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Masked Narcissist: Private Vs. Public Personas

Uploaded 8/15/2023, approx. 46 minute read

Okay, Tavarishi and Tavaril Shets, comrades and comrades, today we are going to discuss a perennially communist topic.

Private versus public, the narcissist in private versus the narcissist in public, which one of them is the real narcissist? And a proper real narcissist, my name is Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm a former visiting professor of psychology in Russia, believe it or not, and currently on the faculty of a more benign institution hopefully in Toronto, Canada, Cambridge United Kingdom with an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria, CIAPS, Commonwealth International Advanced Professional Studies.

Phew, that was a mouthful even for a verbose person like me.

Okay, so which one of them is the real one?

The narcissist in private with you as his intimate partner, with his children, with his so-called friends, is this the real narcissist or when he is in public, in the workplace, in public appearances, at the pub, in church, is that the real narcissist? Which one of them?

The thing is, these are masks. The narcissist is nothing but a mask. He is only, merely, a serious, a kaleidoscopic dizzying series of masks.

There is no real narcissist. The narcissist change masks the way normal, healthy people change self-states, but the narcissist's mask is not profound, is not deep, and is not essential in the sense that it does not reflect any essence. It's just a shell, a facade, an apparition beyond the mask, underneath the mask.

There's nothing. There's nobody there. It is not even the borderline's identity disturbance. The borderline changes identities, mainly in response to stress, rejection, and abandonment, but these are real identities, full-fledged. In a way, they are kind of self-states, mutually exclusive self-states, but still identifiable with some core.

With the narcissist, the masks have nothing to do with his self because he doesn't have an integrated, constellated self. He doesn't have an ego as well. So the masks are really masks. You know, carnival masks, Purim masks, masks.

How many times do I have to say this? Also known as persona.

And we're going to deal today in our video, in my video, not yours, we're going to deal today with these concepts of mask and persona.

Just remember this. When the narcissist is prosocial, when he is communal, when he is kind and empathic and compassionate and understanding and healing and rescuing and saving and fixing, and you name it, that's a mask. When the narcissist is aggressive and abusive and antisocial, that's a mask.

When the narcissist is neither, that's a mask. You never see the narcissist. You never get a glimpse of the narcissist.

So the masks are really masks. You know, carnival masks, Purim masks, masks.

How many times do I have to say this? Also known as persona.

And we're going to deal today in our video, in my video, not yours, we're going to deal today with these concepts of mask and persona.

Just remember this. When the narcissist is prosocial, when he is communal, when he is kind and empathic and compassionate and understanding and healing and rescuing and saving and fixing, and you name it, that's a mask.

When the narcissist is aggressive and abusive and antisocial, that's a mask.

When the narcissist is neither, that's a mask. You never see the narcissist. You never get a glimpse of the narcissist.

So the masks are really masks. You know, carnival masks, Purim masks, masks.

How many times do I have to say this? Also known as persona.

And we're going to deal today in our video, in my video, not yours, we're going to deal today with these concepts of mask and persona.

Just remember this. When the narcissist is prosocial, when he is communal, when he is kind and empathic and compassionate and understanding and healing and rescuing and saving and fixing, and you name it, that's a mask.

When the narcissist is aggressive and abusive and antisocial, that's a mask.

When the narcissistthe narcissist's everlasting, all pervasive, ubiquitous, never off facade.

And she said that it's essentially a superficial ascent, concealing a subtle hidden struggle for control.

I'll try to translate this into English.

What she said is that the narcissist pretends and fakes because he believes that by doing so, he's going to gain a modicum of control over himself as well as over his environment.

It's all about control.

Freud suggested at the time that the ego is a product of identifications. This is not very far from the false sense.

What Freud had said is that the ego is composed of layers like archaeological layers of identifications with other people, parental figures, role models, teachers, and so on and so forth. These identifications are internalized and introjected and become part of the constellated or integrated ego and of the functioning superego.

So Freud hinted that the ego and the superego are actually fictitious. They're pieces of fiction. They are an accumulation of other people's ideas, beliefs, values, behaviors, and so on and so forth.

Everyone said Freud is imitating this mimicry, involved.

But Freud didn't go the extra step that Winnicott had.

Winnicott suggested a dichotomy between true and false. So this true self and false self.

Michael Bayland suggested something very similar. He called it the basic fault, fault like break between two parts.

Ronald Fairburn's notion of the compromised ego was another kind of antecedent of the false self.

And then there was Eric Fromm in his famous 1941 book, The Fear of Freedom, where he distinguished between original self and pseudo self. The pseudo self was inauthentic and of course Fromm was heavily influenced by existentialists such as Cioran and Jean-Paul Sartre. Jean-Paul Sartre dedicated the whole book to the question of authenticity or lack of authenticity, what he called bad faith. The bad faith is a close cousin of the false self, which is another name for the mask.

Existentially such as Cercago, therefore mentioned, claimed that to will to be that self which one truly is, is indeed the opposite of despair. Despair, Cercago defined despair as the need or the exigency of being someone another than oneself, someone who is not oneself.

In short, betraying oneself.

One could therefore perceive or reconceive of narcissism as a form of self betrayal.

Narcissist is an abused and traumatized child, betrays his true self, sacrifices it to the false self, which is God like, a divinity and discretes in the budding narcissist in the child who would become in adulthood narcissist.

In this child, grief, everlasting grief and despair.

And I have videos dedicated to narcissism as a form of long lasting grief.

Cern Hyrkago in her 1950 book, Neurosis and Human Growth, took the idea of the true self and false self and ran with it. She interpreted, she interpreted these two as the real self and the ideal self. The real self is the one that reflects the current state. Like who you are right now is your real self. The ideal self is who you could become, who you wish to become your dream state in a way, your dream self.

Now, of course, ego, ego ideal is a precursor of this, of this conception.

Carla Dorna's theory of self suggested therefore that narcissism is a conflict between who the narcissist really is currently, as we speak, as we behold the narcissist and who the narcissist thinks he should be, he could be and ultimately would be kind of a grandiose ego ideal or grandiose ideal self.

It's another angle of looking at the mask and the persona.

The true self and the false self, they went through various permutations. The true self is also known as the real self, the authentic self, the original self, the vulnerable self, you name it. The false self is known as the fake self, the idealized self, the superficial self, the pseudo self and so on and so forth.


But we will stick to the true self and the false self and this dualism, this dichotomy which was sharpened and became an asset in current psychological thinking is attributable to Winnicott.

He said that the true self denotes a sense of self based on spontaneous authentic experience and the feeling, the general feeling of being alive.

So when you have a real self, you don't feel any dissonance, you don't feel any conflict about being you. Being you comes to you automatically. You don't need to think about it, you don't need to imagine it, you don't need to work on it. Being you is just there. It's who you are, it's your existence, it's your presence, it's your being.

And of course by contrast, the false self denotes a sense of self created as a defensive facade, which in extreme cases can leave an individual lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty behind an inconsistent and incompetent appearance of being real.

This is of course a great definition of narcissism.

So we have in the narcissist a situation where as a child traumatized and abused in a variety of ways, remember that spoiling the child, pampering the child, idolizing the child, pedestalizing the child, instrumentalizing and parentifying the child, all these are forms of extreme forms of abuse because they don't allow the child to set boundaries to separate from the parental figures and to individuate to become the hinder, they obstruct the process of becoming.

So the abuse and traumatized child, whether classically, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and whether this way that I've just described, this child strikes a Faustian deal, sacrifices his true self, he suffocates it literally, it's like assassination.

And then the true self in the best case gets ossified and fossilized and this creates a huge internal emptiness, avoid whether true self should have been a black hole that had consumed the true self to compensate for this emptiness, which is also characteristic or borderline personality.

So to compensate for this, the narcissist comes up with the false self.

And of course the false self is everything the child is not. It's perspicacious, it's prescient, it's omniscient, it's omnipotent, it's perfect, it's brilliant, it's lovable, it's handsome, perfectly handsome, etc.

So this is the compensatory mechanism at the heart of narcissism, all narcissism.

Today we know that this is the heart of all types of narcissists, including the in your face, I'm a winner, I will make you great again types of narcissists.

They are also driven by a core shame, by self rejection and self loathing, by a bad object that keeps informing them how inadequate and unworthy they are.

So to compensate for all this and for the deadness at the center, the narcissist creates the false self.

The false self is a variant, a very virulent and toxic variant of what is known in psychology as persona or musk.

I'm going to define persona right now and then I'm going to discuss musks and then I'm going to come back to persona.


Now why am I doing it this way?

Because musks are a sociological construct, musks crucially depend on society, on the individuals functioning in society, on social mores and conventions and norms and scripts.

So we need to start from the big picture.

You know my view, there's no such thing as a self, there's no such thing as individual and there's no such thing as personality.

We are all the outcomes of the intersection or intersections multiple with other people. We are relational creatures.

Now that's not my view, it's not my invention. This is object relations in the 1960s.

And so we need to start with society and then concentrically hone in on what we would call the individual, the person, personhood.

But before I go there, I'm going to define persona, bear the definition in mind. You are acquainted by now with the true self, with the false self and now the third concept which we're going to use a bit later, persona.

The persona in the analytic psychology of Carl Jung, not one of my favorites, is the public face that an individual presents to the outside world in contrast to more deeply rooted and authentic personality characteristics.

This sense, in this sense, Jung makes a distinction between who you really are and the facade or the presentation to the world.

It's as if there's a chasm, there's a divorce, there's a break between our quiddity, our essence, our core, what defines us, what makes us who we are, what we have become and the information that we broadcast, that we signal, that we present to the world out there.

And he implies that these are never the same, never the same.

The persona, by the way, is musk. The meaning of the word is musk.

Now this is Jung's view.

In the case of narcissism, if we apply the Jungian approach, in the case of narcissism, the musk is the narcissist. There is no divorce between the musk and an essential narcissist. There is no core, there's no identity, there's no essence, there's nobody there. It's a black hole, it's a nothingness, nothingness in the bad sense. It's a void covered by a within, a musk.

So while Jung insisted that people have a constellated, integrated, immutable core in adulthood, covered with a musk which is presentable to the outside, to other people, in narcissism, because the inside has been demolished and eradicated in early childhood. Nothing but temple ruins and archaeological excavations there. And all that's left is the presentation.

Narcissists are walking, talking presentations.

Okay, now we need to discuss the role of society in all this and how people fake and pretend and play act and create musks and put them on and take them off, etc.

The whole musk-related dynamic and this leads to a seminal figure in sociology by the name of Irving Gofmann.

Gofmann was probably the most celebrated sociologist of the 20th century and he analyzed social interactions. His emphasis was on how we try to control impressions that we give to other people and how we in turn try to read impressions that people kind of sell us on.

So he was concerned with the two directional traffic of impressions. We are trying to impress people, people are trying to impress us. How do we cope with this? How do we manage this? And what happens in these exchanges?

And in 1959 he wrote a book and the book's title is The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. And he in that book he came up with the idea of a musk.

He said that when we have face-to-face encounters with people we put on musks in social life. We are all performers and social life is nothing but dramaturgy, it's theater.

He said behind many musks and many characters each performer tends to wear a single look, a naked, unsocialized look.

Had he lived today he would have carried it forward probably and he would have said with the exception of the narcissist.

This is how this sentence is going to sound when it is applied to pathological narcissism.

Behind many musks and many characters each performer tends to have nothing inside himself, a naked black hole.

When the normal course of events, when normal interpersonal relationships and interactions are disrupted only then the musk sleeps. Only then people get what he said, what he called an image of the man behind the musk reminiscent of wizard of all.

And this was Irving Goffman. Goffman's book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life published in 1959 or 1956. I think it was 56 and second edition was 59. His book transformed the discourse, transformed the conversation regarding what do we really know about other people. Why do people tell us about themselves? What do they broadcast and how manipulative is this?

When we come face to face with another person are we really interacting with someone there or are we stupidly, stupidly interacting with a musk?

And when people take off the musks what then or do they always wear musks? For example, at work, you wear a musk with your boss, and then you come back home. Do you wear another musk? Do you change the musk to that of a husband with your wife, or a father with your children?

Is being a husband, or being a father, types of musks?

These were crucial in many ways terrifying questions because we have these underlying assumptions that self-reporting is reliable.

The totality of social sciences, sociology, and psychology, included, rely heavily and crucially on self-reporting.

The vast majority of psychological tests rely on self-reporting, even tests for psychopathy and narcissism, ironically, and idiotically, may I add, rely on self-reporting.

But if self-reporting is done by a musk then you know we're in trouble. We're in trouble because we are fed with the wrong information. We are fed with the right information when it comes to the musk but how correlated is the musk with a person underneath? How connected is the musk? What can we learn from the musk about the person? Is there a way to somehow convert or translate the musk into the underlying personality characteristics of the musk barrier?

It reminds me of a horror novel by Stephen King, Rose Meddah. Meddah. M-A-D-D-ER. Rose escapes an abusive relationship and husband is Norman. He is a cop. He's a policeman and he has this musk which he talks through and he uses the musk to interact with the world or to interface with the world.

This is a stunning book by the way. Okay, so it raised many questions. It was a very controversial book. The government believed that when an individual comes in contact with other people that individual will attempt to control or to guide the impressions that other people might have of him.

A person would try to change her setting, her appearance, manner. She or he would broadcast in short false information so all human interactions are premised on, based upon, and founded on falsity, lies, white lies, intricate lies, delicate lies, gentle lies, lies all the same.

The person the individual is interacting with is trying to decode the lie, to decipher it, to somehow form and obtain information about the individual not about the musk to penetrate the musk.

And so the government believed that all participants in social interactions are engaging in some practices intended to kind of maintain control by avoiding being embarrassed or by embarrassing others.

And so he developed what he called dramaturgical analysis and he said that there's a connection between the kinds of acts that people people adopt and theatrical performances.

I'm not going to, right now.

In social interactions, said government, it's a performance.

There is a front region public facing where the performers, individuals are on stage in front of an audience, the other person or the other people.

Now everything is describing applies to healthy people, normal people, common folks, and applies to narcissists as well.

Here's the difference.

If you reach out and strip the musk of the narcissist, what will be left behind is nothing, air, a transparency. You will have discovered that the musk was the only thing there.

If you reach out and strip the musk of a normal healthy person, you will see the normal healthy person and the correlation between the qualities or traits of the musk and the normal and the person who is displaying the musk, correlation is pretty high.

People rarely engage in actual deceit, intentional deceit or even unintentional deceit. The musk is shaped, the musk is formed, the musk is designed to feel comfortable, egosyntonic.

So when you come up with a musk to show your boss or a musk to show your wife or a musk to show in church, you will design the musk in a way that it won't create too much dissonance. You will be very close to the musk, even if the musk is stripped away by some cataclysmic event or some stress or some anxiety or some. Even then, the difference between you and the musk is going to be very small.

If you're healthy, if you're normal, if you're a narcissist, there is no difference between you and the musk. You are the musk and only the musk.

So according to government, there's a positive aspect of the idea of self and these positive aspects are the desired impressions.

We are trying to emphasize our positivity and convey these positive aspects of who we are via impression management.

There is of course always what he called a back region and other people call the shadow or the complexes and so on. And in these areas which are usually inaccessible, many of them unconscious and so on and so forth, there is a gap between the musk and reality and people are often unwilling to kind of venture there.

But in therapy, for example, people set aside the musk and set aside their role play and allow the therapist access. Presumably this happens in love as well.

The front side, the front office of the performance includes manner, how the role is carried out, appearance, that's the dress and the look of the performer. And when you put manner and appearance together, you have the performance or the musk.

Sometimes performance work together in teams and they form bonds. The bonds could be emotional bonds, collegial bonds, common goals, common commitments, common interests, common investment and so on and so forth. But these would still be musks collaborating.

And this is the crucial insight of Goffman, the inevitable connection, the strong connection between performance and life. One could even say life is a series of performances. It is what the narcissist fails to grasp, that life is not only a performance, it's also a performance and that the performance has to be as authentic as possible, as close as possible to who you truly are.

Because the narcissist has no experience of being, of becoming, of existence. He doesn't know, he cannot calibrate, he cannot gauge the proximity of the musk to his core identity because he has no core identity. He can't tell you if the musk is real or not real, if the musk represents him or does not represent him because there's no him.

He gives up early on in childhood, he gives up and he says well I might as well become the musk but there's nobody there, there's no me. I might as well become the musk and I might as well make it godlike so that it can protect me, so that it can bring me narcissistic supply, so that it can soothe me and comfort me and guide me and regulate me and this is called the false self.

Goffman really went deep into the theatrical metaphor. He took all the elements of acting into consideration, settings, scenery, stage, backstage, props, direction, action, audience and so on and so forth.

So you should read his book because it's pretty amazing and it led directly to later to transactional analysis, internal family system and so on and so forth.

Goffman said that the social actor, the person who acts socially in social settings, takes on established roles with a pre-existing front and back and props and costumes and so on and so forth.

So the roles are out there, you just put them on. It's like actors changing costumes in mid-play.

These are the social roles and here's another massive difference between healthy and normal people and the narcissists.

Healthy normal people assume roles that already exist, pre-existing roles. They fit into the role, they mold them, they flow into the roles. For a while they become a husband or they become a father or they become an employee or they become a soldier, you know, or an apparitioner. These are roles, but all these roles have been defined thousands of years ago.

Not so the narcissist. The narcissist creates his role, his mask from scratch. He creates it from scratch because he has no authenticity. He doesn't know who he is and because he doesn't know who he is, he doesn't know which of the pre-existing roles would fit and because he is highly fragile and highly vulnerable and highly susceptible and sensitive to criticism, in this sense, the narcissist resembles someone with avoidant personality disorder.

So because of this, the narcissist doesn't dare to experiment with pre-existing social roles.

The narcissist says, "I may look ridiculous. I may end up being criticized by myself, not least by my harsh inner critic. I may fail. I may botch it. I shouldn't take this chance because my personality, so to speak, is so precariously balanced. I could fall apart. I could sustain narcissistic injury, collapse or God forbid, those who believe in God, God forbid, mortification to avoid all these life-threatening outcomes."

The narcissist avoids pre-existing roles and designs his own roles tailor-made, custom-made.

So the roles the narcissist assumes are idiosyncratic, they fit him like a hand in glove. They're his, unique to him and only to him. They can't fit other people. They can't fit other narcissists.

This is what renders the narcissist anti-social. He can't fit in because he wouldn't play social roles. He plays his roles. He is a law unto himself. He is his own law.

And so the narcissist creates these roles and uses them to interact with other people. But they are so unprecedented that in many respects they're a bit dysfunctional.

People interact with each other via masks that are used and worn for thousands of years. And so they can predict. It creates certainty, creates determinacy.

The narcissist's insistence on idiosyncrasy, uniqueness, being unprecedented, a one-off, my mask or the highway, creates a lot of uncertainty, unpredictability and make it very difficult to interact with the narcissist in social settings.


Okay, the issues of structure and agency, I will not go into them right now.

It's enough to say that in normal healthy people structure limits agency. Structure is an outside constraint on agency.

The narcissist, because there's no structure, agency is unlimited. That's why the narcissist feels godlike, omnipotent. But I'll go to it maybe in some other video.

Today we're discussing masks.

So it's important when we ask ourselves why has this particular mask been adopted or how fitting is this mask for the purpose and for the circumstances.

It's important to specify the situation, to define it in any given interaction.

Because the coherence of the interaction, its relevance and its appropriateness rely crucially on the situation, on the environment, on circumstances.

Here there's another failure by narcissists and not only by narcissists, also by some, by many border lines, by people with autistic spectrum disorder, by paranoid, by schizotypals. There is a general failure in defining the environment or apprehending it correctly, perceiving it correctly.

Because these people cannot grasp the environment properly. They come up with the wrong rules, with the wrong masks.

And this creates in people extreme unease. A phenomenon known as uncanny valley.

You feel uncomfortable when you're around a narcissist. Something doesn't fit. It's like a 98% human, but the 2% are kind of alien or robotic.

And that's because the narcissist keeps changing masks that are wrong, simply wrong for the situation, the circumstances, the exigencies and vagaries, the constraints in which he finds himself.

Consequently, narcissists engage a lot in inappropriate behavior, which could lend them in hot water.

In interactions, which government calls performances, the parties involved can be performers. But they can also remember half, half of the people involved are audience members. While you perform, while you as a healthy person, perform your mask, perform your wrong, act on stage.

There's someone observing you, someone viewing you, someone trying to decode and decipher what you're trying to say. Who are you? Who are you?

So some are performers and some people are audiences. And the role of the audience is pretty crucial as well.

Because everyone, in a conversation for example, everyone is a performer one minute and the audience the next minute. So there's a rapid oscillation, rapid shifting between performer, audience, audience, performer, audience, performer, you're never stuck, you're never static.


Here's another difference with the narcissist. While normal healthy interactions involve masks, involve performances, involve being part of the audience.

Yeah, it's all true. In normal healthy interactions, your role, your mask is flexible enough to allow you to act both as a performer and as a member of the audience because you need to do that in any human interaction.

At some point you're observing, at some point you're talking, at some point you are being watched.

You need to adapt to all these changing situations. That's where the narcissist differs. He is incapable of being anything but a performer.

The narcissist can never be a member of an audience, ever.

Consequently, narcissist tries to monopolize and control interpersonal interactions in order to ascertain or to secure their position as the sole, exclusive, monopolistic performer.

Everyone else is an audience. The narcissist is on stage, limelight, projectors, curtain up, and it's the theater play of his life. And everyone else is supposed to sit, observe, and applaud, and clap, or with morbid fascination recoil in horror. Any reaction is okay, just attention.

Narcissist needs attention. But that means the narcissist is highly rigid, inflexible. He is unable to transition from the performer mask to the audience mask because he can never be an audience.

So he misses out on at least half of all human interactions and is unable to participate meaningfully in any exchange.

The role of member of the audience is super crucial because it is only then that you receive. As a performer you give.

In order to receive you need to be a member of the audience. S can never receive in the full sense of the word. They can take and they do take a lot. They steal your ideas, they steal your work, they steal your loved ones, they steal your money. I mean, they are not nice people. I don't know if it escaped your notice.

But none of this has any meaning. None of these taking, none of these positions, none of this property and wealth and money and and the fame, none of it fulfills the narcissist. None of it is enough. It's never enough.

And it's never enough because the narcissist can never be a member of an audience. He can never let himself be positively inundated with another person's act of giving. He can never subject himself to other people's impressions and performances in a way that will be transformative.

Healing, even in therapy, the narcissist is incapable of being the audience. He tries to take over the therapeutic session, control the therapy.

So he's never, he never benefits from therapy. Never. That's why there's no way to treat narcissists. Forget the self-interested nonsense online. There's no way to treat narcissistic personality disorder. End of story. You can modify some behaviors and that's it.

Abrasive antisocial behavior. That's it. You can't touch the core. You can't touch the core because the narcissist can never truly receive. Receive by assimilation. Receive by immersing himself. Receive by opening himself up and becoming sufficiently vulnerable to accept change and possibly risk. He can't do that. That's why he can't love. That's why he can't heal. And that's why he's always unsated, always hungry for more. Never enough.


And so defining the circumstances and the settings and the environment is crucial.

Narcissists can't do that. Being able to be a member of the audience is crucial. Narcissists can't do that. They just can't do that.

And when narcissists project impressions, when they try to reflect upon themselves, projections and kind of impressions that reflect well on the narcissist, try to encourage others to provide narcissistic supply, to accept a preferred definition of the narcissist.

It doesn't work, at least not in the long term because a narcissist can never be an audience to another person. People get tired and exhausted and walk away.

Goveman's work is huge and exceedingly creative. One of the most amazing authors to read and to study.

And he said that when the accepted definition of a situation changes because it's been discredited or the real situation changed, we reframe the situation, we see it in a new life.

Some of the actors continue to pretend that nothing has changed. And they continue to do so because they believe this strategy of pretending that everything is the same is profitable to themselves and they wish to not rock the boat to keep the peace.

So they ignore, they ignore uncomfortable things. They maintain positivity. They assist people. They're kind, they're nice, they're empathic and so on and so forth.

It is a bit artificial. It is what Goveman called willed credulity. But he said it's the oil that greases the machine. It allows social interactions to proceed.

And his theory of self is known as self-presentation theory. He said that the self is about controlling impressions that other people have of you. And this is a concept widely used to this very day, especially in the study of social media and so on and so forth.

Today we don't call it self-presentation theory. We call it impression management. It's a conscious or unconscious process.

People attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about themselves or about an object or about an event or about other people. Impression management, impression control is crucial to people. They invest a lot in it.

In the last edition, as far as I remember, of the presentation of self in everyday life, 1967, Goveman touched upon this compulsive need to control impression. A compulsive need that is the outcome of angst, outcome of anxiety, outcome of panic.

As if you don't control impressions, other people may do bad things to you. If you come through, if you present yourself as, for example, evil or dangerous or selfish, people retaliate, people punish you.

So impression management is a crucial survival strategy, providing explanations for negative aspects or traits or events to escape disapproval.

This is Goveman's phrase. Yes. Account for these things. Excuse some things. Deny responsibility for negative outcomes in his words. Conform with opinions, speaking or behaving in ways which are consistent with the target and so on. This is all manipulative.

And that's why I keep telling people, even healthy people, even normal people, and they are very insulted. They immediately tell me, you're a narcissist. That's why you're saying this. I keep telling people, everyone manipulates everyone. All our behaviors are manipulative in the sense that we are trying to secure outcomes by modifying the perceptions, the impressions and the behaviors of other people. Period. This is the best definition of every conceivable human interaction.

Even when a baby cries for food, it's manipulative, let alone an adult who manages impressions and in order to extract some benefit from another person. It's all manipulative.

We utilize these behaviors in impression management to mold our environment or the situation in a way that will not be detrimental to us, that will not hurt us.

Of course, like every other tool, impression management be maliciously leveraged. This is where the narcissist and psychopath come in.

While the narcissist I insist is not evil and not malicious, is just deluded. He lives in fantasy and he coerces other people into his fantasy. The psychopath is malicious. Both of them manage impressions and the narcissist is made of impressions. There's nothing there but the impressions.

So the stake of the narcissist in managing impressions is much higher than the stake of the borderline or the psychopath or the paranoid or the schizo-aid or you name it.

Because all these other disorders involve a human being with problems. In the narcissist case, there are only problems. There's no human being.

I insist on this. There's nobody there. It's an apparition. It's a trick. It's a sleight of hand. It's an illusion. It's a mirage. Phantasm.

Did I get through? There's nobody and nothing there.

So impression management in the narcissist case is life. Impression management is character. Impression management is personality. Impression management is temperament. Is biography. Is an accomplishment in and of itself. That's why narcissists don't hesitate to falsify their biography. To lie about their accomplishments and resume and so on and so forth. As far as they are concerned, what's the problem? They're just managing impressions and since they are made of impressions, they believe in the veracity of their own lies and their own confabulations and their own fantasies. After all, if you are just a thought, if there's nothing there except impressions and you change the impressions in whatever way, you are changing yourself, aren't you?

Narcissists feel that they are progressing, accomplishing things, making breakthroughs just by managing how people see them. Just by managing the outside, the facade. Potemkin villages. You know the famous story with Potemkin and Catherine the Great. Russia again. It's all a facade but in the case of the narcissists, managing the facade is in itself an accomplishment. Is in itself a biography. Self-presentation, in which a person tries to influence the perception of their image by other people, is the core of narcissism. It's the core of narcissism and it's the core of narcissism because there's nothing in narcissism except self-presentation.

Now we come to the persona.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, not one of my favorites, I keep saying. I think he went off the rails multiple times by the way. He was clinically diagnosed with psychotic disorder for a time but he had a few amazing insights of course. He was far from stupid, a genius.

So this Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, he said that persona is the social face that the individual presents to the world. I will quote, "Persona is a kind of mask designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual."

And this is where he differs from Gofma. Both of them agree that when people interact with other people they wear masks and that the aim of the mask is to manage impressions. Both of them are in full agreement in this.

But Jung thinks that the mask is intended to deceive. The aim of the mask is to mislead, to conceal the true nature of the individual in his words. Gofma disagrees. He doesn't think so. I disagree as well because as I've explained there should be a close affinity between the mask and the individual if the individual wants to avoid dissonance, constant ego distally.

Okay?


Now according to Jung, the development of a viable social persona, this mask, is a healthy thing. It prepares you to life. It is an adaptation to adult life in an external social world which is unforgiving.

He said a strong ego relates to the outside world through a flexible persona. Identifications with a specific persona, doctor, scholar, artist, inhibits psychological development.

Of course, this is exactly what happens to the narcissist. The narcissist, like every other human being, develops a persona. But this persona is fixed, rigid, inflexible, inhibits psychological development, keeps the narcissist at the mental age of between two and nine. The narcissist persona is God. His mask is that of God. It's the mask of God. So God is immutable, unchangeable, fixed forever for eternity.

This is how the narcissist experiences himself if he had a self. So this kind of mask is dysfunctional. It doesn't allow the narcissist to explore other possibilities, other options, other dimensions of his personality, other character traits.

No, he's God-like. He must be perfect. He's a perfectionist. He must be brilliant. He must be unique in some way, even if negatively, but he must be unique.

As far as Jung is concerned, the danger is that people become identical with their personas. And this is exactly what happens to the narcissist. He becomes the false self. He can't tell the difference anymore between mask and self because he has no self.

And so only the mask remains. He has assassinated, murdered his self as a child.

And the result according to you is the shallow, brittle, conformist kind of personality, which is all persona with a successive concern for what people think.

Narcissism. It is an unreflecting state of mind in which people are utterly unconscious of any distinction between themselves and the world in which they live. They have little or no concept of themselves as beings distinct from what society expects of them.

The narcissist is the ultimate, the quintessential conformist. That's what I've been saying for decades. All narcissists are pro social. They are conformist because they need to extract. They depend on narcissistic supply. They're junkies. This is their drug. They need other people. They depend on other people.

However, reluctantly, they resent this, but that's the case. So they need to work with other people.

And Jung just described this pathology. Jung coined the term enantio duomia. My apologies. I replace this term with narcissistic tunneling. I released a video about narcissistic tunneling a few days ago, maybe two days ago.

Enantio duomia is the emergence of the repressed individuality, presumably the authentic individuality from beneath the persona.

So the rebellion and mutiny of the repressed and suppressed personality that is disguised by the rigid mask, a mask that would not allow any flexibility, would not, would not broke any criticism.

So Jung says the individual will either be completely smothered under an empty persona or enantio duomia into the buried opposites will occur.

In other words, either the individual will conform to the mask and become the mask. That's an ostracizing or they will be rebellion. There will be a clash. There will be dissonance.

Just precisely what I'm saying. The breakdown of the persona constitutes the typically Jungian moment, both in therapy and in development, the moment when excessive commitment to collective ideals masking deeper individuality.

The persona breaks down and disintegrates.

Jung said that the persona is a semblance, the dissolution of the persona is therefore absolutely necessary for individuation.

And here I converge fully with Jung.

The lack of separation and individuation in narcissism causes the narcissist to remain stuck with his persona.

Individuation and separation require the breaking apart, the disintegration of a persona.

Of course, we continue to have personas throughout life, but the initial process of separation and individuation requires a rebellion against a persona and its demolition.

And if we fail in this, for example, if we have a persona imposed on us by our parental figures, mother and father, and we fail to break through it, we fail to eliminate it and create our own persona later on, then there's no separation and individuation.

The persona's disintegration, according to Jung, can lead to a state of chaos. And that's why separation and individuation is a highly traumatic event. That's why kids compensate for this fear, for this horror of separating from mother and father with grandiosity. That's why they become tiny narcissists, primary narcissists.


Okay. So the persona's disintegration leads to chaos. Chaos is terrifying.

Jung says one result of the dissolution of a persona is the release of fantasy disorientation.

Exactly. That's when the narcissist gets stuck. He is unable to break the mask on the one hand.

So when he tries to separate and individuate, he fails to break the persona. He fails to get rid of it.

But at the same time, he's already developing the fantasy that is required in order to separate and individuate the grandiose fantasy.

Grandiosity is a cognitive distortion based on a fantasy defense.

So suddenly there's a clash. Suddenly there's a war, a civil war between the persona that the child cannot get rid of and the child's emerging fantasy, which is the precondition for separation and individuation.

And this creates total lifelong mess in this kind of child who later becomes a narcissist.

As the individuation process gets underway, says Jung, the situation has thrown off the conventional husk and developed into a stark encounter with reality, with no false veils or adornments of any kind.

Yes, that's the part that the narcissist misses, misses only. He never makes it to this stage.


One possible reaction to this experience of chaos and disorientation, what Freud, what Jung called the regressive restoration of the persona.

So when the child begins to separate and individually, tries to get rid of the persona, and compensate with fantasy.

Yes. And then he fails. He fails to get rid of a persona.

The very attempt to get rid of a persona is horrifying and terrifying and the fantasy is supposed to compensate for this fear, for this terror, for this trauma.

The child develops a belief that he's God, so he's invulnerable and nothing will happen to him if he separates from him and explores the world.

But there is a phase of chaos, even in healthy people. And in some people, when the persona won't be abolished, it cannot be treated by the persona. These people regress back to the persona. Jung calls it the regressive restoration of the persona, whereby the protagonist laboriously tries to patch up his social reputation within the confines of a much more limited personality, pretending that he is as he was before the crucial experience.

Yes, the child regresses into the primary narcissistic phase and remains stuck in it. And it becomes secondary narcissism in adulthood.

And so there is an issue of absence.

What if the child breaks the persona, abolishes the persona?

And there is a fantasy defense. A fantasy defense compensates for the terror of mother-gun.

The persona was mother and father, mother-gun. And then the child grows up, develop objects, relations, becomes healthy.

But what happens if the child gets stuck and is unable to progress?

Some children remain stuck with a persona and a fantasy. These children are narcissists, become narcissists later in adulthood. And some children succeed to get rid of a persona, but they get stuck with a fantasy. They don't progress beyond the fantasy.

And so Jung described this situation. He called it the absence of the persona.

The man with no persona is blind to the reality of the world, which for him has merely the value of an amusing or fantastic playground. Such people who succeeded to get rid of a persona defiantly, recklessly, one could say, but remain stuck in fantasy.

The other ones will become psychopaths, paranoid, schizoids to some extent, schizotypals, and so on.

The result of this, according to Jung, is the streaming in of the unconscious into the conscious realm.

Simultaneously with the dissolution of the persona and the reduction of the directive force of consciousness is a state of disturbed psychic equilibrium.

Tell me about it.

And those who remain trapped in this stage, according to Jung, are blind to the world, hopeless dreamers, spectral casandras dreaded for the tactlessness, eternally misunderstood, etc. He was being gentle. He was describing the psychopath, or at the very least someone with antisocial traits and behaviors.

So restoration is the aim of individuation, not regressive restoration.

Individual, idiosyncratic restoration.

As a child, you get rid of the original persona, you compensate, but the persona was protective. The persona was the secure base of mummy, of mother. So you compensate for this with fantasy, and then you go on in life, you progress, you're three years old, four years old, and you create your own persona. So this is called restoration. It's not the same as regressive restoration.

Regressive restoration is when you got rid of the original persona, but you are so terrified, the fantasy is not sufficient compensation, and you regress, you restore the original persona, and you remain stuck in these anosies.

The other alternative, you destroy the original persona, you have a fantasy defense, but you never attain restoration, you never create your own persona, you adopt other people's personas, and so on.

And this is, of course, psychopathy, borderline.

Now restoration is the last phase in individuation.

According to Jung, it is not only achieved by work on the inside figures, but also as con dizio, sin equa non, by a re-adaptation in outer life, including the recreation of a new and more viable persona.

To develop a stronger persona might feel inauthentic, like learning to play a role. But if one cannot perform a social role, then one will suffer in life, and others, may I add, they will also suffer.

One goal for individuation, said Freud, is for people to develop a more realistic, flexible persona, not the original one that was discarded and replaced with fantasy, but a new one, a more realistic, flexible persona that helps them navigate in society, but does not collide with, or nor does it hide, their true self.

Eventually, said Jung, in the best case, the persona is appropriate, it is tasteful, it is a true reflection of our inner individuality and our outward sense of self.

None of this applies to the narcissist. None of this.

Later, scholars and thinkers like Eric Byrne, Eric Ericsson, and others, had a lot to say about the persona, about the mask, and so on and so forth. Numerous thinkers contributed to this study, my humble self included, and now we begin to see how everything intermeshes.

When the narcissist is born, he is born like everyone else. Narcissists, as opposed to psychopaths and borderlines, at this stage, we don't have any proof that narcissism is a brain abnormality, or a genetic, some genetic or hereditary component.

Narcissists are born as totally normal kids, totally normal babies. They take on a persona, they play a role for mommy and daddy, in order to secure food and shelter and so on. Mommy becomes a secure base because of the persona, the persona manipulates her to become a secure base.

Then around the age of 18 months, the child wants to get rid of a persona because he wants to explore the world as himself. So the child gets rid of a persona, it's terrifying to get rid of mommy, and so he compensates with fantasy.

And then the trouble starts. If the fantasy is insufficient, the child regresses and re-adults the original persona, the separation and individuation is scuttled, done, gone, it's not successful.

And the child becomes a narcissist in due time.

If the fantasy is strong enough, but the child is unable to develop his or her own personal, individual idiosyncratic persona, this kind of child remains stuck essentially as an antisocial type, and that includes borderline.

If the child succeeds to develop his or her own persona, coupled with a reduced role of fantasy defense, the child becomes healthy and normal.

This is the story of narcissism from the point of view of masks and role plays and theater personas.

Now you understand why I started this lecture by saying that there is no such thing as a real narcissist.

The only masks, pro-social masks, antisocial masks, masks used in private, masks used in public, masks. It's a huge rack of masks, interchangeable, changeable.

Take off the mask, there's nobody there, nothing there. Void, emptiness, black hole.

Who is it who is changing the masks all the time? You should, you could ask. Who is doing the changing? Why would masks be changed, reactive to environments and changing circumstances? Who is making these decisions to change the masks? It's not a decision. There are no decisions in both, and no choices. It's a totally automated process.

It's very much like asking, who makes the decision to replicate proteins inside the human body? No one does. No one does, it just happens.

The narcissist is an automated pseudo biological process. He is a process, not a person, not an entity, not a creature.

The narcissist is in flux. He is a swarm, a swarm of, I don't know, he's a hive mind. He's a colony and like a colony he has the upper, the appearance of a mind, but it's not real.

Trust me, there is nobody there, absolutely none.

And so when you are living with a narcissist or interacting with a narcissist, it is a mask. It is a mask that you're interacting with or living with.

And I don't know of anything more terrifying than this statement that I've just made.

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