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Sobo, S. (1977). Narcissism as a Function of Culture. Psychoanal. St. Child, 32:155-172.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 32:155-172

Narcissism as a Function of Culture

Simon Sobo, M.D.

FREUD OFTEN POINTED OUT THAT PSYCHOPATHOLOGY HELPED US TO see the normal mechanisms of the mind more clearly. The exaggerations of a conflict bring its components into bolder relief so that we can then recognize them as they silently function in the commonplace occurrences of the mind. Freud used anthropological data similarly, picking out primitive cultural phenomena in order to expose what had become buried by layers and layers of Western civilization's rationality, tradition, and habits.

Events in the period from 1960 to the early 70s provided us with a unique set of social forces that have highlighted components of the conscience, particularly, as I shall try to show, in relation to the problems of narcissism. During this era, with few exceptions, practically every value, every social role, and every authority were challenged by a sizable segment of the population (Sobo, 1975). At first our attention may have been captured by the content, for instance, by issues such as the relative merits of free sexuality, open classrooms, open marriage (or marriage itself), the restrictions of the work ethos, and so on down the list drawn up first by the Youth Culture and later by a considerable number of adults. However, as the era has come to an end, as the rhetoric and polemics no longer seem important, we cannot help but be struck by the process. It was an era in which ideals were highlighted, while many people ignored what they had been taught was right and wrong. The banner of freedom was raised so high that ordinarily repressed or stifled impulses and emotions came to the foreground.

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