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Codependents And Narcissists Wooden Puppets And Cruel Puppetmasters

Uploaded 8/28/2020, approx. 19 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I swear to you that I am a professor of psychology in several universities and the only author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, whose first edition was published in 1999. Since then, I have written many other books about personality disorders and other topics in psychology, philosophy, economics, physics, and you name it.

And today I would like to discuss with you puppets and puppet masters.

Now, you all know, you've all heard probably of Pinocchio. Many of you have heard of Pinocchio via Walt Disney, and many of you have heard of Pinocchio via the famous book.

Pinocchio is a wooden puppet. It's a wooden puppet and it's created by Geppetto. Geppetto is a carpenter and an artisan and he's childless and he's lonely. So he carves Pinocchio out of a block of wood.

Pinocchio is a male child and it is Geppetto's child by proxy. It's Geppetto's vicarious child.

And of course, because Pinocchio is a wooden child, not a real child, Geppetto is not a real father. He is an imitation of a father. He is father by proxy. He is a pretend father and Pinocchio is a pretend child.

And the whole thing is a pretend family. It's a family.

The book is very disturbing, like all fairy tales, like the tales of the Brothers Grimm, like other stories, other childhood stories. There's an underlying dark, sinister current in Pinocchio.

Same like The Wizard of Oz. Whenever we read childhood fables and childhood tales and childhood stories, there is this ominous, menacious, ambient threat. Something really sick, something really bad.

And Bruno Bettelheim had written a book about the enchantment of fairy tales where he analyzes this and he says that the main role, main function of fairy tales is to prepare us for adult life. And whatever else we say about adult life, it's very challenging. It could be very threatening. It could be very frightening.

And for many of us, adult life are an ongoing nightmare from which we cannot wake up.

So Pinocchio and Geppetto are no exception.

Ostensibly on the surface, it's a story about a happy family and a happy childhood. But really what goes on underneath is very, very sick.

Start with the fact that Pinocchio's main fantasy is to not be a puppet. In other words, Pinocchio's main fantasy is to not be himself, to cease to exist.

Pinocchio wants to become a human being. He doesn't want to be who he is. His essence is wood. His essence is puppetry. Everything that defines him, the determinants of his personality, of his character, because he has a character, his history, his relationship with Geppetto, his creator, his godlike figure, all these critically depend on him staying a puppet.

But he doesn't want to be a puppet. He rebels.

There's a period of adolescent rebellion in the book, but it's not a typical rebellion because a typical adolescent rebellion is when the adolescent tries to define himself, to separate from the parental figures, to individuate. In other words, the typical adolescent rebellion is about becoming, about transforming into an individual, a full-fledged individual with boundaries, with identity, with memories.

Pinocchio's rebellion is not the same.

Again, on the surface, it's an adolescent rebellion, but actually it's not about becoming. It's about unbecoming. It's about unbeing. It's about undoing. It's about negating. It's a nihilistic rebellion. It's about negating everything that Pinocchio is.

His fantasy is to stop being who he is 100%. 100%.

He wants to change the very molecules from which he's made. He wants to change the very material which comprises him. He wants to become a human being, which is the diametrically opposed to who he is, because whatever you say about human beings, they are not wooden puppets. And whatever you say about wooden puppets, very few of them are human beings, if any.

And human beings break puppets. They destroy puppets.

Kids, children, break puppets apart, tear them apart. When we are done with a puppet, we burn it. We destroy it some way.

Puppets end up in garbage dumps.

Human beings do very bad things to puppets. No self-respecting wooden puppet would want to be the enemy, and yet Pinocchio wants to desert, wants to abandon, wants to betray his wooden puppetry legacy and tradition.

And he does that by escaping, by running away. He doesn't explore himself. He doesn't talk to Geppetto and ask him, you know, what can we do together to make this happen? He just runs away.

And it's another act which represents a death wish.

Because what is a puppet without the puppet master? The puppet is animated only in the presence of a puppet master. Only the interaction with the puppet master gives a puppet life.

Puppets are inanimate, lifeless, without the puppet. They're dead without the puppet master.

So puppet master, there's no puppet. There's death. On all levels, Pinocchio seeks death.

He has a death wish. He wants to separate from his puppet master and to lose his potential for animation and life. And then he wants to become something so dramatically different, so diametrically opposed, such polar opposite of who he is, negate his own materia, his own substance.

So he wants to die in effect. It's a death wish.

The whole novel centers around, focuses on Pinocchio's death wish.

And so this death wish is very typical of abused children. One could say that Geppetto's creation of Pinocchio was a very cruel act.

Geppetto knew very well that he's going to give a wooden puppet life without actually giving this wooden puppet life. He's going to tantalize the wooden puppet. He's going to show the wooden puppet the potential, the possibilities that will never come true. He's going to endow the wooden puppet with fantasies that can never be realized and materialized.

There's no self-actualization possible in such an environment where the puppet master is human and the puppet is wooden. It's an exceedingly sadistic and cruel act to give life to a wooden puppet.

And yet that is exactly what Geppetto does. He is a cruel, selfish, narcissistic parent. And in the presence of such a parent, all children are Pinocchio's. All of them become wooden. All of them become puppets.

The abused child, the child that is instrumentalized by the parent, objectified by the parent, used by the parent, the child who is forced to act some part, to participate in the parent's production, theater production, to gratify the parent's dreams and wishes, or to serve as the parent's punching bank, or to be some instrument of gratification, or to serve as the parent's mere extension, or to be internalized as an internal object, a representation, an avatar.

All these render the child one dimensional. The child becomes wooden.

And such a child has problems which are far more profound and fundamental than any other child.

Start with object constancy. All children have problems with object constancy as they grow up.

During the formative years, zero to six, and especially in the first two years of life, object constancy or object permanence, as Jean Piaget called it, this is a crucial issue. It's very difficult to internalize the parent in a process called introjection. It's very difficult to internalize the parent and to create a representation that is sufficiently safe to be trusted.

The representation of the parent must have a voice that's the introject. Technically, that's the introject, the voice. But it also must have a permanent presence. The child must feel certain that whenever he wants to tap, tap into the parental resources, he can do it even in the absence of the physical parent.

Andparent. And this creates object constancy, proper attachment style and the ability to have object relations, relations with other people, including romantic relations.

But in the case of abused children, object constancy is existential. It's essential.

Not only are they not sure whether the parent exists, not only do they feel uncertain with regards to the parent's benevolence and good intentions, but they feel that they don't exist. They are not sure about their own existence as an object, as a self-object. They are not sure about their essence.

It's a double-edged sword.

In a typical healthy child, there is absolute certainty about the existence of the core object, you, the self. The self gradually constellates, but even preceding the self, there is a sense of existence. It's a stable, permanent thing. It's a rock upon which a whole, it's the foundation upon which a whole palace, a whole city, a whole nation can be built. This is the rock of your own existence. This is the one indisputable thing like René Descartes said in the 17th century, cogito e gusun, I think therefore I am. I, the I, is crucial and yet abuse children because their boundaries are repeatedly bridged, because they are not allowed to separate from the parent, because they are not allowed to individually, to become individuals. They are not sure that they exist. And they're not sure not only that they exist, but they are not sure what they are made of. Are they made of wood maybe? Because their feelings are numb. They don't experience life properly. They have impaired reality testing. They develop severe cognitive deficits. Their emotions are repressed. So do they exist in any sense? And if they do exist, are they made of metal, of wood?

Many narcissists would tell you that they feel that they are made of metal. They pride themselves on this.

Stalin called himself Stalin, because Stalin means the man of steel.

This metaphor, I'm a computer. I'm a perfect device. I'm an amazing machine. I'm made of metal, of steel.

This is the death drive. This is Thanatos. This is embracing death and making death your essence. Inertial substances that have no life and can have no life become you.

And you become these substances. It is a rejection of life, as Harvey Kleckle said in Mask of Sanity. It is the hatred of humanity, as Jordan Peterson says in the 12 Rules of Life. It's choosing death over life. It's thematic. It's also materialistic on a collective level.

When we choose objects and materialistic possessions, we choose death over life. We choose the inanimate over the animate. Pinocchio is inanimate.

At least his fantasy, even though it's a death wish from his point of view, it's a life wish in the sense that he wants to become alive. They don't want to be alive because they're dead. Their parents killed them. Their mother killed them.

It's a dead mother and she broadcast death and she infected. It's contagious. The dead mother infected the child and had rendered the child a dead child. It's a death cult.

Such abusive, dysfunctional families, they're death cults. They worship death in a variety of forms.

So object constancy is existential and it's essential in these abused children.

Similarly, they have an external locus of control. Abused children feel that the control is outside them. The abuser decides their destiny, their fate, their well-being, their emotions, their moods, their cognition. It's the abuser. They import everything from the abuser. They are an empty, vacuous, receptacle for the abuser. The abuser inhabits them, possesses them, invades them like body snatching or like demon possession.

These children in the Middle Ages, the medieval times, they would have been described as possessed because nobody there. It's an emptiness. It's a vacuum. It's a void. It's a hall of mirrors and it's wide open. There's howling winds in the corridors and everyone is invited in.

The first one who comes in is the abusive parent. The abusive parent possesses the child and infects the child. It's contagious, a contagion like viral pandemic infects the child with a deadly emanation, with a miasmic, with a miasmic fanatic essence of the parent.

So the external locus of control in the case of the abused child is not an external locus only of control. It's an external locus of existence. The child is outsourcing not only self-control but is outsourcing his sense of being, not only his sense of self-worth but his sense of self.

The child exists by proxy, exists from the outside, exists via others. In the absence of others, the child feels annihilated, annulled, non-existent, negated, vitiated.

Ask any narcissist. Ask any narcissist. How do you feel when you don't have narcissistic supply? How do you feel when you cannot interact with others in a way which gratifies you? And the narcissist will tell you, I feel that I don't exist. I feel that I've been annihilated. I feel that I'm dissipating and disintegrating like Dali's famous painting Galatea.

And so the only way for these abused children to become human and to experience, however fleetingly, the being human is fantasy.

They cannot use the regular tools of healthy people. They don't have empathy. They don't have access to their positive emotions. How can you really experience humanity? How can you experience being human if you have no empathy? How can you experience being human if 90% of your emotions are sealed off, blocked off, walled in like in the famous Edgar Allen Poe story, dead in the wall? How can you experience being human under these conditions?

The only way is for you to fantasize. Indeed, Pinocchio, when he becomes human, he spends most of his time lying and fantasizing. And every time Pinocchio lies, his nose grows longer.

By the end, he almost looks like Richard Nixon.

So lying, Pinocchio seems to identify being human with confabulating, with fantasy, with lying. This is the absolute core of narcissism. The absolute core of narcissism is the preference, the explicit and implicit preference to live in fantasy, to abrogate, abandon, reject and neglect reality, to give up on it and to inhabit an eternal fantasy zone, sometimes with someone else and then it's a shared psychotic disorder. But it's always fantasy.

Another book which deals with these issues is, of course, The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. And The Little Prince is also about fantasy, but this time it's Saint-Exupéry's fantasy. He's a pilot, he has plane crashes and then there's this little prince that comes from an asteroid.

And they have this amazing dialogue throughout the book. And it's a fantasy, of course. But Saint-Exupéry misses it.

And at the end of the book, he begs people to tell him if should they ever spot The Little Prince again, because he wants to go back there. He wants to be stuck there forever. He's fixing his engine so as to fly.

But what is flying, if not fantasy? Flying in itself is a metaphor of, by reality, I'm out of here. I'm up there. No one can touch me. I'm untouchable. I'm free.

The narcissist identifies fantasy, lying, confabulating, with freedom. Anything can happen in a fantasy. And everything does happen in a fantasy, depends only on you.

So there's a sense of control. Fantasy also restores the sense of control that has been humiliatingly abrogated or snatched, absconded with by the abuser.

Narcissists and co-dependence are faced with the same dysfunctional, abusive environment, family environment. And they both decide to become the puppet master.

They try a variety of other solutions on the way.

Kernberg, Otto Kernberg, described this and then other like Grotstein. Kernberg and Grotstein are by far, in my view, understood borderline personality disorder much better than anyone else before or after.

And they describe borderline as a failed attempt to develop narcissism.

And Kernberg said that narcissism relies on a foundational borderline.

Grotstein said that all borderlines are failed narcissists. And it's all true. It's all interrelated.

The child experiments, the abused child experiments with, shall I be a narcissist? Shall I be a codependent? Shall I be a borderline? Shall I be this? Shall I be that? Shall I be covert?

You know, that he attempts to, and then according to genetic predisposition and circumstances, you know, diathesis stress, diathesis stress, I encourage you to see the previous video.

According to this confluence of template and events, the child chooses a solution.

But all children in abusive families choose a solution. They can become borderline or narcissist or codependent.

And even when they are healthy, they have elements. And why do they become narcissistic or borderline or codependent?

This is the way of internalizing the puppet master. If they become as narcissistic or as borderline as the puppet master, as mother, and they are mother, by introjecting mother, by assimilating mother, they become mother.

And then the minute they become mother, they are whole.

Because if you have the puppet master, as a puppet, if you have the puppet master inside you, you're self-contained, you're self-sufficient, you're protected, you are safe, you're secure, no one can take anything from you.

This is the problem with narcissists, psychopaths, borderlines, I mean, especially narcissists and psychopaths, but also borderlines and codependency in some other way. But especially narcissists and psychopaths, this self-sufficiency is infuriating.

The intimate partners of narcissists and psychopaths will tell you how unreachable they are. It's like they are behind the glass darkly. You try to touch them, but you can't get through.

There's something that isolates them, some kind of invisible firewall. It's like the Stephen King stories, books about this dome. It's like they're in a dome. It's a totally transparent dome and gives the illusion that you can reach them if you only try, but there's no way to reach them because they don't need anyone. They need your input, your narcissistic supply. That's for internal regulation.

But as far as critical psychodynamic functions, they are totally self-sufficient because they have internalized the puppet master.

Religious people, by the way, are the same. Religious people are very self-contained and self-sufficient because they have God inside them.

And I keep saying that narcissism is a form of religion, a private religion with a false self in the role of God. At any rate, they internalize the puppet master, the abusive parent.

And there are two solutions basically, emulating, imitating the abusive parent, becoming yet another iteration of the abusive parent, carrying it forward to the next generation.

Becoming the abuser doesn't mean merging with the abuser, but emulating the abuser.

And then the second solution is merger or fusion, becoming the abuser.

In other words, one solution is for the child to closely monitor and observe the behaviors of the abusive parents and adopt them.

Consider these behaviors highly efficacious, highly rewarding. These behaviors work. They're positive adaptation.

Wow, I'm going to be the same. I'm going to be the same. I'm not going to be on the receiving end. I'm going to be on the giving end of the stick, a big stick, carry a big stick, and don't be soft. Use it.


And the second solution, which is typically the codependent borderline solution, is becoming the puppet master, becoming the abusive parent, by merging with the abusive parent, fusing with the abusive parent.

It's not only internalizing the abusive parent, but externalizing yourself, allowing yourself to be internalized by the parent. So it's mutual internalization or co-internalization.

While the narcissist co-idealizes, but the focus is on himself, he idealizes you so that he feels idealized, the borderline, the codependent, they merge with you. They fuse with you because you are the stand-in for the abusive parent.

All intimate partners of codependence and borderlines represent the abusive parent. And the borderline and codependent try to recreate the dynamics they have had with the abusive parent, with the puppet master.

But they do this by digesting you, by assimilating you, and allowing you to digest them and assimilate them. It's like creating a joint organism with two heads.

And of course, such a Siamese twin is prone to conflict. Ironically with the narcissist, there's much less conflict because the narcissist is solipsistic, not to mention the psychopath.

They don't see you. You don't exist. You're a tool. You're easily interchangeable, replaceable and dispensable.

But there's not a lot of conflict there. They just walk away or they shut you out or they ignore you or they abuse you offended.

I mean, with narcissists and psychopaths, the level of conflict is subdued because you have not partnered for conflict.

Even when the narcissists and psychopaths rage, it's goal oriented. Usually it's intended to modify your behavior.

So it's very instrumental, instrumental, negative emotionality of narcissists and psychopaths is very instrumental.

But with borderlines and co-dependence, the potential for conflict is literally infinite because it's a single organism that has to share all the internal organs and tissues and has two heads.

And so it's exactly like Siamese twins. There's a lot of fighting over shared resources, shared mental resources. There's a lot of power play, power matrices.

And while with a psychopath, for example, the classical power play ends with winning or losing, usually winning with a borderline and codependent, the power play is the goal.

The psychopath is a goal. He wants sex. He wants money and he uses power to obtain them. And sometimes he coerces you and often he conflicts with you. And often he puts you down, subjugates you and hurts you.

But it's all for a goal. And once the goal has been satisfied, money, sex, whatever, he goes away with a borderline and codependent. There's no end. There's no end because the power play is the goal. Maintaining the drama, that's the core. And the drama is fantastic. And the fantasy is crucial, as I've explained before. This is the never ending story.

And so you see that it all starts from the fact that the puppet master parent cruelly creates a puppet. And then the puppet spends the rest of a life of his life trying to extricate himself or herself from the puppet master by assimilating the puppet master, by emulating the puppet master, by retreating to fantasy.

But always there is the feeling of not being, no existence. This has been also described in literature about where are the roots, this feeling that you don't exist, that there's no life in you and for you, that you are a mere inert inanimate object.

And in your desperate attempts to revive yourself, to animate yourself, you scramble about, you thrash about and you would use anyone and anything. This is the chaotic, disorganized, insane aspect described by numerous scholars of cluster B personality disorders. That's why they also, it's also called the erratic, erratic cluster.

Okay. I hope I gave you some insight into these dynamics and I will see you, those of you who survive, I will see you in the next time.

Thank you for listening.

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