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Kainer, R.G. (1983). On the Distinction Between Narcissism and Will: Two Aspects of the Self. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(4):535-552.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(4):535-552

On the Distinction Between Narcissism and Will: Two Aspects of the Self

R. G. K. Kainer

Kohut's (1972) introduction on the line of development of narcissism, “independent [of the object-instinctual] line of development” (p. 363) has been of major interest to contemporary psychoanalysis. While controversy over the reconciliation of drive theory with self theory may be with us for some time to come, there is no doubt that “Kohut's contributions have been among the most fertile and stimulating in this area” (Mitchell, 1979, p. 170). Kohut's (1977) desire has been to have his work appreciated for its uniqueness. He has expressed a wish for “going it alone”—a characteristic not uncommon in the creative person and innovator. However, comparisons are inevitable as the reader seeks to integrate the new to an already familiar context and to see the present in relation to the past. For example, Kohut's non-drive related theory of the self may be seen in a “frame of reference largely object-relational or inter-personal …” (Mitchell, 1979, p. 171).

Kohut's constructs of narcissim have recently been applied by Stolorow and Atwood (1976) to the work of Otto Rank, in support of the thesis that the subjective concerns of a theorist are projected into their theory of personality. Briefly, Stolorow and Atwood have superimposed Kohut's construct of archaic grandiosity (pathological narcissism) on all of Rank's themes (including that of the creative will) in order to illustrate that Rank's work emerged from problems in the narcissistic sector of his personality. In the process, they have implied that Rank is the historical antecedent of Kohut in that his theory of will anticipated the modern concept of narcissism.

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