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Turco, R.N. (2014). Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, by Daniel Shaw, Routledge, New York and London, 2013, 167 pp., $36.97.. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(4):721-725.

(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(4):721-725

Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, by Daniel Shaw, Routledge, New York and London, 2013, 167 pp., $36.97.

Review by:
Ronald N. Turco, M.D.

Daniel Shaw, LCSW, is a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and Nyack, New York. His ideas about cults developed in the years following his involvement in a religious group led by a guru for whom he had worked full time for more than ten years. He severed his ties with the guru and developed his ideas about the traumatizing narcissist and the issue of cults. He defines a cult “as a group that is led by a traumatizing narcissist, in which members are subjugated by the leader in various ways, mainly though the destruction of their subjectivity—their objectification” (pp. xii-xiv). He writes: “The traumatizing narcissists seeks to abolish intersubjectivity, and to freeze a complimentary dynamic in the relationship, allowing recognition in one direction only-toward himself” (p. xv). There are eight chapters, the first dealing with clinical phenomena typically thought of as “pathological narcissism.” The second chapter elaborates on the concept of the traumatizing narcissist and the concept of the “complimentary moral defense.” Chapters 3 and 4 elaborate on the concept of the traumatizing narcissist relational system, beyond the family and the clinic, into the area of authoritarian groups and institutions. He freely expresses opinions that are beyond full substantiation. The author writes:

The last several decades in the U.S. of nationalistic jingoism and war-mongering; the fundamentalist theocratic rhetoric and activism; of the corporate sponsored denial of the dangers of climate change; of the regulation of duplicity and greed on Wall Street; and of the power of corporate money to buy and own politicians are trends of narcissistic self-interest and abuse of power of far more concern than any harmless showing off on Facebook about children's accomplishments, dates, parties, and family vacations.

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