hurt the most ferociously…’

trapped2

I realised then, and especially when I was listening to this song lately that I am a coward, and that underneath my mask there is a scared little child who felt it must have done something wrong to deserve the feelings of being unloved I experienced in my infancy.

I have found your writing so interesting because if there was one idea I prescribed to growing up it was that we are here on earth to love, and as a huge fan of all things Celine Dion (for whom every ballad is a song of true, deep, sincere and selfless love) even the very music of my life was about loving deeply and experiencing life through love to the fullest. Something strange has been going on in the last year, I think my narcissism has reached a dangerous peak (I’m a performer so being the centre of peoples’ attention and lauded by an audience has, I think exacerbated my own self-involvement). I’ve realised through my reading that if I continue using the mechanisms of narcissism to cover up my fear and feelings of smallness, I will never be able to fully receive or give the love I grew up believing in so much. I actually think if it weren’t for all that Celine crazy love song schtick and the benefit of feeling loved unconditionally by my sister that narcissism would have swallowed me completely by now. I desperately want to avoid getting worse and so much of the online data about NPD is written from a victim point of view. The outlook is so bleak, and the process of realising that I am living this way has been almost traumatic.

Particularly difficult is the frequent assertion that because I am a narcissist, I simply cannot feel empathy for others. I will agree my empathy is not allowed to flourish or be of use much of the time because of the walls I put up around myself, but I KNOW I do feel it. Just as deep beneath my masks as my fear of being hurt, or rejected is my little boy self hiding under the bed terrified. And I believe when he sees someone upset, wounded, attacked, he wants so badly to whisper to the person ‘you can hide under here with me.’ I have had moments with friends or loved ones where I know they are sad, have wanted to reach out and hold them and comfort them but these walls I have spring up like invisible fences stopping me from reaching out. It’s as if the little boy wants to go to the friend and hug them and soothe them, but he’s just too scared to come out from under the bed. I believe that deep feeling is empathy. But my fear, learned from a young age has defeated it. It makes me sick. I don’t want fear to win. It’s a bizarre loop because victim-mentality repels me, which I know is a narcissistic trait. And yet it is partly through the fear of being a ‘victim’ and allowing myself to wallow in the bad things that happened to me as a kid which drives me to reject the negative events in early childhood and be a FULL human being, not just a narcissist who passes as one. I want to experience that Celine Dion love, of which I am sure I have felt more than just glimmers and been blessed with from others.

attitudinal_healing

I believe love exists as a two-way street. I believe to receive someone’s love IS an act of love. To give love properly, we must be able to also receive and accept it. As RuPaul says ‘if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gunna love anyone else.’ Well I want to learn to forgive the child inside for being so scared and angry. I want to teach him (myself) convincingly that it was not his fault he was adopted. That it was not his fault that he couldn’t protect his sister from her own demons spawned from the same young events. Or that somehow even if it possibly could have been his fault, it’s okay now. He was just a child.

I want to re-parent myself and unlearn the narcissistic coping mechanisms of devising a false self and put in place a new system. I feel like this is psychologically similar to having a full skeleton transplant, so I know it isn’t going to be easy. I am proposing to change myself in a big, lasting way. I’m choosing to become a proper adult, not ruled by the little boy anymore. It’s time for me to look after him, and I can only do that my knowing him. Knowing what it is I fear, what my true needs are, not just the needs of narcissistic supply. I must make this much clear: I reject my own narcissism. I do not want it. This system of self-aggrandisement, making myself emotionally unreachable, and of behaving so poorly to the people around me isn’t good enough. I want a better life.

narcissism_childhood

Your blog has given me hope that this might be possible. Your compassion has been vital for me today. I’ve been typing this as much to organise my thoughts as to fill you in on what’s going on. I know you will receive a lot of mail, and I know you’ll be all too used to big long emails from narcissists talking about themselves 😛 But I say all this to say that your writing has been understood by me as a shared promise of hope. It’s really a wonderful thing you’ve done and I’m so glad I found your blog. I wish others would get to read it, rather than so much of the demonising bile dominating google on the subject of NPD. I believe it’s bad to try to turn people into cartoon villains. Every behaviour has a cause.

My main goal going forward is keeping mindful at all times of this little boy. I need to become his best friend and always listen to what he’s saying. I need to tell him ‘no we don’t lash out when we feel attacked,’ and help him grow up. He is, after all, me. I’ve had mild moments of self awareness where I have tried to learn more about treatment and even let my walls down from time to time to be honest and show my naked little self to those close to me. It’s hard for them to understand this stuff and unfortunately after a few weeks pass I find the walls have been slowly slowly rising again. Then it takes a big argument or event to knock ’em down and unfortunately one such event has cost me a really important relationship. The loss of the relationship, alongwith increasingly realising my charisma isn’t enough to get me by in life could be defined as my ‘narcissistic crisis.’

As you said: ‘Harnessing these moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake.’ My next step is to find a method, or try to invent one to keep me mindful. I think reading works like your own frequently, perhaps daily and reminding myself of exactly what my demons are might help. To hold my inner enemies close in this way may help me defeat them. You’ve helped enormously. Thank you.

* I have no idea whether he actually has NPD or has ever been diagnosed with it. He could have some other disorder. True narcissists rarely acknowledge their disorder or desire to be helped, but I’m sure there are exceptions.

Have You Ever Been Hurt by a Psychiatrist? (Guest Post by Alaina Holt-Adams)

WARNING: The following may be triggering for many abuse victims. This article is especially harrowing because a therapist is supposed to help us cope and heal from trauma already endured, not add even more trauma. This is one of the most disturbing stories of an abusive psychiatrist I’ve ever read. And this psychopathic monster’s abuse was inflicted on a child of fifteen.

Unfortunately, malignant narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths are attracted to the mental health field because it gives them an easy way to take advantage or further abuse the hurting, the vulnerable, the abused, and even children. Be very careful when choosing a therapist. Sometime soon, I’ll be researching this topic in more depth and write an article about red flags to look out for.

The author has been so afraid to come out about this experience she asked me to let her write it as a guest post here rather than put it on her own blog. I am more than happy to do that, because I think her story can help expose the abuses that still go on in the mental health field and it may be of help to others.

Have You Ever Been HURT By A Psychiatrist?
By Alaina Holt-Adams

DrMonster500 (1)
I found this photo through an online memorial site. A single comment is posted under the picture. It says: “This man was my biological father, but I never got to know him. He didn’t want me and I never saw him. RIP.” The comment is signed: “Anonymous.” *

Out of respect for this monster’s adult child, I will refer to him as “Dr. Smith,” which was not his real name.

Handsome fellow, wasn’t he? Tall, dark, and aristocratic. Going by the date printed on this photo (which I cropped off because it was printed next to his name), Dr. Smith was in his late twenties when this picture was taken. He looked basically the same when I knew him twenty years later, with just a touch of gray at his temples to lend an air of wise sophistication, in sync with the leather elbow patches and carved pipes that were all the rage for image-conscious psychiatrists in the late 1960s.

His deep, softly hypnotic voice and sympathetic manner were even more compelling than his Rock Hudson good looks. With soulful gray eyes that seemed to read your innermost thoughts, everything about him said: “I Care Deeply About You And Your Problems.”

But everything about him was a lie.

If anyone ever fit the description of a charming, successful, suave sociopath, this man certainly did. He almost killed me — literally, almost murdered me. I believe he gave me the drug overdose on purpose, because I had told a nurse about the “good doctor” sexually abusing me.

Of course, I wasn’t believed. I was only fifteen and I was a mental patient. Later I was told that many other patients had accused this man of raping them, male patients as well as female. But he kept getting away with it because he was a “great and wonderful doctor” and “above reproach.”

The truth about this evil man finally came to light the last time he raped me, the night when he almost murdered me. A nurse told me later that she had heard me “screaming bloody murder” inside his office. She had tried to open the door but it was locked. She said the doctor told her through the door that I was in a deep hypnotic state, reliving a terrible trauma.

Hypnosis was his specialty. At first, all he used to put me under was a swinging pocket watch. He switched to giving me an injected drug to “enhance” the hypnosis, after I pushed his hands away when he tried to molest me. As the drug took effect, I became too weak to fight him off. That was when he would molest me. Probably because of the drugs he gave me, I have only vague, partial memories of the rapes.

That last time, as he was slowly injecting an amber-colored liquid into the vein inside my left arm, the doctor told me: “If you ever again tell anyone about what I’m doing, I will stick you in a hole so far you will never see the light of day again.”

Suddenly my chest hurt. I mean, it really HURT! I felt like a giant hand was squeezing my heart. I clutched at my chest and told Dr. Smith that my heart was hurting. He let go of the syringe and took my pulse… then he quickly injected all of the remaining drug into my vein.

The pain in my chest seemed to explode at that point. The pain was bigger than I was, bigger than the room we were in, bigger than the whole hospital. When I could not take the pain any longer, I passed out. What the doctor was doing to my body lying spread-eagled on the floor of his office, I could not see or feel.

After it was over, he woke me and told me to go back to the ward. I stood and almost fell over. “Kiss me goodbye,” he commanded. I shook my head no. “You will never be well until you stop repressing what you really want,” he said. That was the last time I saw him.

I felt like I was floating as I walked out of his office and across the street to my ward. I had the eerie sensation of only being in the top half of my body. My legs were moving up and down, taking one step after another, but my feet and legs did not feel like they belonged to me anymore. They were like the legs of a puppet and I was making them move by pulling a string.
As I walked onto the ward, my body crumpled to the floor. I seemed to be floating in the air, looking down at myself. The two nurses on duty rushed out of their office. They knelt beside my body. I was floating above them, looking at the back of their heads. I heard one of them say, “Her lips are blue.” Then the other nurse said, “I can’t find a pulse!”

Suddenly — Z*A*P! — I was back inside my body. I sat up with a jolt. I felt very dizzy.

The nurses helped me to my feet, then walked me back and forth, holding me upright between them. Hours seemed to go by as they walked me from one end of the ward to the other. While we walked, they chatted with each other the way friends do, talking about their lives, their children, and their husbands.

Finally my head cleared enough that I could speak. I asked if I could go to the bathroom. It was hard for me to talk, my mouth felt like it was full of cotton.

One of the nurses helped me into the bathroom, while the other went back to the office. The nurse stood beside me and watched as I pulled down my underwear. It was obvious from the condition of my underpants that I had been raped. She went out into the hall and called the other nurse to come and look at my underwear.

They must have reported everything to the police. Two male detectives in suits came to the hospital the next day and questioned me. I never saw Dr. Smith again. I don’t know if he was arrested or if he lost his license or what happened to him.

I do know that he committed suicide the following year.

To this day, any time I am given an injection by anyone, for any reason — by a dentist, a nurse, male or female, it doesn’t matter who gives me the shot or why I’m getting it or where it is being given — every time, I flash back to this. And I feel like I am being murdered all over again.

Years after this happened, even after I knew he was dead, when I tried to tell this story I would hear Dr. Smith’s hypnotic voice inside my head: “If you ever again tell anyone about what I’m doing, I will stick you in a hole so far you will never see the light of day again.”

Even today, more than four decades after his death, I am struggling with whether or not I should post this. Telling the truth about what this evil man did to me isn’t going to kill me…. right? I am NOT going to end up “in a hole so far that I will never see the light of day again” — am I?

Intellectually, I know that Dr. Smith’s hypnotic threat has no power over me today. But my heart is pounding while I’m writing this.

His anonymous child who never got to know him was lucky. And I am lucky, and deeply grateful, for those two nurses who saved my life.

BUT… unbelievably… several hospital staff people, including another psychiatrist, actually BLAMED ME, a fifteen-year-old in-patient, for “luring the good doctor with my sexuality” and “ruining the life of a wonderful man.”

I will (try to) write about that in a future post.
~ ~ ~

PS: In case anyone reading this wonders why a lonely, love-starved, hormonal 15-year-old would push away the hands of such a handsome man when he was touching me inappropriately, the whole truth is that I was flattered and excited the first time he rubbed my arms and shoulders and lightly ran his hands down the front of my dress when I was under hypnosis. Although Dr. Smith was older than my parents, he looked much younger, and he was also single (divorced) at the time. I was young and needy and naive enough to believe that the Cinderella fairy tale was true — that a handsome charming Prince could fall deeply in love with a poor little nobody, at first sight. When Dr. Smith first touched me, on the outside of my clothes, I actually thought he was doing it because he was falling in love with me. I was so starved for love and attention that I did not try to stop him, then.

But shortly after this, Dr. Smith was gone on vacation and a nurse said he had gotten married and was on his honeymoon. When he returned to work, he brought his beautiful bride to the ward one day. My heart was crushed then, as I realized that he did not love me and he was not planning to “rescue” me from the hell of the mental institution. I was raised in a very strict religion, so sex with a married man was a huge no-no. That was why I pushed his hands away when he tried to touch my genitals, and I told a nurse about what the doctor was doing. But even before he married his second wife, I never in any way “enticed” him. I was very shy and inhibited, and he was my doctor, more than three times my age. The thought of enticing him never occurred to me.

BUT — even if I had allowed him to have sex with me — which I did not — with him being my doctor and me being a mental patient, him in his late forties and me only fifteen years old — under those circumstances, it would have still been RAPE, regardless.

Rape is never about love or even about sex — it is all about evil power and control, as his almost-murder of me ultimately proved.

And psychiatrists and medical doctors and therapists are not gods. Some of them aren’t even human.

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The author of this post, Alaina Holt-Adams, has a blog here at WordPress, Surviving Complex PTSD. You must be signed in to view it.

* There was one other photo Alaina sent me to use, but it has a trigger warning and I was unable to open it. I will see what I can do.

Video: A Brief History of Psychopaths and Antisocials

Sam Vaknin posted a new video yesterday, “The Morally Insane Psychopath: A Brief History of Psychopaths and Antisocials.” I decided to repost it on this blog because it’s such a fascinating subject that isn’t widely known or easy to find information about in one place. I never really looked into the history of the field of psychopathy and narcissism before, and whether or not you agree with Sam and his views about narcissism (or are on the fence like I am), Mr. Vaknin does have encyclopedic knowledge about this field of psychology.

So much has changed!

Sam looks like he’s lost weight.

Could “reparenting” actually cure a narcissist?

depression

Almost all professionals who deal with narcissists and psychopaths insist they cannot be cured, but say that Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can help “train” them to act in more prosocial ways. Of course, this isn’t going to work unless there’s something to be gained for the narcissist in doing so. Most won’t even enter therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy isn’t a cure though and does nothing to address the underlying problem or access the “true self” which even the narcissist has obscured from their consciousness with their elaborate series of masks.

I was thinking about a much more intense form of therapy, that would be costly and difficult, and takes into account several different methods of treatment, that may actually be able to cure narcissism. This therapy would take place in several stages:

Stage One: The Narcissistic Crisis/Narcissistic Injury
I was skimming through Vaknin’s book and toward the end he has a chapter about curing a narcissist. He believes these incorrigible people can actually be cured (which of course begs the question, why isn’t he cured? Or is he?) However, in order to be open to being cured they must have undergone a “narcissistic crisis” or “narcissistic injury”–that is, his or her sources of narcissistic supply must have been removed (such as after a divorce or the death of their primary source of narcissistic supply, loss of a career, financial ruin, incarceration, what have you).

In a state like this, without anything to prop them up or continually affirm their “greatness,” a narcissist will usually sink into a deep depression, and will do ANYTHING to make themselves feel better, even voluntarily entering therapy.

The tricky part would be identifying the depressed patient as a narcissist, but there should be enough signs in the way they talk about the glory of their “former life” and they will still lack remorse and empathy and blame others for their sorry condition rather than themselves. So identifying a severely depressed narcissist shouldn’t be too difficult for a trained professional.

The therapist cannot, under any circumstances, give the narcissist any sources of narcissistic supply or affirm them in any way, or give them any sympathy, at least not at first. In other words, they cannot mirror them. That will just make the narcissist feel good enough that their masks will go back up and they may think they’re “cured” and leave.

Stage Two: “Cold Therapy:” Deny the narcissist any narcissistic supply!
In order to force the narcissist to face what’s inside, it’s important the therapist does not affirm or mirror the narcissist. Instead, the therapist should stay nearly silent at first and make sure the narcissist is forced to confront his own emptiness. This will be extremely painful to them. They may leave, but if the narcissist is desperate enough he will probably stay. However, he will likely become angry at the therapist (transference) and rage. Still, the therapist must not show any reaction. When even their rage fails to elicit a response, the narcissist has no choice but to regress to the infant he really is.

Stage Three: Catharsis/”Remothering”
This would be a breakthrough point, and the point at which some real therapy could possibly be done. Becoming an infant will turn the narcissist into a blubbering, sobbing, needy, vulnerable mess. And this is where I can begin to see why in “People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck, in his chapter about “Charlene” (a narcissist who entered therapy voluntarily because of her inability to maintain a relationship), wanted her to become vulnerable and baby-like so he could become her surrogate “mother” and give her the maternal nurturing she never had as a child. This might have worked too, had Charlene been ripped of all her sources of narcissistic supply and been undergoing a narcissistic crisis. Dr. Peck’s mistake was affirming her too much in the beginning of therapy and engaging her fantasies. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.

At the time I read Dr. Peck’s thoughts about how he should have “mothered” Charlene and held her in his arms (in a nonsexual way), I thought it sounded very odd and even unethical. But knowing more about narcissism than I did when I read that book, and more about why they’re the way they are, I can understand why Dr. Peck’s wish to “mother” Charlene may have worked. But not only did Peck start out all wrong, Charlene was not depressed enough to be open to such a technique.

So a vulnerable narcissist stripped of all their elaborate defense mechanisms, reduced to a dependent infant, is going to be going through an emotional catharsis as the true self (which was arrested in infancy and is still an infant) begins to emerge. They are going to be in unbearable terror and pain. A good (and very strong) therapist can offer maternal support through holding the patient during catharsis, stroking them in a nonsexual manner, but still must not tell them anything they want to hear, such as how they’re not a bad person, how they don’t deserve their pain, and the like. The therapist must remain quiet and let the patient go through the catharsis and only offer support by their mere presence.

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Stage Four: Retraining and Internalizing the Conscience
I’ve elaborated a lot on what Vaknin says about curing a narcissist in this post, and I’m going to elaborate even further. Because the narcissist, while rendered virtually harmless at this point in therapy, still doesn’t have a conscience. They would still go right back to their old ways if they stop therapy now or their circumstances suddenly improve. Psychologically, they are infants and an infant has no conscience: they must be taught by their parents and caregivers the difference between right and wrong.

So after a few sessions of this cathartic crisis (however long it lasts–by its nature it will eventually exhaust itself), I would propose something like the sort of treatment that was given to 6 year old Beth Thomas in the documentary “Child of Rage,” who at first wanted to kill her parents and brother and who tortured animals, but was cured of incipient psychopathy early enough that she was still able to develop a conscience and become an adult with normal levels of empathy and no desire to hurt anyone.

The narcissistic patient, if at all possible, should be in a setting, such as a hospital or residential treatment setting, where they are closely monitored and supervised by trained professionals. Any good behavior is to be rewarded, any bad behavior punished. Any privileges at all would have to be earned. Just like a small child, reward and punishment will train their brain to develop a conscience. This is basically the same thing as the cognitive-behavioral therapy currently used on narcissists, but it cannot cure a narcissist who hasn’t first been broken down by a narcissistic crisis and catharsis, because all their masks are still on. A narcissist who has been through the process of crisis and catharsis has lost their masks, and therefore cognitive-behavioral retraining would become internalized rather than just a “positive” mask they can wear to make them more bearable to others.

Disclaimer:
I am in no way a professional (though I did major in psychology in college). I’m certainly not qualified to propose new methods of treatment, but this process I’ve described isn’t one I made up: it’s basically a combination of Vaknin’s proposed method of breaking down all the narcissist’s defenses so they become infantile (with a little M. Scott Peck thrown in), followed up with cognitive-behavioral techniques for retraining the patient’s conscience in a highly supervised setting.

It would be a difficult and expensive therapy at the very least, but I really think it could work. Of course, it also requires the narcissist to voluntarily enter therapy, which means they would have to have suffered a grave loss that threw them into deep depression in the first place (the narcissistic injury or crisis).

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Book Review: People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck, MD

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When “People of the Lie” was first published in 1983, the word “evil” wasn’t in the popular lexicon. We were still a nation experimenting with various alternative lifestyles and there was still a lot of philosophical holdover from the “do your own thing” mindset of the 1960s. The religious right, primarily the Moral Majority had been influencing things for several years by this time (hence why Reagan was popular enough to get elected in 1980), but their power was still mainly under the radar and it just wasn’t PC to talk about things like “evil” with its medieval religious connotations. Even today, the word isn’t exactly politically correct, although it’s been bandied about a lot more in recent years, from the religious right to political pundits on both sides of the political spectrum. In addition, comments on social media such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter often turn into religious arguments and the word “evil” is tossed about like confetti at a parade. Hence the word has lost some of its original power and Dark Ages overtones, but has become more acceptable in public discourse.

At the time of its publication, “People of the Lie” was a groundbreaking work by a respected psychiatrist who was no newcomer to the world of self help books, and it was the first comprehensive book written about what is now recognized by most people as the malignant narcissist, or person with severe narcissistic personality disorder. (People with Antisocial Personality Disorder, while more often criminals than those with NPD, are actually less “evil” due to the fact they actually cannot tell the difference between right and wrong, while a MN can, but doesn’t give a rat’s ass how they hurt others). It’s still a popular book today, and has passed the test of time due to its readability and fascinating case histories of “evil people” (more on this in a minute) and somehow manages to convey a scholarly feel without becoming dry, unreadable, or overly religious.

The book isn’t perfect. The subtitle “the Hope for Healing Human Evil” is a bit misleading, as there’s very little about actually curing the character disorders associated with it, and Dr. Peck frequently mentions how “hopeless” a task it is, given that malignant narcissists really cannot ever change. In one of the central case histories, the story of “Charlene,” Peck continually talks about his frustration in treating her as his patient and his inability to change her, and finally regrets not having “nurtured her like a parent,” actually saying he should have “taken her on his lap and stroked her like an infant,” (wtf?!) This comes off as really creepy and unethical, not to mention possibly illegal. As for Charlene, whether she’s actually evil isn’t too clear, as she never does anything much worse than simply being incredibly annoying. She’s clearly infatuated with Dr. Peck and unable to handle it; she shows stalking behaviors and likes to “play” with him but never does anything worse than just be annoying (indeed, this is how some MN’s who are not criminals break down their “marks” so who knows?) Her reaction to him could be simple transference of a patient to a therapist with nothing really evil about it at all. Peck’s countertransference toward Charlene in some ways seems more pathological than Charlene’s irritating behavior.

Several other cases describe disturbed and unhealthily codependent people (like the weak and dependent Harley dominated by his mean wife Sarah–these two actually seem quite happy in their unholy symbiosis). Sarah may or may not be “evil,” but clearly has narcissistic and sadistic traits and loves to torment poor Harley, who whines to Dr. Peck but seems to do little else to stop it. Peck speculates that a weak or pathologically dependent person like Harley, who can be so easily dominated, may be a bit evil themselves, which is why they “collude” with their abuser in the first place. There may be some validity to this claim, but I certainly don’t believe all abused people are colluding with their abuser or “asking for it.” That’s just blaming the victim, something that’s become increasingly common today.

I think (and others seem to agree on this) the most evil people in the book are the parents who gave their depressed son his older brother’s suicide weapon (THE gun, not just a gun like it) for his birthday. WTF?!? Anyone who would do such a thing to their own child is seriously deranged.

The cases, while all riveting and drawing you in like mini novels (or bad soaps?), don’t really give the reader a clear view of what evil actually is, and certainly not how it should be addressed. Dr. Peck seems at a loss as to what to do, and his last chapter on exorcism is a little over the top although fascinating to read. Peck believes exorcism can be performed effectively by psychiatrists who are well couched in the techniques (basically a classic rite as was seen in the 1973 movie The Exorcist) who also have a strong relationship to God (not necessarily of the born again Christian variety) and a strong enough character to resist the actions and manipulations of evil spirits or demons as they begin to resist the exorcism.

One of the best chapters of the book was the chapter on group evil (describing in the Mai Lai massacres in Vietnam during the ’60s. Peck explains how a group of people, not necessarily at all evil themselves, can be drawn into performing heinous crimes as a group. This is a well known theory–crowds will often behave in ways individuals within that crowd never would, especially if coerced by narcissistic or evil leaders. This is exactly what happened in Germany and Europe under Hitler in WW2 and probably what happened with Mai Lai as well.

I’ve had my copy of POTL for many years, and have read it or parts of it many times over. I still find it useful and was able to identify my mother as an evil person based on what I read. For all its faults, POTL is a must read for anyone interested in malignant narcissism or involved with a person with this character disorder, even if just for its historical perspective on this disorder that has become increasingly prevalent in the pathologically narcissistic and compassion-deficient modern world we are living in today.

Peck is himself a born again Christian, and even though there are definite religious overtones in POTL, he doesn’t bash you over the head with his beliefs, or overwhelm the reader with biblical references. I respect Peck’s religious beliefs, as I respect all religious beliefs, and although I may not agree with all of them and the book comes off at times a bit judgmental, I appreciate the fact he retains primarily the psychiatric and scientific, rather than the religious, perspective in this book. It’s a fascinating way to look at the problem of evil, which I definitely believe exists and is a powerful force, even though I’m not sure it’s driven by an entity called “Satan,” evil spirits, or just a manifestation of the primitive reptilian brain of those who are missing the higher parts of the brain that allow them to develop a conscience and true feelings of love for their fellow humans.

“People of the Lie” is much better than Peck’s later work on the subject of human evil, “Glimpses of the Devil,” his 2005 expansion on the subject, which goes into greater detail on the two exorcisms Peck performed and described briefly in POTL, but has far more blatant Christian overtones and is frankly a creepy and disturbing read and not as comprehensive and scientific as POTL. Still worth a read if you’re into that sort of thing.

Click here to purchase “People of the Lie” from Amazon.