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I heard about the book "Humanizing the Narcissistic style" By Steven Johnson a few years ago, and I have finally got around to reading it. It is aimed at therapists, but I am finding it useful for myself. It is actually quite rough going, precisely because it is much more "soft" on narcissists than the pop psychology one usually sees splashed all over the internet. By encouraging the patient to get in touch with the archaic needs of the true self, all kinds of defenses are exposed. In particular, one reads that some of the most energetic defenses are not to protect the grandiose false self from reality, but to protect the neediness of the infant "true self" from being accessed and the disappointment and disillusionment of the original empathic failure both in terms of lack of mirroring and not being a good enough figure for idealising.

There is the identification of three types of transference: mirror, twinship and merger transference. The first one is the one most popularly ascribed to narcissism. Following Kohut, Johnson says that the merger idealisation is at the lower end developmentally. This rings true to me, based on my experiences of people who seem very narcissistically diturbed: the "what´s yours is mine" form of thinking is to me the most striking feature of such a person. Johnson describes such individuals as typically more borderline, and notes that in some ways they are more in touch with the true self whose needs keep bursting through, compared to the more defended individual. The latter is what he calls the "narcissistic style". There is hope for everyone in this book. My therapist had not heard of it but i hope there are some out there who have read it.

The discussion of the "symptomatic self" was very useful especially the discussion of psychosomatic symptoms and apathy towards work, which in one place was described as an act of spite by the inner child towards the enforced achievement focus of the grandiose false self. When I read that i found myself getting very angry and indeed hateful towards this inner child, which is a reaction which the author also describes.

The latter chapters contain various case studies which I have not finished reading yet.

The only questionable point seems to be the author´s advocacy of bioenergetics, which seems to involve some quite uncomfortable physical procedures and i am not sure many people would recommend that these days.

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