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Inner Voices, Narcissism, and Codependence

Uploaded 8/23/2014, approx. 9 minute read

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

The narcissist and the codependent possess introgets. These are inner voices, assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers.

The narcissist and codependents inner voices are mostly negative and sadistic.

Rather than provide the narcissist with support, motivation and direction, they enhance his underlying ego destiny. They render him unhappy with who he is and discontent with the way he acts. They also enhance the lability, the fluctuations of his sense of self-worth.

Introgets possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic interpretative framework. This framework of interpretation allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, gorge one's place in the universe, and consequently decide who one is, for one's self-identity.

Overwhelmingly negative introgets, or inner voices which are manifestly fake, fallacious and manipulative, hamper the narcissist and codependents ability to construct such a framework, a true and efficacious interpretative framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one's perception of the universe and of one's self in reality becomes unbearable. It engenders pathological, maladaptive and dysfunctional attempts to either deny this abyss, this hurtful discrepancy away by using delusions or fantasies, grandiosely compensate for the gap between reality and self-perception by eliciting positive external voices to counter and compensate for the negative inner voices.

And this is what we call narcissistic supply, elicited via the fourth semi.

Another option is to attack head-on the abyss between one's model of the world, how the world should behave, and how the world actually is, and this aggressive stance is typical of psychopaths and antisocialists.

You can withdraw from the world altogether and this schizoid solution, and finally you can disappear by merging and fusing with another person, and that is what we call codependents.

Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher, wrote, men can wield nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself, that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.

The narcissist lacks empathy. He is therefore unable, constitutionally unable, to meaningfully relate to other people and to truly appreciate what it means, what it is, to be human.

Instead, the narcissist withdraws inside himself into a universe populated by avatars, simple or complex representations of parents, peers, role models, significant others, authority figures and other members of his social media.

There, in this twilight zone of simulacra, the narcissist develops so-called relationships and maintains an ongoing internal dialogue with them but never an external one.

The narcissist therefore does not interact with real people but with representations of real people.

Don't misunderstand, all of us generate such representations of meaningful others. All of us internalize these objects.

This process is called introjection. We adopt, assimilate and later manifest the traits and attitude of these people, the introjects.

But the narcissist is different. He is not capable of holding an external dialogue, as I said. Even when he seems to be interacting with someone else, the narcissist is actually engaged in a self-referential discourse with himself.

To the narcissist, all other people are cardboard cut-outs, two-dimensional animated cartoon characters or mere symbols. They exist only in his mind as handles.

The narcissist is startled when people deviate from the script and prove to be complex and totally autonomous, independent of him.

But this is not the narcissist's sole cognitive deficit.

The narcissist attributes his failures and mistakes to circumstances and external causes. This propensity to blame the world for one's mishaps and misfortunes is called alloplastic defense.

At the same time, the narcissist regards his successes and achievements, some of which are pretty imaginary, as proofs of his omnipotence, illuminations, affection and brilliance.

And this is known in attribution theory as defensive attribution.

Conversely, the narcissist traces other people's parents, other people's defeats, to their inherent inferiority, stupidity and weakness.

Their successes, on the other hand, he dismisses as being in the right place at the right time.

In other words, the outcomes of the inevitable outcomes of luck and circumstance.

So his errors and defeats are the world's fault. Other people's errors and defeats are their fault. His successes are due to his skills and talents. Other people's successes are due to luck and circumstance.

The narcissist falls prey to an exaggerated form of what is known in attribution theory as the fundamental attribution error.

Moreover, these policies and the narcissist's magical thinking are not dependent on objective daytime tests of distinctiveness, consistency and consensus.

The narcissist never questions his reflexive judgments and never stops to ask himself, are these events distinct or are they typical? Do they repeat themselves consistently or are they unprecedented? And what do others have to say about them?

This thoughts never cross his mind. The narcissist learns nothing because he regards himself as born perfect.

Even when he fails a thousand times, the narcissist still feels that he is the victim of happenstance. And someone else's repeated outstanding accomplishments are never proof of mettle or merit.

People who disagree with the narcissist and try to teach him differently are, to his mind, biased, aggressive, morons or all three.

But the narcissist pays a dear price for these distortions of perception.

Unable to gorge his environment with accuracy, the narcissist develops paranoid ideation and fades the reality test.

Finally, he lifts the draw bridges, vanishes into a state of mind that can best be described as borderline psychosis.

The narcissist is besieged and tormented by a sadistic superego, which which sits in constant judgment of him.

This so-called superego is an amalgam, amalgamation of negative evaluations, criticisms, angry or disappointed voices and disparagement meted out in the narcissist's formative games, childhood and adolescence by parents, peers, role models and authority figures.

These harsh and repeated comments reverberate throughout the narcissist's inner landscape, berating him for failing to conform to his unattainable ideals, fantastic goals and grandiose or impractical plans, for instance.

The narcissist's sense of self-worth, this sense of what is colloquially known as self-esteem or self-confidence, is therefore catapulted from one pole to another, from an inflated, manic, euphoric view of himself in commensurate, real life accomplishments, to utter this fear and self-denigration.

This is a pendulum.

The narcissist, and we'll explain the narcissist's needs for narcissistic supply because he needs to regulate this wild pendulum.

People's adulation, admiration of remission and attention restore the narcissist's self-esteem and self-confidence like no other thing.

The narcissist's sadistic and uncompromising superego affects three facets of his personality.

His sense of self-worth and worthiness, the deeply ingrained conviction that one deserves love, compassion, care and empathy, regardless of what one achieves in life.

What this is hampered?

The narcissist's worth is without narcissistic supply.

The narcissist's self-esteem, self-knowledge, the deeply ingrained and realistic appraisal of his capacities, skills, but also limitations and shortcomings. It's also affected.

The narcissist lacks clear boundaries and therefore is not sure of his abilities and weaknesses, hence his grandiose fantasies, which are manifestly unrealistic, fantastic.

The narcissist's self-confidence, the deeply ingrained belief based on lifelong experience that one can set realistic goals and a condition, is badly damaged.

The narcissist knows that he is a fake and a fraud. He therefore does not trust his ability to manage his own affairs and to set practical aims and realize them.

Of course, if you confront the narcissist with his three, he will deny it. He will present himself as very self-assured, infallible and perfect.

But this is only camouflage. It's simply plenty.

It's a way for the narcissist to disguise his vulnerability, the chinks in his arm, becoming a success or at least by appearing to have become one.

The narcissist hopes to quell the voices inside him that constantly question his veracity, his attitude, his worth.

The narcissist's whole life is a two-fold attempt to both satisfy the inexorable demands of this inner tribunal and to prove wrong the tribunal's accords, harsh and merciless criticism.

It is this dual and self-contradictory mission to conform to the edicts of his internal enemies and to prove their very judgment wrong.

That is at the root of the narcissist's unresolved and unresolvable conflicts.

On the one hand, the narcissist accepts the authority of his interjected internalized critics. He disregards the fact that they hate him, that they wish him dead. He sacrifices his life to these inner degrading negative voices, hoping that his successors, his accomplishments, being of the sieve will somehow ameliorate their rage.

On the other hand, he confronts these very gods with proofs of their vulnerability.

You claim that I am worthless and incapable, he cries.

Well, guess what? You're dead wrong. Look how famous I am. Look how rich, how revered, and how accomplished.

But then, much rehearsed self-doubt sets in and the narcissist feels yet again compelled to falsify the claim of his trenchant and indefatigable detractors by conquering another woman, giving one more interview, taking over yet another firm, making an extra million or getting reelected one more time.

It's like drug addiction. It's never enough and it escalates. To no avail, the narcissist is his own worst enemy and foe.

Ironically, it is only when incapacitated that the narcissist gains a modicum of peace of mind. When he's terminally ill, incarcerated, or inebriated, the narcissist can shift the blame for his failures and predicaments to outside agents, in circumstances, to objective forces over which he has no control.

It's not my fault. He gleefully informs his mental tormentors. There was nothing I could do about it, but go away and leave me be.

And then, with the narcissist defeated and broken, these voices go away. And he is free at last.

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