The true Self is under siege when the mother fears separation due to impaired self, wanting to maintain dependency to sustain equilibrium. The mother perceives the child’s attempts for self-assertion or separation as a form of abandonment, leading to clinging and discouraging any individuation. The mother /child becomes a fused unit as a perpetual self/object to defend against feelings of anxiety and rejection due to separation. The Child unconsciously disregards the aspects and parts that threaten the mother’s attention and approval, suppressing feelings, wishes, and activation to keep the union intact. The child is fixated at this point between clinging and distancing behaviour. If The mother’s clinging becomes too intense, the child feels suffocated and fears engulfment or possession, leading to emotional distancing to breathe emotionally again.

The Borderline (BPD) father reinforces the mother’s expectations and desires instead of opposing the mother and safely supporting their separation into a broader world. The mother, in turn, gets exclusive rights to the child’s emotional and psychological realm by distancing the father, who can be immersed in work or other activities to avoid the pathology of the mother. This stifles and arrests the child’s Self-exploration and enforces the mother’s dominance, and the separation of the internalised self-image from the object image is incomplete and remains fused. If the child can’t mourn the loss of the idealised image (mother), they are unable to develop new relationships with true intimacy as they remain emotionally attached to the idealised image still. The newborn baby seeks pleasure and avoids pain by staying fused with the mother with no sense of “I” intrapsychic fused and not awake or aware of their individualised identity and sense of a true self.

Between 12-18 months, the child starts to recognise images in the mirror of himself with an increased need for emotional supplies for the emerging self and return. The father is the test and facility of separation from the mother to experience otherness and individuality without fear of engulfment or abandonment, triggering symbiotic fears. When moving away from the mother, the child separates the good/ bad images of the mother and the good /bad image of self. The child needs to hold the image of himself and the mother, whole and constant, to develop their own ego functioning with better reality testing, frustration tolerance, impulse control, and ego boundaries. Domestic demands of the mother and culture repress the child’s true nature, drives, and feelings into the unconscious via sublimation, suppressing the raw material for creativity and energy to fulfil desires.

The mother/child relationship dynamic creates a primary and secondary reactive disturbance, the second full of rage, dependency, and lack of hope impaired by the primary inhibition and disorder of the self.

The Adult/child lives a life where they continually.

  • Protest and wish for a reunion
  • Have periods of Hopelessness and emptiness
  • Live lives trying to attach, where true feelings of affection and intimacy are rejected for merging.
  • Remain self-centred with no feelings, numb to the real world, with desires towards people preoccupied with material things for self-centred gratification.
  • When the child is more interested in the surroundings indicates a sign of recovery.

Separation develops the onset of painful feelings within the abandonment depression. Depression from panic to rage to guilt to helplessness to emptiness (feelings of the Void). The real self is under constant attack, where the closest people and their own bodies have become the enemy. As depression intensifies, so do anger and outward projections. Rage and fear lead to panic and feeds the fear as they can’t express their anger regarding the paternal abandonment. If the child expresses anger, they lose the love of the other and deny this to remain helpless and in a state of dependency and hold onto others by intense clinging. The dynamic feels like a choice between facing death or being killed. Guilt becomes the fifth column of defences due to the mother’s disapproval of the child wanting self-actualisation.

Borderline (BPD)

They have a poor reality perception needing to rely on others to see how the world works. They are likely to project their internal feelings onto the outside world to capture external circumstances with internal feeling states. The child denies any reality of separation by acting out, clinging, avoiding, or projecting. The child avoids opportunities to express themselves, whereas life is more tolerable when they hold back, even when growth is lost and sacrificed for feeling safe. Has no real understanding of the cause or solutions to their patterns of behaviour. They act out to not feel internal, where the ego remains driven by the pleasure principle to seek pleasure and avoid pain rather than develop the experiences of the reality principle. Superficially “Feeling Good”, failing to achieve object constancy, continually relating to people as parts and objects with positive /negative poles of experience. He is always looking for Immediate gratification and fulfilment with a high sense of entitlement to achieve reunion fantasies over the increasing denial of reality and emotionally withdrawing via denial and rationalisation, such as attacking me because he is upset, not because he feels that way. The healthy child should have been introduced to increasing frustration levels to increase ego strength and functioning to handle impulse control and tolerance.

The Stepmother represents the evil shadow aspects of the terrible mother in fairy tales with no father role in helping the child interact and experience the real world. The stepmother represents the vain, proud, hateful, narcissistic parts of the mother.  For example, the murderous queen cannot tolerate snow white’s beauty, as her daughter’s beauty and a threat to her dominance and fragile sense of self need to be killed off to satisfy the stepmother’s expectations and desires. The seven dwarfs represent aspects of snow-white which need to be developed and integrated, which she does via relationships with the dwarfs.


The false self must keep inflated to avoid feeling and experiencing the underlying rage and depression associated with their inadequate false self. Depression is not part of their life as they work extensively on their talents, wealth, image, and influence to avoid implosion. They need an inflated sense of control and perfection for admiration and narcissistic supply. They are motivated to fuel their inflated uniqueness, influencing and invoking supply (energy /libido) from others. Supply comes from mirroring and idealisation, working as a reinforcing feedback loop to fill the void of the fragile self. They deny all their problems and setbacks to keep their omnipotence in place as they blame others for ignorance or deficits when accusing them of creating problems or not being perfect. The mother and child are in perfect union to rule the world, be special, and be uniquely different from the inferior others. The impaired mother needs the perfect child with as little investment as possible, with a fused symbiosis that never splits and is deemed an extension of each other. Self-esteem pursuits in ideals and perfection compensate for areas of exhibitionism and ambitions. They counteract deadness by overstimulation and through erotic grandiose fantasies. Hyper-idealistic teenagers devoid of meaningful interpersonal attachments, fantasies become an intense motivation to romanticise aesthetic, religious, or political aims.

The primary defect in the mother Is her inability to mirror the exhibitionism, and the father is unable to allow the child to idealise them.  The Adult/Child can suppress exhibitionism needs to the detriment of their health, career, and relationships. Self-esteem and pleasure in oneself are obtained via performance or may breakthrough in sexual fantasies where the mirroring self-object (mother) is under absolute control (sexual slave). As the father reinforces the mother and rejects the child, the child is without options and cannot strengthen the ego and the self.

The closet narcissist will find another person/group to indulge in, gratifying their needs for merging whilst investing in the omnipotent other desire for idealisation. They do not seek mirroring but the idealisation of the other in the hope of receiving attention and admiration, unable to ask for reciprocity as they fear rejection actively. Being angry means you do not have to feel depressed and inability to mourn due to the lack of separation and losing the mother’s imago. They are afraid of losing the grandiose self-image fused with the idealised mother image, as it generates the fear of losing one’s false identity.  Many marry their childhood sweetheart to postpone adulthood, where they feel safe clinging to old patterns of relating and conditioning. A relationship with no future means not having to relate to each other or take responsibility for intense rounds of sexual activity to avoid real intimacy and experiencing reality.

The Closet Narcissist

The borderline is in a constant battle between the Id and superego and needs to gain more awareness and better ego functions. A development arrest of the ego where maladaptive and dysfunctional behaviours need to be confronted to self-activate and tolerate the withdrawing therapist/mother. Environmental conflicts will subside and be taken over by depression, where space for dreams and memories can manifest. At rock bottom, the mother is defeated, mourned, and the real self can flower and flourish. This will show up as new ideas and activities with improved ego functions and self-activation, which can challenge ego defences interfering with reality perception. In adolescence, the person needs to integrate the self-image to resolve the oedipal conflict. Otherwise, they will continue to seek immediate satisfaction from their parents or objects to relieve tensions and adhere to existing values and ideas to gain approval. They can’t heal the negative feelings and experiences, keeping them hidden and resorting to fantasy and concrete thinking. Great demands of the mother are followed by temper tantrums or emotional retreat upon any minor delays in gratifications (rage and defensive cycle), leading to lessening responses ad apathy. All these behaviours expose the mother as a failure or inadequate due to an impaired sense of self. Instead of receiving the narcissistic fulfilment she had expected from the child, she must blame the child for inadequacies and problems to avoid the collapse of her fragile self.

A successful phase-appropriate merger (twinship) with the idealised father, appropriated by the gradual disappointment and disillusionment, allows for the tempering of the idealised omnipotent object, allowing buffering and the discharge of patterns in their dysfunctional exhibitionism. The Stages for Healing

  • Interpretation to remove defences
  • Archaic wishes intrude into the ego
  • Archaic striving is tolerated as new ego structures are developed able to modulate and transform these feelings and longings. (discharge delay, aim inhibition, substitute gratification, absorption with fantasies.
  • More awareness that the Id represents the sexual love for the mother, whilst the superego is the identification with the father.

The child needs to internalise an idealised father to conquer the defective empathy and sadistic fantasies developed under the fusion with the mother. The father provides narcissistic sustenance to alleviate acting out and tolerance of frustrations and disappointments. With no internalised parental imago, the child cannot raise self-esteem by activating their own aims, ambitions, or ideals and is still merged with their mothers’ values and expectations. To keep the self alive, the child turns inwardly towards erogenous zones (desire/pleasure) and thus is enslaved to the correlated drives. Mother spoiling the child forbids the opportunity of any psychic development to tolerate frustrations and desires, and ego remains stunted and immature. Unable to transform grandiosity, the child will return to merge with the idolised self-imago for equilibrium and ego homeostasis. The mother kills the child’s aggression by smothering them or overpowering them with her own aggression.

An empathic merger with the self-object allows for healthy participation, where the relationship can grow with the child’s needs being met via activities performed together with the self-object. The immature child may demand control over the self-object and wants perfect mirroring and empathy, where destructive rage is always the motivation against the injury by the self. The child does want to be exposed to the original narcissistic injury again by lack of mirroring, where idealised needs are rejected, leading to disintegration anxiety. The therapist’s role is to contain, hold, and alleviate these fears whilst allowing the child to express their aggression exhibition needs without fear of abandonment, punishment, or rejection. This may feel like the beginning of the fragmentation of the body self, unable to give up conscious control because if the vigilance is ceased, they would fragment and never heal.

  • Neurosis – conflicts in psychological structure. intrapsychic conflict
  • Narcissism – archaic self/environment deficits. Depends on the presence of the self-object and responds to the loss of the object with enfeeblement with various regression and fragmentation. When idealised admiration fails, it can lead to voyeurism with isolated symbols (penis, breast)
  • Incestuous drive wishes vs fear of punishment (castration anxiety)
  • Objects are there to serve the self or experience as part of the self

Objects cathected with narcissistic libido (self-object) are still intimate with archaic self (objects not experienced as separate or independent) fixated in grandiose self-configuration with impoverished adult mature functions and adult activities are hampered by breakthrough and intrusions of the archaic structure, leading to untamed cohesive self with idealised self-objects

Real self in action

  1. Capacity to experience a wide range of feelings with liveliness, joy, and excitement. Happy when good things happen and angry and sad when bad things happen. Appropriate feelings.
  2. Capacity to expect appropriate entitlements. They can master their own lives and achieve what is good for them, creating positive responses and results.
  3. Capacity for self-activation and assertion. Identify your own individuality, wishes, and dreams and be assertive in expressing your auto and taking steps to achieve and protect them.
  4. Acknowledge self-esteem and can cope positively and creatively. Able to self-soothe and feel worthwhile with self-acceptance. Able to soothe painful feelings
  5. Make and stick to commitments despite obstacles and setbacks. I will not abandon my goals or decisions.
  6. Creative ways to cope with loss and create solutions. Rearrange intrapsychic patterns that threaten to block self-expression and regulate accurate feelings.
  7. Express intimacy and closeness in relationships with little anxiety about abandonment and engulfment.
  8. Ability to be alone and not attempt to fill up meaningless activities or dead-end relationships to avoid sitting with the impaired self.
  9. Continuation of self and “I” experience and related to “I” of our experience.
Masterson, 1. F. (1990). The search for the real self’ Unmasking the personality disorders of our age. London: The Free Press.