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Mitchell, S.A. (1986). The Wings of Icarus:—Illusion and the Problem of Narcissism. Contemp. Psychoanal., 22:107-132.

(1986). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 22:107-132

The Wings of Icarus:—Illusion and the Problem of Narcissism

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

ALTHOUGH HE HAD BEEN USING the term for some years prior, Freud formally introduced the concept of narcissism into psychoanalytic theory in 1914 on the heels of Jung's painful defection from the psychoanalytic community. The theory of narcissism was largely a response to the conceptual challenge posed by Jung's critique of Freudian theory. Freud's libido theory had provided a powerful and compelling account of the various forms of neurosis, tracing them through complex associative pathways of transformation and disguise, to conflicts over libidinal wishes. Jung objected to what he felt was the narrowness of this account of human motivations, arguing that other kinds of issues, totally independent of sexuality, played a central role in mental health and psychopathology, particularly in psychotic disturbances such as schizophrenia. To meet Jung's challenge and to save his larger ambitions for libido theory, Freud had to account for schizophrenia in libidinal terms, to derive it interpretively from psychosexual wishes and conflicts.

In order to bring schizophrenia within the explanatory sway of libido theory, Freud expanded his view of the nature and developmental course of psychosexuality. Libido does not originate in the array of various infantile component instincts which Freud had unveiled beneath neurotic symptomatology. These various wishes constituting infantile psychosexuality are already a secondary phase in the course of libidinal development, in which libido has taken on objects in the external world. Prior to this turn outward, Freud argued, the totality of the infant's desire is directed towards the child's own self, discharged inwards.

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