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Narcissist's Outsourced Existence, Trauma-Bonded Fantasy with YOU

Uploaded 7/4/2021, approx. 19 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and today, as some of you who are not colorblind may notice, today I am blue. I am completely blue, but at least my conscience is black.

Yes, and the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I am also a professor of psychology, but not only of psychology, by the way. I also teach finance to the detriment of banks around the world.

Okay, Shoshanim, today we are going to discuss a much-neglected topic in narcissism.

What else?

A topic not one self-styled expert had ever touched upon, which pleases me, no end.

Okay, so you're all acquainted with the concept of, well, those of you who had listened, who had the misfortune of listening to my previous videos, you are acquainted by now with the concept of the empty schizoid core.

At the heart of the narcissist, at the heart of the heartless narcissist, there is an emptiness, a black hole, avoid howling winds in endless corridors leading to holes of mirrors. Don't you just love my poetic twists and turns?

And so this empty schizoid core, this emptiness, to borrow a phrase from Otto Könberg, this howling void, the narcissist, believe it or not, experiences it.

You can ask, if the narcissist does not exist, if the narcissist is only an absence, who does the emoting, who does the feeling, who is the one who is experiencing his or her own absence?

Well, that is the conundrum. And this is a paradox at the heart of narcissism. There is something there, a hyper structure, a superstructure, an entity, perhaps, there's something there.

I wouldn't say someone that would be taking it too far, but there is something there that senses this emptiness.

And so what the narcissist tries to do, he tries to supplant, to replace this emptiness with a semblance of existence.

No one feels well, no one could feel well, not being. Being is at the core of anyone's and everything's experience.

In this sense, perhaps animism was right. Rocks have been, trees have been. Being is the organizing principle of reality, of the universe.

And so not being is a problem. And the narcissist tries to cover up for it in a variety of ways.

He tries to create ersatz, fake, impromptu, improvised types of existence.

The first solution that the narcissist uses is to outsource his sense of existence. He outsources it. He derives it from others, but not only from other people, but from his pathological narcissistic space, the physical location that he's in, from his friends, from his colleagues, from institutions, from allegiance and affiliations, and so on and so forth.

The narcissist leverages and uses everything around him, animate and inanimate, to outsource his sense of existence. He borrows it, so to speak, from others.

In this first solution, outsourcing, the narcissist experiences existence as his own trait, as his own property, so to speak, his own quality.

He does not experience it as coming from the outside. What he does, he integrates minds, places, circumstances, possessions. He takes all of these and he integrates them kaleidoscopically into a hive mind, a mind that is made of patches and shards held together precariously via grandiosity and other cognitive biases.

This is outsourcing. The outsourcing process itself is transparent to the narcissist. He does not realize what he's doing. He just feels alive. He feels that he exists, but only when he is in his pathological narcissistic space, only when he is next to his sources of supply, only when he reviews his collections and possessions or his children.

So what the narcissist does not realize, the outsourcing narcissist does not realize, is that if all these were to be taken away from him, he would not feel that he exists. If all these external sources, external origins of existence, beacons of existence, were removed from his life, he would not feel that he is alive. He would not feel being. He would not feel in existence. I recommend to you to watch my video on Sartre and nothingness and being.


So this is the first solution, outsourcing.

Outsourcing is scanning for sources and origins of existence and then incorporating them into a pastiche, into a kind of collage, into a kaleidoscope and then owning this kaleidoscope and identifying with it to the point that it is indistinguishable from the narcissist.

The narcissist feels that his existence, his being is coming from the inside. He experiences it as any other healthy or normal person would, but what he doesn't realize, it's not coming from the inside. It's outsourced. It's outsourced just in time. It's real time, a real time simulation.

Outsourcing is the most common experience and the most common solution for the narcissist's non-being problem, but there are others.


Before we go to these others, we need to dwell upon two concepts, one old and one new.

Existence agents, these are the elements in the narcissist's life that provides him with a sense of existence. Each one of them contributes a minuscule or incremental piece and when you put all of them together, existence emerges. It is an emergent property, an epiphenomenon.

So the narcissist actually is a kind of device, a scanning device, and then when the information reaches a critical mass, he suddenly feels alive and his job is to keep this critical mass at all times because if he goes under the critical mass, he no longer feels alive. He no longer feels that he exists. He no longer feels his being. This is intolerable.

So he is busy all the time replenishing the information from existence agents.

The existence agents could be people, could be places, could be circumstances, could be clubs, could be countries, could be churches, could be children, you name it. Anything could be possessions, physical objects, material objects. Anything can and does serve as an existence agent and it is the narcissist's role.

It is what he does all day. It's a full-time job. He extracts. It's like a mining operation. Instead of data mining, it's existence mining. He extracts his existence from all these existence agents. He puts all of these increments together and he creates an ostensibly coherent, cohesive and congruent picture of his being. Of course, it's fake. It's fake because it doesn't emanate from the inside. It comes from the outside. It's highly dependent on a continuous stream of narcissistic supply.

This actually is the main role of narcissistic supply. Take away the narcissistic supply from the narcissist. Take away his attention, attention that he gets. Take away adulation, admiration, even being hated, even being feared. Take away attention from the narcissist and he crumbles to dust. There's nothing there and nobody there.

The narcissist is an intricate simulation and to keep it going, there needs to be a constant power charge, not power surge. That would be narcissistic injury or narcissistic modification, but a power charge, a constant stream, a constant current of electricity, the electricity of being, the electricity of existence.

So the narcissist goes around scouting for existence agents, then co-opting them or coercing them or collaborating with them or love bombing them or grooming them or persuading them, whatever it takes, cajoling them, whatever it takes to provide him with his teeny tiny bits of existence that he can then laboriously amalgamate and put together into the picture of a being.

At that point he feels that he's alive, that he is a creature in the sense that he had been created.

But of course, such constant dependence creates a sense of asymmetry, a sense of imbalance, a sense of inferiority. And these are egodystonic.

The narcissist hates being dependent. The narcissist's grandiosity and sense of superiority are challenged by this constant neediness and clinginess, which are essentially borderline features or co-dependent features, features of dependent personality disorder.

In many respects, the narcissist is actually dependent. He's a co-dependent in many respects. And he hates it. He hates to be dependent on other people, on places, on circumstances, on bosses, on children. He hates to be so reliant on and so crucially dependent on these existence agents. It makes him feel bad, inferior, egotistonic, injured, traumatized, mortified, you name it.

So the narcissist is always in a state of dysphoria. Dysphoria is one step removed from depression.

And indeed, many scholars had tried to conceptualize narcissistic personality disorder as a depressive reaction to shame, the shame of being dependent, starting in early childhood when the narcissist had been dependent on abusive, withholding, frustrating, dead, emotionally dead parents, absent and narcissistic.

So some narcissists use other solutions.


The second solution is substitutive existence.

Remember, the first solution is outsourced existence. That is by far the most prevalent and widespread solution.

Some narcissists use outsourced existence in conjunction with substitutive existence.

Now, substitutive existence is very interesting. It's when the narcissist borrows, borrows other people, whole scale, full scale, wholesale, borrows them, incorporates them in his mind. And by incorporating them, actually hijacks their existence.

Now, two things come to mind.

Many victims of narcissists describe the experience of being with the narcissist as they say, he sucks the life out of me. He's like a vampire. He sucks the oxygen out of the room.

True. That's exactly what narcissists do with substitutive existence. They suck your life out of you. They take away your existence. They appropriate it and then they assimilate it and it becomes their existence. Your non-existence, your increasing absence, your gradual vanishing and disappearing is their rise to being. They are, they exist. More and more, the less and less you exist. It's a zero-sum game. It's you or the narcissist.

And so, substitutive existence is a process of snapshotting people, then incorporating them, the snapshots, photoshopping, idealizing the snapshot and then trying to coerce the sources of the snapshot, the origin, the real person to behave in accordance with the snapshot, to, in other words, not diverge, not deviate from the snapshot. And the narcissist will go to a big extent, to a large extent, to very far, to ascertain that no such deviation and digression happen.

So, substitutive existence is actually a kind of body snatching or mind snatching where the narcissist takes over you in order to digest you and assimilate you so that he can then derive and benefit from your self-imputed existence.

Now, of course, in primitive cultures, primitive societies, ancient religions, substitutive existence was very common. For example, warriors, after a war, after a battle, they would eat the bodies of the vanquished enemy. By eating the liver of the vanquished enemy, by eating the brain of the vanquished enemy, they will have acquired the properties and qualities of the enemy.

And to this very day in Catholicism, we have a process whereby the body of Christ is transformed into the wafer and the wine. So cannibalism had religious dimensions throughout human history.

So the narcissist is a cannibal. He feasts on your mind. He digests your existence. He eats you up. He eats you up. He devours you. He consumes you so that your existence, your erstwhile existence, hitherto becomes his by virtue of having assimilated you.

Now, of course, this process is hampered by some narcissistic traits. For example, the narcissist's tendency to devalue meaningful and significant people in his life. You can't very well devalue someone and then treasure their separate existence or being.

Evaluation stands in the way of substitutive existence because substitutive existence requires idealization of the existence agent. You represent existence in the narcissist's life.

For example, as an intimate partner, you represent existence. You have a separate being. You're real. You're alive.

The narcissist wants this. He wants to take it away from you because he needs it, because he is an absence. He's a black hole and he doesn't want to be a black hole. He wants to be a supernova or a galaxy or a sun at the very least.

And so he needs to make you disappear and reappear inside him as a form of presence, as a form of entity or a form of being. It's a very creepy process.

Luckily, it is hampered. It is obstructed by his tendency to devalue you because the minute he devalues you, you are no longer a valid source of existence. It is also hampered and obstructed by paranoia because the narcissist's paranoia makes him hypervigilant and suspicious of you. And he would tend to be very afraid of internalizing you, converting you into an internal object or an introject, in other words, into a snapshot. It's like you're suspicious. He is paranoid of you.

And so if he gets you inside his mind, you can do something bad to him. In other words, the narcissist tends to convert you into a bad persecutory object, into an enemy. And the minute you're an enemy, he won't allow you access to his mind because he can do horrible things to his mind.

So devaluation and paranoia render substitutive existence as a strategy, as a solution, very difficult to implement.


The third and last type of kind of hijacked existence or existence from the outside is displaced existence.

To summarize the previous two, outsourced existence is when the narcissist collects bits and pieces of existence from his environment and puts them together in a collage, in a pastiche, in a kaleidoscope. And then he experiences this collage, he experiences this assembly or compendium as his own existence. That's outsourced.

Substitutive existence is when the narcissist internalizes whole people, complete people, intimate partners, colleagues, neighbors, friends, internalizes them, converts them into internal objects, introjects, snapshots, and then uses these to experience existence, to experience being vicariously.

He actually annexes, he assimilates the existence and being of other people. This is the substitutive existence solution.

And the displaced existence solution is when the narcissist recognizes that other people are separate from him, that they have their own existence and their own being, but he then somehow co-ops, somehow makes their separate existence and being his.

So for example, covert narcissist and especially inverted narcissist, unlikely to do this because they exist via others. The inverted narcissist, for example, is a subspecies of covert narcissist and she feels alive. She feels that she exists, that she feels that she is in being, she has a being, she is an entity, only via an overt grandiose classic narcissist, who is her intimate partner. So she is like the moon and her intimate partner narcissist is like the sun and she has the sun's reflected light. The moon doesn't shine, doesn't have a light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun. So it's the same in displaced existence. It's the reflected existence, the reflected being, the reflected lives of people around the narcissist. He busks in this secondary reflective source of light, source of being, source of life, source of existence. He surrounds himself with people, intimate partners, colleagues, neighbors, friends, nevermind. He surrounds himself with people through whose existence he can exist. It's vicarious existence by proxy.

It's if my intimate partner exists, only then do I feel that I exist.

It's also common in borderline, by the way, and in codependency.


Here's another thing common to narcissists, borderlines and codependents.

So displaced existence is when the narcissist makes sure that there is an existence agent, agent or agents around him, which can imbue him, endow him, bestow upon him the gift of existence.

So if your intimate partner is successful, you feel successful. If your intimate partner is loving, you feel being loved and you love the fact that you are being loved, so you love. If your intimate partner is very good with his hands, a great handyman, you take pride in this, but not pride for him, pride for yourself. It's like you own him, he's your property. You own something exotic and amazing.

So this is displaced existence.

And these are the three solutions.

And displaced existence is obstructed and hampered and very often prevented by passive aggression and entitlement.

Passive aggression is a tendency to undermine, sabotage and destroy from the, you know, like termites, destroy by knowing the way of the foundations and the roots of relationships.

So the narcissist, the covert narcissist, passive aggression tends to deflect, tends to diminish his ability or her ability to obtain existence from people around him, from his sources. He tends to passively, aggressively destroy any possibility, any attempt, any effort and any potential to somehow live vicariously through another person.

And also entitlement.

Narcissist feels entitled and so he becomes demanding, he becomes aggressive, clinging, needy and ultimately pushes the existence agents away.


Okay, now to three of your questions.

Joy asks, is there only one form of shared fantasy?

A shared fantasy was first described in 1989 by Sander, not by Buckne.

And ever since then, we've learned a lot about shared fantasies, especially in cluster B personality disorders, mainly narcissism and borderline.

And so it seems that there are two types of shared fantasy.

There is a companionship shared fantasy and there is a submissive shared fantasy.

Now the companionship shared fantasy is common mainly among cerebral narcissists, cerebral narcissism and to some extent covert narcissist.

Overt grandiose narcissists would create a companionship shared fantasy, overt grandiose somatic narcissists would create a submissive shared fantasy.

And what's the difference between these two?

A companionship shared fantasy is very much like a business transaction. Indeed, it's transactional. It's an agreement. You will provide me, you, my intimate partner, will provide me with services, you will provide me with adulation, with supply, narcissistic supply, you're providing me with supply, with attention, with adulation, with admiration. You will provide me with services, all kinds of services. I don't know, you will be my personal assistant or whatever. And I in turn would endow you, bestow upon you, my presence.

So this is the companionship shared fantasy where the intimate partner actually fulfills the roles of mother and to some extent, or a fan or admirer.

And in the shared, in the companionship shared fantasy, the main role of the intimate partner is to provide secondary narcissistic supply. The narcissistic supply, I mean, the intimate partner witnesses the narcissist accomplishments, records them and releases these recordings when supply is low, helping to regulate the flow of supply.

So this is in companionship shared fantasy.

In submissive shared fantasy, the main emphasis is on the intimate partner as a playmate and a fan. So in submissive shared fantasy, there's a lot of sex. The demand is for sex and for supply and only in the third place, services.

The submissive shared fantasy is much more common among somatics and so on. And it's much less of an agreement. There's also no horizon. There are no plans. It's not serious. There's no investment. There's a lot of fantasies about the future, the many fantasies about the future. And it's all very vivid and very colorful and very convincing.

And even the narcissist himself believes in these fantasies. So it's not future faking. The narcissist is not lying. He's deluding himself as well as an intimate partner.

But the emphasis is on sex, usually sadistic or submissive sex, and on adulation, admiration. The narcissist wants to feel irresistible, for example, if he's a somatic narcissist.


Okay, so these are the two types of shared fantasy.

It's important to understand that when you misidentify sex as intimacy, when you mislabel love as pain, you end up having sexless intimacy and painful loves.

I repeat this because it's a profound sentence and it's profound because I wrote it.

When you misidentify sex as intimacy, you end up having sexless intimacy. When you mislabel love as pain, you end up having painful love affairs.

Profound. I admire myself mainly because no one else would.

Poor me. That's called victim stance.

Okay, which leads us to trauma bonding, of course.

Trauma bonding is a form of self mutilation. It's a form of self-harm.

Now, that's a very unusual view of trauma bonding because we tend to divide the participants in trauma bonding into perpetrators, abusers, predators, and hapless, flawless angelic victims.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Trauma bonding is a collaboration, a very close collaboration, where the parties contribute equally, and both of them are committed to the bond. Both of them are affected, emotionally invested in the bond.

But as far as the victim is concerned, it's a form of self-cutting, exactly like in Borderline Personality Disorder. It's a form of self-punishment, self-destruction, self-mutilation, self-harm.

And all these behaviors in Borderline Personality Disorder, for example, all these behaviors have three functions.

There are three functions to self-harm and self-mutilation.

Number one, to numb, to quell, to repress dysregulated emotions that threaten to overwhelm the victim.

Number two, to allow the victim to feel alive through pain.

Number three, to punish, defeat, and destroy the self-mutilator.

So these are the three functions of self-mutilation and self-harm.

To numb, dysregulated emotions that threaten to overwhelm the self-mutilator. To allow the person who self-harms to feel alive through pain and to punish, defeat, and destroy the self-mutilator or the person who self-hounds.

And all three exist in trauma bonding. It's exactly what trauma bonding does.

Lydia Rangelovska wrote these words recently.

Our narcissistic defenses preserve us from self-destruction in desperate, hopeless, and uncertain times.

The need to socialize, to compare ourselves with others, is intended to restore control over our innate urges.

Having been terrified of our dark side, we actually trauma bond with others.

And so others remind us that we are weak and that we have to fight for our survival. One should embrace his or her weakness in order to restore the energy, the hope, and the will to live. Others won't do it for you.

It's a choice you have to make, to suffer or to live.

Wise counsel indeed, and another alternative view on trauma bonding.

I hope you survived and enjoyed this excursion into the dark underside of the human psyche.

I'm always here to guide you through Hades. Just pay me my due.

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