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From Borderline to Psychopath to Narcissist: Abuse of Language and Self States

Uploaded 5/22/2020, approx. 52 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

This personality disorder is known as psychopathy. These personality disorders may be mere kaleidoscopic facets of an underlying dissociative process, mounting in extreme cases to full-fledged dissociative identity disorder, DID, which used to be known once as multiple personality disorders.

In other words, these personality types may be self-states, alters, alternatives of each other. There may be an underlying psychodynamic of dissociation, a breakup, a fragmentation, and then like in a kaleidoscope, we sometimes see the narcissistic aspect, sometimes the borderline aspect, sometimes the antisocial psychopathic aspect.

This would explain for example why most if not all of these patients are diagnosed with more than one personality disorder, a situation known as comorbidity.

For example, borderlines have very pronounced grandiosity as do narcissists and as do psychopaths. Borderlines, when they are faced with fear of abandonment or rejection, when they anticipate being rejected or abandoned, they become very psychopathic, they become secondary psychopaths.

So maybe they are all facets of the same single unified mental health condition which has to do a lot with dissociation. I'm saying dissociation because in dissociative identity disorder, in multiple personality disorder, we have exactly the same situation. One personality appears, then it vanishes as circumstances change, as stressors mount, as demands are posed, and then that personality vanishes to personality number one, alter number one, and alter number two appears. And alter number two has nothing to do with alter number one, alter number one could be a man, alter number two is a woman or a girl, alter number one is an artist, alter number two is an accountant, I mean there's no connection.

Of course in narcissism, psychopathy and borderline, we don't have these extremes, we don't have full fledged personalities with their own biographies, their own traits, their own behavior patterns. Instead we have self-states, a kind of halfway house between full fledged personalities and aspects of personality.

Having endured a narcissistic injury, a narcissistic mortification, a trauma or severe anxiety and stress, these patients decompensate, they act out along predictable pathways. The borderline becomes a vicious secondary psychopath.

There's a video on my YouTube channel that deals exactly with this transition from borderline to secondary psychopath.

The primary psychopath morphs and becomes a rabid grandiose narcissist. We've all seen psychopaths when they're challenged or when they believe themselves to be challenged because they're very hyper-vigilant, they see insults and humiliation everywhere. So we've all seen psychopaths like this suddenly become grandiose and their grandiosity pushes them to misbehave, to act sometimes even criminally.

When the same happens under the influence of alcohol, when psychopaths consume alcohol, they develop grandiosity which is known as alcohol myopia.

And so primary psychopath morphs into a rabid grandiose narcissist and the quavering narcissist shapeshifts when he's denied supply, for example, shapeshifts into a co-dependent, clinging borderline. And this is exactly the process of hoovering when the narcissist suddenly becomes needy, clinging, dependent.

These phase transitions are startling to behold and they throw off even the most experienced clinician.

I have videos about each and every one of the aspects of what I've just said and I encourage you to go through my channel, for example, and to watch the series that I've made about mortification. I think there are three or four videos in this series and the other series I've made about the connection between borderline, dissociation and psychopathy.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that cluster B disordered personalities find it near impossible to access, process or regulate both their emotions and their cognitions and their cognitions. Their thought processes are chaotic and disrupted as are their emotions and these gaping deficits interfere with the meanings that these patients attribute to the events in their lives and to people around them.

Because if your thinking is disturbed and if you have no access to your emotions, it's very difficult to attribute significance to people around you. It's very difficult to properly put in context things that are happening to you.

The psychopath sees no meaning whatsoever in anything or anyone himself, included. He lives life. He drifts. He drifts through life. Nothing touches him. Nothing reaches him. Nothing is significant enough for him.

He is kind of in a state of day or coma. I don't know what you want to call it. He's like a tsunami. He's like a sleepwalker.

The borderline regards herself as meaningless but everyone and everything else as mission critical to her personal autonomy and self efficacious agency.

In other words, the borderline depends on other people to the extent that she cannot function without them. It could be one person, her intimate partner. It could be a group of people. It could be her family of origin, her current family, her friends, some friends.

But there's always a person or a group of people who are mission critical and she clings to these people. She depends on them. She extorts them. She aggressively coerces and controls them into fulfilling her emotional needs, into being there for her, into not abandoning her, into not rejecting her.

It's very similar to the codependent but with a critical, important difference that the borderline becomes very psychopathic, very vicious when she's not gratified or when she anticipates not being gratified. She becomes aggressive, becomes violent, becomes promiscuous, becomes a substance abuser.

This is much less common among codependents although both codependents and borderlines seek to merge and fuse as a way of infusing their lives with meaning.


And finally, the narcissist regards only himself as totally meaningful, draining all the rest and all others of any significance whatsoever.

And so when under radical pressure, these actors, borderline, the psychopath, the narcissist, they attempt to reframe the situation in a less injurious manner by reallocating and relocating the focus of meaning.

In other words, when they're faced with stress, with trauma, with anxiety, with demands, with challenges, with mockery, with risks, danger, what they do is they shift meaning. They place meaning or attribute meaning or imbue with meaning other things, other people, other situations so as to avoid the meaningfulness of that which they cannot change or cope with.

And in this way, seamlessly and smoothly, they transition between extended and extensive role plays, the role plays that we call in psychology, personality disorders.

There's a lot of acting which goes on into narcissism, borderline and psychopathy. These people have thespian skills.

This has been noted a long, long time by Clackley and others. These people can deceive everyone to a huge extent.

Okay, Clackley himself says that the thing that distinguishes the psychopath from the psychotic is that no matter how much and how often you test the psychopath, no matter how much you talk to him, no matter how much you probe him and investigate him, he still strikes you as a totally sane person with the right reasoning, the right justification, the right thinking, a proper plan of life and the right attributes, the right meanings to the right people and the right situations and the right places, etc. He is right.

Clackley says that psychopathy is a perfect simulation. There's an element of acting here. There's an element of emulating what I call emotional resonance tables. And acting is the same with borderline and the same with narcissism. These people are actors.

And so you can reconceive of personality disorders, especially the dramatic personality disorders known as cluster B. You can conceive of them as drama, as theater, as role playing.

Indeed, I again emphasize cluster B personality disorders are known as the dramatic or the dramatic personality disorders or erratic personality disorders.

And so every actor needs, has tools. His body is a tool, for example, in the case of a somatic narcissist or a psychopath or borderline. But all of them are united by using the tool of language. Language is speech is critical. Critical, for example, for obtaining supply. Critical for co-opting other people into the theater play. Critical for obtaining outcomes favorable or otherwise. So speech and language exactly as with normal and healthy people is very critical in these role play transitions, in these kaleidoscopic shifting of facets and personalities and disorders in front of our very astonished and shocked eyes.


And so I want to dwell a little in the second part of the video about language, language and speech. And then the third part of the video will deal. I'm going to deal with the underlying unifying principle in cluster B.

But first, let's start with speech because that's by far the most visible thing and the main tool.

When we talked to a psychopath, we talked to a narcissist, we interact with a borderline. The interface, the main point of friction is, of course, speech, language.

And so there's something I call palindromic speech. It is any kind of statement about facts or inner mental states that intentionally or more rare cases inadvertently creates confusion and disorientation in the listener.

Gaslighting, for example, lying are examples of crass and malicious palindromic speech acts. Confabulation and word salad are benign variants of palindromic speech acts. Word salad is illogical incoherent discourse, but it doesn't imply necessarily malice or evil intent. But these are benign variants intended to bridge dissociative gaps in memory or to buttress grandiosity. So they are goal-oriented. Lying and gaslighting are also goal-oriented, but they are more psychopathic. They characterize actually psychopaths, not narcissists or borderline.

But all of these are palindromic speech. Palindromic speech makes use of various semantic devices.

First of all, there's the referential shift. When the words refer to one thing while appearing to be, referencing another thing.

Then there's the duplentando. When the word or phrase are open to two, sometimes mutually exclusive interpretations or meanings, there is a contextual drift subtly altering the context of the conversation and thereby the message or the reality testing of everyone involved.

And then there's manipulative speech, goal-oriented utterances intended to impress or to accomplish aims, not to communicate.

Then there is misattribution, preferring the wrong connections or the wrong links between alleged or ostensible motivations and intentions and actual actions. So wrongly connecting motivations and intentions with actions, thus deflecting blame, for example, or casting one's actions in the best possible light.

Then there is circumstantial mitigation, an external locus of control and a victim stance. Events conspired to yield the misconduct.

I slept with him because I was drunk. It is abrogating personal responsibility, putting on a mantle of the passive voice.

And finally, there's logical fallacies, most famous of which is post hoc ergo-poietevoque. If B followed A, it means that A caused B. Correlation is causation. There is reference to authority.

Adroming them attacks, attack on the speaker, not on his message and so on and so forth.

So narcissists, psychopaths and borderlines make a lot of use of all these devices which put together I call palindromic speech.

Why palindromic? Because you can read it from left to right and from right to left. You can be at the same time an Israeli and a British guy.

Palindromic speech is efficacious because of the base rate cognitive bias. The base rate cognitive bias has been documented in numerous psychological studies by the likes of Dan Ariely and Levine and others. It's when people automatically fully believe 95% of what they are being taught sight unseen. That's a fact by the way. People automatically believe 95% of what they are being taught sight unseen and they don't bother to check in majority of cases because people are intellectually lazy or because they feel helpless or because they feel stupid.

So palindromic speech is efficient. It takes advantage of the base rate cognitive bias. It also mitigates the ineluctable hurt associated with truth telling.

People hate the truth. Truth hurts. Truth tellers are very often considered to be segues. They are persecuted and in biblical times they were killed, assassinated, the ancient biblical prophets.

So people don't want to hear the truth and they want to believe everything they hear and palindromic speech takes advantage of this. It colludes with the psychological defense mechanisms such as denial and with behaviors such as reframing and avoidance.

Palindromic speech has powerful psychodynamic allies in other words.

But palindromic speech is only one type of obstructive speech pattern. There are others.


Let's talk about two of them, the hypothetical and the counterfactual speech.

The narcissist, the borderline, the psychopath, they use something called hypothetical speech and they do it in order to test the waters to see how their interlocutors would react to information.

Sentences which start with maybe or possibly or it could be that or I think that or I thought so but I wasn't sure.

They are all forms of such exploratory excursions.

So when a psychopath or a narcissist or borderline says maybe X, maybe something, typically it means X had actually happened. X is the truth and the borderline or psychopath or narcissist, they are asking you how do you feel about it? They are kind of testing the waters.

If they do admit to X, what would be the repercussions? Will they get penalized? Will they be punished in some way and so on?

So this is the hypothetical speech.

And then there's the counterfactual speech.

Counterfactual speech is a very fancy way of saying lie, lying or misinformation.

There are these guys as either a rhetorical question, question the answer to which is already known or as a statement of settled and universally accepted fact, which is nothing of the sort.

So it's like the psychopath and borderline narcissist come to you and say, well, we both agree that when there's no such agreement, of course, or they ask you a question in such a way that they can fully anticipate your answer.

And so I don't know, a psychopath or a narcissist can say, maybe she flirted with me in the restaurant, but she didn't come to my room later that evening now, did she? Well, of course she did visit his room that night.

So this is the counterfactual speech, but they're all part of a very disturbed pattern of communication.

Now, just to remind you what we're talking about, communication underlies the regulation of thoughts and emotions in healthy people and much more so in narcissists borderlines and psychopaths because they use language, they use speech to obtain critical ego functions in the case of the narcissist.

So the narcissist needs narcissistic supply. He uses language to get this.

In the case of the borderline, she tries to secure the environment to feel safe and to reduce her anxiety using speech, usually by interacting with a significant other, with a intimate partner in order to fuse and merge with him in order to reduce abandonment and loss and separation anxieties.

And the psychopath uses language or speech to obtain goals. The psychopath is goal-oriented. His motivation is very shallow. He acts on whims and so on, but he's still very goal-oriented.

So all of them use language.

And it reminds me of Rip Van Winkle in the story by Washington Irving. And he said, a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.

And when people, when journalists interviewed Charles Guiteau, president Garfield's assassin, they were shocked because they said he spoke with deliberation, occasionally emphasizing somewhat dramatically with his voice or gesture or by gesture, a remark which he deemed of transcendent importance, sometimes chuckling the dimension of self-incident, which he considered amusing.

We're talking out here about a presidential assassin. He objected strenuously to the continuity of his thought, being disturbed by interruption and frequently stated so in a most imperious way, intimating that the interruption that placed an immediate jeopardy of destruction, some thought of vital interest and importance to the entire community.

This is how these people, this is how cluster people communicate, not only the narcissist, this case, this assassin is clearly a psychopathic narcissist, but borderline communicates the same way.

Anyone who has ever tried to interfere with the borderline's speech can tell you that she becomes immediately aggressive and violent. Anyone who tried to cross a psychopath who disagreed with him most can tell you the outcome if he survived. And anyone who tried to disagree with the narcissist or criticize, same thing.

In the narcissist's realistic world, even language is pathologized. Same with the psychopath, same with the borderline. Language mutates into a weapon of self-defense, of defiance, a verbal fortification, a medium without a message.

These people replace words with duplicitous and ambiguous vocables. Charles Derber called it conversational narcissism. It's replete with shift responses, replicas that shift the attention back to the speaker, the narcissistic speaker, psychopathic speaker, borderline speaker. Cluster B personality disordered and often by contagion, they're unfortunate victims. They don't talk. They don't communicate. They fend off. They hide, they evade, they avoid, they disguise, they lecture, they act or they preach.

Always yes, but they don't communicate. In their planet of capricious and arbitrary unpredictability of shifting semiotic and semantic dunes, these people perfect the ability to say nothing in lengthy, Castro-like speeches. Speech of borderline narcissists and psychopaths is impregnated with first-person pronoun density. It is saturated with first-person pronouns. I, me, my, my.

The ensuing convoluted sentences are arabesques of meaninglessness, acrobatics of evasion, a lack of commitment elevated to an ideology.

So the narcissist prefers to wait and see what waiting brings. It is a postponement of the inevitable that leads to the inevitability of postponement as a strategy of survival.

It is often impossible, it'simpossible to really understand the narcissist or the borderline or the psychopath. Even if you listen very carefully, the evasive syntax fast deteriorates into ever more labyrinthine structures or you get flooded with cliches and you can look at the speaker's eyes and you see there's nothing there.

This is like a tape recorder. The grammar is tortured to produce the verbal Doppler shifts essential to disguise the source of information, its distance from reality, the speed of its degeneration into rigid official versions, replicas buried under the lush flora and fauna of idioms without an end.

The language erupts like some exotic crash and auto immune reaction to its own infection and contamination by the speaker.

So like viral weeds, the language spreads throughout strangling with absent minded persistence, the ability to understand, to feel, to agree, to disagree, to debate, to present arguments, to compare notes, to learn, to teach.

If you ever try to do any of these things with psychopaths, narcissists and borderlines, you know what I mean? It's absolutely impossible to have any meaningful or even goal oriented communication. It's what they want.

Narcissists, psychopaths and borderlines therefore never talk to others, rather they talk at others.

In a way you could say that these are monologues, they're talking to themselves. It's like because they are dissociative and so broken inside, it's like they're trying to use language to glue back Humpty, to put back Humpty Dumpty, to glue back together the shards that used to be their personality.

And so they exchange subtexts, they come flush. The texts come flush wrapped by elaborate, florid subtexts.

They read between the lines spawning a multitude of private languages, prejudices, biases, superstitions, conspiracy theories, rumors, phobias, hysterias.

Theirs is a solipsistic world where communication is permitted only with oneself and the aim of language is to throw others off the scent or to obtain narcissistic supply. Cluster B personality disordered patients' inability to listen and pay genuine attention stems from their overriding need to sustain their grandiosity and oriosity.

Andiosity is common to all of them, narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths. They need to rehearse the next lines, retort or clever responses.

And while the interlocutor, you know, the person they're talking to, Maria is, is just an audience. He's talking, but they are ignoring him or her. The other person is just an audience. After all, why should the narcissist waste his precious time on listening when he's already omniscient? Why should the psychopath waste his precious time when he's already so close to the goal? And why should the borderline waste the precious time when she already knows that she had been abandoned and rejected and she's hellbent on vicious revenge?

And this is profound implications. Communication through unequivocal, unambiguous information-rich simple systems is such an integral and crucial part of the world that its absence is not postulated even in the remotest galaxies which graze the skies of science fiction.

In this sense, narcissists are nothing short of aliens. It is not that they employ a different language, a code to be deciphered by a new Freud. It is also not the outcome of upbringing or social cultural background. It's just that they are not there.

And so this void, this emptiness, so amply and repeatedly described and correctly called it the mask of sanity. There's only a mask. Behind the mask there's nothing.

It's a piece of fiction. Kerberg called it emptiness of void.

And each of these disordered people is trying to fulfill or regulate at least this emptiness because they are afraid to be consumed by it. They feel that they are being consumed by deep space inside themselves. There's a hole of mirror and the mirrors are breaking. So they need narcissistic supply.

Narcissistic supply, the histrionic, she uses sex, seduction, conquest, flirtations, romance, bodybuilding, demanding physical regimes. I don't know what.

Same with the somatic narcissist with their form of supply. The narcissist's adulation, admiration, attention or being feared if he is into sadistic supply. The borderline needs the presence of the main to partner the terrified of abandonment that's their supply and the psychopath, money, power, control, fund, sex.

Borderlines, for instance, can be described as narcissist with an overwhelming separation inside. Borderlines do care deeply about not hurting others, though they often cannot help it. But it's not out of empathy as they like to present it. They have a selfish motivation. If they hurt others, they're rejected and abandoned and they can't tolerate this.

So this is a selfish motivation to avoid rejection. Borderlines depend on other people for emotional sustenance and regulation. A drug addict is very unlikely to pick up a fight with his pusher. But borderlines also have deficient impulse control. Same like psychopaths. And this is why they are emotionally labile. Their behavior is erratic and they heap abuse on their nearest and dearest.

I'm mentioning all this huge salad of personality disorders to show you that perhaps all these very, very fine distinctions, all these nitpicking distinctions between psychopaths, borderline, maybe they are utterly artificial. If you ever watch the borderline, an enraged borderline, you would immediately have realized that they are totally psychopathic, secondary psychopath.

So is the true self of the narcissist the equivalent of the host personality of the dissociative identity in dissociative identity disorder? Is the false self one of the fragmented personalities, also known as alters, the border borderlines, people with borderline personality disorder also have a false self? So are we talking about a private cases of multiple personality disorder?

And what about the psychopath? He doesn't have a false self. Does he have a true self? It seems he doesn't have a true self as well.

Psychopath has no self, period. Not false, not true. So what is he?

If there's no self integrated self, as Jung and the Jungians call it, if there's no constellated self, what does a psychopath have in its place? Is it merely an automaton, a robot, a higher form of artificial intelligence?

These are very difficult questions to answer.

Clearly, the narcissist doesn't have a functioning internal self, constellated self, integrated self, true self. He is operating on the basis of a piece of fiction.

In this sense, his life is a mega production or a movie firm.

The borderline, she also has a false self, but clearly she has a true self. So it looks like psychopath has no selves, true or false, borderline is both, and narcissist is one.

Are these private instances of atypical dissociative identity disorder?

The false self is a mere construct rather than a full-fledged self.

It is the locus of the narcissist's fantasies of grandiosity, his feelings of entitlement, omnipotence, magical thinking, omniscience, and magical immunity.

But the false self lacks many other functional structural elements that are very common in a typical self.

Moreover, the false self, unlike let's say alters in multiple personality, false self has no cutoff date, no start date, like you cannot date it.

In DID, alters in multiple personality have a date of inception. When I say a date, I mean a date, 12th of May, 16th of October. Usually it's a reaction to a specific trauma or instance of extreme abuse.

In other words, DID alters have an age. Some of them are three years old, some of them are 30 years old, but they all have an age.

So the false self looks less like a DID alter, less like a fragment of personality, let alone a full-fledged personality, and more like a self state, more like a process, not an entity.

There's a reactive pattern and a reactive formation in some ways.

False self is not a self, nor is it really false. It's very real, more real to the narcissist than his true self, and more real to the victims of the narcissist, to his so-called nearest and dearest.

They interact all the time with the false self, with no one else there, only the false self.

So if the false self is a process, not an entity, and so on and so forth, if it's a self state, we could say that it's the same with the borderline.

She has a psychopathic self state.

Is the psychopathic self state her false self? Possibly.

This is some, this is an area of investigation that is very new, and there is no definitive answer.

We don't know if the borderline's false self is her secondary psychopath.

Maybe she has several self states. Maybe Kernberg and others were right when they suggested that borderlines are actually ameliorated or mitigated psychotics.

Cletley and others suggested that the psychopath is actually a psychotic, then Cletley changed his mind.

But at the very beginning, in the 40s, Cletley was adamant that the psychopath is psychotic, only he hides it behind a perfect imitation, impenetrable, impermeable limitation of sanity.

So are we, is the underlying unifying principle, the principle of psychosis?

Are all these people broken down people? People whose self did not constantly, did not integrate, and is still fragmented.

It's like someone put an improvised explosive device in early childhood and blew up the nascent self with its boundaries.

And now we are looking at a scene of devastation, of wasteland, of shards and remnants of the personality.

And each of these individuals found their own solution, the narcissist with his grandiosity, the borderline with her extreme dysfunctional attachment, the the psychopath with its lack of disinhibition, lack of inhibitions and goal orientation.

As Kernberg observed, the narcissist actually vanishes and is replaced by the false self. There is no true self inside the narcissist. The narcissist is a whole of mirrors, but the whole itself is an optical illusion created by the mirrors.

It's like, I don't know, constructing a car as you careen down a hill, or constructing the airplane while you're in midair. It's cartoonish. No wonder I'm using a Minnie Mouse mug.

Narcissism is reminiscent of a painting by Escher, you know, Cornelius Escher, where stairs go up and then before you know it, you're down back at the very beginning of the staircase.

In this sense, narcissistic personality disorder might be the ultimate form of dissociative identity disorder, where the dissociation actually takes over the individual, not the outcomes of the dissociation, but the dissociative process itself, psychodynamic process, becomes the person completely vanquishing all other personalities and rendering them quivering relics.

In other words, it seems that in the case of the narcissist, at least and possibly the borderline, dissociation is a constant white noise or background noise. It happens not every like three weeks, but more like every three milliseconds. It's like a seismograph and there's an earthquake, a permanent earthquake inside.

Not so with the psychopath. The thing with the psychopath, we're seeing the outcomes of this. And simply, that's it. There's nothing there anymore.

In dissociative identity disorder, the emotions are segregated into personality-like internal constructs, entities, alters.

The notion of unique, separate, multiple whole personalities is primitive and we no longer hold to it. We consider it untrue.

Dissociative identity disorder is a continuum. The inner language, a proposed language, breaks down into polyglot chaos.

In DID, emotions cannot communicate with each other for fear of provoking overwhelming pain and its fatal consequences. To put it more clearly, the dissociated person, person with multiple personality, doesn't dare to allow these personalities to communicate with each other because then the pain and the hurt will erupt and he will commit or she will commit suicide.

So, they're being kept apart by various mechanisms. A host, a birth personality, a facilitator, moderator, alters and so on.

All personality disorders involve a modicum of dissociation. There's no debate about this. Dissociation is even a diagnostic criterion in borderline personality disorder.

But the narcissistic solution is to emotionally disappear altogether. Hence, the tremendous insatiable need of the narcissist for external approval.

So, he disabled his ego. His ego was very puerile in the best case, infantile, more common, more commonly.

And so, narcissist disabled his ego and all the functions of the ego, including, for example, reality testing. So, he needs input from the outside and he will not survive.

Narcissist exists only as a reflection. It was a tremendous insight by Sigmund Freud that the narcissist is actually not a person but a reflection. That the narcissist falls in love, libidinal cathexes, not himself, but his reflection in the water.

Since the narcissist is forbidden to love his true self, he chooses to have no self. It's like, you don't want my true self? I will have no self.

He's not.

It is the ultimate in dissociation. It's a vanishing act.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a total pure solution, self extinguishing, self abolishing, entirely self-invented or self conjured, not to say fake.

Other personality disorders are diluted variants or variations on the themes of self hatred and perpetuated self abuse.

The histrionic is a narcissist with sex and body as the sources of narcissistic supply.

As I said before, the borderline personality disorder involves, borderline personality disorder involves lability, the movement between modes of life, wish and death wish and so on.

A sense of entitlement though is common to all cluster B disorders.

Narcissists almost never act on their suicidal ideations, precisely because of this sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to life. They feel entitled to other people and their resources.

Borderlines incessantly self-mutilate or try to commit suicide or at the very least have suicidal ideation. They threaten suicide, mention suicide, think about suicide. Some of them cut, some of them are self-injurious and so on, but there is a kind of internalization of the explosive nature of borderlines, the rage internalized becomes suicidal and yet both narcissists and borderlines tend to become suicidal or at the very least entertain suicidal thoughts under severe and prolonged stress.

So it's another example of what I'm saying that under stress with stressors, these so-called alleged ostensibly separate personality disorders are actually facets of the same clinical entity.

The narcissist easily transitions to borderline when he is under really, really, really severe stress.

For example, after mortification, after mortification, narcissist suddenly has emotions. He even has a modicum of empathy and he becomes, if you put everything together, after mortification, he becomes a borderline and I encourage you to watch the videos about mortification that I mentioned in the beginning.

Narcissists, for example, can suffer from brief reactive psychosis in the same way that borderline suffer from psychotic microemissons.

I'm not saying that narcissism and borderline are the same thing. Narcissist is way less impulsive. The narcissist is less self-destructive, rarely self-mutilates, practically never attempts suicide, psychopaths the same.

Narcissist is more stable, displays reduced emotional ability, maintain stability in interpersonal relationships and so on.

But what I am saying is that there are default modes and when certain circumstances coalesce and certain situations constellate, the narcissist moves to the next default, which is borderline.

Borderline moves to the next default, which is psychopath. The psychopath moves to the next default, which is narcissist.

So they all play a kind of musical chairs reactively.

Canvox suggested that the borderline diagnosis is somewhere between psychotic and neurotic, actually between psychotic and personality disorder.

He said that neurotic has auto-plastic defenses, something wrong with me, but the personality disorder person has alloplastic defenses, something's wrong with the world.

Then the psychotics have a kind of bizarre defense, something's wrong with those who say that something's wrong with me. All personality disorders have a clear, I mean, claustrophic, have a clear psychotic streak.

Borderlines, as I said, have psychotic episodes. Narcissist reacts with psychosis to life risk and very frequently in treatment.

It's well known that in treatment, some narcissists develop psychotic micro episodes, which can last sometimes for days.

And so even this, the psychotic reaction is common to these personality disorders.

Psychopaths, just to make clear, psychopath, sociopaths, these are the old names for antisocial personality disorder.

The line between narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder is extremely thin.

Antisocial personality disorder may simply be a less inhibited and less grandiose form of narcissism.

The important differences between narcissism and antisocial personality disorder are inability or unwillingness to control impulses in the psychopath, an enhanced lack of empathy on the part of the psychopath, the psychopath's inability to form relationships, not even narcissistically twisted relationships with other people.

And the psychopath's total disregard for society's conventions, mores, social cues, social treaties, which also mean that the psychopath is not really dependent on narcissistic supply in the way that a narcissist does.

And as opposed to what Scott Peck says, these are not evil people.

There's a religious tendency to cast everything in as a morality play, good versus evil, evil versus ill. Evil is not a psychiatric term, has no place in such a discourse.

These people, psychopaths, narcissists, borderlines, make them as a surprise to you, but they don't have intention to cause harm. They don't have mens rea.

Even the psychopath is not out to cause harm. He's out to gratify himself.

And the thing with the psychopath is his motivations and drives are so ephemeral, so passing, so trifle, so stupid.

And yet he makes people pay a huge price to satisfy them.

And it is this discrepancy between motivation, which is puny and passing and not very important and the huge price that he makes people pay that causes us to regard him as evil. It's only an evil person, but evil is an ethical term. It's a religious term.

As Miller notes, certain narcissists incorporate moral values into their exaggerated sense of superiority.

Here, moral laxity is seen by the narcissist as evidence of inferiority. And it is those who are unable to remain morally pure, who are looked upon with contempt.

So actually, self-righteousness, altruism, they are many, many narcissists and psychopaths who are altruistic, charitable, compulsive givers, and the upholders of morality and ethics.

I wouldn't use this criterion of evil as a unifying principle of these disorders.

And again, we see that these disorders are actually operational and functional facets of each other. They're not really distinct.

Narcissists are indifferent, callous, and careless in their conduct and in their treatment of others, exactly like psychopaths. Their abusive conduct is offhanded and absent-minded, not calculated and premeditated.

And with the psychopath, this is not always true. Psychopaths are very often calculated and premeditated.

But still, the underlying monologue, the inner dialogue, if you wish, between the psychopath and the narcissist and their interests, people don't matter. I matter.

So the narcissist abuses and hurts people all as a byproduct, as a side effect. He pursues his goal, his obsession, his compulsion with narcissistic supply. Anyone who stands on his way, you know, his gun finished, trampled, or destroyed.

The psychopath behaves exactly the same, but his range of goals is much wider. So he does it much more often and with many more people. And as I said, his motivation, the reasons for doing what he's doing are so primitive, so trifle, so puny, so unimportant, so insignificant, that we are shocked that the psychopath is willing to damage people, to kill people sometimes, and to kill someone for five dollars, you know, to cheat on his wife, to cheat with her husband's business or colleague, or with his wife's best friend, or with his best friend's wife.

In all this, because it's a prank, it's a joke, it's fun. And psychopaths just want to have fun, you know.

So if we accept that narcissists, borderlines, and psychopaths are actually facets of one clinical entity, and these facets are stages, phases, start perhaps as a narcissist, and then you become borderline, and you become psychopath. You start as a psychopath, you become narcissist. You start as a borderline, you become psychopath, etc.

If we accept that these are phase transitions within a single clinical entity, by the way, this happens a lot, schizophrenia, for example. So if we accept that these are phase transitions, still, what is this clinical entity? What is this undefined thing, disorder, disease, illness, that gives rise, kaleidoscopically, to these varying shape-shifting, dizzying facets of misbehavior?

I think the underlying problem is narcissistic defenses. Narcissism, in other words. I think this is the psychopathological default. This is the base state.

Abuse and trauma in early childhood perpetuate primary narcissistic defenses into adulthood. Pathological narcissism wears many forms. It's classic or malignant, when you take other people and use them, schizoid, aggressive, destructive. In other words, you could say that pathological narcissism is in the roots of most personality disorders.

That's as a general statement. Now let's try to study it in depth. Diagnostic and statistical manual is linear. It's descriptive. It's phenomenological. It's a series of lists, actually, with a check list. It's a button presentation. It's bureaucratic. It's medical, mechanical, dynamical, physical.

So it's reminiscent of the old taxonomies in botany and zoology.

The DSM glosses over the patient's idiosyncratic life circumstances, biological and psychological processes, and offers an overarching conceptual and exegetic interpretative framework.

Moreover, the DSM is heavily influenced by cultural factions, prevailing social lore and ethics, and by the legal and business environment. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies heavily vote in the construction and composition of the DSM.

So whatever I'm going to say is a bit of a departure from the DSM.

So I don't regard the DSM as a psychodynamic authority, an authority about psychodynamics. I regard the DSM as a pretty exhaustive and comprehensive list of diagnostic criteria or symptoms.

So let's put the DSM aside.

We are all narcissists at an early stage of our lives. As infants, we feel that we are the center of the universe, omnipotent, omniscient.

Our parents, those mythical figures, are immortal to us. They are awesomely powerful. They are there only to protect and serve us.

Both as self and other people, especially primary objects like mother, they are viewed immaturely as idealizations and as parts of the same entity.

Inevitably, the inexorable processes and conflicts of life grind these ideals into the fine dust of the real. Disappointments follow disillusionment. When these are gradual and tolerable, they are adaptive. But if they are abrupt, if this disappointment, disillusionment, disenchantment is abrupt, they are abrupt, capricious, arbitrary, intense, the injuries sustained by the tender budding self-esteem are both very deep and irreversible.

Moreover, the empathic support of caretakers, the primary objects, parents, it's crucial.

In the absence of such a core, self-esteem in adulthood tends to fluctuate, to alternate between overvaluation, idealization, and devaluation. But not only overvaluation and devaluation of others, but of the self.

Narcissistic adults are the result of bitter disappointments, of radical disillusionment with parents, role models, peers.

Healthy adults accept their limitations, the boundaries of their selves. Healthy adults accept disappointments, setbacks, failures, defeats, criticism, disillusionment, and they accept even grace, grace, and tolerance.

The sense of self-worth in a healthy adult is constant, is positive, is minimally affected by outside events, no matter how severe they are.

The common view is that we go through the stages of a linear development. We are propelled forward by various forces.

Freud gave them all kinds of bizarre names, never mind, the libido, heiros, force of life, fanatos, force of death, the stewardal. Freud had this three-partite model, you know.

Franklin called it mini.

In art-less thinking, in behaviorism, these are socially mediated phenomena.

In Honeye's opera, there's a cultural context. In Sullivan's work, it's interpersonal relationships and neurobiological and neurochemical processes in more modern work.

And these are a few schools of developmental psychology that are kind of floating around. It doesn't really matter what label you slap on this move, inexorable move forward.

But it's clear, everyone agrees, this move from A to B and from B to C, from self to others, from others to...

And so, in an effort to gain respectability, many scholars attempted to propose a physics of the mind.

But these thought systems differ on many issues. Some say that personal development ends in childhood. Otherwise, you know, we would be like protean. It would be a never-ending piece of work.

Other scholars say it ends in adolescence. And yet others say the development is a process which continues throughout the life of the individual to its last breath.

Ericsson. Comment to all these schools of thoughts are the mechanics and dynamics of the process of personal growth.

Forces, inner or external, facilitate the development of the individual.

When an obstacle to development is encountered, development is stunted or arrested, but never for long.

A distorted pattern of development, bypass, appears.

Psychopathology is the outcome of perturbed growth.

Humans can be compared to trees. When a tree encounters a physical obstacle to its expansion, especially its roots, its branches, they curl around it. They kind of circumvent it. They formed maybe, ugly maybe, but they reach the destination, however late, however partially.

Psychopathologies are the same. They are actually adaptive mechanisms. They allow the individual to continue to grow around obstacles.

The nascent personality twists and turns, deforms itself, is transformed until it reaches a functional equilibrium, a homeostasis, which is not too egodystonic, not too unpleasant, unacceptable to the individual.

And having reached this point, everything settles down. Everything settles down and continues its more or less linear pattern of growth.

The forces of life as expressed in the development of the personality are stronger than any hindrance, any obstacle, any stress, any challenge.

The roots of trees, remember, they crack mighty rocks and pavements. Microbes live in the most poisonous surroundings, extremophiles.

Similarly, humans are a life form and humans form these personality structures which are optimally suited to their needs and to the outside constraints.

Such personality configurations may be abnormal, but they're mere existence proofs that they had triumphed in the delicate task of successful adaptation.

In other words, one thing you can say in favor of narcissists and psychopaths and borderlines, they're alive. They're alive. They're not dead. They're survivors.

Only death puts a stop to personal growth and development. Life's events, crisis, joys and sadness, disappointment, surprises, setback, successes, all these contribute to the weaving of the delicate fabric that we call personality.

When an individual at any age encounters an obstacle to the orderly progression from stage one to stage two, that individual retreats to his early childhood's narcissistic phase rather than circumvent or go around the obstacle.

Always happens. You're mortified, some horrible crisis, I don't know, divorce, you were fired, there's immediately a narcissistic reaction.

The process is three-phased.

The person encounters some kind of life crisis or life obstacle.

Number two, the person regresses, goes back to the infantile narcissistic phase.

Number three, the person in the infantile phase gathers force, recuperates, recovers, and then confronts the obstacle again, usually successfully.

When in step two, which is the narcissistic infantile phase, the person displays childish, immature behaviors. He feels that he's omnipotent, misjudges his powers in the might of the opposition. He underestimates challenges facing him. He pretends to be Mr. Know-all.

His sensitivity to the needs of emotions of others, his empathy, his ability to empathize, deteriorate sharply. He becomes intolerably haughty with sadistic, even paranoid tendencies, happens to everyone.

Health individuals who come, who undergo a life crisis react exactly like sick individuals who go through a life crisis.

They all share this, what Freud called primary narcissism, infantile, child-like toddler narcissism.

I'm leading somewhere. It is from here that we come to a unifying grand theory, if you wish, of cluster B.

A theory which implies that what we call personality disorders is a mistake. These are just apparitions. We have been misled by the various facets and shivering manifestations of a single clinical entity.

So, when the person is in this infantile state, narcissistic state, he demands unconditional admiration or unconditional love. Even when he does not deserve it, that kind of person in crisis or traumatized person is preoccupied with fantastic magical thinking, daydreams his life away. He tends to exploit others, to envy others, to be edgy, to explode with unexplained rage.

We all know this. This is very common, for example, among the newly unemployed or people who have just contracted a chronic illness. People whose psychological development is obstructed by a formidable obstacle, mostly revert to excessive and compulsive behavior patterns.

To put it succinctly, whenever we experience a major life crisis which hinders our personal growth and threatens it, we suffer a mild and transient form of narcissistic personality disorder, exactly as Ronstadt and Millman say.

The fantasy world, full of falsity and hurt feelings, the fantasy world serves as a springboard for which a rejuvenated individual resumes his progress towards the next stage of personal growth.

This time around, second round, faced with the same obstacle, he feels sufficiently omnipotent to ignore it or to attack it.

This is exactly what happens in early childhood. The child develops grandiosity and this grandiosity allows the child to take the risk of going out to the world.

In most cases, the success of this second onslaught is guaranteed by the delusional assessment that the obstacle's fortitude and magnitude are diminished.

This indeed is the main function of this reactive episodic and transient process to encourage magical thinking, to wish the problem away, to enchant it, to tackle and overcome, from a position of omnipotence and omniscience.

A structural abnormality of personality arises only when recurrent attacks time and again fail constantly and consistently to eliminate the obstacle.

If you're faced with a crisis, you revert to the narcissistic phase, you attack the obstacle, you try to resolve the crisis, you try to adapt to the new circumstances and you fail, you revert again, try again, you fail again.

If this happens many times, the abnormality of the personality becomes structural, embedded. If you fail to overcome the hindrance, the hindrance becomes you.

The conscience between the fantastic world, temporarily occupied by the individual, and the real world in which it keeps being frustrated, this contrast is too acute to countenance for long without some resulting deformity or deficiency, and this dissonance, the gap between grandiose fantasy and frustrating reality, gives rise to the unconscious decision to go on living in the world of fantasy, grandiosity and entitlement.

It is better to feel special than to feel inadequate. It is better to be omnipotent than psychologically impotent. It's better to abuse others than to be abused by them. It's preferable.

In short, it is better to remain a morphological narcissist than to face harsh, unhealing reality.

Perhaps not all personality disorders are fundamentally narcissistic. Cluster C, cluster A.

Yet I think that the default, when growth is stunted by the existence of a persistent obstacle or set of obstacles, I think the default is remission to the narcissistic phase of early personal development.

I concur with bigger thinkers like Freud. I further believe that this is the only default available to the individual.

Whenever it comes across an obstacle, the individual regresses to the narcissistic phase.


But so how can we reconcile it with the apparent diversity of cluster B personality disorders?

I think it behooves us to go back one step.

Narcissism is a substitution of a false self for a true self. A true self is put aside, shunted and shunned, and there's a false self.

And this arguably is a predominant feature of narcissism. The true self is repressed, relegated to irrelevance, of security, left to degenerate, decay and becomes a trophy, then ossified.

Instead of the true self, a psychological structure is formed, construct and projected onto the outside world. And that's the false self.

The narcissist's false self is reflected at him, back at him by other people.

And this approach to the narcissist, the false self indeed is real. It exists independently.

Here people are reflecting it. How can people reflect the false self? If it doesn't exist, it means the false self exists.

It's not entirely a figment of the narcissist imagination. And therefore it is a legitimate successor to the true self.

It is this characteristic which is common to all psychopathologies.

The emergence of false, fake, improvised psychic structures, fictitious, emulating, imitative, mimetic, simulated psychic structures, which usurp the powers and capacities of the previous legitimate and authentic ones.

Horrified by the absence of a clearly bounded, cohesive, reliable self, regulating self.

The mentally abnormal person resorts to one of the following solutions, all of which involve reliance upon fake or invented personality constructs.

So there is a process when the false self is created and then takes over. There is an ongoing process of modification.

Perhaps this is the dynamic that we feel in all, in border lines, psychopaths, in narcissists, that they are constantly mortified by their own absence.

And so they choose solutions.

This is a narcissistic solution. The true self is replaced by a false self.

Schizotypal personality disorder also largely belongs here because it's of its emphasis on fantastic and magical thinking. Borderline personality disorder is a case of a failed narcissistic solution.

Rothstein described it as a failed narcissist. In borderline personality disorder, the patient is aware that the solution that she adopted for is not working. And this is the source of her separation anxiety, fear of abandonment. The fear of being abandoned by the intimate partner, who is usually a narcissist, by the way, is actually the fear of being abandoned by her own internal structures. It's a fear of self abandonment.

The intimate partner is the reification and the resonance of an inner structure that had failed. And the borderline has this permanent hope that the intimate partner will succeed where the internal solution had failed.

She had tried to become a narcissist. She had failed.

Maybe this narcissist, who is her husband, her boyfriend, her lover, her one night stand, maybe this narcissist would succeed where her attempts had failed.

And this generates her identity disturbance, her affective and emotional ability, suicidal ideation, dysregulation, emotional dysregulation, suicidal action, chronic feelings of emptiness, rage attacks, transient stress related, paranoid ideation.

All these have a lot to do with what Kurt Berg called the emptiness or the void. This is emptiness and void that is not only spatial, like the space where there's nothing, spatial nothingness, deep space. It's emptiness that is the outcome of deeply ingrained, assimilated or pervasive, ubiquitous failure.


Second solution is the appropriation. This is the appropriation of the confiscation of someone else's self in order to fill the vacuum left by the absence of a functioning ego.

While some ego functions are available internally, many others, most others, are adopted by appropriating another person's personality.

The histrionic personality disorder, for example, is an example of this solution.

Mothers who sacrifice their lives for their children, people who live vicariously through others, they all belong to this category, appropriation, people who dramatize their lives and their behavior in order to attract attention.

The appropriators misjudge the intimacy, the level of intimacy, the extent of their relationships and the degree of commitment involved. They are easily suggestible and their whole personality seems to shift and fluctuate with input from the outside and in this reactive dysphoria and so on, they are very similar to narcissists because they have no self of their own, even less so than classical narcissists.

The appropriators tend to overrate and overemphasize their bodies.

Perhaps the most striking example of this type of solution is dependent personality disorder.

So this is the second solution and you can already immediately see that this solution and the narcissistic solution have like 90% of things in common.

Narcissists also appropriates other people and their attention to regulate his internal environment.

Then there's the schizoid solution. These patients are mental zombies trapped forever in the Norman's land between stunted groves and the narcissistic default.

They're not narcissists because they lack a false self, nor are they fully developed adults because their true self is immature and dysfunctional.

They prefer to avoid contact with others. They lack empathy and so they don't understand others. They're not party to the intersubjective agreement. They have no theory of mind, exactly like the narcissist or people with autism spectrum disorders. So they avoid contact with others in order not to upset the delicate tightrope act that is their internal space.

Withdrawing from the world is an adaptive solution because it does not expose the patient's inadequate personality structures, especially his self, to onerous and failure-bound tests.

Schizotypal personality disorder is a mixture of narcissistic and schizoid solutions.

Avoidant personality disorder is another close key.

The fourth solution is the aggressive destructive solution.

These people suffer from hypochondriasis, depression, schizoidiation, dysphoria, anhedonia, compulsions, obsessions, other expressions, internalized and transformed aggression. These are people who are aggressive but have swallowed their aggression.

They direct aggression at the self. Why? Because they perceive the self to be inadequate, guilty, disappointing, worthy of nothing but elimination and punitive action.

Many of the narcissistic elements are present in an exaggerated form, actually. Lack of empathy becomes reckless disregard for others, irritability, deceitfulness and criminal violence.

Undulating self-esteem is transformed into impulsiveness and failure to plan ahead.

Antisocial personalities or the psychopath is a prime example of this solution, whose essence is the total control of a false self without the mitigating presence of a shred of true self, in the case of narcissists, psychopathic narcissists, or the lack of any self, false or true, in the case of classic, pure-bred psychopaths.

Not such thing, by the way. The vast majority of psychopaths are diagnosed with some other disorder.

Perhaps this common feature, the replacement of the original structures of the personality by new, invented, mostly false structures, constructs.

Perhaps this is what causes one to see narcissists everywhere.

This common denominator is most accentuated in narcissistic personality disorder.

But it also entails a confusion between internal and external objects, some of which are persecretary.

And it also entails a fragmentation of the self, accompanied by pervasive dissociation and cathecting.

And here we encroach upon territories such as borderline personality disorder, psychotic disorder.

I mean, it seems that perturbed or disturbed narcissism, especially in early childhood, may be the found and the source of everything wrong that can go with someone's mental health and with very strong emphasis on personality disorders and within these, close to being.

The interaction, really, the battle between the struggling original remnants of the personality and the malignant and omnivorous new constructs, this battle can be discerned in all forms of psychic abnormality.

The question is, if many phenomena have one thing in common, should they be considered one and the same, or at least caused by the same?

I say that the answer in the case of personality disorders should be in the affirmative.

I think that all of the known personality disorders, especially cluster B, they are all forms of malignant self-love.

In each personality disorder, different attributes are differently emphasized, different ways attached to different behavior patterns.

But these, in my view, are all matters of quantity, not of quality.

The myriad deformations, deformations of the reactive patterns, collectively known as personality, they all belong to the same family.

And people, patients, as any practicing psychiatrist or psychologist or therapist or counselor will tell you, people easily and seamlessly transition between various personality disorders, especially within the same family, easily.

And this is the reason for comorbidity, this is the reason for the polythetic problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

So there is ultimately only one cluster B personality disorder.

And everything we see is like the famous story with the elephant, where blind scholars were brought to first time in their lives to see an elephant. One of them hugged his legs, the other one pulled his tail, and the third one touched his trunk. And of course, they had totally different description of what an elephant is.

But we who have eyesight can look upon these scholars and say, hey, there's an elephant in the room, elephant that has a trunk and a tail and sturdy pillar like legs, but it's one animal with different manifestations as you probe it differently. Life probes differently.

And people with a cluster B personality disorder react differently and transition from narcissism to borderline, from borderline to psychopathy, from psychopathy to narcissism. The cycle is closed.

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