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

25 Responses to “On Awareness”

  1. Yes. One thing that always bothers me about the good & evil fight in occident, is that it’s ALWAYS about the evil.

    You´ll see demons and all the twisted variations, sometimes angels, sometimes pastors… but they will all be fucked up and wicked. And it they show God he’s going to be just a regular dude. But the evil will have lights and effects and superpowers.

    Then we have shows like Mad Men and so many others, where the attractive ingredient is the shades of evil.

    There’s no culture of good.

  2. Speaking of which… are you going to turn the analysis towards good? Are you in risk to getting polluted?

  3. Have you noticed how many of your readers end up asking, “ok, I recognize these behaviors in myself or others, but now what?”

    Or in this piece, you point out that many codependents or victims of cluster b’s end up “studying on personality disorders in order to protect themselves or get revenge against a narcissist or BPD.”

    For instance, you make a point of saying the four sources of supply are normal desires, but the Cluster B’s take them to toxic levels. But what does that mean? In other words, how are they to determine where the crossover point is?

    Your theory seems completely lacking in a frame of reference. For instance, the graphic you posted on your tumblr about “False Self/True Self” illustrates this well (or rather shows the reference frame). The “True Self” side is littered with words such as “the Divine, soul, Intuition, the flow of Life, higher consciousness.”

    What I am getting at is you have framed this as religion with psycotherapists as the priests.

  4. Money’s tight. I’m on the grind, so to speak, but I swear on my life that when I have the funds I’ll be glad to donate to you.

    Came to the conclusion that a boss/family member has a whole host of cluster B tendencies. The following morning I read your narcissistic supply post which confirmed my theory.

    Last night, I pondered how this person’s narcissism could have a knock-on effect to me, to my other relationships, and tried to examine my own cluster B tendencies. Then I log on this morning and read this post…

    Damn. Thank you. My solution is to consciously fight this professional victim mentality, fight the “faucet theory,” look inward and listen to that still, small, internal voice so as to navigate this emotional minefield. I’ll continue to make money and then sever my ties. With persistence and applied knowledge of my own cluster b tendencies I’ll find more sanity in a new location.

    I’ve learned (and hope to keep learning) a lot from your site.
    Thank you again.

  5. “My solution is to consciously fight this professional victim mentality”

    wrong approach, as you´ll find out soon enough

  6. Because there’s no fighting it?

  7. “look inward and listen to that still, small, internal voice so as to navigate this emotional minefield.”

    There’s no point on navigating it – the mines will blow off anyway. There’s no way yo improve it by “avoiding the mines”, since the mines and the explosions are intentional. They are a feature not a bug. Which of course speaks about you. Why are you there, and why do you WANT to deal with the explosions?

    The cluster B might be farting, but you’re the one with the nose stuck in their ass. What is what you want to improve? what is to navigate? towards what end goal?

  8. I’m not sure I’m following you Yohami. Particularly on the feature not a big part of the argument.

  9. I mean with cluster B people, the problem in the relationship, the “land mine field” is not a problem you can fix, but an intrinsic feature to the relationship. The relationship IS the issues.

    When people walk on eggshells or try to “navigate” these difficult relationships, is because they think they can avoid the pain and the issues.

    But, like I was saying, you cant avoid them, because the relationship is defined by these issues. If you manage to not break some eggs, the cluster B will break them themselves and blame you for it, or create other dramas, or switch to another aspect of the disorder, or, press as many buttons as they can and see what makes you tick, then feed off that.

    Like a loving person would do, but the evil version.

    So there’s nothing to navigate with them.

  10. Oh I get it now. I was under the impression he needed to find a way to navigate the minefield because he was dealing with a family member/boss plus his money situation is tight, so he’s kind of trapped. Dealing with family member and boss cluster b’s especially when finances are tight does make it harder to cut ties cold turkey so I do understand why he feels a need to navigate the waters even of navigation just means staying off their radar. But he does also say his eventual goal is to move and get a fresh start so I didnt get the impression he actively wants to navigate the minefield any more than he absolutely has to.

  11. I want to add, if Aloyshius DID mean what you thought he meant, and he very well might have for all I know, thenI agree with your response.

  12. TK, this is the wrong post to include this but not sure you will get around to reading new comments on old posts. Wacthed a movie last night called Exam (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1258197/). There was a true narcissists in there, and I just saw how he idealized people sort of and discarded them once he sees they matched him idealization and no longer useful to him. Apart from the fact that another character called him out, that was what I quickly noticed (my interpretation) in the narcissist. Loved the post too, I saw my self and my relationships in the movie. I meet a ‘great’ girl and I get with her to find out after ‘na, not my type’

  13. Ah if he/she is trapped with a cB parent and no money… tricky business.

  14. Yes, if you reread his original comment he does say his goal is to keep making money and eventually sever ties.

  15. Yohami,

    I agree with you when you write,“The relationship IS the issues.”

    Put another way (saying the same thing), the issue is the relationship. Again, I agree.

    In my original comment, I thanked T. for his work because it helped me realize my at once familial and working-relationship with a Cluster B. The cluster B is the narcissist and I am the narcissistic supply.

    You asked, “What is what you want to improve? what is to navigate? towards what end goal?”

    I want to improve the family business where I work. The Cluster B owns half of the business and, over the winter, two of Cluster B’s primary acolytes left the company. Those two employees, along with my previously-unaware self were the three main sources of Cluster B’s narcissistic supply. I worked with the other family member and other owner (call him Cluster A) to make this happen. Cluster B had no problem with these employees going because certain actions caused Cluster B to realize that they are no longer going to provide him narcissistic supply. He wanted his acolytes fired as badly as Cluster A and I did…

    Now I’m the only real buffer between Cluster B and Cluster A. When push comes to shove, Cluster A calls the shots and Cluster B doesn’t want to make himself look bad and directly challenge Cluster A. So, Cluster B will attribute all of Cluster A’s successes to this grandiose, delusional notion that what Cluster B is doing is rubbing off on Cluster A. I could go on and on, but my point is Cluster A and Cluster B could work very well together because they have – Cluster B’s narcissism aside – complimentary, skill-sets. As you know, Cluster B’s narcissism cannot ever be put aside as it infiltrates his every relationship, every thought, and every action.

    The money here is good. I’m helpful here, and, while I’m no businessman, I feel proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. However, with an on-going, close working relationship with a Cluster B – a Cluster B looking to me as his main source of narcissistic supply – the situation is untenable at best.

    On a personal-level, I want to make some cash and get out of here. I’ve spoken about this “end goal” with Cluster A and, while sad, he recognizes that it’s my life. I know damn well I can play narcissistic supplier until it’s time for me to leave. Once I stop playing the narcissistic supplier role I’ll be dead in Cluster B’s eyes. While that’s a troubling thing to realize, it beats the hell out of being an unwitting narcissistic supplier while feeling that something’s not quite right. My personal concern is becoming a narcissist-by-proxy. Over the past few years I’ve noticed (as best as one can notice oneself) some cluster B traits and characteristics in my own life that are wack.

    I need to separate myself from this relationship with Cluster B. At the same time, I care deeply about Cluster A and his family. I don’t see how Cluster A can truly thrive while jointly owning a business with Cluster B. That’s my family business concern. Yeah, I’ll be away from it in due time so who cares?

    I do care though, because I care about Cluster A, his family, and this business… not, however, at the expense of my personal sanity. It’s hard to be a narcissistic supplier when you see what’s going on. It’s equally hard to cut off the supply when you know that the Cluster B’s going to do who-knows-what in retaliation.

  16. shatteredperceptions on July 15th, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    Thank you. You addressed the problem I have. Messing with evil even to get back at people or figure things out is never an answer hope my soul isn’t too stained as I am working on undeserved forgiveness and the future. And I shall not be naieve in my dealings with others.

  17. Shattered, meant to tell you that your link to Kegan’s stages was great reading. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since reading the articles.

  18. I’m surprised you didn’t include the obligatory Nietzsche quote: “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss stares back into you.”

  19. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali has clear and succinct advice:

    1.33 In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
    (maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam)

  20. Great post…

    But I kind of have to ask the same question as the other poster, lol –

    “Speaking of which…are you going to turn the analysis towards good? Are you in risk to getting polluted?”

    To the friend of mine that introduced me to this blog, I’m often said something like –

    The Rawness is great, and I love how in depth he goes and how it’s not a bunch of “I’m saying the same thing as everyone else!” or high level stuff that you can only understand if you already know what he’s saying, like a lot of other blogs are. He doesn’t just gloss over topics for the “oh yes, that’s what I think to” reaction, you actually learn things because he spells them out in sufficient detail by reading his blog.

    But on the other hand, I can only read about one of his (longer – meaning several short or one longer) articles in a sitting, because his blog falls prey to the unbalanced approach that plagues physchology from the 80’s and 90’s (and perhaps today, I don’t know) – it’s often unbalanced between the bad and the good. Ask a phychologist how to have a good and healthy relationship, and you get 3-5 sentences of high level platitudes of “respecting each other” and whatnot with very little detail. Ask the same psychologist about a disorder, and you get a 3,000 word essay describing in excruciating detail each step of the process.

    The problem is, it’s not healthy, because you start seeing disorders – and only the disorders – in everything. In reality, disorders often appear to me to come from normal healthy behaviors that have been distorted or messed up in some way.

    Read about how that girl who flirted with you but refused to date you was feeding her narcissistic supply, and it helps you intellectualize it enough to realize what’s happening and break out of it. BUT – when this becomes your only understanding of it, you become super paranoid that flirting will feed the narcissistic supply of other girls you meet, and damage yourself more than if you had never figured it out.

    For example, you start off thinking “flirting is always about dating!”. Then you get burned, find this out, and switch to “flirting is always about narcissistic supply!” which is – even more unhealthy.

    I personally *LOVED* the article on how women enjoy the flirting and attention in and of itself, it was an issue that was causing me no end of personal frustration myself. It let me break free. But then I become a little to paranoid about it, wondering if everyone who was flirting with me was just using me – it’s the other side of the same flawed coin.

    That’s a primitive example, it’s easier to see that kind of stuff, but when you get into the more complicated disorders you get the same unbalance it’s just not as obvious – eventually you will start to feel like all emotions and attempts to gain trust are manipulative, because the stories aren’t being balanced out by how the same tools and techniques are also used for good.

    Spend to much time reading about the “Grandiosity Gap” and you start to believe that you can never be more than you are today – but the same mechanism that causes some people to constantly pretend to be more than they are, is also used by other people to say “I want to be this kind of person” (sociable, financially successful, good with a particular skill) and actually do it.

    If someone believes that they’re successful as an employee, this could motivate them to lie and deceive to keep up that appearance when faced with a reality that they are not, but it could also motivate them to look past their current feelings and assumptions and say to themselves “I’m not good because of x, y, and z, so I paying attention and getting better at those things, and I also thought that j was important but it isn’t so I’m going to stop doing that”.

    lol, here’s a specific example of what I mean by the unbalanced approach –

    In this article, the “healthy” approach gets exactly 1 sentence (17 words) describing the healthy behavior (with 2 other sentences for framing purposes) –

    “When people are forced to face grandiosity gaps, it is a crucial moment. Some people respond by facing and accepting reality, and deciding to meet it on its own terms. This is the healthy response.”

    A description of the disorder side of things – on the other hand – gets 3 paragraphs – 163 words or so, lol. 😀

    “Others decide to go deeper into delusional fantasy and use defense mechanisms to overcompensate even further. They will lie, bullshit, or tell half-truths to themselves and others, accumulate a list of scapegoats to blame for their failures in life, rationalize away any evidence of their contributions to their own problems, use selective memory, daydream more frequently and intensely, recall events and reinterpret surrounding reality in outrageously distorted, self-aggrandizing ways, or do whatever else they feel necessary to protect their egos and soothe the deep sting of disillusionment.

    Others, rather the overcompensate further, go the opposite extreme and just surrender, casting aside all grandiosity to adopt a new subhuman identity as a depressed self-pitying failure. This type may also start avoiding reality by withdrawing socially from life as much as possible.

    Two classic fictional characters that allow us to see grandiosity gaps at their self-destructive worst are Emma Bovary from “Madame Bovary” and Blanche Dubois from “A Streetcar Named Desire.””


    I love your blog, and don’t take my comments as bitching or complaining – please. 🙂 They’re just what I’ve been thinking.

  21. Hi Paul,

    I believe you can recognize good, healthy behaviour in yourself when you start feeling good, optimistic, happy at a deeper level.

    I’ve been meditating for a few months now and created a silent space for myself where I just sit and observe how I feel. And it’s illuminating. Currently I am chronically dissatisfied with life. I have an underlying anxiety, a tension.

    From what I’ve read of emotionally healthy people. They are largely happy/ satisfied with moments of dissatisfaction, anxiety, fear or anger (i.e. toxic shame) while those like me who are toxically shamed are largely unhappy from within but have moments of bliss and joy.

    So the internal frame of reference shifts I believe. Where you start feeling good without external cause. And there is a general optimism, by that I mean a healthy sense of self and willingness to live regardless of circumstances.

    Atleast that is my take on emotional health. Life has meaning, purpose, point. Right now on the surface it looks like I’m doing fine but there are many, many times I am internally chaotic. So to me and from my understanding emotional health is that shift where one feels good, relaxed, calm, centered.

    It’s self comfort, self love, self respect. A healthy self esteem and that is something one can definitely feel within. Very difficult to describe. I have experienced a few moments in my life of absolute clarity. Extraordinary joy without cause, just looking at the clouds was profound or looking at my room, like seeing it for the first time with clarity. Those moments guide me towards what emotional health are or goodness.

  22. I check your blog several times a day and am looking forward to another installment.

  23. This is another good article. I like how you are really specialising and digging deal on this general topic. I’d say in the Anglosphere the professional victim culture is out of control. It’s not just feminists (and ironically, MRAs) but lots of race hustling and (outside the English south-east) pseudo-Marxist victimhood.

    One little self-made aphorism I’ve had for years is “It’s better to move towards what you want than away from what you don’t want” as in, even as you move away from something you are still turned to face it as you backpedal… if that visual makes sense…. like when stupid kids are running away from Jason Vorhees and trip up because they are looking the wrong way instead of looking straight at the safe house and running fast.

    I believe depravity generally is contagious. It’s probably a reason why anthropologists talk about “going native”. Being around people puts constant pressure on your frame and if they are depraved, it’ll rub off on you.

  24. T: I haven’t read your blog in ages, though I used to check it all the time, about two years ago I think it was.

    Anyway, this is dynamite, man. Really, really good: insightful, clear, well-written, and helpful. I’m gonna go back through your recent archives now. Keep up the great work!

  25. your blog is amazing