Narcissism as a motivational structure: The problem of personal significance

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Abstract

AN UNDERSTANDING of individual life is contingent on understanding not only man's traditional motivations but also the individual strategy for resolving the problem of personal insignificance. Man's sense of personal insignificance comes from two primary experiences: (a) the developmental experience with its increasing awareness of separation and loss, transience, and the sense of lost felt perfectibility; and (b) the increasing cognitive awareness of the immutable laws of biology and the limitations Of the self and others in which idealization gives way to painful reality. Each individual seeks narcissistic reparation through the elaboration of a personal narrative or myth, a story, which gives one's life a feeling of personal significance, meaning, and purpose. What is relevant is not the presence or absence of a myth or personal narrative but within which myth one chooses to live one's life. Myths are not explanations rooted in scientific evidence but rather are belief systems lived as if they were truths. Myths provide the individual with a personal sense of identity, and they confirm and affirm memberships in a group or community, and provide guidelines and an idealized set of behaviors within which to operate. Lastly, they may endorse an explanation for the mysterious universe. Three motivational strategies in which the aim is to create a personal myth or personal narrative that ensures a sense of personal significance are described in this article: (a) transcendental or spiritual myths, (b) group or interpersonal myths, and (c) humanistic or personal myths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Volume63
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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