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"I Miss ME!": Self-estrangement in Narcissistically Abusive Relationships

Uploaded 2/14/2024, approx. 59 minute read

In the wake of narcissistic abuse, it's very common to hear the victim saying, "I don't know what came over me. I have changed. I don't recognize myself. I miss me." These are not self-deceptions or self-delusions. It's a clinical fact. It is known as self-estrangement or self-alienation, and it is the topic of today's video, how the narcissist snatches yourself away from you and replaces it with an introjected emptiness, an internalized void, a black hole. Lying the narcissist's black hole with him transforms you into an unrecognizable entity, eliminates almost everything you've been before, renders you unrecognizable to yourself.

And with these optimistic words, shoshanim and shoshanot, let us proceed.

Apropos void and black hole.

My name is Sanvaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, the first book ever on narcissistic abuse.

I'm also a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the illustrious faculty of CEOPS, Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies.

Self-estrangement.

Many scholars throughout the ages have written about self-estrangement.

I refer you to R. D. Laying's book, The Divided Self, to writings by Fairburn and Guntry about the Schizoid Core, Seinfeld, much later, Horney, Eric Fromm and many, many others.

But what happens in the wake of narcissistic abuse is the hollowing out of the victim.

It's as if the narcissist excavates the victim, minds the victim's emotions and cognitions and affirmations and then leaves behind a devastated landscape, a wasteland.

He replaces you with himself.

And I can prove it to you.

If you're feeling that you're not yourself, then who are you?

Who is doing this feeling?

Who is this entity that feels that you are not you?

Which entity, which element, which core in you, which identity does the self-estrangement, the self-alienation?

What in you, what element, what figment, what ingredient, what component in you now tells you, informs you, in unequivocal terms, that you have changed to the point that you're no longer you?

Whose voice is it?

Yes, it's the narcissist's voice.

It's the narcissist's introject.

It is the narcissist who drives you away from your own self, your own identity.

What happens during your relationship with the narcissist in what is known as a shared fantasy is that the narcissist entrains you.

And training is a nice fancy word for brainwashing, synchronizing literally, physiologically, your brainwaves with the brainwaves of the narcissist.

And using this conveyance belt, using this transmission mechanism, the narcissist injects you, implants in your mind his voice, his introject, a representation of himself within your head, in your skull, there to do his bidding.

He uses it to control you, to manipulate you.

The narcissist's introject, the narcissist's voice in your mind, collaborates with other introjects, other voices in your mind, maybe your mothers, maybe your fathers, maybe influential peers, teachers, role models.

He collaborates with them.

The voice of the narcissist forms coalitions, introjected coalitions, clusters or constellations of introjects.

And what this, what this coalition does exactly like coalitions in war, they destroy you, the coalition destroys you from the inside.

The narcissist is hell bent on vacating you, negating you, eliminating you as an autonomous, independent, agentic person.

The narcissist doesn't want you to be separate from him, external to him, incapable of action without his incitement, inducement, incentivizing and blessing.

The narcissist, in other words, generates in you what is known as a schizoid state, an empty core.

What a coincidence.

The narcissist consists of an empty core and he induces in you an empty core.

He wants you to resonate with him.

He wants to merge his black hole with your newly formed black hole so that together you can become an extended void within which the narcissist can thrive by guaranteeing your eternal presence and your subservience and submission and obeisance and obedience.

So the narcissist entrains you, he injects into your mind, implants in your mind his voice and then he uses this voice together with some other voices.

He uses them to create in you, to generate in you a reflection of his own internal state, of his own state of mind, which is a state of mind or an internal state of emptiness, the schizoid core.

The schizoid state that forms within you incrementally, gradually, but inexorably, this schizoid state is your reaction, your adaptation to narcissistic abuse.

When you're abused by the narcissist, when you're tortured and tormented and taunted and humiliated and threatened by the narcissist, you create bad internal objects that correspond to the narcissist.

You split the narcissist and there are negative internal objects in you which represent the various self-states of the narcissist, the various actions of the narcissist.

These are like memories, like cognitions, like thoughts that correspond one-on-one with the narcissist's egregious misbehavior and abuse.

But gradually, because these objects multiply and because you don't dare to map them onto the narcissist, you don't dare to attribute them to the narcissist because you are embedded in a shared fantasy and you don't want to lose the narcissist.

What you do at that stage is called self-splitting.

Rather than attribute the negative objects, the negative thoughts, the negative emotions that the narcissist's abuse provoking you, rather than attribute these reactions to the narcissist, blame the narcissist, accuse the narcissist, realize the narcissist's responsibility for what's happening, rather than do this, you blame yourself.

You accuse yourself.

You develop what is known as auto-plastic defenses.

You take responsibility for everything that's happening.

I provoked him.

I could have behaved differently if I've only done this, if I've only loved him more, etc.

So the narcissist entrains you.

The narcissist creates in you a growing realm, a growing space of emptiness.

You feel yourself dissolving and disappearing into the narcissist's darkness inexorably.

You can't stop the process.

It's terrifying.

The narcissist abuses you, coerces you, tortures you, and torments you.

You react by generating internal representations of this mistreatment, and then you are treated these internal objects to yourself.

You assume responsibility for everything that's happening.

It's my fault.

I am guilty.

I am to blame.

I should be ashamed of myself.

And these negative objects become integrated with yourself.

They become internalized, identified, and incorporated in the self.

And so the self itself, your own self, becomes negative, tainted, corrupted, contaminated by this by narcissistic abuse.

And you don't want this degraded, compromised self anymore.

The self that used to be your best friend before you have met the narcissist.

The self that constituted who you were before you met the narcissist.

The self that comprised your identity, your sense of continuity, your hopes for the future before you have come across the narcissist, before he has entered your life.

This self is now replete with drowning in immersed in negativity.

And so you reject the self.

You defend against this negativity, against these negative thoughts by dissociating yourself from yourself, by distancing yourself from your own self.

You create a chasm and abyss, a gap between you and your self until the distance is such that it's unbridgeable.

And then you lose your erstwhile self.

It vanishes.

And in its wake, all that's left is a yawning, yawning chasm.

This gaping abyss.

This nothingness, this emptiness.

The narcissist interject according to this delineation of the events.

The narcissist interject takes over.

It's in charge.

It controls you, manipulates you.

It coerces you to divorce yourself, to give up on yourself, to walk away from yourself, to break up with yourself because it converts you into a negative thing.

But if the narcissist interject is in charge, if it really takes over, why the estrangement?

Why the feeling of estrangement?

AfterYou got rid of your previous self.

You have adopted the narcissist's voice as a substitute self.

You should feel okay.

You should feel egosyntonic.

You should feel content.

It's as if you've replaced one version of self with another version of self.

It's true that this new version of yourself is imported from the outside, is outsourced.

This new version of yourself is just a rendition of the narcissist within your mind.

It's all true.

But why do you feel uncomfortable?

Why do you feel bad?

Why do you feel sad?

And you feel mad?

And this is known as self- estrangement or self alienation.


Because your old self never goes away completely and entirely.

It's there.

It's dilapidated.

It's cowed.

It's repressed.

It's frightened.

It's traumatized.

All true.

But it's still there.

The same way the narcissist's true self is infantile, ossified, fossilized, dysfunctional, disabled and deactivated, your self, your true self, migrates or gravitates into the same type of condition.

It's somewhere there in the penumbral recesses of your mind.

Your old self is somehow mummified, like an Egyptian mummy, somehow preserved.

And it's there.

And from time to time, you get a glimpse of your old self.

From time to time, you're reminded of the way you used to be.

And whenever these reminiscences occur, whenever these memories erupt, whenever you come across your previous self, your old self, your pre-narcissistic abuse self, whenever you interact with it, even just by glancing at it, whenever you think of it, the result is known as dissonance.

You feel uncomfortable.

You feel bad.

You feel sad.

And you feel mad.

And this is known as self-estrangement or self alienation.

Now, something strange happens because the narcissist renders you devoid of a self, because the narcissist becomes your external self, because you outsource your selfhood and personhood to the narcissist.

The narcissist dynamics or psychodynamics take over.

I mentioned splitting, but also approach avoidance, repetition, compulsion.

You internalize these dynamics of the narcissist and apply them to yourself.

You split yourself.

Your self becomes all bad and you get rid of it.

The narcissist becomes all good.

That's a form of splitting, which involves self-splitting.

Similarly, you internalize the approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion.

There is an objectified, mythologized, idealized self.

It's a relic of the narcissist's idealization of you and of the nostalgia that you feel towards the self that you used to possess and that has constituted you.

So there are cycles of internalized approach avoidance, self-directed approach avoidance, repetitions.

You approach your old self and then you avoid it because it's very negative.

It's contaminated and tainted, as I've mentioned.

Then you approach it again and then you avoid it again and you approach it again and avoid it again.

This creates a lot of emotions.

These emotions overwhelm you and disregulate you.

One could therefore say that narcissistic abuse induces borderline state, a borderline state in the victim, borderline-like personality organization, borderline type, emotional dysregulation and so on and so forth.

Narcissist not only takes away your self, he causes you to become labile and dysregulated and he controls you through this liability and dysregulation.

Basically he takes over the function of regulation or self-regulation.

He takes over your ego functions.

He becomes your external mind, your external self, your external ego and you begin to rely on him more and more for regulation, for stability, for reality testing.

You live through the narcissist.

You're in suspended animation exactly like the Matrix.

So self-alienation and self-estrangement do involve introspection, do involve self-consciousness.

But these are perceived as negative, as bad.

They ought to be rejected whenever the victim of the narcissist becomes self-conscious.

She rejects her self-consciousness, her self-awareness.

She does not want to be aware of exactly what's happening, of her role in it, of the narcissist's actions, choices and decisions which deprive her of her existence in effect.

The victims collude in narcissistic abuse by suspending themselves, by declining to introspect, by rejecting self-awareness and self-consciousness in order to remain immured in the fantasy, immersed in it.

And gradually of course it's a use it or lose it proposition.

The less you use your introspection, your self-awareness, your self-love and yourself, the function of selfhood, they atrophy, they lose their functionality and then they die for all intents and purposes.

And all that's left behind is deep space, this black hole or void which is populated by introjects controlled by the narcissist's voice.

Now, there is a long history of thinking, scholarship and studies involved with the issue of self-estrangement and self alienation.

Start with a very well-known phenomenon, flashbacks.

Or also clinically known as recidivism is when you experience a memory in a way that deprives you of the ability to distinguish the memory from reality.

It's as if the memory becomes your reality.

That's why the concept of emotional and flashbacks is idiotic because emotional and flashbacks is simply a very strong, very powerful memory.

Memories are always attached to emotions.

Whenever a memory floods you, it comes replete with a corresponding emotion but it's not a flashback because you realize, you can tell what is reality and what is not.

You don't confuse the memory, you don't think the memory is real.

flashbacks, real flashbacks are typical of post-traumatic stress disorder and then the person experiencing the flashbacks cannot tell the difference between the flashback and reality.

In other words, the flashbacks are dissociative.

The person is estranged from present reality, believing and acting as if the past event were happening again.

In this sense, the mechanisms that operate within the victim of narcissistic abuse are highly dissociative and sometimes correspond to flashbacks in the sense that the victim of narcissistic abuse loses her reality testing.

Yes, her, him, he, she, gender pronouns are interchangeable, half of all narcissists are women.

So, this loss of reality testing, this inability to tell the difference between the shared fantasy and reality is somewhat psychotic and to some extent, a kind of extended flashback.

Now, people who experience dissociative self-estrangement are intensely aware of and they are discomfited by the ego-alien intrusions.

There are all kinds of intrusive thoughts, intrusive memories and so on and so forth, which are involved in the flashback.

So, the person is unable to tell reality apart from the flashback and within the flashback, there's a whole package of intrusions used to be known as ego intrusions.

In other words, all kinds of intrusions that falsify reality and render the flashback much more real than reality.

And so, they are comprised of cognitive intrusions, intrusive thoughts, memories and so on.

So, this is the most extreme form of self-estrangement and self-alienation.

But the victim of narcissistic abuse in the vast majority of cases does not experience PTSD.

She experiences complex trauma.

And in complex trauma, there are no flashbacks.

However, despite the fact that there are no flashbacks in complex trauma, there are flashback lines, there are mild forms of confusion regarding reality.

This leads to a denial of the self.

When you're no longer sure of reality, when you tend to confuse fantasy with reality, then you would reject yourself, your identity as the observer of reality.

It's not possible to reject only reality.

It's a package deal.

It's the observer and the observed.

It's the person and his or her reality.

When you reject one, you reject the other.

So when you reject yourself, you reject reality.

When you reject reality, you reject yourself.

And both rejections are necessary in order to fit into, comply with, immerse yourselfboth rejections are necessary in order to fit into, comply with, immerse yourself in the shared fantasy.

The narcissist insists that the shared fantasy is the only reality and that all other realities and the selves attached to them are wrong somehow.

They are the fantasy.

They are the delusion.

So everyone has the capacity to transition from reality to fantasy or to a dissociative state.

And the reason is that we all have self-states.

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It's like a kaleidoscope.

There's a single kaleidoscope and within it you see shape-shifting landscapes.

So these are the self-states.

What the narcissist does, he replaces your self-states with his self-states.

And this imitates, clinically speaking, an ego state disorder experience, replacing your assemblage, your repertory, your true, theater true of self-states with his.

The narcissist actually creates the equivalent of multiple personality disorder.

He takes over you and he embeds his self-states in you.

But as I said, your idiosyncratic, your individual self-states are not dead. They are just deactivated. They're disabled. They're in the corner.

So this creates dissonance. It creates intrusions. It creates crazy, internal crazy-making.

You feel puzzled. You feel apprehensive.

And this is a good description of self-estrangement.

While the narcissist implanted, injected and introjected self-states now take over your mind and operate in it as if your mind were the narcissist's property and possession, until there is a residue. There is a remnant, a residual self, remnant of yourself, a fossilized selfefficient, ossified self, something that reminds you of who you used to be.

And this conflicts with the narcissist's self-states.

And this creates the feeling of self-estrangement. It's a disturbance of consciousness. It's an identity disturbance. It's as if the narcissist has forced you to develop multiple personality disorders with two personalities, his and yours. One of them is latent, dormant, inactive. The one that used to be your personality, one of them is active, dominant, in control.

And that's the new personality that you've acquired from the narcissist that he has coerced you to adopt.

And this creates a sense of discontinuity. The experience of self is fractured and fragmented.

And there is a, you're trying to defend yourself against this dissonance, against this internal conflict using dissociation.

When we feel extremely uncomfortable internally, when our state of mind is intolerable, for example, in the wake of trauma, massive trauma, we tend to dissociate. We repress memories, but we dissociate the intolerable, the unacceptable, the threatening. We forget.

One form of dissociation is amnesia. We simply forget.

Other forms of dissociation involve self-estrangement and self alienation.

Let me pull all of this together for you.

The narcissist invades your mind, some kind of invasive species or foreign body, invade your mind. He relegates the old, your old self, your old ego, your old identity, your old core. He relegates it to the corner. He disables it. He numbs it somehow. And he takes over your mind. He installs and implants in your mind his own self-states.

Now the narcissist is in control of your mind, but your mind is still there. Yeah, it's deactivated. Yeah, it's disabled. All true, but it's still there. It creates an immunological response. You reject the narcissist's self-states initially, the same way you would reject a virus or a bacteria.

So you reject a parasite, you reject the self-state.

The narcissist is very persistent.

The shared fantasy is very persuasive and your battle is doomed to war.

Your battle is doomed to failure.

You are likely to succeed.

The narcissist is likely to take over you, but the dissonance is still there.

And in order to get rid of the dissonance and reduce the anxiety, because dissonance creates anxiety, to mitigate, to ameliorate the overwhelming anxiety, what you do is you dissociate and you dissociate by distancing yourself from your memories.

This is known as forgetting or amnesia, but you also dissociate by distancing yourself from yourself.

And this is known as self-estrangement, self-alienation, which sometimes involve depersonalization and derealization.

Depersonalization is a particular type of dissociation, which involves disrupted integration of self-perceptions with a sense of self.

So that individuals experiencing depersonalization are in a subjective state of feeling estranged, detached, disconnected from their own being, watching yourself from a distance as if you were watching a movie, an out-of-body experience, a sense of just going through the motions if you were a robot or an automaton program to go through the motions, but not there, not really there, not present, participating in something while some other parts of you are observing in a detached, emotionally detached manner, feeling as if you are in a dream or a nightmare or a fog, brain fog, looking in the mirror and feeling detached from your own image, feeling detached from some body parts or your entire body, a body image problem, a somatophone disorder, not feeling in control of your speech or physical movements, feeling disconnected from your own thoughts, feeling detached from your own emotions which are mumbled or blunted or flat.

So depersonalization is about not identifying with yourself, this bizarre, outlandish feeling that you are in someone else's body, your body becomes a stranger to you, hence self-estrangement, your mind becomes an alien planet, hence self-alienation.

Self-alienation often goes hand in hand with derealization, a sense of unfamiliarity or detachment from your own surroundings, from people in your life, from objects, and this of course endows the narcissist in your life with enormous power because the narcissist and his shared fantasy remain the only link to reality and the only real things in your misperception.

Your mind plays tricks on you, induced and encouraged by the narcissist.

Your mind keeps telling you the narcissist is the only real thing, the shared fantasy is reality, everybody else, everything else, all your environment, they're all fake, they're all wrong, it's like the Truman Show in reverse.

The subjective experience of depersonalization involves two core phenomenological features, a subjective sense of hypo-emotionality, very subdued emotions, and a subjective sense of unreality, unfamiliarity.

And so we are not sure whether both of these core features need to be present in order to create a determination of depersonalization, but they often go together.

So one of the effects that you're going to observe in yourself as you're exposed to narcissistic abuse within the shared fantasy is it to become more and more emotionally numb, flat effect.

It's like you flatline, you know, you become more and more dead if it's possible to use this metaphor, bizarre metaphor.

Which is if you're being turned off in increments, this is known as hypo-emotionality, emotional blunting or emotional numbing.

And there is a conceptual experience that the world and the self are unfamiliar.

Self-restrangement is a state of increased distance or separation from yourself.

Self-estrangement is also a deep seated state of dissatisfaction with your own personal experience and a lack of trust in yourself.

These are the outcomes of self-estrangement.

You are estranged from your own customary or expected ways of functioning.

It's as if your memory is betraying you. Your memory keeps telling you, you're not the same. You've changed dramatically and radically. Perhaps you're not you.

And this is terrifying.

The experience of being separated from reality or isolated from your own thoughts, feelings or physical being as a physical being, this is intolerable.

This is something that most people would reject.

The victim of narcissistic abuse is no exception.

In other words, it leads to self-rejection, self-negation, self-splitting when the victim becomes all bad and needs to be punished, needs to be regulated, needs to be controlled, needs to be manipulated for her own sake.

The victim then becomes an active collaborator in her own demise, in her own self-negation, eradication.

Transfemic abuse becomes something that the victim feels comfortable in, a comfort zone.

And she colludes with the narcissist in her own transformation into an extension of the narcissist, a figment of his mind, because this becoming embedded in the narcissist fantasy, becoming an extension of the narcissist's mind feels much more safe and much more comfortable than having to continuously doubt yourself, doubt your existence, reject your selfhood, try to somehow interact with the residues of who you used to be.

This is the perniciousness and insidiousness of nefarious narcissistic abuse.

It makes you reject you.

It makes you your main abuser.

The narcissist sits back and observes the show, the mechanism in action, the process which is ongoing, ineluctable and inexorable.

The narcissist just sets things in motion the same way God did when he created the universe.

Estrangement, as I said, had a long history.

It connotes Bizanis, novelty.

Indeed Sigmund Freud, who else?

In his essay, wonderful essay by the way, "A stroke of genius, a masterpiece of the human mind", an essay titled "The Uncanny" was first published in 1919.

Freud said that estrangement is a feeling, an experience close to a sensation.

And he said that when estrangement is at its peak, when it peaks, when it's at a maximum, it is triggered by the reappearance of a familiar object that has been forgotten or repressed for a very long time.

Exactly.

This is happening to victims of narcissistic abuse.

They reject their own self.

They put it aside.

They put it to sleep.

And then suddenly they remember it.

They have a recall moment or they come across it or something reminds them of the way they used to be, of their former identity before they've met the narcissist and this creates dissonance, this creates the estrangement.

Freud said that the feeling of estrangement can be compared to the phenomenon or phenomena of deja vu or deja vicu, previously lived, previously seen.

The concept is further developed in Freud's book, "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life", which was published long before the "Uncanny" essay, 1901.

And then much, much later in his essay, "A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis", Freud was an amateur archaeologist.

So he had a very unique experience on the Acropolis.

Freud's mind is an amazing, amazing power, amazing trip.

I mean, it's incredible.

It's a psychedelic trip.

I encourage you to read his work.

So, classical psychiatry picked up on this idea of estrangement as the outcome of coming across a repressed thing, something repressed, a repressed emotion, a repressed cognition or a repressed self.

The narcissist represses yourself and so it's there.

When you come across it, you feel that it is unfamiliar, uncanny.

You feel taken aback.

You're surprised, you're shocked, you're sad, you have negative effects.

So you do your best to not come across your repressed self.

You dissociate it.

In classical psychiatry, self-estrangement is perceived as a delusion associated with the inability to recognize a known object, a known person, a known internal object, such as an emotion, cognition and so on.

Pierre Genet considered estrangement to be a disturbance of the reality function and a breakdown of the process of mental synthesis.

But Freud disagreed to a large extent.

He distinguished such phenomena as described by Genet.

He distinguished them from those described in the literature, where uncertainty about the nature of objects, living or dead, human or inanimate, such uncertainty is voluntarily maintained in order to create a feeling of anxiety, a sense of the uncanny.

In other words, Freud regarded self-estrangement as a useful tool in effect.

He actually borrowed from Schelling's idea that the feeling of estrangement arises from exposure to something that is revealed but should have remained hidden.

Freud went on to stress that when the repressed emerges, for example, in psychotherapy, when repressed emotions and cognitions and memories reemerge, then we're likely to react with self-estrangement.

Because they look, they appear to be unfamiliar.

And we say to ourselves, "Could this be me?

Is this memory mine?

Had I ever experienced this emotion?

How bizarre." And this bizarreness is the self-estrangement.

In terms of symptoms, the feeling of estrangement appears in the form of anxiety.

And anxiety is a consequence of the realization that the unfamiliar material that is about to be revealed is actually part of the self.

When the victim of narcissistic abuse is about to encounter her previous identity, she reacts with anxiety because her previous identity is drenched in, immersed, drowning in a sea of negativity, the narcissistic abuse.

It's like having a bad memory or recalling some bad experience.

No one wants to go through this.

And the victim of narcissistic abuse now has a core identity, a self, an ego that is irredeemably and irrevocably attached to her memories and experiences of narcissistic abuse and the shared fantasy at the end of a narcissist.

And she doesn't want it.

It's like saying, "I want to get rid of all the memories of my relationship with a narcissist.

And the only way to do this is to get rid of myself, to get rid of my memory, to get rid of my emotions, to get rid of my cognitions and my recall of my emotions and my cognitions.

I don't want any of this.

I'm willing to give up on myself.

I'm willing to develop a new identity.

I'm willing to become someone completely different, unrecognizable to myself, just in order to erase and delete this chapter in my life so that it never comes to mind again, to my new mind.

It may come back.

It may revisit my old mind.

But if I have a new mind, this is unlikely to happen.

It's a defense, of course.

So the feeling of estrangement is a form of transgression, like crossing to the other side of an imaginary line without knowing why or why one got to that place.

The transgression is not only prohibited internally, giving up on yourself, negating yourself, altering yourself in a way that leaves no trace of who you used to be, or even maintaining only a residual feeling or acquaintance with your former self.

These are all transgressions.

In Freud's model, they are prohibited by the superego, by the way.

It is associated with the subject's identity, which is the most sacred thing.

And it concerns the limit between internal and external, past and present and future, life and death.

These are critical issues.

It's not a joke.

Public abuse plays with the most fundamental elements of your being, existence and identity.

I recommend that you watch my video about the voices of life, death and God, where I explain this interplay.

The feeling of estrangement is associated with a mysterious, imaginary time before life, which is therefore unrecognizable and yet insists on revealing its familiarity.

It's as if the victim of narcissistic abuse has died in the wake of the abuse.

She has died.

The only way to get rid of the narcissist's voice, of his domination, of his all-pervasiveness and ubiquity, the only way to erase the narcissist is to cleanse herself.

The victim says, "The only way is for me to die.

I need to die symbolically and be reborn metaphorically." It's a resurrection.

It's very religious.

It's like Jesus.

Freud had already developed these ideas in Totem and Taboo, 1912-1913.

He wrote in this, again, amazing essay, he wrote that what is felt as strange, what is felt as very bizarre in the outside world initially belonged to the self and was then projected to the outside world, to the exterior.

The non-self, the object of perception, is only recognizable through this process of projection.

This is an animist's conception of the world, by the way.

This feeling of estrangement, said Freud, is also related to the dialectic between the strange and the familiar among the dead who are not completely separated from the living.

The self, you know, this gave rise to the idea of a ghost.

The victim of narcissistic abuse is a ghost.

She's a walking dead.

She's not among the living and she has not fully transitioned to Hades or ascended to heaven.

She is caught.

She is an undead soul.

This is what narcissistic abuse does to you.

Converts you into a zombie, the walking dead.

And so the dead are not completely separated from the living.

They continue to hover, hover around the living.

And there's a taboo against the dead.

So the reaction is very dissonant.

And when the locus of life and death is within you, when there is a dead self within you, the self that used to be you, you killed yourself.

You committed suicide by narcissists, suicide by narcissists.

So you killed yourself in order to be reborn into the shared fantasy and according to the narcissist's expectations and specifications.

You committed an act of suicide, which feels a lot like homicide.

So inside you, there's a dead self and there is a taboo against the dead.

We bury them.

We don't want to share our lives with the dead.

The dead are dead and gone.

We are the living and yet the narcissistic abuse victim is partly dead and partly alive really, alive through the agency of the narcissist.

But the narcissist himself is wholly dead.

The narcissist is dead inside and dead outside.

So the narcissist actually convinces the victim that his deadness, his version of existence, which is actually an absence is reality. This is life.

But in truth, the narcissist kills your identity, kills your old self and then implants in you, injects into you, installs in you another form of death, his own, because he's dead.

The psychoanalytic feeling of estrangement arises from a sudden confrontation between a perception of the outside world, the narcissist, and repressed primitive internal perceptions, among them the self.

These internal perceptions are not apprehended as such.

They appear in the subject's mental space only after having been projected onto the outside world.

So these perceptions are bound to the objects that support them.

What happens is the narcissist induces you to sacrifice yourself.

It's human sacrifice.

And then yourself is dead or at the very least disabled in a vegetative state, in a coma.

And the external object, because you are capable of perceiving external objects, unlike the narcissist.

So the external object that is out there, the narcissist, his shared fantasy, his self-states, these are all perceived by you as external objects.

But what happens is these external objects provoke in you primitive internal perceptions, internal perceptions that precede the formation of a self.

And these internal perceptions coalesce into a new self, a new ego, which is the reflection of the narcissist.

The narcissist leverages your own internal processes, your own mechanisms, your own psychodynamics leverages them against you, uses them against you.

It's like Tenkan in martial arts uses the adversaries momentum against the adversary.

So it's a power play and the narcissist uses your internal dynamics, your energy against you.

He regresses you to a pre-selfhood state, to an infantile, primordial, atavistic infantile state where he can mold you and shape you and play with the various aspects and elements of your personality, merging nascent personality, put you together in a new way, a way which would affirm his grandiosity and fit well into his shared fantasy.

So these objects, these external objects that you perceive, the narcissist, his shared fantasy, so states, they resonate powerfully with infantile internal structures in you.

It's as if the narcissist regressed you to your very beginning and shaped you in his image, the way every God does.

This crossing of a limit, whether it involves the before or after, the animate or the inanimate, the internal or the external, this crossing of a line is always associated with the death drive.

The final goal of the death drive is the initial state, an expression of organic life, biological life, mindless life, selfless life.

You become in the hands of the narcissist, protozoa, the first primordial soup, the first cell.

The narcissist induces your evolution into something that by all means and ways copies clones of him.

He makes you a clone of him.

He clones you.

Now, this is very reminiscent of vampire stories, right?

Dracula, the narcissist bites you metaphorically and you become a vampire.

In a disturbance of memory of the Acropolis that I mentioned before, written, published at least in 1936, Freud deepened and restricted, made it more rigorous.

He discussed estrangement in a more rigorous and deep manner.

He saw it essentially as a defense mechanism that attempts to distance something from the ego, depersonalization, or include something external in the ego, false recognition, de chevune, previously narrated or previously lived.

It is the second mechanism that the narcissist uses.

The narcissist includes himself falsely in your ego, in yourself, in your personality, from the inside, taking over from the inside.

It's like a hostile takeover, a hostile merger and rendering himself familiar in a false way.

When you come across the narcissist, the narcissist resonates with your deepest apologies, with your greatest pain and hurt, with your traumas.

And this resonance makes you feel that you have arrived.

You're at home.

The narcissist is your soulmate and twin flame and whatever you want to call it.

This is the false recognition, Freud's false recognition, false familiarity, de chevune.

And this allows the narcissist to infiltrate you, to invade you.

This is his Trojan horse into the besieged city which you become.

Then he takes over you from the inside.

He eliminates your selfhood and replaces it with his sperm, with his being or absence, actually.

And so the feeling of estrangement, which is so difficult to grasp, is an inherent part of psychoanalysis, actually.

It attempts to, when the victim attempts to revivify, repress content, repress self-elements, repress ego, deny, suppress, inactivated.

When there's contact with what you used to be, with your previous identity, this is estrangement.

It feels strange.

It feels bizarre, unfamiliar.

You're unfamiliar, unrecognizable to yourself.

It's associated with what Freud defined in Beyond the Pleasure Principle as the demonic.

Yes, Freud called it demonic.

He said that repetition compulsion is demonic.

You can find it in the Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Of course, I'm strongly opposed to the nonsense online regarding demons and narcissists, but it's very telling that Freud ran out of words and had to resort to a medieval vocabulary.

To a considerable extent, estrangement has the characteristics of a drive, and yet it is hostile to the Pleasure Principle.

In a sense, estrangement, in its unconscious dimension, imposes limits on understanding.

It's like an iceberg.

It remains largely submerged because the iceberg causes dissonance and anxiety.

The dissociative neurosis includes alterations in consciousness and identity for which amnesia, somnambulism, fugue, and multiple personality are all considered symptoms.

Depersonalization is missing because it remains its own standalone neurosis.

Depersonalization neurosis, feelings of unreality and of estrangement from the self, body or surroundings.


Now, in the DSM-II and the ICD-9, yes, I'm that old.

The standalone depersonalization neurosis or syndrome was, I'm quoting, dominated by a feeling of unreality and of estrangement from the self, body or surroundings.

Strangely, the world derealization is not mentioned in these diagnostic manuals.

Depersonalization describes a disrupted integration of self-perceptions with a sense of self, so that individuals experiencing depersonalizations are in a subjective state of feeling estranged, detached, disconnected from their own being.

Otto Fenichel in 1945, cited by Jacobson in 1959, stated the following, "The experiences of estrangement and depersonalization are due to a special type of defense, namely to a counter-cathax against one's own feelings."

I fully agree.

Self estrangement and self alienation are defenses against narcissistic abuse, distancing yourself from yourself because you're experiencing so much pain, so much hurt, it becomes life threatening.

You need to suspend yourself.

You need to not be.

You need to disappear.

Even if the price is becoming an extension of the narcissist, at least as an extension of the narcissist, you're going to feel good.

You're going to feel egosyntonic, not anxious, not terrified, not anticipating the next blow, not walking on actions.

And so suspending yourself, destroying yourself, killing yourself, mental suicide, psychological suicide is a way to avoid the narcissist's slings and arrows.


Depersonalization was described by Blank in 1954 as an emergency defense against a threatened eruption into consciousness of a massive complex of feelings of deprivation, rage, and anxiety.

Early case studies seem to support this, and I refer you to Ballard, Mohan, and Handy 1992.

Edith, the incomparable Edith Jacobson, expanded the psychoanalytic literature on depersonalization.

She drew on conflicting self representations and the defense of splitting the ego into a detached, intact part of the ego observing the other, emotionally or physically dead, unacceptable part.

So there's an acceptable part, an egosyntonic part, which is the narcissist's voice.

That's very important to understand.

Jacobson was right, but she didn't live to see my work on narcissistic abuse.

In narcissistic abuse, the narcissist splits your ego in two.

There is an unacceptable part, which is you, your core identity, who you are, unacceptable because it challenges the narcissist's snapshot of you, idealized snapshot of you.

The narcissist's internal object that represents you in his mind.

So who you are is cast by the narcissist, is described by the narcissist as unacceptable.

And then there is an acceptable part, an egosyntonic part, an adopted part.

And that is the narcissist's voice, the narcissist's introject, the narcissist's presence in your mind.

And they are at war exactly as Jacobson described.

I'm going to read it to you again.

She wrote a detached, a detached, intact part of the ego, observing the other part, emotionally or physically dead, unacceptable part.

She wrote it in 1959.

She also emphasized the evolutionary function of depersonalization.

She wrote the defensive function of the emotional detachment was clearly evident and very successful in as much as anxiety and other undesirable emotions had disappeared and a high level of ego functioning could be maintained with control and direction of aggression into the proper channels of organized thinking and behavior, sublimation.

Down to my favorite school in psychology, object relations developed in the sixties, mainly by British guys, Fairbairn, Gunteri, and prior to them, the godfather Winnicott.

So Harry Gunteri, like Fairbairn and like Jacobson, contributed to psychoanalytic object relations theory.

He considered surface arrangement as manifest in derealization and depersonalization as a baby, each infant goes through a schizoid phase.

But Gunteri said that whenever the schizoid phase, schizoid conditions, schizoid elements, schizoid personality, schizoid core, anything schizoid must involve self estrangement, depersonalization, derealization and other clinical features such as introversion and narcissistic sense of self sufficiency and superiority, a loss of effect, loneliness and being overwhelmed by the external world.

It's an excellent description of the state of mind of the victim of narcissistic abuse.

And it was written by Gunteri in 1952.

Leon Wormser, W.U.R.M.S.E.R. considered shame anxiety, in other words, a self that is perceived as worthless and a bad object associated with some kind of anxiety, projective anxiety of being devalued and attacked by others.

So Wormser described a condition where you have a bad object.

And because you have a bad object, which informs you that you are bad and worthy, stupid, ugly, failure, inadequate, so this bad object keeps putting you down.

And the bad object keeps telling you because you are like that, you're going to be disrespected, you're going to be attacked, you're going to be humiliated, you're going to be punished.

And this is known as the shame anxiety, Wormser's step.

Anyhow, he believed that shame anxiety is central to self estrangement or depersonalization.

The symptom itself becomes the engine of a vicious cycle when the individual takes the symptoms as a representation, a proof of one's worthlessness, generating more shame and more self estrangement and more shame.

So the victim of narcissistic abuse develops autoplastic defenses.

She feels guilty.

She feels ashamed.

She feels inadequate.

She feels unworthy.

Mr. Narcissist is perfect.

He's godlike.

The shared fantasy is wonderful.

He's Disneyland-like.

What's wrong with her?

What's wrong with her?

And she anticipates fully rejection, abandonment, punishment.

And according to Wormser, that's a vicious cycle.

Henry Crystal, a Holocaust survivor by the way, and a trauma expert, he added another critical piece to the understanding of self estrangement and the significance of affect tolerance.

He wrote, "If the individual's affect tolerance is exceeded," in other words, if the individual's affect is exposed to overwhelming emotions that threaten to drown and dysregulate the individual.

So in this condition, the individual may have to warn off, fend off the affect by becoming depersonalized, by developing a massive numbing through isolation of affect.

Under these circumstances, the person experiences the events as an observer, as if it were happening to someone else.

This was written in 1971.

So to summarize, depersonalization, derealization as forms of self estrangement and self alienation represent a specific defense against intolerable conflicting feelings when the individual's affect tolerance is exceeded.

Now low affect tolerance is symptomatic of significant impairment of personality functioning.

It's an indication of pathology.

A healthy personality functioning usually has the capability of experiencing, tolerating, and regulating a full range of emotions according to the American Psychological Association.

So many patients score high on Alexithymia, for example, and have difficulty identifying their own feelings.

And this leads to lower affect tolerance.

In other words, she becomes overwhelmed, dysregulated.

She develops anticipatory anxiety.

Her bad object flares up and takes over.

Consequently, she expects rejection and abandonment and punishment.

And this leads to impaired personality functioning.

The eruption of immature infantile defenses such as splitting, projection, and denial, and so on and so forth, the victim is regressed to early infancy, which allows the narcissist to raise her as if he were raising and molding and shaping a child.

And typically, in this condition, there's a feeling of all pervasive, learned helplessness, hopelessness, isolation, worthlessness.

There's not only a bad object, but there is a perception of others as bad and disappointing because they're not helpful.

They don't extricate the narcissistic abuse victim from the abuse.

The narcissistic abuse victim begins to develop resentment and rage at having been left to her own devices.

She feels that she has been abandoned by the world and by herself, so she rejects both.

And then the only thing left in her world is the narcissist.

Modern psychodynamic affect-focused approaches such as intensive, short-term dynamic psychotherapy, developed by Abbas and Davanlu and others, affect phobia therapy, Meqalo, accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy, FOSHA, and triangles of conflict and person, developed by Meylen.

They all try to understand symptom formation and structure therapeutic interventions through these understanding.

They consider unprocessed complex emotions from attachment trauma as the core of mental disorders.

Indeed, this is the core of the victim's reaction to narcissistic abuse.

It's a pathological reaction.

According to these schools, emotions are the central feature, the central innate force for motivation, development of identity, and relationships.

I refer you to work by Demos in 2019.

And the symptoms are caused by the anxiety of and defensive mechanisms against conflictual emotions.

Emotions are mobilized in interpersonal relationships, but they also trigger anxiety and activate defenses and these are the symptoms.

So when you feel down and worthless, this is because you turned anger, criticism, dysregulation, evaluation and hatred against your own self.

In the triangle of conflict, these self-estrangement symptoms are both a defense against conflictual emotions and a symptom of anxiety.

The defensive function of self-estrangement consists of warding off the conflictual feelings, detaching from reality, but more importantly, detaching from the self because it is the combination of reality and experiencing self that creates the perception of alienation.

At the same time, the symptoms also represent anxiety.

You could easily describe self-estrangement and self-alienation as forms of self-directed anxiety, anticipatory anxiety, something bad is going to happen to me because of me.

I am my own worst enemy and it manifests in various pathways, somatic and other.

If the anxiety is overwhelming, it can disrupt thought and perceptual processes.

And again, I refer you to work by Davadlu, Abbas, Grecucci and others.

Now, derealization, depersonalization symptoms, they represent perceptual disturbances.

The anxiety floods the individual and the perception goes awry, something goes wrong with the perception.

The individual's effect on rights has been exceeded.

And these symptoms indicate an impairment of personality functioning, an ego-structural deficit that is manifested specifically in reaction to certain conflictual emotions or globally in reaction to almost all emotions.

Form avoidance represents probably some genetic contribution or some evolutionary thing, structural deficit that is evolutionary.

That's what the narcissist does.

He floods you, you're drowning.

And as you thrash about, you say to yourself, I am not the one who is drowning. I'm going to give up on myself. I'm going to observe myself from the outside.

This is not happening to me. This is not reality.

The narcissist is real. The shared fantasy is real because there with him, I am not drowning.

So from the perspective of the triangles of persons, Maylen's work, there is a history in most of these victims of early attachment trauma, usually before the age of six.

Attachment trauma occurs when the infant's born with the primary caregiver, usually the mother, is disrupted by inappropriate responses to the infant's emotions, emerging boundaries, abusive behaviors, conflicting messages, refusal to allow the child to separate, individuate, fearful responses, absence, etc.

Everything that is known as metaphorically as the dead mother.

The infant reacts to all these disruptions with complex and painful feelings, fear, anger, resentment, sadness.

These disruptions are harmful. The infant feels isolated, helpless, and then the infant has two choices. He can think, he can conceive of mother, the frustrating object is bad, but that's very life threatening because mother is bad. She will let him die.

So what he does, he internalizes all these things and he becomes bad. He becomes the bad object.

Mother is all good, I'm all bad.

That's exactly what the victim of narcissistic abuse does with the narcissist.

She idealizes the narcissist and devalues herself long before the narcissist devalues her.

She requires mothering and the narcissist becomes a mother figure.

Abbas wrote, Abbas is ABBASS.

Abbas wrote that the consequences is the development of defensive strategies to cope with distress and maintain a crucial relationship with a caregiver, with a narcissist.

In the aftermath, emotions that endanger the relationship with caregivers, with the narcissist, automatically provoke anxiety and activate conscious defensive mechanisms.

Hercuchy also wrote more or less the same five years later.

Further says Abbas, the unconscious anger becomes the source of a punitive, super ego, self- punishment.

The remaining unprocessed complex feelings lead to anxiety, avoidance of emotions, difficulties with intimacy, and various symptom formations.

Also in the victim of narcissistic abuse, the symptoms are typically triggered because of the closeness and intimacy of the relationship.

There's attachment trauma that takes over.

The symptomatology represents a kind of compromise formation.

The individual is in the relationship with the narcissist on the one hand and absent at the same time.

It's as if the victim of narcissistic abuse says, you want me in the shared fantasy, I'm here.

You want me to be the way you want me to be.

You want me to be an idealized internal object.

I'm going to adhere to this.

I'm going to follow your expectation.

I'm going to meet your expectations.

I'm going to follow you and succumb to your demands, but I'm going to upset myself.

You're going to have me as an empty shell.

You're going to have me as a husk.

You're going to have me as a facade because I'm going to die internally.

I'm going to exempt myself.

I'm going to remove myself from the scene.

This compromise formation reflects the defensive reaction of the individual to attachment trauma.

It represents significant resistance to change.

Gantryk observed this as early as 1952.

He said, "The psychotherapist must be greatly concerned with those states of mind in which patients become inaccessible emotionally, when the patient seems to be bodily present, but mentally absent.

This is exactly the strategy that the victim of narcissistic abuse adopts.

It implies that focusing on emotional closeness, emotional experiencing and anxiety regulation is the crucial treatment for victims of narcissistic abuse.

I'll dedicate another video to this in the future.

Thank you for listening and surviving this.

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