I confess — I listened to Derrick Jaxn. I watched his videos. I liked watching a strong, tall, black man discuss feelings about respecting women. His voice calmed me down, his message (for the most part) made sense. I didn’t see the red flags though and damn, was I fooled.
If you don’t know Derrick Jaxn, he is, (or was) a popular Relationship Coach and entrepreneur with millions of followers. He found fame talking about:
His message landed well in his emotionally articulate, hungry, and hurt audience. But on March 22…his brand imploded. His mask came crashing down in an epic meltdown, jam-packed with drama. There was a big confessional video where he admitted to cheating for years, the whole while clutching his wife Da’Naia Jackson’s hand so tight she looked like a bobble-head doll. The internet cruelly went after her for wearing her bonnet, having no make-up on, and frankly — for being in the video at all. There was a ‘live’ double feature the couple put out a few hours after the first one, AND the next day he performed his common format of critiquing a video — of HIS OWN CONFESSION. He talked in the third person, analyzing ‘this guy’s words, reading ‘the woman’s reaction’, and basically showcasing what a split personality looks like. Millions of angry-laughing faces splattered his feed, as declarations of deleted subscriptions scrolled in faster than I could read the punctuation.
Derrick Jaxn has been giving relationship advice serving up a classic from the Menu of Narcissist Illusion — he slang his ‘love-bomb’ style on dial-up.
The relationship cycle typical of narcissistic abuse includes four phases:
Love-bombing includes giving the person everything they have been craving: attention, gifts, support, compliments, etc. Often this involves the narcissist mirroring the person and communication style, agreeing with their values while withholding opinions, omitting truth. Folks with narcissist tendencies offer waterfalls of ‘quality time’, decelerations, and future fantasies. “OMG! He speaks all five love languages!”
Jaxn’s audience breaks into two main camps; people who’ve been ghosted lied to and cheated on, AND the people who don’t like Jaxn because they’ve had his quotes thrown in their face as a person broke up with them.
So many tangled, jangled parts to this story:
While everything on this list deserves a deep dive, let’s explore understanding the degrees of narcissism and empathy, so we can free ourselves from an ancient curse whose time has come.
The fact that Jaxn built a career on warning us about the dark practices he lives by is infuriating and demands a quick re-orienting.
There are three main traits to look for when measuring narcissism:
3. Empathy impairment.
The three ‘E’s”.
There’s the actual Cluster B definition, Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD), and there are ‘narcissist tendencies’. Most studies state that the actual disorder is untreatable, (mainly because someone with the disorder never sees a problem. They see how EVERYONE else has a problem.) Having ‘tendencies’ is a trickier scale to read since western culture has bred narcissism into the recipe for success, incubated the behavior with the nuclear family system, and worships the individual over the collective.
Narcissists can appear either uber-confident or like a ‘super-victim’ — it depends on where they get their narcissistic supply. They can be overt or covert, sexual or cerebral, successful or leaches. Though they come in many categories, all of them are insecurely attached, i.e. they lack the ability for connection and trust. They are searching for a feeling of being special, but don’t trust people, so they get lost in proving they are special, instead of feeling it. Narcissists replace being open and intimate with a sense of self-importance and grandiosity.
It’s disorienting coming to terms that you’re dealing with a narcissist. ‘Team Jaxn’ (as Derrick called his audience) was duped by a seasoned gaslighter = a person who enjoys manipulating others to question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Like textbook narcissists, he’s fluent in denial and contradictions.
People with NPD are allergic to shame, and can’t register criticism. Feelings of superiority and entitlement drive them to fight dirty and feel righteous about it (rules are not meant for them because they are so special.) Narcissists attempt to mask the vast emptiness they feel of not being authentic, by projection.
I leaned on Derrick Jaxn’s shoulder as I gathered the strength to leave my ex. I needed help realizing my man was a narcissist.
My ex love-bombed me for a solid year. I was seduced by feeling cherished, supported, and nourished. When I moved in with him, it was like a switch flipped. Suddenly he said things like, “Why do women feel the need to talk about their worth?” And, “What does that even mean to ‘Not settle’? Who do women think they are?”
At first, I tried to show him Derrick Jaxn’s videos. I thought maybe seeing another strong black man could educate, or inspire even. But I found out, (as many women have found out), most men don’t like what he had to say. When my ex’s love-bomb phase shut off it was jarring.
I caught some devalued-whiplash.
The ‘devaluing-phase’ is where the narcissist puts their partner down or holds back intimacy. When their partner questions or adds an opinion, the narcissist might turn things around — play themselves as the victim and blame their partner, which adds fuel to devalue their person more. Here you’ll find eye contact decreases, compliments ramp down, criticism ramps up. This is when the kind, attentive mask drop-off. The narcissist devalues their partner to avoid growing closer.
Suddenly my man didn’t want to hear about my day, “If you really feel the need to share, consider saying around 10% of it.” The second year of our relationship turned way too familiar. It was like living with my NPD mother again: walking on tension eggshells, passive-aggressive word salads, conversations turned into attacks that ended with silent treatments for days. I caught him lying about small, insignificant things, which told me he was capable and highly practiced at lying.
When I received a text from a strange woman, “I’ve been sleeping with your boyfriend for the last three months” I felt my heart drop out the bottoms of my feet — heartbreak vertigo. I asked for proof. She sent me the texts he’d sent her.
His words carved slices off my heart like a tender pot-roast. When I confronted him, he simply plagiarized from the narcissist handbook, “I was JUST KIDDING!” Laughing at me, his eyes jet black, he ribbed me, “You used to be funny, you used to be fun.” Do you mean when I didn’t know what you were up to?
The words he sent that woman spoke about their connection, their closeness, their agreements. I’d officially entered ‘The discard phase’.
While the Discard phase is the last part of the relationship it may not be the end of the cycle. The narcissist may not discard permanently. It depends: if abandonment hurts you intensely, they get narcissistic supply (satisfaction) from it. A narcissist loves to know that someone is in severe emotional pain over them, it makes them feel special. To prolong this fuel supply, they shift into the ‘Hoovering Phase’, the term comes from the vacuum, as in sucking-things-in. A narcissist attempts to suck the victim back, seducing them to return after they’d escaped.
I broke up with my ex. I didn’t break up with Derrick Jaxn (yet). His messages offered me proof that men were out there doing their work, owning their issues, and able to vulnerably discuss. Now…all Derrick Jaxn leaves me with is that same bad taste in my mouth of being tricked. HOW COULD I NOT SEE IT? How could millions of us not see it?
I hear the rumbles. It seems some people are already sick of this term. “It’s so overused, everyone is talking about it now.” “That word is so hot-topic it’s become meaningless.”
The fact is though — we’ve only begun talking about it. We’ve been living in an age of narcissism. It’s one of those family-kept secrets that has been shoved into closets and epigenetic for centuries. Narcissists thrive in secrecy and like to separate their victims from support, from each other, and from the truth, which has enabled the pandemic of narcissism to spread.
Because I grew up with a mother who has NPD, I’ve spent my life keeping up with the latest research, attended narcissist summits, panels, and lectures. The whole while, connecting with hundreds of thousands of narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopath survivors spilling secrets and comparing notes in online forums. There are some phenomenally bizarre patterns I’ve seen mapped out.
The reason it feels like everyone is talking about narcissism now is that we are FINALLY talking about it! We’ve broken the code of silence, millions are sharing the horrific, subtle, comprehensive, cruel abuse stories for the very first time. And as we talk others notice. The more we talk out loud, the more others feel safe.
An important pattern to notice is that those of us who grew up with a narcissist family system, tend to fall in love with a narcissist. We’re groomed, wounded, and hungry, which makes us easy prey for these power hunters. A new term, ‘Trauma Bond’ shines a blazing spotlight on how it is that people are drawn to and stay in abusive relationships, the effects on their brain, their nervous systems, and overall health. Intermittent reinforcement, Stockholm syndrome, and cultural upbringing all play a role in creating trauma bonds. Getting out of a trauma bond is compared to getting off of heroin, so shaming someone who stays is truly not the right tactic.
Shaming Da’nia Jackson is not the right tactic.
Let’s have a little recap: in the original myth Narcissist thought he was the shit and didn’t feel love for anyone, he was cruel and didn’t care. The Goddess Hera wanted to teach him a lesson. She cursed him to fall in love with the first person he looked at, so when he looked into the pond he fell in love with himself, became obsessed, and died in shallow water.
A part of the story that never got too much press was the part about Echo. She was a storyteller/word-smith nymph. Echo thought Narcissist was hot. But Hera was jealous that Echo’s storytelling had caught her husband’s attention and so cursed Echo to only be able to repeat the last few sentences that were said to her — Echo was stripped of her own voice, her own story. To add insult to injury she was unable to stop loving Narcissist, the hook was deep. She lost the ability to eat and sleep, and eventually died from her codependent obsession.
That makes this myth the origin story of the fatal attraction between someone with empathic tendencies and someone with narcissist tendencies. And it’s where the newly coined term Echoist stems from. An Echoist hides behind the strong, confident bravado of a narcissist, and the narcissist is granted a forever audience.
Craig Malkin, a Psychologist who wrote Rethinking Narcissism breaks down this fatal attraction with a new model of measurement:
“Unhealthy narcissism is when people become addicted to feeling special. Think of it as a substance abuse problem. Instead of turning to love and relationships, instead of opening up to somebody close to them and saying, “I’m scared, I’m sad, I’m lonely,” and trusting that they can depend on others, they depend on these different ways of feeling special. That’s when they become addicted to the experience.
The other thing that becomes clear as soon as you start viewing it this way is the problem when people lack healthy narcissism. We already know from the research that people who don’t have those rose colored glasses view themselves and the world in slightly dimmer light. Sometimes they’re more anxious, sometimes they’re more depressed. In my research with my colleagues, I dubbed this problem echoism. Where Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, Echo fell in love with Narcissus.”~ Craig Malkin from Rethinking Narcissism
“Like Echo, people who struggle with echoism struggle to have a voice of their own. They’re afraid of seeming narcissistic in any way. They’re afraid of being a burden. They berate themselves for being too needy. They blame themselves for problems that go wrong in relationships. In the mild range of echoism what we found is these are people who can be deeply empathic. They prefer to focus on others as opposed to themselves. The danger here is in lacking those rose colored glasses, in shifting away from themselves to other people rather reflexively, echoists also tend to fall into relationships with extremely narcissistic partners and friends.” ~Craig Malkin
If we look at the spectrum of being human, the middle is what’s considers healthy narcissism, or confidence — a healthy sense of self. This is the place where you feel yourself. You know when you’re having a good hair day, but also you can handle criticism, and when you mess up, you admit it. You have access to feel humbled or ashamed.
Heading in one direction…people get lost in their view, their perspectives and have intensifying degrees of the three E’s. These folks repel criticism and questioning, (think: Trump at a press conference). At the far end of this predisposition is where you’ll find NPD, then the Sociopaths, and finally the Psychopaths.
In the opposite direction from a healthy center, you’ll find empaths and empathics, (a word I invented to describe those with empathic tenancies), varying degrees of codependency, lack of self-representation, plenty of bitter resentment, ending up finally at the distorted, unhealthy edge of Echoism. An extreme Echoist has lost their sense of self, puts others first, and keeps themself on high edit.
Once again we are faced with this question.
We had to ask it with Micheal Jackson, Harvey Weinstein, Pablo Picasso, Miles Davis, Tony Robins, Bikram Choudhury, Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and I could go on and on — do we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Can we honor the messages Derrick Jaxn spit at us about signs to look for with narcissists, liars, and cheaters? The messages about not settling for crumbs and games, and ghosting and disrespect? Or will dysfunctional culture fallacies continue to discredit empaths, devaluing others as narcissistic types run from being accountable for their own actions?
I believe the message can remain, (although I wouldn’t mind punching the messenger in his pretty lying mouth.)
I waited 41 years for my mom to change, then I stopped. It was a relief for both of us.
If you don’t have a cluster B disorder it is possible to change. I just don’t know anyone who has, BUT I’m not waiting anymore. In fact, I’m done keeping the focus on narcissists.
In these last ten years, I’ve witnessed empaths tell their story, and heard recovering ecohist speak out. This is where I DO see change, BIG CHANGE. It takes asking hard questions of ourselves. Like… why did I fall for my ex? Why did I — someone who knows about narcissist family systems, and gaslighting and con-artists — believe Derrick Jaxn?
This was not my first toxic relationship, I’ve had a string of them.
I watched it happen: I felt good being single, took care of myself, hung out with friends, worked hard on my business, then… I fell in love. Because there were a lot of mixed messages about love and security in my childhood, I doubt love. I have a disorganized, insecure attachment style, and when it rears it’s doubting head old insecurities grab the microphone. I fear abandonment which makes me become quieter, smaller. I’m known to tap dance my way to attempt to please my partners, just like attempted to get my mother’s approval by stepping into a subservient echo role. This was my pattern. It’s a bad habit. I’m a recovering echoist, a recovering codependent.
I’ve joked for years, (as a lot of folks who grew up with trauma will,) “If I was in a room full of 100 people and 99 of them respected me, liked me, and were kind, I’d be attracted to the one person who was judging and disrespecting me, especially if they had a slight element of danger.”
My journey out of echoism has been a long haul.
In 1988 I was in my third year of Art School, PNCA in Portland Or. I was painting, sculpting, printmaking and free from living with my parents, free from living in Utah. I was in heaven!
One day the science teacher called on me in class, asked my opinion about the lesson, and I froze. I turned bright red, gasping for air like I was suffocating— slow-motion walking down to the basement feeling — until finally, he called on someone else.
A few weeks later, my teacher announced it was mandatory that we offer a science presentation and to sign up with him on the signup sheet. That same feeling shut down my throat, I panicked…. and then did the only thing I could think of: I dropped out of school. It never occurred to talk to the teacher or the admin or my parents, I had no idea how to express my feelings yet. I had no idea adults were safe yet.
Throughout my 20’s, I had reoccurring abscesses show up in my throat. Over and over my throat swelled so completely I was hospitalized. I lost my voice as my throat was lanced multiple times. I was silenced by not my owning my story.
Gratefully, I entered a kaleidoscope of holistic healing arts. I found acupuncture, therapy, 12-step meetings, workshops, ceremonies, soul retrievals, and sweat lodges until finally, I began to find my voice. Now 52, I’ve added understanding the Polyvagal Theory, Attachment theory, Enneagram, and Somatic Experiencing to navigate my Cptsd and echoist tendencies. I’ve had to face my knee-jerk reaction for the ‘fawn stress response’.
Lately, every time I post on social media about narcissist/echoist patterns I catch private messages confessing abuse and have talked to hundreds of people searching for answers. I point them to support groups, and books to read. And I say this to almost all of them:
“There is a wave….a gigantic collective wave of people changing the story right now. Welcome to the front line my friend, you’re right on time.”
These are my fellow authors co-writing the new myth. As people shift from codependence, and unprotected empathy, we shift the power dynamic. We become a tipping point of regulated empowered empaths.
While I think it’s the collective lotus unfolding of millions of our voices that writes the New Myth, here’s my petal:
They were dark days. The global pandemic of narcissism had steered the planet for years. Dysregulation and generational trauma were piled thick.
A demonized dance of power struggle and avoiding conflict was the tradition in most systems — homes, schools, government, countries. The prognosis was terminal. Systemically the humans were in stage four capitalism, stage four racism, and stage four narcissism. There was not much time left.
Fake gurus crumbled and disappeared in righteous plumbs of dust, as hungry ghost gods no longer could sustain the illusion. The season of secrets was coming to a close — the ones remaining had a choice to make.
Would they cling to trauma bonds? Would they believe the lies in their head? Could forever-audience members finally stop being an echo?
Empathics* realized superheroes or super gods weren’t coming to save them from bullies, they realized it was their voice that was the antidote — the superpower they’ve been waiting for. The survival stories were the proof. The more people spoke out on Secrets! Abuse! Needs! The more others mobilized.
The echoey humans finally broke the spell cast many, many moons before.
Patterns of diseased codependency fell out of fashion, fell out of comfort. Echoists removed the gag orders installed years prior as light-bright tones embedded deep in DNA became empowered mirror neurons — all lit up! Generations of epigenetic backpacks were laid down.
The age of narcissism twitched and threw its cliche tantrum for the last time.
The powers of empath’s voices throat-wide and worldwide were more powerful than anyone could have ever imagined.
*Empathics = humans who nourish the empathy inside of them.
Curious where you are on the narcissist/echoist spectrum? Here’s Craig Malkins test: https://www.drcraigmalkin.com/#narcissismtest