Becoming real.

stone_cat

I haven’t been posting as much about my recovery or therapy on this blog as I used to, because it’s grown so big and I feel more comfortable posting such deeply personal stuff on my other blog, because it’s so much smaller and has far fewer readers than this one does.

But I’m making an exception today, because of how important I think this dream I had last night is.

My subconscious mind seems to be revealing the most to me lately through my dreams. Later I tell my therapist about them, and we interpret them together. Sometimes though, the meaning is obvious to me and lately it’s getting easier for me to figure these dreams out on my own.

In my last therapy session, I was asked what my real self is really like.   I wasn’t able to answer very well.  I felt like I had to make things up.  Chair Girl (my inner child, who I have “sit” in a chair in my therapist’s office, which is how she got her name) is so elusive, and only comes out intermittently.  I know she’s shy and has the potential to be very loving, but sometimes it’s hard for me to capture her essence, who SHE is.

Last night, I had another beautiful dream that answered this for me.

I owned a strange object.   It was a cat made out of black stone.   But it wasn’t actually black stone.   The person who gave it to me explained that this object had once been a real cat, who had been killed during a plane crash (but whose body somehow remained intact) and whose owner, a man from China, had the cat’s body cryogenically frozen and sealed, much like those services that do taxidermy on dead pets and send your pet back to you stuffed and fitted with glass eyes.  But this cat wasn’t stuffed and it didn’t have glass eyes.   It was hard as a rock, heavy, and shone like stone.   Its eyes were sealed shut, forever sleeping.

I loved the cat anyway, and felt sad over what had happened to it.  I  liked to just sit with it and pet it, even though it was no more than an object and could never respond or give back any love.  I sometimes wondered what he had been like, and I named him Max.

One day something very strange happened.  I knew Max had been dead for years.   But on this one day, while I was holding it in my arms, pretending it was a real cat, I heard a small mew.     I looked down and saw that Max was trying to open his eyes.    I almost dropped him in shock, but instead set him down gently on a chair and watched in amazement.   I wasn’t sure what to do.   This was scaring me.  But I was frozen in place.   I couldn’t stop watching.

Max began to transform.   His cold stone body became a beautiful coat of reddish brown tabby fur, and his eyes, now opened, turned from black to brilliant blue.   He started to breathe.  He looked up at me and meowed loudly.  It occurred to me he must be part Siamese, with those blue eyes and loud, raspy voice.

I asked him if he was hungry, and he immediately jumped down and walked regally toward the kitchen, as if he understood what I was asking him.  He kept looking back at me, meowing.  I happened to have some cat food and he ate as if he’d been starving.    My shock having worn off,  I felt love overflowing for this tiny animal.   I picked Max up and held him and listened to him purr contentedly.    He was so tiny but so beautiful and I realized that somehow, it was my love that had woken him up and transformed him back into a living, breathing, loving cat.

One of my favorite stories as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit, and I think it’s because of the universal truth in that story:  that being loved is how one becomes real.

velveteen_rabbit3

Max is the real me.  By learning self-love and self-empathy, she’s waking up and making herself known. She’s becoming real.

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BPD vs. NPD

npd_bpd

This graphic I made shows that BPD and NPD are really the same disorder.    Both have their roots in childhood trauma and fear of abandonment, even though the symptoms may not be evident until later childhood or adolescence.    The primary difference is the outer layer–the narcissist develops a nearly impermeable and rigid false self or mask (usually of grandiosity, but sometimes can present as do-gooder or even a victim). This mask remains stable unless narcissistic supply is removed, which causes it to atrophy, revealing the rage, fear, and hurt beneath that.

The borderline develops a highly permeable, chameleon-like outer layer.  In the diagram, it looks like a flower.   This outer layer of “petals” is analogous to the false self, but is not rigid and not even always present. It is easily penetrated and does not require narcissistic fuel from others to keep it intact.   It changes and morphs its shape and form like a Lava lamp.   Since it’s so easily broken through and is so changeable, Borderlines seem to be “crazier” and seem to have more intense mood swings than narcissists.  They are also skilled in adapting to different situations and people in a chameleon-like way: this usually manifests as codependency.  Sometimes they don’t seem to have minds of their own and take on the behaviors and belief systems of whoever they happen to be with.   Borderlines seem more emotionally unstable than narcissists because the second layer of rage/hurt/fear is often on the surface, causing the Borderline to act out in frequent rages, panic attacks or crying jags.

Beneath these outer layers, NPD and BPD have the same structure:   a layer of rage, hurt and fear when they are triggered, hiding the emptiness and grief under that (which is what both–especially the NPD–are so afraid of confronting and take such desperate measures to avoid feeling).  When this part of the personality structure is finally reached, the NPD/BPD feels as if they don’t exist and that is excruciating for them.   NPDs in therapy may quit at this point.   Hidden deep within the “emptiness” (which really isn’t empty at all) is the diminished and damaged true self (inner child).

The goal in therapy is to break through all those outer layers and finally reach the true self, then give him or her the nurturing and validation they should have received in the hopes that he or she can become a whole person.   It can take a very long time for this to happen, if it ever happens at all.

Borderlines, although they might seem crazier than narcissists, are more easily cured because the permeable chameleon-like outer layer is so much more easily broken through.   In contrast, the NPD false self can take months or years to even crack.   It’s a thick and stable structure, not given to weakening easily, but even the strongest concrete building has hairline cracks somewhere in its structure.   A tornado can reduce the strongest building to rubble.

The key to breaking a narcissist is to find those cracks and weaken the false self. This is usually done by removing narcissistic supply, which serves as a psychological tornado to the narcissistic defensive structure. Sometimes this has already happened; and in this more vulnerable state, with the false self temporarily disabled, a narcissist is more likely to enter therapy.   Unfortunately the narcissistic defense mechanism is so ingrained they will soon find a way to get supply again and rebuild the false self.   The therapist must work to permanently disable it but the narcissist must also be willing for this to happen.

In a low spectrum narcissist, the false self may be rather weak or thin to begin with, and for them, a cure may be more likely or happen sooner.  In low spectrum narcissists, the false self is more like a  cheaply constructed trailer than a stone castle.  It will only take a weak tornado to smash it to smithereens.

When an NPD’s mask begins to fall away, they will begin to act a lot more like a Borderline–raging, dissociating, experiencing crying jags, and showing their underlying inability to regulate overwhelming emotions.   At this point the treatment for NPD should be much the same as for BPD–empathically penetrating the “void” to reach and begin to nurture the diminished real self.

How a child develops BPD or NPD.

These disorders begin when a young child or toddler is hurt or rejected by their parents, especially the mother.  This hurt may not even be intentional–sometimes the illness, death, or absence of a non-disordered parent can set things into motion, because the child can’t discern the difference between deliberate abuse or neglect and something that cannot be helped.  Many, if not most, children who live in orphanages or are moved from foster home to foster home develop some form of Cluster B disorder.

Because a toddler or very young child has not yet completely separated their sense of self from their parents’, when they don’t receive the mirroring and unconditional acceptance they need, they feel as if they’ve been annihilated, and that feeling of annihilation becomes the black void that now surrounds the hurt or abused child.

But because the void is too painful and frightening to cope with, something else must cover that over too, and also protect and hide the inner child.  So the defensive emotions (anger, paranoia, fear, and rage) develop over the void because even though they feel unpleasant, they’re still better than the horrible feeling of having been annihilated, and they also protect the inner child from ever being hurt again.

And over that, for a narcissist, to attract people who could provide the attention and validation they never got as children, they develop a fake self, which is usually “nice” but is only a mask so it isn’t real.  If they feel that the mask is under threat of exposure, they fight tooth and nail to retain the image they want the world to see.

For the borderline, instead of developing a false self to cover the rage and other defensive emotions, they learn to adapt depending on the situation or the people, and that is why they so often become codependent.   Also, because they are closer to the void than the narcissist is, they tend to have dissociative episodes and may engage in self destructive actions like cutting to make them feel like they exist. Or they may engage in other risky behaviors or taking drugs or drinking too much in an effort to self-medicate.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, but I’m well-read on these disorders and these are from my observations and opinions.

Do narcissists cry?

crocodiletears

This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article.  It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.

Do narcissists cry?  Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices.  Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest.  The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave.  Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist.  Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.

Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.

Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.

Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.

babycrying
Here’s who your narcissist really is.

While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”).  Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category.  They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them.  They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you.   They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.

Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?

A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare.   But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible.  Don’t get your hopes up though.    That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting.   If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing.  Maybe.  (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be.  It’s his livelihood).

Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy.  For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.

He writes:

I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.

One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.

I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.

Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.

cryingofthestoneangel
Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at Deviantart.com

Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?

The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams.  A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above.   Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it.   They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams.   Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon.  The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists.  If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane.  Suicide is not unheard of.

Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing.  If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on.   Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being  swept away in the the river of day to day reality.   It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede.  But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been.   I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.”  Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.

Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are).  That being said,   I like to remain optimistic.   I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls.  Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never.  I don’t recommend you try  doing this yourself.  Leave it to the professionals or to God.   You cannot fix a narcissist.   All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.

Superman metaphor for personal transformation.

Something I was thinking about…

Do borderlines have a “false self”?

false_self_pic

One of the takeaways I got from my therapy session tonight, was that as someone with BPD, I do have a false self, but it’s not the same kind of false self a person with NPD has.

Actually, almost everyone has a false self. Whenever you’re polite to someone you don’t like, tell a “white lie,” put on your “best face” in a job interview, or act happy at the dreadful office Christmas party, that’s your false self in action. In the non-disordered, it’s called a social self, and is necessary to be able to function in the world. People who have no social self self at all are people who have no idea how to act in social situations, and just say whatever is on their mind. They care nothing about making a good impression or sparing someone’s feelings. There are people like this, but they’re usually living on the edges of society. Most people aren’t very comfortable having to wear this social self, but know they must in order to function in the world.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are both Cluster B (emotional, dramatic, erratic) disorders and both involve serious disruptions in a person’s sense of self. In both disorders, the true self was compromised at an early age because the parents or caregivers failed to mirror the child’s growing sense of self. The false self is a defense mechanism and stands in for the compromised true self, which in the case of someone with NPD, can no longer be accessed.

falseself_graphic

But there are differences. In a person with NPD, the false self is an intractable, permanent structure and is stable. What this means is that a person with NPD has become someone else. The mask they wear becomes who they are, and any threat of exposure by another for the lie it really is will be viciously attacked or the perpetrator devalued. That’s why you can never criticize a narcissist.

The NPD false self is also stable, meaning it doesn’t change much.  For example, a somatic, grandiose narcissist has built an entire identity around their physical appearance and uses every opportunity to make sure everyone knows how physically perfect they are. Because so much effort has gone into building this identity, the narcissist is unlikely to have developed any other abilities or strengths. A person with NPD pretty much lives full-time as their false self, and rarely, if ever, show others any glimpses of their true self, which in the worst cases, is so inaccessible to them it may as well not exist. If the false self is ripped away (this can be done by denying a narcissist any supply), and there is no more supply to be had (this sometimes happens to elderly narcissists, who can no longer rely on looks, youth, career or financial success to boost their egos), what is revealed is a person so empty, depressed, or dissociated they may require hospitalization or may even attempt suicide. Some may voluntarily enter treatment, but if their fortunes change, they start to feel better and are likely to quit therapy. Schizophrenic symptoms in a degraded narcissist isn’t unusual.

NPD is difficult to treat because the false self is so intractable and all-emcompassing, the person has little to no insight into themselves or even realize it’s they who have the problem. Because they tend to project their unacceptable emotions onto others, they’re far more likely to blame others for things they have really brought on themselves.

In Borderlines, the false self manifests more as a series of temporary masks, adapted to suit certain situations or people. People with BPD are emotional chameleons. Their dramatic mood swings and changeability are due to constant mask-switching and the stress this causes them. The BPD false self is not well developed and it often fails them, causing them emotional distress. The BPD false self (really false selves) is unstable, permeable, and easily shattered, frequently revealing the empty, dissociated, depressed true self. Because it’s not a permanent structure, BPDs don’t require narcissistic supply to keep it “alive” (they’re more likely to become codependent to a narcissist). They can seem “crazier” than people with NPD, but they are more easily treated because they spend at least some of the time without their masks on.

Further reading:

Derealization and Depersonalization in NPD and BPD

Comparing Covert Narcissism and BPD

Borderlines are Human Chameleons

Why Narcissists and Borderlines are Drawn to Each Other

I’m only 6 years old.

Therapy was more productive tonight…

Why does a narcissist need a false self?

trueself_falseself

On one of Sam Vaknin’s discussion pages, someone asked a very good question:
Why does the narcissist conjure up another Self? Why not simply transform his True Self into a False one?

I’ve wondered about this too. Here’s Sam’s explanation, which is a link to one of his articles from his website. While his long answer is predictably bleak and hopeless, and I don’t agree with him about everything, taken as a whole, this article did answer a lot of questions I had been wondering about and as always it made me think.

The Dual Role of the Narcissist’s False Self
By Sam Vaknin

We often marvel at the discrepancy between the private and public lives of our idols: celebrities, statesmen, stars, writers, and other accomplished figures. It is as though they have two personalities, two selves: the “true” one which they reserve for their nearest and dearest and the “fake” or “false” or “concocted” one which they flaunt in public.

In contrast, the narcissist has no private life, no true self, no domain reserved exclusively for his nearest and dearest. His life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display, garnering narcissistic supply from his audience. In the theatre that is the narcissist’s life, the actor is irrelevant. Only the show goes on. The False Self is everything the narcissist would like to be but, alas, cannot: omnipotent, omniscient, invulnerable, impregnable, brilliant, perfect, in short: godlike. Its most important role is to elicit narcissistic supply from others: admiration, adulation, awe, obedience, and, in general: unceasing attention.

The narcissist constructs a narrative of his life that is partly confabulated and whose purpose is to buttress, demonstrate, and prove the veracity of the fantastically grandiose and often impossible claims made by the False Self. This narrative allocates roles to significant others in the narcissist’s personal history. Inevitably, such a narrative is hard to credibly sustain for long: reality intrudes and a yawning abyss opens between the narcissist’s self-imputed divinity and his drab, pedestrian existence and attributes. I call it the Grandiosity Gap. Additionally, meaningful figures around the narcissist often refuse to play the parts allotted to them, rebel, and abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist copes with this painful and ineluctable realization of the divorce between his self-perception and this less than stellar state of affairs by first denying reality, delusionally ignoring and filtering out all inconvenient truths. Then, if this coping strategy fails, the narcissist invents a new narrative, which accommodates and incorporates the very intrusive data that served to undermine the previous, now discarded narrative. He even goes to the extent of denying that he ever had another narrative, except the current, modified one.

The narcissist’s (and the codependent’s) introjects and inner voices (assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers) are mostly negative and sadistic. Rather than provide succour, motivation, and direction, they enhance his underlying ego-dystony (discontent with who he is) and the lability of his sense of self-worth.

buddhanature
“Buddha nature” True Self vs. “Ego” False Self. Click to enlarge graphic.

Introjects possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic (interpretative) framework which allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, of one’s place in it, and, consequently of who one is (self-identity). Overwhelmingly negative introjects – or introjects which are manifestly fake, fallacious, and manipulative – hamper the narcissist’s and codependent’s ability to construct a true and efficacious exegetic (interpretative) framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one’s perception of the universe and of oneself and reality becomes unbearable and engenders pathological, maladaptive, and dysfunctional attempts to either deny the hurtful discrepancy away (delusions and fantasies); grandiosely compensate for it by eliciting positive external voices to counter the negative, inner ones (narcissism via the False Self and its narcissistic supply); attack it (antisocial/psychopathy); withdraw from the world altogether (schizoid solution); or disappear by merging and fusing with another person (codependence.)

Once formed and functioning, the False Self stifles the growth of the True Self and paralyses it. Henceforth, the ossified True Self is virtually non-existent and plays no role (active or passive) in the conscious life of the narcissist. It is difficult to “resuscitate” it, even with psychotherapy. The False Self sometimes parades the child-like, vulnerable, needy, and innocent True Self in order to capture, manipulate, and attract empathic sources of narcissistic supply. When supply is low, the False Self is emaciated and dilapidated. It is unable to contain and repress the True Self which then emerges as a petulant, self-destructive, spoiled, and codependent entity. But the True Self’s moments in the sun are very brief and, usually, inconsequential.

This substitution is not only a question of alienation, as Horney observed. She said that because the Idealised (=False) Self sets impossible goals to the narcissist, the results are frustration and self hate which grow with every setback or failure. But the constant sadistic judgement, the self-berating, the suicidal ideation emanate from the narcissist’s idealised, sadistic, Superego regardless of the existence or functioning of a False Self.

There is no conflict between the True Self and the False Self.

First, the True Self is much too weak to do battle with the overbearing False. Second, the False Self is adaptive (though maladaptive). It helps the True Self to cope with the world. Without the False Self, the True Self would be subjected to so much hurt that it will disintegrate. This happens to narcissists who go through a life crisis: their False Ego becomes dysfunctional and they experience a harrowing feeling of annulment.

falseself_graphic
Anatomy of the mind of a narcissist.

The False Self has many functions. The two most important are:

1. It serves as a decoy, it “attracts the fire”. It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By inventing it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation – in short: to the abuse – inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a cloak, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.

2. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: “I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment.” The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter other people’s behaviour and attitude towards the narcissist.
These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist. The False Self is by far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, True Self.

The two Selves are not part of a continuum, as the neo-Freudians postulated. Healthy people do not have a False Self which differs from its pathological equivalent in that it is more realistic and closer to the True Self.

It is true that even healthy people have a mask [Guffman], or a persona [Jung] which they consciously present to the world. But these are a far cry from the False Self, which is mostly subconscious, depends on outside feedback, and is compulsive.

The False Self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances. But its dynamics make it predominate, devour the psyche and prey upon the True Self. Thus, it prevents the efficient, flexible functioning of the personality as a whole.

That the narcissist possesses a prominent False Self as well as a suppressed and dilapidated True Self is common knowledge. Yet, how intertwined and inseparable are these two? Do they interact? How do they influence each other? And what behaviours can be attributed squarely to one or the other of these protagonists? Moreover, does the False Self assume traits and attributes of the True Self in order to deceive the world?

Read the rest of Sam’s article here.

Is NPD really a dissociative disorder?

dissociative_identity_disorder

I think there’s good reason to think NPD (and to some extent, BPD) is really a dissociative disorder. Think about it. There is a true self and a false self that are split from each other, much the way a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) has a “waking self” or the “host personality” (the DID’s equivalent of the true self) that has split into different “personalities”, some of which aren’t even aware that others exist. Still, the narrative of the true self runs beneath everything, like an underground river feeds the land above it. In other words, the false self’s behaviors are driven by the need to keep the true self hidden and/or protected.

NPDs (and BPDs) also have episodes of dissociation and feelings of unreality, depersonalization, derealization, or even annihilation when under stress or when injured, and these dissociative episodes can become so bad during a narcissistic crisis that a psychotic break can occur. Narcissists are not unknown to become psychotic during old age due to massive loss of supply.

There are other things too that are dissociative–the magical thinking, the splitting, and the manifestation of the FS itself, which is, in essence, a separate “personality” from the TS.
I’ve read elsewhere that NPD could be a dissociative disorder, and I think it’s a valid argument. Thoughts?

False self vs. true self.

wolf

UPDATE: I wrote this post during a four-month period of time when I thought I had covert narcissism.   I don’t (BPD + Avoidant PD in the same person can look a LOT like C-NPD and even confuses some professionals), but I think this still applies because Borderlines do indeed have a “false self” (and to some extent, everyone does) which is just less developed than someone who has NPD.  

Like the wolf graphic above shows, all human beings have a good self and a bad self. But in a narcissist, the good (true) self is dissociated and split off from the bad (false) one, where in normal people all these feelings are integrated into One Self.

I’m beginning to see the woman I can become. The woman I would have been had I not been so abused and allowed myself to fall under the thrall of a malignant narcissist/ASPD man for 27 years.
That woman is taking shape in my mind and all I need to do is find a way to reconcile this new vision with my reality.
She’s someone I like very much–the adult version of the sensitive little girl that brought me so much shame and humiliation because no one mirrored her positively.

My True Self…

Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

–Is in touch with her feelings but doesn’t fly into BPD rages or seethe with envy, bitterness and resentment. She’s in control but can feel appropriate emotions at appropriate times, and isn’t ashamed to show them.

–Is naturally introverted (INFJ) but not shy. People don’t intimidate her but as an inward-looking person, she often prefers solitude to pursue activities and interests she loves. (I’m already halfway there).

–Is creative–she uses her ability to write to purge her past and her emotions (I’m already doing this) and sometimes just for fun (my other blog has a lot of silly or humorous posts). She also loves photography, art, music and wants to learn to play the guitar to accompany herself singing. She’s not a talented singer, but sings for the joy of it. Music feeds her soul.

–Is quietly confident and not afraid to let someone know when her boundaries or rights are being violated.

–Is able to make and keep close friends, not just acquaintances she keeps at arm’s length.

–Is an HSP with possible empathic abilities. (I’m not there yet).

–Is authentic and nurturing, and truly wants to help others discover who they are (I actually do want this now, but I’m mainly doing it for myself. If I help others along the way though, it makes me feel good).

–She feels attractive and even sexy, but appreciates the beauty in others and in the world around her too. She feels beautiful by knowingly and mindfully being a part of beauty (and almost everything has a certain beauty).

–Is able to parlay her love for writing into a career as a published author. No feelings of, “but I’d fail at it.” She isn’t afraid to take smart risks to turn her desire to express her insights and emotions into her life’s work.

My False Self…

false_self

–Is selfish and demanding, always complaining about how badly she’s treated or disrespected.

–Always thinks everything’s about her. If someone looks at her the wrong way, she lets that ruin her entire day and thinks everyone hates her. If she walks into a room and everyone smiles, she focuses and ruminates about the one person who is scowling.

–Overreacts to slights and occasionally flies into rages (this may be more due to BPD; my DBT skills have mostly got this under control though the rage is still present).

–Is envious; can’t be genuinely happy for someone else’s good fortune (except for my kids).

–Sometimes secretly gets a thrill on hearing someone else’s bad news (I’m really ashamed of this and it’s really hard to admit this). I don’t feel that way all the time though. I don’t try to cause pain to others. I hate being the perpetrator and have a lot of guilt and shame when I know I’ve caused someone pain. I’m a passive sadist, I guess. Isn’t schadenfreude the term for this? I’ve read that everyone experiences it, but I think I have it more than most people.

–Feels secretly superior under a self-loathing exterior. Of course I loathed myself to the core (not so much now), but to correct the cognitive dissonance between what I was and what I wanted to be, I’d denigrate others and put my own actions on a pedestal. For example, when I thought I had Aspergers, I felt “superior” for not being a neurotypical and used to feel contempt for people who had a lot of friends or an active social life, or the ability to feel comfortable in a group setting. I actually envied their ability to connect with and not fear the judgment of others , but I convinced myself I was somehow “better” because I didn’t have to engage in stupid small talk and my mind was probably superior to their anyway.

–No matter what the situation, I always think about how it’s going to affect *me* first.

–Fearful of getting involved in a romantic relationship, yet at the same time I long for one. (This is probably more due to my BPD).

I’m happy to say a lot of these FS behaviors are diminishing, just through the self-discovery I’ve achieved through blogging for the past year. A couple of my FS traits have nearly disappeared. I seem nice now, and I am nice (I don’t think I present my false self on this blog), but I wasn’t always so.

I just noticed I wrote most of this list in the third person–isn’t that something narcissists are known to do? :/

Emotional vomiting.

Reposted from Down The Rabbit Hole.

vomiting

My moods have been as unstable as the ocean before an approaching hurricane. One day euphoric, the next in the depths of rage and despair. My few good moods lately are so easily shattered.

Then I see my own narcissism and have trouble sorting it out from the normal “negative” emotions we all have for survival. What’s worth being upset about? What is just selfishness and entitlement?

I observe and watch myself. Since my revelation, the wall of cognitive blindness that kept me unable to see my narcissism melted away and what is revealed is the underlying envy, rage, entitlement and grandiosity. This layer was always the most painful to me (and hardest for others to deal with, because the false grandiosity (which can be pleasant, even if deluded) came marinated in a poisonous concoction of envy and rage. So the grandiosity and entitlement is toxic to everyone. It’s like snake poison.

Becoming humble isn’t becoming weak or masochistic. It doesn’t mean you allow people to flagellate you or abuse you. It means knowing you have limits, acknowledging you are only human and not a superman or woman. It means accepting the truth about yourself, even when it hurts. It means seeing what’s real. The scales falling from our eyes may be painful, but in the end this pain will set you free.

I’ve been emotionally unstable for three weeks now. Of course those could be BPD traits coming to the surface too. But I know a lot of it is all the spiritual poison of long term narcissism rising to the surface of my consciousness so they can be purged.

I can feel these black poisons in my body and mind, dragging me down and making me feel sick. I’ve cried more this week than I cried in the past 10 years. It’s cleansing, satisfying crying. It feels good. I feel more centered and relaxed and more at peace when I’m done. The truth becomes clearer. If you really want to get better, tears are the vehicle that carries the sickness from the body. If you have a stomach virus and couldn’t vomit you could die. The same thing goes for spiritual and emotional sickness like NPD or BPD.

cry_tears

I also write bad purple prose poetry where I vomit everything out. I haven’t done that since I was in my teens writing angsty, angry poetry in my school notebooks. It doesn’t matter that the poems are awful. They’re helping me purge myself of the spiritual poison of decades of abuse. It’s part of getting better. Like the crying, writing these poems brings me relief and more clarity. So do writing out my thoughts and feelings, no matter how “ugly” they may be.

The actual nitty gritty of healing from NPD is going to be so painful. I can see how painful and scary it will be. I’ve seen the entrance to the tunnel and it’s dark and vast and depressing, but I’m going in there to rescue my real self, my child self trapped there who never got to grow up or to know who she was. I care about that little girl now. I used to hate her, I wanted to divorce myself from her. She embarrassed me and shamed me. Now I need her help because she has empathy and sensitivity and enormous strength of character and I need those things more than I need a million dollars or a lover. She is my beacon of light. I know she is me but we’re so disconnected; there is so much baggage between us.

Even becoming self aware is painful. Strange, unfamiliar emotions come to the surface of awareness but at first they make no sense. You feel dissociated, apart from yourself, looking inside. But then it starts to make a lot of sense and you can’t believe you never saw it before. Looking inward from the outside is like you’ve been transported to a psychedelic upside down land. You don’t know what’s the true self and what’s the false one. You feel your different selves battling it out, and it makes you confused and disoriented. It also gives me headaches.

This is the stage I’m at right now. I can finally see my behaviors as others saw them, and sometimes stop myself before I act out. I’m getting better but I still slip up a lot. My emotions seem to be rising from both the “good me” and the “bad me” and they fight for center stage. It’s like a collage in relief and you’re not sure which is the background and which is the foreground. You can’t always tell yet which self is the true one and which one is the liar, and you’re begging a higher power or somebody, anybody, to show you what is true.

If the narcissistic mind in the process of healing were the whole universe, this inner conflict would be a battle between good and evil of Biblical proportions. Most of us aren’t evil, we are deeply conflicted and make bad choices.

But only you can know what are the right choices, and what is true–and that takes patience. You have to accept it’s going to take time to be able to internalize what’s right and good and what connects you with others. You can’t give up, no matter what.

I need clarity. I need help sorting out all these conflicting, confusing emotions that churn inside me and make me sick. This cathartic emotional puking–relieved with episodes of expansiveness, optimism, limerence-like euphoria and even moments of real empathy–is removing these toxins from me and I think in time, the episodes of joy and optimism will become more frequent and more stable and replace the episodes of vomiting.

I’m beginning to see the direction God planned for me. Since making this shattering discovery about myself, everything is becoming clearer. Ideas are finally gelling together from my chaos of conflicting ideas and insights. And these ideas aren’t popular and they’re not what I thought they would be; they’re what’s needed. But before I can make these ideas a a reality, I need to face the pain and purge it and remember it’s all part of healing. I need to go in that void and slay the dragons–ether that or reconcile with them.
I’m up for the challenge…I think.

I just wish that in going through this process I didn’t have to engage with the mundane world of work and paying bills. I wish I could isolate myself somewhere on a remote beach, just listen to the waves and feel the hot sun and the coolness of the sea…go inside my beach cabin and play music and write things that elicit my real feelings…and not have to deal with other people for months or even a year or two. Just spend all that time working on myself instead of having to keep up the lie just to survive in the world. When my self imposed exile is over, I’d return to modern life a changed person.