Are Narcissists capable of introspection? Can they distinguish their False Self from who they really are? Can this help them in the therapeutic process?


A passage from “Narcissism and Character Transformation (pp. 90-91)” by Salant-Schwartz:

“Psychologically, the shadow or reflection carries the image of the self – not the Ego. It is interesting and even psychotherapeutically useful to have persons suffering from NPD study their face in a mirror. Often they will see someone of great power and effectiveness, precisely the qualities they feel a lack of. For even though they may overwhelm others with their energy and personal qualities, they themselves feel ineffective.

Narcissus must possess his idealised imagethreatening to his basic design, to be ; he cannot allow its otherness for that would be too mirrored himselfwooed or woo?’. Narcissus’ libido . Hence, the sudden switch: ‘Shall I be quickly changes from an idealisation into a mirror formshowing how his unredeemed , inflationself, gains control’, in psychoanalytic terms, his grandiose-exhibitionistic self, gains control.”

Jungian parlance aside, the author seems to be describing – rather poetically – the basic relationship between the True Self and the False Self. No theoretician has ignored this dichotomy, most basic to malignant narcissism. The True Self is indeed synonymous with the (Freudian) Ego. It is shrivelled, dilapidated, stifled and marginalized by the False Self. The distinction that the authors would have liked the narcissist to draw between his Ego and his self is all but impossible. The narcissist relegates his Ego functions to the outside world. His False Self is an invention and the reflection of an invention. The narcissist has no personality structures in place to make this distinction (between self and Ego). Really, narcissists do not exist. They are a loose terror-based coalition between a sadistic, idealised Superego and a grandiose and manipulative False Ego. Their interactions are mechanical. They are Narcissistic Supply seeking robots. No robot is capable of introspection – not even with the help of a mirror.

Narcissists often think of themselves as machines (the “automata metaphor”). They might say things like “I have an amazing brain” or “I am not functioning today, my efficiency is low”. They measure things, constantly compare performance. They are acutely aware of time and its use. There is a meter in the Narcissist’s head, it ticks and tocks, a metronome of self-reproach and grandiose assertions. The Narcissist often talks to himself in third person singular. He feels that it lends objectivity to what he thinks, as though it is emanating from an external source. That low is the self-esteem of the Narcissist that, to be trusted, he has to disguise himself, to hide himself from himself. It is the pernicious and all-pervasive art of unbeing.

The Narcissist likes to think about himself in terms of automata. There is something so aesthetically compelling in their precision, in their impartiality, in their harmonious embodiment of the abstract. Machines are so powerful and so emotionless, not prone to be hurting weaklings.

The Narcissist carries with him his metal constitution, his robot countenance, his superhuman knowledge, his inner timekeeper, his theory of morality and my very own divinity – himself.