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The Neuroscience of Racism and Its Marriage to “Toxic Masculinity”

justice photoRacism is learned. Like sexism, it is based on early conditioning of certain “might makes right” illusions, combined with fears of rejection, that energize insatiable lust for proof of superiority and entitlements to dominate, exploit and abuse with impunity.

It is a product of cultures that value violence and dominance, legitimizing these as “necessary means,” for example, supposedly to protect citizens when, in effect they’ve always served a mere handful of, mostly, white men desperate for power and validation. These persons meet criteria for antisocial personality disorder, in other words, diagnosis for psychopathic/sociopathic disorder posing risk of harm to others. They need professional help, and must never hold positions of authority.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and its more extreme expression, antisocial personality disorder (APD, or psychopathology), are severe thought disturbances that cripple the vital ways the physical brain and body, and the intelligence centers in particular link to and work together with the heart and gut; all designed to work together.

The thought patterns associated with these disorders are crippling, indeed incomparably traumatizing, because they regard with scorn and mistrust core human “true self” traits, such as caring, empathic connection, kindness, or remorse, sadness and hurt, as dangerous threats, contaminating influences that must be eliminated, punished, attacked, denied, deprived in order for “false self” based on superiority and rightful dominance to exist.

This explains why narcissists are on guard in their interactions with those they regard as inferior. Their body and mind, responding to their disturbed pattern of thoughts and underlying beliefs, put their body’s survival system in charge of processing — thus keeping offline, the higher thinking part of the brain, or frontal cortex.

These highly disordered patterns of thinking release high level of fear-activating hormones, such as cortisol, into the bloodstream, in response to even kind, caring gestures of their partners. In their view, “true self” emotions are not real, they are mere tactics to con and exploit, subvert and dominate, prove superiority to “win” fierce competitions.

These highly disordered patterns of thinking are a result of early childhood exposure to hatred for human traits regarded as weakness in childhood. Without conscious awareness, the trauma of children exposed to misogynist treatment of women, and the vulnerable in general, i.e., children or “weak” males, is not only enduring, but also passed on from generation to generation.

This “might makes right” value system in always on in relational contexts operating motto is “get them before they get you.”

Narcissism is a result of emotional trauma that occurs when children are exposed to toxic cultural messages that overall impose the cult of masculinity on men and cult of femininity on women.

A boy child learns it is not a safe world, that no is there for you, that it is a dog eats dog world, and that the strong prove themselves by being ruthless and emotionally detached in order to block the emasculating threat of love and caring for others cause.

This faulty-learning occurs as a result of trauma in childhood. It is highly-disorded patterns of thinking that, because the brain is intentionally conditioned to feel disgust and rage, and thus attack, suppress or seek to eliminate, human emotions of empathy and caring and kindness and acceptance for self and another — it cripples the thinking capacity of the brain by releasing high levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Meanwhile the dopamine mix of reward and feel good chemicals, instead of aiding the complex of cultivating personal and relational capacity to empathically connect, mutually understand and participate in own and another’s emotional and mental grown and transformation, perversely shapes and maintains addictive patterns of relating to self and others, “hooked” on deriving primary pleasure — not from contributing to another’s wellness and happiness, rather from instilling pain, hurting, humiliating, subverting and controlling other’s will, mind to serve the narcissist’s interests, safety and comfort at the expense of their own.

An NPD on one side of the spectrum, and more so an APD on the other side, derive please from hating and being hated, raging and getting others enraged. Like addicts, their drug of choice lusts for evidence of superiority and entitlements to dominate. They strategize on customizing ways to instill pain, prove dominance, make others squirm with discomfortable, feel invisible, or spin their wheels explaining themselves, proving their devotion, making narcissist happy, taking them out of their misery and hyper sensitivity to any hint their authority over those they perceive themselves superior, their “false self superiority,” is questioned. It’s not going to happen. Narcissists lust to feel miserable, and as they’ve numbed themselves to not feel pain, do not suffer in the same way that most all feeling and caring, connected human beings would.

Boys quickly learn there is a “Code of Silence” they must adhere to if they want to continue to belong to “the entitled group,” and thus, they must cover and hide abusers in the cult, to protect the rights of those in the “boys will be boys club” to engage in otherwise inexcusable acts of sexual assault, not only against women and girls, and other men and boys — but also remain silent when and if a male with higher status abuses and assaults them.

Even otherwise good men, and their accomplices, take and work together to enforce strict adherence — of the dupers and duped alike — to “the cult of masculinity” and its coveted “code of silence.”

Acts of sexual assault by “the club” are not exclusive to women and girls. Boys and men are assaulted, likely in far greater number than our men are free to admit.

Actor and former NFL player, now speaks out on the “Cult of Masculinity”that he once solidly belonged to, as a result of his experiences of being attacked, shamed, etc., when he broke the “code of silence” by revealing his sexual abuse experience in the film industry, and his abuser.

In Crew’s words:

“Growing up…asking friends how to talk to a girl … I was told to lie to her, to keep her off-balance. Having “game” was all about manipulating girls, getting them to give you sex, then tossing them aside. As a man, you’re also taught to keep your girl in check, to maintain control. But you cannot control someone and love them at the same time. You only control things that are beneath you.”“I was a card-carrying member of the cult of masculinity. I and other young men in my community watched our mothers and sisters be abused, which taught us that we were worth more than the women in our lives.”

It’s a predictable pattern, however. It’s known as gaslighting in lay terms. In terms of research, the pattern was identified and labeled as D.A.R.V.O.: “Deny. Attack. Reverse Victim and Offender.” by psychologist Dr. Jennifer Freyd in her research of male sexual assault of women.

Let’s connect the dots with 3 inextricable links.

by asking who gains from the use of thought-control tactic to demoralize, silence and block those they target from speaking their truth, addressing harm confronting their abuser to speak her or his truth?

1. Idealization of pathological abuse of weak persons as proof of superiority

It’s a pattern most every pathological abuser*** uses in some way to shift blame and demonize their victim, while simultaneously gain the sympathy and portray themselves to others as the “real” victims. Domestic violence. Rape. Sexual assault. Child abuse. Divorce or Custody Disputes.

2. Idealization of “feeling no remorse” as proof of superiority

t’s a pattern of behaviors of persons who meet the diagnostic criteria in the DSM for one of two character disorders listed that, unlike other mental health problems, pose risks for harm to others: antisocial personality disorder (APD)and, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These two character disorders lie on a continuum but share three key traits: (1) lack of empathy, overall disregard for the feelings or hurt they cause to another; (2) a sense of entitlement to derive pleasure from hurting or making others feel uncomfortable; and (3) feelings of scorn for others in particular those they deem weak and inferior.

3. Idealization of “violence” and “dominance” as proof “real” masculinity

It’s a pattern cults have used for centuries. It works to link violence to strength and masculinity, and it’s a key defining trait of all cults, religious and secular to dupe innocent persons. It has been used for centuries, however, in the last century, the methods have become increasingly sophisticated based on scientific experiments in thought control, known to cripple the otherwise amazing ability of their human brains to think.

Safe to say, all cults, whether they call themselves dictatorships or democracies, religions or rock stars and their groupies, start early using institutions of family, church and school, to condition young minds to value aggression and superiority as “male traits,” devalue and feel scorn for arbitrarily defined “female traits’ of love, caring, nonsexual affection, empathy, and the like, was weakness and inferiority.

4. Idealization of lies and deception as evidence of intelligence and superiority

As far back as Ancient Greece and Rome, oligarchs knew that violence in and of itself fails to maintain rigid hierarchical social orders. Most people rebel and reject and revolt as it is the inherent nature of human beings to live free, in self termination, to create and thrive in self-governing communities.

So the real tools of dominance and control that narcissists and cult leaders use are lies, illusions, con artistry to get into the minds of people, as individuals or groups. The use of Orwellian contradictions, and doublespeak, have been scientifically studied and applied for many, many decades, and have proven effective to confound the the thinking areas of the brain, so much so, that a certain percentage of the population can be made to participate in their own abuse and enslavement, and some can be corrupted with “benefits” to serve as accomplices to support narcissists to victimize others.

Humans are paradoxical beings. The mirror-neurons in our brains make it impossible for one persons to rage against, or seek to diminish, subvert and without producing the same feelings of diminished and subverted self, living in fear of being powerless, exploited, dominated, proven unworthy. To enslave and rage against another is to appoint them a master.

It’s how the neurochemistry in the body and brain is designed to work. Narcissists are caught in their own trap. The main thing that blocks them from feeling healing, which in human terms means feeling overall fulfilled and happy with self and life, secure in their relationships is that they are addicted to depriving their victims from ever feeling happy, secure, fulfilled in order to prove their “false self” exists. It does not. A false self is based on illusions of power, based on activating own and other’s survival reaction. Fear, although it can put on displays making itself appear larger than life itself, is a low energy power. Similar to how a few cowboys, riding on horses dragging dried branches behind them, could make themselves appear like a whole army to scare their victims into submitting.

What blocks narcissists from feeling genuinely happy and secure, fulfilled and meaningfully connected to life — is that they war and fear and derive pleasure from attacking the very substance that makes them human inside. They are in a trap, warring to eliminate and control and eradicate any evidence that their “false self” is an illusion — and thus they war against the truth, that the real world of human beings and the relationships is governed by powers of kindness, caring, compassion, collaboration, contribution, gratitude, yearning for all beings to live happy and not needlessly suffer.

For all human beings, healing takes place when you restore sense of connection to your authentic core true-self. That is, to come out of the fog of lies, and to embrace the truth of what it means to be come, whom you already are, have been, were born to be.




The Neuroscience of Racism and Its Marriage to “Toxic Masculinity”

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2020). The Neuroscience of Racism and Its Marriage to “Toxic Masculinity”. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Jun 2020
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