The narcissist expects dry spells in obtaining narcissistic supply. He knows that narcissistic supply is a flow, like a river. It has its ups and downs, it has its tidal moments, it wanes and waxes, and he learns to expect these irregularities in the supply chain. That is precisely why narcissists team up with intimate partners.
The main role of the narcissist in significant other is to regulate the supply, to stabilize it, to flatten the curve if you wish. The intimate partner provides secondary supply, which replenishes the missing primary supply.
So narcissists are well trained at regulating supply one way or another.
But what happens when the narcissist runs out of the ability to regulate supply? When people around the narcissist are so disillusioned, so disappointed, so angry and so hurt that they want nothing further to do with the narcissist? What happens when the narcissist moves from one pathological space, exits it, and yet didn't have the time to establish a new one? What happens when circumstances and the environment conspire to prevent the narcissist from obtaining sources of supply, for example, is hospitalized or is in prison? What happens, in other words, when the narcissist faces the dawning realization that he will never have narcissistic supply again or that it is very unlikely?
How does the narcissist then regulate his internal environment? How does he cope with such an imminent and very frightening threat?
And this is the topic of today's lecture, the second or three on schizoid narcissism.
And I would like to open with a quote. It's by Ferenci and Shando, who noted psychoanalysts. It's titled Notes and Fragments. It was published by the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, volume 30, 1949, when I was a young man.
And this is the quote.
A surprising fact in the process of self-splitting is the sudden change of the object relation that had become intolerable. This subject relation changes into narcissism.
The man, abandoned by all gods, escapes completely from reality, creates for himself another world in which he can achieve everything that he wants. He has been unloved. He has been tormented.
And so now this man splits off from himself, a part which in the form of a helpful, loving, often motherly minder commiserates with the tormented remainder of the self.
Nurses this remainder, decides for it with the deepest wisdom and most penetrating intelligence. This part, this motherly part, is a guardian angel that sees the suffering or murdered child from the outside. It wanders through the whole universe. This child, seeking help, invents and this part invents fantasies for the child that cannot be saved in any other way.
But even though this child cannot be saved in any other way except via fantasy, in the moment of a very strong, repeated trauma, even this guardian angel must confess his own helplessness and well-meaning deceptive swindles. And then nothing else remains but suicide.
This was the quote, by the way, launched Cold Therapy.
Ferenci and Chandel are discussing actually re-traumatization. They warn that such a process, when the false self collapses, is disabled, mortification inactivates it, there's no further protection and nurturing, and the guardian is dead, the guardian angel is dead or gone, they warn that inexorably leads to suicide. It's not true, but it's partly true.
And today we're going to discuss the solutions that narcissists deploy and employ and use to cope with the removal of narcissistic supply as a self-regulatory instrument.
My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited and your favorite professor of psychology.
When narcissistic supply is no longer available in principle and clearly will not be available for a very long period of time in the foreseeable future, either because all sources of supply had been alienated and depleted or because pathological narcissistic supply had crumbled or because external circumstances conspire to prevent the narcissist from going out there and obtaining supply or because internal circumstances prevent the narcissist from obtaining supply, rendering the narcissist a covert narcissist.
He's too shy, he's too fragile, he's too vulnerable, or he's too schizoid to go out there and scout for supply.
In all these cases, supply suddenly becomes not scarce but absent. It's not a deficiency of narcissistic supply. It's the vanishing of narcissistic supply from the narcissist's landscape.
Nothing could be more frightening than this because the narcissist uses narcissistic supply to keep himself together, not only to regulate his moods, his negative emotionality, his negative emotionality can overpower him as well as others. He uses supply to regulate this but not only to reduce liability, not only to ameliorate anxiety.
Narcissistic supply has so many psychological functions that the only thing I can compare it to in normal people is love, actually. Maternal love, spousal love, other love, object relations.
Narcissistic supply is the narcissist's object relation. Only the object is himself. The narcissist has a libidinal investment in himself and he invests it via narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is the affirmation and the confirmation that the narcissist's fantasy world, his shared fantasy, his false self, his grandiosity, his inflated self-perception are real.
Narcissistic supply reassures the narcissist, deludes the narcissist, deceives the narcissist into somehow believing that he's still capable of maintaining a modicum of reality testing.
But there comes a point that he is unable to completely ignore contrarian opinion, countervailing data. Confirmation bias doesn't work anymore.
So he reframes them, he ignores them, he represses them, denies them, blocks them out, transmutes them.
There are many, many ways of coping with information or data that come to mind, undermine, challenge the narcissist's self-perception and grandiosity.
But if it goes too far, if he's no longer able to face the dismal failure that he is, the narcissist can react in one of two ways.
He can continue to remain in reality and undergo mortification, narcissistic mortification.
And I advise you to watch my videos on narcissistic mortification. That's one way.
And the other path is to essentially become psychotic, divorce reality, withdraw into an inner world so complete that it is misperceived by the narcissist as reality.
And that is a good definition of psychotic disorder. This is hyper reflection.
So when the narcissist is confronted with utter lack of supply or with overwhelming negative supply, the narcissist either is mortified, loses his false self, or withdraws from reality, becomes technically cycled.
To soothe and solve the pain of disillusionment, the challenge, the disintegration, the falling apart, the threat, the existential threat, as Ferran says, you know, could end in suicide.
The narcissist administers a mixture of lies, distortions, half-truths, outlandish interpretations of events, etc.
But what if this fails too? What if the narcissist is undergoing mortification and all his strategies, all the instruments he had developed since early childhood are not working anymore because there's no supply to drive them?
What to do then?
Well, the narcissist in this case, especially the schizoid narcissist, the schizoid narcissist has a dual problem. Not only he is not able to tap into new sources of supply, he finds the interaction with sources of supply very distasteful.
He is socially averse, sexually averse. Schizoid narcissists are in a double bind.
So what do all these narcissists do when there's no more fuel to the car?
In 1995, I compared narcissistic supply to fuel that the car engine needs. You can have the most amazing car with the most perfect Rolls-Royce engine, but without fuel. It's not going anywhere. And if it's left standing for long, it decays, it decays, it falls apart. And it's no longer recognizable as a car, but as a metal wreck, a scrap metal.
So what to do to avoid this vampire-like conversion to dust?
You know these movies where vampires are exposed to the sun or you run a stake through them or silver bullets or whatever it is that works nowadays, and they suddenly go up in a puff of dust.
What to do to prevent this?
So narcissists have several strategies, last resort strategies and solutions.
The first one is the delusional narrative solution. The narcissist constructs a narrative in which he figures as the hero, the protagonist. He's brilliant in this narrative, in this piece of fiction, in this movie script. He is perfect. He is irresistibly handsome. He's destined for great things. He's entitled, powerful, wealthy, center of attention, etc.
The narrative is usually counterfactual. It is counterfactual. That's why it's essentially a delusional disorder. The narcissist develops a delusional disorder.
And the bigger the strain on this delusional charade, the greater the gap between fantasy and reality, the more the delusion coalesces and solidifies.
Attacking the delusion makes it more coherent, more pervasive, more resilient. Finally, if it is sufficiently protracted, the delusion replaces reality and the narcissist's reality testing deteriorates. He withdraws his bridges and may become schizotypal, catatonic or full-fledged schizoid.
The next solution is the antisocial solution.
The narcissist again renounces reality and everyone in reality.
To his mind, the people who pusillanimously failed to recognize his unbound talents, innate superiority, overarching brilliance, benevolent nature, entitlement, cosmically important mission, perfection or justice. These people do not deserve his presence, do not deserve the gift that he is, nor do they deserve empathy and consideration such as he can muster.
The narcissist's natural affinity with a criminal, with the antisocial, his lack of empathy, his lack of compassion, his deficient social skills, his disregard for social laws and morals and mores, his defiance, contumaciousness, lack of impulse control, reactance.
In other words, the commonalities between narcissists and psychopaths, they now erupt. They flourish and blossom like an unseemly poisonous blight. The narcissist becomes a full-fledged antisocial psychopath.
He ignores the wishes and needs of other people. He breaks the law. He violates all rights, natural and legal. He holds people in contempt and disdain. He derides and decries society and its codes. He punishes the ignorant ingrates and those who caused him injustice. He becomes vindictive, sometimes obsessively and compulsively vindictive.
And that is because to his mind, these people drove him to this state. They're responsible. Alloplastic defenses. Everyone is guilty. Everyone is to blame. Everyone is responsible, except of course, the narcissist by acting criminally, by jeopardizing their safety, their lives, by absconding with their property. He's just rebalancing. He's just recreating cosmic justice. He's just putting things right.
The third solution is the paranoid schizoid solution.
And before I proceed, a lot of this would be familiar to you with the recent developments in the United States and so on. All these things apply equally to collectives as they do to individuals. Enough said. Apply these things to your daily news.
The paranoid schizoid solution.
So that's the third solution. Yes, paranoid schizoid. When narcissism fails as a defense mechanism, the narcissist develops paranoid, hypervigilant narratives, self-directed confabulations, which place him at the center of other people's allegedly malign, malevolent, malicious, surreptitious attention.
The narcissist becomes his own audience and self-sufficient, self-supplied, as his own sometimes exclusive source of narcissistic supply.
The narcissist in this case develops persecutory delusions. He... and ideation. Paranoid ideation and persecutory delusions.
He perceives slides and insults and conspiracies and collusions and malevolence where none exist or where intended. He becomes subject to ideas of reference, referential ideation.
People are gossiping about him. They're mocking him. They're prying into his affairs. They're cracking his email or whatever.
They are out to get him and so on. He's convinced that he's the center of malign and malintentioned attention. People are conspiring to humiliate him, to punish him, to abscond with his property, to delude him, to impoverish him, to confine him physically or intellectually, to censor him, to impose on his time, to force him to action or to force him to inaction, to frighten him, to coerce him, to alter his behavior and all choices, to surround and besiege him, change his mind, part with his values, victimize, even in extreme cases, murder him.
Yes, he's the target of a plot to assassinate him.
Some narcissists go so far down this rabbit hole, withdraw so completely from a world populated with minacious and ominous objects, that they reach the point of dangerous, paranoid, grandiose psychosis. All these are projections of internal objects and processes, of course. That's the problem. The problem is that in the absence of supply, the narcissist's inner environment is totally dysregulated. All the levers of control are gone. The inmates break out of the asylum. All the sadistic interjects, all the constructs, the dysfunctional constructs, they're out in the wild. They take over in effect. They take over because they are charged with a normal pent-up energy. They take over and they drive the narcissist to the point of no return.
This kind of narcissist avoids all social contact except the most necessary. They become, in other words, full-fledged schizoid narcissists. They refrain from this kind of narcissist, refrain from meeting people, fall in love, have sex, talk to others, or even corresponding with others. They become schizoids, not out of social shyness. They're not avoidant, but out of what they feel to be their choice.
They say to themselves, this evil, hopeless world does not deserve me. It's an inner refrain. It's like a mantra, affirmation, if you wish. I shall waste none of my time and resources on these ingredients. That's a risk of affirmations. Even positive affirmations are, to my mind, a very dangerous tool because positive affirmations tend to resonate with introjects and constructs within the personality that very often are hidden, repressed for very good reason because they are sick, problematic, dysfunctional, disordered, and a positive affirmation can bring such an introject or a construct into the surface.
Positive affirmations can render you paranoid, can render you narcissistic, can render you grandiose. I see these affirmations all over the place, like so much cancer, so much malignancy, and I see the impact of these affirmations in how people become more and more grandiose, more and more entitled, more and more narcissistic, and more and more paranoid.
The next solution is the paranoid aggressive or explosive solution.
Some narcissists who develop persecutory delusions and paranoid ideation, they resort to an aggressive stance.
So the first case they withdraw. In this case, the approach, and the approach is violent, a violent resolution of an internal conflict, of a dissonance.
These kinds of narcissists become verbally, psychologically, situationally, and sometimes physically abusive. They insult, castigate, chastise, berate, demean, criticize, and deride even their nearest and dearest, well-wishers, loved ones, friends, family. They explode in unprovoked displays of indignation, righteousness, like demoniousness, condemnation, and blame. It's an exegetic bedlam. They interpret everything, even the most innocuous, inadvertent, and innocent comment, as designed to provoke them, to humiliate them, to put them down, to render them submissive, to subjugate them.
And these kinds of narcissists so fear, revulsion, hatred, and malignant envy. They flail against the windmills of reality. They are pathetic forlorn, but they're dangerous. Often they cause real and lasting damage, fortunately mainly to themselves.
The next solution is the masochistic avoidant solution.
Remember all these are solutions when the narcissist reaches the conclusion that actually he cannot extract supply anymore in a traditional way. He cannot find willing collaborators, willing partners who would provide him with supply within a shared fantasy, or he cannot establish a pathological narcissistic space because of external circumstances or internal reasons, shyness, fragility, vulnerability.
In all these cases, the narcissist reaches the terrifying, harrowing conclusion that he has seen the lust of narcissistic supply, and now he needs to find other ways, either to supply himself, to become self-supplier, or to force the environment to provide him supply by becoming a psychopath or a dangerous exclusive paranoid, et cetera, et cetera.
So these are the solutions.
Now the next solution is the masochistic avoidant solution.
The narcissist is angered by the lack of narcissistic supply, makes him angry, and he directs some of this narcissistic rage, some of this fury inwards punishing himself for his failure to secure and obtain supply.
And this masochistic behavior has the added benefit of forcing the narcissist closest, nearest, dearest loved ones, friends, even colleagues, to assume the roles of dismayed spectators or of persecutors.
Either way, to pay him the attention that he craves. Some of them take on the role of a savior. They have a messiah complex. They want to save him. Some of them take on the role of making his life better, ameliorating.
So they try to make him happy and joyful and cheerful. Some of them are simply dismayed, and they express their anger and disappointment. Some of them seek to persecute him, actually. Whatever the case may be, he succeeds to elicit attention.
By damaging, self-trushing, self-destructive behaviors, by self-defeat, he actually attempts to attract people, because people have a tendency to save other people. You see someone drowning. You want to help him. Self-administered punishment often manifests in this kind of narcissist as self-handicapping masochist.
A narcissist, he cop out. By undermining his work, his relationships, his efforts, the increasingly fragile narcissist avoids additional criticism and censure negative supply.
Because self-inflicted failure is the narcissist doing. He did it to himself. So he is in control. It's a choice. If the narcissist destroys himself, it's his choice and it's his control.
So ironically, paradoxically, self-destruction is a form of grandiosity, and it proves that he is the master of his fate.
Masochistic narcissists keep finding themselves in self-defeating circumstances, which render success impossible. Millen wrote in 2000 that masochistic narcissists are hell-bent on preventing an objective assessment of their performance. They make it improbable. They act carelessly. They withdraw in mid-effort. They are constantly fatigued or bored or disaffected.
And so they passive aggressively sabotage their own lives. Their suffering is defined in your face, conspicuous and ostentatious.
They decide to abort, and by deciding to abort, they are the decision makers. It's a manifestation of omnipotence.
Only I have the power to destroy myself. Suicide is actually a grandiose narcissistic act. It's very selfish.
The narcissist pronounced in public misery and his self-pity are compensatory because, as Millen says, they reinforce his self-esteem against overwhelming convictions of worthlessness.
His tribulations, this narcissist tribulations, his suffering, his anguish, they render him in his own eyes, unique, saintly, virtuous, righteous, resilient and significant.
You hear me, empaths?
Right. These forms of self-aggrandizement, you know, I'm a saint, I'm an angel, I'm blameless, I'm faultless, I didn't do anything to deserve this, and so on and so forth. These are forms of self-generated narcissistic supply. It's self-supply.
And so paradoxically, the worse the anguish, the worse the suffering, the more the unhappiness, the more relieved and elated such a narcissist feels. He feels good only when he feels bad.
And these are the solutions in two big groups.
When the narcissist no longer has supply and cannot secure supply, in any way, shape or form, he either begins to self-supply, which is sexually autoerotic and psychologically auto-libidinal, he self-supplies, and he becomes his own source of supply.
And that's a total collapse, it's a singularity, it's a black hole, he cuts himself off reality.
Or on the contrary, instead of avoiding reality and becoming a self-supplier, the narcissist seeks to force the environment to give him supply by self-destructing or by becoming a psychopath.
So the absence of supply, the vanishing of supply, radicalizes the narcissist, pushes him into solutions which are recognizable personality disorders, such as schizoid or antisocial. Mortification and collapse, as I have said in previous videos, are the bridges between personality disorders. They are the engines that drive the transformations.
All personality disorders bleed into each other, merge with each other seamlessly.
We see in the same person, symptoms, behaviors, traits, signs, manifestations of all personality disorders. Either someone has a personality disorder and then he has elements of all personality disorders, or he doesn't have a personality disorder, and then he has no elements of any personality disorder.
These are the two groups.
If you are a narcissist, you are also likely to be obsessive compulsive and paranoid, for example, or schizoid. If you're a schizoid, you're likely to be a narcissist at some stage or paranoid, definitely, etc.
These distinctions are artificial. They are wrong. They are known as the polythetic fallacy, and they are cause for great criticism of the DSM. It's a badly compiled and written book, which does not reflect reality because reality is a dimension, is a spectrum, not discrete entities. We are not discrete entities. We are parts of networks and the network. We are a network effect.
The concept of individual is very wrong because individual, like non-divisible and at all, it's wrong. It's not true.
And there's no such thing as personality. It's a confluence. It's the overlap. It's the Venn diagram that makes you what you are, and narcissists, even though they like to think of themselves as exceptions, of course, I'm not.