Background

We Have No Idea What Is Narcissism

Uploaded 2/10/2021, approx. 47 minute read

Okay, so someone posted a comment suggesting that I'm his favorite or her favorite grumpy old man.

To paraphrase my lookalike, Winston Churchill, rarely in the annals of mankind had we seen someone compress so many errors into so few words.

Number one, I am not grumpy. I am jovial. I am funny. I am sympathetic. I am sprightly.

And above all, I am a lover of humanity. What's left of it?

Number two, I am not old. The dinosaurs are old. I am ancient. I remember Napoleon's childhood. I'm older than the trees. Yes, all the trees.

So please, it took me millennia to get to this state.

Number three, I'm not a man. Ask any of my exes. They will all confirm to you. I'm a brain. Anything under the chin is not worth writing home about.

Okay, so I've told you who I'm not. Who am I? I am, tada, Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and a host of other books and e-books and videos and so on about the condition, personality disorders, the cosmos, and my co-equal God.


Now, today we are going to discuss the topic or the concept of narcissism.

And before you ask, yes, this is exactly how I joke in class as well. My lectures are replete with many jokes and, you know, so these video lectures, which are essentially university lectures, are no different to my face-to-face live lectures.

You see what you're missing. You see what you're missing in addition to spinach.

So today we're going to discuss the historical evolution of the concept of narcissism. And I'm going to demonstrate to you that no one knows what is narcissism, actually, and that when psychologists communicate using the word narcissism, they very often mean very, very different things.

Some prominent scholars and psychologists had believed that narcissism is an extremely positive thing and that there's no such thing as pathological narcissism. Others had the exact opposite view. There's no such thing as healthy narcissism.

Kernberg, for example, no such thing as healthy narcissism or narcissism is pathological. No one bothered to consult me. I could have settled the issue in one minute.

Luckily, this disagreement, this conflict fuels my endless stream of self-aggrandizing videos. I love psychology.

Okay, so let's get straight to the point.

And the point is, of course, another Jew. How can it be otherwise? And that Jew is no, no, you got it wrong, is not Jesus, is Freud, Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud looked nothing like Jesus. He had a beard, but of the wrong kind. And he lived in Vienna, Austria.

Additionally, Sigmund Freud was not a psychologist. He was a neurologist. Yes. Seven out of the 10 greatest psychologists in the history of psychology, never studied psychology, actually.

Surprise, surprise.

So we start with Freud.

Freud was the first to present a coherent theory of narcissism. He described transitions from what he called subject-directed libido to object-directed libido. In other words, the energy of life, which he called libido, it includes also the energy of sex.

He said that at the beginning, this energy of life is self-directed, directed at the subject. And only later in life, it is object-directed, it is redirected towards other people.

And this is done through the intermediation and agency of the parents.

To be healthy, to be functional, these transitions must be smooth. They must be unperturbed.

And Rosses, said Freud, are the outcomes of bumpy or incomplete transitions.

Freud conceived of each stage as the default or fallback of the next one.

And so if a child reaches out to his objects of desire and he fails to attract their attention, let alone their love, the child regresses to the previous phase, the narcissistic phase.

Just a second. I'm going to increase the font because being ancient as I am, I can no longer see where's the computer, let alone the text.

So let me get back to the point. And here's the point.

Okay. So you remember what I was saying when we were both younger, that the child progresses from stage A to stage B. If he fails in stage B, he goes back to stage A.

That is Freud's conception, which I had adopted in my own model of personality disorders.

And the first occurrence of narcissism, said Freud, is actually adaptive. It's actually good.

Narcissism trains the child to love an object, albeit this object is merely his self. So the child kind of trains on himself at loving. He learns to love himself, then he learns to love others.

Narcissism secures gratification through the availability, predictability and permanence of the love object, which is oneself.

But regressing to secondary narcissism, when you grow up, when you become an adult, if you still engage in these childish behaviors of loving yourself sexually and erotically and, you know, being invested in yourself emotionally, if this happens to you, when you're an adult, then it's maladaptive, then it's pathological.

In other words, it may come as a shock to you, but you're a narcissist.

It is an indication of a failure to direct the limiter at the right targets. And the right targets are other people, objects, starting with the parents.


Okay. That is Freud's version.

Freud neglected to mention that to explore the world, to say goodbye to mommy, the separation phase, and then to explore the world takes a lot of courage. And this courage comes from grandiosity.

The child is grandiose. He feels godlike. He feels like he can take on the world.

And so, grandiosity is also an element of narcissism, but it's crucial for healthy development.

If this pattern of regression, set through it persists, if this pattern of regression prevails, the child is frustrated, trying to move forward and then goes back, and this regression remains fixated, remains fixed. This regression leads to a narcissistic neurosis.

The narcissist stimulates his self habitually in order to derive pleasure.

Don't ask me how. Don't ask me how. You're old enough to know.

The narcissist prefers this mode of deriving gratification to all other modes.

The narcissist becomes kind of indolent or lazy because he takes the easy path, the easy route of resorting to his self, not only his body, but also his mind and reinvesting his libidinal resources, his sex drive, his life force. He reinvest them in house rather than making an effort and risking failure to seek libidinal objects other than his self.

The narcissist prefers fantasy land to reality, grandiose self-conception to a realistic appraisal, masturbation and fantasies to mature reciprocal adult sex, and he prefers daydreaming to real life achievements.

Enter Jung. Jung was Freud's adopted son, so to speak. There was a father-son relationship between them, and like every good son, there was Patricide. Jung assassinated, quote unquote, Freud's work. He rebelled against this father figure. Jung was not the healthiest person on the planet at the time or ever. He suffered from psychosis. He had a psychotic disorder which had lasted five years. He slept with his patients, and then he discussed in earnest and seriously phenomena like UFOs and the occult and so on. So Jung would today qualify as a conspiracy theorist and not a very healthy person, and he would probably be on medication rather than a therapist.

But his early work is very interesting, intellectually challenging, and he has made some serious contributions to the emergence of model of personality, parts of which we still use today, like, for example, the shadow or complexes. Jung suggested a mental picture of the psyche. It's a giant warehouse of archetypes. The archetypes are the conscious representations of adaptive behaviors, actually.

Fantasies, said Jung, are just a way of accessing these archetypes and releasing these archetypes. Almost by definition, Jungian psychology does not allow for regression. Any regression in Freud's words, Freud called it regression, Jung said that any so-called regression, any reversion to earlier phases of mental life, to earlier coping strategies, or to earlier choices. He said these are simply the psyche's way of using yet another, either to untapped, adaptation strategy.

He said early life, early childhood, is like a giant warehouse, and it contains numerous coping strategies. Some of them had been used, some of them fell out of use, and some of them had never been used.

So when we regress, we enter the warehouse and we pick up a strategy we'd never used before, and we try it on, or we picked up a strategy we had used before and used to work, was successful, and we try that on. So there's nothing wrong with it. Regressions are compensatory processes intended to enhance adaptation, enhance adaptation, not reduce it. They are not methods of obtaining or securing a steady flow of gratification, the pleasure principle.

Jung said it's wrong, it's not true. It's just a way of coping with reality and surviving.

It would seem, though, that there is only a semantic difference between Freud, as usual, by the way, between Freud and his disciple turned heretic. When limited investment in objects, for example, the primary object, mother, when limited investment in objects fails to produce gratification, the result is maladaptation. This is dangerous, and the default option, secondary narcissism, is activated. And this default option enhances adaptation.

In other words, think about it this way. Narcissism must have worked. Had narcissism not worked, the child would not have adopted narcissism.

The fact that the child became a narcissist means narcissism worked for the child, was successful, was self efficacious, enhanced the child's agency.

So it seems that the child was frustrated by an object.

By the way, the child could have been frustrated by the self object, which is an interesting topic in itself.

Because when the child is frustrated by the self object, the child comes up with solutions which are essentially co dependent and borderline solutions.

And that's why Rothstein said that borderline is failed narcissism.

But we are talking about narcissism today. So when the child is frustrated by, for example, mother, the child regresses back to the self and develops secondary narcissism.

As an adult, this becomes a fixture. And his narcissism is his personality, is his character, he incorporates his temperament in his narcissism.

But this must have been an adaptation. It must have worked well, it must have been efficient for it to have survived, survival of the fittest strategies.

The default, this default, the narcissistic default enhances adaptation is adaptive and is functional. It triggers adaptive behaviors.

As a result, narcissism secures gratification.

But the main function of narcissism is not to secure gratification, is to enhance adaptation, simply put, to survive.

We are gratified when we exert reasonable control over the environment. We are gratified when our behaviors are self efficacious, when we succeed to extract favorable outcomes from other people, from nature. It's gratifying.

So it goes hand in hand.

Secondary narcissism is adaptive. And because it's adaptive, Freud was right. It's gratifying. Jung was right.


And so the compensatory processes, two results, enhanced adaptation, and inevitable gratification.

Perhaps the most serious disagreement between Freud and Jung is with regards to introversion.

Now I have a whole video dedicated to the role of narcissism in introversion and Jung's view, Jung's theory of narcissism. I strongly urge you to watch this video because I want the number of views to go up. I doubt very much that you will understand one word, but at least you will add to the views.

Do your best. Do contribute what you can.

Okay. I've humiliated you enough. Let us proceed.

Freud regards introversion as an instrument in the service of a pathology. Introversion is indispensable to narcissism as opposed to extroversion, which is a necessary condition for libidinal object orientation.

So in order to be a narcissist, you need to be introverted by definition.

People ask me, am I a narcissist because I'm, I'm gregarious, I'm going out and this and that. All narcissists are introverted. All narcissists have a schizoid core.

In this, I fully agree with the British object relations core.

Narcissism is constructed around a schizoid core. And this schizoid core pushes the narcissist to introvert.

But Freud said introversion is pathological as opposed to Freud.

Jung regarded introversion as a useful tool in the service of the psychic quest for adaptation strategies.

One of these strategies is narcissism, but introversion can lead in many other, to many other results, to many other adaptive strategies, outcomes.

Narcissism is one of them and perhaps, perhaps the most common, but introversion is a healthy process of making, creating an inventory of adaptation strategies and then choosing one.

The Jungian adaptation repertoire does not discriminate against narcissism. To Jung, narcissism is as legitimate as any choice.

But even Jung acknowledged that the very need to look for new adaptation strategies means that adaptation had failed. Otherwise, why would we look for a new strategy?

Because our old strategy had failed.

In other words, the search itself, the fact that there is a search is indicative of a pathological state of affairs.

It does seem that introversion per se is not pathological because no psychological mechanism is pathological per se. Only the use made of introversion can be pathological.

One tends to agree with Freud though that when introversion becomes a permanent feature of the psychic landscape of a person, it facilitates pathological narcissism.

This is the schizoid core of narcissism.

Jung distinguished introverts who habitually concentrate on their selves rather than on outside objects. We would call them today schizoids.

He distinguished introverts from extroverts, the converse preference. The extroverts concentrate on other people rather than on themselves.

Actually, they are divorced from themselves. They have very minimal self-awareness and they don't think a lot about what's happening to them and they refuse to contemplate their state in life and they are not contemplative. They are party animals.

According to Jung, not only is introversion a totally normal and natural function, it remains normal and natural even if it predominates one's mental life.

But surely the habitual and predominant focusing of attention upon one's self to the exclusion of others is the very definition of pathological narcissism.

What differentiates the pathological from the normal and even welcome is of course only a matter of degree.

Pathological narcissism is exclusive. It's all pervasive. Other forms of narcissism are not.

So although there is no healthy state of habitual predominant introversion, it remains a question of form and degree of introversion.

Often a healthy adaptive mechanism goes awry when it does as Jung himself recognized, neurosis form.

Introversion after crisis or trauma for example is very healthy. Last but not least, Freud regards narcissism as a point in life while Jung regards narcissism as a continuum, continuum from health to sickness.

Jung was the one who introduced the idea of a spectrum of narcissism. And Freud regarded narcissism as a yes or no binary situation. Either you are or you're not.

Modern views of narcissism tend to adopt Jung's view in this respect.

Let's fast forward a few decades to a guy named Franz Kohut.

Kohut is the towering giant of the studies of narcissism. Exactly like Kernberg is the towering giant of borderline.

Kohut coined the phrase narcissistic personality disorder later adopted in the diagnostic and statistical manual. And he gave a series of lectures, talks and he described narcissism.

I think the best writings about narcissism are Kohut's with the exception of course of malignant self-love revisited, which far exceeds anything Kohut could have aspired to or dreamt.

Okay grandiosity aside, in a way Kohut took Jung one step further.

Kohut said that pathological narcissism is not the result of excessive narcissism, excessive libido, excessive aggression, excessive anything.

Kohut said that pathological narcissism is the result of defective, deformed or incomplete structures in the self which are imbued with narcissism.

He said the self is an aggregate or constellation of structures. Jung almost got there.

Jung spoke about the constellated self.

Kohut and the object relations group in Britain and so on, they already fragmented the self, they fragmented the ego into multiple components, interacting components.

And so Kohut said that some of the structures of the self are imbued, painted with immersed in narcissism.

And if these structures are defective or deformed or incomplete or not integrated, that's pathological narcissism.

Kohut postulated the existence of core constructs which he named the grandiose exhibitionistic self, that would be me, and the idealized parental or parent imago.

I'll explain in a minute.

Children entertain notions of greatness. I discussed it before when I mentioned that children have to be grandiose to separate from the safety and embrace of a good enough mother.

In order to explore the world, the child needs to be grandiose. So children have these notions of greatness, primitive or naive grandiosity, and it is made built with magical thinking, feelings of omnipotence and omniscience, and a belief in their own immunity to the consequences of their actions.

Now I have a whole video dedicated to magical thinking. Go and watch it.

Increase the views. Do something.

Okay. These elements and the child's feelings regarding the child's parents coagulate, congeal.

So all these elements, magical thinking, omnipotence, omniscience, grandiosity, all these, together with how the child feels about his parents, they coagulate, the congeal, and together they form the aforementioned constructs.

The child doesn't consider on himself as omniscient and omnipotent and godlike. He considers his parents as well as omniscient, omnipotent and godlike.

And one of the reasons is that his parents are introjected. They're internalized.

So because they are to the child, they are largely internal objects.

Remember, it's a child. The child doesn't quite know the difference between internal object and external object. That comes much later in life.

So because these are to the child mostly internal objects and the child aggrandizes himself, the child considers himself grandiosely, thinks about himself as godlike, omnipotent, omniscient.

This bleeds onto, this paints over the internal objects of the child, which are the parents among others.

So the child's grandiosity, omnipotence and omniscience, colors, the parental imagos, the internal objects that represent the parents with the same brush.

So now these internal objects are also grandiose and omnipotent and godlike. The child's feelings towards his parents are the child's reactions to the parent's responses.

A parent can respond with affirmation, buffering, modulation. These are the good responses.

But a parent can be withholding and frustrating, even cruel and aggressive and sadistic. Ask me.

A parent can provide only criticism, sadism, disapproval, punishment, abuse, up to life-threatening abuse. And these responses, positive or negative, they help to maintain the self-structures I've just mentioned.

Without appropriate parental responses, infantile grandiosity, for instance, cannot be transformed into healthy adult ambitions and ideals.

As far as code is concerned, grandiosity and idealization are positive childhood development mechanisms. Even the reappearance of grandiosity and idealization in transference in therapy, regression, he said, because in therapy, the patient recreates, the family situation revisits early childhood conflicts, becomes a child, in effect, and regards the therapist as a parent.

So these responses of grandiosity and idealization, grandiosity of the self-idealization of the parent, these are considered to be healthy within certain settings.

The problem with the narcissist is that the narcissist has transference in adult intimate relationships, in adult relationships. The narcissist parentifies everyone around him. He wants his wife or spouse or lover or intimate partner to be his mother. He wants his business associate to be his father or older brother. So he parentifies everyone around him because he parentifies everyone. He idealizes them and it enhances his own grandiosity because he internalizes them. He idealizes the internal objects and these internal objects are part of himself. So he's actually idealizing himself, co-idealization.

This is the problem with narcissists, is that their idealization, their grandiosity, these responses are not limited to, for example, therapy. Their entire life is one huge therapy session where everyone is a father figure or a mother figure.

That's a sickness. Cogut wrote, I'm quoting from Heinz Cote, the Chicago Institute Lectures, 1972, 1976. It was edited by Marion Poultonpin, it was published by analytic press, 1998.

Heinz Franz Cote wrote, you see, the actual issue is really a simple one, a simple change in classical Freudian theory, which states that autoeroticism develops into narcissism and thus narcissism develops into object love.

To my mind, says Heinz Franz Cote, to my mind, this viewpoint is a theory built into a non-scientific value judgment that has nothing to do with developmental psychology.

So he fiercely criticizes Freud.

Cote's contention is nothing less than revolutionary. He says that narcissism, subject love, and object love coexist and interact throughout life, they never stop.

True, they were different guises with age, with maturation, but they always cohabitate. A subject love never goes away. Narcissism never goes away. It continues to interact with object love.

And when we have a pathology like schizoid core and so on, narcissism would redirect this love, this libidinal energy, inwards towards the self and withdraw from object relations.

In a way, this sits well with my model, when narcissism actually is a desperate attempt to maintain object relations in the face of the inexorable pull of the schizoid core.

Schizoid core wants the narcissist to vanish, to disconnect from people, to become 100% self-sufficient, unabomber, lone wolf. And the narcissist is fighting this and the only tool, the only instrument and weapon he has is his narcissism. That's the only defense he has. His narcissism is actually an attempt to counter and neutralize his schizoid core.

Cote writes, it is not that the self experiences are given up and replaced by a more mature or developmentally more advanced experience of objects.

And so this dichotomy inevitably leads to a dichotomy of disorders.

Cote agreed with Freud that neurosis are conglomerates of defense mechanisms, formations, symptoms, and unconscious conflicts. Cote even did not object to identifying unresolved erdipal conflicts, ungratified unconscious wishes, and their objects.

It's the root of neurosis.

He said, okay, Freud, let me give you the pound of flesh. You want neurosis to be based on conflict, mainly sexual conflict. No problem.

But Cote identified a whole new class of disorders, the self disorders.

Einstein said that these are the result of the perturbed development of narcissism. It was not a cosmetic or a superficial distinction.

Self disorders are the outcomes of childhood traumas, very much different to Freud's erdipal castration and other conflicts and fears. These are the traumas of the child either not being seen, in other words, not being affirmed by object, especially the primary objects, the parents, or they are the results of being regarded merely as an object for gratification or abuse. It was Cote who introduced the concept of being seen. I have a lecture that I gave in London, and I made it available courtesy Richard Grannon. I made it available here on my channel. And it's about being seen, the need to be seen.

And it comes from Cote.

And Cote said, if you're not seen by your parents, if they don't affirm you, if they don't hold you and love you and embrace you and so on, if they don't provide actually the pushback and the feedback, because your parents are the only reality you can grow and evolve, especially your ego, only by interacting with reality. And reality is mediated via objects, in other words, via people, like your parents.

Later the circle grows and there are peers and teachers and lovers, but at the beginning it's only the parents.

So if the parents give the wrong feedback, or if they regard the child as an object of gratification, or if they abuse the child, in other words, if they are bad parents, dead mothers, it's destructive, it creates self disorders.

So Cote said neurosis is one class of disorders, but we have an entirely different class of disorders. And that's the self disorders, which today we call personality disorders.

He's the father of personality disorders in many ways.

And so these kind of children who are not seen, who are objectified, parentified, whose boundaries are bridged in a variety of ways, these children grow up.

And even these children become adults or ancient, and they're not sure that they exist. They have a lack of sense of self-continuity. They have a lack of core. They have what we call, today we call it identity disturbance. They're not sure that they exist, and they're not sure that they are worth anything, even worth existing. They have a labile sense of self-worth, fluctuating, bipolar, self-esteem, and their emotions are dysregulated.

Now, the dysregulation can come to the surface and overwhelm them, that's borderline, or the dysregulation can remain repressed, remain repressed, and create anger and depression, so schizoid, or it can remain repressed. And this pent-up energy becomes aggressive. That's the narcissist and the psychopath, but it's there.

These children suffer from depressions, as neurotics do, but the source of these depressions is existential, a knowing sensation of emptiness, the empty core.

It's not a guilty conscience, the guilty conscience of the neurotic, it's the empty conscience, or the empty, the emptiness of the borderline and the narcissist.

And Kohut wrote, such depressions are interrupted by rages, because things are not going their way, because responses are not forthcoming in the way they expected and needed. Some of them may even search for conflict to relieve the pain and intense suffering of the poorly established self.

The pain of the discontinuous, fragmenting, under-cath who wants to go its own way.

These are individuals whose disorders can be understood and treated only by taking into consideration the formative experiences in childhood of the total body-mind self and its self-object environment.

For instance, the experiences of joy, of the total self-feeling confirmed, which leads to pride, which leads to self-esteem, zest, initiative, or the experiences of shame, loss of vitality, deadness and depression of the self who does not have the feeling of being included, welcomed and enjoyed.

That's again a Heinz Kohut in the preface to the Chicago Institute Lectures 1972-1976 edited by Paul and Marion Torpy.

One note before we continue.

Constructs. I keep saying constructs, structures, and I see some of you, you know, kind of baffled, as usual, and I have received a few questions.

What the heck is constructs? Constructs or structures are permanent psychological patterns, but this is not to say that they do not change. They are capable of slow change.

Kohut and his self-psychology disciples believe that the only viable constructs are comprised of self-object experiences and that these structures are lifelong ones.

Which leads me to Melanie Klein.

Melanie Klein believed more in archaic drives, splitting defenses, and archaic internal objects and part objects.

Winnicott, Balingt, other British object relations school adherents, other ego-psychologies. All these people thought that only infantile drive wishes and hallucinated oneness with archaic objects qualify as structures.

So there's even a debate.

What is a structure? What is a construct? Or even if you go deeper, what constitutes an internal object and what is a part object?

And even within the object relations school, there are the Kleinians, which include Kernberg and others, and there the Fairbairn-Winnicott-Guntrip school, which wholeheartedly disagreed with Melanie Klein on numerous issues.

When is a mother good enough, mother?

According to Winnicott, when she gradually and increasingly frustrates her child, you heard me well, frustrates her child, these cumulative denials of the child's wishes, these negations of his delusional and fantastic magical thinking, they are crucial to the child's emerging perception of an external world and an unimpaired reality testing.

The good mother encourages the child's separation from her and the child's individuation via the formation of inviolable and respected personal boundaries. She does not sacrifice her autonomy and identity. She does not fuse with the child, merge with the child, does not treat the child as her extension, let alone as her parent.

The good mother acknowledges her own moments of exasperation and depression. She does neither idealize nor devalue herself or the child. She harbors realistic expectations of the budding relationship and reacts proportionately. She has no mood swings. She is not lebau. She is stable, firm, but not harsh, just and predictable, but never dull. She encourages her offspring's curiosity, even as she indulges her own.

This is Winnicott, Donald Winnicott, who was a pediatrician, by the way.


Now we move on to Karen Horney.

I have heard professors of psychology, no less, pronouncing her name as Karen Horney. That must have been a projection of some sort, and I don't want to go into any sordid details, but her name is Karen Horney. It's a German pronunciation.

Horney is one of the precursors of the Object Relations School of Psychodynamics.

She observed that one's personality was shaped mostly by one's environment, society, or culture.

So she is among the first relationists or relational psychologists.

She moved away from the atom of individual, non-dividable. She moved away from the separateness of the individual, the atomization of the individual, and she regarded the individual as a node in a network, embedded.

She believed that once relationships and interactions with others in one's childhood, determine both the shape and the functioning of one's personality.

Horney expanded the psychoanalytic preparatory. She added needs to drives, where Freud believed in the exclusivity of the sex drive, sexmania. He believed that the sex drive is the only agent of transformation, and much, much later he added other drives.

Horney believed that people, children, needed to feel secure, to be loved, protected, emotionally nourished, and so on.

So she is the mother of everything we are teaching today.

When today we say, well, a good mother should love her child, should be a safe base, make the child feel secure, that's Horney.

She believed that the satisfaction of these needs, to be loved, to feel safe, etc., the frustration of these needs, satisfaction or frustration in early childhood, are as important and determinant as any drive.

Society came in, she said, through the parental door.

Today we say that parents are agents of socialization. Biology converged with social injunctions to yield human values such as the nurturance of children.

Horney's great contribution was the concept of anxiety. Yes, believe it or not. Anxiety. You would trust a German to come up with this idea.

Freudian anxiety is a rather primitive mechanism, a reaction to imaginary threats arising from early childhood sexual conflicts.

Horney argued convincingly that anxiety is a primary reaction to the child's dependence on adults for its survival. If you were dependent on anyone for your survival, wouldn't you be anxious?

asked Horney.

And right she was. Horney or not? She was right about this one.

When you're dependent, you're anxious. Dependency, codependency, dependent personality disorder could be easily conceived or reconceived together with borderline personality disorder as anxiety reactions.

Anxiety is a very common after effect, after shock of trauma.

So if we reconceive a personality disorder as post-traumatic conditions, anxiety fits in perfectly.

Children, she said, are uncertain all the time, insecure all the time. They are uncertain of receiving love, protection, nourishment, nurturance, a roof, food, anything, water, something. Children totally depend. Like, it really sucks to be a child. I'm so glad I mentioned.

So children become anxious. They develop psychological defenses to compensate for the intolerable and gradual realization that adults are merely human and are at times cruel, capricious, arbitrary, unpredictable, unreliable.

Wow. Imagine when the child discovers that these godlike giants are actually as childish as his and that his life depends on them. It's really, really a worrying discovery.

It's a reason for concern, you know?

And so he creates psychological defense mechanisms to compensate for this harrowing, traumatic realization.

These defenses provide both gratification and a sense of security. It's fake security, but so what? It's still security and better than nothing. It doesn't solve the problem of dangerous dependence. It still exists, but it is kind of one stage removed, firewall.

Defenses are firewall against insecurity. When the defenses are attacked or perceived to be attacked, for example in therapy, anxiety is reawakened. Karen Walland, W-A-L-L-A-N-T, wrote in the book Creating Capacity for Attachment, Treating Addictions, and the Alienated Self, Jason Aronson, 1999, she wrote, the capacity to be alone develops out of the baby's ability to hold onto the internalization of his mother, even during her absences.

It is not just an image of mother that the child retains, but also her loving devotion to him.

And so when he is alone, the child can feel confident and secure.

As he continues to infuse himself with her love, we call it object permanence or object constancy.

Pierre-Jean Pierre-Jean was the first to observe it. I'm continuing with Walland. The addict has had so few loving attachments in his life that when he is alone, he is returned to his detached, alienated self.

This feeling state can be compared to a young child's fear of monsters without a powerful other to help him.

The monsters continue to leave somewhere within the child or in his environment.

It is not uncommon for patients to be found on either side of an attachment pendulum. It is invariably easier to handle patients for whom the transference erupts in the idealizing attachment phase.

It's much more difficult to treat patients who view the therapist as a powerful and distrusted intruder.

And so the child learns to compromise. He learns to sacrifice a part of his autonomy, a part of his identity, just in order to feel secure.

Horne identified three neurotic strategies, submission, aggression, detachment. The choice of strategy determines the type of neurotic personality.

The submissive or compliant type is fake. He hides his aggression beneath a facade of friendliness.

Today we would call it covert narcissist. The aggressive type is also fake. At heart is actually submissive. The aggression is compensatory. The detached neurotic outlook withdraws from people. It's what we call today's coldness.

This cannot be considered an adaptive strategy, mind you.

But having said all this, of all the psychologists I mentioned, Horne, Karen Horne, maybe because she's horny in the United States, Karen Horne has an optimistic outlook.

Because biology is only one of the forces shaping adulthood. Culture and society predominate this shaping. We become adults mainly by being influenced and interacting with culture and society. Biology plays a minor part.

She believes in reversibility and in the power of insight to heal. This culture and society can be engineered, can be modified, can endure change.

And so there's hope, plasticity, cultural and societal plasticity, which are reflected, now we know, in brain plasticity.

She was a great believer in the possibility of healing and therapy. She's among the few who also wrote books about healing, narcissists, and even self-analysis for narcissists.

Horne believes that when an adult understands his problem, his anxiety, he also acquires the ability to eliminate it altogether, insight.

But put Horne's optimism aside for a minute. Clinical experience shows that childhood trauma and abuse are difficult to completely erase.

Modern brain research tends to support this said view, neuroplasticity notwithstanding. It does offer hope.

The brain seems to be more plastic than previously imagined, but no one knows when this window of plasticity shuts down.

What has been established is that the brain is physically impressed with abuse and trauma, rewires itself, creates new pathways.

It is conceivable that the brain's plasticity continues well into adulthood and that later reprogramming or deprogramming by someone who is loving, caring, compassionate, and empathic, or by such experiences, maybe this reprogramming can remold the brain permanently in adulthood.

Clearly, adult patients have to accept their disorders as a given, and they have to work around these disorders rather than confront them directly.

After all, our disorders are adaptive. They helped us to survive until now. They helped us to function.

The removal of disorders, including personality disorders, may not always be wise, may not always be necessary in order to attain full and satisfactory life.

We should not all conform to the same mold. We should not all experience life the same.

Idiases, are a good thing, both on the individual level and on the level of the species.

If you don't harm anyone, if you function in a variety of settings, and if you're happy, there's no need to treat you for anything. There's no yardstick of what is normal. It's arbitrary. It's culture-bound, culture-dependent. It depends on society, on a specific period in history, on fashion, on recent discoveries.

So it's nonsense to apply a rigid benchmark or yardstick.

These are the three critical questions.

Are you happy? Are you functional? Do you harm other people?

If the answer is yes to any of these three, let alone a combination, you should seek treatment and help.


I want to talk a bit about separation and individuation. I kept mentioning them.

There are several variants of separation and individuation. There's Mahler, there's Klein, there's a big mess, as usual.

It is by no means universally accepted that children go through a phase of separation from their parents and through consequent individuation.

As I said in my previous video, it's by no means universally accepted that when the child is born, it has no ego and it is fused with the mother. That's more or less the Kleinian view. That's been rejected by the British Object Relations School, which says that the child is born with an ego, and this ego is distinct immediately from other people. It's primitive, it's nuclear, it evolves, but it's them from birth, congenital.

So there's very fundamental debates. Most psychodynamic theories, especially Klein, Mahler, are virtually constructed upon this foundation.

The child is considered to be merged with his parents until it differentiates itself through object relations. So separation and individuation is built into the work of Mahler and Klein and others.

But again, it's not universally accepted.

Scholars like Daniel Stern, they disputed this hypothesis.

Based on many studies, it appears that, as always, what seems intuitively right is not necessarily right.

In his book, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, a view from psychoanalysis and developmental psychology, published in 1985 in New York, Basilek Books, Stern seems to inadvertently support code by concluding that children possess selves when they're born and are separate from their caregivers from the very first moment.

In effect, he says, the picture of the child, as preferred by psychodynamic theories, is biased. It's the way adults see children and childhood in retrospect. It's not the way children see themselves.

Adult disorders, say Stern, for instance, the pathological need to merge, are attributed to children and childhood in kind of anachronistic way.

So after the separation, we are much more likely to want to merge or to fuse with mother than before the separation, according to Stern, Gantri, and Seinfeld and others.

This view that the child is born with an ego, with a self, is not merged with a mother, is not fused with her and doesn't need to separate from her, and that he wants to merge with her only much later in life, and then, as an adult, he says, well, it must have been how it felt in childhood. I must be regressing to childhood.

Stern said this is all bollocks. It's nonsense.

Stern's view is in stark contrast to the belief that children accept any kind of parents, even abusive parents, because they depend on them for their survival and self-definition.

Attachment to and dependence on significant others is the result of the non-separateness of the child, the psychodynamic object relation theory says.

The self is a construct, and some, like Korn, I say, is a construct in a social context. It's an assimilation of the oft-imitated and idealized parents, plus the internalization of the way others perceive the child in social interactions.

The self is therefore an internalized reflection, an imitation, a series of internalized idealizations.

This sounds close to pathological narcissism, actually.

Perhaps it is really a matter of quantity rather than quality.

The separation-individuation question is a critical one, because if we are born with ourself and with an ego, Jung was right. You can quote, we're right.

Introversion and narcissism are an integral part of our inner construct structures, internal objects, etc., introjections.

If Freud was right, if Klein was right, then we are born without a mother, we are born without a self. We are merged with the parents, and we need to separate from them.

So narcissism is at the very early stage, and then there's grandiosity in the separation stage, and after that should go away. So is narcissism a lifelong element, artifact of selfhood? Or is it a pathology that is like a fossil, a childhood fossil, something that remained from childhood with you, with defective pathologized people?

And this depends, crucially, on the issue of childhood trauma and how the personality, narcissistic personality develops.

Traumas are inevitable. They're an integral and a very important part of life. Even one would say, one could argue, a beneficial part.

For example, drinking seriously disgusting tea from this mug is trauma, but it helps me grow, I think.

In early childhood, especially in infancy, ages zero to four years, traumas acquire this ominous aura and evil interpretation. No matter how innocuous the event is, no matter how innocent the surrounding circumstances, the child's vivid imagination is likely to embed what had happened in the framework of a highly idiosyncratic horror story.

Parents sometimes have to be absent because there's a medical emergency or economic conditions, or parents may be too preoccupied to stay attuned at all times to the child's emotional needs.

The family unit itself may be disintegrating with looming divorce or separation. The values of the parent may stand in radical contrast to those of society as they evolve.

To adults, such traumas are not abusive. They don't regard them as abuse. They understand, force majeure.

Verbal and psychological emotional abuse, neglect, we judge these things to be more serious offenses.

But this distinction between things that happen because they must happen, things cannot be helped. Force majeure, emergencies, exigencies, and intentional, malevolent sometimes, psychological, verbal, emotional, sexual, physical abuse, neglect.

The intention part is missing in the child's mind. The child regards everything as intentional.

Mother is not here because she had intended to not be here, and she had intended to not be here because she intended, had intended to frustrate me.

Oh, I can't say this. Mother is all good, so I must be bad. She is not here because I'm bad. I don't deserve. I'm unworthy. I should be punished. I did something wrong, etc.

This is the process.


The distinction between inevitabilities, ineluctable outcomes of life itself, and malintentioned abuse is lost on the child.

To the child, all traumas, deliberately infected or inevitable and inadvertent life crises, all traumas are of equal abusive standing.

Though the severity of the traumas may differ together with the permanence of their emotional outcomes, they are all on the same level. They're all inflicted intentionally, according to the child.

Sometimes, if the child doesn't have a perception of nuance, it's a child engages primitive defense mechanisms like splitting. Everything is bad or good, black and white thinking.

So the child can say, wait a minute, sometimes even abuse and neglect are the result of circumstances beyond the abusive or neglecting parents' control.

If the parent is mentally ill, chronically ill, if the parent is undergoing a life crisis, I mean, sometimes parents abuse and neglect by they can't help it. They really can't help it.


Consider a physically or mentally handicapped parent or caregiver. What can they do?

The child cannot see this. The child has no concept of mitigating circumstances because the child cannot appreciate these circumstances or even plainly understand causal linkages. Where even a child can tell the differences with physical and sexual abuse, these are marked by a cooperative effort to be abused physically or sexually. You need to be there. You need to be present.

The offending parent and the abused child form a diet, a diet of abuse. And then later on, they both usually conceal what had happened. Their strong emotions of shame, guilt, fear of losing the parent. And these emotions repress the memory and the recounting of the abuse to the point of producing anxiety and what Freud called neurosis.

The child perceives even the injustice of the situation, but it rarely dares to express his views. He's afraid to be abandoned. He's afraid to be severely punished, punished by the abusers.

And this type of trauma, which involves the child actively or passively, is qualitatively different. It's bound to a long term effects such as dissociation or severe personality disorders. These are violent, premeditated traumas, not traumas by default.

And the reaction is bound to be violent and active commensurately. The child becomes a reflection of the dysfunctional family. The child represses emotions, denies reality, resorts to violence and escapism, disintegrates.

One of the coping strategies is to withdraw inwards, to seek gratification from a secure, reliable and permanently available source from one's self. The self is always there. Internal objects never betray you, never abandon you.

The child, fearful of further rejection, fearful of further abuse, refrains from further interaction with other people. Instead, the child builds its own kingdom of grandiose fantasies where the child is always loved, respected, feared and self-sufficient, all-knowing and all-powerful.

And this is the narcissistic strategy which leads to the development of a narcissistic personality.

I want to read to you an excerpt from an excellent article published in October 1993. It was authored by Lillian Katz, KATZ.

Distinctions between self-esteem and narcissism implications for practice was published by Erich Publications. It's a great article, one of the best encapsulations of narcissism ever written.

And I want to read to you the segment about the narcissist family.

Katz writes, for very young children, self-esteem is probably best thought to consist of deep feelings of being loved, accepted and valued by significant others, rather than feelings derived from evaluating oneself against some external criteria, as in the case of older children.

Indeed, the only criterion appropriate for accepting and loving a newborn or an infant is that he or she has been born. The unconditional love and acceptance experienced in the first year or two of life lay the foundation for later self-esteem and probably make it possible for the preschooler and older child to withstand occasional criticism and negative evaluations that usually accompany socialization into the larger community.

As children grow beyond the preschool years, the larger society imposes criteria and conditions upon love and acceptance. If the very early feelings of love and acceptance are deep enough, the child can most likely weather the rebuffs and scaldings of the later years without undue debilitation.

With increasing age however, children begin to internalize criteria of self-worth and a sense of the standards to be attained on the criteria from the larger community they observe and in which they are beginning to participate.

The issue of criteria of self-esteem is examined more closely later.

Cassidy's 1988 study of the relationship between self-esteem at age five and six years and the quality of early mother-child attachment supports Boulby's theory that construction of the self is derived from early daily experience with attachment figures.

The results of the study support Boulby's conception of the process through which continuity and development occurs and of the way early child-mother attachment continues to influence the child's conception and estimation of the self across many years.

The working models of the self derived from early mother-child interaction, these models organize and help mold the child's environment by seeking particular kinds of people and by eliciting particular behavior from them.

Cassidy points out that very young children have few means of learning about themselves other than through experience with attachment figures. She suggests that if infants are valued and given comfort when required, they come to feel valuable. Conversely, if they are neglected or rejected, they come to feel worthless and of little value.

In an examination of developmental considerations, Bednar, Wellman Peterson, 1999, suggests that feelings of competence and the self-esteem associated with them are enhanced in children when their parents provide an optimal mixture of acceptance, affection, rational limits and controls, and high expectations.

In a similar way, teachers are likely to engender positive feelings when they provide such a combination of acceptance, limits and meaningful and realistic expectations concerning behavior and effort.

Reference is made to Lumber, 1991. Similarly, teachers can provide context for such an optimum mixture of acceptance, limits and meaningful effort in the course of project work as described by Katz and Chard, 1989.

I would like to refer you to a few books that will be your reading assignment.

Howard Goldman, Review of General Psychiatry, Prentiss Hall, you can, if you can't find the latest edition, then the fourth edition is a minimum, 1995.

Michael Gelder and others, editors, Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, again, if you can't find the latestfind the third edition, 2000.

Melanie Klein, The Writings of Melanie Klein, it's in four volumes, edited by Roger Manicarrel, K-Y-R-L-E, New York, 1964, 1975. Otto Kernberg, Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism, New York, Jason Aronson, 1975.

Theodor Millon, Disorders of Personality, the third edition, I think it was 2000. Theodor Millen, no, I'm sorry, Theodor Millen, Disorders of Personality, that would be the second edition, it was published by John Wiley, 1995.

Theodor Millen, Personality Disorders in Modern Life, try to find the third edition, which I think was 2004.

Lester Schwartz, Narcissistic Personality Disorders, Clinical Discussion, Journal of Americans, Psychoanalytic Medicine, Clinical Discussion, Journal of Americans, Psychoanalytic Association, Volume 22, 1974.

And Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, 10th, Revised Impression, 2015.

So, I gave you an overview of the debates regarding everything from constructs to narcissism.

And you can see that it's far from settled. The field is far from settled.

We've just started scratching the surface. You should be very wary of people online who claim to be experts, coaches, and I don't know what, and gurus of narcissism, and they know everything about narcissism, and they know everything about narcissism, and they know everything about narcissistic abuse, because they don't. No one does.

Not even Rein's Code, not even Otto Kernberg, and not even the legendary Sam Vaknin.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Faces of Narcissist's Aggression

Sam Vaknin discusses the narcissist's belief in their own uniqueness and mission, their sense of entitlement, and their aggressive tendencies. He explains how narcissists express their hostility through various forms of aggression, including brutal honesty and thinly disguised attacks. Vaknin also warns about the dangers of narcissists and their potential for physical and non-physical violence.


How Narcissist Experiences His Collapse (Grandiosity Bubbles and Delusional Solutions)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the collapse of narcissists when they are unable to obtain supply. He explains the internal dynamics and various solutions narcissists adopt in response to this deficiency, such as delusional narratives, antisocial behavior, paranoid schizoid tendencies, and masochistic avoidance. The narcissist's withdrawal symptoms are compared to those of a drug addict, and the role of magical thinking in their behavior is explored.


How I Experience My Narcissism: Aware, Not Healed

Sam Vaknin discusses his experience with narcissism, how it has affected his life, and how it has become a part of his identity. He explains that narcissism is a personality disorder that defines the narcissist's waking moments and nocturnal dreams. Despite his self-awareness, Vaknin admits that he is powerless to change his narcissism. The narcissist experiences their life as a long, unpredictable, terrifying, and saddening nightmare.


Manipulate the Narcissist and Live to Tell About It? (Lecture in Budapest)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the manipulation of narcissists, the prevalence of narcissistic traits in society, and the impact of aggression on children. He emphasizes that the only effective way to deal with a narcissist is to go no contact, as staying in contact can lead to adopting narcissistic behaviors oneself. He notes that narcissism is on a spectrum, with healthy narcissism at one end and narcissistic personality disorder at the other. Vaknin also observes that narcissism and psychopathy are becoming more socially accepted and even encouraged in certain contexts. He mentions that narcissists can recognize each other but not psychopaths, and that psychopaths prey on narcissists. Lastly, he discusses the impact of aggression on children, stating that witnessing or experiencing physical or sexual aggression can lead to destructive or self-destructive behavior, while verbal aggression tends to perpetuate verbal abuse within the family structure.


8 Things You are Getting WRONG about Your Narcissist (EXCERPT)

Professor Sam Vaknin debunks eight myths about narcissism, including that narcissists do have emotions, empathy, and dread abandonment. He also explains that grandiosity is about being unique, not necessarily the best, and that some narcissists are pro-social. Vaknin also discusses the problem of misattribution error and how people often misattribute motivations to others. He provides examples of why people may stay in toxic relationships, persevere with old decisions, or opt for lifelong celibacy. Finally, he advises people to try to understand why they are being lied to and create a safe environment for people with cluster B personality disorders to tell the truth.


Dissolve YOUR Snapshot, Amplify Anxiety of Narcissist: Love Slaves No More!

Professor Sam Vaknin teaches two techniques to deal with a narcissist: dissolving the snapshot and amplifying the narcissist's abandonment anxiety. The first technique involves negating positive sentences and amplifying negative ones to create discrepancies between the idealized snapshot of the narcissist and the real person. The second technique involves playing on the narcissist's abandonment anxiety by displaying physical weakness, illness, disability, or dropping hints of abandonment. Vaknin also discusses the development of the self in infants and how it is shaped by the mother's responses, and the impact of unexplained events on our emotions.


Narcissistic Abuse and Victim Aggression (Interview in Bronson Men)

Sam Vaknin discusses pathological narcissism and how it is caused by a fixation that occurs when one does not progress beyond a certain emotional age due to getting the wrong signals and input from their maternal figure. Narcissistic abuse is different from other forms of abuse as it aims to deanimate the victim and reduce them to a manipulable object. Vaknin also shares his views on victimhood movements and the confusion between sexual identity, sexual orientation, and gender roles.


Narcissism Shapeshifting Camouflage: Conceals Other Disorders (University Lecture)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of narcissism as a spectrum of behaviors and traits, united by specific factors. He argues that narcissism is not a specific disorder, but rather a reactive process that can be attached to other mental health issues. He also explores the idea that narcissism is a survival mechanism and a positive adaptation in extreme situations. Additionally, he delves into the concept of narcissistic defenses and their role in coping with mental illness and trauma.


Classifying Narcissists: Sanity and Masks

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses typologies of narcissists, including the elitist, amorous, unprincipled, and compensatory narcissists. He also delves into the concepts of sanity, hypersanity, and the mask of sanity. Additionally, he explores the distinctions between cerebral and somatic narcissists and the traits of the inverted narcissist. Vaknin emphasizes the complexity and multivariate nature of narcissism, cautioning against misinformation and urging reliance on academic literature for understanding.


Narcissists Uses You In Unfinished Mommy Splitting

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of splitting in psychology, specifically ego splitting and object splitting. Narcissists and borderlines use splitting as a defense mechanism, but when faced with a mother who is all bad, splitting becomes inverted and the child splits themselves into a true self and a false self. Narcissists have no ego and outsource ego functions, leading to a dissociative and dysfunctional state. They also use projective identification to gain an illusion of control over objects and gain vicarious satisfaction from their activities.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2023
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy