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Narcissist's Projection, Projective Identification and Victim's Introjective Identification

Uploaded 7/30/2016, approx. 12 minute read

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

The vast majority of self-styled experts with and without academic degrees. Richard actually talks since he does his research, and I enjoy his channel greatly.

So, a recent video he has made about a week ago dealt with a topic called Projective Identification.

I have met Richard in London two or three weeks ago. We were discussing a joint seminar at the end of September in London, and the issue of Projective Identification came up in the conversation.

Richard is as charismatic and as sensitive I had imagined him to be based on his videos.

And so, the topic of Projective Identification was of great personal interest to him.

So, I thought I would enlarge upon it. I thought I would elaborate on these pretty complex psychological defense mechanisms.


Well, let's start with the narcissist's false self.

The narcissist's false self, as you all know by now, is grandiose. The narcissist seeks to maintain his inflated fantasy of himself.

The narcissist denies, slices and splits off. He evacuates or projects onto other people, emotions, cognitions, thoughts, traits, impulses, behaviors and qualities that contradict his false self, contravene his inflated grandiose sense of himself.

In the idealization and devaluation phases, the narcissist also attributes sources of primary or secondary narcissistic supply, ideal and positive, or negative traits and behaviors, some of which he may actually possess.

So, this is very complex. Let's try to break it down into steps and stages and into topics and subtopics.

As I said, the narcissist has an inflated sense of himself.

But to maintain this inflated sense of himself, the narcissist must ignore or deny certain emotions. He must ignore or deny certain thoughts. He must ignore or deny certain traits, certain impulses, certain behaviors, certain qualities which contradict this self-perception as brilliant, as godlike, as perfect, as omnipotent, as omniscient.

It's hard to maintain this concoction, this piece of fiction, this narrative that is called the false self.

So, what the narcissist does, he takes all these things that contradict his grandiose self and he throws them out. He projects them onto other people.

He says, it's not me. It's not I. I'm not weak. I'm not stupid. I'm not out of control. It's not me. It's you. It's other people.

In the idealization and devaluation phases, the narcissist projects onto other people, positive traits when he idealizes them, or negative traits when he devalues them. So, when he idealizes you, he would say that you're intelligent. When he devalues you, he would say that you're weak, or stupid.

In the idealization stage, he would project positive ideal thoughts, positive ideal behaviors, positive ideal impulses. Everything would be positive and ideal. And in the negative phase, in the devaluation phase, he would project onto you the exact opposite, demeaning things, derating things, humiliating things.

Additionally, with the narcissist, there's a further complication.

The narcissist feels omnipresent, ubiquitous, all pervasive. The narcissist believes that he is the prime mover and shaker. He believes that he's the cause of all things. He believes that he is at the core, he is the engine, he is the be-all and end-all.

The narcissist is also convinced that everyone is exactly like him when it comes to negative emotions and motivations.

So, for the narcissist to project is pretty easy, because he believes that everyone is like him. So, it's not a problem to assume that they are envious, they're full of hatred, they're full of rage. If they are all like him, then it's easy to project onto them these negative emotions, negative traits, negative thoughts, negative impulses, urges, desires, and so on and so forth.

The constant and facile projection of the narcissist's own traits, own fears, behavior patterns, beliefs and plans onto others, this comes to the narcissist naturally.

The narcissist is firmly convinced that he is the generator and regulator of other people's emotions, that they depend on him for their well-being, that without him their lives would crumble into grave mediocrity.

He regards himself as the most important component in the lives of his nearest and dearest.

So, this confluence, this combination, means that when the narcissist projects onto other people, he first believes that they are like him, and so the projection is justified and correct. It conforms to reality.

This is really how they are.

And secondly, he believes that by projecting, he's unconsciously convinced that by projecting, he's actually doing them a favor.

He is jolting them, he is administering tough love, he is motivating them, he is moving them, he is shaking them, he is structuring and forming their lives, he is injecting content and interest.

Projection is a tool that the narcissist uses not only to penetrate other people, not only to get rid of inner processes, thoughts, impulses and so on that he cannot live with, but it's also a controlled instrument. It's also a way for the narcissist to control people around them.

To avoid painful contradictions with reality or cognitive dissonance, and also to ameliorate his raging abandonment and separation anxiety, the narcissist aims to micromanage and control his human environment by subsuming it or by merging and fusing with it.

In this sense, narcissists are exactly like codependents. They both do this.

The narcissist's nearest and dearest are reduced to mere representations, avatars, extensions of himself, internal objects.

And this is where projective identification comes in, where it comes into play.

You remember we were discussing projection. Projection is a simple defense mechanism.

I don't want to think of myself as weak, so I project it.

You are weak. I don't want to think of myself as angry. I'm not angry. You are angry. I don't want to think of myself as unfaithful.

So I would suspect you of cheating on me or being disloyal.

So it's projection.

This is simple. It consists of the attribution of the narcissist's own psychological makeup, his own urges, his own desires and processes, inner processes to other people. That's easy to understand.

But projective identification also involves forcing the target of the projection to conform to the contents of the projection, forcing someone to actually become someone else, forcing someone to behave in ways prescribed by the narcissist.

This is called introjective identification.

The narcissist does projective identification. The recipient of the projective identification undergoes a process called introjective identification where he becomes what the narcissist wants him to be.

In the idealization phase, the narcissist cajoles, coerces, extorts and incentivizes his chosen source of supply to transform herself into the kind of person that the narcissist projects.

He wants her to be intelligent. He wants her to be strong, for example, in the idealization phase.

Similarly in the devaluation phase, the target is manipulated to assume, to adopt and to exhibit the narcissist's shortcomings. The narcissist's unmanageable, chaotic and dysregulated emotions and behaviors. The narcissist's rage, envy, contempt, abusive or shame, they are all projected onto the target and then the target is forced to behave this way, is forced to become envious, is forced to become abusive, is forced to become contemptuous.

It's like body snatching, soul snatching. The narcissist not only projects, but he uses the projection to mould the other person, to reconstruct the other person, to break the other person apart and put him together differently in a way that will conform to the narcissist's projected content.

The narcissist rejects his rage, envy, contempt, abusive, conduct, shame and so on and so forth. He rejects these things. He rejects to own them because they challenge his self-deception, his false self. They challenge his ability to regulate his labile sense of self-worth.

So instead what he does, he takes these negative emotions, negative thoughts, negative urges, negative impulses and he farms them out. He outsources them to other people around him, but at the same time he pressures them to play act these roles in the screenplay of his life. He forces them to affirm what he knows about the world and what he knows about himself.

He, in other words, uses them to buttress his comfort zone, his pathological narcissistic space.

They become convenient props, containers of unwanted bits of the narcissist persona and psyche. They become constant reminders of his own superiority and magnanimity as opposed to their these decrepit, unjustifiable, indefensible behaviors, traits, urges, impulses and conduct.

Still it is important to realize that the material that is cast off in the process of projected identification remains a part of the narcissist.

Why is that? If the narcissist cannot own these things, if he rejects them, if he throws them out, casts them off, why would they remain a part of him?

If he forces other people to appropriate these things and to become these things, why would they still be a part of him?

Well, that's because the people that this content is projected onto these people are an integral part of the narcissist.

For the narcissist, there are no others. He is the only real human being. He is the only real person. Other so-called people are extensions of himself. They are appendages. They are mere inner specters. They are apparitions, avatars, representations, inner objects, anything but not separate autonomous human beings.

With the narcissist, projective and projective identification do not work because in his mental world there are no others. There is no reality out there. It's all in his mind. It's all part of a mega theater play that is taking place on the stage of his mind.

Narcissist in this respect is a solipsist and his solipsistic worldview prevents him from successfully getting rid of what bothers him the most, his imperfection. He cannot take his imperfections and offload them onto other people because there are no other people. There's only the narcissist.

So with the narcissist, projective and projective identification are actually reallocation from one part of his psychology to another part, from his core base, from his false self onto the representations of other people inside him.

While normal people project outside to other people, while normal people may use projective identification with outsiders, outside themselves, narcissist uses projective and projective identification to manipulate inner objects, to force inner constructs, inner representations, inner avatars to behave in certain ways.

In other words, with the narcissist, projection and projective identification are internal, 100% internal processes which have to do with the narcissist's economy of mind, with his energy economy.

This is good news because it means therapists can use projection and projective identification to manipulate the inner structures of the narcissist's soul, to realign the narcissistic landscape. We'll talk about it in some later video when I expound on a new treatment modality of developing cold therapy.

But this is only one aspect of the pathology.


The second aspect is malignant cynicism. A healthy modicum of doubt and caution is, well, healthy.

But the narcissist is addicted, addicted to excess doses of both doubt and caution. To the narcissist, all people are narcissists. Others are simply hypocritical when they pretend to be normal, non-narcissist.

When people say I'm not a narcissist, they are simply lying. They're being hypocritical, or maybe not self-aware, or maybe just stupid. They are weak. They fear society's reactions, so they adhere to its edicts and behavior of moral cults and morals.

But in reality, everyone is a narcissist.

Just there are strong narcissists, self-assured narcissists, who are not afraid to admit to their narcissist, and there are craven, cowardly narcissists who are too afraid of their own shadow and what society and the neighbors say, and they don't admit that they are narcissists.

But everyone is a narcissist. A narcissist magically feels strong, immune to punishment, and invincible. He is able to express his true nature fearlessly and openly.

So if everyone is a narcissist, when the narcissist projects, he cannot see that he is projecting.

Because if everyone is like him, his projection is merely acknowledging reality.

In the narcissist world, there is no such thing as external projection, projecting unto others, not only because there are no others, not only because all others are inside him, not only because all others are extension, but because all others are identical to him, identical to him, as far as motivation and so on.

I mean, he is much more intelligent, he is much stronger, he is much more experienced, of course, he is superior.

But when it comes to base, base emotions, base drives and impulses and urges and so on, everyone is the same. So the narcissist can never project. Projection is about really psychological defense, mechanism of projection is about misidentifying other people's traits, qualities and behaviors.

But if they are the same, they are the same like the narcissist. There can be no misidentification. Whatever the narcissist says about other people must be true, because they are all one and the same.

This is the narcissist's complex inner landscape.

The narcissist does not inhabit an outer landscape. There is no world, there is no reality, there are no others. It's a complex intricate interplay inside the narcissist tortured soul.

And projection and projective identification are the keys to healing narcissism.

As I said and as I promised, I'm putting the finishing touches to a new treatment modality, a new therapy for narcissists.

And one of the key elements in this therapy is to use inner constructs and internal structures in the narcissist's psychology to actually transform the narcissist. Not necessarily to render him normal, but definitely to render him much happier and much more functional.

But it's too early to talk about this. Leave something for the next videos.

Warm regards to Richard Grannon, who sort of provokes me into this video. And if we do hold the joint seminar together in London, probably on the 24th and 25th of September, I will be delighted to see you there.

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