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Self-states, Unmet Needs in Narcissists, Borderlines

Uploaded 2/13/2021, approx. 22 minute read

What is the difference between the self and internal objects? And what are self-states? How are they formed? How do they function? Who calls them forth? Who coordinates their appearance and disappearance, the process of switching?

I have dealt with the first question in my previous videos.

The self is an internal object, but it is a special internal object. It is a privileged internal object. It is the only internal object that communicates regularly and multiply with all the other internal objects.

Now the other internal objects in the narcissist mind and the borderline mind, the other internal objects can communicate among themselves and sometimes do. But the flow of communication is limited and intermittent.

The self, on the other hand, communicates with all the internal objects all the time.

The self is like an observer or a teacher in a classroom or a parent in a family with many children.

So the self introduces order, structure, regularity and predictability into the internal environment.

The self is the pivot, the self is the core, the self is the axis and the self has many attributes, characteristics which are essentially divine in a way.

The locus of grandiosity is in the self, the locus of healthy narcissism is in the self, etc.

So the self is one of the internal objects, but the most senior and in charge. The self is the authority, the internal authority within this family system, within this multiplicity of entities.

Now some of the entities are introjects. They are inner representations of meaningful, significant others, parents, sometimes intimate partners, peers, etc.

Some of the internal objects are constructs. Some of the internal objects are actually not objects at all, but processes which are so common and so repeated that they are routine, they become embedded, they become kind of structural.

So this whole gamut of internal objects is the inner landscape.

Now the narcissist has many, many internal objects, but he doesn't have a self. He doesn't have an ego. He doesn't have the coordinator. He has many internal objects which communicate among themselves, usually conflict among themselves. They're in a conflictive state. There's a lot of aggression there. There's a lot of dissonance. There's a lot of ill at ease. There are many compensatory mechanisms. There's an attempt to somehow regulate the inner environment by importing, by introducing feedback from other people.

This is known as narcissistic supply, but it's a mess. Narcissist personality, order lines personality, they are disorganized. They are chaotic and they are chaotic precisely because the ego is fragmented. There is no core identity and this is known as identity disturbance.

So if the narcissist and the borderline and the schizoid and the paranoid and codependent and so on, if they don't have an integrated self or in Jung's language, if they don't have a constellated self, if the process of introversion and investment of narcissism in structures, in internal structures in a healthy way, if this process was interrupted, disrupted, didn't work well in early childhood and consequently the adult has no integrated self, no unitary self.

Then what are self states? How can one have self states without self? It seems contradictory.


My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited and a professor of psychology and I'm here to answer this and only this particular question.

I'm going to shock you with a short lecture rather than a lecture which lasts a whole lifetime.

So do you remember in my lecture, previous lecture released today about what, how the making of a narcissist.

It's a cautionary tale. Even good parents or parents who consider themselves good can create a narcissist.

So you better listen to that video if you are parents and learn what not to do.

Anyhow, in my previous lecture, I described the formative years between zero and two. Two is the age of separation and division. Zero is the age of birth in most human beings.

So the infant between the ages of zero and two has many needs. The infant is hungry. The infant is wet. The infant is thirsty. The infant wants a hug. The infant wants attention. The infant has object impermanence, object inconsistency, is afraid to lose money if she leaves the room.

So he needs her presence all the time. And if she's not present, he's terrorized.

The infant needs love and empathy and acceptance and warmth, tactile input, etc. Intrants have many needs, even more in many ways than others.

And the problem of the infant at these ages, well, with one or two notable exceptions, the problem of the infant is that the infant is unable to verbally formulate these needs and these thoughts. These needs are experienced as partly cognitive, partly instinctual, partly reflexive, partly animalistic, partly dimly human, partly respondent, the responses to drives, partly, you know, it's a very hazy, fuzzy need. And because it's hazy and fuzzy, because it's so diffuse, because it's not pinpointed and accurate and exact and precise and goal oriented, because the infant has no information about the environment.

So he doesn't know that being hungry means food. He doesn't know what is food. He knows hungry, not hungry.

So it's a binary. These are binary states.

And what separates hungry, separates hungry from not hungry, is mummy.

So the only object out there that is dimly aware of is mummy at this stage. And he has no knowledge, so he cannot formulate strategies. He cannot say to himself, well, right now I'm hungry or I'm chapped, so I'm going to get me some hamburger. He's not going to say this, because he doesn't know what is a hamburger. He doesn't know that he's hungry. And he doesn't know what is all chapped, which I assume many of you also don't know.

So the baby is in trouble, because he has these overriding life threatening needs if he is not fed, he will die if he doesn't drink, he will die, you know, this is a life, life and death issues. And he doesn't have the language, he doesn't have the basic tools, but not only the language, he doesn't have the awareness, he doesn't have the ability to formulate strategies, because he has zero self knowledge and zero knowledge about the environment and in the state of total ignorance, it's very, very difficult to survive.

So he experiences all these as kind of discomfort, discomfiture, like something nagging, something that drives you, something that motivates you, but motivates you, you don't know towards what. You don't know what to do with this motivation.

It's like, I'm not comfortable, I need to be comfortable. I am not, I need to be. Not, yes. Not, yes. Being unbeing, being hungry, not being hungry. This is very, very primitive, very basic.

So the child confuses his needs with his self.

At this stage, zero to two, even if the British object relations scholars are right, and the baby has an ego, it's a very primordial, primitive, rudimentary kind of construct to be in the process of becoming. It's not something which is remotely comparable to the ego of a child of age six, let alone an adult of age 60.

So the ego of the baby, and there are many, many scholars who dispute even this, they say the baby is born tabular rasa, has no ego, has nothing, no self structures. Everything is imported from the outside. We'll come to it in a minute.

So when the baby experiences anything, he tends to identify this experience of discomfort, of need. He tends to identify this with himself.

In other words, the baby becomes his needs. The baby becomes his discomfort. The baby becomes these binary states, hungry, not hungry, thirsty, not thirsty, wet, dry, mommy here, mommy, not here. There's nothing else. The baby has no other information, no other impulses, no other cognitions, emotions, experiences, nothing. All that exists are these needs, and they are highly structured, they're binary, yet either or, yes, no, black, white, splitting.

So the baby identifies himself with these needs. His self, his proto self, his primitive initial self is about needs, it's needs oriented.

And what happens when the needs are not met? When the needs are not met, this proto self, this initial prototype of a self fragments simply. When there's a need that is not met, there is a persistent need. The need is persistent because it's not satisfied, it's not gratified, it's not catered to, so it continues to exist. As long as it continues to exist, the self fragment, the self element that corresponds to this need continues to exist.

And if many needs are not met, there are many fragments. Each fragment caters to an unmet, unsatisfied need.

Remember, the baby identifies his self with these needs. When these needs are met, they go away. When they go away, there is integration because there's no need to dedicate a part of the self to the satisfied need. There's no call, there's no call to fragment the self, to cope with multiple needs.

If all the needs are met, the self is totally integrated. The self is constellated and integrated via satisfactory, gratifying, non-frustrating, loving, holding, comforting, external object relations.

That is the secret of ego formation. For a child to develop a healthy ego, for a child to develop a functioning self, the constellated self, the child needs to experience healthy, satisfactory, loving, embracing, holding, supportive, encouraging object relations with external objects.

And because the child is zero, or one, or two, the only external objects are the parents or the caregivers.

The importance of these initial object relations with primary objects, that's why they are called primary, cannot be overestimated, cannot be overstated.

If the baby's relationship, object relations, if the baby's interactions with the primary objects, mother, father, caregivers, if the interaction with the primary objects is good, is healthy, is functional, these needs are satisfied, they go away. They go away.

The fragments that used to take care of these needs, the fragments that were misidentified with these needs in the baby's mind, the fragments that were actually needs, but perceived as self, these fragments go away because they are no longer needed. The needs are satisfied. And they go away by merging. And the more they merge, the more the self emerges.

Let me recap this.

It's not an easy concept. The baby has needs. The baby has zero knowledge, is totally 100% ignorant, like most politicians.

So the baby has needs and doesn't know what to do. He doesn't know what are these needs. He doesn't know anything about the world.

He cannot design strategies. He doesn't know anything. He can cope with nothing. He is absolutely, utterly 100 million percent dependent on his parents or caregivers.

So because the baby has no access to anything else, not to cognitions, not to developed emotions, not to affect, not to other people via object relations, not to reality. The baby has access to nothing.

The only thing the baby has access to are his needs. So he thinks my needs are me. I am my needs. Needs are me, me are needs. We are one.

And then each need consumes mental energy to satisfy. In order to satisfy a need, in order to meet some need, in order to gratify, cater to some need, the baby needs to invest mental energy. And he invests mental energy in this need.

And this is an element of the self. This mental energy is composed of emotions, of cognitions, of many elements. And it is a fragment of the self. It is a section of the self.

So each need comes with a corresponding fragment of the self. The self is affected in the need. There is emotional investment, there is investment in the need.

So many needs, many self fragments.

When the need is satisfied, the fragment is no longer needed because there is no need. The need is gone. A need satisfied is a need gone. The fragment therefore becomes unnecessary.

And so the fragment can merge back into a hyper structure, which is the constellated self.

If all the needs are met, there are no fragments. Only one unitary self.

If some needs are frustrated, if the parents are bad, dysfunctional, if there is not, if the baby's needs are overwhelming, if the baby feels helpless and hopeless and bad and so on, then these needs and the corresponding fragments of the self will remain active.

As long as the need is not satisfied, the need is active and the fragment of the self is active, not integrated.

Doesn't go back to the mothership. Doesn't go back to the constellated self, but remains detached, dissociated, isolated.

This fragment that is out there, the moon lander, you know, it's out there. This fragment takes care of the unfulfilled need.

There is the constellated self and it is surrounded by numerous fragments. Each fragment takes care of some specific need.

As long as these needs are not met, this is the structure.

A core self which is weakened, broken, damaged, non-constellated, not integrated.

Why?

Because the needs are not met.

So there are many fragments. It is as though this core self imploded and the fragments are taking care of unmet, unsatisfied, unfulfilled needs.

The constellation, the integration of the self into a healthy ego, into a healthy self, happens only when all the needs are met via good parenting, good enough parenting. This is satisfactory, external object relations.

When object relations are frustrating, when relationships, interactions with other people, starting with the parents, are hurtful, they cause pain, they cause frustration, they evoke aggression, the self remains fragmented into self-states. Each self-state corresponding to an outfulfilled unmet need. Each self-state has its own set of coping strategies, how to secure the need, how to gratify and satisfy the need, how to survive.

So coping strategies, cognitions, initially when the baby is one year old or half a year old or two years old, the cognition is very basic. I am hungry is a cognition.

So coping strategies, cognitions, emotions, I feel bad, I'm uncomfortable, emotions, effects.

So we have coping strategy, we have cognitions, we have emotions, they are all embedded in the self-state.

And the self-state is not the self, the self-state is separate, divorced from the self, it's out there in deep space, taking care of the unfulfilled, unmet need until such time as the need is met and fulfilled.

In the meantime, the self, the mothership back home, the self is broken, it's fragmented, it's missing parts. And as long as the needs are not met, this would be the condition of the self into adulthood.

So coping strategies, cognitions, emotions, they all reside in the self and in the fragments of the self, in the self-state.

And the self-states revolve around resolving lacks, resolving deficiencies. They are deprived states. They are states which are focused on deprivation, on lack, on bad, they have negative emotionality, and they have, they're invested with aggression.

Because Dallart in 1939 taught us in the frustration, aggression hypothesis, he taught us that frustration leads to aggression.

So all these self-states are aggressive. They're aggressive, they're dark, they're bad, they're unhappy, they're dissatisfied.

And the longer this continues, the more entrenched they become, the more difficult it would be to get them back into the original self and integrate them into a constellated self, for example, in therapy.

So people with borderline narcissistic other personality disorders, they have this, this is the situation. They have a wannabe self, which is broken to pieces, which is non-integrated, where there's no internal communication, where the signaling is disrupted. And they have like a galaxy of fragmented self-states, each one with grievances, each one with anger, each one with compulsion to seek the gratification of the need, each one very self-centered. Each one is, you know, each fragment is concerned with its narrow agenda, doesn't see the big picture, because it's no big picture, there's no constellated self. This is the internal environment of the narcissist and the borderline and paranoid and co-dependent and so on.


Now what happens when many needs are not met, when many, when needs generate frustration on a regular basis, at some point, some people internally say to themselves, so to speak, to use a metaphor, say to themselves, okay, I've had enough, my needs will never be met. I'm a victim, or I've been dealt a bad hand. I'm an unfortunate person. I've bad luck.

This is not going to work. This fragmentation of the self is not working. These coping strategies suck.

My cognitions, my emotions are getting me nowhere. I'm going to withdraw. I'm going to withdraw from the world. I'm going to ignore the world. I'm going to ignore all other people. I'm going to sever, cut off all object relations with external objects.

At this stage, there is either pathological narcissism, which underlies borderline personality disorder and other disorders, not only narcissism or schizoid solution, either narcissistic solution or schizoid solution. There's also a psychotic state, but it's not a solution. The narcissistic solution is an attempt to continue engagement with the world by internalizing the world by saying, okay, when I go out to the world, it ends badly. So I'm going to internalize the world. I'm going to wake the world, one of my internal objects, so that I can regain a modicum of control and soothe myself and comfort myself.

And knowing that I will not be betrayed, abandoned, frustrated anymore, because the world is now inside me, is part of me. And I will idealize the world so that I feel perfect and brilliant and God-like.

This is the narcissistic solution.

And the schizoid solution is to say, I'm going to pretend that there is no world. I'm going to pretend there's only me, no world. I'm going to become so self-sufficient that I will have no needs anymore. Any needs. I will have no need of other people, no need of love, no need of intimacy, no need of the world, no need of work, nothing. I'm going to sit at home. I'm going to do my things. I'm going to be happy with myself. I'm going to be my own best company.

And both types, the schizoid and the narcissist are, of course, autoerotic in the sense that they invest their psychosexuality in themselves. To become self-sufficient, you need to gratify your sexual needs with the only object you fully control, with yourself.

Now, of course, there is a psychotic solution, but it's not a solution. The psychotic solution is to say, I'm going to vanish. I'm going to disappear like so many molecules. And I'm going to spread myself thin into the world. This is called hyper-reflexivity. But I'm not going to deal with it now because the schizoid solution and the narcissistic solution are attempts to remain functioning in an environment which is perceived as hostile, an environment which is malevolent, is animosity, an environment which provokes hyper-vigilance and even paranoia. That's the interface between paranoia and narcissism and schizoid states.

So these are attempts to resolve. These are coping strategies. They're very dysfunctional coping strategies, self-defeating, counterproductive, but they are coping strategies.

These are desperate attempts to remain sane in a world which is perceived to be insane.

The psychotic gives up. Psychotic says, okay, this is so bad. Even going back to the womb, like the schizoid does, because the schizoid symbolically goes back to the womb. He closes himself in his apartment, and that's it. That's a womb. That's his extended womb.

The psychotic says, even going back to the womb is bad because the womb and the mother who carries the womb contains the womb. They're in the world. I can't be in the world. I need to be.

Psychosis is unbeing. Hyper-reflexivity is like the big bang. The psychotic suddenly expands outwards, expands outwards, and loses any distinction between external and internal because he eliminates the world by eliminating himself.

Of course, if you kill the observer, there's no observation. If you kill someone, he's not in the world anymore.

Psychosis is the equivalent, absolutely, of mental suicide.

The self-states are dormant in people with personality disorders. They're dormant, and they're reactive to stressors.

That is very similar to dissociative disorders, such as dissociative identity disorder, but other dissociative disorders, and even dissociative defenses, such as depersonalization, derealization, and amnesia.

They have this in common. In borderline, in narcissism, the self-states are there exactly like someone with multiple personality disorder. When the borderline is exposed to rejection, abandonment, when the narcissist is exposed to humiliation and to shame, the self-states are activated. They're activated because they respond to needs.

Remember that the self-states are fragments of the self, the slivers of the self, the cut-off of the self, the sliced salami, the slices of the self, and they're responsive to needs.

Now, when the narcissist is humiliated, when he's shamed, he has a need, and the need is to reestablish grandiosity, to reframe what had happened in a way that will not drive him to mortification.

So then, one of his self-states activates to respond to this need. When the borderline is about to be abandoned, about to be rejected, she has a need. She has a need to regulate her internal environment without the benefit of an intimate partner who is about to abandon her.

So, she activates the self-state. The self-state caters to this need by becoming a secondary. The self-state is a secondary psychopath, and secondary psychopaths don't need regulation.

So, the secondary psychopath, the self-state of the borderline, is exactly this, a psychopath, and there's no problem with regulation. It solves the need.

So, self-states are needs-oriented. When the need arises, they're activated.

But as opposed to multiple personality disorder, in most conditions, most dissociative disorders, not all, but most, as opposed to these, in people with personality disorders, the self-states are permeable. Permeable means the dissociative wall, the dissociative partition of firewall between one self-state and another is very, very permeable.

Self-states, in people with personality disorders, communicate. They exchange information. They exchange effects. They exchange cognitions. They change information. They are not coordinated. They are conflictive, actually. In most of the cases, they're polarized. As Schwartz called it, they're polarized, but they exchange information.

So, this is the closest I can say. They're informed. They're all informed.

And of course, the self, the fragmented, broken, damagednon-constallatednon-integratedidentity-disturbed self, whatever is there, the little that is there, which is not a core identity. It's not stable across time. It's diffused.

Still, there's something there, something primitive and basic. This part, which passes for self in healthy people, this part is also informed.

So, there's a lot of exchange of information. The minute there's a hint of stress, a hint of stress, a hint of frustration, of hurt, of pain, of negative emotion, emotion, of mortification, the minute there's a hint of something, of the secretary threat, paranoid threat, the minute there's something that creates disequilibrium, disturbs the homeostasis, that minute one of the self-states, the relevant self-state, the self-state that can take care of the need of the problem is activated.

During hibernation, when these self-states are not needed, they are perceived as internal objects, which they are. They are not a part of the state, then they're not a part of the self.

I'm sorry, the self-states are not parts of the self.

They have divorced the self. They are fragments. They are spread over the deep space of the narcissist psyche, of the borderline psyche.

So, they are not, by any extension, parts of the self.

They used to be parts of the self. Now, they're just fragments.

So, they are perceived as internal objects and there are very interesting dialogues going on between these internal objects and the self, between internal objects, other internal objectsand the self-states.

So, for example, in a borderline, you could have a mother interject, a sadistic inner critic, which is essentially a mother interject, talking to a secondary psychopathy self-state. And so, the mother could chastise, could criticize the psychopath, the psychopathic, the secondary psychopathic self-state as bad, unworthy, corrupt, evil. And that would create a lot of guilt and shame after the fact.

After the secondary psychopath takes over, when it's no longer needed and it recedes, the borderline will experience guilt and shame, which is the outcome of the dialogue between the sadistic inner critic mother interject and the secondary psychopathy internal object.

They're both internal objects.

So, for example, in the narcissist, you could have an interject, for example, of a very influential teacher. You could have an interject of this influential teacher telling them the self-state of the narcissist, the grandiose self-state in the narcissist, telling this grandiose self-state, it's not okay to be grandiose. It's repulsive, it's disgusting, it's counterproductive, it's sometimes even derisive, it's comical, it's stupid, you look stupid, etc.

So, there could be a dialogue between the grandiose self-state, which I remind you is sliced off the self, is not part of the self.

In narcissism, ironically, in pathological narcissism, narcissistic introversion, which is healthy, had failed. Narcissism in narcissistic people had failed, not succeeded. When narcissism succeeds, it becomes healthy narcissism. When narcissism fails, for example, in narcissistic introversion, in Jung's theory, or narcissistic self-structures, in Kohut's work.

So, when narcissism fails to be invested properly, when it fails, there's pathological narcissism.

So, an introject of this very influential teacher, which the narcissist used to admire as a child, internalized the voice of the teacher. This teacher can tell the grandiose false self this internal structure with grandiosity. You are bad, you're evil, you're stupid, you're clown, you're buffoon, you look stupid.

And these dialogues are going on all the time. It's amazing, and you can bring them out in therapy. You can make the patient aware of these dialogues, which I do in Kohut's therapy.


Okay, Sushanim, I hope you, I answered some of your questions. Feel free to pose others before you do. Make sure you search and research my channel, because I don't take kindly to wasting my time.

To search my channel, you go up. There's a magnifying glass symbol. That's the search box. Search me. You type any word you want, and you get the relevant videos. Make sure you watch these videos before you post questions. If you do post a question, which I hadn't answered in any of my previous videos, any of my 700 previous videos, I'd be delighted to respond. I usually do. I respond to questions, new questions, questions which I didn't tackle in any of my videos.

However, I become seriously nasty and obnoxious. When you waste my time with questions, the answers to which you can find in 20-30 videos that I've made, because this is entitlement and this is abusive conduct. Got it?

Children. Okay, kiddos. Have a nice day.

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