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Jørstad, J. (2001). Avoiding Unbearable Pain: Resistance and Defence in the Psychoanalysis of a Man with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 24(1):34-45.

(2001). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 24(1):34-45

Avoiding Unbearable Pain: Resistance and Defence in the Psychoanalysis of a Man with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Jarl Jørstad, M.D.

This presentation describes the way in which defence mechanisms and resistance manifested themselves in the analysis of a man with a narcissistic personality disorder. In the course of the analysis, there were changes in the forms taken by the defence and the resistance, signalling important genetic and dynamic conditions in his life. Both represented desperate attempts to avoid the unbearably painful feelings and affects which he had experienced in his childhood, and bore witness to early and primitive defence mechanisms such as denial, splitting and projective identification. The defence can also be seen as an expression of an unconscious fear of being re-traumatised. The idealisation of the analyst in the first years of the analysis can therefore be understood as a precondition for entering into this kind of process. It also represented a defence against aggressive and homosexual feelings in the transference which first became clear during the final phase of the analysis and could then be worked through. At this point, the analyst's reactions to his own unconscious countertransference were of help in understanding what was actually going on. This analysis may also suggest that defects and trauma in the earliest years may be conducive to alexithymia, deficient contact between feelings and words, linked to the risk of developing serious psychosomatic illnesses. This may be a consequence of the fact that the child's feelings and affects were neither accepted, understood nor affirmed in words, or they may even have been met with rejection or ridicule. A connection between narcissistic personality disorders and alexithymia can possibly be seen here.

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