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Broucek, F.J. (1982). Shame and its Relationship to Early Narcissistic Developments. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:369-378.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:369-378

Shame and its Relationship to Early Narcissistic Developments

Francis J. Broucek


Primitive shame experiences may occur in the first one and a half years of life before objective self-consciousness is acquired. They occur in the context of interest, joy or excitement when inefficacy experiences or unexpected events result in a sudden attenuation of such positive affects. Shame seems always to involve an element of cognitive shock—a discrepancy between expectation and actuality. The link between shame and the instinctual drives is not as simple as many assume, and the view of shame as a reaction formation is rejected.

Shame experiences disrupt the silent automatic functioning of the sense of self, and shame is therefore considered to be the basic form of unpleasure in disturbances of narcissism. The grandiose self is viewed as an evolving compensatory formation instigated in large part by primitive shame experiences.

Objective self-awareness, established around eighteen to twenty-four months, brings with it a shame crisis. This crisis is particularly significant for the child with a developing grandiose self. The ego's recognition of the discrepancy between the grandiose self and objectively derived notions about the actual self produces shame inducing cognitive shock. The grandiose self is either incorporated in the central sector of the personality which then refuses to recognize negatively toned information about the 'actual' self or else the central sector refuses recognition of the grandiose self leading to a dissociation of the grandiose self. Depending on which defensive path is taken, a different narcissistic personality subtype is established.

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