Early on, the parents will supportively mirror the strivings of the child’s grandiose self and not threaten their idealization as parents, which is the basis for the establishment of the nuclear self. During Margaret S. Mahler’s developmental model of separation and individuation, the independent self begins to rise out of the matrix of mirroring and idealisation with one’s mother. If idealisation seeking fails due to parental impairment, owing to the refusal to merge or is deemed too weak to merge, the child’s wide-eyed admiration will stop, leading to isolated sexualised voyeuristic pre-occupations of the adult power (the penis, the breast). The equilibrium of the Child’s self-structure is disturbed by the inevitable limits of maternal care, where the child replaces the previous perfection of union with the construction of a grandiose and exhibitionistic image of the self, the grandiose self, and assigning the previous perfection to a venerated, omnipotent (transitional) self-object, the idealized parent imago. Archaic mental concerns belonging to oneself become obliterated and assigned to the nonself with the creation of the “Nuclear “self.

A cohesive and separate self grows out of the developmental transformation of narcissistic libido. This means that the development of the self takes place independently of the drives and object libido. The development of Infantile Sexual perversions is a representation of the Nuclear self, containing fragments of the grandiose self (exhibitionism of part of their own body) and the idealised object (voyeuristic part of the body) pertaining to a small aspect of the original self. Healthy exhibitionism, expressed via single body parts or single mental functions, is given up as part of the total self and isolated, exchanged for single symbols of greatness (faeces, phallus). Only when the individual regresses into infantile sexuality under extreme stress or anxiety will the power exchange be surrendered, as they desperately seek to secure fusion with the idealised object via sexually acting out. The child learns objects exist chiefly for the purpose of gratification; that is, they serve to remove tension.

The parent can’t sustain the matrix of empathy due to the pressure of the child’s curiosity or attempts at self-assertion but are due to their parents’ inhibitions regarding sexualisation and closeness /intimacy. The lack of emotional nourishment leads the child into depression and other forms of pathology, remaining emotionally disturbed and impoverished. An unhealthy relationship with the sexual life, beliefs or values of the parents leads to the castration trauma caused by a cold, unempathetic distorted self-object (mother or father or both). It could be the father is disturbed, and the mother is weak, or the mother`s pathology breaks down the idealisation of the father’s imago, and the child is deprived of both chances of development.

The father may try to save their own pathology by distancing, reinforcing or removing themselves, sacrificing the child in the process.

The child inevitably develops reactive experiences of rage, despondency and helplessness in response to their parents’ pathology. Various pathologies or combinations of pathologies start to develop, where the child has learned adaptations to survive emotionally and physically.

Character Disorders

  1. Psychoses – breakup and enfeeblement of the self
  2. Borderline states – defensive structures to prevent break up and separation
  3. Schizoid/Paranoid – distancing via coldness and shallowness and the other through hostility and suspicion to protect against the breakup or serious distortion of the self. All are used to protect against the self-object’s pathological reactions to the child’s needs creating an affected pathological state.
  4. Narcissistic personality disorder – temp break up manifesting as autoplastic symptoms. Hypersensitivity to slight hypochondria or depression Pale skin. Fatigue. Weakness. Dizziness. Light-headedness. Rapid pulse. Heart murmur.
  5. Narcissistic behaviour disorder – alloplastic symptoms. Perversions, delinquency and or addictions. Sadistic behaviour towards women, centres of fantasies with the need to force the mirroring self-object (mother) to respond to them

The child is primarily motivated by narcissistic needs, which do not lead to the outcome they want and only reinforce the original primary defect. Women can become preoccupied with the oral incorporation and idealisation of their father’s penis, expressed in sexual imagery and oral sex fantasies. It may result in no contact with the father and be rationalised as an unimportant relationship. The man may regress the oedipal defeat with the father by being the aspect of the mother’s ambitions and, through his own grandiosity, keeping the merger with the mother active. The nuclear self may fragment and go into holding if this merger is broken or threatened, leading to social isolation. Kohut (1977) suggested there were two general outcomes for man.

  • Tragic man (self-psychology). A life lacking conscious experience of wholeness and unity, an experience of fragmentation, enfeeblement, and unrealized potential. The depression of the tragic man is the awareness of what could have been with the achievement of wholeness and a fulfilled self, compared with what is in the reality of fragmentation and enfeeblement. Incestuous drive wishes versus fear of punishment (castration anxiety). Needs of a defective self vs being exposed to narc injury again. Total self-given up and isolated sexually.
  • Guilty man (conflict pathology)– aims directed towards the activity of drives. Pleasure principle to lessen tension in erogenous zones. The man is motivated by the satisfaction of his drives, dominated by the pleasure principle, and bound up in inner conflict.

There is a process of therapy and investigation where one can gain awareness and restore the isolated aspects of the self by exploring ;

  1. How the aspects of the nuclear self are gathered and how they become integrated to form the specific energetic tension (nuclear ambition Vs nuclear talents and Skills for idealised goals.)
  2. When several constituents of the nuclear self are acquired (ambitions are established thru the consolidation of the central grandiose exhibitionism fantasies with idealised goals being able to be set up.)
  3. When the whole series of the processes by which the nuclear self is laid down may be said to have an essence of where the self begins and where the self ends.
  4. The tension Arc has two points to resolve. The pursuits they are driven to and the ambitions held by their ideals. A healthy person works on the same time axis from two sources.
  5. A superficial inability to take a historical stance. Recognise himself in the recalled past and project himself into an imagined future.
  6. To strengthen the cohesion of the self from the pleasure principle to the reality principle. (from the ID to the EGO). The first process of selective inclusion and exclusion of ego structures.

Two Chances for Restoration

  1. The cohesion of the grandiose exhibitionism (merging, mirroring by approving self-objects)
  2. The cohesion of the idealised parent-imago (enjoys idealisation of him and merger with him). Mother (self-object) for mirroring and the father (self-object) for idealisation. There may also be a reversal of roles (mother, idealisation and father, mirroring), moving between exhibitionism and voyeurism. One failure may be remedied by the other—the battle between ambitions and ideals.
  • Superiority, arrogant behaviour to maintain merger with the permitted ideas of greatness and goals in harmony with the mother
  • Repression of the merger with idealised parent walled off into a horizontal split. To make conscious of the self-experience to adopt new ideas and goals

The first phase is breaking down the barrier maintained by the vertical split, then the horizontal split. To make the unconscious structure that underlays the self-experience conscious. Life goals are modified patterns of the mother’s merger, whereby actions could be of the idealised self-object. However, the contents could still relate to the patterns/knowledge/interests under the mother’s influence.

  1. Merger with idealised ideal
  2. De-idealisation + transmuting internationalisation of the idealised omnipotent self-object
  3. Integration of ideas with other constituents of the self + rest of the personality

Kohut, H., 2014. The Restoration of The Self. 2nd ed. Chicago Press: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition.