In 1997, when I was a lot younger and a lot less handsome, I placed online the first book on narcissism, first digital book on narcissism.
It was an essay, an extended essay, and part of the essay was about what I called emotional investment prevention mechanisms. I was very big on acronyms at the time, so the acronym is EIPMs.
It is a part of a chapter of the essay, and so what I'm going to do, I'm going to place in the description a link. Click on the link and you will have access to the full essay, all nine chapters, but especially to this chapter, which explains the background too and the dynamics of EIPMs, emotional investment prevention mechanisms.
Now, the essay was written a long time ago. We have learned a lot since then about pathological narcissism and what makes narcissists tick, but it is surprisingly still valid and with a very strong explanatory and predictive powers.
So I decided to rehash it, to recycle it, to review it, and to release it to the wide, unsuspecting public, you.
Okay, my name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of the immortal Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited. I change colors on the screen as far as I see. I'm also a professor of psychology. In other words, I cannot be trusted.
All right. Having cleared this out of the way, the famous disclaimer, I'm going now to simply read to you the list of emotional investment prevention mechanisms.
Emotional investment prevention mechanisms are ingeniously deceptive ways to avoid emotional involvement or emotional investment or emotional commitment, also known as intimacy. So here we go.
Emotional involvement preventive mechanisms or emotional involvement preventive measures, EIPMs, they're divided to various segments.
Let's start with personality and conduct. All these mechanisms, all these measures that I'm going to describe, all these emotional involvement, emotional investment preventive measures or mechanisms, all of them create situations where it is very difficult to express emotions, to experience emotions, to develop intimacy, a long-term relationship, to commit, to plan, to plan ahead and to predict behavior, to prognosticate and so on and so forth.
They are, in other words, in one word, crazy making.
So let's start.
A lack of enthusiasm, anhedonia and constant boredom.
So these are the emotional involvement preventive measures within personality and conduct.
A wish to vary, to be free, to hop for one subject matter or object to another.
Laziness, slacking, constantly present fatigue. Dysphoria to the point of depression, which leads to reclusiveness, detachment, schizoid state, low energies.
Repression of the affect and uniform emotional hues, emotional numbing, reduced affect display.
Self-hatred disables the capacity to love or to develop emotional involvement.
Now within personality and conduct emotional involvement preventive measures, we find externalized transformations of aggression, envy, rage, cynicism, vulgar or brutal honesty, black humor. They all lead to dis-intimization to the destruction of intimacy, to distancing, to avoidance, to detachment and to pathological emotional and sexual communication.
Within the personality and conduct section of emotional involvement preventive measures, EIPMs, we also find narcissistic compensatory and defense mechanisms.
Grandiosity and grandiose fantasies. Feelings of uniqueness, so you cannot affiliate or be a legion to anyone. Lack of empathy or the existence of functional empathy or empathy by proxy. Demands for adoration and adulation. A feeling that the narcissist deserves everything, entitlement, exploitation of others, objects, objectification and symbolization, obstruction and fictionalization of objects. Objects in psychology means other people.
Manipulative behavior, using personal charm, the ability to psychologically penetrate the object, ruthlessness, knowledge and information regarding the object obtained largely by interacting with the object. Intellectualization through generalization, differentiation and categorization of objects. Again, objects in psychology means other people.
Feelings of omnipotence and omniscience, perfectionism, perfectionism and performance anxiety, repressed.
These mechanisms lead to emotional substitution, adulation and adoration for example instead of love. They also lead to the distancing and repulsion of objects. They push objects away. They lead to dis-intimization.
It is not possible to interact with a real narcissist. You can only interact with the simulated facade, with the confabulated front.
And the results of all these mechanisms, all these measures, all these emotional, involvement, preventive measures, all these EIPMs. The result of all these are narcissistic vulnerability to narcissistic injury and narcissistic mortification. More bearable than emotional vulnerability can be more easily recovered from if it is an injury.
Becoming a child, infantilization, infantilism, Peter Pan syndrome, the narcissist's internal dialogue, no one is going to hurt me because I'm a child. I'm a child and I'm loved unconditionally, unreservedly, non-judgmentally and disinterestedly.
Adults don't expect such unconditional love and acceptance and they constitute a barrier to mature adult relationships. Such expectations obstruct adult mature relationships.
The emotional involvement preventive measures that I've mentioned above before, they lead to an intensive denial of reality, which is perceived by others as innocence, naivete or pseudo-stupidity. They lead to a constant lack of confidence regarding matters, not under the full control of the narcissist. They lead to hostility towards objects, other people, and towards emotions.
Compulsive behaviors intended to neutralize a high level of anxiety and compulsive seeking of love substitutes such as money, prestige and power.
So those are the emotional involvement preventive measures which are included under the subtitle, the subheading of personality and conduct.
You notice that all these behaviors, all these defenses, all these traits, what they do best is to deter other people, to push them away, to avoid them. This is a form of insecure attachment style. It creates approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion.
Now we move on to instincts and drives.
What are the measures, what are the emotional involvement preventive measures or mechanisms which are in operation in cahoots with instincts and drives?
Let's start with the cerebral narcissist.
Sexual abstinence or celibacy, low frequency of sexual activity and this leads, of course, to a reduced level of emotional involvement.
Frustration of emotional objects, other people, through sex avoidance, through sex withdrawal, this encourages abandonment by other objects.
Sexual dis-intimization by preferring autoerotic anonymous sex with immature or incompatible objects who do not represent an emotional threat and do not pose any demands.
Sporadic sex with long intervals and drastic alterations of sexual behavior patterns, even sexual orientations.
We move on to dissociation of pleasure centers, pleasure avoidance, unless for and on behalf of the object, refraining from child rearing, refraining from forming a family, family formation. Using the object, using another person, is an alibi not to form new sexual and emotional liaisons.
So this, for example, there is extreme marital and monogamous faithfulness, fidelity, which is actually a defense against the sexual advances of other people or against their attempts to bond emotionally with the narcissist. Narcissist says, I can't talk to you, I'm married.
So this ostentatious fidelity is to the point of ignoring all other objects and it leads to object inertia. This mechanism defends the narcissist from the need to make contact with other objects.
Sexual fragility with significant others and sexual abstinence with them, celibacy directed at significant others.
So these are all typical of the cerebral narcissist and they are all emotional involvement, preventive measures.
What about the somatic narcissist?
Somatic narcissist treats other people as sex objects or sex slaves or masturbatory aids, glorified dildos, high frequency of unemotional sex, meaningless sex, casual sex, lacking in intimacy and lacking in warmth.
Again, this prevents emotional attachment. This prevents emotional investment or involvement.
Now we move on to the next subheading, the next group of emotional involvement preventive measures, which are related to object relations.
Just to remind you, object relations is how we bond with, attach to and interact with other people, especially people who may represent the potential for romantic or sexual partners. Object relations.
These are preventative measures, measures implemented by the narcissist to destroy any chance at emotional bonding, secure attachment and intimacy.
Number one, manipulative attitudes, which in conjunction with feelings of omnipotence and omniscience create a mystique of infallibility and immunity.
Partial or impaired reality testing, social friction leads to social sanctions up to imprisonment, refraining from intimacy outright, absence of emotional investment or emotional presence, emotional absence, reclusive life, schizoid life, avoiding neighbors, family, colleagues, friends, even nuclear family, not only extended family, avoiding even spouse and friends.
The narcissist is often a schizoid, active misogyny or misandry, women hatred, women hatred or men hatred with sadistic and antisocial elements.
Narcissistic dependence serves as substitute for emotional involvement, immature emotional dependence and habit forming.
Object interchangeability, when objects are perceived as commodified or commoditized, they all look the same, like grains of rice. So they're all interchangeable. They're all dispensable.
This leads, of course, to very frequent devaluation and discard.
Dependence upon any object rather than upon a specific object.
Limitation of contacts with others, with objects, to material and cold transactions.
The narcissist prefers fear, adulation, admiration and narcissistic accumulation to love.
To the narcissist, objects have no autonomous existence except as primary or secondary source of narcissistic supply.
Knowledge and intelligence serve as control mechanisms. They're leveraged. They serve as control mechanisms and extractors of adulation and attention, narcissistic supply.
The object is used to reenact early life conflicts. The narcissist is bad, unworthy, and he asks to be punished anew every time.
And so in this way, the narcissist obtains confirmation that people hate him or angry at him. He feels good when he is decried, derided, hated, mocked, and so on and so forth, up to a point, because it's a form of attention. And it's a validating attention because he has this image of himself as unworthy, incomplete, corrupt, and so on and so forth.
And this is, of course, the compensatory narcissist. It's not valid. It doesn't apply to the grandiose narcissist.
What other emotional involvement preventive measures are there?
Well, the object, other people, intimate partner, for example, is kept emotionally distant through deterrence, defiance, contumaciousness, impulsivity, recklessness, psychopathic measures. The object is constantly tested by the narcissist who reveals his negative sides to the object.
By abusing the object, the narcissist is testing the object's allegiance and the object's unconditional love as a substitute mother or a substitute father.
The aim of negative off-putting behaviors and abusive misconduct, the aim is to check whether the narcissist's uniqueness will override and offset these abusive behaviors in the mind of the object.
The object experiences emotional absence, revulsion, repulsion, deterrence, and insecurity. The object feels unsafe. The object feels he cannot trust the narcissist.
It is thus encouraged, the object is encouraged to not develop emotional involvement with the narcissist because emotional involvement requires a positive emotional feedback.
The erratic and demanding relationship with the narcissist is experienced as an energy depleting burden. It is punctuated by a series of eruptions, followed by a modicum of relief, intermittent reinforcement, typical in bullying.
So the object, the intimate partner, for example, in the narcissist's life or his colleagues or anyone who gets in touch with him, his so-called friends, sources of supply, they feel that the narcissist is consuming all the oxygen in the room, is sucking the life out of them. Very often they use metaphors and they say that the narcissist is vampiric.
The narcissist is intrusive, imposing, compulsive, and tyrannical.
Reality is interpreted cognitively so that negative aspects, real and imagined, of the object, negative aspects of the object are highlighted.
This preserves the emotional distance between the narcissist and his objects. It fosters uncertainty, prevents emotional involvement, and activates narcissistic mechanisms such as grandiosity, which in turn increase the revulsion and the aversion and the repulsion of the partner.
The narcissist claims to have chosen the object, the partner, because of an error, circumstances, pathology, loss of control, immaturity, partial or false information, anything but love, anything but attachment, anything but commitment, anything but investment.
What about the functioning and performance of the narcissist? How do emotional investment preventive measures, EIPMs, emotional involvement prevention mechanisms, how do they integrate with the narcissist's functioning and performance?
Start with something called the grandiosity shift.
The narcissist has a preference to be emotionally invested in grandiose career-related schemes and fantasies in which the narcissist does not have to face practical, rigorous, and consistent demands.
The narcissist avoids success. You heard me well, avoids success in order to avoid emotional involvement and long-term investment in any project, in any undertaking, in any relationship.
The narcissist shuns success because it obliges him to follow through. Success is commitment, success is a bond, success is a relationship. He doesn't want this. He doesn't want to identify himself with any goal, with any group, with any location, with any place, with any person, with anything. He wants to be like the wind. He brags about being like the wind.
The narcissist emphasizes areas of activity in which he is unlikely actually to succeed in the long term.
The narcissist ignores the future. He does not plan ahead. He is never emotionally committed.
The narcissist invests the necessary minimum in his job emotionally.
The narcissist is not thorough and consequently he usually underperforms. His work is shoddy and defective or partial. Path of least resistance, minimal investment.
The narcissist evades responsibility. He glosses over. He browses rather than investigates. He tends to pass on, delegate responsibility onto other people while exercising little control over the process.
His decision-making processes are ossified and rigid. The narcissist presents himself as a man of principles. Usually what he means to say his whims and moods glorified and elevated to the level of principles.
The narcissist reacts very slowly to a changing environment. Change to the narcissist is very painful.
Narcissist is a pessimist. He knows that he will lose his job, his business, his wife, his relationships, his children, her husband. He knows he will lose everything, his property, his reputation. So he is constantly engaged in seeking alternatives and in constructing plausible alibis, plausible deniability.
And this yields a feeling of temporariness, itinerancy, transition, which is a transition which prevents engagement. This kind of atmosphere prevents involvement, prevents commitment, dedication, identification, and subsequent emotional hurt in case of change or failure.
And what's the alternative to having a spouse or a companion?
Well, many narcissists gravitate to solitary life with a vigorous emphasis on primary narcissistic supply.
Freud called this sublimation. So they live alone, the schizoids, and they're invested in their career or their hobby.
And others change partners so frequently and kaleidoscopically that actually all their relationships are nothing but glorified casual sex.
Serial vocations and avocations prevent the narcissist from having a clear career path. They obviate the need to persevere.
All the initiatives adopted by the narcissist are egocentric, sporadic, and discrete. They focus on one skill or one trait of the narcissist. They're randomly distributed in space and time. They do not form a thematic or some other kind of continuum. They're not goal or objective oriented.
Sometimes as a substitute, the narcissist engages in performance shifting. He comes up with imaginary invented goals with no correlation to reality and its constraints, it's very reminiscent of the manic phase in bipolar disorder.
To avoid facing performance tests, to maintain his grandiosity and uniqueness in the face of facts, counterfactually, not commensurate with any real life investment or achievements or accomplishments, to do this, to live, to inhabit his fantasy, where all goals are realized and actualized miraculously and magically.
So to do all this, the narcissist engages in magical thinking, to avoid facing performance tests.
What he does, he refrains from acquiring skills and training. His education is disrupted.
Many narcissists don't have a driver's license, don't have technical skills, and they don't have any systematic, academic, or non-academic knowledge. Hitler was an autodidact, so was his father.
The child in the narcissist is reaffirmed this way because the child avoids adult activities, chores, responsibilities, and attributes.
The gap between the image projected by the narcissist, which is an image of charisma, unusual knowledge, grandiosity, fantasies, and so on, can do daring, daredevil. The difference between the gap, the abyss, between this projected image and his actual achievements, this creates in the narcissist's permanent feeling that he is an imposter, the imposter syndrome.
The narcissist feels that he's a fraud, he's a crook, he's a hustler and a swindler, a grifter, that his life is unreal and movie-like. It's a bit reminiscent of derealization and depersonalization, which essentially are dissociative symptoms.
And this gives rise to ominous feelings of imminent threat, and concurrently to compensatory assertions of immunity and omnipotence, the narcissist's force to become a god-like divine manipulator.
The narcissist's emotional involvement preventive measures extend, or emotional investment preventive mechanisms, extend even to his location, even to his environment, even to his pathological narcissistic space.
The narcissist has a feeling that he does not belong anywhere. He has an all pervasive sensation of detachment.
There is bodily discomfiture. The body feels as depersonalized, alien, a nuisance. Its needs are either totally ignored or 100% catered to. The body's signals are rerouted and reinterpreted. The maintenance of the body is either neglected or become the sole occupation or a compulsion.
The narcissist keeps his distance from relevant communities, his neighborhood, his religion, his nation, his countrymen. Disavowing any affiliation, his religion, his ethnic background, his friends, the narcissist often adopts the position of a scientist observer, a mere spectator.
This is the narcissistic detachment, the feeling that the narcissist is a director or an actor in a movie about his own life.
The narcissist avoids emotional handles, photographs, music identified with a certain period in his life, familiar places, people he used to know, mementos and emotional situations.
All of them threaten to provoke the narcissist, negative emotions which may dysregulate and overwhelm him, may render him a temporary borderline.
So the narcissist avoids all these. These are all triggers.
The narcissist lives on borrowed time and in a borrowed life, Cleckley said that the narcissist rejects life. Every place and period in the narcissist's existence are transitory and they lead to the next unfamiliar environment.
The narcissist feels that the end is always near. He lives in rented apartments, he's an illegal alien, he's fully mobile on a short notice, he's a vagabond, he does not buy real estate or removables, he travels light and he likes to travel, he is peripatetic and itinerant.
The narcissist cultivates feelings of incompatibility with his surroundings, he considers himself superior to other people, he keeps criticizing people, institutions, situations and the above behavior patterns constitute a denial of reality.
The narcissist defines a rigid, impenetrable personal territory and is physically revolted when it is bridged.
Narcissists can get emotionally attached to money, to belongings, sometimes to material possessions, but even this is rare.
All in all, the narcissist spends an inordinate amount of energy and time and resources in not doing things, in not getting attached, in not going on, in not getting involved, in not getting committed.
He lives a negative li