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Borderline=Failed Narcissist: Intermittent Mother, not "Dead" (EXCERPT)

Uploaded 10/19/2023, approx. 23 minute read

Hello, Shoshanim. It is not a good morning, so I'm not going to say it.

Civilians have been slaughtered in Israel savagely, and then civilians are being decimated ruthlessly in Gaza. Both parties are killing each other ferociously and voraciously.

Good morning, it is not.

But life goes on, and borderline personality disorder awaits no one.

So today we're going to discuss what happens when a covert borderline falls in love with a borderline personality disorder person.

Both these disorders, borderline personality disorder and covert borderline, which is a variant of borderline personality disorder, both of them are exceedingly complex, possibly the most multi-layered mental illnesses or mental dysfunctions ever.

Now imagine putting the two of them together in a pressure cooker, also known as relationship, and witness what's happening.

So today I'm going to divide the video to three parts.

The first part, a mini summary of some of my work on borderline personality disorder. Then an overview of borderline personality disorder, especially the alternative model in the text revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 5 published last year. I couldn't find any of this online, by the way.

And then I'm going to review the clinical features and aspects of covert borderline and compare them to the clinical features and aspects of borderline, of the borderline, so that we see where the borderline intimate partner pushes the buttons of the covert borderline in a good way or in a bad way. And what happens, what transpires after the covert borderline has been triggered by his borderline loved one, spouse, intimate partner.

So this is a complex video, but stay with me because nothing is more interesting than the borderline Disneyland, the borderline landscape.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm a former visiting professor of psychology and currently I'm on the faculty of SIAS-CIAPS, Commonwealth for International Advanced Professional Studies.

First of all, I recommend that you watch two videos, a video titled "Bordylind's Partner, Some Enter Healthy, Exit Mentally Ill" and another video titled "Bordylind Demonizes Partner, Apologizes Narcissist".

And then there is literature in the description. I've listed the 20 most influential thinkers on borderline personality disorder and definitely the 20 scholars or thinkers who have most influenced my work in borderline personality disorder. And I recommend that you chase them down using libraries or scholar.google.com. Scholar.google.com is a search engine for academic papers and academic articles. Wonderful. I always use it.

As you can maybe hear, there's a black helicopter hovering above this building, probably sent by Hamas, but I will do my best to ignore it.

It seems that wherever we are in the world, and right now I'm not in Israel, I'm in Macedonia, wherever we are in the world, we can't escape the reality, the encroaching reality of conflict, of weaponry, of militarization, of aggression, of violence. This is the world we live in nowadays. It is in essence a borderline narcissistic world.

Yes, they've taken over and it's not a conspiracy theory, according to recent studies.

Okay, enough with my political pontification. I hope you can hear me over and above the noise, the unpleasant noise of the rotating chopper.

Start with something that Grotstein, a famous psychoanalyst, has said. He said a borderline is a failed narcissist.

Now many people ask me, where on earth did he say this? We couldn't find it anywhere.

Well, he said it in a personal correspondence with the late Joanne Lachkar. Joanne Lachkar was the first to write a book about the borderline narcissistic couple. She published the book in 1982 and there's a second edition. She died recently. She was a very good and close personal friend and she shared with me her personal correspondence with Grotstein where he said that a borderline is a failed narcissist.

But Grotstein failed to explain completely the mechanism and the dynamic behind this.

What Grotstein suggested is that a traumatized and abused child attempts to become a narcissist because narcissism is a defense mechanism. It's a compensatory way to kind of block pain, to avoid hurt by pretending to be godlike.

So the child invents this private religion with a false self and the false self is everything the child is not. The false self is all-knowing. The false self is all-powerful. The false self is invulnerable. The false self is perfect and brilliant. The false self is a totally good object, etc.

And the child deflects the pain and hurt and trauma at the false self, thus avoiding the consequences of trauma and abuse.

Grotstein suggested that some children attempt to develop a narcissistic solution to the abuse and trauma, but then they fail. And having failed, they remain stuck in a stage of emotional dysregulation and a lot of pent up, shame and hurt and pain.

And this is called borderline personality organization.


Okay, I'm going to stop the recording right now because the noise is becoming...

Oh, it went away. You see? Magical thinking.

So why the failure? Why do some children fail to become narcissists and remain stuck in the borderline phase?

I have an answer where Grotstein essentially doesn't.

My answer is that the child who becomes a narcissist has a dead mother, dead in the metaphorical sense. She's absent. She's depressive. She's selfish. She is manipulative. She is instrumentalizing and parentifying, sometimes pedestalizing and idolizing the child.

At any rate, she breaches the child's boundaries. She doesn't allow the child to separate an individual because she's not there. She's not emotionally available to the child.

So the child then proceeds to create a parental substitute, the false self, and interact with the false self to the extent that the child merges and fuses with the false self rather than with the unavailable mother.

And this way the child becomes a narcissist.

But what happens when the mother is sometimes dead and sometimes alive, sometimes absent and sometimes present, sometimes negligent and sometimes protective, sometimes aggressive and criticizing and sometimes loving and holding and caring, sometimes bad and sometimes good, sometimes evil and sometimes righteous, sometimes in short black and sometimes white.

What happens when the mother provides what we call, what I'm called intermittent reinforcement? I call this kind of mother an intermittent mother, not a dead mother, but an intermittent mother.

And this kind of intermittent reinforcement allows the child to remain somehow grounded in the relationship with the mother while also developing some narcissistic defenses such as grandiosity.

The child is stuck in a twilight zone in a poor man's land. The child doesn't become a full fledged narcissist because the child craves the mother, wants to interact with her, loves her so he doesn't want to go away because mother is sometimes there for the child, sometimes available, sometimes loving.

There's no incentive for the child to totally disconnect from the mother.

So this kind of child becomes half narcissist and half borderline.

Gradually there's a failure to develop narcissism because the mother is sufficiently there, sufficiently present, sufficiently caring and loving to prevent the full fledged emergence of pathological narcissism.

And this is how the child becomes borderline.

Now this kind of child is distinct from the narcissist. This kind of child does perceive external objects.

The narcissist you recall is incapable of perceiving or appreciating the externality of objects, the separateness of objects because the child turned narcissist is incapable of separating from mommy, with de-viduating.

So the narcissist has no concept of separation.

And so the narcissist doesn't see other people as separate from him, as external to him. He regards everyone as a kind of internal object to be manipulated by the narcissist. And the narcissist continues to interact only inside his mind with this Disneyland of internal objects.

The borderline child is capable of perceiving that other people, also known as objects in psychology, other people do exist and they exist separately. They're not extensions of the child. They're out there. They're objects which are not the child.

And this is because the borderline child does have a mother which is out there, a mother which is sometimes loving and present and holding and containing. This kind of mother allows the child to realize the externality of objects.

So what the child does, it outsources ego functions. It outsources internal processes such as emotional regulation. It outsources them to external objects. Sometimes the borderline outsources her body to external objects. And this is known as promiscuity.

So when I say her, it's also him. About half of all borderlines nowadays are men and half of all narcissists are women. Okay? So forget the gender norms. Replace them in your mind if you're so inclined.

So the borderline has a huge narcissistic investment in herself. It's a compensation for the times when mother is absent, when mother is negligent, when mother is away, when mother is depressive, mother is selfish, then the child invests, affects, invests emotional energy in herself.

This is narcissistic investment.

But on the other hand, the mother is sufficiently there to allow the child to develop what we call object relations. But this is a very sick kind of object relations. It's outsourcing oneself to an external object.

So while the narcissist gave up on the externality of separate objects because they are bound to frustrate him, to hurt him, to humiliate him, to provoke shame, so the narcissist gives up on external objects. He says, I don't need anyone. I'm self-sufficient because I'm God-like. I'm omnipotent. I'm omniscient. God doesn't need anyone. And I don't either.

The borderline still maintains some kind of hope. And it's not necessarily a sick or pathological kind of hope. She interacts with separate external objects via merger and fusion. And here is something very interesting.

The narcissist wants other people to become his internal objects. He internalizes, introjects other people, a process that I call snapshotty. And then he coerces these people to conform to the internalized representation in his mind. And this I call coercive snapshotty.

The borderline is different. The borderline wants to become someone's internal object. She wants someone to create with her, to engender with her a symbiosis. She wants to become one with someone else. She wants to merge and fuse similar to the codependent. And so she wants to become an internal object.

The narcissist is looking for someone he could convert into an internal object and they are a perfect fit.

Now don't forget that covert borderlines are in large part narcissists as well.

So the covert borderline is enticed, lured, and seduced and tempted by the borderline's willingness to suspend herself as an external object and reemerge in the covert borderline's mind as an internal object.

Yes, the covert borderline also snapshots and introjects.

So here's a perfect match. The first point of contact between these two, the covert borderline comes across a borderline and the borderline tells him signals to him in a variety of ways, including body language, not necessarily verbally. The borderline signals to him and willing to yield. I'm willing to submit. I'm willing to enter your mind and never exit because that's a safe space for me. I feel good inside your mind. I feel stable and secure. Please let me enter your mind. Let me convert myself from an external object, which is painful for me to an internal object, which is held in the womb of your mind. It's going back to the womb as Gantrys had observed.

So this match between two victims, because remember that narcissist and covert borderlines and borderlines are victims, victims of trauma and abuse in early childhood. They resonate their victimhood, their state of being, having been victimized, resonate, resonates, and they dig each other. They go along each other. They understand each other to perfection.

And here the borderline says, I'm willing to symbiotically merge with you to become one. And as one, we are going to be God-like because you are God-like. I'm going to be God-like by proxy.

And this caters to her grandiosity. The covert borderline is a child who was first subjected to a dead mother and then to an intermittent but loving mother. And he's trying to recreate this love for the rest of his life.

Let us summarize this part.

The narcissist is a child who has been exposed to a dead mother, trauma and abuse inflicted by a mother who was absent, disinterested, selfish, instrumentalizing, parentifying, etc.

The borderline is a child who has been exposed to a mother who engaged in intermittent mothering. She was sometimes there, sometimes not, sometimes loving, sometimes indifferent, etc., etc. Okay. That's why borderlines split.

Then the covert borderline is a child who has been exposed initially to a dead mother. But then the dead mother had been supplanted by, replaced by a real good loving mother or even an intermittent mother.

So the covert borderline retains the experience of having been loved and craves this experience.

I would say that covert borderlines are love addicts. They're addicted to a fantasy of ideal, all-encompassing, all-engulfing, all-pervasive love that consumes them. And they want them to embed this love, to rigidify it, to encode it into a relationship and marriage. And they regard children as the ultimate reification, manifestation and expression of ideal love because children are innocent. Children are malleable. Children are open to learning and evolution and growth and development. They perceive children as tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which they can write their love.

And so for them, children are the perfect conduit of love.

And now a very important point.

There is a suggested diagnosis bandied about, it's called shy or quiet borderline.

Let's start by stating that there is no such thing. All borderlines, all people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder sometimes act out, they misbehave, they lose themselves, they do crazy making things and sometimes act in. They become self-destructive and self-defeating and depressive. All borderlines are therefore sometimes shy and quiet and sometimes classical and aggressive.

So there's no need for a separate diagnosis. However, it is a useful idea, unfortunately, miscussed as a diagnosis, but it's a useful idea because the covert borderline, for example, is attracted mightily to the shy or quiet aspects of the borderline, while the narcissist is attracted to the aggressive in your face, defined antisocial aspects of the borderline.

So the narcissist would be attracted to a borderline which is externalizing aggression, which is flamboyant, which is defiant, reckless, consummation and a bit psychopathic, factorial psychopathy.

While the covert borderline would be attracted to a borderline which is a bit withdrawn, a reckless, introverted, shy, quiet, self-defeating, self-destructive.

So the narcissist with one type of borderline and the covert borderline with another type of borderline.

Now the borderline is exactly like the narcissist, he's an anacolytic, anacolytic, anacolytic, anacolytic, anacolytic object choice. In other words, she chooses mates, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, she chooses intimate partners who are reminiscent of parental figures, mainly mother, but also father.

So the borderline is primed to respond totally to the narcissist's fantasy of a maternal figure and also she's primed to provide the covert borderline with a fulfillment of his wish to team up as a parental figure with a borderline, with someone actually, not only with a borderline.

So the narcissist wants to infantilize, wants to infantilize, wants to regress, the narcissist wants to become a child, the covert borderline wants to become a father or more precisely a mother and that's why the covert borderline and the narcissist perfectly fit with the borderline because the borderline has anacolytic object choice, she chooses exclusively almost intimate partners who represent, stand in for her mother or father.

The narcissist's fantasy is to be loved by a mother figure, the covert borderline's fantasy is ideal love expressed through his children with him as a parental educating, edifying figure, figure that induces change, transformation, growth and development in his partner and the borderline's fantasy is to be regulated externally via a intimate partner who would serve as a parental figure, who would constitute a secure base, a special friend, a rock.

So they all fit perfectly like locks and keys, substrates and reagents, the fit is perfect, there's no daylight between these types.

The borderline either caters to the narcissist's need to be a child or caters to the covert borderline's need to be a father.

And in all these types of relationships she is engaging in parental role play and I have a video dedicated to role theory in conjunction with everything I've just said but it goes deeper than that and I have to provide you with this clinical background for you to understand the superego complex relationship between covert borderline and borderline.

It's not easily explained.


Okay so let's continue with the clinical landscape.

Borderline personality disorder, the borderline suffers from persecutory delusions, paranoid ideation. It is the borderline's way to extricate herself from engulfment.

Remember the borderline's defensive twin anxieties, not one but two. The overwhelming fear is separation insecurity. The borderline is terrified, terrified of being rejected, of being abandoned.

But at the same time the borderline dreads intimacy because she feels suffocated, she feels engulfed, she feels enmeshed and this is the second anxiety, the government anxiety.

So she develops paranoid ideation or persecutory delusions and the persecutory dynamic allows her to separate from her partner because if she suspects her partner or something, if she's paranoid about her partner she could easily let go of the partner and this is approach avoidance, repetition, compulsion. She approaches the partner, she's terrified of being abandoned by the partner because he fulfills the parental roles that she needs and then she feels suffocated. She feels that she's dying and she needs to run away.

So the way to run away, by the way running away doesn't have to be physical. It could be emotional withdrawal, it could be avoidance within an existing relation. So running away is facilitated via paranoid ideation.

She suddenly begins to regard her intimate partner as a kind of enemy. I hate you, don't leave me.

This persecutory dynamic can go both ways. It's either allo plastic and then the borderline tells herself I'm really evil, I'm a bad object, I'm an abuser or it could be allopath plastic. I'm a victim.

This is different to the narcissist. The narcissist's reaction is always allo plastic. I'm a victim, I've been set up, I am not guilty, I've done nothing wrong, etc.

When you hear someone saying all these things, that's a narcissist. These are allo plastic defenses.

The borderline however is a mixture of auto plastic and allo plastic defenses because she is capable of negative emotions which are allo plastic such as shame or feeling guilty or feeling blameworthy or responsible. This sets the borderline apart from the narcissist.

And so when the borderline needs to run away because she feels engulfed, she feels enmeshed, she feels that she's being consumed and subsumed by her partner, she would then develop paranoid ideation about the partner and accuse him of victimizing her partner or accuse herself of victimizing her partner.

Now when there is a failure of defense, when the borderline cannot convert her partner, the idealized object in her mind cannot convert her intimate partner to a persecutory object. In other words when she cannot lie to herself that her loving intimate partner is actually an enemy because there's too much reality out there, too much information to the contrary. The data contradict this kind of conversion or transformation. The partner is really loving, really caring, really there for her always. So there's no way to convert the partner into an enemy and this is a problem because she then cannot regard herself as a victim. And the only thing that's left for her is to say something is wrong with me, I am damaged, I am broken, I'm a bad object, I'm an abuser and this is a dissonance, this is egodystony and it leads her then ironically to decompensate, she falls apart as a bad object, she can't tolerate this, it's unbearable for her to see herself as she really is, abusive for example. So she falls apart, this is decompensation, her defenses are disabled and she acts out psychopathically, ironically often against the intimate partner in order to remove him as a source of frustration, self-examination, self-doubt and the pain of self-awareness and introspection.

Borderline therefore legitimizes forbidden repressed introjects, she resonates with pathological parts in her intimate partner and she becomes a vector of contagion, again my late lamented very good personal friend Joanne LaChark suggested that borderlines and narcissists and covert borderline is a form of narcissism, borderlines and narcissists experience their shadows through their partners, she said that the archaic wounds of Freudian terms, the archaic wounds of these two resonate, later she called it v spots, vulnerability spots, so the same process is happening here, the borderline kind of dumps forbidden shameful repressed introjects on the partner and this is known as projective identification, she tries to compel the partner to behave in a way that would render her an all good object and the partner is trying to do the same and so they infect each other, they kind of transfer to each other the parts in themselves that they regard as deplorable, that they reject, they consider shameful, they don't want these parts in themselves and so they hand these parts over to the partner, they say to the partner please take these parts away from me, please take these traits, these misbehaviors, these weaknesses, these shortcomings away from me because I'm ashamed of them, please make them your own so that I can then feel that I'm all good and you are all bad, it's a form of splitting, of course, the borderline splits herself in this process because she hands over critical parts of her mentality, of her psychology, of her psyche, soul if you wish, she hands them over to her intimate partner.

This is the outsourcing, the borderline actually considers herself a bad object externally but not internally, she says I'm a good person inside, I'm just misbehaving, my misbehavior which is bad, which is not okay, I shouldn't have done it, I feel guilty, I feel ashamed, my misbehavior is not indicative of who I truly am and who I truly am is a good object, an all good object, perfectly good object, it is grandiosity combined with splitting and the narcissist is exactly the opposite, the narcissist considers himself a bad object internally but a very good person externally, behaviorally, so narcissist would deny that he misbehaves, he would say everything I did I did for good reason and for the good of others, I'm a benevolent person, I'm a good person, yeah but inside I feel bad, I feel evil, I feel an imposter, I feel unworthy, I feel ugly, I feel stupid, so this is the symmetry, this is the mirroring between borderline and narcissist and borderline and covert borderline, the borderline says I'm all good inside, all bad outside and the narcissist and covert borderline say I'm all bad inside, I'm all good outside, in other words the covert borderline says I am trying to overcome my bad object by doing good things, I may be mentally ill, I may be mentally dysfunctional, I may be problematic, I may be less than ideal but my actions speak louder and they compensate for all these deficiencies while the borderline says exactly the opposite, I'm a good soul trapped in an evil body, please take me away from me, take the good object and nurture it, she says to the covert borderline, she says to the narcissist take my good object, see me, I want to be seen as I am and what I am is a good object, so the borderline is the mirror image of the narcissist, she has introject in constancy, she has severe difficulties to maintain internal representations of other people in her life, now internal representations have nothing to do with emotions, don't confuse the two, for example the borderline can be jealous of her intimate partner even when he is not present and she can pine for an intimate partner who has rejected her and abandoned her and discarded her, she can spend years pining for him, longing for him, missing him and so on, that is not an introject, these are emotions and actually these emotions have nothing to do with the intimate partner, they are forms of self-pity, they are self-referential emotions, the introject representing the intimate partner in her mind is not stable, is not constant, many borderlines have severe difficulty to imagine the faces of loved ones having been out of touch for a while, many borderlines behave as if loved ones don't exist when they are out of sight, out of mind, so this is what I termed introject in constancy, while the narcissist has object in constancy, he has very stable rigid introjects of other people, representing other people, but he's not able to interact with these other people outside, externally, in reality, so he has no objects.

The borderline has few stable introjects, the narcissist has few stable objects and again they fit each other perfectly as you can see, the borderline can provide the covert borderline or the narcissist with a constant object because she's clinging, she's needy, she's always there, she never lets go, so she provides the covert borderline and the narcissist with a constant object.

While the narcissist can provide the borderline and the covert borderline can provide the borderline with a constant introject which is safe and secure and parental, sometimes paternal and loving, again there's a perfect match.

The borderline encourages the narcissist to interact exclusively with these internal objects because she doesn't want him to realize that she is an external bad object, in other words, you remember the borderline considers her externality, her behavior, her presence to be bad and she doesn't want someone, she doesn't want an intimate partner who would notice, who would discover how bad she is, she doesn't want to be exposed.

So the narcissist is perfect, because he idealizes her in his mind and then he continues to interact with the idealized introject, with the idealized internal object in his mind, not with her.

So no matter what she does to the narcissist he will continue to love her as an idealized object.

The borderline considers her so bad and flawed, she says if my intimate partner gets too close to me he will abandon me, he finds out the truth about me, he will run away better that he should live in a fantasy of me, the idealized introject or internal object, this is true for the covert borderline as well, everything I'm saying right now applies to both the narcissist and the covert borderline, because remember in when the covert borderline interacts with the borderline she triggers in him his narcissistic side, the covert borderline is a hybrid between narcissist and borderline, okay the borderline incentivizes and reinforces the covert borderline's pathological fantasy defense and the narcissist, she feeds the covert borderline or the narcissist with drama and with conflicts to keep him busy and distracted as he desperately attempts to realign, reframe and redefine his internal objects, borderlines the borderline pushes the narcissist to become psychotic while the narcissist pushes the borderline to become a psychopath.

Now that's not a very appetizing dynamic. I agree. The borderline requires object constancy, she pushes all her partners to develop introject constancy, she's too painful as an external object in any case. So they all prefer to interact with a representation of her which is ideal and loving and caring and curtibile and so on, interacting with the borderline external object requires high effort coping to ensure object constancy, the borderline needs to freeze the partner to avoid any change in dynamic, this way provoking the partner's engulfment anxiety and avoidant behaviors. I'm talking about partners with insecure attachment styles. So some partners react with narcissistic defenses and introject anxiety and so on and so forth, so watch the two videos that I recommended and now let's transition to an overview of the borderline pathology before we go to the third part, the third part is interaction between the covert borderline and the borderline in much greater detail.

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Covert Borderline, Classic Borderline - Psychopaths?

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How Narcissist/Psychopath Sees YOU, his Victim, and Why Borderlines Adore Them

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the inner experiences of narcissists, psychopaths, and borderlines. He explains how narcissists idealize their partners to reinforce their own grandiosity, while psychopaths manipulate and discard their partners for entertainment or personal gain. Borderlines exhibit a complex mix of traits from other personality disorders and may transition between narcissistic and psychopathic behaviors in response to frustration. Vaknin also clarifies that cheating is just one example of a behavior that can mortify a narcissist.


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