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Eidelberg, L. (1959). The Concept of Narcissistic Mortification. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:163-168.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:163-168

The Concept of Narcissistic Mortification

Ludwig Eidelberg, M.D.

To those who have happened to read some of my previous papers, another paper on the subject of the Narcissistic Mortification may be something of a surprise. After many years of preoccupation with the study of this phenomenon, it is embarrassing to be forced to admit that an important aspect of the problem has eluded my attention completely. In mitigation of such an 'offence', one may plead that if we stumble on something new there is rarely anybody around who would be able to explain it clearly and distinctly, and in consequence, a description of a phenomenon hitherto unknown must appear confused, blurred, and even contradictory. In addition to the 'conscious' difficulty connected with an accurate portrayal of the Narcissistic Mortification, I have had also to overcome my own unconscious resistances. Probably, the recognition that the Narcissistic Mortification has nothing to do with our own desires was too difficult for me to accept, although I had recognized long ago that my patients, in addition to repressing their infantile wishes, eliminate from their conscious minds other phenomena, the so-called Narcissistic Mortifications.

Using a descriptive approach, it was thought that a Narcissistic Mortification took place whenever the subject became an object of another subject. An attack by a robber was used as illustration in which the robber had the power to force the subject to do what he wanted. The consequent Narcissistic Mortification was defined as a sudden loss of control over external or internal reality, or both, by virtue of which the emotion of terror is produced, along with the damming up of narcissistic libido or destrudo.

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