A Quick History Lesson on Narcissism

Pathological Narcissism

Sigmund Freud

“Freud is credited for the first coherent theory of narcissism. He described transitions from subject-directed libido to object-directed libido through the intermediation and agency of the parents. To be healthy and functional, the transitions must be smooth and unperturbed; otherwise neuroses result. Thus, if a child fails to attract their love and attention of his or her desired objects (e.g., of his parents), the child regresses to the narcissistic phase.The first occurrence of narcissism is adaptive in that it trains the child to love an available object (his or her self) and to feel gratified. But regressing from a later stage to “secondary narcissism” is maladaptive. It is an indication of failure to direct the libido to the “right” targets (to objects, such as the child’s parents).If this pattern of regression persists, a “narcissistic neurosis” is formed. The narcissist stimulates his self habitually in order to derive pleasure and gratification. The narcissist prefers fantasy to reality, grandiose self-conception to realistic appraisal, masturbation and sexual fantasies to mature adult sex and daydreaming to real life achievements.”

Freud, S. – On Narcissism – Standard Edition – Vol. 14 – pp. 73-107


“Kernberg’s concept of Self is closely related to Freud’s concept of Ego. The Self is dependent upon the unconscious, which exerts a constant influence on all mental functions. Pathological narcissism, therefore, reflects a libidinal investment in a pathologically structured Self and not in a normal, integrative structure of the Self. The narcissist suffers from a Self, which is devalued or fixated on aggression.All object relations of such a pathological Self are detached from the real objects (because they often cause hurt and narcissistic injury) and involve dissociation, repression, or projection onto other objects. Narcissism is not merely a fixation on an early developmental stage. It is not confined to the failure to develop intra-psychic structures. It is an active, libidinal investment in a deformed structure of the Self.”

Kernberg O. – Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism – New York, Jason Aronson, 1975 ISBN 0876681771

Heinz Kohut

“Kohut created the concept of Self disorders which he deemed as the results of childhood traumas of either not being “seen”, or of being regarded as an “extension” of the parents, a mere instrument of gratification. Such children develop to become adults who are not sure that they do exist (lack a sense of self-continuity) or that they are worth anything (lack of stable sense of self- worth, or self-esteem).”

Kohut H. – The Analysis of the Self – New York, International Universities Press, 1971 ISBN 0823601455


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: