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Ullrich, H.E. (2014). Commentary on “Pathological Narcissism and the Obstruction of Love” by David Kealy and John S. Ogrodniczuk. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(1):121-123.

(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(1):121-123

Commentary on “Pathological Narcissism and the Obstruction of Love” by David Kealy and John S. Ogrodniczuk Related Papers

Helen E. Ullrich, M.D., Ph.D.

Although in popular parlance narcissism has a pejorative connotation, in actuality narcissism connotes a spectrum that ranges from healthy-normal to pathological. The same behavior may reflect a developmental stage at one age and pathology at another. In this brief commentary I reflect on the different types of narcissism and wonder what aspects of American culture have relegated the unmarked term as pejorative. As an unmarked term, without a qualifying adjective, narcissism suggests pathology.

As a developmental stage, primary narcissism reflects the infant's view of the world as centering around him/herself. This is the time for the development of a secure attachment that supportive adults encourage. This is also the time when unreliable parental figures block such development, a precursor to pathological narcissism and challenges in developing love relationships.

When primary narcissism becomes confronted with such unreliability as to prevent need satisfaction or with downright abuse, the individual may develop pathological narcissism. Without an ability to trust his/her caretakers, the child is prematurely forced to rely on him/herself. The need to deal with unreliable or abusive others during the primary narcissism stage prevents the true development of self-esteem and the ability to modulate him/herself. Instead, the insecurity may be covered with the palimpsest of a false self. Hence, swings between grandiosity and inferiority rock the individual. For self-protection, he/she keeps others at a distance while envying the easy love relationships of those who have a secure, resilient sense of self.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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