I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Narcissists often carry on talking, or rather hectoring and lecturing, long after their interlocutors, bored, stiff and resentful, have physically departed or mentally switched off.
The narcissist is shocked to discover that he has been conversing with thin air for a while. He is equally astounded when he is abandoned or shunned by spouses, friends, colleagues, the media, their fans or audiences.
The root of this recurrent astonishment is the narcissist-perverse object constancy.
According to the great developmental psychologist Margaret Mahler, between the age of 24, 36 months of life, the infant is finally able to cope with the mother's absence by finding appropriate substitutes to her presence. The infant knows that the mother will return and trust her to do so time and again.
The psychic image of the mother is internalized as a stable, reliable and predictable object. As the infant's sense of time and verbal skills evolve, it becomes more immune to delayed gratification and more tolerant of inevitable separation.
Piaget, the renowned child psychologist, concurred with Mahler and coined the term object constancy to describe the dynamics that she had observed.
As opposed to Mahler, Daniel Stern, another prominent psychoanalyst, proposes that the child is born with a sense of self.
Quote, infants begin to experience a sense of an emergent self from birth. They are pre-designed to be aware of self-organizing processes. They never experience a period of total self or total other undifferentiation.
There is no confusion of self and other in the beginning or at any part during infancy, says Stern. It continues.
Infants are pre-designed to be selectively responsive to external social events and they never experience an autistic-like phase.
During the period of two to six months of life, the infant consolidates the core sense of self as a separate, cohesive, bounded physical unit with a sense of their own agency, effectivity and continuity in time.
There is no symbiotic-like phase. In fact, the subjective experiences of union with another, in this case the mother, can occur only after a core self and a core other exists.
Well, this is Stern's point of view.
But even Stern accepts the existence of a distinct and separate other versus a nascent and emergent self.
Ethological narcissism is a reaction to deficient bonding and dysfunctional attachment, according to Bowlby.
Object relations in narcissists are infantile and chaotic according to Winnicott and Gant.
Many narcissists have no psychological object constancy at all. In other words, many of them do not feel that other people are benign, reliable, helpful, constant, predictable and trustworthy.
They regard the world as hostile, unpredictable and unreliable.
To compensate for this lack in ability or in willingness to relate to real-life people, the narcissist invents and molds substitute objects or surrogate objects.
These are mental representations of meaningful or significant others, what I call sources of narcissistic supply.
These concoctions, these inventions, these substitutes for real people have little or nothing to do with reality, inevitably.
These imagos, images, are confabulations. They are works of fiction. They respond to the narcissist's needs and fears and do not correspond to the persons that they purport to symbolize or stand for.
The narcissist internalizes these pliable representations. He manipulates them, he interacts with them, but not with the originals.
So for every person in the narcissist's life, there is an image or a symbol with which the narcissist interacts instead of interacting with a real person.
The narcissist is entirely immersed in his world. He talks to these figurines. He argues with these substitutes and symbols. He contracts with these surrogates. He is being admired by them and they provide him with narcissistic supply, almost regardless of what the real people do.
Hence, the narcissist's dismay when he is confronted with real people, with their needs, feelings, preferences, boundaries and choices.
The typical narcissist, therefore, refrains from any meaningful discourse with his spouse and children, friends and colleagues. Instead, he spins a narrative, in which these people represented by mental avatars admire him, find him fascinating, feverishly wish to oblige him, love him, or even fear him, if all else fails.
These avatars have little or nothing to do with the way his kin and kith really feel about him.
The protagonists in the narcissist's yarns do not incorporate veritable data about his wife, his offspring or colleagues or friends.
These again, avatar's symbols are mere projections of the narcissist's inner world, not his outer world.
His inner world, the narcissist externalizes his inner world and then interacts with it.
Thus, when the narcissist faces the real thing, he refuses to believe and accept the facts.
And typical sentences are, my wife has always been so cooperative, whatever happened to her lady.
Truth, in reality, the wife has never been cooperative. She was subservient or frightened into submission.
But the narcissist didn't notice these facts because he never actually saw her. He never actually noticed his real spouse, wife.
Another typical sentence is, my son always wanted to follow in my footsteps.
I don't know what possesses him.
Well, the truth is that the narcissist's poor son never wanted to be a lawyer or a doctor. He always dreamed of being an actor or an artist, but the narcissist was not aware of it. He was not aware of the existence of his real son and he never interacted with the real thing, but with the representation of his own making.
A typical sentence, my friend used to listen to my stories enraptured. I have no idea why he no longer does so.
Well, at first the friend politely listened to the narcissist in terminable rents, ramblings and rabies. And finally, he dropped from the narcissist's social circle because he couldn't bear it any longer.
And then the narcissist, a celebrity narcissist, would say, I used to be admired by the media now I'm constantly being ignored.
Well, of course, at first an object of derision and morbid fascination. The media paid attention to the narcissist, but then the novelty wore off and the media moved on to other narcissists.
But the narcissist hasn't noticed because he is detached from the real world. He interacts actually with himself, puzzled, hurt and clueless.
The narcissist withdraws further and further with every narcissistic injury. Finally, he's forced into choosing a delusional way out on this in another video.