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Bing, J.F. McLaughlin, F. Marburg, R. (1959). The Metapsychology of Narcissism. Psychoanal. St. Child, 14:9-28.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 14:9-28


The Metapsychology of Narcissism

James F. Bing, M.D., Francis McLaughlin, M.D. and Rudolf Marburg, M.D.

As Hartmann (1950) remarks, narcissism is a many-faceted and frequently puzzling problem. He feels that most of the confusion in regard to the understanding of narcissism is due to the fact that the concept has never been explicitly reformulated in terms of the later structural concepts. He refers to the subject of narcissism as a "particularly important problem of analytic theory."

Freud, in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis(1916/17), pointed out that the study of narcissism brought him into a field where great advances in analytic work could be expected. This concept necessitated a "psychology of the ego," and he also noted that through a study of the narcissistic disorders, "we have gained some knowledge of the ego and its structure."

Our interest in this problem originated from practical and theoretical questions arising in the treatment of persons with narcissistic problems and from difficulties we encountered in attempting to understand the concepts of "primary" and "secondary" narcissism.

In this paper we will try to accomplish two purposes. First, we will attempt to bring together Freud's formulations concerning narcissism, correlating his various statements on this topic with particular stages in the development of his thinking and understanding; and, second, we will try to clarify the concept of narcissism in the light of current understanding, limiting ourselves mainly to the structural concept and present formulations of ego psychology.

Of necessity, we will confine ourselves to a study of the concept of "narcissism" and leave for future consideration any of the various clinical manifestations. Essentially, our approach will be theoretical and conceptual, with special emphasis on the aspects of cathexis and topography, which, as Hartmann points out, are fundamental.

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