Socratic Pine Tree

There is Healing in Understanding


You will find my answers to questions here that are commonly asked in my private practice and on fora about the subject. Please feel free to read them !


What is abuse?

Abuse is (physical or mental) mistreatment. Often we say that abuse is a pattern of mistreatment.

What is psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse (also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse, or mental abuse) is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including, but not exclusively, anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is often associated with situations of power imbalance in abusive relationships and incluses - but is not limited to - bullying, gaslighting and abuse in the workplace.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that contains withholding information, twisting plots and adding information in such way that the story can be twisted to the advantage of the person going the gaslighting. Gaslighters will try to manipulate stories and reports of events in such ways that they come off well and others come off worse than reality would show. They will try to prevent lying, but if neccesary to back up their story, they will. 

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in the 1938 stage play Gas Light, known as Angel Street in the United States, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, a husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The original title stems from the dimming of the gas lights in the house that happened when the husband was using the gas lights in the flat above while searching for the jewels belonging to a woman whom he had murdered. The wife correctly notices the dimming lights and discusses it with her husband, but he insists that she merely imagined a change in the level of illumination.
The term "gaslighting" has been used colloquially since the 1960s to describe efforts to manipulate someone's perception of reality. In a 1980 book on child sexual abuse, Florence Rush summarized George Cukor's Gaslight (1944) based on the play and wrote, "even today the word [gaslighting] is used to describe an attempt to destroy another's perception of reality." (Source: Wikipedia)

What is Trauma bonding?

Trauma bonding is the development of an non-reciprocal interpersonal emotional dependency between an abused person and an abuser over a cycle of abuse. 

What is Stockholm Syndrome ?

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.

It was formally named in 1973 when four hostages were taken during a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. The hostages defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify in court against them. Stockholm syndrome is ostensibly paradoxical because the sympathetic sentiments captives feel towards their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain an onlooker may feel towards the captors. (Source: Wikipedia)

What is Narcissism ?

Narcissism is a "defence mechanism of the higher order". Which means, it is a mechanism that is constructed out of other, primary defence mechanism. Primary defense mechanisms are ways in which we protect our selves from harm. Most people have heard of the primary reactions to threats, called 'fight' or 'flee', some may know 'freeze', and a small percentage of the people may know the primary reation called 'friend'.  Basically, those are the ways all people react to a threat. There are no other options. Not all people react the same, and not all people will react the same to all sorts of (perceived) threats. These primary reactions are more or less the same as defense mechanisms. They kick-in just like that, without thinking. 

Defence mechanism have very scientific names. Some may say peotic names maybe. They have names like: repression, identification, retionalisation etc. etc.  There are about 50 of them, depending what "school" of psychology you would choose to follow. Anna Freud and George Eman Vaillant were great reasearchers and contributers to the theories of defense mechanisms. 

Narcissism now, is the use of narcissistic defence mechanisms. Narcissistic defence mechanism are those mental processes preserve the idealized aspects of SELF and deny it's limitations. In otherwords, those mental processes that make sure the subject keeps an image of themselves as being flawless and the idea that they can do anything. That sounds very bad, but as it is a defence mechanism, something that is called for only when it is neccesary in a case of emergency, it is not. It helps us. It is healty. It is a severe contra reaction against us feeling severely hurt. And it balances us. As long as we are (mentally) healthy. It gives us goals, ambition, makes us competitive. Nothing wrong with that. 

Because of the bad name narcissists and narcissism has been getting in the past two decades, some people have started to call regular narcissism "healthy narcissism" Call me stubborn, but I refuse to do that. Neither will I call a normal tomato a healty tomato opposed to a rotten tomato. I think it is redundant.

What is a Narcissist ?

Officially giving a difinition of "a narcissist" in a psychological or psychiatric way is impossible nowadays. Narcissms used to be an offical diagnoses, but it has been dropped. Back then it was easy: A narcissist is someone diagnosed with Narcissism. But as narcissism has been dropped, we can't say that anymore. Nowadays, the word narcissist has been adopted bij the public and it is used to describe a wide veriaty of people (usually men) that display a range of rude, selfish, abusive behavior.  Among those you'll find anything from general arseholes to Psychopaths. The "narcissist" does not exist anymore. 

So whom do i refer to when I'm talking about the Narcissist (mind the capital) When I'm talking about a Narcissist (on this website and in other publications from my hand) I am talking about someone with an NPD diagnosis. And ONLY and NPD diagnosis. No other illnesses with it, which in psychiatirc terms means: no co-morbidity. It's rare as NPD is the most co-morbid disorder in the B cluster (There is A, B and C cluster in the DSM when it comes to personality disorders. There are 10 personality disorders, and 4 of them are in the B cluster, being Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is the one most common to appear togehter with one of the others.

In "My book" A Narcissist is someone that is just affected by NPD. 

What is a Sociopath ?

Sociopaths have distinct traits. They are narcissistic and uncaring about other people's feelings. They can be easily irritated or appear nervous. They are prone to angry outbursts, which come seemingly out of nowhere. Their are emotionally unpredictable and may act violent because of it.
They are highly impulsive and prone to engage in criminal acts. The crimes they commit are a result of impulsivity. For example, a sociopath might impulsivity murder someone as opposed to being calculated about it. They tend to have a history of childhood trauma or abuse. Sociopathy is more about nurture than nature, meaning that genetics don't necessarily play the most important role in this disorder.

What is a Psychopath ?

I can try to describe what a Pyschopath is, but I don't think I can do it any better than William Hirstein Ph.D. did in this article in Psychology Today. It's a bit of a read, but it's definately worth it.

What is a Malignant Narcissist ?

Psychopaths and Sociopaths are members of the ASPD club. The club that is allows Anti-Social Personality Disordered members only. (dissocial personalities in the ICD) The ASPD club knows more members than just Psychopaths and Sociopaths. See the Psychopaths as the Platinum members, the Sociopaths as the Gold members, then there is the rest of the members. All the members of the ASPD club also - by definition - are narcissistic. With their condition come a certain number of Narcissistic traits. And Narcissistic Personality Disorder is also the most common disorder in this cluster to be co-morbid. So the chances of someone having full NPD and being member of the club ASPD, are fair. 

Someone showing significant narcissistic behavior and anti-social behavior we call a malignant narcissist (for some reason). I still don't understand this, because from where I stand this coms down to anti-social personalities, by definition. Why give them another name. But even Otto Kernberg in his 1980 survey about violence mentioned Malignant Narcissism seperately from narcissism, sociopathy and psychopahty, where he put malignant narcissism right next to sociopathy on the violence spectrum. 

Why don't people get out of abusive relationships ?