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French: narcissisme

Sigmund Freud

Development of the Term

The term "narcissism" first appears in Freud's work in 1910, but it is not until his work "On Narcissism: An Introduction"[1] that the concept begins to play a central role in psychoanalytic theory.

Investment of the Libido in the Ego

From this point on, Freud defines narcissism as the investment of libido in the ego, and opposes it to object-love, in which libido is invested in objects.

Birth of the Ego

Lacan attributes great importance to this phase in Freud's work, since it clearly inscribes the ego as an object of the libidinal economy, and links the birth of the ego to the narcissistic stage of development.

Narcissistic Stage of Development

Narcissism is different from the prior stage of autoeroticism (in which the ego does not exist as a unity), and only comes about when "a new psychical action" gives birth to the ego.

Jacques Lacan

Myth of Narcissus

Lacan develops Freud's concept by linking it more explicitly with its namesake, the myth of Narcissus.

Identification with the Specular Image

Lacan thus defines narcissism as the erotic attraction to the specular image; this erotic relation underlies the primary identification by which the ego is formed in the mirror stage.

Erotic-Aggressive Character of Narcissism

Narcissism has both an erotic character and an aggressive character. It is erotic, as the myth of Narcissus shows, since the subject is strongly attracted to the gestalt that is his image. It is aggressive, since the wholeness of the specular image contrasts with the uncoordinated disunity of the subject's real body, and thus seems to threaten the subject with disintegration.

"Narcissistic Suicidal Aggression"

In "Remarks on Psychic Sausality,"[2] Lacan coins the term "narcissistic suicidal aggression" (aggression suicidaire narcissique) to express the fact that the erotic-aggressive character of the narcissistic infatuation with the specular image can lead the subject to self-destruction (as the myth of Narcissus also illustrates).[3]

Imaginary Dimension of Human Relationships

The narcissistic relation constitutes the imaginary dimension of human relationships.[4]

See Also


  1. Freud, Sigmund. "On Narcissism: An Introduction," 1914c. SE XIV, 69.
  2. Lacan, Jacques. "Propos sur la causalité psychique", in Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. [1946]. pp. 151-93
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 187; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 174
  4. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 92