YOU In Mind Of Narcissist, Borderline

Uploaded 5/9/2023, approx. 25 minute read

One of my remaining followers, perseveering against all odds, wrote to me a series of interesting questions about the very concept at the heart of the shared fantasy, snapshotting in projection.

How does the narcissist perceive you in his mind? Does he really confuse the internal representation of you with the real you out there? And what's the meaning of this confusion? How does it manifest? How does it take place?

So I want to read to you what she had written to me and then I will do my best to elucidate and respond.

My name is Still Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm also a former visiting professor of psychology and right now I'm only visiting.

Okay, let's start with her missive.

She writes, "The most important lesson, I think, is the fact that narcissists confuse external objects with internal objects.

Now I've tried to understand this and I never managed. I try very hard. Introjects are okay. I have introjects too.

But how can I confuse my introjects, my introjects, for you out there? If I'm psychotic, okay. Then maybe I understand. But otherwise I don't understand. How does it work in reality? Like let's say that he tells something to his introject, the narcissist, tells something to his introject. Does he think then that he had told it to me in reality? Or another example, the introject is angry. Does he then think, hence, that I'm angry? Like I can't imagine the dynamics.

She says I'm at work. Does he think that I'm with him? No, of course he doesn't.

And so if it's confusing external with internal and the narcissist has constancy of the introjects, then he thinks I'm with him when he is having sex with someone else. Is it?

I don't get it. Sorry for that. I really try to imagine these situations. And I can't.

And so I'm here to the rescue and I'm going to do my best to try to throw light on the dark corners of the narcissist's mind.

It's not easy. It's not easy because as I keep saying, the narcissist experience, the experience of being a narcissist is so dramatically different to the experience of being any other human being that I personally doubt whether narcissists qualify as human beings.

They lack substantial portions of the machinery that render other people human. And that includes empathy, access to emotions and the ability to accept other people as separate from them.

Narcissists don't do separation or separateness very well because they have never experienced a successful separation from mummy in the separation individuation phase.

They have difficulty to tell apart themselves and the world. And in this sense, they are psychotic. It's like inverse psychosis or reverse psychosis where the psychotic confuses his internal voices with the external world.

The psychotic beliefs that his internal introjects, his internal objects are out there in reality. The narcissist is exactly the opposite. He thinks that objects out there are actually inside his head, inside his mind. So it's like a mirror image of psychosis.

But still it's a form of hyper reflexivity. It's a form of psychosis because there's a God almighty confusion between internal and external in here and out there. There are no boundaries.

The narcissist as a child was not allowed by his parents to develop boundaries. So the concept of boundaries is alien to him. The narcissist doesn't know where he stops and the world begins.

So let me try to somehow visualize for you the internal experience of the narcissist.

First of all, a critical fact. The narcissist is aware of the discrepancies, the mismatch between external objects and the internal objects in his mind that represent these external objects. He's aware that there's a gap, sometimes a very big gap, an abyss between the external object and the internal object.

And so a lot of the energy of the narcissist goes into reconciling internal objects with the external objects that they stand for, somehow to match them, somehow to force them to merge, converge, somehow to prevent divergence and deviance, somehow to create a picture of the world that is consistent both externally and internally.

So the narcissist is busy trying to force you to conform to the internal object in his mind, to the introject in his mind that represents you.

At first, the narcissist communicates with the introject. That's the first stage, invariably. There's no situation where the narcissist would start any interaction with an external object. All interactions in the narcissist's mind start in a dialogue or an interaction with an internal object.

So the narcissist first communicates with the internal object. It's a form of negotiation. The narcissist haggles and bargains with the internal object, fires the sharp edges, try to feed a square into a circle, into a circular hole, trying to somehow create harmony, internal harmony.

There's a lot of to and fro, a lot of talk, internal chatter between the narcissist and his internal objects.

There are two ways, two way communication channels.

Finally, the narcissist reaches an equilibrium or a homeostasis with the internal object.

Finally, they strike a deal. They agree and harmony, peace, internal balance are restored.

Now that the internal object conforms to the narcissist's expectations, wishes, priorities, and so on and so forth.

Now the narcissist must somehow impose this entente and impose this arrangement, impose this internal agreement on the external object.

So I repeat, it's very, very difficult to understand because there's no equivalent process in any other human being, healthy or unhealthy.

The narcissist is a library of internal objects. Think of it as a theater troupe. Think of it as a cast in a movie. There's this space occupied by internal objects and they have their own voices. These are the introjects.


When the narcissist wants to interact with you, when he's planning to talk to you about something, to suggest to you something, to bargain with you, to beat you up, to abuse you, to whatever, when the narcissist contemplates any interaction with you as an external object, an object that is outside the narcissist, the first thing he does, he talks, he communicates with the internal object in his mind that represents you. He communicates or interacts with you inside his mind and then he negotiates with you. He haggles with you. He bargains with you. He disagrees with you. He criticizes you. He tries to reach a modus operandi, modus vivendi with you somehow to coexist peacefully in his internal space inside his tormented mind.

Then finally, after a while, the narcissist makes peace with the internal object that represents you. He makes peace with his internal object. They reach a consensus. They strike a compromise and now the internal object is pacified, obedient, compliant and fits into the narcissist narrative.

There's one minor problem, however.

The internal object and you, the external object, disagree sometimes. Sometimes there are discrepancies, contradictions. You sometimes are mutually exclusive.

So to maintain the harmony, the hard earned harmony, the narcissist must make sure that you out there conform to you in here. He must match the internal object with the external object and leave no daylight between them. He must merge you, infuse you, the external object with the internal object.

Actually this is the dynamic exactly.

The narcissist coerces you to become the internal object, become one with it.

Both idealization and devaluation first occur internally. They first happen to the internal object.

The internal object is rendered either perfect, idealized or rendered per secretary, devalued.

Idealization and devaluation are internal processes. They are ways of transforming internal objects. We'll talk a bit later about catharsis and so on.

So idealization transforms the internal object into a perfect entity, a perfect being, brilliant, beautiful, unprecedented, unique, godlike in many ways. Or transforms the internal object into demonic, persecutory, evil, how to get the narcissist, traitorous, betrays the narcissist and so on.

Idealization and devaluation, like any other process in the narcissist's mind that involves objects, start inside the narcissist's mind only then when idealization of the object had been completed and the object is now perfect and divine or when devaluation of the object has been completed and now the object is lacking, deficient, inadequate, insufficient, deformed, decrepit, decadent, evil, vicious, wicked, sinful, etc., when devaluation has been completed.

Only then when the internal object is settled as all good or as all bad, yes, it's a splitting defense.

Only then does the narcissist attempt to coerce the external object to match the internal one.

The narcissist says the internal object in my mind that represents you is now evil, demonic, is now lacking.

So you need to conform because I now think of you as evil, you need to act viciously and wickedly and sinfully and because I now consider you as inadequate, you need to consistently fail and be a loser and so on.

Narcissist forces the external object, an intimate partner, for example, to conform to the internal object having idealized the internal object or devalued it.

And this is known as projective identification.

Summary of this part.

Summary of this part.

The narcissist doesn't really confuse totally internal with external objects. He just tries to merge them, he tries to fuse them.

His relationship, his communication, his interactions are exclusively with the internal object.

Having transformed the internal object in a way that is acceptable and palatable to the narcissist, he then embarks on a desperate attempt, sometimes aggressive attempt to make you conform to the internal object, to force you to change your traits, your behaviors, predilections, your choices to conform to the internal object.

That's why people who've been subjected to narcissistic abuse feel that they have been transformed.

They feel as if they have been brainwashed. They feel as if they have lost themselves and they were no more.

Part of the suggestion of the possibility of a narcissist is taken to extremes.

The narcissist must force you, make you, control you and convince you, persuade you, bribe you, anything to match the internal object as he sees it at any given moment.

This is a very important thing to remember as we proceed.

The internal state of the interject is always dominant over the internal state of the external object.

I repeat, the internal state of the internal object is always more important, dominant than the internal state of the external object.

So if you are angry out there as an external object, you're really angry. That is the internal state of the external object.

External object is you, you're angry. The internal state of the external object is angry.

At the same time, there is a representation of you in the narcissist's mind. There is an internal object of you, looks like you, talks like you, walks like you, ducks like you. It's you in the narcissist's mind.

As far as he's concerned, this is a reality, not you out there.

Your representation here is a reality.

Now imagine that in the narcissist's mind, the internal object is loving, loving, caring, compassionate and patient.

While in reality, out there you're angry and you hate the narcissist at that particular moment.

Okay, so now there's a discrepancy, mismatch.

The external object's internal state is anger and hate. The internal object's internal state is love and caring.

The narcissist would always prefer the internal state of the internal object.

So even if you hate the narcissist, you're angry at the narcissist, you rage at the narcissist. The narcissist would ignore all this. He would see through you. It's like you are transparent. It's like you're not there.


Because this contradicts the internal state of the internal object.

In his mind, you love him. Never mind how many times you tell him, "I hate you." He would ignore you because you are the external object. You don't exist. And non-existent objects cannot say anything meaningful. So even if you were to tell the narcissist convincingly, prove to him, betray him, do anything, "I hate you." I want you dead." Nothing.

As far as he's concerned, you love him.

Why is he crazy?

He's not crazy.

The internal object that represents you in his mind loves him. And that is all that matters.


Why does the narcissist prefer fictitious, counterfactual disinformation to real life veritable information? That doesn't sound too conducive to survival. It doesn't sound like a positive adaptation. It sounds like a maladaptation.

Why would evolution encourage this?

There's a reason for that.

A reason for what?

I remind you.

You are an external object.

For example, you are the narcissist's intimate partner. You are a state of mind, an internal state of mind. And your state of mind is, "I hate this S.O.B. I hope he dies." That's your internal state of mind.

The internal object that represents you in the narcissist's mind tells the narcissist, "I love you." My state of mind, says the introject, is, "I love you."

Narcissist would prefer this state of mind. Not because it's positive, but because the narcissist would always prefer the state of mind of the internal object.

The reverse is also true.

If you tell the narcissist all the time, "I love you, I love you, I love you," and in his mind, your internal object is persecutory and hateful. He would treat you as if you hated him. He would treat you as if you were hateful. You love him. You love him, but in his mind, you hate him.

The internal object that represents you in his mind hates him. So he would treat you as if you were a hater, not a lover.


"Ales kla komisar." And I'm the only komisar here, make no mistakes about it.

Why is that?

There's a very good reason for that.

The narcissist is fully aware of his internal objects. He has full access to his internal objects.

His internal objects are the narcissist. They are an integral part of the narcissist's mind. They constitute the narcissist's mind.

The narcissist has access to his mind, but he has no clue about the mental states of other people. The narcissist lacks empathy. He has no access to positive emotions.

In the absence of empathy and in the absence of functioning emotions, there's no way you can make sense of other people. No way you can understand other people. No way you can glom them.

No way to interact with other people meaningfully.

Consequently, there is an asymmetry. It's much easier for the narcissist to access his own mind and interact with the entities inside his mind. Much easier than to understand you, to somehow guess your state of mind, to empathize with you.

He can't do this. He just can't do this.

So he has no clue about what's happening inside your mind. He cannot even emulate or simulate empathy. You can convey no information, no meaningful information to the narcissist about yourself as an external object.

So it's a form of projection.

The narcissist projects. He scrutinizes. He queries the internal object. He obtains information about the state of the internal object and then he projects it. He misattributes it to you. It's an attribution error.

My long-suffering follower asks, "When I'm at work, does he think that I'm with him?" No, of course not.

I never said that.

The narcissist does maintain a functional reality testing.

He does know that you are not with him.

He's not psychotic. He's not hallucinating.

Unlike the psychotic, the narcissist and borderline rarely hallucinate, never hallucinate, except during psychotic micro-episodes.

So there's no hallucination. He knows you are not here. He knows you're at work. He's not an idiot and he's not psychotic. He's not crazy.

But even when you are at work, the narcissist feels that he is exerting control and ownership over you.

Let me try to give you a simile, something to help you understand.

Imagine that you have a car, a car that you love very much. It's an amazing car.

Of course, your fortune, leg and arm, and it's an antique car. Don't ask. It's a special car. It's a very special car.

And you leave the car in a car park and you go home.

You know, of course, that the car is not in your living room. You know that the car is in the bloody car park.

And yet, somehow, the car has never left you. Somehow the car is with you. It's in your mind. It's in your thoughts. It's in your imagination.

Keep thinking about it.

And you are still emotionally invested in it. Still love it.

Another example.

You have a smartphone. A smartphone is your entire life. Your emails, your photos, your pornography. Everything is on your smartphone. You carry pornography on your smartphone.

I would ask you to unsubscribe, please.

Okay, Shoshanim, that was a joke.

Now, imagine you have a smartphone. The smartphone is very important to you. It had become your life.

And now you leave it in another room charging while you are watching a movie in the living room. The other room is far away. The phone is there. It's charging.

And you are removed from the phone. There's a distance between you. Still, you feel that the phone is with you. You don't feel as if you've lost the phone. The phone is gone. You feel that the phone is a part of you. So it's the same with the narcissists.

When you're away, when you're at work, when you're traveling, when you're with your family or friends or whatever, you're still with the narcissists. You're still there because your internal object is there. The internal object that represents you is there, stands in for you. There's a stand-in object.

The narcissist feels that even though physically you may be there, your soul, if you wish, the essence of you, the liquidity, remain with him.

It's very creepy because it's as if the narcissist regards you as a zombie. You're like a zombie. You go through the motions with your friends and family and at work and so on, but you have left your essence behind and it's with him. It's with him.

It is a form of magical thinking. You have the narcissist extension. You're like an ambassador of a country. You know that embassies in other countries, when a country opens an embassy, the embassy is part of the territory of the country. So if, for example, there's an American embassy, an American embassy in Israel, the American embassy is American territory. It's like an extension, a long arm of America, the United States. It's a small parcel and beat of the United States abroad.

So it's the same with the narcissist. You are his ambassador. You are like an embassy. You are a part of the narcissist. You are like the narcissist turf and territory. And wherever you may be, the narcissist is with you and you are with the narcissist. Where you are, he is.

The introject is like a rope and the narcissist gives you enough rope to hang yourself. The introject is like as if you were a fish and the narcissist is giving you enough line of a fishing reel. You know, it gives you line of a fishing reel.

So there's always an umbilical cord, invisible umbilical cord connecting you to the narcissist. It's as if you've never been born in the narcissist womb in his matrix.

That's the shared fantasy. Gantry was the first to use the metaphor of going back to the womb.

This creates a new, this ability to go to work, consort with your friends, talk to your family. This creates in you the illusions of autonomy and agency.

And it creates in the narcissist the delusions of possession and control.

So the fact that you are allowed to do some things is deceiving because the narcissist believes that he possesses you and he controls you through the introject.

Now some narcissists put it into action, abusively, and this is known as coercive control.

Narcissists have on and off switches. You can silence an introject and you can turn it on.

When the narcissist has sex with someone else, I'm answering, I'm answering your questions one by one. When the narcissist has sex with someone else, your introject in the narcissist's mind is either silenced, deactivated, or is left active. The narcissist disables the introject in order to avoid negative effects like shame, anger, guilt.

So if the narcissist is doing something wrong by having sex with someone else, he would turn you off. He would disable the introject.

The narcissist have introject constancy.

And so the introject will remain present in the narcissist's mind, unlike the borderline.

The borderline can turn off the introject and then it's gone. Borderlines have no introject constancy. Out of sight, out of mind. That's not the case with the narcissist.

The disabled introject is there somehow, nagging somehow, asking to be reactivated.

And this creates a lot of resentment and anger in the narcissist and he will punish you for that.

Next time he sees you, he will punish you for having made him feel guilty and ashamed. That creates anger, frustration creates anger and so on and so forth.

But he can disable the introject and then it's just a nagging background feeling. Or he can leave the introject on in order to accomplish some goal.

For example, to restore his grandiosity by exacting revenge, sex.

The internal objects in the narcissist's mind are affected. The narcissist invests in them emotionally. They are reframed. They are made to fit into a narrative and the narrative is ever shifting. So reframing is a constant activity.

But the narcissist is really attached to his introjects. He's really attached to these objects, to these internal objects. It's the only form of attachment that he knows.

Narcissists do not get attached to external objects. Never mind how well they simulate, they simulate a loving husband and an adoring father. They feel nothing. They feel nothing. They convince themselves and knew that they are loving husbands and adoring fathers because they are truly loving and adoring when it comes to the internal objects that represent you and the kids. Everything happens exclusively in the narcissist's mind. He has a family here, never there.

This introjection and all this snapshotting, as I call it in a popular term, they occur in narcissistic personality disorder, but also in borderline personality disorder.

The borderline similarly goes through all these processes. Sometimes there's a failure. Sometimes the attempt to devalue the object fails because the object, for example, is angelic and flawless.

This is very difficult to demonize it or to criticize it.

In the case of the borderline, when there is a failure to convert an idealized object to a persecretary object, this leads to acting out because this conversion from idealized to persecretary is a defense mechanism in effect.

When it fails, it constitutes decompensation and the borderline acts out.

More generally, the borderline legitimizes forbidden, repressed introjects. She resonates with pathological paths in her intimate partner's psychology. She becomes a vector of contagion.

That's why narcissists and borderlines bond very powerfully, very stronglybecause the borderline allows the narcissist to interact exclusively with his internal objects. She wants it. She encourages him to do this.

Because she doesn't want him to pay attention to her as an external object, she considers herself bad and flawed. She says if he gets too close to me, he will abandon me. If he finds out the truth about me, he will run away, better for him to live in fantasy land.

She pushes him. She pathologizes him. And she feeds him with enough drama and inconsistency to keep him busy managing all these conflicts in his world of introjects and internal objects.

In a way, the borderline pushes the narcissist to become psychotic, while the narcissist pushes the borderline to become a psychopath. Match made in heaven.

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