I dedicated my Master’s Theses research about narcissism to my parents, who in unique ways, quite opposite from one another, and without noticing, helped me understand the true nature of narcissism, and above all, how to succeed in accomplishing my goals by accepting myself.
About two decades ago Alan L. Grey and John Fiscalini raised their concern on narcissism becoming a common subject for many studies by cautioning us that the concept of narcissism was often overly used and generalized in a way that any question raised about the nature of narcissism could have been answered in a large variety of forms, depending on the approach that the psychotherapist preferred to use when examining narcissism (Fiscalini & Grey, 1993). The truth of the matter is that the same struggle, about the nature of narcissism and its etiology continues to grab the attention of psychologists and researchers, even more intensively nowadays. Confusion about the nature of narcissism over the past four decades did not decrease as the number of research and studies on narcissism increased. In contrary, the more we know about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) the more confusing it gets to understand its nature. In contrary to other studies, which focus on finding new ways of classifying narcissism into different categories, such as vulnerable or grandiose, in my study for Master’s Theses I pointed out that narcissism is not caused by one of the external factors, like parenting style, interpersonal relationships, or just as the result of the internal factors like childhood fantasies, sexual desires and images of love objects, but instead narcissism comes as a result of the combination of external and internal factors with the way one evaluates oneself, and especially because of this self- evaluation process. To understand the self-evaluation process that The Self performs, it is important to understand first what The Self is and how it functions. During this research I concluded that integrating three previous definitions of The Self by Freud (1923/1960), Jung (1959), and Sullivan (1997/1953) in one theoretical model of The Self, can help to better understand and explain the nature of narcissism.
Narcissism has been, for a long time now, one of the most contradicting personality disorders (PD) that studies and research do not seem to agree upon the nature and its origin. The two opposite interpretations about the nature of narcissism, which have pushed researchers to look for new ways of categorizing narcissism are: The view on narcissism that agrees with Kohut’s conclusion that NPD is a sign of vulnerability, a mask of fragile self-esteem toward criticism (Kohut, 1971), and the opposite view that considers narcissism as a demonstration of grandiose
self (Boden, Fergusson & Horwood, 2007). Recent research suggests that in cases when NPD is as the result of high self-esteem, it would be wrong treating it as a mask of low self-esteem because this will encourage narcissism even further, instead of treating it. Recently, a third perspective on NPD emerged, which posits that narcissism is a fluctuation between grandiose and vulnerable, (Zeigler-Hill, Clark, & Pickard, 2008). One of the latest researches confirms that trying to classify narcissism in categories of vulnerable or grandiose is impossible, because the results from observing the behavior of individuals with NPD under different circumstances were elusive, not exclusive. Besser and Priel’s research concluded that both forms of narcissism, grandiose and vulnerable, were sensitive to threatening situations, and both types required external validation from others (Besser & Priel, 2010). On the other hand, more studies raise the concern that narcissistic behavior is increasing with the use of social media.
Therefore, the need for a better definition of The Self that would help therapists and psychologists to understand the nature of narcissism and its origin and design a more effective treatment for the patients has become a necessity at this point. This necessity led me to create an integrated model of The Self that enforces the fact that in order to understand narcissism the psychotherapist must pay as much attention to the external sources of information that the patient is exposed to (through the interpersonal relationships), as to the internal resources that provide patterns and helpful algorithms on problem solving, along with heuristic ideas, schema, and fantasies of infancy, without forgetting how important is to assess The Self’s ability of making fair judgments during self-evaluation process. In my study I tried to show that this integrated model of The Self may help therapists and psychologists to understand that not only the parenting style but also other external and internal factors can equally affect the self’s future decisions and behavior. As a result, NPD is not only a self-defense mechanism, a coping strategy learned in the early years of childhood, forced by extreme parenting styles (Kohut, 1971) but narcissism can also be a learned attitude at any time in life, either through interactions with others, or through the information received from the media and social media. To understand narcissism, no further classifications are needed, but in fact its nature depends on the specific case that each patient presents. In other words, narcissism can be anything from a learned strategy forced by unfair treatments through interactions with others, a coping mechanism to protect oneself from self- criticism or others’ criticism, or a learned behavior that is constantly promoted by the media as the best way to become successful in life.
Narcissistic behavior is spreading among the young generation and is becoming a concern for the society nowadays. As Campbell and Twenge pointed out in their research on narcissism (2009), in this new era of the self-entitled generation, narcissism is often mistaken for confidence. Arrogance and grandiosity are misinterpreted as leadership skills and as characteristics of successful people. Moreover, as internet, media, and social media, are becoming the most dominant culture, they are encouraging narcissism even more by serving as the flourishing grounds for narcissistic personalities. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is defined as pervasive pattern of grandiosity, the need for admiration, and lack of empathy (APA, 2013). Leading figures in the field of Psychology, Freud, Jung, and Kohut, all seemed to have had different opinions on why, when, and how NPD develops. According to Freud, narcissism is defined as an error in the development of personality during infancy, when child’s ego gets stuck in the anal phase (Freud, 1923/1960). Freud was the first to analyze in depth the nature of narcissism, and it was because of this that Freud developed the model of The Self as the need to explaining NPD. Freud considered narcissism a normal function when during the infancy the child looks at the caregiver for some form of attachment in order to satisfy his most legitimate needs of being fed and loved. Freud stated that the mother or caregiver, who provides to the child what the child needs, becomes the love object for the child. As the child’s personality goes through the stages of development, child must outgrow the attachment to the previous love object (mother or caregiver). However, when something goes wrong and psychosexual development of personality is interrupted, child becomes stuck into the anal phase. It is at that stage of psychosexual development that the attention and affection that child once had for the love object of choice, mother, father or another caregiver, is now turned inward, as the love towards himself/herself. The self becomes the love object, and this is what Freud called pathological narcissism (Freud, 1923/1960). According to Freud, homosexuality and Oedipus syndrome, as well are all caused by some interruptions during the natural course of Psychosexual development of The Self, of any individual’s personality. It is for these reasons that Freud developed the psychoanalytical therapy in order to treat narcissism and any other personality disorders that were caused by such interruptions of the normal flow of psychosexual development. In my study I completely support Freud’s conclusions and furthermore, I was able to explain why Freud was correct on reaching these conclusions. Indeed Freud is criticized heavily for more than a century, and that’s because he used the terms of biological energy, some sort of libido that gets transformed in mystical ways from the love for someone else to the love for The Self. I was able to explain the self-love without using the mystical form of libido energy, and all I had to do was adding Sullivan’s definition of The Self as the part of the Superego component in Freud’s definition of The Self, and then add Jung’s definition of Archetype as part of the ID component of Freud’s definition of the Self. Using only theoretical and psychological concepts, and avoiding all the impossible to prove forms of energy, I was able to show how any individual can reach the wrong conclusions about himself/herself and make the common errors in their judgments about the love-object that they chose. I am really excited to see what could happen if we add the electromagnetic energy (EM) concept that McFaraden has lately discusses in his theory of EM, as part of definition of The Self? I bet, things will be much easier to explain and understand afterwards, because all is based in the laws of physics. This is exactly what I did in my book The Twelve Laws that Define a Human, which is available on Amazon. There is no mystery as why we behave in the way we behave. It all depends on the combination of external and internal information that The Self uses during the self-evaluation process, all based on the laws of physics, electromagnetic energy and other energy transformations that take place.
Even though Freud’s theory and conclusions on the reasons as why narcissism and other personality disorders develop, which all somehow relate to sexuality, were correct, yet Freud’s theory was not completed without the key contribution of Carl Jung. Unfortunately these two great minds in the field of psychology were led to contradictions that separated them and their theories, which made it impossible for them to collaborate and resolving this issue a century ago. It was Jung’s theory of collective unconsciousness (Jung ,1959) that helped me realize the effect of archetype on The Self (individual’s personality). As Jung explained it in his work, archetype sometimes drives ego to contradicting points in life, which ego does not approve and cannot understand. Therefore, ego opposes and resists the urges coming from the unconscious self that are directed by a form of script that archetypes usually carry in them. According to Jung, it is this confusion about archetype’s motive that pushes the ego of an individual to an aggressive behavior, neurotic and obsessive actions, and that sometimes causes the individual to react in destructive manners (Jung, 1958; 1959;1961). Not believing that narcissism was a personality disorder, but rather a manipulated behavior that individual exhibits while he or she is placed into circumstances where expected behavior is the most obvious result, therefore, Jung concluded that individual’s personality does not require any fixing. Individual does not need the Psychoanalytical therapy as Freud suggested, because it was not the individual’s fault but it was due to the forces of the archetype that these irrational behaviors were caused.
Combining both definitions of Freud and Jung I concluded that both theories are correct. Indeed the archetype can affect the individual’s personality by interrupting the psychosexual development, and so the rest of events will develop as expected due to the errors that one will make during the self-evaluation process. But that does not mean that all archetypes are causing problems that affect one’s judgment. Archetype’s script, wisdom, and energy when used for the right purposes can increase knowledge and save the individual from radical and self-destruction behavior.