Saturday, July 16, 2016

subject egoistic and object altruistic narcissism - over vs. covert narcissism

There's a large amount of writing on narcissism out there and when I explored the literature a few years ago I thought a lot of the binaries seemed artificial.

I came across overt vs. covert distinction before, but the material I looked at had made it seem like a position in which a person was either one or the other. The will to power and narcissism was assumed to be everyone's depth structure.

The difference reminds me of the difference between the choleric and sanguine humors as interpreted by Hegel which I linked to subject egoism and object altruism (active-egoistic and passive-egoistic respectively).

What's interesting for me is that at the phallic oedipal stage that the inter-mixing of the egoistic and altruistic poles is nearing completion so that each libidinal position can have a pale form of the narcissism or echoism of the others.

The SE's egoistic narcissism in which mastery of one's profession or skill is manifested (and motivated by competition) and the OA's egoistic dilletantism or aptly titled "headline knowledge," the narcissism is comparable to the narcissism of the object egoist and subject altruist. I've worked with many passive-egoistic SAs for whom an older sister's arrogance or judgmental traits provoke competition and anger. Like the OAs dilettantism and inadequacy feelings, the SA too doesn't really have confidence in her beauty and taste...

these contrasts are valid, but the deutero effects on the personality aren't clearly separated from proto functioning.

The difference between a compulsive proto SE and a more inspiring deutero SE is very striking in people, just as the OA who wants to fit in vs. the OA who strikes one as more lovable is a big difference.  

Anyway, I thought I'd share some material and the link I found it at

  Self-ConceptGrandiosity;    preoccupation with fantasies of outstanding success; undue sense of uniqueness; feelings of entitlement; seeming self-sufficiencyInferiority; morose self-doubts; marked propensity toward feeling ashamed; fragility; relentless search for glory and power; marked sensitivity to criticism and realistic setbacks
Numerous but shallow relationships; intense need for tribute from others; scorn for others, often masked by pseudohumility; lack of empathy; inability to genuinely participate in group activities; valuing of children over spouse in family lifeInability to genuinely depend on others and trust them; chronic envy of others� talents, possessions, and capacity for deep object relations; lack of regard for generational boundaries; disregard for others� time; refusal to answer letters
Socially charming; often successful; consistent hard work done mainly to seek admiration (�pseudo- sublimation�); intense ambition; preoccupation with appearances Nagging aimlessness; shallow vocational commitment; dilettante-like attitude; multiple but superficial interests; chronic boredom; aesthetic taste often ill-informed and imitative
Caricatured modesty; pretended contempt for money in real life; idiosyncratically and unevenly moral; apparent enthusiasm for sociopolitical affairs   Readiness to shift values to gain favor; pathological lying; materialistic lifestyle; delinquent tendencies; inordinate ethnic and moral relativism; irreverence toward authority
Marital instability; cold and greedy seductiveness; extramarital affairs and promiscuity; uninhibited sexual lifeInability to remain in love; impaired capacity for viewing the romantic partner as a separate individual with his or her own interests, rights, and values; inability to genuinely comprehend the incest taboo; occasional sexual perversions
Impressively knowledgeable; decisive and opinionated; often strikingly articulate; egocentric perception of reality; love of language; fondness for shortcuts to acquisition of knowledgeKnowledge often limited to trivia (�headline intelligence�); forgetful of details, especially names; impaired in the capacity for learning new skills; tendency to change meanings of reality when facing a threat to self-esteem; language and speaking used for regulating self-esteem
NOTE:  This chart originally appeared in Akhtar, S. J. (1989). Narcissistic personality disorder: Descriptive features and differential diagnosis. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, pp. 505-530.

A Covert/Shy Narcissist will have grandiose fantasies but will also be plagued by a feeling of unworthiness and thus shame for even having fantasized about his or her �greatness.�  This type of narcissist, �is likely to be characterized by an incapacity to sustain ambitions or to pursue even attainable goals with full dedication, yielding to others rewards that he or she may legitimately deserve.  The final result is often significant masochistic self-damage, self-pity, feelings of hurt, and depression

While feeling they deserve to be recognized for their specialness, unlike the Arrogant/Overt Narcissist, the Covert/Shy Narcissist is plagued by self-doubts and thus does not as readily seek the affirmation from others he or she believes is due.  Moreover, because of this strong sense of worthlessness, this type of narcissist often will not seek out appropriate friends or romantic partners because they fear exposure as frauds; for this reason their associates tend to be conspicuously inferior to themselves.  Cooper observes that this narcissist, �secretly harbors fantasies that he or she is engaged in a heroic rescue of someone of lesser capabilities.�  And, when their friends and associates offer praise, the Shy/Covert Narcissist believes that this admiration is phony and insincere.  They tend to devote a considerable amount of time ruminating over the unfairness of how little their true worth is appreciated and how others get the recognition for things that they themselves did.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Zizek and wanting to be interesting

The Freud Museum has a blog

They put quotations from Freud, and related to psychoanalysis in general, list some events, post some videos, etc.

There's something of a Lacanian orientation and so sometimes we get some Zizek or some heavy dose of Lacanian jargon.

I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

“Freud uses three distinct terms for the agency that propels the subject to act ethically: he speaks of ideal ego (Idealich), ego-ideal (Ich-Ideal) and superego (Ueberich). He tends to identify these three terms: he often uses the expression Ichideal oder Idealich (Ego-Ideal or ideal ego), and the title of the chapter III of his booklet The Ego and the Id) is “Ego and Superego (Ego-Ideal)”. Lacan introduces a precise distinction between these three terms: the “ideal ego” stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the Ego-Ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and propels me to give my best, the ideal I try to follow and actualize; and the superego is this same agency in its revengeful, sadistic, punishing, aspect. The underlying structuring principle of these three terms is clearly Lacan’s triad Imaginary-Symbolic-Real: ideal ego is imaginary, what Lacan calls the “small other,” the idealized double-image of my ego; Ego-Ideal is symbolic, the point of my symbolic identification, the point in the big Other from which I observe (and judge) myself; superego is real, the cruel and insatiable agency which bombards me with impossible demands and which mocks my failed attempts to meet them, the agency in the eyes of which I am all the more guilty, the more I try to suppress my “sinful” strivings and meet its demands. The old cynical Stalinist motto about the accused at the show trials who professed their innocence (“the more they are innocent, the more they deserve to be shot”) is superego at its purest.

What follows from these precise distinctions is that, for Lacan, superego “has nothing to do with moral conscience as far as its most obligatory demands are concerned”: superego is, on the contrary, the anti-ethical agency, the stigmatization of our ethical betrayal. So which one of the other two is the proper ethical agency? Should we – as some American psychoanalysts proposed, relying on a couple of Freud’s ambiguous formulations – set up the “good” (rational-moderate, caring) Ego-Ideal against the “bad” (irrational-excessive, cruel, anxiety-provoking) superego, trying to lead the patient to get rid of the “bad” superego and follow the “good” Ego-Ideal? Lacan opposes this easy way out – for him, the only proper agency is the fourth one missing in Freud’s list of the three, the one sometimes referred to by Lacan as “the law of desire,” the agency which tells you to act in conformity with your desire. The gap between this “law of desire” and Ego-Ideal (the network of social-symbolic norms and ideal that the subject internalizes in the course of his or her education) is crucial here. For Lacan, the seemingly benevolent agency of the Ego-Ideal which leads us to moral growth and maturity, forces us to betray the “law of desire” by way of adopting the “reasonable” demands of the existing socio-symbolic order. The superego, with its excessive feeling of guilt, is merely the necessary obverse of the Ego-Ideal: it exerts its unbearable pressure upon us on behalf of our betrayal of the “law of desire.” The guilt we experience under the superego pressure is not illusory but actual – “the only thing of which one can be guilty is of having given ground relative to one’s desire,” and the superego pressure demonstrates that we effectively are guilty of betraying our desire.”

― Slavoj Zizek, How To Read Lacan

First, notice how he begins with "Freud uses three distinct terms" but then in the second paragraph he mentions American psychoanalysts "relying on a couple of Freud's ambiguous formulations." The ideal ego vs. ego ideal is not to be found in Freud, and is wholly a Lacanian invention that can't even be built by textual ambiguities.

Freud, in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, uses the ego ideal explicitly in relation to an individual regarding a leader, general, king, or some kind of authority as an authority for him. He also sees a parallel formulation of this in love which is compared to hypnotism.

There are different levels of authority in society and, the ego ideal reflects differences in an individual's level of ambition, how much he or she may regard themselves as an authority despite lack of societal honors or achievements, and group psychology dynamics of how an individual may react in smaller groups, mobs, or parties. Zizek instead makes this difference:

the “ideal ego” stands for the idealized self-image of the subject (the way I would like to be, I would like others to see me); the Ego-Ideal is the agency whose gaze I try to impress with my ego image, the big Other who watches over me and propels me to give my best,

In this very vague distinction we are asked to entertain that a person would like to be seen a certain way by others and that this is different from some sense of society in general (the big Other) who propels me to give our best. Then, over top of this, he wants to then identify the ego ideal with

(the network of social-symbolic norms and ideal that the subject internalizes in the course of his or her education)... For Lacan, the seemingly benevolent agency of the Ego-Ideal which leads us to moral growth and maturity, forces us to betray the “law of desire” by way of adopting the “reasonable” demands of the existing socio-symbolic order.

Zizek first says the ego ideal "propels me to give my best" and revives an atomistic conception of the individual. The individual is related to himself in some way and striving for some values that American ego psychologists would claim to be self-chosen. Even if Zizek makes them dependent on socio-symbolic norms that are more passively "internalized" he is still offering the same type of picture as an ego psychologist.

I'm not saying an individual has no relation to himself and everything is about his appearance to others. I think that an individual can make both moral and non-moral promises to himself about what he will or won't do and keep to them. He can swear revenge after someone being taken from him, he can pledge himself to take care of a child that's not his own, and promise himself to never cheat in a relationship, etc. In his post-structuralism, Zizek seems to be equating this with betraying an individual's true desire and that this betrayal is what starts up the superego's need for punishment. Presumably, an individual who is a cross dresser might decide to "mature" and be "normal" and then his superego will attack him. Because he's not a clinician he has to make things about some existential aspect of our lives and always pretend that things are deeper or a reversal of the common perception.

The attack of the superego comes from an attack on individuals who were in the ego ideal. A boyfriend cheats on a woman and she wants to angrily hurt him or the woman he was with and this isn't expressed and becomes a need for punishment. Just as she wanted the couple to lose everything she now puts herself into situations of self-sabotage in which she stands to lose everything. Moreover, this attack on the couple resonates with the bad maternal imago of her childhood and she identifies the life of having lost everything with her bad mother of childhood.

Problems in love, social humiliations (at work or with friends), breaking promises, and our lives as social animals is what is central in psychoanalysis and pathology in mental health. Existential concerns about authenticity sound interesting and deep but show a disturbing lack of empathy with the experience of others.

How long will psychoanalysis stay in the hands of people who are trying to be interesting?
How long will it stay in the hands of people who want to valorize consciousness and ignore the body as a way to access repressed impulses and trauma?
How long will it apologize for its past?