Terminology (II)

Earlier today, I posted some definitions of words, or rather, not so much “definitions” as a guide to how I use those words, to what they mean to me. I defined “compulsion,” and “addiction,” and “acting out.”

Here’s another one, requested by a reader:


This is a funny one for me. There are really two very different, but related, ways in which this word is used. Generally speaking, people use it to mean “self-regarding,” or “self-loving,” or “self-admiring.” Maybe with some self-centeredness thrown in. Google defines it as “excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.”

This is not how I generally use it. I use it in the more psychoanalytic sense, to mean, “the centrality of the regulation of one’s self-esteem.” In English – a narcissist sees the single most important thing she does all day long as doing whatever it takes to feel good about herself. Often, this looks like the more popular meaning of the word, but this definition gets to the underlying cause, and feels more accurate to me. Both as a description of narcissists in general and as a description of my own understanding of my own narcissism. Incidentally, and interestingly, some have analogized narcissism to “addiction to self-esteem.”

Got other words you want me to define? (A friend recently lamented that I use too many big words, and suggested that, whenever I find myself using words of more than six letters, I should have to reduce by 50% the length of any piece in which such words appear.)


  1. Thanks, N. These subjective descriptions help me wrap my mind around these ideas in a way that I can’t just by their objective definitions.

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