On Awareness


The Question

Izumi recently asked the following:

is it better to start to recognize -ClusterB- behaviours…

…into others


…into ourselves???

I realized that NO ONE is blame less

So your question: Is it better to recognize Cluster B and codependent behaviors in others or in ourselves? My answer: I think there are two things you need to focus on recognizing:

  1. When building awareness, focus more on the awareness of your knowing yourself than knowing others.
  2.  When building awareness, research and learn to recognize what’s healthy, not just what’s sick.

I divided both these rules into their own sections.



Self-Awareness vs. Other-Awareness

One thing that’s important to realize is that most personality disorders are normal fears and desires taken to selfish, compulsive, counterproductive extremes. In my last post I described four types of narcissistic supply that Cluster B’s like. If you look at them though, you’ll see that we all have these same desires, just in healthier forms.

Like a borderline, we all fear abandonment by loved ones. Like narcissists, we all enjoy admiration and being feared and respected. Like a histrionic, we all enjoy getting some attention, including and especially sexual attention. And like a sociopath, we all have times where we can be manipulative to and lack empathy for someone because we feel they can do nothing for us. The problem is, the Cluster B has these very human needs in toxic and addictive forms.

However when we cultivate blind spots to these very human needs in ourselves, we open ourselves to manipulation by others like Cluster Bs who have these same needs but in toxic, addictive forms. A financial con man has to build up your natural, healthy need for security into greed in order to tempt you into the con. A dishonest seducer has to build up your sexual interest into a craving in order to close the deal. A manipulator has to prey on your dishonesty in order to trick you. A swindler always uses two things to swindle you: your need and your dishonesty, even if the extent of your dishonesty is nothing more than a desire to avoid hard work and sacrifice in favor of an easy fix, a need to get something for nothing.  The more the swindler can build up your needs and dishonesty to toxic levels, the easier they can manipulate you into meeting their own, far more toxic levels of needs and dishonesty.

With Cluster Bs, this is where the idealization and devaluation cycle comes in. They always come in sweeping you off your feet, buttering up your ego, creating a whirlwind romance and emotional rollercoaster. This is because they are building up your ego, your false self, your sense of narcissism, your need for narcissistic supply. It’s like the financial scammer that lets you win a few times at first in order to get you greedy and make the dollar signs to start appearing in your eyes before they scam you for the big dough. Similarly, the Cluster B when targeting you idealizes at first and freely gives you some narcissistic supply and building up your false self so that they can make your natural healthy human needs into unnatural toxic ones, then turn around and extract way more narcissistic supply from you. Also, remember that human beings are more motivated by averting loss than maximizing wins. By giving you narcissistic supply up front and getting you accustomed to it, they can now manipulate you by taking it away or simply threatening to take it away.

You can’t swindle and manipulate someone whose honest and who’s unattached to things and willing to lose big. The better you are at knowing your strengths and flaws, your surpluses and deficits, the better you are at recognizing when someone is trying to use them to your disadvantage.

Always work to recognize both codependent and Cluster B behaviors and needs in yourself, and you will automatically start recognizing them in others. You will no longer be a “narcissistic supply slut” anymore, freely giving away narcissistic supply left and right, which will make you less appealing to Cluster Bs. You also will not become attached and addicted to someone’s narcissistic supply. If they give it to you, fine. If they threaten to or actually do take the narcissistic supply away from you, also fine.

On the other hand, the reverse is not always true. While being brutally aware of  yourself leads to becoming becoming aware about others, being able to recognize narcissistic and codependent behaviors in others doesn’t necessarily lead to awareness of one’s own narcissism and codependence. Other-awareness also doesn’t necessarily mean one will navigate social waters in a good way.

For example, some people are great at spotting narcissism and codependency in others but suck at spotting it in themselves, so they still end up getting sucked into games, having their buttons pushed, manipulating and getting manipulated, etc. They just focus on countermanipulating twice as hard and outdominating others. If they were more self-aware, they’d learn to opt out of playing the games altogether and have more respect for their time, sanity and emotional health. Narcissists for example can be great at reading others but utterly clueless about their own issues, so they still end up causing grief to themselves and everyone close to them as a result. This is because not only are they other-focused rather than self-focused, but they primarily are focused on the flaws of others rather than their strengths, which leads to the next section.



Flaw-focused vs. Strength-focused

M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, describes the dangers of studying evil:

Some literature on exorcism emphasizes the danger to the exorcist in this struggle. It is usually depicted in physical terms because these are concrete and easy to talk about. But greater, I suspect, than the risk of death and deformity is the risk the exorcist runs of having his own soul damaged or polluted. I believe that the psychotherapist who truly attempts to tangle therapeutically with an evil patient is facing somewhat similar risks. Because it is currently rare for an evil person to become engaged in psychotherapy, we do not know much about such risks. But if this book is successful in stimulating psychiatric interest in evil, more and more therapists will be experimenting with its treatment. I would advise them to be careful. They may be placing themselves in great jeopardy. I do not think such experiments should be attempted by a young therapist, who has enough to do learning how to battle with the more ordinary resistance and countertransference [meaning the therapist’s own psychological baggage. – T.]. Nor should they be attempted by one who has not yet thoroughly case the beam out of his own eye, for a weak-souled therapist will be the most vulnerable.

The dangers exist not only for therapists, exorcists, and healers but for anyone who becomes preoccupied with the subject of evil. There is always the risk of contamination, one way or another. The more closely we rub shoulders with or against evil, the more likely it is that we may become evil ourselves. All scientists – even those whose work is restricted to the library or sterile laboratory – would be well advised to begin their research by reading Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon…Until we learn more through the development of a psychology of evil, there is no better work on the subject of evil contamination than this historical analysis of evil events in a seventeenth-century French town.

And here is what Huxley said in the book The Devils of Loudun that Peck refers to:

The effects which follow too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptively worse than it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself, (p. 192)…

No man can concentrate his attention upon evil, or even upon the idea of evil, and remain unaffected. To be more against the devil than for God is exceedingly dangerous. Every crusader is apt to go mad. He is haunted by the wickedness which he attributes to his enemies; it becomes in some sort a part of him. (p. 260)

Sam Vaknin describes a similar phenomenon when he discusses the ways in which narcissism is contagious, in his article Narcissism by Proxy. I think it’s an especially good article to read for people who have been victims of narcissism in the part and self-identify as codependents and now are studying on personality disorders in order to protect themselves or get revenge against a narcissist or BPD:

Some people adopt the role of a professional victim. In doing so, they become self-centred, devoid of empathy, abusive, and exploitative. In other words, they become narcissists. The role of “professional victims” – people whose existence and very identity rests solely and entirely on their victimhood – is well researched in victimology. It doesn’t make for a nice reading.

These victim “pros” are often more cruel, vengeful, vitriolic, lacking in compassion and violent than their abusers. They make a career of it. They identify with this role to the exclusion of all else. It is a danger to be avoided. And this is precisely what I call “Narcissistic Contagion” or “Narcissism by Proxy”.

The affected entertain the (false) notion that they can compartmentalize their narcissistic behavior and direct it only at the narcissist. In other words, they trust in their ability to segregate their conduct and to be verbally abusive towards the narcissist while civil and compassionate with others, to act with malice where the narcissist is concerned and with Christian charity towards all others.

They cling to the “faucet theory”. They believe that they can turn on and off their negative feelings, their abusive outbursts, their vindictiveness and vengefulness, their blind rage, their non-discriminating judgment. This, of course, is untrue. These behaviors spill over into daily transactions with innocent neighbors, colleagues, family members, co-workers, or customers.

One cannot be partly or temporarily vindictive and judgmental any more than one can be partly or temporarily pregnant. To their horror, these victims discover that they have been transmuted and transformed into their worst nightmare: into a narcissist.

They find out the hard way that narcissism is contagious and many victims tend to become narcissists themselves: malevolent, vicious, lacking empathy, egotistical, exploitative, violent and abusive.

You see this all the time with blogs that fight against radical feminism. They self-identify as victims, and get the narcissistic contagion dynamic that Vaknin describes of. Then they dedicate all their time to studying the evils of radical feminism and end up behaving like the exact radical people they decry. For example, I notice on any blog that obsesses over female shaming language and deconstructing how it works, the writers and readers of those blogs engage in the most egregious of shaming language themselves: calling people they disagree with feminine, beta, manginas, losers, bitter, fatties, or whatever other ad hominem attack they can muster. The websites are full of shrillness, emotional reasoning over intellectual reasoning, witch hunts, cliquishness, shouting down disagreement rather than intellectually engaging it, and looking for ways to “beat” the other side.

They’re focused too much on spotting and deconstructing the evil in radical feminists and finding enemies to beat in order to feel good and project their shame and not enough on studying and deconstructing good. Even when they try to find what’s good, they do it in a zero-sum way that still ends up indirectly pointing out the evil in others. For example they’ll say, “Here’s what’s good about men, and since women can’t do that, they suck and are useless.” Racists online often do the same thing, pointing out what’s good about being white primarily as a way to shame nonwhites for supposed inferiority.

This goes for anything: if you focus on just evils and flaws of others, you will end up “catching” the same evil. Emotions and mindsets are contagious.

Recommended Reading:

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

The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley