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Robbins, M. (1982). Narcissistic Personality as a Symbiotic Character Disorder. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:457-473.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:457-473

Narcissistic Personality as a Symbiotic Character Disorder

Michael Robbins


I have attempted to integrate our theoretical understanding of a particular group of borderline and narcissistic personalities and to relate their development to mother-infant failure to form a normal symbiotic bond, and pathological efforts to compensate. I have attempted to preserve and to integrate some of the valuable contributions of Kernberg and Kohut while, hopefully, avoiding the pitfalls of each theoretical system. The result is a theory of dissociated possession configurations and their actualization in relationships. This is neither a theory of nature (innate rage) nor of nurture (maternal failure) but of the pathological form of adaptation in which objects are used as possessions in order to compensate for absent structures. Whereas the primary introject of the borderline personalities is unmitigatedly self-destructive, the narcissistic personalities have formed a more complex introject including a conditional symbiotic representation, the maintenance of which involves active dissociation of object related needs. The conditional symbiotic relationship, in turn, is a stabilizing and constructive force in his relationships.

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