1st Edition

Traumatic Narcissism and Recovery Leaving the Prison of Shame and Fear

By Daniel Shaw Copyright 2021
    156 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    156 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book looks at the trauma suffered by those in relationships with narcissists, covering topics such as surviving a cult, dysfunctional families, political dysfunction, and imbalances of power in places of work and education.

    This new volume by author and psychoanalyst Daniel Shaw revisits themes from his first book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. Shaw offers further reflections on the character and behavior of the traumatizing narcissist, the impact such persons have on those they abuse and exploit and the specific ways in which they instill shame and fear in those they seek to control. In addition, this volume explores, with detailed clinical material, many of the challenges mental health professionals face in finding effective ways of helping those who have suffered narcissistic abuse. From within a trauma informed, relational psychoanalytic perspective, Shaw explores themes of attachment to internalized perpetrators, self-alienation, internalized aggression, and loss of faith in the value and meaning of being alive.

    This book will be especially illuminating and rewarding for mental health professionals engaged in helping patients heal and recover from complex relational trauma, and equally valuable to those individuals who have struggled with the tenacious, often crippling shame and fear that can be the result of relational trauma.

      1. Introduction  2. A Prison of Shame and Fear  3. Make Someone Happy  4. Double Binds, Unhealing Wounds  5. Working with Dissociated Aggression in Traumatized Patients  6. Authoritarianism and the Cultic Dynamic  7. Psychoanalysis, Meet Religion  8. The Problem of Self-Alienation


      Daniel Shaw, LCSW, is a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City and in Nyack, New York. Originally trained as an actor at Northwestern University and with the renowned teacher Uta Hagen in New York City, Shaw later worked as a missionary for an Indian guru. His eventual recognition of cultic aspects of this organization led him to become an outspoken activist in support of individuals and families traumatically abused in cults. Simultaneous with leaving this group, Shaw began his training in the mental health profession, becoming a faculty member and supervisor at The National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York. He has published papers in Psychoanalytic Inquiry, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalytic Dialogues. In 2014 his book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, was published for the Relational Perspectives Series by Routledge, and was nominated for the distinguished Gradiva Award. In 2018, the International Cultic Studies Association awarded him the Margaret Thaler Singer Award for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence.

      'Daniel Shaw was taken by surprise when his first book, Traumatic Narcissism, struck a nerve not only with fellow psychotherapists, but also with the lay public. Shaw had put his finger on a source of relational trauma as profoundly destructive as it is common and poorly understood. Pathologically narcissistic people, when they are needed attachment figures, such as parents or leaders, cause untold suffering, often without perpetrating any sort of physical abuse. In this book, Shaw continues this important exploration—and this time the breadth of interest the book will arouse will come as no surprise.'

      Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute and NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

      'Of all of the psychoanalytic commentators on narcissism in the past two decades, surely the most important is Daniel Shaw. It is not just that Shaw writes passionately and insightfully about narcissism, especially in its malignant and traumatic aspects, because of his own personal experiences as the survivor of a religious cult. It is also that he understands that narcissism is, paradoxically, a deeply relational concept, not possible without the participation of others. In this articulate, compassionate, and honest contribution, Shaw ranges from the micro to the macro, from the clinical situation to society in its current crisis, from the personal to the political, as he delineates the complexity of narcissistic dynamics and phenomena, both in individual lives and in society as a whole.'

      John Auerbach, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida

      'Daniel Shaw established himself as a leading psychoanalytic thinker with Traumatic Narcissism. The wise and compassionate essays in this book deepen his meditations on the concept of relational trauma from clinical, theoretical, personal, political, and spiritual perspectives. He gives us the loving companionship we need to sustain us on our therapeutic quests and to be able to answer Hamlet’s question, "To be or not to be?" in the affirmative.'

      Peter L. Rudnytsky, Ph.D., University of Florida & Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute; author of Formulated Experiences: Hidden Realities and Emergent Meanings from Shakespeare to Fromm

      'This book is a brilliant continuation of Shaw’s work on traumatic narcissism. Clinically sophisticated and with a fresh theoretical stance, it bravely examines the wounds of early relational trauma and their profound impact on one’s life. Adding to his scope new ideas on cults, authoritarianism, spirituality and faith, Shaw delicately portrays the complexity of love and hate, longing and aggression, giving and receiving, life and death—as each presents itself in and outside of the therapeutic relationship. This volume offers a soulful understanding of painful journeys toward healing.' 

      Galit Atlas, Ph.D., NYU Postdoctoral Program for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Author of The Enigma of Desire

      'Writing in an experience-near and trauma-informed language, Daniel Shaw has crafted a penetrating and compassionate look inside the mind of the traumatizing narcissist and the surrounding relational field. The reader is taken on a passionately written journey with perspectives that span intrapsychic, interpersonal, and social psychological, including an exploration of the toxic narcissism that has taken up residence at the highest levels of government. Immediately accessible, and broad in its reach, Shaw woos the reader with uncommon sense in a no-holds-barred effort to free us from the eventual strangulation of free will and dignity by the narcissist's unerring, amoral tentacles. Brilliant in its conception, and incisive in the exploration of case material with a quintessential two-person psychology, Shaw provides a humanistic feast of ideas. Join him at the table, and savor the meal.'

       Richard A. Chefetz, M.D., author of Intensive Psychotherapy for Persistent Dissociative Processes: The Fear of Feeling Real

      'In his 2014 Traumatic Narcissism, Daniel Shaw described the cult leader who dominates by "coercive persuasion" and the effects on those who follow. Here he tangles with the relational demons, especially shame, internalized by all of us who have fallen under the leader’s spell, convincing us that we are trash, only fit to serve them. He gives new meaning to speaking the unspeakable in a humanistic psychoanalysis, offering hope and dignity through debunking the narcissistic dominator, taking relational psychoanalysis to its depths and horrors. This work is priceless.' 

      Donna Orange, author of Psychoanalysis, History and Radical Ethics: Learning to Hear

      'In Dan Shaw’s first book, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, he gave to the mental health field the inimitable term "traumatic narcissism," new, usable, helpful, easily graspable, action oriented, and accurately descriptive—much more specific than "perpetrator" and "victim." The term created a new vista for understanding such a pervasive, ineluctable, but often hard to describe problem.

      Following his highly acclaimed first book, this new contribution does not disappoint. Here Shaw returns to the themes of relational systems of traumatizing narcissists in cults, parenting, social movements, religion, politics, and psychopathic leaders. He writes more about what he has found healing in psychotherapy, addressing complex questions such as dissociated aggression in traumatized clients, the ever-eroding impact of shame, the internalization of relational systems of subjugation within the traumatized person, the importance of self-reflection, the complicated issue of spirituality, and finally, self-alienation and the will to live.

      As a writer, Shaw manifests the values he advocates to his clients: he is, himself, self-reflective, highly personal, and communicatively self-revealing, as he discusses how he has worked with challenging cases. He writes from the heart, yet from a broad source of theoretical knowledge. Not surprisingly, he possesses the knack for a pithy phrase.

      This highly accessible and highly engaging book is appropriate for both clinicians and non-professional readers who are interested in how relational dynamics of subjugation are corrosively enacted in families, on the world stage, and within the psyche of the traumatized individual. I recommend it highly.'

      Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., Author: The Dissociative Mind; Understanding and Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Relational Approach 

      'Dan Shaw’s understanding of relational trauma permeates the collection of his writings contained in this excellent book. How he communicates the inner experience of his patients can transform any therapist’s ability to attune to traumatized individuals.'

      Janina Fisher, assistant educational director, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, author of Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors and Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma

      'The book is divided into eight chapters, in which the theme of trauma prevails in diverse ways and the author provides many clinical examples from his extensive work in this area - from people in the throes of a narccissitc leader's persuasive and manipulative tactics, which result in the disassociated dependency of those submitting to it, to the traumatising narcissistic parent... In all of these examples of abuse, the painful search for autonomy is the focus.'

      Debra Kuppersmith is a psychoanalyst, clinical social worker, and educator. She is on the editorial board of The Psychoanalytic Review, Editor-in-Chief of the AAPCSW on-line monograph, and a training and supervising psychoanalyst at NPAP. This extract is taken from her review of Shaw's book, contained within the Winter 2022 edition of The Clinician, the newsletter of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work (Routledge).

      '... Shaw effectively breaks down the "othering" that can keep us from full recognition of the shame and fear that can linger in the bodies, minds, and hearts of abuse survivors. He shares his contagiously empathic vision of what it can be like to endure imprisoning relationships... Shaw [is] ... testifying to the possibility of not merely surviving imprisonment but, eventually, emerging with the dignity and determination to lead a renewed life.'

      Sandra Buechler, William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry Psychoanalysis and Psychology. To read this review in full please see the following: Sandra Buechler (2022): Review of Traumatic Narcissism and Recovery: Leaving the Prison of Shame and Fear, Psychoanalysis, Self and Context, DOI: 10.1080/24720038.2021.2019259.

      'One of the things I admire most about this book is Shaw's devotion to openness and transparency. Shaw greatly values transparency in his clinical work, and his writing style is straightforward, personal and totally accessible. He writes with admirable openness about the trajectory of his own life as well. When he describes his clinical work, he spells out clearly why he works with patients in the ways that he does. He obviously prizes openness, and conveys integrity by saying what he means and meaning what he says.'

      Peter Shabad, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL. To read this review in full please see the following: Peter Shabad (2022) From Shame to Human Agency and Responsibility: A Review of Traumatic Narcissism and Recovery: Leaving the Prison of Shame and Fear By Daniel Shaw, Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 19:3, 395-401, DOI: 10.1080/1551806X.2022.2097533