Sigmund Freud, physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and father of psychoanalysis, is generally recognized as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century. He elaborated the theory that the mind is a complex energy-system, the structural investigation of which is proper province of psychology.
He articulated and refined the concepts of the unconscious, of infantile sexuality, of repression, and proposed a tri-partite account of the mind’s structure, all as part of a radically new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions. This paper briefly outlines Freud s theory of narcissism. Freud is credited with the promulgation and presentation of a first coherent theory of narcissism.
He described transitions from subject-directed libido to object-directed libido through the intermediation and agency of the parents. To be healthy and functional, the transitions must be smooth and unperturbed. Neuroses are the results of such perturbations. Freud conceived of each stage as the default (or fallback) of the next one. Thus, if a child reaches out to his objects of desire and fails to attract their love and attention – the child will regress to the previous phase, to the narcissistic phase. The first occurrence of narcissism is adaptive.
It “trains” the child to love an object. It ensures gratification through availability, predictability and permanence. But regressing to “secondary narcissism” is mal-adaptive. It is an indication of failure to direct the libido to the “right” targets (to objects, such as the child’s parents). If this pattern of regression persists and prevails, a “narcissistic neurosis” is formed. The narcissist stimulates his self habitually in order to derive pleasure and gratification. He prefers this mode of deriving gratification to others.
He is “lazy” because he takes the “easy” route of resorting to his self and reinvesting his libidinal resources “in-house” rather than making an effort (and risking failure) to seek out libidinal objects other than his self. The narcissist prefers fantasyland to reality, grandiose self-conception to realistic appraisal, masturbation and sexual fantasies to mature adult sex and daydreaming to real life achievements. When libido investment in objects fails to produce gratification, maladaptation results, which is dangerous.
A default option is activated: secondary narcissism. This default enhances adaptation; it is functional and adaptive and triggers adaptive behaviors. As a by-product, it secures gratification. We are gratified when we are at peace with the model of our environment. We are at such peace when we exert reasonable control over our environment, i. e. , when our behaviors are adaptive. The compensatory process has two results: enhanced adaptation and inevitable gratification.