Other Free Encyclopedias » Science Encyclopedia » Science & Philosophy: Propagation to Quantum electrodynamics (QED) » Psychoanalysis - Overview, Psychoanalytic Theory Of Mind, Infantile Sexuality And The Oedipus Complex, Later Revisions: Mourning, Narcissism, And The Beginnings Of Object Relations

Psychoanalysis - Later Revisions: Mourning, Narcissism, And The Beginnings Of Object Relations

freud narcissistic theory love

In 1914 Freud began a series of major revisions of his theory with a discussion of the distinction between normal and pathological mourning, the latter of which he termed melancholia. The difference is this: In normal mourning, one gradually lets go of the love one has lost, piece by piece, and the libido (love) invested in them is taken back into oneself (into the ego) so that it can be used again, either for new love or for other creativity. In melancholia, the mourner holds on to the loved one's love like a phantom limb, refusing to let go, so that the libido never returns to its source, and is thus depleted, leading to the familiar symptoms of depression: exhaustion, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in the world. (The refusal to let go happens, according to Freud, because a person turns the anger felt toward the lost one upon oneself.)

This discussion extended the idea, already present in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), of the role of the object in human psychic development and function. The theory of object relations was to have far-reaching impact on psychoanalytic theory, especially through the work of Melanie Klein.

In the Three Essays, Freud described two main aspects of sexual striving, the aim and object (pressure and source were additional, largely biological aspects of the instinct). Aim named the kind of gratification pressed for by the instinct, determined by the oral, anal, or genital desires of the infant that engendered it; this aim sought its satisfaction from an object.

Freud described objects (loved ones) as either anaclitic or narcissistic. Anaclitic objects took their model from an infant's parents or caregivers—those the infant relied on for survival. Narcissistic objects, on the other hand, were taken from the model of one's self and body, the original sources of satisfaction and pleasure.

Freud believed narcissism played a vital role in healthy development, and was the source of healthy striving and ambition, as well as camaraderie and nationalism. In pathological cases, however, the narcissist was unable to form or maintain relationships with others or with the outside world.

Freud thought narcissism originated in infancy, when the child took his own body as his first object (this he called primary narcissism). In normal development, narcissistic satisfactions were gradually replaced by anaclitic ones, as an infant became attached to, and then differentiated from, his care-givers. Far from disappearing however, narcissistic strivings were taken into the psyche as a vital component of a person's sense of self, eventually laying the foundation for the ego ideal, which was the individual's compass for his ambitions and strivings, for the self as he wished it to be, and which would reward him with new editions of the satisfactions he had taken in infancy from the pleasures of his own body. Later, as the child moved into the genital, adult phase of sexuality, it was the danger to the narcissistic object (the penis), that ushered in the castration complex, the Oedipus complex, and the whole order by which adult mental life is governed.

Narcissism, and the entire process of the formation of object relations in infancy, became increasingly important to psychoanalysis, as disturbances of these early processes came to be seen as the root of the most severe kinds of psychopathology—including (in current terminology) narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and the psychoses—which Freud had already termed the "narcissistic neuroses."

Psychoanalysis - The Dual Instinct Theory/the Death Drive [next] [back] Psychoanalysis - Infantile Sexuality And The Oedipus Complex

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