How I Experience My Narcissism: Aware, Not Healed

Uploaded 2/26/2021, approx. 50 minute read

I know, I know, your day is not complete.

Without a second video by Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love and the author of Narcissism Revisited, and a professor of psychology and nevermind, Hansen will leave it aside.

Now, there's one big difference between me and Adolf Hitler.

I do not have a mustache, he did.

But both of us use the same phrase, the same sentence to describe ourselves.

You see, Adolf Hitler used to say, my mind is like a calculating machine. And so do I.

I always think of myself as a machine.

I say to myself things like, you have an amazing brain, or you're not functioning today. Your efficiency is low.

I measure things. I constantly compare performance. I'm acutely aware of time and how I use time, how it's utilized.

It's like there is a meter in my head and this meter ticks and talks, ticks and talks, metronome of self-reproach and grandiose assertions.

I talk to myself in the third person singular, one step removed, detached, all very scientific and impressive. It lends objectivity and credibility to what I think is coming from an external source, from someone else.

And my self-esteem is actually so low that in order to be trusted, I have to disguise myself, to hide myself from myself.

It is a pernicious and pervasive art of unbeing, not being.

I like to think of myself in terms of robots, robotics or automata. I mean automaton.

There is something so aesthetically compelling in the precision of machines, in the impartiality of devices, in their harmonious embodiment of the abstract.

Machines are so powerful and yet so emotional, emotionless.

They're so invulnerable. They're not prone to be hurting weaklings like I am. Machines don't bleed like I constantly do deep inside.

Often I find myself agonizing over the destruction of a laptop in a movie as its owner is blown to smithereens as well. Machines are my family, my folk, my kin.

They allow me the tranquil luxury of unbeing on the one hand and becoming through them. I become through machines.

And then there is of course data.

My childhood dream of unlimited access to information has come true and I'm the happiest person on earth for it. I have been blessed by the internet.

Information was power and not only figuratively when I was growing up.

Information took me out of the slum where I was born and into the big, bright, shining, sparkling, glittering, glamorous world.

It was knowledge, irredition, learning that extracted me from the hopelessness and dead-endedness of my childhood and the horrible life-threatening abuse that I've endured for 12 years.

Information was a dream. Knowledge was the dream.

Reality was the surrealistic nightmare that I walk to every morning.

I was woke, but I was woke to a nightmare.

I had taken my red pill long before anyone had dreamed of the matrix.

My knowledge was my flying info carpet.

It took me away from the slums of my childhood, from the atavistic social milieu of my adolescence, from the sweat, from the stench of the army, and into the perfumed existence of international finance and media exposure.

So I love knowledge. I love books. I love information.

Even in the darkness of my deepest valleys, I was not afraid.

I carried with me my metal constitution, my robotic countenance, my superhuman knowledge, my inner timekeeper, my theory of morality and my very own divinity.

I carried with me my false self.

When women left me, and they all did, I discovered the hollowness, hollowness, the emptiness, the void of it all.

It was in those times that I experienced my true self consciously in a process of modification.

It was a void, I discovered. I don't exist.

Annulment, a gaping abyss. Abyss, almost audible abyss.

Hellish, iron fist gripping where my heart should have been, tearing my chest apart and there's nothing there.

It was horror. Mortification was horror.

It was transubstantiation of my blood and flesh into something primordial and screaming.

It was then that I came to realize that my childhood had been horrible, difficult, threatened my life so I had declined to live, threatened my inner peace so I externalized my inner arts, threatened my growth, so I stopped growing.

At the time, it seemed to me to be as natural as sunrise, as inevitable as pain, my childhood.

But now I realize what I've been through, the tortured chambers, the likes of which only the most extreme dictatorial regimes, the Nazis in extermination camps, extermination camps have enacted and I went through my own extermination camp for 12 years.

But in hindsight, my childhood was devoid of any emotional expression. It was abusive to the extreme.

Mind you, I was not sexually abused but I was physically, verbally and psychologically tormented, tortured actually, for 16 years and there was not one minute of respite.

From the moment I woke up in the morning and I tried not to wake up as often as I could but from the moment I woke up finally to the very moment I went to sleep and usually even after, I had been tortured, including physically in the most horrendous ways you can imagine and in many, many ways, trust me, that you can never imagine.

And so I grew up to be a narcissist. I grew up to be a paranoid and a schizoid.

At least that's what I wanted to believe.

You see, narcissists have alloplastic defenses.

They tend to blame other people for their troubles.

And in this case, psychological theory itself was on my side, you know.

Psychologists kept telling me, your horrible childhood did this to you.

And I wanted to adopt this message because it was clear. This message was clear.

People who are abused in their formative years tend to adopt by developing personality disorders, among them, narcissistic personality disorder.

I was absolved. There was unmitigated relief.

I'm not guilty, I'm sick.

And I want to tell you how much I'm afraid of pain.

To me, pain is a pebble in Indra's net. You lift one bead, one pebble of pain, and the whole net revives.

My agony does not come isolated. My pains are not alone, never.

They keep company, they commiserate, they collaborate, they collude, they conspire normally against me.

My pain is leaving families of anguish. Of anguish in tribes of hurt, whole races, whole races.

I cannot experience my pain insulated from their kin and kith.

They come in, the gangs talk me, they come in gangs.

My pains rush in to drown me through the demolished floodgates of my childhood.

These floodgates, which should have kept me safe, this dam, my inner dams, this is my narcissism.

It is there to contain the ominous onslaught of stale emotions, by now, decomposing and rotten and corrupt.

My repressed rage at my helplessness, a child's injuries, physical and otherwise.

Pathological narcissism, I discovered throughout my life, is useful because I had been abandoned and hurt time and again, dozens of times and agains.

And this is why my narcissism is so resilient and so resistant to change. Nevermind how much I know about narcissism and trust you me, what I don't know about narcissism is not worth knowing.

And yet I'm helpless in the face of my infirmity, my disability, when I invented my narcissism, I, the tormented individual, my narcissism enhanced my functionality, made life bearable for me.

My narcissism was successful. It was adaptive, it allowed me to survive.

Sometimes in the face of a broken skull or a torn vein.

And so my narcissism became my religion. It became rigid, doctrinaire, automatic, ritualistic, compulsive, obsessive.

It becomes a pattern in which I found myself trapped and part of which I constituted.

I'm a narcissist and I can feel this rigidity as though it were an outer shell, an exoskeleton.

My narcissism constrains me, it limits me, it is often prohibitive and inhibitive.

I'm afraid to do certain things, I'm injured and humiliated when I'm forced to engage in certain activities.

I react with rage when the mental edifice supporting my disorder is subjected to scrutiny or criticism, no matter how benign, how well-meaning, how constructive.

And I'm afraid of women, because women time and again and again and again, hurt me badly.

Starting with the most important woman in my life, my mother and then all other women.

And they did it sadistically and cruelly because I had been sadistic and cruel to them to start with.

Narcissism is ridiculous.

Look at me, I'm 60 years old.

I'm pompous, I'm infantile, I'm grandiose, I'm revolting and I'm contradictory.

There's a serious mismatch between who I really am and what I had really accomplished and I had accomplished and how I experience myself, how I feel myself.

It is not that I think that I'm far superior to other humans intellectually, although in large part I am objectively.

But that's not the motivating thought, that's not the recurring thought, that's not the obsession.

Thought, thinking, cognition, implies volition, implies direction, creates motivation and ends in action.

But there's no willpower here.

I have no self, so I have no will. I have no will, so I'm powerless.

That's the true predicament of the narcissist.

Ultimately, he is utterly dependent. He's a weakling and a loser.

My superiority is ingrained in me.

It is part of my every mental cell.

It's an all-pervasive sensation, an instinct, a drive.

I feel that I'm entitled to special treatment and to outstanding consideration because I'm such a unique specimen.

I know that objectively I am, by the way, and that's the core of my problem. My grandiosity to some extent is justified. The same way you know that you are surrounded by air or you're breathing oxygen.

So my grandiosity is an integral part of my identity, more integral to me than my body which I keep rejecting.

I haven't had sex for 15 years. That's the ultimate rejection of one's body.

And this opens a gap, an abyss, a chasm, a chasm between me and all other humans because I consider myself so special.

I have no way of knowing how it is to be other people.

If I'm sui generis, if I'm a unique sample, then I have nothing in common with anyone. Then there's no bridge. I can't reach out.

An infinite amount of empathy won't help me.

This I'm not you and never will be you. So I can never understand how it is to be you. And you can never understand how it is to be me.

I cannot empathize even if I were capable to. Can you empathize with an ant or a raccoon?

Empathy implies identity. Empathy implies equality.

And both identity and equality are abhorrent to me and missing.

Being so inferior in my eyes, other people are reduced to cartoonish, two dimensional representations of functions.

Other people become instrumental. They can be useful. They can be functional. They can even be entertaining. Although that's extremely rare.

Can't remember the last time. Maybe Richard Grannon.

But they can't be loving. Loving, I can't interact with them emotionally because I have no emotions.

And if I accept my negative emotions, I have no access to positive emotions.

There's no bridge between us.

I can't walk over to you on thin air like in the cartoons.

And I share nothing with you in the absence of empathy, in the absence of emotions and the absence of a self.

What is it that makes us members of the same species? Nothing whatsoever.

And it leads to callousness and ruthlessness and exploitativeness and sadism.

I'm not a bad person. Actually, honestly, I'm a good person. I'm one of the most good person I've ever met.

But I'm helping people all the time, you know, I've helped people all my life. I give everything free, everything.

Until very recently, I gave free, including seminars and lectures and everything. Until very recently, when I had no choice, I had to begin to charge.

But, you know, so I'm not evil.

But what I am is indifferent.

And many scholars and philosophers say that indifference is another word for evil. It's the core of evil. I couldn't care less.

I help people because it is a way to secure attention, gratitude, adulation, admiration, whatever.

And because it is the fastest and surest way to get rid of them and their incessant nagging and begging.

Okay, here, I'm gonna help you.

F off, don't bother me again.

And I realized these unpleasant truths.

I realized them cognitively because I'm really, really endowed intellectually.

I'm a highly, a super intelligent person.

So, you know, I can't deceive myself. I can't deceive myself because I'm too intelligent to be deceived.

So I realized all these unpleasant truths about myself.

And there is no, there's nothing, and I also realized there's very little, if anything, I can do about them.

But having realized this, there is no corresponding emotional reaction.

There's no, as we say in clinical psychology, there's no emotional correlate to this realization. There's no resonance.

It is like reading a boring user's menu pertaining to some computer that you don't even own.

It's like watching a movie about yourself. Some point you get bored.

There is no insight, as Freud called it.

Freud said that insight is thinking plus emotions combined, which creates a psychodynamic and motivation to change.

I have no emotions. I can never have insight. There's no simulation of these truths.

When I'm writing this now, when I'm reading this to you, I feel like I'm writing the script of a mildly interesting docudrama about a mildly interesting person, maybe even a boring person, dull.

Whichever the case may be, it doesn't capture me, whatever is left of my essence.

It doesn't capture my non-identity. It cannot capture my absence. Who can capture the wind?

It is not I, because there is no I, ironically. Narcissus of no ego and no I.

And still, to further insulate myself from the improbable possibility of confronting these facts, the gulf between reality and grandiose fantasy, the grandiosity gap.

I look like the very old telephone switchboards inside.

My narcissism does two things for me. It always did.

Number one, it isolates me from the pain of facing reality and facing my non-existing self. And it allows me to inhabit the fantasy land of ideal perfection and brilliance.

And above all, and that's the third thing of two, above all, it is a wall, a thick, impenetrable wall, which goes all the way to heaven, all the way to God.

So wall separating me from the horrors, the horrors of my childhood and the pain and the hurt and the fear, the terror that accompany these horrors.

If I were to tap into this reservoir, I would die by my own hand or otherwise.

These ones, vital functions are bundled into what is known to psychologists as the false self.

For self is my best friend, my only friend and my only protection.

It is this sole guarantee for my continued existence.

Am I likely to give this up? Would you have given this up?

The narcissist balances a sadistic superego, a sadistic inner critic and a demanding and fantastic false self. He is between a rock and a hard place.

Both these constructs keep demanding, keep criticizing, keep pushing, keep motivating. It's depleting.

Narcissists describe themselves as machine or automata because no human being could survive this.

When narcissists do gain self-awareness, when rarely the narcissist engages in role, in soul searching, like after mortification, it is in order to enhance their skills at attracting and maintaining their sources of narcissistic supply.

Narcissist goes to therapy to restore himself as a narcissist to become again, self efficacious.

He wants to learn from the therapist, how to garner even more narcissistic supply.

That's why narcissists populate the dating coach websites, you know, the pickup artists, dating coaches, business coaches, all the clientele and narcissists.

But are narcissists able, capable of introspection? Can they look inside in any way, shape or form? Can they redirect their gaze internally? Can they distinguish the false self from who they really are or are not? Can this help them in the therapeutic process?

I want to read you a passage by Nathan Salant Schwartz.

He wrote a book called Narcissism and Character Transformation published by Inner City Books in 1985.

And he wrote, psychologically the shadow or reflection carries the image of the self, not the ego.

It is interesting and even psychotherapeutically useful to have persons suffering from narcissistic personality disorder, to study their face in the mirror.

By the way, Richard Nixon used to say, Richard Nixon went to see a psychiatrist. He got himself to treatment, believe it or not.

And the first thing he told the psychiatrist, the first meeting, the first minute of the first session, Nixon said, when I look in the mirror, there's nobody there.

So Salant Schwartz says, you should force people with narcissistic personality disorder to look, to study their face in the mirror.

I continue to quote, often they will see someone of great power and effectiveness, precisely the qualities they feel a lack of.

For even though they may overwhelm others with their energy and personal qualities, they themselves feel ineffective.

Narcissus must possess his idealized image. He cannot allow its otherness, for that would be too threatening to his basic design to be mirrored himself.

Hence the sudden switch.

Shall I be wooed or shall I woo?

Narcissus libido quickly changes from an idealization into a mirror form, showing how his unredeemed inflation, in psychoanalytic terms, his grandiose exhibitionistic self gains control.

This was a bit Jungian, mind you.

But what the author is trying to say rather poetically, is the basic relationship between the true self and the false self.

No theoretician has ignored this dichotomy, most basic to narcissism, pathological narcissism.

The true self is synonymous to what Freud had described as the ego.

That's why the narcissist has no ego.

The true self is shriveled, dilapidated, atrophied, stifled, marginalized by the false self.

False self kills the ego, because the ego is reality-based. The ego is truth-based. The ego is never a simulacrum.

The ego maintains veracity, and is grounded firmly in reality.

False self is false.

So there's an enmity, an award to death, unto death between the false self and the ego.

The narcissist draws no distinction between his ego and his self. He's incapable of doing so.

He relegates his ego functions to the outside world.

His false self is an invention, the reflection of an invention.

Narcissists, therefore, do not exist.

The narcissist is a loose coalition, based on a balance of terror between a sadistic idealized superego and a grandiose and manipulative false ego.

These two obnoxious creatures interact only mechanically.

Narcissists are narcissistic supply-seeking androids.

No robot is capable of introspection, not even with the help of mirroring. There's nothing there.

What is there to introspect? What is there to inspect?

What can the narcissist learn about himself when he has no self?

Narcissists often think of themselves as machines, the automata metaphor.

They say things like, I have an amazing brain, I'm this, I'm that.

The narcissist likes to think of himself in terms of being an automaton, or a robot, or a device, or a machine, because he finds machines to be aesthetically compelling in their precision, in their impartiality, in their harmonious embodiment of the abstract.

Machines are so powerful. Machines are so emotionless. They're not prone to hurting.

So this is the narcissist's ideal.

The narcissist is the only human, type of human, whose ego ideal is non-human.

Ego ideal is what we aspire to become.

Everyone, healthy people and unhealthy people, have an ego ideal. It's how we would like to see ourselves in the future, what we would like to become when we grow up.

The narcissist's aspiration, anticipation, hope, dream, wish is to not become, is to not become, is to stop being human, and to be rendered unto metal and plastic.

The narcissist often talks of himself, as I said in the third person singular.

And so he carries with him these burdens, these burdens of aspiring to not be, even as because he's still an entity, a biological, organic entity, he has somehow to be.

It's dissonance, it's an enormous contradiction.

Sometimes the narcissist does gain self-awareness and knowledge of his predicament.

Typically in the wake of a life crisis, divorce, bankruptcy, incarceration, accident, serious illness, the death of a loved one.

Mortification sets it.

But in the absence of an emotional correlate, the feelings that are not there, this is merely cognitive awakening.

And cognitive awakening is useless. It does not gel or congeal into an insight.

The dry facts alone cannot bring about any transformation, let alone healing. Let me tell you this.

There is very little I don't know about narcissists, if anything.

And yet have I changed?

Yes, I have changed a lot for the worse.

Narcissists often go through soul searching, but they go through soul searching, as I said, to optimize their performance, to maximize the number of sources of narcissistic supply, to better manipulate their environment and other people.

They regard introspection as an inevitable and intellectually enjoyable maintenance chore and upgrade.

They introspect in order to upgrade to the next version.

The introspection of the narcissist is emotionless.

It's like taking an inventory of good and bad sides, without committing to any meaningful change or rebalancing.

Then the introspection does not enhance the narcissist's ability to empathize.

It does not inhibit his propensity to exploit other people and to discard them when their usefulness is over.

Nevermind how self-aware the narcissist becomes, how introspective he doesn't temper, his overpowering and raging sense of entitlement. He doesn't deflate his grandiose fantasies.

The narcissist's introspection is yet another futile exercise, arid, arid exercise of bookkeeping.

He's an accountant of his own lacking soul, a soulless bureaucracy of the psyche.

And in a way, it's even more chilling than the alternative.

The narcissists who are blissfully unaware of their own disorder, they are more palatable. They are more acceptable.

We can say, poor guy, he doesn't know what he's doing. He's not self-aware.

But what can you say about a narcissist like me, who is 100 million percent self-aware and yet keep on doing, keep on behaving or misbehaving in the same ways, time and again and again and again and again, yes, mechanically, approach avoidance, what Freud called repetition compulsion with severe emotional deficits.

The narcissist may become self-aware and knowledgeable about narcissistic personality disorder, but this knowledge doesn't lead to healing.

In extreme cases, it might lead to behavior modification. Some abrasive counterproductive behaviors may be modified.

You see, Jeremiah knew everything there is to know about narcissists.

He said, can the Ethiopian change his skin? Can the leopard change his spots? Jeremiah 1323.

But if the narcissist becomes self-aware, if he accepts that he's a narcissist, isn't this the first important step towards healing?

Here's the thing.

Narcissism defines the narcissist's waking moments. Narcissism defines the narcissist's nocturnal dreams. It's all pervasive.

Everything the narcissist does and everything the narcissist is, is narcissism.

Narcissism is a personality, not a behavior, not a trait, not something that can be tackled with psychedelics or medicines.

That's why narcissists are never prescribed medication.

Narcissism is the entire personality.

Everything the narcissist does is motivated by narcissism. Everything the narcissist avoids is the outcome of narcissism. Everything the narcissist feels dimly is narcissism.

Every utterance, every decision, every body language, every element of body language, everything, everything, everything, everything, this lecture, everything, is a manifestation of pathological narcissism.

It's rather like being abducted by an alien, the false self.

It's rather, it's like being ruthlessly indoctrinated by this alien ever since.

The alien is the narcissist's false self.

It's a defense mechanism constructed in order to shield the true self from hurt, from inevitable abandonment, and then the defense mechanism goes awry and takes over.

It's like the computer hull in Odyssey in Space, 2001, Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece.

Cognitive understanding of the disorder does not constitute a transforming insight.

In other words, it has, knowing everything there is to know about who you are as a narcissist has no emotional correlate, has no effect, resistance is futile.

The narcissist does not internalize what he understands and what he learns about his disorder.

This new gained knowledge does not become a motivating part of who the narcissist is.

It remains an inert, an indifferent piece of knowledge with minor influence on the narcissist psyche.

The narcissist knows everything there is to know about orchids.

He knows everything there is to know about the Visigoths, Napoleon.

He knows everything there is to know about political history and he knows everything to know about narcissism.

And all these pieces of knowledge have the same impact, the same weight.

The narcissist may grow aware of certain behaviors.

He may realize that certain behaviors are pathological, dysfunctional, so defeating and productive.

He may even label these behaviors as wrong, bad, but he never grasps the psychodynamic significance of his own conduct.

The deeper layers of motivation, the relentless inexorable engine at the convoluted and tormented core of his being.

So the narcissist may say, I really like attention. I'm an attention whore.

Or even disparagingly or self-deprecatingly, he may say, you know, I'm really sometimes too much.

I'm abusive, I'm hogging the conversation, I'm monopolizing everything.

He may criticize, be self-critical, but it leads nowhere.

It's like an intellectual exercise at analysis and dissection.

The narcissist won't be able to fully account for why he is, what he is, and why it is that he's addicted, for example, to narcissistic supply.

What role the supply plays in his psychology, interpersonal relationships, life.

He may know the answer, but he does not feel or experience the answer.

The narcissist may realize belatedly that he is ticking, but never what makes him tick.

Sometimes I've witnessed this.

When narcissists first learn about narcissistic personality disorder, the narcissist really believes that he could change.

There is this, if you've seen the movie Awakenings, stunning movie, Robert De Niro.

So the narcissist, when he's introduced to narcissistic personality disorder as an organizing principle, as a disease that makes sense of his life, imbues it with meaning, suddenly understands everything that had happened to him.

He understands his behaviors, his conditions, his interpersonal interactions.

Suddenly, narcissistic personality disorder is the spell, is the keyword, is the password.

So for a moment or for a day or for three months, he thinks he got it. That's it. That's the key to transformation. That's the hermeneutic text he's been seeking.

And usually it follows a period of violent rejection of the charges against him.

But once he accepts his own narcissism, he fervently wants to change. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Narcissist really wants to change, especially when his entire world is in shambles, when not only did he hit rock bottom, he became rock bottom.

Time in prison, a divorce, a bankruptcy, the death of a major source of narcissistic supply, dislocation, all these are life transforming crises.

The narcissist admits that he has a problem, but he does so only when he's abandoned, when he's destitute, when he's despondent, when he's devastated.

The narcissist feels he doesn't want anymore of this. He doesn't want this to happen again.

Mortification is terrible, because mortification takes away your false self and leaves you at the mercy of a two year old self, the true self.

The true self knows nothing about the world, and knows even less about you, and you're at the mercy of this thing.

It's even more horrifying than being at the mercy of the false self.

And the narcissist wants to change.

And there are often signs that he is changing, hopeful signs, signs of spring, but it's never eternal spring.

The narcissist fades, the changes are reversed. He reverts to old form.

The so-called progress that he had made evaporates, virtually overnight.

Many narcissists report the same process of progression followed by recidivism, by remission, by relapse.

And many therapists refuse to treat narcissists, because it's sisyphean.

It's frustrating, all your accomplishments as a therapist, are gone, and you have to start from square one, from zero.

I never said that narcissists cannot change. I only said that they cannot heal.

And yes, I was among the first to say, if not the first to say, in 1995, that they cannot heal.

So whenever you will, narcissists cannot be healed, narcissists cannot be cured.

It's my words, because I was the first to say them.

There is a huge difference between behavior modification and a permanent alteration of the psychodynamic landscape.

Narcissistic behavior can be modified, using a cocktail of talk therapy, conditioning, sometimes medication.

But I've never, ever encountered a healed narcissist, what's called recovered narcissist. It's fake, it's fiction, it's con artistry.

The people who are telling you that narcissists can be healed or cured or recovered are con artists, end of story.

And I don't care if they have a doctor in front of the name, they are con artists.

The emphasis in therapy is more on accommodating the needs of the nearest and dearest to the narcissists. His spouse, long suffering spouse, his devastated children, his out of the minds colleagues, he's worried and treated and eroded and corroded friends.

The therapist ends up treating everyone around the narcissist and the narcissist is gone.

If the narcissist's abrasiveness, rage, mood swings, reckless and impulsive behaviors are modified, those around the narcissist benefit most.

And this as far as I'm concerned is a form of, not therapy, but social engineering.

There's one last hope though.

Narcissism, although rarely, does tend to ameliorate with age, especially if it's antisocial narcissism, psychopathic or malignant narcissism.

Ironically, the worst type of narcissist, psychopathic narcissist, malignant narcissist get much better with age.

It is the garden variety narcissist, the common narcissist of all stripes, overt, covert, you name it.

Who doesn't change?

But the psychopathic ones do change with age.

And there are many forms of pathological narcissism that are essentially reactive and transient.

And I refer you to work by Ronningstam, Gunderson in 1996, by Millman, Acquired Situational Narcissism.

And of course, Judith Herman, when she conflates victims of complex post trauma, complex post trauma, victims of CPDSD with borderline personality disorders.

And of course, borderline is a narcissistic disturbance.

So how does it feel to be a narcissist?

Having said all this, how does a narcissist experience his own life?

I can tell you, I experienced my life as a very, very, very long, prolonged, incomprehensible, unpredictable, and very frequently terrifying, surrealistic, deeply, deeply saddening nightmare.

If I had to choose one emotion which characterizes me and my existence, overwhelmingly sadness, I'm very sad.

So I look at my life, I look at people around me, it's a wasteland, it's a wasteland. I would call it a life desert.

You know, there's a news desert, a medical desert, it's a life desert.

It's a result of the functional dichotomy fostered by myself between my false self and my true self.

My true self is the fossilized ashes of the original immature personality.

The child that I used to be, crying, traumatized, wounded, bleeding, almost dying child in the corner, in the dark, in the cupboard, his skull wide open, all over the body, scratches and worse and cuts, he's dying slowly, he's bleeding to death.

It is this child that does all the experiencing.

The false self is trying desperately to protect this child, to isolate him from the world.

The child had enough, had enough.

The false self is nothing but a concoction.

I am best positioned to know this.

It's a figment of the narcissist's disorder.

It's a reflection in the narcissist's hall of mirrors.

It is incapable of feeling, even incapable of experiencing.

And yet, the false self is fully the master of the psychodynamic processes which rage within my psyche.

And this inner battle, because I want to live, the false self is the principle of death.

This false self requires me to suspend myself to disappear so that the false self can appear.

It's either him or me.

It's a life and death battle joined between us.

The inner battle is so fierce that the true self experiences it as a diffuse, imminent, eminently ominous thing.

I constantly feel that something really, really bad is gonna happen.

And what I don't understand, what I don't realize, this something really, really bad is gonna happen.

This anticipatory anxiety has nothing to do with the outside. It's inside me.

Something really, really bad is gonna happen inside me.

Anxiety ensues and I find myself constantly ready for the next blow.

It didn't help and it doesn't help that everyone in my life had abandoned me and betrayed me and cheated on me, women, and basically added to my wounds and injuries and so on.

And it didn't help of course that I provoked them into doing this.

I do things and I don't know why I'm doing them.

Where from and for what purpose?

I say things, I act, I behave in certain ways which I know endanger me, put me in line for punishment and risk.

But who am I punishing?

I'm not there.

I think I'm trying to punish the false self.

In other words, I'm trying to mortify myself.

I hurt people around me. I break the law. I violate accepted morality.

I am very abrasive and I'm humiliating, including you. I'm sadistic.

I know that I'm in the wrong.

I feel ill it is on the rare moments that I do feel.

I wanna stop, but I don't know how to.

Gradually, I'm estranged from myself. I kind of observe myself from the outside.

There's a split, depersonalization, derealization.

I am trying to forget. So amnesia is my defining state of mind. I don't remember anything.

I had not lived at all.

Guntrip describes schizoid patients who had complained that they had never lived.

I'm in the same situation.

I don't remember 99% of my life. When I say I don't remember, I mean, I don't remember. 99% of my life, I dissociate massively.

Gradually, I'm no longer me.

It's a process called estrangement. It's part of derealization and depersonalization. It's a dissociative state.

I'm possessed by some kind of demon-like entity. I'm like a puppet on invisible mental strings. I resent this feeling.

I want to rebel, but I'm repelled by this part of me which I'm not acquainted with.

It's a little like I'm trying to exercise some kind of devil from inside me, from my soul.

And my form of exorcism is dissociation.

And don't start.

I don't believe they're demons. They're not devils, these are metaphors, okay?

And so very often, like 90% of the time, I have this eerie sensation, this creepy sensation.

It sets in like so much mist.

It pervades my psyche.

At times of crisis, times of danger, of risk, of depression, of failure, narcissistic injury, let alone mortification, I feel that I'm watching myself from the outside.

This is not an out-of-body experience. I don't really exit my body.

It's just that I assume, involuntarily, the position of a spectator, an observer, a polite observer.

I'm mildly interested in the whereabouts of one Sam Vaknin.

It's like I'm a scientist, the eternal scientist.

It's like watching a movie.

The illusion is not complete.

You know you're watching a movie.

It's not precise also, but it's detached.

And that's the merit of watching your life unfold and roll by as so much reels, so many movie reels.

And this detachment continues for as long as my ego-dystonic behavior persists, for as long as the crisis is going on, for as long as I cannot face who I am, what I'm doing, and the consequences of my actions.

And since this is the case most of the time, I get used to seeing myself in the role of a protagonist, a character, usually a hero, of course, unlike a character in a motion picture or a novel.

And this sits well with my grandiosity and fantasies, of course.

Sometimes I talk about myself in the third person singular.

Sometimes I call this other narcissistic self by a different name.

It gets very, it gets hairily close to multiple personality.

I describe my life, events in my life, ups and downs, pains, elation, accomplishments, disappointments, I describe all these things as though they've happened to someone else.

In the most remote, professional, and cognitive analytical voice, as though I were describing with a modicum of involvement the life of some exotic insect.

I dissect myself as I would dissect a frog or an insect.

And of course, this is Kafka's metamorphosis.

The metaphor of life as a movie gaining control by writing a scenario, a movie script, or by inventing a narrative.

It's not a modern invention.

Cavemen narcissists have probably done the same, but this is only the external, superficial facet of the disorder.

The crux of the problem is that I really feel this way. It's not just cognitive.

It's not, okay, now I'm going to pretend that I'm in a movie.

No, I feel I am in a movie. I feel I'm a character in a novel.

I actually experience my life as belonging to someone else.

I experience my body as dead weight, and totally useless container, an instrument in the service of some entity.

No wonder I don't have sex.

I experience my actions and my deeds as amoral, not immoral.

I cannot be judged for something that I didn't do now, can I?

Dissociation means that I don't accept responsibility for past actions because I dissociate.

They don't belong to me, these actions. Someone else did them.

The previous Sam Vaknin, Sam Vaknin version two million. I am Sam Vaknin version three million.

I can't be responsible for what this chap, this guy did.

This guy who happens to share my name, we are discontinuous.

I keep reinventing myself every morning and undoing myself every evening before I go to sleep, if I succeed to sleep, which is extremely rare.

As time passes, I accumulate a mountain of mishaps, conflicts unresolved, pains well-hidden, abrupt separations, bitter disappointments.

I'm subjected to a constant barrage of social criticism and condemnation.

I'm hurt, people hurt me on purpose, badly, cruelly. One could say sadistically, especially women.

I'm ashamed, I'm fearful. I know that something is wrong, not necessarily with me, of course, but there is no correlation between my cognition and my emotions.

Something is out of whack. There's no synchronicity.

I prefer to run away and hide as I did when I was a child.

Only this time I hide behind another self, a false one.

People reflect to me this mask of my own creation until even I believe that it is real.

People are so used to interacting with my false self that I'm beginning to believe that it does exist.

I acknowledge its dominance.

I forget the truth. I know no better.

I deny the existence of any other self in me, the true self.

I deny the child.

And in this sense, I'm abusing my inner child once again, every time, every morning, every day, as often as my mother did and my father.

I'm only dimly aware of some kind of decisive battle, a mageddon, which rages inside me.

I feel threatened. I feel very sad.

I'm rarely suicidal, but I'm really, really, really, profoundly and deeply and inconsolably sad, not depressed. Depression is a clinical term.

I'm simply sad, but there seems to be no outside cause for all these emotions.

It makes me even more sad.

And it's all so mysteriously menacing, like some pieces of puzzle that you cannot put together, but your life depends on putting them together.

The dissonance, these negative emotions, these nagging anxieties, they transform my motion picture solution into a permanent one.

My motion picture became a feature of my life.

Whenever I'm confronted by an emotional threat, by an existential threat, I retreat into this haven, into this mode of coping.

I become a character. I become one-dimensional or two-dimensional.

I lose one dimension. I become a cartoon figure, a cardboard cutout.

I relegate responsibilities, submissively assuming a passive role.

I, by passing responsibility and accountability to my false self, at that moment, I cannot be punished. I'm not responsible.

This is the subtext of this capitulation to the false self.

You can't blame me. You can't punish me. You can't be angry. You can't be angry at me.

Mommy, I didn't do this. The false self did.

The narcissist is conditioned to annihilate himself and I'm no different.

I annihilate myself in order to avoid emotional pain and to bask in the glow of my impossibly grandiose fantasies.

My grandiose fantasies cannot be attached to who I really am.

So I need to not be.

And my pain is attached to who I really am.

So I need to not be.

That's my strategy, to not be. I engage in it. I applied with fantastic zeal.

And because I'm very intelligent and very self efficacious, I'm a great success at not being.

Prospectively, I assign my very life decisions I have to make, judgments I have to pass, agreements to be reached.

I assign everything to the false self.

It's not me.

It's not me, it's the motto of my life.

It's not me and I am not.

You know, in the Bible, God says I am, others, I say I'm not.

Retroactively, I reinterpret my past life in a manner that is consistent with the current needs of the false self.

I rewrite all the time. I reframe all the time. I falsify all the time.

So obviously I don't have a biography. I don't have continuity and I don't have identity.

It's no wonder that there is no connection between what I did feel at a given period in my life or in relation to a specific event and the way I see or remember these events and these emotions later on.

They're hopelessly contaminated, adulterated, corrupted by the need to reframe and rewrite history.

I may describe certain occurrences or certain phrases, certain phases in my life as tedious or painful or sad or burdening or something, but I experienced them actually entirely differently at the time.

You can't trust me to tell you anything about myself, not because I'm a liar, not only because I'm confabulating, because I really don't know what to tell you.

I'm the pressure from you to tell you about myself.

I improvise, I falsify, I become creative, but that's art, that's not biography.

The same retroactive coloring occurs with regards to people.

I completely distort the way I had regarded certain people in the past, the way I had felt about them.

Hate becomes love, love becomes obsession, obsession becomes pain.

This rewriting of my personal history is aimed to directly and fully accommodate the requirements of the false self and frankly your demands.

I don't occupy my own soul, maybe because I don't have one. I don't inhabit my own body, maybe because I don't have one.

I'm the servant of an apparition, of a reflection, of an ego function, gone berserk.

I'm a ghost and to please and appease my master, I sacrifice to eat my very life, my inner child and my pain as an offering.

From that moment onward, I live vicariously through the good offices of my false self and throughout, I feel detached, I feel alienated, I feel estranged from my false self.

I constantly harbor the sensation that I'm watching a movie with a plot over which I have no control.

It is with certain interest of course, because of the unpredictability.

There's a little fascination because in my particular movie, in my own personal case, my movie was really stunning.

But so there's a little fascination.

I watch this movie, which is interesting, but it's a passive observation, not involved.

I'm not involved in my own life, in my own movie.

I have never been and I'm 60 years old.

I want to be, but I think it's too late of course. My health is failing and I don't have long.

So, not only do I relinquish control of my future life, this movie, I gradually lose ground to the false self in the battle to preserve the integrity and genuineness, genuineness of past experiences.

A false self is metastasizing.

It's controlling my present and my future, but it metastasizes and colonizes my past and monopolizes it.

Eroded by these two processes, I gradually disappear and I'm replaced by my disorder to the fullest extent.

I am and have become only and solely and exclusively my narcissism.

What I used to be is a shell, a gun blown away by the wind, by the wind in the maze that is my psyche.

This hall of mirrors in which I'm never reflected.

Nevermind how hard I try.

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Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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