Infantile narcissism and the active infant

Irene Fast
1985 Psychoanalytic psychology  
Recent proposals to discard the concept of infantile narcissism as incompatible with currently available observations of infants pose a dilemma for psychoanalytic psychology because that concept has been of major importance in concurrent clinical investigations of borderline disorders. A reformulation of Freud's theory of infantile narcissism is proposed, based on Piaget's model of child development. It proposes that objectively the child is actively engaged with its environment from the
more » ... ent from the beginning. Subjectively, however, in its own understanding, the infant does not recognize the world as external. Major phenomena of infantile narcissism are entailed by this model. Clinical illustrations are used to show its implications for the observed phenomena of borderline disorder in adults and children. Psychoanalytic theory has been characterized from its beginnings by processes of conceptual formulation and reformulation, as established paradigms have proven inadequate to accommodate bodies of observation or to resolve conceptual dilemmas and new ones promised more usefully to do so. Freud was centrally occupied with such theoretical elaboration and revision throughout his working life. The dynamic, economic, genetic, and structural theories are among its major products. In the period subsequent to Freud's, further valuable theoretical contributions have been made. Of these, perhaps the most broadly influential has been the development of ego psychology. Currently, the extraordinary productiveness of infant research offers a major stimulus toward further conceptual growth, perhaps of comparable scope. "This paper will appear in slightly altered form in. Event Theory: A Piaget-Freud Integration (in press), by Irene Fast et al. and published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Requests for reprints should be sent to Irene Fast, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 580 Union Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. University of Michigan theories are among its major products. In the period subsequent to Freud's, further valuable theoretical contributions have been made. Of these, perhaps the most broadly influential has been the development of ego psychology. Currently, the extraordinary productiveness of infant research offers a major stimulus toward further conceptual growth, perhaps of comparable scope.
doi:10.1037/0736-9735.2.2.153 fatcat:evrfz756u5fqpcc5mni544ifle