Making Sense of Narcissistic Abuse

Uploaded 7/19/2022, approx. 24 minute read

Today, I am going to connect the dots for you. I am going to explain to you how the narcissist uses the mechanism of vicarious traumatization to induce in you prolonged grief within a shared fantasy where the principle of dual mothering is in operation. I told you it's going to be simple.

Okay. And before we go there, a reminder, seven days, that's seven whole days of a free, free like no cost, no payment, a free seminar with me in Romania at the end of September. Very few seats are left. You may wish to write to me in order to reserve one. Sam Vaknin at That's my name, samvaknin at Some of you have written in the comments section that you like $10 words. Here's my advice. Also free of charge. Be careful what you wish for.

In the previous video, I introduced you to the tinting abulation of your supplication. Many of you have not recovered.

And today I am responding to an avalanche of atrobilious, traculant and pugnacious messages and also to importuning, adjuring and beseeching messages. All of them begging me to make sense of all the theoretical models that I'm present, have been presenting or spewing out in the past two years.

And so today I'm going to connect the dots as I promised.

But before I go there, I recommend that you watch Narcissist's grieving infant. It affects you.

And the video Your pain traumatizes others vicarious secondary trauma. The links to these two videos, the links to these two videos are in the description field under the video. So just go down a bit in order to go up and be uplifted via my intellectual pyrotechnics.

Okay, enough nonsense, Vaknin. Get to the point, will you? I will.

The narcissist is in a state of prolonged grief. The narcissist as a child has been traumatized, has been abused in a variety of ways. We know by now that abuse is not only physical, or sexual, or verbal or psychological, there are many ways to abuse a child, not allowing the child to form boundaries, not allow allowing the child to develop his or her own life. Using the child as an instrument is to mentalizing the child, pedestalizing the child, smothering the child, isolating the child from reality, pampering the child and parentifying the child are all forms of very, very nefarious and pernicious abuse.

So narcissists are the sad outcomes of early childhood abuse, and they grieve. They grieve what had happened, the loss, and they grieve what they could have become. They grieve the loss potentials.

The narcissism is closely associated with depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Edition Five, text revision finally acknowledges this. In the 60s, there were scholars who suggested that narcissism is actually a form of major depression, and they were not that far off the mark. The narcissist is in a state of constant grief, constant mourning, and this is known as prolonged grief syndrome. And it's also a new diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Edition Five, text revision released a few weeks ago. So there you are, the narcissist showing to the world a facade of imperturbability, of impermeability, of invulnerability, of happy-go-lucky, of total and utter and unmitigated self-confidence, and so on and so forth, while deep inside there's a child traumatized, wounded, bleeding, crying, at a state of panic and loss and terror and profound, all-consuming sadness. A child who feels that he is a bad object, unworthy, inadequate and inferior, narcissism is a compensatory mechanism intended to hide, to camouflage, but conceal this inner state.

And so narcissists are in a state of grief, but misery likes and misery seeks company and you are it. You are the company.

The narcissist needs to infect you with his grief. He needs you to grieve with him. He needs you to commiserate. And so he exposes you to his pain, to his hurt, to his rage, to his negative affectivity. He poisons you. He creates a toxic environment which invades every cell, every mental cell you have.

An exposure to prolonged grief is in itself traumatizing.

So the transmission vector is the narcissist's grief via exposure traumatizes you. It's very, very traumatizing to be in the presence of someone who had been negated, officiated in early childhood, someone who was made to disappear, someone who is an absence and avoid not a presence.

So it's very terrifying. It's a little like a horror movie.

An exposure, prolonged exposure to this creates vicarious secondary trauma, trauma by proxy. Vicarious trauma, as I had explained in my previous video, also leads to dysregulation.

When you are exposed, when you spend time with the narcissist, especially as an intimate partner, definitely if you love the narcissist, the narcissist's pain rubs off you. It affects you. It somehow subdues you. It sucks your energy. It's as if you are losing your life force, your elam vital, as if you are dwindling and withering and dying with the narcissist because the narcissist is a death emanation.

The narcissist creates a death cult. The narcissist has been objectified by his parents.

So he treats himself and everyone around him as objects. Objects are inanimate. They're dead.

This is very traumatizing and it creates in you dysregulation.

Now, psychology is very bad at distinguishing between endogenous dysregulation and external dysregulation.

Endogenous dysregulation happens from the inside. You can't control your emotions. They overwhelm you. You drown in them.

But this emanates from the inside. This is not something you can maneuver with or manipulate. This is not something you can mitigate or ameliorate. This is stronger than you.

Now, this is a situation, for example, with borderline personality disorder.

But there is also exogenous dysregulation.

When you're exposed to trauma, mistreatment, abuse, grief, fear, when you're exposed to stress, when you witness an event which challenges your belief in the order of the world and the justice of the cosmos, this all induces in your PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder or complex PTSD, complex trauma.

And CPTSD and PTSD lead to emotional dysregulation. Your emotions are stronger than you.

And so the narcissist induces in you, creates in you, fosters and genders severe emotional dysregulation.

You don't recognize yourself. You're all over the place. You're up and down. You are vicissitudinal.

Yes, another $10 word. I warned you. Be careful what you wish for.

And this happens because you're infected with the narcissist's grief and trauma.

The new definition of post-traumatic stress disorder in the text revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Edition 5 accepts that one can acquire PTSD just by listening to someone else's story. Just by being exposed to someone else's experience, you can get traumatized yourself.

And this is what is known as secondary or vicarious trauma.

So this is the first element that you should bear in mind.

The narcissist is a traumatized, grieving, mourning entity. And he infects you by exposing you to the darkness of his penumbral mind. He infects you and you react. You react to this by dysregulating, by developing depression and anxiety and by systemic or pervasive dysfunction.

What does the narcissist want from you? Why does he leverage use and abuse vicarious traumatization to kind of control you and mold you and consume you? Why does he need you?

In other words, the narcissist is driven to reenact the loss of his childhood, to resolve the trauma that happened to him, the inception of his unfulfilled life.

The narcissist rejects life exactly like the psychopath because he had been rejected as a child. And he had internalized the point of view of his caregivers, what we call primary objects, his parents. They rejected him. And so he continues to reject himself because mommy and daddy are never wrong. And if they had rejected him, something must be wrong with him. So the narcissist has something called repetition compulsion. He needs to time travel back to his past, to his very early infancy and to try once again to resolve the conflict, to make sense of what had happened, to somehow get rid of the trauma and to recuperate and recapture the loss, the lost objects, his mother.

And so he needs a mother. He needs a mother for a role play. He needs a mother to replay his childhood with. It's a maternal stand in and it is you. Your role in the narcissist life is to act as his mother.

The narcissist recreates the trauma space. In the trauma space, there is an ideal mother, which is you and an ideal kid or ideal child, which is the narcissist. And of course, this trauma space is imaginary. It's not real and it incorporates very discernible elements of the narcissist child and more generally of a mother-child interaction. And this is what we call the shared fantasy.

And so we are beginning to connect the dots. The narcissist grieves for his lost childhood, for his abandoned potential, for what he could have been and will never be. The narcissist is in a state of mourning. He communicates this profound, all devouring depression to you and you get infected. You too develop grief, prolonged grief syndrome. You too become depressed and anxious and emotionally dysregulated. Together with the narcissist, you create a space, which I call the trauma space.

And within this trauma space, which is essentially the shared fantasy, the narcissist continues to communicate to you the childlike aspects of his trauma. In other words, he continues to vicariously traumatize you.

Secondhand trauma, he acts as the ideal kid and he expects you to act as the ideal, good enough mother, initially at least.

So here is a shared fantasy. He is idealizing you. You're idealizing him. Together it's known as co-idealization.

And the field is ready. The scene is ready. The stage is ready for a reenactment of what had happened between the narcissist and his mother in his early childhood. You have been recruited into this theater play, this repetition compulsion, this loop in time. You are now an actress on the stage of the narcissist's life.

And so now the narcissist needs you to become a replica, a clone of his original mother.

I want to explain this. This is very disorienting and very confusing. This is the source of the whiplash that you all experience when you're with a narcissist, because there are shifts in roles, there are transitions between roles, which are very abrupt and make no sense at all, except to the narcissist.

So I want to help you with this. I want you to understand what's going on.

Here's one.

The narcissist establishes a shared fantasy. He invites you into the shared fantasy. Within the shared fantasy, he exposes you to his grief, mourning, sadness, and depression. By exposing you to all this, he infects you. You become equally mournful, equally grieving, equally and profoundly sad.

Now you're two pillars of a trauma space. And in this trauma space, you're the mother and he's the kid.

But the narcissist is terrified that as a mother, you have all the power and that you're going to do to him what his original mother had done to him. He's terrified that the trauma space inhabiting the trauma space with you as a mother and he as a kid would result in the same outcome. Nothing will change. Again, he will be rejected. Again, he will be humiliated. Again, he will be disparaged and chastised and put down again his mother, the new mother, you, the maternal standing. Again, she will do to him what his original mother had done to him.

So he needs to disempower you. He needs to take away your power, to harm him, to hurt him, to cause him pain. He needs you to be his mother in the shared fantasy, but without the powers that his original mother has had. He needs you to be, in other words, a disabled mother, inactivated mother, symbolic mother, unable to hurt him, unable to damage him, unable to reenact faithfully his early childhood. He doesn't want this.

The narcissist creates the shared fantasy with you as a mother figure because this time he wants to be on top. This time he wants to prevail. This time he wants to triumph. This time he wants to resolve the conflict with him rejecting you, not you rejecting him.

In other words, this time he wants to separate from the maternal figure and become an individual, individuate.

And then this way he becomes empowered. He couldn't do this to his original mother. She was too strong. The power of symmetry was too great. The power play was rigged. There was no way for him to win. This time the circumstances are different. He's an adult. He has resources and he can diminish you as a mother. He can put you in your proper place. This time he will be standing tall and you will be cowering in the corner.

But how to do this to you? You're an adult too. You have resources too.

So he needs to abuse you. He needs to abuse you. And he uses vicarious trauma as one of the main instruments of abuse.

Let me explain again. You need to wrap your mind around this. This is so counterintuitive, so sick, so inhuman that most people, even scholars, can't grasp it properly.

The narcissist creates a shared fantasy where you're his mother and he's your child. But he's terrified that you will do to him what his original mother did to him.

So he needs to make you weak. He needs to break you. He needs to disempower you. He needs to take away your power so that you can do to him what his original mother had done to him. He needs to disable you and deactivate you.

And to do this, the only way is to abuse you. The more he abuses you, the more broken you are, the less powerful you are, the less potent, the less menacing and threatening. The more he mistreats you, the more he humiliates you, the more he criticizes you, the more shattered and broken to smithereens you are.

You can't put yourself together like Humpty Dumpty and so you are not a threat.

And how does he abuse you?

One mechanism is vicarious trauma. He constantly exposes you to his own trauma. He reenacts it.

And as we've said before in this video, in my previous video, vicarious trauma is as powerful, as powerful as original trauma. It's recognized in the DSM.

And so he traumatizes you. Got a long story short. He uses his own trauma to traumatize you by exposing you to the recesses and depths of his demented, very dark soul, to the black hole that is at his core.

This is one way.

And the other way is, of course, narcissistic abuse. This is when narcissistic abuse walks hand in hand. It's a marriage made in hell with vicarious trauma. Narcissistic abuse and vicarious trauma together serve to reduce you to the point that you are not able to function and therefore not able to threaten the narcissist.

One unintended consequence of this is that you regress. You regress to your own early childhood. This is called infantile regression. When we're exposed to pain, hurt, uncertainty, fear, horror, terror, and so on, we regress. We become a lot more childish. We become infantile.

This exactly is what happens to you.

When you're introduced into the shared fantasy via the love bombing phase, where you are idealized, and afterwards, afterwards you are put down, you are suppressed, oppressed, and subjugated, and subdued with vicarious trauma and with narcissistic abuse, you regress. You go back to your own early childhood, and there is a role reversal.

The narcissist becomes the mother for a while, and you become the traumatized child.

I repeat, the narcissist is terrified that if you were to become his mother, you were treating the same way his original mother had treated you.

So he needs you to be a weak mother, a broken mother, an impotent mother, a mother incapable of inflicting on him pain and hurt.

So he vicariously traumatizes you, and he narcissistically abuses you.

But this has the unintended consequence of you becoming a traumatized child. You regress to your own childhood, leaving the narcissist to be your mother.

And this is exactly the concept of the dual mothership. The dual mothership is a two-phase affair.

Initially, you are the narcissist's mother, but then he becomes your mother because you had regressed to early childhood.

Okay, I hope you followed me up to here.

The minute the narcissist feels that he's stronger than you, that he has power over you, that he's the one who can manipulate, that he's in control, that he's in charge, that the risk of being hurt by you is minimal because you are dysfunctional and incapable of hurting them.

The minute the narcissist feels godlike, the minute the narcissist feels that he is the mother figure, and he has the power to abuse, you have become a child, you have regressed to your own infancy, that minute the power of symmetry between him and his original mother has been righted.

Let me make it clear. By reducing you, by humiliating you, by subjugating you, by destroying you, by negating you, by vitiating you, by humiliating you, by insulting you, by cursing you, by isolating you, but with all these techniques of vicarious trauma and narcissistic abuse, the narcissist now feels that he is stronger than you. You represent to him his mother, so now he's stronger than his mother.

The original power of symmetry, the lack of justice, the injustice between him and his original mother is righted, is rectified, is fixed by humiliating and destroying his new mother, you, the mother's substitute.

The hurt asymmetry, the symmetry of pain is also restored because his original mother had caused him pain and now he's causing pain and agony to his mother's substitute.

In his demented, delirious mind, the narcissist is incapable to make distinctions between past and present external and internal objects.

Kanberg was right, narcissism is a form of psychosis.

So in his sick mind, doing to you what he should have done to his original mother, to his birth mother, doing it to you is as good as doing it to his birth mother. Whatever he does to you, he is doing to his real mother. He controls you, he is controlling his real mother. He humiliates you, he's just humiliated his real mother. You are his real mother.

Now he's settling the accounts with you. He's restoring justice and order and structure into his life, imbuing it with meaning and sense because now everything falls into the right place. Everything is okay now.

The power of symmetry, the hurt of symmetry are rectified.

Now the narcissist can relax. Mission accomplished. Mother has been put in her place. Mother has been punished for what she had done to him as a child. Mother retribution and vengeance have been exacted on this parent and the narcissist feels empowered at peace and without any form of anxiety.

So now he can safely become a kid again. Now he can become a child again because now he has converted you from a dead mother, dead as in Andrei Green's construct, not really dead, but he had converted you from a mother who had been selfish and absent and bad. He had converted you from this mother to a mother who is good enough. A mother who is a safe base. A mother who will never hurt him and will never cause him pain because she's too weak. A mother who is so dysfunctional, so disregulated, so much infantile, so much in pain that she cannot hurt him anymore. She cannot cause him pain. She cannot humiliate him. She cannot mortify him. She cannot injure him.

It is by destroying you that the narcissist feels safe, safe enough with you. He feels good with you only when you feel bad. He feels safe with you only when you feel unsafe. He feels happy with you only when you're unhappy and he does his best to ruin every moment of happiness you have because it threatens him.

Your independence and autonomy and power threaten him. He needs you. He needs you to be a submissive mother. A mother who is not a menace, not a threat, will not inflict on him the horrors of his early childhood again.

So now that you're weak and meek and subservient, the narcissist feels safe enough to revert to the role of a child, you have become safe-based. Now you are a much less threatening mother.

Again we see a transition. In the initial phase, the narcissist is a child and you are the mother. Then the narcissist uses vicarious trauma and narcissistic abuse to destroy you as a mother so that you cannot threaten him as a kid.

The narcissist makes sure that you don't do to him what his original mother had done to him and he makes sure of that by ruining you, by demolishing you, by devastating you, disempowering you, rendering you powerless.

This is the second phase.

Now you have regressed to your own infancy and you are the child. The narcissist is a mother. Originally you were the mother. Narcissist is a child.

Then the narcissist forced you to become a child and he has become the mother, inverting the power matrix.

But now that he has destroyed you, now that he has eradicated you and devastated you, now he feels safe to be a child again and he pushes you to revert to being a mother.

Now everything is calm and settled and anxiety-free because you are the kind of mother who can do him no harm. A little like Google.

And so now he is ready to take you on. Now he's ready to confront you.

Why would he want to confront you as a mother?

Now you're his mother now. You're not threatening. You don't have the power to hurt him and to harm him. Why would he want to confront you?

Because remember, I don't know why but the coffee tastes different with this meaning.

Because remember there's unfinished business between the narcissist and his mother of origin and you are his mother of origin in the narcissist's mind. You are not a substitute, you are her.

So there's unfinished business with you and that's the unfinished business of separation and individuation.

The narcissist was unable to separate from his original mother, from his birth mother, because she was very punitive. She didn't let him separate. She didn't let him individually. She didn't allow him to set proper boundaries.

And so his growth was started. He couldn't develop into an adult. He remained infantile with infantile defenses like splitting, he needs to grow up. He wants to grow up. It's a natural propensity in human beings to grow up.

Growingup. Growing up is a feature of nature. Everything grows up, flowers grow up, everything grows up.

So narcissist wants to grow up and the only way to grow up is to separate from mother. But his original mother is either gone or she's too threatening. You, the weakened and feebled mother, you constitute no threat. He can separate from you safely because you can't punish him. You don't have the force to punish him. You are disempowered. You're weak.

So he feels okay. He feels that it's safe to separate from you and he discards you. He discard you. That's why narcissists discard their intimate partners because discarding is a symbolic act of separating from mother, symbolic act of separation.

And there's no fear of retribution because you, his mother, you are enfeebled. You are shattered. You're broken. You're damaged. You're nursing to your wounds. You're licking your wounds. You're in the corner. You are too busy and too preoccupied with your own disintegration to punish him for his attempts to separate.

So then he discard you. And that is the symbolic separation he had always wanted. He has always wanted symbolic separation from mother. He couldn't do it with his mother of origin. He's doing it with you.

And suddenly he feels more like an individual. He feels the pangs of growing up. He feels that he's becoming an adult.

The more diminished you are, the more reduced, the more constricted, the more contracted, the more diminutive to the point of vanishing, to the point of disappearing, the more the narcissist by comparison feels empowered, feels big, feels great, feels that he's evolving and developing. It's like he's feeding off your body. It's like he's consuming you in the process. And you serve as a form of psychological nutrition. What his mother should have done is a good enough mother. He imposes on you. He coerces you into doing it, into helping him. And he does this by abusing you, narcissistically abusing you, and by vicariously traumatizing you, thereby taking away your power.

So he separates from you. By separating from you, he separates from her, from his mother of origin. He discards you or he pushes you to abandon him.

And when he got gone, he feels that he has reasserted control, even at the cost of elevated anxiety, because the narcissist has separation insecurity, exactly like the borderline, although a bit diminished, not the same intensity like the borderline, but still he has separation anxiety, insecurity, I'm sorry, abandonment anxiety.

So when he discards you or when he pushes you to cheat on him or to abandon him, he experiences a normal anxiety. He experiences a normal sense of insecurity, but he resolves it very fast by replacing you.

And that's why narcissists don't wait one heartbeat between discarding you and finding someone else, because they can't, the interval, the interval is anxiety laden. Narcissist is very anxious until he finds another mother figure, another maternal figure.

And the cycle recommences. The narcissist hovers you from time to time, because the conflict is unresolved. Hovers is the outcome of this unresolved conflict.

But wait a minute, Vaknin, you said, those of you who are still capable of talking. Wait a minute, you said that the narcissist makes his intimate partner weaker, shutters, breaks up, breaks his intimate partner. And then with a broken and fabled, weakened intimate partner in the role of a mother, he feels safe enough to separate, an individuate, mission accomplished, problem solved.

Why is there a repetition compulsion? What's the problem? Why does a narcissist immediately need to find a replacement, another mother figure? Why does he have anxiety, separation insecurity, abandonment anxiety, in the interval between discarding an old intimate partner or being abandoned by a previous intimate partner and finding a new one? Why? Why does this need to replay or reenact a conflict which on the face of it has been resolved?

The narcissist emerges victorious. He had subdued you, he had discarded you, he had separated from you, and he had become his own man or woman. He is individuated.

So why go through this again?

Because you're still in his mind. There is still an introjective view. It's called introject permanence. There is an introjective view, a representation, an avatar, a snapshot of you in his mind. And this internal object is energy consuming, is demanding, is expressive.

The narcissist cannot get rid of this internal object.

And at some point, he needs to match the internal object with reality. So he comes back to you. He's trying to restore object permanence.

Now I'm not going into details because there is a video about why I've made about why the narcissist hovers you. And there you can find a much more detailed explanation.

So I tried to bring all the strands together. I showed you how the narcissist uses two mechanisms, vicarious trauma and narcissistic abuse, in order to neutralize your threat as a mother figure. I showed you how the narcissist creates a shared fantasy, which is actually a trauma space where he can reenact the trauma. And by reenacting the trauma, actually weaken you and feeble you through vicarious trauma.

I showed you how the narcissist switches from being a kid to being a mother and back to being a kid and why. I showed you how you switch from being a mother to being a kid to being a mother and why.

And this is the concept of dual mothering.

So I try to put all the pieces together for you.

Shared fantasy, dual mothering, vicarious trauma and narcissistic abuse. It's all about mother. It's all about unresolved conflicts from early childhood.

Of course, the narcissist defends against the trauma and hurt and abuse of early childhood by developing the dual formation of the dual construct of false self and true self.

That is true, metaphorically speaking, of course. That is true. Of course, the narcissist goes on to develop a series of masks, which he puts on and puts off. Of course, there are other dimensions to narcissism, but the core problem is the shame of the rejection by the mother.

The narcissist feels utterly negated. It's the shame which is at the core of narcissism, something that had been recognized, has been recognized finally by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Committee in the latest text revision.

Shame drives narcissism.

When you're a child and the only person in the world who should love you with all her heart and all her soul, rejects you, abuses you, treats you as a non-entity or an object, communicates to you constantly how unworthy you are, how bad you are, how unlovable you are, that sears into your soul, that creates enormous reservoirs of shame, fear, hurt, and this seething abyss, you need to get rid of it. It's toxic, it poisons you from the inside as the narcissist.

The narcissist's only way to get rid of these is to offload them on someone else and to mix this someone else, his mother, so that there is retribution and vengeance and writing of the scales of justice on the one hand. On the other hand, restoration of the power matrix.

By weakening the mother, the narcissist becomes stronger and so your weakness is his strength.

The more you disappear, the more he reappears. The less assertive you are, the more he reasserts himself.

Your minus is his plus within a shared fantastic trauma space where you intermittently play opposing roles of mother and child depending on the psychological needs of the narcissist.

The narcissist does all this to you with vicarious trauma and narcissistic abuse.

Best of luck, what can I say? No contact, no other solution if you want to survive.

In fact, mentally at least.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses how narcissists react to pregnancy and childbirth. He explains that the changes in a pregnant woman challenge the narcissist's control and idealized image of their partner, leading to feelings of abandonment and insecurity. The narcissist may devalue and discard their partner, feeling threatened by the loss of attention and control. The pregnancy disrupts the narcissist's shared fantasy and triggers a desperate attempt to maintain the grandiose fantasy. Ultimately, the narcissist perceives pregnancy as a threat to their control and attempts to suppress any signs of independence or life in their partner.

Why Narcissists Laugh in Funerals?

Narcissists fake emotions to manipulate their environment and lack true feelings. They have emotional resonance tables but no real emotions, and they defensively distort facts and circumstances to preserve their delusions of grandeur. Narcissists use emotional delegation to defend themselves against past hurts, delegating their emotions to a fictitious self, the false self. This duality is fundamental to the narcissistic personality and is evident in every interaction with them.

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