Relational Systems of Subjugation
By Daniel Shaw
Routledge – 2014 – 172 pages
In this volume, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation, Daniel Shaw presents a way of understanding the traumatic impact of narcissism as it is engendered developmentally, and as it is enacted relationally. Focusing on the dynamics of narcissism in interpersonal relations, Shaw describes the relational system of what he terms the 'traumatizing narcissist' as a system of subjugation – the objectification of one person in a relationship as the means of enforcing the dominance of the subjectivity of the other.
Daniel Shaw illustrates the workings of this relational system of subjugation in a variety of contexts: theorizing traumatic narcissism as an intergenerationally transmitted relational/developmental trauma; and exploring the clinician's experience working with the adult children of traumatizing narcissists. He explores the relationship of cult leaders and their followers, and examines how traumatic narcissism has lingered vestigially in some aspects of the psychoanalytic profession.
Bringing together theories of trauma and attachment, intersubjectivity and complementarity, and the rich clinical sensibility of the Relational Psychoanalysis tradition, Shaw demonstrates how narcissism can best be understood not merely as character, but as the result of the specific trauma of subjugation, in which one person is required to become the object for a significant other who demands hegemonic subjectivity. Traumatic Narcissism presents therapeutic clinical opportunities not only for psychoanalysts of different schools, but for all mental health professionals working with a wide variety of modalities. Although primarily intended for the professional psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, this is also a book that therapy patients and lay readers will find highly readable and illuminating.
"This book belongs on my shelf between Leonard Shengold’s Soul Murder (Shengold, 1989) and Bernard Brandchaft’s pathological accommodation work (Brandchaft, Doctors, & Sorter, 2010). To these irreplaceable resources, Shaw adds not only his extensive studies of the precise mechanisms of soul destruction in cults and cult-like groups (such as allegedly therapeutic cults and the large group awareness trainings—LGATs) , as well as his own description of cult-like families ruled by traumatizing narcissists."
-Donna Orange, International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology
"Readers will be compelled by Daniel Shaw's differentiated and lucid account of relational trauma and non-recognition in the shaping of what has been called narcissism. The book's intelligent and compassionate portrayal of clinical dilemmas involved in working with those who have suffered in abusive subjugating relationships is ideal for students and advanced practitioners. Traumatic Narcissism offers an original and captivating analysis of the relational configurations and painful emotions that lead to and so often prevent emergence from submission. While his thinking is informed by a broad theoretical knowledge, equally impressive is Shaw's exemplary dedication to exploring how we can use our own experience and personal honesty in order to transcend shame and confront the pitfalls of being an analyst while still maintaining our focus on recognizing the patient." - Jessica Benjamin, author of Shadow of the Other
"Daniel Shaw has written a fascinating book that places his personal psychological journey in the well-researched context of his larger compelling theory of traumatic narcissism. Inspired by his own experience in a cult with a guru whom he eventually came to see as a traumatizing narcissist, and enlivened with numerous clinical case examples, this absorbing and far-ranging book traces the history of traumatic narcissism from ancient times to the vagaries of the current political scene." - Sheldon Bach, PhD, Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychology, NYU Post Doctorial Program in Psychoanalysis
"This book is a must-read for any of us who have worked with victims of traumatizing narcissists or been their victims ourselves. Whether drawing on his personal experience in the clinic and in cults, or analyzing literary productions and the inner worlds of their creators, Dan Shaw brings vividly to life the relational world of those bent on subjugating others -- and of those who have been subjugated by them. Not since Benjamin’s The Bonds of Love has there been such a powerful analysis of the psychic life of domination and submission, complemented by a moving account of the effect of analytic love. Perhaps only someone like Shaw, who has known firsthand the psychic effects and needs fulfilled by living in a world of traumatizing narcissists, could have provided such a compassionate and helpful guide for clinicians engaged in the painful work of helping those who have been drawn into the traumatizing narcissist’s relational system." - Lynne Layton, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis
"Daniel Shaw has written an astute, dramatic portrayal of the traumatizing narcissist’s subjugation and destruction of another’s subjectivity as it emerges in families, cult-like groups and even in the psychoanalytic profession itself. He boldly offers "analytic love" as the avenue of restoration of subjectivity. Professionals of all levels will be riveted as they expand their understanding of these phenomena." - James L. Fosshage, Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychology, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
"Dan Shaw's fine study of what he calls "traumatic narcissism" explores the toxic forms of self-involvement in areas as diverse as the life of Eugene O'Neill, a number of his patients, and in his own experience with a guru. Shaw is at his best, however, exploring some of the dark corners of the cultic world of psychoanalysis itself. He holds a mirror up to those who claim the authority of self-understanding. Not all reflect well. Wisely, for all the anger and despair in this book, Shaw ends in hope that is cautious but authentic." - Charles B. Strozier, an historian at the City University of New York and a practicing psychoanalyst
Preface. Acknowledgements.The Relationality of Narcissism.The Adult Child of the Traumatizing Narcissist: Enter Ghosts! Traumatizing Narcissism in Cults.Narcissistic Authoritarianism in Psychoanalysis. Traumatizing Narcissism in Couples: Invisible Violence and Clinical Morality. "But What Do I Do?" Finding the Path to Freedom. On the Therapeutic Action of Analytic Love. Analytic Love Revisited.
Daniel Shaw, LCSW is a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, and in Nyack, New York. He is a training analyst, teacher and supervisor of analytic candidates at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City.