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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of narcissism for a potential sufferer
I have read other reviews from professionals who are better placed to criticise Symington's lack of a formal theory but my opinion is from a layperson's perspective. For those who are interested in theories of narcissism my review will not be helpful, I am sure.
I was first recommended this book 8 years ago by my psychotherapist at the time. Sadly I ended that...
Published on 8 Dec 2009 by Mr. GA Maartens

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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not convincing
The title "Narcissism - a new theory" is promising, but Symington doesn't quite succeed in challenging the old theories (which he criticizes harshly). He introduces a new psychic object: the "life-giver" which is a hypostatized energy-source which, allegedly, the narcissist has turned away from, in early infancy. Accordingly, the narcissist developes a...
Published on 25 Jan 2002 by MWin


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making sense of narcissism for a potential sufferer, 8 Dec 2009
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Mr. GA Maartens (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Narcissism: A New Theory (Paperback)
I have read other reviews from professionals who are better placed to criticise Symington's lack of a formal theory but my opinion is from a layperson's perspective. For those who are interested in theories of narcissism my review will not be helpful, I am sure.
I was first recommended this book 8 years ago by my psychotherapist at the time. Sadly I ended that therapy when I felt better as opposed to when the healing was concluded.
Having recently attempted to self-destruct, I found myself seeking out therapy again and my mind soon turned to this book. I have caused a lot of damage to a lot of people during the past 3 months and one of them accused me of being a narcissist. I internalised that accusation which is why I picked up this book again. Symington's ideas resonate with me. For someone who is trying to understand his/her own psychopathology and behaviour and where there are narcissistic traits this book is most enlightening. Through it I have come to understand how my history is full of instances where I have chosen death over life. It is not that I actively want to die, but I find life so hard to live. I am not sure that I am a narcissist in the traditional sense of the term which is why Symington's ideas make sense to me.
No book has the power to heal a person, and I don't think that Symington goes as far as to write about how to cure the condition, but understanding myself is always a useful place to start. And that is why I can highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with themselves and and who suspects that their problems are bound up in an unhealthy perception of life and themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 18 Jun 2013
It was really easy to read and I learned a lot about Symington's view on therapeutic relationships. However I missed reading about narcissism more specifically. He gives a great critical summery on other theories but his theory stays in the shadow. It's a great book, but I expected more. It's good for studying I had to read it for a course and we had a very lively seminar afterwards. I recommend it.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not convincing, 25 Jan 2002
By 
MWin (Stockholm, Sweden) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Narcissism: A New Theory (Paperback)
The title "Narcissism - a new theory" is promising, but Symington doesn't quite succeed in challenging the old theories (which he criticizes harshly). He introduces a new psychic object: the "life-giver" which is a hypostatized energy-source which, allegedly, the narcissist has turned away from, in early infancy. Accordingly, the narcissist developes a false and shallow attitude towards life. In Symington's view narcissism is a habitual attitude which can be reversed. To my mind, it's not much of a theory. It's rather a way of describing the phenomenology of the illness. Symington draws largely upon myths and the novel Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, when analysing the problem. But I am sceptical of this method. Characters from myth and fiction cannot do justice to a psychic etiology because such characters are more of abstractions than true persons. Real case histories are preferable when describing pathological traits. Thus, Symington's book is not convincing, although I cannot argue that he is altogether wrong. Certain of his postulates are noteworthy, for instance, that the psyche is composed of relatively independent parts or complexes. This is an important conception, which other theorists do not deliberate.
/Mats W
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing. A for effort and an E for execution, 16 April 2013
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This review is from: Narcissism: A New Theory (Paperback)
Symington's position is that
1. rather than narcissism being caused by environmental deficit, it is the result of a choice being made to turn away from the other. And as it is a choice it can be unmade.
2. the internal sense of the `life-giver' is dependent on stable predictable relationships with care givers in the outside world.
It is these 2, but mainly the first, that enables Symington to assert that his is an existential theory.

The question is, just because Symingtons thesis involves choice and relationality, does this make it existential?

1. In spite of talking about `choice' his is not an existential theory because it is thoroughly embedded in psychoanalytic theory. Just because a theory uses some existential terms doesn't make it an existential theory. He talks about internal objects, mechanisms, psychic reality, unconscious processes etc etc. This means that his conceptual language makes it not possible for him to talk existentially about experience, co-constituted identity, or the existential nature of choice. His notion of the `life giver' is never really explained because psychoanalysis is just not equipped to explain such a thing. He tries to explain it but he doesn't have the means. We know what he is probably getting at but it cannot be explained with what he has at his disposal.
2. He is a psychoanalyst talking to other psychoanalysts. Therefore he has to use psychoanalytic language and theory. He is caught because on the one hand he is trying to keep his audience on side by using (their joint) familiar and agreed language, but on the other hand he is trying to explain something that cannot be explained in that language. But if he used a different language ie if he drew on Buber, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty etc and was able to talk about `being' qualities, love, sense-of-self, authenticity, intersubjectivity, nothingness, original project, paradox and autonomy, he would lose his audience, but that language would be able to say what he wants to say. It's additionally frustrating because although he does know these writers he seems reluctant to draw on them.
3. Contrary to what he says, he has not developed a radically new theory, he has done what countless others have done and that is to tack on a concept on to the side of psychoanalysis and expect it to stick. It doesn't.
4. He uses some existential and phenomenological words without saying where he got them from. He talks about Intentionality as if he invented it but doesn't go into it. He equates Husserl's ego with Freuds ego when it is entirely different. He also misrepresents existential therapy to aid his argument. He creates a false opposition.
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Narcissism: A New Theory by Neville Symington (Paperback - 1 Jan 1993)
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