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Perlman, E.A. (1986). Introduction: Narcissism and Object Choice in Freud. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(1):60-64.

(1986). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(1):60-64

Theoretical Concepts: Narcissism

Introduction: Narcissism and Object Choice in Freud

Eleanore Armstrong Perlman

The specific purpose of this paper is to give a limited appraisal of Freud's account of narcissism, primarily as elaborated in ‘On Narcissism: An Introduction’ (Freud 1914). My main focus will be on narcissism as a feature of object choice so as to highlight the conceptual similarities and differences with subsequent papers on the concept of narcissism from the perspectives of Klein, Fairbairn and Kohut.

The term narcissism was first introduced by Freud in 1910 to describe the object choice made by homosexuals. ‘They identify themselves with a woman and take themselves as their sexual object. That is to say, they proceed from a narcissistic basis, and look for a young man who resembles themselves and whom they may love as their mother loved them.’ (Freud 1905). In 1914 he writes that the strongest reason which led him to adopt the hypothesis of narcissism was consideration of perverts and homosexuals who ‘in their later choice of love objects … have taken as a model not their mother but their own selves. They are plainly seeking themselves as a love-object, and are exhibiting a type of object choice which must be termed narcissistic’. (Freud 1914). He goes on to elaborate that according to the narcissistic type 'A person may love:

(a)  what he himself is (i.e. himself)

(b)  what he himself was

(c)  what he himself would like to be

(d)  someone who was once part of himself.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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