Excerpt About Narcissism

Development of Narcissism in the Early Years

Narcissism develops throughout the early years, not only at one particular stage. The earlier it appears, of course, the greater the disturbance it creates, since disconnection from essential presence in the early stages of development predisposes the child to further disconnection in the later stages. Also, narcissistic disturbances can be more severe in some stages than in others, depending on the changing circumstances of the child’s life, such as changes in her relationships with her parents, in her health, and so on. Later we will discuss these factors in detail, but here it is sufficient to note that, although narcissism develops throughout the developmental stages, and although the earlier stages influence the later ones, the nature and severity of narcissistic disturbance fluctuates depending on many factors. The capacities and properties of all dimensions of the self—mental, emotional, cognitive, physical, maturational, and so on—influence narcissistic disturbances, depending on the stage during which the disturbances occur. As we have discussed, narcissistic manifestations are determined not only by their central causative root, which is the loss of felt contact with the essential presence, but also by the particular qualities of the forms of the soul that emerge in the various stages of development. The fact that specific forms of essential presence characterize each developmental stage is consonant with the phenomenon of specific developmental changes in all dimensions of the self. Our understanding of this phenomenon has developed partly from direct observation of children, but more from the reconstruction of childhood experience during the extensive investigation of adult experience and memory. Thus, there are different forms of narcissism that originate in different developmental stages.

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