Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Narcissistic Bubble

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 27, 2010

      I have thought about relationships as I work with a number of couples in my practice.  I have noticed  that when two people form a narcissistic bubble, then the relationship seems to have better fiber. What do I mean by a narcissistic bubble? Did I not say that I would use less jargon? Sometimes, jargon is helpful. Jargon gives us language to express an idea concisely. In fact, in this blog, I hope to create new jargon. I want to take the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism and extend it to couples work. In this way, I am still trying to focus my blog.

    Narcissism is love of oneself. The name “narcissism” is derived from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. As punishment, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.

   I would argue that when one views another person, their significant other, or in the new lingo their “plus one,”  as a part of themselves then they take pride in their accomplishments, feel pain when the other feels pain, and watches their back.  One could call this love. Others call this attachment. I call it the creation of a narcissistic bubble. As I write this, I hear people telling me that sometimes these bubbles can be harmful. The boundaries could be blurred. The relationship could be unhealthy. To that I say, of course. Still, a couple has to form a narcissistic bubble to create a team. Each one has to see the other as extensions of themselves. This bubble formation creates a union which has strength and durability. The resistance to forming this bubble creates relationship tension and deeply hurt feelings.

     In further thinking about this, I see that a family, as I define it, is a narcissistic bubble as well. By that I mean that to take care of another human being, one has to feel personally invested. I would argue that all investments are narcissistic in that each person expends energy to see reflections of  himself. Some people call this enlightened self-interest, in that if one takes care of their children, then one is consciously or unconsciously hoping  that one day those children will take care of them. Although that may be true, , that is not the dimension that I am talking about here. I am highlighting the point that love involves a narcissistic attachment where one has to view the other person as an extension of themselves to form a connection. Another way of saying this is that all love is self-love. The problem comes in when the other person does not act in a way which is line with one’s view of oneself. When this happens, tensions ensue and there is a struggle to re-define the relationship and there is a struggle to redefine one’s self.

    The trite saying that one has to love oneself to love another, holds true. However, I am expanding this idea so that we can talk about loving another as a reflection of ourselves in the healthy sense of that love. Most people assume that when one views another as an extension of themselves, then that is unhealthy. Although it can be pathological, as with most things, it is all a matter of degree. When there is  a broad idea of this extension of oneself, then the attachment can be quite positive. On the other hand, when the extension is a very narrow concept, then the relationship can be quite stifling.

    We are born alone and we die alone and the world is a large and scary place. Bubbles provide a clear demarcation. Narcissistic bubbles help us cope.

6 Responses to “Narcissistic Bubble”

  1. Shelly said

    Interesting blog. I learned something. But what about the bubbles in our work environment? Bubbles in our friendships? Bubbles with our neighbors?

    Without these bubbles in everyday life, we lose our place in society and begin to believe that the world is a big bad place.

    Thanks!

  2. I am thinking about these bubbles. There are strong bubbles and weak bubbles. Maybe I need a new metaphor to describe the difference in strength of these bubbles. Sociologists call these strong ties and weak ties. Yes, we need these ties to cope, yet each one of us has a different idea of what these ties should do for us. When the expectations clash, trouble ensues. This is a rough piece. It needs more work. Thanks!

  3. Judy said

    Your observations beautifully and accurately describe what’s supposed to happen in a marriage. What might you call a situation in which one member of a couple consistently refuses to join the other in a bubble? Lonely, frustrating, hurtful to the partner for sure. What pathology’s at work — or is it necessarily pathological?

  4. Hi Judy,
    Yes, I agree. I think pathology is at work when the bubble cannot form in that we need to form bubbles for survival. As such, if we cannot connect, we will not thrive. I would say that behavior which prevents our survival is pathological. I think the types of pathology which prevent connection are very varied. Again, I appreciate your thoughts.

  5. Hmm… Interesting! I always love reading the posts on this website.

  6. Thanks.

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