On Narcissism, 1914, by Sigmund Freud
On Narcissism, 1914 was a significant point in the development of Freud's theories. The work was produced after work on his earlier theories on dreams and the unconscious mind. It also comes immediately he began to explore the various aspects of the unconscious mind such as the 'id'. However, Freud does not mention the 'id' in this work. Instead, he gives suggestions on the existence of these various parts of the mind. In addition, Freud begins to talk about the mind's self-control mechanisms, which he refers to as the 'ego-ideal'. However, he does not directly mention the superego, which would be the basis of his later works. It is important to note that it is one of his most technical works. In this work, Freud uses many clinical terms, which might not be easy for the common reader to understand.
In the work, Freud introduces the concept of 'narcissism'. He defines it as adoration one accords themselves in light of them being an object of sexual desire. He views narcissism as some sort of neurosis. However, he also postulates that all humans have some level of narcissism throughout their development. In his work, Freud differentiates between two types of narcissism, primary and secondary narcissism. Primary narcissism preexists in all human beings; this type of energy is present from birth. He postulates this is the type of narcissism, which causes individuals their affection towards an object. For instance, when a mother expresses unadulterated love for her child it is a result of this primary narcissism. In addition, he speculates this is the same type of energy evident in young kids. At this point in their life, kids will often believe themselves to be super beings capable of performing amazing feats just by their words.
However, at some point in their life, this primary narcissism is directed outwards to an object. This is because it causes too much conflict within the individual. Freud speculates that secondary narcissism develops when individuals turn this object affection back on themselves. This is after the affection had already been projected outwards to other objects besides themselves. The result is that an individual becomes cut off from society and disinterested in others. Freud postulates that such an individual will have low self-esteem. This is due to their inability to express love to others and have it expressed back to them. In addition, such a person is full of shame, guilt and often very defensive. This is because narcissism causes an individual to seek self-preservation.
In his work, Freud speculates that narcissism from to distinct sources. In the first place, the person is driven by a need to self-preserve; secondly, the individual is driven by the sex drive, essentially the need to procreate. During childhood, these two drives are usually the same and no differentiation can be made. In essence, the more affection 'libido' is projected to others 'object-libido', the less energy there exists for self-love 'ego-libido'. In essence, Freud postulates object libido emanates from a need to ensure the survival of the species. Consequently, Freud argues that the concept of love is for ensuring continuation of the species. He further argues that for the individual and the species to survive, there is a need for maintaining a delicate balance between these two libidos. For instance, if an individual want to eat, he must have some ego-libido, however if he want the species to survive, he must have object-libido. An imbalance occurs when too much energy is directed inwards to the individual. The result is that the personality of the person becomes infected and they can no longer function properly in society.
In later chapters of his work, Freud seeks to explain the cause of homosexuality. According to Freud, the mother-child relationship, the child directs their outward affection towards the mother. However, homosexuals do not learn to project their object-libido correctly, according to Freud, these individuals chose a different object of their choice. Instead, they tend to choose a different object on which to project their affection. According to Freud, this is narcissism in its purest form. In addition, Freud had a few choice words for the behavior of beautiful women. He postulated that most of these beautiful females were narcissists interested in self-adoration. He postulated they tended to look for someone who could develop an admiration for them in the same obsessive way they loved themselves. Consequently, such women were found to be highly attractive to men primarily due to their indifference of what other though of them.
Freud postulates that children expressed their love for children as a way of fulfilling their own narcissistic desires. This primary narcissism reemerges after the child's birth. Freud later explores the ego ideal. In this work, he explains that as a person develops, they develop a sort of self-censorship. In paranoid individuals, the ego ideal is too strong and uncontrolled, which causes an individual to develop of being monitored by unseen persons. Freud also explains, the ego ideal could be the cause of the voice reported in mental patients, which is often said to be critical of the individual.
Consequently, self-esteem is weighed against the satisfaction of this ego ideal. How much self-esteem one has then depends on how much affection and love they are able to derive form the object of their desire. If object-libido is projected outwards without reciprocity, it can lead to low self-esteem.
Freud's work, particularly touching on homosexuality, has elicited much criticism over the years. However, even his critics still find inspiration when they trying to develop their own psychoanalytical theories. His work is still relevant today, for instance, the current societies are arguably some of the most narcissistic in the history. The phenomenon where young and old people seem to have developed lack of empathy for each other is subject of interest for many scholars. However, Freud quite complex work may not provide all the answers to this phenomenon. However, it does raise interesting issues on the role of family in the development of individuals into caring members of a society.