narcissism

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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.

narcissism

a 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.

narcissism

[′när·sə‚siz·əm]
(psychology)
Excessive self-love.

narcissism

, narcism
1. an exceptional interest in or admiration for oneself, esp one's physical appearance
2. sexual satisfaction derived from contemplation of one's own physical or mental endowments
References in periodicals archive ?
19) Theoretically, the Lacanian account of these two levels of discourse--that is, the isolated letter or signifier-in-isolation, extracted from the relations of negative reference that ultimately give meaning to language--and the signifier as it primarily exists in non-psychotic discourse, embedded in structures of relationality and in metaphoric concatenations of meaningfulness, point us back to Lacan's account of primary narcissism.
We find, in other words, a continuity between these often falsely isolated stages of Lacan's teaching, that of the famous article on the Mirror Stage and his other pioneering work on primary narcissism in the 1940s and the later, supposedly hyper-structuralist seminars that focus, we are told, on the Symbolic.
When Derrida himself, and his students Jean-Luc Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe, accuse Lacan of a covert linguistic idealism, (22) we have to ask whether their argument takes full cognisance of this paradoxical materiality of the signifier, its shrinking away from, and disruption of, subjectivity, even as it supports the only basis upon which, through the imbroglio of primary narcissism, subjectivity can begin to build.
In libido theory proper, the term denotes the experienced fulfillment of instinctual need; when the theory is applied to primary narcissism, however, the term denotes a favorable value judgment.
52) The child's failure to meet these demands is reflected back to him in the "admonitions" that render his primary narcissism untenable.
It is thus not surprising to find Enterline, under the spell of Kristeva, embracing Freud's concept of primary narcissism, without ever confronting the fact that it has been subjected to a devastating critique by Michael Balint in The Basic Fault (1968) and that its notion of an infant in some kind of cocoon is contradicted by everything that we know from research on infants themselves.

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