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Narcissism: Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Uploaded 1/25/2011, approx. 3 minute read

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

Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID for short, is the official formal name given to what used to be called multiple personality disorder.

Are narcissists dissociative? Do they have multiple personalities? Is the true self of the narcissist the equivalent of the host personality in the DID person, in the multiple personality disorder patient? Is the false self one of the fragmented personalities, also known as alters?

The false self is a mere construct rather than a full-fledged self. It is the locus of the narcissist fantasies of grandiosity, its feelings of entitlement, omnipotence, magical thinking, omniscience, and magical immunity.

But the false self lacks many other functional and structural elements. It is not a full-fledged personality, as would happen and appear in a multiple personality disorder patient.

Moreover, the false self has no cut-off date. DID alters these multiple personalities. They all have a date of inception, usually as a reaction to trauma or abuse.

In other words, they all have an age.

The false self is a process. It is not an entity. It is a reactive pattern, a reactive formation, if you wish.

The false self is not really a self, nor is it very false. It is very real, more real to the narcissist than his own true self.

As Kernberg observed, the narcissist actually vanishes and is replaced by the false self. There is no true self inside the narcissist in any functional sense.

The narcissist is a whole of mirrors, but the whole itself is an optical illusion created by the mirrors. Narcissism is reminiscent of a painting by Escher.

Stairs go up and down, but lead nowhere. In DID, in multiple personality disorder, the emotions are segregated into personality-like internal structures, entities, alters.

The notion of unique, separate, multiple, whole personality is wrong and primitive. DID is a continuum, emotional continuum, mental continuum, psychological continuum.

The inner language of the DID patient breaks down into polyglot chaos. In DID, emotions cannot communicate with each other for fear of provoking overwhelming pain and its fatal consequences.

So what these emotions do instead, they keep apart or are being kept apart by various mechanisms.

A host or birth personality, a facilitator personality, moderator personality, and so on and so forth. All personality disorders involve a modicum of dissociation, but the narcissistic solution is to emotionally disappear altogether.

Hence the tremendous insatiable need of the narcissist for external approval, for the external gaze, for the outside confirmation that he exists. The narcissist exists only as a reflection. He has no other presence.

Since the narcissist is forbidden to love his true self, he chooses to have no self at all.

It is not dissociation in the case of narcissism. It is a vanishing act.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a total, pure solution. Self-extinguishing, self-abolishing, entirely fake.

Other personality disorders are diluted versions on the themes of self-hate and perpetuated self-abuse.


The borderline personality disorder involves lability, the movement between poles of life wish and death wish, and so on.

So, to summarize, narcissism, pathological narcissism, is not a variety or a subspecies of multiple personality disorder, simply because the true self is not a full-fledged personality and the false self is not a full-fledged personality, as happens in multiple personality disorder.

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