Narcissist's False Self vs. True Self: Soul-snatching

Uploaded 7/28/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

The narcissist has no private life, no domain reserved exclusively for his nearest and nearest. The narcissist's life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display.

To solicit narcissistic supply, attention and admiration from his audience, the narcissist flaunts a false self. He pretends to be all-powerful, omnipotent and all-knowing, omniscient, brilliant, unique and perfect.

Pathological narcissism, as we all know, is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence of the latest. The source of the abuse of trauma is varied. The perpetrators could be parents, role models, teachers, even peers.

Moreover, pampering, smothering, spoiling the child, or engulfing it, are also forms of abuse.

The narcissist's true self, his inner child, if you wish, is obliterated by this barrage of a variety of forms of mistreatment.

That the narcissist possesses a prominent false self as well as a suppressed and dilapidated true self? We all know. It's common knowledge.

Yet how intertwined and inseparable are these two? Do they interact? How do they influence each other? What behaviors can be attributed squarely to one or the other?

Does the false self assume traits and attributes of the true self in order to deceive the world?

We should not forget that the false self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances, but its dynamics make it predominate.

The false self devours the psyche and preys upon the true self. Thus, it prevents the efficient and flexible functioning of the personality as a whole.

The remnants of the true self are so ossified, so shredded, so repressed, and so cowed into submission that for all practical purposes the true self is dysfunctional and useless and, even to some extent, non-existent.

In a full-fledged narcissist, the false self is the one to imitate the true self, and it does so in two ways.

First one is reinterpretation. The false self causes the narcissist to reinterpret certain negative emotions and reactions in a flattering, socially acceptable light. For instance, if the narcissist is afraid of someone, he is unlikely to admit it. He will reinterpret his discomfort as empathy and compassion.

To be afraid is humiliating and narcissistically injurious. To be compassionate is commendable and earns social approval and respect.

The second mechanism is emulation. The narcissist is possessed of an uncanny ability to psychologically penetrate others, to immediately discern their freaties, their weaknesses, their vulnerabilities.

But he abuses this gift. He puts it as a service of his own control-freakery and even sadism. The narcissist uses this ability to annihilate the natural defenses of his victims by faking empathy, by imitating emotions and their attendant behaviors, their affect.

The narcissist possesses emotional resonance tables. Throughout his life, the narcissist keeps records of every action and reaction that he observes in his human environment, every utterance and his consequence, every datum provided by others regarding their own state of mind and emotional makeup.

From these enormous databases, the narcissist constructs a set of formulas which often result in impeccably accurate renditions of emotional behavior. This can be enormously deceiving.

Once formed and functioning, the false self stifles the growth of the true self, paralyzes it.

Henceforth, the true self is virtually non-existent and plays no role, whether passive or active, in the conscious life of the narcissist.

It is difficult to resuscitate the true self, even in psychotherapy.

Thus, there is no real conflict between the false self and the true self.

First, as I said, the true self is much too weak to do battle with the overbearing false self.

The false self is all pervading. It is adopted. It helps the narcissist to cope with the world. Without the false self, the narcissist would be subjected to so much pain and hurt that he might disintegrate.

This happens to narcissists who go through a life crisis. The false self becomes dysfunctional and inefficient for a while, and the narcissist experiences a harrowing feeling of annulment and disintegration.

The false self has thus many functions, but two of them are critical. It serves as a decoy. It attracts the fire. It is a proxy for the true self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt, and negative emotions.

By inventing it, by inventing conjuring up the false self, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation of others. The false self is a cloak, a mantle, a Harry Potter contraption, protecting the narcissist, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.

Secondly, the false self is misrepresented by the narcissist and presented by him as his true self.

The narcissist says, in effect, I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this false self. Therefore, because I am omnipotent and omniscient, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment.

The false self is, therefore, the foundation of the narcissist's inane and insane sense of accomplishment. It is a contraption intended to alter other people's behavior and attitude towards the narcissist.

These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist.

The false self is far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, shameful true self.

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Narcissist: Confabulations, Lies

Confabulation is a common human trait, but the distinction between reality and fantasy is never lost. However, the narcissist's very self is a piece of fiction, concocted to fend off hurt and pain and to nurture the narcissist's grandiosity. The narcissist fails in his reality test and is unable to distinguish the actual from the imagined, the real from the fantasized. The narcissist's countenance, no disagreement, no alternative points of view, no criticism. To him, his confabulation is reality.

Narcissist: You All Exist Only in My Mind (Hive or Swarm False Self and Ego Functions)

Narcissists have a dysfunctional true self, which is introverted and comatose. The ego, which performs certain functions in healthy people, is dormant in narcissists. Narcissists need feedback from the outside world to perform basic ego functions, which is what is called narcissistic supply. The false self is a collage of reflections, a patchwork of outsourced information, and is a kind of hive self.

Narcissist's False Narrative and False Self

The narcissist constructs a false self that is godlike and seeks admiration, adulation, and attention from others. They create a narrative of their life that is partly confabulated to prove the veracity of their grandiose claims. However, reality intrudes, and a gap opens between their self-perception and their pedestrian existence. The narcissist copes with this by denying reality and inventing a new narrative that accommodates the intrusive data.

Narcissist: Ego Outsourced, Self Faked (ENGLISH responses, with Nárcisz Coach)

The false self in narcissists is the only active element, fulfilling ego functions and interacting with the world. The false self is a defense mechanism created by the child to protect against pain and trauma, leading to grandiosity and a sense of superiority. Ultimately, the narcissist becomes an empty facade, a simulation of a human being, leaving victims with a sense of horror and disorientation. Even after physically removing the narcissist from their lives, victims struggle to rid themselves of the narcissist's presence in their heads, leading to a form of psychological contamination and a sense of psychosis.

Why Narcissists Love Borderline Women and Why They Hate Them Back

Narcissistic mortification is a challenge to the false self, which crumbles and is unable to maintain defenses and pretensions. Narcissists use two strategies to restore some cohesiveness to the self: deflated and inflated narcissist. Narcissists engage in mortification, a form of self-mutilation, to feel alive and free from commitment to their false self. Narcissists seek out borderline women to mortify them and experience the unresolved primary conflict with their mother.

Narcissist: Your Pain is his Healing, Your Crucifixion - His Resurrection

Narcissists need their victims to suffer to regulate their own emotions and feel a sense of control. They keep a mental ledger of positive and negative behaviors, with negative behaviors weighing more heavily. Narcissists need counterfactual statements to maintain their delusion of being special and superior. The grandiosity gap is the major vulnerability of the narcissist, and they are often in denial about their limitations and failures.

Narcissist's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.

Narcissist's False Modesty

False modesty is a defense mechanism used by narcissists to protect their grandiosity from scrutiny and to extract narcissistic supply from others. The narcissist publicly chastises themselves for being unfit, unworthy, lacking, and not formally schooled, but this is only to hedge their bets and secure adoring, admiring, approving, or applauding protestations from the listener. False modesty is a bet, and having received the narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels much better. The narcissist is a pathological liar, and with false modesty, they seek to involve others in their mind games and manipulate them.

Grandiosity as Cognitive Bias (Kruger-Dunning Effect)

Grandiosity in narcissism is an inflated self-image that is divorced from reality and self-perception. It is a set of cognitive biases constructed on a foundation of cognitive deficits that emanate from a flawed reality test. The narcissist perceives reality wrongly and lacks empathy, making it impossible for them to anticipate others' reactions, needs, and preferences. The narcissist's grandiosity is a derivative phenomenon that relies on cognitive biases, such as the Dunning-Kruger effect, where they overestimate themselves and underestimate others.

Loving Gaze, Adulating Gaze: False vs. True Self

In the film, The Beaver, the protagonist's false self is represented by a puppet in the shape of a beaver. The beaver is everything the protagonist is not, and the true self is derided by the beaver as a dysfunctional wreck. The false self relies on adulation and attention for maintenance, while the true self needs a loving gaze to sustain itself. The false self is concocted by the narcissist to fend off and ameliorate hurt and pain, and the narcissist is emotionally invested in the false self.

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