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Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: First Separate, Individuate

Uploaded 2/9/2022, approx. 12 minute read

Read my lips. It's not disassociation. It's dissociation. You pretend to discuss issues in psychology, use the right words. Dissociation, not disassociation. Got it?

Okay, Shoshanim, now that I have narcissistically mortified all of you without a single exception, it is my pleasure and honor and delight to carry on.

Today, we are going to discuss a very interesting topic.

In private next week, I'm going to shoot the dialogue of the conversation with Richard Grannon on separation individuation.

According to your comments, it's been long awaited. It is not possible to heal from narcissistic abuse before you undergo a process of separation individuation as if you were a toddler, an infant, because that's what the narcissist does to you. He infantilizes you.

And so there are two videos that are the precursors to this dialogue.

You should watch these two videos before you watch the dialogue.

And the first one is deprogram the narcissist in your mind. And the second one is this.

Watch these two videos and then proceed to the dialogue between me and the inimitable Grannon.


Okay, let's dive right in. Let's dive right in.

Dissociation and objectification are at the core of separation individuation around the ages of 18 to 24 months old.

Now that's a mouthful. It's also full of very long $10 words, which are absolutely my favorite because I know that you won't understand the word I'm saying. It gratifies me.

Okay, enough with the villain act.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited and a professor of psychology in CEAPS, Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies, the Outreach Program of the CEAPS Consortium of Universities. I'm also a visiting professor of psychology in Southern Federal University. It was stuff on Don Russian Federation. Yes, Russian Federation.

Now you all heard of separation individuation.

Sometimes when the child says goodbye to mommy, mommy is a safe base. Mommy is a secure location. Mommy is the place the child goes to when it wants to reduce anxiety, to reacquire a sense of safety, to manage itself in the world without incurring any costs or risks.

A good enough mother provides a safe base, provides this sense of security, but at some point the child wants to venture off. The child grows up, begins to develop boundaries and tries to separate from mother.

The process of separating from mother creates an identity.

The boundaries coalesce and rigidify, become rigid, and the boundaries protect an inner space within which psychodynamic processes are happening. These processes are what we call individuation.

So the process of becoming an individual, developing a self, if you believe in yourself, this process happens behind firewalls, behind a fortress, and it is the reflection of the separation from mother.

Separating from mother is an enormous trauma, possibly the greatest trauma in any single human life.

Because the child ventures out into a world that is potentially hostile, definitely unpredictable, unknown, not familiar, the child at the age of two, two years old, exits its comfort zone.

And so it's very traumatic, very frightening, and the child engages in approach avoidance. He avoids mommy, he separates from her, he walks a few steps, and then physically he runs back to mommy and hugs her legs.

Avoidance approach, avoidance approach, and the avoidance becomes longer, the approach becomes shorter until finally, personal autonomy, agency, independence are obtained, and the child becomes an individual.

It's a very healthy process, and it happens again in adolescence.

But this process of separation and individuation involves three elements.

Number one, dissociation.

Number two, objectification.

Number three, grandiosity.

Does it strike a bell?

Dissociation, objectification of other people.

Grandiosity, yes.

The process of separation and individuation is a prime example of healthy narcissism, what Freud called primary narcissism.

Why the dissociation?

Why does it need to dissociate?

Prior to the separation phase, between the ages of six months and 18 months, prior to the separation phase, the child is in a symbiotic state with his mother. The child and mother are one. The child does not perceive himself or itself as separate from mother. In fact, he doesn't perceive any object at all outside himself.

The child object in the sense any other person outside himself. The child perceives the entire world, definitely mummy, as just a kind of internal space externalized. The child is fluid. It has no boundaries. There is a total conflation of internal and external objects.

Mummy is out there clearly, but she's out there as a projection of an internal object.

The child and mummy are one, chimera, an organism with two heads, but a single one, a single cell. The child regards mother as a part of himself. They are inseparable.

So in order to separate from her, the child needs to cut off a part of himself which is mummy. If mummy is a part of the child, to separate from mummy means to separate from yourself, from oneself. If mummy is a part of the child, the child needs to disown that part, to repress it, to deny it, to forget it, to depersonalize it. He needs to get rid of it.

So because the mother is a part of the child until the separation and individuation phase, the child needs to dissociate mummy. He needs to cut off this part and then to objectify it, to render it an external object.

Remember that mummy used to be a part of the baby. And so by dissociating, the baby cuts off this part. But then what to do with it?

The baby objectifies mummy. He renders her an external object.

For the first time in the child's life, there is internal and external. They are distinguishable, discernible, clearly bounded. It's a very healthy process.

The child begins to feel divided from mummy, indivisible. He is a part from mummy. Mummy is out there. He is in here.

And so both dissociations, dissociating the mummy part and objectifying the mummy part, rendering the mummy part, the erstwhile mummy part, rendering it an external object. They are inseparable and integral parts of separation individuation.

The child also develops transient grandiosity to be able to take on the world all by its little self.

You need to be seriously grandiose to believe that you can explore reality and embark on a voyage of discovery when you're 18 months old. That's the epitome and quintessence of grandiosity, I should say.

And so the child undergoes a dizzying array of psychological processes. They take place very fast.

The first stage, he dissociates mummy inside himself. He dissociates this internal object. He cuts it off.

Mummy suddenly is no longer inside himself. Mummy is no longer an extension of himself. Mummy is no longer a part of himself. Mummy is no longer a component or an ingredient or a figment of his imagination. Mummy is out there.

So he dissociates her, cuts off a part of himself, then takes this part, throws it out, projects it, and voila, lo and behold, there's an external object and it has mummy's face.

So he objectifies.

Then with mummy out there, the child feels emboldened and grandiose enough to take on the voyage that is known as life.

Later on, he develops object relations and so on and so forth.

So you're beginning to see the affinity between separation individuation, the parallels, the equivalencies between separation individuation and narcissism.

If anything goes wrong in the process of separation individuation, narcissism arises and erupts because narcissism is another name for separation individuation, gone awry. Narcissism is a failure of separation individuation owing to a lack of boundaries between the child and his mother. A mother who doesn't let the child separate, a mother who attacks his grandiosity, a mother who is anxious and induces in her child the same anxiety, anxiety is infectious, mother who is depressed, absent or selfish, wouldn't let the child separate, an individual. She doesn't want that.

Not only does the child regard her as an extension, she regards him as an extension. It's a mutual symbiosis. It's a very sick merger and fusion.

This pathological relationship prevents the child from evolving into an adult effectively and he remains stuck in the age of two prior to separation individuation and we call these people narcissists.

So with a narcissist later in life comes across a mother's substitute also known as intimate partner. When he finds a mother's substitute, he tries to recreate this ancient dynamic. He tries to force her to merge with him because the only relationship a narcissist has had with any maternal figure was a relationship of symbiosis, of merger, of fusion, of lack of boundaries, lack of separateness, lack of individuation.

So when he comes across a potentially maternal figure, he tries to shoehorn her, to coerce her into enacting the same role and the same psychological dynamic. He tries to fuse with her so that they become one. He wants to absorb her in order to eliminate her external object status, their individuality.

In narcissist there is a reverse process of separation individuation where the original healthy child ventures forth, separates from mother, discovers the world and begins to see mother as one of the external objects in this world.

The narcissist goes exactly in reverse. He comes across an external object and then he wants to internalize this external object, to introject it. He wants it to become an avatar.

So whenever he comes across an external object, he wants to retreat together with this external object to a state where he and the external object are one and the external object is no more.

This is a very pernicious dynamic, a very pernicious dynamic because the narcissist aggressively and grandiosely converts his partner into what we call a self-object or an object representation. He eliminates her ability to separate from him, but he also regards her as a symbol, as a voice, as a representation, not as a real person.

At least in his mind, he believes that she is he and she is she. This equivalency, this equivalency is death. The partner has to die in the sense that she is no longer allowed to act agentically autonomously and independently, and if she dies, it provokes aggression, the devaluation phase.

The narcissist violates all his partner's boundaries in order to negate her agentic autonomy because it threatens him. He needs her to be his mother and he needs her to be the equivalent of a copy or a replica or a clone of his original mother in the sense that she needs to accept that she and her narcissist are not separate. They are one and the same. They are a single body, a single mind, a hive mind, a swarm mind, a collective mind, a colony of ants.

So she needs to accept this. She needs to suspend her separateness. She needs to abrogate her boundaries if she wants to stay with the narcissist and she needs to allow him to assimilate her, to absorb her into himself so that she becomes yet another tissue in his body mind.

And there she exists and subsists in suspended animation very much like The Matrix. And this is the Faustian deal that she strikes with him. And he wouldn't allow her never to become an external object because he had never experienced that. It feels threatening to him.

His original mother did not allow him to experience her as an external object. And there was always a threat of abandonment if she becomes external.

In other words, if he were to try to separate, individually, the implicit message of his original mother was, you're going to lose me. I'm going to walk away. You will never see me again. I will die.

So he doesn't dare.

And he tries to convert you into this kind of dead mother to use Andre Green's 1978 term. I coined the phrase narcissistic abuse in 1995 to describe exactly this inexorable process.

The narcissist is like acid. Acid, it dissolves you. You're like in an acid barrel. It dissolves you. It removes your contours. It melts your boundaries. It infiltrates you and absorbs you and melts with you, becomes one with you in some kind of primordial soup.

And from that moment on, you are in his mind. You are his mind. He is in your mind and he is your mind. And you become one mind, a hive mind.

This is precisely narcissistic abuse because if you resist this process, the narcissist becomes aggressive, violent, devaluing, and ultimately will discard you. This is the precondition for having a relationship with a narcissist that you should cease to exist as an external independent object and agree to become, agree to resurrect in the narcissist's mind as an internal object, a representation, a snapshot.

This is as good a description of narcissistic abuse as I can think of.

Okay. Watch, deprogram the narcissist in your mind and watch this video and then watch my dialogue with Richard Grannon in Prague next week about separation individuation is a condition for healing because you need to reverse this process. You need to force the narcissist to allow you to separate from him and to become again an individual.

The narcissist regresses you. He treats you as a mother, but the narcissist's mother is immature and infantile. She has no boundaries as well. She's some kind of codependent or worse narcissist.

So narcissist tries to convert you into this sick dead mother and you need to take your agency and autonomy back. And to do that, you need to separate from the narcissist in the psychological sense and then individual.

This I will discuss with Richard next time I see you. Thank you for listening.

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