In two recent posts, I referred to the role of idealization in politics. The post sparked a couple of interesting comments. As a rule, when I refer to 'big' ideas in psychology, I don't attempt a great deal of explanation. The fundamental theoretical debates about development and pathology strike me as too large and technical for a blog aimed at general readers. Part of the problem is my own limited ability to write about these matters in a way that doesn't either leave general readers scratching their heads or the advanced reader saying well, that's not right. Sometimes I think I can't help but manage to do both.
To my fellow clinicians I would just mention that as I write about idealization, I tend to think about Kernberg, Kohut and even the intersubjectivists. I know there is a lot of ground from Kernberg to Kohut to Stolorow, Atwood, Brandschaft et. al., with a supraordinate backdrop for understanding motivation running from total embrace of drive theory to the complete abandonment drive theory. What is pathological and defensive to Kernberg is arrested normal development to Kohut. (Even more fundamentally, we have to grapple with questions about what, if anything, constitutes objective reality and how it is related to psychic reality-- this is where things get interesting and, for many people, upsetting and even nasty.) The two broad positions aren't reconcilable, but I find value in both and recognize problems in both. So, when we start talking about narcissism as if it's a fixed and settled matter, we don't have to go very far before some problems emerge. I think what I'll continue to do is post some 'smaller' observations and some links on the subject.
Here is one that some of you might get a kick out of. The author is trying to get at some important differences in the way Kernberg and Kohut see narcissism along with some general implications for treatment. I think the author has got it about right.
To my general readers, some of the links may not make much sense to you, but I'll try not to get bogged down in too many technical links and discussions.