The narcissist constructs a narrative in their life that is an illusion of a fantastical, grandiose and almost impossible image of themselves, claimed by the false self. So, to understand deeper where this construct is born we need to understand what the false self is, which this is blog I attempt to explain what and why narcissist use this construct.
The definition of a False Self is: True self (also known as real self, authentic self, original self and vulnerable self) and false self (also known as fake self, ideal self, perfect self, superficial self and pseudo self) are psychological concepts often used in connection with narcissism.
They were introduced into psychoanalysis in 1960 by D. W. Winnicott. Winnicott used true self to describe a sense of self based on spontaneous authentic experience, and a feeling of being alive, having a real self. The false self, by contrast, Winnicott saw as a defensive façade – one which in extreme cases could leave its holders lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty, behind a mere appearance of being real. To maintain their self-esteem, and protect their vulnerable true selves, narcissists need to control others' behaviour – partners, friends and particularly that of their children, seen as extensions of themselves.
Winnicott saw the true self as rooted from early infancy in the experience of being alive, including blood pumping and lungs breathing – what Winnicott called simply being. Out of this, the baby creates the experience of a sense of reality, a sense that life is worth living. The baby's spontaneous, nonverbal gestures derive from that instinctual sense, and if responded to by the mother, become the basis for the continuing development of the true self.
However, when what Winnicott was careful to describe as good enough parenting – i.e., not necessarily perfect! – was not in place, the infant's spontaneity was in danger of being encroached on by the need for compliance with the parents' wishes/expectations. The result for Winnicott could be the creation of what he called the false self, where "Other people's expectations can become of overriding importance, overlaying or contradicting the original sense of self, the one connected to the very roots of one's being". The danger he saw was that "through this false self, the infant builds up a false set of relationships, and by means of introjections even attains a show of being real", while, in fact, merely concealing a barren emptiness behind an independent-seeming façade.
The danger was particularly acute where the baby had to provide attunement for the mother/parents, rather than vice versa, building up a sort of dissociated recognition of the object on an impersonal, not personal and spontaneous basis.But while such a pathological false self stifled the spontaneous gestures of the true self in favour of a lifeless imitation, Winnicott nevertheless considered it of vital importance in preventing something worse: the annihilating experience of the exploitation of the hidden true self itself.
the Illusions the False Self Creates
The narcissist believes he or she is God. Meaning there is no higher power than the narcissist, and no-one more superior.
Because that’s the “story” the ego is always grandstanding to the narcissist – or maybe we should say the vessel who was the person before the False Self takeover.
Maybe at this point there is no separation?
Sam Vaknin writes about how narcissists do really bad stuff and it is like “seeing someone else doing it” but having no control. Like being numbed out and viewing it as a third person.
Yet the narcissist can’t recognise that the False Self delusions are just voices in his or her head – it feels like an “identify”. And there is no healthy, solid True Self available to make the distinction.
Rather than being a healthy True Self, the narcissist can’t establish good feelings or become them, and has to “take” from Life and others in order to try and get relief from the inverted emotional descent into constant pain.
See the Similarities?
A really profound truth is this: The narcissist treats you identically to how the narcissist’s False Self treats the narcissist.
How could the narcissist treat you any differently?
It appears to be the narcissist, however the true culprit is the unconsciousness of ego.
A “marriage” to a False Self comprises of the following:
Enough is never enough ….
Nothing is ever good enough …
You are never good enough …
Accountability is never taken …
Excuses are made …
Delusions are created …
When things fall short of unrealistic expectations blame is dispensed …
Anger, pain, fear, anxiety, depression and addiction is the norm, and
Gross separation, distrust and competition with self, Life and others prevail.
Truly this is a marriage that ends up in demise, eventually for all participants – even for the virus (ego) – because when the host is dead so is the “cancer’ that killed him / her.
How does the virus of extreme unconsciousness live on?
By infecting others, including future generations.
So... what can we learn form this? I cannot state this enough and this truly is the message here: it all starts within you. What I mean by this statement is allow the narcissist in your life to be your teacher, allow you to see the bigger life lesson here. Why was the narcissist brought into MY life? What can they teach me about myself?
I know that there are many questions apart form these that you would like to ask. But here are a few ways that we can learn from our experience:
We need to recognise the love that we did not give to ourselves. We did not commit to our own self unconditionally. We did not support our development so that we could flourish. What would that level of cherishing within our own inner being look like?
a) unconditional love
Existential awareness – the bigger picture of our human life and what it means to us. The observation of the 'Self ' and our deepest fears of isolation, vulnerability and death. The root of our concern is...Will I survive another day? At what cost? How do I give my life meaning and purpose in the time I have left?
Instead we plod on in our daily lives as if in a trance, carrying out the duties and roles expected of us. We sacrifice our deeper existential awareness for the veneer of connection to our small daily drama with its limited cast of characters.
Love – and the wonderful feel-good hormone called Oxytocin - which washes over us like a warm wave when we feel loving touch and loving kindness.
It's not about who says they love you, it's about who you FEEL loved by.
Inner Life – disconnected from both our fears and dreams – and from our inner child's yearnings and pleadings - which we silence and ignore at our peril.
We can also become disconnected from our own good feelings due to traumatic experiences which have overwhelmed our emotional brain and shut out those positive feelings. We do this so that we can more sharply focus upon, and be prepared for, the next threat to our survival.
There's also a disconnection with our senses - the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells around us. Our brains 'habituate' and follow familiar patterns each day. Our subconscious mind shuts out the extra 'unnecessary' information around us. We become separated from a huge part of the world around us – particularly when we are in 'survival mode' and at our default position of defending our fragile egos.
Comfort & Safety – and that soothing feeling that we 'belong' where we are – safely anchored and without being at the mercy of the tides of misfortune.
Intimacy – with our own spirit, vitality, arousal and desires. Without this we become stagnant, bored, disappointed, lonely and disillusioned with life.
The moment – we miss the savouring and pleasure of the tiny details around us when we are disconnected from the moment. Instead we maintain unhelpful connections with the past (and what went wrong) and the future (and what might go wrong).
What could life be like if we found and made those connections?
Imagine it for yourself.
Being in touch with your own inner thoughts, feelings, preferences, goals, and fears – and more than that being able to look at them objectively, without self judgement or self criticism.
With greater connection to our self-awareness, we are then able to create better, more honest connections with others. We no longer need to hide behind the mask that we thought they preferred us to wear.
We have no need to defend our fragile ego. Instead we can put it aside and feel lighter and more connected to our own true self, our vulnerability and our strengths. We have nothing to fear because our connection to ourselves ensures that we will take care of our own needs and not rely upon or expect anyone else to do that for us.
We will form social groups with other like-minded mask-free seekers of an abundant life - who are keen to connect, to be known, to play, to support and to grow.
We can connect with one another face to face, warts and all - to enjoy seeing and feeling our eyes reflect back our love.
We can become impacted by the strong energy field around the hearts of those we have a deeper and safe connection with. We are energised and we thrive from our reciprocal energies.
We reconnect with and absorb the natural beauty around us. We enjoy simplicity and creativity. We are in our state of flow and awe, free from the constraints of the over-thinking mind.
We trust ourselves to keep ourselves safe – and not be poisoned by the fear-inducing media. We have faith in the goodness of humanity – which hasn't been warped by fear and hatred, greed and trauma.
How can we become more connected?
We may never get the love and care from our parents that we needed to set up the template for our later loving connections ...but it's never too late to fill in the gaps.
When we know what it takes and what we need to do, then we can create a connection with our future self – that enhanced version of us (which Quantum Physicists say already exists in 'potential wave form').
We also need to disconnect to be able to better connect – which is another of life's paradoxes.
So let's get away from our desks and technological devices. Let's take off our mask and step boldly into a new way of relating to ourselves, others, the planet and whatever our own bigger picture is.
This is TRANSFORMATION through connection!