Dr. Ramani Durvasula (@DoctorRamani) is a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author. Her latest book is “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Be sure to catch part two here!]
What We Discuss with Dr. Ramani Durvasula:
- We’re all a little selfish sometimes. So how do you tell a genuine narcissist from someone who’s just having a bad day?
- Is it just our collective imagination, or is true narcissism on the rise (or at least more visible)?
- Is someone necessarily born a narcissist, or can they “catch” it later in life?
- Can a narcissist be reformed?
- How can you protect yourself from a narcissist if just staying 500 feet away at all times isn’t a viable option?
- And much more…
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Even if you’re not in a relationship with, working with, or born into a family with a narcissist, chances are pretty good that you at least know one or two. This especially holds true if you’re in a Western society that encourages materialism, which goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. So when you’re in the orbit of someone who considers themselves the center of the universe, how do you ensure you’re not drawn in by their gravity and disintegrated?
On this two-part episode, we’re joined by Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author of “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Here, we discuss how narcissists are made, what makes them tick, and how to protect yourself from a narcissist when you find them unavoidable. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part one of a two-part episode. Be sure to catch part two here!]
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Thanks, Dr. Ramani Durvasula!
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Resources from This Episode:
- “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility by Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D | Amazon
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Website
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Twitter
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Instagram
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Facebook
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | YouTube
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic
- How #MeToo Exposed the Hidden World of Narcissistic Abuse | The Calda Clinic
- Havelock Ellis | Wikipedia
- Otto Rank | Wikipedia
- Sigmund Freud | Wikipedia
- The Myth of Narcissus | History Today
- The Internet Is a Narcissist’s Paradise | Psychology Today
- When Protecting Other People from the Narcissist Makes You Look Unstable | Dr. Ramani
- The Pathological Narcissist and Co-Narcissist Convoluted Dance | Narcissistic Behavior
- The Role of Habituation in Narcissistic Relationships | Dr. Ramani
- How to Recognize and Break Traumatic Bonds | Healthline
- How to Recognize Coercive Control | Healthline
- Understanding Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | Healthline
- Narcissism Linked to Aggression in Review of 437 Studies | Ohio State News
- The Concept of Narcissistic Supply | Psychology Today
- Coming to America | Prime Video
- Love Bombing: What It Is and Signs to Look For In a Partner | The New York Times
- Eight Common Post-Separation Domestic Abuse Tactics | Domestic Shelters
- Educating the Disagreeable Extravert: Narcissism, the Big Five Personality Traits, and Achievement Goal Orientation | International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
- Eight Signs You’re Dealing With A Vulnerable Narcissist | Mindbodygreen
- The Undetectable Way Vulnerable Narcissists Love Bomb | Dr. Ramani
- Sometimes I Treat People Badly. Am I a Narcissist? | Dr. Ramani
- 10 Surprising Ways to Spot a Narcissist on Social Media | Psychology Today
- What Is Projection? | Dr. Ramani
742: Dr. Ramani | How to Protect Yourself from a Narcissist Part One
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Invesco for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I always say if emotional abuse showed up as scars on a person's face or body, we'd be calling 911 constantly while we stood in line at the grocery store, in Starbucks all the time. Because the wounds that folks carry from these relationships that are unseen because they're not physical are profound.
[00:00:27] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional Russian spy, economic hitman, astronaut, or a music mogul. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice. That you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:00:54] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, I suggest our episode starter packs as a place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on this show — topics like persuasion and influence, disinformation and cyber warfare, China, North Korea, scams and conspiracy debunks, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:21] Today, we are doing a big one on narcissism. This is a huge episode in many ways, which is why it's two parts. We really dive deep into what makes a narcissist, how they develop, how they're born, how they're raised, how their behavior thrives in some environments, and how many of us get stuck working with or marrying them or just being friends with them in the first place. We also get inside the mind of a narcissist. Why are they like this? What makes them tick? And how can we defend ourselves against them when necessary? This is a really interesting conversation. I can't wait to dive in. Even if you're not married to or working with a narcissist, there's so much in here that you'll be able to apply to your own life and a lot of pink and red flags to look out for.
[00:02:01] So here we go with Dr. Ramani.
[00:02:04] Thank you so much for joining me today. Your book, very enlightening and also a little bit scary. Because I realized just how many people around me who I thought were maybe a little selfish or just had an attitude issue or had something going on might actually have something pathological going on or not. But I also wanted to have this conversation because not only is it important to be able to spot a narcissist, but also spot those who aren't pathological or clinical narcissists, aka normal people having a bad day or a bad week or a year. Also what we can do about these people if we find one in our circle at home or at work?
[00:02:39] And the book did not disappoint. I'll link to it in the show notes, but basically, it's kind of three books in one, in my opinion, or maybe two long ones in one, but I appreciated that. I don't think I have that many clinical narcissists in my life, certainly, not in my family, but I still found this really fascinating and I think the listeners will as well.
[00:02:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Thank you so much. I think it's such an important topic. You're blessed and if you don't have a lot in your family. Because I think what we have to recognize is that there's a continuum, right? For some people, this is the annoying friend, the annoying colleague. For other people, it decimated their childhood or it destroyed a marriage. So you can imagine there's a wide range of differences in how people are having to deal with this. And I think that also fuels some of the confusion.
[00:03:21] Jordan Harbinger: You know, I think that's probably true. Look, since I am not an expert in this area by any stretch. I'm as lay a layman as they get, it's hard for me to think of all the people in my past who have been like that person, maybe was a narcissist because it's such a tricky definition and it seems like narcissistic behavior is on the rise. We see it a lot in the media. So there could also be the spotlight effect here, where since I'm reading about it constantly and the word is almost buzzwordy these days that I'm just — I'll put it this way. Whenever anybody's kind of a jerk in line anywhere, you'll hear the word narcissist thrown around. It doesn't matter if it's a celebrity, somebody on TV, Harvey Weinstein, all the way down to the person who's yelling at somebody at Target. It just, kind of, it's everywhere, seemingly.
[00:04:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It is everywhere, and I think that what's happening is a couple of things happening, right? One of the issues with narcissism is consistency. So you made a point earlier, this idea of a bad day, right?
[00:04:18] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:19] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So what, if any one of us is graceless on a bad day? I've had my moments where I've—
[00:04:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:24] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —melted down at someone. I didn't get enough sleep or whatever it might have been happening, but what we look for is how quickly a person attempts to make it, right? So they might say, "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. I had no right to do that." It's a very honest apology. It's not an "I'm sorry you feel that way" apology.
[00:04:40] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:41] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's actually a genuine apology. And secondly, people will actually notice that that's off-brand for that person. Like that's not who they are. Now, with a narcissistic person, this is consistently who they are. A person will say, I mean, you use a celebrity example like a Harvey Weinstein. That was a scandal that unfolded over a very long time.
[00:04:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That was consistent behavior, sort of who the person is. So I think that consistency is one big piece. And then, when someone behaves badly, we look at how quickly they try to repair it. Narcissistic people don't ever try to repair unless their feet are held to the fire. A publicist or someone else says, "Hmm, you need to apologize." Or the family says, "Ah, you need to apologize." And that's when you get the "I'm sorry you feel that way" nonsense apologies.
[00:05:25] But is it everywhere? You know, here's the thing. This term, narcissism in the literature, in psychological literature has only been around for about a little over a hundred years. And so on the field of psychology, it's relative infancy too, compared to all of the other sciences, if you want to view it that way. But when we take it back to its beginning, we had people like Havelock Ellis and Otto Rank who talked about it initially. Freud was the one who took the first biggest plunge into narcissism. But I got to tell you, Jordan, this is something that even in the theoretical literature, other than the psychoanalyst, no one touches. So this was a word—
[00:06:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:06:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —nobody was really using. We're so stuck on the myth of Narcissus who looked at his reflection in the water and he fell in love with himself, which actually isn't what happened in the myth. In the myth, he was cursed to only love himself and not be able to love anyone else, and he killed himself. So like Narcissus is not about the beautiful boy who loved himself. It's actually about the beautiful boy who was cursed. And I think that that's actually the more accurate telling of what narcissism is.
[00:06:28] And so this idea of, is it on the rise? There's sort of two schools of thought. Some folks and this is based in the literature have said, it's actually not on the rise, and every generation thinks that adolescents are more narcissistic than they were, right?
[00:06:42] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:06:42] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's because adolescents are narcissistic.
[00:06:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:45] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: All of them without exception, because that's what their brain is doing. The way the brain develops in adolescents, it's selfishness. It's, "I like my friends better than my family." Okay.
[00:06:54] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:06:54] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Now, where I'm going to challenge that is, let's leave the adolescents alone. Their brain is sort of doing what their brain's doing. In the population as a whole, what has changed in about the last 25 years is the ways people can sort of exert this narcissistic instinct, and that really played out with things like social media, reality television, sort of the democratization of celebrity.
[00:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:07:18] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: If you're willing to act foolish enough, you too can be famous. It used to be if a person wanted to get narcissistic validation in the '70s or even in the '80s, you actually had to kind of put on your face and get dressed and leave the house because no one was going to walk into your front door and validate you. Well, now they do through these devices and then you throw in there things like frictionless economies and stuff. We don't even have to make nice anymore. Somebody just puts our groceries on our step.
[00:07:44] So all of those technological influences and media influences, I think it has taken what was always a lot of narcissists in the population and given them this huge platform. And then you throw other social issues on top of that, like income inequality. And the fact that it isn't about if you work harder, you'll make more money. So people are frustrated. Narcissists when they're frustrated, get really, really angry.
[00:08:11] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:11] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And now, what's happening is we're sort of giving this huge platform to uncivil behavior and really bad behavior. So all of these things are sort of mushed up to result in what seems like more narcissism. I think what we see now, Jordan, is more demonstrative narcissism.
[00:08:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:08:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: There's always been narcissists, even before we had a name for it. The difference is now it's more performative and there's platforms for it.
[00:08:35] Jordan Harbinger: Is narcissism contagious, the behavior itself? You know, if I see somebody getting away with it, are other people going to start to try and do the same? I'm thinking of celebrities, politicians, musicians, artists, whatever, I wonder if — yes, kids probably because they're impressionable, they're going to do this. But I wonder, are people who are watching YouTubers and reality TV show stars behaving badly, are they going to start to try and do that? Not just because they're role-playing and trying it on, but because they're like, "Look man, look at what this person's getting away with. Why should I follow the rules?" Or are those people already narcissists? They just didn't have the guts to be as awful as the people on TV until they saw that it was being rewarded.
[00:09:14] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So narcissism is on a continuum, right?
[00:09:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:17] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: From really sort of low, mild levels of it all the way to the most severe malignant versions, and those look quite different. This idea of narcissism contagion, there's sort of a couple of ways that could play out. A personality style is not contagious. The bricks of personality start building honestly before we're born because we have sort of an inborn temperament. So a person who is a 35-year-old, who's a decent person, who's not narcissistic, who does have empathy, who sees someone behaving badly, may in that moment witness that entitlement saying, "Oh, it looks like we have to all cut the line." But in general, you're not going to, all of a sudden a person's not going to switch and have a different personality.
[00:09:56] So you're not going to see a personality switch. What you might see is sort of these selected behavioral switches. So people saying, "Well, entitlement seems like the only way to get ahead, so I'm going to be entitled, I'm going to act like the rule doesn't apply to me." But I'll tell you the difference in that person who might say, "Well, he's getting away with it, so I'm going to try to get away with it," that person who's sort of following along, it feels more uncomfortable for them because it's sort of not who they are because their empathy kicks in and says, "Well this isn't cool, those other people have been waiting in line for 20 minutes. Even though everyone else is jumping, I don't feel good about this." You know, some people might take an unkind attitude and say, "Well, it's a dog-eat-dog world. So if you're just going to stand in line—" "Okay, so, you know, I wouldn't want to date you if that's your attitude."
[00:10:37] So now, let's jump to the relational space, because what I have worked with many people who have been in long term, like intimate relationships, marriages, long-term committed relationships with narcissistic people, and what they've said is not only was this horribly abusive, so they found themselves in order to survive in this relationship, starting to feel like they could only survive by being an assh*le."
[00:10:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:58] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they were starting to be more assh*ley just to keep the trains moving in their lives. But then, they'd find that that assh*liness that they were exerting perhaps in a marriage, now they were pulling that stunt with a friend and their friend would be like, "Slow down, sister. Like, no, no, this is now working for me." And then the person was like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry." Whereas a narcissistic person behaving like an ass would never say, "I'm sorry."
[00:11:20] So that contagion is definitely there. And I do think where we see a lot of it play out is, Internet trolling, Internet comments. I think people are more dysregulated. I think people are snappy, but I don't know. I think that you're not going to take an agreeable person and make them narcissistic. That's just not going to happen.
[00:11:39] Jordan Harbinger: That's good. Yeah. I have some more questions about these dysregulations and people in relationships with narcissists later on as well. I found the concept of habituation insightful where, and let me paraphrase here and tell me if I get it right, most people with narcissists in their lives, they end up with multiple narcissists in their lives because of, in part co-narcissism. What is this? It sounds kind of horrible.
[00:12:03] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Well, so you know, it's almost like you get into this toxic dance, right?
[00:12:07] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So you brought up this idea of habituation. Habituation is a concept that comes from behavioral science. That basically, it's the old boiling the frog. You kind of get used to something—
[00:12:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:12:16] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —and in that case, the frog dies, but we get used to things. So if your house backs up to a train track for the first year, it might be like, "Oh my gosh, this is so loud." After about a year, you're not even going to, maybe even sooner—
[00:12:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:12:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —you're not going to notice that noise anymore. We get used to things in our environment. Well, that can happen with narcissism as well. We sort of habituate to abruptness, coldness, dismissiveness, manipulativeness, all of it. We just almost, we sort of get used to it, not in a good way. It's almost like secondhand smoke. We may get used to it, but ultimately we're going to get sick. And so what happens though with that co-narcissism is you kind of get caught in that toxic dance. You know how to be narcissistic supply. You sort of play to their rules because they're so much more loud and angry that everyone sort of starts changing to the narcissistic person.
[00:13:04] So what happens is you're no longer discerning. So when a new narcissistic person rolls up, just like those train tracks, you're so used to loud noise out your window, that when there's a new loud noise, when there's a new person behaving like this, you don't say, "Stop, red light, toxic."
[00:13:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:21] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You're like, "Okay, well, this person's just like my dad, so come on in." You lose that kind of discrimination, you know, that ability to sort of choose because you're not thinking like, this is awful. And because no one's teaching people that narcissistic behavior is not a good thing. A lot of people give it a free pass and say, "Ah, that's just how they are."
[00:13:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, okay. This makes sense. So the filter is off.
[00:13:43] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: And it's what you know. Would you go as far as to say, maybe you even seek it out because you're already good at managing it if your parents are narcissists or if your ex is a narcissist?
[00:13:52] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I wouldn't say seek it out because I think that puts an unfair onus on someone who's ending up in an abusive relationship.
[00:13:58] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:58] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It gets to this more subtle concept of something we call trauma bonding. And so what trauma bonding is created by is narcissistic relationships have this unique architecture of good days and bad days, you know, highs and lows, ups and downs.
[00:14:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:12] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "I love you, I want nothing to do with you." And that back and forth creates this sort of model of love and connection as a rollercoaster. So then, people equate that rollercoaster and that idea of like, "Okay, this is a bad day, but oh my gosh, we're going to work towards another good day." That sort of chasing the kind of high of the good day becomes what these relationships look like. So what that means is that when a person who has been in a narcissistic relationship meets someone like this, that whole good day, bad day, high, low plays into that original narrative of what love is. It's not even so much a seeking it out, but that when it comes, people are more likely to say, "Oh my gosh, we have such a connection. This relationship is so exciting." So there's this sense of activation inside the person—
[00:15:01] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —because of that ancient familiarity. And almost a sense as an adult, you might even work through what might have been a childhood relationship. And even if you didn't have it in childhood, and the first narcissist you meet is when you're in your teens or 20s and starting to date, because the early days of a narcissistic relationship are so awesome and so hot and so fun, people find themselves trying to chase that high because ordinary people like me—
[00:15:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:29] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —it's sort of a pretty flat relationship, right?
[00:15:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We're boring, right?
[00:15:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I'm boring. Yeah, it wasn't hot, hot, hot in the beginning, but it also doesn't go low, low, low. It just sort of, mmm, this kind of stays steady. So when people get that excitement, I mean, unfortunately, we live in a dignified fairytale culture where people still think that they should have this sort of mythological kind of relationship rather than understanding that slow and steady is the person who's going to change your diaper when you're 85 years old.
[00:15:56] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That makes a lot of sense. I remember when I was younger, a lot of female friends of mine would say something like, "Yeah, I date jerks, period." And I remember thinking why that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. There was a part of me where I was like, "Well, maybe I should just do that because it'll make dating easier because look at all my female friends." And then, I was like, "No, it's not really me. I couldn't articulate, but I thought, that sounds hard for me to do. It's really inauthentic. I'm not going to last long doing that. And also, what's wrong with these people? I hope they grew out of that because we were like 20 or 19 and maybe they did. I feel bad for the ones that didn't. Statistically, there's going to be a few and they're probably divorced twice or whatever.
[00:16:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:36] Jordan Harbinger: If they're lucky, they're divorced, I guess. They're not with the same guy.
[00:16:39] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Correct. And I think that there's sort of two subsets of jerk finders.
[00:16:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:43] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I think one set of jerk finders are young.
[00:16:45] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:45] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The bad boy, kind of, or the bad person, bad, whatever, that's one group. But the other group of jerk finders are people who may be working through these trauma-bonded cycles. They're different, right? Because the second group who might have grown up with it, and it's almost, you've been so invalidated all your life that this idea of sort of being supply for somebody else and catering to someone else's whims and needs gets a little bit programmed. So if you don't know what it is, you almost unseemly go into that. And so until somebody really shows you what it is and teaches you narcissism bad, and this is what it is, that people will get stuck in those cycles. So there's slightly two slightly different groups.
[00:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: When I was reading the book, I noticed this. It's just so much more abusive than I had ever really thought to imagine because I didn't put a ton of thought into it. We, as a society, if we see somebody with two black eyes and they're like, "I fell again." You're like, "Oh my god, someone called the police. This poor person is getting beaten by their—" But when somebody comes in and is just emotionally traumatized, we kind of don't know what to do. People don't want to talk about it. They maybe don't want to hear about it. We might even have less sympathy for them, like, "Why are you staying with them if it's so bad?" You wouldn't really say that to somebody, most people wouldn't say that to somebody who's getting beat up. You'd think, well, she's scared or he's scared you can't leave, but with narcissism and with other abuse, we treat it differently.
[00:18:04] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: We absolutely treat it differently. Even you had a slip, right just a minute ago, Jordan, with what you said. You said even if they were just emotionally abused—
[00:18:11] Jordan Harbinger: Just only, merely.
[00:18:12] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know, merely, right, that that idea of the just is — I always say if emotional abuse showed up as scars on a person's face or body, we'd be calling 911 constantly while we stood in line at the grocery store, in Starbucks all the time. Because the wounds that folks carry from these relationships that are unseen because they're not physical are profound. So for the longest time, until only relatively recently, is emotional abuse even being regarded not only for the agony it causes a person in real time, but for the real impact it's having on a person's physical health, central nervous system, and all of that. It registers as trauma as it accumulates more and more and more and more. And that has a whole set of downstream effects for a person physically and psychiatrically.
[00:18:58] You know, we see it in the most extreme level of emotional abuse is something called coercive control. That's something a more malignant, narcissistic person would do, where they literally use fear and menace and isolation and financial abuse to harm someone, but they may never lay hands on them. California is actually right now, the only state in the United States that formally recognizes coercive control in the family court statute. So that's progress. But you know, you're absolutely right. If somebody were to call for help, somebody's screaming at them. A lot of people say, "Oh, they're just fighting."
[00:19:32] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's just drama. That's just their relationship. And it's heartbreaking because our laws aren't set up for this, right?
[00:19:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:19:38] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So a person calls the cops and says, "This is happening." They're going to say, "Did they touch you?" And if the answer to that's no, law enforcement, in some ways, their hands are tied, right?
[00:19:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:46] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because there's nothing on the books, on the criminal law books to do anything about that. We don't recognize it. And I will tell you because anyone who's physically abused is being emotionally abused, right? Those two are going to be completely interlinked.
[00:19:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point.
[00:19:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But the people are being emotionally abused, it often can last for many, many, many, many, many more years. That accumulation of the physical effects on people, like literally the physical effects are absolutely astronomical, and the mental health effects are profound as well.
[00:20:14] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned in the book that it can cause — is it CPTSD? What is that?
[00:20:18] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So complex post-traumatic stress disorder or complex post-trauma is sort of a development of our thinking on trauma. Traditionally, we viewed trauma as very episodic. A person is kidnapped, a person is assaulted, a person is in a terrible accident, that kind of thing. A person's in combat. That's our original conception of trauma. But what we've come to find out that trauma by definition is any time a person feels that their lives are at risk, that they're in tremendous danger. If someone is screaming at you on a regular basis, manipulating you, gaslighting you, saying, "I could put you out anytime you want, you're nothing."
[00:20:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That exposure over time, and it can often be also coupled with physical or sexual abuse or other forms of abuse, the exposure to long-term trauma, usually in a relational space, for example, domestic violence, childhood abuse, which is inescapable. So in other words, the person doesn't have the resources, a child can't get out of the situation, can't get help. That long-term exposure to trauma is something called complex trauma. And complex trauma was often unrecognized. We often use traumas that one episode, a person was in combat or was assaulted. But the recognition that that long-term accumulation of emotional or physical or sexual, any form of abuse or neglect, that added up to a very different kind of traumatic presentation that people experience quite differently.
[00:21:45] It looks a lot like post-traumatic stress, but there's other elements to it in terms of how it shapes a person's identity, how they regulate emotion, how they manage anger. That looks different in a person with complex post-trauma. It's also very physiologically held. It's held in the body, so people will say like, "I feel this physically," and so now the therapies for that are much more focused on the person's body and that connection with their mind. It's a different kind of trauma. And so the International Classification of Diseases has actually now adopted complex post-trauma and recognized that. The DSM has not yet.
[00:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: And this is kind of where the secondhand smoke analogy or metaphor comes in where you're around this for so long that you eventually get sick, maybe even sicker than the smoker spewing it out depending on the situation.
[00:22:30] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I'd say most often sicker than the smoker spewing it out. Because most people — and this is why it's great you're doing this podcast, frankly.
[00:22:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:22:38] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Most people don't know what narcissism is. A lot of people say, "Oh, relationships are just hard. Oh, that's just how they are. Oh, they had a bad dad," or whatever excuse they come up with. So the person going through it, especially since no one's recognizing it, a doctor is not recognizing it, law enforcement is not recognizing it. It's not against the law. This person feels like, "I'm being dramatic. Maybe, I'm being extra, Maybe, I'm expecting too much from a relationship." But all the while they're getting more and more confused, more and more isolated, more and more helpless. Nothing they do works in the relationship and they blame themselves. And so that combination, not just for a few years, but 10 years, 20 years, or if it was a person's parent, it's been happening since the day they were born basically, that is a hell of an accumulation and it really does take quite a toll on the person. Invariably, the narcissistic people outlive everybody else.
[00:23:31] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Dr. Ramani. We'll be right back.
[00:23:36] This episode is sponsored in part by Pretend Radio. Have you seen the Stephen Spielberg movie, Catch Me If You Can? It's based on a true story. Spoiler alert, turns out it was not a true story at all. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a dashing young con artist named Frank Abagnale and Tom Hanks as an FBI agent who relentlessly hunted him down. We even had Frank Abagnale on the show. It was episode one of The Jordan Harbinger Show. But it turns out Frank Abagnale's entire life story is actually just kind of a lie, and it might be the greatest con that Abagnale actually pulled. The story is bananas. Check out Pretend podcast eight-part series that proves that Frank Abagnale never worked as a doctor, a lawyer, or a professor from the age of 17 to 21. Why? Because he was sitting behind bars most of the time. But damn, it's a great story. I almost want to believe it myself. And I did for a time. Pretend is a podcast about deception with a host, Javier Leiva interviews real con artists.
[00:24:29] Jen Harbinger: Listen to the real Catch Me If You Can on Pretend podcast, search for Pretend on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you're listening now. You can also find the link in the episode notes.
[00:24:39] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Zapier. Most of us rely on technology for our jobs, and if you're like us, we use so many different apps like Slack, Google Drive, Trello, you name it. There are a lot of routine tasks that can eat up time, like lead management, employee onboarding, even customer support. You know me, I'm always trying to figure out ways to be more productive. Save time, optimize. That's what's awesome about Zapier. Zapier makes it easy to connect all your apps, automate routine tasks, and streamline your processes. Zapier works with over 4,000 popular apps to automate almost any workflow imaginable. You don't even have to know how to code. Here's an example of how we use Zapier. After I record an interview with a guest, Zapier will detect that a new file has been created, automatically uploaded into a specific Google Drive folder, and then notify my team on Slack that that file has been uploaded. I used to save the file, download it, then zip it up, put it in a folder, upload it, and then let everyone know. And I had to stand in front of my computer the whole time until I discovered that Zapier can automate everything. It's just saving me a ton of time and a ton of hassle.
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[00:26:00] Jordan Harbinger: If you're wondering how I manage to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators for the show, it is because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now, this course, it's about improving your networking connection skills, but also about inspiring others to develop a personal and professional relationship with you. It'll make you a better networker, it'll make you a better connector, and of course, it'll make you a better thinker. That's jordanharbinger.com/course. And many of the guests you hear on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:26:34] Now back to Dr. Ramani.
[00:26:37] I think you wrote it in the book, you'd said something along the lines of, "We think a bruised face requires intervention, but a bruised soul does not." That sort of made me — if I'm at Starbucks and some guy slaps his girlfriend, the whole place is going to stop talking and be like, "What's going on?" The police are going to get called. If there are dudes with beards there, they're going to throw 'em out the front door. You know, as you would expect, there'd be a reaction. But if somebody starts dressing his girlfriend down, and I'm using that example just because that's probably one of the more common combinations, maybe some gutsy females would say like, "Hey, you don't say that." And guys would be like, "Oh, do I say anything right now? This is kind of awkward." And maybe someone would say, "Hey, do that outside, or leave her alone." But certainly, the cops aren't getting called, The guy is not going to get tossed out, most likely, depending on how bad the situation is, but it's actually worse because that's happening every other day and it's just the damage is the same or worse. And so that's an interesting thing to think about and kind of, well, it's also really sad.
[00:27:40] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's horrifying. And then that's why I put that line in there about the bruised soul doesn't, and I think that even the field of mental health has been slow to get on this and recognize that this simply is not okay. We can't just communicate this away. There's no talking about this. The narcissistic person can't play at that.
[00:27:56] We're also in interesting times, Jordan, too because we know, for example, that narcissism is consistently and highly associated with aggression and violence.
[00:28:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[00:28:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So I'm going, to be frank with you. I mean, one great study that was done last year by some folks at Ohio State, I think they did what's called a meta-analysis, or in a study of studies, about 475 odd studies across the board, narcissism was associated with aggression and violence. This is no joke. So I have to be honest with you, if I saw someone screaming at his girlfriend in Starbucks, I wouldn't intervene because I'd be afraid I'd get shot.
[00:28:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that's what I would worry about too especially as a guy, you say something like, "Hey man, don't do that," and then suddenly your head's getting bashed against the concrete and nobody can help you because this dude is going nuts. And then you're not even necessarily say — it's unfortunate because the cliche is then the abuse victim sticks up for the guy and that was all a big waste of your time. I mean, not always, but you hear about it and that's sort of the fear that everybody has about intervening, especially in public situation. If it's your uncle or something, somebody's going to finally have the guts to say something. But if it's a stranger, yeah, you could get shot. And then what? Now, my kids are fatherless because—
[00:29:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Correct.
[00:29:07] Jordan Harbinger: —I tried to stop somebody—
[00:29:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You tried to intervene.
[00:29:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's a huge problem. So that's why I think people saying, "Oh, I'm going to intervene." We have to tread lightly. I mean, everything from road rage to domestic violence to stranger, all of it is associated with narcissism. And so it's not just a person who's a jerk that, I mean, obviously a person who lacks empathy and is entitled in oppositional dysregulated is more likely to engage in violence and aggression. I mean, that makes sense. These folks actually got the data to uphold that.
[00:29:36] Jordan Harbinger: So let's talk a little bit about what narcissism is, who these people are. Perhaps enlightening bit that maybe some people will think is obvious is that narcissists feel insecure and they lack resilience. And when you're young, you don't really realize this because people who are dicks seem like they're confident. But then as you get older, you realize actually somebody who can't stop in validating other people all of the time is they're just deeply uncomfortable with themselves. Nothing is ever enough, right? Their friends aren't enough, their job is not enough. Everyone else around them is not enough and they're so great. And it's like, "Yeah, but you're really, you're not that great. You live in your parents—" A lot of the time these people are successful, but just as much of the time they ain't sh*t to put it as we would've said back when I was growing up. And yet, they're somehow elevating themselves onto this plane where they're amazing and entitled.
[00:30:24] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Correct. So, I think, you know, you bring up a really important point, it's that we always think about the lack of empathy and the entitlement and the grandiosity and I'm all that, and it's not just the parents' basement guy—
[00:30:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:30:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —who is insecure. It also is the multi-billionaire who can be insecure. Anyone who feels the need to preen and be pretentious and be a jerk. Like, you know, again, to me, humility is the ultimate show of confidence because you must really know you got the goods because you don't need to scream them from the rooftop.
[00:30:51] Jordan Harbinger: Build the rocket and go to space?
[00:30:52] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And Freud would have a field day with that cigar.
[00:30:56] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, especially, the design of the rocket.
[00:30:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Yes.
[00:30:57] Jordan Harbinger: You know, they had personal input on that.
[00:30:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Oh heck yeah. So I think that the insecurity piece though, it's a tricky one because yes, it's the core of it, right? When you think of it, think of a narcissist as having a core, like in the middle of like the trunk of a tree. That's the insecurity. So all the bells and whistles around them, the entitlement. "I'm a VIP, I'm grandiose. Look, how great I am. Look at my fast sports scar. Look at my this, look at my that," all those, that's all like a suit of armor protecting that insecurity. Like. If I talk like I'm all that, then I am all that, and that insecurity and the shame that comes from that can remain in the unconscious.
[00:31:32] So if you are the person who points out something that's not cool in that narcissist, I don't know, someone makes fun of them, or there's a public scandal, well, then that shame, that insecurity that comes out of the unconscious, it comes into awareness and they lose it.
[00:31:47] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:31:48] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They become rageful and tantrumy and sometimes, sometimes, not often violent, but screamy, screamy, yelly, yelly, witch hunt, witch hunt, "Everyone's out to get me," you know, that kind of, we see that whole loopy blame-shifting mess. The tricky part of the insecurity though, is some people, especially people, family members, people in close relationships say, "Ah, they're insecure. I kind of feel sorry for them. And so then they keep sticking around. And my feeling on that is if they're that insecure, you know what they can do because everyone who's in a relationship with a narcissist is going to therapy, has about the narcissists consider rolling up to therapy and unpacking that insecurity the way the rest of us do, or what my clients do on a regular basis and do that hard work. Instead, what's happened is the whole world has become a giant pacifier—
[00:32:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:32:37] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —for the narcissistic folks to throw tantrums, and everyone else is going into therapy to deal with the fallout, while the narcissists just keep throwing tantrums. That's the insecurity. And that's the challenge, it's a hard thing to push against, but it's almost like they're not even aware of it. And that is where it's difficult to treat. It's difficult to address, but that's the core of narcissism. It's a deep insecurity.
[00:33:01] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like their self-esteem is just constantly under threat. This makes sense because that's apparently why they need this constant stream of little wins that most of us just wouldn't really care about a lot of the time, I think. And I might be talking out of turn a little bit here, but it seems like a lot of people that I know who are just obviously narcissists or who have even told me that they have this as a problem when we put some whiskey in them, they just, they need every little award, even if it's like kind of a made-up thing or they need every little accolade. They need everyone to recognize them and it's the fragile ego on display and they can't let these little things go. And entitlement is kind of just the beginning. I'd love to talk about that because I think most people look at entitlement as maybe the hallmark trade of narcissism.
[00:33:46] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So let's talk about those accolades and the need for those accolades and awards first, right?
[00:33:50] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:33:50] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's part of a larger thing of something called narcissistic supply.
[00:33:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:33:54] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Narcissistic people constantly need validation and admiration. Why? Because they actually have a really weak sense of self. I know who I am. I know what I like. I know what I don't like. I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses. I'm comfortable with all of them. So even when there's a threat like, "Why do you never leave the house, Ramani?" I'm like, "Because I'm introverted and I don't like to leave the house. Like, I'm cool with that." Or if I don't get the award, I'm like, "Well, I know I did a good job, so I did the best I could've done."
[00:34:19] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:34:20] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That is not the case with a narcissistic person. Their self-esteem is constantly shaped by what's happening around them, which is why a narcissistic person may be in a great mood in the morning because they got a lot of likes on their picture—
[00:34:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:34:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —or they got good news from work. So they're on top of the world. Everyone's like, "Oh, they're in such a happy mood." And then at one o'clock, they come to find out that one of their competitors got the promotion they wanted. Now, they're full of rage. "I can't believe it. Oh my gosh. Nothing ever works out for me. Victim, Victim, victim." You're like, "What happened to Mr. Swagger from 8:00 a.m.? Now, 1:00 p.m., this guy's a mess." But then at eight o'clock, I don't know, they get the hottest girl in the bar, now they're back to self. So their self-esteem is a pendulum that's just constantly, it's even worse than a pendulum, it's like chaos because it's completely responsive to what's happening around them. So a lot of people feel like we never know what we're going to get with them.
[00:35:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:35:15] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Getting an accolade, getting an honor, getting an award, having a ton of money, you know, that sort of thing, that stuff goes a long way to helping prop up that fragile ego, that poorly developed sense of self. And that need though, what happens is it's a black hole because they suck everyone in it. They expect everyone to serve that need. Everyone around them is constantly having to tell them, "You're great, you're nice. We'll do things the way you want." And if you don't hit the mark with that, then they are going to get enraged because that's all they need from you. That's why these relationships feel really transactional, so that goes to entitlement.
[00:35:53] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, it does. And also narcissistic supply, what a great term. It's got to just be exhausting because I assume then that means that anybody who's breathing the same oxygen in the same room as this person is now kind of in charge of supplying this whether they want to or not. And if you are not in a relationship with them, you're not friends with them, then, oh well, they'll react to you poorly or great whatever you get to leave. But if you're dating them or they're your brother or something like that, that's almost like the price of entry to staying in this relationship is you are on the hook for managing their mood by validating them constantly. And that, just talk about exhausting, I don't even know. I'm sure there's more to it than exhausting, but exhausting and thankless probably in many ways. And just walking on eggshells all the time. Like, okay, I've got 'em in a good mood. Uh-oh, somebody took that parking spot from us, the night's ruined now. The dinner's going to be terrible because this person cut them off in the way and end of the parking lot. I thought we just almost made it to the restaurant. That kind of thing. It just sounds horrible.
[00:36:56] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It is horrible. And that idea you have to bring all the supply, but you're not going to get much back from them. It's sort of like if they're in a good mood, then everyone's about to have a good day. But—
[00:37:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:37:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You nailed it. That's just when that person cuts them off or takes the parking space, the whole afternoon is ruined, the whole evening is ruined. And so everyone with them is sort of on tenterhooks, hoping everything goes smoothly and knocking themselves out to make sure that everything goes smoothly so everything doesn't get ruined. And it's a very one-way relationship. , all of us almost exist to serve their needs. So anyone in the room in that same room as them is serving their need.
[00:37:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:37:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: What they don't like is if someone is more special than them, right?
[00:37:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:37:39] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Someone else gets special treatment that they think they deserve. That's when you're really going to see them spin out. It is eggshells, it is exhaustion. It's also hypocrisy. "I need to be treated this way, but I don't need to treat you this way."
[00:37:50] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:37:51] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And hypocrisy does not sit well with us. So it's uncomfortable all around.
[00:37:56] Jordan Harbinger: You're basically the emotional version — you ever seen Coming to America where the guy spreads rose petals in front of everywhere that James Earl Jones walks because he's the king? You're the emotional version of that guy. You've got to make sure that every step that this person takes is on rose pedals. Otherwise, it's going to be, there's going to be a whole big thing and it's not worth it.
[00:38:13] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Mm-hmm. That's exactly right. And that rose pedal spreading, initially, what happens is, again, they're not this difficult from the jump, and I'm going to use more of an adult sort of friendship, intimate relationship, kind of—
[00:38:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:25] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —model. You meet this person, they're charming, they're charismatic, they're confident, they've got swagger, they're fun, they're the center of attention. They put a lot of time into their appearance. So they're either attractive or in good shape, or they're wearing the right clothes or whatever it is, right? So now, this person's paying attention. And so unless you know what you're dealing with, you're like, "Whoa, the coolest person in the room is paying attention to me."
[00:38:52] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:52] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And now you get to go on a little bit of a wild ride, right? It's the love bombing. You get the good morning text, you get the good night text. "How are you doing? Let me take you to this restaurant." Again, all of it is them saying, "Look, how great I am." You're saying, "Oh my gosh, this is so amazing." So people are on this really exciting ride and what narcissistic people are so really good at is they'll excite, fun, charm, charisma, and then, they withdraw.
[00:39:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:39:16] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And when they withdraw, the person's like, "Wait a minute, where's all this fun?" So now, you're waiting for the text. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. Even if you were a little uncomfortable, because it felt like too much, when it goes away, you want it back so they go away. And then when they finally do come back, you're so relieved that you almost put up with more of their stuff. That's how they kind of get the whole cycle planted and how they almost train people to put up with their nonsense.
[00:39:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right. And we have these rose-colored glasses on and they're charming us through the red flags probably initially—
[00:39:48] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Yeah.
[00:39:48] Jordan Harbinger: —in the beginning.
[00:39:48] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's right.
[00:39:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So we don't see them. And then, you mentioned love bombing, cults use that. I've talked about that on cult podcasts where they just make you feel amazing and special and unique and everything is all about you and you're never going to find it again, which is also kind of manipulative in a way because it's like, well, you're never going to find an amazing love story like this straight out of Disney. So, yeah, you put up with more stuff because, well, you're never going to find that again, so you're valuing it.
[00:40:14] One thing you mentioned in the book that was really, really tricky and devious in a way where I was like, wow, that's smart and scary was, I don't know, if this is a flag or a tell, but they want to meet your family really fast, which initially seems romantic but it's actually quite cunning because then it raises its stakes, right? Everyone knows you're dating this person. The social consequences of breaking up or getting in a fight or saying negative things about the person you're dating, the stakes are way up because the relationship seems more serious and involved. "Well, this guy went on a trip with me or came to my family's house for Thanksgiving two weeks into our relationship, and now he's kind of being a piece of crap, but I can't tell my parents who finally said, 'Yay, we're so happy for you,' that this guy is actually garbage and I want to get rid of him." So it's just another hook they sink into you.
[00:40:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Absolutely. And that part of the love bombing often gets missed, especially if a person in a more recent relationship was with somebody who's moving more slowly. Why am I not meeting their family? Why am I not meeting their friends? Right? But by doing it quick, meeting friends quickly, or meeting family quickly, not all narcissistic folks do this, but it often does happen, they do have you on the hook, especially if you're very empathic.
[00:41:22] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:41:22] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You may feel beholden, like, "Oh my gosh, I've met this person's family and I gave the grandmother some advice, or I played with a nephew," or whatever it is. Or you might feel like you're getting to be part of a friendship group. And so that kind of sort of overwhelming you and then creating that sense of buy-in. It's a really, really, again, devious trick because also the person the narcissist is meeting is often quite empathic, so they don't want to just burn a bridge. They don't just want to walk away from people. They almost feel like they have to see this through because now they're letting down these other people. And so, it is quite devious, and a lot of people associate that, "Oh, they want me to meet their family and friends," this really is a committed, intimate relationship, "they're really into me," and that's how that gets read rather than trying to lock you down so they don't have to put so much work into the relationship anymore.
[00:42:11] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. Man, that's interesting. These people, is that conscious, you think, or is that subconscious, that level of devious manipulation?
[00:42:19] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I think it's a mix. I mean, again, it's hard. One thing we do know about narcissistic folks is they're really out of touch with what motivates their behavior.
[00:42:27] Jordan Harbinger: Huh.
[00:42:27] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because if they were going to be super honest about it, that's pretty dark. Like—
[00:42:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:42:31] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "Oh, I'm doing this. I can manipulate this person."
[00:42:33] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:42:34] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They're not sort of rubbing their hands Dr. Evil kinds of people, they really are just, they just sort of want what they. What it is, is that because they're so superficial, they're just looking for the quickest path to do things. So I think in some ways, although what they're doing seems so devious, it may not even be as clever as we think. I think they've got a little bag of tricks and they use it with everyone. Ask anyone who's ever broken up with a narcissist, they'll say, "Wait a minute. I'm seeing on social media, they're taking them to all the same spots, they took me." Like, this seems like their game. Like they're sort of a one-trick pony. And so—
[00:43:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:43:08] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That whole formula seems to be the quickest way for them to get supply. I think they're not even thinking of it as supply. They're just—
[00:43:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:43:16] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —sort of thinking of this is how it goes, and it's given them the result they want, which is somebody who just sort of goes along, you know, with what they want them to go along with. So I think in some ways, calling them devious, at least at the milder levels of narcissism, maybe giving them too much credit. At the more malignant levels of narcissism, I think the deviousness is very present.
[00:43:39] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Ramani. We'll be right.
[00:43:44] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. I've been through numerous stressful challenges. I'm going through one right now, and I've found that when I'm in problem-solving mode, it really helps me focus on the action to solve it instead of focusing on the problem at hand. That means a lot of mind racing. But seeing a therapist can actually help you become a better problem solver, making it easier to accomplish your goals no matter how big or small. Better Help is a great place to seek a licensed professional therapist. You can do it in your own space through phone or video. The therapist will even help you track your goals. Jen loves the Better Help app, which allows you to text your therapist at any time, no additional charge. The app also has a journal feature so you can include notes when things come up and then share those with your therapist later. You get matched with a therapist in under 48 hours. For Jen, it literally took 15 minutes, so it's definitely under 48 hours. The best part is if you don't feel that the therapist is a good fit, you can switch at any time. No additional charge. It's also much more affordable than in-person therapy without sacrificing the quality of care.
[00:44:44] Jen Harbinger: When you want to be a better problem solver, therapy can get you there. Visit betterhelp.com/jordan today to get 10 percent off your first month. That's better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan.
[00:44:56] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Invesco. Here on The Jordan Harbinger Show, we're always talking about improvement. We're sharing some wild stories. We talk to these fascinating people. On Feedback Friday, you know we're always trying to help you all out. I actually get a lot of investment questions. It's hard for me to give that kind of advice, but you know, you want a diversified portfolio. And thanks to Invesco, we can help share some info here. Why invest in ETFs? Because there's a solution for whatever your portfolio needs. Whether you're exploring ways to manage volatility, seeking income and diversification opportunities, or looking for tax management strategies, Invesco has over 200 ETFs to help you meet your financial goals. Discover the possibilities at invesco.com/etfsolutions. Before investing, consider the fund's investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses. Visit invesco.com for a prospectus with this information. Read it carefully before investing. Risks involved with investing in ETFs, including possible loss of money. ETFs are subject to risks similar to those of stocks. Invesco Distributors, Inc.
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[00:46:13] Now for the rest of part one with Dr. Ramani.
[00:46:18] When we think of drug addicts around here, there's a thing where people walk into a Home Depot and steal like a drill or something along those lines. This is kind of the narcissist drug addict, you know, addicted to validation person's game. "Yeah. I take her to this place and then we do this, and then I look important, and then I shower her with love and then they love me back, and then I try and meet their family, and da, da, da. Suddenly, I've got this person, bigging me up and I feel okay about myself." It's almost like an autopilot thing, but you're right, it's not exactly a master plan here. It's kind of the basics.
[00:46:50] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But going back to that insecurity though, narcissistic people actually don't like abandonment. They struggle with it. They have a lot of—
[00:46:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:46:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —issues around attachment. And so for them, in some ways, sealing the deal with someone quicker can take away that insecure fear of abandonment. They are not in touch with that, right? Because to them, abandonment is like losing control. They lose control of the narrative. They lose control of the person. That's not what's supposed to happen. So the more they can lock it down, the more that they're not only abandoned, the more they control it, and so then they dominate and they overcontrol because that also offsets the insecurity. But many people will say, if they were the ones to end the relationship with the narcissist, it got ugly, stocky, obsessive, really poor boundaries trying to ruin their life afterwards, spreading rumors, trying to ruin new relationships on and on and on. When you leave a narcissist, you can expect a cascade of this whole thing, what's called post-separation abuse. If they leave you, it's actually a lot easier.
[00:47:52] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow. This is so interesting. I'm thinking of people that I've dealt with in the past in business and one of the guys was never single for more than a few days, and I knew him for like 15 years and I remember once I said, "How come you never want to be single? You'll date girls you don't even like for months at a time." And he was abandoned by his mother and he said, "Well, I'm always trying to replace mom. Ha-ha-ha." And now, I'm like, wait, no, he was definitely not getting about that at all. And then, when I finally said, "Hey, I don't want to be a part of this business anymore, let's amicably separate." He was like, "Okay." And then sued me and did every devious little thing to the point where the judge was like, "What is this garbage? Do you want to get this done? Why are you constantly—?" And even his own lawyers were like, "We don't really understand why our client is doing this. This is like the opposite of moving the ball forward. It's constant changes. It's almost like he wants to just keep paying legal fees." And my lawyer was like, "Well, I'm going to put a stop to this because I'm going to report this to the judge." And it became this huge mess. And I was thinking, this isn't even like a real lawsuit where this person wants something, their goal is just to stress everyone out.
[00:48:55] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Correct.
[00:48:55] Jordan Harbinger: That was it. And I thought, now you mentioned this, I'm like, well, okay. This is all starting to check out kind of well.
[00:49:02] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But their goal is to keep you in their life.
[00:49:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:49:05] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Right?
[00:49:05] Jordan Harbinger: Totally.
[00:49:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: All that legal contact. And again, another thing you're also sort of bringing up with what you described there is the thin-skinned nature of narcissism.
[00:49:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:13] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Very thin-skinned, and so that's why they can dish it out, but if anyone critiques them or gives them feedback or even looks at them the wrong way, they completely lose it. Some people will go the litigation route.
[00:49:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Some people will go the screaming route, stalking route, whatever it is. Again, that's that fragility, that thin-skinned quality.
[00:49:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:49:33] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But people will be confused by that because the narcissistic person will be so critical and so combative. They think, "Well, they're a fighter. They're going to be able to take this." No, no, no.
[00:49:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:49:42] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so that sort of, again, there's that hypocrisy at play again.
[00:49:46] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. Yes, this person fired every employee that disagreed with them, even in minor ways. If other people saw it, it was almost immediate. It was as if there was like an email to everybody like, "Hey, I think we can do this better next time." I remember seeing a few of these and going, "This guy's not even going to be here next week."
[00:50:02] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: No, no. And the idea you give this example of this guy was never single for more than like a few days or a week.
[00:50:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: There's one person, I wish I could remember the name of the researcher who said this, he called narcissists disagreeable extroverts. And that really nails it because as a rule, with some exceptions, narcissistic people are actually extroverted. It makes sense. They need other people to get supply.
[00:50:25] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they do often — the pandemic was a nightmare for narcissistic people because, you know, for someone like me, the tragedy was watching people get sick and dying, but being told I couldn't leave my house, you couldn't have told me something better. But for a narcissistic person who needs that validation from other people that extroversion is in that service, but they're disagreeable. Whereas some extroverts are really gregarious, right? So they need to be in the midst of people but people like being with them. For a minute, people like being with narcissistic people, but then it gets dark and that's where though, that disagreeable extrovert, they can't be alone. So they go from relationship to relationship to relationship. And because they so don't want to be alone, they're often cheaters.
[00:51:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:08] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know, they do, I would say the vast majority of relational cheaters are narcissists. Not all, but I would say the majority. And in many ways, they're just trying to get their next gig worked out before they leave the last one—
[00:51:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:20] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —because they just don't want to be abandoned.
[00:51:22] Jordan Harbinger: This guy is definitely a cheater. All the, I mean, I saw it many times firsthand because I've lived with him for a while. You can't hide it from somebody you live with. And it was almost like, I'd be like, "Hey man, this is awkward for me to see because I've known your girlfriend for five years," and he is like, "Well, you didn't see anything." And I'm just thinking like, "Ugh, you don't even have any regard for the other people that are going through." I just thought, "Oh, he's kind of a—" You know, I never put it together, and one of the reasons was because he wasn't somebody who would yell at somebody, "Do you know who I am?" or be really obvious about it. In fact, he would kind of go, "Okay," and then privately would have the meltdown and everyone would have to manage this person's emotional nonsense for a week about how they were slighted by the waitress or the door guy at some bar.
[00:52:04] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But that whole, like having the tantrums in private, being really thin-skinned, "Oh, I've been so slighted," we often think of narcissism as the big, grandiose salesperson, attention-seeking, center of attention, right? But what we forget is that the underbelly of narcissism is something called vulnerable narcissism.
[00:52:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:25] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's where we see this, for a week, you had to talk the guy down because a waitress slighted him. It's very victimized, sullen, resentful. "Everyone's out to get me. I never get a fair shake."
[00:52:37] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:38] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "Nothing's ever fair to me." That very sullen, resentful, always grievance about something or someone that is something called vulnerable narcissism. And so those folks may not be as big in public. They may actually seem a bit more grumbly and like, "Oh, I can't believe this idiot is making more money than me. I'm so much—"
[00:52:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:52:58] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "—smarter than anybody else." That's the vulnerable narcissistic presentation.
[00:53:03] Jordan Harbinger: Okay, that is way more spot on because there was a sense of entitlement. But you're right, grumbly is the perfect word for this person as well. It was like, I remember often because I've known his significant others and his other friends. Something would happen and we would look at each other in the backseat of the car like ugh, you know, we would all roll our eyes like this the rest of the night.
[00:53:23] That's where I came up with the example of somebody taking the parking spot because I was like, "Well good luck with this guy now for the rest of the night on your date. This is going to be miserable. I'm glad I'm not joining you for dinner because this is all you're going to talk about." And it was just, yeah, this makes perfect sense now.
[00:53:38] Excessive reference to others for self-esteem, constantly comparing yourself to others, the sense of entitlement, the thing is though, with a lot of these narcissistic traits, celebrities and executives, they have a little bit of entitlement a lot of the time. Regular people do too, but it's not necessarily narcissism, right? And comparing yourself to others, I feel like a lot of healthy people do that. It's not a healthy habit, but that happens a lot. It doesn't make everybody a narcissist.
[00:54:00] So narcissism seems like a combination of a bunch of things that probably all of us do but taken to a degree that makes it like a mental illness.
[00:54:08] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Well, you need the combination, right? So like if I put a tomato in front of you, Jordan, you wouldn't say that's salsa. Okay.
[00:54:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:54:15] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You'd be like, that's a tomato, right?
[00:54:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:54:17] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Central ingredient for sure. But it is. You need more than a tomato to make salsa. You need more than entitlement to make a narcissist.
[00:54:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:25] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So that person who is the little bit of a diva when they're in line. And you know, you see that in people who have privilege, like people who have grown up with wealth or have wealth and their feet rarely touch the ground. There's handlers. You know, like sacrebleu, they have to wait in line at the airport kind of thing.
[00:54:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:44] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know, they're not awful people. I mean, I know people like this in the industry and I'll watch them in a restaurant because I'm thinking like, "Wow."
[00:54:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:52] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And they get things done. And so, they're so used to, again, a frictionless world that when it's not, they get a little snappy. But I've seen the depth of their empathy. And if I were to correct them, put a gentle hand on their shoulder and say, "Ooh, that's not a good look." They'll say, "Yeah, you're right. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done that." Whereas a narcissistic person, if I said, "Ooh, that's not a good look," they'll be like, "Shut the F up, blah, blah," you know?
[00:55:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:55:14] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So there would be a racial reaction, but it's, you need these things in a row. You need the entitlement. You need that spotty empathy at best. You need the validation seeking. You need the grandiosity. Like again, it's not just the tomato. You need the whole thing. And it needs to be consistent and seen in a variety of situations and have been there for a long time. That all put together gets us away from the idea of the person who is, I don't know, just so fancy that they don't have to wait in line.
[00:55:47] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:55:47] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they're a little bit thrown off when they. But you know, they do have intact empathy and that sort of thing. But let's face it, if you are a celebrity, you have voluntarily signed up to put yourself in this position and at some level, you need that applause.
[00:56:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:56:05] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: If really it was about the craft of acting, then you'd be content in a community theater, right? You want your name on the marquee. You want all the attention, you want the seas to part when you approach, and you know, research has shown, even sort of anecdotal survey research, celebrities are significantly more likely to be narcissistic. CEOs are significantly more likely to be narcissistic. So there's a draw. I mean, it's a chick-and-egg issue, right? The personality probably draws the desire, but most normal people don't want to be famous.
[00:56:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That definitely checks out. I think a lot of people are going to think they're narcissists after hearing this, and I want you to tell us why this is often not true. I like the tomato-salsa example. It would seem to me that the people who are going to email me, overly concerned that they're a narcissist and need to apologize to everyone in their life after hearing this are exactly the type of people who are not narcissists, right?
[00:56:56] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So I'd say this is where self-reflection matters. What we see is that people who have been in long-term narcissistic relationships, they're actually the ones who often call themselves narcissists.
[00:57:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because the narcissistic person called them a narcissist, right?
[00:57:09] Jordan Harbinger: Ah.
[00:57:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So there's already that piece to it. And I think too, that a person who's self-reflective and says, "Oh, I was a little bit difficult with that receptionist today, or, Ah, I don't want to listen to my sister's marriage problems right now because I'm tired." Like, that's normal, right? Empathy doesn't mean that you're an emotional doormat for everyone who comes by and you stop your day to listen to every single person's problems. I mean, you can be empathic and you can have boundaries.
[00:57:35] So I get that question from people all the time. I'll say, "Slow down. And really think that, do you care about and understand other people's feelings? Are you able to check yourself and pay attention to how your behavior affects other people? Or do you actually really believe you're too special to wait in the line? Or do you actually wait in line? But one day when you didn't get enough sleep and your kid was sick, you got a little snappy with a receptionist—"
[00:57:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:57:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —but that's not your usual you." So I think that people have to look inward, but where it gets really interesting and wonky these days is the social media of it all, right? So multiple studies have shown a correlation between people with more narcissistic personalities and posting selfies, and that's not exactly rocket science.
[00:58:16] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:58:16] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Posting a selfie doesn't make you narcissistic. Posting a selfie and being unemphatic and being entitled and needing validation and having contempt and being rageful and not managing your emotion, that's narcissistic. So just because you're on social media doesn't mean you're narcissistic. Just because you like to post a picture doesn't mean you're narcissistic, right? So I think that there's people out there who say, "Oh, it really matters to me if I get likes." I would say to them, "What is that about?" because for some people that's anxiety. They're so worried about, well, they're socially anxious. They care about what other people think. But if they really have all that other stuff too, yes, they want that validation and all that other stuff, that's when we're talking about narcissism. It's really important again to not call the tomato salsa.
[00:59:01] Jordan Harbinger: The superficial Instagram life is quite interesting. It seems perfect on the outside, but on the inside, it's like a VH1 behind the music expose, right? I know so many of these people. Do you think social media/Instagram, do they cause narcissism, or do they just attract it? Because it seems like Instagram is the perfect magnet for this.
[00:59:21] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It attracts it, and so where I take umbrage at some of the folks on social media, I think a lot of it is harmless. I think most of it, it's vapid, emotionally stunted.
[00:59:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:59:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Immature, like it's just not fully formed. It's sort of the unformed children. That's Instagram.
[00:59:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:39] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That said, what I don't like about it is the selling of the artificial narrative, because the narcissist is the masterful at selling the false self by putting on the mask and that mask actually does harm to other people. So when you see the new mother who's perfectly svelte and her makeup is done and her house is clean, "Hi, bitch, I want to take you out." Like that's is not how it is. While other new mothers are just like leaking milk and are crying.
[01:00:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:05] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And don't feel they're doing it right or terrified for their kids and they're eating stale bread, like that's motherhood. And your child in their white onesie, looking cute, don't do that, Not okay. You know, people who are showing these weight loss stories that are actually really stories of eating disorders and other abuse of their bodies, not okay. And so I think that that piece of it, I can't even say though that the people who post that stuff narcissistic, I think they're probably not self-aware and they may just be immature.
[01:00:33] So I think a lot of Instagram is just incredible immaturity. It's teenagers who are all seeking attention but the teenager happens to be 50.
[01:00:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:42] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's the challenge there. But what I do think it attracts narcissistic people that a person could spend four hours a day staring at Instagram, editing images, Photoshopping images, putting them up, waiting for the likes, and that's what they do, that's not a healthy way to go through the world. They're not cultivating healthy relationships. It's not a reciprocal mutual relationship where there's a back and forth. It's very much a sit here and wait for my validation. It's not healthy, but I don't think it creates narcissism.
[01:01:11] Narcissism is developmental. It's created through a variety of events that happen in childhood and all of that. So a person who's a really well put together, empathic, again, self-aware human being is not going to turn into a narcissist because they go on Instagram. No.
[01:01:26] Jordan Harbinger: That actually makes a lot of sense. I want to go through some sort of classic traits here. Another one is projection. Can you tell me a little bit about this? Because this well happens to be something that I noticed with all the people in my life where I was like, who do I know that's like this? It's always somebody else is doing. And then you go, but that's the thing that you did literally yesterday. It's a little bit like gaslighting and projection almost. They formed together in the same painting with these people.
[01:01:53] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So all of us engage in projection sometimes. It's a primitive defense and what projection is designed to do is when sort of uncomfortable, unconscious parts of ourselves are getting activated, usually shame-inducing, we ping off.
[01:02:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:02:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: We pretty much take that — it's not an active process. We're not thinking, we just deflect. And that projection is that that defense, it protects us. We don't have to deal with that ugly, yucky, unconscious stuff. And by projecting, we make it someone else's problem. Like accusing someone of being a liar when they haven't lied but in fact, you are struggling with your pattern of deceit.
[01:02:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:28] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Accusing someone of being like in a sexually inappropriate or having poor boundaries with other people when those poor boundaries and inappropriate behavior is your thing. It's projecting your stuff on other people. We all do it sometimes, right? The thing is the narcissistic person does it all the time.
[01:02:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:44] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's a core of the blame deflection and all of that, but it's a very primitive defense, and ideally we grow out of it. We develop self-awareness and we don't do it, right? So if somebody comes to us with a criticism instead of boom, deflecting, we're like, we might take a second and say, "You know, I need to sit with that because that seems really on point and I need to work on that." I mean, you need some evolution for that. Narcissistic people don't get there. So projection is their defensive choice and so they're constantly accusing people of stuff. You're like, "Huh?" Well, the huh means it's likely their stuff. They're vomiting on you and you're getting in, you're in the splash zone.
[01:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with an undercover ATF agent that infiltrated the infamous Pagan's biker gang.
[01:03:26] Ken Croke: Everyone was saying, hey, motorcycle enthusiast bikers are all bad. So they did this whole study and basically out of a study, came back and said, "Hey, listen, 99 percent of them aren't. You know, one percent of these bikers might be problematic or gang members or what have you, but the rest aren't." Well, then the bikers, the real bikers, the outlaw bikers were like, "Hey, this is great. We are the one percent. We're proud of being the one percent."
[01:03:47] I mean, you know, people think that these are just a bunch of morons running around partying, and they're not. They're very sophisticated in how they move the money. They're very sophisticated in their structure, and they're also very sophisticated in what they do.
[01:03:57] People are always like, "Oh, whatever made you decide to do a two-year undercover—" and listen, I didn't sign up for a two-year undercover deal. That's just what it turned into. Very few of these run for two years. You're always kind of just seeing how it's going to play out, and that's where, you know, some of this dumb luck comes into it. They assign me to this hit squad inside the gang. Most of the gang members don't even know that this group exists, but it's selected by mother club members of what they consider to be their heavy hitters. You know, the ones that can do the real down dirty work. And so Hellboy, he had approached me, he's like, "Hey, they want you to be a part of this." We were going to be targeting Hells Angels and we were going to be killing them. You have to be very quick in thinking.
[01:04:39] The reason why I did go undercover is from the outside you can deal with, you know, maybe some low-level members, you're never getting anywhere near the leadership. The only way to do that is to go undercover in the club and go up into the ranks. I would've failed if I didn't have some dumb luck on my side, and I had plenty of dumb luck throughout this case.
[01:04:58] Jordan Harbinger: To hear how Ken Croke spent two years risking his life, going through initiation in one of the most ruthless biker gangs in the world, check out episode 673 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:05:11] That is the end of part one. We'll see you in a few days for part two. Such a fascinating conversation. A lot more practicals coming up in the second part as well. Show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts in the show notes, videos up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. I've said it once, I'll say it again. Please consider supporting those who support this show. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram or connect with me right there on LinkedIn.
[01:05:37] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course, and that course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Teaching you how to dig that well before you get thirsty and build relationships before you need them. Many of the guests on this show subscribe and contribute to that course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:06:01] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who is dealing with narcissists all the time and doesn't know what to do, definitely share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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