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Narcissist Hates Himself, So Can’t Love YOU

Uploaded 3/22/2022, approx. 25 minute read

How it's ah, shalah? Oh, Dorothy. You're no longer in Israel. You're out of Israel. You should not speak Hebrew. You should speak English. Let's try it.

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

That went well. I'm also a professor of psychology and a professor of finance in SIAS-CIAPS, Centre for International Advanced Professional Studies, which is the outreach program of the SIAS Consortium of Universities.

And I'm also a professor of psychology in Southern Federal University Rostov-on-Don, yes, in the Russian Federation.


And today we are going to discuss why the narcissists cannot love you and what can you do about it.

It's a much deeper topic than you can imagine. And so stay with me for a bumpy ride into the narcissist's demented soul, those of them who have one.

And we start with the nature of love. What is the nature of love?

You all know that it is impossible to love other people if you do not love yourself.

But did you ever bother to ask yourself why? Why do you need to love yourself as a precondition for loving other people?

It's because all love is actually self-love. Being loved is a way of loving yourself. You love yourself and you regard yourself through the eyes of your lover, through the gaze of your lover. And the gaze of your lover allows you to apprehend yourself as an external object.

Suddenly you see yourself from the outside and seeing yourself from the outside. You are, first of all, to realize and to accept that you do exist.

I know it sounds crazy, but many people don't feel that they exist. Many people don't feel alive. I would even go as far as saying that most people don't feel alive, especially in postmodern societies.

So being loved is a way of experiencing directly, not indirectly, but experiencing, sorry, indirectly, existence. Experiencing indirectly being alive through the gaze of the man or the woman who loves you. You become an external object and you are able to delineate your boundaries. You're able to become. It's a process of becoming.

And this process of becoming allows you to regulate your sense of self-worth internally, allows you to take on the world, gives you energy, empowers you, pushes you to become a better or just a different version of yourself.

It is your lover's gaze, your lover's gaze which is like a projector on a theater stage. Your lover's gaze puts you in focus at the center and so you become centered.

Now love is not about merging. Love is not about fusing. Love definitely is not about enmeshment because to merge with your lover, to fuse with your lover, to become one with your lover, a single organism with two heads, that's not love because you disappear.

If you were to become one with your lover, you would disappear. It's a form of vanishing and love is exactly the opposite. Love allows you to enhance your boundaries, to make them much more clear, to demarcate them, to become separate actually from the world, separate even from your lover.

And this process of healthy separation leads to individuation. Your lover looks at you, you see yourself through your lover's gaze, you realize that you exist separately from your lover as an external object. You form more, more tenuous boundaries, stronger boundaries and then you become safely within these boundaries.

It's very similar to separation and individuation from mother and it gives you the same type and amount of energy to take on the world.

Now I have a video here about self-love and the four pillars of self-love and I recommend that you watch it.


So this is love, but now narcissists, narcissists cannot love because narcissism is not a form of self-love.

I repeat all the wannabe online experts with and without academic degrees who tell you that narcissism is self-love, they don't know the first thing about either narcissism or self-love.

Narcissism is not self-love. There is no self to love.

Narcissists don't have a self. Narcissism is a failure to constellate, to create, to generate a self.

Narcissists ironically are selfless. They don't have a functioning ego. Their ego functions and especially ego boundary functions are outsourced. They don't exist unless they are seen.

The narcissist needs the collective gaze of hundreds, dozens, thousands of people to feel that he is alive. His existence is derivative. His mind is a hive mind.

I recommend that you watch my video titled Ego is Opposite of Narcissism.

So narcissists have no self to love. So they cannot have self-love. They outsource their self. Their self is imported from the outside and critically depends on the collective feedback from numerous people.

So when you have no self, you cannot have self-love. And so because narcissists don't have self-love, don't experience self-love and have no self to love, they are incapable of loving you. They can't love others.

You remember how we opened this video when we were all much younger?

The condition to loving others is first to experience self-love because a narcissist is incapable of the latter. He is incapable of the former. He cannot love you. He even fails to generate self objects or object representations.

Instead what he does, he creates a static snapshot of you in an internal object, an introject. It's a much more primitive level of interacting with people.

So not only is the narcissist incapable of self-love because he has no self, not only is the narcissist incapable of loving you because he doesn't love himself because he has no self, but he is even incapable of seeing you. He is even incapable of recognizing you as an external object, as out there, as someone separate from him, as someone.

Instead he interacts with a photo of you. It's not even a video, it's a photo, it's static. It's stable across time and non-reactive to circumstances.

So narcissists can affect, in other words, they can invest emotional energy in you, but they can never love you.

Narcissism is a form of self-loathing. Narcissism, I repeat, is a form of self-hatred, self-rejection, self-loathing.

The child rejects his helpless self, the abused child, the traumatized child, the child who is physically bitten, sexually molested, or on the other hand, instrumentalized, pedestalized, spoiled, prevented from having any contact with reality, parentified. These are all forms of abuse.

So the abused child becomes helpless. He is not allowed to separate from his parents and to become an individual. He is not allowed to maintain a separate life. He is not allowed to be, so the child rejects his helplessness, rejects it.

His lack of self-efficacy, his inability to induce change, favorable change in his environment because it is the mercy of abusive parents, and he is ashamed of it.

Many scholars, for example, Masterson, had suggested that narcissism is a form of shame, is a mismanagement of shame over the lifespan. My wife, Lydia Wieglowska, also had a few things to say about this.

So the narcissist, as a child, creates the false self. And what is the false self? The false self is everything the child is not. Everything the narcissist is not.

The narcissist is helpless. The false self is all-powerful, omnipotent. The narcissist cannot predict the behavior of people because he misreads social cues and because to him people are mysterious, unpredictable, dangerous, the world is hostile.

And on the other hand, the false self is omniscient. He is like God. He knows everything. So the false self is everything the narcissist is not. That's not self-love. That's self-rejection.

The narcissist eliminates himself, destroys himself, sacrifices himself to the false self because he abhors himself. He finds himself unacceptable.

And so he creates an imaginary friend in a paracosm, in an imaginary reality, in a fantastic reality. And then he becomes that imaginary friend because he doesn't want to be. He doesn't want to be. There's no form of greater self-hatred than narcissism.

Narcissism is not self-love writ large. It's not exaggerated self-love. It's exactly the opposite. It's the investment of all the mental energies in a piece of fiction, in a story, in a theater play, in a movie. And by doing so, the narcissist ceases to exist.

Narcissism is a form of dysphoria, kind of depression, prolonged grief over an internalized bad object.

The narcissist as a child had been rejected, abused, and told that he is bad and worthless. If he doesn't perform, the narcissist had received only conditional love and the condition was to not be.

The message the narcissist had received from his parents, especially the mother, is you're not good enough as you are. You're not good enough for my love. You want me to love you. You have to be someone else. You have to perform. You have to provide.

And so the narcissist goes through life trying to regain this lost love, unable to separate from this internal object, which represents his mother, for example, internal object that keeps torturing him and keeps telling him you're inadequate, you're not good enough. You should do more, even overt narcissists, grandiose narcissists.

The swaggards and braggarts, those who go around like Donald Trump telling you how wonderful they are and so on, deep inside, they're terrified little children. They constantly measure up to a standard of perfection that they can never attain. They're never good enough.

Ask Donald Trump's father.


And so watch the video that I've made titled real narcissists are covert, grandiose narcissists are psychopaths.

We are beginning to understand the cutting edge, the bleeding edge of research in narcissism is teaching us that all narcissists are actually all real narcissists are actually compensatory. They're compensating for a deep set feeling of inferiority.

This borrows on work by Adler and goes all the way to Theodore Millon and many others.

Narcissism is compensatory. The narcissist is a poor rendition, an uncompleted, incomplete human being, a draft, a draft version of what could have been.

And to compensate for that, he puts forth a perfect, fantastic image, the false self. That's not self-love. That's the ultimate self-rejection.

And it has three sources. Ego-dissatisfaction, ego discrepancy, and ego incongruity.

I'm going to explain, of course, each one of these three.

Ego-dissatisfaction is the opposite of ego-syntony. It's also called ego-alia.

Ego-dissatisfaction is a situation where thoughts, behaviors, dreams, compulsions, desires, emotions, cognitions, everything inside you is in conflict with your needs and with the goals of a healthy ego.

In conflict with your ego ideal, with the ideal self-image, with your ideal self-image of how you would have wanted to be, how you would have wanted to turn out the dream of you.

So when you have a personality where everything that's happening inside you or your internal processes undermine, conflict, and challenge your dreams, where everything inside you, all your internal landscape, suppresses your ego, the needs of the ego, the goals of the ego, and consequently, contact with reality, that's ego-dissatisfaction.

Ego-dissatisfaction is experienced as severe discomfort with who you are. Every thought, every emotion, every behavior, every compulsion, every desire, every wish, every urge causes you extreme unease. You are ill at ease. You're ill.

So ego needs and goals.

The ego is in control. Part of the ego is known as the superego, that's conscious and conscious, that represents social introjections or social interjects. Society tells you what to do.

So you have your own ego and you have the superego which is essentially society mediated by other parents.

In the process of socialization, a healthy person has all these checks and balances. He's in touch with reality, so he's rarely egodystonic.

But the narcissist is constantly egodystonic. He has no functioning ego. He has a very harsh sadistic inner critic superego.

So he is constantly egodystonic, is constantly unhappy, dysphoric, depressed, anxious, angry, envious, negative affectivity is the only feature of the narcissist's world.

But if this were not bad enough, narcissists experience two other processes.


One is known as ego discrepancy.

Egody discrepancy is a theory developed by Edward Torrey Higgins in 1987. The ego discrepancy theory states that individuals compare some kind of actual self to internalized standards of an ideal self, of how I ought to be.

So there's always a comparison between who am I now, who am I and how I ought to have been.

And Freud preceded, of course, this theory by suggesting that there is a conflict between ego and ego ideal. The ego is the reality principle.

In Freud's trilateral model, it's a reality principle.

The ego tells you how to function in reality and puts you down, kind of, suppresses your grandiosity and renders you self efficacious. The ego makes you obtain your goals.

But there's a compromise there, because you have an ego ideal, something you would have wanted to be, a dream, a fantasy of yourself, how you should have been, how you ought to have been.

And so the self discrepancy theory says that there is always a conflict between the actual self and the imagined or the ideal self. There's an inconsistency between actual, ideal and ought, these three components.

Actually, the idealized version of yourself created from life experiences and the ought self, the who you feel you should be, who you feel you should become.

And this creates a lot of emotional discomfort, even panic or fear, a sense of threat, restlessness.

Self discrepancy is the gap between two self representations, and it leads to negative emotions.

And so different type of discrepancies between representations of the self are related to different kinds of emotional vulnerabilities.

Higgins himself illustrated the internal disagreement, this internal civil war, this conflict, and showed that it causes emotional and psychological turmoil.

There were other previous theories, of course, there's nothing much new in this, there's a cognitive dissonance theory.

There is the imbalance theory, Heider's imbalance theory, 1958.

But Higgins took it a step further. He said that there are specific emotions that surface as a result of these internal mismatches, or these internal disagreements, or these internal debates, if you wish.

All previous self imbalance theories recognized only positive and negative emotions.

The self discrepancy theory, assigned specific emotions and effects to any particular type of disparity.

So, the self discrepancy theory provided us with a map, a map of the inner battles in every person, even healthy people.

So, everyone has a variety of self discrepancies. Everyone has negative psychological situations that are associated with different types of discomfort.

And self discrepancy theory allows us to understand these types of contrasting ideas and how you would feel if you would have such clash, the clash inside you is negative emotions.

So, self discrepancy theory says that we should classify the different kinds of discomfort, a discomfort that is created by contrasting ideals. We should classify the various types of emotional vulnerabilities felt by these engendered by these discrepancies, and we should consider the role of the different discrepancies in influencing this or that kind of discomfort.

Narcissist experiences all possible ego discrepancies simultaneously and always. I repeat this.

The poor narcissist is not only constantly ego-distonic, but is constantly ego-discrepent.

Why is that?

Because he is emotionally invested, he is affected in a piece of fiction, in an imaginary friend, in a transitory object, transient object that had never transitioned.

The fourth self is a godlike deity or divinity that the narcissist can never measure up to. The fourth self is constantly challenged by reality. Reality provides countervailing information. It undermines the fourth self.

There is a lot of negative feedback. So, the narcissist constantly experiences a discrepancy between who he is and who he thinks he should be, which is the fourth self.

The narcissist's battles are internal, but the fourth self is sometimes perceived as ego-alien.

In ninety-nine percent of the time, the narcissist believes himself to be the fourth self. He regards himself as the fourth self, and he has a wall protecting the fourth self from the challenges of reality.

It's known as confirmation bias. The narcissist filters out information that can challenge the fourth self, but sometimes there's too much of it. Sometimes it's a tsunami, an avalanche of undermining, challenging, disagreeing, criticizing information, and the narcissist's walls crumble down. His firewalls are disabled.

The process is called decompensation, and the narcissist can no longer protect his fourth self and goes into narcissistic injury or narcissistic modification in extreme cases.

At that point, the narcissist experiences his fourth self as something alien, and this is known as estrangement. The narcissist becomes estranged from his fourth self, and then his egotistphony and his egotiscrepancy are at a maximum. He is no longer defended. He can go into extreme deep depression, and clinically he becomes a borderline replete with suicidal ideation.

And the last process that operates in the narcissist is ego incongruency or ego depletion.

Carl Rogers in the fifties suggested that there is a mismatch between experience and awareness. There is a tension between dreams and reality.

In my work in the 1990s, I suggested that the narcissist experiences a grandiosity gap, a gap between how he experiences his life and himself and his accomplishments and how he would have liked to have been.

In an ideal world, he would have liked to have become the fourth self, but he is always one step removed. He is always not exactly there.

This explains narcissistic perfectionism.

So, Carl Rogers said that feelings are not aligned with actions, and then there is ego incongruency and ego depletion, and he is constantly experiencing ego incongruency and ego depletion.

The ego actually is disabled or inactivated when the gap is too big.

Humans, said Carl Rogers, are intentional. They aim at goals. They are aware that they cause future events. They seek meaning, value, creativity. They want to better themselves.

The narcissist fails in all these tasks, in all of them.

Ego incongruent and ego depleted.

Narcissists are unable to empathize. They suffer from severe emotional and cognitive deficits, up to the point of failing their reality testing.

Narcissists are therefore incapable of love and loving. Narcissists don't love themselves. They are emotionally invested in a fictitious concoction, the false self, and in the reaction to the false self garners from their sources of narcissistic supply, you.

So, what is the difference between self-love and narcissism, and how does it affect the capacity to love others?

To answer this, we need to do what Freud had done. We need to go back 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks, who seemed to have known everything about everything.

I don't know why we bother. Greek myths gave us the word narcissism, as well as the very concept of malignant self-love.

Malignant self-love is a phrase that I coined in 1999.

The Greek distinguish between various types of love and self-love.

Philosophia was the love of oneself, which is a prerequisite for loving others. All friendly feelings for others are an extension of men's feelings for himself, said, not wackly, but Aristotle.

Then there was another kind of love in ancient Greece, the philia. The philia is the love between friends. It's more like enhanced affection, a broad romance.

Philia is usually among fighting men, the ancient equivalent of today's bromance.

And then there is storge or should be pronounced by the way storge. It's the love for family members.

And then there is eros. Eros is love coupled with enduring lust. It's not flirtatious infatuation, limerence or a crush, especially among the young.

This, the Greeks called ludus, game. Eros is much deeper, much more profound, much more mature. And sometimes it leads to a gape. A gape is a love that leads to action and involves courage, sacrifice and strength.

So the Greeks made a distinction between philosia, which is a love of oneself, but a healthy love of oneself. Philia among friends, storge, love for family members or storge, eros, mature love coupled with sex drive.

And a gape which leads to action, involves courage, sacrifice, strength.

So Freud borrowed eros and incorporated as a component of libido.

Now there are two differences between healthy self-love and pathological narcissism.

Number one, the ability to tell reality from fantasy. Love, mature love is grounded in reality. You don't split your lover. You don't consider your lover a hundred percent perfect. That is love bombing. That is grooming. That's not love. That is idealizing the lover, which is the first stage in the shared fantasy.

Mature love is grounded, feet on the ground, is grounded in reality, centered. Mature lover sees you, words and all, your good sides, your bad sides. He integrates you. He doesn't split you. He sees you as a human being with failings and shortcomings, with strengths and talents and skills and with limitations. That's mature love. Everything else is fantasy and usually narcissistic.


The second difference between narcissism and self-love is in the ability to empathize and indeed to fully and maturely love other people, to see them first of all, to accept that they exist separately from you, not as your extension or as a form of an instrument of gratification.

The narcissist does not love himself. It is because he has very little true self to love.

Instead, there's a monstrous, malignant construct, the false self, and it encroaches upon the narcissist's true self and devours it ultimately.

The narcissist loves an image which he projects onto others who reflect it back to the narcissist. And this image is a false self.

Indeed, Narcissus himself, the youth, didn't fall in love with himself. He fell in love with his reflection. And his reflection was so alien that he didn't realize he was looking at himself.

This process, this process of extracting narcissistic supply by projecting a false image, a false self, this process reassures the narcissist of both the objective existence of his false self and of the boundaries of his ego. And it blurs all distinctions between reality and fantasy.

In other words, the narcissist projects the false self.

People react to the false self.

So the narcissist says, well, if people are reacting to the false self, it must exist. And if it exists, it has boundaries.

But of course, it's a sham. It's a fantasy. It's a lie. It's false.

So the narcissist inhabits a fantastic space.

Narcissism is a fantasy defense, gone out of control, gone awry. The false self leads to false assumptions and to a contorted personal narrative, to a false Viennesehall, false worldview and to a grandiose inflated sense of being. And this grandiose inflated sense of being is rarely grounded in any real accomplishments or merit or effort or work or study.

The narcissist feeling of entitlement is all pervasive. It's demanding and aggressive. It easily deteriorates into open verbal, psychological and physical abuse of others.

The opposite of love. Maintaining a distinction between what we really are and what we dream of becoming, knowing our limits, our advantages and faults, having a sense of true realistic accomplishments in our life.

These are of paramount importance in the establishment and maintenance of our self-esteem, sense of self-worth, self-acceptance and self-confidence.

I again implore you, begging on my knees, minnies you, to watch the video, Four Pillars of Self-Love, that I've made.

Reliant as the narcissist is, on outside opinions, on outside feedback, on outside judgment, the narcissist feels miserably inferior, independent. The narcissist rebels against this degrading state of things by escaping into a world of make-believe, daydreaming, pretensions, delusions of grandeur.

The narcissist knows little about himself and finds what he knows to be unacceptable. He rejects himself.

Our experience of what it is like to be human, our very humanness, depends largely on our self-knowledge and on our experience of ourselves.

In other words, only through being himself, only through experiencing his self, can a human being fully appreciate the humanness of others.

If you don't experience yourself, you can't identify your human aspects in anyone else.

Empathy is a resonance between you and others, but if you are not in the equation, there are no others.

The narcissist has precious little experience of his self, precious little experience of his self, because there is no constellated, integrated self. There is identity disturbance in borderline as well.

The narcissist instead lives in an invented world of his own design, where he is a fictitious figure in a grandeur script, a movie, a Cecil Biedermeier movie.

The narcissist therefore possesses new tools, new tools to enable him to cope with other human beings, share their emotions, put himself in their place, empathize, and of course, love them.

They very often don't exist at all, except as mirages, except as flickering images in his mind.

Loving is a demanding task of interrelated.

Narcissists can hardly relate to himself and can definitely not relate to anyone else.

The narcissist just does not know what it means to be human, to cut a long story short.

He is a predator, rapaciously preying on others for the satisfaction and gratification of his narcissistic cravings and appetites for admiration, adoration, loss, affirmation, and attention.

Even more so, the narcissist devours other people, uses them as a supply in order to feel alive.

It's really like a vampire. He sucks their essence one way or another in order to feel alive.

His very sense of existence, of being, of becoming, crucially depends on eliminating, annihilating, vitiating, and negating other people.

Humans are mere narcissistic supply sources and they are over or devalued according to their contributions to this end.

Self-love is a precondition for the experience and expression of mature love.

One cannot truly love someone else if one does not first love one's true self.

If we have never loved ourselves, we have never experienced unconditional love and therefore we do not know how to love others.

If we keep living in a world of fantasy like the narcissist does, how could we notice the very real people around us, the people who ask for our love, deserve it, demand it, require it?

If we live in a world of fantasy, there's no reality, and if there's no reality, there are no real people.

Right, maybe?

Don't misunderstand. Narcissists, like every other human being, they want to love. The narcissist wants to love.

In his rare moments of self-awareness after narcissistic injury, definitely after mortification, the narcissist feels egodystonic, as I said.

Unhappy, unhappy with himself, with his situation, and with his relationships with others.

This is the predicament of the narcissist. He is sentenced to isolation, permanent, perpetual, some paternal isolation, precisely because his need of other people is so great.

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