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According to psychoanalysis, what is narcissistic elation?

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Béla Grunberger (1903-2005) was a Jewish psychoanalyst who coined the term “Narcissistic Elation.” “Narcissism” means excessive love of self; “elation” means bliss. “Narcissistic elation” describes the life of a fetus when it is in the mother’s womb. In the womb, Grunberger argues, a fetus is in a state of complete happiness, as all of its needs are met and all of its desires are fulfilled. Every person has memory of this prenatal state of complete happiness and that early feeling of omnipotence. Everyone has a since of pride in having once experienced narcissistic elation. Grunberger claims that every one of us seeks to return to this state of perfect satisfaction when we once felt immortal and invulnerable.

For a period of time after birth, a baby still lives in the narcissistic space. His mother and others fulfill all of his or her needs and wants. However, as the child becomes more individualized, he or she begins to experience frustrations, as sometimes others put their needs over his/her own. Still, the young infant retains traces of narcissistic elation and he/she will recall bits of the early bliss throughout his/her life. As children mature, and even into adulthood, they try to hold on to whatever remains of that narcissistic elation. They try to recapture it their entire lives. Some of the ways people try to reconnect, according to Grunberger, is through music, passion, and/or mysticism.

In therapy, the psychoanalyst tries to bring the narcissistic self into harmony with reality. A

Source: International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, ©2005 Gale Cengage

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The term narcissistic elation was coined in the 1970s by psychoanalyst Béla Grunberger. Essentially, narcissistic elation describes an ideal state of bliss, experienced by the fetus, where the object, in this case the fetus, completely withdraws from the exterior world. After birth, the newborn child continues to experience narcissistic elation through the mother figure, who fulfills all the needs of the child. In this moment, the child does not recognize the mother as being separate from the self and, therefore, experiences the sensation as its own.

Psychoanalysis concludes that one can experience narcissistic elation through the memory of this phenomenon. The individual engaging in this memory experiences a sense of wholeness, unity and completeness, which are all feelings linked to the memory. In later life, one might enter the memory of narcissistic elation through music, sexual passion or mysticism.

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