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Fernando, J. (2001). On the Connection between Physical Defects and the Character Type of the “Exception”. Psychoanal Q., 70(3):549-578.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(3):549-578

On the Connection between Physical Defects and the Character Type of the “Exception”

Joseph Fernando, M.PSY., M.D.

A clinical and theoretical study is presented of the effects of physical defects on character structure, especially on its narcissistic aspects. The basic thesis of this paper is that there are two differentiable responses to awareness of a physical disability: various forms of denial, and a clinging to narcissistic overgratifications as a compensation for negative feelings about the self. The first response, of overusing denial, is universal, and of course leaves its mark on a person's character. However, only the second sort of response, of clinging to overgratifications, leads to the character type of the “exception” (Freud 1916). The distinction between moral ideals, embodied in the ego ideal narrowly defined, and nonmoral ideals, embodied especially in the wishful self-image, is presented as a useful tool in understanding various psychological effects of physical disabilities.

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