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Gediman, H.K. (1974). Narcissistic Trauma, Object Loss, and the Family Romance. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):203-215.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):203-215

Narcissistic Trauma, Object Loss, and the Family Romance

Helen K. Gediman, Ph.D.

To be the child of parents more beautiful, more famous, and more important than one really has is, as Linda Kaplan points out, a primal or universal fantasy. The manifestations of this fantasy are as varied as the multiplicity of factors determining all its versions at all developmental stages. A discussion of the vast literature which Linda Kaplan has consolidated comprehensively must, then, be highly selective. Keeping in mind that the fantasy is an attempt to regulate self-esteem after disillusionment with the real parents, I should like to limit my remarks to issues which relate to two idiosyncratic clinical illustrations that I would like to present. Two young patients who regard themselves as “exceptions” in the sense first proposed by Freud8 and later elaborated by Jacobson5 will be discussed. Each has been diagnosed as a severe narcissistic character disorder with some borderline features. One is Edward, a twenty-three-year-old man with a noticeable birth defect which marred his appearance, infused his self-image, and lent a particular coloring to his family-romance fantasy. The other is Anne, a beautiful twenty-year-old woman who was adopted into a rather aristocratic family and then suffered multiple traumatic object losses. In her case, the classic version of the fantasy, which contains a wish to be a foundling reared by high-status foster parents who substitute for the absent or deficient biological parents, appeared to be affirmed by reality. This patient's version of the fantasy included a wish for the return of the lost biological as well as the lost adoptive parents.6

Vicissitudes

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