Kernberg's Theory Of Narcissism

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For a recent personality disorder, narcissism has gathered a lot of attention in the past 150 years. From Patrick Bateman in American Psycho to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the stereotypical narcissist has gained a lot of reputation in both movies and real life as a person who is extremely obsessed with himself or herself. But what makes a person a narcissist? Where did the characteristics of a stereotypical narcissist come from? For nearly a century and a half, psychologists have been questioning and proving narcissism with strong theories and significant characteristics to describe the newly certified personality disorder
The term, narcissism, got its name from a Greek mythological character named Narcissus. In Roman poet
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The most notable theories are from Kernberg and Kohut. In 1975, Otto Kernberg wrote an extensive theory on narcissism, believing it was a subtype of another personality disorder (Levy, Ellison, and Reynoso 6). In his theory, he described the relationships narcissists have with others, believing that “their relationships with other people are clearly exploitive and parasitic” (Gabbard, Becl, and Iolmes 281). Kernberg believed their poor relationships are a result of rejection in childhood from the narcissist’s caregivers (Levy, Ellision, and Reynoso 6). Kernberg also believed that on the outside, patients with this disorder were dependent on others but on the inside, they cannot rely on others due to trust issues and boredom from the relationship (Hudson 13). Kernberg’s foe, Kohut, believed narcissism was caused by a parental lack of empathy throughout childhood as well (McLean). The narcissistic adult, Kohut says, seeks validation on his sense of value from other individuals to boost his self-esteem (McLean). In Kohut’s form of therapy, the patient is assured, by the therapist, of their validation and self worth through two processes – the mirroring transference and the idealizing transference (McLean). In mirroring transference, the patient is reassured by the therapist of the patient’s validation (Gale). The expression most often used to describe mirroring transference is, “I am perfect and I need you in order to confirm it” (Gale). The idealizing transference deals with the reaction the narcissist has to use narcissistic fusion for feelings such as emptiness and powerlessness (Gale). The therapist requires the patient to understand that, “you are perfect, and I am a part of you” (Gale). Both Kernberg and Kohut’s views on the personality disorder strongly influenced the DSM-IV, a handbook used by psychologists to characterize mental illness, to add a section for

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