The narcissist is formed by their relationship with primary objects (mother/father). Their parents can be too intrusive or rejecting, as failed attempts to separate or make contact destroy the child’s sense of self and autonomy. They fail to attune to or attain objects that will nourish the self as they disengage with the object world and environment. Narcissistic injuries develop as the self fragments because of poor mirroring, as the narc becomes deeply occupied in trying to restore an idealised image of himself and the other.

If you idealise me , I will idealise you in return

They seek out and demand admiration from significant others and will exalt them as long as they submit and comply with the narc’s wishes. A reassuring source of validation and supply to stabilise a fragile self, they live in a world of idols, seeking to return to the radiant light of the idealised mother. The visual precedes the symbolic and verbal, as words are just facial gestures or body postures. The power of the ideal image, success and status become core beliefs and pursuits. The narc creates an ideal self, a grandiose representation of who they aspire to be, who will be idealised and the focus of unconditional love. The narc lives in the realm of the pleasure principle, a world without humanity or empathy, as the other needs to be manipulated and coerced into fulfilling their desires.

The narc avoids any psychological separation or intimacy, generating difference and friction. The other may challenge or confront the ideal self or ask the narc to take responsibility, leading to disturbance and fragmentation. They seem to brush off controversy or difference; nothing really impacts their robust demeanour. They are, however, not truly present as the substitute false self protects the imprisoned true self from any further disturbance. The narc licenses others to play within his fantasy, and as long as the license functions, they can operate in highly stressful environments without crashing. Blowing their rigid affiliation with the ego ideal may lead to a catastrophic loss of belief in the false self, and they can decline into clinical depression. Any awareness of the inner void and emptiness may generate the horror of not having lived a real life, with acute mental pain and a sense of loss. At this point, the narc may commit suicide, go onto anti-depressants or actively engage in psychic change.

This depression can lead to isolation, true helplessness and reliance on the other (therapist). By carefully linking character structure to psychic and relational history, creating a continuum of time and space, the narc may allow defences to ease and make use of the otherness ( transference and working alliance ). The negative or malignant narc will become enraged and vengeful. The only remedy to such a loss is actively destroying as much of their previous life and relationships as possible.

Narc Confessions

Clients may start the process by confessing to their true underlying beliefs, but the narc may attempt to trump his critic. The narc does not want to be in communication or relationships whereby the good and bad will inevitably be expressed and mixed together. The narc has a striking absence of cumulative memory and an inability to timestamp experiences, as they lack the psychic structure to develop any sense of meaning. They will often recount similar encounters with others and tell the same story repeatedly but still demand continued presence and belief in novelty. As the narc remains fused with the idealised object, he fails to integrate his father figure and rejects the lawmaker. Unable to assimilate reality or relate to it. The absence of a self-history leads to a structural defect, as the child introjects an imaginary image to relate with and no longer seeks objects to nourish his wounds. With no internal soothing and nourishment, greed intensifies as the self can never be satisfied. The narc makes their own rules, as the social norms, regulations, and any form of morality do not apply to them. Narc rage is an anxiety attack, a defence against panic aimed at restoring the fragile self’s equilibrium. No real intent to hurt the object in itself as they do not desire or receive pleasure from enacting revenge unless one is the malignant type

The narc’s inner world is empty, an abyss of helplessness, where reality is replaced with virtual images and experiences.

The Borderline

This individual is in unrelenting pain and unconsciously seeks it out. They require another to whom this pain can be attached, often in long-term relationships, extremely conflicted and fraught. They seem to actively select mental objects /partners who will evoke extreme anxiety and disorganisation and provoke endless rage. A combination of intense effects, unstable moods and distorted ideas all manifest as a life of their own. They have a unique skill in identifying other borderlines, the object of their desire, generating turbulence and drama. Any available libido is directed towards and invested within the dyadic relationship. Their partner or children are not seen as differentiated others who don’t possess a life of their own, an extension of themselves. Their deepest fear is they will never find or merge with the object of their desire and be forever abandoned and be in constant pain.

They will tend not to express or disclose their lived experiences and typically talk in abstract terms without specific details. Any separation of temporary space within the dyad will feel like a black hole, a dangerous, uncertain domain. They have no continuity of self due to splitting and pay no attention to time, unable to plan ahead or evoke memories. The aim is to remain a child within the adult world, to remain in the realm of their origins. An abstraction has replaced the object mother to create the illusion of a merger, denying the mother’s misattunement and abandonment. A therapist would facilitate the client’s formation of objects with specific identities and emotional depth by asking for details. A meaningful analysis is complicated if the borderline continually spits and projects onto others.

A mother may be too confusing or ambivalent to form integrity or clarity.

This keeps the Borderline continually enraged with the environmental mother. A mother is a ghost object ( composed of borderline affect), with no progress in the world of conflicting forces, ideas and memories. Any relationship with the unconscious is impossible, as there is no free association or self-regulation. Discrete psychic elements are fused to sustain the shadow aspects of the mother. Therapists seeking details will be met with rage and fury as they want to commit to abstract forces. The child does not develop a sensual body; nobody formation occurs, only affects states like irritation, anxiety or rage. Borderlines feel cold fury projected onto others as they become enmeshed with a primary object in relationships. Borderline Development involves a painful process of mourning, grief over the loss of illusions, and a change in mental structures. Increased self-containment is accomplished at the expense of borderline intimacy and toxic affective enmeshment. As the borderline loses interest in abstractions, depression kicks in. The other ceases to function as a container—depressed or helpless inability to leave the object of attachment or give up enmeshment in negative abstractions.

Manic Depressive

The manic endures extreme highs and lows, whereby something external triggers a manic state. In the manic state, the fabric of memories is shredded and obliterated as relationships are cast aside. On the other side of the pendulum, they suffer prolonged depressive episodes, with little interest in life, a state that destroys any meaning—a loss of agency and internal punishment to the self. In a depression, contacting any history of the self is impossible, devoid of continuity and meaning. Both states innoculate bouts of insight to avoid painful memories or experiences. The manic splits between modes of listening and speaking, as they do not listen to what they say. Differentiated listening from a therapist leaves the manic in panic, shocked and in crisis, overwhelmed with the force of conflicting emotions. As they are cut off and divided, they cannot share experiences and ideas. The manic could not move away from the maternal into the paternal, unable to locate or access an internal father image. The father image would aid and support separation from the enmeshment with the mother.

In mania, they have found an escape from blandness.

The child turns to the mind, as their mind will listen to them. They race to be more intellectual or entertaining, as they did not have or never experienced a mirroring experience. Internal moments of imagination and fantasy provide their areas of stimulus and satisfaction. Human otherness has been destroyed; the self turns to the mind and its associated products. The uncelebrated child produces a perverse sense of loneliness, comprised of helpless sorrow. A fog-like inner state, disconnected from others, with no common ground and need to engage with the world. This existence paralysed the regulation of highs and lows, not interested in the libido or instincts.

Bollas, C . (2021) Three Characters: Narcissist, Borderline, Manic Depressive, Phoenix Publishing House