Eike Hinze: Narcissism: Is it still a useful psychoanalytic concept?

Following Freud’s seminal paper “On narcissism: an introduction” many analysts have further developed the theory of narcissism during the last 100 years. Two main tendencies can be differentiated in this endeavour. Some analysts follow Freud’s idea and assume that at the beginning of life the infant has as yet no knowledge of the object. Others are convinced that object relations exist from the very beginning of life. The numerous attempts to psychoanalytically define the term narcissism, to clarify or even enlarge it have led to a rather confusing set of partly incompatible psychoanalytic theories of narcissism. Attempts to describe narcissism by symptoms and to construct a narcissistic personality disorder are equally dissatisfying. This paper offers a more integrative view on narcissism as an attempt to cope with conflicts arising out of the awareness that one is confronted early in life with separate objects and ensuing possible hate and envy. Projective identification as an aggressive narcissistic object relation may play a prominent role in this process. Narcissistic traits may accompany many different psychic disturbances. The term “primary narcissism” is investigated as a complex fantasy of later life, not being a paradisiacal reality at the beginning of life. The connection with normal narcissism is being stressed.

Key words: Primary narcissism –  normal narcissism – dependency – hate – envy

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