Narcissism is Freud's allusion to Narcissus from classical mythology, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and drowned as he sought to embrace the beloved image. Narcissism was used by Freud to describe the infant's primary union with the mother that is altered by both maturation and frustration. The failures of the mother to meet the infant's needs, inevitable to some extent as well as traumatic events may lead to a narcissistic wound. This may result in a flawed character that has strong feelings of both inferiority and grandiosity, demands constant attention and has difficulties in love relationships. On the other hand, healthy narcissism is a normal event which leads to self esteem, ambition and the capacity to form satisfying relationships. Bill's contradictions are at the center of his paradoxical personality; Norman Mailer calls him "a celestial oxymoron - part rogue, part god." Bill's narcissistic wound explains his deceptiveness, manipulation and the bubba eruptions but his normal narcissism is the rationale for his initiative, self confidence, empathy and charisma.
What caused Bill's narcissistic injury? His episodes of separation and castration anxiety and his experience as a fat and clumsy child are the most visible factors leading to Bill's narcissistic injury. Is that the whole story? No, because I've already said that most personality theorists believe there are constitutional, that is hereditary biochemical factors and also family style issues that contribute to narcissistic injury and the resulting narcissistic personality which is mentioned in the discussion of Slick Willie .
Narcissism which is said to be the leading cultural disorder of the late twentieth century is itself a controversial subject. Time magazine recognized this when it called psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, "the preacher of narcissism...(who) replaced Freud's tragic vision with an optimistic creed...that man is born good and evil is produced by the culture." The emphasis on narcissism in a system called Self Psychology has shifted attention away from Freud's oral, anal and Oedipal developmental phases but despite Kohut's "whiff of heresy," he remained a Freudian.
Back to the table of contents.
An excerpt from Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks, by Paul Lowinger
Copyright 1998 by Paul Lowinger