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External Regulation: Inverted Narcissist not Codependent or Borderline (with Daria Żukowska)

Uploaded 9/3/2022, approx. 18 minute read

So, hello, everyone.

Today we have a special guest, and I would love to introduce him first. He is a professor, Sam Vaknin, the author of the pioneering work of narcissist abuse, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. He is also a professor of finance and psychology in CIAS, a center for international advanced and professional studies.

Hello, professor.

Thank you for having me.

Hello, Daria.

Hello. Today I would love to speak with you about inverted narcissist. I think it's a really interesting topic and not so popular on especially a Polish YouTube site, so I would love to ask you some questions about that.

Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

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Okay. So, my first question will be, do we know developmental roots of inverted narcissist? Do we know any?

Inverted narcissism is a form of covert narcissism. It's just a covert narcissist who derives her narcissistic supply from an overt narcissist. She teams up with an overt narcissist, and she busts in his glory. It's a little like the moon and the sun. She doesn't have a light of her own, and her light is the reflected light of the sun. The sun is the overt narcissist and she is the inverted narcissist.

But it's a type of covert narcissist who can be only with an overt grandiose narcissist. She cannot have any other type of intimate partner.

I'm saying this effectively to answer your question, because the same developmental path that leads to the formation of narcissism leads to the formation of inverted narcissist. It's just a form of narcissism.

So, we would be talking about parents, especially mother, who are unavailable to the child in a variety of ways, an absent mother, depressive mother, selfish mother, narcissistic mother, etc. Or parents, especially mother, who bridge the boundaries of the child, don't allow the child to separate and to develop boundaries.

So, this could be a mother who instrumentalizes her child, uses the child to realize her wishes, dreams, and fantasies, a mother who parentifies the child, uses the child as a parent figure, a mother who engages in emotional, ambient incest with the child, a mother who treats the child as an intimate partner, for example, etc.

All these developmental pathways lead to classical narcissism, but they also lead to covert narcissism. And a sub-sub-sub type of covert narcissist is the inverted narcissist.

Why only the identical types of NPD and inverted narcissists can survive in a long-term relationship? Why is it like that?

Actually, it's not the only case. Any opposite types of narcissism can survive together. So, for example, a somatic narcissist can survive very well with a cerebral narcissist. An inverted narcissist can survive very well with an overt narcissist. Any two opposing types of narcissism can and do very often form long-term relationships which are very stable as opposed to the mythology online.

Borderline personality disorder, for example, resembles very much covert narcissism in many respects. And this is why narcissists often team up with borderlines. And while the relationship itself is fiery and stormy and tumultuous and crazy-making and, you know, it's still very long-term and inherently stable. So the drama is stable in a way. The excitement, the crazy-making, they're predictable, they're features of their relationship, but the relationship itself is functional for both parties. It is possible to cater to the pathology of your intimate partner and by doing so, creating a long-term bond and attachment with that partner.

Enabling, for example, is an example of such behavior where you enable the partner's dysfunctional behaviors and you create a form of dependency. And so it's a long-term stable relationship.

The inverted narcissist fails to satisfy her basic pathological needs. She cannot obtain supply. She's shy. She's fragile. She's vulnerable. She is not self-efficacious. Her false self is very primitive. The grandiosity is often challenged and so on. So she gives up. She's avoidant. She simply gives up on life, on reality and on other people.

And she finds an overt narcissist. An overt narcissist is very efficient at obtaining supply. And she tells him, I will be yours. I will be submissive. I will be subservient. Anything you want in whatever field, I will always be here for you. I'll never abandon you. I will act as your maternal figure. I will do anything you ask me to.

But you bring home, not money, you bring home narcissistic supply and you bring home supply for both of us because I can't get my share.

And so the overt narcissist goes out to the world and becomes, for example, famous or a celebrity. And then the invented narcissist feels that she is married to a famous guy and that's her supply. Her supply is vicarious, by proxy.

Yeah.

So can we say that, for example, we have the same criteria for NPD and inverted narcissist, but it manifests differently?

Not totally. I'll read to you.

First of all, the diagnosis of inverted narcissist is something that I came up with in the 90s. At that time, I saw two lacunas, two missing areas, missing diagnostic areas. One was what I called inverted narcissist.

And the other one was covert borderline. Covert borderline is a cross between borderline and narcissist, but on a permanent basis. It's like a permanent comorbidity. And it was missing. The covert borderline thing is sorely missing because we see many borderlines who behave very much like narcissists or even psychopaths. And we don't have a proper diagnosis for them.

And so I suggested covert borderline.

Similarly, I saw covert narcissists who team up all the time with other narcissists. They are parasitic on other narcissists.

And I said, there's a diagnosis missing here or subdiagnosis. So I created a set of diagnostic criteria. And here are the diagnostic criteria for inverted narcissism.

Possesses a rigid sense of lack of self-worth.

So in the classic narcissist, the sense of self-worth fluctuates, goes up and down. And the classic narcissist uses narcissistic supply to regulate the sense of self-worth.

In the inverted narcissist, there is no sense of self-worth. Zero self-esteem, zero self-confidence. The inverted narcissist is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, and beauty, or of an ideal love.

So she's identical psychodynamically. She's identical to the narcissist. They both share the same fantasies.

The fantasy defense is the same.

Criterion number three, she believes that she's absolutely not unique and not special, worthless, and not worthy of merger with the fantasized ideal. She believes that no one at all could understand her because she's innately unworthy of being understood.

The inverted narcissist becomes very agitated. The more one tries to understand her because that also offends against her righteous sense of being properly excluded from the human race.

So you can see it's the mirror image of the narcissist. Yes, I can see. She demands anonymity in the sense of seeking to remain excluded at all costs and in the background. She is intensely irritated and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to her.

And in this sense, she is a schizoid core. She's very much a schizoid. She feels that she is undeserving and she is not entitled. She doesn't have entitlement. She is extinguishingly selfless, sacrificial, even unctuous in her interpersonal relationships. She's a people pleaser to the extreme. She avoids the assistance of other people at all costs. She can only interact with other people when she can be seen to be giving supportive, altruistic, charitable, and expanding an unusual effort to assist to be useful and helpful. She lacks empathy exactly likethe narcissist. She is intensely attuned to other people's needs, but only insofar as it relates to her own need to perform the required self-sacrifice, which in turn is necessary in order for the inverted narcissist to obtain her narcissistic supply from the primary narcissist.

I will explain this.

The inverted narcissist needs to sacrifice herself to her narcissistic partner.

Okay.

You know, when the classic narcissist becomes a narcissist in childhood, the classic narcissist sacrifices his true self to the false self. The classic narcissist destroys his true self in order to become the false self.

The same with the inverted narcissist. She destroys herself. She sacrifices herself like human sacrifice to become one with her God, which is her narcissistic intimate partner.

So she needs to disappear. She needs to vanish in order to reappear inside the intimate partner. It's a form of merger and fusion. Later, if you wish, I will compare it to borderline because it's a very borderline feature.


The next criterion is envy. The inverted narcissist envies other people. She cannot conceive of being envied and she becomes extremely agitated and uncomfortable. If brought into a situation where comparison might occur, she loathes competition. She hates competition. She avoids competition at all costs. If there is any chance of actually winning the competition or being singled out for any accomplishment.

And finally, she displays extreme shyness, lack of any real relational connections. She's publicly self-effacing in the extreme is internally highly moralistic and critical of other people. She's a perfectionist. She engages in lengthy ritualistic behaviors, obsessive compulsive, which can never be perfectly performed. Not necessarily to the full extent exhibited in obsessive compulsive personality disorder.

She has notions of being individual. She has notions that being individualistic is bad. Being individualistic is anathema to her.

Now, there are scholars who suggested that there is a form of narcissism which is founded on masochism and it's called the anti-narcissist, anti-narcissist masochistic subtype. I have a video dedicated to it.

The inverted narcissist combines masochism, borderline features, and codependent features. She combines them in a way which eliminates her, which destroys her, which makes her disappear and vanish so that she can become one with an intimate partner. And when she becomes one with an intimate partner, she can directly enjoy his narcissistic supply and gratify her own need for supply.

So she is a lot like a parasite. She enters the body, like a parasite enters the body and eats your food, intestinal parasite enters your body and eats your food. That's what the inverted narcissist does. She merges with the narcissist, enters his mind and benefits from anything that happens to him, any narcissistic supply.


Okay, so could you elaborate more about what you mentioned already about inverted and borderline?

Yes. Thank you. All three types, the borderline, the codependent and the inverted, which is a subtype of covert narcissism as masochistic, self-denying subtype of covert narcissist, also known as masochistic anti-narcissist.

By the way, Ellen Rappaport calls it narcissist codependent. I was the first to suggest this diagnosis, but other scholars took it and they changed the names of built on it and so on. And one of the most widespread tests for covert narcissism is actually based on my work on inverted narcissism. And luckily they mentioned it. They gave me credit, which is really good.

So borderline codependent and the inverted type of covert narcissism, they all have a few things in common.

The most important is the outsourcing of internal functions to an intimate partner, handing over important internal processes to an intimate partner.

The borderline comes to the intimate partner and she says, I want you to regulate my emotions. I want you to stabilize my moods by being there all the time for me, by not abandoning me. I want you to create in me peace of mind, inner peace, object constancy. I want you to become a part of my mind. I want you to become what we call in psychology an external re-regulator.

And so the borderline gradually disappears. More and more of her internal functions performed in healthy people internally, more and more of them are given to the intimate partner. He becomes an extension of her and she gradually vanishes, which is why borderlines react with panic. When they become intimate with someone, they react with panic. It's known as a government anxiety. And that's why borderlines approach an intimate partner and then avoid the intimate partner approach avoidance repetition compulsion, because they really give the intimate partner full mastery and control over their brains, over their mind.

This is the borderline. Yes. The codependent approaches the intimate partner and says, I want you to cater to all my needs. I want you to take care of all my needs.

In a way, I want to become a total infant. I want to become one month old. I want you to feed me and to hold me and to love me and to I want you to do everything for. I'm going to cling to you and I'm going to show you my neediness. And I'm going to blackmail you emotionally by telling you what will happen to me. If you don't fulfill my needs, the bad things that will happen to me.

This is the codependent strategy. The borderline is focused on emotions, emotional regulation. The codependent is focused on needs fulfillment. The inverted narcissist approaches the intimate partner and similar to the borderline and similar to the codependent. She makes a deal. She strikes a deal with intimate partner. She says, I want you to take care of all my need for narcissistic supply. Without narcissistic supply, I will die. I will fall apart because I'm a narcissist, but I'm a dysfunctional type of narcissist. I'm not a very self efficacious type of narcissist. I don't know how to get supply. I fail to get supply. I'm too shy and too introverted and too fragile and too depressed. I can't get supply. I want you to procure supply for me. You get me the supply. Now, supply in narcissism is the same like emotional regulation in borderline. Same function. It stabilizes the narcissist. It stabilizes, for example, the sense of self worth. It has a stabilizing and regulatory function.

The supply in narcissism is regulatory. The emotions in borderline needs to be regulated. The partners of borderline, codependents, and inverted narcissists regulate the internal environment of these pathological types. That's where the commonality. That's where they have a lot in common.


Okay. Thank you.

Thank you for that. It's showing a lot.

Another question that I have for you, can an inverted narcissist become a classic narcissist? Is there any terms that it can happen? If yes, when?

No one knows.

No one knows because I invented the diagnosis. It's still being studied. I invented it not long ago, like 25 years ago is nothing in terms of such.

So no one knows yet. I can speculate. I can speculate. A covert narcissist can definitely become an overt narcissist. An overt narcissist can definitely become covert narcissist. There is no tight constancy. I have a theory about how this happens. It's the collapse modification theory.

When the overt narcissist collapses, he cannot obtain supply, and then undergoes modification, he becomes covert and vice versa. And similarly, cerebral transitions to somatic. Somatic transitions, tries to transition to cerebral if he has the brain. It's a great thing.

So there is no tight constancy in narcissism, which is very confusing to people, to diagnosticians, to victims, to therapists, to psychologists, because the narcissist is a kaleidoscope. It's shape shifting. And very little that you know about the narcissist today is going to be valid tomorrow, depending on a state of collapse.

I think the only exception is the inverted narcissist.

Because inverted narcissist is not a whole type. It's a subtype. It's a sub sub type.

So I don't think inverted narcissist could ever become overt.

However, inverted narcissist can become more covert. They're shy, they're fragile, they're vulnerable, but they can become more self-centered, more defensive, more hostile, more paranoid. They can become a lot more grandiose. They can even develop entitlement. They can become exploitative. They can become less aware of their limitations and shortcomings. They can develop a sense of guilt. They can get in touch with their own shame and so on and so forth. So while they would still avoid recognition, competition, they would never seek supply actively. They would still have an imposter syndrome. They would have pseudo humility. In other words, they would have false modesty. They would be more stentaciously modest. They would still be pro-social, communal, altruistic, charitable, compulsive givers.

This is typical of inverted narcissists and many covert narcissists. They would be moralistic and moralizing, self-righteous and so on. All this, but they would never cross the threshold into actively seeking supply.

I believe this is the only case where there is type constancy.

So when they are involved and merge with classic narcissists, can they be hurt by NPD as, for example, healthy personality? No.

Impressive narcissists are never hurt by the overt narcissists. They are masochistic. They are masochistic subtypes and they're very, very similar to the masochistic anti-narcissist, which I think I have the only video online on this.

So I recommend to watch it. But it's in the literature and it's being studied. Because they are masochistic, they are perfect fit for the overt narcissist. Because narcissistic abuse is narcissistic supply to the inverted narcissist. That's the irony.

The overt narcissist, misbehavior, humiliation, rejection, pain, abuse is to the inverted narcissist a form of supply because it confirms to her the only type of attachment and bonding that she is capable of, masochistic, sadistic. And it is a form of supply because it is attention. It is attention after all. If someone abuses you, is giving you attention, is making you the focus of attention, the center of attention.

Because when he's abusing you, he's not doing anything else with anyone else. So you are at the center.

So inverted narcissists perceive abuse as narcissistic supply. If the grandiose narcissist seeks supply outside, it's great because the inverted narcissist gets part of it. She gets her commission.

If the grandiose narcissist abuses the inverted narcissist, it is great because it's attention. It's a win-win. There's no lose in this situation. She is absolutely the perfect fit.

And in this sense, they have a symbiotic relationship, exactly like a parasite and it's a symbiotic, not parasitic, I'm sorry, symbiotic relationship, in the sense that she gives to the narcissist and she gets from the narcissist and the match is perfect.

Absolutely.


Yeah.

Okay. So it's clearly showing how they can be in a long-term relationship.

So yeah, totally.

So I have one more question for today about inverted narcissist.

What is the difference between inverted narcissist and the echoyism? Because this is the question that people are really asking about that, especially when I'm mentioning about your theory and they asking, and I think you are a right person to ask you for that.

Echoyism was first described rigorously in 2005, but before 2005, there were many conversations online about the possible echo personality disorder or what have you. Echoyism is much closer to co-dependency than to inverted narcissist. The echo to the narcissist is focused on gratifying essentially her needs. She is not focused on self-annihilation, not self-destruction. She is not masochistic. She is not centered on obtaining supply.

That's a main distinguishing feature.

The inverted narcissist is 100% about obtaining supply. Yes. It's like supply in any form, including abuse. The echo is much more focused on her own personal internal dynamics and how the narcissist can amplify these dynamics or cater to these dynamics and so on and so forth.

So it's a much wider, she has a much wider area of interaction with the narcissist. And so she is much closer to borderline, much closer to co-dependent.

And indeed, I never thought there was any need for echoyism. I think there is a match between narcissists and specific types of pathologies in internet partners. And this match is typical in borderline. It's typical in co-dependent and I saw no need to add another layer, which totally doesn't add to our understanding or doesn't make us better equipped clinically to deal with the situation.

So it's very nice as a game wordplay or something, but I didn't see any utility in it.

But at any rate, even if we do adopt the construct of echoyism, and there are some voices online and offline that are studying this, actually in November, I'm going to have a conversation with someone whose main work is focused around, centered around echoyism.

But still, even if we accept this construct, it has very little to do with inverted narcissists.

Inverted narcissist is a narcissist who had decided to eliminate herself in order to become someone else, that someone else being a source of supply.

So where the classic narcissist interacts with sources of supply, he even internalizes sources of supply. He creates internal representations of sources of supply, introjects.

The inverted narcissist wants to become the source of supply. And that source of supply is only another narcissist. So she chooses another narcissist, and then she wants to disappear and become that narcissist.

The classic narcissist, if I'm getting supply from you, I don't want to become you. I definitely don't want to disappear. I want you to communicate to me that I exist. I want to see myself through your admiring gaze. And so by looking into your adoring and admiring eyes, I feel alive. I feel also separate. It allows me to experience separation and individuation, allows me to become.

That's the classic narcissist. The inverted narcissist, if you are a narcissist, she would look at you and she would say, wow, it would be so wonderful to die and become this narcissist. I want to become this narcissist. I don't want to be me. I don't want to be at all. I want to be this narcissist because he has supply or she has supply all the time. And I want supply all the time.

So it's a suicidal mindset in a way, mental suicide. It's a merger and fusion to the point of vanishing. It's not even going back to the womb because going back to the womb, which is the work of Fairbairn and Guntrip and so on, going back to the womb is not about disappearing. It's about transitioning to another state.

The inverter doesn't want to transition to any state. She doesn't want to have any state. She wants to become her source of supply. And this is unique. There's nothing like it.

Okay, I understand. And thank you so much for that. I don't have any more questions.

I don't have any more answers.

So we are perfectly. Perfectly.

So thank you so much, Professor, for your time.

It's a prize. I stand and talk to you soon.

Yeah. Bye. Thank you.

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Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

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Inverted narcissists react positively to compliments and rewards, but can sometimes get stuck in bitterness and self-pity. They contest the diagnosis of inverted narcissism, seeing it as a partial form of the disorder with healthy parts still intact. Inverted narcissists experience self-pity and depression, and regret their behavior and admit mistakes. Their rage comes from feeling humiliated and inferior, not from repressed self-contempt.

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