Background

Pseudoidentities in Cluster B Personality Disorders: Spectacle and Simulacra

Uploaded 1/24/2021, approx. 46 minute read

I have received several emails and comments informing me, in no uncertain terms, that borderlines are not psychopaths. Borderlines are empathic, they have emotions, and they are generally wonderful people. Psychopaths are not.

Well, I never said that borderlines are psychopaths, actually. What I did say is that under conditions of extreme stress, for example, anticipated rejection, anticipated abandonment, or real rejection and abandonment, borderlines tend to become secondary psychopaths.

There is a massive difference between secondary and primary psychopaths. Secondary psychopaths have empathy, and they have emotions. Primary psychopaths have neither.

So the psychopathic self-state of the borderline is intended to protect the borderline from dysregulated emotions and extreme modalability under conditions of stress. It comes forward, it protects the borderline by becoming defiant and reckless and impulsive and aggressive, and then it dissociates most of the events.

The borderline tends to forget a big part of what had happened.

Now, the secondary psychopath is a factor two psychopath. Factor two psychopath is a psychopath who is possessed of access to emotions and of empathy. I hope this settles the issue.

More generally, here are two rules for you.

The fact that you know one mind your own doesn't mean that you know all minds.

In other words, the fact that you have access to one mind which is your own doesn't make you psychologists. All of you are unsure psychologists and couch psychologists.

I doubt whether you will make the same claims about nuclear science, for example.

And the second thing is anecdotes. Anecdotes are not science.

That your neighbor or your sister-in-law or your mother-in-law or your children behave in certain ways doesn't mean that we can derive a general rule about humanity from these behaviors.

There's a clear difference and distinction between anecdotal evidence and science.


Let's get to the topic of today's video and today's lecture is about pseudo-identities in Cluster B personality disorders.

My name is Stil Vaknin and I'm still the author of Malignant Self-Love and Narcissism Revisited and your favorite professor of psychology.

Most narcissists exhibit both overt grandiose entitled traits and vulnerable traits. There is no type of constancy.

Narcissists are simultaneously compensatory and in your face.

Simultaneously insecure and overconfident. Simultaneously arrogant and pseudo humble.

So we see in the same person dissonances in action and dissonant behavior.

In my work, I suggest that Cluster B patients transition between overt, collapsed and covert states of their personality disorders when they are mortified or extremely stressed.

But this raises the question, how is it possible? After all, the traits of a covert are diametrically opposed to the traits of an overt.

The traits of the covert narcissists are the total opposite of the traits of a grandiose narcissist. Covert narcissist, for example, is shy. The overt narcissist is extroverted and prosocial.

So how can we reconcile these two and how can people transition between these states? Doesn't such a transition require a total overthrow of previous traits and the adoption of traits which are ego alien, which are ego discrepant, which don't sit well with the core of the person, with the identity of the person?

I will read to you a comment I had received on Instagram from Lion and Cobra.

Professor Dachnin, I find that this organizational structure helps to explain very well co-mobility and apparent contradictions among self-states.

However, I find very difficult to see the transition between classic and covert borderline.

You have referred in several instances that classic borderlines are mainly female, while covert borderlines are mainly male, which seems in contradiction with the idea of transitioning from one state to the other. Also, the covert status is supposed to be unstable because not effective to satisfy the need of the self.

But it is difficult to believe that a classical borderline does satisfy her needs, security from abandonment anxiety in particular.

So, I don't see that the classic borderline satisfies her needs better than a covert borderline.

But the thing that leaves me particularly surprised is the transition to primary psychopathy in the covert borderline case, while the passage to secondary psychopathy is very easy to imagine.

The passage from classic to covert borderline appears way more extreme than other Cluster B disorders.

There is a passage from a chaotic organization to a structured organization. It seems to change everything in the most extreme way, including the cognitive elements and the self-efficacy.

Also, the covert state seems so much more effective and stable than the classic state that it is difficult to think of the covert state as unstable. More clarifications on this front would be helpful.

I answered very briefly good questions. I will deal with them in a future lecture, which is this one.


One correction though, both covert and overt borderlines are disorganized personality structures.

Lion and Cobra raises very important questions.

The transition from one state to another is counterintuitive. When you look at a covert narcissist, or when you look at an overt narcissist, they seem to have nothing in common.

How can one become the other?

Same with covert borderline and overt borderline. Same with covert histrionic and overt histrionic.

How do these people change the core, the identity? How do they become, in other words, another personality altogether?

Well, a few initial comments.

Even in healthy, normal people, traits are not constant over the lifespan and under conditions of extreme endogenous or exogenous duress, stress or trauma. Traits change.

How many times did you surprise yourself by doing something which seemed to be totally out of character? How many times have you heard someone saying, it wasn't me. I don't know what came over me.

So we do change dramatically.

And this is especially true if the patient suffers from identity disturbance, which we are going to discuss a bit later.

Each state, the covert, the collapse and the overt, each state is a narrative. And this narrative provides the person, the patient with a pseudo identity.

A pseudo identity is an ego function. It's an ego resource. But at the same time, it's a simulation. It's acting. No wonder we say acting out or acting in. A lot of acting is involved. A lot of thespian skill.

So the pseudo identity is like a new dress that you try on. Will it fit me? Will I feel comfortable in it? Will it change my personality?

So pseudo identity is functional. It protects, for example, if the pseudo identity is psychopathic, or it helps you become more self efficacious if the pseudo identity is, for example, narcissistic, or it guarantees object constancy if the pseudo identity is codependent or borderline. So it's a resource. It's a resource at the disposal of the inner structure, which is the self.

But it's also an attempt to test a probe, to test the environment, to test other people, and above all, to test oneself.

When the Cluster B personality disordered patient, the transitions from one state to another, what is being conducted is a massive experiment in shape shifting.

But it is an experiment. The covert states are highly unstable precisely because they are experimental. And covert by definition are self-defeating.

Because, for example, the covert narcissist is not sufficiently assertive, not sufficiently out there, not sufficiently extroverted, not sufficiently gregarious to obtain supply.

So the covert narcissist is a self-defeating state and therefore unstable.

But it's also experimental. When the overt narcissist is mortified, the overt narcissist kind of says to himself, well, I have failed as an overt. Let's try the covert.

You know, the red shirt is not for me. Let's try the black shirt. And then the black shirt doesn't work. And you go back to the red shirt, go back to becoming an overt.

And the bridge between these states is collapse and mortification.

Of course, the personality, the identity, the self, they need to be under tremendous pressure, torsion, and breakage to become something else.

And when to start with your personality is fragmented, your self is fragmented, not constellated. And you are fractured, there are fault lines, and nothing sits well together. You're not cohesive. You're not coherent. You're not consistent.

When to start with, you are fragile.

Then, of course, every stress, every stressor, every stressful situation, every dissociative experience, every abandonment, every anxiety, every rejection, every depression, everything, every substance, incident of substance abuse, everything will push you to transition to another state.

What I'm trying to say is that the vacillation and the transitions from one state to another are very common.

Hereto, we used to believe that such transitions are rare. I actually say that switching between the states, and I'm using the word switching because it is very common in multiple personality disorder, in dissociative identity disorder, switching between self states, switching between these pseudo identities happens possibly several times a day.

This is rapid cycling, reminiscent of some types of bipolar disorder, but it's not limited to mood. The whole thing, the whole edifice switches.

In the overt state, you have certain types of cognitions, certain types of negative emotions, certain types of affect, certain types of behavior, certain values, and then you transition to covert, and all these change.

Your mood, your effect, your cognitions, your emotions, your perceptions, your bias, everything changes. You literally become another person.

The only difference between dissociative identity disorder and cluster B personality disorders, the only difference is that in dissociative identity disorder, the self states are dissociated. They don't communicate with each other. There's no exchange of information except for the host personality.

Of course, there are rare types of dissociative identity disorder where the dissociation is permeable, and the dissociated states communicate with each other, but these are extremely rare.

The vast majority of DID cases, there's no communication between the self states. They're utterly separated, dissociated, firewall from each other.

While in cluster B, there is communication between the self states. There is a connecting thread. There is some kind of core that maintains control over the entire theater production, and we will discuss it a bit later.

We could say that in the case of dissociative identity disorder, there is what we call identity confusion.

While in the case of cluster B personality disorders, there is identity disturbance and identity diffusion.

Remember these three terms, identity confusion, identity disturbance, identity diffusion.

Identity confusion is when the self states don't communicate with each other. They are separated. They're dissociated.

Identity disturbance is when the identity is in flux, not fully formed, not cohesive, not coherent, very fragmented, and very fractured.

It's common in borderline personality disorder, and identity diffusion is common in adolescence.

If it persists into adulthood, we have pseudo identities.


Let's start with identity confusion.

I'm quoting from the article, an empirical delineation of the domain of pathological dissociation, authored by Paul Dell and Douglas Lawson. They write, self confusion, the strongest factor of pathological dissociation, describes deep confusion about the self.

10 of the first 14 items on this factor come from the MID's 12 item identity confusion facet scale. The other items in this factor describe peculiar alterations of the person's experience that entail a profound and disorienting loss of groundedness in self and in the world.

Such disruption of the expected functioning of self and world constitutes the experiential core of dissociative events. This is how it feels to undergo recurrent dissociative intrusions into one's conscious experience. Dissociative persons are chronically and deeply confused about themselves. So this is identity confusion.

In Cluster B personality disorders, there is no identity confusion. There is no identity confusion. There is identity disturbance and identity diffusion, which we are going to discuss later.

So all the self states know about each other. They all transfer information. They all kind of hand the baton. They transfer. It's a torch relay. They transfer information to each other when they exit stage, exit left.

So the psychopath exits left and the borderline comes back. The borderline exits left and the narcissist comes on stage.

Soand they hand to each other information. It's not complete information. A lot of the information is forgotten and dissociated, owing to negative affectivity, such as guilt or shame.

And so this is the reason for the discontinuities.

And that's why these people need a story. They need a narrative, a connective tissue. They need glue to hold everything together. And this glue, this narrative, this connective tissue is what we call personality disorder.

So each state is a narrative and there is an overriding narrative called personality disorder.

Each state, as I said, is an ego function. It's also an experiment. Will it work? Will it not?

But in the absence of a unitary stable core, the patient shape shifts between self states replete with their own unique traits, affect, cognitions, and behaviors.

In extreme cases, these self states, as I said, are utterly dissociated in most forms of dissociative identity disorder.

Now, this has a lot to do with the perception of time. Many, many years ago, 21 years ago, to be precise, I've written an article titled The Narcissist's Time. I will place a link to the article in the description of this video. So you can click on it and read it.

In 2008, many years later, Otto Kernberg published an article in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, volume 89. And this article was titled: The Destruction of Time in Pathological Narcissism.

Read the two together. I think his article is available online as well. Try to read the two together, because they provide a perfect, I think overview of how Cluster B personality disorder people, especially narcissists, perceive time, or more precisely, how they don't perceive time. How they actually live in an eternal present state owing to the dissociation.

You see dissociation affects memory.

The narcissist and all other Cluster B personality disorders, they are timeless. The narcissist would love this. I'm timeless. They are timeless. They have no time.

And because they have no time, they have no memory. And because they have no memory, they have no continuity. And because they have no continuity, they have no self or functioning self. And because they have no self, they have, of course, no stable identity, which we are about to discuss, identity disturbance.

I also refer you to Harry Gantrip's books, all three of them, on schizoid phenomena. He wrote in the sixties, late sixties, early sixties and late sixties. He wrote a series of books on schizoid phenomena, brilliant books, still very valid. And they go into the core issue of a lack of core. They go into what he calls this disruptions in ego formation.

So if you want a really deep overview of, you know, and to delve deep into the topic, then Harry Gantrip's books are good stuff.

Cluster B personality disorders, I said, have identity disturbance. Consequently, they have several states because they don't have a single identity. They can be any, any of three states, and they have pseudo identities. Whenever they transition from one state to the other, they adopt another fake identity, a pseudo identity.

Now, of course, the most famous pseudo identity is the false self in the case of the narcissist, but the false self, for example, has totally different functions in overt narcissism than in covert narcissism. We could say that there are several pseudo identities, several false selves, not only one, and they reflect the underlying hues and coloring of the state.

So in a covert state, of course, the false self will behave completely differently. In a overt state, completely differently, and in mortification, completely differently.

And in mortification, the false self is disabled, inactivated. So the problem in mortification is that there's no identity left, not even a pseudo identity, a veneer of identity, a simulation of identity, an experiment with identity. Mortification disables the identity mechanism, disables any possibility to either experience a core truly, or to experience a simulated core, like, let's say, virtual reality.

So the modified person with Cluster B personality disorders feels annulled, annihilated. Why? Because it is annulled and annihilated. He's left without an identity.

Now let's talk about identity disturbance. It's a deficiency, it's an inability to maintain one or more of the major components of identity.

The first, the number one component, which I have just mentioned, is continuity over time. You need to feel that you are the same person when you wake up in the morning.

And yet people with Cluster B personality disorders don't have this extremely rudimentary mechanism of holding yourself together. Where they go in a single day through multiple phases where they feel discontinuous. They feel that they have nothing to do with the previous hour or day or week, that they are an entirely new person.

This is why it's very difficult for narcissists to accept responsibility for their actions because they feel alienated from themselves. Estrangement, it's called estrangement. They feel estranged. They feel, they feel that they are not, they shouldn't be held responsible or accountable for things they have, they had done last year, because they were another person last year.

It's not fair to punish this year's narcissists for last year's actions, they feel.

This discontinuity is epistemological in the sense that it pervades and invades thinking, emotions affect psychodynamic processes and the entire internal landscape.

This identity disturbance, the discontinuity is a gap. It's not only a memory gap, but it's a gap in everything.

Even for example, internal objects. If you don't have continuity, you don't remember properly what kind of dialogue you had with your internal objects. You definitely don't remember which of these internal objects used to be external. You don't remember which external objects were internalized, which internal objects were externalized, and who is external and who is internal.

It creates enormous confusion, enormous confusion. One of the main reasons for this internal external object confusion is this exactly, that there is no single rememberer, no single entity that remembers, no institutional repository of memory.

And so this is the first core, the first component of identity that is disrupted in identity disturbance.

Another thing is emotional commitment to the representations of the self.

The self is represented. I refer to my video on the inner dialogue. The self is one of the voices, the privileged voice, the privileged introject, the privileged inner object.

And you need to love the self. You need to invest in the self emotionally. You need to affect the self. There needs to be a process of kafexis with the self. Otherwise, you can't own the self. You can't identify with the self.

If you don't love the self, if you hate your self, you can't be your self. You can't be someone you hate. You can't be something you loathe. You can't be something you selfed, holding contempt.

So there needs to be a positive emotional investment in the representations of the self, representation, inner representations, in the inner object that is the self.

And if you don't have this emotional investment over time, it's a component of identity that's missing and creates identity disturbance.

Raw relationships, what roles to play. If you are discontinuous, if your identity is fractured and fragmented, not only spatially, but in time, you don't remember what is your role. What is it that you should do? How you should act? Spouses and mates and intimate partners of patients with cluster B personality disorders will tell you that they are dumbfounded.

I mean, the patients are dumbfounded. They're very confused. It's like, what do you expect of me? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say? And they keep asking these questions because they can't remember what is their role. They don't have core values, for example. Their values change. Today they support, I don't know, something, support abortion. Tomorrow they're against abortion. Today they are God-fearing. Tomorrow they're atheists.

There's no value axiological constancy. There's no value constancy. And they shift between values like, you know, you change socks. They're not self-standards, consequently.

And so this prohibits the development of a meaningful view of the world and, in my view, also of an internal working model. I think the internal working models of these people, of cluster B personality disorder patients, they are highly disrupted. They don't have a workable workable mental theory of mind. They don't have a workable theory of the world. They don't have organized schemas. The schemas are shattered as if, you know, they were subject to an explosive device.

If you were to enter the mind of a cluster B personality disorder person, everything is in charge. Everything is in fragments and smithereens. It's like a giant nuclear bomb had detonated in the middle. That's how it looks. You can't put anything together with anything. Huge bits are missing. Huge parts are missing. And so you can't develop, really, an internal working model. You can't have a worldview. You can't have a theory of the world and a theory of mind. And you can't, therefore, recognize your place in the world. And you can't recognize your place vis-a-vis other objects, other people.

You see that identity disturbance is a massive problem. It's a massive problem.

Now, of course, without a core identity, a functional, cohesive, coherent framework, there's no regulation. Regulation emanates from such a framework. There's a feedback loop. When you regulate, for example, the motions, you regulate them up to a point that is egosyntonic with the core, with the identity. It's like the identity of the core provides you with numerical values of regulation, and you have to conform to this range.

In the absence of a core or an identity, there's emotional dysregulation. Emotional dysregulation is highly, hugely correlated with identity disturbance. Actually, when we see someone with emotional dysregulation, we know immediately, it's a great predictor, prognosticator of identity disturbance.

And this is common in borderline personality disorder, but not only. People with major depression, people with anxiety disorder, they also have this. They have identity disturbance and coupled with emotional dysregulation, a proper which, meaning, so these people are not consistent. I mean, you can't trust their goals, their values, worldviews, relationships, plans, schemes. They are all over the place.

In this sense, they resemble very closely bipolar patients, but bipolar patients have two phases. And these two phases are relatively predictable. And within the phase, they have a very clear core. So they have a manic core, and they have a depressive core, right? And they may have a hypomanic core.

But they are coarse, they are clear. It's not the case with the borderline, or with a narcissist, or with a psychopath. It's like you're dealing with a new person every day, if you're lucky, sometimes several times a day.

They shape shift so dramatically. It's like, it's not a single human being. It's a group of human beings. It's very reminiscent of multiple personality.

The only difference being that they have full recollection and there is a connectivity between all these self-states.

It's not entirely clear how emotional dysregulation and identity disturbance are connected to, for example, negative affect. It's not, it's not very clear whether there is perhaps a third variable, some third process that is overriding process that produces emotional dysregulation and identity disturbance.

I will discuss confounding in a future video.

Confounding is proposed as suggested as such an overriding third process.

But what we do know is that borderline personality disorder, people have identity disturbance. I think the same apply.

Iand of course in the footsteps of much, much greater scholars like Otto Kernberg, I think that borderline and narcissists have the same thing. They have identity disturbance.

Patients with borderline personality disorder, ironically, as a reaction to dysregulated emotions, they inhibit emotions. They fight back.

The dysregulated emotions threaten to overwhelm them. They feel like drowning or suffocating. They feel they can't breathe. The emotions overtake them. The emotions stifle them, garb them.

And to find this, what most patients with borderline do, they impose on themselves strict internal inhibitions. They inhibit their emotions.

And they describe this as numbness or emptiness in the words of, in the word of Kernberg.

But this is actually a desperate attempt to inhibit. The problem is the emotions are dysregulated because there's no calibration mechanism. There's no internal gauge. There's no range. There's no thermometer to keep things in check.

So both the dysregulation and the inhibitions get out of hand. One could even say that emotional inhibition in borderlines is a form of dysregulation. It's dysregulation in the other direction.

So borderlines are like that. You have, sometimes they are overly emotional, almost like histrionics. They are all over the place. They are aggressive. They're violent. They're insane. They are demanding. They're clinging. They're loving. They're too much loving. They kill you with their love.

And then suddenly they are cold, detached, avoidant, withdrawal, withdrawing, numb and empty. And it's one of the most harrowing experiences of the intimate partners of borderlines.

Patients with borderline seem to identify with the effective state of the moment. They kind of leap from one moment to another with no continuity, no narrative identity. And the reason they do this is because they don't have an identity.

So remember what I told you, the pseudo-identity. Pseudo-identity is an experiment. It's like I don't have an identity.


Now let me be loving. Let's see if this could become my identity.

So now I will be loving. Okay, he's about to abandon me. He's about to reject me. He's about to humiliate me. Let me be a psychopath. Let me be aggressive. Let me be defiant. Let me be contumacious. Let me be impulsive. Let me be reckless. Another self-state emerges. Let me be, let me be self-state emerges. Let me try to be this self-state. It's an experiment. It's a probe.

The borderline keeps experimenting with possible identities, which is what I call pseudo-identities. And she keeps discarding them like so many old clothes. There's a garage sale in the borderlines, in the borderlines psyche, in the borderlines mind, every single day. She discards her old self-states and acquires new ones and tries them on. Will they fit me? Do I look nice in them? And so on and so forth. So it's kind of jerky.

I would say the borderlines have a jerky personality. And so this is especially true when there is comorbidity, for example, with depression.

Identity disturbance is extreme when the borderline is depressed, when she abuses substances, or when she's very anxious, when she has anxiety disorder, especially true in adolescence.

But all close to B, personality types. And many scholars say that all personality disorders have at the core identity disturbance. And I want to link identity disturbance to two concepts invented by who else? The French. The French are coming.

The first concept is simulacrum.

I'm going to quote from Baudrillard.

Baudrillard wrote, the simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth. It is the truth which conceals that there is no truth.

The simulacrum in itself is true, but there is nothing behind it.

So simulacourm is a facade. It's the equivalent of my suggested pseudo identities.

The simulacourm is a facade that implies that there is something behind it, but actually there's nothing behind it. There is emptiness, numbness, absence.

We could say that personality disorders are simulacourm, especially, for example, narcissistic personality disorder.

These are simulacourm. Each one of them is a simulacourm. It's a signal. It's simple. It's an act.

And you tend to believe that there is something behind it. There is some depth. There are some dimensions which are concealed, but actually there's nothing behind it.

Baudrillard divided the simulacourm and the simulation of simulacourm into four stages.

He said the first stage is a faithful image copy where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign, a signal, is a reflection of some profound reality. It's appearances, and Baudrillard called it the sacramental order. It's an appearance that gives you the distinct impression that there is something behind the sign, or the signal, or the symbol, or the act, or the behavior, or the statement, or the belief, or the value, or the, you know, you say, well, there must be something behind it. It can be fake. It looks too real.

So this is order one in order four, according to Baudrillard.

The second stage, according to Baudrillard, is a perversion of reality. It's where we come to believe the sign, or the signal, the sign, to be an unfaithful copy.

So sometimes we see something, some behavior, some act, some statement, some speech act, and so let me say this is a signal, this is a sign, but I feel it's fake. I feel it's an unfaithful copy, which as Baudrillard puts it, masks and denatures reality as an evil appearance. It is an in of the order of maleficence. It's malicious.

So signs and images, behaviors, traits, statements, speech acts, they don't faithfully reveal reality to us, but they can hint at the existence of an obscure reality, which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.

So you're beginning to see the relevance of Baudrillard's work to personality disorders.

His personality disorders are exactly this kind of exhibitionistic, externalized narratives.

What is a narrative? It's an assemblage of signs, a combination of symbols. That's a narrative.

And when we see this narrative, we have one, we have one of four possible reactions.

Reaction number one, the narrative is real. It represents reality. It represents something deep, profound, something is happening. I can trust the narrative. That is the sacramental order.

Second, I see the narrative, something is off key, something is off note, something is fake and faint. I don't fully believe the narrative. Maybe there's something behind it, but it's definitely not in the narrative.

The narrative fails to represent it or encapsulate it properly.


The third stage is absence of a profound reality where the sign pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original form.

Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place. And arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to.

Baudrillard called it the order of sorcery. It's a kind of meaning that is conjured artificially and appears to refer to something, but that something is not reality fully, is something magical maybe.

So these are the stages, by the way, when you date someone with personality disorders, especially narcissists, psychopaths, borderlines, you go through these phases.

You start with phase one, you go to phase two, you go to phase three, and you end up in phase four, which I'm about to describe.

Baudrillard unintentionally, inadvertently, succeeded to encapsulate the interpersonal dynamics of cluster B personality disordered people with other people, in other words, their object relations.

The fourth stage, according to Baudrillard, is pure Simulacrum in which the Simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. That would be, for example, gaslighting. Here, signs merely reflect other signs, and any claim to reality on the part of images of signs is only of the order of other such claims. So signs refer to signs, which refer to signs, which refer to signs. There's no end to it. You never get to the point. You never get to reality. You can't get a grasp on it. It's slimy. You know, it's like trying to capture a goldfish. You can't do this.

And so in what is erroneously called word salad, word salad, by the way, is the disorganized speech of schizophrenics. It should not be applied to Cluster B.

But the speech patterns of people with Cluster B personality disorders are like this. You can't catch them. The speech is intended to obscure. The speech is intended to deceive you, not to communicate, to impress you, to manipulate you, to misdirect you, but not to engage in communication.

So this is Simulacrum. The speech is self-referential. The speech refers to the speech.

Very often people, narcissists, for example, or borderlines or psychopaths, they would say something and then a bit later they would refer to what they had said earlier as reality and the truth.

Why?

Because they had said it. It must be true or real. So this is self-referential Simulacrum.

And so this is a regime of total equivalency where cultural products don't even pretend to be real in any sense and life is totally artificial, hyper real. And it's a pretension to reality, but there's no self-awareness in it and so on and so forth.


Another concept I would like to introduce to you, this is Simulacrum.

And the next concept, again, a French concept, is the spectacle.

The spectacle, Jonathan Creary in 2005, defined the spectacle as appearances that are purported to be simultaneously enticing, deceptive, distracting, and superficial.

Isn't this a great description of dating a narcissist? It is.

So I'll repeat it. A spectacle, a narcissist, is appearances that are purported to be simultaneously enticing, deceptive, distracting, and superficial.

And Jonathan Creary is referring to work by Guibert, Guibert, Debord, in the 60s. He wrote two, he wrote several books, but the two most influential works are The Society of the Spectacle and Comments of the Society of the Spectacle.

The Society of the Spectacle is written in a very strange form, and is extremely difficult to wade through, but one of the most rewarding efforts you will ever make. It's a stunningly insightful book, amazing book. I would compare it to the best work by Emil Dukheim and Baudrillard himself. So it's kind of interesting, interesting prose. They both said that the spectacle is false representation in real life. It's a materialized worldview. It subjects human beings to itself.

So spectacle is not concerned with reality. Spectacle is concerned to enslave you and to force you to interact only with the spectacle, ignoring reality.

Isn't this a great definition of shared fantasy or shared psychosis? Spectacle, in other words, is a mini-coutre, a mini-coutre with confirmation bias. It's an echo chamber of like-minded people, and they fend off the rest of reality. They fend off the rest of reality because they are focused on the spectacle.

The Trump presidency and the Trump phenomenon is the epitome and reification of the Baud's spectacle. Trump was not abashed in claiming that he was a spectacle. It's a reality TV star who had transformed politics and reality itself into reality TV.

It's mind-boggling in this sense.

DeBaud said that alienation, this causes alienation. He says that the spectacle causes alienation. It destroys social relation between people because social relation between people should not be mediated.

When you interact with people, you should interact with people.

But he said the spectacle stands between you and the other. So when you try to interact with people, nowadays, you interact with them via spectacle.

Anyone who has been on Tinder knows what I'm talking about. I mean, these dating profiles, they're spectacles. You don't interact with people anymore. You interact with spectacles, your Facebook friends. Everything is a spectacle.

He predicted all this. And he said that he foresaw the Internet and what the Internet will do to us.

It's an amazing, amazing mind. And so this is identity disturbance and its connection to simulacrum and spectacle.

There is another syndrome. It's called identity diffusion.

I refer you to the American Journal of Psychiatry, November 1984, where Akhtar, the grandfather of a lot of these studies, Akhtar published a small article, a short article, but a seminal one titled The Syndrome of Identity Diffusion.

Akhtar said, he delineated the syndrome of identity diffusion as consisting of six clinical features.

Number one, contradictory character traits, contradictory coexisting character traits, a proper trait constancy.

Number two, temporal discontinuity in the self. Number three, lack of authenticity. The person feels that he is faking it, imposter syndrome. I am not really myself. I'm putting on a show. People are reacting to my show. People are reacting to my forced self, not to me.

But wait a minute, who is me? There's no me. There's only the show.

So lack of authenticity, what Sartre called, Jean-Paul Sartre called bad faith. Kierkegaard himself had discussed authenticity.

Number four, feelings of emptiness.

So remember, we are discussing identity diffusion syndrome and these are the clinical sites.

Number four, feelings of emptiness.

But I don't, emptiness lab, not boredom. Don't confuse emptiness with boredom.

Emptiness is boredom, by the way, is self-directed aggression, like depression.

Emptiness is when you feel that you don't exist. When you feel that you are being dematerialized, it's a form of the extreme dissociation because in dissociation we have depersonalization and derealization. And coupled with dissociative amnesia, you can reach a point where you feel that you don't exist.

Number five, gender dysphoria, which proves that gender is a learned, acquired heart of identity. And number six, inordinate moral relativism, which is what I said earlier, no values.

And today you are for abortion, tomorrow you're against abortion.

The shifting axiological ground. The syndrome, says Akhtar, implies severe character pathology and is distinct from adolescent identity crisis.

The conceptualization is a significant bearing on the differential diagnosis and psychotherapy of personality disorders.

Ray Bockwood summarized identity diffusion. Summarized it well.


Wootton, Wo-T-N.

And he said, definition, phase or status of individual who has not resolved identity issues. Description, identity diffusion is a phase or status defined by James Magsia, we'll discuss it a bit later, describing the avoidance, apathy, and overwhelm often associated with identity development.

The adolescent is avoiding or lacks the volition to explore alternatives of self in the world.

Example of high school senior experiencing identity diffusion is, I haven't really thought much about what I want to do when I get out of high school.

Notice the word experimentation.

So, lacks the volition to explore alternatives of self in the world. This is the experimentation I was talking about.

We all tweak and tinker with our identity and ourselves, subject to environmental circumstances, resource, events, expectations, other people. We play with our identity is not, there's a core, but it's a very plastic core, perhaps reflecting brain neuroplasticity. And we all experiment with the selves until at some point we're egosynthetic, we feel comfortable, we feel good, we are within kind of internal comfort zone, and then we stop.

But we stop only for a while and we try again.

And Winnicott says relevance to childhood development.

This is a part of the identity development process that is characterized as avoiding uncomfortable feelings and exploration in the world.

The result retards identity development and psychological adjustment.

I refer you to Ericsson, by the way, those of you who want to do it, they'll differ. I refer you to Ericsson's incomparable work, incomparable work about the stages of human development, human psychological development.

Ericsson, 1968, identity, youth and crisis, published by Norton in New York.

And of course, I refer you to Magsia, which I'm about to discuss at length. 1966, Development and Validation of Ego Identity Status in the Journals, Personality and Social Psychology, Volume Three.


Before we get to Magsia and his very important work, I would like to dwell on something mentioned by Akhtar, identity crisis.

Identity crisis is when during adolescence you fail to settle on an ego identity, on an identity. You fail to experiment, you try this, you try that, but you never stop experimenting. There's no end to it. You're the eternal student.

So you can't settle on a single identity. This was coined by Ericsson, the German psychologist.

The stage of psychological development in which identity crisis occurs is called the identity cohesion versus wrong confusion in Ericsson's work.

Adolescents in this phase, they are faced with physical growth, sexual maturity, integrating ideas of themselves and others, what others think about them, peer pressure, peer.

So there's a lot to process, a lot to, and each and every one of these inputs alters the self dramatically during adolescence.

Adolescence is like second infancy. So they form, adolescence form self-image and they try to resolve the crisis of basic ego identity or basic identity.

And so theyresolve and then it falls apart and then they resolve again and they experiment and they try and they see reactions from the environment and reactions from peers and reactions from role models, parental figures, and they progress their developmental phases and gradually with a feeling that they're loved is crucial to feel that you are loved.

Trust, autonomy, initiative, gradually they settle more and more on a single core identity which will remain with them for the rest of their lives and is who they are.

Your core identity is who you are.

But as Winnicott said, this process is disrupted if you don't trust in the love of other humans. If you were exposed to a childhood where you were not loved or conditionally loved or abused or parentified or whatever, you will have trouble, you will have a problem settling on a single identity because you can't trust.

For example, you can't trust the feedback from the environment, which is a major regulator. The friction with reality, friction with others is a major regulator, major molding force that creates your identity.

And so James Marcia suggested that there are four identity statuses. He developed something called the identity status interview and it's kind of structured interview or semi-structured interview.

The interview is intended to explore or investigate how an individual explored different possibilities in different life areas, how committed the individual is to the outcomes of these explorations and how these outcomes are integrated into what might be called an identity or a self.

So he started in the 60s to administer these semi-structured interviews and he came up with the following conclusions.

He says there are four identity statuses, foreclosure, identity diffusion, moratorium and identity achievement.

And his work is sufficiently important for me to reiterate, to describe each and every one of them.

He says the foreclosure status is when a commitment is made without exploring alternatives. Often these commitments are based on parental ideas and beliefs that are accepted without questions. The individual about to become Methodist, a Republican farmer, like his Methodist Republican farmer father, with little or no thought in the matter, certainly cannot be said to have achieved an identity in spite of his commitment.

Adolescence, he says, foreclose on handed down identity, sometimes willingly, sometimes at the pressure. And negative identity occurs when adolescents adopt an identity in opposition to the foreclosure.

So father expects me to be Methodist Republican farmer, I'm going to be a progressive professor of psychology. So opposition, negative and positive identity, both determined by the process of foreclosure.

He said, Marcia saw evidence for the endorsement of authoritarian values by foreclosures, as fully commensurate with views of these foreclosures as alter egos of parents.

He says that when identity crisis has been experienced, returning to foreclosure status was no longer a possibility. So foreclosure is when your identity is handed to you, and you have to adopt it for some reason, and you don't have the time or the possibility or the resources to explore other possible identities. Either you accept the identity handed to you, or you reject it. In both cases, you are defined by the identity handed to you.


The second identity status, according to Marcia, is identity diffusion.

Adolescence, unable to face the necessity of identity development, avoid exploring or making commitments by remaining in an amorphous state of identity diffusion, something which can produce social isolation. Identity diffusion is characterizes people who have neither explored or made commitments across life defining areas.

You remember where Aeternus, the eternal adolescent, the Peter Pan syndrome, that's a manifestation of identity diffusion.

These kind of people may or may not have experienced an identity crisis. Some of them report having little interest in such matters. Others report repeated indecision, because there's no core. There's no strict set of values. There's no guidelines. There's nothing there. It's an emptiness.

So they're very indecisive.

Many of them become perfectionists and procrastinate. Many of them avoid challenges, avoid acting in the world, avoid performing, because they're terrified of failure and defeat.

Marcia suggests that people with identity diffusion do not experience much anxiety, because there is little in which they are invested.

As they begin to care more, they move to the moratorium status, or they become so disturbed that they are diagnosed as schizophrenic, or may end up adopting a negative and self-destructive identity role where personality disorders come in.

Identity moratorium is the next status. It's individuals who are in the midst of a crisis whose commitments are either absent or only vaguely defined, but who are actively exploring alternatives.

Marcia said about moratorium. Moratoriums report experiencing more anxiety than do students in any other status.

The world for people undergoing moratorium is not currently a highly predictable place. They are vitally engaged in a struggle to make it more predictable.

And so despite this anxiety, in today's world, I think most people spend time in either identity diffusion or moratorium.

Gail Sheehy in her book S-H-E-E-H-Y, in her book Passages, and there was a continuation, I think, a sequel. So in her books she called it provisional adulthood.

So these are people who refuse to grow up. Gail Sheehy. Identity achievement. Once a crisis is experienced, so we are moving the stages, is once a crisis is experienced, once a crisis is worked through, Marcia considered a likely progression would be from diffusion through moratorium to achievement.

And so this is the status of individuals who have typically experienced a crisis, undergone identity explorations, and made commitments.

Marcia says that theoretical description of students who have achieved an identity is implied that they have developed an internal, as opposed to external, locus of self-definition and of course control.

But Marcia himself said already in the 60s that there are identity status shifts, very similar to my pseudo-identities. Throughout the life cycle, identity status shifts occur. People can move suddenly from an achieved identity to a moratorium and even to identity diffusion.

When identity status changes occur, the change is usually positive. They move from you know diffusion to moratorium, so this is a shift, it's a change. But they move progressively, they progress, it's improved.

And it's often the most common shift is from moratorium to identity achievement.

The transitions reflect a disequilibrium in identity.

Status changes are related to this disequilibrium and crisis in identity comes in the form of life-cycled stages and life events that unsettle this orderly progression.

Depending on the individual, particular life events like death of a loved one, job loss, moving, hitting rock bottom can cause this disequilibrium.

But this is only true when the individual has constructed some form of identity and this is the irony.

Because the narcissist, for example, has no identity, it takes a lot to modify him. It takes a lot to change the narcissist. Heck, it takes a lot to bring the narcissist to therapy.

People with an accomplished achieved identity react much more powerfully to adverse life circumstances, to life crises. They try to fix themselves, to modify, to consider other options, to consult people, to go to seek professional help or not professional help, SACOR.

Narcissist doesn't do any of this because he has no identity.

So I repeat what Marcia writes, depending on the individual, particular life events like death of a loved one, job loss, moving, may cause disequilibrium.

However, says Marcia, this is only true when an individual had constructed already some form of identity.

People with diffusion, identity diffusion, he says, are stagnant. They have not made an effort to construct an identity and therefore have no identity to reform.

In the case of foreclosures, many will choose to live in an environment that is similar to their childhood experiences so that they may remain unchanged.

When disequilibrium occurs in the life of foreclosures, the effects may be especially devastating.

The narcissist, for example, the narcissist is in a stage between foreclosure and identity diffusion. And the narcissist tries to recreate his childhood in the shared fantasy.

In the shared fantasy, you are his mother and he is the child. And when things don't work out, the mortification is indeed particularly devastating.

When I say don't work out, I mean, he can't have a shared fantasy with you, but he cannot find anyone else to have a shared fantasy with when he had reached the end of the road, when his reputation precedes him and no one will ever collaborate with him again.

When disequilibrium occurs, there's a period of reconstruction. And these periods of reconstruction are the moratorium achievement, moratorium achievement cycles, mama cycles, he calls them.

In each person's life, there's a minimum of three mama cycles corresponding with three psychological stages. And during the reconstruction, person regresses to an earlier identity status only to charge forward and to move to a more progressive, more evolved identity status.

It is crucial that all constructs fall away so that new ones that are more encompassing of the person's identity may be constructed.

In the reconstruction process, there is still continuity with the previous identity. However, the newer construction, though, is broadened to include new life experiences and new commitments.

It's a little like an onion. The old identity doesn't vanish. It just gets encapsulated and encased in a new identity.

Now, what do you do when you don't have an onion?

When you don't have an identity, it's not possible then to cope in any meaningful way with your life, with your environment, and with other people.

What you do instead is you regress. You try to recreate because the only thing you know, you don't have an identity, but you have some kind of vague memory, nostalgic memory, at least.

So you try to recreate constantly an environment in which identity was not required.

For example, childhood in a shared fantasy.

In the Journal of Adolescence, volume 47, February, 2016, there's an article, Life on Hold, Life on Hold Staying in Identity Diffusion in the Late 20s. It's authored by Johanna Carlson and A.T.E.L.I.C.E.

They say, this study adds to the understanding of the dark side of identity development by investigating what it means to experience long-term identity diffusion during the late 20s.

In a study of change and stability in identity status between ages 25 and 29, participants were assigned to identity diffusion at both ages.

Longitudinal analysis of interviews with these participants showed that long-term experiences of identity diffusion may be described through individuals' approach to changing life conditions, the extent to which they engage in meaningful making and how they develop their personal life direction.

So I repeat this very important conclusion. Long-term experiences of identity diffusion may be described through individuals' approach to changing life conditions, the extent to which they engage in meaning-making and how they develop their personal life direction.

In questionnaires, participants reported few signs of psychological distress.

You see, people with identity diffusion, they're not distressed by it. They're happy-go-lucky. They're egosyntonic.

Even so, qualitative analysis showed a general trend among participants to keep life on hold through decreased activity or increased up-hazard activity in relation to changing life conditions, to make little new meaning and, in some cases, to dissolve their personal life direction altogether.

And on this somber note, I wish you all well, and I will sign off.

Identity still missing.

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