June 30, 2022
Clinical Psychiatrist and author Dr. Ramani Durvasula joins Jameela this week to explain the ins and outs of narcissism. They cover what it is, the different forms it takes, how the world encourages narcissism in its leaders, how to recognize narcissism in a relationship, the ways narcissism is nurtured, how to survive in a relationship with a narcissist, and more.
117 — Understanding Narcissism with Dr. Ramani Durvasula
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil. Podcast that hates shame. I hope you’re alright. Been fucking hard. Honestly it’s just maddening. It’s hard not to feel completely paralyzed with fear and hopelessness and that’s what they want. So it’s really important that we take our time to grieve, we take our time to comfort each other, and then we start organizing and planning and we start fucking fighting about who is allowed to say that their rights are being infringed upon. We all of our rights are essentially being infringed upon. All of us get fucked if we force birth. Not just women, not just birthing people. Cis men will even be impacted by this because either they’ll be forced to be fathers or forced to pay child care for the rest of their lives. Or they will also live in this world that we are about to enter that has even worse overcrowding, that has even less baby formula, that has even more children on food stamps, even more children in a broken foster care system, even more children who won’t be adopted because of their race. I mean, if you look at the fucking statistics for who actually gets adopted and you think about the states where people are being forced to give birth and who may well have to give up those babies, what are they giving their babies up into? It is just a madness. Our economy is going to crash. Our healthcare system is going to crash. We are so fucking fucked across the board. So let’s stop the division. Let’s stop the oppression Olympics. Let’s stop with arguing about who gets to be saddest or most impacted by this or who gets to be spoken about. We need everyone involved. This is all hands on deck here because everyone loses if this goes ahead. So we need to all come together, all educate ourselves and each other about every level of government in each different country. Because this isn’t just happening in the United States. This has happened already in Brazil. It’s happening in Poland, it’s happened in Poland. It’s happening in many countries around the world because there is a rise of fascism and authoritarianism. And as Gloria Steinem always says, one of the first actions of any authoritarian regime is to control reproductive rights, is to take away reproductive rights, rather. So we can see what’s coming and what’s rising around the world. We do not have time to fucking fight with each other anymore. It has to start. I’ve been saying this for years on this podcast. It has to stop. We are getting nowhere. They play down their intelligence. They send out these buffoons, you know, as the ones to gain the most press and attention. Meanwhile, very well educated, very privileged, highly organized and tactical people in the right wing and the religious like, nut right. And generally the oppressive opposition are organizing and going after our rights one by one by one. But because we can’t organize a piss up in a brewery over on the left, they are managing to win again and again and again. We don’t even notice when our rights are being taken away half the time. We find out after the fact because we are so busy screaming at each other. So are we going to continue to be the left that seeks traitors and not converts when they do the exact opposite? Or are we going to start seeking converts and start welcoming as many people into this movement, including cis men in order to gain an army big enough to take on what is fascism, what is authoritarianism. What is a global patriarchal move against most of the world? So that’s how I feel about that. We need to learn about school boards and who’s getting elected into them because those are the people that then move on to next states of government. A lot of people start around the schools. We need to learn about every level of government. We need to learn about who we’re electing. We need to know about which brands are supporting the politicians who are taking away everyone’s rights. And then we need to boycott them. This this country, America, runs like a company, as do more and more. England is becoming the same. We can bring them to their knees if we just take away the money. If we take away the attention, we have all the power. They taught us that we didn’t. But that was a lie. We’ve changed all of these things before with less information, with less access to each other, with less ability to organize, because we didn’t have social media. We have pulled back our rights before and harder times. We can do it again. We can do it better, bigger, faster, and more permanently. We just need to work together and we need a fucking backbone. And I will be here in this fight till I die. And I hope you’re with me. Not bickering with someone else rather than doing the intentional work that is ahead. Sorry if that sounded a bit intolerant. I’ve already gone through my emotional phase, and now I’m all about what’s next. How do we repair? How do we progress? How do we reverse the shit? Now. Moving on. Today’s episode is extraordinary. I’ve had such just a ridiculous reaction already from my own friends to strangers where it has blown people’s minds. It has one of the best episodes I think we’ve had on this podcast. I cannot wait to get this guest back again. I think that she is such a remarkable speaker, a remarkable voice, and a much needed human being right now in these times, because she communicates very clearly, very unpretentiously, and she is explaining an issue in this episode that I think we can all agree is starting to take over our world. I mean, whenever we speak about these fucking politicians I was referencing earlier, narcissism is the name of the day. She is an expert on narcissism. She is an extraordinary doctor. Her name is Dr. Ramani. And we talk all about the ins and outs of narcissism. What narcissism is, how it starts. Can you get rid of it? What malignant narcissism is? What we mistake for narcissism and how we mistreat that. How we reward narcissism in this world. How it is no longer become something that people frown upon or or want to stay away from the label. We reward narcissism, we praise it, and we give it money. We pay for narcissism. And not only does she break down all of the psychology of this in such a palatable way, and you’ll end up wanting to send this episode to so many people, you know, maybe people who were dating narcissists or who were raised by narcissists. I wouldn’t send it to anyone who you think is a narcissist because they often cannot see themselves in these stories. But we also asked Dr. Ramani to please answer your questions about narcissism. If you are maybe dealing with one, living with one, you want to get away from one, or maybe you are planning to stay with one. And there’s no judgment here if you are. But she talks about how to cope in all of those scenarios and gives you practical advice as to how to continue and deal with one and how to predict what’s coming next. It’s such a vital episode and it’s already been out a couple of days. I wasn’t able to do this intro because I had my wisdom teeth removed. But now that I can use my face again, I’m here just begging you to listen to this, to take notes and to send it on, because I think it’s a game changer of an episode. She is a game changer of a woman. And I can’t wait to hear what you think. So love you lots. This is the one of a kind, Dr. Ramani. Dr. Ramani, welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Dr. Ramani [00:08:10] Thank you. Jameela I’m great. Thank you. How are you doing?
Jameela [00:08:13] I’m really good. I’m so excited to talk to you. I have been I’ve been thinking about you every day, but honestly, I’ve been I’ve been watching your videos, watching your interviews, sending them to everyone I know. And your work has been so important to so many people. You have completely revolutionized the conversation around narcissism. And so it’s a huge honor to have you on the podcast.
Dr. Ramani [00:08:39] Well, that’s really kind, and I appreciate it. Thank you. And I’m so glad you want to have this conversation, because I think it’s important for people to hear it.
Jameela [00:08:47] 100%. And I you know, I read a lot of your work around how narcissism like we are currently in a generation where narcissism is kind of being like willingly bred now. You know, it’s something that we don’t consider even that toxic or that bad anymore. It’s kind of become so hyper normalized that we are contributing to the problem. Before we get into all of that, I just want to ask you, what is narcissism for someone who has no idea?
Dr. Ramani [00:09:14] So narcissism is a pattern. It’s a personality pattern, and it’s considered to be a rigid and maladaptive pattern, meaning that it’s not really good for anyone and it’s and rigid, meaning it’s not likely to change. But it’s a pattern characterized by a person who has generally low empathy. But it’s a little complicated, but we’ll just call it a lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity. These are people who are arrogant, who are constantly seeking validation. They are also they’re not really capable of deep, intimate relationships. They view relationships as being for their personal gain and not for you not at all for the enhancement of the other. They’re very egocentric and they’re also very sort of they’re externally run, meaning that when they set a goal, they set a goal that they think the world would want them to do. They when they their self-esteem is determined by how the world views them. And at the core of the narcissistic person is an individual who has a deep, deep core sense of insecurity and inadequacy. And so all of that stuff, the grandiosity, the entitlement, it’s like a suit of armor around that to protect that. So that inadequacy doesn’t pop out. So they can walk around looking like the king or the queen or something like that, rather than the insecure person that they really feel that sort of internal to them. But it’s happening at such an unconscious level. So all the posturing and preening and pretentiousness is really about protecting that core fragile interior.
Jameela [00:10:43] And we often hear about insecurity being the foundation of a lot of arrogance. I, I really want to touch on the fact that, you know, I think when a lot of people listen to this, they can identify a lot of these things in themselves, in others, you know, like a need for validation, etc.. And I think that because so much of narcissism has become hyper normalized in our society, in our culture, it’s harder to spot who is an actual narcissist and who just seems a bit narcissistic. You and I touched on this briefly when we were chatting on the phone that you’re frustrated a little bit with the fact that people can so easily now be kind of pathologized as a narcissist just when they might be only an insecure person. I think this is the breeding of social media, meaning that we post a lot of pictures of ourselves that we haven’t, you know, enhanced kind of self-obsession. There is a difference, correct, between self-obsession and actual narcissism.
Dr. Ramani [00:11:34] Yeah, there is. I mean, I think that, first of all, you have to view narcissism as being on a continuum at the mild lighter end, that’s where you might see a little bit more of the egocentric self-obsession, what I call sort of the Instagram narcissists. These are people who tend to be a little bit emotionally immature, a little bit emotionally stunted and maybe so egocentric that it impairs some of their empathy abilities. But it’s not the in-your-face low empathy entitlement kind of the cruelty we tend to see at the higher end of that narcissistic continuum where we see more of a malignant, narcissistic, exploitative at times even dangerous person, people who are self-obsessed. So people who like, like like posting every meal they have and every other thought they have on social media and every picture they have. If that person is empathic and they’re not entitled and they’re not grandiose and they’re able to regulate their emotions, they’re not narcissistic. They’re just sort of I mean, again, self-obsessed. They’re they they just like like people liking them. But the other thing you would look for is, let’s say a person is in these social media spaces, how do they react when they’re not getting the validation? So if they post their picture of their dinner and only three people like it, are they okay with that when there’s distress over not getting enough validation? Not necessarily sure it’s narcissism. It could be other personality issues. But what we’re really looking is at that core of the lack of empathy, the entitlement, that sort of stuff. Unless
Jameela [00:13:07] Where it’s a driving force in your life.
Dr. Ramani [00:13:07] Yes. It’s very present in all of their interactions. Basically, narcissistic people are kind of jerky to everyone unless they need something from you.
Jameela [00:13:15] And when they do need something from you, there is a consistency in how incredibly confident and charismatic they seem to be from everything I’ve read from you. Like charisma is a big part of well, how do you what can you be a narcissist if you’re not particularly charismatic?
Dr. Ramani [00:13:30] Absolutely. There are some narcissists. We call them vulnerable narcissists. Some people call them covert narcissists. But the vulnerable narcissists actually walk around kind of resentful, sullen, angry, full of grievances, very victimized, angry at the world, not so charismatic. It’s still narcissistic because they still have the.
Jameela [00:13:49] That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.
Dr. Ramani [00:13:50] Yeah. I mean, but they’re also they can sometimes be very dangerous. They sort of sit there and brood and get angry. And if somebody even looks at them the wrong way, they might get into a fight or worse.
Jameela [00:14:00] Right, right, right. And we see maybe like a little bit of that in the kind of red pill incel movement, the sense of entitlement, the rage against the world the. And I think that’s another thing, a misconception that I had for a really long time around narcissists is that they love themselves. They they think that they are so fantastic. A lot of them can hate themselves. They’re still obsessed with themselves. You’re self-obsession, is that correct?
Dr. Ramani [00:14:21] Yeah no matter what-.
Jameela [00:14:22] The self-obsession can still be like you’re still you still think the world revolves around you, even if you think you’re hard done by by the world. And if you even if you think that you are ugly or you are invisible and you blame society standards, etc., etc., all the kind of stuff that we see on, on the kind of the darker side of Reddit or 4chan.
Dr. Ramani [00:14:38] Correct, but it’s still yeah, it’s still though. It’s very much I’m the center of the universe. My victimization is the center of the universe. My pain is the center of the universe with absolutely no capacity to have any awareness of what’s happening in someone else’s life. So it doesn’t matter. Charisma, grandiosity. And even with these vulnerable narcissists, these sort of again, we’re calling these incel type vulnerable, narcissistic types, they’re still they’re grandiose, but they’re grandiosity is you know what? Nobody is smarter than me. I shouldn’t have to waste four years at university. It’s that thing. So they’re still grandiose. I’m the smartest. I’m too good to have to work a 9 to 5. So the grandiosity comes out in a sort of victimized way.
Jameela [00:15:18] And what you’re saying is that the kind of real narcissists, the you know, the kind of other end of the spectrum of narcissism, it’s a mental health disorder. Correct?
Dr. Ramani [00:15:29] Ahh. So there’s there is the million dollar question. So there is a disorder called narcissistic personality disorder that appears in the DSM and something else called the International Classification of Disease or the ICD. This is how we diagnose people. And the diagnosis sort of made its debut back in 1980 in the third edition of the DSM. And the challenge with narcissistic personality disorder is that, yeah, you have to have that laundry list of the lack of empathy, entitlement, all the other stuff I was saying. But the person also has to be experiencing distress, meaning that they’re kind of uncomfortable the way a depressed person would feel a sense of distress, like this doesn’t feel good, or they have to report having a sense of social or occupational impairment. So that person literally would have to roll up and say, you know, I don’t have that much empathy. I’m kind of entitled. All this is causing trouble in my relationships, said no narcissist ever. You know, when they come into therapy, if they come into therapy, they’re complaining about how all my spouse does is complain or everybody’s treating me badly at work, or I was fired from my job because my boss had it out for me and I’m really upset about that. So they’re going to come in with a problem, but very rarely are they going to sit there saying, and I don’t have empathy and I’m entitled. The therapist has the hard work of digging through that. So the prevalence of narcissistic personality disorder in the research studies is depending on the study, anywhere from 1 to 5%, some studies show rates of 10%. But it’s a it’s a hard thing to measure because a lot of people don’t cop to it. So I struggle with calling this a mental health disorder because in which case it may be the one of a few mental health disorders and they’re all personality disorders that actually cause more harm to other people than it does to the narcissistic person themselves. That’s unusual. So when we have someone come in, let’s say they come in and they feel like a victim and they feel life is unfair and they’re really sad and they’re like, I haven’t had a job in a year. One of our first hypotheses is probably going to be depression, and so the therapist in good faith will teach will treat them. Now, usually, usually with therapy and depending on how severe the depression is, medication, within 9 to 12 weeks you’re going to see some improvement. And now you’re in there for 12 weeks. Nothing’s happening. This person’s still like life’s unfair. My life’s unfair. Why is my life so terrible? And you’re like, Now you’re reading the Depression book. Like, What am I doing wrong? At those times when I’m, you know, if I’m overseeing someone’s work or giving them feedback, I’m like, Have you started considering narcissism as an additional hypothesis? So what happens is you might lift the depression, but the narcissism is still there as the as the under underground of it. And that part’s not going to change.
Jameela [00:18:02] No. 100%. I can’t even I cannot even imagine how tricky it is. And so you’re not it’s not something that you are born with, it’s something that can happen as your kind of developing correct. Like a sort of trauma. Maybe you’re neglected as a child in some emotional way. There can be different things that cause this narcissism to breed. You’re not. No one’s ever born with that, correct?
Dr. Ramani [00:18:22] Absolutely. No one’s born this way. I mean, the closest thing we’d have to what somebody would be born with is because it’s a personality pattern, is we look at something called temperament. And temperament is sort of the biological, inborn part of our personality. It creates it can it can create a biological vulnerability depending on the nature of a person’s personality. Some kids are born into this world, just cheerful from day one. They’re easy to soothe. They smile easily. They they they regulate themselves well. They’re very they’re very rewarding for the parents. And then there’s some kids with tough temperaments. They’re very difficult to soothe as they get older. They’re they often need a lot of attention. They need a lot more handling. They need they’re much more disruptive. They are inattentive. Parents not so not so nice they’re harder kids. Now, some kids whose parents do a magnificent job, even with the difficult temperament kids. But if a child is growing up in any kind of invalidating environment, it could be trauma, it could be abuse, it could be emotional abuse, it could be just neglect. All kinds of things, that kind of traumatizing environment, invalidating environment coming up against that sort of biological temperament or maybe even that sort of kind of difficult personality style. You look at Marsha Linehan work. She has a bio social model of borderline personality, which I think applies to narcissistic. And what we see is that that mix likely between temperament and the nature of negating and validating, potentially even traumatizing early environment, can result in narcissistic personality. The challenge is, is that it gets hard to tease apart. Most people who survive early life trauma don’t develop narcissistic personalities, right? Some do. So when we tell the story backwards, we can make sense of it. There’s also another variant of it. There are kids out there who are really overindulged, almost micromanaged. They never have to experience disappointment. They’re somebody always sort of bubble wrapping them and maybe meeting all of their material needs or spoiling them or whatever it may be. But yet those kids aren’t sort of emotionally nurtured. The parents aren’t anywhere to be found. They’re well taken care of, maybe by handlers, but there’s not the consistent caregiving presence of their of their parents, although they’re very indulged. That, too, can be a setup for narcissism. And a kid can learn these patterns watching a parent. They watch an entitled parent storming around, yelling at people, yelling at teachers, you know, just going through the world as a jerk. The child can model that behavior.
Jameela [00:20:48] And you say that it’s almost impossible to be able to completely change a narcissist. And I was curious about that because it’s something that is developed, not born with. And so obviously they can maybe alter their behaviors and they can control themselves. And no one should lose all hope that they’ll live like a miserable, malignant life. But it is something that you kind of have to accept about someone who is a narcissist, that you’re going to have to work around it. It’s never going to completely go away. So does that mean that because that during the childhood trauma, cause I know this can happen in childhood trauma, does your brain become rewired? Is that why it can’t be undone?
Dr. Ramani [00:21:24] I think there’s a couple of reasons for the undone ness of it. Right, so the biology of personality is something we’re sort of slowly unpacking, right? Because how much a personality is behavior? And so what we can see, it was neuroimaging tools like, you know, we’re seeing obviously that it’s getting better and better in terms of how we can look at things like impulsivity and we can look at things like empathy, that sort of deconstructing all of this stuff. Right. And so that that probably as I get older towards the end of my lifetime, I think they’re really going to be able to make some real strides on sort of the neuroimaging of these various personality styles. Particularly narcissistic. Trauma does rewire a brain. We know that very well. And there’s all kinds of theories around epigenetics. And epigenetics have to do have we have a gene that can sort of be turned on or off by what’s happening in the environment. So that’s why we know things like poverty or other deprivation and certain trauma that they can turn those genes on or off and and result usually in poorer outcomes around things like mental health. So can it be undone? Here’s the challenge, Jameela. If you have a personality style, that means you’re likely going to make more money. You’re more likely to be successful in dating, you’re more likely to get a leadership position. You’re going to want to change your personality?
Jameela [00:22:38] No.
Dr. Ramani [00:22:40] So where is the incentive and their attitude is like I said, I’m sorry. Okay. Can’t we let it go? No, because this is the 27th time you’ve done this. So there’s little incentive for them because why the narcissistic person blames everybody else. This is your fault. This is my parents’ fault. This is my therapist’s fault. This is my boss’s fault. This is my employee’s fault. This is my partner’s fault. My kid’s fault it’s everybody else’s fault. So with no capacity to take responsibility, why would they change their behavior?
Jameela [00:23:07] So you’re saying it’s more of because it’s like a social construct because they’re able to continue to climb the ladder of hierarchy. So it’s so it’s not that maybe they can’t be rewired, it’s that they’re likely to not be incentivized to.
Dr. Ramani [00:23:21] Anybody can be rewired if we want to look at it that way. There are people that come back from horrific trauma.
Jameela [00:23:27] Yeah. That’s what EMDR is so good for.
Dr. Ramani [00:23:29] Yeah, but you gotta wanna do the rewire. I’ll tell you this right now, there’s people out there with incredibly agreeable personalities. They’re empathic, they’re humble, they’re easygoing, they’re altruistic, they follow the rules. People like they’re out there. I even call myself one of those people. Okay. I couldn’t change that. If tomorrow someone said, Ramani, I need you to go out there. I need you to be un-empathic, entitled, antagonistic and hostile. I’d be like, I can’t do this. I’m going to get sick if you make me do this. I could try it for half an hour, but then I’m going to throw up.
Jameela [00:23:59] There’s about two days on my period where I could probably do that, just two days just before my period. I reckon I could probably do that.
Dr. Ramani [00:24:05] Okay, so.
Jameela [00:24:07] Don’t give me a donut like it’s on. But yeah, other than that I know what you mean.
Dr. Ramani [00:24:10] But I couldn’t do it. So I’m and I think of people who whatever personality styles they are, we don’t want an agreeable person to change. But I’ll tell you this, research shows that agreeable people don’t make as much money either. So can, can you turn a a sweet little kitten into a tiger? I mean, one could argue in a Pygmalion esque way. Sure, maybe you can. But I would say I would never I’d never take that bet just because we often think of like, how come we can’t make the narcissistic person nicer? Right. Well, I’m going to ask you the question. How can’t we can’t we can’t make the agreeable person meaner because personality styles are really difficult to shift.
Jameela [00:24:48] Totally. And I think it kind of brings me on to another point. As something that you’ve spoken about, which I think is really interesting, is that, you know, a lot of the people that we see, again, powerful people in leadership positions, a lot of those people have a lot of the traits that you are describing when it comes to narcissism. A lot of our world leaders, I’d say, apart from Rihanna, I’d like to make sure that I exclude her from this narrative very clearly. She can do no wrong, but billionaires tend to be, in my experience of some of them, fucking malignant narcissists or narcissists. And it takes a certain level of being okay. And this is across the board pretty much. I have never personally heard of a billionaire getting to a billion without exploiting someone, without either turning a blind eye to maybe you, maybe you don’t know about it, but you fucking know about it. At some level, you can’t possibly be thinking that you are generating all this profit if you pay people fairly, if you give people fair working conditions, if you share the wealth somewhat in a way that feels more socialist than a bit more not completely socialist necessarily, but just in a way that is ethical. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get to that kind of money, right.
Dr. Ramani [00:25:56] That’s right.
Jameela [00:25:57] And so it does take a certain lack of empathy and a need for power and a willingness to kind of conquer or destroy in order to get to that like really fucking arbitrary, pointless point. It just it makes absolutely no sense to me the amount of people I meet in Los Angeles whose goal it is to become a billionaire. I cannot it just I find it absolutely unfathomable that why anyone would even be interested in that. What do you do with that much money and what did you have to do? What are you going to have to do to make that much money? What are you willing to do?
Dr. Ramani [00:26:28] To talk about billionaires from the lens of money is the wrong angle, right? It’s not about the money, it’s about the power.
Jameela [00:26:34] Status, yeah.
Dr. Ramani [00:26:34] It’s about power status, dominance, control. That’s what the narcissist is motivated for. No no, they want money. No, my money is a means to the power. Right. But it’s power, dominance, control, status. Those are the things that narcissistic people want. Money is the fastest way to get there. So the the push to be a billionaire is all about locking in those four things.
Jameela [00:26:56] And and also being on those lists being recognized, it’s that certain like kind of like it’s that club that that billionaire’s club. It’s very small, it’s very exclusive. Everybody notices you in there. Everybody bows to you. No one’s going to say no to you. No one’s going to question your behavior. It’s it’s it’s such an odd obsession now among people. It’s something that’s so casually spoken about in spite of everything we know about the evils of capitalism. So do you feel that way about like I mean, I think I’ve heard you say that you do. But world leaders.
Dr. Ramani [00:27:28] Absolutely. Absolutely. Leadership and narcissism are associated. Right. But by and large, people are narcissistic, are more driven to want to be leaders, to have the power to have the authority, to have the control, to get the validation. And other people just might say, okay, nice. Yeah, sure, I’m sure the leader makes more money, but I’d like to go home and spend time with my family. So for them that the the sacrifices that would need to be made to make the leader, even if they make more money for them, that idea of somebody, for example, who’s more agreeable may actually want more of the balance in life. So there’s absolutely an association and the world has changed where there’s actually this there’s sort of this kind of twisted level of dominance that’s almost revered in the leader at this point. And so we’re not valuing as much empathic leadership and everything. I mean, let’s face it, a narcissistic leader makes for better and more interesting headlines and that that makes them more money for the capitalist machine, an agreeable, empathic leader, not so sexy, you know, sort of like today they made some recent decisions and actually cared about social welfare. Okay, so then people like this is boring, but chaos and all that, that’s what your narcissistic leaders give you. They’re very self-serving. And I hate to say it, but I do think that a lot of times, even in democratic countries, there is a sort of and this is the I think the problem with the world right now, there is a sort of undisguised kind of admiration of people are narcissistic because they seem so shameless, so out there, so willing to speak their mind that people incorrectly conflate that with courage, when in fact, actually it’s madness and it’s really invalidating and sometimes even dehumanizing. But I think there’s way too many people think, oh, he speaks his mind. And that’s why I like him, like speaks his mind. These are incredibly hurtful words. I don’t care. I, I have the right to say what I want. And that mentality these days I have the right to speak my mind. I have the right to say what I want. People do that they so often don’t face consequences because the sheer number of enablers in the world. And that’s why this machine keeps running the way it is.
Jameela [00:29:28] You talk about the fact that we’re in this in create like we’re breeding narcissism and so I’m so what I guess I’m wondering is that is that because these kids are then being exposed to what we do on social media and the people that they’re seeing and, you know, positions of power.
Dr. Ramani [00:29:44] I don’t think we’re breeding narcissism. I think we’re rewarding narcissism. There’s a difference. There’s a difference. Breeding. It means like people are literally, intentionally, as parents rolling up their sleeves and saying, how can I make my child narcissistic? You know, rewarding narcissism is what we’re doing. And so what might happen is you might have that 18, 19, 20 year old who’s coming through college or going to graduate school or coming into their career and wanting to succeed or make a lot of money. And then we’ll recognize, like, Ooh, boy, in order to do this, I got to actually stab more than a few people in the back. Your more agreeable, more healthy people with more equanimity are probably going to drop out of the race. They’re going to say, Yeah, no, I can’t do this. I’m absolutely no, I can’t do this to other people. I couldn’t live with myself. I feel sick and they will probably then go on to do something that is not, you know, that that is run in a way that feels more appropriate to them. So I think that the personality in some ways chooses the career and then the career kind of then, you know, does the dance with the with the personality. But I think that it’s because we we have rewarded there might be some people like, no, no, no, I want to make a lot of money or I want to be this or I want to be that and and they’ll try it. And if it’s really a sort of the Viper pit, it is, a lot of people say, if this is what I got to do, then, yeah, no, I’m not I’m not doing this. So some of them may have, for example, become academics. You might see some of that. Like they’ll say, okay, I can do my smartest stuff, but not in this kind of dog eat dog world. But I got to tell you, as somebody who was an academic for over 20 years, so pretty, that’s a pretty competitive, domination oriented space as well.
Jameela [00:31:17] Yeah, I mean, I’m in Hollywood, so we don’t really see much narcissism. So I can’t really relate. I’m really sorry. I just have no idea what you mean.
Dr. Ramani [00:31:25] I think that even to become really famous, the desire to be famous and hold that famous space, it’s not a normal life. And so I think a lot of people would drop out of that, say, I don’t want this, this is not interesting or I don’t want to. I mean, the things I have to do maybe to get ahead in this industry, it doesn’t it’s not going to work for them. So you’ll see people kind of step away because it doesn’t suit their personality. But for a narcissistic person, being famous is the Holy Grail because it means validation. 24 seven So it’s the best way to tap into that.
Jameela [00:31:52] I have to be on medication to tolerate it because it’s it’s very odd obviously like comes with some amazing things, but wouldn’t be able to have a podcast and be able to talk to you if I hadn’t done it.
Dr. Ramani [00:32:03] Well, thank you. I would still talk to you anyhow. So no matter what.
Jameela [00:32:07] I don’t know. I would have been a bit weird. An English teacher just knocking on your door. But I. But I. Yeah, I have to be I have to be medicated for a lot of my career stuff. And the rest, the time I just stay in bed and hide. But it’s, it’s very, very unnatural. It’s very odd. And I think it does draw in a lot of people who may be again, I mean, highly rewards talk about fucking rewarding where they’re not just being rewarded within their industry, like perhaps within academia. But then if you actually make it, the world rewards you.
Dr. Ramani [00:32:42] Right. That’s exactly right.
Jameela [00:32:42] The people who do the best, often the biggest fucking nightmares. So controlling to the teams of people around them, they have entire they wield power over entire sets, you know, which are like 100, 200 people. I I’ve dealt with a fair few and the gaslighting is extraordinary. I really I really can’t believe like you really just can’t reason with a malignant narcissist. I know we’ve kind of covered them, like, all over the place, but just to be able to give people, like, a short, sweet menu and you’re so fucking concise, it’s really intimidating that I was wondering if we could just quickly just go through the, the main types of narcissists. So the classical narcissist.
Dr. Ramani [00:33:23] The classical narcissist is the grandiose narcissist. That’s the charming, charismatic, pretentious, arrogant narcissist needs to be the center of attention, very egocentric, all the usual un empathic, entitled bells and whistles. But as their front game is very, very sort of charming, charismatic, they really get the attention in the room.
Jameela [00:33:42] Great. And then the covert.
Dr. Ramani [00:33:44] Covert slash, vulnerable narcissist, these are victimized, resentful, sullen, grievance riddled individuals who constantly feel like victims can almost have a touch of paranoia to them. You know, they always feel like everyone’s got it in for them and they feel life has been uniquely unfair to them. A lot of vulnerable narcissists can even look quite socially anxious, which is in real contrast to those charismatic, slick, grandiose narcissists.
Jameela [00:34:08] Okay, malignant narcissist. This is the one that I think comes up the most when I put out to my audience, I was going to be chatting to you. This is the word that most kind of lit everyone up.
Dr. Ramani [00:34:18] So the malignant narcissists are probably the most severe, dangerous kinds of narcissists. They are exploitative. They take advantage of other people. They play you know, they take advantage of other people’s trust. They are a very, very controlling. They’ll often isolate people. They are there’s this thing called the dark tetrad, which sort of captures malignant narcissism. Obviously, the traditional elements of narcissism, some of the elements of psychopathy, like being really callous, being really hostile, having almost very little remorse for doing bad things, feeling little guilt. Then there’s also we see sadism. So this almost intentional, a, you know, of affliction, of cruelty on others, and they’re very, very vindictive. You know, if somebody does them wrong, they will go out of their way. They can’t just let it go. They have to go out of their way to harm them. And we can. We’ll also see Machiavellianism again that willingness to take advantage of other people. And I throw paranoia in the mix there because, you know, they’re malignant narcissists, constantly feel like someone’s out to get them out to harm them. So they’re very reactive. They think that. So they think like, what are you looking at? What do you want from me? But again, very hostile. And there’s a phenomenon called coercive control. We see it typically in intimate relationships where it’s an individual who uses menace and fear to control a partner, isolates them from the world, creates this constant sense of threat around, you know, minor children in the home or even animals in the home. They financially control a person, convince them to stop working, take away their sources of money. So the person has to go to, you know, go to them first, cuts off contacts to other people. So you can see malignant narcissism is actually something we see more in, for example, domestic abuse and violence cases. But it is actually quite terrifying. It can be quite dangerous.
Jameela [00:36:06] Yeah, I’ve I’ve dated at least one of those.
Dr. Ramani [00:36:09] It’s dangerous.
Jameela [00:36:09] Someone who’s yeah. Someone who’s really, really terrifying and a lot of hot and cold, a lot of love bombing, you know, which I know you speak about a lot, which I think is really interesting. And then withdrawing that love suddenly and after they’ve isolated you from everyone so you have no one else to turn to. So therefore that cold fills freezing. And so then you you kind of they kind of go concave and you, like, kind of pull towards them to try and get them back to get some of that warmth that they had seduced you with.
Dr. Ramani [00:36:36] Correct. And that phenomenon is called the trauma bond that giving, taking, giving, taking. And then desperately wanted to be give again. Given again, especially because you’re also isolated. This is the only game in town you wanted to go back to the good moments and much like a child would with a parent who’s like that. And so that trauma bond and pattern, not always but often can be something that a child had with their parent and then they recreate in an adult relationship.
Jameela [00:37:00] I mean, I still can’t really look in a mirror like I have to look at my features individually and a little handheld mirror. I find it very difficult to look into a full mirror because of how much this person told me, how ugly I was all the time that no one else would want me and could never seem to understand the question, Well, why do you want me then? Told me that all my friends hate me and they’re will tolerate to me. And everyone was kind of doing that behind my back, you know, and that I can’t trust anyone, all this sort of stuff. I think I was only in my early twenties, but it was really, really insane what I tolerated. And yeah, I was a fairly bright kid, but it’s very, very easy to get sucked into this and not realize it’s happening because they are so amazing at making you think that the problem is you. There’s a lot of analyzing of you of what’s wrong with you, how are we going to fix you?
Dr. Ramani [00:37:47] Yes. It’s always what’s wrong with again, it’s always the shifting of onto others. And that’s a form of gaslighting. You know, when you’re you know, it’s a part of the gaslighting process. I should. Say that you pathologize the other person. What’s wrong with you? You seem to. Your memory seems off. Have you talked to your shrink lately? So it creates the sense of maybe there’s something wrong with me, which then makes you a better sort of velcro surface for them to put their blame on to, and that you will take you then start blaming yourself for everything that’s going wrong in the relationship.
Jameela [00:38:15] Oh yeah. I mean, I’ve got family members who are definitely malignant narcissists, like one of whom was extremely abusive towards me. And then later in life started sending me articles about false memory syndrome.
Dr. Ramani [00:38:27] Oh, goodness.
Jameela [00:38:29] Only to thank God four years later, copped to everything.
Dr. Ramani [00:38:33] Wow.
Jameela [00:38:34] But started to genuinely make me feel insane.
Dr. Ramani [00:38:36] Oh, absolutely. And that’s, again, the gaslighting that never happened. You know, you’re making that up. You’re just vindictive and and really once even just that, that never happened. But you’re also a bad person. You know, that’s the sort of gaslighting cycle. You’re crazy, you’re crazy.
Jameela [00:38:47] Yeah, or you’re crazy. You can’t trust yourself. You can’t trust your own instincts.
Dr. Ramani [00:38:51] Mm hmm. Yeah.
Jameela [00:38:52] It’s really terrifying to me.
Dr. Ramani [00:38:54] It is. The most cruel thing a person can do is incredibly emotionally abusive. And it is, you know, more people need to understand it. So when it’s happening to them, they can catch themselves to say that’s not true. Reality is this, and I’m holding on to that. The sky is blue. Don’t tell me it’s green.
Jameela [00:39:10] So the vast majority of people who wrote in and I know you get this question all day, every day, but how do you spot a narcissist within a relationship?
Dr. Ramani [00:39:20] So one of my answers to this is actually I used to try to look for this, ask this. But you know what? Trust your body. I am I got to tell you, our bodies are our bodies are so honest and feel things. And I honestly think our brain often gaslights our body like, oh, come on now, give it a chance. Your brain’s saying, your body’s like, Oh, I don’t like how this feels. There’s something about when you’re in the presence of somebody who is antagonistic in any way or narcissistic in any way, we kind of feel it in our gut. Sometimes we feel the hairs on the back of our neck stand up a little bit, like we’re a little bit uncomfortable. Now for people who have histories of narcissism in childhood can activate the sense we may be uncomfortable. But our sort of almost ingrained reaction is to say, I’m going to win this person over, just like you try to win over the parent who is narcissistic as a child. Right. But we tend to feel that in our bodies. And a lot of people who override that say, oh, I just have butterflies in my stomach. I’m like, oh, I don’t know if they’re a nice person. I don’t think you’d feel butterflies. I think you’d feel relaxed and comfortable in your own skin. That’s one thing. Another thing I tell people to pay attention to is, are they listening to you? You know, do are they actually really paying attention to you? Now, this is a tricky standard, Jameela, because one thing that a lot of narcissistic people are good at, they’re sprinters. For the first three, four or five weeks of the relationship, they’ll lean in and say, Tell me everything about you. And they’re actually listening. And they ask you things like, What’s your greatest fear? They’re remembering all that because they’re going to use it to manipulate you later, and now they know your greatest fear. But they do tend to hijack conversations. They do tend to make everything about them. That’s definitely something to look at. Look at also look at how they talk about other people. Like if they’re slamming every ex-partner, if they’re slamming all these other people, if they’re making fun of people in a restaurant, can you believe they’re wearing that or can you imagine? Look at how that person looks. Pay attention to that, because if they’re doing that to you, they’re going to be doing it about you very soon. Here’s an interesting one people don’t know to look at. Watch how they drive. There’s very interesting research that shows that narcissistic people drive very quickly. They drive very fast. They cut people off, they honk, they curse. Why are you in my way? And if in one of your early enough dates with somebody or early enough interactions, you get in a car and they’re driving like a real A-hole, that’s actually a good sign to get out because that A-hole driving, it’s actually quite conflated with sort of narcissistic personality styles, which is.
Jameela [00:41:37] Very unsafe.
Dr. Ramani [00:41:38] Yeah, it’s also very unsafe. Watch how they manage frustration or disappointments. So if something doesn’t go the way they want, the reservation isn’t at the time. And you’re like, I know, cool. Look, there’s a little hot dog stand across street. I just want to get to know you. No! This has to be right! And like the whole evening is ruined by their tantruming about things not going. They feel like I come. I do you know who I am? I eat here all the time like that. That’s a problem. Also, look at how sensitive they are to feedback or criticism. So let’s say you’re on an early date with them and I don’t know, you know, the place you’re going to. And they take a parking spot and you say to them, Hey, you know what? Like there’s a whole nother lot there that’s closer to the door. And they’ll say, What are you trying to say? You tell me. I don’t how to drive a car. You tell me I don’t know how to park a car. They give you that kind of pushback of like, or they get passive aggressive or sullen. That’s a bad sign too. Some of these signs show up pretty early when you get to know someone.
Jameela [00:42:29] Yeah. And I think we overlook those because we’re love drunk or we’re attracted to someone,.
Dr. Ramani [00:42:35] Or we’re nice.
Jameela [00:42:35] Yeah, yeah, we’re nice.
Dr. Ramani [00:42:36] We’re like oh they don’t mean it. They don’t mean let’s be nice. Let’s give them a chance. I’m like ehh if I had you know, if I had a dollar for every person got into a toxic relationship because of second chances, I’d be a very wealthy lady.
Jameela [00:42:48] Oh, my God. Yeah. I mean, I did second, third, fourth, ninth, 100 chances. Just couldn’t seem to. I’m a tough cookie, but I just I was totally sucked especially I think if you’re I think if you experience that very young, you don’t even know that you’re maybe even. Not to shame myself or anyone else, but maybe you’re going out looking for that because that feels familiar. But certainly, if it does happen, even if you didn’t go looking for it, you’re so skilled at handling it that you may don’t even recognize what’s happening.
Dr. Ramani [00:43:20] I don’t think anybody’s looking for it. Like I don’t think it’s an active I don’t think anyone is saying, hey, you know what, Tinder looking for an abuser. Like, right swipe on that.
Jameela [00:43:28] No, I think maybe some of the treatment, you know, like you get treated badly and maybe there’s like certain elements of that treatment that feels familiar. And then that kind of tricks your brain into thinking, Oh, okay, I feel safe, but you’re not.
Dr. Ramani [00:43:37] Wait it’s also. That’s the trauma bond is the familiarity, right? And so then it becomes I’ve been looking for it, but like actually overlooking the people who are kind. So the person who has not worked through the trauma bond it cycles, when they’re on a date with somebody who’s kind, we’ll say kind of a yawn or I sort of feel bored and I’m like, Give boredom a chance. Like, how about a second shot at boredom? Let’s try that. So I don’t know that this is boredom and it’s that idea of that trauma bonded kind of like a cycle of I’m going to work it through this time that can often get people stuck in these sort of toxic relational cycles.
Jameela [00:44:09] Well, there’s also like two societal things that I think fuck us up pretty badly. One of them is the fact that fucking music and Hollywood really fucked us because they told us that we’re supposed to feel like we’re having a heart attack and we want to starve to death. And, you know, we when we meet someone and it’s exciting, these things often are actually just anxiety, which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re with someone dangerous or someone is bad for you, but, you know, maybe that can be your own like personal anxiety. But I think I’ve noticed from looking back at my previous relationships, every time I felt like I was going to sort of just shit myself really with kind of like butterflies in my stomach and just felt so obsessed and consumed and like, you know, stop talking to my friends and this, that and the other. I was actually in the wrong relationship and my body was trying to say, You don’t feel safe. This isn’t actually the thing that is most integral and like best for you. And I almost wrote off the boy that I’m with now that I’ve been with for seven years or so.
Dr. Ramani [00:45:09] That’s a long time.
Jameela [00:45:09] Because I yeah, because I, I just, we both thought we were just friends who were shagging. You know, we, we didn’t, we didn’t think of it. We’re like, oh, this like, this can’t be actually love. Because I don’t, you know, I don’t feel any of those things, but actually we just felt immensely safe and therefore we dismissed the relationship for like ages. For like nine months we were just like, Yeah, but we’re not in a relationship because we thought, this can’t be the thing that sustains you. Whereas actually it’s been incredibly sustainable to love each other slowly and surely and kindly and carefully in our own pace. That is actually what can be sustained. You can’t ever sustain the heart attack and the emotions and the meatloaf songs. Not that anyone knows what I mean when I say meatloaf, I don’t mean the food. I mean the singer. I mean. But, you know, I so I feel like the romanticization of the panic and the anxiety and the drama, the melodrama of love and how we’re always told, you know, look at the bad boy and she changes the bad boy and she turns him into the good guy, I’m sort of speaking specifically around women, because that’s most of what we see. I feel like that’s been extremely detrimental to my generation growing up and thinking you can change him and like he’s the exciting one and the nice guy is just a bit dull.
Dr. Ramani [00:46:19] Well, we romanticize obsession. I mean, I think that that’s the problem and that’s a really dangerous precedent because not only does it set up like you’re saying, if it’s not, you’re staying up all night and not eating and, you know, you know, completely preoccupied. It’s not love, but it also sets up something dangerous of people who are obsessive and maybe stocky and intrusive and all of that. So this idea of romanticizing obsession, I think, is a really problematic space. And this idea of slow love is a different game of like very friendship, companionship, and, you know, and when we think about a people, there’s researchers like Dr. Pamela Regan and other people who study really relationships who, you know, they talk about the cycle of love and that first bit of love, passionate love. Passionate love is that kind of it’s distractible. It’s all, you know, all consuming. You know, we’re we’re sort of swept away in some ways we do isolate and all of that. The challenge with passionate love is that it’s not sustainable, right? It’s it’s like it’s like running all the air conditionings on high power, at some point are going to burn out. Passionate love and a healthy relationship then transitions to something called companionate love. Companionate love is the long game, and companionate love is that mixture of intimacy, friendship, respect.
Jameela [00:47:26] Snacking.
Dr. Ramani [00:47:27] Growth, orientation, snacking, loving you. Whether you put on the weight or not, it’s companionship. That’s where the narcissists drop out. They’re not capable of the companionate low. They are rock stars at passionate love, companionate love forget about. And companionate love is what that’s the person who’s going to wipe your ass when you’re 80 years old. Not the passionate love, narcissistic nonsense.
Jameela [00:47:47] They want the chaos because they thrive in the chaos. And they can also keep you confused in the chaos. If they’re still waters, it’s easier for you to maybe identify that something’s off.
Dr. Ramani [00:47:57] Correct.
Jameela [00:47:57] I also just want to quickly apologize for referring to James as a boy earlier, because he’s a 33 year old grown man, and it makes me sound like a pedo. So. Oh, man. Anyway, the other thing that you have touched on that feels extremely, uh, it really resonated with me is that there’s a kind of big culture of, you know, it’s a lovely culture, but it’s a culture of hopefulness and forgiveness. That also means that we especially women, but I think anyone of any gender can be fall victim to this. I’ve certainly seen men that I know. In fact, a friend of mine was able to get out of his relationship with a malignant narcissist because of your videos.
Dr. Ramani [00:48:36] Oh thank you.
Jameela [00:48:36] I sent him I sent him your videos. And he was able to be freed and has recognized that his entire life is improved. So thank you for that. But the the kind of phenomenon or the culture of like hopefulness and forgiveness, can you explain how that’s been kind of detrimental to people feeling like they’re allowed to walk away?
Dr. Ramani [00:48:55] It’s huge. I mean, hope is what keeps narcissistic relationships going. And the hope is largely around the idea that they’re going to change. Right. Which is a misplaced bet. And it’s a fool’s errand. But I’ve known people to have hope, keep them driving for 40 years. So it’s it’s no joke with the hope. Oh, it’s going to get better after the kids are grown. It’s going to get better when he gets a promotion. It’s going to get better when he retires. It’s that hope is future faked hope. Right. The forgiveness is even trickier. Every you know, every the entire canon of religion and everything is about forgiveness is divine forgiveness is great. Everything’s great with forgiveness. And there’s actually a really big body of literature that shows this forgiveness is great. I’d say, except where narcissism is concerned. I’m not a fan of forgiveness there because many times a person will forgive the narcissists and some may say, Look at me, I forgave them. And then the narcissist just views that as permission, like, well, this is great, I can keep doing this stuff and this person is going to keep forgiving me like, wow, this is set up, right? This is great. Well, then the perso n who keeps forgiving them, they really start experiencing a betrayal trauma of having their trust betrayed over and over and over again. And it really does a number on that forgiver, but we pressure people to forgive. Oh, you should forgive to forgive is divine. Why are you holding it? As long as you hold this way, you’re going to be dark. No, they’re not. They’ll forgive when they’re damn ready to forgive. We have got to stop pressuring people to forgive. And you know what? Some people never get to forgiveness. And that’s okay. I tell all my survivors that I work with, I said, You know what? Well, here’s what I’m looking for, for you. I want to get you to indifference. Forgive, don’t forgive. I don’t care, but I want you to indifference where you don’t care if the narcissist lives, you don’t care if they die. You don’t care if they win the lottery. You don’t care if they get married. You just don’t care. That’s healing to me. I don’t care if you forgive them or not. And everybody pressures and shames survivors for not forgiving. And I think that’s a load of shit.
Jameela [00:50:45] Oh, my God. I’m going to make that my ringtone. The amount of shit that I have gotten for the fact that I’m not a terribly forgiving person, I am for small things that I can see were just like, you’re a product of the, you know, the moment, but especially when it comes to abusive behavior or malignant like like like like premeditated abusive behavior. And often that is committed by malignant narcissists. I just don’t do forgiveness. It just makes me ill. I just feel like I’m then doing all the work. And it’s disingenuous for me, you know? And I really despise the culture around. Turn the other cheek, be the bigger person, get on the high horse. All of that to me just sounds like you like it’s been that that is a lie that’s been created by abusers to somehow trick the abused into thinking that into feeling good about eating shit.
Dr. Ramani [00:51:31] Well I think it’s also like and it gets to be a tricky dance I’ll say to people like, you can play the forgiveness game. You want to forgive them once you do you. However, if this person betrays your trust, then really it’s it’s time to cut the gravy train here. Because I as I do believe that in healthy relationships, we all make mistakes. Right. And if I believe that when I screw up and I screw up all the time and somebody forgives me, I feel as though they’ve given me the hope diamond. Like I’m holding the most precious gift, like, that forever. For the rest of my days, I will be mindful of not doing wrong, of attempting to communicate more clearly, like never committing that transgression again. Because to do so would be to devalue this divine gift that this person has given me. Right. And so that’s how forgiveness is supposed to work. Not we keep forgiving people, letting them transgress, and then letting again their repeated betrayal, trauma sense. It’s an awful feeling. But what we do is the survivors are already going through so much, they’re getting hurt by the narcissistic person. And then we’re we’re really doing we’re really doing them a disservice, telling them they have to forgive. If people get there, then I say, that’s great, as long as it was an organic, authentic process. But if you did this in response to people shaming you, a) it’s not even an authentic process and they’re going to hurt you again. So that feels worse, at least if you don’t forgive them and they hurt you again. You’re gonna say okay, this is just not a nice person, but if you forgave them a lot of people self blame and say I gave them permission to do that.
Jameela [00:52:58] Yeah, 100%. Some of the questions that we got. A few people were asking why more men are inclined to show narcissistic traits than women. Do you even agree with that?
Dr. Ramani [00:53:16] So it’s tricky. So when we’re talking about those grandiose and malignant narcissists, it is. There are more men are grandiose and malignant narcissists and again.
Jameela [00:53:23] Because of socializing and enabling.
Dr. Ramani [00:53:25] And I’m using the gender binary. So I apologize for an individual’s or nonbinary saying where do I fall in this? We just don’t have the numbers on that. But it is a we definitely see something we see more in men. And I think a lot of it is socialization. It’s it’s how we shame emotion in boys and men. We don’t we don’t give an outlet for that. I think we devalue empathy in men. We a privilege is accorded to men. So all of those things are going to. And we talk about toxic masculinity, right? Toxic masculinity to me is just a cover word for narcissism because it manifests the same way. Now, when we talk about vulnerable narcissism, the more victimized, petulant, resentful, sullen narcissism. Yeah, that covert, vulnerable model, equal gender, it’s equal men and women. So there’s something about that grandiose presentation that’s definitely much more in the men, but the vulnerable presentations equal in men and women.
Jameela [00:54:16] Fascinating. And another thing a lot of people want to know is can you stay with a narcissist?
Dr. Ramani [00:54:22] I’d say over half of it’s half. About half of people in relationships with a narcissists do stay. So it’s not like you’re not in good company. Right. But it’s a lot of people stay for reasons of minor children, money, religion, culture, fear, hope. All of these things drive why people stay. So can you stay? Yeah, you can you? Yes. Is it going to be healthy? Probably not. Over the long term it’ll take a toll on a person.
Jameela [00:54:48] Yeah. And also I can say from experience that confronting a narcissist and telling them that they’re narcissist doesn’t work and it makes things really explosive and scary. It doesn’t. It’s not a wake up call. It can often lead to a really scary rage. I would now recommend, to be honest, even though it doesn’t really feel good, because you don’t get to get it off your chest. I would recommend just not engaging. As soon as you work out you are around a narcissist. With a narcissist, I would do your best to not try to fix or confront. I would just detach.
Dr. Ramani [00:55:19] Yeah. I tell people that, you know, I have the the Dr. Ramani’s rule of don’t go deep with the narcissist and that’s really don’t defend yourself, don’t explain yourself, don’t engage and don’t personalize. And if you can do that with a narcissist, you’ll be good to go.
Jameela [00:55:33] Isn’t that fascinating? And so why? Why the don’t go deep just because they’ll fucking bamboozle you and turn into a labyrinth.
Dr. Ramani [00:55:40] If you defend yourself, they’re going to word salad you. They’re going to confuse you. They’re going to gaslight you. It’s just going to devolve into you ultimately getting raged at and insulted. Not good for you. The explaining yourself once again. They’re not listening to you. They’re going to gaslight you. They’re going to twist your words. They’re going to use them against you. If you engage, it’s all pointless. And if you personalize, a lot of people say, Well, what is it about me? I said, It’s not about you. You are interchangeable. Anybody sitting in your position is going to take this from them. You’re in the unfortunate position of being in this relationship, but anyone in that relationship, so they’re no, they’re not going to change for the next person. The next person is getting the same narcissistic person you were with. You know, they may just experience them differently because of their own history, but they’re still treating them badly.
Jameela [00:56:21] Someone’s asked, is it ever worth just appeasing a narcissist?
Dr. Ramani [00:56:24] Well, I think a lot of people do appear narcissists. The question is, how long can you keep that game going? I’ve known people, Jameela, who have done it for a lifetime, you know, because it’s really the only path forward is to appease them. And appeasing
Jameela [00:56:34] Happens a lot in the work space I find. Especially in my industry, it’s like you just you almost I almost feel like I’ll haven’t thought this through so bear with, but I almost feel like some people utilize the fact that someone’s a narcissist, they’re going to go out of their way and do all the ruthless shit. And if you just stay on their good side, then you will continue to benefit from the gravy boat. You know, that’s being acquired by the narcissist. As long as you appease all of their their wills and their, you know, their desires and you don’t ever cross them, feel completely malleable to their needs, then you can benefit from all the shit that they acquire or the power they acquire.
Dr. Ramani [00:57:14] Right. And appeasing really does. And if you do, if a person appeases for long enough, that’s enabling. Short term appeasing what is sort of sprinting, appeasing, I also call it fluffing is this idea of like I have got to survive in this shop. Entertainment industry is a great example. I’ve got to get through this production, I’ve got to get through this episode. So I’m just going to appease this person so I can get my paycheck and go. But to have to do that for years, that’s enabling and it’s not good for anybody.
Jameela [00:57:38] Yes, absolutely. It’s not good for your own soul. At some point, you are just going to you are going to break. And someone wrote in saying, am I selfish or self compassionate or a narcissist? Which I think is, you know, kind of takes us all the way back to the beginning of this chat. But I do think that that’s something that could concern people because, you know, again, you and I, when we were talking on the phone, I was telling you that I feel frustrated when a lot my friends just go like, oh, he was such a narc. He was such a narcissist. Just because someone selfish, someone isn’t like being going out of their way to help them, someone who is self concerned. And I don’t think that person, that person just might be a bit of a dick. And it’s hard to be able to differentiate.
Dr. Ramani [00:58:19] Yeah, it is. I mean, again, someone being a dick does not necessarily mean they’re being narcissistic. And we’re looking for that consistency across a wide variety of situations, relationships and that long that list I gave you of the entitlement, lack of empathy, etc.. So if a person is stopping to say, am I narcissistic, I’m already saying I don’t know if you are because you’re self-aware enough to question something. And a person might say, I don’t know. A person may say, You know what? Like, I often will put my family out of other people or something like that. And isn’t that selfish and does that make me narcissistic? You know, I’d want to I’d want a poke in there and say, do you have empathy for other people or are you are you entitled? Do you believe you’re entitled to special treatment? By the time we’re done, what you recognize is the people who are walking around saying I’m narcissistic are in fact people who are sort of self-monitoring themselves so closely that if they’re not on point all the time, they think they’re being narcissistic. And I I’ve many people in narcissistic relationships are accused of being narcissistic because they don’t give in to everything the narcissist wants. And the narcissists say, well, you’re the narcissist, and you’re it’s because you’re not doing everything they want. And then some people will believe that.
Jameela [00:59:27] That is. And also you get accused of being selfish if you bend to their every single whim. Yeah, I definitely I’ve definitely been on the receiving end of that and so have a few of my friends. Oh, my goodness. So much food for thought. Thank you so much for breaking this down in a way that was so. It’s been so. Just easy to understand. Easy to identify. This work is so important. And I think that that the way in which you communicate is very empowering. And it it doesn’t shame people who fall victim to this. And and yeah, you’re sort of in your own way, not also not really shaming the person. You’re explaining them, but but it’s so kind of almost beyond their own control that there’s no point.
Dr. Ramani [01:00:11] I think it’s more in their control. I mean, I think the way I see it is, is that at any given time, unless a person is psychotic or has had some form of sort of central nervous system damage anyone, every behavior we engage in is a choice. It’s always a choice.
Jameela [01:00:25] But you’re saying we can’t undo it. That’s all.
Dr. Ramani [01:00:27] But I’m saying that if a person is choosing to be un empathic, if a person is choosing to go and scream at a server in a restaurant or scream at a flight attendant.
Jameela [01:00:35] 100%.
Dr. Ramani [01:00:36] That’s a choice. And so they’re choosing to behave this way. And I have a problem with that. My only hope for them is to say, listen, if you’re willing to do the work, put your head down, take accountability, take ownership, do the deep dive. Figuring out what’s in your backstory that made you like this. Then then you’ll be the unicorn. You can be that unicorn who actually does the work and comes out the other side as a person who is narcissistic and says, You know, from here on forward, I’m going to be mindful. A lot of narcissistic folks who’ve actually done the therapeutic work will say, you know what, this is too exhausting. I think other people are idiots. I think their feelings are stupid, but I don’t want to hurt them. So I’m going to cut off from all of them. Okay, that’s better than hurting them.
Jameela [01:01:17] So even if they can’t get rid of it, they can kind of almost cognitive behavioral therapy or something their way to. They can micromanage themselves to at least cover, cover up or suppress the parts that make life difficult for the people around them.
Dr. Ramani [01:01:32] If they if they choose to. I’m going to tell you now, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I haven’t really seen someone get there. I mean, I’ve seen some shifts. I’ve seen some slight improvement sometimes. Sometimes age makes it work. Sometimes age softens the rough edges. It really depends. You know, by and large, when a person gets older, they may not have access to as many people to hurt, if you will. But I’ve not I mean, again, I’m telling people what I observe, seeing, read about. There’s just there’s never been a single randomized clinical trial that has tested the utility of various psychotherapies in people of narcissistic personalities. We just don’t know. But talk to any therapist out there. I’ll say, Yeah, there’s probably not much we can do.
Jameela [01:02:08] Yeah, this is kind of what I meant with a kind of like this ugh just give up, like just get away from them. Try to get away from them if you can.
Dr. Ramani [01:02:15] It’s radical acceptance, and realistic expectations. They’re not going to change. And this is something you can’t eliminate from your life. Instead of driving yourself mad and exhausting yourself by trying to change it, you kind of have to shrug yourself. It’s sort of like if you live in Seattle, it’s going to rain a lot. And if you’re surprised when it rains a lot, I’m like, Yo, you live in Seattle, you know? So it’s going to rain. Like, accept that this is what this relationship’s going to be. And if you’re stuck in such a situation, for whatever reason it may be to encourage people, cultivate other supports, cultivate friendships, have meaningful activities in your life, like whatever you can do to enhance the rest of your life, you ain’t going to get that enhancement from the narcissistic relationship.
Jameela [01:02:51] Yeah. And it’s very important to also do things that help you hold onto yourself, because the fundamental objective of narcissists, in particular that we’re close to malignant narcissists, is to force us to lose our identity, because then we’re much more malleable to whatever they want us to be. So do everything in your power to hold on to the things that are just yours, that are your identity, that you can’t have taken away from you. You’re a fascinating human, and I hope we get to talk to you again some time. Thank you for answering the questions from the listeners. Thank you for answering all of my questions. And you’re the best. I will. I hope everyone watches all your videos and follows you online and reads your books because you are again, as I said at the top, just such a needed voice. Thank you so much, Dr. Ramani.
Dr. Ramani [01:03:39] Thank you Jameela. I appreciate you.
Jameela [01:03:42] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and research by myself, Jameela, Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything check it out. You can get a free month for Stitcher Premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh. Iweighpodcast@gmail.com and now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. Here is an I Weigh from one of our listeners. I weigh my complexity as a human a growing human being. I weigh my love for my family, my dog and my friends. I weigh my passions and my tears. I weigh an eating disorder. My queerness. And my hope for a better world.
September 21, 2023
Jameela is joined by campaigner and writer Gina Martin, and in this optimistic conversation about creating change for equal rights around the world, they discuss how anyone can show up and support activism (especially offline in real spaces) and what this activism work can look like.