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Narcissistic Transference

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Narcissistic Transference?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Narcissistic Transference

A Way of Exposing the Emptiness of One's Sense of Self

The narcissistic transferences are present for everyone all the time, but are usually in the background. In our work they come into the foreground, and become the focus of the work when the emptiness of the normal self-identity becomes increasingly obvious. Working with the narcissistic transferences is the primary psychodynamic work on the narcissistic sector of the self. Working with these transferences is a way of exposing the emptiness of one’s sense of self, especially for students with significant narcissistic personality components. Awareness of narcissistic transference as transference again will bring out the sense of meaninglessness. Three factors elicit narcissistic emptiness and meaninglessness: first, the normal process of maturation in which one outgrows defensive aspects of the identity; second, the pressure of doing spiritual work and experiencing essential presence, which tends to expose the relative unreality of the level of personality identifications; and third, working with the narcissistic transferences, that is, bringing to consciousness the object relations that have been supporting the more superficial sense of self and helping one to avoid the sense of emptiness. These narcissistic transferences are very powerful; they are not easy to work through. However, it is necessary to work through them in order to expose the support for the superficial identity, as well as to deal with the defenses against emptiness, helplessness, and aloneness. These defenses prevent our openness to the realization of our true essential nature.

Overlap Between the Mirror and Idealizing Transferences

Generally the mirror transference arises as the idealizing transference is understood and its underlying structures—be they ego structures or the Diamond Will—are integrated. More specifically, with the fundamental narcissism of everyday life, and in particular with central narcissism, the idealizing transference is generally established first, and only as its underlying structures are integrated does the mirror transference become established. There is, however, a great deal of overlap between the two kinds of narcissistic transferences. Frequently, the two kinds alternate, and may, in some cases, occur simultaneously. There is then an idealization of the teacher and a need for his or her mirroring. This is actually the case in almost all instances, but one of the two transferences is usually in the foreground. We also find that each individual develops a self-structure that depends on some form of narcissistic transference to shore up the sense of self; some individuals depend mostly on idealization and others mostly on mirroring, although both types are present.

Transforming the Self-Identity Structure

This process of self-realization naturally applies pressure on the conventional sense of identity. Issues arise which affect the central narcissistic structure, that of self-identity. The transformation of narcissism consists largely of the transformation of this structure, leading to the realization of the Essential Identity. The increasing pressure on the structure of self-identity exposes its underlying vulnerability and shakiness. The student attempts to find ways to shore up his sense of identity, but can no longer turn so easily to idealization; he has seen through it. So he turns to mirroring self-objects to help him preserve the integrity and cohesion of his capacity for self-recognition. This manifests as the need for mirroring, particularly in the mirror transference onto the teacher. Investigating this narcissistic transference in depth leads us to a thorough understanding of the sense of identity and its underlying structure. We become increasingly aware of the properties of the self-identity, which we have up to now taken for granted to be part of who we really are. This awareness begins to transform the self-identity, making it more flexible and realistic. So this structure becomes less and less opaque, until it is transparent enough to reveal the essential identity. This is the central process of the transformation of narcissism, which begins by observing and understanding the need to be seen and mirrored.

When One's Relationship With Others Becomes More Markedly Narcissistic

As the emptiness of the shell approaches conscious awareness, one's relationships to others become more markedly narcissistic. Kohut called the narcissistic object relations narcissistic transferences (he later named them self-object transferences), referring especially to those seen in the clinical situation with the analyst. The narcissistic transferences generally function to shore up the sense of identity, to make that sense of identity feel supported. In our work these transferences arise in the student's relationship to her teacher.

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