Don't Waste Your Love on the Narcissist (Conference Presentation)

Uploaded 12/7/2023, approx. 22 minute read

Every self-styled expert and his dog and his mother-in-law will tell you that the narcissist is incapable of loving, is unable to love.

And for exchange, rarely, they would be right.

But what they forget to tell you is that the narcissist is not only incapable of loving, he also does not let himself be loved.

And that is a much more painful experience for the narcissist's intimate partners, friends, family, children and so on.

The narcissist is surrounded by people who want to offer him love and compassion and affection and empathy and support and advice and help.

And yet, he is not there for them. He is incapable of receiving these gifts. He spurns them and rejects them and pushes them away and becomes aggressive, humiliating, hurtful and sometimes harmful.

The narcissist cannot love, but he also does not let himself be loved, cannot be loved.

And the reason for this is that at the core of the narcissist, there is a bad object.

And to remind you, a bad object is an amalgamation of voices, introjects that keep informing the narcissist how bad is, how unworthy, unworthy of love first and foremost.

What a failure and a loser, how ugly and stupid or whatever.

So at the core of a narcissist, there is a bad object which makes the narcissist feel inferior and to compensate for this bad object, for this incessant cacophony of demeaning, degrading, humiliating and shaming voices.

The narcissist comes up with a false self.

Narcissism therefore is compensatory. It compensates for the existence of a bad object, this empty schizoid core at the heart of the narcissist.

So when the narcissist is confronted with love, with appreciation, with compassion, when the narcissist is held and contained and caressed and touched physically or emotionally, the narcissist recoils.

He recoils because the bad object inside the narcissist feels threatened. The bad object says, you're not worthy of love, you're not lovable.

And here there is an intimate partner who loves him.

And that of course conflicts with the messaging of the signaling of the bad object.

It creates what is known in psychology, dissonance. It is a very threatening, ominous feeling.

The narcissist wants to avoid dissonance.

All human beings, by the way, want to avoid dissonance because dissonance gives rise to anxiety.

To avoid all these unpleasant outcomes, the narcissist simply walks away from any hint of love, any shade of caring, any attempt to afford him, to provide him with empathy and understanding and acceptance and warmth.

These are, in the narcissist world, threats to the cohesion and functioning of the precariously balanced house of cards known as the narcissistic personality, the disorganized chaotic entity.

As far as the narcissist knows, as far as he's concerned, as far as his experience goes, especially as a small child, love always ends in heartbreak, pain, hurt, loss and abandonment.

Why embark on a venture that is bound or liable to end so horribly, to inflict intolerable, excruciating pain? Why venture blindly or with open eyes into something that is guaranteed to decimate you, demolish you, devastate you, ruin you? Sarnassas stay away from love because the first experience of love as children was bad, was really, really terrible.

They learned to connect love with performance, the love they have received, if at all, if any, was conditional and very often it alternated with abuse and hatred.

And so, this intermittent reinforcement by an unstable parent or even worse, an absent, emotionally absent parent, a dead mother, for example, rendered the narcissist incapable of conceiving of love as something positive.

Whereas the vast majority of healthy, normal people regard love, regard love as some kind of salve, some kind of absolution, some kind of redemption, some kind of completion, some kind of transcendence and elevation.

The narcissist perceives love as being dragged into an abyss of seething emotions which he had been trying to avoid all his life.

Most notably, the shame, the shame of not having been allowed to become as a child, the shame of having been abused, tortured, traumatized, instrumentalized, parentified, but never ever simply loved the way he has been as a child, had been as a child.

So with this background, where love is perceived as a weapon, love is weaponized, where love is perceived as a power play or a mind game or the precursor to negative affectivity, to very hard and difficult to endure emotions.

With this background, the narcissist, of course, whenever confronted with a loving partner or with a loving child or with a loving friend or with a loving colleague or whatever, whenever confronted with love, the narcissist reacts with paranoid ideation.

He asked himself, why this so-called ostensible love? Why is it being offered to me? I'm a bad object. I'm unlovable. Something is going on here.

And then he projects.

He says, the love that is on offer is not love. It's not real. It's a fantasy or even worse.

She is faking it. She's being manipulative.

This so-called love that I'm being engulfed in, this so-called love that is supposed to encompass me and calm me down and make me happy and whole, this love is just a manipulative ploy and strategy and stratagem.

There's something going on behind the scenes because I know there's no such thing as love. And I know definitely that I am not lovable. So no one can love me.

A lot of this monologue, of course, is unconscious. The bad object is largely submerged totally in the unconscious.

And yet this monologue has psychodynamic impacts and effects. It causes the narcissist to modify his behaviors. It triggers in the narcissist specific overwhelming emotions. It changes the narcissist moods, vicissitudes, lability.

And so the narcissist, when confronted with love, and he knows that love is going to end badly. He knows that love is fake. He knows that love is conditional. His mother taught him that. Maybe his father later on.

So he confronts love with paranoia, with suspicion, with doubt, with questioning. He deconstructs love. He tries to undermine its foundations to reveal the hidden tunnels under the city of love.

So this paranoid ideation is uncoupled with projection because he himself is incapable of loving. He assumes that no one is capable of loving. And because he himself is not a good receptacle of love, not a good recipient of love, he assumes that no one can receive love. No one can contain love.

Either love is stronger than anyone and can overwhelm and destroy you. Or it's an imitation, a simulacrum, mimicry of the real thing intended to somehow obtain a goal. It's goal oriented.

There's some psychopathic motivation behind these displays and spectacle of love. It's all manipulative and it needs to be tested. It needs to be probed all the time.

And this is what the narcissist does with the first phase of narcissistic abuse.

He tests.

People who claim to love the narcissist are constantly being subjected to a battery and barrage of tests and probes, probes and tests.

The narcissist escalates his egregious abusive behaviors in order to see how far he can push the envelope. At what point will this so-called fake love reveal its true face and expire?

Or maybe there is this unicorn, this unique partner who really loves him and therefore she would be able to withstand any amount of torture, any extent of abuse and would still be there. She would still not abandon him and she would still love him and gulp him with her love.

So there's constant testing and probing going on.

Of course, this renders intimacy impossible. The narcissist destroys every potential for intimacy by constantly doubting and suspecting his partner.

When I say partner again, it could be a friend, could be a child, anyone with whom the narcissist has an interpersonal relationship involving an emotional exchange.

He tests everyone around him all the time.

Part of this is grandiosity.

The narcissist being godlike is not in need of love.

You see, God is perfect. God includes everything.

So God cannot have a will. To have a will, you need to want something outside yourself. You have a will to eat because the food is not inside your body. You have a will to love someone because that someone is not you.

There needs to be an externality for you to have a volition.

So God doesn't have volition. He doesn't have a will because he contains everything and so does the narcissist.

So the narcissist regards love as something very vulgar, very hoi polloi. It's for commoners.

Love is for the average bloke, for the Joe Schmoe.

You know, love is not for the narcissist. The narcissist is elevated. The narcissist is divine. The narcissist is not in need of anything. He's not dependent on anyone.

So love is for commoners, not for the exceptionally superior. The narcissist superiority is expressed via defiance. The narcissist defies life, defies authority, defies the needs of other people. He says other people may need it. Other people may need love. Other people may need a family. Other people may need compassion. I don't know. Other people may need x. I need nothing. I need nothing because I am the creator. I contain everything. Everything is in me, inside me.

And this is known as hyper-reflexivity. The narcissist expands outwards and contains the entire world, contains reality.

And so he is not in need of anything.

And for him to love and to be loved indicates a deficiency, a lack.

You love someone because you need something. You need emotional gratification. You need to feel safe with a secure base. You need attachment. You need a family. You need companionship. You need, you need.

There's a need there.

So to love someone is to admit that you are less than perfect. Your imperfection and to be loved also means that you are not perfect because love entails and involves forgiving, overlooking shortcomings and flaws. Love is a compromise. Love is a dialogue. Love is separateness that comes together.

So love implies that the narcissist is not the entire universe. He is not solipsistic. He is not one of a kind, sui generis.

Love implies that the narcissist is in need of love and that the lover, the narcissist lover, sees him as he is, warts and all, shortcomings and strengths, an imperfect being.

So the narcissist rejects love because it is like a searchlight, like a projector. It amplifies and magnifies the parts of himself that are not godlike, that are human. It triggers his humanity. It appeals to his humanity and the narcissist denies and has been denied his humanity since early childhood because to be human is to be in pain. To be human is to suffer. To be human is to endure loss and devastation. To be human is to be immersed in a miasma of hurt and the anticipation of the worst, catastrophizing.

So the narcissist doesn't want to be human and to love is the ultimate reification, expression and manifestation of being human.

Love is a dependency of some kind. Love is neediness of some kind.

You need, when you're in love, you need the other partner and you're dependent on her to some extent for your well-being.

This is not a dependency like a drug dependency, but still there are some elements of dependency and need and dependency in the narcissist lexicon is risk to be dependent, is to be at risk because the narcissist as a child has been let down by the very people he needed and dependent on his parents, his parental figures and later on perhaps peers, teachers, role models and so on.

The narcissist has learned to associate dependency with death, potential death. He has learned to associate neediness with enormous life-threatening risk.

Neediness is also mortified because it's publicly humiliating. It's shameful.

The narcissist feels extremely uncomfortable walking hand in hand with his loved one. He displays her. He uses her as a trophy the way he would use his luxury car or his iPhone 15, but that is an external display.

Any hint of intimacy in the couple or outside the couple is resented and rejected by the narcissist because it's a signal holding hands signals. I need this person. I love this person. I'm dependent on this person. She holds my hand literally and figuratively.

And the narcissist would never admit to this because it challenges the narcissist's basic theorem of self-sufficiency.

The narcissist says, I don't need you. Go away. See if I care. Be with someone else. I don't give a damn. I'm stronger than this. I'm perfect. I'm invulnerable. I'm untouchable. You can't hurt me. No one can hurt me anymore.

I've learned my lesson as a child. I won't allow anyone to hurt me anymore. I won't allow you to get close and near to me. I won't allow you the intimacy that would provide you with the weapons you need to destroy me. I will not allow you to weaponize my life or the access you gain to me.

So the narcissist automatically converts anyone who tries to love him into a persecutory object.

First, by attributing to her some nefarious goals and agenda, some ulterior motive.

And secondly, by defying her, rejecting the offer of love is a sign of strength, a sign of resilience, a sign of fortitude, proof of survival.

So rejecting love in the narcissist dictionary is prevailing.

Rejecting love is an assurance of strength, survival and resilience.

Love is a vulnerability.

Vulnerability is a dangerous.

They also imply weakness. If you're vulnerable, you're weak.

Because nothing the narcissist hates more than being weak.

Narcissist perceive loving and being loved both as vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Because being loved is very addictive. It's a very pleasant experience.

And the narcissist is terrified of falling for it and being unable to detach and disconnect and reject and walk away.

Because the narcissist treats love as one would treat fire, flame. He recoils. He runs away. He shuts his eyes because love can weaken him.

Remember the story of Samson and Delilah? Samson and Delilah is a parable. Samson was one of the first narcissists described in the Bible.

Delilah cut his hair, rendered him weak.

Love made Samson the strongest man on earth, weak and a captive, a hostage of the enemy.

So Delilah, Samson's love was the enemy.

So when you do want to interact via love, via emotions, the narcissist feels terrified.

And to overcome this terror, he seeks to micromanage the partner, her behaviors, her reactions, her responses, her choices, her decisions.

They all need to be micromanaged.

And this amounts to coercive control in extreme cases.

All this is intended to avoid weakness, hurt and devastating loss.

The narcissist says, you want to love me?

And to some extent, I want to be loved, but on my terms and conditions and on my turf and territory.

First, you will enter a shared fantasy. Then I will convert you from an external object to an internal object. I will snapshot you. Then I will interact only with the internal object and I will render it utterly and rigidly predictable. Then I would feel safe enough to stay with you physically.

So the narcissist is present physically, but never emotionally.

Not because he doesn't attempt to love, but because all his emotions, all the cathexis, all the emotional investment is directed inward at internal objects in his mind.

And this is why we call it narcissism.

It's self-love, but not self-love in the classical healthy sense.

It's simply that all the emotions, all this huge energy is directed inward.

The narcissist becomes his own erotic, romantic and even sexual object.

Incapable of interacting the same way with others, he immediately converts them into a part of his mind, figments of his imagination, elements in his fantasy.

Additionally, love shames the narcissist and humiliates him on a constant, repetitive, regular basis.

It's like love is a permanent narcissistic injury.


Because love requires adult skills.

The narcissist is not an adult.

The narcissist is a child, used to be called arrested or stunted development.

We no longer use these terms, but they capture reality.

The narcissist is frozen in time like Ant in Amber. He's frozen at the point where he has sacrificed his true self to a new divinity, a new deity, the false self, and his cease to exist separate from the false self.

So now the narcissist is a piece of fiction. And of course, in the absence of reality, because the narcissist has divorced reality, chose fantasy over reality, rejected life and the world.

It is reality that is the great teacher.

Friction with reality is the engine of personal growth and development.

And in the absence of reality in the narcissist's life, the narcissist never becomes an adult, never acquires the skills necessary to manage a relationship.

So love keeps reminding the narcissist how inadequate he is.

In other words, love keeps triggering the bad object.

The narcissist is a perennially abused child.

And so love sets him up for failure because children cannot handle love, especially abused children.

There was a discovery by Donald Winnicott.

Donald Winnicott said that abused children can handle or can manage only hate.

And when they're confronted with love, they try to convert it to hate.

That's not Saint-Johnstone. This is Donald Winnicott, the greatest child psychologist ever after Piaget.

Love requires not only adult skills, but also emotional maturity, a secure attachment style, and a grounded center of personality, a core identity.

The narcissist has none of these things. He is emotionally immature. His attachment style is insecure and he doesn't have a core identity. He has an empty core.

The narcissist is an addict, and like all junkies, he is very, very deficient in these departments. His only relationship is with his drug, narcissistic supply.

His drug, the drug of the narcissist, is the fantasy sustained by a constant influx of narcissistic supply.

He is so focused on it. He is so invested in it. He is so committed to this fantasy. All his energy goes there.

He has nothing left to give to anyone, even to himself, because he has no self.

It's an emptiness, an absence, a void, a black hole. You can't love it. Your love will be consumed, digested, gunned forever before you know it.

And if you get too close, so will you.

Love requires the recognition of the other. Love requires the ability to tell that someone else is separate from you, is external to you, has boundaries.

That's where you end and someone else begins. This is love.

Love is not merger. Love is not fusion. Love is not symbiosis.

These are malignancies of love, known as codependency and other issues.

So narcissists are incapable of this. They're not capable of othering people. They're not capable of perceiving people as separate entities, external objects with their own needs and fears and hopes and wishes and dreams and emotions and cognitions and so on.

Narcissists immediately appropriates you, annexes you, converts you into an internal object and dispenses with your externality and separateness because a narcissist has never experienced separation from the most crucial figure in his life, his mother or the maternal figure.

The narcissist feels very threatened by the fact that you are separate and external.

Your personal autonomy, your agency, your self-efficacy.

They threaten him and so he must eliminate them.

He eliminates them via coercion, manipulation, abuse, but he also eliminates them by self-deceiving.

He lies to himself that you're not separate, that you're not external, that you are his extension, that you're merely an internal object, that you will never ever abandon him because you're inside his mind and he is in full control of you.

And so whenever you display any signs of independence, a new friend, you travel on your own, you have a job or whatever, the narcissist regards you as an external object, gone amok, as a threat to the inertly perfect universe of his internal objects and he redoubles his efforts to render you non-existent, as non-existent as he is, to make you into an absence, from a presence to an absence.

And that's an excellent description or encapsulation of the shared fantasy.

Shared fantasy is intended to transition you from a presence to an absence.

Babies blindly devour and consume their predators, but they're not predators in the psychopathic sense, malevolent, cunning, skimming, premeditated, no.

The predators in the instinctual reflexive sense, now like Pac-Man, you remember that very early video game, you know, with the teeth, they devour and consume because they devour and consume, not because it's part of any sophisticated scenario, which is essentially goal-oriented.

There's no goal there.

The goal is to reduce anxiety, the narcissist's anxiety.

By killing you metaphorically, the narcissist's anxiety is ameliorated and mitigated and under control because your independence, coupled with your love, are the greatest imaginable threats.

The last time the narcissist has come across an independent person who offered him love was his mother and that has been a harrowing, super-traumatic experience.

Narcissists mimic, they're mimicking parasites suspended in a sempiternal symbiotic fantasy.

They feed, it's a feeding frenzy.

They frenzily feed off their successive hosts.

I'm going to read this sentence to you again because it's really a good simile of the shared fantasy.

Narcissists are mimicking parasites suspended in a sempiternal symbiotic fantasy, frenzily feeding off their successive hosts, you.

Narcissists push you away.

They resist any attempt to love them.

Their approach is acquisitive, their avoidance preordained by their need to reenact the unresolved conflict with their dead mother, the original frustrating figure, the original persecutory object, the trauma that never leaves them and that compels them, compulsion, compels them to repeat the same cycle again and again and again, repetition, compulsion.

And in this sense, narcissists are automata.

They're robots programmed with their own shame-driven compulsions.

They're dummies to a self-conjured ventriloquist known as the false self.

They're a heat-seeking homing device with an algorithm, programming, gun or eye.

How can you love?

How can you love something like that?

The answer is you can't.

Do not waste your love on the narcissist or the psychopath for this matter.

Do not waste your love because if you waste your love, you will end up being wasted.

Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Can Narcissist Truly Love?

Narcissists are incapable of true love, but they do experience some emotion which they insist is love. Narcissists love their significant others as long as they continue to provide them with attention, or narcissistic supply. There are two types of narcissistic love: one type loves others as one would get attached to objects, while the other type abhors monotony and constancy, seeking instability, chaos, upheaval, drama, and change. In the narcissist's world, mature love is nowhere to be seen, and their so-called love is fear of losing control and hatred of the very people on whom their personality depends.

Can You Love the Narcissist and Rescue Him?

Victims of narcissists often resort to fantasies and self-delusions to cope with their pain, believing that they can rescue the narcissist from their misery and misfortune. However, loving a narcissist is difficult, and any attempt to relate to them emotionally is doomed to failure. Narcissists are addicts in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as narcissistic supply, and they hone in on potential suppliers like cruise missiles. Victims of narcissists can become bitter and self-centered, lacking in empathy, and become more like the narcissist over time.

Giving Narcissist Second Chance

Narcissists do not provide closure in relationships and will stalk, cajole, beg, promise, persuade, and ultimately succeed in doing the impossible to get you back. The narcissist will cast all interactions with you in terms of conflicts or competitions to be won. If you have resumed contact because you are manifestly dependent on the narcissist financially or emotionally, the narcissist will pounce on your frailty and exploit your fragility to the maximum. Ultimately, the narcissist will write the inevitable cycle of idealization and devaluation.

Narcissists Hate Love

Narcissists hate being told "I love you" because it threatens their sense of uniqueness, they believe love is an all-consuming and dangerous pursuit, and they know deep down that they are a con artist and a fraud. They also hate seeing love demonstrated between others, such as a spouse and children, and view it as an assault on their emotional welfare and balance. Attempting to cure a narcissist with love and acceptance is futile, as only a severe narcissistic injury or life crisis can bring about transformative healing.

Loving My Narcissist HURTS so much!

Loving a narcissist is a painful experience due to their lack of empathy, idealization followed by devaluation, and inability to truly connect with their partner. The narcissist's inaccessibility and indifference can be devastating, as they often discard their partners without any emotional reaction. This experience can leave the partner feeling shattered, questioning their own judgment and ability to trust themselves and others. Ultimately, the pain of loving a narcissist comes from grieving the loss of who they used to be and the potential of what could have been in the relationship.

Narcissist's Insignificant Other: Typical Spouse or Intimate Partner

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, but it is always onerous and often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist, maintaining a relationship, preserving it, insisting on remaining with a narcissist, indicates therefore the parameters of the personality of the victim, of the partner, of the spouse. The partner, the spouse, and the mate of a narcissist who insists on remaining in the relationship and preserving it is molded by it into the typical narcissistic mate, spouse, or partner. The two, the narcissist and his spouse, collaborate in this dance macabre.

Narcissist's Romantic Jealousy and Possessiveness

Narcissists experience anxiety when they become aware of their possessive and jealous tendencies. Anxiety characterizes all their interactions with the opposite sex, especially in situations where there is a possibility of rejection or abandonment. The narcissist's envy of their female mate is a result of an unconscious conflict, and they exercise their imagination to justify their negative emotions. Narcissists often strike an unhealthy balance by being emotionally and physically absent, which drives their partner to find emotional and physical gratification outside the relationship.

Social Distancing: Isolation with the Narcissist

Social isolation with a narcissist can be compared to a hostage situation, with the victim experiencing trauma bonding. In this situation, the narcissist becomes paranoid and develops a need for control, which is displaced onto their spouse or intimate partner. The narcissist's frustration at being unable to obtain narcissistic supply and loss of control can lead to aggression, which can take many forms. The only technique that may work in this situation is background noise, but even this has a limited shelf life, and there is a risk of an epidemic of domestic violence.

Paranoia, Narcissistic Mirroring, and Narcissistic Reflection

Narcissists tend to react with paranoia when they feel threatened, but these attacks tend to fade and the narcissist frequently homes in on new agents of persecution. The narcissist's paranoia is a grandiose fantasy aimed to regulate their sense of self-worth. The narcissist's partner tends to encourage their paranoid or threatening attention, and this is a game of two. Living with a narcissist can tilt one's mind toward abnormal reactions, and even after separation, the narcissist's partners typically still care for the narcissist greatly.

How Narcissist's Victims Deceive Themselves

Narcissists cannot be cured and are a threat to those around them. Victims of narcissists often confuse shame with guilt and attribute remorsefulness to the narcissist when they are actually feeling shame for failing. Narcissists are attracted to vulnerable people who offer them a secure source of narcissistic supply. Healing is dependent on a sense of security in a relationship, but the narcissist is not interested in healing and would rather invest their energy in obtaining narcissistic supply. Narcissists lack empathy and cannot understand others, making them a danger to those around them.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy