Narcissist’s 8 Life Failures (Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development)

Uploaded 12/28/2023, approx. 44 minute read

Daily speech, ego simply means vanity, being full of yourself, or being self-centered, selfish, egotism.

But this is not the meaning of ego in psychoanalytic theory and literature.

Ego is a part of the mind that is responsible for multiple functions.

The most important of which is interfacing with reality, mediating between urges and desires and wishes and drives and reality.

Because reality tends to push back their consequences to actions and it is the ego's responsibility to prevent you from falling into a trap, to mitigate any possible harm and untoward outcomes.

So the ego is there as both a wise advisor, a kind of parental figure, keeping you safe, keeping you functional.

This is the ego.

When I keep saying that narcissists have no ego, narcissism is a fantasy defense which involves a major disruption in the formation of the ego, an inability to grasp reality properly and impaired reality testing, which is one of the functions of the ego.

But why is this?

Why does this happen?

Because in order to develop a fully functioning, benevolent and beneficial ego, an ego with your friend, an ego which takes care, caters to your psychological needs without compromising your security and safety and future prospects, in order to develop an ego that is much more, you need to live life to the fullest.

You need to pass through each and every phase of life, grow, evolve, develop, learn and internalize lessons, model yourself for the behavior of other people, role models and finally reach your destination, whichever it might be.

A family, a career, both realize your life plan and your goals within what is known as the life span.

And this is something narcissists and psychopaths never do.

They never live life to the fullest.

They never live life period.

It was Cleckli who suggested in the 1940s that psychopathy, he called it psychopathy.

Today we know that he was referring to malignant narcissism.

He said that psychopaths reject life.

It's a rejection of life.

Today we call it constriction of life.

And that is very true.

Narcissism and psychopathy are absconding with yourself, pushing yourself away from reality in the absence of a functional core identity, in the absence of a self or an ego.

Narcissists and the psychopath are unable to interact appropriately within reality, within ever changing, ever shifting environments, within social structures.

So what they do instead, especially the narcissist, they resort to fantasy.

And in the case of the narcissist, he confuses fantasy with reality.

That's not the case with the psychopath, but it is definitely the case with a narcissist.

And one of the major scholars and thinkers to teach us, to have taught us about life, its inexorable evolution from one stage to the next, processes of self development and self growth and learning and maturation and habituation and so on.

So in identity formation, one of the greatest scholars, if not the greatest of them all was Eric Erickson.

Like many giants in psychology, Eric Erickson has been rejected by academia. He never got the tenured professor sheet. He's so coveted.

Same as Freud. Many most actually, 70% of the giants of psychology prior to 1960, never had any formal education in psychology, nor did they possess any academic degree in psychology.

I'm talking about people like Freud, like Melanie Klein. Others obtained their academic degrees after they have done the seminal work that came to be identified with.

For example, Donald Winnicott, who was a pediatrician and Leinheim, who was a schizophrenic, hospitalised in a mental asylum when she started to develop DBT, dialectical behavioural therapy.

The main treatment modality for borderline personality.

So forget all this nonsense about credentials and academic degrees and knowledge of statistics and in measurement in new discoveries in neuroscience.

This is not psychology.

Psychology is not a science.

Psychology is a pseudoscience.

Psychology, because of its subject matter, which is human beings, can at best be a form of literature.

And no one excelled in this more than Eric Erickson.

Bettelheim, who wrote the famous book about fairy tales and enchantment and so on and so forth, lied about his credentials.

Erickson didn't have to.

He completed his masters long into his adulthood and he never became a professor, although he was a resident in Harvard as far as I remember.

Throughout this period, Erickson analysed life and divided it to eight stages.

The topic of today's conversation.

I'm going to describe Erickson's work and apply it to narcissism.

At the end of this video, you will hopefully understand why narcissists are selfless.

I always say that narcissists are selfless and definitely not possessed of an ego.

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

And as opposed to Erickson, I am actually a professor of psychology, a visiting professor until recently and currently on the faculty of CEAPs.

Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Toronto, Canada and an outreach campus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Let's go and tour the fascinating world of Eric Erickson.

Eric Erickson's work revolved around the critical, pivotal and convoluted topic of ego identity.

How does the ego evolve and become an identity?

How do we acquire the set of characteristics that make us who we are idiosyncratically?

Sui Gennavis, how do we become one of a kind?

And this was the topic, this was the main focus of Eric Erickson's work.

He said that ego identity is gradually achieved by facing goals and challenges and he divided life, the entire lifespan from birth to death.

He divided it into eight stages.

I'm going to read to you the headlines of these stages and I'm going to dwell on each and every one of them and apply them to the disrupted development, arrested growth and problems in ego formation in Narcissism.

So Erickson said that life is divided into eight stages.

Stage number one, infancy, basic trust versus mistrust, stage two, toddler, autonomy versus shame and doubt, stage three, preschool.

The age where initiative clashes with guilt.

School age involves industry versus inferiority.

Adolescence is identity versus identity confusion.

Young adulthood, intimacy versus isolation.

Middle age, generativity versus stagnation and older adulthood well into the point of death, integrity versus despair.

Now before we proceed, ego identity in psychoanalytic theory is the experience of the self as a recognizable persistent entity resulting from the integration of the ego ideal, how one would like to see oneself in the future, various roles in life, husband, father, student, mentor, what have you and ways of adjusting to reality.

So the ego's role of interacting with reality subsumes one's roles in life and leads one pushes you to realize your ego ideal, your image of yourself as you would have liked to be.

So this is ego identity and it involves a gradual acquisition of a sense of identity, self worth.

It's a kind of integrative process, a process of integration that lasts from cradle to grave.

Ericson suggested that this process of integration is the essential process in personality development.

Let's start at the moment of birth, the first of the eight stages of psychosocial development of Eric Erickson's magnificent masterpiece, magisterial work.

So between birth and 18 months of age, the infant comes to view other people and themselves as trustworthy or they develop a fundamental distrust of the environment.

If the baby is exposed to good enough parenting, stable, present, loving, caring, holding, containing, understanding, accepting parents or caregivers and later on peers, role models such as teachers, but initially the stage of babyhood, we are talking about parental figures with a huge emphasis on the mother, a good enough mother in Donald Wylieckoff's lingo.

So if a baby is exposed to a good enough mother, this baby will grow up trusting other people.

If the baby however is exposed to what Andrei Green called a dead mother, a mother who is absent, who is depressive, who is selfish, instrumentalizes the baby, who parentifies the baby, a mother who abuses or traumatizes in a variety of ways, a mother who doesn't allow the baby to develop and become bound with, separate from her later on, separation and individuation.

If the child is subjected or exposed to this kind of dead mother, this baby is likely to grow up mistrusting and distrusting other people.

The growth of basic trust was considered by Ericsson to be essential for the later development of self-esteem and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Ericsson suggested that the primary caregiver must be responsive and attuned to the baby's or infant's individual needs while conveying the quality of trustworthiness, reliability, predictability, determinacy.

The growth of basic mistrust is the outcome in Ericsson's work of neglect, lack of love, inconsistent treatment.

And this of course sits well with the work of Bowney and later others in attachment theory.

One could say that Ericsson preceded attachment theory.

The child must experience both trust and mistrust in order to know how to truly trust.

So the child must be exposed to figures in his life like his mother who he can trust and on the other hand to other types of people who he cannot trust.

So he learns to create a balance between trust and mistrust, not to become naive or gullible or open to manipulation and exploitation.

However, the dominant feature in a child, in a baby, in an infant who has been raised by good enough parents is trust.

This kind of child regards the world as an essentially benign place and other people have usually good intentions so he can trust the world to reciprocate his own good behavior.

This is stage one and it is the stage of infancy, basic trust versus mistrust.

On comes the second stage in Ericsson's eight stages, in Ericsson's work and that is autonomy versus shame or doubt.

This is between the ages of 18 months and three years and during this stage children acquire a degree of self-reliance and self-confidence and this allows them to develop at their own pace.

Of course this leads, in Mahler's work, it leads to separation, individuation.

The child feels confident enough to rely on itself rather than on mother.

There is an element of grandiosity here as Jung had observed.

This kind of introversion to extroversion process involves grandiosity.

Taking on the world when you are two years old, that's grandiose but it's a healthy kind of grandiosity.

It is primary narcissism, the healthy kind stays with us for life and that underlies our self-confidence and self-esteem and so on and so forth.

But if the parents are over-critical, over-protective, inconsistent, dead metaphorically, absent, suppressive, insecure, fearful, anxious, etc. if the child is exposed to this kind of parents, the child is very unlikely to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

The child is likely to doubt his over-ability to control themselves and the world.

So exposure to the parents in this second stage is still very critical.

In the first stage, the parent induces in the child the ability to trust others and the world at large.

In the second stage, the parent triggers in the child the need to separate and individuate.

And this critically depends on the parent's ability to project a sense of secure base, a sense of stability, a sense of safety, a sense of trust in the child.

I trust you to go out and explore, play with your peers.

I trust you to experience loss and pain and survive, etc.

These are very important messages.

If the parent fails, especially the mother fails to convey these messages, the child is likely to remain anxious, doubtful of himself or herself.

The child is going to doubt their ability to control themselves and the environment, to induce change in themselves or in the environment or in others, to modify other people's behaviour, to explore, to discover, to revel in the beauty of the world, etc.

These kind of children grow up to be terrified of reality and of the world.

And it is a disinflection point that the typical, that the child becomes a narcissist.

It's exactly at this stage, the second stage of Ericson.

The first stage, the dead mother or the bad parents inducing the child distrust.

This kind of child grows up to not trust herself and her parents, which the parents are the world.

So this child doesn't trust the world.

And then in the second stage, this kind of child exposed to the wrong parents, she becomes dependent, she becomes anxious, she becomes avoidant, she withdraws.

And because reality poses a menace, a threat, reality is perceived as hostile, as contrarian, as hurtful, as threatening.

Because of this, the child decides to resort to fantasy.

Fantasy defence is activated at this point, the second stage of Ericson.

It's activated and the child becomes embedded, immured in the fantasy.

Gradually the child learns to identify himself with the fantasy, the false self.

And so the child essentially dies mentally, vanishes and becomes the fantasy.

And all this happens in the first two stages of Ericson's life span, which leads to the third stage, initiative versus guilt.

This occurs in the child's third through fifth years.

The child plans all kinds of things, launches projects, initiates fantasies and then tries to impose the fantasies on reality via play, games and similar symbolic activities.

The child learns to believe in their ability to successfully pursue goals.

Child becomes self efficacious.

The child notices that if he were to pursue a certain course of action, it's likely to yield certain beneficial consequences, wanted consequences, outcomes that are gratifying.

So the child begins to manipulate in a good sense his environment, others and himself in order to pursue goals.

The child becomes purposeful.

But this is true only as it applies to a healthy child, a child who succeeded to develop trust in the first stage, in self-reliance, self-esteem and self-confidence in the second stage.

A child who has failed the first two stages, child who developed mistrust, a child who remained dependent on the parents, on the mother especially, because there was no separation and individuation, a child who chose in the second stage a fantasy defense in lieu of reality, as a substitute to reality.

This kind of child will not transition to any of the following six stages in a healthy, functional way.

This kind of child is going to fail the next six stages.

Indeed, in the third stage, this kind of child is likely to develop a feeling of self-doubt and even guilt.

When child tries to separate from the parent, this kind of child will feel guilty for having done this or even worthy of punishment.

In short, the child begins to develop a paid object.

"You don't love me," says the parent, "explicitly or implicitly.

You want to walk away from me.

You're ignoring my needs," etc., etc.

So this kind of parent criticizes the child, doesn't allow the child to succeed.

This kind of parent sets the child up for failure.

Whenever the child tries to take on the world, as I said, by launching projects, by planning something, by engaging in play with peers, etc., etc., the parent comes in and criticizes the child and pushes the child to fail.

The child learns to associate failure with love.

Whenever he fails, mommy is there to comfort him, to soothe him, to love him, to embrace him.

Whenever he succeeds, she is critical, she is angry, she is disappointed, she is hurt.

So this kind of child in the third phase learns that the only form of success is failure.

On to the fourth stage.

The fourth stage is industry versus inferiority.

It's between the ages of 6 and 11 years.

The child learns to be productive and to accept evaluation of their efforts, even criticism.

The child is sufficiently self-confident, sufficiently trustful, sufficiently accomplished during the third phase to take on criticism and advice and to pursue all kinds of ideas, projects, enterprises and initiatives, to pursue them to the end, despite negative, sometimes, output from the environment.

But if the child has failed the first three stages, owing to bad parenting, wrong parental messaging, discouraging, parental messaging that says, "You should never become your own person. You should never leave me. You should never separate from me." This kind of child has failed in the previous three phases.

And in the fourth phase, this kind of child becomes discouraged.

He begins to develop a sense of inferiority, inadequacy, incompetence, unworthiness.

And this is when the bad object coalesces and becomes a permanent feature in the narcissist's mental landscape.

The narcissist exits the fourth stage with fully formed, intact, psychodynamically active bad object inside himself.

This kind of child at the age of 6 years, 9 years, 11 years, already considers himself or herself to be somewhat defective, deformed, as I said, inadequate, ugly, stupid, something.

Something's wrong with me.

There's this constant background emanation or signaling something's wrong with me.

Because something's wrong with me, I should not expose myself to reality and to the world because I'm not equipped to cope with life.

And this discourages the child and he draws nearer to the parental figures, which is exactly what bad parents want their children to do.

They don't want them to walk away.

They want them to remain dependent forever.

The fifth stage is identity versus identity confusion, which is a very big developmental part of borderline personality disorders with an S. Disorders, plurality, multiple, because Otto König has observed during the 70s that borderline personality disorder also encompasses narcissism.

And they are all on the verge of psychosis.

And the key feature, one of the two key features in such borderline personality organization, one of the two key features is identity confusion, also known as identity disturbance, also known as identity diffusion.

There's a debate because some of these terms apply only to adolescents while others persist into adulthood.

In any case, there's a problem with identity.

The second feature, by the way, is emotional dysregulation.

So in the fifth stage of Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development, the issue of identity emerges.

The child has separated from the parent.

The child is becoming an individual by interacting with reality.

Reality is bruising.

Reality is unforgiving.

Reality is merciless.

Life and the universe push back.

They provide the kind of feedback and input that calibrates the child, self-corrects the child.

The child is able then to form boundaries.

That's where I stop and the world begins.

The child having formed boundaries is now capable of interacting with other people on equal terms.

The emergence of nascent object relations.

This is a very critical phase.

Of course, the more experience the child has in his interactions with the environment, the more the child feels that he is, the more the child becomes.

It is through interactions with reality that you become your selfhood, your sense of personhood, of being a person, of being a unit, this unitary sense of self is the outcome of pushback from the environment.

The environment limits your ability to expand outwards.

And if it doesn't, you end up being psychotic.

This is known as hyper-reflexivity.

So exposure to reality at the very early stage of development is super crucial, very critical to the emergence of a constellated, integrated, fully functional self, which is the fifth stage of Ericsson's eight stages.

The fifth stage is a crisis.

One could even say to some extent a trauma.

It occurs during adolescence.

And during this stage, the individual experiences kind of psychosocial moratorium, a period of time that permits the individual to experiment with social roles, with sexual orientation, with scripts, various scripts, with gender roles, and so on and so forth.

So during the moratorium phase, moratorium simply means I don't know who I am yet.

I'm going to try everything.

It's like trying on pieces of clothing, you know?

So like entering a shopping mall and trying on all kinds of things.

So I'm going to try on various identities until I see what fits, what fits me best.

This is the moratorium.

And the individual tries on different roles and identifies with different groups before the individual reaches a conclusion, an equilibrium, a valley, which forms a cohesive, positive identity.

So after this period of experimentation, usually a healthy individual reaches a set of conclusions as to who he is, what she is, roles, orientations, and all the other hallmarks and bells and whistles of identity.

The identity then congeals, coalesces, becomes a core.

And this is known as core identity.

Now, one must not confuse core identity with self and self with ego.

And I recommend that you watch my videos about each of these three topics.

There are quite a few.

But generally speaking, positive identity or the formation of core identity, which is well demarcated, boundary, functional, responsive to environmental challenges and changes and so on.

This kind of identity is mostly psychosocial.

It has to do with social functioning in a way that contributes to society or at the very least in a way that avoids repercussions and punishments by society.

So a healthy person ends up integrated in his social circle.

Social circle could be very big.

A political party social circle could be very small.

A nuclear family or childless family or a committed relationship, whatever the case may be, it involves object relations.

This phase leads to the ability to say, this is who I am.

And knowing who I am, as me, I'm going to contribute or to integrate myself in larger structures, in larger groups.

And I'm going to function within these groups to the best of my ability, contributing what I can.

This is the healthy path.

So to summarize, experimentation, identity formation, social integration.

Of course, this again critically depends on the previous four steps.

At this point, the narcissist has failed.

The child who is about to become a narcissist has failed all previous four steps, owing to bad parenting mostly, but not only bad parenting.

Later on, exposure to peers, exposure to role models, like teachers, mentors, and so on and so forth.

For example, a child who is intellectually challenged or child with autism spectrum disorder or child who is disabled and so on, may be subjected to such peer condemnation and rejection that is likely to react with narcissism.

So it's not only parents, although in the overwhelming vast majority of cases, we're talking about the mother, to be precise.

So coming back to the point, the narcissist as a child has failed, is an adolescent, has failed the previous four steps.

Inevitably, the narcissist continues to fail the fifth step.

In the fifth stage of Elexon's eight stages, such a child, such an adolescent, is likely to form a negative identity by identifying without groups.

Or he may remain stuck in the moratorium stage, still experimenting because he's very confused about his or her identity.

And this is known as identity diffusion.

So to recap, as a child, the narcissist fails stages one and two of Elexon.

As an adolescent, the narcissist fails stages three and four.

As a toddler, the narcissist fails stage three and four.

As an adolescent, the narcissist fails stage five.

The failure in stage five can be antisocial failure.

So the child or the adolescent identifies, for example, with criminals, out groups, or it could be a borderline failure where the identity is not formed, does not coalesce, does not come together.

There's a failure at forming identity, identity formation failure, or collapse of identity formation.

And at this point, there's huge confusion and huge diffusion.

And the child or the adolescent desperately continues to try to experiment with a variety of sexual orientation and gender roles and social roles and scripts.

And this experimentation, this moratorium never ends.

And because this experimentation becomes a way of life, it is not possible to pinpoint an identity for this individual.

This type of individual, and I'm talking about people age 30 and 40 and 50 and 60 and 70 and 80 and 90, this kind of individuals transition kaleidoscopically between a variety of gender roles and sexual orientations and belief systems and value systems and religions.

You can never pinpoint them. You can never say with any amount of certainty, this is who this person is. You can never rely or trust anything they say to you because their values, for example, change from one day to the next.

You cannot take their promises to the bank. They break their promises, not because they're evil or malignant or whatever, but because they are not the same person from one day to the next in the most profound sense.

Identity diffusion is a lack of stability or focus in the view of the self or in any of the elements of an individual's identity.

As I said, it's common in borderline personality and so on.

So identity diffusion involves actually two elements.

In borderline personality disorder today, we don't use the phrase identity diffusion. We use identity disturbance, but it involves two key elements, an inability to regard oneself, to observe oneself, to view oneself as the same person from one minute to the next, from one hour to the next, from one day to the next.

There is no constant, stable self-perception, self-image, view of one's self.

The reason is very simple. There is no self there. There's an emptiness. There's a vacuum. There's a void, what came to be known as the empty schizoid core.

And so this is element number one in identity diffusion.

Element number two, there is no conception of the various components and ingredients of one's identity.

When such a person interacts with the world, interacts with other people, she's not sure who she is. What parts of herself should interface and interact with the other? What should she bring to the table? What are her values or beliefs or hopes or dreams or wishes or needs or preferences? She's not sure of any of this.

So identity diffusion impacts self-perception, but also impacts the perception of relationships and interactions, interpersonal interactions with other people.

It's very destructive.

In ego psychology, Eric Erickson was a member of the school of ego psychology.

A possible outcome of the fifth stage, the stage of identity versus identity confusion is that the individual emerges with an uncertain sense of identity and confusion about wishes, attitudes, goals, and so on and so forth.

And this gave rise to something known as the identity status model.

It's an expansion of the fifth stage of Erikson.

And this model says that there are four possible identity statuses.

Identity status, so there are four of them.

An individual can assume any of these four identity statuses, especially during adolescence – remember in adolescence, during the moratorium, there's a lot of experimentation.

So the same adolescent, the same pubescent child can choose identity one and then the next week, identity status two.

So the same child can have different identity statuses in the same body and even in the same period.

So each identity status is characterized by a different level of exploration of a specific identity and a commitment to that identity.

So when you have a status, an identity status, you keep exploring your identity all the time.

You know when you say to yourself, "I never knew I had this in me. I could never believe that I'd be that strong." That's you exploring your identity all the time and then committing to your discoveries.

The more you find out about your identity, the more connected you are to it, the more committed to it you are.

And this is identity status.

And development in healthy people moves towards what is known as identity achievement status.

Status of identity exploration and commitment to this newly discovered evidence.

So at some point, identity is cemented, it is cast in stone, it's accomplished, it's achieved and your status is minimal exploration, maximum commitment.

So it starts in adolescence with maximum exploration, minimum commitment and it reverses in later life and now you're committed to your identity.

You know who you are, you know your beliefs, you know your values, you know what you're likely to do, what you're very unlikely to do.

You know you can control your impulses, you can delay gratification, you know everything about yourself.

And this is your identity, your achieved identity.

And status is related to a stable sense of self-worth, not fluctuating but stabilized, self-esteem, self-confidence and healthy psychological function.

The identity achievement status is the final phase.

On the way to the identity achievement status, people usually go through what is known as moratorium status.

It involves as I said more exploration than commitment.

So there is something called foreclosure status.

It's a commitment to an identity that adults have set forth for an individual.

So in the foreclosure status, you choose an identity that is dictated to you, expected of you, communicated to you, signaled to you by other people, usually parental figures.

But not only could be teachers, could be peers and so on.

And you adopt this important identity, identity from the outside.

It's not really you.

It's not an outcome of your exploration and your experimentation and your discoveries about yourself but you lock, stock and barrel, borrow it from someone else and it becomes you and there's a failure to explore other options before the commitment is made.

There's also something called the diffusion status.

It's a lack of both exploration and commitment.

And this was proposed in 1966 by the Canadian psychologist James Marshier, M-A-R, CIA.

CIA, heh, proposed by the CIA.

So to summarize, in Erikson theory of psychosocial development, the experimental period of adolescence, in which during the task of discovering who one is as an individual, separate from the family of origin, as part of a broader social context.

So in this phase, young people try out alternative roles before making permanent commitments to end identity.

Adolescence who are unsuccessful at negotiating this stage, this fifth stage, they end up being confused about their identity, their role in life, their social functioning, who they are and what to expect of themselves and of others.

Narcissists fail this stage as well.

Narcissists fail this stage and usually get stuck in it.

But narcissists progress to stage six.

Narcissism is a failure of all eight stages.

Borderline is a failure of the first five stages.

That's why Rothstein suggested that borderline is a failed narcissist, non-graduating narcissist, someone who is about to become a narcissist and stopped dead in its tracks in the identity confusion, stage five phase.

The narcissist progresses to stage six, which is intimacy versus isolation.

And this usually happens in late adolescence and early adulthood, young adulthood, probably up to age 25 or maybe today, nowadays, 27, 28.

It involves flirting.

It involves first experimentation with sex, courtship, early family life and so on.

And it lasts all the way to middle age.

And during this period, individuals learn to share, to care, to be vulnerable with each other without the fear of being invaded, taken over, engulfed, losing themselves.

The boundaries acquired during the first two or three stages protect the individual, allow the individual to open up to another person without fear or trepidation.

This, of course, is a good definition of intimacy.

The narcissist fails this.

It's narcissist fails the sixth phase because the narcissist has failed in the previous five.

He doesn't trust anyone.

He is not separated from his parental figures.

He is not an individual.

He has no identity.

He's a mess.

He's an absolute mess.

And so he fails.

He fails to create intimacy because he cannot offer himself.

There's no self there.

He cannot offer himself on the one hand.

And on the other hand, he doesn't trust anyone to not hurt him.

He has learned to associate love with pain, love with hurt, love with performance and success with failure.

Those were his thwarted, distorted six lessons from the previous five stages.

So he feels alone and isolated all the time.

Narcissists feel alone and isolated all the time.

Of course, being narcissists, they incorporate their loneliness and isolation into the cognitive distortion known as grandiosity.

They brag about being self-sufficient.

They don't need anyone.

See if I care in your face.

They're defiant.

They're consummations.

They are totally independent, autonomous.

This is a form of counter dependency, of course.

So the narcissist having failed stage six, unable to create true intimacy, unable to commit in long-term relationships.

And even if he is in a long-term relationship, he's not there. He's absent because there's nobody there. It's an emptiness and absence pretending to be a presence.

So this whole thing fails and narcissists feel infinitely and existentially alone all the time.

The development of a cohesive identity in the previous stage, in stage five, provides the opportunity to achieve true intimacy.

But the development of identity diffusion makes it harder, if not impossible, to achieve a positive outcome in stage six, intimacy versus isolation.

Having graduated stage six, the narcissist is a person who doesn't trust anyone, regards the world as hostile, feels completely alone, is confused about his or her identity, constantly experiments with all kinds of things that lead nowhere, constantly fails, is not self-efficacious.

And don't confuse self-efficacy with accomplishments. You could be a multi-billionaire, you could be a president of a country and still be a mega failure.

Failure or success are not defined by what you possess or how high you climbed.

Failure and success are defined by integration, inner peace, capacity to live with yourself comfortably, to not be constantly enslaved by your negative effects, your envy, your hatred, your anger.

That is a definition of success and in this sense, all narcissists, never mind how accomplished are failures, they are failures.

And maybe the number one failure is the narcissist's inability to engage in and experience intimacy and love.

What is a life lived without ever having felt love?

Is this a life?

I don't think so.

So it's an extended prison.

The seventh stage in Ericsson's eight stages of psychosocial development is known as generativity versus stagnation.

Generativity is the positive goal in around middle, mid adulthood, let's say 40 to 60.

It's a positive goal interpreted in terms not only of procreation, having children, but also of creativity.

So you could be childless, but creative and you don't need to be creative and win the Nobel Prize.

Creativity could be any kind of thing.

And so just regenerate, renewing yourself, refurbishing, nurturing yourself is known as generativity.

And sometimes this is done via parental and social responsibilities towards the next generation.

It's one way to obtain generativity, it's one way to regenerate yourself, to revive or resuscitate yourself somehow.

It's one way.

But there are many others.

You write a book, it's the same.

You sculpt, you do art, you collect things, you help your neighbors, you volunteer.

Many of these things is a form of creativity because it involves taking your life as raw material and then shaping it into something recognizable and something that makes you feel good with yourself and makes others feel good with you.

So again, typically this is done via procreation, by having children, but not always.

Typically less so in today's world.

So if you don't do any of these things, if you don't create anything, if you just go through the motions, you robotically go through life, you have stifling routines that never change and never lead anywhere. They're maintenance routines.

And this is how you waste your life.

This is stagnation.

This is self-absorption.

And this is fear of reality.

It's a form of constricted fantasy defense.

If I just freeze, play dead, constrict my life, avoid others, avoid reality, avoid challenges, avoid risks, avoid dangers, I'll be okay.

But of course, by the time you avoid all these things, you've avoided all these things, you're not alive anymore by any definition of this world.

So either you're generative or you're mentally dead, stagnated, so self-absorbed that it's as if you've been swallowed by your own black hole.

And this is the condition of the narcissist.

And again, creativity is not external.

A narcissist could be a bestselling author, an amazing director of films, an artist of world renown, and yet be stagnative, yet be self-absorbed.

Creativity is not measured by output.

It's not an industrial process.

It's not a manufacturing process.

Creativity is the ability to bring together disparate elements from within yourself in new ways, to put yourself together, to reassemble yourself without sacrificing your core identity in ways which yield new products, new outcomes, surprises, new ways to interact with people, and new ways to accommodate yourself in your environment and obtain favorable outcomes.

So creativity is about reinventing your capacity to fit in, not in the conformist, shipple sense, but to fit in in a way that would gratify your wishes and needs, to realize your dreams.

Maslow called it self-actualization.

Narcissists never ever reach this stage, not even remotely.

A narcissist who is a bestselling author is likely to deteriorate and degenerate into formal-like writing.

For example, that's his way.

There will be his way of stagnating through in a process that appears to be creative, but is not.

Everything with narcissist is about appearances.

And when you're focused on appearance and not on substance, when you're focused on spectacle and not on essence, you can never be generative.


You stagnate like so much quicksand or swamp, and then you die.

And in this final phase, the eighth stage and the last one, final one, of Ericsson's eight stages of psychosocial development, there is a battle between integrity and despair.

This happens in old age, my age.

In this stage, the individual reflects on the life they have lived, and they may develop as a reaction, either a sense of integrity, a sense of satisfaction in the way they have lived, a good life, to use an Athenian fifth century phrase, having lived a good life with the mania and the ability to approach death with equanimity, because I made the best of my life.

I've lived it to the full.

So this is an integrity response to soul searching.

An integrity response to taking stock in account of the life you have lived is to say, I have lived life the best way I could.

I never compromised.

I never sacrificed myself.

I never harmed myself.

I never destroyed or defeated or trashed myself.

I've been there for myself.

I self-loved, but have never been narcissistic.

I knew myself, I accepted my limitations, and I leveraged my strength, and I did the best with the cards that have been dealt.

And so now I'm ready to die.

I have no problem with that.

I don't feel that I've missed something.

This is the integrity response.

Narcissus approaches death with despair, with a feeling of bitterness about opportunities missed, time wasted, a dread of the approaching end, because it's an end to potentials that have never been realized.

The narcissus never becomes.

The narcissus always affords suppressed potential, and it's a horrible feeling, mourning and grieving what you could have been and will never ever be, because you don't have the basic tools to become.

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