Emptiness in narcissism and borderline

Spring Garden 084

Here I am – or not. Feeling nothing, unable to experience pleasure from those things that sometimes brought me joy (anhedonia), trapped within my midday demon: ennui – something more than boredom, I have the empty feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction from my lack of being occupied, of having any connection with others or feeling any excitement in my life.
This is not depression but depression is part of it. I know what depression feels like – this is not that. It is something lost; grieving for who I am – or never have been. This is feeling nothing at all. Remove those things that once I thought were important to me (or perhaps not), a vulnerable and hypersensitive narcissist, and there is nothing. Nothing that means anything at all. Nothing to live for. Nothing matters. Nothingness. Meaningless. Emptiness –existential angst, “existence before essence” where I, a human being, do not possess any inherent identity or value – I feel I need to make it for myself – but I am always thwarted in my efforts because I am a narcissist and it is impossible for me to do. No reason for living, no reason at all.
Lovely day – nothing. Beautiful spring garden with beautiful flowers to experience – nothing. Cute pussy cat who loves me unconditionally, curled up asleep in my arms – nothing.
Everyone getting on with their life – doing meaningful things with people that mean something to them, I don’t belong to that world but as an observer I wait with envy that something might mean something to me too. My life is passing me by. Unable to do anything I am crushed under the weight of nothingness. Lonely and apart from everything, non-belonging, unlovable, self-absorbed pain – my trial – my punishment – my void – my hell.
Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited”, describes his empty feelings this way:
“I have no roots. I stay away from groups and communities. I wander, an itinerant lone wolf. I have nowhere to go back to. I either burn the bridges or keep walking. I never look back. I detach and vanish. In my mind, I am not human. I am a machine at the service of a madman that snatched my body and invaded my being when I was very young.
Imagine the terror I live with, the horror of having an alien within your own self. A shell, a nothingness, I keep producing articles at an ever accelerating pace. I write maniacally, unable to cease, unable to eat, or sleep, or bathe, or enjoy. I am possessed by me. Where does one find refuge if one’s very abode, one’s very soul is compromised and dominated by one’s mortal enemy–oneself?”
• I feel that there must be more to life than this
• I feel that life is a “waste of time” and there is no point to it
• I experience a lack of purpose
• I struggle to even discuss the meaning and purpose of my life because I don’t know what it is
• I experience a lack of self-esteem tormented by feelings of shame and inadequacy
• I experience devastating loss of self reflected in others when taken away
• I find it hard to tolerate abandonment and rejection
• I feel emotionally neglected and alone
• I experience negative thoughts about the quality of my life and how it has ended up
• I experience chronic suicidal ideation
• I experience the devastating loss of a spiritual life which feels like the abandonment of God
• I feel lost in a desert with nowhere to go
• Although I frantically try and form meaningful relationships, I am unable to reach out and connect to others in a meaningful way
• I have been dissatisfied with all my relationships with others
• I have been dissatisfied with every job and anything I have ever done
• I feel like the living dead
• I don’t know what it is to be human
• I don’t know who I am
Is there a difference between how borderlines and narcissists experience feelings of emptiness?
For borderlines, feelings of emptiness go hand-in-hand with another borderline trait, lack of identity. Not knowing who they are naturally exacerbates feelings of emptiness. Borderlines become chameleons, mimicking some of the attributes of people they’re with to fit in.
Borderlines usually seek emotionally intimate connections–even if it means negative emotions–to help fill this chronic feeling of emptiness. When things are calm–even in a secure relationship–they may feel empty and insecure inside, so they create a conflict in order to feel more emotional intensity and connection (although this often serves to push people away, which is the opposite of their intent).
But this emptiness keeps popping up inside, driving them to seek intimacy even from people who aren’t capable of it. Some professionals believe that “cutting” behaviour is associated with trying to feel “something” in order to not feel empty, disconnected, alone and abandoned.
Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t seem to seek intimacy, but instead seek to be constantly filled up with compliments, admiration and respect for being a ‘superior’ person – narcissistic supply – although it too often evokes a negative, disrespectful response from others, which is the opposite of their intent. The narcissistic “false self” – a front the narcissist puts on to hide their feelings of inferiority, even from themselves – makes real intimacy (something tangible to fill the hole) nearly impossible.
Psychiatrist Otto Kernberg, widely known for his psychoanalytic theories on borderline personality organization and narcissistic pathology, says that although narcissists will report feelings of emptiness, their experience of this hollowness is expressed in boredom and restlessness. It doesn’t seem to include a need for the companionship of others. He writes, “[Narcissists] often do not have available the sense of longing for or of awareness of the possibility of a significant relation with others and of missing such a relation” [from Severe Personality Disorders. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984. p 219].
It seems I have both experiences resulting in confusion, despair, unknowing, intolerable searches for meaning within myself, in others, in anything – but I cannot find it. No ability to form intimate relationships but such a desire to be loved, to be held, to be, I am tormented within myself by the space within me that cannot be filled, that cannot be healed.
I apologise for being self-absorbed, selfish, demanding my emotional needs from you, for pushing you away/for giving you no choice but to push me away, for being disconnected/unable to connect, for destroying myself/for damaging you, for doing nothing/for being nothing – for being tormented by the interminable experience of the lack of meaning to my life.

What I’m feeling I need to do to heal my relationship with a close friend:


This time last year I met a really lovely person who became a close friend within a few months. We recognised that we had some challenges ahead given that we each had lots of personal issues to address. These issues contributed to us triggering each other. And we didn’t communicate as well as we could have done to resolve each individual mishap as they happened. Unfortunately we are both currently hurting and there are no interactions between us. I’m broken hearted, confused and finding it hard to fully understand or appreciate what actually happened.
All I want to do is heal the rift between us because I miss the good times we shared. I’m having to accept that this dear friendship is in jeopardy. Before I let poor communication or hurt feelings end my connection to this person, I’ve been taking a look at these tips and hoping that we may mend those fences given time to heal;

Ways to heal a broken friendship.

1. Without obsessing about the current situation make sure you can accept it even if you find it hard to tolerate the pain of separation.

2. Vowing to write them off in the heat of emotion is never a win-win. Before doing something that will almost certainly terminate the relationship take a breath, step back and surf your feelings.

3. The intrusive thoughts in your head feeding your fear and insecurity only help to keep you stuck, confused and not at all empowered. Ruminating and playing the tapes of the circumstances that have led to this painful place over and over will certainly lead to more frustration. Instead, do something – self-soothe; see a movie, go for a long walk, do a long yoga practice – turn off your head for a while to clear space for rational thinking.

4. When wounded, feeling lost or emotionally neglected, turn to those men and women who love, support and nourish your soul – they will hopefully remind you that all shall be OK – that nothing is lost yet. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to look after yourself; who will help you to rediscover who you are independent of your friend and can be objective and grounding.

5. Big egos and big voices can be impressionable, but the one with the strongest character will come away the better person. The issue may be too deep to just glaze over, but if you act with graciousness, humility and objectivity, you can remain pleasant and generous no matter the outcome.

6. If for whatever reason after much dialogue your friend is still not moving past the circumstances that have led to your break from each other, embrace where they are with the situation, let them know you accept this, will adjust and adapt, and that they are valuable to you on whatever terms. Often hurt can take others longer to heal – respect that and be with them at any level.

7. As trying as it can be, when you choose authentic, truthful and unconditional love for the other person and bring your heart to the situation, this hard time will strengthen you beyond anything you could imagine. Regardless of the weight you bear, come to the relationship with only wanting clear, clean communication.

8. Communal negativity is dangerous and will suck you into an empty hole of doubt and insecurity; if you share the situation with someone else and they opt to speak unkindly of your friend, you have just become a conduit to fear – stop the negative interaction and choose to keep the matter to yourself.

9. Distress tolerance “Do the opposite.” Release your wounded feelings and go out into the world and speak graciously and kindly about your friend. Each moment you start to replay those ego tapes in your head, call, email or text someone something really positive about this friend – you will feel lifted immediately for doing so.

10. This one is short and sweet; apologize with sincerity, ask for their forgiveness and accept the response, Respect the decision, do not regret.

I’m trying to own my participation in the circumstances that have led to each of us needing time and space to recuperate. I acknowledge the part I played. Yes, even when I’m feeling misunderstood and have ended up being hurt or wronged, I know that I have brought something to the situation that led us to where we are now. I’m patiently waiting to speak openly, without judgement to that place in my friends heart where I know she intrinsically loves me. I’m hoping my words will be received authentically and with clarity as I will receive hers.

Whatever it may be at this time in our friendship, I can tell you that I would do anything for her. She has been such a positive influence in my life within a relatively short space of time and she has made me feel better about who I am and the changes I need to make. And I believe that is worth holding onto, and worth any amount of lessons I might learn in my own growing as HER friend. Being engaged and proactive in resolving our broken relationship, whilst respecting her boundaries and her wishes, I’m striving to continue to work through therapy on those parts of my personality that make intimate relationships problematic. I’m endeavouring to develop respect and maturity of heart to come to the situation realistically and with the intent to heal and bloom that friendship once again.

I’m also preparing myself in the event that our separation will lead naturally to a loss of a friendship that I will always remember fondly.

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