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Silverman, D.K. Gruenthal, R. (1997). The Fragile Self: The Structure of Narcissistic Disturbance and its Therapy. Phil Mollon. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 1994, 221 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(3):475-479.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(3):475-479

The Fragile Self: The Structure of Narcissistic Disturbance and its Therapy. Phil Mollon. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 1994, 221 pp.

Review by:
Doris K. Silverman, Ph.D.

Ruth Gruenthal, C.S.W.

Kohut's publications ushered into the psychoanalytic literature the systematic exploration of self-experience. Phil Mollon's book is consistent with this focus. Like Kohut, who initiated his investigations with an inquiry into the concept of narcissism (a libidinal investment in the self), Mollon, too, soon broadens and then alters his focus to an emphasis on the self. Whereas Mollon does not label himself as a self-psychologist he nevertheless has as his aim a comprehensive theory of the self.

Mollon's work is praiseworthy in its scholarly approach, in his attempt to add to our knowledge of the complexity of narcissistic phenomenology, and in his ferreting out of nuanced and useful dynamic formulations offered by various theories. For example, he is describing different meanings that primal-scene fantasy can elicit. In addition to more traditional ideas, he says, “… apparent envy evoked by the fantasy of the primal scene may stem to some extent from a dread of no longer existing in the minds of the parents so engrossed with each other — a primal impotence, a helpless sense of having no place and no capacity to engage the parents” (p. 73).

Mollon's book has a variety of aims: (1) He presents an overview of major theorists' positions on narcissism and self-experience. He discusses the advantages and limitations of each of the theorist's perspective with the aim of developing a more integrative, comprehensive and detailed conception. (2) This leads him to establish a taxonomy based on his belief about the essential criteria for a conceptualization of the self and its disturbances.

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