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Narcissist's Dream: The Interpretation (Part 2 of 2)

Uploaded 3/16/2011, approx. 15 minute read

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

Be sure to watch the previous video with a description of the dream in the dreamer's own words.

Remind you he believes himself to be a narcissist in the process of healing.

And here is the interpretation, as I suggested it to him.

As the dreamer unfolds, the subject is with two friends. These friends vanish towards the end of a dream.

But the subject, the dreamer, doesn't seem to find this worrisome.

He says, I didn't know what became of the friends I was with.

But this is a strange way to treat one's friends.

It seems that we are dealing not with three-dimensional full-blown flesh-and-blood friends, but with friendly mental functions.

Indeed, they are the ones who encourage the subject to react to the old woman's antiques.

They say to him, how much more are you going to take before you stand up for yourself?

They are cunning. They manipulate him. All the other people present at the bar restaurant do not even bother to tell the woman to stop, to be civil, to be nice.

This eerie silence contributes to the subject's reaction of disbelief that mushrooms throughout this nightmare.

At first, he tries to emulate their behavior and to ignore the woman himself. She says negative things about him. She becomes louder and more derogatory. She is horribly rude and jabbing, and he still tries to ignore her.

When his friends push him to react, he says, I felt sick to my stomach and did not want to confront her.

He finally does confront her because everyone was noticing that she was almost screaming at him.

The subject emerges as the plaything of others. A woman screams at him and debases him.

Friends, prose him to react, and motivated by, in his own words, everyone, he does react.

His actions and reactions are determined by input from the outside. He expects others to do for him the things that he finds unpleasant, doing by himself, for instance, to tell the woman to stop.

His feeling of entitlement, in his own words, I deserve this special treatment. Others should take care of my affairs.

And his magical thinking, again in his own words, if I want something to happen, it surely will.

These feelings are so strong that he is stunned when people do not do his silent bidding.

His dependence on others is multifaceted.

They mirror the subject to himself. He modifies his behavior. He forms expectations. He gets disbelievingly disappointed. He punishes and rewards himself and takes behavioral cues from them.

He says, for instance, the guys with me laughed, and I laughed with them.

So he took his cue from them.

When confronted with someone who does not notice him, he describes him as robot-like, and he is frightened by him.

The word look disproportionately recurs throughout the text.

In one of the main scenes, his confrontation with a rude, ugly woman, both parties do not do anything without first looking at each other. He looks at her before he raises his voice and tells her to shut down. She, in turn, looks at him and gets angrier.

At first, they look. The look is critical.

The dream opens in a run-down restaurant bar with the wrong kind of music and of customers, a smoky atmosphere and greasy food.

The subject and his friends were traveling and hungry. The restaurant was the only open place.

The subject takes great pains to justify his lack of choice. He does not want us to believe that he is the type of person to willingly patronize such a restaurant.

What we think about him matters to him very much.

Our look still tends to define him.

Throughout the text, he goes on to explain, justify, excuse, reason with us and persuade us.

Then he suddenly stops. And this is a crucial turning point in the dream and probably in his life. It is reasonable to assume that the subject is relating the dream to his personal odyssey.

At the end of his dream, he continues his travels. He continues his life, quote-unquote, ashamed and elated at the same time. We are ashamed when our sense of propriety is offended. We are elated when it is re-affirmed.

How can these contradictory feelings coexist? How can the dreamer be both ashamed and elated?

This is what the dream is about.

The battle between what the subject has been taught to regard as true and proper. The shoots and the odds of his life, usually the result of overly strict upbringing and what he feels is good for him. It very often contradicts what he has been taught. These two do not overlap and they foster in the subject a sense of escalating conflict and act before us.

The first domain is embedded in his superego to borrow Freud's quasi-literary metaphor. Critical voices constantly resound in his mind an uproarious opprobrium, sadistic criticism, destructive chastising, uneven and unfair comparisons to unattainable ideals and goals.

On the other hand, the powers of life are reawakening in him with the ripening and maturation of his personality. He vaguely realizes what he misses and misses. He regrets it and he wants out of his virtual prison.

In response, his disorder feels threatened and it flexes its tormenting muscles. A giant awakened, Atlas shrugged.

The subject wants to be less rigid, more spontaneous, more vivacious, less sad, less defined by the gaze of others and more hopeful.

The subject's disorder dictates otherwise. It wants rigidity, emotional absence, ultimatism, fear and loathing, self-flagellation, dependence on narcissistic supply and a false self.

The subject does not like his current locus in life. His station in life right now, the way his life looks, it's dingy, it's downtrodden, it's shabby and it's inhabited by vulgar, ugly people. The music is wrong, it's fogged with smoke, it's polluted and the food is greasy. The restaurant is the dreamer's life.

Yet even while there he knows that there are alternatives, that there is who.

In this unseemly environment there is a young attractive lady.

There is mutual signaling. She is closer to him, ten feet, than the old ugly woman of his past, thirty feet.

His dream will not bring them together, but he feels no sorrow. He leaves, laughing with the guys, to revisit his previous fault. He owes it to himself.

Then he can continue with his life.

So if the dreamer finds himself in the middle of the road of life, in the ugly place that is his soul, the young woman is only a promise.

There is another woman. She is old with heavy makeup, poorly dyed hair. She is loud, obnoxious, drunk. This old woman is the dreamer's mental health disorder, potentially his narcissism. It can scarcely sustain the deception.

The image of the old woman, her makeup is heavy, her hair is dyed poorly, her mood is a result of intoxication. She could be the fourth self or the superego, but I rather think it is the whole, the entire Sikh personality.

This woman, the Sikh personality, notices him. She berates him with derogatory remarks. She screams at him.

The subject realizes that his disorder is not friendly, that it seeks to humiliate him, that it is out to degrade and even destroy him.

The disorder gets violent. It hurls food at him. It buries him under a dish of popcorn, kind of a cinema or theater metaphor, because the narcissist feels that his life is like a film. It's not real.

The war between the dreamer and his mental health disorder is now out in the open. The fake coalition, which glued the shaky structures of a fragile personality together, exists no longer.

Notice that the subject does not recall what insults and pejorative remarks were directed at him. He deletes from the expletives because they really do not matter.

The enemy is vile and ignoble, and it will make use and excuse of any weakness, mistake and doubt to crack the defense set up by the subject's budding, healthier mental structures, such as the ambush.

The end justifies all means, and it is the subject's end that the disorder seeks.

There is no self-hate, more insidious and pernicious than the narcissist.

But to fight his illness, the subject still resorts to all solutions, to all habits, and to all behavior patterns. He calls the police, because they represent the law, and that is right.

It is through the rigid, unflinching framework of a legal system that he hopes to suppress what he regards as the unruly behavior of his own disorder.

Only at the end of his dream, he comes to realize his mistake. The policeman said that just because I had the law on my side and I wasn't right, didn't mean that anyone would like me.

The police, who appear instantly because they were always there, arrest the woman, but their sympathy is with her.

His true aids can be found only among the customers of the restaurant bar, whom he found not to his liking.

He says I did not like the other customers. It is someone in the next table who tells him about the dam.

The way to health is through enemy territory.

Information about healing can be gotten only from sickness itself.

The subject must leverage his own disorder to disown it. The dam is a potent symbol in the dream.

It represents all the repressed emotions, the forgotten traumas, the suppressed drives and wishes and urges and fears and hopes.

It is a natural element, primordial and powerful water. And it is damned by the disorder, the vulgar, now imprisoned lady.

It is up to him to open the dam. No one will do it for him.

Now you can open the dam gate, everyone tells him.

The powerful woman is no more. She used to own the dam and she guarded its gates for many years ago.

And this is a said passage about the subject's inability to communicate with himself, to experience his feelings unmediated, to let go.

When he does finally encounter the water, his emotions, they are safely contained behind glass. They are visible, but described in a kind of scientific manner.

The dreamer says the level on the glass rose higher, the more I turned the wheel, but detached, called scientific observation.

And the emotions are absolutely controlled by the subject, using a valve.

The language chosen is called protective.

The subject must have been emotionally overwhelmed, but his sentences are borrowed from the texts of laboratory reports and travel guides, he mentions, Niagara Falls.

The very existence of the dam comes as a surprise to him.

He says, I said what? And he explained.

Still, this is nothing short of a revolution. It is the first time that the subject acknowledges that there is something hidden behind the dam in his brain, a cavernous room, and that it is entirely up to him to release it.

I was told that I could turn it whenever I wanted. Instead of turning around and running in panic, the subject turns the wheel.

It is a control valve, he hurries to explain to us.

The dream must be seen to obey the rules of logic and nature.

He describes the result of his first encounter with his long-repressed emotions as thrilling, incredible, roaring, torrential. The water did frighten him, his emotions did frighten him, but he wisely learned to make use of the valves and to regulate the flow of his own emotions to a core with his emotional capacity.

And what were his reactions? Hooped, laughed, excited. Finally, the flow became steady and independent of the valve. There was no need to regulate the water, the emotions, anymore. There was no threat. The subject learned to live with his emotions. He even diverted his attention to the attractive young woman who reappeared and seemed to be looking for someone. He had hoped it was for him.

But the woman belonged to another time, to another place.

And now, having opened the dam, there was no turning back. The subject had yet to learn this final lesson.

His past was dead. All defense mechanisms are unable to provide him with the comfort and illusory protection that he had hitherto enjoyed. He had to move on to another plane of existence.

But it is hard to beat farewell to part of you, to metamorphosize, to disappear in one sense and reappear in another. A break in one's consciousness and existence is traumatic, no matter how well controlled, while intentioned or beneficial.

So our hero goes back to visit his former self. He is warned it is not with clean hands that he proceeds. His hands are greasy and so are his clothes. They get greasier the more he tries to clean them. Even his clothes are affected. Rags, wet, useless, spark plugs, the ephemeral images of former engine, all star in this episode.

Those are passages worth quoting.

He says, I noticed a pretty woman from the grave, in other words, from his past, way across the huge area, his brain. And she seemed to be looking for someone. I had hoped it was me. I opened the door and went down to meet her.

He went back to his past. On the way out, I got grease on my head, dirt, warning, and picked up a rag on the table to wipe it off. The rag had even more grease on it.

In other words, there is no way to disguise the wrong move, the potentially disastrous decision to revisit the past.

And so now my hands were completely covered in grease, and that's a dire warning. I picked up another rag on top of the box, and they were wet, in other words, dead, spark plugs, stuck with globs of grease to the underside of the rag, lined up in order, as if they used to be an energy.

That's an image of something long dysfunctional, long gone. And someone stuck them in this order on purpose, and some of it caught on my clothes.

The guys with me laughed, and I laughed with them. He laughed because of peer pressure, not because he really felt like it. But I left without going to meet the woman, and we went back to the grill, to the scene of his battle with his mental disorder.

So he goes on to the grill, where it all started, this undefined and untitled chain of events that changes life. This time he is not allowed to enter, only to observe from a tiny room.

Actually, he does not exist there anymore in this restaurant bar. The man that enters his observation post does not even see him or notice him.

There are grounds to believe that the man who thus entered was the previous, sick version of the dreamer himself. The subject was frightened and begged up.

The robot-like person looked through the window, stared blandly at people having fun.

The subject then proceeded to commit the error of revisiting his past, the restaurant.

Inevitably, the very people he had debunked and deserted and abandoned, in other words, the elements of his mental disorder, the diseased occupants of his mind, were hostile.

The policeman, this time off duty, in other words, not representing the law, assaults him and advises him to leave. Others spit on him.

This is reminiscent of a religious ritual of excommunication.

Spinoza was spat on in a synagogue, judged to have committed heresy.

This reveals the religious or ideological dimension of mental disorders.

Not unlike religion, they have their own catechism, compulsive rituals, set of rigid beliefs, and adherence mental constructs, motivated by fear and tragedies.

Mental disorders are cults or churches. They employ institutions of inquisition and punish heretical views with a severity befitting the darkest of dark ages.

But these people, in the dream, this setting exerts no more power over the dreamer.

He is, finally, free to go. There is no turning back now.

All the bridges are burned, all the doors shut firmly.

He is a persona non grata in his former disordered psyche.

The traveler resumes his travels knowing not where to go and what he is doing, but he is laughing and crying and ashamed and elated.

In other words, he finally, after many years, experiences emotions, positive and negative.

On his way to the horizon, the dream leaves the subject, the dreamer, with a promise, veiled as a threat.

If you were smart, you would leave town. If you know what's good for you, you will get healthy.

The subject seems to be doing just that in his dream, transitioning from his mental disorder, disease psyche, the restaurant, bar, to a far better future.

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