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Narcissism considered.

This comprises general comment on narcissistic thinking and includes supplementary reading, lecture, online notes. (Where 'he' is mentioned, gender is non specific).

The infant.

The human infant is born uniquely premature and consequently always close to the edge of catastrophe. Without physical touch and emotional contact his form and mind will ache, diffuse & disintegrate.

Born this way he is subject to the whims of cultural forces and his environment.

He is subjected to illusions from the beginning and identifies with the images (of objects), perceiving that they hold social value.

He repudiates within himself that which doesn't fit with these images. If unable to identify with the positive, then negative will do.

On occasion he turns away from his mother and in disregarding that which he loves, finds refuge for his thoughts within the self.

Fragmentation of the self is born in eroticism, where a lack of coherence appears. The terror of his needs relates to a regression and a 'falling apart'. Narcissistic defences keep this anxiety in abeyance holding on to perfection and locating this in the other - the mother - for safe keeping.

To accept his needs is to accept his mortality as to reflect on the gaze of mother is to accept one's reflection. True love relations acknowledges the intensity of being known. Without a parental mind saddled astride, the infant retreats into the self.

A parent may be unavailable emotionally but involved physically. The child identifies with the illusory grandiose image of himself handed to him by his mother. Perhaps the true self is split off and this grandiose false self colludes in order to meet the shame of the mother and to support his ego growth. Father is excluded. With confrontation the child could be left deserted in a cul de sac of grandiosity. Essentially the child becomes captive of the mothers illusory projected images of himself. This truly frightened and fragile false self relies upon the supply of the mother.

Is the child mind hidden within the container of one's true identity. One covered by mothers cultural illusory phantasy, welded to the outer layers of primitive desire?

To consider the infant as being not the only "pebble on the beach" can be somewhat of a shock although attracts the realisation that his attention is not only on himself. The thaw from a frozen state.

Narcissistic self sufficiency is born from crucible of maligned parental holding. To be an infant, captive within a kangaroo pouch. Unable to separate but unable to be comforted.


Narcissus was a beautiful young man who by withdrawing into himself broke the hearts of those around him, attracting "flatters and fawners".

Doomed never to know himself. captivated by his own image.

'Echo' provided comfort and support, for all goodness was located in the other. To survive, Narcissus would outgrow his obsession with himself.


To be in love, allows the self to experience itself as not the receiver but the giver; the observer and then object of love by another.

Freud suggested that narcissism, "is what he himself is, what he himself was and what he himself would like to be."

Narcissism seeks the ideal imago. The perfect. The God like, rather than disappointment. Any difference is intolerable. Can he bear the toothpaste to be squeezed differently as it were. Will he withdraw into himself? To tolerate, is to be frustrated by the fathers presence, by mothers love for him.

As adults we are healthily narcissistic. We adore only our child at the school gate. Our friend on stage or in success. This is relational. Your little darling.

To some degree, frustration (for the child) must appear soon enough, usually in form of the father or group that highlights this difference; the spotlight on otherness. The ability to detach oneself with irony and humour. Without it, lies ill-founded omnipotence.

Art, provides the landscape for seeing oneself outside oneself. The picture remains ageless. It remains an object of desire and whilst a reflection of the self creates space to observe.

Envy highlights a lack. The internal father/son, mother/daughter relationship is broken. Lacking what others have as support. Curiosity in the relationship is bludgeoned by sarcasm and bitterness.

Tread softly, softly as we are walking on dreams. Generosity of spirit is something new and to be cherished. How does one cherish this love?

Was Narcissism dethroned? Galileo by the universe, Darwin by evolutionary processes, Freud by unconscious forces.


Mirroring can lead us away from ourselves, as what we see is not ourselves but our image. An image of the the mothers mind. For her to see herself in the infant, her goodness. For the infant to become the goodness that she desires to see.

Obstruction of growth arrives through over investment in an image rather than development of mental life through understanding and curiosity.

The pathological grandiose self is the fusion of the real self, idealised self and idealised other.

Culture distorts the self. All are false selves, as we bend and morph to fit the expectations of the culture we are born into. We have to identify with the external world to fit in. This fitting in is always a distortion.

A psychiatric patient identifies with the services and becomes a psychiatric patient. To resemble aspects of the analyst in the room.


To illustrate this, we might consider the pound note. A signifier. The signified is the gold that it represents. The bank may never return the gold for the note but simply offer another note.

The note is the signifier and gold is the signified. The illusion is that there is actually no gold to support the value of the note. The world financial system is based on a shared illusion. Capitalism being a deeply unconscious social delusion. For it to be challenged, would lead to disintegration and an intolerable social anxiety.

Human sexuality is linked to signifiers that point too sexuality. Fetishes, images, pornography. Sex is alluded too, rather than acted upon. These are language and image structures, that dont necessarily mean what they say.

We fight over signifiers. Religious conflicts, tribal identities. They become psychic clothing. The fig leaf falls away and we are left exposed. Shameful and rageful. The rage in the group for those who seek to remain outside it.

Therapy and nature allow us to extend beyond our relied upon signifiers.


This is a defence against vulnerability. Caregivers dismissing feelings leads to a turning away, into the self. Becoming wardens in their own prison of grandiosity.

To control the dependancy rather than to accept it. To avoid intimacy matched by a compensatory omnipotent defiance. Detachment serves to protect against being swallowed up by the other.

A constellation of traits. Uniqueness, specialness, self-aggrandisement and admiration. Hypersensitivity to rejection. The available parent becomes a phantasy within the self. Always available, all-knowing and all-loving.

Negative qualities are projected outwards. To be rid of the filth. To discolour or taint the other with filthy qualities. How can one tolerate this discolouration? To accept this devaluation? To withstand the attacks. Hostility that is unfounded and which seeks retribution. The world is a filthy and evil place. I am pure and virtuous.


Objectification. Turning the other into an object whom we can never truly know. To imagine we know the self becomes another object of knowing. This soothes the anxiety around the unknowable self.

In some instances a malignant transformation takes place where the self replaces the object. As if to say the self becomes the phantasy. The godhead within.

Disintegration anxiety proceeds following the loss of ones objects, whether good or bad. To acknowledge that the therapist may be unable to provide a signifier leads to disintegration, but becomes the beginning of change.

The delusions of adolescence gives way to identity that meets adulthood. Anxiety appears to face this disintegration of delusion. In splitting these objects in phantasy one finds refuge, for a time. Time that eventually gently heals and draws out a once hidden reality.

To choose, rather than repudiate the other (to take oneself as love object) indicates a realistic need to survive in a dangerous world. The desire to be nurtured counteracts and delivers an alternative, for survival through attachment. So, the baby chooses the mother as love object.

Refusing the life giver is the curse of narcissism..

A baby turns from the mother and chooses the thumb. The lover who turns away from the loved to masturbate.

Love carries the need for a physical object. Phantasy is enough. The ideal of knowing love, provides adequate support to those in desperate peril.

For one to carry the image of those we love transcends deprivation, destitution & isolation. Even after life, the love object, the phantasy, serves as nourishment and meaning for those who hold it dear. Refusing this life giver, this love object, is the essence of narcissism. Turning away.

Reality & indentity.

How to understand the transformation of the architecture within the self?

There are disciplines such as mathematics, fatherhood or baking and always designations for simplicity, however "reality" consists of the whole.

The delusions of adolescence gives rise the an integrated reality. Where the delusions fail to become reality, a tipping point is reached. The cover of delusions can become split off into the realm of schizophrenia. These voices provide a scaffold from which anxiety can be stabilised and without which anxieties would be intolerable.

We should earn our indentity rather than assume one that is rapidly acquired. That is to say our identity is one that should falter and regress rather than be sure footed and mirror the group. Or, to be somewhere between imposter and the real. To speak in a posh way when around posh people.

To some degree we are all trapped in illusory identities. There are degrees to how trapped we can be.

Can we play, are we rigid, or can we be jelly?


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