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Jung against Freud: Narcissism is Healthy

Uploaded 5/18/2020, approx. 25 minute read

Hello, everyone. My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

So today we are going to discuss yet another disagreement between Freud and his erstwhile disciple Jung.

And I am in a bit of a pickle here, because I am a Jew and I am a narcissist. As a Jew, obviously, I should support Sigmund Freud against the German Jung. And as a narcissist, obviously, I should support the psychopathic Jung against the relatively middle-class bourgeoisie Freud.

So I don't know what to do. I will let you meet the judges. I'm going to present to you the two views of Freud and of Jung regarding Narcissism.

They are not diametrically opposed, but they are like 80% or 70% different.

And Jung's view did not prevail. Freud's view of pathological narcissism is the current orthodoxy. It's what we teach at school, at universities, colleges, what you can read in textbooks, and of course, the prevailing view online. It was also my point of departure when I started the whole narcissism craze in 1995.

But today, 25 years later, I am older, more handsome, and consequently, I think more clearly, and I am not quite sure that Freud had been 100% right about pathological narcissism.

I'm going to present a more subtle and nuanced variant, nuanced view.

So be prepared because Jung is not easy. Jung was a strange bird, to use another statement.

And when it came to narcissism, he had equally strange notions coupled with amazing, diamond-like, incisive insights.

Generally speaking, in the narcissist, the false self usurps the role of the ego.

So narcissists don't have an ego, don't have a functional ego, exactly the opposite.

People say that narcissists' ego teasts. They don't have an ego.

The false self fulfills these functions, the mediation between the individual and the world.

In a sense of personal continuity and identity, these reside in the false self.

And because the false self is false, it's a piece of fiction, it needs constant input from other people, which we call narcissistic supply.

Jung used a totally different language. He used terms like shadow, complexes, images, archetypes, repressed material. And he used this terminology to describe the narcissist's early childhood.

So the video is divided into two parts.

The first part is Jung. And I assume that all of you know the basics of psychoanalysis, the trilateral model, what is ego, what is superego, what is id, drives, urges, pleasure principle, reality principle, etc. If you do not, please fast forward to the second half of the video and watch that second half first.

The second half describes Freud's view of all these issues.

Freud preceded Jung, of course, and we're still using his language.

So you can, if you know the basics, the rudiments of psychoanalysis, watch the video as it unfolds. If you don't watch the first, the second part first, the first part later.

So the classical Freudian concept of the ego is that it's partly conscious, partly preconscience and partly unconscious. It operates on what Freud called the reality principle, as opposed to the id, which operates on the pleasure principle.

The ego maintains an inner equilibrium between the onerous and unrealistic or ideal demands of the superego and the almost irresistible and unrealistic drives of the id.

So there are like three guys inside everyone. The id is very basic, very primitive, very disorganized. It wants to eat, it wants to drink, and of course it wants to have sex.

Actually, it mostly wants to have sex.

And it reminds me of some people I know, then there is the superego, and the superego is all the inner critic voices, the introjects, the chastising, demeaning, debasing, degrading, humiliating, something critical, voices that we accumulate through life. It could be our parents, teachers, peers, other voices, and they all call less into the superego, and superego contains a component which is known as conscience. It tells us your bad boys or your bad girls, you should not have done this.

And then there is the ego. And what the ego does, poor ego, stands between the superego and the id, and also between the id and reality. So the ego kind of mediates. The ego goes to the id and says, listen, you can't really, you can't really have sex with this girl, she doesn't want you. You know, if you do that, it's right, you're going to end up spending 20 years in jail without sex.

And then it goes to the superego and says, could you chill a bit? Could you stop criticizing this poor guy so horribly? Could you give him a break?

So the ego is like an arbiter or a mediator. And it also has to fend off the unfavorable consequences of comparisons between itself and another structure called the ego ideal.

The ego ideal is what you want to be, the what you want to be when you grow up, when you mature, when you have acquired skills, if you were more talented, you were more handsome or beautiful, whatever.

So this is the ego ideal.

A superego uses the ego ideal to torment and torture the person. It tells the person, see how far you are from the ego ideal. You know, here's the ego ideal, here's you, you will never bridge this gap.

And the ego comes in and says, listen, some parts of the ego ideal are realistic if you only put your mind to it. You have to, you know, you have to study, you have to work are this.

So in many respects, the ego in Freudian psychoanalysis is the self, but not in Jungian psychology. So Jung was a psychoanalyst, he was Freud's disciple before they broke up. And before he rebelled against him in an act of symbolic patricide. And he was very controversial. He was also very unethical. He slept with his patients. He was, in my view, a psychopath.

But a brilliant psychopath. I'm going to quote from his work and all these quotes are from his collected works. These collected works were edited by G. Adler Fordham and Reed. It's 21 volumes. Yes. Princeton University Press was published over 23 years between 1960 and 1983.

So here's the first quote from Jung. It's from the structure and dynamics of the psyche, volume 8 page 121. He says, complexes are psychic fragments, which have split off owing to traumatic influences or certain incompatible tendencies.

As the association experiments prove, complexes interfere with the intentions of the will and disturb the conscious performance. They produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations.

Complexes appear and disappear according to their own laws. They can temporarily obsess consciousness or influence speech and action in an unconscious way.

In a word, complexes behave like independent beings, a fact especially evident in abnormal states of mind.

The voices heard by the insane complexes even take on a personal ego character, like that of a spirits who manifest themselves through automatic writing and similar techniques.

He continues in another work titled The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, volume 9 page 275. He says, I use the term individuation to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological individual that is a separate indivisible unity or whole.

And he further elaborates on individuation in two essays on analytical psychology, volume 7 page 266.

He says, individuation means becoming a single homogenous being, and insofar as individuality embraces our innermost lust and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one's own self.

We could therefore translate individuation as coming to selfhood or self-realization.

Also to be confused with self-actualization, Maslow's term.

Jung continues in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, volume 8 page 226.

But again and again I note, he says, that the individuation process is confused with the coming of the ego into consciousness and that the ego is in consequence identified with the self, which naturally produces a hopeless conceptual model.

So here he goes head to head with Freud.

Individuation is then nothing but ego-centeredness and autoeroticism.

But the self, says Jung, comprises infinitely more than a mere ego. It is as much one's self and all other selves as the ego.

Individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gather the world onto one's self.

So to Jung, the self is not the ego. It's the ego plus.

It's an archetype. It's actually the archetype. It is the archetype of order as manifested in the totality of the personality and as symbolized by a circle, a square or the famous quaternity.

Sometimes Jung uses other symbols. He was very, very hot and strong in symbols. He would have been a symbologist like Dan Brown's character.

So he uses the child, uses mandala, the mandala and so on.

He says the self is a quatity that is superordinate to the conscious ego. It embraces not only the conscious, but also the unconscious psyche. And it's therefore, so to speak, a personality, which we also are.

There is little hope of our ever being able to reach even approximate consciousness of the self, since however much we may make conscious, there will always exist an indeterminate and indeterminable amount of unconscious material which belongs to the totality of the self.

This is what we feel in consciousness is not the self. It's part of it.

In psychology and alchemy, he was also very big on the occult. He studied UFOs and alchemy and he came up with nonsensical concepts such as synchronicity and collective consciousness and so on.

He is not by far my favorite psychologist or example of a rational person. I think he's a throwback to the Middle Ages in many respects.

He is an anti-profit. He acts against enlightenment and he's a very irrational person in many of his writings, which I find rank nonsense.

But there are diamonds in there. Here's one of the diamonds.

He says the self is not only the center, but also the whole circumference, which embraces both conscious and unconscious. It is the center of this totality, just as the ego is the center of consciousness.

And that's a diamond observation, an insight that escaped actually Freud.

In two essays of analytical psychology Jung kind of ends with an aphorism.

The self is our life's goal for it is the completist expression of that fateful combination that we call individuality.

Okay, so it's clear by now.

Ego is ego, self is self.

Ego is a component of the self. They are not coterminous. They're not the same thing as Freud suggested.


And so now we go to a Jungian, another Jungian.

His name is Jeffrey Satinever and he wrote a brilliant essay for Ideals, the narcissistic relation to the self. That essay deals with another issue. That's the fact that narcissists are immature, that they are eternal children or eternal adolescents.

And so he tries to explain why.

But he sums up at the beginning of the essay, just 18 or 20 pages long, he sums up the differences between Freud and Jung.

And he says, and I'm quoting him extensively.

He says, Freud considered that all people begin life in a blissful state that he called primary narcissism.

In this state, no distinction between self and world exists. Hence, no painful tensions in the form of as yet unfulfilled desires of the subject for any object and therefore no conscious experience of drives and frustrations. He says, just to summarize this segment, he says, if you are one with the world, you are never frustrated because the world is inside you. You don't want for anything. You don't lack anything.

By the way, that was Spinoza's attribute of God. He said, God Spinoza said, God cannot want anything because he includes everything. How can he want anything? You can want only something that is outside outside you.

And when you fail to obtain it, you're frustrated.

So when you're a baby and one with the world, you are never frustrated and you don't have drives and you don't have unfulfilled desires. That's Sartinova.

He continues, Sartinova.

As the infant develops, it separates itself from its surroundings and begins to experience needs for other things. As the infant grows, these needs put pressure on the developing ego to acquire the skills necessary to fulfill these needs. And so the ego adopts two object reality. All the energy which in infancy was bound to the subject in this way slowly extends out and becomes bound up in the subject's pursuit of objects.

So at first the energy was inward and then it's externalized to obtain objects. This process is normal development.

Sartinova continues,

Freud originally described the essence of neurosis as an interruption in the smooth transition from subject bound to object bound libido.

The childhood libido reaches out, fascinated by the objects of its desire.

But being as yet insufficiently adapted to succeed, it fails to attain its goal.

To compensate for this failure and adaptation and for the consequent lack of gratification, an alternate, easier form of gratification is sought, one with which the ego is already familiar.

The libido regresses and reactivates an earlier form of adaptation, it reactivates the blissful state of narcissism, now called secondary narcissism.

In this view, a narcissistic neurosis consists of the habitual seeking of gratification through self-stimulation and the consistent refusal to take the more difficult path of adaptation or work.

The grandiose fantasy is preferred to the modest accomplishment. The brief idealized affair or masturbation is preferred to the rocky long-term commitment.

Jung's modification of this idea is that, says Sartinova, is that the retreat to earlier forms of psychic life and behaviour, to secondary narcissism, is not only or even primarily an alternate means of gratification. It is rather the necessary way that as yet unused instinctive modes of adaptation latent within the psyche are released.

Thus the retreat to the narcissistic state releases archetypal fantasies. These fantasies are the representations in consciousness of inherited but as yet unused adaptive behaviours.

I beg to differ with the word inherited because it implies a kind of collective unconsciousness that we all tap into, one of Jung's ideas which I find to be a British understatement unacceptable.

But still the regression, according to Jung, is not in itself neurotic, says Sartinova, but rather it is the sign of a compensatory process of the psyche whose purpose is enhanced adaptation.

Early in his career Jung equated narcissism with introversion.

The general notion that introversion per se is pathological stems from the early Freudian idea that narcissism is a substitute employed where adaptation to object reality or extroversion has failed.

In consequence of his expansion of Freud's conception Jung separated the two terms and the general turning inward of libido introversion was recognised as a servant of psychological development rather than an enemy to it.

In his book Psychological Types Jung suggested that introversion does not occur only in response to failures of extroversion but that the habitual turning of attention inwards to the self is a normal function of the psyche, which in some individuals actually predominates in degree over the habitual turning of attention towards objects.

To summarize, according to Jung narcissism or introversion can be, one, a pathological state and here he agrees withaccording to Jung narcissism or introversion can be, one, a pathological state and here he agrees with Freud but more often a compensatory response, regression in the service of the ego and to further personal development.

And three, a normal form of psychological development.

And this last idea of Jung means that there is such a thing as normal narcissism. Jung says that there is such a thing as healthy normal narcissism.

It implies that to some extent narcissism or introversion is actually a necessary aspect of all individuals and that like adaptation to the outer world there is such a thing as better or worse sorts of adaptation to the inner world.

We adapt to the outer world, we adapt to the inner world. Sometimes we succeed to adapt to the outer world, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we succeed to adapt to the inner world, sometimes we don't. When we don't, narcissism becomes pathological but when we do, it's normal and healthy.

That neurosis can develop which are narcissistic, not in the sense that narcissism per se is a neurotic response to failures of external adaptation.

In other words, the narcissistic neurosis is not because of the narcissism but they are narcissistic in the sense that they are failures to develop healthy introversion, failures to develop a proper form and degree of narcissism.

Jung postulated the existence of two personalities, actually two selves, one of them being the shadow.

Technically the shadow is a part or an inferior part of the overreaching overarching personality, one's chosen conscious attitude.

The shadow develops in a peculiar way. Inevitably some personal and collective psychic elements are found wanting or incompatible with one's personality, one's personal narrative to use today's phrase.

So the expression of these psychic elements which I remind you are wanting and incompatible, their expression is suppressed and they coalesce into an almost autonomous splinter personality.

The second personality is contrarian, it negates the official chosen personality, though it is totally relegated to the unconscious.

Jung believes, therefore, in a system of checks and balances. The shadow balances the ego, consciousness, and this is not necessarily negative as most people think.

The behavioral and attitudinal compensation offered by the shadow can and usually is actually positive.

The shadow, our dark side, is a positive element.

Jung says the shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself and yet is always thrusting itself upon the individual, directly or indirectly.

For instance, inferior traits of character and other incompatible tendencies are aspects of the shadow.

This is in his essay, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.

He continues, Jung, the shadow is the hiddendebt hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laying personality, whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious.

That's the part I strongly disagree with.

If it has been believed hitherto that the human shadow was the source of all evil, it can now be ascertained on closer investigation that the unconscious man, that is, his shadow, does not consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies but also displays a number of good qualities such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses and so on.

It would seem fair to conclude that there is a close affinity between the complexes, split of materials, you remember, and the shadow.

Perhaps the complexes also the result of incompatibility with the conscious personality. Perhaps the complexes are the negative part of the shadow.

Perhaps it just resides in the shadow or closely collaborates with the shadow in a feedback mechanism.

Perhaps whenever the shadow manifests itself in a manner which is obstructive, destructive or destructive to the ego, we call it complex.

Complexes may really be one and the same, the result of a massive split of material and its relegation to the realm of the unconscious.

And this is part and parcel of the individuation separation phase of our early childhood development.

Prior to this phase, the infant begins to differentiate between self and everything that is not self.

The infant tentatively explores the world and these excursions bring about a differentiated worldview.

Suddenly the world is populated with objects. Suddenly the unity cracks and breaks. It's a break of the world. It's Cartesian. It's like the cart suggested that as an observer and observed, us and nature, we and the world, the child goes through this early on.

Child begins to form and store images of his self and of the world, initially of the primary object in his life, normally his mother.

And these images are distinct.

First time, it's very traumatic. Mother is not me. She is separate and if she's separate, I can lose her. She can abandon me. To the infant, this is revolutionary stuff. Nothing short of a breakdown of an erstwhile unitary universe and its substitution with fragmented, unconnected entities.

And as I said, it's very traumatic.

Moreover, these images in themselves are split.

The child has separate images of a good mother and a bad mother, respectively associated with the gratification of his needs and desires and then she's good or with the frustration of his needs and desires and then she's bad mother.

The child also constructs separate images of a good self and a bad self linked to the ensuing states of being gratified by the good mother and being frustrated by the bad mother. Everything fractures.

At this stage the child is unable to see that people are both good and bad, that an entity with a single identity can both gratify him and frustrate him at times. He has no concept of time.

And so he's pleased. He derives his own sense of being good or bad from the outside.

The good mother inevitably and invariably leads to a good satisfied self and the bad frustrating mother always generates a bad frustrated self.

But the image of the bad mother is very, very threatening.

Imagine a rich conclusion that the person you depend on for your life is evil. It's frightening. It's a horror movie. It is anxiety provoking.

So the child is afraid that if it is found out by his mother that he thinks that she is evil, she will abandon him.

Moreover, the bad mother is a forbidden object of negative feelings. One must not think about mother in bad terms. One must not think badly about mother.

And so the child splits the bad images off and he uses them to form a separate collage of bad objects.

It's like a bad bank. There's a kind of reservoir where he puts all the bad feelings, bad emotions, frustrations, bad images of mommy and everything.

This process is called object splitting. It is the most primitive defense mechanism.

When still used by adults, for example, in borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, it is an indication of pathology.

And this is followed by the phases of separation and individuation between 18 and 36 months of life.

The child no longer splits his objects. He no longer puts bad objects to one repressed, one repressed side and good objects to another conscious side.

He learns to relate to objects, to people as integrated holes, holes with nuances, with subtleties, with the good and bad aspects coalesce, grave shades instead of black and white.

An integrated self-concept also follows inevitably.

Because if you merge the good and bad aspects and you begin to see people as they are, you begin to see your self as you are.

Partly good, partly bad. It's integration.

The child internalizes the mother. He memorizes her roles. He becomes his own parent, becomes his own mother. And he performs her functions by himself. He becomes way less independent, personal autonomy. He develops boundaries. He acquires object constancy. He learns that the existence of objects does not depend on his presence or on his vigilance. Mother always comes back to him and for him after she had disappeared from sight.

A major reduction in anxiety follows and dispermits the child to dedicate his energy to the development of stable, consistent and independent senses of self and introjects, internalized images of others.

And this is the junction at which personality disorders form.

Between the ages of 15 months and 22 months, a sub-phase in this stage of separation and individuation is known as Raposh. Raposh, the child at this stage, is exploring the world.

This is a terrifying and anxiety-inducing process. Tera incognita, here be dragons.

The child needs to know that he is protected, that he is doing the right thing and that he is gaining the approval of his mother for this trip of exploration, voyage of exploration.

The child periodically returns to his mother for reassurance, affirmation, admiration and unconditional love, as if making sure that his mother endorses, accepts his newfound autonomy and independence, is not angry at him and accepts his separate individuality.

What happens when the mother is immature, narcissistic, suffers from a mental pathology, has her own abandonment and anxiety?

She withholds from the child what he needs. She doesn't give him approval, admiration and reassurance. On the contrary, she feels threatened by the child's independence. She feels abandoned. She feels she is losing him. She doesn't let go of the child sufficiently. She smothers him with overprotection and indulgence. She offers him overpowering emotional incentives to remain mother-bound, dependent, undeveloped, part of a mother-child's symbiotic diet. Or she punishes him. She abuses him.

The child in turn develops mortal fears of being abandoned, of losing his mother's love and support.

His unspoken dilemma is, should I become independent and lose mother or should I retain mother and never, never self?

This dissonance is so fundamental and essential. This is quiddity.

This is the core, that it creates fountains and vortices and tsunamis of rage.

The child is enraged because he is frustrated in his quest for himself. He is anxious, fearful of losing mother. He feels guilty for being angry at mother. He is attracted to mother, repelled by mother.

In short, he is in a chaotic state of mind.

Whereas healthy people experience such eroding dilemmas now and then.

To the personality disorders, these dilemmas are constant. These dissonances are characteristic emotional states.

To defend himself against this intolerable vortex of emotions, the child keeps them out of his consciousness, slices them off.

The bad mother and the bad self, plus all the negative feelings of abandonment, anxiety, rage, he splits them off.

But the child's over-reliance on this primitive defense mechanism obstructs his orderly development. He fails to integrate the split images. The bad parts are so laden with negative emotions that they remain virtually untouched throughout life in the shadow as complexes.

It proves impossible to integrate such explosive material with the more benign wood parts.

So the adult remains fixated at this earlier stage of development. He is unable to integrate and to see people as whole objects.

People are either on good or on bad. And he goes through idealization and devaluation cycles.

This kind of adult deformed, partly developed, arrested, developed adult is terrified unconsciously of abandonment. He actually feels abandoned, or at least under threat of being abandoned.

And he subtly plays it out in his or her interpersonal relationships. This is the core of borderline narcissism.

And so is the reintroduction of split-off material in any way helpful? Is it likely to lead to an integrated ego or self?

The question itself is wrong, because it confuses two issues.

With the exception of schizophrenics and some types of psychotics, the ego or the self is always integrated. There's no such thing as non-integrated ego or self.

That the patient cannot integrate the images of objects, both libidinal and non-libidinal, doesn't mean that it is a non-integrated or disintegrative ego.

The inability to integrate the world, this is the case in borderline or narcissistic personality disorders. This inability relates to the patient's choice of defense mechanisms. It's a secondary layer.

The crux of the matter is not what state the self is in, integrated or not.

But what is the state of one's perception of his self?

So personality disorders are secondary layers. They are like shrink wraps, pardon the pun. They are like introspective things. They're like self-observation, self-referential.

That's why autoeroticism is very strong there. From the outside to the inside.

So it's like the narcissist or the borderline has a self-perception or self-image or that is divorced from the integrated ego because it cannot put together all the content. Some of it is hidden, shelved in the darkest resources of the unconscious.

And thus from a theoretical point of view, the reintroduction of split-off material does nothing to increase the ego's integration.

And this is especially true if we adopt the Freudian concept of the ego as inclusive of all split-off material. And of course it's right if we are Jungians.

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