Diane: Lynch's depiction of a classic Narcissist?

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We all keep heading back to the direction of Diane's motivations concerning Camilla and the depiction of her wishes through the dream of Betty.

I came upon the following in on a website concerning personality type, and think that it fits perfectly (the numbers in parenthesis are mine):


"(1)The narcissist is sadistic because he was forced into expressing his own guilt and self-reproach in this manner. It is his Superego, which is unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary, judgmental, cruel, and self-annihilating (suicidal).

(2)Externalising these internal traits is a way of alleviating internal conflicts and fears generated by this inner turmoil. The narcissist projects his civil war and drags everyone around him into a swirl of bitterness, suspiciousness, meanness, aggression and pettiness.

(3)His life is a reflection of his psychological landscape: barren, paranoiac, tormented, guilt ridden. He feels compelled to do unto others what he perpetrates unto himself. He gradually transforms all around him into shadowy ."
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How I think this connects Diane to a Narcissistic personality (the numbers correlate to the above paragraphs):

1. Diane's dream seems governed by her Superego, as we see those who have taken from her cast down and humiliated (Adam, even Rita being stripped of an identity) and cruelty abounds -- Adam losing his identity for a day while he wrestles with the idea of selling out his creative freedom even mirrors the identity issue with which Diane struggles. She acts, in the dream, through her superego, punishing others.

2. At the same time as she is 'Betty' she creates a dream that forces the aspects of her Superego to come to the fore, through the actions of others, keeping herself free of those qualities (the ego? the Id? Not sure which represents the positive side). This would be her way of externalizing those inner traits. Also, I think it's fair to say that, within the dream, she is projecting her own fears/thoughts/wishes for herself onto different people, (freeing herself to be a purely positive entity), such as - her concurrent fear of anddesire for power projected onto the bum, the need to have prescience in understanding and predicting her future projected onto the "soothsayer" lady that looks like the bum, and her desire to not understand, even on an unconscious level, her darker nature, is depicted in the "amnesiac" problem for Rita.

3. I think her motivations are summed up nearly perfectly by this paragraph depicting the life of a narcissist, and certainly sums up a fair amount, psychologically speaking, of what we see from Diane's p.o.v. in MD. The pain Diane feels is twisted and subverted into the Betty dream to be placed onto others - her feelings of lost identity given to Rita, the betrayed feelings are left for Adam to experience. Instead of transforming those around her into images of replicas of her own "conflictive, punishing personality structures" she has created, through the Betty dream, these qualities in other people. It seems quite plausible for us to see the scenes of her as Diane and how she views Adam and Camilla as being projections, rather than true representations of what their characters were like.

If the movie is indeed Diane's point of view (albeit partially through a dreamscape), then she exhibits the traits described above in this personality type.

Does this make any sense to anyone other than me?
Feb 27, 2002 6:47 AM
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Yes it makes sense to me, very good post.
Feb 27, 2002 12:20 PM
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Excellent post Bananna!! It goes a long way in explaining Diane and the purpose of her dream!
Feb 27, 2002 1:03 PM
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Thanks DK, TB, & MissLinda!

I did not notice the change in lampshade color. What prompted me to start thinking about this was Dave H's posting about motivation and what she was trying to do through the dream. It made me start wondering about her personality type and what actual mental illness, if any, we could give her as 'type.' I started with neurosis, but we didn't get a good view of her being a neurotic. However, her paranoia, to me, was palpable - both in how she was acting (maybe within reason, if she did kill Camilla), but moreso in how she was *thinking* and her overall vantage point.

To go from Diane, to Betty, even in a dream state, is quite a jump.

It's just another theory, but I think we need to look at what psychological aspects of her personality have been hinted at (such as low self-esteem) and try to 'profile' her.

If you're into psychology, maybe together we can come up with an alternative description - borderline personality, perhaps? - and see what best fits.

As for the board slowing down, well, that seems inevitable. MD is not playing in very many theaters, there's still a month before it comes out on video, and I'm still reeling from the pain of its Oscar snubs.
Feb 27, 2002 3:55 PM
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Dear Banana,
Your post is interesting and a good analysis, but the "narcissist type" seems to be pseudoscience. The following is what actual psychology has to say about narcissism.
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The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been recognized as a seperate mental health disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) in 1980. Its diagnostic criteria and their interpretation have undergone a major revision in the DSM III-R (1987) and were substantially revamped in the DSM IV in 1994. The European ICD-10 basically contains identical language.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion
Firmaly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation -or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).
Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations
Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends
Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others
Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her
Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.
The language in the criteria above is based on or summarized from:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition (DSM IV). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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You can see a lot more (more than you will ever want to) about NPD at http://mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php/type/doc/id/419


The very basic part of this, "An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity" hardly seems to fit Diane.
Feb 28, 2002 11:26 AM
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An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.

Diane obviously built herself WAY up in her dream. This pattern (possibly) could have started along with her abuse and caused her desperate need for admiration/adulation and lack of empathy.

Five of the following criteria must be met:An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.

Diane obviously built herself WAY up in her dream. This pattern (possibly) could have started along with her abuse and caused her desperate need for admiration/adulation and lack of empathy.

Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion


Is this not a dead-on description of Betty? Fantasies of unlimited success...ideal, all-conquering love...

Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation -or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply).

She needed and wanted this from Camilla and when she didn't get them...she hired a hitman!

Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations

She certainly felt "entitled" to the part in the TSNS and expected Bob Brooker to love her. The people who didn't comply with her expectations were punished either in reality (Camilla) or in her dream (Adam)

Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

She was riding Camilla's coat-tails...although I wouldn't say she was using her since she was in love(or lust) with her.

Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

She didn't care why Camilla wanted to leave her. She just saw Adam as a purely evil man (and punished him in her dreams) and Camilla as a girl who slept her way to the top. Her entire dream (and probably the poolhouse scene in reality) was ALL from her point of view and didn't seem to sympathize with others at all.

Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her. Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.

Obviously she was envious of Camilla and Adam. She was arrogant in that she thought she deserved everything she never got (Camilla's love, success...) and again hired a hitman when Camilla left her (if that's not rage when frustrated...)


[QUOTE]The very basic part of this, "An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity" hardly seems to fit Diane.[/QUOTE]

I disagree. The definition of grandiose is "characterized by affectation (or an attempt to assume or exhibit what is not natural or real) of grandeur or splendor or by absurd exaggeration"

You can't think of it through the eyes of Betty. If you consider Diane and her motives behind the dream I think she is a narcissist. She is attempting (in her dream) to assume something that is not real (BETTY). Betty is, in some ways, how Diane see's herself. Betty can do no wrong and everybody loves her.
I think that Diane is a narcissist and proves it by how people are treated in her dream (Adam is tortured and Camilla is lead around by Betty) and reality (puts a hit on Camilla for leaving her).
Feb 28, 2002 12:46 PM
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You can believe anything you want, TB, but a dream ain't no way reality, and Betty ain't no way Diane. B is D's dream. If you dream you are flying a plane, it doesn't make you a pilot. We see NOTHING in her real life to indicate NPD, but you are welcome to distort this as much as you like.
Look at the people at the party. Who is acting narcissistically? It surely isn't Diane.

You say "Is this not a dead-on description of Betty?". Ummm, well not at all. D has made B almost into a perfect little girl scout.

Actually, as I see it, D is probably the opposite of a narcissist. She seems to have low self esteem, low expectations, and kills herself.
Feb 28, 2002 1:59 PM
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I think that there isn't much we can tell about Diane in reality. It's only about 20/25 minutes of the movie. We know she is deeply disturbed (possibly depressed) and her dream twists everything to make her (Betty) seem innocent,happy, and deserving of success. Perhaps Diane is not a narcissist but it is a very narcissistic dream.

Her dream tries to justify everything she did (although ultimately she could not deal with the fact that she had Camilla killed). I meant to say dead on description of Diane in the fact that in her dream she (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion
You don't think Diane exagerates achievements to the point of lying, is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success and ideal love? She may not have been in real life but she certainly portrayed this in her dream.

It is a pattern in her dream (not in her reality). A pilot is someone who can fly a plane in reality. A narcissist, by definition is someone who, in fantasy or behaviour, has a need for admiration or adulation and lacks empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts.

Diane may have lacked self-esteem but at least for the amount of time she was dreaming was very narcissistic. She tried to blame everyone else for his problems. She tortured Adam b/c he took Camilla away from her and she showed Camilla the rotting body in the bed to say "Look at what you've done to me (or our relationship)".

You think that (for at least the time she was dreaming) Diane had empathy? You don't think that Diane was building herself up in her dream to much more than she really was?

You wrote "D has made B almost into a perfect little girl scout."
That helps prove my point. Diane created Betty to be perfect b/c that's how Diane wanted to be. She wanted to be famous and for Camilla to love her.

By your psychological definition, a narcissist:
Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

In the dream, Diane made herself look prettier, gave herself more hope (was starting off with a clean slate), and created a love affair with Rita that was much more ideal than it probably was with Camilla in reality (ie no Adam).

MindTravel - Perhaps we're just looking at this in entirely different ways and that's why we're on opposite ends of the spectrum. Although we usually end up disagreeing (and getting in heated arguments), let me say that I do really enjoy your posts and they always make me reconsider my positions...not always immediately but eventually If it seems like I jump at you it's only b/c I feel so strongly about Mulholland Dr., not b/c I dislike your posts. Just wanted to clear that up
Feb 28, 2002 2:29 PM
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[QUOTE]but a dream ain't no way reality[/QUOTE]

I'd like to hear David Lynch's response to that statement!
Feb 28, 2002 2:30 PM
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by MindTravel
[B]You can believe anything you want, TB, but a dream ain't no way reality, and Betty ain't no way Diane. B is D's dream. If you dream you are flying a plane, it doesn't make you a pilot. We see NOTHING in her real life to indicate NPD, but you are welcome to distort this as much as you like.
Look at the people at the party. Who is acting narcissistically? It surely isn't Diane.

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We don't know a THING about Diane's pyschology, per se, save what we know about Betty, really. Diane is onscreen for 25-40 minutes, and nothing indicates what is in her head, aside from madness.

However, what was the point of Betty's dream if not to help characterize what Diane really is, by juxtaposing it against what she dreamed?
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Mind Travel said:
You say "Is this not a dead-on description of Betty?". Ummm, well not at all. D has made B almost into a perfect little girl scout.
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Mind Travel, play it backwards for a second -- D has made B almost into a perfect little girl scout because a narcissist sees themselves as being blameless and projects the blame onto others -- this could very well be how Diane views herself without the influence of others. That projection could easily be why she made herself into Betty.
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You said:

Actually, as I see it, D is probably the opposite of a narcissist. She seems to have low self esteem, low expectations, and kills herself.

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You took the description of Narcissism from one source, and I from another. However, that does not discredit the information I provided - it's just a different source.

And, you will note, according to the description I posted -- underneath the narcissist's grandiosity and aggrandized self-esteem IS low self-esteem and suicidal tendencies.

I think it's unfair to completely discredit the idea based upon a different description of narcissism, but do with it what you will. I just posted it based on the description seeming to fit the character of Diane -- through the dream of Betty (if that makes sense).
Feb 28, 2002 3:17 PM
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I think your observations are interesting, Banana, but I have to agree with Mindtravel: as the character of Betty and Diane are presented, they're not really the result of classic narcisism, at least not as a personality disorder. Sure the grandiosity of the dream and even the fixation in real life have a heavily narcisistic component, but she IS empathetic, sympathetic, even pathetic. Classic narcisists don't really possess such traits, all the world is a kind of abstraction revolving around their own desires, and how anything that happens, anyone they encounter makes them feel.
Feb 28, 2002 5:09 PM
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Diane is troubled, deeply, but she's guilty, in both the literal and figurative sense, and this is what spurns her to suicide, as well as what motivates, along with the usual wish fulfillment, her dream. What, in my opinion, motivates the diner scene, the hit gone awry scene, etc. Deep down she knows what she'
s done, and feels it keenly.

Classic narcisists don't suffer from this; they are nearly psychopathic in their inability to really empathize or sympathize.
Feb 28, 2002 5:13 PM
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Still, these are interesting observations.
Feb 28, 2002 5:14 PM
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Hey, MindTravel and Ascott (and TB) I really didn't intend for this to be an end-all, be all explanation, just more grist for the mill (which has needed grist lately!).

You guys have always provided intriguing new ideas about MD, and this is just one of those occasions. Thanks!
Feb 28, 2002 6:23 PM
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On the Lost Higway soundtrack Marilyn Mansons sings:" I'm dyin', I hope you're dyin' too..."but it sounds also like "I'm Diane , I hope you're Diane too..." Is'nt this narcissic?
And also I heard about an interview of Lynch where he says that the title of the film "The Sylvia North Story" is clue. It is said only once. What could it mean? "Sylvia" means in latin something like "from the forest". And it's the same root as the name "Selwyn". So is it the story of the girl who came from the forest in the North?
And a third thing : In Blue Velvet, Dorothy Valens lives in a building called "Deep River".
Mar 2, 2002 6:36 PM
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A comment just for now...

I can't accept a definition of narcissism that includes the concept of the "superego" (or the id or other Freudian concepts) as a premise.

The superego, along with the id and other concepts are part of Freud's theories of instinct which really amounts to nothing more than a religion that denies the efficacy of the human mind and free will. There was never any basis for these concepts in fact, and Freudian psychoanalysis is actually a lot like astrology as well -- they're articles of faith which purport to have an explanation for everything, and therefore end up explaining nothing.

It's a whole floating abstraction, with internal "cross-explanations" but with no tie to reality.

For example, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, the Oedipus complex, if not observable, is simply being repressed; if the opposite is observed, it's a "reaction formation".

I'm sorry if this comes across as too abstract, but I'll be happy to go into details if anyone would like.
Mar 4, 2002 7:11 AM
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No, I totally dig your take on Freud as an astrologist. He was a medieval alchemist in scientist's clothing, and it's nice to see someone call him on it.
Mar 4, 2002 8:02 AM
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Well, I have to respectfully disagree. Freud was wrong in many of his assessments, reductive in many of his theories, and just plain absurd in some of his proposals -- but . . . but without him all of modern psychology, even that which is completely contrary to his, would not exist. And without him ideas of the subconscious and unconscious would not be the every day notions they are now.

Even an uneducated idiot knows what these are, and it is due to Frued's theories and no one else's that this is the case.
Mar 5, 2002 9:06 AM
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To call him an astrologist is not really acurate, because some of what he discovered, or at least crystalized into theories, are still just as valid as they were before. I personally prefer Carl Jung as a psychological theorist, but I really have a problem with the modern tendency to demonize and completely discredit every last thing Freud had to say.

And beleive me, I do understand your point about the "Freudian Religion." My stepdad is a Freudian Psychologist, and for him Sigmund was God, "healthy" replaced "Good", "sick" replaced "evil", and he was just as dogmatic as any fundamentalist preacher.
Mar 5, 2002 9:10 AM
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Another thing to remember is, even scientists are not always scientific in how they go about their business. Often a scientist will make an intuitive leap that they "know" is true, but just can't prove; then they will spend a lifetime trying, sometimes successfully, sometines not, to prove their hunch.

Much of Einstein's theory of relativity has been disproven, or at least convincingly questioned, but does that make his achievements or importance any less? No.
Mar 5, 2002 9:13 AM
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