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Narcissism Essay Research Paper On Narcissism

Narcissism Essay, Research Paper

On Narcissism: Psychological Theories and Therapeutic Interventions in the Narcissistic DisordersIntroductionUnderstanding the Narcissistic Phenomenon The so called narcissistic personality disorder is a complex and often misunderstooddisorder. The cardinal feature of the narcissistic personality is the grandiose sense of selfimportance, but paradoxically underneath this grandiosity the narcissist suffers from achronically fragile low self esteem. The grandiosity of the narcissist, however, is often sopervasive that we tend to dehumanize him or her. The narcissist conjures in us images ofthe mythological character Narcissus who could only love himself, rebuffing anyone whoattempted to touch him. Nevertheless, it is the underlying sense of inferiority which isthe real problem of the narcissist, the grandiosity is just a facade used to cover the deepfeelings of inadequacy. The Makeup of the Narcissistic Personality The narcissist s grandiose behavior is designed to reaffirm his or her sense ofadequacy. Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or her own sense of adequacy,the narcissist seeks to be admired by others. However, the narcissist s extremely fragilesense of self worth does not allow him or her to risk any criticism. Therefore,meaningful emotional interactions with others are avoided. By simultaneously seekingthe admiration of others and keeping them at a distance the narcissist is usually able tomaintain the illusion of grandiosity no matter how people respond. Thus, when peoplepraise the narcissist his or her grandiosity will increase, but when criticized thegrandiosity will usually remain unaffected because the narcissist will devalue thecriticizing person. Akhtar (1989) [as cited in Carson & Butcher, 1992; P. 271] discusses six areas ofpathological functioning which characterize the narcissist. In particular, four of thesenarcissistic character traits best illustrate the pattern discussed above. (1) a narcissisticindividual has a basic sense of inferiority, which underlies a preoccupation with fantasiesof outstanding achievement; (2) a narcissistic individual is unable to trust and rely onothers and thus develops numerous, shallow relationships to extract tributes from others;(3) a narcissistic individual has a shifting morality-always ready to shift values to gainfavor; and (4) a narcissistic person is unable to remain in love, showing an impairedcapacity for a committed relationship . The Therapeutic Essence of Treating Narcissism The narcissist who enters therapy does not think that there is something wrong withhim or her. Typically, the narcissist seeks therapy because he or she is unable tomaintain the grandiosity which protects him or her from the feelings of despair. Thenarcissist views his or her situation arising not as a result of a personal maladjustment;rather it is some factor in the environment which is beyond the narcissist s controlwhich has caused his or her present situation. Therefore, the narcissist expects thetherapist not to cure him or her from a problem which he or she does not perceive toexist, rather the narcissist expects the therapist to restore the protective feeling ofgrandiosity. It is therefore essential for the therapist to be alert to the narcissists attemptsto steer therapy towards healing the injured grandiose part, rather than exploringthe underlying feelings of inferiority and despair. Differential Psychological Views of Narcissism The use of the term narcissism in relation to psychological phenomena was first madeby Ellis in 1898. Ellis described a special state of auto-erotism as Narcissus like, inwhich the sexual feelings become absorbed in self admiration (Goldberg, 1980). Theterm was later incorporated into Freud s psychoanalytic theory in 1914 in his essay OnNarcissism . Freud conceptualized narcissism as a as a sexual perversion involving apathological sexual love to one s own body (Sandler & Person, 1991). Henceforth,several psychological theories have attempted to explain and treat the narcissisticphenomenon. Specifically, the most comprehensive psychological theories have beenadvanced by the psychodynamic perspective and to a lesser extent the Jungian(analytical) perspective. Essentially, both theories cite developmental problems inchildhood as leading to the development of the narcissistic disorder. The existentialschool has also attempted to deal with the narcissistic problem, although the availableliterature is much smaller. Existentialists postulate that society as a whole can be thecrucial factor in the development of narcissism. The final perspective to be discussed isthe humanistic approach which although lacking a specific theory on narcissism, cannevertheless be applied to the narcissistic disorder. In many ways the humanisticapproach to narcissism echoes the sentiments of the psychodynamic approach. The Psychodynamic Perspective of Narcissism The psychodynamic model of narcissism is dominated by two overlapping schools ofthought, the self psychology school and the object relations school. The self psychologyschool, represented by Kohut, posits that narcissism is a component of everyone spsyche. We are all born as narcissists and gradually our infantile narcissism matures intoa healthy adult narcissism. A narcissistic disorder results when this process is somehowdisrupted. By contrast the object relations school, represented by Kernberg, argues thatnarcissism does not result from the arrest of the normal maturation of infantilenarcissism, rather a narcissism represents a fixation in one of the developmental periodsof childhood. Specifically, the narcissist is fixated at a developmental stage in which thedifferentiation between the self and others is blurred. Kohut s Theory of Narcissism Kohut believes that narcissism is a normal developmental milestone, and the healthyperson learns to transform his or her infantile narcissism into adult narcissism. Thistransformation takes place through the process which Kohut terms transmutinginternalizations. As the infant is transformed into an adult he or she will invariablyencounter various challenges resulting in some frustration. If this frustration exceeds thecoping abilities of the person only slightly the person experiences optimal frustration. Optimal frustration leads the person to develop a strong internal structure (i.e., a strongsense of the self) which is used to compensate for the lack of external structure (i.e.,support from others). In the narcissist the process of transmuting internalizations isarrested because the person experiences a level of frustration which exceeds optimalfrustration. The narcissist thus remains stuck at the infantile level, displaying many ofthe characteristics of the omnipotent and invulnerable child (Kohut, 1977). Kernberg s Theory of Narcissism Kernberg s views on narcissism are based on Mahler s theory of the separation-individuation process in infancy and early childhood. Mahler s model discusses how thedeveloping child gains a stable self concept by successfully mastering the two forerunnerphases (normal autism and normal symbiosis) and the four subphases (differentiation,practicing, rapprochement, and consolidation) of separation-individuation. Kernbergargues that the narcissist is unable to successfully master the rapprochement subphaseand is thus fixated at this level. It is essential, however, to understand the dynamics ofthe practicing subphase before proceeding to tackle the narcissist s fixation at therapprochement subphase. The practicing subphase (age 10 to 14 months) marks the developmental stage atwhich the child learns to walk. The ability to walk gives the child a whole newperspective of the world around him. This new ability endows the child with a sense ofgrandiosity and omnipotence which closely resemble the narcissist s behavior. However,reality soon catches up with the child as the child enters the rapprochement subphase(age 14 to 24 months). At this stage the child discovers that he or she is not omnipotent,that there are limits to what he or she can do. According to Kernberg if the child isseverely frustrated at this stage he or she can adapt by re-fusing or returning to thepracticing subphase, which affords him the security of grandiosity and omnipotence(Kernberg, 1976).The Preferred Psychodynamic model The Psychodynamic literature in general tends to lean towards the object relationsschool because of the emphasis it places on a comprehensive developmental explanation(i.e. the use of Mahler s individuation-separation model). Nevertheless, the theory ofKohut has left a deep impression on Psychodynamic thinking as is evident by theutilization of many of his concepts in the literature (i.e. Johnson, 1987; Manfield, 1992;and Masterson, 1981). Therefore in the remainder of the Psychodynamic section asimilar approach will be taken, by emphasizing object relations concepts with theutilization of the occasional Kohutian idea. The Emergence of the Narcissistic Personality According to Kernberg and the object relations school the crisis of therapprochement subphase is critical to the development of the narcissistic personality. The individual who is unable to successfully master the challenges of this stage willsustain a narcissistic injury. In essence the narcissistic injury will occur whenever theenvironment (in particular significant others) needs the individual to be somethingwhich he or she is not. The narcissistically injured individual is thus told Don t be whoyou are, be who I need you to be. Who you are disappoints me, threatens me angers me,overstimulates me. Be what I want and I will love you (Johnson, 1987; P. 39). The narcissistic injury devastates the individual s emerging self. Unable to be whathe or she truly is the narcissistically injured person adapts by splitting his personality intowhat Kohut terms the nuclear (real) self and the false self. The real self becomesfragmented and repressed, whereas the false self takes over the individual. The narcissistthus learns to reject himself or herself by hiding what has been rejected by others.Subsequently, the narcissist will attempt to compensate for his or her deficiencies bytrying to impress others through his or her grandiosity. The narcissist essentially decidesthat There is something wrong with me as I am. Therefore, I must be special (Johnson,1987; P. 53). The Narcissist s View of Others Just as the individual becomes narcissistic because that is what the environment needed him or her to be, so does the narcissist view others not as they are, but as whathe or she needs them to be. Others are thus perceived to exist only in relation to thenarcissist s needs. The term object relations thus takes on a special meaning with thenarcissist. We are objects to him, and to the extent that we are narcissistic, othersare objects to us. He doesn t really see and hear and feel who we are and, to the extentthat we are narcissistic, we do not really see and hear and feel the true presence of others. They, we, are objects I am not real. You are not real. You are an object to me. I aman object to you (Johnson, 1987; P. 48). It is apparent than that the narcissist maintainsthe infantile illusion of being merged to the object. At a psychological level he or sheexperiences difficulties in differentiating the self from others. It is the extent of thisinability to distinguish personal boundaries which determines the severity of thenarcissistic disorder (Johnson, 1987). Levels of Narcissism The most extreme form of narcissism involves the perception that no separation existsbetween the self and the object. The object is viewed as an extension of the self, in thesense that the narcissist considers others to be a merged part of him or her. Usually, theobjects which the narcissist chooses to merge with represent that aspect of the narcissist spersonality about which feelings of inferiority are perceived. For instance if a narcissistfeels unattractive he or she will seek to merge with someone who is perceived by thenarcissist to be attractive. At a slightly higher level exists the narcissist whoacknowledges the separateness of the object, however, the narcissist views the object assimilar to himself or herself in the sense that they share a similar psychological makeup. In effect the narcissist perceives the object as just like me . The most evolvednarcissistic personality perceives the object to be both separate and psychologicallydifferent, but is unable to appreciate the object as a unique and separate person. Theobject is thus perceived as useful only to the extent of its ability to aggrandize the falseself (Manfield, 1992).Types of narcissism Pending the perceived needs of the environment a narcissist can develop in one of twodirections. The individual whose environment supports his or her grandiosity, anddemands that he or she be more than possible will develop to be an exhibitionisticnarcissist. Such an individual is told you are superior to others , but at the same timehis or her personal feelings are ignored. Thus, to restore his or her feelings of adequacythe growing individual will attempt to coerce the environment into supporting his or hergrandiose claims of superiority and perfection. On the other hand, if the environmentfeels threatened by the individual s grandiosity it will attempt to suppress the individualfrom expressing this grandiosity. Such an individual learns to keep the grandiosityhidden from others, and will develop to be a closet narcissist. The closet narcissist willthus only reveal his or her feelings of grandiosity when he or she is convinced that suchrevelations will be safe (Manfield, 1992)Narcissistic Defense Mechanisms Narcissistic defenses are present to some degree in all people, but are especiallypervasive in narcissists. These defenses are used to protect the narcissist fromexperiencing the feelings of the narcissistic injury. The most pervasive defensemechanism is the grandiose defense. Its function is to restore the narcissist sinflated perception of himself or herself. Typically the defense is utilized when someonepunctures the narcissist s grandiosity by saying something which interferes with thenarcissist s inflated view of himself or herself. The narcissist will then experience anarcissistic injury similar to that experienced in childhood and will respond by expandinghis or her grandiosity, thus restoring his or her wounded self concept. Devaluation isanother common defense which is used in similar situations. When injured ordisappointed the narcissist can respond by devaluing the offending person. Devaluationthus restores the wounded ego by providing the narcissist with a feeling of superiorityover the offender. There are two other defense mechanisms which the narcissist uses. The self-sufficiency defense is used to keep the narcissist emotionally isolated fromothers. By keeping himself or herself emotionally isolated the narcissist s grandiositycan continue to exist unchallenged. Finally, the manic defense is utilized when feelingsof worthlessness begin to surface. To avoid experiencing these feelings the narcissistwill attempt to occupy himself or herself with various activities, so that he or she has notime left to feel the feelings (Manfield, 1992). Psychodynamic Treatment of the Narcissist The central theme in the Psychodynamic treatment of the narcissist revolves aroundthe transference relationship which emerges during treatment. In order for thetransference relationship to develop the therapist must be emphatic in understanding thepatient s narcissistic needs. By echoing the narcissist the therapist remains silent and invisible to the narcissist. In essence the therapist becomes a mirror to the narcissist tothe extent that the narcissist derives narcissistic pleasure from confronting his or her alter ego . Grunberger s views are particularly helpful in clarifying this idea. Accordingto him The patient should enjoy complete narcissistic freedom in the sense that heshould always be the only active party. The analyst has no real existence of his own inrelation to the analysand. He doesn t have to be either good or bad-he doesn t even haveto be Analysis is thus not a dialogue at all; at best it is a monologue for two voices,one speaking and the other echoing, repeating, clarifying, interpreting correctly-a faithfuland untarnished mirror (Grunberger, 1979; P. 49). The Mirror Transference Once the therapeutic relationship is established two transference like phenomena, themirror transference and the idealizing transference, collectively known as selfobjecttransference emerge. The mirror transference will occur when the therapist provides astrong sense of validation to the narcissist. Recall that the narcissistically injured childfailed to receive validation for what he or she was. The child thus concluded that there issomething wrong with his or her feelings, resulting in a severe damage to the child s self-esteem. By reflecting back to the narcissist his or her accomplishments and grandeur thenarcissist s self esteem and internal cohesion are maintained (Manfield, 1992). There are three types of the mirror transference phenomenon, each corresponding to adifferent level of narcissism (as discussed previously). The merger transference willoccur in those narcissists who are unable to distinguish between the object and the self. Such narcissists will perceive the therapist to be a virtual extension of themselves. Thenarcissist will expect the therapist to be perfectly resonant to him or her, as if thetherapist is an actual part of him or her. If the therapist should even slightly vary fromthe narcissist s needs or opinions, the narcissist will experience a painful breach in thecohesive selfobject function provided by the therapist. Such patients will then likely feelbetrayed by the therapist and will respond by withdrawing themselves from the therapist(Manfield, 1992).

In the second type of mirror transference, the twinship or alter-ego transference, thenarcissist perceives the therapist to be psychologically similar to himself or herself. Conceptually the narcissist perceives the therapist and himself or herself to be twins,separate but alike. In the twinship transference for the selfobject cohesion to bemaintained, it is necessary for the narcissist to view the therapist as just like me (Manfield, 1992). The third type of mirror transference is again termed the mirror transference. In thisinstance the narcissist is only interested in the therapist to the extent that the therapist canreflect his or her grandiosity. In this transference relationship the function of thetherapist is to bolster the narcissist s insecure self (Manfield, 1992). The Idealizing Transference The second selfobject transference, the idealizing transference, involves theborrowing of strength from the object (the therapist) to maintain an internal sense ofcohesion. By idealizing the therapist to whom the narcissist feels connected, thenarcissist by association also uplifts himself or herself. It is helpful to conceptualize the idealizing narcissist as an infant who draws strength from the omnipotence of thecaregiver. Thus, in the idealizing transference the therapist symbolizes omnipotence andthis in turn makes the narcissist feel secure. The idealization of the object can become soimportant to the narcissist that in many cases he or she will choose to fault himself orherself, rather than blame the therapist (Manfield, 1992). The idealizing transference is a more mature form of transference than the mirrortransference because idealization requires a certain amount of internal structure (i.e.,separateness from the therapist). Oftentimes, the narcissist will first develop a mirrortransference, and only when his or her internal structure is sufficiently strong will theidealizing transference develop (Manfield, 1992). Utilizing the Transference Relationship in Therapy The selfobject transference relationships provide a stabilizing effect for the narcissist. The supportive therapist thus allows the narcissist to heal his or her current low selfesteem and reinstate the damaged grandiosity. However, healing the current narcissisticinjury does not address the underlying initial injury and in particular the issue of the falseself. To address these issues the therapist must skillfully take advantage of the situationswhen the narcissist becomes uncharacteristically emotional; that is when the narcissistfeels injured. It thus becomes crucial that within the context of the transferencerelationship, the therapist shift the narcissist s focus towards his or her inner feelings(Manfield, 1992). The prevailing opinion amongst Psychodynamic theorists is that the best way toaddress the narcissist s present experience, is to utilize a hands-off type of approach. This can be accomplished by letting the narcissist take control of the sessions,processing the narcissist s injuries as they inevitably occur during the course oftreatment. When a mirror transference develops injuries will occur when the therapistimproperly understands and/or reflects the narcissist s experiences. Similarly, when anidealizing transference is formed injuries will take the form of some disappointment withthe therapist which then interferes with the narcissist s idealization of the therapist. Ineither case, the narcissist is trying to cover up the injury so that the therapist will notnotice it. It remains up to the therapist to recognize the particular defense mechanismsthat the narcissist will use to defend against the pain of the injury, and work backwardsfrom there to discover the cause of the injury (Manfield, 1992). Once the cause of the injury is discovered the therapist must carefully explore theissue with the narcissist, such that the patient does not feel threatened. The followingcase provides a good example of the patience and skill that the therapist must possess indealing with a narcissistic patient. a female patient in her mid-thirties came into asession feeling elated about having gotten a new job. All she could talk about is howperfect this job was; there was no hint of introspection or of any dysphoric affect. Thetherapist could find no opening and made no intervention the entire session except toacknowledge the patient s obvious excitement about her new job. Then, as the patientwas leaving, the therapist noticed that she had left her eyeglasses on the table. He said, you forgot your glasses, to which she responded with an expression of surprise andembarrassment saying, Oh, how clumsy of me. This response presented the therapistwith a slight seem in the grandiose armor and offered the opportunity for him tointervene. He commented, You are so excited about the things that are happening toyou that this is all you have been able to think about; in the process you seem to haveforgotten a part of yourself. The patient smiled with a mixture of amusementand recognition. In this example the patient is defending throughout the session and in amoment of surprise she is embarrassed and labels herself clumsy , giving the therapistthe opportunity to interpret the defense (her focus on the excitement of the externalworld) and how it takes her away from herself (Manfield, 1992; PP. 168-169). The cure of the narcissist than does not come from the selfobject transferencerelationships per se. Rather, the selfobject transference function of the therapist iscurative only to the extent that it provides an external source of support which enablesthe narcissist to maintain his or her internal cohesion. For the narcissist to be cured, it isnecessary for him or her to create their own structure (the true self). The healing processis thus lengthy, and occurs in small increments whenever the structure supplied by thetherapist is inadvertently interrupted. In this context it is useful to recall Kohut s conceptof optimal frustration. If the interruptions to the therapist s selfobject function are notso severe as to overwhelm the patient s deficient internal structure, they function asoptimal frustrations, and lead to the patient s development of his own internal structureto make up for the interrupted selfobject function (Manfield, 1992; P. 167). The Jungian (Analytical) Perspective of Narcissism Analytical psychology views narcissism as a disorder of Self-estrangement, whicharises out of inadequate maternal care. However, prior to tackling narcissism it is usefulto grasp the essence of analytical thought. The Ego and the Self in Analytical Psychology It is important to understand that the Self in analytical psychology takes on a differentmeaning than in psychodynamic thought (Self is thus capitalized in analytical writings todistinguish it from the psychodynamic concept of the self). In psychodynamic theory theself is always ego oriented, that is the self is taken to be a content of the ego. Bycontrast, in analytical psychology the Self is the totality of the psyche, it is the archetypeof wholeness and the regulating center of personality. Moreover, the Self is also theimage of God in the psyche, and as such it is experienced as a transpersonal power whichtranscends the ego. The Self therefore exists before the ego, and the ego subsequentlyemerges from the Self (Monte, 1991). Within the Self we perceive our collective unconscious, which is made up ofprimordial images, that have been common to all members of the human race from thebeginning of life. These primordial images are termed archetypes, and play a significantrole in the shaping of the ego. Therefore, When the ego looks into the mirror of theSelf, what it sees is always unrealistic because it sees its archetypal image which cannever be fit into the ego (Schwartz-Salant, 1982; P. 19). Narcissism as an Expression of Self-Estrangement In the case of the narcissist, it is the shattering of the archetypal image of the motherwhich leads to the narcissistic manifestation. The primordial image of the mothersymbolizes paradise, to the extent that the environment of the child is perfectly designedto meet his or her needs. No mother, however, can realistically fulfill the child sarchetypal expectations. Nevertheless, so long as the mother reasonably fulfills thechild s needs he or she will develop normally . It is only when the mother fails to be a good enough mother , that the narcissistic condition will occur (Asper, 1993). When the mother-child relationship is damaged the child s ego does not develop in anoptimal way. Rather than form a secure ego-Self axis bond, the child s ego experiencesestrangement from the Self. This Self-estrangement negatively affects the child s ego,and thus the narcissist is said to have a negativized ego . The negativized ego thanproceeds to compensate for the Self-estrangement by suppressing the personal needswhich are inherent in the Self; thus the negativized ego of the narcissisticallydisturbed person is characterized by strong defense mechanisms and ego rigidity. Aperson with this disturbance has distanced himself from the painful emotions of negativeexperiences and has become egoistic, egocentric, and narcissistic (Asper, 1993; P. 82). Analytical Treatment of Narcissism Since the narcissistic condition is a manifestation of Self-estrangement, the analyticaltherapist attempts to heal the rupture in the ego-Self axis bond, which was created by thelack of good enough mothering. To heal this rupture the therapist must convey to thenarcissist through emphatic means that others do care about him or her; that is thetherapist must repair the archetype of the good mother through a maternally caringapproach (Asper, 1993). A maternal approach involves being attentive to the narcissist s needs. Just as amother can intuitively sense her baby s needs so must the therapist feel and observe whatis not verbally expressed by the narcissist. Such a maternal approach allows thenarcissist to experience more sympathy towards his or her true feelings and thusgradually the need to withdraw into the narcissistic defense disappears (Asper, 1993). The Existential Perspective of Narcissism Existentialists perceive narcissism to be a byproduct of an alienating society. It isdifficult for the individual to truly be himself or herself because society offers manyrewards for the individual who conforms to its rules. Such an individual becomesalienated because he or she feels that society s rituals and demands grant him or her littlesignificance and options in the control of his or her own destiny. To compensate such anindividual takes pleasure in his or her own uniqueness (grandiosity), he or she enjoyswhat others cannot see and control. Thus, the alienated person sees himself as a puppetcued by social circumstances which exact ritualized performances from him. Hisirritation about the inevitability of this is counterbalanced by one major consolation. This consists of his narcissistic affection for his own machinery-that is, his own processesand parts (Johnson, 1977; P. 141). Existential Treatment of Narcissism The existential treatment of the narcissist is based on the existential tenant that allexisting persons have the need and possibility of going out from their centeredness toparticipate in other beings (Monte, 1991; P. 492). The severely alienated narcissisticindividual, however, does not believe in the validity of experience outside of the self. Unlike others, the narcissist does not believe that a constructive relationship with othersis possible. Existentialists therefore believe that the therapist, through emphaticunderstanding, must create a strong bond with the narcissist, so that he or she can see thatothers have feelings too (Johnson, 1977). The Humanistic (Client-Centered) Perspective of Narcissism Thus far, no specific formulations have been advanced by humanistic theorists aboutthe etiology of the narcissistic condition. Nevertheless, by utilizing general humanisticprinciples it is possible to explain narcissism. Essentially, much like the psychodynamicexplanation, humanistic psychology would argue that narcissism results when individualsare not allowed to truly be who they are. According to humanistic theory, humans have an innate need for self actualization. We want to be the best person that we could possibly be. This is accomplished byinternalizing the behaviors that fit with the individual s personal self concept (that whichthe individual finds to be appealing). However the self is also subject to pressure fromsignificant others. Significant others place upon the individual, conditions of worth,upon which their love and approval is dependent. These conditions may or may not becongruent with the individual s personal self. If they contrast sharply with the personalself, and the individual does not want to risk loosing the approval or love of significantothers, then that individual will behave in ways maladaptive to his or her selfactualization needs. Although humanistic theory does not elaborate on the specificity of these maladaptivebehaviors, it is possible to speculate that narcissism is one possible outcome. Specifically, the narcissistic individual chooses to mask his or her damaged personal selfby the display of a perfect grandiose front to the world. Humanistic Treatment of Narcissism The humanistic treatment of the narcissist, is in general no different from thehumanistic treatment of any other client. The humanistic therapist wants the narcissist torediscover his or her individuality, which was suppressed by the conditions of worthimposed by significant others. In order to accomplish this, the proper environment mustbe set in therapy, free of any conditions of worth. The narcissist must feel that whateverhe or she does is all right with the therapist. The therapist therefore gives the narcissistunconditional positive regard. There is no judgment of the narcissist, instead thetherapist honestly and caringly tries to see things through the eyes of the narcissist. When the narcissist comes to accept his or her true needs he or she will be congruentwith the personal self and the narcissistic front will no longer be needed. Comparative Analysis Each of the psychological approaches discussed above contains both strengths andweaknesses, in attempting to solve the narcissistic puzzle. Nevertheless, thepsychodynamic model possesses a big advantage over the other approaches in its abilityto offer both a comprehensive theory of etiology and a detailed description of treatment. With respect to etiology the other approaches suffer from: a lack of concreteobservational validity (the analytical approach), lack of clarity in capturing the essenceof narcissism (the existential approach), and lack of continuity in predicting narcissism(the humanistic approach). The analytical model of narcissism depends on too many hypothetical concepts, suchas the collective unconscious, which are not supported by any concrete evidence. Truethe psychodynamic model introduces some hypothetical concepts of its own but theseconcepts are backed by Mahler s comprehensive developmental theory. The existentialmodel seems to confuse narcissism with the schizoid condition. By emphasizing thenarcissist s tendency to withdraw into the pleasures of the self, existentialists overlookthe immense suffering which so characterizes the narcissist. The humanistic modelshares much in common with the psychodynamic model about the etiology of narcissism. However, unlike the psychodynamic model it is rather vague about why this etiologyleads to the emergence of narcissism. With respect to treatment the major advantage of the psychodynamic approach is thatit goes beyond the exclusive use of emphatic means to treat the narcissist. By limitingtreatment to emphatic understanding the other approaches fail to address the underlyingissues inherent in narcissism. Therefore, the other approaches might shore up thenarcissist s damaged self esteem in the short run, but it is doubtful if they will be ableto transform the narcissist. Possibly the only weakness of the psychodynamic approach lies in the length that ittakes to treat narcissism. Recall that a successful psychodynamic treatment requires thetherapist to be very careful about maintaining the narcissist s delicate self perception. Only gradually can the psychodynamic therapist direct the narcissist s attention towardsthe real underlying emotional feelings. Conclusion No matter which approach is utilized in the explanation and treatment of narcissismit is important to recognize that the narcissistic individual is a complex and multifacetedhuman being. Deep inside narcissistic individuals experience tremendous pain andsuffering, for which they attempt to compensate for by the projection of the grandiosefront. These people are not character disordered. They are people tortured bynarcissistic injury and crippled by developmental arrests in functioning which rob themof the richness of life they deserve. They are good people, who are hurting. They areliving and suffering the narcissistic style. ReferencesAsper, Kathrin. (1993). The abandoned child within. New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation. Carson, Robert C & Butcher, James N. (1992). Abnormal psychology and modern life. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. Goldberg, Carl. (1980). In defense of narcissism. New York: Gardner Press.Grunberger, Bela. (1979). Narcissism. New York: International Universities Press Inc. Johnson, Frank A. (1977). The existential psychotherapy of alienated persons. In Marie Coleman Nelson (Ed.), The narcissistic condition. New York: Human Sciences PressJohnson, Stephan M. (1987). Humanizing the narcissistic style. New York: Norton & Company. Kernberg, Otto F. (1976). Object-Relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson Inc. Kohut, Heinz. (1977). The analysis of the self. New York: International University Press. Manfield, Philip. (1992). Split self/split object Understanding and treating borderline, narcissistic and schizoid disorders. New York: Jason Aronson Inc.Masterson, James F. (1981). The narcissistic and borderline disorders. New York: Brunner/Mazal Publishers. Monte, Christopher F. (1991). Beneath the mask An introduction to theories of personality (Fourth edition). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers. Sandler, Joseph & Person, Ethel Spector. (1991). Freud s On Narcissism: An introduction . New Haven: Yale University Press. Schwartz-Salant, Nathan. (1982). Narcissism and character transformation. Toronto: Inner City Books. 22




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