The Cyber NarcissistWritten by Sam Vaknin
To narcissist, Internet is an alluring and irresistible combination of playground and hunting grounds, gathering place of numerous potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, a world where false identities are norm and mind games bon ton. And it is beyond reach of law, pale of social norms, strictures of civilized conduct.
The somatic finds cyber-sex and cyber-relationships aplenty. The cerebral claims false accomplishments, fake skills, erudition and talents. Both, if minimally communicative, end up at instantly gratifying epicenter of a cult of fans, followers, stalkers, erotomaniacs, denigrators, and plain nuts. The constant attention and attendant quasi-celebrity feed and sustain their grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image.
The Internet is an extension of real-life Narcissistic Pathological Space but without its risks, injuries, and disappointments. In virtual universe of Web, narcissist vanishes and reappears with ease, often adopting a myriad aliases and nicknames. He (or she) can thus fend off criticism, abuse, disagreement, and disapproval effectively and in real time – and, simultaneously, preserve precarious balance of his infantile personality. Narcissists are, therefore, prone to Internet addiction.
The positive characteristics of Net are largely lost on narcissist. He is not keen on expanding his horizons, fostering true relationships, or getting in real contact with other people. The narcissist is forever provincial because he filters everything through narrow lens of his addiction. He measures others – and idealizes or devalues them – according to one criterion only: how useful they might be as Sources of Narcissistic Supply.
The Internet is an egalitarian medium where people are judged by consistency and quality of their contributions rather than by content or bombast of their claims. But narcissist is driven to distracting discomfiture by a lack of clear and commonly accepted hierarchy (with himself at pinnacle). He fervently and aggressively tries to impose "natural order" – either by monopolizing interaction or, if that fails, by becoming a major disruptive influence.
The Shattered Identity - Part IIWritten by Sam Vaknin
But unconscious is as much a part of one's self-identity as one's conscious. What if, due to a mishap, roles were reversed? What if Dan's conscious part were to become his unconscious and his unconscious part - his conscious? What if all his conscious memories, drives, fears, wishes, fantasies, and hopes - were to become unconscious while his repressed memories, drives, etc. - were to become conscious? Would we still say that it is "the same" Dan and that he retains his self-identity? Not very likely. And yet, one's (unremembered) unconscious - for instance, conflict between id and ego - determines one's personality and self-identity.
The main contribution of psychoanalysis and later psychodynamic schools is understanding that self-identity is a dynamic, evolving, ever-changing construct - and not a static, inertial, and passive entity. It casts doubt over meaningfulness of question with which we ended exposition: "Who, exactly, then, is Dan?" Dan is different at different stages of his life (Erikson) and he constantly evolves in accordance with his innate nature (Jung), past history (Adler), drives (Freud), cultural milieu (Horney), upbringing (Klein, Winnicott), needs (Murray), or interplay with his genetic makeup. Dan is not a thing - he is a process. Even Dan's personality traits and cognitive style, which may well be stable, are often influenced by Dan's social setting and by his social interactions.
It would seem that having a memory is a necessary but insufficient condition for possessing a self-identity. One cannot remember one's unconscious states (though one can remember their outcomes). One often forgets events, names, and other information even if it was conscious at a given time in one's past. Yet, one's (unremembered) unconscious is an integral and important part of one's identity and one's self. The remembered as well as unremembered constitute one's self-identity.
IV. The Memory Link
Hume said that to be considered in possession of a mind, a creature needs to have a few states of consciousness linked by memory in a kind of narrative or personal mythology. Can this conjecture be equally applied to unconscious mental states (e.g. subliminal perceptions, beliefs, drives, emotions, desires, etc.)?
In other words, can we rephrase Hume and say that to be considered in possession of a mind, a creature needs to have a few states of consciousness and a few states of unconscious - all linked by memory into a personal narrative? Isn't it a contradiction in terms to remember unconscious?
The unconscious and subliminal are instance of general category of mental phenomena which are not states of consciousness (i.e., are not conscious). Sleep and hypnosis are two others. But so are "background mental phenomena" - e.g., one holds onto one's beliefs and knowledge even when one is not aware (conscious) of them at every given moment. We know that an apple will fall towards earth, we know how to drive a car ("automatically"), and we believe that sun will rise tomorrow, even though we do not spend every second of our waking life consciously thinking about falling apples, driving cars, or position of sun.
Yet, fact that knowledge and beliefs and other background mental phenomena are not constantly conscious - does not mean that they cannot be remembered. They can be remembered either by an act of will, or in (sometimes an involuntary) response to changes in environment. The same applies to all other unconscious content. Unconscious content can be recalled. Psychoanalysis, for instance, is about re-introducing repressed unconscious content to patient's conscious memory and thus making it "remembered".
In fact, one's self-identity may be such a background mental phenomenon (always there, not always conscious, not always remembered). The acts of will which bring it to surface are what we call "memory" and "introspection".
This would seem to imply that having a self-identity is independent of having a memory (or ability to introspect). Memory is just mechanism by which one becomes aware of one's background, "always-on", and omnipresent (all-pervasive) self-identity. Self-identity is object and predicate of memory and introspection. It is as though self-identity were an emergent extensive parameter of complex human system - measurable by dual techniques of memory and introspection.