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narcissism(närsĭs`ĭzəm), Freudian term, drawn from the Greek myth of Narcissus, indicating an exclusive self-absorption. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is considered a normal stage in the development of children. It is known as secondary narcissism when it occurs after puberty, and is said to indicate a libidinal energy directed exclusively toward oneself. A degree of narcissism is considered normal, where an individual has a healthy self-regard and realistic aspirations. The condition becomes pathological, and diagnosable as a personality disorder, when it significantly impairs social functioning. An individual with narcissistic personality disorder tends to harbor an exaggerated sense of his own self-importance and uniqueness. He is often excessively occupied with fantasies about his own attributes and potential for success, and usually depends upon others for reinforcement of his self-image. A narcissist tends to have difficulties maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships, stemming largely from a lack of empathy and a propensity for taking advantage of others in the interest of self-aggrandizement. It is often found in combination with antisocial personality disorder.
narcissisma stage of psychosexual development and a pathological psychological state, taken by some social theorists to describe late twentieth-century Western culture. Based on the Greek mythological character Narcissus (or Narkissos ), who fell in love with his own image as reflected in a spring and whose fate was to fall in and drown, the term has been widely used by psychological theorists and practitioners and social theorists.
In psychoanalytical terms, narcissism refers to a phase of self-love in which the sexual object of desire is the self, representing a regression. The work of post-Freudians, particularly Melanie KLEIN, helped explain the precise process by which this is converted to a continuing disorder. Klein's research with children showed that, in early stages, a child makes no distinction between his/her ego and the surrounding environment. Failure to qualify this in later stages locks the individual into a kind of fusion of self with object images. The inability to differentiate between fantasy arid reality may lead the individual to internalize images of beauty youth, wealth and omnipotence, a ‘grandiose’ conception of the self, which acts as a defence against all that seems bad in the environment.
Sociologically, the term is most recently associated with Christopher Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism (1991). Lasch employs the concept to characterize a profound cultural change in which a particular ‘therapeutic outlook and sensibility’ has come to exert an all-pervading effect on modern society. This outlook reinforces ‘a pattern created by other cultural influences, in which the individual endlessly examines himself for signs of ageing and ill health, for telltale symptoms of psychic stress, for blemishes and flaws that might diminish his attractiveness’. There are obvious connections, but also important differences of emphasis, between Lasch's thesis and GIDDENS (1991) proposal of identity crises in late modern society, where an intensified focus on the body and its presentation is a way of creating, sustaining and stabilizing the self (see Shilling, 1993). Thus, for Giddens, unlike Lasch, contemporary ‘regimes of the body’ are often positive.