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Int J Psychoanal. 1979;60(1):47-58.

The drama of the gifted child and the psycho-analyst's narcissistic disturbance.


In order to develop a true self, the child needs, in the first weeks and months of his life, his mother's appropriate emotional response, mirroring and respect. These narcissistic aspects have to be distinguished from the drive wishes. Only the mother's appropriate responses make it possible for the child to experience his feelings as belonging to his own self. If the child does not get the right narcissistic response, he will continue to search for narcissistic supplies for the rest of his life. The most suitable objects for this will be his own children initially, who are completely at his disposal. Specially gifted children who are sensitive, alert and have many 'antennae', will quickly learn to adapt to the narcissistic needs of their parents. Their behaviour will then give the mother all the mirroring, consideration and admiration which she had missed as a child herself. The result will be that, in spite of excellent performance, the child's own true self cannot develop. All this leads to narcissistic vulnerability and to new attempts in the adult to find at last an available 'mother' in his own child, partner, or, if he has become a psycho-analyst, in his patient. In the transference this type of analysand first experiences narcissistic rage before deep mourning is possible. This process of mourning enables him finally to accept his own deprivation as a child, to give up the unconscious idealizations and with them the hope of finding such a 'mother'. This leads regularly to the liberation of the life forces and allows creativity to develop. Only after this has been achieved is the analysis of drive conflicts possible and becomes emotionally effective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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