As part of my ongoing research into understanding psychotherapy and human nature from a cultural perspective I will be writing a monthly blog. If you would like to sign up for my quarterly newsletter detailing the latest news from Dwight Turner Counselling (including news of the latest blog entries) then feel free to enter your details on the side of this page
Please note: older blog entries are collected together every 6 months at the base of this page.
Studies in Supremacy Part 3: Entitlement and the Echo
(Published 1st November 2019)
This third blog in this series discusses what I feel is the struggle for the other when it strives to separate itself from the special needs of the narcissistic supremacist. This is driven by an experience I witnessed where in a business environment a woman of colour, who was working as a secretary, was being shouted at by someone attending for an interview as a professional there. The secretary of colour was, rightly I was later informed, trying to inform the woman that she could not see the interviewers as yet as they were busy with someone else. The interviewee was demanding that the secretary put her through to the interviewers immediately, seeing her refusal as some type of offence her rights to be obeyed. She told the secretary that she had an entitlement to see the interviewees beforehand, and that she would be paying the secretary’s wages were she hired and that she should be listened to. When the woman finally went in for her interview, the secretary was understandably shaken by the experience, and broke down crying in the toilets. I do not know if the interviewee got the job.
The word that stood out for me in this interaction, and that has provoked my need to write this month’s blog is entitlement, and I therefore wanted to draft a blog exploring its link to narcissism, and also its impact upon the other. Firstly though, it is worth exploring just what entitlement is, as it is a word often used, but not necessarily understood. According to Wallace (cited in Piff, 2014), in his discussion of its links to class entitlement suggests that everyone is there to serve us, and that we no longer see ourselves of part of something larger which we serve, such as culture, but that we are said culture, and others are there to serve us.
Entitlement presupposes a fantasy of specialness that the echo is supposed to predict (in this case the secretary was supposed to know just what the interviewee knew before she wanted it), otherwise it is punished, or as Twenge and Campbell state, ‘entitlement mixed with an inflated sense of “specialness” without any sense of a classic work ethic is a recipe for narcissism’ (2009, p. 2). Entitlement could also be suggested to originated in the over or under-parenting of children who from an early age were either overly denied their attachment figure, or were of privilege and overly indulged said same figures thereby not realising their need to contain their neediness for attention.
Although it will be impossible to do this subject full justice within this briefest of blog posts, a brief exploration of the relationship between narcissism and entitlement is important to underline just how pivotal a role narcissism plays in the creation of the entitlement of the subject. Emmons on his paper on the subject recognises Kernberg’s work, stating that ‘Kernberg sees narcissism developing as a consequence of parental rejection or abandonment. This parental devaluation hypothesis states that because of cold and rejecting parents, the child defensively withdraws and comes to believe that it is only himself or herself that can be trusted and relied on and therefore loved. Kernberg adheres to a stage model of libidinal development where difficulties arise when there is regression in the developmental sequence of undifferentiated libido followed by autoeroticism, narcissism, and then object love, with narcissistic individuals not reaching the final stage’ (1987, p. 11).
Continuing this exploration, as Zondag says in his paper on narcissism, he recognises that ‘a lack of admiration from others results in feelings of emptiness, depletion, apathy, and a sense of not really living’ (Zondag, 2004, p. 424). The anger of the rejection, plus the unmet need for the child to repair this need within them, then drives them to aggressively pursue the other to meet that need. Also, in bringing this link between narcissism and entitlement back in to focus, Piff goes on to state, ‘entitlement is a global and pervasive dimension of the self- concept that orients the individual toward maintaining an enhanced status vis-à-vis others and, as such, is a primary motivator of narcissism’ (Piff, 2014, p. 35). Entitlement is therefore a symptom of the narcissist’s attempts to enforce power over the other.
Entitlement therefore means that the subject/person/culture believes it is owed something from the other on the surface, whatever form it takes. Yet, it is also something more insidious. Entitlement involves the oppression of the other in to a format designed to hold the unconscious of said narcissist. Entitlement involves the use of microaggressions, or of overt power grabs, to enforce the other in to submission. They project the rejecting parent onto the other, and the other then is forced in to identifying with said rejection, thereby becoming an echo for said subject.
Alternatively for the other then, this encounter with the anger, the aggression, with the microinequities enforced upon it by said subject, where they are overlooked, not seen, not acknowledged, or just plain ignored, play a huge role in their oppression, can be important day to day experiences (Sue et al., 2007). For example, I always hear stories of female academic colleagues having their work explained back at them by men, where the projected male sense of entitlement to knowledge and power overrides any sense they might know very little. These types of aggressions often leave the other unseen, or at best playing out the role of an echo for their own worlds. Yet, to resist the projective identification placed upon them, for example when they place boundaries in place, when they refuse to be objectified by said narcissistic subject, then there will always be a risk of conflict, as the subject fights covertly, overtly, or both to regain its position as superior to said other, with entitlement being one pillar of said superiority.
In linking this to the political, where the cultural narcissism of the political right dominates, ideas of entitlement are often used to centre ourselves in a world of others, where we are lifted up on said wings of entitlement, forcing those who are not us to drive us ever higher towards the realms of the gods themselves. Entitlement, in a world currently focused upon the neoliberal ideals of need and greed is very much motivated by the mores of narcissistic entitlement, yet to limit this just to this era misses a huge point, that where inequalities exist, whatever the historical age, levels of narcissism and entitlement rise. They continue to do so until at some point in a future, like waves against a shore, they break, bringing into focus a more relational experience of humanity and allowing the other to be itself once more hopefully, but perhaps that is too much of an ideal.
To end this month though, I wanted to use my own experiences as a touchstone for those perhaps of the readers of this blog as they themselves strive to be more authentic within themselves, and less dependent upon the subject for their worth and identity. I personally seem to have experienced an increased sense of entitlement and attacks upon myself along the way. In empathy with the secretary in the story, I have strangely more often these days had an increasing number of people both directly and indirectly inform me of how they either pay my wages, or how they have a right to demand special treatment from myself. I have also increasingly witnessed this played out through the stories of friends and colleagues, and witnessed the soul shattering impact of this coalition of narcissism and entitlement has had upon said others. This increased level of entitlement is worth noting, as it is the cornerstone of the culture we currently reside within.
Emmons, R. A. (1987). Narcissism: Theory and measurement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1), 11–17. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.168
Piff, P. K. (2014). Wealth and the Inflated Self: Class, Entitlement, and Narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(1), 34–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167213501699
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271
Twenge, J., & Campbell, K. (2009). The Narcissism Epidemic. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement., 1–6.
Zondag, H. J. (2004). Just Like Other People: Narcissism Among Pastors. Pastoral Psychology, 52(5), 423–437.
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my own post-doctoral research project into our experiences as the Other
Studies in Supremacy Part 2: Echoism as survival as the Other
(Published 1st October 2019)
Over the past few days the idea of echoism has reared its head once again. From the abuse meted out to colleagues of mine on social media platforms because they refuse to toe the party, gender, or other type of line; to overt discussions of the masquerade of women, the double consciousness of minorities, or the ableist positioning of those with disabilities, discussions of echoism are more common than we are afraid to truly admit (Akom, 2008; Butler, 1990; Mintz, 2017). Whilst I advocate for self-care in these struggles, I also strongly believe the other should never give up.
For this month the reasons for my stance involve an exploration of supremacy and echoism. Echoism is a huge topic, but strangely an under-researched one. Although in counselling and psychotherapy circles we often talk about the Persona as a false self, and how in coming in to life we adapt to the scripts placed upon us by society, family, peers etc, much of this is from within the paradigm that this is to help us to build our egoic sense of self. The problem with many of these narratives is they do not consider the role oppression, racism, sexism etc. and a lack of safety in relation to the subject plays in said ego formation. For example, whilst there may be certain rules to being a young black boy growing up in London in the 1970s, how much of this is driven by a cultural script which says you need to less aggressive in order for you to be accepted, and if you transgress in any fashion then you will be punished. How much of this is driven by the need of the cultural subject to distance itself from its own cultural shadow, whereby it manipulates the other into a space of inauthenticity to serve its own needs.
Whilst living in a culture dominated by varying layers of supremacy, the impact upon the other of said supremacy needs closer consideration when we look at how the persona is formed. I would strongly argue here for the addition of a consideration of othering, sexism, stereotyping etc. as factors in the formation of the persona. I would also argue that the persona needs to be broken down into components, with one of these being the echo.
To understand echoism as an aspect of the persona though, it is always important to return to the role of narcissistic subject, as per this extract from a text on social psychology which states, ‘if one reflects on the story of Narcissus, there was, at least in some of the tellings, another important character, Echo. Echo was desperately in love with Narcissus, so much so that she repeated every word that he said. Hence, even if narcissism is detrimental to love, maybe “echoism” promotes love,’ (Fletcher & Clark, 2003, p. 443).
The idea that as the echo one is in love with the narcissism of the supremacist will be abhorrent to many of the readers of this blog, and to them I say I almost totally agree. Yet, how I would reframe this is I would see the love of the echo as a distortion of admiration, or reverence. A co-option of the archetype of Eros. The supremacist in their arrogance desires to be adored, and generates this as part of the projection into the echo, that adoration. In projecting Eros into the echoised other, it then basks in an (unearned) glow of its own manipulated making. The supremacist needs to do little but simply be seen charismatic, wise, brilliant, or powerful, and at times it may even be as such. Yet, just as often, this type will hide its flaws, its weaknesses, its arrogance, its cruelty.
The narcissism of the other is also created through this co-dependent relationship. For example, just as a guru needs their sycophants, so to do the sycophants scapegoat the other in order to generate their own sense of specialness through their closeness to said same guru (Walach, 2008). Like the women who voted for the misogynist President of the United States of America, or those of difference to side with their oppressors, there will always be those echoes who find safety in sycophancy. It is what we have all been taught in order to survive. And some of us happily buy into this.
Yet, whilst echoism is a powerful factor in surviving as the other in a world of supremacy, as psychotherapists we interestingly play a similar role for our clients, whereby we become the container for their projections. In therapy though, through a process of objectively witnessing the unconscious processes within a therapeutic space, we recognise what is us and what is not us. A process, or an experience, which therapists have to learn from the experiential aspects embedded within their courses, through their clinical supervision, and in particular, via their own experiences in personal psychotherapy. This process of being, of knowing who we are, means that we are more than just containers, we are mirrors for the unconscious of our clients. A hugely important aspect of the work of counsellors and psychotherapists.
So, whilst there are similarities, there is a distinct difference though between mirroring and echoism. Whereas mirroring, from say a Lacanian perspective involves the reflection of aspects of the subject, be it the child or an other, which it needs to see in order for it to grow, to form an ego, and to be itself. The other realises it is doing this and it still exists in its own right (Lacan, 2003). Echoism though means the absence of any sense of self for the other. It is in service to said subject, and through a process of projective identification engages in a process of (self)-dehumanisation of its otherness in order to receive the projections of said subject. It is then an extension of the subject. It is an Echo of the Subject.
This struggle for authenticity as the other will therefore always bring with it a fightback from the supremacist subjects, a struggle against the echo rising into a more genuine space, the resistance against the breaking of Eros’ sticky bond of pseudo-love, bringing with it a rage against the subjects own humanity and mundaneness.
This is why I say to the other, never stop speaking to truth, not to echo
Akom, A. A. (2008). Black Metropolis and Mental Life: Beyond the " Burden of “Acting White” " Toward a Third Wave of Critical Racial Studies. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 39(3), 247265. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.15481492.2008.00020.x
Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble. UK: Routledge.
Fletcher, G. J. O., & Clark, M. S. (2003). Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Interpersonal Processes. (G. J. O. Fletcher & M. S. Clark, Eds.). Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1111/b.9780631212294.2002.x
Lacan, J. (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Lacan. (J.-M. Rabate, Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL0521807441
Mintz, K. (2017). Ableism, ambiguity, and the Anna Stubblefield case*. Disability and Society, 32(10), 1666–1670. https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1356058
Walach, H. (2008). Narciassism - The shadow of transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal Psychological Review, 12(2), 47–59.
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my ongoing exploration into The Other
Studies in Supremacy Part 1: Projective Identification and the Compliance of the Other
(Published the 1st September 2019)
We have all heard them. Know your place! Stay in your lane! These phrases are increasingly used be they on social media, on television, or in politics. Phrases that are designed to make the other conform to some projected position as designated by the subject. For example, the idea that I am a black academic regularly psychologically throws those unable to handle the fluid intersectional nature of identity, whereby I either have to deal with microaggressions against these identities, be it through competition, for example, where there is an attempt to shame myself in to submission. The fact that power plays a large part in the maintenance and deconstruction of the other as less than it own self-identified self, and more of an insubstantial echo for the subject, should not be underestimated. This though is not the only means that the supremacy of the subject manifests itself against the other.
As well as therefore being beaten into compliance, be it physically or psychologically, the other is also often shamed into compliance, or it is ostracised into compliance. All, or any, of these three means of manipulating the other act to force said other into a format which the subject feels it can then accept, and which it then gradually projects aspects of itself into the other to hold. Like a sculptor who chisels his marble into the format he chooses, these three forms of manipulation can be used over and over until the projected, objectified, stereotyped, othered, echo sits before it, ready to accept said projections.
It should be noted though that the beating of the other into submission could also occur through the rigidity of rules and regulations. Ideas that the other should assimilate into a cultural ideal, for example, hold obvious hints of the power of the subject, and its use against the other to bring it into the folds of compliance. The other in these environments is then legally enticed into the position of the echo, from where it is compliant, and from where there is no threat against the subject of change. It could be argued that the migrant movements into the UK at the end of colonialism is the perfect example of this need for supremacy over the cultural other.
In the past I have written about the ego’s need to have dominion over the other, with Lacan seeing this as the position from which the ego believed it established its own supremacy (Homer, 2007). This blog this month though explores how this superiority is maintained, and the detrimental impact upon the echo of its compliance within such an oppressive positioning. The first aspect to consider is the idea of projection. As Jung (von Franz, 1980) recognised, the other is the shadow. What is considered less though is how this projection of the shadow is maintained, or to join this with the ideas of Lacan, how the ego continues to dominate the echo so it will hold that which is deemed unsuitable within itself.
I could try to explain projective identification in my own words, but I think this excellent quote from Ogden does so when he explains that PI involves ‘the ever-present threat that if the infant were to fail to comply, he would become non-existent for the mother. This threat is the 'muscle' behind the demand for compliance: 'If you are not what I need you to be, you don't exist for me, ' or in other language, 'I can only see in you what I put there, and so if I don't see that in you, I see nothing.' In the therapeutic interaction, the therapist is made to feel the force of the fear of becoming non-existent for the patient if he were to cease to behave in compliance with the patient's projective identification’ (1979, p. 358). Expanding this into the realm of otherness, the idea here is the implied belief that for the echo to exist it needs to comply with the subconscious control of the subject. This script, this responsibility for the subject’s identity, is therefore the construct of the subject, and unconsciously signed by the other. This is the contract of duality alluded to in much of Hegel’s writings on the relational dyad between the master and the slave (Villet, 2011).
One means for the other to remove itself from the deadening embrace of compliance is by becoming the subject in its own way. This escape into the supremacy of narcissism therefore involves the creation of alternative echoes that will hold aspects of it’s own egoic persona no longer deemed as acceptable. This psychologically involves the other self-denigrating that which makes it unique; its colour, its gender, is sexuality, etc, the hiding, suppression, or ridiculing of these aspects beginning the internalisation of this supremacy of the subject. This is how it embraces its acceptance of the unconscious contact discussed earlier, its compliance now complete.
The most fearful aspect for the supremacist is that its power, its sense of control and dominion over the other is challenged most of all by the rising up of said other into some semblance of self-identity. It is this movement from the position of the echo, into an authentic standpoint as the other that will inevitably involve a shift from compliance towards authenticity and/or rebellion and the fight for justice.
Ultimately, the gradual creep of compliance can be tricky to spot. In co-dependent relationships, it could appear in the gradual giving up of aspects of self one used to hang on to; friends, hobbies, places that one liked to visit. It can come up in changes in behaviour, the clothes one wears, the words one uses in everyday speech. The drive to comply, as governed by the subject, can lead to a type of double consciousness that makes being authentically oneself within environments impossible, and where to be such is deemed unacceptable.
Inwardly though, compliance is one of the obstacles against fully engaging with one's sense of otherness. It is a barrier against creativity of self, against thinking about what one wants to do, who one wants to be, or where one wants to go. It is in particular though a defence against individuation and the quest for self-identity. Elongated compliance to the supremacy of the subject is ultimately an affront against the will of the Soul itself.
Homer, S. (2007). Jacques Lacan: Routledge critical thinkers (Kindle Edition). UK: Routledge.
Ogden, T. H. (1979). On Projective Identification. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 60, 357–373.
Villet, C. (2011). Hegel and Fanon on the Question of Mutual Recognition: A Comparative Analysis by. The Journal of Pan African Studies, 4(7), 39–51.
von Franz, M.-L. (1980). Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology. UK: Open Court Publications.
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my Research Project conducted via the University of Northampton and the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE)
New YouTube Channel: Being The Other
Being The Other (press the name to be taken through to YouTube) is a channel by the Other, for the Other. Based upon my own doctoral studies, this channel seeks to challenge some of the narrow stereotypes around the experience of being the other, offering a newly developing perspective on experiences as the other.
Please subscribe, follow us on Twitter or Facebook under the same title and I look forward to working with you.
Blog entries from Oct 14 to May 15:
Oct 2014: The Other PT1: Kristeva, Power and the Other
Nov 2014: The Other PT2: When Echo needs to speak up!
Jan 2015: The Other PT3: The problem with the assimilation of the Other
Mar 2015: The Other PT4: Outsider, the Genius
May 2015: The Other PT 6: Encounters with the Other within the global marketplace
Feb 2015: ICON: The black superhero in the Superhero Age
Blog entries from April 14 to Sept 14:
April 2014: Sozinho - the quest for intimacy
June 2014: Copa de Monde Brazil: An Afrocentric perspective
May 2014: Cosmospirituality - (Part One)
July 2014: Afro-Spirituality explored (Part Two)
Sept 2014: A post-colonial exploration of our Afrocentric identity (Part Three)
This Blog is copyrighted by Dwight Turner Counselling Ltd (c) and is influenced by my Research Project conducted via the University of Northampton and the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE)