THE LETTER 63 Autumn 2016 pages 41 – 48
Narcisism: Is that al Psychoanalysis Is?
The perils of becoming too wrapped up in yourself has been known for over two thousand years as is evident from the Greeks’ cautionary tale of Narcissus, the boy who fell in love with his own reflection, but not understanding that it was his own image, pined away while waiting for it to respond to him. So, when Freud, in 1914, takes up the subject of self-love under the newly coined but apt term narcissism, it is not only to justify its existence, but to address the extent to which it is implicated in our lives.2 The result is a comprehensive account of narcissism. Examined from seemingly every angle, Freud’s argument casts it as an all-pervading influence on our lives. However, the paper is not without its paradoxes and contradictions and it is these I want to examine so that I might attempt to answer my question: narcissism, is that all psychoanalysis is?
Keywords: Narcissism; ego; ego-ideal; psychoanalysis; imaginary; symbolic
Freud used the title Narcissism: An Introduction for his paper on the subject but the use of the word ‘introduction’ belies the fact that these were not his first thoughts on the subject. He had long been searching for a way of explaining how the subject moves from a state of autoerotism to object love and, as early as 1899 in a letter to Fliess, while discussing paranoia as a dissolving of the ego’s identifications, he expresses a curiosity about ‘the special relations of auto-erotism and the original “ego”’. By 1907, in a discussion of the mechanisms of schizophrenia in correspondence with Jung, he seems to…….