Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Reflecting on Narcissism


Please address correspondence to: Donna S. Bender, 4031 E. Sunrise Drive, Suite 101, Tucson, AZ. E-mail: bender.donna@gmail.com


This article introduces a special issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session focused on the conceptualization and treatment of narcissism. Obscured by an ongoing debate about how best to define pathological narcissism, clinicians have often lost sight of the fact that narcissistic investment in the self is a normal developmental trend that can be disturbed to varying degrees by environmental stresses and failures of nurturing. Using case presentations, contributing authors demonstrate the following: the importance of understanding the closely interrelated grandiosity and vulnerability associated with narcissistic difficulties; variation in the expression of narcissistic “types”; the role of perfectionism and sadomasochism; and the possibility that narcissistic issues are present across all types of personality psychopathology. Specific alliance-building recommendations are offered, and the greater utility of defining narcissism dimensionally rather than categorically is explored. A clinical case in the current article illustrates each of these central ideas. Together, the discussions presented in this issue invite greater insight into, and appreciation of, narcissistic phenomena, along with examples of effective and empathic treatment approaches.