Saturday, March 03, 2007

Narcissism and Character Transformation

Narcissism and Character Transformation: The Psychology of Narcissistic Character Disorders
Nathan Schwartz-Salant
ISBN-10: 0919123082
ISBN-13: 978-0919123083


From the introduction: The narcissistic character structure is a pattern that is a link between the personal and the archetypal realms. Accordingly, it is found in any archetypal pattern entering space/time reality, and within any personality structure. The narcissistic character disorder per se is a paradigm of a general structuring of psyche, and studying it is of value not only in dealing with personalities dominated by this condition, but also for understanding its manifestation in various psychological conditions.

From the back cover: For 2,000 years the story of Narcissus' involvement with his own reflection has been a rich source of speculation on the condition and salvation of the human soul. This book, drawing upon a variety of psychoanalytic points of view, throws new light on the issues posed by narcissistic character disorders and the problems of personal identity.

Here is a practical guide to the psychology and the phenomenology of narcissism: what it looks like, what it means and how to deal with it.

Using extensive case material and different versions of the Narcissus myth, the author demonstrates how an understanding of the universal, archetypal patterns that underlie the individual clinical symptoms of narcissism can point the way to a healthy restructuring of the personality -- including a harmonious balance between masculine and feminine.

This book is unique in its scope. Clinically, it focuses on the psychology of envy, rage, exhibitionism, idealization, grandiosity, the need for mirroring, fear of the unconscious, and the ego-Self relationship; it describes the dynamics involved in projection and transference-countertransference; it illustrates the difference between masculine and feminine power; it examines the relationship between body and psyche; and it differentiates between the inner joyful child and a masochistic one.

Mythologically, it shows the importance for individual psychology of not only Narcissus and his female "companion" Echo, but also Osiris, Dionysos, Demeter, Persephone and Hermes Mercurius.

Overall, this book illustrates the process of character transformation, its down-to-earth clinical orientation nicely balanced by an archetypal perspective. It has a vision and a clarity of style that will appeal to both laymen and professional therapists. - Stephanie Silva

My first reading of this book was not very good; however, wondering why I felt this way, I immediately went back to review the contents of this book.

Realistically and honestly considered, I was not prepared for what I was reading; and then, "IT" dawned on me...I was reading about my own family experience...which means I was reading about myself and my own psychology of being.

This Jungian-styled book turned out to be an excellent introductory book for me, and will be remembered by me as the pivotal work that led me into the field of Heinz Kohut's work on Narcissism and Self Psychology...a field I was completely unaware of personally. - Douglas Wayne

The most surprising fact about the myth of Narcissus as the Greeks told it is that it is not about a mythical man who could not recognize his own reflection. It is about a severe psychological blindness that accounts for many problems that prevent communication between individuals. The Narcissus relates to a 'reflection', his own reflection and by this I mean his inner perception which seems to be an other, not his own reflection. Thought is a reflection. The Roman version added a lonely female counterpart who mourned the loss of male companionship as she repeated the last words of what she heard Narcissus say. Modern individuals may not recognize the 'resonation' within that causes him or her to respond: "Tell me about it!" when their inner 'reflection' is discerned. This is a dreadful condition, and its one that causes many, many relationships to crumble. When Mr. Schwartz writes that the narcissist has a poor sense of history, it would be more meaningful to realize that the narcissist seems to forget very many details of every day life. It can cause immense confusion if one speaks about something that was said or done that the narcissist doesn't remember, because (s)he is almost certain to say something like "you are imagining things, I wouldn't do that. I'm not that sort of person." The book is very readable and thought provoking. Anyone can learn something about how 'projecting' one's 'reflection' or one's 'shadow' without recognizing it occurs. I'm not sure the word 'shadow' is what is rejected, this is a factor of inner perception, a mechanism of 'insight' that is quite difficult to identify. Goethe mentioned that he saw 'not with the eyes of the body, but the eye of the soul'. The fact that what is 'inside' one's own head can seem to be 'out there', outside of one's body is a strange fact to have to deal with, but this book can provide information that is useful. I have worn out my first copy. - A reader