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Between omnipotence and helplessness: relational opportunities with narcissism

posted 3 Feb 2011, 09:49 by Debbie Cotton
Narcissism has forever been one of the most important concepts and the least consensual one in psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic thinking. A baby is found in a very tricky place -  a baby has immense power and impact - when a baby smiles everybody's happy, a baby's cry distresses every person around. At the same time, a baby is also helpless - it cannot regulate the very basic aspects of its life (like temperature, hunger, physical comfort, not to even mention emotions). This gap between our perceived omnipotence and our perceived helplessness is a highly tense state - and one that reappears in life.
To overcome our helplessness we often choose to understand processes as if they were under our control - and our responsibility.
when mum and dad got divorced - it was because I was a bad boy, my partner is so anxious because I fail to make him secure, and my clients are not getting better because I am not a very good therapist. To escape the painful tolerance of what is out of our control (our helplessness) the child - and adult - will oftentimes choose to assume that they are the cause of an action. I would rather think it is my fault that mum and dad got divorced than to realise the world is so unpredictable...  seeing the world through our eyes as means of protection from unknown, from chaos and from hurting others and ourselves is narcissism.
People who choose to be therapists care about others and are frequently found deep within the narcissistic spectrum (we feel it is our responsibility to make the world a better place). How do we learn to embrace this position without being driven and dictated by it? How do can we recognise our limitations and accept them, thus letting go of harmful assumption of responsibility? What would it take for us (and our client) to manage and tolerate more of the unknown, the uncertain, the random?
I believe that tending to our narcissistic wound is about reclaiming partial control over our lives, and surrendering control elsewhere, and it allows a less tense position when dealing with ourselves and others. Moreover, it strengthens our capacity to see others as subjects - not just as satellites of our own reality - and at the same time, it allows us to assume a fuller position as human beings.
So, in those two days we will explore our need to take things on when they are not ours to take (we neither save nor doom others), understand the origins of such tendencies, and learn when we need to attend to ourselves more kindly so that we may loosen a narcissistic bond on reality and relate more openly and freely. I know it would be exciting and challenging.


Dates- April 7th and 8th 2011
Cost- TBA
pre-requisites- to attend this course you must have trained with Asaf at least three times previously. 
Location- The Open Centre, Old St London