I am in one of the most beautiful hotels in the world, the Dolder Grand in Zurich, Switzerland, and this is proof positive that pathological narcissism pays.
Yes, you got it right. My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, the first book ever to describe narcissistic abuse. Consequently, I am also a professor of psychology.
Today we are going to discuss the regulatory cycle of the borderline.
The borderline goes through phases together with her intimate partner in regulating her emotions and moods. The intimate partner is not impervious to these cycles, he is not immune to the vicissitudes, the ups and downs, and the cycling of the borderline. He becomes an extension of this inner turmoil.
But even in this chaos, even in this messy landscape, we can still discern three phases.
Right now, I am not in my office, so I will have to somehow improvise between the text on my smartphone, the camera on this laptop, and the gorgeous view of the lake and the hillsides outside.
Yes, only lake and hillsides. Not what you are thinking. Get your minds out of the gutter.
And let us delve right in.
Assuming of course that I can find the text, here is the text.
I am going to read to you a paragraph and then I am going to expound on it.
It is taken from my Instagram, Narcissism with Vaknin. One word, NarcissismWithVaknin. That is my new Instagram account. I have an older Instagram account which is inactive.
When the borderline's intimate partner is enmeshed and immersed in her shared fantasy as the external regulator of her dysregulated emotions and labile moods, he is likely to internalize her inner turmoil, thereby ending up amplifying it. End of paragraph one.
And as usual, the prose is condensed and bears deconstruction.
So first of all, the concept of intimate partner.
The borderline latches onto people she believes could provide her with a sense of inner peace, stability, and safety. She seeks, she craves certainty, she craves determinacy, she interprets intimacy as all the above.
The borderline actually dreads intimacy. She is approach avoidant. Intimacy, exactly like the Narcissist, is her cryptolite.
And yet she mislabels. This need to be regulated from the outside is intimacy.
And she seeks a rock or a special friend who can provide her with this oil on the water, provide her with this flat line in lieu of the civil war that is taking place inside her.
But the only way she knows how to accomplish this is to enmesh, to merge and fuse with her intimate partner. She has a false self, exactly like the Narcissist.
Now I'm using she because of historical reasons, but actually 50% of people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder are male, they're men.
I only propose that they are covert borderlines, kind of a hybrid between borderline and narcissism.
So I'm going to continue to use she but in your mind, feel free to translate it to any pronoun you find apt.
So when she finds someone she believes can regulate her from the outside, she tries to merge with him. She tries to become one with him. She tries to get enmeshed. She tries actually to disappear into her intimate partner. She anyhow feels that she is one big void. She experiences constant emptiness. She is like a black hole and she wants to reappear, re-emerge and resurrect herself through the agency of her intimate partner.
And so exactly like the Narcissist, she has a false self. But the false self has a kind of grandiosity that is unique to borderlines.
Grandiosity of the borderline is I'm drop dead gorgeous. I'm perfect. I'm irresistible. I am the absolute in mating and I'm the perfect spouse or intimate partner. This is the borderline's grandiosity.
Consequently, she, again like the narcissist, creates a shared fantasy. And in this shared fantasy, she and her intimate partner become a single organism.
There's also a hint of paranoia, persecutory delusions to secretary ideation, because the borderline tends to create a cult like environment with her intimate partner. It's we against the world. It's the two of us against my family, etc. It's always in opposition to someone or to something. The borderline is a bit paranoid.
But having accomplished the merger and the fusion with the intimate partner, having established the perimeters, the perimeter and the parameters of the shared fantasy, the intimate partner is able to provide the borderline with what I call external regulation.
He stabilizes her labile moods. He regulates her dysregulated emotions for the first time.
In a long time, she feels safe. She feels at peace, calm. She feels that the future is bright. She feels functional and self efficacious. In short, she feels good.
However, that feeling comes at the expense of the intimate partner.
The borderline exports her civil war. She hands over her inner tumult, her chaos, her disorganization. She hands them over to the intimate partner.
He absorbs these things from her. Where she becomes regulated, he becomes dysregulated. Where she becomes less labile, he becomes more labile.
In short, there's a reversal of roles. The intimate partner becomes increasingly more and more borderline while the borderline calms down, uses the intimate partner for self soothing and comforting.
Ultimately, however, the intimate partner's lability, intimate partner's dysregulation, his tendency to absorb the worst parts of the borderline's personality, a disorganized or low organization personality, a dysfunctional personality, his tendency to absorb all these actually lead to an exacerbation in the borderline's condition.
After an initial phase of regulating the borderline, the intimate partner begins to dysregulate the borderline. He begins to amplify her lability and problems.
So the first phase of the cycle is the borderline spots an intimate partner. She presents to him her false self.
I am hypersexual. I am lovable. I am a perfect intimate partner. I am irresistible. I am drop dead gorgeous, etc. That's her false self.
She captivates or captures the intimate partner.
Together they form a shared fantasy, which is a shared fantasy of enmeshment and immersion and merger and fusion.
She then transfers to the intimate partner her internal tumult and turmoil and vicissitudes and lability and dysregulation and chaos and mayhem and disorganization.
She transfers all these. She hands over. She outsources these to the intimate partner. She infects him with her internal dynamics.
He becomes a borderline in effect for a while and together they again descend into a completely chaotic and messy relationship.
This is the end of phase one of the roller coaster of the borderline's regulation.
But this is only phase one of three, which leads me to the next paragraph in my Instagram post.
My Instagram to remind you about Narcissism with Vaknin. Flock over there. Subscribe. Follow. You know what to do.
The next paragraph is once the intimate partner gets disenchanted with the borderline, she's likely to mirror image his newly gained unperturbed equilibrium by reacting with dysregulation to his perceived indifference and rejection.
Let us explain or deconstruct this paragraph.
Following the initial phase where the intimate partner is dysregulated by the borderline, the intimate partner recovers. Suddenly his eyes are opened. He becomes disillusioned, disenchanted with the borderline.
He realizes that the borderline partner is bad for him. She's a role partner. She's not an emotional partner. She's a disregulating partner. She creates in him dysfunction.
At that point, the intimate partner withdraws. He reestablishes his inner equilibrium by avoiding the borderline.
The borderline perceives this indifference, newly gained avoidance, she perceives these as rejection and abandonment and humiliation. And she reacts with enhanced dysregulation.
The more her partner becomes regulated, the more she becomes dysregulated. The more her partner finds balance, stability and equilibrium, homeostasis, the less she does. The more her partner withdraws, puts distance and boundaries, establishes firm rules of conduct and misconduct, the more her partner becomes assertive, the more her partner insists on appropriate behavior on her part, the more she dysregulates, the more she decompensates, the more she acts out.
Because she perceives the partner's newfound mental health as a challenge, she perceives it as abandonment.
They used to be enmeshed, they used to be merged, they used to be fused, they used to be one. Now suddenly, he is taking a step back. He puts distance between himself and her. There's daylight between them. And she is discombobulated. She's terrified. She reacts with extreme abandonment anxiety. And very often, she acts out. And I encourage you to watch my video on acting out.
This is phase two of the regulatory roller coaster of the borderline.
Phase three, the next paragraph.
Finally, the dyad, the couple, settles into a transactional regulatory valley when the borderline re-idealizes her partner within a new halcyon fantasy, or withdraws into a nostalgic state coupled with desperate attempts to hoover erstwhile partners, or descends into a promiscuous world.
This is the third phase of the regulatory cycle.
To remind you of the previous two, phase one, shared fantasy, merger and fusion, the intimate partner becomes the receptacle, the absorbent pad of all the borderline's problems. She hands over to him her internal chaos and turmoil. She dysregulates him. She pushes him to have labile moods. She disintegrates him.
Phase two, the partner wakes up. He becomes disenchanted and disillusioned. He puts some distance between himself and the borderline. He establishes firm boundaries. He becomes assertive.
The borderline perceives this as abandonment, rejection, humiliation. And she reacts by becoming even more dysregulated, even more labile.
The first stage, she perceives the intimate partner as an external regulator, as someone who would introduce into her life and into her mind stability and safety and certainty and determinacy.
The second stage, she perceives him as a persecutory object, as an enemy, someone who constantly, in a way, puts her down, humiliates her, rejects her, abandons her, hates her even, and she reacts by falling apart, by disintegrating, by being all over the place, by drowning in her own overwhelming emotions, and by having rapid cycles of ups and downs. Her behavior becomes approach, avoidant, I hate you, don't leave me, and she begins to employ defense mechanisms such as splitting, you're all bad, I'm all good. She regresses into an infantile phase.
This is the second stage of the regulatory cycle.
And in the third stage, the third stage is what I call the transactional regulatory valley. The couple, borderline, and her intimate partner, settle into a kind of transactional landscape, a give and take.
But this is not enough for the borderline, of course. It's not her cup of tea.
And so she begins to look for alternatives.
The first thing she tries to do, she re-idealizes her intimate partner and tries to force on him a reversion to the first phase, tries to push him to a new shared fantasy, where they would, again, merge and become one. Where he would stabilize her, endow her with a sense of safety, by assuming her dysregulation.
She seeks to outsource her lack of inner peace to her intimate partner by idealizing him, by rendering him the rock of her life, the fount of reliability and stability.
This is an attempt to reestablish a shared fantasy. Should this attempt fail, the borderline has two other default behaviors, two other solutions.
The second solution is, she develops extreme nostalgia for past partners. She tries to hoover erstwhile partners, exes. She gets in touch with them. She dates them. She has sex with them. She tries to run away with them. She tries to impose on them a shared fantasy.
Initially, she tries to re-idealize her current intimate partner. But should this fail, she tries to do the same to her previous intimate partners.
And should this fail, many borderlines descend into a state of unbridled, self-destructive, self-trashing promiscuity, or a schizoid behavior, where they isolate themselves, see no one, talk to no one, and become essentially the cat ladies of yore.
These are the three phases of the regulatory cycle. They're inevitable, ineluctable. They happen all the time.
If you date a borderline, this is what you should expect. This is what awaits you.
If you date a borderline, initially she will idealize you. Then you will have a shared fantasy. We are one. We are a single organism, twin flames, soulmates, and other nonsensical phrases.
Second phase, you will begin to realize the detrimental and deleterious effects that your borderline partner is having on you.
So you'll try to put some distance from her. You will try to become more assertive, place firm boundaries, insist on some minimal rules of conduct, appropriate behaviors.
She will perceive it as rejection, humiliation, and abandonment, and she will become even more borderline than before, more dysregulated, more labile, more aggressive, more crazy-making, and so on.
The third phase, you will reach some consensus, modicum of coexistence and collaboration, but at a price. The price is that your ability to provide external regulation will be compromised, owing to the absence of a shared fantasy.
So the borderline will try to recreate a shared fantasy, either with you, by re-idealizing you, or with an ex, a previous partner, by re-idealizing that previous partner, or if all else fails, she will withdraw from you as well. She will break up, or something, and or she will become sexually self-trashing, promiscuous, and go through a series of disastrous one night stands, and micro pseudo relationships.
So I wanted to inject some optimism to your lives. All the news are horrible, and so on, and I hope this short video has done the trick.
Have fun with your borderlines, kiddos!