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(1983). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 52:321-323.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:321-323

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

October 27, 1981. NARCISSISM IN OUR TIME: SOME PSYCHOANALYTIC REFLECTIONS ON ITS GENESIS. Martin Wangh, M.D.

Dr. Wangh presented his topic from four perspectives: 1) the synchrony of the psychoanalytic concept with the spirit and needs of our time; 2) the relationship of narcissistic phenomena in our time to changes in family structures; 3) the emphasis on empathy in our present clinical work in our search for the cause of the cultural tensions of today; and 4) the view that narcissistic phenomenology has become so prevalent because of immense concern with self-preservation in the face of fears of apocalypse. As in previous eras, psychoanalysis has again responded to the psychosocial problems of the time. And in turn, as with the "sexual revolution," psychoanalytic insights have contributed to social change. Currently, we must ask whether there have indeed been decisive, fundamental, structural changes in our society to have produced narcissistic personalities in sufficient numbers to label society as a whole with a term previously used in connection with pathology.

Dr. Wangh turned to the middle strata of Western society to see what alterations in family structure could cause a shift toward a narcissistic character structure. During the last decades there has been a considerable transformation of the extended family into the nuclear family; suburban living has often made special demands on the nuclear family; and the nuclear family has often been further reduced to the single-parent family. Among the effects of parental divorce are an intense libidinal attachment to the sole parent and an intense longing for the absent parent. Both of these feelings are warded off by an emphasis on narcissistic, self-centered needs. In adult life this becomes an impediment to achieving permanent heterosexual attachments as well as isosexual friendships.

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