15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
A Seminal Achievement,
This review is from: Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (The Master Work Series) (Hardcover)
In response to Vaknin's review:
Dr. Kernberg doesn't unequivocally suggest that narcissism is always a mere "fixation on an early developmental phase". In fact, this is one the differences between his theory of narcissism and that of Heinz Kohut, which he expounds on in his book. According to Kernberg circa this book's publication, narcissism comes in more than a few variations, ranging from infantile narcissism to healthy adult narcissism to the pathological variety. Even a personality of higher organization can possess remnants of infantile grandiosity, which can become more pronounced if a person regresses (in crises, e.g.). Kernberg does not suggest that pathological narcissism is invariably the product of developmental arrest.
Vaknin is right to note that borderline conditions and narcissism do look quite similar in this book, but Kernberg acknowledges that the two are somewhat similar insofar as similar defenses are often used in both (Kernberg refers to the a "narcissistic personality functioning on a borderline level" often to draw attention to cases of heterogenous pathology). However, narcissistic and borderline personalities employ these defenses for different reasons; in BPD, splitting is predominatly used to keep aggression and "bad" self and object representations from contaminating libido-driven "good" self and object representations, whereas those with NPD have diametrically opposed object relationships that alternate between idealization and devaluation vis-a-vis frustration, typically. Devaluation (treating a person like trash AND defiling their internal object representation) spares the narcissist an unbearable mixture of envy, rage, grief and righteous indignation when they can't obtain "narcissistic supplies" from him/her. They rely on projection of their own envy onto others to obtain relief from their painful experience of frustration and greed; as a result, they frequently experience significant paranoid symptoms when distressed . Frustration and shame are the central affects which NPD individuals unconsciously aim to keep at bay.
This book is brilliant. A cursory understanding of psychoanlytic thought and object relations would certainly increase this stunning work's "readability", but it's likely appropriate for anyone interested in the subject.