By the 1990s, the process of idealization and devaluation has been fully described in the scholarly literature. Both narcissists and borderlines idealize their intimate partners for different reasons, and then they devalue these very same intimate partners also for different reasons.
And so when I came from the scene in the 1990s, I added a third phase, the discard. Much later, I added yet another stage, the replace.
And now we have a sort of quadratic equation of idealization, devaluation, discard and replacement.
But is this sequence identical to what goes on through the narcissist's mind?
In his demented and tortured mind, does the narcissist follow these steps sequentially in the same order or not? And why does he transition from one to the other? How can you tell that the narcissist is about to devalue you and discard you? Are there any telltale signs, behavioral, cognitive, emotional?
This is the topic of today's video lecture.
My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the interlockable author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. And I'm also a professor of psychology.
Now, if you turn on captions in YouTube, it says, my name is Sam Vaknin. Not Vaknin, but Batman. I love YouTube. They get straight to the essence. They see through me and they realize that I'm not Vaknin at all. I am Batman. There's nothing more humorous than the auto captions in YouTube.
The cycle titles that are generated automatically by YouTube's supposedly artificial intelligence.
Artificialities, intelligent, I'm not quite sure.
Okay, Shoshanim, you've had enough of my not funny sense of humor. Let us get straight to the points promised.
The stage of discard. I've described the stage of discard in previous videos as a reenactment, a replay of the unresolved separation phase with the narcissist's original mother.
Just to refresh your memories of what's left of them, the narcissist was unable to separate from his mother as a child because he had been abused or traumatized. The mother wouldn't let him go for various reasons. She could have been possibly selfish or maybe narcissistic or maybe depressed or maybe dependent on the child, parentified the child, or maybe just found the child to be a satisfactory source of sadistic supply, tortured the child in various ways. Whatever the reason may be, the narcissist's mother refused to let him go, refused to allow him to set firm boundaries to become an individual divided from her.
The second narcissist had never separated from his mother.
Fast forward to the narcissist's adulthood. He finds you and he tries to convert you into a substitute mother, a maternal figure.
And the general idea is that he can replay with you his childhood like an old tape, a second chance. He can reenact all the dynamics between him and his original mother with you, but this time with a different resolution. This time the narcissist is going to succeed, to separate from the maternal figure, which happens to be you.
And this separation is the discard. The narcissist is compelled compulsively, is compelled to separate from you. He is forced by internal dynamics. He is forced to discard you. Discarding you is a symbolic separation from the original mother.
I've explained all this in much greater detail in other videos and in my interviews with Richard Grannon.
Following separation, there's a phase called individuation. Individuation is setting boundaries, developing a well-constellated, integrated, coherent and cohesive sense of self, regulating one's sense of self-worth, etc., becoming an individual in individuation.
In the narcissist's mind, the only way to separate from you is to discard you. And the only way to individuate, to become an individual, is to devalue you.
Wait a minute, Vaknin. Say those of you who are still awake, why does the narcissist need to devalue me in order to become an individual?
The question is simple. The answer, regrettably, like everything else in psychology, is complex.
Remember what the narcissist does when he first comes across a potential intimate partner, you? He takes a snapshot of you. And then he internalizes this snapshot, this avatar, introject in clinical terms. He internalizes it. And then he photoshops it. He idealizes it. He idealizes you.
And now he has to get rid of you in order to separate from this new maternal figure, in order to separate from you, in order to complete the separation successfully with his new mother, which is you.
He needs to discard you.
But what justification does he have for discarding you? After all, he has idealized you. How can he explain getting rid of an idealized object, discarding a person who is ideal, perfect, brilliant, drop dead gorgeous, supremely intelligent, almost as intelligent as Faknin? How do you account for suddenly discarding, suddenly getting rid, suddenly disengaging from someone like this?
You need to devalue that person. To explain to himself and to others the discard, the narcissist needs to devalue you.
But the stage of devaluation is the mirror image of the stage of idealization. The devaluation is the opposite, the antithesis, the polar opposite of idealization.
So that's a problem because the narcissist has to admit to himself if to no one else, but usually to others as well. He has to admit that he has been wrong. He has to confess that he has idealized the wrong person. He has to acknowledge a mistake. He has to accept the error of his judgment.
And the narcissist can never do this. The narcissist has idealized you and now he needs to devalue you.
But by devaluing you, it's as good as admitting the mistake of having idealized you. It's as good as saying idealizing her was a mistake. She was the wrong person. I made the wrong decision. My judgment was affected somehow adversely. I committed an error.
No narcissist would say this because it's narcissistic, injuring. And if it's in public and humiliating, it's mortification. Narcissist would never admit to a mistake.
So how to square the circle?
How to square the circle?
The narcissist desperately needs to separate from you, but to do this he needs to discard you and to discard you he needs to devalue you and to devalue you he needs to acknowledge that the idealization phase was a mistake that he had committed.
No narcissist would do this.
So what the narcissist does is a reversal of the internalization interjection phase.
You remember that when the narcissist first came across you, he took a snapshot of you and then he idealized this snapshot.
And now what he does, he externalizes this snapshot. He kind of hands it back to you, hands the snapshot back to you. And rather than interject the snapshot, he projects the snapshot.
So it's a reverse process. It's a mirror process. The narcissist takes a snapshot and says here you are, take the snapshot back.
It's like giving you back a wedding ring or a gift that you had bought. Here's a snapshot, take it back. And I'm projecting onto the snapshot all the bad qualities. And of course many of these bad qualities belong to the narcissist.
The narcissist imbues the discarded snapshot with his own counter-productive traits, self-destructiveness, self-defeating behaviors, et cetera, et cetera.
The discarded snapshot becomes the narcissist actually.
In a way the narcissist disowns himself through the devaluation phase. It's very difficult to wrap your minds or to wrap your heads around what I'm saying. So I'll go through it again one last time very briefly.
The narcissist needs to discard you. To discard you he needs to devalue you. To devalue you he needs to acknowledge a mistake, but he cannot acknowledge that he had committed a mistake. He cannot acknowledge that his judgment had been wrong.
So what he does instead in order to preserve his grandiosity, even as he exits the shared fantasy, what he does, he hands you back the snapshot. But the snapshot that he hands you back is actually a reflection of the narcissist himself.
This process is known as splitting. The narcissist makes you all bad. And by making you all bad, he renders himself all good.
And he says, she is actually all bad. She had deceived me. She had changed from the worst. I'm a good person, so I was misled.
In other words, the narcissist aggrandizes himself by splitting the negative aspects of himself, placing them on the snapshot and handing the snapshot back to you.
The original process of creating the snapshot is called in clinical terms, internalization in projection. The reverse process that leads to devaluation and discard is externalization projection.
The narcissist actually regresses to a very early stage in his childhood when separation occurs.
Separation happens at age 18 months. The narcissist regresses to age 18 months or two years.
And at that age, there is a defense mechanism called splitting.
And what the narcissist does, he renders you all bad and he renders himself all good in his own eyes, thereby preserving his grandiosity.
It's the only way for him to exit the shared fantasy without acknowledging his own imperfection, without experiencing shame for having failed to evaluate you properly.
So, he tries to do this.
Now, the vast majority of narcissists fail in this attempt to externalize the snapshot and to imbue the snapshot with all the bad aspects of the narcissist. This attempt usually fails and it fails because of something called repetition compulsion.
I have a video dedicated to why the narcissist hovers you. Please go and watch it.
When this process fails, there is hoovering.
Okay. I don't know if you noticed something very interesting.
In the narcissist mind, the discard precedes the devaluation.
In order to separate from you as a maternal figure, the narcissist in his mind emotionally first discards you and then uses projection, externalization, to devalue you.
So, in his mind, the sequence is reversed. It's not the same sequence as his behavior in reality.
In his mind, he idealizes you, devalues you, discard, sorry, he idealizes you, discards you and then devalues you.
I repeat, in the narcissist mind, he idealizes you. He then discards you as he would have discarded his original mother.
At age two, the mother is still idealized. The toddler, the two-year-old toddler who separates from mother is separating from an idealized image, an idealized imago, an idealized internal object.
It's the same with the narcissist. He idealizes you and then he discards you. He separates from you while you're still idealized.
But to explain to himself why he is separating from an idealized person, from an ideal person, from a perfect person, to explain this to himself, the narcissist devalues you.
So, we have a divergence. We have a discrepancy. In the narcissist mind, it's idealization, discard, devaluation, replacement. In reality, it's idealization, devaluation, discard and replacement.
How can we explain this discrepancy? How can we account for it if the narcissist has discarded you in his mind prior to devaluing you?
Why in reality, he devalues you before he discards you because he has to hang on to you. He has to keep you around. He needs you there because he needs to complete the process with you.
Had he discarded you immediately after having idealized you, you will not be around for the devaluation phase.
Let me repeat this. If the narcissist were to idealize you and then the narcissist were to discard you, you would walk away and you would not be available there for the devaluation phase.
So, the narcissist has to reverse the order. He has to first devalue you and keep you around in order to complete the devaluation process and only then he discard you.