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Narcissist’s Grim Fairy Tale

Uploaded 8/19/2023, approx. 25 minute read

Sam Buckling, what are you doing? You're corrupting the youth. You're destroying the social fabric.

Well, Socrates chose willingly to drink hemlock. I have my own poison. Red wine.

And so, my name is Sam Buckling. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, a former visiting professor of psychology, currently on the faculty of SIAS.

And, you know, I'm 62 years old. The list is much longer.

Today, at Wapos Socrates, we are going to discuss fairy tales.

The Narcissus, Grim with 1M, Fairy Tale.

I recommend that you watch the video titled Narcissus, False Self, Primates, Perverts, Serpents and God. There's a link in the description, which is, as usual, boringly under the video.

The false self and narcissism are nothing new. They've both been described pretty accurately and in detail, in myths, in religious writings, in literature.

And so, today, I'm going to try to link the Narcissus' main mode of relating to the world, the shared fantasy. I'm going to try to connect the shared fantasy to this antecedence to, and more specifically, to fairy tales.

Maybe we should start by defining what is a fantasy, the APA dictionary to the rescue. It says, "Fantasy is any of a range of mental experiences and processes marked by vivid imagery, intensity of emotion, and relaxation or absence of logic. Fantasizing is normal and common and often serves a healthy purpose of releasing tension, giving pleasure and amusement, or stimulating creativity. It can also be indicative of pathology, as in delusional thinking or significant disconnection from reality.

In psychoanalytic theories, a figment of the imagination is called fantasy. A mental image, a nightdream, or a daydream in which a person's conscious or unconscious wishes and impulses are fulfilled.

We'll discuss which fulfillment a bit later.

Followers of Melanie Klein continue the dictionary, "Use the spelling fantasy with a pH to denote specifically unconscious wishes."

Okay, so that's a classic standard definition.

But shared fantasy, first described by Sanders in 1989, shared fantasy is a lot different. It's a lot different to a typical fantasy defense.

Now clinically and technically, fantasy is a defense mechanism. The narcissist defends against a reality that is potentially hurtful and harmful and traumatizing and abusive in his mind. He's done it at first, early childhood, and it became a habit.

The fantasy in narcissism is habituated. The narcissist shared fantasy involves regression, infantilization. It is in this sense a fairy tale for children.

When the narcissist comes across you and considers you a potential for intimacy and relationship, what he tries to do, he tries to coerce you into becoming a child. He regresses you, he infantilizes you, and he wants you to be his playmate. He's two years old, he wants you to become two years old, and everything both play in the sandbox of your dyad.

Fairy tale-like fantasy is codified. It is structured enchantment.

What differentiates fairy tales from just any kind of story is that fairy tales have a lesson, a moral lesson, at the beginning and an end, and they are highly structured but include magical elements, elements of enchantment.

So in this sense fantasy is like a hybrid between a myth and a dream. It's like the offspring of a myth and a dream, similar to dreaming. Fantasy uses symbolic language and magical spells.

This is where wish fulfillment comes in. Wish fulfillment is one kind, one such spell. Wish fulfillment is a magic spell. And wish fulfillment is very common in dreaming and very common in fantasy.

When the fantasy is fairy tale-like, when it's like a fairy tale, it combines elements of myth and of dreaming.

The fantasies exactly like dreams and exactly like fairy tales and exactly like myths are counterfactual. The fantasy or a dream or a myth or a fairy tale, this is not science. It doesn't have to correlate to reality. It's unreal. It involves magic and magical thinking. In many ways it's nonsensical. It doesn't involve logic. It's illogical and doesn't involve sense. It's nonsensical.

Fantasies, like the fairy tales that they are, are to use Bruno Bettelheim's definition. Fantasies are magic mirrors which reflect some aspects of our inner world and of the steps required by our revolution from immaturity to maturity.

Bettelheim wrote this sentence about fairy tales, but it applies perfectly to fantasy and with double force to the narcissist shared fantasy because the narcissist shared fantasy has these two elements in common with fairy tales.

Number one, it reflects perfectly the narcissist's internal dynamics.

The shared fantasy is an externalization of narcissistic defenses and dynamics.

It is, if you study the shared fantasy, you learn everything there is to know about the narcissist associated with it.

The shared fantasy is like an outsourcing of the narcissist's mind and a projection of the narcissist's mind onto the world.

In this sense it's a bit psychotic.

The second element in the narcissist shared fantasy is that the shared fantasy is about growing up.

The main function of the narcissist shared fantasy with you, his intimate partner or with his friend or whatever, the main function is to allow the narcissist to separate from you, to become an individual or in short to grow up.

So that's exactly what Bettelheim is saying. Fairy tales are about evolution from immaturity to maturity and the shared fantasy in this sense is absolutely a fairy tale by Bettelheim's definition.

We'll discuss Bruno Bettelheim and his book a bit later.


So in the narcissist shared fantasy both his intimate partner and himself are nurturing mothers.

This is my principle of dual mothership. Both the narcissist and his intimate partner are infants. So they are both mothers and they are both infants.

And again to clarify, when I say he, it's a she, when I say she, it's a he, gender pronouns are interchangeable and shared fantasy is the way the narcissist maintains interpersonal relationships not only with a romantic intimate partner but with a friend, with friends, with family in church.

The narcissist relates to the world, channels his social instincts via shared fantasy. It's the only form of interaction that he's capable of.

But I'm going to focus on romantic intimate relationships because this is the most elevated, the most complex, the most detailed form of shared fantasy in narcissism.


Okay, so to reiterate, the narcissist regards both himself and his intimate partner as mothers, nurturing, loving, caring, accepting mothers, unconditional mothers and infants.

And this is the duality in the narcissist's shared fantasy that creates a lot of tension, a lot of dissonance.

Because how could an infant be a mother and how could a mother be an infant? And yet an narcissist makes these two demands simultaneously and expects you to conform to both stereotypes of an unconditionally loving mother and an infant in need of unconditional love from mother.

He aims to transition to adulthood via separation, individuation. By separating from you, having devalued and discarded you, he can become an individual. He's unshackled. He is released from a prison of his own making, prison of his early childhood conflict with a dead mother.

And then he can become an individual and heal.

Like the heroes in fairy tales, like for example Hercules, the narcissist passes tests and accomplishes tasks assigned to him by the gods. And of course, the narcissist only god is his own false self. The false self is a divinity. Narcissism is a private religion where the narcissist is both a hero, a worshiper, I'm sorry, and a god.

So this god, the false self, creates the shared fantasy for the narcissist, but then it informs the narcissist that he must pass certain tests and accomplish certain tasks if he wishes to be inducted into the shared fantasy.

The shared fantasy is a recreation of the Garden of Eden, of paradise. Awaiting the narcissist in the shared fantasy is a naked Eve. And the narcissist must reenter, must pass the angel with a sword in order to reenter the Garden of Eden and reunite with this Eve in a primordial primitive state of utter innocence.

It's like, it's like a rewind.

The shared fantasy is a rewind of Genesis rather than being born in the Garden of Eden and then expelled.

The narcissist is born outside the Garden of Eden and has to penetrate it, has to invade it somehow.

And rather than having been created together with Eve or parallel to Eve, here Eve awaits him in the Garden of Eden and he has to reunite with her.

And rather than eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, good and evil, here the narcissist needs to forget everything to develop essentially some kind of dissociation so that he can attain a state of innocence which will allow him to live or to inhabit the Garden of Eden forever without incurring the wrath of his God, the false self.

And so he passes this test and he accomplishes the tasks assigned to him by the false self all this time becoming more and more of a mythical hero, more and more of a Hercules, half God, half human.

And so at this stage the narcissist splits in order to pass the test and accomplish the tasks which are all in his mind of course, they are not in reality, except one test and one task which is love bombing, grooming and taking over, appropriating the intimate father.

But otherwise the rest is in his head.

So in order to pass the test and accomplish the task, the narcissist needs to believe that he is a hero and as a hero he needs to believe that he is all good.

So the narcissist splits, he becomes an all good object, witches and usurper kings in fairy tales all bad, for example. So fairy tales also provide splitting, the heroes in fairy tales are all good, the witches in fairy tales are all bad, the stepmothers in fairy tales are all bad, the usurper kings in fairy tales are all bad, only the hero is all good and this is exactly the structure of the shared fantasy.

Whereas originally with his biological mother or with the maternal figure in his early life, the primary caregiver, originally the narcissist became an all bad object because mummy had to be all good. As a baby the narcissist had to believe that his mother is all good because the alternative would have been very threatening. If mother is all bad, she will not take care of his needs, she will not feed him, she will not shelter him and he will die.

So the narcissist needed to believe as a child, as an infant that mummy is all good and I am all bad. That is the source, the psychodynamic source of the bad object.

And here the shared fantasy provides the narcissist with a chance to get rid of the bad object and to actually say I am an all good object, I am a hero, I am creating this garden of Eden, also known as the shared fantasy and I am introducing my intimate partner into this garden of Eden which is a very good thing to do, it is altruistic, it is saintly and by doing this I am becoming an all good object.

And of course inevitably if the narcissist is all good, his intimate partner and the rest of the world are all bad and this leads to devaluation and discard and separation and individuation.

So again we have a match between the shared fantasy and fairy tales splitting.

Initially the first stages of the shared fantasy, both the narcissist and his extension aka intimate partner or friend or colleague or whatever, both the narcissist and his extension are all good and the rest of the world is all bad. It is a rejection of life and reality, a rejection of life and reality saying I prefer to live in deceit and in narrative and in fiction rather than face this ugly world, rather endure the unbearable lightness of being. I prefer to renounce life and everything it has to offer because the price is not worth the price, the squeeze is not worth the juice.

And so the narcissist gives up on everything except his garden of Eden, his shared fantasy and the intimate partner in it which is essentially an internal object, an extension, because the narcissist does not recognize the separateness and externality of his intimate partner.

So here is a narcissist solipsistically inhabiting a garden of Eden of his own making because he is God so he created the garden of Eden of his own light making and there he lives in a blessed state of ignorance of life and of reality and this he shares with an internal object that he can then idealize and manipulate to become a mother which would then allow him to separate and individually.

And then as his intimate partner the real one, external object begins to act in the world and on the world she gets contaminated, she brings the world into the fantasy, it's like the serpent and the fruit of the tree.

The woman, the intimate partner in the Bible is the vector through which knowledge of good and evil, especially evil, contaminates the innocence of the garden of Eden.

So here is the same.

The narcissist intimate partner is separate, she is an external object, she has autonomy, she has independence, she has agency, she has her own friends, she has her own family, her own interests, she travels, she works, she in short keeps bringing the outside world into the fantasy and corrupting it, contaminating it and gradually she becomes the enemy of the shared fantasy.

An old bad frustrating and rejecting partner, very reminiscent and similar to the narcissist original mother, biological mother or primary caregiver who had rejected him and abused him and traumatized him and frustrated him. It's a reenactment.

The shared fantasy is constructed to fail the partner. No one can survive in the shared fantasy because it's not real.

So the narcissist creates the shared fantasy with a set of conditions and parameters and constraints so as to make sure that his intimate partner or friend or colleague or whatever will fail and allow him to devalue and to discard and thus to separate and individuate.

The narcissist sublimates his aggression via the shared fantasy by displacing the aggression onto his intimate partner. This is known as devaluation.

The narcissist acts passive aggressively or he fantasizes about revenge and justice restored. These are all manifestations and expressions of aggression. The aggression is sublimated.

The shared fantasy is a channel which allows the aggression to flow in ways which will accomplish a benevolent, benign, positive outcome, separation, individuation.

The narcissist says I have to aggress against you. I have to devalue. I have to discard you because the only way that I can become the only way I'm going to be me.

And so these are the behavioral prerequisites of separation individuation.


Now the narrative of the shared fantasy includes three basic themes which I labeled the God voice, the death voice and the life voice. And I encourage you to watch my video on the topic when narcissist triggers your inner voices, death, God and life interjects.

The death voice is more or less the bad object.

The transition into the shared fantasy with an appropriate counterparty counters the bad object. Having entered the shared fantasy, the narcissist becomes all good.

This allows him to negate the bad object inside him and to somehow gain the necessary justification to become himself.

Because who wants to become a bad object? No one does. But if you're a good object you would like to become wouldn't you?

So this justifies separation individuation.

The original death voice, the fanatic voice is you're not lovable, you're unworthy, inadequate, failure, you're better off dead. You can be loved and you're deserving of life only even when you're perfect, which is impossible. You should be terrified of failure, performance anxiety. You should reject and disown and sabotage and avoid all aspects of life. You should render yourself invulnerable by being dead within and without. It's a form of rigid, proud, defiant, sadistically self punitive and self denying ideology.

The narcissist acts untackled and contemptuous and rejects everyone and everything. That's the bad object in him.

Narcissist gives up on and he denies his body, his health, his sex, his romance, his intimacy, all positive emotions, relationships, family, academic degrees, career, country, languages, success, reputation, business, social life, friends, you name it. He rejects it all because it's a bad object.

What's the point? It's going to end badly anyhow.

And the narcissist sees no point in engaging with life and with reality. With nothing left to take the death voice is appeased and amiriorated. It's a proximity to actual death. Mission accomplished.

The death voice is placated and content to let the narcissist decay and decompose in earthly. The narcissist only exit from this. Only way to counter, invitiate and negate this death voice is by creating the semblance and simulation of life. A shared fantasy, as we will see momentarily.

This is the main role of fairy tales in childhood.

Actually, narcissist is a child. Remember, remember this all the time. The narcissist is a two year old child.

How can a child cope with a reality that tells him you should die? You should not be. You should not become.

The child says, well, I will die. I will disappear and I'll reappear as a god with a garden of Eden. That's exactly what the narcissist keeps doing to his dying day. Nevermind if he's six, 16 or 62 years old.

The two other voices, two other principles, organizing principles and explanatory principles in the shared fantasy.

So the first one is the death voice. The second one is the God voice. It's grandiose. It involves magical thinking. It's a form of mental illness. It's a false self that is very harsh and supplants the superego or the inner critic.

And the God voice is eroded by reality all the time. Injuries, mortifications. It's very fragile. It's very vulnerable.

And finally, there's a life voice. Creativity and cooperation. These are intermittent hazards, corroded by aging and often too late and too little.

Failing the narcissist amid cognitive decline, but it's still there.

Shared fantasy is a mutiny. It's a rebellion against the overwhelming and dominant death voice. The narcissist rebels by distancing himself from the bad object, from himself by saying, I am not. What is is the false self. I am not, I'm not alive. What is alive is someone out there in a shared fantasy. I am all bad, but he in the shared fantasy is all good.

So this is a rebellion and a mutiny against the death voice. And of course it includes God element, God like element elements and life like elements.

But the death voice ultimately prevails. The narcissist, the process of narcissism, pathological narcissism is incremental dying, is withering and shriveling in stages.

The narcissist fights ferociously to experience a little life, a little light, a little fake love because he is not capable of experiencing true love.

The narcissist tries to revive himself through adventure and thrill and risk.

The narcissist feels compelled to coerce other people to participate in this because what's the alternative? The alternative is a bad object, an inevitable death.

And all this is captured perfectly in fairy tales. It is no wonder that in Hindu culture fairy tales are prescribed as therapeutic meditations for psychological ailments.

In Hindu society when a patient is mentally ill, he is given a fairy tale to consider, to analyze, to think of, to contemplate.

And he reflects on the subtleties of the allegory in the fairy tale and tries to translate this allegory into his inner conflict.

David Edoux wrote, "Fairy tales can very effectively help a person to individuate into a well-adjusted personality able to understand and cope with life.

And this is very reminiscent of the shared fantasy.

The narcissist's wish is to separate and individuate and he believes firmly that the only way to accomplish this is via a shared fantasy with a maternal figure.

Edoux continues, "The exploration of hierarchies and the adherence to finding one's place in these hierarchies temporarily is in many tales shown to reap a great reward.

Usually the overlooked, lowly protagonist ends up ascending the hierarchy of the tests of character or virtue.

This process frequently takes three-fold nature, echoing the integration process at work between the id, superego and ego.

This motif also consistently manifests with the protagonist being a third child, denoting the child, hearing or reading the story, feeling they are low in the familial packing order. They are overlooked.

It is often this overlooked child in fairy stories who outshines their interchangeable siblings who have not achieved full integration of their personality.

Sibling rivalry is a frequent theme at play and again is an important aspect of fairy story which a child can find easy identification with.

All this revolves around a seminal book. The book is The Uses of Enchantment, The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. It was published in 1976 by an amazing figure, amazing person, which I will discuss at the end of the video and his name was Bruno Bettelheim.

Edoux says about the book, "The book contains many references to erdipal conflict, not always where a child sexually fantasizes over parents, as many generalized misconceptions of Freudian psychoanalysis assert, but merely that between certain ages children fixate on their parents for support and nurture, and in order to grow into adults and become independent, children have to let go of this dependent fixation.


Now to Bettelheim, the author of The Uses of Enchantment.

He wrote, "The child often feels unjustly treated by adults and the world in general, and it seems that nothing is done about it.

By the way, just replace the world child with the word "narcissist" and you see how appropriate these texts are, how applicable to the narcissist.

So the child often feels unjustly treated by adults and the world in general, and it seems that nothing is done about it.

The more severely those bad ones are dealt with, the more secure the child feels.

If one takes these stories as descriptions of reality, then the tales are indeed outrageous in all respects, cruel, sadistic and whatnot.

But as symbols of psychological happenings or problems these stories are quite true.

John Updike wrote about Bettelheim's book, The Uses of Enchantment. "Neither Bettelheim nor the fairy tales doubt that they know what happiness is. It is achieved independence, as by Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstool. So achieved independence is happiness, separation and division is happiness.

Updike continues, "It is misadventure survived, as by Liddling Red Riding Hood. It is a wicked parent defeated, as by Snow-Ithans in Durella. It is a lover and a father reconciled, as in Beauty and the Beast. It is ruling over a kingdom of self, as in the words of a Romanian fairy tale, only kings rule who have suffered many things.

Betelwein presents a case that fairy tales help children solve certain existential problems, separation, anxiety, irritable conflict, sibling rivalries, as I mentioned, and the extreme violence in fairy tales, the ugly emotions in fairy tales, they deflect what may well be going on in the child's mind anyway.

This is also the function of the shared fantasy. It is a projection of the narcissist's mind and the dynamics inside his mind.

So the shared fantasy legitimizes what's happening in the narcissist's mind because another person, the intimate partner, the friend, whatever, conforms to it, accepts it, participates in it.

This is why narcissists are so compulsive and so adamant and so coercive in their demand, violent, aggressive demand, that you should collaborate and collude in maintaining the shared fantasy.

Because it's the only way the narcissist can convince himself that his false self is not false and the shared fantasy is not a fantasy.

A child's unrealistic fears often require unrealistic hopes.

And so, as Betelwein says, "In a fairy tale, internal processes are externalized and become comprehensible, as represented by the figures of the story and its events.

The form and structure of fairy tales suggest images to the child, by which the child can structure his daydreams and with these images give better direction to his life.

In child or adult, the unconscious is a powerful determinant of behavior. When the unconscious is repressed and its content-denying entrance into awareness, then eventually the person's conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements. Or else, the person will be forced to keep such rigid compulsive control over them that his personality may become severely crippled.

But when unconscious is to some degree permitted to come to awareness, when unconscious is worked through in imagination, its potential for causing harm to ourselves or to others is much reduced.

Some of its forces can then be made to serve positive purposes.

Fantasy, says Betelwein, fills the huge gaps in a child's understanding, which are due to the immaturity of his thinking and his lack of pertinent information.

"I have known many examples," says Betelwein, "where particularly in late adolescence years of belief in magic are called upon to compensate for the person's having been deprived of it prematurely in childhood, through stark reality having been forced on him.


I'm going to read it again because it's a very important passage.

"I have known many examples," says Betelwein, "where particularly in late adolescence years of belief in magic are called upon to compensate for the person's having been deprived of it prematurely in childhood, through stark reality having been forced on him.

It is as if these young people feel that now is the last chance to make up for a severe deficiency in their life experience, or that without having had a period of belief in magic they will be unable to meet the rigors of adult life.

Many young people, who today suddenly seek escape in drug-induced dreams, apprentice themselves to some guru, believe in astrology, engage in practicing black magic, or in some other fashion escape from reality into daydreams about magic experiences, which are to change their life for the better.

These were prematurely pressed to view reality in an adult way.

Trying to evade reality in such ways has its deeper cause in early formative experiences, which prevented the development of the conviction that life can be mastered in realistic ways.

In intervening periods of stress and scarcity, man seeks for comfort again in the childish notion that he and his place of abode are the center of the universe. Translated into terms of human behavior, the more secure a person feels within the world, the less he will need to hold on to infantile projections, mythical explanations or fairy tale solutions to life's internal problems, and the more he can afford to seek rational explanations.

"In childhood," says Betelheim, "more than any other age, all is becoming. As long as we have not achieved considerable security within ourselves, we cannot engage in difficult psychological struggles unless a positive outcome seems certain to us, whatever the chances for this may be, in reality.

The fairy tale offers fantasy materials, which suggest to the child in symbolic form what the battle to achieve self-realization is all about, and guarantees a happy ending.

Of course, never forget, the narcissist is a child, and all this applies to the narcissist unequivocally.

Bruno Betelheim, the man who wrote this book, an amazing, incisive, insightful, genius intellectual, was a con artist and a plagiarist. He lied about his academic credentials and about his professional credentials. He copy-pasted texts wholesale from other authors, most notably Julius Hoecher.

But Betelheim was also a towering figure in child psychology. His life was therefore the perfect example of a fairy tale, narcissistic fantasy.

If you are touched, by evil, when you're touched by evil, you must shed yourself.

Keep moving, keep moving.

Motion cleanses.

If you freeze in horror, even for one minute, evil claims you, makes you his, wends you, and sires offspring with your husk.

Recoil.

Flee, never look back.

Renounce your olden essence and be transformed. Render yourself unrecognizable to evil in pursuit.

Evil in chance.

Evil in traps.

Evil exudes immersion.

In evil's grip, you feel beloved and understood and accepted like never before.

Evil is a great teacher, a sage, a master.

So put on your winged sandals.

You're the captive of a vile apparition.

There is no time to waste.

You must make haste.

Already evil conspires against you with the voices in your mind.

And all the father beings and all the Chianti in the world and all the charm and irreducion, the famed benignness and the glittering bugby eyes cannot conceal the horror that awaits.

Remember that as you elope into the spell. Untangle from your dreams. Awaken.

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