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Shengold, L. (1995). The Ring Of The Narcissist. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:1205-1213.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:1205-1213

The Ring Of The Narcissist

Leonard Shengold

The author has not attempted a complete exposition of the meaning of rings—which can refer to and symbolise many aspects of relationships with other human beings from ‘transitional objects’ of early development (Winnicott) to all sorts of bonds of loyalty, friendship, and love in the life of the child and the adult. He stresses the meanings of the ring from the point of view of early narcissistic development—the ‘body ego’ time of early development in which symbolism (in Freud's sense) develops. The clinical and literary examples therefore illustrate the use of rings as magical narcissistic symbols—part subject and part object—derived developmentally from the body ego and ultimately from the body sphincters. Endowed with these regressive primitive meanings, rings are felt to have magical powers that can either preserve or destroy, and that can control emotions in the self and in others. In the course of ordinary or pathological narcissistic regressions, rings (consciously associated with many positive feelings and achievements) also partake, in so far as they are ‘Freudian’ symbols, of qualities associated with developmentally early defensive mechanisms and modes of psychic functioning (projection, introjection; idealisation, devaluation). In the cases cited, rings seemed specifically associated with (and to symbolise) sphincteric (largely anal) narcissistic defensiveness—the mind functioning as an emotional sphincteric counterpart primarily deadening and distancing affect but intermittently letting through primitive rage and primal polymorphous perverse sexual impulses.

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