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Frosh, S. (1989). On narcissism. Free Associations, 1W(18):22-48.

(1989). Free Associations, 1W(18):22-48

On narcissism

Stephen Frosh

Essential Papers on Narcissism, edited by Andrew P. Morrison, New York/London: New York University Press, 1986, viii + 491 pages, pb $22.50

Subject and Object

What are the determinants of subjective experience? At least we can know about the ego, which is all we can know about:

When it happens that a person has to give up a sexual object, there quite often ensues an alteration of his ego which can only be described as a setting up of the object inside the ego, as it occurs in melancholia; the exact nature of this substitution is as yet unknown to us… At any rate the process, especially in the early phases of development, is a very frequent one, and makes it possible to suppose that the character of the ego is a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes and that it contains the history of those object-cathexes. (Freud, 1923, p. 368)

When the desired aspects of the external world are beyond reach, as they always are in the end, they are absorbed into the psyche, they become part of the structure of the mind. The history of the ego is that it is ‘a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes’ — a collection of bits and pieces.

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