Bromberg and Kohut on Narcissism
With regard to the theoretical model of narcissism, Bromberg shares a great deal in common with Kohut, while also combining elements of Kernberg and, for an existential twist, Becker.
As with Kohut, the narcissistic detachment also stems from a terror of relationships, which Bromberg described as, “a functional consequence of a dimly recognized need for any relationship at all.” It is the repressed sense of relatedness which further contributes to the pathology. In this view, relationships are so threatening because of the bad internalized objects. For the narcissist, prospective relationships are unconsciously viewed as being qualitatively empty or destructive as the bad intojects, while also serving to painfully activate those bad objects.
In Kernberg, Bromberg points to his theory that ultimately narcissism is a massive defense against rage- rage against early-life caretakers and the internalized representations of those objects. This introduces an important element to Bromberg’s conceptualization which are the elements of paranoia stemming form the projected envy, rage, and exploitation. For the narcissist, their existence is often defined by this sense that they will do to others what they anticipate will be done to them. The grandiosity is a reaction to a deep sense that they are in fact of little value and the objects, which are pathologically idealized, are actually bad or empty, creating a tremendous sense of loss, abandonment, and emptiness. The interpersonal isolation is an attempt at mastering the omnipresent sense of loneliness.
Bromberg also disagree with Kohut and does so, among other things, through his references to Becker. Unlike Kohut, who saw the adaptive necessity of narcissism as healthy, Bromberg and Becker believe that while it may be necessary, it is not healthy. Bromberg believes that it is a delusion implemented to deny the terrifying acknowledgement of our own mortality and existential vulnerability.
Another difference between Bromberg and Kohut is Bromberg’s emphasis on making interpretations in analysis with the narcissist while also maintaining the Kohutian method of identifying with both the grandiose self and idealized parent imago, as manifest in analysis through the narcissistic transference. This is the heart of mirroring, which Bromberg endorses. It seems like the incorporation of and emphasis on interpretation is a Kernbergian element. As derivative if the theory, Kernberg would help to activate the repressed rage and make interpretations throughout the course of analysis. Bromberg tempers this more aggressive approach with elements of mirroring.