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Engage with the teachings of Lionel Corbett to cultivate your understanding of narcissism through the lens of depth psychology.

In this course, Jungian analyst Lionel Corbett will explore the psychology of narcissism. He will also discuss the phenomenon of malignant narcissism and will dive into Ovid’s tale of Narcissus.

Number of Classes:

4 Class Course

Class Length:

90 mins

What you will receive


4 Video & 4 Audio recordings


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Course Description

Narcissism is a fashionable diagnosis today, frequently used to explain reckless political and social behavior with no regard for the feelings of other people.

People familiar with Lionel Corbett’s teaching will recognize that his teaching transcends mere instruction. In four classes, he will enter the intricate depth psychological realm of narcissism. As a Jungian Analyst and Professor of Depth Psychology, Corbett is an invaluable guide while we navigate the complexities of this topic.

Narcissism is often portrayed as excessive self-love, but that is only an appearance. Having a strong sense of self, reasonable self-esteem and feelings of self-worth is healthy. However, a narcissist feels insignificant or inadequate, but will not admit to these feelings. The narcissist’s outward bluster and swagger conceal a fear of humiliation.

A narcissist is a character who’s arrogant and aloof, with fantasies of how wonderful they are. They feel special and superior. Although they may appear confident, they have a very fragile ego. They have low self-esteem and low self-worth. Narcissists need external praise and encouragement all the time. They seek affirmation from the outside because they can’t affirm themselves.

This series of four talks will describe the psychology of narcissism and its development, focusing especially on the ideas of Heinz Kohut, and his ideas about the psychotherapeutic treatment of this disorder.

Corbett will also discuss the problem of malignant narcissism, which is so common among authoritarian leaders.

Finally, he will look at Ovid’s story of Narcissus to see if this myth is relevant to contemporary ideas about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

This course is ideal if

  • You want to develop a depth psychological perspective on narcissism, delving into the hidden or unconscious facets of the human psyche.
  • You want to draw from the insights of notable thinkers such as Heinz Kohut and Carl Jung to enhance your understanding of narcissism.
  • You want to learn to recognize narcissistic features in people around you like coworkers, acquaintances or politicians.
  • If you are working with people in a clinical setting: narcissistic pathology is prevalent nowadays.

Course Overview

Class 1. What is Narcissism? Types, causes, and traits

Like the Queen in Snow White, the narcissist has a profound inner lack, and requires constant mirroring and validation from the outside world to compensate for it. In this first class, we examine this popular fairy tale, investigating what the Queen and her vengeful quests reveal about narcissistic needs and the narcissistic rage that ensues when those needs aren’t met. Corbett explores what constitutes healthy narcissism. He discusses the causes and traits of pathological narcissism, including its most dangerous manifestation—the malignant narcissist. Using analytical theory and examples from fairy tales, history, and the world today, Corbett paints a vivid picture of the inner and outer life of the narcissist.

Class 2. Narcissism in Childhood and Therapeutic Responses

What can the fable of The Fisherman and His Wife tell us about narcissism? Corbett begins the class by analysing this well-known fable of a wish-granting fish and a power-hungry wife—a fable about a narcissistic hunger which cannot be satisfied. For Heinz Kohut, a child comes into the world wanting connection. If the child is responded to appropriately, if they are made to feel special and valued and the same as others. Kohut believed that the child’s natural, healthy narcissism would develop into a sturdy, realistic, and lively sense of self. If not, the resulting fragile self is painfully vulnerable and rigidly defended. When clients with this inner sense of emptiness arrive in the consulting room, what is asked of the therapist?

In this second class, Corbett deepens our exploration of narcissism in early childhood. He explains important concepts, and unpacks the difference between Kohut’s view of narcissism and that of earlier analysts like Freud.

Class 3. Selfobject, Transference, and the role of Empathy.

Corbett begins the class by presenting Kohut’s theories and questions arising from them. Jung described projection onto the therapist as ultimately a “search for a god.” For Kohut, a related concept was “idealising transference,” where the client seeks in the therapist somebody they can look up to, who they can admire, who is special, wise, knowledgeable—especially if this was a significant lack in childhood.

Idealising transference and the therapist’s empathetic responses were central to Kohut’s theory of cure; he was less concerned with patient insight or relationship to the Unconscious. The particular empathy Kohut proposed involved the therapist allowing themselves to become immersed in the inner world of the client and respond from that “experience-near” place—very different from the stance of the classical “neutral” analyst. Corbett considers the challenges of the narcissistic patient in therapy with theory, examples, and anecdotes; he also suggests ways therapists can identify their own narcissistic needs in regard to their clients.

Finally, Corbett looks at the Oedipus story and the Oedipal Complex, contrasting how they were understood by Freud and Kohut. For Freud, the Oedipus story and complex began in lust for the mother; Kohut felt the real story began with an abandoned child with wounded feet . . . a profound injury to the child’s natural, healthy narcissistic needs.

Class 4: Echo, Narcissus, and the God Image

Whilst most will be familiar with the image of a youth pining over his reflection in the water, the beginning of the myth of Echo and Narcissus is less well known—the rape of Narcissus’ mother Liriope by the river god Cephissus. What does this initiating event tell us about the causes of narcissism? And what is meant by the strange prophecy at Narcissus’ birth that he will “live to a ripe old age, as long as he never knows himself”? Corbett reflects on ancient beliefs on the power of the reflected image—in which the reflection is thought to carry soul in some way—and proposes that when Narcissus sees himself in the water, it may be the first time he’s glimpsed himself as anything other than an ego. His desire to merge with the reflection is then reminiscent of narcissistic grandiosity, which is a merger of the ego with the Self, an identification with the Self, rather than development of a relationship with the Self.

Corbett closes with a discussion of narcissism in religion and society, looking particularly at the God of the Old Testament, his need for praise and exclusivity, and his punishments which can seem so disproportionate. He proposes that such characteristics may have little to do with the divine, but rather with ordinary human beings projecting their narcissistic injuries, vulnerability, and narcissistic rage onto the godhead.

By the end of this course you will

  • Have a comprehensive understanding of the influential concepts presented by Heinz Kohut in the field of psychology and their application in contemporary psychological practices and theories.
  • Be able to analyze characteristics of malignant narcissism, enabling you to recognize its manifestations and implications in real-world scenarios.
  • Be able to examine and interpret Ovid's story of Narcissus, to discern some of the underlying aspects of narcissism.
  • Be equipped with knowledge on how to understand narcissism from a depth perspective.


We here at Jung Platform want to make these programs available to anyone. If you would love to participate yet can’t pay for the full course, then please send us an email at [email protected] and describe why you feel you qualify for a scholarship, how much you can pay, and what you will do to help the Jung Platform promote this and other programs.

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