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Gordon, R. (1980). Narcissism and the Self: Who am i that i Love?. J. Anal. Psychol., 25(3):247-264.

(1980). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 25(3):247-264

Narcissism and the Self: Who am i that i Love?

Rosemary Gordon, Ph.D.


UNTIL RECENTLY there has been hardly any mention, or indeed any interest, in the concept of narcissism in Jungian literature. In fact, Jung himself mentions ‘narcissism’ only five times in all his writings; and when he does so he refers to it in the sense in which it was then used in psychoanalytic writings. Thus in 1922 in ‘The love problem of a student’ (first published in 1928) he writes:

Finally the word ‘love’ must be stretched still further to cover all sexual perversions. There is incestuous love, and masturbatory self-love that goes by the name of narcissism. The word ‘love’ includes every kind of morbid sexual abomination as well as every kind of greed that has ever degraded man to the level of a beast or a machine (JUNG 10, p. 99).

And in his criticism of the Freudian approach to the analysis of art and the artist, he writes (also in 1922):

To explain art in these terms is just as great a platitude as the statement that ‘every artist is a narcissist’. Every man who pursues his own goal is a ‘narcissist’—though one wonders how permissible it is to give such wide currency to a term specifically coined for the pathology of neurosis (JUNG 9, p. 68).

In other words, Jung takes it for granted that narcissism is inevitably pathological.

And yet in his paper of 1914, ‘On narcissism: an introduction’, after admitting that he had taken the word ‘narcissism’ from Naecke and from Havelock Ellis, Freud suggests, right at the beginning of the paper, that the narcissistic disposition of libido,

… might claim a place in the regular sexual development of human beings … Narcissism in this sense would not be a perversion, but the libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation, a measure of which may justifiably be attributed to every living creature (FREUD 4).

Admittedly Freud himself does not seem to have taken further this early view of narcissism as a natural and necessary use of libidinal energy and investment. The arrest of this early view of narcissism is probably due to Freud's hypothesis that there is only a single reservoir of libido; and hence libidinal energy can only direct and discharge itself either on oneself or on an object external to oneself; consequently the more energy is discharged upon oneself, the less is left for an external object.

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