Background

YOU in Narcissist's Harem of Internal Objects

Uploaded 2/9/2021, approx. 40 minute read

I'm Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and other books. I'm a professor of psychology, and today we are going to discuss the narcissist's convoluted relationships with his internal objects.

You are an external object. You are the narcissist's intimate partner. You are the narcissist's colleague, ostensible friend, family member. You are outside the narcissist, so you are an external object.

But as I've been saying repeatedly, the narcissist takes a snapshot of you and then internalizes you, and then continues to interact with your representation within his mind, with this internal object.

So there's a distinction between external objects and internal objects.

Even when the internal object stands in, represents an external object.

How does the narcissist interact with his internal objects?

These internal objects, many of them, not all of them, but many of them, represent real people in real life. He has a relationship with these people, which is essentially, basically confined to his mind, totally contained by his mind.

So how does this relationship evolve? What kind of interactions the narcissist has with his internal objects that he mistakes for interactions with you?

It's a fascinating topic, very rarely touched upon in the literature. The literature usually stops at saying, well, narcissists and schizoids and borderlines, and they have internal objects.

Very well. But what happens?

Then how do these objects react to other psychodynamic processes, to emotions, to cognitions? And how does the narcissist or the borderline or the schizoid, how do they react to internal objects?

And this is the topic of today's lecture. The light keeps shifting and changing here with all kinds of clouds. And I apologize for the uneven quality of the video.

Let's go back to the stage of separation individuation.

There's a big debate in psychology, whether prior to separation individuation, the child is enmeshed with a mother, whether he is fused with a mother, whether he is one with a mother in his own mind, whether they have a symbiotic relationship, relationship, symbiosis. There's a debate whether this is the case or whether children are born actually with a proto ego, an initial, unformed ego, primordial, primitive, but still distinguished from external objects.

So one school, that's the British object relation school, say that the child is born with an ego and therefore immediately distinguishes himself from other people. And others say that the child is born without an ego and ego is the outcome of interactions with other people.

Ego formation has to do with object relations. In the absence of external objects, there is no ego and ego cannot be formed. Or if it is formed, it's deformed, it's dysfunctional.

When ego formation is disrupted, owing to problems in object relations in early childhood, the child grows up and becomes an adult, essentially without a functioning ego, without what Jung called a constellated self.

But be the cases might, whatever the case may be, separation and individuation are commonly accepted as stages in the development of any and every individual.

Separation can be described as a wound, but you see, when the child says goodbye to mummy, which is what separation is all about, it's saying goodbye to the parental figures, waving and going into the world bravely and grandiosely.

So it's very hurtful, it's traumatic, there's a lot of pain involved. And it lives behind a wound, a void, an empty core, emptiness.

Every separation, even separation that ends well, ends with individuation, with a mature ego, with a constellated self, etc.

Every separation in healthy people and abnormal people involves emptiness. The sudden emergence of a lack, of a gap between the child and the parental figures who used to be the child's core.

The parental figures, especially mummy, especially mother, they provide ego functions, they are surrogate egos, the child outsources the functions that normally are carried out by a self to mother and later to father.

They are kind of outside contractors, they regulate the child's internal environment, they affect all kinds of internal processes.

And so when the child separates from the parental figures, he no longer has a way to regulate, to control, to modulate his internal environment. He enters a period of dysregulation.

And of course, if you get stuck in this period, you become borderline personality disorder.

But the dysregulation has to do with a loss, because separation is a loss, you lose the parental figures.

There's emptiness, there's void, and it is very frightening and very hurtful.

And like any wound in the human body, this psychic wound, this psychological wound, develops scar tissue.

This scar tissue of the wound of separation is what we call the self or the ego, the ego or the self.

This is the scar tissue that forms over the emptiness and the void that had been created by separating from mother and father.

And of course, if the mother is dead in the physical sense or in the metaphorical sense, a dead mother, Andrei Green's dead mother, she's not a good enough mother.

If she is not an environmental mother, she doesn't provide ego care, in Winnicott's terms.

If she is absent, selfish, narcissistic, anxious, frustrating, unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary, violent, aggressive, etc.

If she is terrified, if she is not there for the child, this creates what Bayland called the basic fault. It creates a break.

Now remember the process. Up to the separation-individuation phase, the child uses his parents to regulate his internal environment, to gain a modicum of reality testing, to survive psychologically. His parents are extensions of himself in a way because they are his self.

They are an external self, like external hard disk in a computer. Mommy and daddy are the baby's external self, and they do everything a classical self does in an adult for the baby.

So when the baby loses his parents by separating from them, by putting boundaries, by developing agency and self-efficacy, by becoming independent and autonomous, by grandiosely venturing out into the world, by sayinggoodbye mommy, goodbye daddy, when the baby does this, it creates a void, an abyss, a break, a fault line.

And this is what Bayland calls a basic fault. The basic fault never heals. The abyss never closes. The chasm remains. The break is perpetrated and perpetuated.

The emptiness and the void become the core when the mother, and to a lesser extent the father, are not there to provide what Winnicott called environmental ego care.

In such a case of disruption, the ego doesn't fall. The self doesn't constellate. What remains behind is the lack, the void, the emptiness, the break, the pain, the hurt of separation.

And this makes it very difficult to engage in object-external-object relations.

If your first experience with external-object relations was painful, if your first experience was hurtful, if what it left behind was an emptiness, you would be very wary and very afraid and very terrified to try this exercise again.

If mommy hurt you this much, what would your lover do? What would your spouse do? What would your children do? What would your best friend do?

You don't trust anyone. You equate love with pain. You equate pain with not being, with disappearing, with vanishing, with void, with emptiness, with deep space.

This is terrifying.

The message you got, the message you get when your parents are not good enough, when your mother is dysfunctional, when you don't get the care and the love and the acceptance and the warmth and the empathy that you deserve as a baby, the message you get is it's very dangerous to try to reach out to people. It's very dangerous to love. It's very dangerous to attach. It's a harrowing experience to bond. It's going to end badly. Don't do that.

And so you don't. You don't do that.

When you're a narcissist, when you're a schizoid, when you're a paranoid, even when you're codependent and borderline, there is a fear of object relations with external objects, because external objects could be life-threatening, could cause you such torture and pain that you will not be able to survive.

But how to feel this void? How to feel this emptiness? No one can walk around with an empty core. No one can walk around with a hole in the chest, a see-through hole. No one can survive this way.

We all try to feel this emptiness.

And there are two ways, two ways to negate, to vitiate the emptiness, to fill it in, to plug it, so to speak.

One way is to interact, to have object relations with internal objects.

And of course, the other way is to have object relations with external objects. Object relations with external objects is what we call love, attachment, bonding, empathy, compassion. Any type of social, romantic interaction is a form of object relations with external objects.

And these external objects, because they're loving, because they're embracing, because they're there, because they're predictable, because they're present, there's object constancy. Good objects provide object constancy, because they're constant. You can trust them, and they fill you up. Anyone who has ever been in love knows the feeling.

When you are in love, you feel full, you feel whole, you feel complete. Why? Because the lover, the love object, plugs in your emptiness. She becomes the missing part, the missing link. She becomes your better half, so to speak.

Because, and this is really what she does, she fills in the void.

External objects and object relations with external objects are the major way, the main way to negate, fight against the emptiness left when you had separated from your parents.

But if you are weary, if you are scared, absolutely terrified of reaching out to external objects, because you think that external objects will hurt you, will torture you, will humiliate you, will negate you, will destroy you. If you are afraid to reach out to external objects, you have only one choice left, only one option, and that is internal objects.

You begin to invest all your emotions, all your energy in internal objects.

You fall in love, it's called libido, you invest libidinally in internal objects.

Instead of falling in love with a beautiful woman, you fall in love with an internal object.

One of these internal objects may stand in for a beautiful woman, or for that particular beautiful woman.

But if you're a narcissist, if you're a schizoid, if you have personality disorders, you would tend to interact with the representation of that beautiful love object, not with the love object, with the representation, with the introject, with the internal object that represents this beautiful woman, not with the beautiful woman herself.

It's much safer to interact with her representation, because her representation in your mind will never reject you, will never abandon you, she might.

So people who have had a bad upbringing with dysfunctional parents, they have severe problems with object relations related to external objects, external object relations.

Instead what they do, whenever they come across someone, they internalize that person, and from that moment they interact with the internal object.

Plus, they interact with many other internal objects, many other internal, inner representations of the parents, these are known as imagos, so imagos of the parents, this is Kohut phrase, representations of role models, representation of teachers, of peers.

Other psychodynamic processes, constructs, the mind is populated with hundreds, possibly thousands of objects, internal objects, some of them represent real people in real life, some of them represents real people who are no longer with us, some of them represents interactions and relationships, some of them represent segments or portions of the personality.

Some of them are dissociated, some of them are not dissociated, some of them are clustered, some of them are separate. It's a whole zoo, it's a whole galaxy, it's a whole constellation in there, and that's why Jung used the phrase, constellated self.

The narcissist, the schizoid and so on, they interact with internal objects and they do this via fantasy, not fantasy with an F, fantasy, P-H-A-T-A-S-Y, fantasy but with P-H. Fantasy with P-H is the usually unconscious process that produces conscious fantasies.

So they use fantasy with P-H, they use P-H fantasy to interact with internal objects, they use schizoid self-sufficiency and they use narcissistic grandiosity.

These are the three main tools of interacting with internal objects, fantasy, schizoid mode and grandiosity.


How does a relationship with an internal object look like? I mean, we know how a relationship with a narcissist looks like, we know all too well. We even know how a non-relationship with a schizo-id looks like, a schizo-id doesn't want relationships. We know how a relationship with a codependent and borderline and a paranoid and a histrionic and I mean, we know how relationships with other people look like, sound like, taste like, the impact, the evolution of the relationship. We know almost everything there is to know about relationships with external objects.

What about relationships with internal objects? What happens when there's someone like a narcissist or a schizo-id who cannot interact, does not want to interact, is afraid to interact, declines to interact, aggressively pushes away people, doesn't want to interact with external objects. He doesn't want external objects. It's too much for him. It's overwhelming. It's frightening. He doesn't want this.

Instead, such people confine themselves to relationships, full-fledged relationships with internal objects.

How does that look? Having a relationship essentially with a portion of yourself. It's very self-referential.

These internal objects, they are part and parcel of the narcissist, of the schizoid.

How does the narcissist interact with parts of himself, the internal objects? It's mind-boggling. It's counterintuitive. It's senseless. It defies reason and rhyme. And it makes it very difficult to conceptualize, which is possibly why there's almost no literature about this.

From my 26 years of working with narcissists and schizoid people and other people with personality disorders, I think that relationships with internal objects are facsimiles, identical copies of relationships with external ones.

There are two reasons to assume, to think, to believe that what I've just said is true.

First of all, if you had developed a modus operandi, if you have developed a method of operation, MO, with regards to relationships, you're going to apply this MO, this method of operation, to all your relationships, to your relationships with external objects and to your relationships with internal objects. It doesn't stand to reason, and it also defies the rule of parsimony in science, or comes raiser, to believe that we have one style, one method, one modus of relating to external objects and a completely divorced and separate and disparate method of relating to internal objects. It's much more logical to assume that we relate to objects the same way, especially if we confuse external and internal object.

Don't forget, narcissists, borderlines, schizoid people, etc., people with personality disorders, especially severe personality disorders, they don't make this distinction, as you do, between external and internal objects. They confuse internal and external. The psychotic mistakes his internal objects for external objects. The narcissist mistakes external objects, such as you, for internal objects. He internalizes external objects.

So there is an almighty confusion between what is an internal object and what is an external object.

When the narcissist comes across an object, you know, the searchlight of his mind comes across an object, the projector, he is not sure whether this object is internal or external, because he is totally confused.

He tends to internalize external objects, and then he continues to interact with these internal representations of external objects. So he doesn't make this distinction.

So he treats internal objects the way he treats external objects, because he can't tell the difference. Very simple.


Now, the relationships of narcissists with any object, external or internal, and remember, as far as the narcissist is concerned, as far as the schizoid is concerned, all objects are internal.

Even external objects are immediately internalized via the snapshotting mechanism.

So all relationships with objects involve three important elements. I'm talking about narcissists and schizoids, to some extent, paranoids, in some ways codependents and borderlines as well. And to some extent, secondary psychopaths and so on.

So relationships with objects of these disordered personalities, disorganized chaotic personalities, they relate to objects in three ways.

There are three important elements. Idealization, devaluation, cycles, element number one. Shared fantasy is an organizing principle, element number two. Approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion, element number three.

These are the three pillars of this tool of relationships with narcissists and other personality disordered people. Stool is a very good word for it.

So these are the three legs of the stool, the three pillars of the shrine of a relationship with, for example, a narcissist.

I repeat, idealization, devaluation, shared fantasy, and approach, avoidance.


But how does the narcissist apply these principles, these three legs, these three pillars, how does he apply them to internal objects?

It's perfectly easy to understand how the narcissist applies, for example, idealization and devaluation to you.

He idealizes you, then he devalues you, then he idealizes you again, if he hovers you. That's easy to understand. It's easy to grasp.

But how do you idealize an internal object, something in your mind, an element of your mind, an element of who you are, a portion of your identity? How do you idealize this? And even much, much more difficult to answer.

How do you devaluate?

Is it like self devaluation? What's going on here? How do you idealize and devalue internal objects?

How do you approach and then avoid internal objects? How can you avoid yourself? How can you avoid an internal object?

And how can you have a shared fantasy with an internal object? How can this be the organizing principle of your interactions with your own internal objects, in other words, with your own mind?

Does the narcissist have a shared fantasy with his own mind? It seems to defy reason. It even borders on nonsensical.

So when I talk about method of operation, MO of relationships with internal objects, for instance, the narcissist's relationship with his internal objects, people find it nearly impossible to understand.

And so I'm going to try to throw some light on this.


Let's start with idealization, devaluation cycles.

The narcissist idealizes and then devalues external objects.

You all know this, or you wouldn't be listening to this lecture.

How does the idealizing devalue internal objects?

Idealized internal objects are nuclei of grandiosity. They participate in the process of co-idealization and self-idealization.

Remember from previous lectures, the narcissist idealizes you because he is idealizing the internal object that represents you.

He never idealizes you. He idealizes your snapshot. He idealizes the internal object that stands in for you in his mind.

And he does this because if he contains an idealized internal object, then he himself is idealized.

If the narcissist idealizes his internal objects, then his mind contains ideal, perfect, brilliant, beautiful, breathtaking, drop-dead gorgeous, amazing, super intelligent objects, internal objects.

And these internal objects belong to him. He is his internal objects.

So when he idealizes his internal objects, he is actually by definition idealizing himself because he is the owner of these internal objects and he is coterminous, identical to these internal objects.

These internal objects are him. They are his identity. Idealize them and he is idealizing himself.

The narcissist goes through this process of co-idealization in order to self-idealize, in order to be able to say, look at my amazing menagerie, my amazing collection of the most incredible internal objects.

He is like a collector. He collects idealized internal objects so that he can brag about his collection to others.

And so this is self-idealization. And that is why he idealizes internal objects.


But what about devaluation? Why would he devalue internal objects by the same logic?

If he devalues internal objects, he is actually devaluing himself.

Why would a narcissist, for example, devalue himself? Why would a schizoid devalue himself?

Anyhow, he is in the pits. Anyhow, he is in a bad shape.

Why would he burden himself with devaluation, which would lead him inexorably to depression, for example, and anger? Why would he do that?

What is the role of devaluation?

Devalued objects represent the repository of paranoid and persecutory ideation.

The narcissist, the schizoid, the paranoid, of course, the borderline, the psychopath, they are very paranoid. They have persecretary ideation, which, taken to extreme, becomes a kind of paranoia or conspiracy theory or persecretary delusions.

Where to deposit this paranoia? Where to deposit these fears and conspiracy theories and ideas of reference? And where to deposit all this?

This negative affectivity, these negative emotions, these fears, this anticipation, this anxiety. Where to deposit all this?

So the narcissist needs to devalue some of the inner objects. He needs to devalue some of the internal objects so as to convert them into bad objects.

When he converts them into bad objects, it's easy to attribute to them persecretary intent, malice, malevolence, ill intention.

So the narcissist needs a cohort, a group of bad internal objects.

And what he does, he projects, he projects, internally projects, I would call it internal projection.

He projects all the negative affectivity, negative emotions, fears, paranoia, persecutory delusions, all the bad things, things he hates about himself. He packages all this negativity and he projects it onto the bad objects first internally.

And then if the bad objects correspond to an external object, he projects it further from the bad internal objects to the bad external object.

So here's the process.

The narcissist, let's say, has 100 internal objects. He idealizes 80 of these. 80 become idealized objects.

These idealized objects help the narcissist to idealize himself.

In other words, they provide the grandiosity, they are the nuclei of grandiosity, the nuclear reactor of grandiosity. 20 objects are rendered, are converted into bad objects.

And the narcissist takes all his fears, all his hate, all his rage, things that he hates about himself, things that he rejects about himself, bad memories, everything, everything negative, everything dark. He shadow in effect and he relegates it. He pushes it into the bad objects. He internally projects negativity onto the bad objects.

But if the bad objects, the internal bad objects represent external bad objects, the projection continues further.

And all this negativity is projected onto the external object. That is why narcissists are inordinately suspicious, paranoid. That's why they flip on a coin, on a dime, you know, they suddenly devalue and so on.

Because devaluation has a critical function.

If the narcissist hadn't come up with this method of disposing of his toxic waste, he would have poisoned himself and he needs to poison you with his toxicity, with his venom. Otherwise he will self poison. Everything is self-referential in narcissism, as we will say in a minute, including sexuality.

So when there are toxins, when there are poisons, when there's venom, if the narcissist doesn't externalize it, he will internalize it and he will poison himself, will have poisoned himself.

So the narcissist needs to devalue some of the objects.

And here you see idealization, devaluation exactly like in real life.

In real life, the narcissist idealizes certain external objects and devalues others for the very same reasons, by the way.


OK, what about the shared fantasy? How can the narcissist, the schizoid, paranoid, etc., how can they have a shared fantasy with an internal object?

I mean, it's understandable to have a shared fantasy with an external object, grooming, love bombing, you all went through it, regrettably.

So you all understand intuitively the concept of a shared fantasy.

But what is a shared fantasy with an internal object? In other words, what is a shared fantasy with a part of yourself? What is a self-referential shared fantasy?

Shared fantasy of this kind, it's when the narcissist creates a space, a common space, in effect a pathological narcissistic space, inhabited by several internal objects.

One of these internal objects would be a disorganized self, kind of primitive ego, if there is any, an ego-nucleus or unconstellated self, if there is any introverted self. If there is none, then just a space with internal objects.

And these internal objects will bind together within this space, will cluster around a fantasy with pH, around this unconscious process of fantasizing. They coalesce around this unconscious process.

And when this happens, when a fantastic cluster forms in the narcissist's mind, when he actually engages in a shared fantasy with himself via his internal objects, we have several elements.

Number one, autoeroticism. Do you remember that in a shared fantasy there are three esses? Sex, supply, services.

When the narcissist forms, when he creates a shared fantasy with you, he wants you to provide sex, he wants you to provide supply, sadistic or narcissistic, and he wants you to provide services. He wants you to serve him, to be his servant.

So the same applies to the internal objects. The narcissist wants his internal object, himself actually, to provide him with sex, with supply and with services.

Start with sex. Autoeroticism. The narcissist wants one or more of the internal objects to become the objects or the subjects of the sex drive. He internalizes his sex drive. He internalizes his libido. He creates something called libidinal investment. He may even have a libidinal ego, but that's subject for another lecture.

So he internalizes the libido and he invests it. He directs it. It's some of these internal objects.

This is autoeroticism. It's when the narcissist finds himself to be the preferable, the preferred sex object.

Even when the narcissist has sex with an external object, he is actually having sex with a group of internal objects, which would explain to you why narcissists are very much into group sex.

Group sex represents this inner fragmentation. It represents the fact that the narcissist engages in sex with multiple objects at any given time. But these objects, which are libidinally detected, libidinally invested, these objects, which in other words are sexualized by the narcissist, are not external. They're internal. The narcissist never makes love to you. He makes love to his internal objects through you. You are his tool and instrument to make love to himself.

And if you look objectively at his performance in bed, that's precisely what he does.

He masturbates with your body. He is extremely self-centered. He is performance oriented. He seeks supply even as he's having sex.

There's no love there, no reciprocity, no adult attitude, no emotions, no nothing.

The narcissist is making love to the selected, perfected, libidinally group of internal objects through you.

Why does he need you?

Because you are one of the internal objects. You are like a key. It is through your snapshot that he accesses the other internal objects. You are like the gateway.

So he uses your body as a gateway. He sleeps with you, he has sex with you, but he's not having sex with you. He's having sex with the internal object that represents you. And this internal object is clustered with other internal objects, which are also then infused with the narcissist's psychosexuality.

So this is the sex. Remember, sex supply services.

Let's talk about supply.

When the narcissist has a relationship with his internal objects, we are talking about self-supply. When the narcissist has a relationship with an external object, we are talking about narcissistic supply or sadistic supply.

Narcissistic supply, classic sadistic supply, these kinds of supplies, they come from the outside. They come from external objects.

In the case of the narcissist, he is interacting with your representation in his mind. So your supply will be attached to your inner representation, but it's still coming from you.

Narcissistic and sadistic supplies come from external objects only.

The equivalent in relationships with internal objects is self-supply. When the narcissist has a relationship with you, you give him narcissistic supply because you are an external object.

When the narcissist has a relationship with an internal object, the internal object gives the narcissist supply, but it is self-supply.

This self-supply emanates from the narcissist's idealized internal objects. It's like the narcissist has this garden inside his mind and he walks in the garden and he looks around and he says, Wow, what a beautiful flower. Wow, what a beautiful tree. Wow, what a beautiful rock formation. Wow, what a beautiful stream. He surveys. He takes an inventory of his idealized internal objects and as he does this, it gives him supply.

So the narcissist's interactions with idealized internal objects is what we call self-supply.

By interacting with his idealized internal objects, the narcissist is gratified. The narcissist's grandiosity is buttressed. This is his self-supply.

All narcissists are capable of self-supply.

When the narcissist hits rock bottom in terms of sources of supply, when he can no longer secure supply from the environment, from external objects, the narcissist retreats into his own mind, withdraws into his own mind in a schizoid position. And then he extracts narcissistic supply, self-supply from the objects inside his mind, the internal objects, which he idealizes so that they can give him supply.

As the owner of everything he sees, as the proprietor of idealized magnificent, perfect, brilliant, breathtaking internal objects, the narcissist feels proud. He feels elevated. He feels superior. He feels grandiose.

So this is self-supply.


So here we have two elements.

Sex is provided by internal objects in a process called auto-eroticism. It's when the narcissist is having sex with himself. Sometimes he uses your body to accomplish this outcome, but your body is dispensable.

The second is supply.

Supply is obtained from idealized internal objects via a process called self-supply.

Narcissist, push comes to shove, becomes his own audience, his own admirer, his own fan, his own adulator. He derives supply from himself as the owner of these magnificent, unprecedented idealized objects.

What about services?

The internal objects provide the narcissist with a sense of omnipotence and omniscience. And these are the services, because if you're omnipotent, if you're omniscient, you need nobody. You don't need services, actually. If you're omnipotent and omniscient, if you're all powerful, and if you know everything, these are the only services that you would ever need.

So the idealized internal objects generate omnipotence and omniscience, generate grandiosity.

And this way the narcissist services himself. In other words, he becomes self-sufficient.

Self-sufficiency to that extreme is what we call a schizoid position, schizoid style, or schizoid personality disorder.

So the narcissist reverts and retreats always to a schizoid position, even when the narcissist has a lot of narcissistic supply, even when the narcissist is surrounded by admiring and fawning and loving external objects.

Even then, the narcissist maintains a very intimate, incestuous, close relationship with his internal objects, because he can trust only his internal objects. Only his internal objects provide the narcissist with object constancy. His internal objects will never reject him, will never humiliate him, will never betray him, will never cheat on him, will never abandon him.

He can trust them. So he has a relationship with them, which is ongoing, even as he has a relationship with you.

The narcissist is cheating on you with his internal objects. He's too timing on you. He's too timing with his own mind.

So there are dual processes at work all the time.

For example, there's a flow of narcissistic supply, coupled with a flow of self-supply. There's a flow of services. Narcissist is entitled. He demands services. So there's a flow of services coming in.

And at the same time, the idealized internal objects render the narcissist a schizoid, totally self-sufficient, in need of no one, in need of nothing.

So the narcissist can always say the hell with the services. I'm out of here. Can always discard you.

And at the same time, there is external sex, classic sex, body-to-body sex, coupled with autoeroticism, a libidinal investment in the self.

So narcissist is a split, totally split personality. It's a bad word. There are two worlds in the narcissist, two universes. A universe in which the narcissist is surrounded by internal objects, which are actually him, himself. They are the substitute for a non-existent self. So the narcissist is surrounded by these internal objects.

He has wonderful relationships with these internal objects. They provide him with sex, autoerotic sex. They provide him with self-sufficiency, schizoid self-sufficiency. And they provide him with idealization, grandiosity.

So he has this wonderful, ongoing, lifelong relationship with the good, idealized, object-constant internal objects.

He has a conflictive relationship, aggressive relationship with bad internal objects, which are persecuting him and causing him depression and anger and so on. And this is ongoing. This is ongoing unbeknownst to you, under the surface, like tremors before an earthquake.

To a large extent, the narcissist himself is not aware of many of these processes.

Everyone, healthy or not healthy, has similar, numerous, unconscious processes of which we are not aware.

But the narcissist is not aware that there is a doppelganger. There's another guy, a copy of him, inside himself. And that copy of him is having great sex, is having an abundance of self-supply, and is being serviced hand and foot.

He doesn't realize this. So this is a duality in the narcissist.


Okay, we said that the narcissist's relationships have three legs.

The stool has three legs. The shrine has two, three pillars.

One was idealization, devaluation, cycles. We discussed this.

One is a shared fantasy, is an organizing principle. We discussed this.

What is left?

Approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion.

How do you approach your internal objects? If your internal objects are you, they are part of you. How do you approach them? Even more complicated question.

If the internal objects are parts of you, how do you avoid them? How do you avoid yourself? How do you avoid your internal objects?

Well, repression is a possibility. Denial, we have numerous mechanisms of pushing and shoving content, constructs, introjects into the unconscious so that we don't have to face them anymore. We don't have to cope with them anymore. That's one way of avoidance.

That's the avoidance part of the approachavoidance, repetition, compulsion.

Approach, avoidance, and intermittent reinforcement in relationships with external objects generate trauma bonding.

The narcissist and the narcissist as well and his victim are trauma bonded.

Trauma bonded, one of the main tools to generate trauma bonding is intermittent reinforcement via approach avoidance.

So the same happens with the internal objects.

The schizoid has a core.

To recap, the narcissist has a schizoid core. All personality disorders probably have a schizoid core.

The schizoid's core involves pain aversion.

Remember that the schizoid, the child who had been exposed to a dead, dysfunctional, not good enough mother, this child has pain aversion because he had learned that love is pain. He had learned that love had to be repressed, love had to be avoided.

So this is one element in the approach avoidance.

The core, the schizoid core, which keeps sending signals like a beacon, keeps sending messages. Don't go near. Don't get too intimate. Don't get too acquainted. Don't go too deep. It's going to hurt. It's going to be pain. It's going to be a hell of a price to pay. It will threaten your life. You're fragile. You're brittle. You're broken. Don't do this.

I mean, this constant stream of signals and messages telling you to back off from a meaningful relationship, a deep intimate relationship with an external object. This is the messaging system, the alarm, the alert system of the narcissist's mind, and it is not a test.

So the narcissist has these messages going on through his head all the time.

So this is one element, the pain aversion and the identification of love with pain.


Then there's the need to convert the partner to a bad internal object.

It is a common mistake in literature. The greatest minds in psychology had insisted that object constancy is associated only with good objects because good objects don't abandon you. Good objects don't reject you. Good objects are there for you. Good objects, you know, stay, etc. They are the last ones standing.

But I don't think it's true. I think object constancy is applicable to good objects and to bad objects equally.

Object constancy simply means this object is going to be here. I can rely on it. It is here. Assuredly, I am not going to be abandoned by this object.

But of course, this object can be bad. It could be a bad object.

And the narcissist and the schizoid, the paranoid, etc., the logics and the borderline, of course, the psychopath, they have a need to convert external objects to internal objects. And they have a need to convert these internal objects to bad objects.

This is the sequence. This is a chain.

The narcissist meets an external object, comes across an external object, gets acquainted with an external object, has a one-night stand with an external object. He immediately snapshots her, converts her into an internal object, and then he renders this internal object, bad, persecutory, threatening, unreliable, abandoning, frustrating, though exciting object, and imbues this object with object constancy, which is the fantasy element.

It's like, even though you are a bad object now, you're never going to abandon me. You're going to continue to love me as a mother would.

That's, of course, the fantasy element.

So we are beginning to see the rudiments, the ingredients of approach avoidance with internal objects.


Let's recap for a minute.

The schizoid core of the narcissist generates a powerful incentive to avoid relationships with external objects because such relationships end badly. They end in pain. They end in hurt. They're life-threatening. They can cause mortification.

So this is the avoidance part. This is the avoidance part.

When the narcissist does come close to an external object, becomes mildly intimate with an external object. When the external object tries to love the narcissist, bestow empathy on the narcissist, empathize with the narcissist, accept the narcissist.

The narcissist recoils. He retreats. He becomes aggressive. He defends his perimeter. There's a firewall suddenly up and running.

And this is because of the schizoid core and its constant drip drip messaging. It's bad. It's bad to commit yourself to an external object. External objects are dangerous.

This is the avoidance part. The approach part has to do with the need to establish a shared fantasy with an external object. And then the need to convert the external object into an internal object, which in turn can be converted into a persecretary object.

This is a crucial observation. The bad objects, the bad internal objects in a narcissist's mind, are all representations of external objects.

For the narcissist to have a bad object, he needs you.

The narcissist needs you so that he can convert you into a bad object. And the narcissist needs a bad object to get rid of the toxic waste that he is constantly generating internally.

I can't overemphasize this point. It's crucial.

The narcissist must interact with external objects.

The narcissist and the schizoid, they are compelled, they're driven, they can't help it. They must team up with external objects.

Why?

Because they need to convert these external objects to bad objects. Why?

Because they need to offload, to transfer the toxic waste that they constantly produce onto the bad object and from the bad object onto you.

You are the narcissist's garbage disposal dump. You are the toxic waste dump.

The narcissist uses you as a repository and reservoir of his shadow. You are the narcissist's externalized shadow.

But there is no way for the narcissist to externalize his dark, sick side before he had internalized you, to externalize, to project, to get rid of, to throw out the sick, pathological, decaying, decomposing, decadent, destructive, stinking, horrible, toxic part of himself.

To get rid of this gangrenous, to amputate this gangrenous organ.

There's only one way to accomplish this. You need to take all this baggage, baggage of toxicity and decomposition, and you need to offload it on a bad object, bad internal object and bad external object.

That's why the narcissist needs you. He needs you because he needs a supply of bad objects all the time.

He reaches out to people. He flirts. He seduces. He does anything. He creates shared fantasies with business associates, with romantic partners, with colleagues, with neighbors, with family members.

He does this so that he can then snapshot you, internalize you and dump all his SHIT on you, onto you, converting you into an internal toxic waste dump.

And then he projects this bad object, which is now laden and burdened with a narcissist toxicity. He projects it onto you, replete with the luggage, replete with all the dirt and all the trash and all the toxins and all the poisons and all the bad emotions and all the fears, replete with all this negative emotionality, now residing within the bad object.

And this internal bad object used to be you.

And so he's giving you back this internal bad object, contaminated, adulterated, deadly, poisonous.

And this is the approach part. The narcissist approaches you, converts you to internal objects.

So then he approaches the internal object. He imbues it with toxicity. Then he projects it onto you. And you become the secretary. You become toxic. You become the abuser.

The narcissist becomes the victim. And then he avoids you. And he avoids you by shunning you, by abusing you.

What you see from the outside is like approach, avoidance, love, hate, ambivalence, good treatment, caring, empathic, lack of care. Even I would say disdain and contempt.

You see this intermittent reinforcement because the narcissist is not interacting with you. He's interacting with your representation in his mind.

All the bad objects in the narcissist's mind, all of them are representations of people outside, of real people, of external objects.

And the narcissist uses all of them as repositories of toxicity, as toxic waste dumps.

And to do that, converts them to bad internal objects.

Once this is done, once this is accomplished, once the narcissist got rid of you, in effect, by poisoning you.

It's exactly like poisoning. The narcissist gave you back the internal bad object which had represented you for so long, gave it back to you, but it's radioactive. And you acquire radiation sickness. Give it back to you.

At that moment, the narcissist is alone. He goes back full cycle, full circle to the separation phase.

You remember how we started this lecture in the separation phase from mother?

When the narcissist had separated from mother as a baby, there was a void, there was a space, deep space, there was an emptiness, there was an empty core.

The narcissist goes back there, having discarded you, having dispensed with you and with the bad internal object that represented you, having got rid of you in every possible way, internally and externally.

The narcissist has reverted to the separation phase.

Anyhow, the narcissist sees you as a mother. The narcissist regards his intimate partner, actually everyone around him, as mother and father figures.

So, discarding you feels like separation. It's relieving, it's liberating, it's adventurous, it's courageous, it's grandiose. It's a good feeling, not a bad feeling, if he is the one who had taken the initiative.

If you took the initiative, it's mortified, but if he took the initiative to discard you, it's the greatest high in the known universe.

It's a literal high, it's a sense of utter cellular liberation.

The narcissist has reestablished a safe solitary space in which he can feel finally that he does exist in dividuation.

The narcissist goes through separation and dividuation. You are the mother figure. He converted you into a bad object. He gave you back the bad object with its luggage.

Now you are a persecutory object, now you are a bad object, now you are horrible, now you are the enemy.

So, he discards you. That's the separation phase. You are a mother figure. He discarded you as a mother, not as an intimate partner, as a mother.

That's the separation phase.

And following the separation phase, the narcissist individuates. He becomes an individual. He has this solitary, endless universe in which he can become himself.

He then falls in love with himself, limerence, infatuation, literal, with his newly discovered self, because his new self contains only good objects. He just got rid of the bad object.

At this stage, he contains only good objects. He is totally idealized.

And the narcissist falls in love. The only time the narcissist feels as an individual, and the only time the narcissist is truly in love in the fullest sense, fullest meaning of this word, is after separation, initiated separation, after discard, initiated discard.

Now, don't confuse this with being discarded. If you are the one who abandons the narcissist or rejects him, that's an entirely different story.

The narcissist's object inconsistency, and he reacts with mortification. I've dedicated a few videos to this other process.

In Healthy People, Boundaries Define the Personal Space. With the narcissist, Boundaries Are the Space.

And that's a very critical distinction. Healthy people have kind of perimeter. They have border police, you know, where you show a passport and so on. So they have border police.

And then inside, there's the hinterland. There's a country. And many, many good things are happening in the country and so on. So it's a healthy environment.

With a narcissist, the boundaries are the space. He can feel, he feels that he has a space only when he enforces boundaries. And his boundaries are rejecting, humiliating, sadistic, aggressive.

Narcissist identifies boundary setting with aggression. He identifies boundaries setting with sadistic humiliation. And only when he does this, he has a sense of personal space, which Healthy People have just by placing the boundaries.

To remind you, the reason that narcissists go through this process is to test your sufficiency and efficacy as parental figures within the shared fantasy.

The narcissist expects you to provide unconditional love and acceptance. Never mind what he does. Never mind his misdeeds and his misconduct. Never mind how ostentatiously he had hurt you. So he's testing you. He wants to see if you're a good enough mother.

He is reenacting early childhood conflicts and he's deriving some sadistic pleasure from the whole process.

But as you can see, the narcissist lives inside his head in the fullest sense of the word. He interacts with only with internal objects.

And he uses external objects as conduits, as ways to reach into internal objects. With these internal objects, he has everything he needs. He's totally self-sufficient. He's schizoid. He has sex, autoerotic. He has services and he has supply.

I want to read to you a segment, an excerpt from a book titled The Empty Core, an Object Relations Approach to Psychotherapy of the Schizoid Personality. It was written by Jeffrey Seinfeld, not Jerry Seinfeld, published by Jason Aronson in 1991. It's a great book. It comes highly recommended. It's a good summary of the object relations approach.

In the future, I'll make videos about Kohut, about Lacan, and others. But my heart belongs to object relations theory, as you may have noticed.

So here's a segment from The Empty Core.

Jeffrey Seinfeld writes, Sutherland, 1989, who had been a colleague and friend of Fairburn, stated that if there is a disruption in the child's relationship to the actual parent, there must be a re-establishment of the object connection, or the child must help an actual substitute figure.

When there is no substitute for the parent, the child creates such a substitute, imaginatively, because the individual cannot shape his own self without an inner image to fill the void.

The empty core in which a parental image must be inserted.

One might be quickly disposed to the view of an empty core as disadvantageous to the personality.

But, says Seinfeld, the empty core is in fact central and necessary and has a positive self-formative value.

The child does not only fill the void with an internal image, rather he plays at comforting, soothing and mirroring himself in the image of the parental figure.

Through this experience, the child has the experience of trying out varying modes of the self, parenting himself and even shaping the self.

This idea suggests the existential phenomenological principle that nothingness is the core of freedom, allowing for the individual to shape himself to become what he chooses within the constraints of the given biological and social facticity.

Given the emphasis on biological determinism, this reminder of a core of human freedom beyond biological contingency is important.

As will be shown in a later chapter, the awareness of lack creates desire, creates ideals.

In Sophocles' Theban play, Oedipus of Colonus asks his daughter Ismene. When I am nothing, says Oedipus, so then I am a man. Ismene can only respond in the affirmative.

Thus, if the void does not become traumatic or intolerable, it provides the infant with the freedom of nothingness to practice.

The freedom of nothingness to practice at shaping himself in the imago of the object.

The empty core gives rise to the grandeur self, as Kohut had noted in 1977, and this results in realistic ambitions and ego interests.

I believe, says Simon, that this void would be created by the child himself in his own spontaneous striving towards autonomy if external circumstances did not create the void through disruptions.

If the disruptions become traumatic or prolonged, the internal object world becomes disappointing because it is basically insubstantial and unreal.

The empty core may become the bottomless pit of the schizoid patient.

He generally adopts one of two strategies to deal with the empty core.

The first is the effort to eliminate all need by maintaining himself as aloof, self-sufficient, isolated.

Emptiness becomes an ideal. The individual strives towards extinguishing all need.

The second strategy is the endeavor to arrive at a stage of absolute completion, absolute fullness, fulfillment.

It too is an endeavor to extinguish need, but through satiation. ###

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