OEITH #201 Narcissism, Shame, and Self-Love
Back for a second season, we consider how and why the concept of narcissism has become little more than a term of abuse, considering along the way: what the concept of narcissism originally offered; the assumption that narcissism is necessarily bad and harmful; the usefulness of the concept of narcissism and a questioning the mainstream; Austin Osman Spare and "self-love"; a re-visitation of the myth of Narcissus; the lovers of Narcissus: Echo and Armeinius; the suicide of Armeinius and his avengement by Artemis; the myth of Narcissus as a revenge narrative; how the downfall of Narcissus is not due to self-love but to grief; Narcissus dies not because he loves himself, but because he doesn't love others; narcissism in psychology; Sigmund Freud's adoption of the term from sexology; narcissism for Freud as invisible and silent; Freudian libido as directed either towards outward objects or inwardly to the self; narcissism as not about behaviours but a form of desire; narcissism as a way out of a theoretical problem; Freud's model of the mind as a struggle between ego-instincts and sexual instincts; the challenge to this model from psychosis (and from Carl Jung); Freud's new model as a struggle between object instincts and narcissistic instincts; the problem of human destructivity; Eros and the death drive; the myth of Narcissus as an illustration of the deathly implications of refusing to love; the lack of an empirical basis for these theories; their usefulness in therapy; contemporary psychology as the study of behaviour rather than the mind; how self-love does not need to self-aggrandise; how the mind is not apparent in behaviour; how we are obliged to talk of invisible things if we talk of the mind; what "real" means in relation to mind; paraphrasing Crowley; psychology and magick; narcissism as an incantation; the mind of the so-called narcissist and of our culture at the moment; social media, celebrity culture, and reality television; their impact on younger people; Jon Ronson on the “great renaissance of public shaming”; the history of public punishments; the return of public punishment in the online world; the effects of constantly comparing one’s life to others; shame and the need to remain comparable; shame as the evil twin of narcissism; Phil Mollon on shame as self-preservation; narcissistic behaviour as an avoidance of shame; the constructive aspect of shame; the neoliberalist exploitation of shame; “becoming the best version of oneself”; self-division as the precondition of shame; Austin Osman Spare on transcending shame through self-unity; Spare on self-love; sigil magick and how it operates; Freud’s influence on Spare; narcissism as a feedback loop of desire; Spare’s transcendence of the loop through non-dual experience; the distinction between Freudian narcissism and Spare’s self-love.
Sigmund Freud (1914). On Narcissism: An Introduction. In: A. Williams (ed.) On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.
Robert Graves (1992). The Greek Myths. London: Penguin.
Phil Mollon (1993). The Fragile Self. London: Whurr.
Jon Ronson (2015). So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. London: Picador.
Austin Osman Spare (1913). The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love): The Psychology of Ecstasy. Thame: I-H-O, 2005.