- Narcissistic withdrawal
In children, Narcissistic withdrawal may be described as 'a form of omnipotent narcissism characterised by the turning away from parental figures and by the fantasy that essential needs can be satisfied by the individual alone'.
For adults, 'in the contemporary literature the term narcissistic withdrawal is instead reserved for an ego defense in pathological personalities'. Such narcissists may feel obliged to withdraw from any relationship that threatens to be more than short-term: at the same time, within relationships, 'withdrawal, withholding, and the "silent treatment" are classic abuse techniques' for the narcissist to use.
Freud used the term 'to describe the turning back of the individual's libido from the object onto themselves....as the equivalent of narcissistic regression'. On Narcissism saw him explore the idea through an examination of such everyday events as illness or sleep: 'the condition of sleep, too, resembles illness in implying a narcissistic withdrawal of the positions of the libido on to the subject's own self'. A few years later, in '"Mourning and Melancholia"...Freud's most profound contribution to object relations theory', he examined how 'a withdrawal of the libido...on a narcissistic basis' in depression could allow both a freezing and a preservation of affection: 'by taking flight into the ego love escapes extinction'.
Otto Fenichel would extend his analysis to borderline conditions, demonstrating how 'in a reactive withdrawal of libido...a regression to narcissism is also a regression to the primal narcissistic omnipotence which makes its reappearance in the form of megalomania'.
For Melanie Klein, however, a more positive element came to the fore: 'frustration, which stimulates narcissistic withdrawal, is also...a fundamental factor in adaptation to reality'. Similarly, 'Winnicott points out that there is an aspect of withdrawal that is healthy', considering that it might be '"helpful to think of withdrawal as a condition in which the person concerned (child or adult) holds a regressed part of the self and nurses it, at the expense of external relationships"'.
However, from the mid-twentieth century onwards, attention has increasingly focused on 'the case in which the subject appeals to narcissistic withdrawal as a defensive solution...a precarious refuge that comes into being as a defense against a disappointing or untrustworthy object. This is found in studies of narcissistic personalities or borderline pathologies by authors such as Heinz Kohut or Otto Kernberg'.
Kohut considered that 'the narcissistically vulnerable individual responds to actual (or anticipated) narcissistic injury either with shamefaced withdrawal or with narcissistic rage'. Kernberg saw the difference between normal narcissism and ' pathological narcissism...[as] withdrawal into "splendid isolation"' in the latter instance; while Herbert Rosenfeld was concerned with 'states of withdrawal commonly seen in narcissistic patients in which death is idealised as superior to life', as well as with 'the alternation of states of narcissistic withdrawal and ego disintegration'.
Closely related to narcissistic withdrawal is 'schizoid withdrawal: the escape from too great pressure by abolishing emotional relationships altogether'. All such 'fantastic refuges from need are forms of emotional starvation, megalomanias and distortions of reality born of fear'.
'Narcissists will isolate themselves, leave their families, ignore others, do anything to preserve a special...sense of self' Arguably, however, all such 'narcissistic withdrawal is haunted by its alter ego: the ghost of a full social presence' - with people living their lives 'along a continuum which ranges from the maximal degree of social commitment...to a maximal degree of social withdrawal'.
If 'of all modes of narcissistic withdrawal, depression is the most crippling', a contributing factor may be that 'depressed persons come to appreciate consciously how much social effort is in fact required in the normal course of keeping one's usual place in undertakings'.
Object relations theory would see the process of therapy as one whereby the therapist enabled her patient to have 'resituated the object from the purely schizoid usage to the shared schizoid usage (initially) until eventually...the object relation - discussing, arguing, idealizing, hating, etc. - emerged'.
Fenichel considered that in patients where 'their narcissistic regression is a reaction to narcissistic injuries; if they are shown this fact and given time to face the real injuries and to develop other types of reaction, they may be helped enormously' Neville Symington however estimated that 'often a kind of war develops between analyst and patient, with the analyst trying to haul the patient out of the cocoon...his narcissistic envelope...and the patient pulling for all his worth in the other direction'.
- In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, the therapist of the disturbed protagonist wonders '"if there is a pattern....You give up a secret to our view and then you get so scared that you run for cover into your panic or into your secret world. To Yr or there"'.
- More generally, the Twenties have been described as a time of 'changes in which women were channelled toward narcissistic withdrawal rather than developing strong egos'.
- ^ Margaret Rustin, Psychotic States in Children (1997) p. 17
- ^ a b c Martine Myquel, "Narcissistic Withdrawal"
- ^ Answers.com
- ^ Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology (PFL 11) p. 76
- ^ James Grotstein, in Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 2003) p. xi
- ^ Freud, Metapsychology p. 57-8 and p. 267
- ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 419-20
- ^ Quoted in Pearl King/Riccardo Steiner, The Freud-Klein Controversies (1992) p. 802
- ^ J. Abram/K. Hjulmand, The Language of Winnicott (2007) p. 45 and p. 293
- ^ Brian W. Shaffer, The Blinding Torch (1993) p. 151
- ^ Salman Akhtar, Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis (2009) p. 190
- ^ John Steiner/Herbert A. Rosenfeld, Rosenfeld in Retrospective (2008) p. 66 and p.95
- ^ Josephine Klein, Our Need for Others (London 1994) p. 421
- ^ Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery (London 1998) p. 3
- ^ Joan Lachkar, The Narcissisitic/Borderline Couple (1992) p. 82
- ^ James Booth, New Larkins for Old (2000) p. 42
- ^ John O'Neill, Sociology as Skin Trade (London 1972) p. 171-2
- ^ Harold Barrett, Rhetoric and Civility (1991) p. 52
- ^ Erving Goffman, Relations in Public (Penguin 1972) p. 448n
- ^ Christopher Bollas, Cracking Up (London 1995) p. 86
- ^ Fenichel, p. 451
- ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 2003) p. 77
- ^ Hannah Green, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (London 1975) p. 55
- ^ G. K. Levinger/H. L. Raush, Close Relationships (1977) p. 64
- D. W. Winnicott, "Withdrawal and regression" in Collected Papers (London 1958)
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury — Narcissistic rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury, a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self esteem or self worth. Narcissistic rage is a term first coined by Heinz Kohut in 1972. Narcissistic injury is a phrase used by Sigmund Freud in 1923 … Wikipedia
Narcissistic supply — is a concept in some psychoanalytic theories which describes a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment (especially from carers, codependents and others). Contents 1 Fenichel,… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic defences — have been defined as those processes whereby the idealized aspects of the self are preserved and the limitations of the self and [of] others denied . The narcissistic defense can theoretically occur at any stage of self development...and… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic mortification — is a term first used by Sigmund Freud in his last book, Moses and Monotheism, with respect to early injuries to the ego/self. It has recently been defined as the primitive terror of self dissolution, triggered by the sudden exposure of one s… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic abuse — is a term that emerged in the late twentieth century, and became more prominent in the early 21st century. It originally referred to a specific form of emotional abuse by narcissistic parents of their children parents who require the child to… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic leadership — is a common form of leadership. The narcissism may be healthy or destructive although there is a continuum between the two. To critics, narcissistic leadership(preferably destructive) is driven by unyielding arrogance, self absorption, and a… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic elation — or narcissistic coenaesthetic expansion were terms used by Béla Grunberger to highlight the narcissistic situation of the primal self in narcissistic union with the mother . Narcissistic elation has also been used more widely to describe a… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic personality disorder — See also: Narcissism and Malignant narcissism Narcissistic personality disorder Classification and external resources Narcissus by Caravaggio. Narcissus gazing at his own ref … Wikipedia
Narcissistic parents — A narcissistic parent is typically exclusively and possessively close to his or her child... [and] may be especially envious of a child s growing independence.  The result may be what has been termed narcissistic attachment the child always… … Wikipedia
Narcissistic Personality Inventory — The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) is the most widely used measure of narcissism in social psychological research. Although several versions of the NPI have been proposed in the literature, a forty item forced choice version (Raskin… … Wikipedia