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Seiden, H.M. (1989). The Narcissistic Counterpart. Psychoanal. Rev., 76(1):67-81.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Review, 76(1):67-81

The Narcissistic Counterpart

Henry M. Seiden, Ph.D.


Heinz Kohut (1971, 1977) described two specific major narcissistic configurations: the grandiose self and the idealized parent imago. In a later work (1984), he distinguished still another configuration: the twinship. This paper is about another narcissistic configuration, that is, another way in which people can serve as what he called “selfobjects” for each other. I call this configuration “the narcissistic counterpart.”

Previous Conceptions of The Selfobject

Among Kohut's significant contributions to psychoanalytic discourse has been the notion of selfobject. Selfobjects, of course, are a special class of objects. Selfobjects, as the term implies, are incompletely differentiated from the self. More importantly, selfobjects serve the narcissistic function of restoring a lost, damaged, or disturbed narcissistic equilibrium.

Other people, as selfobjects, are used for narcissistic purposes, which is to say not for the usual, or at least expected, purposes, that is, for loving or hating, or for moving toward or away from, or for relating to (depending on which kind of psychoanalytic formulation one prefers). Other people, as selfobjects, are used for a purpose internal to the self-that of restoring a sense of narcissistic wholeness which, according to Kohut, has been lost somewhere in the course of development.

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