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Bursten, B. (1973). Some Narcissistic Personality Types. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:287-300.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:287-300

Some Narcissistic Personality Types

Ben Bursten


Human beings appear in such a rich assortment of personalities that attempts to classify them into types are difficult and must be to some degree arbitrary. Our classifications are based on our observations, but what we observe, what we attend to and how we see it depend on our theoretical assumptions and our particular interests. This was true of the ancient humoral classification of temperament based on blood, phlegm, and yellow and black bile; it is equally true of modern approaches, such as Fromm's (1947) receptive, exploitative, hoarding, marketing and productive types, and Riesman's (1950) tradition-directed, innerdirected and other-directed types.

If, indeed, our categories depend in great measure on the orientation from which we start, why is it so important that we categorize? At least two reasons come to mind; some ordering is necessary for us to cope with, or even to retain, the vast variety of personality data, and classification enables us to relate one set of observations to another and to apply to a new situation the knowledge gained from a former one.

In psychoanalytic thought, too, evolution of our theoretical concepts has led to changes in our categorization. The early characterology emphasized the stages of libidinal development as a basis for classification. Freud (1908), (1913) and Abraham (1921), (1924a), (1925), for example, stressed the instinctual underpinnings of character structure. In his 1913 paper, Freud acknowledged the incompleteness of a theory resting on only the stages of development of the libido; however, the corresponding phases of ego development were yet to be charted, for example by Erikson (1950).

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