Narcissist: Negative Introjects, No Superego, Only Bad Object Internalized

Uploaded 5/16/2024, approx. 32 minute read

Self-styled experts online, in a desperate attempt to appear and sound professional, make a mess of things.

God awful confusion.

Today we are going to discuss the difference between super ego and negative introjects.

That object and many other concepts which self-styled experts get lost in.

Okay, my name is Sam Baknin.

I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University and currently on the faculty of CEPS, professor of clinical psychology and professor of business studies in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Okay, Shoshanin, let's delve right into the murky world of the narcissist.

Into his psyche, whatever is left of it.

Narcissist, negative introjects, not super ego.

Let's start with some basic facts.

All self-styled experts take a piece of paper or an iPad or whatever it is that you're using and note this down.

Pathological narcissism is a disruption in the formation of the self.

The self doesn't constellate.

There's no self.

The self doesn't integrate.

So what Freud used to call ego does not exist in the narcissist.

The narcissist is selfless, ironically.

There's no ego there.

Point number two, the super ego is a part of the ego.

It's not a separate construct.

It's like the tip of an iceberg.

The iceberg is the ego.

The super ego is the tip.

So now let's combine these two sentences together.

If you don't have an ego, you don't have a super ego.

If you don't have an iceberg, you don't have the tip of an iceberg.

Conclusion, narcissists do not possess a super ego because they do not possess an ego and a super ego is a part of the ego.

Get it?

Get it?

What about the harsh inner critic?

What about the sadistic voices that play themselves in the narcissist's mind?

Yes, these do exist, but they have nothing to do with a super ego.

They are known as injunctions, but they are not super ego injunctions.

They are the outcome of what we call negative introjects.

Did I get you sufficiently confused?

Great, because I'm here to disambiguate and disentangle and enlighten you all, especially self-styled experts.


There's a lot of confusion because there were two stages in the definition or the conception of the super ego.

What the narcissist has technically is known as primitive super ego injunctions.

The primitive super ego was first proposed in 1934 by the British psychoanalyst James Strachey.

James Strachey 1934.

That's like a hundred years ago.

At that time, object relations theory was a glimmer in the eyes of some psychoanalysts.

And Strachey suggested that there is a form of early super ego, usually coalesces, this early super ego coalesces during the pre-genital stage by the introjection of especially harsh and terrifying bad objects.

So the primitive super ego is a primordial phase, something badly differentiated, something unboundary, something which is essentially very primitive and is about to become the super ego.

If during this stage of the formation of the super ego, there is an intervention.

If at this stage there are bad voices, bad objects, bad injunctions that penetrate the child's mind, then the child remains stuck in the primitive super ego phase.

But one should not confuse the primitive super ego with the super ego.

Super ego is something completely different.

We'll get to it in a minute.

The primitive super ego is a combination of harsh, critical, denigrating voices, what I call the bad object.

Bad object to remind you is a coalition of introjects, coalition of voices that inform the child that he or she is unworthy, unlovable, inadequate, a loser, ugly, stupid.

This is the bad object, these voices inside the child.

And these voices continue lifelong into adulthood, adulthood and later when you die.

So the bad object inside the child is the equivalent of the primitive super ego. Now before we proceed, Melanik line suggested that when the child is frustrated by the mother, the child becomes very angry and begins to hate mommy.

He wants to eat.

Mommy is not available to breastfeed.

He wants attention.

Mommy leaves the room.

He cries.

Mommy ignores him.

He is wet.

Mommy doesn't change his diapers.

So the baby becomes very angry.

And then what the baby does, the baby splits mommy into a bad mommy and a good mommy or a bad breast and a good breast in clinian terminology.

And the baby begins to regard mommy as all good and all bad and slices off the bad part, begins only with the good mother.

Later on the baby learns to integrate the two parts and that is a stage of where the baby begins to consider shades of grey, nuances and accepts that every human being, mommy to start with is comprised of a bad part and a good part.

But initially the baby splits.

This is splitting.

The famous splitting defense mechanism.

Mommy all bad, bad mommy, mommy all good, good mommy.

In my work the baby internalizes the bad mommy.

In my work it is inconceivable that the baby would consider mommy as bad because if mother is truly bad then the child's life is at risk.

If mommy is truly bad the child will never survive.

Mommy will ignore the child, neglect the child, not feed the child, not provide the child with shelter and succor and ultimately the child will die.

This is terrifying.

The child refuses to contemplate the bad mommy.

Instead what the child does, he internalizes the bad mommy.

He says mommy is all good, I am all bad.

Not mommy, I am all bad.

Mommy is all good.

So when the mother is frustrating and rejecting and neglectful and absent and depressive and selfish in short when the mommy is a dead mother, metaphorically speaking in the language of Andrei Green, the child would split mommy into good mommy and bad mommy and then the child will internalize, digest the bad mommy part and would begin to consider itself as all bad.

And this is the bad object.

So let's summarize this initial foray into terminology.

The primitive superego is not the same as the superego.

The primitive superego is an early phase, a kind of raw material from which much later on in life the superego emerges.

But this raw material consists of introjects, consists of voices, information that comes from the outside, especially from primary caregivers like mother.

And if this information that is coming from the outside is harsh and terrifying and rejecting and hateful and critical, then the primitive superego is going to be harsh and critical and hateful, self-hating, self-loathing and self-destructive.

So then the primitive superego is exactly like the bad object in Melanie Klein's theory.

And what I did in my work, I integrated stretchy and clime.

I said, the child, when the mother frustrates the child, when the mother rejects the child, the child splits mommy into good object, good mommy and bad mommy, and that is Melanie Klein.

But then I took it a step further and I said, because the child finds it terrifying to consider mommy as bad, the child internalizes the bad mommy part.

This is known as part object.

The child internalizes the bad mommy part and considers itself all bad.

Mommy is all good.

I am now all bad.

I deserve it.

I had it coming.

And this internalization of the bad mommy, this identification with the relationship with the bad mommy, this process is what stretchy called the primitive superego, a very unfortunate name by the way, because it is not going to do with the superego.

And this is, of course, the source of all the confusion among self-titled experts and a lot of new scholars, by the way.

So what is the superego?

The superego is the moral component of personality.

It is the outcome of twin processes known as socialization and acculturation, getting to know the structure of society and how to function in it and getting to know the mores and norms of your culture.

Now all this information about society and culture is mediated, is brought to the child by the parents.

The parents, initially mother and later father, teach the child how to become a social agent, a member of society and how to act morally, being able to tell the difference between right and wrong and then choosing right.

So in many ways, the superego is just another name for our conscience.

It's the conscience.

It represents parental and societal standards and it determines personal standards of right and wrong, aims and aspirations and so on and so forth.

The superego, the conscience if you wish, feeds into something called the ego ideal, the ego ideal in the Freudian kind of models.

The ego ideal is an image or a vision of how one should be, how one wishes to see himself or herself in the future.

When I grow up, I want to be Sambachnin, that's an ego ideal or not so ideal actually.

Anyhow when determining the contours and the content of the ego ideal, when deciding what you want to do, what you want to be when you grow up, your aspirations, your goals and so on and so forth, methods you would use in order to accomplish your goals.

In determining all this, the superego plays a prominent part because whenever you consider your goals, your aspirations, your dreams, your fantasies, your wishes, whenever you envision the future, superego wakes up and tells you don't do this, this is wrong or do this, this is right, this is socially unacceptable, this is socially acceptable, this conforms to your values, this bridges your boundaries.

So there's a lot of information flowing in from the superego into the formation process of the ego ideal.

Now in the classic Freudian tripartite structure of the psyche, the ego controls personal impulses, it directs actions, it operates by rules and principles.

In these rules and principles, this algorithm of how to act in changing environments in order to obtain goals etc.

This algorithm is what we call the superego.

Superego stems from parental demands, prohibitions and inhibitions, acquired inhibitions.

The superego kind of informs, directs, guides and ultimately micromanages the functions of the ego.

Now the formation of the superego occurs on the unconscious level and it begins in the first five years of life.

But it continues throughout childhood and adolescence and well into adulthood through a variety of processes, identification with the parents, emulating the parents, the parents as role models, this is known as social learning theory and so on and so forth.

We should distinguish the superego from what used to be known, what used to be known as primitive superego.

Today we no longer use the phrase primitive superego, we use the phrase negative introjects or in my work internalized bed object.

The phrase primitive superego is very misleading and extremely confusing.

When you have a set of negative voices inside your head that keep telling you how unlovable you are, what a loser you are, how ugly and stupid and defective and deficient and inadequate and so on and so forth, these are negative introjects.

These are negative introjects and when you put all the negative introjects together in one basket in a coalition, that's the internalized bed object and these have nothing to do with the superego, nothing.

So there's a confusion.

Now the injunctions of the superego, the real superego, the pro-social superego, the communal superego, the superego that represents society in your mind, this kind of superego constantly interacts with the ego, informs the ego, you know, don't do this, do this, this is right, this is wrong, this is going to have bad consequences, this is very self-effecation, etc., etc.

There's a constant dialogue between the superego and the ego and the superego is highly inhibitive.

The main function of the superego is to prevent you from doing things, to foreclose and forestall certain choices, to rule certain alternatives, inadmissible and impermissible.

The superego is like a strict disciplinarian but loving parental figure.

Yet the very fact that the superego inhibits the operations of the id via the ego, the very fact that the superego prevents you from acting on your drives and urges and impulses and so on and so forth, discretes discomfort and anxiety.

This is known as superego anxiety.

It is caused by the unconscious activity of the superego that produces feelings of guilt and shame and demands for atonement and repentance and so on and so forth.

Now just to be clear, every part of the psyche creates anxiety.

There's something called ego anxiety, there's something called id anxiety and there's something called superego anxiety.

Anxiety is a way to discharge internal energy.

It's not something that is provoked only by specific stresses and tensions and circumstances.

It's an ongoing background process and the main function of mental health, the main function of the checks and balances of a regulated psyche is to reduce anxiety.

The main activity is anxiolytic, anxiety reducing.

Okay, so where do we stand until now?

I'm going to summarize every chapter because this is really deep material.

The superego as we know it is the sum total of societal norms, conventions, mores and expectations communicated via parental figures internalized in the form of voices.

These voices put together are known as the conscience, right and wrong.

Do this, don't do that.

Reality based, evidence based, that's where the ego comes in.

Reality testing is one of the functions of the ego.

The superego is nothing to do with what's strangely called the primitive superego.

It's a very unfortunate choice of words.

The primitive superego is the assemblage or the collection of negative voices, negative introgates that inform you that you're unworthy, unlovable, inadequate and so on and so forth.

And these voices put together are known as an internalized bed object because these are the voices usually of parental figures, role model, influential peers, teachers.

These are the voices that kept informing you throughout life that you're no good, that you're unworthy, that you're inadequate, that you're a loser, that you're good for nothing.

These voices are internalized and then they act against you. They're self-defeating, they're self-destructive, they're self-loathing and self-hating and they have nothing to do with the superego.

So this confusion between superego, harsh superego, sadistic superego, superego injunctions, this confusion is the outcome of strategies, unfortunate choice of words and many, many self-styled experts and I admit not a few scholars get it wrong.

Now the superego can be sadistic, anything can be sadistic, the ego can be sadistic.

Sadism is what we call an extensive property.

It's a background process, it's like intelligence, it's a resource that is shared by all the constructs of the mind.

Typically the superego is not sadistic, not harsh, not unjust, typically in healthy people, definitely and in the vast majority of unhealthy people, mentally speaking.

When the superego is sadistic we are actually not dealing with a superego, we are dealing with a bad object, an internalized bad object comprised of negative introjects.

In classical psychoanalytic theory a superego can become malignant, aggressive, rigid, punitive.

The energy of this kind of superego is derived from the death force, fanatos, from the destructive forces of the id and the intensity and strength of the sadistic superego are dependent on the violent and sadistic fantasies of the child's primordial strivings.

So in the vast overwhelming vast majority of cases what is called a harsh inner critic is actually an internalized bad object with negative introjects, not a superego, not a sadistic superego, not a harsh superego, none of this.

It's simply negative voices put together in a bad internalized bad object.

In a tiny tiny minority there is indeed a superego that has gone awry, that has gone bad and that is the sadistic superego, aggressive, rigid, punitive and so on and so forth.

But the sadistic superego derives its energy and power from the death drive, from the id, not from any input from the outside.

The sadistic superego derives its activity and its propensities and its harshness and its sadism from the inside, not from anyone's voice, not from any introject, not from anything coming from the outside.

It's simply a deformed variant of drives and urges which became fixated on pain when we equate pleasure with pain then likely we're likely to develop a sadistic superego.

So do not confuse a sadistic superego with a primitive superego also known as internalized bad object with negative introjects.

They are not the same phenomenon.

In internalized bad object with negative introjects the voices of other people like parental figures who disparaged us, who humiliated us, who berated us, who held us unworthy and unlovable, these negative introjects, these negative internalized voices within the internalized bad object, they are in operation in pathological narcissism, not the sadistic superego.

The sadistic superego has nothing to do with narcissism.

It has to do with the deformity, a mutation in the way drives and urges are processed, for example aggression.

So I hope I made the distinction clear.

I mentioned the ego ideal.

In psychoanalytic theory the ego ideal is a part of the ego that is a repository of positive identifications with parental goals and values that the individual genuinely admires and wishes to emulate.

I don't know, integrity, loyalty, truth telling.

And the ego ideal acts as a model of how you wish to be.

Your ego ideal tells you, directs you, shapes you, molds you on the way to becoming a better version of yourself.

As new identifications are incorporated in later life, the ego ideal may develop and change.

So it is not rigid, it is in flux.

Sigmund Freud incorporated the ego ideal into the concept of the superego.

That much is true but that is only another proof that the superego is not sadistic, is positive, is a positive force, a loving force, a self nurturing force, a self loving force, self nurturing force, a force for the better, never, never a demeaning, destructive, hateful force, never a self destructive force, never a self-defeating force.

The ego ideal which is part of the superego in late psychoanalytic theory, these two work together in order to make you a better, happier person in accordance with the example of your parents and this integrates well with Bandura's social learning theory and the concept of modeling.

Now Melanie Klein was the first to discuss splitting in any meaningful way.

Splitting has been mentioned before by others but she created a comprehensive theory of splitting.

Why is splitting important?

Because splitting is behind the formation of the internalized bed object.

Internalized bed object to remind you is a receptacle, a container of negative introjects.

Voices that negate you, voices that attack you, voices that hate you, voices that want to witness your downfall or bring it about, voices that want to take you down.

These voices are contained within an internalized bed object.

But what is this bed object?

Melanie Klein to the rescue, she used the unfortunate phrase bed breast and good breast which goes well with pornography nowadays.

But what she meant is good mother and bad mother.

In the psychoanalytic theory of Melanie Klein, the bed breast is the internalized representation, the introject of the mother's breast as absent or unsatisfied.

That's why it's bed.

Maybe it's primitive.

Maybe it's a very basic mind.

If I can't get the breast because it's not there or because it doesn't give me milk or because mother denies it to me, then the breast is bad and mommy is bad.

According to Klein, the infant first experiences the mother and the nourishing breast as what is known as a part objects with positive qualities, the good breast.

The first experiences of the baby with the breast are good.

The smell of the breast, texture of the breast, the milk that flows out of the breast, it is a source of sustenance.

Indeed it is a source of life.

All breasts are good to start with.

Sorry about that.

Only much later or a little later, the baby begins to notice that there are situations where the breast is not available.

Then this is negative quality and then the bed breast emerges.

So the good breast emerges first and then the bed breast emerges in contradistinction to the good breast.

Suddenly the world splits.

There is a chasm.

There is a breaking of the universe into good breast and bad breast.

Klein thought that the development of these internalized representations of breast, these are the first manifestations of splitting.

And indeed they are, at least theoretically.

The baby definitely has a conception of good and bad or maybe more precisely pleasant, gratifying and unpleasant, rejecting.

That's how the baby divides his or her experiences initially.

I'm happy.

I'm not happy.

I'm content.

I'm not content.

I'm warm.

I'm cold.

I'm light.

I'm dry.

A very binary world.

And within this binary world, there are good objects and bad objects.

And the problem is that initially in what used to be called the symbiotic phase, the baby identifies only one object.

It knows only one object.

And that is mummy.

The whole world is mummy.

And the baby is mummy.

There's a single unitary object.

And yet this very object, this single unitary object yields positive experiences and negative experiences.

This single unitary object gratifies and frustrates, embraces and rejects.

And the baby gets very confused.

It's very confusing.

Is this single unitary exclusive only object?

The universe itself, is it all bad or is it all good?

How can the same object be good and bad at the same time?

How can the same object give me milk and then deny me milk?

How can the same object embrace me and then reject me or ignore me?

It confuses the baby.

And the solution for this god awful confusion, cataclysmic almost I would say traumatic confusion, is to split the single unitary object.

To say it's not a single unitary object.

I've been wrong.

My theory, my hypothesis has been wrong all along, says the baby.

It's a very advanced baby.

The baby says my theory has been wrong.

This is not a single object.

These are two objects.

There's one bad object and one good object.

The good object feeds me.

The good object plays with me.

The good object pays attention to me when I cry.

The good object changes my diapers.

The good object holds me and hugs me and cools when I smile.

That's a good object.

The bad object is all the opposite.

The bad object rejects me, neglects me, ignores me, abandons me.

So these must be two objects.

And the minute the unitary object, which is mummy world, mummy child world, one object, the minute this object breaks down into two, bad and good, this is splitting.

And then there's a bad object.

Now here Melanie and I broke up.

Like we had this love affair until now and we broke up.

And we broke up because Melanie says that the child is capable of conceiving of mother as bad mummy while I say that this is utterly impossible.

Because to conceive of mummy as a bad mummy is absolutely terrifying because a bad mummy kills the baby by ignoring the baby.

It kills the baby.

So bad mummy is life threatening.

And so instead what the baby does in my work, the baby says mummy is all good.

This bad object must be me.

I am the bad object.

I'm being ignored and rejected and so on and so forth because I'm bad.

I am all bad.

Mummy is all good.

And so the baby internalizes the part object which is the bad object.

This bad object with all negative and only negative qualities is introjected into the baby.

The baby splits mummy and then appropriates and nexus absorbs, digests, swallows the bad object so as to leave mummy an all good object towards to render mummy an all good object.

And so this is bad object internalization and it is like an open receptacle or a container.

In future whenever there's rejection, whenever there's criticism, whenever there's shame, whenever there's humiliation, whenever there's when the baby is told that he's not lovable, that he's not worthy, that he's a failure, that he's ugly, that he's stupid.

All this information is accumulated within the internalized bad object receptacle.

And these negative introjects operate within the internalized bad object and they yield injunctions that are very reminiscent of superego injunctions but are not because remember the superego works in your favor.

The superego collaborates with the ego and collaborates with the ego ideal because it loves you.

It wants you happy, fulfilled, actualized and above all safe.

That's a real superego.

The negative introjects they want you dead, they hate you, they loathe you, they want to demean you and demolish you.

They want you to be in touch with your life threatening shame.

They want to mortify you.

So it looks like superego but it's not, it cannot be because it's malignant, it's rigid, it's aggressive, it's hateful.

So it's not the superego.

Now the bad object also contains not only negative introjects, these voices from the outside but it also contains destructive impulses.

These voices that keep informing you that you're unworthy of life, that you're unworthy of love or unlikely to obtain love and because you're unlovable, these voices drive you to self-destruct.

So there's a lot of aggression within the internalized bad objects, many destructive impulses and huge amount of frustration.

Some of this aggression is internalized but some of it is externalized in pathological narcissism and possibly in psychopathy, we don't know.

Of course all this mayhem and tumult and conflict, internal conflict creates anxiety.

So there is internalized bad object anxiety.

It's a construct, every construct has anxiety.

The internalized bad object anxiety and the ego is trying to solve this anxiety somehow.

So the ego projects the internalized bad object on you.

The ego says, wait a minute, I'm being told that I'm bad and evil and corrupt and wicked and so on, it's actually not me, it's you.

This is projection.

It's one way of fending off the internal, intolerable pressures of the internalized bad object but projection is only one tool.

Actually we can conceive of defense mechanisms as ways to reduce anxiety by somehow coping with residual internalized bad object negative introjects.

Every human being on earth has a few negative voices inside and perhaps our defense mechanisms main role apart from reframing and falsifying reality is to cope with these internal voices to these negative introjects.

I refer you to my work on IPAM, intra-psychic activation model.

I also refer you to a book titled Taming the Negative Introject: Empowering Patients to Take Control of the Mental Health published by Carl Berman, B-E-R-M-A-N in 2019.

In her book, Dr. Carl Berman describes how to help patients control the self-sabotaging element of their unconscious mind.

This is often called the punitive superego but I just explained why it would be a mistake.

The more appropriate name as Berman herself says is the negative introject or the hurt child.

The negative introject can provoke horrendous acts against the self ranging from suicide and addiction to making hurtful comments that sabotage or undermine relationships.

These are all forms of self-harming.

Finally, I would like to dwell on an unfortunately little recognized and much neglected theory known as the self-system theory.

The self-system is the relatively fixed personality of the individual resulting from relationships with parents and other significant adults in which approved attitudes and behavior patterns tend to be trained, retained and disapproved actions and attitudes tend to be blocked out.

The first to suggest this theory, the self-system theory, was Harry Stack Sullivan, a much overlooked genius, absolute genius.

I will dedicate a future video to Sullivan and another one to Merton by the way, M-E-R-T-O-N.

But Sullivan came up with the self-system.

Actually Sullivan's view is that all our internal dynamics, for better or for worse, is a battle, an epic battle, a saga, Star Wars between positive introjects and negative introjects, approved attitudes and behavior patterns which are retained and disapproved actions and attitudes which are blocked out.

And all of them mediated via internal voices via these introjects, although he doesn't use this phraseology.

He did come up with an idea called the Bed Me.

The Bed Me in the self-system theory is the internalized personalification of impulses and behaviors that are considered to be negative by the self and therefore need to be hidden, need to be somehow disguised, camouflaged from others, but more importantly from the self, involves a mechanism of self-deception.

In a child, for instance, the Bed Me may arise out of a sense of parental disapproval that in turn gives rise to anxiety and self-doubt.

So this is Harry Stack Sullivan's conception of actually negative introjects.

He calls it the Bed Me.

This is the overall picture and I think these distinctions are not trivial or tangential.

I think they're very critical.

I think using the wrong phraseology and wrong terminology leads us astray and the aim of today's video was to place us on the right path once again, which is what I do best.

Negative introjects, moment.

Thank you. ###

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the differences between narcissistic collapse, narcissistic injury, and narcissistic mortification. He also addresses the misconceptions and misinformation about these concepts by self-styled experts. Additionally, he explains the significance of trauma, emotional dysregulation, and dissociation in psychology, and provides a simple test to identify genuine expertise in the field.

Abuser In Your Mind Self Stalking

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of self-stalking and the issue of idea-rism, where his work has been plagiarized and idea-rised by others. He also talks about the importance of fathers in the development of children and the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, where victims may internalize abusive voices. In another section, he discusses the difficulty of dealing with the voices in the head of victims of narcissistic abuse and how introjects affect different parts of the victim's personality. Finally, he talks about the concept of introjection, which is a defense mechanism against neglect, abuse, trauma, and abandonment, mainly in early childhood.

Narcissist’s Two Rejections Giving, Love, And Abuse

Professor Sam Vaknin delves into the relationship cycle with a narcissist, explaining the narcissist's perception of love, abuse, and rejection. He discusses the narcissist's internal struggle and the impact of repeated mortifications on the false self. Vaknin also explores the concept of self-love and its connection to loving others, drawing from the works of philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.

Self-states, Unmet Needs in Narcissists, Borderlines

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of the self, internal objects, and self-states. He explains how the self is a privileged internal object that communicates with all other internal objects, introducing order and structure. He delves into the formation and function of self-states, emphasizing their responsiveness to unmet needs and their permeability. Additionally, he touches on coping strategies in individuals with personality disorders, such as narcissistic and schizoid solutions, and the dialogues between internal objects and self-states.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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