On Narcissism and its Misuses

mirror stage

What is one to make of the salacious headline that ‘Too much praise helps create narcissistic kids’?

I would like to offer at least three tentative conclusions:1. There is clearly a market for ‘scientific’ findings that today’s children are somehow worse than those of preceding generations. This probably reflects the age and interests of those who own (and consume) traditional media.

2. Conceptual illiteracy is so rampant as to be invisible. ‘Narcissism’ is a psychoanalytic term referring to one’s relation to one’s own body and image. Everybody is ‘narcissistic’, as is all bodily enjoyment and pain. One can speak legitimately of a narcissism of physical illness, for instance. Here, however, intellectual history is completely disregarded, as are basic definitions. ‘Overvaluation’ of the child is construed as pathogenic. What would correct valuation of a loved object look like, when love, by definition, involves singling out, regarding as special, and indeed, overvaluation?

3. Here, and elsewhere in most contemporary uses of ‘narcissism’, the term is a synonym for ‘extreme selfishness’, etc. In other words, its use reflects the most banal moralism, disguised in the technical terms of human ‘science’. As ever, mainstream psychology betrays its ethico-political aims, these latter being principally concerned with suppression.


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