Victim, Narcissist: Reality or Role-playing? (Role Theory)

Uploaded 8/28/2023, approx. 47 minute read

Someone asked me, "I've been talking to myself, is that a bad sign?" And I said, "No way! I've been talking to myself for years via YouTube!"

Very few people watch my videos and I think it has to do with my ten dollar words and my echoing mic, both visible signs of my overwhelming contempt, according to some of you.

So here's another video no one is going to watch about role theory.

Is your personality, is your identity, and is, God forbid, your narcissism? Are these merely roles that you play, or are they reflective and emanate from your essence?

Essentialism versus representationalism, or phenomenology, if you wish.

You see, ten dollar words in the movie and the video hasn't started yet.

I am incorrigible.

Another ten dollar word.

Let's delve right in.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. I'm also a former professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of SIAS.

Role theory has two dimensions, individual and social.

Role theory is a conceptual explanation of social behavior, but via or reduced to individuals.

The actions of individuals are defined by the role that they occupy in various social settings, for example in relationships.

So if you are a father, if you are a husband, if you are a member of a group or a cult, if you are a leader, an employee, a boss, these are all roles. These roles are assigned to you by society via scripts.

By following the script, you actually adopt the role.

Jean-Paul Sartre called it "Belt faith".

He said that these roles distance you from your authentic self, from who you really are.

So Sartre believed that role play is one way of betraying your true essence, your true co-idity.

Role theory suggests that role play or playing roles is actually a very good thing. It says that the roles that individuals establish and follow and adhere to create exchanges between individuals, aka relationships, there is an interdependence that emerges from playing role.

And this interdependence is at the core of social coordination and self-efficacy.

So what is a social role? What is a role?

It's a set of attitudes, traits, characteristic behaviors expected of an individual in a particular setting or environment, opposition or position, not opposition or position.

So the individual performs, functions and act, speech acts and actions only within a social context.

In this sense, role theory is relational. It's not individualistic. It's not like, for example, Freud or Jung who discussed the individual as an atomized unit. Jung spoke of the constellated self as if it emanates out of thin air, crystallizes out of thin air.

Lacan, on the other hand, placed huge emphasis on relationships as the nexus of forming personalities and identities. Same with object relations schools.

So role theory firmly belongs in the relational school of psychology.

The social context defines specific, particular functioning and together they create a role.

So being a spouse, for example, is a role which is composed of a set of predetermined, mutually acceptable, sublimated actions and is valid only within a social context known as marriage.

Okay, get it?

Now it's not as easy as that because people can get seriously confused and disturbed and diffused when it comes to roles.

Actually in this solipsistic video, I'm going to discuss identity, I'm going to discuss social functioning, we're going to venture far afield leveraging role theory to understand diverse phenomenon, including narcissism.

But first, we need the basic tools.

We need the terminology. We need to get acquainted with the rudimentary concepts of role theory.

So role confusion.

Role confusion is a state of uncertainty about a given social role, a role in a group, a role in a context, a role with other people, a relationship, a romantic relationship or a marriage is a role which is determined partly by your partner within a relationship.

But it can be very confusing.

For example, gender roles nowadays are very confused because behaviors that used to be exclusively attributed to men or women, male or female, today are in flux.

Today you could have females who act as men and males who act as women.

And so this creates gender role confusion.

Later on, we will discuss identity confusion, which to some extent is coterminous with role confusion.

But at this stage, slowly, slowly, patience does it.

You only the pipe-piper, that is Sam Vaknin, and listen to the stages of role theory.

So role confusion.

There is something called role deprivation.

Sometimes when you are denied the ability to act in a role that sits well with your psychology or status or education.

So when you are unfairly denied or deprived of social roles, there is role deprivation.

One of the effects of role deprivation is role confusion on the one hand and status incongruence.

Status incongruence is a mismatch between various status dimensions, for example, your socioeconomic level, your income, and other parameters of your autobiography or personality.

For example, your level of education, imagine that you hold a PhD, a coveted PhD in, I don't know, engineering or computer sciences, and yet you can't make ends meet and you can't find a job.

That is status incongruence and would create a new role confusion.

And there is a perceived mismatch between your characteristics and your role in particular contexts.

This reverses traditional assumptions about correlations between certain elements of your life.

So for example, there is the assumption that the more highly educated you are, the higher your income.

And should this not work in real life, you will be very confused.

You would also be frustrated and aggressive and angry.

Similarly, if your boss is much younger than you, that would also create dissonance and so on and so forth.

So this also leads to a perception of injustice, discrimination, victimhood.

So we are beginning to see the emergence of many of the modern day phenomena as roles in modern, postmodern societies have been subjected to heavy attack, for example, the role of masculinity.

And as roles have become much more fluid, for example, gender, and even to some extent sexuality and has as traditional roles have withered and gone with wind and new ones did not replace them.

For example, what's your role in a date as a man?

There are no sexual scripts to help you with this.

So as there has been a concerted attempt to undermine roles, this led to extreme role deprivation, status incongruence, frustration, and passive aggression, and a sense of overwhelming victimhood.

Narcissists especially are prone to misperceived status incongruence.

Narcissists are grandiose.

They are entitled.

They believe that they deserve much more than they actually do.

They have no accomplishments to talk of, usually in the vast majority of cases, and yet they believe they should be the boss.

They should be lauded and celebrated, as Gini says.

And when this doesn't happen, they experience status incongruence.

This is especially true with covert narcissists.


But how do we decide which is the right role for us?

In rigid conservative patriarchal, traditionally societies, roles are externalized.

They're dictated to.

You learn roles.

You become acquainted with your roles via the process of socialization and the processes of socialization and acculturation.

Your parents don't tell you how you should behave and what your role is.

The firstborn in families all over the Arab world, for example, firstborns have a special status and special responsibility. They're substitute fathers.

That's a role.

In more flexible societies where everything is in flux, everything is negotiable, everything is the outcome of consensus and compromise.

In this kind of societies, the assignment of roles is autonomous and agentic.

In other words, people assume roles. They take on roles and they swap roles. They change roles as if they were changing clothes, you know, or socks.

So the assumed role is a behavior pattern adopted by a person in the belief that such behavior is expected for a particular position, status, environment or circumstances, set of circumstances.

So the element of expectation here is very crucial and it is communicated to the individual via socialization.

Society communicates expectations.

The difference between rigid conservative societies and liberal progressive societies is that in the former there's no debate. You're assigned a role and you assume it, period.

In the latter, you can challenge, often do, you can challenge the expectations of society, of your family, of your mother, of your father, of the neighbors, of your colleagues, you name it. It's always a process of adversarial challenging. It's as if in postmodern industrialized westernized societies, the whole thing is a huge courtroom drama where there are adversaries and then there's a verdict. Only the judge is you.


So taking on a role is a method for dealing with uncertainty about how to behave.

In a way it's a kind of script. And the process is known as role reenactment.

I will discuss as an example what is known as the sick role. The sick role is a behavior expected of a person who is physically ill, mentally ill, injured or traumatized.

Yes, even mental illness is a role in role theory.

Expectations, social and other expectations, familial, environmental expectations. Expectations come from the outside and they generate expectations inside.

So in the case of the sick role, there are exogenous expectations and an endogenous reaction to exogenous expectations.

And this endogenous reaction, reaction from the inside, generates its own set of expectations.

And the totality of the expectations space or expectations universe is overwhelming and compels the sick individual to behave in highly specific ways.

In role theory, sickness involves a role play, especially mental illness.

The community, society at large and the individual collude and collaborate in settling on a role of mentally ill.

The person then knows how to behave. There's a script, a script of a narcissist, a script of a psychopath. And the person follows these expectations. The script or the role also informs the individual how other people are going to react. It renders life more certain and predictable.

If I as a narcissist do A, the reaction is going to be B. And if I do C, the reaction is going to be D.

So the world becomes a safe, stable place within which I can enact my role without undue adverse consequences.

It is when you exit your role that you are penalized, when you behave in ways which are unacceptable and defy your role and of course, societal expectations, then you're punished. You're punished mostly in order to force you to revert to role.

But in egregious extreme cases, you're punished in a way that there's no return.

In her pioneering discussion, US sociologist, Talcott Parsons, and his I'm sorry, pioneering discussion.

So Talcott Parsons wrote that as early as 1951, that people in a sick role are expected, for example, to cooperate with caregivers to want to get well.

The narcissist role is to actually negate all this.

The narcissist is an anti-sick role, in effect.

The narcissist does not collaborate with anyone because he's superior and he needs no training or learning and there's nothing, there's no improvement because he is perfect. And he does not want to get well because he is already maximally well.

Narcissism is an interesting case of anti-sick role, which is in itself a sick role.

Okay, role enactment.

There is a sub-theory in role theory known as role enactment theory.

And an interesting application of role enactment theory is hypnosis.

Role enactment theory claims that hypnosis, for example, is a social phenomenon.

A hypnotized individual unconsciously takes on the socially constructed role of a hypnotic subject and he behaves according to expectations.

This was suggested in the 1950s by Theodore Sarbin, S-A-R-B-I-N.

And then this gave rise, the study of hypnosis gave rise to a much larger theory, the role of enactment in social behavior in role enactment theory.

And I've just applied role enactment theory to narcissism, as you have heard.

Now we all, according to Bandura and others, we all model behavior.

In other words, we serve as models to other people and we imitate or emulate the behavior of meaningful, significant others.

So the child imitate and emulate, emulates his parents' behavior.

And this is known as modeling.

And hence the famous phrase, role model.

Role model is a person or a group serving as an example or an exemplar for the goals, attitudes or behavior of an individual.

An individual identifies with this person or group, seeks to imitate the person or group.

So this is the vector, this is the channel through which roles flow to the individual via role models, which serve as a pipeline, if you wish.

Now in modern, in postmodern societies, we come across a problem known as role overload.

Role overload is a situation that arises from the assumption of multiple roles when you are asked to perform dozens, sometimes hundreds of roles.

And all of it at the same time.

And this is known as quantitative overload.

Or when you are asked to perform roles which are beyond your knowledge or your skills or your abilities, qualitative overload.

Now narcissists defend against qualitative overload by simply denying that anything is beyond their ability.

They are omnipotent.

Your role is outside their capacity or remit.

This way they avoid overload.

What is role play therefore?

We have defined what is a role, assumed role, role model, and then what?

Let's assume that you've accepted the role.

You've gone through a process of socialization, socialization, acculturation, this, that.

You grew up and you accepted your role as, I don't know, a husband, a father, an employee, whatever it is, whatever it may be, you've accepted your role.

What is role play?

Actually role play is a term borrowed from psychotherapy.

It is used in human relations training.

Role play is when the participants are asked to play out social roles.

They're given a sheet of paper, very similar to a movie script.

And the sheet of paper describes a role and they're supposed to enact the role.

It's a part of what is known as psychodrama, but it's widely used now in corporate settings, in clinical settings, and so on and so forth.

Playing roles has been proven to change attitudes and relationships.

For example, in family or couple therapy, rehearsing different ways of coping with stresses and conflicts by playing a role becomes habituated and a part of you, the played role teaches you things, forces you to learn and to evolve and to transform.

There's even something known as role reversal, and I have a whole video dedicated to it.

It's a technique in therapy and in education where individuals exchange roles with other individuals.

For example, the therapist exchanges roles with a patient.

The therapist then pretends to be the patient.

The patient is listening, witnessing, and the very act of looking at himself in the mirror, in the therapeutic mirror, through the therapist induces change, induces a dynamic of transformation.

So role reversal allows the individual to experience alternative cognitive styles, problem solving, feelings, behavioral approaches.

Role reversal is very powerful and has been used even with sexual offenders and mass shooters, I mean, mass shooters and serial killers and so on.

In psychodrama, the protagonist exchanges roles with an auxiliary ego in acting out a significant interpersonal situation.

So it's a bit more limited.

But in management programs, management development programs and so on and so forth, there are open total exchanges of roles between, for example, boss and employee or supervisor and employee.

Okay, so role reversal involves something, a dynamic known as role shift.

And this dynamic is very, very crucial in the shared fantasy of the narcissist.

Role shift happens usually, but not always, in a two person relationship.

So it's dyadic, it's in a couple.

And it is the adoption by one partner of the characteristics or behavior of another partner.

The narcissist coerces his intimate partner into a role shift.

She becomes him, he expects her to become an extension of himself.

He subsumes her, he consumes her.

He converts her into an internal object, identifiable only with him.

So she becomes him.

It's not merger infusion like codependency.

It's predatory consumption.

It's like a hostile takeover, merger and acquisition, if you want to borrow similes from business.

And it involves coerced role reversal.

Role taking is the benign form of role shift and role reversal in the shared fantasy.

In role taking is, role taking involves looking at a situation from the viewpoint of another person, putting yourself in another person's shoes for the purpose of understanding his or her thoughts, or actions, or fears, or needs, or emotions, or cognitions, or whatever.

So when you put yourself in someone else's shoes, your role taking.

Role taking skills are crucial in developing social cognition and empathy.

And in empathy, role taking is known as perspective taking, looking at a situation from a viewpoint that is different from your viewpoint.

You have a unique viewpoint, point of view, like in monographic movies, point of view.

So you have a unique POV.

Perspective taking asks you to adopt someone else's POV, to see the world through someone else's eyes, if only momentarily, adopting the perspective of another person or the perspective of another social role.

So this is a role play exercise and it enhances empathy.

The narcissist is not asking you to take his perspective, to take on his role.

No, he's not asking you this.

He's asking you to become him.

He's asking you to adopt his role as the exclusive, all devouring role.

The minute you become the narcissist, your grand narcissist expects you to eliminate yourself, to vanish, to repress who you are.

Narcissist regresses you to infancy where you did not exist in the full sense of the word.

Now, the victim in a shared fantasy, the narcissist so-called intimate partner, reacts to this coercion to take on, to adopt, to reverse the roles, to become the narcissist.

She reacts to this coercion with something known as role ambiguity.

Role ambiguity is when there are indefinite expectations about the behaviors to be performed by individuals who occupy particular positions within a group, social setting, circumstances or environment.

So when you're not sure what is expected of you, the victim in a shared fantasy, and I'm using the word victim judiciously, the victim in a shared fantasy is utterly disoriented.

The need to transition from her role to his role, from her role to the narcissist role, completely disorients her, dislocates her, confuses her.

She is discombobulated to use a $10 word.

This role ambiguity, she knows that the narcissist expects her to become submissive to the point of vanishing, to never defy him, never argue with him, never criticize him, always agree with him, adopt his point of view, work for his interests and so on.

She knows all this, but his expectations are never verbalized unambiguously.

The narcissist maintains ambiguity, uncertainty, indeterminacy and intermittent reinforcement as tools of control.

He keeps you on your toes, walking on floating above eggshells, lest you break one.

So it's a narcissistic technique.

So you're never able to say, okay, that's what he wants. These are his expectations. That's the role I have to play from now.

No, you're kept all the time, all the time. Very very confused.

So role ambiguity is caused by a lack of clarity regarding the role itself or lack of consensus regarding the behaviors associated with the role or the individual role takers uncertainty with regard to the types of behaviors expected.

All three are integral elements of the shared fantasy.

No consensus because you can't negotiate with the narcissist, you can't compromise. No clear script as to what is expected of you and no understanding, no deep understanding of the narcissist.

So even when you try to emulate and imitate him, you keep getting it wrong. He becomes angry, he rages narcissistically, finally he begins to devalue and discard you because you have failed to become him optimally.

This is role conflict. It's a state of tension or distress caused by inconsistent or discordant expectations associated with your social or group role.

You don't know what you're doing wrong. You don't know when you are doing right. You don't know anything. You are extremely distressed and this anxiety drives down your performance even further.

Everything is inconsistent. Everything is dissonant and discordant. You are utterly, utterly disoriented and the narcissist provides the kind of reality testing that makes you, drives you into insanity even further.

It's not gaslighting, it's confabulation.

The psychopath does exactly the same as a con artist, but he does it purposefully, intentionally and that is gaslighting.

The narcissist simply confabulates. He wants you to become a figment of his fantasy. He wants you to become unreal. He has expectations from you to fulfill your role as a maternal mother, to help him to separate and deviate and to behave in a way that will justify his devaluation. This is insane.

The narcissist demands as far as your role are insane. The psychopath's demands are goal oriented.

You can do business with the psychopath, however, disadvantageously. You can't do business with the narcissist. He's nuts. He's simply nuts.

The role, the role that the narcissist demands of you is inconsistent with other roles.

So he expects you, for example, to be his mother and his child. This is known as intra-role conflict. You can't fulfill the two roles successfully.

Similarly, he creates an inter-role conflict.

When you occupy more than one role of behaviors, and they are incompatible, there is an intra-role conflict, but also an inter-role conflict.

So your role is defined in a way that you can never fulfill it satisfactorily. You can never satisfy the narcissist because his demands are conflictive and contradictory.

He demands of you several roles which don't sit well with each other, contradict each other, negate each other.

Intra-role conflict, the conflict within your role owing to crazy, unarticulated expectations, and the inter-role conflict between your various roles, for example, his mother and child.

So you can't get it right, is what I'm trying to say in so many words.

The role differentiation within the shared fantasy is damaged. It's disrupted. It's incomplete.

In groups and other systems, there's role differentiation. There are many roles, as you're a member of many groups, you're a member of your family, of your church, of your nation state, of your football club. So there are various roles in all these affiliations.

And so these roles are differentiated from each other. There's a gradual increase in the number of roles and decrease in the scope of the roles, in their applicability.

And each role becomes more specialized. So you learn the roles and then you differentiate them from each other.

Gender differentiation is an example. Leadership roles is another example.

In narcissism, in the shared fantasy, the narcissist does not allow you to differentiate the roles.

For example, you're not allowed to treat the narcissist as a mother and then you would be only a mother.

No. You're also supposed to be the narcissist's child.

He's your mother as well.

That's a dual mother.

So this creates an inability to differentiate the roles.

If you're both a mother and a child, what are you? Who are you? You're not differentiated. You're a hodgepodge. You're a mixture of child and parent.

And that's where the narcissist wants you to be, in undifferentiated territory.

This creates what is known as role diffusion.

Role diffusion is a state of confusion about your social role. It typically occurs in adolescence.

And so the narcissist drives you back, regresses you to early stages of life where you were not sure about the roles. Your roles kept changing all the time and you couldn't capture any single role and define it properly and perfectly.

This is role diffusion.

Role diffusion is at the core of identity diffusion and identity disturbance.

In effect, the narcissist dysregulates you by refusing to let you have certainty regarding your roles. He undermines your identity.

And as you change roles, your identity changes.

And that's a great definition of borderline personality disorder.

So he pushes you to dysregulated territory.

Suddenly you can't recognize yourself. You begin to behave in very bizarre ways. You go crazy, temper tantrums. You lose control of your own emotions, your mood, mood ability, ups and downs, depression.

This is that you are out of whack.

Erikson suggested eight stages of psychosocial development.

Identity confusion is the fifth.

It's an identity crisis.

Again, it typically occurs during adolescence.

And at this stage, the individual experiences what Erikson called psychosocial moratorium, a very ominous term. It's a period of time that permits you to experiment with different roles, different social roles.

Now the narcissist gets you stuck in permanent psychosocial moratorium. You're constantly experimenting in order to gratify the narcissist and avoid his rather punishment and rage. This is also known as intermittent reinforcement.

So I'm now connecting behaviorism with role theory.

The moratorium, the permanent psychosocial moratorium is also known as intermittent reinforcement in behaviorist theory.

So and this leads to an identity crisis because your experimentation leads nowhere. The narcissist is never happy with the outcomes, never signals to you yet. That's the right role.

Keep at it, baby. You got it right this time.

No, you're always wrong. You always criticize. You always put down humiliated and shamed.

It's a narcissist is in externalized version of your harsh inner critic.

Actually he takes over your harsh inner critic via the process of entrain in training.

So he becomes your sadistic super ego to borrow from Freud.

So at that stage, you don't know what to do anymore. You're confused. You keep experimenting because you're terrified of the of the outcomes if you don't, but you keep failing.

Narcissist keeps you in a permanent state of failure. He sets you up for failure as a victim in the shared fantasy. You're in a state of identity confusion. You try on different roles. You identify with different expectations of the narcissist with different groups.

If it makes him happy, but you fail to form a cohesive positive identity that allows you to cope with the shared fantasy and to contribute to it because shared fantasy becomes your world. It's your society. Your life is constricted.

The narcissist isolates you from friends and family in the world. He creates for you a universe, solid cystic, totally isolated, aka shared fantasy.

And you operate within it, but you keep failing. You keep failing.

You have no cohesive, positive identity. It doesn't allow you to form an identity.

You identify with the group or with subgroups in the group.

You try to generate a negative identity by saying this is who I'm not, but you remain utterly confused, utterly confused. And this is identity diffusion.

Now there's something called identity status model.

It's an expansion of Ericsson's fifth stage of identity versus identity confusion.

The model, the identity status model suggests that there are four possible identity statuses that an individual might assume, particularly during adolescence, but because you have been regressed also in the shared fantasy, each of these possible identity statuses is characterized by a different level of exploration and commitment to any specific identity.

So development moves towards identity achievement status. And this is characterized by evidence of identity exploration and commitment.

This identity achievement status is related to a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem and healthy psychological functioning.

Narcissist never lets you get there, never. It threatens him.

Your self-esteem threatens him. Your stability threatens him. Your ability to separate from him, your separateness, cannot even be perceived by him because narcissists don't do separateness. They've never been exposed to separateness. They've never separated from mummy in the separation individuation phase.

So separateness is automatically misperceived by them as abandonment and they misattribute it to hatred or envy or they mislabel it.

The other three identity statuses are moratorium status, which I've described, which is evidence of identity exploration, but lack of commitment to any single role.

For closure status, that is a commitment to an identity usually set by role models like adults, influential peers, influencers, teachers and so on.

For closure status, it's a commitment to an identity given to you by someone, but failure to explore different options because before this commitment is made.

And as I said, this is typical of traditionalist conservative societies.

This is where the narcissist wants you to be. He wants you to commit to a diffuse, ill-defined, nebulous identity to forsake and forswear and renounce all other options, but he doesn't give you any certainty. He doesn't give you specs, specifications. He wants you to remain within the shared fantasy as a cloud.

And the last status is the diffusion status.

It's a lack of both identity exploration and commitment.

And this is where you end up in a shared fantasy.

You end up giving up on exploring roles and identities and what have you.

You say, I'm going to roll with the blows. I'm going to flow with the flux. You're not going to just play it by ear. Whatever happens happens.

This condition has been first described in 1966 by the Canadian psychologist, James Martius.


CIA, yes.

So identity diffusion is where you end up in the shared fantasy.

And it is essentially a borderline personality organization feature. It's a lack of stability, a lack of focus in the view of the self or any elements of your identity.

As I said, it's common in borderline personality disorder. It's known there as identity disturbance.

In Ericsson's ego psychology, identity diffusion was a possible outcome of the fifth stage, identity versus identity confusion.

The individual emerges from a disrupted fifth stage with an uncertain sense of identity and confusion about his or her wishes, attitudes, goals, and so on and so forth.

If it sounds familiar, it's because this is a perfect description of the state of mind, of the victim of narcissistic abuse.

Narcissist abuses not only you, he abuses social mechanisms. He abuses expectations. He abuses worries and norms.

Take for example, role expectations.

Role expectations are the traits, attitudes, and behaviors which are considered appropriate in a particular position or in a group or in a setting or in a circumstance or environment, social setting.

So it's a list, it's specifications of attitudes and behaviors that are appropriate simply. So these expectations are communicated to other people and communicated from other people.

There's an exchange there and you absorb these communications and you sometimes unconsciously adopt yourself to conform to these expectations.

And this is something the narcissist abuses. He keeps broadcasting to you expectations that are non-normative, chaotic, disruptive, threatening, negating.

And how can you adopt to this? How can you adopt to this?

The role expectations are somehow corrupted by the narcissist, which makes it exceedingly difficult for you to play it right, to do the right thing.

The narcissist wants you in this condition in order to devalue you and discard you and accomplish separation and individuation.

The role set in the shared fantasy is goal oriented. The goal is to destroy the set. The role set is the group of people and their associated roles who are related to and interact meaningfully with you.

So the role set in your case is the narcissist.

So the narcissist communicates to you the attitudes and behaviors appropriate to the role. He's supposed to communicate to you the role expectations. He is your role set.

And yet the aim of the shared fantasy is to destroy the set.

So the role expectations communicated to you are self-defeating, self-destructive, self-trashing, dangerous and in many, many respects abusive, antisocial even.

So within the shared fantasy, you're much more hostage than a willing intimate participant.

The narcissist coerces you into the shared fantasy and then communicates to you in a way that sets you up for failure and undermines explosively the fantasy itself.

He serves as your role set but sabotages you.

There's something known as the Pygmalion Effect. It's a consequence of reaction in which the expectations of someone superior to you and gender behavior from followers or fans or subordinates, which is consistent with these expectations or the leader or the supervisor or the boss, or your narcissist with your mother and he's also superior to you because he's much more intelligent, he's a genius, he's perfect, he's godlike.

So he broadcasts to your expectations, you're supposed to conform behaviorally, supposed to behave in a way that will uphold these expectations. It's a form of self-fulfilling prophecy.

So in good relationships, this creates something known as upward Pygmalion Effect.

In bad relationships, I'm sorry, it creates something known as upward Pygmalion Effect and this is exactly what's happening in the shared fantasy.

The expectations of followers or victims or subordinates, your expectations, lead to behaviors in the narcissist that is consistent with your expectations. The behaviors of the narcissist do not reflect his or her true abilities or personality traits but how he is perceived by you.

Now let me explain this very important dynamic.

Both the Pygmalion Effect, the upward Pygmalion Effect, are at play in the shared fantasy.

In the Pygmalion Effect, the narcissist broadcasts to you role expectations acting as your role set, but he broadcasts to you expectations which are corrupt, misleading, sabotaging, undermining, he sets you off for failure and destroys the shared fantasy.

But there's also the reverse process.

You're also broadcasting to the narcissist expectations.

The narcissist does adapt himself to these expectations. It is most visible during the love-warming phase but it goes, it proceeds, it continues throughout the life of the shared fantasy.

His shapeshifts, molds himself to fit you like a glove in hand. He leaves you no personal space. He's all over you. He penetrates you, not only physically if you're a romantic lingo but also mentally.

It is the upward Pygmalion Effect. You become a reflection of him, an extension of him, but he also becomes a reflection, an extension of you.

That's the whole of mirror effect. You see yourself through his gaze, you fall in love with yourself through his gaze.

Now you know the clinical term, upward Pygmalion Effect.

And it's all a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's a set of beliefs, set of expectations by the narcissist of you and by you of the narcissist.

You are exchanging expectations and beliefs about each other.

And this helps to bring about fulfillment.

Your expectations create reality. They generate the fantasy in which you inhabit together.

So it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is an expectancy effect.

The effect that your expectations have, the effects, your expectations have on the narcissist and the effects that the narcissist's expectations have on you, your behavior changes.

This is the interpersonal expectancy effect.

Your behavior is changed and this alters reality. It reshapes, redefines, redelineates, creates boundaries around the shared fantasy.

But at the same time, your expectations of yourself with regards to the narcissist and the shared fantasy affect you.

So his expectations of you change you and your expectations of you change you.

And this is known as the intrapersonal expectancy effect.

You know what the narcissist expects of you or you think you know what the narcissist expects of you and this shapes your behavior.

You wish to please, you wish to conform.

At the same time, you develop expectations of yourself to conform to the narcissist's expectations.

You want to become submissive or caring or motherly or whatever.

This is the intrapersonal effect.

So these two effects combined make you who you are within the shared fantasy.

The narcissist similarly is exposed to these two effects and makes, they make him who he is in the shared fantasy.

And together you generate reality, your reality, which is actually divorced from everyone else's reality, your reality of the shared fantasy.

This is very famous, a very famous situation. It's known as the Rosenfeld or the experiment effect.

It's when you conduct an experiment, your expectations shape the students who are being experimented upon and the students expectations of themselves to please you, to satisfy you, to gratify you as an experimenter, shape them as well.

And so the experiment is corrupted or contaminated by these exchanges of expectations.

Same with the shared fantasy. Same exactly with the shared fantasy.

They are demand characteristics. These are cues you're broadcasting to each other, you're signaling all the time within the shared fantasy, the victim and the narcissist.

And these cues influence bias, both of you, the narcissist and you.

Sometimes the narcissist suggests a certain outcome or a certain desirable or desired response and you conform, you change your behaviors, you even convince yourself that you desire the same outcome and the same response.

These cues distort both of you and ultimately reshape again and again, remold again and again the shared fantasy.

These are roles, the roles that you play. They create behavioral confirmation. Character confirmation is a process by which the actions of one person, you for example, the victim come to reinforce the expectations of another person, the narcissist and vice versa.

Your social interaction within the shared fantasy, within the dyad, within the couple, shape each one of you separately and the shared fantasy.

And the shared fantasy affects both of you and you affect each other and your expectations of yourself within the shared fantasy affect you as well.

It's a mishmash. It's a huge convoluted network of expectations, reactant behaviors, affects, attendant upon the behaviors, feedback loops and so on and so forth.

Behavioral confirmation processes are used to explain how expectations and beliefs, including for example stereotypes, come to affect reality.

The theory, this behavioral confirmation concept was developed by Mark Snyder, who is again Canadian, a Canadian psychologist or at least started his career in Canada.

John Don Peterson, anyone?

Something is happening in Canada. God knows what.

In the shared fantasy, we are both subjected to a special kind of bias known as confirmation bias.

You tend to gather evidence and information that confirms pre-existing expectations, communicated expectations.

You emphasize, you pursue supporting evidence, you dismiss, you devalue, you fail to seek contradictory evidence.

Gradually, it becomes an echo chamber, a thought silo within which you tend to reinforce each other all the time.

The shared fantasy becomes one resonant hive mind, mind meld with a D. Both your minds become one. You become each other's internal objects and you inhabit an internal space.

You are less and less connected to the outside world, physically as well.

It begins to resemble what used to be called a shared psychotic disorder.

Now, one last thing.

As a victim, it's very likely that you've been victimized before.

You've learned the role of victim early on before you have entered the shared fantasy.

You would not have entered the shared fantasy had you not been conditioned behaviorally to be a victim.

You have been taught to be a victim. You are a professional victim, whether you like it or not.

This insight comes from exemplar theory.

Couple theory in role theory is the hypothesis that categorization depends on specific remembered instances of the category.

In short, you would behave in a way that emulates or imitates either another victim that you have seen, your mother or yourself in an earlier role as a victim.

You need an example known clinically as exemplar. You need an example to emulate or imitate.

Exemplar theory has been applied to many, many questions in psychology, attention, skill acquisition, social decision making, and so on and so forth.


We don't rely on obstructions. Concepts don't do anything to us.

That's why case studies are very important. That's why people who make videos with real life cases and examples, they get many more views than people like me who like to dwell on ideas, obstruct ideas and concepts without a single example.

Examples are much more powerful than any principle.

This is what's happening to you as a victim.

When you enter the shared fantasy, the examples of victimhood in your past play inside your mind, interact with the narcissist expectations that you should behave as a victim and you adopt the role as a victim.

This is what role play has to say about the narcissist's shared fantasy and about questions of personality and identity in general.

I hope those of you who have survived found it of interest.

I will see you with the next torture session.

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