“I would say that, listening to the (client’s) free associations, one would think something like this: the client is wanting me to agree with him; it is obvious from the way he is putting forward a suggestion that he has a beautiful personality; my personality is likewise beautiful; in fact I am to be a mirror of his excellence.” (Bion 1992: 238)
Narcissus believes he is being loved by his reflection in the water. As therapists, we are aware that ‘a narcissistic illusion of being loved‘ can subtly affect a client’s relations to reality and there can be pressure on the therapist to interpret in such a manner that the client’s narcissism is spared. Moreover there is the phantasy that all the client’s needs must be satisfied, and further, could be satisfied (in magical way) should the therapist so choose – without the frustration involved in development. As practitioners, what can we learn from narcissistic functioning and how can we apply this understanding to enhance the efficacy of our therapeutic work? At this unique and immensely practical seminar by Nicola Abel-Hirsch, we will explore and understand the contrast between healthy narcissism (which has a place in the regular course of human sexual development) and the narcissistic control of the body. Drawing on examples from therapeutic work, the seminar will explain how the lack of an adequate object and / or the envy of the object can result in the client considering their own body as their main support, rather than relying on the containing m/other. This will link with our understanding of destructive narcissism & Bion’s explanation of the client’s rivalry with the analyst. Attention will be given to the client’s own experience of their self-control and self-sufficiency, and how interpretation of this can be experienced as a threat to the client’s ‘high standards‘. Bion comments that “their well-being” can be felt to spring “from the same characteristics which give trouble” & we will view our therapeutic interactions in this context.
Nicola Abel-Hirsch is a Fellow of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, and works in private practice. She is the 2013/2014 Visiting Professor at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex. She teaches in UK and abroad, and her publications include a work on the concept of the Life Instinct, titled Eros, and Hanna Segal’s last work Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (editor). Her papers on Bion’s work include: On Bion’s Concept of ‘Suffering’; On ‘Premonition’; A comparison of Freud and Bion’s concepts of the Life Instinct; Freud and Bion on the Pleasure Principle; Bion’s concept of Narcissism and Socialism and Mind/Body Relations Specific to the Oedipus Complex. She is currently working on a paper on the place of sexuality in Bion’s model of the mind.
An ‘illusion of being loved’
We will begin with an enquiry in to the way ‘a narcissistic illusion of being loved‘ can impact a person’s relations to reality, and the pressure on the therapist to interpret in such a way that the patient’s narcissism is spared. We will consider the narcissistic phantasy that one’s needs must be immediately satisfied, without the frustration involved in development, and will address, more generally, the relation between narcissism and difficulties bearing frustration.
6:45PM: Session 2: The body of Narcissus
As Narcissus gazes in to the water, in love with his reflection, what state is his body in? He is physically beautiful, but also physically still. One aspect of narcissistic functioning can be the careful care of the body, whilst at the same time the natural – sexual – aliveness of the body is disallowed. A contrast will be made between the healthy narcissism that has a place in the regular course of human sexual development, and the narcissistic control of the body.
We will look closely at the anxieties about body functioning that stem from reliance on the body instead of the containing object.
7:30PM: Coffee Break
7:45PM: Session 3: Narcissism and turning away from the object
Substantial work has been done on destructive narcissism, and a sketch will be made of this. Comments made by Bion about patient’s rivalry with the analyst, and narcissism seen as a superior method to depending on an object, will be looked at.
Attention will be given to the client’s own experience of their self-control and self-sufficiency, and how interpretation of this can be experienced as a threat to their ‘high standards‘. Bion comments that “their well-being” can be felt to spring “from the same characteristics which give trouble” & we will view our therapeutic interactions in this context.
8:30PM: Session 4: Narcissism and Social-ism
In the last session we will look at why Bion proposed to replace Freud’s idea of conflict between sexuality and the ego instincts, with a division between ‘narcissism’ and ‘social-ism’. Bion’s ‘social-ism’ is not a model of the individual’s attachment to another person or group, but describes a way of belonging in the world in which we know we do notcount as individuals. This he contrasts with the individual’s narcissistic “loving curiosity, about himself“. The implications for clinical practice of Bion’s – often unexpected – observations about narcissism and social-ism will be highlighted.
questions about the seminar? Call us at: + 44 20 3290 5622 or write to:firstname.lastname@example.org