Grandiose Self

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The grandiose self, described and developed as a normal narcissistic configuration by Heinz Kohut in 1971 in The Analysis of the Self, corresponds to or replaces the "purified pleasure-ego" posited by Sigmund Freud: The subject, center of the world, expels what is unpleasurable and preserves what is pleasurable. In theory, the instinctual grandiose self is integrated into the self to form the nucleus of the ambitions (strivings), but it cannot constitute itself or be the object of fixations, repression, or splitting.

The grandiose self, also called the narcissistic self, first appeared in Kohut's work in 1964. A description of an aspect of the narcissistic personality, it acquired a metaspychological status in Kohut's 1971 book.

From a developmental point of view, the infant attempts to restore narcissistic perfection by establishing narcissistic configurations, among them the grandiose self, a structure invested with energy that is rooted in exhibitionist part-instincts. In narcissistic pathology, the activity of the grandiose self explains the intensity of the demand for attention; if it is repressed, no source is available to nourish the reality-ego, which is characterized by a lack of self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, and a tendency toward depression. In Kohut's The Restoration of the Self (1977), the grandiose self is the pole of the self that draws its strength from the self objects' responses to mirroring needs.

The notion is related to mirror transference.

Initially instinctual, the grandiose self was desexualized with Kohut's generalized self psychology advanced in 1977.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Self psychology.


Kohut, Heinz. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press, 1971.

. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press