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Narcissism, hypochondria and the problem of alternative theories

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Abstract

This paper is an experiment in conceptual integration and clinical theory testing. Its argument is that narcissism and sexual object love develop from a single source and continue to interact during childhood development and adult life (Freud) and that drives in their oedipal and other formations are not merely disintegration products of narcissism (Kohut). Material from two analyses, supplemented by material from two others, indicate that narcissistic injury was a significant factor in the neuroses of these patients but that aggressive and libidinal conflicts were also decisive such that their hypochondriac symptoms were compositions of their interacting causality. As a result these neuroses are negative instances of Kohut’s theory of narcissism. The hypochondriac symptoms as they emerged could not have had the structure and dynamics they actually had nor could the analytic process these patients underwent have achieved the far-reaching and durable amelioration of these symptoms that occurred. On the positive side, these analyses are but two inductive instances that support Freud’s theory. However, one major difficulty of the faddishness of psychoanalytic theorizing is that much of worth is lost from general theories that turn out not to be supportable. The clinical material from these two cases which disprove basic elements of self-psychology metapsychology also require adjustments to classical theory that integrate the contributions of self-psychology to psychoanalytic clinical theory.

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