Friday, February 23, 2007

Narcissism Revisited



In Ovid's tale, Narcissus is the handsome and proud son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. The nymph, Echo, falls in love with him but is rejected and withdraws into a lonely spot and fades away, leaving behind her voice. The goddess Nemesis hears prayers for vengeance and makes Narcissus fall in love with his own reflection, which cannot embrace. He sits by the pool, watching it until he dies and turns into the narcissus flower.

Primary narcissism

Primary narcissism is the initial focus on the self with which all infants start and happens from around six month up to around six years. It is a defense mechanism that is used to protect the child from psychic damage during the formation of the individual self.

Secondary narcississm

Secondary narcissism is the more 'normal' form, where older children and adults seek personal gratification over the achievement of social goals and conformance to social values.

A degree of narcissism is is common. It becomes pathological when the narcissist lacks normal empathy and uses others ruthlessly to their own ends.

Cerebral narcissists derive their self-adoration from their intellectual abilities and achievements.

Somatic narcissists focus on the body, seeking beauty, physique and sexual conquests.
Narcissist characteristics

Narcissists interact socially with others, but do not form relational social bonds with others. In order avoid being 'owned' by others, the narcissist reduces them to non-human objects.

Narcisssists often need to feel that they are the only good objects in the world and consequently harbor great envy, which appears as narcissistic rage that seeks to destroy the good objects of others. This leaves bad objects intact.

The fear of extinction is very significant for narcissists. They often age badly and the signs of aging infuriate them. They envy the young and will avoid or denigrate them. Faced with damning external evidence, they may retreat further inside.

Narcissists will deliberately harm themselves in order to frustrate others, failing exams, rejecting advice and taking drugs.
Inverted narcissism

Inverted narcissists projects their narcissism onto another narcissist, using projective identification to keep the narcissistic state both distant and close. They experience narcissism vicariously but are still narcissists.


Symptoms of narcissism include:

* Self-aggrandizement to the point of exaggeration, deception and outright lying.

* Seeking and requiring excessive attention, admiration and rewards from others.

* Fantasies of fame, power and success. Belief in their superiority over others.

* Exploitation of others without feelings of guilt.

* Envious of others. Belief that the perception is reciprocated.

* Given to frustration, anger and irrationality when they do not get what they


There are several schools of thought about what leads to narcissism. A common theme is that early transition into the 'real world' fails in some way, leading the person to remain, at least in part, in the early self-focused primary narcissistic stage.

Narcissism appears across families, perhaps through some genetic causes, but also in the way that a narcissistic parent is unable to bond with its children and thus causes it, too, to become a narcissist.