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Traumas as Social Interactions and Self Love

Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited

Read “Traumas as Social Interactions” by Dr. Sam Vaknin, l (accessed August 12, 2015)

We react to serious mishaps, life altering setbacks, disasters, abuse, and death by going through the phases of grieving. Traumas are the complex outcomes of psychodynamic and biochemical processes. But the particulars of traumas depend heavily on the interaction between the victim and his social milieu.

It would seem that while the victim progresses from denial to helplessness, rage, depression and thence to acceptance of the traumatizing events – society demonstrates a diametrically opposed progression. This incompatibility, this mismatch of psychological phases is what leads to the formation and crystallization of trauma.

Self Love

Victim Phase I – DENIAL

The magnitude of such unfortunate events is often so overwhelming, their nature so alien, and their message so menacing – that denial sets in as a defense mechanism aimed at self-preservation. The victim denies that the event occurred, that he or she is being abused, that a loved one passed away.

Society Phase I – ACCEPTANCE, MOVING ON

The victim’s nearest (“Society”) – his colleagues, his employees, his clients, even his spouse, children, and friends – rarely experience the events with the same shattering intensity. They are likely to accept the bad news and move on. Even at their most considerate and emphatic, they are likely to lose patience with the victim’s state of mind. They tend to ignore the victim or chastise him, to mock, or to deride his feelings or behavior, to collude to repress the painful memories, or to trivialize them.

Summary Phase I

The mismatch between the victim’s reactive patterns and emotional needs and society’s matter-of-fact attitude hinders growth and healing.
The victim requires society’s help in avoiding a head-on confrontation with a reality he cannot digest. Instead, the society serves as a constant and mentally destabilizing reminder of the root of the victim’s unbearable agony (the Job syndrome).

Victim phase II – HELPLESSNESS

Denial gradually gives way to a sense of all-pervasive and humiliating failure, often accompanied by debilitating fatigue and
mental disintegration. These are among the classic symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
These are the bitter results of the internalization and integration of the harsh realization that there is nothing one can do to alter the outcomes of a natural, or man-made, catastrophe. The horror in confronting one’s finiteness, meaninglessness, eligibility, and powerlessness – is overpowering.

Society Phase II – DEPRESSION

The more the members of society come to grips with the magnitude of the loss, or evil, or threat represented by the grief inducing events – the sadder they become. Depression is often little more than suppressed or self-directed anger. The anger, in this case, is belatedly caused by an identified or diffuse source of threat, or of evil, or loss. It is a higher level variant of the “fight or flight” reaction, tempered by the rational understanding that the “source” is often too abstract to tackle directly.

Summary Phase II

Thus, when the victim is most in need, terrified by his helplessness and adrift – society is immersed in depression and unable to provide a holding and supporting environment.
Growth and healing are again retarded by social interaction.
The victim’s innate sense of annulment is enhanced by the self-addressed anger (=depression) of those around him.

PHASE III

Both the victim and society react with RAGE to their predicaments. In an effort to Narcissistically reassert himself, the victim develops a grandiose sense of anger directed at paranoidly selected, unreal, diffuse, and abstract targets (=frustration sources).
By expressing aggression, the victim re-acquires mastery of the world and himself.

Members of society use rage to re-direct the cause of their depression (which is, as we said, self-directed anger) and to channel it safely. To ensure that this expressed aggression alleviates their depression – real targets must are selected and real punishments meted out. In this respect, “social rage” differs from the victim. The former is intended to sublimate aggression and channel it in a socially acceptable manner – the latter to reassert narcissistic self-love as an antidote to an all-devouring sense of helplessness.

In other words, society, by itself, being in a state of rage, positively enforces the narcissistic rage reactions of the grieving victim. This, in the long run, is counter-productive, inhibits personal growth, and prevents healing. It
also erodes the reality test of the victim and encourages self-delusions, paranoid ideation, and ideas of reference.

Victim Phase IV – DEPRESSION

As the consequences of narcissistic rage – both social and personal – grow more unacceptable, depression sets in. The victim internalizes his aggressive impulses. Self-directed anger is safer but is the cause of great sadness and even suicidal ideation. The victim’s depression is a way of conforming to social norms. It is also instrumental in ridding the victim of the unhealthy
residues of narcissistic regression. It is when the victim acknowledges the malignancy of his rage (and its anti-social nature) that he adopts a depressive stance.

Society Phase IV – HELPLESSNESS

People around the victim (“society”) also emerge from their phase of rage transformed. As they realize the futility of their anger,
they feel more and more helpless and devoid of options. They grasp their limitations and the irrelevance of their good intentions. They accept the inevitability of loss and evil and Kafkaesque agree to live under an ominous cloud of arbitrary judgment, meted out by impersonal powers.

Summary Phase IV

Again, the members of society are unable to help the victim to emerge from a self-destructive phase. His depression is enhanced by their apparent helplessness. Their introversion and inefficacy induce in the victim a feeling of nightmarish isolation and alienation. Healing and growth are once again retarded or even inhibited.

Victim Phase V – ACCEPTANCE AND MOVING ON

Depression – if pathologically protracted and in conjunction with other mental health problems – sometimes leads to suicide. But more often, it allows the victim to process mentally hurtful and potentially harmful material and paves the way to acceptance. Depression is a laboratory of the psyche. Withdrawal from social pressures enables the direct transformation of anger into other emotions, some of them otherwise socially unacceptable. The honest encounter between the victim and his (possible) death often becomes a cathartic and self-empowering inner dynamic. The victim emerges ready to move on.

Society Phase V – DENIAL

Society, on the other hand, having exhausted its reactive arsenal – resorts to denial. As memories fade and as the victim recovers and abandons his obsessive-compulsive dwelling on his pain – society feels morally justified to forget and forgive. This mood of historical revisionism, of moral leniency, of effusive forgiveness, of re-interpretation, and of a refusal to remember in detail – leads to a repression and denial of the painful events in society.

Summary Phase V

This final mismatch between the victim’s emotional needs and society’s reactions is less damaging to the victim. He is now more
resilient, stronger, more flexible, and more willing to forgive and forget. Society’s denial is really a denial of the victim. But, having
ridden himself of more primitive narcissistic defenses – the victim can do without society’s acceptance, approval, or look. Having endured the purgatory of grieving, he has now re-acquired his self, independent of society’s acknowledgment.

What One Should Ask a Mental Health Expert

Mental health symptoms

Amnesia LizzardIf a person, a family member, or friend of someone who is in therapy, questions should be asked to avoid problems. All therapist expertise levels various and not all is qualified to diagnose mental illness. If one suspect that a person has a disorder, one should do the best to be extremely accurate on the symptoms, research them and describe them.

Go to a therapist. Then you will know what the issue is, and by researching your symptoms, you will be ahead of the game. If you describe your symptoms thoroughly, you will be better able to prevent incorrect diagnosis.

If you visit a therapist, the therapist will talk to you and listen to your opinion. They will search for signs and disturbances in your thinking patterns.

Therapists will check for symptoms like:

  • Blocking thoughts
  • Peripheral thought patterns
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Paranoia
  • Vague thoughts
  • Break in reality
  • Disassociation

If the patient displays a disturbance in their thinking patterns, the therapist may find psychosis. Counselors will consider schizophrenia or psychosis if the patient shows a change in reality. Paranoia and psychosis may be misconstrued if the mental health expert doesn’t have a good understanding between the two conditions.

Mental Health TherapistSchizophrenics are often paranoid and may suffer from post-traumatic stress in the early stages. If a patient provides answers to questions that are unrelated, the therapist may consider a potential mental illness.

Another area of concern is if the patient speaks in fragments of thoughts and don’t provide complete sentences or ideas. This is known as a fleeting thought process. If a patient is illustrating thoughts that are off the subject, the therapist may also express concern.

Other areas that are considered include language. Some patients may just have a lack of education, but they should be able to speak in a comprehensible manner. It is essential that the patient is not misdiagnosed simply because they have poor communication skills.

Because everyone is different, and they all may have different levels of education, it is essential that the psychological therapist pay attention to symptoms that are linked to mental health.

Be sure to ask the therapist questions any time there is a diagnosis, and on what the diagnosis is based.

For example, if the patient is telling the therapist about a dream and all of a sudden can’t remember what they are talking about, this can be a proof that the patient has suffered trauma. The symptoms are in front of the therapist, but it is wise to continue treatment to confirm the diagnosis.

Many therapists are not trained sufficiently in certain conditions, such as Multiple Personality Disorder. These conditions require that all therapists carefully examine the person because they may only be suffering from dementia.

However, if they are suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder it is usually because they are trying to block traumatic memories to avoid pain.

It is always wise to ask questions when you are visiting a therapist, and this can also help them to avoid any mistakes.

A healthy mind is vital, and mental health should not be taken lightly. Therapists are constantly studying the mind, and often use the guinea pig method until they figure out what the issue is.

Mental health symptoms are serious and should not be taken lightly!