Category Archives: Vaknin, Sam PhD

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin: The Narcissist’s Disabled, Sick, and Challenged Children

"Prism" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Prism” by Mimi Stuart ©

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

The narcissist regards his disabled or challenged child as an insult, a direct challenge to his self-perceived perfection and omnipotence, a constant, nagging source of negative narcissistic supply, and the reification and embodiment of a malevolent and hostile world which tirelessly conspires to render him a victim through misfortune and catastrophe. The precarious foundations of his False Self – and, therefore, his ability to function – are undermined by this miscegenation.

Relentlessly challenged by his defective offspring’s very existence and by the persistence of its attendant painful reminders, the narcissist lashes out, seeking to persecute and penalize the sources of his excruciating frustration: the child and his mother. The narcissist holds her responsible for this failure, not himself. She brought this shame and perturbation into his otherwise fantastic life. It was she who gave issue to this new fount of torment, this permanent reminder of fallibility, imperfection, mortality, impotence, guilt, disgrace, and fear.

To rectify this wrong, to restore the interrupted balance, and to firmly regain an assured sense of his grandiosity, the narcissist resorts to devaluation. He humiliates, belittles, and demeans both the unfortunate child and his suffering mother. He compares their failings unfavourably to his own wholeness. He berates and mocks them for their combined disability, frailty, weakness, meekness, and resourcelessness. He transforms them into the captive butts of his unbridled sadism and the cowed adherents of a cult-like shared psychosis. Serves them well for having thus ruined his life, figures the narcissist.

Casting himself as a compassionate proponent of “tough love”, the narcissist eggs his charges on mercilessly. He contrasts their slowness with his self-imputed alacrity, their limitations with his infinite grasp, their mediocrity with his genius and acuity, and their defeats with his triumphant life, real or imagined. He harps on and leverages their insecurities and he displays his hateful contempt for this mother-child diad with a fiery vengeance whenever he is confronted, criticized, or resisted. He may even turn violent in order to enforce the discipline of his distorted worldview and delusional exegesis of reality. By reducing them, he feels elevated yet again.

Bonding and attachment in infancy are critical determinants and predictors of well-being in adulthood. A small minority of children are born with dysfunctions – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Asperger’s Disorder – which prevent them from properly bonding with or attaching to the primary caregiver (mother, in most cases). Environmental factors – such as an unstable home, parental absenteeism, or a disintegrating family unit – also play a role and can lead to the emergence of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Toddlers adapt to this sterile and hostile emotional landscape by regressing to an earlier phase of unbridled, self-sufficient, and solipsistic primary narcissism. Disabled and challenged children of narcissistic parents may well end up being narcissists themselves, a sad but inescapable irony.

Narcissistic parents of seriously ill children derive narcissistic supply from onlookers, friends, family, colleagues, and community by attracting attention to their role as saintly caretakers. They are demonstratively and ostentatiously patient, compassionate, suffering heroically, and dedicated to the child, its welfare, and ultimate healing. They flaunt the child’s sickness as a kind of a hard-won but well-deserved medal, down in the trenches with their tortured offspring, doing desperate battle with a pitiless enemy: the disease. It is an intoxicating part in the unfolding film that is the narcissist’s life.

But this irresistible craving for attention should be demarcated from the sinister affliction colloquially known as Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.

Patients afflicted with the Factitious Disorder colloquially known as “Munchausen Syndrome” seek to attract the attention of medical personnel by feigning or by self-inflicting serious illness or injury. “Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome” (Factitious Illness or Disorder by Proxy, or Imposed by Another, or FII – Fabricated or Induced Illness by Carers) involves the patient inducing illness in or causing injury to a dependent (child, old parent) in order to gain, in her capacity as a caretaker, the attention, praise, and sympathy of medical care providers. Both syndromes are forms of shared psychosis (folie a deux or a plusieurs) and “crazy-making” with hospital staff as unwilling and unwitting participants in the drama.

Superficially, this overwhelming need for consideration by figures of authority and role models (doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers) resembles the narcissist’s relentless and compulsive pursuit of narcissistic supply (which consists of attention, adulation, admiration, being feared or noted, etc.) But, there are some important differences.

To start with, the narcissist – especially the somatic variety – worships his body and cherishes his health. If anything, narcissists tend to be hypochondriacs. They are loath to self-harm and self-mutilate, let alone fake laboratory tests and consume potentially deleterious substances and medications. They are also unlikely to seriously “damage” their sources of supply (e.g., children) as long as they are compliant and adulating.

As opposed to narcissists, people with both Munchausen Syndromes desire acceptance, love, caring, relationships, and nurturing, not merely attention: theirs is an emotional need that amounts to more than the mere regulation of their sense of self-worth. They have no full-fledged False Self, only a clinging, insecure, traumatized, deceitful, and needy True Self. Munchausen Syndrome may be comorbid (can be diagnosed with) personality disorders, though and the patients are pathological liars, schizoid, paranoid, hypervigilant, and aggressive (especially when confronted.)

While narcissists are indiscriminate and “promiscuous” when it comes to their sources of narcissistic supply – anyone would do – patients with the Munchausen Syndromes derive emotional nurturance and sustenance mainly from healthcare practitioners.

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by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy Syndromes: Forms of Pathological Narcissism?”

Read Sam Vaknin’s “How Does the Narcissist React “http://to Illness and Disability?”

Watch “Authoritarian vs Permissive Parenting”


GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin:
How Does the Narcissist React to Illness and Disability?

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

When narcissists fall victim to chronic or acute diseases, or survive a traffic accident, they react in either of four typical ways, depending on the type of narcissist:

1. The schizotypal reaction the belief that the narcissist’s predicament is a part of a larger, cosmic plan, or of a blueprint that governs the narcissist’s life and inexorably leads him to greatness and to the fulfillment of a mission.

2. Narcissistic rage intended to allay feelings of helplessness, loss of control, and impotence and to re-establish the narcissist’s omnipotent, grandiose self.

This is frequently followed by a schizoid phase (withdrawal) and then by a manic spurt of activity, seeking narcissistic supply (attention).

3. The paranoid reaction: the narcissist deludes himself that the accident was no accident, someone is out to get him, etc. The narcissist casts himself in the role of a victim, usually in the framework of some grand design or conspiracy, or as the outcome of “fate” (again, a schizotypal element).

4. The masochistic reaction: in the wake of the illness or accident, the narcissist’s constant anxiety is alleviated and he is relieved, having been “punished” properly for his inherent “evilness” and decadence.

Narcissists hate weak (sick) people and hate it even more when their source of narcissistic supply ceases to function properly. Most of them just move on: they abandon the sick spouse and find another, healthier one. Some of them play the role of martyrs, victims, selfless saints and thus garner narcissistic supply as they “treat” their bedridden spouse.

The permanently disabled narcissists adopt one or more of three strategies:

1. Exaggerated helplessness which justifies emotional blackmail and the kind of insidious dependence that cripples his caregivers;

2. Control freakery in a frenzied attempt to reassert his grandiose sense of omnipotence now gravely challenged by his invalidity;

3. Sadism which renders his victim as helpless as he is and as frustrated as he feels and, thus, “levels the playing field” and normalizes his disability (“everyone is helpless and frustrated so there is nothing really wrong with me, I am, after all, still perfect.”)

Possessing a distorted physical self-image is called a Body Dysmorphic Disorder. All narcissists have it to some degree. Somatic narcissists are especially prone to misjudge their bodies – either positively or negatively. They believe themselves to be physically irresistible, exuding sex and energy, statuesquely shaped, and, in general, stunning hunks. This grandiose self-image rarely corresponds with reality, though.

Aware of this, the somatic narcissist dedicates inordinate amounts of time and effort to body building, exercising, mastering sexual advances and foreplay and the intricacies of the coital act itself. To enhance his belief system, the somatic narcissist co-opts others by forcing them to compliment his build, shape, constitution, health, sexual prowess, physical regime and attractiveness. The somatic narcissist is a compulsive consumer of “body complements or extensions” – objects that he thinks increase his attraction, irresistibility, appeal, and the value of his propositions. Fancy cars, flashy clothing, sumptuous residences, first class flights, luxury hotels, platinum credit cards, lavish parties, name-dropping, celebrity “friends”, hi-tech gadgetry – all serve to enhance the narcissist’s self-image and to bolster his grandiose fantasies.

Thus, this positive Dysmorphic Disorder serves to elicit Narcissistic Supply and buttress a distorted, unreal, self-image. But it is also a control mechanism. It allows the narcissist’s False Self to manipulate both the narcissist and his human environment. It is as though by morphing his body – the narcissist moulds and designs his world, his nearest and dearest, his self in flux, his projected image and the reactions to it. By lying about his body, his health, his sex appeal, his longevity, his possessions (his bodily extensions), his sexual prowess, his attractiveness, his irresistibility, his friends and lovers, adventures and affairs – the narcissist transforms the REAL world. To him, the REAL world – is how people PERCEIVE him to be. By changing their perceptions, by indoctrinating and “brainwashing” them – the narcissist secures a Pathological Narcissistic Space in which his Self False can thrive, fully nourished.

This phenomenon is not limited to the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist also deforms the true image of his body in his mind. He may exaggerate the dimensions of his head, the height of his forehead, or the length of his (sensitive) fingers. He may attribute to himself ailments and syndromes typical of high powered intellectuals – consumption (tuberculosis), tendonitis, headaches. The cerebral narcissist almost always lies about his IQ, his mental capacities, his skills. He tends to completely ignore and belittle the rest of his body. To him, it is a burdensome and unnecessary appendage. He may complain of the need to “maintain” the flesh and of the derided dependence of his magnificent brain on his abject and decaying body. “I would have willingly placed my brain in a laboratory jar, to be artificially nourished there, and given up my body” – they may say. They rarely exercise and regard with disdain the activities, proclivities, and predilections of the somatic narcissist. Physical pursuits – sex included – are perceived by them to be bestial, demeaning, common, wasteful, and meaningless. This is also a result of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The cerebral narcissist underestimates the needs of his own body, misreads its signals, and ignores its processes. The body, to him, becomes abstract, a background noise, or nuisance.

Cerebral narcissists sometimes go through somatic phases and somatic narcissists – if capable – adopt cerebral behaviour patterns. Their attitudes change accordingly. The temporarily somatic narcissist suddenly begins to exercise, groom himself, seduce, and have creative and imaginative sex. The somatic made cerebral tries to read more, becomes contemplative and a-social, and consumes culture. But these are passing phases and the narcissist always reverts to true – or should I say, false – form.

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by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy Syndromes: Forms of Pathological Narcissism?”

Read Narcissism Part 1 (of 5): “My husband is so selfish! Is he a narcissist?” Symptoms of Narcissism.

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Big Organizations and Government Stonewall and Obstruct. Why Is That? Is It in Their Nature?

"Intimidator" Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©  Live the Life you Desire

“Intimidator” Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes: Collectives – especially bureaucracies, such as for-profit universities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the army, and government – tend to behave passive-aggressively and to frustrate their constituencies. This misconduct is often aimed at releasing tensions and stress that the individuals comprising these organizations accumulate in their daily contact with members of the public.

Additionally, as Kafka astutely observed, such misbehavior fosters dependence in the clients of these establishments and cements a relationship of superior (i.e., the obstructionist group) versus inferior (the demanding and deserving individual, who is reduced to begging and supplicating).

Passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism: the destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with its real-life achievements.

No wonder, therefore, that negativistic, narcissistic, and borderline organizations share similar traits and identical psychological defenses: most notably denial (mainly of the existence of problems and complaints), and projection (blaming the group’s failures and dysfunction on its clients).

In such a state of mind, it is easy to confuse means (making money, hiring staff, constructing or renting facilities, and so on) with ends (providing loans, educating students, assisting the poor, fighting wars, etc.). Means become ends and ends become means.

Consequently, the original goals of the organization are now considered to be nothing more than obstacles on the way to realizing new aims: borrowers, students, or the poor are nuisances to be summarily dispensed with as the board of directors considers the erection of yet another office tower and the disbursement of yet another annual bonus to its members. As Parkinson noted, the collective perpetuates its existence, regardless of whether it has any role left and how well it functions.

As the constituencies of these collectives – most forcefully, its clients – protest and exert pressure in an attempt to restore them to their erstwhile state, the collectives develop a paranoid state of mind, a siege mentality, replete with persecutory delusions and aggressive behavior. This anxiety is an introjection of guilt. Deep inside, these organizations know that they have strayed from the right path. They anticipate attacks and rebukes and are rendered defensive and suspicious by the inevitable, impending onslaught.

Still, deep down bureaucracies epitomize the predominant culture of failure: failure as a product, the intended outcome and end-result of complex, deliberate, and arduous manufacturing processes. Like the majority of people, bureaucrats are emotionally invested in failure, not in success: they thrive on failure, calamity, and emergency. The worse the disaster and inaptitude, the more resources are allocated to voracious and ever-expanding bureaucracies (think the US government post the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Paradoxically, their measure of success is in how many failures they have had to endure or have fostered.

These massive organs tend to attract and nurture functionaries and clients whose mentality and personality are suited to embedded fatalism. In a globalized, competitive world the majority are doomed to failure and recurrent deprivation. Those rendered losers by the vagaries and exigencies of modernity find refuge in Leviathan: imposing, metastatically sprawling nanny organizations and corporations who shield them from the agonizing truth of their own inadequacy and from the shearing winds of entrepreneurship and cutthroat struggle.

A tiny minority of mavericks swim against this inexorable tide: they innovate, reframe, invent, and lead. Theirs is an existence of constant strife as the multitudes and their weaponized bureaucracies seek to put them down, to extinguish the barely flickering flame, and to appropriate the scant resources consumed by these forward leaps. In time, ironically, truly successful entrepreneurs themselves become invested in failure and form their own vast establishment empires: defensive and dedicated rather than open and universal networks. Progress materializes despite and in contradistinction to the herd-like human spirit not because of it.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Tips: How to cope with financial abuse.”

Read “Stonewalling: ‘I’m busy. I don’t have the time to deal with this right now.’”

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: “I Can’t Get Into My Abuser’s Mind: It’s Almost as If He is Not Human, But an Alien!”

"Glissiando" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Glissiando” by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes:

Abusers appear to be suffering from dissociation (multiple personality). At home, they are intimidating and suffocating monsters; outdoors, they are wonderful, caring, giving, and much-admired pillars of the community. Why this duplicity?

It is only partly premeditated and intended to disguise the abuser’s acts. More importantly, it reflects his inner world, where the victims are nothing but two-dimensional representations, objects, devoid of emotions and needs, or mere extensions of his self. Thus, to the abuser’s mind, his quarries do not merit humane treatment, nor do they evoke empathy.

Typically, the abuser succeeds to convert the abused into his worldview. The victim and his victimizers don’t realize that something is wrong with the relationship. This denial is common and all-pervasive. It permeates other spheres of the abuser’s life as well. Such people are often narcissists steeped in grandiose fantasies, divorced from reality, besotted with their False Self, consumed by feelings of omnipotence, omniscience, entitlement, and paranoia.

Contrary to stereotypes, both the abuser and his prey usually suffer from disturbances in the regulation of their sense of self-worth. Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence render the abuser and his confabulated self vulnerable to criticism, disagreement, exposure, and adversity real or imagined.

Abuse is bred by fear of being mocked or betrayed, emotional insecurity, anxiety, panic, and apprehension. It is a last ditch effort to exert control for instance, over one’s spouse by “annexing” her, “possessing” her, and “punishing” her for being a separate entity, with her own boundaries, needs, feelings, preferences, and dreams.

In her seminal tome, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”, Patricia Evans lists the various forms of manipulation which together constitute verbal and emotional (psychological) abuse:

Withholding (the silent treatment), countering (refuting or invalidating the spouse’s statements or actions), discounting (putting down her emotions, possessions, experiences, hopes, and fears), sadistic and brutal humor, blocking (avoiding a meaningful exchange, diverting the conversation, changing the subject), blaming and accusing, judging and criticizing, undermining and sabotaging, threatening, name calling, forgetting and denying, ordering around, denial, and abusive anger.

To these we can add:

Wounding “honesty”, ignoring, smothering, dotting, unrealistic expectations, invasion of privacy, tactlessness, sexual abuse, physical maltreatment, humiliating, shaming, insinuating, lying, exploiting, devaluing and discarding, being unpredictable, reacting disproportionately, dehumanizing, objectifying, abusing confidence and intimate information, engineering impossible situations, control by proxy and ambient abuse.

In his comprehensive essay, “Understanding the Batterer in Custody and Visitation Disputes”, Lundy Bancroft observes:

Because of the distorted perceptions that the abuser has of rights and responsibilities in relationships, he considers himself to be the victim. Acts of self-defense on the part of the battered woman or the children, or efforts they make to stand up for their rights, he defines as aggression AGAINST him. He is often highly skilled at twisting his descriptions of events to create the convincing impression that he has been victimized. He thus accumulates grievances over the course of the relationship to the same extent that the victim does, which can lead professionals to decide that the members of the couple ‘abuse each other’ and that the relationship has been ‘mutually hurtful’.

Yet, whatever the form of ill-treatment and cruelty the structure of the interaction and the roles played by abuser and victim are the same. Identifying these patterns and how they are influenced by prevailing social and cultural mores, values, and beliefs is a first and indispensable step towards recognizing abuse, coping with it, and ameliorating its inevitable and excruciatingly agonizing aftermath.

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Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb, and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

Read Sam Vaknin’s “I Admire and Support him and He Abuses Me!”

Read Alison Poulsen’s “Abuse: ‘How do I respond to my ex’s abusive emails? I just wish we could be friends.’”

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin:
Misinformation about Covert vs. Classic Narcissists

"The Stuff of Dreams  Apollo 11" by Mimi Stuart ©

“The Stuff of Dreams Apollo 11”
by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes:

Contrary to misinformation spread by “experts” online, covert narcissists are not cunning and manipulative. Classic narcissists are: they often disguise their true nature effectively, knowingly, and intentionally. They are persistent actors with great thespian skills. Not so the covert narcissist: he suppresses his true nature because he lacks the confidence to assert it. His is not a premeditated choice: can’t help but shy away. The covert narcissist is his own worst critic.

Inverted narcissists are covert narcissists. They are self-centred, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, or hostile, and paranoid. They harbour grandiose fantasies and have a strong sense of entitlement. They tend to exploit other, albeit stealthily and subtly. Covert narcissists are aware of their innate limitations and shortcomings and, therefore, constantly fret and stress over their inability to fulfil their unrealistic dreams and expectations. They avoid recognition, competition, and the limelight for fear of being exposed as frauds or failures. They are ostentatiously modest.

Covert narcissists often feel guilty over and ashamed of their socially-impermissible aggressive urges and desires. Consequently, they are shy and unassertive and intensely self-critical (perfectionist). This inner conflict between an overwhelming sense of worthlessness and a grandiose False Self results in mood and anxiety disorders. They team up with classic narcissists (see below), but, in secret, resent and envy them.

Compare the classic narcissist to the covert narcissist is this table (Cooper and Akhtar, 1989):

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 12.54.46 PM

The Inverted Narcissist is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you are living with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, if you are married to one, if you are working with a narcissist, etc. it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist, you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists and ONLY with narcissists, no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder, can you be safely labelled an “inverted narcissist”.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin — the author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Sam Vaknin’s “One partner loves to love, the other loves to be loved.”

Read Dr. Alison Poulsen’s“Seven Points to Dealing with a Narcissist.”

Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Putting the Broken Humpty-Dumpty Narcissist Back Together

"Tempest" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“Tempest” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

Positive feelings (about oneself or pertaining to one’s accomplishments, assets, etc.) are never gained merely through conscious endeavor. They are the outcome of insight. A cognitive component (factual knowledge regarding one’s achievements, assets, qualities, skills, etc.) plus an emotional correlate that is heavily dependent on past experience, defense mechanisms, and personality style or structure (“character”).

People who consistently feel worthless or unworthy usually overcompensate cognitively for the lack of the aforementioned emotional component.

Such a person doesn’t love himself, yet is trying to convince himself that he is loveable. He doesn’t trust himself, yet he lectures to himself on how trustworthy he is (replete with supporting evidence from his experiences).

But such cognitive substitutes to emotional self-acceptance won’t do.

The root of the problem is the inner dialogue between disparaging voices and countervailing “proofs”. Such self-doubting is, in principle, a healthy thing. It serves as an integral and critical part of the “checks and balances” that constitute the mature personality.

But normally, some ground rules are observed and some facts are considered indisputable. When things go awry, however, the consensus breaks. Chaos replaces structure and the regimented update of one’s self-image (via introspection) gives way to recursive loops of self-deprecation with diminishing insights.

Normally, in other words, the dialogue serves to augment some self-assessments and mildly modify others. When things go wrong, the dialogue concerns itself with the very narrative, rather than with its content.

The dysfunctional dialogue deals with questions that are far more fundamental (and typically settled early on in life):

“Who am I?”

“What are my traits, my skills, my accomplishments?”

“How reliable, loveable, trustworthy, qualified, truthful am I?”

“How can I separate fact from fiction?”

The answers to these questions consist of both cognitive (empirical) and emotional components. They are mostly derived from our social interactions, from the feedback we get and give. An inner dialogue that is still concerned with these qualms indicates a problem with socialization.

It is not one’s “psyche” that is delinquent but one’s social functioning. One should direct one’s efforts to “heal”, outwards (to remedy one’s interactions with others) not inwards (to heal one’s “psyche”).

Another important insight is that the disordered dialogue is not time-synchronic.

The “normal” internal discourse is between concurrent, equipotent, and same-age “entities” (psychological constructs). Its aim is to negotiate conflicting demands and reach a compromise based on a rigorous test of reality.

The faulty dialogue, on the other hand, involves wildly disparate interlocutors. These are in different stages of maturation and possessed of unequal faculties. They are more concerned with monologues than with a dialogue. As they are “stuck” in various ages and periods, they do not all relate to the same “host”, “person”, or “personality”. They require time- and energy-consuming constant mediation. It is this depleting process of arbitration and “peacekeeping” that is consciously felt as nagging insecurity or, even, in extremis, self-loathing.

A constant and consistent lack of self-confidence and a fluctuating sense of self-worth are the conscious “translation” of the unconscious threat posed by the precariousness of the disordered personality. It is, in other words, a warning sign.

Thus, the first step is to clearly identify the various segments that, together, however incongruently, constitute the personality. This can be surprisingly easily done by noting down the “stream of consciousness” dialogue and assigning “names” or “handles” to the various “voices” in it.

The next step is to “introduce” the voices to each other and form an internal consensus (a “coalition”, or an “alliance”). This requires a prolonged period of “negotiations” and mediation, leading to the compromises that underlies such a consensus. The mediator can be a trusted friend, a lover, or a therapist.

The very achievement of such an internal “ceasefire” reduces anxiety considerably and removes the “imminent threat”. This, in turn, allows the patient to develop a realistic “core” or “kernel”, wrapped around the basic understanding reached earlier between the contesting parts of his personality.

The development of such a nucleus of stable self-worth, however, is dependent on two things:

1) Sustained interactions with mature and predictable people who are aware of their boundaries and of their true identity (their traits, skills, abilities, limitations, and so on), and

2) The emergence of a nurturing and “holding” emotional correlate to every cognitive insight or breakthrough.

The latter is inextricably bound with the former.

Here is why:

Some of the “voices” in the internal dialogue of the patient are bound to be disparaging, injurious, belittling, sadistically critical, destructively skeptical, mocking, and demeaning. The only way to silence these voices or at least “discipline” them and make them conform to a more realistic emerging consensus is by gradually (and sometimes surreptitiously) introducing countervailing “players”.

Protracted exposure to the right people, in the framework of mature interactions, negates the pernicious effects of what Freud called a Superego gone awry. It is, in effect, a process of reprogramming and deprogramming.

There are two types of beneficial, altering, social experiences:

1) Structured interactions that involve adherence to a set of rules as embedded in authority, institutions, and enforcement mechanisms (example: attending psychotherapy, going through a spell in prison, convalescing in a hospital, serving in the army, being an aid worker or a missionary, studying at school, growing up in a family, participating in a 12-steps group), and

2) Non-structured interactions, which involve a voluntary exchange of information, opinion, goods, or services.

The problem with the disordered person is that, usually, his (or her) chances of freely interacting with mature adults (intercourse of the type 2, non-structured kind) are limited to start with and dwindle with time. This is because few potential partners—interlocutors, lovers, friends, colleagues, neighbors—are willing to invest the time, effort, energy, and resources required to effectively cope with the patient and manage the often-arduous relationship. Disordered patients are typically hard to get along with, demanding, petulant, paranoid, and narcissistic.

Even the most gregarious and outgoing patient finally finds himself isolated, shunned, and misjudged. This only adds to his initial misery and amplifies the wrong kind of voices in the internal dialogue.

Hence my recommendation to start with structured activities and in a structured, almost automatic manner. Therapy is only one and at times not the most efficient choice.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin — the author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited” and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read “Narcissism” by Alison Poulsen

Watch “How to become less self-critical.”

Read Sam Vaknin’s: “Inner Voices, False Narratives, Narcissism, and Codependence.”