Narcissism


Narcissism
   The Greek myth of Narcissus, the god who destroyed himself by gazing continuously at his own image reflected in the pool, speaks so powerfully to the human condition that the concept of "narcissism" lay easily available for discovery. And during the years, various psychiatrists have commented on the elements of selflove, self-involvement, and self-destruction in their patients that doomed Narcissus. The introduction of the term "narcissism" into psychiatry, however, comes by a rather indirect route. It was French psychologist Alfred Binet (1857–1911) who, in the Revue philosophique in 1887, first applied the "fable of the beautiful Narcissus" to a "sad perversion," in this case fetishism (p. 264). Then, in April 1898, in an article in the Alienist and Neurologist, English sexologist Havelock Ellis (1859–1939) described as "Narcissus-like" the activities of a woman who often masturbated. Ellis later remarked in his Psychology of Sex on "the Narcissus-like tendency sometimes found, more especially perhaps in women, for the sexual emotions to be absorbed, and often entirely lost, in self-admiration" (1933, quote from 2nd ed., p. 134). In 1898, Ellis had sent a copy of his article to German psychiatrist Paul Näcke (1851–1913), who referred to the concept in an article in the Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten in 1899, using the term "Narcismus," meaning self-love (Selbstverliebtheit).
   It was this article that Sigmund Freud saw. Freud uses the term for the first time in 1905 in his Three Essays on Sexuality (Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie), where he coins the phrase "narcissistic libido." (For Freud, libido meant the quantitative amount of sexual energy that the body and psyche working together could produce.) Freud employed narcissistic libido as a synonym for "ego-libido" (die Ichlibido), meaning the psychic representation of the quantity of libidinal energy, as well as how all this energy was directed.
   Freud returned to the subject again in 1911 in his essay, "Psychoanalytic Remarks on an Autobiographically-Described Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides)" ("Psychoanalytische Bemerkungen über einen autobiographisch beschriebenen Fall von Paranoia ([Dementia paranoides])," in the Yearbook for Psychoanalytic and Psychopathological Research (Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen), often known as the "Schreber case." Here, he made "narcissism" a fundamental stage of infant sexual development: "What happens is that the developing individual is trying to focus his autoerotically-oriented sex drive in order to gain a love object; he now chooses himself, his own body, as a love object" (Freud rendered the term in German as Narzismus, instead of the customary Narzissismus) (Gesammelte Werke, VIII, p. 297). This kind of choice characterized homosexuality, Freud thought. (On Freud’s analysis of Schreber, see PARANOIA: Freud’s view [1911].)
   Freud next ruminated about narcissism in 1914, again in the Yearbook, as he attempted to refute an argument of Carl Jung’s (who was now in the enemy camp) about the supposed inapplicability of libido theory to schizophrenia. Freud said he had been made mindful by Otto Rank’s (1884–1939) recent work that the notion of narcissism actually might have a wider application than merely the understanding of homosexuality: It gives us some insight into what happens to the sexual energy of schizophrenics (Gessammelte Werke, X). After the First World War, Freud’s interest in narcissism dimmed as he became preoccupied with structuring the psyche around ego, superego, and id. The next important theoretical contribution to narcissism within psychoanalysis was made many years later by Heinz Kohut (See Freudian Psychotherapy: Technique: Kohut’s "self-psychology" [1971].)

Edward Shorter. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • narcissism — arcissism n. An exceptional interest in and admiration for oneself. Syn: self love, narcism. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • narcissism — index pride Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • narcissism — (n.) 1905, from Ger. Narzissismus, coined 1899 (in Die sexuellen Perversitäten ), by German psychiatrist Paul Näcke (1851 1913), on a comparison suggested 1898 by Havelock Ellis, from Gk. Narkissos, name of a beautiful youth in mythology (Ovid,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • narcissism — ► NOUN ▪ excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one s physical appearance. DERIVATIVES narcissist noun narcissistic adjective. ORIGIN from Narcissus, a beautiful youth in Greek mythology who fell in love with his reflection in a pool …   English terms dictionary

  • narcissism — [när′sə siz΄əm; ] chiefly Brit [, när sis′iz΄əm] n. [Ger Narzissismus (< Narziss, NARCISSUS) + ismus, ISM] 1. self love; interest, often excessive interest, in one s own appearance, comfort, importance, abilities, etc. 2. Psychoanalysis arrest …   English World dictionary

  • Narcissism — Narcissus by Caravaggio (Galleria Nazionale d Arte Antica, Rome) Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural… …   Wikipedia

  • narcissism — Used in everyday life to indicate self love and egoism, the concept has a more technical meaning to orthodox psychoanalytic theory. Primary narcissism refers to the love of self which, Freud argues, must precede the ability to love others. This… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • narcissism — narcissist, narcist, n. narcissistic, narcistic, adj. /nahr seuh siz em/, n. 1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self love; vanity. 2. Psychoanal. erotic gratification derived from admiration of one s own physical or mental… …   Universalium

  • narcissism — [[t]nɑ͟ː(r)sɪsɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT (disapproval) Narcissism is the habit of always thinking about yourself and admiring yourself. [FORMAL] Those who suffer from narcissism become self absorbed or chronic show offs. Syn: self love …   English dictionary

  • narcissism — 1. A state in which one interprets and regards everything in relation to oneself and not to other persons or things. 2. Self love, which may include sexual attraction toward onself. SEE ALSO: autoeroticism. SYN: self love. [Narkissos, G. myth.… …   Medical dictionary