The evaluation resembles very much the separation phase, not only in early childhood, but also in adolescence.
There is a second separation phase in adolescence.
The narcissist, when he discards you, is very much like an adolescent. He is defiant and reactant, he is contemptuous, he distances himself, he defines his identity in contradistinction to your identity. We call it negative identity formation. His identity is the opposite of your identity. He is like he is not you, that is his identity.
And his approach avoidance. All these are very common among adolescents who are separating from parental figures, and they are very common among narcissists in the discard devaluation phase.
So in the narcissist's mind, when he already starts devaluing you, he had already discarded you. He has already discarded you.
In his mind, you are discarded. The narcissist devalues you because he has already discarded you in his mind. He hasn't discarded you in reality because he has to keep you around. He didn't tell you to walk away. He didn't break up with you because he needs you to hang on. He needs your availability. He needs to have access to you in order to devalue you.
But in his mind, you are long gone. You are long discarded. The devaluation in the narcissist's mind follows discard.
By the way, exactly like separation in reality. In the separation phase from mother, mother is idealized, then the child separates, and then the child devalues mother. He develops a more realistic perception of mother, which includes her bad aspects, frustrating aspects, shortcomings, failings, flaws. The realistic image of mother following the separation phase at age two to three is a devalued image.
Prior to separation, mother is perfect. She is godlike. After separation, she is a mere human. She is devalued.
So the narcissist goes through the same phases in his mind and in reality, but in reality he has to keep you around. So he gives you the impression that you have not been discarded, but that's a lie because in his mind, even before he starts with the first hint of devaluation, you're a long gone. You're no longer with him.
What are the signs of imminent devaluation? How can you tell when the narcissist has discarded you in his mind and is about to embark on a campaign of degradation, denigration, humiliation, contempt, devaluation against you? How can you tell?
The transition from love bombing, shared fantasy to devaluation is very often abrupt and inexplicable. It's a whiplash. It's mind contorting. It's utterly, utterly incomprehensible. It's a bolt from the blue. It's a thunder stroke. It's people feel disoriented, dislocated, discombobulated, confused. They don't know what to do. They internalize shame and guilt. They castigate themselves and chastise themselves.
I've done something wrong maybe. Did I provoke him? Did I misbehave? They don't know what to think. They don't realize that's an internal dynamic.
Since sight in narcissist's mind has nothing to do with them, the narcissist's intimate partner is flabbergasted. She's heartbroken precisely because she can find no reason, rational or irrational, for what's happening. She doesn't realize that she is just an artifact. She's just a symbol.
The narcissist's mind is in operation.
These stages, idealization, discard, devaluation, they all take place within the narcissist's mind. They are artifacts of his mind. They are processes that unfurl and unfold in his brain. They have nothing to do with external reality. They have nothing to do even with you.
Any and all intimate partners go through the same inalienable, indistinguishable phases. You are utterly interchangeable. You're a commodity like a grain of rice or an internet service provider. It's not about you and you've done nothing wrong. It's about the narcissist and the inexorable, inexorable, ineluctable, inevitable processes that infest his mind because it's an infestation.
But how can you tell that it's about to happen, this inevitability?
The first thing is emotional absence.
Suddenly the narcissist is indifferent and cold and detached. There is affected civility, ostentatious politeness, the use of language which is not intimate and alienating, formal language, cold language, freezing language.
The narcissist is absent in every possible way. He pays no attention to what you're saying. He doesn't commiserate, doesn't offer support or help or advice. He shows no interest in you and your life even more than typically.
He's gone for all intents and purposes. He's gone.
That's the first telltale sign.
You see this happening, a sudden transition from the warmth and affection and engulfment of the shared fantasy, transition from this to cold absence.
You know that discard and devaluation are afoot to borrow from shadow calls.
And then the second phase is constant criticism and denigration of absolutely everything you're doing, of everything you're not doing, of everything you're thinking and everything you're feeling, every communication or lack of communication, every choice, every friend, every family member and even your past.
Total and constant criticism, for example, of your sexual history. So putting you down, demolishing you brick by brick, undoing you, disentangling you, breaking you to pieces, to smithereens, leading to a state of falling apart and disintegration under these constant hammer blows or Chinese water torture.
The criticism is astute because the narcissist possesses cold empathy. He knows which buttons to push. He realizes where your vulnerabilities lie. He knows the chinks in your armor. He's able to penetrate and intrude and invade you in more ways than you know.
The narcissist knows you to some extent better than you know yourself. And if you've been long enough with the narcissist, you have become his creation.
So he's like a sculptor destroying his own sculpture.
And this constant barrage of degradation and humiliation and criticism serves as a voice, becomes a kind of externalized harsh critic instead of an inner critic and outer critic, but as lethal and as destructive as a sadistic superego or sadistic inner critic.
The narcissist conflates this behavior with passive aggression, silent treatment, standing aside, non benign or malevolent actually, non-intervention. He sabotages and undermines initiatives, rejects offers and suggestions, avoids contact, withdraws, denies sex and intimacy for example.
This passive aggression coupled with aggressive criticism complete the entire picture of human aggressive behaviors.
In other words, the narcissist is aggressive during the devaluation phase in every manner known to humanity. He makes unfavorable comparisons between you and other women.
For example, if you are a female intimate partner, he would make unfavorable comparisons between you and other women in a way, triangulate, provoke your jealousy, get a rise out of you, humiliate you and make you feel ashamed of yourself, utterly destabilize the foundations of your self-esteem and self-confidence, drive you to the corner where you would cower with pain and hurt, cause you to neglect yourself and abandon these aspects of you which used to matter to you, for example, your looks or maybe your education or maybe your social life. He would constrict your life, he would denude you of everything that made you happy, he would push you into the territory of anhedonia, inability to experience pleasure and dysphoria bordering on depression.
The narcissist sets you up for failure and pushes you to misbehave. These are his instruments in order to shame you, to guilt trip you, to emotionally blackmail you, to prove to you and to show you how inferior you are, how imperfect you are, how stupid you are, how gullible you are, how much better you could have done had you just put your mind to it, how lazy and indolent you are.
In order to do all this, the narcissist needs you to fail, encourages you to fail, creates situations in which you are liable to fail, there's no other way but to fail. And he pushes you to misbehave.
Narcissists have been known to push their partners, to cheat on them, to misbehave with other men or women. Narcissists have been known to push their partners to commit antisocial acts, crimes, to behave recklessly, to develop addictions. Narcissists drive you into these misbehaviors because this misbehaviors, this misconduct is a weapon in the narcissist arsenal against you. Anything and everything you do or say or don't do and don't say can and will be used against you.
And the narcissist will make sure that to replenish this armory of slings and arrows, he acts as a cruel fate, if you wish.
Narcissist, during the devaluation phase, develops paranoid ideation and pathological jealousy, including retroactive jealousy, jealousy of your former boyfriends or former sex partners. The narcissist becomes overbearingly and overwhelmingly suspicious. He begins to scrutinize everything you do. He spies on you. He collects evidence. And he creates an atmosphere of terror and intimidation and ambience of walking on eggshells.
This is also part of the devaluation because indirectly it leads you to doubt your own perception of reality and again sets you up for failure.
Because who can function properly in such an ambience, such an environment? No one can.
The narcissist, on purpose, acts secretly. Suddenly he becomes very, very secretive. clandestine activities, financial or romantic, a love affair, perhaps insinuated or real. He blocks you. He walls you off. He stone walls you. He firewalls you. He puts walls around him. He won't let you in. Big swaths of the day, many hours a day. He is gone. You don't know where, you don't know with whom, you don't know what he's doing. He behaves in ways which make you uneasy, make you terrified, make you suspicious. He seess doubt in your mind about his intentions and about his commitment to your well-being, to your health, to your prosperity, to your thriving and to your success.
His secret parallel second life is again intended to inject a dose of uncertainty into a situation which anyhow is high in anxiety and dread.
The narcissist disparages you and humiliates you, not only in private, but also in public, in front of your common children, common friends, your colleagues, other people, neighbors, family members. He makes sure to expose your weaknesses, your errors and mistakes, wrong judgment, stupid utterances and sentences you have said and so on. He depicts a picture of you gradually over time that is very, very non-complementary. A picture of you that renders you old or kind of shows you in the worst possible light, especially with people you care about, people who matter to you or people you seek to emulate and admire. He undermines not only your image, but he undermines your prospects because if he does this with your boss, you're very unlikely to receive a promotion. If he seess doubt between you and your children, that is the core of what is colloquially known as alienation. Some of it is goal-oriented to hurt you the most.
The narcissist is very angry at his original mother because she didn't let him become, she didn't allow him to be, to have a life. So he takes it out on you. There's a lot of punitive attitude in the narcissist devaluation phase.
It's not only about splitting, rendering you old, bad bed, the narcissist on good. It's not only about justifying the narcissist discard. It's also about putting you down, putting you down as someone who stands in for a figure in the narcissist's life who had let him down, frustrated him and prevented his self-actualization, rendered him a non-entity, an emptiness and a void. His mother, the narcissist's mother, took away his life, took away his essence and identity and the capacity to ever regain them.
And he needs to punish her and all her successors, especially you.
So he withholds sex. And when he does have sex with you, he degrades you.
Narcissist is unknown to engage in kink or to push you to have group sex with other men, if you're a woman.
And the ideal is to kind of prostitute you, devalue you, show you that you're a piece of trash, treat you as unworthy of boundaries and respect.
Narcissists use sex, weaponize sex and weaponize the absence of sex.
At the same time, during the devaluation phase, there are ongoing preparations for the discard. The narcissist ceases to have any joint activities with you, backs off from things you used to do together. He reneges on all the rituals and routines of common daily life in a couple. He avoids going out with you. So he dismantles your social circle and your social sphere, your common social circle and social sphere. He opts out of your life. His gone, he waves goodbye if he ever does. He simply deactivates your togetherness. He steps out and steps aside. And you're all alone on your own suddenly, without a partner.
In the shared fantasy phase, the collaboration between you amounted to a merger or a fusion. You became one organism for all intents and purposes. You did everything together. Everyone in your social circle was both his friend and your friend. Or everything you did with your social circle. You did jointly.
There was a sense of becoming one.
And this sudden schism is very much like surgery. It's like you're cut open, you're amputated. The pain is indescribable and it creates pervasive distrust. Your distrust in him causes you to gradually detach emotionally, build defenses and ultimately walk away, which is precisely what the narcissist wants you to do. He wants you to be guilty of the discard as well.
And in the meantime, he micromanages everything that has to do with him. Access you have to anything from his bank accounts to his daily life. He suddenly puts under a magnifying glass. He places it under a microscope, studies every move you make, every breath you take. He micromanages you, makes you feel stifled, suffocated, struggling for a breath of air in a space that gradually constricts and closes in on you, very reminiscent of a coffin in a funeral for your dead marriage or dead relationship.
By the 1990s, the process of idealization and devaluation has been fully described in the scholarly literature. Both narcissists and borderlines idealize their intimate partners for different reasons. And then they devalue this very same intimate partners also for different reasons.
And so when I came on the scene in the 1990s, I added a third phase, the discard. Much later, I added yet another stage, the replace.
And so now we have a sort of quadratic equation of idealization, devaluation, discard and replacement.
But is this sequence identical to what goes on through the narcissist mind?
In his demented and tortured mind, does the narcissist follow these steps sequentially in the same order or not? And why does he transition from one to the other? How can you tell that the narcissist is about to devalue you and discard you? Are there any telltale signs, behavioral, cognitive, emotional?
This is the topic of today's video lecture.
My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the interlockable author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.
And I am also a professor of psychology.
Now, if you turn on captions in YouTube, it says, my name is Sam Vaknin. Not Vaknin, but Batman. I love YouTube. They get straight to the essence.
They see through me and they realize that I'm not Vaknin at all. I am Batman. There's nothing, nothing more humorous than the auto captions in YouTube.
The cycle titles that are generated automatically by YouTube's supposedly artificial intelligence. Artificial it is, intelligent, I'm not quite sure.
Okay, Shoshaneem, you've had enough of my not funny sense of humor.
Let us get straight to the points promised.
The stage of discard. I've described the stage of discarding previous videos as a reenactment, a replay of the unresolved separation phase with the narcissist's original mother.
Just to refresh your memories or what's left of them, the narcissist was unable to separate from his mother as a child because he had been abused or traumatized. The mother wouldn't let him go for various reasons. She could have been possibly selfish or maybe narcissistic or maybe depressed or maybe dependent on the child, parentified the child or maybe just found the child to be a satisfactory source of sadistic supply, tortured the child in various ways. Whatever the reason may be, the narcissist mother refused to let him go, refused to allow him to set firm boundaries to become an individual divided from her.
So the narcissist had never separated from his mother.
Fast forward to the narcissist adulthood. He finds you and he tries to convert you into a substitute mother, a maternal figure.
And the general idea is that he can replay with you his childhood like an old tape, a second chance. He can reenact all the dynamics between him and his original mother with you, but this time with a different resolution.
This time the narcissist is going to succeed to separate from the maternal figure, which happens to be you. And this separation is the discard.
The narcissist is compelled, compulsively, is compelled to separate from you. He is forced by internal dynamics. He is forced to discard you. Discarding you is a symbolic separation from the original mother.
I've explained all this in much greater detail in other videos and in my interviews with Richard Grannon.
Following separation, there's a phrase called individuation. Individuation is setting boundaries, developing a well-constellated, integrated, coherent and cohesive sense of self, self-regulating one's sense of self-worth, etc., becoming an individual, individuation.
In the narcissist's mind, the only way to separate from you is to discard you, and the only way to individuate, to become an individual, is to devalue you.
Wait a minute, Vaknin. Say those of you who are still awake, why does the narcissist need to devalue me in order to become an individual?
The question is simple. The answer, regrettably, like everything else in psychology, is complex.
Remember what the narcissist does when he first comes across a potential intimate partner, you?
He takes a snapshot of you, and then he internalizes this snapshot, this avatar. Introject, in clinical terms, he internalizes it, and then he photoshops it, he idealizes it, he idealizes you, and now he has to get rid of you in order to separate it from this new maternal figure, in order to separate from you, in order to complete the separation successfully with his new mother, which is you.
He needs to discard you, but what justification does he have for discarding you? After all, he has idealized you. How can he explain getting rid of an idealized object, discarding a person who is ideal, perfect, brilliant, drop-dead gorgeous, supremely intelligent, almost as intelligent as Vaknin?
How do you account for suddenly discarding, suddenly getting rid, suddenly disengaging from someone like this?
You need to devalue that person. To explain to himself and to others the discard, the narcissist needs to devalue you, but the stage of devaluation is the mirror image of the stage of idealization.
The devaluation is the opposite, the antithesis, the polar opposite of idealization.
So that's a problem, because the narcissist has to admit to himself, to no one else, but usually to others as well.
He has to admit that he has been wrong, he has to confess that he has idealized the wrong person, he has to acknowledge a mistake, he has to accept the error of his judgment, and the narcissist can never do this. The narcissist has idealized you, and now he needs to devalue you, but by devaluing you, it's as good as admitting the mistake of having idealized you. It's as good as saying idealizing her was a mistake, she was the wrong person, I made the wrong decision, my judgment was affected somehow adversely, I committed an error. No narcissist would say this, because it's narcissistic injury, and if it's in public and humiliating, it's mortification. Narcissists would never admit to a mistake.
So how to square the circle? How to square the circle?
The narcissist desperately needs to separate from you, but to do this, he needs to discard you, and to discard you, he needs to devalue you, and to devalue you, he needs to acknowledge that the idealization phase was a mistake that he had committed, that he had committed. No narcissist would do this, so what the narcissist does is a reversal of the internalization interjection phase.
You remember that when the narcissist first came across you, he took a snapshot of you, and then he idealized this snapshot. And now what he does, he externalizes this snapshot, he kind of hands it back to you, hands the snapshot back to you, and rather than interject the snapshot, he projects the snapshot.
So it's a reverse process, it's a mirror process.
The narcissist takes the snapshot and says, here you are, take the snapshot back, it's like giving you back a wedding ring, or a gift that you had bought. Here's the snapshot, take it back, and I'm projecting onto the snapshot all the bad qualities, and of course many of these bad qualities belong to the narcissist.
The narcissist imbues the discarded snapshot with his own counter-productive traits, self-destructiveness, self-defeating behaviors, etc., etc. The discarded snapshot becomes the narcissist actually.
In a way, the narcissist disowns himself through the devaluation phase. It's very difficult to wrap your minds or to wrap your heads around what I'm saying, so I'll go through it again one last time, very briefly.
The narcissist needs to discard you, to discard you, he needs to devalue you, to devalue you, he needs to acknowledge a mistake, but he cannot acknowledge that he had committed a mistake, he cannot acknowledge that his judgment had been wrong.
So what he does instead, in order to preserve his grandiosity, even as he exits the shared fantasy, what he does, he hands you back the snapshot, but the snapshot that he hands you back is actually a reflection of the narcissist himself.
This process is known as splitting. The narcissist makes you all bad, and by making you all bad he renders himself all good, and he says she is actually all bad, she had deceived me, she had changed from the worse, I'm a good person so I was misled.
In other words, the narcissist aggrandizes himself by splitting the negative aspects of himself, placing them on the snapshot and handing the snapshot back to you.
The original process of creating the snapshot is called, in clinical terms, internalization in projection.
The reverse process that leads to devaluation and discard is externalization projection.
The narcissist actually regresses to a very early stage in his childhood when separation occurs.
Separation happens at age 18 months, the narcissist regresses to age 18 months or two years, and at that age, there is a defense mechanism called splitting, and what the narcissist does, he renders you all bad and he renders himself all good in his own eyes, thereby preserving his grandiosity.
It's the only way for him to exit the shared fantasy without acknowledging his own imperfection, without experiencing shame for having failed to evaluate you properly.
So he tries to do this, now the vast majority of narcissists fail in this attempt to externalize the snapshot and to imbue the snapshot with all the bad aspects of the narcissist, this attempt usually fails, and it fails because of something called repetition compulsion.
I have a video dedicated to why the narcissist hovers you, please go and watch it.
When this process fails, there is hoovering.
Okay, I don't know if you noticed something very interesting.
In the narcissist's mind, the discard precedes the devaluation.
In order to separate from you as a maternal figure, the narcissist in his mind emotionally first discards you and then uses projection externalization to devalue you.
So in his mind, the sequence is reversed. It's not the same sequence as his behavior in reality.
In his mind, he idealizes you, devalues you, discard, sorry, he idealizes you, discards you and then devalues you.
I repeat, in the narcissist's mind, he idealizes you, he then discards you as he would have discarded his original mother.
At age two, the mother is still idealized. The toddler, the two-year-old toddler who separates from mother is separating from an idealized image, an idealized imago, an idealized internal object.
It's the same with the narcissist. He idealizes you and then he discards you, he separates from you while you're still idealized.
But to explain to himself why he is separating from an idealized person, from an ideal person, from a perfect person, to explain this to himself, the narcissist devalues you.
So we have a divergence, we have a discrepancy. In the narcissist's mind, it's idealization, discard, devaluation, replacement. In reality, it's idealization, devaluation, discard and replacement.
How can we explain this discrepancy? How can we account for it?
If the narcissist has discarded you in his mind prior to devaluing you, why in reality he devalues you before he discards you?
Because he has to hang on to you, he has to keep you around, he needs you there because he needs to complete the process with you. Had he discarded you immediately after having idealized you, you will not be around for the devaluation phase.
Let me repeat this. If the narcissist were to idealize you and then the narcissist were to discard you, you would walk away and you would not be available there for the devaluation phase.
So the narcissist has to reverse the order. He has to first devalue you and keep you around in order to complete the devaluation process and only then he discard you.