Okay, Shoshanim, my name is Sam Vaknin, the inevitable Sam Vaknin, and I'm a professor of psychology, at this stage at least, and the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, Forever.
And today we're going to discuss negative identity in narcissism.
Again, I couldn't find a single video on this topic.
So here to the bridge, to the bridge, Vaknin comes the cavalry, and we're going to discuss this much neglected issue.
But before we do, I came across a very funny passage in this book. I hope you see, it's called Genealogy and the author is Maud Casey.
Anyhow, I came across this passage. Listen well.
Juan Perón, Juan Perón used to be the president of Argentina. Juan Perón asked an anatomy professor to preserve Evita, Evita was his wife, to preserve Evita with layers of plastic and wax for $100,000 so he could bring her, his embalmed and mummified wife, so he could bring her with him as he traveled. She followed him, stuffed, embalmed into exile, and allegedly sat at the dining room table with him and his wives after her.
I thought, I think this is the best description I have ever read about relationships with narcissists. They stuff you, they mummify you, they embalm you, and then they drag you all over the world in a wild goose chase after their new acquisitions.
This process is called hoovering.
Okay, enough with nonsense and let's proceed.
Some narcissists invest a lot, they invest a lot in projects, they invest a lot in new friendships, they invest a lot in romantic pursuit and chase of potential intimate partners, they invest a lot in entrepreneurship, they invest a lot, they invest a lot in the neighborhood watch, they invest a lot in a football club, I mean, they're fully committed, fully in, and they dedicate time and resources and energy and you name it, and then suddenly on a dime for no reason whatsoever, they lose all interest.
The gun, the gun, they never look back, they're not emotionally attached to their investment and commitment, they're not bonded with their intimate partners, friends, family, children, they don't mourn or grieve the losses, the lost project, the lost place, the lost language, the lost family, the lost children, the kids, the lost, you know, losses, it's as though, as if losses just slide off their backs and have no effect on them. They don't dent, these losses don't dent the narcissist, he is untouchable, impermeable.
And so how to explain this process of dropping everything on the spur of the moment, not as a reaction to anything, technically or clinically, this is called decafexis, decafexis is withdrawing emotional energy from something that you had been invested in emotionally before.
And many narcissists do this.
And as our societies grow more narcissistic, more psychopathic and more anomic without any norms, confusion reigns, men don't know how to be men anymore, women don't know how to be women, there's no script book, no sexual scripts, no social scripts, no one knows how to do anything properly from dating to fixing bridges, it's a mess out there.
And this anomy, this utter disorientation, dislocation, discombobulation and confusion, they lead to increased decafexis.
We see that people are becoming more itinerant, more desontory, less committed, less invested in the long term, always with an eye out for plan B, another new intimate partner, fear of missing out, for more.
So this increasing floating and drifting through life has to do with societal cultural factors, increasing anomy and disintegration of institutions on the one hand, but also has to do with search of narcissism, pathological narcissism in individuals.
Now one of the crucial factors in decafexis is having a negative identity. What's a negative identity? It's not an identity as a negative person. That's fun. That's a great accomplishment in the eyes of many.
No, a negative identity means you define yourself in contrast to others, in contradiction to others, in contradiction to others.
Positive identity is when you try to emulate and imitate role models, socialization agents, parental figures, parents, caregivers, peers, even peers, influencers that you admire and so on. So positive identity is about taking things from the outside and incorporating them in you, acquiring new traits, new behaviors, define yourself so as to more closely approximate people you admire and wish to be like. That's a positive identity.
A negative identity is exactly the opposite. A negative identity is when you say, I am not going to be like, complete descendants. I'm not going to be like my alcoholic father. I am not going to be like, I don't know, a vinglorious president. I'm not going to be like this thug or bully. I'm not going to be like, negative identity can also be negative in the sense that you say, I'm not going to be a good person. I'm not going to be like Albert Schweitzer. I'm not going to be like Mother Teresa. I'm not going to be like, I don't know, Stephen Jobs. I'm not going to be accomplished. I'm not going to be a good citizen. I'm not going to be pillar of a community. I'm not going to be integrated in society.
So we could have a reactant negative identity. Negative identity that involves defiance and reaction in contradistinction to others.
Let me recap this for you.
Also for me, positive identity is when you acquire an identity over the years, starting in early childhood and ending at around 25 years old, when you acquire an identity that reflects people around you that you wish to be like, wish to emulate their traits, their behaviors, their speech acts, their beliefs, their values.
Negative identity is when you define yourself in contradiction to other people by excluding other people.
And you could have a negative identity that is negative. You could define yourself in opposition to good people and you can define yourself in opposition to bad people.
But at any rate, your identity is negative. It is based on rejection. You reject other people and then you have a negative identity. That creates a problem because rejection becomes a habit.
When you see other people, you instantly reject them. That includes, for example, intimate partners or potentially intimate partners. You would tend to reject them.
But even much worse, since the only way you know how to relate to other people is rejection. You also reject yourself. It becomes a modus operandi, a method of operation, an MO.
The only way you feel that you have an identity, the only way you feel alive, the only experience of existence for you, for people with negative identity, is when they reject other people.
When you have a negative identity, it is by rejecting other people that you become, that you come into being.
Now, rejection becomes reflexive. You can't control it anymore.
And then you begin to reject everything and everyone. And that includes yourself.
So someone with negative identity ends up self-rejecting, self-loathing, self-hating, which is the core, the engine, the drives, compensatory, pathological narcissism.
Trying to compensate for this self-loathing, self-hatred, self-rejection, self-defeat, and self-destruction. You create as a child an alternative, the false self.
So pathological narcissism is about avoiding self-hurt, self-pain, self-rejection by creating another self, a false self, which is so perfect, so brilliant, so omniscient, so omnipotent, so god-like, that it can never be rejected.
This is an attempt, pathological narcissism, is an attempt to fight off what we call bad object interjection.
Now, this is very difficult material, very complex, even for me. So I'm going to recap for my benefit as well as yours.
Negative identity is when your identity relies on rejecting other people. And when you reject other people, it becomes a habit. And then you start to reject yourself. And because self-rejection is very painful and unsustainable, many children create a false self, another self, which they cannot reject. And so the false self guarantees is palliative. It's a palliative measure. It guarantees a reduction in anxiety and the mitigation of hurt and pain.
The child no longer has to do self-rejection because the child is no longer. The child sacrifices, eliminates his true self because his true self is a bad object, unworthy, inadequate, a failure, unlovable.
So the true self is painful, it's hurtful, the child rejects it. And instead, the child adopts the false self, which is always sunshine and victory. And then there's no self-rejection and no pain.
But why would the child reject himself? Why would the child create a negative identity by rejecting himself?
And notice the complication here. There are healthy people, there are normal people with negative identity. Such people say, I'm never going to be like my mother, never going to be like my father. And that's a negative identity.
And sometimes it's a healthy and normal negative identity. In narcissism, the negative identity is not only about rejecting other people, the negative identity is about rejecting oneself. Healthy normal people do not reject themselves. Healthy normal people, even people with negative identity reject only other people. Narcissistic people reject other people and themselves.
And because self-rejection is painful, they merge with the false self. They create, clinically they create a symbiotic relationship with the false self and that is palliative. It mitigates and reduces anxiety and pain.
But why would the child reject himself? Why would the child develop a negative identity founded on self-rejection?
Because his parents tell him that he is not worthy of love. That if he wants to be loved, there are conditions, it's conditional love. He has to perform and his performance is never good enough. So he is bad, he is unworthy, he is a failure and consequently he is unlovable. And this constant messaging, starting at the age of six months and on to age nine years, this constant messaging creates a conflict in the child.
On the one hand, the child wants to reject this message. He wants to say, Mommy, you're wrong. I am lovable. I am cute. I am adorable. I am good. You're wrong, Mommy, but children can't say, can't say that Mommy is wrong. It's threatening, it's frightening because they depend on Mommy for their lives. Mommy gives food. Mommy provides shelter. If you confront Mommy, especially if she's absent or selfish or if you confront Mommy, you may end up dead. It's a question of life and death.
So the child cannot confront his mother or his father and say, you're wrong. He cannot even be angry at them.
So instead what the child does, he agrees with them. He accepts their view. He says, Mommy and Daddy are always right because to think otherwise is frightening. It's terrorizing. I cannot contemplate the possibility that Mommy and Daddy are wrong, so they must be right. And since Mommy and Daddy are right, they are right about me as well. They are right that I'm bad and a loser and unworthy of love.
And so the child interjects, internalizes, a bad object. And the minute the child had done this, it creates dissonance.
On the one hand, the child perceives himself, experiences himself as good and lovable. On the other hand, he had just agreed with Mommy and Daddy that he is not good or in love.
And this is a dissonance. It's known as cognitive dissonance. The child has to resolve this.
And the first act the child does, he develops an alternative self, which is worthy, which is lovable, which never fails, is infallible, which is perfect and brilliant and handsome and amazing and omniscient and omnipotent and God-like. A divinity, a deity, the false self.
Then the child divorces his true self. He just walks away. He suppresses the true self.
And this process is called clinically estrangement. The child becomes estranged from his true self because the true self is identified with a bad object that the parents had implanted in the child's mind.
The child says, Mommy and Daddy say, I'm not lovable. Mommy and Daddy say, I'm bad. I'm a failure. I'm unworthy. But they're referring to the true self. And I got rid of the true self. I eliminated it. I destroyed it.
And so I destroyed the badness. I destroyed the unworthiness. I destroyed my failure. And I'm lovable again.
But this time I'm lovable as the false self.
Mommy and Daddy has a problem with my true self. I'm going to kill it. I'm going to destroy it. I'm not going to become someone else, someone they can definitely be proud of and love and accept unconditionally. That someone else is the false self.
And so it's a compensatory process, but it involves estrangement.
Self-rejection is often the outcome of auto-plastic defenses, self-directed. I'm guilty. I'm to blame. I'm responsible. It's all my fault. Definitely as a child, when pathological narcissism starts, the child feels that he is to blame. He is the bad object. Mother and father are perfect, infallible, totally good. This is the outcome of a process of splitting where the parents are all good and the child essentially assumes the role of a bad object.
So auto-plastic defenses are very, very painful. And in order to avoid them, later in life, the narcissist develops exactly the opposite. He develops auto-plastic defenses, the tendency to blame other people for his mishaps, for his failures, for his defeats, for his bad decisions and erroneous choices. Everyone is to blame except the narcissist.
But again, it's a compensatory layer. Deep inside, the narcissist feels inferior. He feels like a bad, deformed, defective object. He feels that everything that's happening, it's his fault. He has made it happen somehow.
And this creates another conflict. This self-loathing, this self-recrimination, this self-lagulation creates yet another dissonance.
Because the child, when the child starts to develop narcissism, the child perceives the situation as an external locus of control, a life out of control. The child is totally dependent on these parental figures.
And again, as a compensatory measure, the narcissist attempts to reverse this by claiming that he's omnipotent, he is all-powerful.
So to summarize this matrix, there are four competing forces in the narcissist psyche.
I don't want to say narcissist soul, because it doesn't have one, but in the narcissist psyche.
The first pair is autoplastic defenses, alloplastic defenses. On the one hand, the remnant from the supernova of early childhood is autoplastic. The narcissist as a child had blamed himself for everything. It was not legitimate to be angry at mother and father. It was not legitimate to allocate blame and guilt to them.
So the narcissist, in a process of splitting, assumed the role of all bad object. And this created an initial foundational layer of autoplastic defenses, the tendency to self-flagellate and self-recriminate and self-blame and self-gilt, guilt oneself.
So autoplastic defenses led to self-rejection, self-loathing, self-hatred and self-destruction.
To confront this, to reverse this, to fight it somehow, the narcissist created alloplastic defenses and goes around when, as an adult, blaming, castigating and chastising everyone. Everyone is guilty. The narcissist is blameless.
That's the first pair of contradictions, an autoplastic layer overlay with an alloplastic layer.
And the second pair of contradictions, as a child, the narcissist feels that he's totally dependent on his parents and justly so. So he develops an external locus of control. And this external locus of control remains with the narcissist for life.
Autoplastic defenses are actually a form of external locus of control because if you blame others for everything that's happening to you, it means you're not in control of your life. Other people determine how you will live your life and what accomplishments you will have and how far you will go. Other people, outside, external locus of control.
But compensatorily, as a compensation, the narcissist pretends that he is in charge, he is godlike, he is omnipotent, he decides everything. So he develops an internal locus of control, but it's fake. In reality, the narcissist has autoplastic defenses. He is neurotic, exactly as Kernberg had observed. Kernberg suggested that narcissism and borderline are on the border between neurosis and psychosis.
So the narcissist has this basic layer, primitive layer of autoplastic defenses, overlay with compensatory adult alloplastic defenses.
I'm not to blame, you are to blame.
Similarly, the narcissist has a foundational layer of external locus of control. Mother controls my life, father controls my life. I'm just a baby, there's nothing much I can do. I'm an infant.
But then as the narcissist grows up and becomes an adult, there is an overlay, a compensatory overlay of internal locus of control. I'm godlike. I tell you what to do. It's my way or the highway.
And this internal locus of control is imbued with defiance and reactance, which explains why many narcissists are antisocial.
However, denying yourself leads to bad outcomes. The child immediately begins to mourn and grieve the true self.
And also what the child could have been. The child begins to mourn and grieve the potential, the lost potential. The child is also very sad and technically or clinically he's destroying his or his depressive. The depressive position is very sad and depressed the way that he's being mistreated by his parents.
So the abused and traumatized child starts with estrangement.
But then this creates an even bigger dissonance in him. A war, a civil war between the remnants of the true self discarded in order to conform to the view of the purple, to parental view.
So these remnants are fighting off the false self. There's an enormous clash of civil war at the very beginning.
And this leads to catastrophizing. The child feels that doom, doom is imminent. Very bad things are going to happen to him or to family members. He anticipates this anticipatory anxiety. He anticipates catastrophe and calamity.
And he develops rituals like in a religion, a private religion with the false self as God. He develops rituals against these catastrophes to fend off the impending apocalypse and doom.
Exactly like primitive people did. Pagan, pagan people and Christians and mother face and so on. They have rituals intended to fend off bad omens and in catastrophic developments. These rituals are known as obsessive compulsive disorder.
So typically bad object interjection would lead to estrangement by suppressing the true self and creating an alternative, the false self. Then it would lead to, and that would lead to cognitive dissonance of war, civil war. Then it would lead to an imminent sense of doom. Something really, really horrible is going to happen soon.
And then the child develops obsessive compulsive rituals to fend off the catastrophe. And these rituals become addictive and dispose the child when he grows up to addictions.
He develops what sometimes is called addictive personality.
Such children who become narcissists, they would tend to focus on goals because the measure of the success of the false self is in real or imaginary accomplishments in goals.
So the narcissist never inhabits his life. He never experiences his life, which is the process that leads to goals.
And so if you're goal oriented, you never experience life, which is another way of describing the narcissist's all pervasive dissociation, amnesia, derealization, depersonalization, not being there. The narcissist is never there. Narcissism is not about existence. It's about absence because the narcissist is always in the future. He is never in the presence. He is always hunting or chasing goals in order to feed, to feed the ravenous and rapacious false self. He is terrified of the false self because the false self comprises a function, figment, which is essentially a harsh inner critic. I've dealt with it in other videos.
So the false self is how to get the narcissist. If he doesn't feed it daily with narcissistic supply, the narcissistic supply depends on accomplishing goals. And in itself is a goal.
But of course, chasing goals, chasing goals is compensatory, not focusing on the process, not focusing on life. It's a form of self-rejection.
When you say, I am not a bad object, mommy. When you talk to the introjects of your parents in your mind and you say to them, I am not a bad object. I am this false self, which is a perfect object. You're actually rejecting yourself.
The narcissist's pursuit of goals, accomplishments, in order to gratify a never sated false self, this constant battle and chase, they're a form of self-rejection because the narcissist is saying, as I am, I am not good enough. As I am, I'm a bad, unworthy object. As I am, I cannot be loved. So I need to not be. I need to be someone else. I need to focus on feeding the false self with an endless stream of narcissistic supply, which is a goal. I need to focus on goals. I need to forget my life. I need to forget the process. I need to forget experience. I need to reject life because I have a job to do. And that job is to satisfy the harsh sadistic introjects and superego and inner critic, whatever you want to call it, in my mind.
I need to fend off these voices, which can cause me suicidal ideation. They're dangerous. I need to fend them off by proving to them time and again that I can do. I'm a can do kind of guy.
And so there's a focus that is compensatory and constitutes rejection of the self in favor of a piece of fiction, which is misidentified as the self.
But all the time lurking in the background is this sentence. The false self is all good. He's all perfect. And he's there.
And I'm the false self because without the false self, I'm bad. I'm unworthy and worthy. I'm useless. I'm unlovable.
So, ironically, compensatory narcissism actually is the ultimate form of self rejection. The narcissist has no way to exit his negative identity, which is founded on the rejection of himself.
And everything he tries to do, including, for example, creating a false self, which is unrejectable, which is lovable, everything he does only serves to remind him how inadequate and worthless he is.
Because here, you see, the false self is so perfect. It's godlike as opposed to me.
This sentence, unsaid, unspoken, latent, hidden, is always in the narcissist's mind. When the narcissist gets a compliment, when he obtains narcissistic supply, small voice whispers in his head, the false self had garnered this supply. The false self deserves this supply.
But you are an imposter. You know, deep, deep, deep in the recesses of your demented mind that you're not the false self. You're the true self. You are unlovable. You're worthless. You're useless. You're a bad object.
And the contrast with the false self only reminds the narcissist how true this is and how estranged he is from his own life.