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Reading: The Concept of Narcissism and Freud’s Misrepresentation of his Theory of Instincts

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Research Article

The Concept of Narcissism and Freud’s Misrepresentation of his Theory of Instincts

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Jan De Laender

Bessenlaan 14 3110 Rotselaar-Heikant, BE
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Abstract

Freud’s later writings (from 1920 onwards) present us with a rather misleading picture of the development of his theory of instincts. He tries to create the impression that the distinction between the self-preservative and the sexual instincts ceased to exist in 1914, as a result of the introduction of the theory of narcissism. Actually, the distinction was only dropped in 1920 in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Probably Freud was driven to this misrepresentation by his disagreement with Jung. When the concept of narcissism was introduced, Jung suggested right away that Freud drop the distinction between the two sets of instincts. But this put Freud in a very awkward position: either he had to reduce the self-preservative instincts to sexuality in which case his theory became pansexualistic. or he had to accept Jung's idea of a general, non-sexual psychical energy, in which case his hard-begotten insights into the special etiological role of sexuality lost all value. There was no solution but to cling stubbornly to the existing classification. In 1920, however, a new instinctual category (the death instinct) was introduced which saved Freud from the former dilemma. Now the self-preservative instincts could be reduced to sexuality without falling into the trap of a pansexual theory. Yet it would have been very unpleasant to recall that for six years Freud had argued with Jung against this reduction. So Freud chose to ‘simplify’ the story and to create the impression that the distinction between the self-preservative and the sexual instincts had been dropped in 1914.

How to Cite: De Laender, J., 1978. The Concept of Narcissism and Freud’s Misrepresentation of his Theory of Instincts. Psychologica Belgica, 18(1), pp.1–11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pb.621
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Published on 01 Jan 1978.
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