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Kris, A.O. (1983). Determinants of Free Association in Narcissistic Phenomena. Psychoanal. St. Child, 38:439-457.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 38:439-457

Determinants of Free Association in Narcissistic Phenomena

Anton O. Kris, M.D.


The chief determinants of free association in narcissistic phenomena are described. The central defining sequence is a vicious cycle of unconscious guilt (punitive unconscious self-criticism), self-deprivation, and insatiable demand. Unresolved conflicts of ambivalence and failure to develop the requisite capacities to master them are closely linked to the vicious cycle. The intolerance of self-criticism, the connected failure to appraise hostility and aggression in relationships realistically, and the need to be special are considered. These concepts are used to evaluate some developmental formulations of narcissism propounded by self psychology. The assumption that "self-object transferences" are true transferences is challenged. These modes of relationship to the analyst appear to be the product of externalization, wish, need, fear, and characteristic modes of behavior addressed to the analyst, in addition to gradually evolving transferences. The conclusion of self psychology that structural neuroses and narcissistic disorders are sharply distinguished is attributed to the failure to take into account the additional determinants of free association presented.

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