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Dare, C. Holder, A. (1981). Developmental Aspects of the Interaction Between Narcissism, Self-Esteem and Object Relations. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 62:323-337.

(1981). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 62:323-337

Developmental Aspects of the Interaction Between Narcissism, Self-Esteem and Object Relations

Christopher Dare and Alex Holder


This paper reviews the history, within psychoanalysis, of narcissism and shows that it cannot be understood as a unitary concept. This is reflected in much of the extensive literature on the topic.

The definition of narcissism solely in terms of the libidinal drive cathexis of the self representation is rejected. Instead, narcissism is defined as the sum of the positively-coloured feeling states attached to the self-representation. By pursuing a developmental investigation of narcissistic and opposing phenomena, the multiple sources which contribute to or detract from the overall level of self-esteem are demonstrated. Such an investigation clarifies the close relationship between the concepts of self-esteem, well-being and narcissism, and differentiating definitions are put forward. The term 'counter-narcissistic' is introduced to denote the negative contributions to self-esteem which detract from the narcissistic input.

The interplay between the contributions to the overall quality of self-esteem, deriving on the one hand from somatic and instinctual drive sources, and on the other from object relationships, exemplifies the multiple origins of its qualities at any one time. This interplay is pursued through the sequential developmental phases from infancy to the oedipal level in order to show the complex epigenesis of narcissism, counter-narcissism and self-esteem.

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