Projective Identification, the Narcissist's Script, and the Suicidal Nature of Lying to Oneself
Here's an anecdote that illustrates both projective identification and how narcissists, as pathological liars who lie to themselves, are their own worst enemies.
First the necessary background. A certain narcissistic woman has a badly enlarged heart (on one side) due to extremely high blood pressure that went untreated for years. I suspect that heart failure for this reason is common in middle-aged narcissists, because of their habitual state of internal agitation. Even narcissists who may not look nervous are wound up tighter than a drum inside, as those who know them well realize.
Surely some of this anxiety is due to their track record through life. There's always worry that they will be exposed for what they are or that somebody they destroyed or abused will get revenge. But I think a large part of narcissists' anxiety is terror of a moment of self-awareness, terror of reality intruding on their fantasy life, which they compose like the author of a work of fiction -- terror of the truth surfacing to consciousness on them, terror of being left alone with themselves so that (in the absence of distractions) a moment of self-awareness is bound to happen. I also think their constant state of agitation is partly due to their arrested personality development. They have the personality of a little child, and little children are very excitable. Of course, little children's hearts can take that.
In any case, the last thing this narcissist ought to be doing is shovelling snow. But she doesn't like that version of the world. So she just edits it in her mind. She has revealed this through bizarre remarks to her sister.
For example, bragging to her sister about her high level of "good" cholesterol (the kind that "scrubs" out arteries to keep them clear of blockages), she has twice claimed it's so high that 'she'll never get heart disease.' Both times her dumbfounded sister replied, "But you HAVE heart disease." The narcissist had forgotten!
Also, she was of course treating two very different forms of heart disease as if they are one. It's true that she probably won't get one kind, but she does already have the other kind. She makes this intellectual error willfully, for she is a college graduate with a degree in biology who has taught Biology.
Where's the projective identification? She often announces that she has done things she shouldn't do with her heart condition. Her sister says she has long suspected that the narcissist tempts fate to prove to herself that she doesn't really have a damaged heart. When she announces these things to her sister, she wants her sister to play along and help act out her fantasy. THAT'S projective identification.
Naturally, no decent person is going to do that in this case. For, to play along would be to encourage that the narcissist do something that is very dangerous and likely to cause a massive heart attack. So, when the narcissist recently announced that she had shoveled snow (instead of using her snow-blower) and that 'it didn't hurt her,' it would have been immoral for her sister to humor her. Her sister had to say, "You shouldn't do that."
The sister knew full well that her words would go in one ear and out the other, so she didn't say anything further or try to persuade the narcissist to quit doing such things. In fact, she says that trying to persuade the narcissist NOT to shovel snow would be a sure way to insure that she keeps doing it. So, all the sister did was give a voice to the truth -- refuse to act out the narcissist's fantasy for her, simply by saying that one sentence: "You shouldn't do that."
The reaction was exactly the reaction I have always observed whenever you don't follow a narcissist's script in the work of fiction they're play-acting. You are an object, like a toy or tool. You are not working properly if you don't manipulate properly. So they get mad. They need to control what you say. As far as they're concerned, you are a ventriloquist's dummy.
The narcissist accused her sister of trying to boss her around and protested that she had a right to do what she wanted. See the twisting here? The narcissist is the one trying to force somebody into doing what she wants. But she perverts it to fully ass-backwards and accuses the very victim of her control tactics of being the controller.
That's how everything you do bounces off a narcissist's thick forehead -- backwards. THERE IS NO WAY TO GET THROUGH TO THEM. IRRATIONALITY IS IMPREGNABLE, AND PERVERSITY IS INVINCIBLE.
Her sister says she replied that, yes, the narcissist had every right to do as she chose and that she knew the narcissist wouldn't listen to her. "But," she added, "I'm not going to subscribe to your myth. What kind of person would I be if you tell me you shovelled snow and I don't say, 'You shouldn't do that'?"
The reaction? Typical again. The other actor on the stage isn't cooperating by saying the right lines, so the narcissist doesn't like this version of the world. She actually said that she 'didn't like this conversation' and then did what she always does when that happens -- she checked out by 'ending it.' You either follow their script, or narcissists pick up all of their marbles and go home.