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Hecklers, Part 1: A Discussion of Guilt and Shame

In my last post I discussed whether or not confronting a narcissist and “calling them out” is ever productive behavior.

The common viewpoint among experts is that confronting a narcissist is useless, because they view both positive attention and negative attention to be narcissistic supply. Also, they have an uncanny way to reframe anything into a positive reflection on them, for example the phrase “I must have haters because I’m doing something right” or “Everyone is just jealous or can’t get my brilliance” and so on and so on.

I agreed that these pitfalls of confronting narcissists are indeed true, but I also explained how one can make the encounter one that does not feed the narcissist’s ego by providing narcissistic supply. I’m not going to regurgitate it all here, especially since you can just check out the post, but the gist of it all was:

  1. Confronting narcissists only “works” if you make the narcissistic injury (ego bruising and image damaging) outweigh the narcissistic supply (ego boosting and image enhancing), such that the net narcissistic supply is negative.
  2. To ensure that the narcissist derives more injury than supply from your confrontation, you have to make sure you attack the narcissist using shame, which is his kryptonite, rather than guilt, which he is immune to.

The best way to see these two rules of narcissist confrontation in action is to go to Youtube and watch as many videos of comedians taking down hecklers as you can. There are two common types of hecklers. In fact, based on what I’ve seen live in comedy clubs or online in Youtube clips, I’m convinced 99% of hecklers fall into these two groups: hot women and drunk guys. Both are usually types of narcissists. Hot women, especially when young, are usually narcissists because they are used to being spoiled and having their asses kissed, especially from puberty on. They often are surrounded by people who laugh at their every lame joke or pay rapt attention to their every banal observation, so they actually believe that they are funnier and more insightful than they actually are. Their lives usually resemble this video, hence the delusions of grandeur:

Drunk guys on the other hand are situational narcissists. I’ve made observations in the past about how narcissism and addiction are similar, but here are some more examples of how they’re connected: The concept of codependent was first created by addiction specialists to describe spouses of alcoholics before it was realized that it also applied to people involved with narcissists also. Several experts realized that the dynamics of alcoholic families also applied to narcissistic families. Alcohol is a chemical, liquid form of narcissistic supply preferred by the alcoholic. The feeling of being intoxicated the alcoholic feels after drinking is like the feelings of grandiosity and omnipotence the narcissist feels after getting narcissistic supply. Both will idealize, manipulate, lie to, devalue, and discard others in order to chase their preferred forms of narcissistic supply. And most importantly, both are immune to guilt and vulnerable to shame, especially when they are high off their respective form of supply (for the narcissist, admiration and attention, and for the alcoholic, liquor). And even if someone isn’t a full-fledged alcoholic, for that time during which he is drunk and on cloud 9, he is at least situationally functioning as a narcissist, even though he may be usually a cool guy when sober. This is why I think heckler takedowns are great, rare opportunities to see real-life, unstaged takedowns of narcissists that illustrate the principles I’ve described.

Before we discuss the heckler takedowns though, it’s important to understand the psychodynamics involved in shame and guilt so that you can understand what I mean when I say it’s necessary to attack on the shame level rather than the guilt level.

Many people think shame and guilt are the same thing, but they are very difference. To reiterate a concept I’ve discussed in the past, guilt is feeling bad about something you did, while shame is feeling bad about what you are, your very essence, your very identity. Since the guilty viewpoint sees actions as being the problem, a person overcome by guilt feels the urge to expose what they did to the aggrieved party via confession, and to make restitution and accept punishment. A guilty person tries to make up for bad actions by following them up with good actions. Since the shame viewpoint on the other hand sees his very identity as the problem, a person overcome by shame feels the urge to conceal who they are, to deflect attention and blame and to avoid being revealed as defective and flawed. A shame-filled person doesn’t try to make up for bad actions with good actions, but instead tries to repair his image by downplaying the bad actions or blaming someone else or just slinking away and hiding so as to avoid further embarrassment and scrutiny.

If a guilty person did something wrong and no one else knew, they would still feel bad, because even though their image is still intact, it’s their actions and the content of their character that matters to them. If a shame-prone person did something wrong and no one else knew, they would not feel bad because as long as their image is fine, everything else is fine, regardless of whether their actions are morally right or wrong. To a shame-prone person, actions are only “right” or “wrong” to the extent that they damage his or her reputation or image, regardless of the actual intent and impact of the actions. To a shame-prone person, actions only matter when they damage the image, cause feelings of exposure and embarrassment, and reveal that they are flawed to their core, making them feel like frauds.

For shame-based people, even what little sense of guilt they have ends up fused with shame, making it something called toxic guilt. That is, they can’t separate their guilt from their shame, meaning they can’t separate their actions from their identity. For example, when you are operating from a sense of guilt, you can say something like “I am a good, decent guy who just happened to do a stupid thing. Doing something stupid doesn’t make my whole identity defective.” If you are operating from a sense of toxic guilt, which is guilt fused with shame, you can’t say things like that. Your thought process is “I did something stupid, therefore I have revealed myself to be stupid. Doing something stupid proves my whole identity is stupid and defective.” Even though he’s starting off with the focus on his actions (guilt), he’s unable to resist the urge to bring it back to his identity and self-worth (shame).

Now a person with a healthy sense of guilt, when he fails at something, says “I’m a regular person who just happened to fail just now.” He feels bad but he doesn’t get carried away and thinks he is subhuman or that failure is his whole identity. Likewise, when he succeeds, he says “I’m a regular person who worked hard and happened to succeed just now.” He feels good but he doesn’t get carried away and thinks he’s godlike or become a grandiose dick and make that success into his whole identity. This gives him a more stable sense of self-esteem, a more consistent mood, and an ability to forgive himself for mistakes.

A shame-based person with toxic guilt, when he fails, he says “I am a failure. My whole identity is defective, I am an inferior being.” When he wins, he says “I am a winner. My whole identity is perfection, I am a superior being.” Again, identity is all. Again, actions only matter to the extent to which the shame-based person feels they “reveal” his inherent inferiority or superiority. Since his self-view is totally contingent on his last success or failure, he has a more volatile sense of self-esteem, less consistent moods since a day can be filled with numerous successes and failures, and he has less ability to forgive his own mistakes, since with each action his whole identity is at stake, and with each mistake he further reveals his inferiority and (according to shame-based logic) cements himself as defective in the eyes of himself and others.

Now let’s combine this with a concept we’ve discussed in the past called loss aversion. As I’ve discussed in the past, human beings are much more motivated by the fear of losses, or loss aversion, than they are by the desire to maximize gains.

So think about how shame and guilt affects recovery from setbacks. A guilt-based person fails at something, feels a setback, and thinks “Okay, I’m just a regular guy who happened to lose.” Because his failure didn’t make him “lose” his sense of worth and value as a human being, he is willing to try again to do better next time. His self-worth and entire identity is not at stake with each attempt he makes. When the shame-based person fails at something, however, he thinks “Wow, I guess I’m not a superior person after all, or even a regular person. I’m actually a loser.” Because his failure made him “lose” his sense of worth and value as a human being, he has to ask himself how badly he really wants to try again, because each time he fails he realizes he risks losing more of his actual self-worth, his very identity. Each attempt risks his whole identity and self-image and feelings of worthiness. Loss aversion kicks in, and he starts self-handicapping and other forms of self-sabotage. Because he’s shame-based, a win would (temporarily) restore his self-worth and repair his identity in the same way a loss destroys them, but since human being are more motivated by loss aversion than maximizing wins, he starts playing it safe, looking for easy wins, looking for quick easy ego boosts, looking for weak competition, focusing more on proving other people inferior than on competing and proving himself, looking for people to blame and accuse of inferiority, etc. After all, he just lost “face,” and with it, he lost a bit of self-esteem, a bit of reputation, and revealed to themselves and others that they are defective. If he tries to remedy this by taking action a second time, sure he might win and end up undoing the damage to his self-esteem and reputation. Sure he might end up proving he actually is superior and his grandiosity is justified. But, he also may end up failing again and losing even more self-esteem and reputation. He may end up causing more damage to his reputation and cementing his image as a loser even more. The laws of loss aversion say, when future success looks unpredictable, it’s better to definitely avoid further loss than to possibly get a big win. Loss aversion is what people mean when they say someone is “playing not to lose” rather than “playing to win.”

Shame and toxic guilt are primitive, unevolved ways of dealing with the world. That’s why when you are dealing with children, you have to be careful of how you criticize them. Kids feel that if you point out they did something wrong, you are somehow criticizing their whole being and saying they somehow are something inferior and defective. This is why people tend to be gentle when criticizing kids. As kids grow up and develop a more evolved worldview and self-image and become more guilt-based, you are able to criticize them more harshly without them taking it as a criticism of their very self-worth or a judgment on their whole being. Since narcissists are emotionally unevolved and have never matured past the emotional level of a child, this is why they are shame-based rather than guilt-based, and why they take criticism like children throughout their whole lives, which is why they’re so thin-skinned.

Some narcissists never evolve past shame-based thinking because they were so pampered and mollycoddled that they never got the appropriate levels of constructive criticism they were supposed to get as they aged. Other narcissists never get past shame-based thinking because they were so abused that they always had it explicitly drilled into their heads their whole lives that their failures were reflections on their very worth as human beings. Other narcissists turned out this way because they grew up with both behaviors, often from different parents, sometimes from the very same parent. Another illustration of one of the biggest ironies in personality orders: how pampering and tormenting parent styles often lead to the same outcomes.

So in summation, guilt equals feeling bad because of one’s actions, and the way most people remedy guilt is by confession and corrective action. Shame equals feeling bad because of one’s very identity and existence, and the way more people remedy shame is by keeping secrets and micromanaging their image (also known as Impression Management), often concealing what they feel to be their true defective selves, either by literally avoiding people or by constructing a false, perfectionistic exterior with which to impress and interact with others. Toxic guilt is guilt that is fused with shame, meaning a person feels bad about their actions not because they are objectively and morally good or bad, but rather only to the degree that those actions affect their image and cause bad feelings about identity, right to exist, and self-worth. The way most people remedy toxic guilt is to try to find “good” actions that will improve their image and create good feelings in them about their own identity, right to exist, and self-worth, while at the same time doing their best not to risk any further damage to their image and self esteem (loss aversion). Thus toxic guilt causes people to try to remedy the situation by chasing easy wins while playing not to lose.

Now that that’s been explained, in the next part we’ll look at examples of hecklers.

Recommended Reading:

There is a book by psychologist Carol Dweck called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success that discusses her findings about self-motivation and personality from working with kids. This great New York Magazine article also discussed her findings in depth. Whether or not you decide to read the book, I highly recommend you read the article if you are at all interested in seeing the concepts of this blog illustrated in real world studies. Also, it’s an article that could cause a lot of self-examination in you as you read it.

She worked with two types of kids. One group was praised for being smart and were taught to consider being smart as their inherent identity. Another group was praised for their actions of working hard and were taught to focus on their actions rather than their natural talent. As described by her Wikipedia entry:

According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on having opposite mind set, which involves hard work,learning, training and doggedness are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behavior. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don’t mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure. These two mindsets play an important role in all aspects of a person’s life. Dweck argues that the growth mindset will allow a person to live a less stressful and more successful life. Dweck’s definition of fixed and growth mindsets from a 2012 interview:

“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”[8]

This is important because (1) individuals with a “growth” theory are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks and (2) individuals’ theories of intelligence can be affected by subtle environmental cues. For example, children given praise such as “good job, you’re very smart” are much more likely to develop a fixed mindset, whereas if given compliments like “good job, you worked very hard” they are likely to develop a growth mindset. In other words, it is possible to encourage students, for example, to persist despite failure by encouraging them to think about learning in a certain way.

As you may have realized, the “fixed mindset” kids are shame-based, while the “growth mindset” kids are guilt-based. Much of this also relates to the concepts of ego-driven superiority (which shame-based people are drawn to) and enlightened superiority (which guilt-based people are drawn to) that I discussed years ago in this post.

I really want to start challenging people to see how ubiquitous all these concepts are, and how interplay and tie into each other and how the same recurring themes keep popping up. Read the Mindset book, read the NY magazine articles, read or reread the old posts linked to in this post and you’ll see what I mean. Also, for fun, when reading the NY Magazine article about Dweck, try to figure out how the findings about the two groups of kids reveals about genetic determinists like the scientific racists (or HBD followers as they call themselves) who obsess over proving they were naturally born smart and that being smart is an inherent identity and that hard work barely matters. It really makes you realize that their intellectual and psychological shortcomings come from shame and narcissism. This is something I’m going to expand on in future posts early next year.

35 Responses to “Hecklers, Part 1: A Discussion of Guilt and Shame”


  1. This article raises two questions for me:

    1) What is the purpose of confronting a narcissist, beyond the visceral satisfaction of hurting a person that has hurt you? In the story you described before, wouldn’t the girl have been better served by completely cutting contact with her ex?

    2) Is it possible to shift from a shame based personality to a guilt based personality? are there practical things that a person can do if they want to do so, how does one change something ingrained in them from childhood?

    thanks for the thought provoking post.


  2. I think I definitely fall into the shame based category, having the sense that any loss hurts my identity and then developing avoiding strategies. For example I tend to avoid higher level pool matches where Im much more likely to face regular defeats and opt for the “big fish in small pond” option.

    Getting beat, or even just being put into a position where getting beat is more likely feels more threatening to what I vaguely think of as my ego. This applies across the board to where Im pretty much avoiding everything that is a threat to my ego, hence Im as you put it self-sabotaging my actual self to protect my ego self.

    Ive just got very little idea what to do about it, Ive sort of burrowed further and further into this way of life and at the age of 38 I feel akin to a man child. My EQ, if you like, is that of an adolescent. People presumably smell this a mile away.

    I’m stuck in this avoidance cycle and while sometimes reading quality sites like yours and decent books gets my hopes up, as soon as I bash up against the world and other people I just go straight to the give up locker. My automatic response to most social stimuli seems to be feeling like a loser, uncomfortable, and often retreating to fantasy as I’m talking to someone – either that or i get ego points for winning pool games, taking the piss out of people, laughing at others etc etc. Everything feels like a point scoring session to me.

    Given that, its understandable I would want to avoid things so much. The internet forums, porn, tv etc re-inforce all this. I can completely see how people end up swamped in their own fantasies, and project all their inadequacies onto ideologies like feminism or Marxism.

    I suspect I need to go see someone, but its just too easy to stay like I am rather than do the hard stuff that will help me to get out of it. Actually doing something about it will probably result in some serious inner hurt. Just feel like I’m gonna fall apart if I really could see who i am.


  3. In MindOS (Dr. Paul Nobransky) explains that anger is caused by being hurt while anxiety is caused by experiencing loss. Another way of phrasing would be that anger is caused by a lack of well-being and anxiety by a lack of confidence. He defines both as follows:

    “Well-being is a positive energy that feels like being nurtured, or soothed, a feeling of your needs being met. Confidence is a positive energy that helps you take action and risks, resisting losses and tolerating change.”

    From reading your material on codependents, narcissists and compensatory narcissists, and integrating it a bit with Dr. Paul’s, it seems that codependents tend express anxiety while narcissists tend to express anger. Compensatory narcissists, on the other hand, express either one depending on whether they’re leaning more towards the codependency or the narcissist side of things in response to the whether they’re in a relationship with a someone more codependent than themselves or more narcissistic than themselves.

    Bringing these ideas together, it looks as if codependents, in experiencing anxiety, and are also more influenced by guilt (an experience they direct inwards and as such are more prone to depression). Also, narcissists, in experiencing anger, turn that experience outwards into their environment and are influenced more heavily (or wholly) by shame. That anger would also appear to be in direct response to shame in an attempt to re-build the false self.

    Continuing with this further, it also seems that regardless of the reaction to guilt or shame, it essentially revolves around the self / false ego. The codependent says ‘oh crap something is wrong with *me*’ while the narcissist says ‘you bunch of dumbasses, everything is wrong with you’. Codependent = everything wrong with me. Narcissist = nothing wrong with me. Commonality = me. I think this particular connection may have been made in a previous post or perhaps I’m recalling info from Eckhart’s Power of Now. Can’t recall where I may have heard this first.

    Would you agree, disagree or modify any of this?


  4. Gold.


  5. Thank you for this! It has made a LOT of things much clearer to me. Reading other things about narcissism and shame vs. guilt didn’t make things clearer at all. Well done!!


  6. “Also, for fun, when reading the NY Magazine article about Dweck, try to figure out how the findings about the two groups of kids reveals about genetic determinists like the scientific racists (or HBD followers as they call themselves) who obsess over proving they were naturally born smart and that being smart is an inherent identity and that hard work barely matters. It really makes you realize that their intellectual and psychological shortcomings come from shame and narcissism.”

    I wondered if you’d go there. Come on, man. Argue with the science rather than taking the shortcut of making out your opponents have emotional issues. I know it’s tempting – I do it with liberals and feminists all the time. But I tend to do it AFTER arguing with their points. Treat it as dessert. I know you said “for fun,” but it’s not for fun – you’re doing more posts about it.

    They could come right back and say you’re constructing a false image of equality which is not supported by reality and that’s narcissistic.


  7. However great article otherwise. I hadn’t understood until now how grandiosity/shame create mood instability.


  8. Sorry not trying to flood you with comments here – but I want to point out you too could be called something like an HBDer when it comes to sex/gender and a feminist might level the same criticism against you.


  9. Incredibly interesting post, although what I’m most interested in is if what you call “toxic guilt” isn’t confided solely to Western individualist culture. It seems that that would be a totally normal way of functioning for an emotionally healthy Japanese adult for example, as entire cultures can be classified as “shame” or “guilt” based. This is why when they are punished, it is in front of everyone as the entire concept of personal guilt doesn’t make much sense in a collectivist culture. It would be interesting to find out what constitutes a pathological personality, particularly a “cluster b” personality in East Asian culture, and how people react to healthy vs. unhealthy parenting in that cultural setting.

    I am also wondering if not feeling toxic shame is indeed a “healthy” reaction. I have no real opinion here, but just as food for thought it seems like it could be a byproduct of our post-modern pampering democratic values and that everybody “deserves” self-esteem. Throughout history, people didn’t experiment with different ways of being and people weren’t able to make as many mistakes as they can now, if you fucked up then you were a fuck-up at best, and killed at worst. It is smart to immediately feel like a fuck up in that situation. Watching any episode of Game of Thrones or The Wire which are dog eat dog worlds, (in the game you either play or get played, no other options as Omar said it best). It is starting to seem like the entire concept of guilt is somewhat of a luxury.


  10. Our blog is turning in a crusade against the narcisisst i think,maybe we lack a lil bit of……..compassion?
    Deep inside we are all narcisisst, it just depends WHO we are dealing with…


  11. Isumi –

    I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with a true narcissist, but when you have you realize how important resources about the subject are.


  12. Hello guys!

    I have a questions regarding hecklers : can a person who interrupts a two-person fight by getting involved and sucker punching one of the participants at that fight who he despises be considered a heckler?

    I have to mention that in that case the person who he hit wasn’t an immediate threat to him, nor did he do anything at that particular moment to get him mad.
    What would the psychological implications of this be?

    P.S. : It happened to me in high school, I was the one who got sucker punched.


  13. @Aron

    Hi dude,ive grown up just with my mom, she is the prototype of a narcissist,a totally fucked up woman(mentally ill too for sure)

    ALWAYS blaming other people
    Insanely gealous
    Controlling
    queen of the drama queen
    cuddling me for no reason,and beating me for no reason too…

    Anyway after hating her so much….im starting to understand now(im 23) where is she coming from and why she is like that,and im kinda grateful that she raised me up alone,that she gave me food,clothes and a bad to sleep…
    now we are adult ,and if we fall in a wrong loverelationship its our mistake no one else should be blamed…

    What i wanna say,is that too much narcissist bashing COULD be counterproductive to us…
    feel like instead of taking the path ….”how can i be STRONGER”……we are leading to ”how to take down those fakin narcissistfull of them self idiots”

    I could be wrong,so thats just a big IMO


  14. Actually I would have to agree. Such resources can help a narcissist as much as a victim – I say this as someone with some mild narcissistic traits.


  15. s:

    1) What is the purpose of confronting a narcissist, beyond the visceral satisfaction of hurting a person that has hurt you? In the story you described before, wouldn’t the girl have been better served by completely cutting contact with her ex?

    It’s not so much that I think there’s a point to confronting the narcissist, so much as I feel that if you DO find yourself compelled or forced to confront a narcissist, there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way, as in the former will at least deflate the narcissist’s ego some whereas the latter will just inflate his ego more. However, like I said at the end of the last post, and as shown in the Sam Vaknin video I included at the end of the last post, this comes with a price that many people find to not be worth it. It all comes down to whether you think revenge is a worthy endeavor or not, especially if you feel you’ve been made a fool of and had your self-esteem ground into dirt, which many codependents eventually do feel. The problem with revenge against a narcissist is that it often makes you turn a lot more narcissistic yourself, the very vision of what you hate. There is a great scene in the movie Darling at the end where Dick Bogarde’s character is being vengeful to the narcissistic main character and one of the things he says is that what he hates about her the most is putting him in a position to become more like her in order to get revenge on her.

    2) Is it possible to shift from a shame based personality to a guilt based personality? are there practical things that a person can do if they want to do so, how does one change something ingrained in them from childhood?

    Well, changing from a shame based personality to a guilt personality is basically what everyone does when they mature. They start out shame based and gradually become more guilt based by adulthood. I’m guessing what you mean is, if you aren’t mature or guilt-based by adulthood, is all hope lost for you? I’m honestly not sure, but I will say that if it’s possible it will at the very least take a lot of self-awareness and commitment to improvement. A willingness to seek help from others, whether professionals or just friends who will hold you accountable through the process, goes a long way too. Dropping all enablers and toxic people is a must. I’m actually going to talk about this in a later post.

    John:

    I suspect I need to go see someone, but its just too easy to stay like I am rather than do the hard stuff that will help me to get out of it. Actually doing something about it will probably result in some serious inner hurt.

    Until you reach the point where the pain of staying the way you are far outweighs any possible pain you may go through from actually confronting your demons and pursuing change and risking failure, you’re going to stay stuck in that rut.


  16. Kuraje, I agree with almost all of your comment, to the point I think I may make it its own post.


  17. “2) Is it possible to shift from a shame based personality to a guilt based personality? are there practical things that a person can do if they want to do so, how does one change something ingrained in them from childhood?”

    Like T said, moving from shame-based to guilt-based is normal. It’s called growing up. The first exercise is to feel guilty, not ashamed, that you have made it to adulthood without developing a guilt-based approach.

    I’ve definitely matured emotionally as an adult. I rationally knew I had trouble with emotions, so at one point I read some books on emotional intelligence. Even the basic exercises were beyond me. One of the first ones is to describe your feelings. I tried it and I literally could not form words corresponding to my feelings; all that came out was gibberish.

    Broadly speaking, to move from shame-based to guilt-based, you need to do two things: Stop feeling ashamed when you did nothing wrong and start feeling guilty when you did do something wrong.

    It’s nice to let go of shame but cultivating guilt when necessary is equally important. One immediate problem may be that you don’t even know what guilt feels like or it makes you uncomfortable. You have to develop a good personal understanding of the feeling of guilt in order to start interacting with the world in a guilt-based way. For instance, you may recognize that you committed some transgression and that at this particular moment you should feel guilty. But your default is shame, not guilt, so you feel ashamed that you’re such a horrible person. Right here, you need to replace shame with guilt; one of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with something else. If you’re getting fat by eating a cookie every day at 3pm; commit to doing 10 pushups at that time instead. So develop your sense of guilt and it will be easier to replace shame with guilt when appropriate.

    So, simulate guilt through literature, film, television. Lot’s of great art deals with the theme of guilt. In this controlled setting, let yourself be manipulated into feeling guilty. Cultivate that feeling of guilt. Later on, encourage yourself to feel guilty when appropriate.

    And as with anything, find good mentors.


  18. I wondered if you’d go there. Come on, man. Argue with the science rather than taking the shortcut of making out your opponents have emotional issues. I know it’s tempting – I do it with liberals and feminists all the time. But I tend to do it AFTER arguing with their points. Treat it as dessert. I know you said “for fun,” but it’s not for fun – you’re doing more posts about it.

    What do you mean by saying I should “argue with the science?” How am I avoiding science. This particular post though is about shame versus guilt, and how shame-based people act. That NY magazine article about Dweck and her studies perfectly illustrates shame-based people, and it perfectly applies to HBD people.

    Seriously, read the article. It’s all about how people who view themselves as having an identity based on being smart and who tend to believe intelligence is the product of nature rather than of hard work tend to view the world a certain way.

    The article discusses the kid Thomas has a high IQ:

    The school is reserved for the top one percent of all applicants, and an IQ test is required. Thomas didn’t just score in the top one percent. He scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.

    Aren’t HBDers and scientific racism types always going on about high IQ, and always inferring or openly stating how they’re part of the high IQ group?

    The article also says:

    In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.

    Again, this is something that can plausibly be seen as directly relatable to scientific racism types. I’m not exactly grasping at straws here.

    From the article:

    It didn’t take long. The teachers—who hadn’t known which students had been assigned to which workshop—could pick out the students who had been taught that intelligence can be developed. They improved their study habits and grades. In a single semester, Blackwell reversed the students’ longtime trend of decreasing math grades.

    So the teachers could instantly spot which students were taught that intelligence could be developed through hard work and which students were taught that intelligence is something innate that one is born with, because the former group were the ones who improved their study habits and grades. The students who believed hard work mattered more than innate gifts not only improved more, but they were able to reverse longtime negative grade trends.

    Again, how am I avoiding the issues and making some type of ad hominem attack? These findings come from real life case studies and are directly related to what HBD scientific racism types believe. It directly touches on issues that scientific racists obsess over: whether nurture matters or whether intellect is just a matter of nature and whether the gap between IQ genetics can ever be bridged by focusing on work either over innate gifts.

    Another quote:

    The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.

    Again, highly relevant to the claims and beliefs of scientific racists.

    From the article:

    Dweck’s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concern—they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.

    Again, look at HBD scientific racists: everything they write and discuss is focused on image maintenance, on being competitive and more interested in tearing others down. Cherrypicking science and news to focus on anything that makes white males look good and anything that makes “NAMs” and Asians and others look bad.

    Again, the article is based on case studies and actual studies, and directly relates.

    In one [study], students are given two puzzle tests. Between the first and the second, they are offered a choice between learning a new puzzle strategy for the second test or finding out how they did compared with other students on the first test: They have only enough time to do one or the other. Students praised for intelligence choose to find out their class rank, rather than use the time to prepare.

    Again, this highly correlates to what you observe in HBD scientific racists. They are more hyperobsessed with how other races and genders are doing compared to them and figuring out what unfair advantage “blank slaters” gave them and finding ways to disparage them than in coming up with realistic, practical real world actions and hard work to become more successful.

    In another, students get a do-it-yourself report card and are told these forms will be mailed to students at another school—they’ll never meet these students and don’t know their names. Of the kids praised for their intelligence, 40 percent lie, inflating their scores. Of the kids praised for effort, few lie.

    These findings are just like what I described in shame-based people: impression management, image maintenance, constant comparison of themselves against others, shaky self-esteem, more worried about tearing down others to maintain superiority than risking trying and failing and putting their own reputations on the line. An overinvestment in preserving a desired self-image at all costs.

    It’s a perfect illustration of how shame-based people are formed, and it perfectly correlates with observed behavior in HBD scientific racists, and goes a long way toward explaining their behavior and attitudes. Everything that the kids who believed they were innately smart did perfectly corresponds to the behavior you can see HBD adults engaging in.

    You accuse me of making an emotional or personal attack and ignoring science, but the article I cited for people to read is full of relevant science, and that was what I was using to support my argument. Yet YOU totally ignored the science of the article in your response to me and instead made an argument that went for accusing me of taking shortcuts.

    But YOU took the shortcut by not debating the findings of the article I was discussing. YOU avoided engaging the science. YOU took the emotional argument approach by trying to guilt me by making it seem like I was doing the same type of sloppy arguing that the so-called “bad guys” [liberals and feminists] do. I took no shortcuts, avoided no science, and made a clear, plausible argument that I supported with proof. You did not engage a single finding or expert opinion made in the NY Magazine article on Dweck that I claimed are highly relevant to HBDers and other shame-based people.

    You also wrote:

    They could come right back and say you’re constructing a false image of equality which is not supported by reality and that’s narcissistic.

    So instead of discussing the decades of research on shame I summarized in this post or debating the expert research I linked to in the NY Magazine Dweck article, you ignore all that and just make it about me and my emotional motivations by pointing out that people could accuse me of “constructing a false image of reality which is not supported by reality and that’s narcissistic.”

    Think about this. By saying what I wrote is not supported by reality, even though I clearly link to real-world research supporting it and make a clear argument about shame, guilt and toxic guilt supporting my view, aren’t you deliberately ignoring and not engaging the science? By then pointing out how what I’m writing is narcissistic, aren’t you then making an implication of an emotional issue I have?

    Yet you claim this:

    Argue with the science rather than taking the shortcut of making out your opponents have emotional issues. I know it’s tempting – I do it with liberals and feminists all the time. But I tend to do it AFTER arguing with their points.

    Think about this. You didn’t argue with any of the actual content of my post by explaining how psychological research into shame and guilt doesn’t apply to HBDers. You didn’t engage a single piece of content in the article showing why all the findings on problems of kids who grow up believing intelligence is innate versus a product of hard work doesn’t directly correlate to adult HBDers who display the same dysfunctional tendencies as the kids in the studies. Yet you claim that I’M the one avoiding arguing the science?

    Instead of engaging contentwise any of those points, you instead just point out that I could be interpreted as arguing narcissistically and that I am behaving like a liberal or feminist.

    Then the final kicker, you magnanimously pat yourself on the back by pointing out how sometimes even you are “tempted” to make remarks about an opponent’s emotional motivations behind the points they make, but ONLY AFTER you take apart the arguments first. You congratulate yourself for this despite the fact that you did precisely that! You made a remark about the emotional motivation behind what I said that you disagreed with without ever actually engaging the science or the evidence I gave to support it! In your comment you did exactly what you accused me of doing and what you claim to never do yourself.


  19. Matt: Eventually I will be going into shame cultures versus guilt cultures, and what constitutes narcissism in them..

    I am also wondering if not feeling toxic shame is indeed a “healthy” reaction.

    A healthy form of shame is humility. A healthy form of guilt is conscience. Some healthy shame, or humility, is indeed good. But toxic shame is a very primitive and unevolved emotion. One can argue that in a primitive, unevolved dog-eat-dog culture like prison or a war-torn hellhole, toxic shame is appropriate as a survival strategy, but if you are doing a behavior that is considered “healthy” by the standards of a primitive, dyfunctional culture, then is it really a healthy behavior? In such environments, rape, murder and brutal domination can be seen as optimal surivival strategies, right? But so what? Do we want to slide down that slippery slope of moral relativism?

    I have no real opinion here, but just as food for thought it seems like it could be a byproduct of our post-modern pampering democratic values and that everybody “deserves” self-esteem.

    You’re in danger of falling into that “Tiger Mom” all-or-nothing, black-or-white thinking here. Many people try to make the case that encouraging people to have self-esteem is pampering. Pampering does not lead to self-esteem. It leads to the exact opposite. It leads to grandiosity, or high explicit self-esteem, on the outside, but on the inside it leads to shame, or low implicit self-esteem, on the inside. These are the ingredients for narcissism. Pampering is different than healthy encouragement. See the NY Magazine article as an example, or my Spoiled Brats article on this blog.

    Throughout history, people didn’t experiment with different ways of being and people weren’t able to make as many mistakes as they can now, if you fucked up then you were a fuck-up at best, and killed at worst. It is smart to immediately feel like a fuck up in that situation. Watching any episode of Game of Thrones or The Wire which are dog eat dog worlds, (in the game you either play or get played, no other options as Omar said it best). It is starting to seem like the entire concept of guilt is somewhat of a luxury.

    Modern civilization itself is a luxury. In the past, rape was accepted spoils of war, you could beat your wife, you could kill your wife and her lover if you caught her cheating, marital rape didn’t exist, and genocide of people who looked different than your tribe was encouraged. I mean, a lot of the social mores we live by today in order to create advanced civilization (we don’t allow rape, we don’t have honor duels to the death, women can vote, slavery is illegal, we have rules of conduct in war) would be considered luxuries in primitive times. What’s the point of pointing this out? We live in the here and now, and that’s our reality. I kind of see what you’re getting at, but we have to deal with the times we live in, not focus on the eras we don’t.


  20. Our blog is turning in a crusade against the narcisisst i think,maybe we lack a lil bit of……..compassion?
    Deep inside we are all narcisisst, it just depends WHO we are dealing with…

    I don’t consider this a crusade against the narcissist, just an explanation of them. And to be honest, I think the people who need this information the most, codependents, have a natural inclination to have compassion to the narcissist. I’m not encouraging them to beat and attack narcissists in the street or abuse them, but I do think in some cases there are cases where it’s in people’s best interest to have less compassion. I’m not encouraging hatred, but I wouldn’t go to the opposite extreme and make compassion toward narcissists a priority either. I just want people to understand narcissism, not only in others but in themselves. Actually, especially within themselves.


  21. Hello guys!
    I have a questions regarding hecklers : can a person who interrupts a two-person fight by getting involved and sucker punching one of the participants at that fight who he despises be considered a heckler?
    I have to mention that in that case the person who he hit wasn’t an immediate threat to him, nor did he do anything at that particular moment to get him mad.
    What would the psychological implications of this be?
    P.S. : It happened to me in high school, I was the one who got sucker punched.

    Allin, this is not one of those experiences that requires a lot of intellectual masturbation. It’s called a sucker punch because people who do it tend to be suckers. He’s not a heckler, he’s a punk. Usually the people who do cheap shots like that have very little sense of honor. Not really much more to it.


  22. What i wanna say,is that too much narcissist bashing COULD be counterproductive to us…
    feel like instead of taking the path ….”how can i be STRONGER”……we are leading to ”how to take down those fakin narcissistfull of them self idiots”

    If you reread my post before this one, toward the end, I do explain the negative costs involved in confronting a narcissist, and the toll it takes on your psyche. It’s also what I was highlighting in the Sam Vaknin video I showed on my last post about narcissistic contagion.

    The point of this post isn’t about obsessing over how to “get” the narcissist, but to dispel the idea that there’s no way to confront a narcissist without providing them with narcissistic supply. There is a common belief that any attention to a narcissist, positive or negative, just increases narcissistic supply and counts as a “win” to the narcissist, and that the only real option is to not engage or take the high road. But let’s be honest, sometimes there are times where maybe you can’t take the high road. Or you feel like you’ll be worse off if you do because the disrespect will just keep escalating. Sometimes you get forced into a situation where you have to check disrespect early and decisively, especially if it’s the kind of situation where other people will start feeling comfortable doing the same time of behavior if you leave it unchecked. Or sometimes you just want to get closure by engaging in a final act of pettiness after swallowing your pride to the narcissist for so long. I think sometimes people can be entitled to a little pettiness.

    But like I said in the last post, and Vaknin pointed out in his narcissistic contagion video, if getting revenge against a narcissist is something you make into a life’s mission or a prolonged campaign, it can easily turn you into a narcissist too. That’s why they’re emotional vampires. When they bite you, they can turn you.


  23. Actually I would have to agree. Such resources can help a narcissist as much as a victim – I say this as someone with some mild narcissistic traits.

    What do you mean by “help a narcissist.” Help them become less narcissistic or help them become better abusers? I just want to make sure I understand your point before responding.


  24. We lack a sense of DIGNITY ,thats why we are are so easily disrespected by the ”bad” people,they ”feel” the target otherwise it would be almost impossible…

    T

    Hope that i’ll put enough effort to truly understand what ur trying to say man.


  25. We lack a sense of DIGNITY ,thats why we are are so easily disrespected by the ”bad” people,they ”feel” the target otherwise it would be almost impossible…

    Another reason they target the people they target is that they know such people are more likely to blame themselves or direct anger at themselves than at the bad people. I think you can display dignity while taking the high road and refusing to engage, I think you can display dignity by engaging and fighting back. Either way, I think the last thing one needs to focus on is cultivating compassion for the narcissist, at least not until one learns to cultivate compassion for one’s self first. And I think one of the first things to do when cultivating compassion for oneself is not fall into old traps of looking for ways to blame yourself for the bad things narcissists do. Sure maybe there is a certain lack of dignity in victims that makes the narcissist attack them, but at the end of the day the lion’s share of the blame should lie on the manipulator, not the manipulated. The narcissist is already looking for ways to blame everyone else including the victim for what he did, he doesn’t need our help. Likewise look at Bernie Madoff. Sure we can point out the gullibility or greed that made some of his victims easier marks than others, but not to the point where we take our eyes off the bigger point that the bigger blame lies with the scumbag. No matter how vulnerable someone is to exploitation that’s never justification for one to exploit.


  26. You are right yeah


  27. Thanks for your prompt response T. I highly respect your blog and have been a fan of it for years, I don’t mean to be annoyingly nitpicky or to disparage what you are writing however I have found that to truly understand a concept I like to attack it from as many angles as possible and play devils advocate in order to test its credibility.

    The examples I gave in my initial response were indeed too extreme, now that I gathered my thoughts and went back and read over your old posts I think what I’m trying to say is that everything has its cultural and historical context and sometimes it is impossible to separate oneself from this. The reason I wondered if toxic guilt was in fact a “healthy” reaction is because American culture (which according to cultural psychologists is the most individualistic culture on earth) in my opinion in many respects goes a little too far in making everyone believe that they are special. This is what I meant by pampering, as the saying goes it takes a village to raise a child it is not all up to parental upbringing. According to a different psychological study that comes to mind, most Americans will claim on a survey that they are more friendly, smart, sociable,good looking etc. than the average person. In fact the average person on the test put themselves at about the 75th percentile in those areas. Similarly we are taught that there are no stupid questions. I always have culture shock every time I’m in America that fat girls wear shorts just as short as beautiful slim one. Now examples like this illustrate that this all becomes a more delicate issue and it is harder to draw the line when it comes to moral relativism. In some countries that are just as high on the civilization playing field as America people “know their role” and simply don’t talk in lectures if they have nothing valuable to say, because they know they’re not too bright. This could be perceived as toxic guilt by someone in an American cultural context. I wonder if and how much something like this ties into the grandiosity gap. Do these people unconsciously realize they are average and only want to seem smart or pretty or friendly or sociable?

    Where I’m lost the most is how the grandiosity gap ties in with toxic guilt. If spoiled brats all of a sudden realize that they are not special, then isn’t that toxic guilt? What if someone who isn’t bright finally realizes this and decides not to go to Law School. When they think to themselves “that’s just me, I’m not bright” then isn’t that a healthy form of toxic guilt? In order to avoid black and white thinking, where is the balance between the two? Should we see our shortcomings realistically or work harder and try not to think negative? Is it healthy to be realistic, or a little too optimistic like America dictates, and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps?”


  28. Matt, I am going to have a post soon discussing concepts called implicit self-esteem and explicit self-esteem. It will touch on a lot of what you discuss here. Look for it.


  29. Brilliant work. I always enjoy reading about the guilt/shame concepts.

    Reading it through, I was going to ask about the implications for children (which was clearly answered by the article).

    Other concern: what is the recommendation for a person suffering from a shame-based identity? I have a feeling that a shame-based person reading this will think “oh man, that’s me. I’m a bad person” and essentially spiral further into their shame-driven personality. Perhaps this isn’t the post for it, yet any small steps/solutions would be great. Think I’ll write about this soon.

    PG


  30. Great article; seeing shame vs. guilt elaborated on in such a way really makes me realize where I was mistaken in my support of it way back when.

    It makes me curious about how this applies to shame based cultures like the ones in East Asia for example: are such shame based cultures broken and in need of change to a guilt based culture, or can shame based cultures work within the individual context of a particular culture?


  31. Another set of two emotions confused by most people: Jealousy and envy. Jealousy is fear of being supplanted, of losing position or status, and is like guilt in that it is insecurity about a situation. Envy is resentment at another’s status, and is more driven by one’s insecure perception of himself.


  32. Ricky, I’ve been devouring your blog and I’m wondering if you have insights linking narcissism and attachment styles–specifically, can you say that narcissism and codependency in your terms correspond directly to avoidant and anxious attachment styles or is there a more nuanced way to look at it?


  33. Patrice is one of them cats you cant argue with, its just too much passion


  34. Quality post. It’s got me sucked in to read more of your blog. Very interesting. Added you to my blogroll.

    He he – that reads like a generic spam comment. Ok, the insights into narcisism and the examples are presented in a way that brings them to life and makes them relevant and real and interesting and engaging – bravo – that’s really a job very well done.


  35. “Broadly speaking, to move from shame-based to guilt-based, you need to do two things: Stop feeling ashamed when you did nothing wrong and start feeling guilty when you did do something wrong.”

    I wonder, personally, whether this is the best advice to give someone who’s trying to change myself (I don’t know, I just wonder).

    I don’t think most (relatively normally adjusted) people feel the emotion they would call “guilt” on a daily basis. In my experience, I would say one needs to be able to feel guilt, but it’s more like -

    1. If I’ve done something wrong to someone or something, and there’s a way for me to fix it, my first motivation is energy to fix it. I feel…like slight…anxiety? Like I feel a little bad, but my main feelings are drive to fix it. Sometimes a small amount of regret, but that’s…a different emotion than guilt.

    2. If I’ve done something wrong to someone or something, and I don’t know how to fix it, I feel a certain amount of…anxiety? I’m trying to figure out how to fix it. I’m feel…some “regret”, but I wouldn’t exactly call it “guilt”.

    3. It’s when I’ve done something wrong to someone or something, and it’s a big thing and there’s no way to fix it that I feel “guilt”. Like – if I borrowed my friends shovel to shovel my drive, then accidentally drove over their shovel with my car and broke it, I would want to fix the problem as soon as possible (buy them a replacement shovel), followed by a much lesser feeling of regret. But if I pulled out of my driveway, was screwing around with my radio, hit their kid in my own driveway, and their kid required hospitalization and they weren’t sure if he/she was going to live – that’s when I would actually feel a strong “guilt” emotion – you can’t fix that, and the consequences are severe.

    I just feel like while the “shame vs guilt” paradigm makes sense, I’m not sure that relatively normally adjusted people actually feel the emotion that the word “guilt” brings to mind in everyday situations…

    The other problem being that – aren’t narcissists incredibly good at manipulating other people who feel guilt? If you’re very narcissistic, aren’t you likely to be surrounded by other narcissistic people? I understand that you want to cut the worst offenders out of your life perhaps, but you’ll still have some sort of friends and family left. I wonder if you’ll just end being manipulated so seriously (as you’re new to guilt) that you’ll start to think it’s just a weak emotion that other people use to manipulate you with…