Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Primal Self
Loss of the Primal Self
The loss of this wholeness is equivalent to the loss of contact with all the aspects of Essence. This explains why the empty shell that is due to the loss of the primal self feels like the shells of all of the other forms of narcissism combined. The primal self is the wholeness that implicitly includes the qualities of the true self of all later stages, in an undifferentiated way. From this perspective, we can understand the manifestations of oral narcissism as the expression of the self identifying itself with the oral, deficient, and empty self, the self that feels itself as an empty, impoverished bag, because of the loss of its core, its inherent essential richness. The empty, hungry self is the experience of the self patterned by the structure that develops as a reaction to the disturbances of the primal self. This empty self then relates to the world in an oral way, trying to regain its earlier perfection and wholeness by devouring and possessing the exciting objects that it believes are the sources of acclaim, admiration, and idealization. The underlying image of this exciting and desirable object is the full and luscious breast of the all-good mother.
The Point of Existence, pg. 395
Power of the Primal Self
What we find is a group of object relations centered around powerful aggression, rage, and hatred on the one hand, and intense instinctual and animal-like devouring desire and wanting on the other. The student experiences herself as an instinctual animal organism, sometimes as an intensely emotional infant, and sometimes as a more primitive structure like a powerful and primitive animal—a leopard or panther. She feels either rageful and hateful, wanting to destroy the selfobjects that failed her, or she experiences a deep, lustful, powerful, and devouring hunger and wanting. The selfobject she perceives is either a person, a group, or the whole world. The hateful-destructive object relation is usually reversed at the beginning; so she first projects her power and hatred onto the object, feeling that she is small, weak, helpless, generally good, but paranoid and terrified of the all-bad powerful looming object. Transformation of this object relation through precise understanding of its meaning and etiology leads to the integration of the aspect of essential personal Power. One then experiences oneself imbued with natural power, an amazing fullness that feels both alive and forbidding. This is the power of the primal self of the oral stage, which was distorted by frustration of the attempt to gain the orally fulfilling narcissistic support and enhancement in early childhood.
The Point of Existence, pg. 386
The Essential Identity is an Element of the Primal Self (the unstructured soul)
Actually, the Essential Identity is an element of the primal self in the stage of primary narcissism, but in the experience of the primal self (the unstructured soul), it is not differentiated. The primal self does not distinguish between surface and core, between self and identity, or between self and object. This discrimination has to wait until the differentiation subphase of the separation-individuation process makes it possible for the self to tolerate the presence of the Essential Identity in a sustained manner. The Essential Identity has characteristics similar to those of the primal self, but it is a much more differentiated and definite sense of identity. So it is possible for us to accept Kohut’s first version of the origins of the grandiose self of childhood if we remember that it is a real presence and not an image in the child’s imagination.