Tag Archives: False Self

The Buddhism and Addiction Series (Part III of III)


Religious Dilemmas and Spiritual Solutions

Religion as a Barrier to Recovery

At first glance, it would seem that gay men with substance use disorder would be ideally matched to AA for post-treatment recovery maintenance or aftercare.  As previously noted, gay men are especially vulnerable to the development of a narcissistic personality structure.  The philosophy of the AA program is that addiction is essentially a “disorder of the self” characterized by narcissistic traits.  The AA program is unique in that it addresses both the underlying pathological personality structure, and the substance use disorder, by way of spiritual transformation.  However, when spirituality gives way to overt religiosity – as it often does in AA – the program becomes inaccessible and exclusive, and more foreboding than welcoming.

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The Buddhism and Addiction Series (Part II of III)

Part II:

Narcissism, Addiction and Sexuality

The Narcissistic Personality

Like spirituality, the concept of “narcissism” is one that defies simple reduction.  Infused with different meanings by different theorists to explain both normal and pathological conditions, narcissism is one of the oldest and most enigmatic terms in all of psychology (Drescher, 2010; Brown & Bosson, 2001).  Origins of the word may be traced to the Greek myth of Narcissus, a young man who was cursed by the goddess Nemesis, fell in love with his own reflection, and ultimately transformed into the flower which bears his name (Beck, Freeman, & Davis, 2003).  As a psychological construct, the term first appeared in a footnote to a 1905 essay by Sigmund Freud entitled Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (Rubenstein, 2010).  Use of the term, however, did not gain prominence in psychoanalytic circles until the late 1960’s and 1970’s at which time it was more fully explicated by object relations theorists.  These theorists posited that primary narcissism arises from early childhood when all of the infant’s needs are met, and its self is undifferentiated from that of its caretaker (Beck et al., 2003; Epstein, 1986).  In the absence of childhood trauma, the infant transitions from this state to one of a mature, normal self (Van Schoor, 1992).  Psychological disturbances arise, however, when there is inadequate caregiving during childhood (Beck et al., 2003; Kernberg, 1982; Kohut, 1972).  During this phase of development, called “rapprochement”, there is alternation between exploring moves into the environment and returning to the safekeeping of the caregiver, [but] the child sometimes receives inadequate support in these alternating efforts because caregivers are inconsistent, unavailable, or place self-centered demands upon the child. (Beck et al., 2003, p. 243)

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