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Hoovered by Narcissist? Now What?

Uploaded 3/29/2024, approx. 11 minute read

Hoovering is one of the greatest mysteries in narcissism. Never mind who has done the dumping, who broke up with whom. The narcissist experiences usually narcissistic injury of some kind.

Narcissists are incapable of experiencing emotions the way normal people do, healthy people do. They mislabel, misinterpret emotions, including negative emotions, definitely positive ones.

The breakup is translated in the narcissist's mind as a rejection. And in this sense, the narcissist is very similar to the borderline. He perceives everything in terms of abandonment, in terms of rejection, in terms of humiliation.

So the experience is unpleasant, even in the best of times, and especially with the narcissist.


Why would he wish to revisit this trauma? Why would he reenact the failed relationship, basically? Because narcissists constantly reenact conflicts.

Narcissists are engaged in reenacting early childhood conflicts with the biological mother, the mother of origin.

This is known as the shared fantasy.

And Hoovering is a reenactment of the failed relationship with the usually crazy expectation of a different outcome.

And apropos crazy expectations.

My name is Sam Bakhnin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of CEAPs.

Hoovering involves the re-idealization of a persecretary object. You remember, last time you were with a narcissist, he devalued you. He discarded you. He began to regard you as the enemy. He developed persecretary delusions, an ideation, paranoid ideation. It was really bad. You became the beignoir. You were the enemy.

And then he got rid of you in order to reenact the separation, individuation from his mother. And he failed.

But what's left behind, what was left behind was the internal object that represented you in the narcissist's mind.

Initially, this object has been idealized in the love bombing phase. And then the object has been devalued, painted and tainted with use of hostility and enmity and animosity.

So there the narcissist is stuck with a persecretary object that used to be you.

And this persecretary object is somehow menacious. It's a bit threatening. It's nagging. It's a constant reminder that the narcissist has failed and that he is not such a good judge of character as he considers himself to be. He is not godly. He is not omniscient.

In short, the persistence and survival of a persecretary object in the narcissist's mind is a constant engine of dissonance and anxiety.

And to get rid of this dissonance and anxiety, there's only one way out to re-idealize you. And so hovering is driven by internal dynamics, not by external ones.


Now there are two ways to re-idealize the persecretary object.

And again, to remind you, the persecretary object is the internal object in the narcissist's mind that represents you. In the last phase of the relationship, he became the enemy, the foe.

And when you've left, when he discarded you or you dumped him, the persecretary object was left behind.

And narcissist needs to re-idealize it in order to avoid dissonance and anxiety.

And there are two ways of doing this. He can re-acquire you, he can re-introduce you into a shared fantasy, and then he would be able to idealize you all over again.

And the other option is to find someone else, not you, and then superimpose your internal object, or the internal object that represents you, your introject, to superimpose it on her.

Now throughout this lecture, the gender pronouns are interchangeable. Half of all narcissists are women.

So option number one, the narcissist will try to get back with you, try to somehow re-establish the connection, re-introduce you into a shared fantasy, offer you a way to reconcile and be together. And then he would love bomb you and idealize you all over again.

And that would resolve the inner discomfort, the dissonance and the internal narcissistic injury of having failed with you.

Option one. Option two, he finds someone else and then he re-idealizes your object. The object represents you in his mind, but he projects it onto the new partner. The new partner becomes in the narcissist's mind, the new partner becomes your clone, your replica, your extension, your continuation, you.

These are the two ways.

So the narcissist could re-idealize successive partners with a single internal object, which used to be yours, or which used to represent you.

Or he could fetch you specifically in order to match you again with the external object and be able to idealize it.

All in all, it is an attempt to resume the disrupted shared fantasy.

It's about the resumption of the shared fantasy.

Shared fantasy has been disrupted, owing to the narcissist's needs, the need to separate, the need to individuate, and the derivative needs to somehow get rid of you as a representative of the mother.

Get rid of mother in a way. You wear the maternal figure, getting rid of you is as good as it gets when it comes to separation, individuation.

But now this lives behind a gaping hole where you used to be.

And this is a very threatening hole. It's a vacuum or lacuna or emptiness that threatens the narcissist's precarious internal balance because it is the figure of an enemy, an enemy within a Trojan horse, a fifth column.

The narcissist needs to get rid of it by resuming the shared fantasy.

This is also an attempt to establish object constancy based on introject constancy.

Now you remember that the narcissist has problems with object constancy. He has something called object in constancy because he is unable to perceive the externality and separateness of other people known as objects in psychology.

Because he's unable to do this, he's unable to maintain a constancy of these people in reality. He's unable to believe, if you wish, to convince himself somehow that these people will be there the next day.

Instead what the narcissist does, he compensates for this object in constancy by creating stable, safe, permanent, perpetual introjects. Internal objects that represent people in his life, but whereas people in his life can vanish, can abandon him, can separate from him, can run away, etc., the internal objects that represent these people in his mind can't do any of these things.

He cannot be abandoned by these internal objects. They're safe. They become a kind of internal, secure base.

So, hovering is an attempt to match an external object which is in constant, coming, going, an external object that has abandoned the narcissist, that has been discarded by the narcissist, that has dumped the narcissist, that has gone out of the narcissist's life and therefore cannot be trusted to be there.

So, there's an attempt to match this kind of external object with the internal object that represents you in the narcissist's mind.

The internal object is still there, will always be there. It's stable, it's safe.

So, the narcissist tries to extend this stability, this sense of security, this determinacy, tries to extend it onto the external object by matching the internal object, the introject, with the external object.

And this is hovering.

And of course, time stands still in the narcissist's mind. The idea or the effort of bringing you together with your introject, kind of a marriage, a second marriage between you as an external object and the internal object that represents you in the narcissist's mind.

This attempt to merge you somehow with the internal object occurs or happens at the exact point of the breakup. It's as if time stood still, as if the narcissist attempts to resume or renew the shared fantasy at the moment that it stopped, at the moment of the breakup, atare frozen in time. Even if 10 years have passed, as far as the narcissist is concerned, you're frozen in time because your introject is inside his mind and it hasn't changed.

So, the narcissist resumes, takes off where the previous shared fantasy has ended. And all this is accomplished by combining dissociation. The narcissist dissociates the intervening time, dissociates the time lapse or the period between the old shared fantasy and the new shared fantasy.

It's as if time hasn't passed at all. You haven't changed. Nothing has happened. It was just a dream, a bad dream.

So, dissociation and confabulation. The narcissist bridges the dissociative gap between the old fantasy and the new fantasy by creating some kind of narrative. I don't know. You are waiting for him. You are destined to be together, to inflame, solve, you name it. You are, there's a narrative, there's a story that compels both of you to end up time and again within the same shared fantasy.

If you take dissociation and combine it with confabulation, you get a time artifact. You get a kind of smooth transition between the past and the future without any present.

So, you broke up in 2020 and time stood still. And then in 2030, the narcissist picks up where you have ended in 2020 and pretends that nothing has happened between 2020 and 2030.

Dissociation and confabulation. The narcissist object, you, is frozen in time because the narcissist interacts with the internal object in his mind, with the introject, the avatar that represents you, never with you.

So, what happens if and when the hoovering is successful when you've been baited and trapped yet again in the new shared fantasy?

First of all, the hoovering shared fantasy, shared fantasy number 2.0 is unstable as opposed to the first fantasy, the first shared fantasy, which had a goal, direction, purpose and orientation.

The second shared fantasy doesn't. The initial shared fantasy with you converted you into a maternal figure and allowed the narcissist to separate from you and to try to become an individual, to somehow reenact the conflict with his original mother, hoping for a different, much more favorable outcome.

So, the first shared fantasy is goal-oriented, dynamic, it had an end point in the beginning. It was a cohesive, coherent narrative which invariably ends with a separation.

The second shared fantasy, the successive shared fantasy, the hoovering, the shared fantasy generated by the hoovering attempt has no goal and no purpose. It has lost its raison d'être. It is not about separation anymore because the separation has been accomplished in the discard phase of the previous shared fantasy.

When the narcissist has discarded you or when you have dumped the narcissist, separation has been accomplished, mission accomplished.

The second shared fantasy doesn't have separation as its goal but unfortunately it doesn't have anything else as its goal.

The narcissist is lost, confused, discombobulated. He doesn't know where he's going with his shared fantasy, with his hoovering shared fantasy.

And the hoovering shared fantasy, the secondary fantasy, is very unstable because it's very fuzzy, it's unclear, it's non-directional.

The narrative, the storyline is mangled somehow.

The second shared fantasy, the hoovering shared fantasy revolves around individuation whereas the first shared fantasy with you had to do with separation.

The narcissist tries to use or leverage the second shared fantasy with you in the wake of his hoovering in order to individuate. But the narcissist doesn't know how to become an individual. The narcissist is subject to negative identity formation.

The narcissist's identity is in contradiction to others, in conflict with others, in contradiction to others. The narcissist is antisocial, is defiant, is consummation, he rejects authority, is reckless. These are his identity parameters.

So when the narcissist tries to individuate within the hoovering shared fantasy, the second shared fantasy with you, he becomes extremely self-destructive, self-defeating, aggressive, sometimes violent, defiant, hateful, reckless, addictive, addicted to this and that substances, for example.

The second shared fantasy is very lay by, very dis-regulated and resemble, and the narcissist in the hoovering shared fantasy resembles a borderline actually, precisely because he has lost the plot. He now tries to become something, an individual in which he has no experience. He's never been an individual, he's never really separated.

And so the second shared fantasy, the hoovering shared fantasy, is doomed to fail.

But whereas the first shared fantasy, had failure, had the concept of failure, baked into it, hardwired, the second shared fantasy fails by default. It fails because it's not working.

The narcissist really tries in the hoovering shared fantasy. He really tries to learn from his mistakes in the previous fantasy and somehow accommodate you and him and cater to your needs, but he's incapable of any of this.

So the second shared fantasy, the hoovering shared fantasy, is a lot more tragic, heart-rending and heartbreaking than the first one.

In the first one, the narcissist is robotic. He goes through the motions, half awake, as if he's sleepwalking, inexorably drawn to the act of separating from you in order to resolve early childhood conflicts.

In the second fantasy, in the hoovering fantasy, he tries and keeps failing. All his attempts crumble. He tries to be an individual and also fails. He just becomes dysregulated, lebide, antisocial, defiant, abrasive, unpleasant, obnoxious, and so on and so forth, until this second shared fantasy fails as well. It doesn't preclude hoovering a third time and a fourth time, but all these are secondary shared fantasies and are liable to end the very same way.

The narcissist's life is tragicomic in many ways.

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