you can’t make this stuff up (but Freud could)

Out of idle curiosity, I just spent a few minutes looking up the origin of the phrase “the narcissism of small differences.” Turns out it’s one of Freud’s many contributions to our lexicon, and originates in his 1917 article The Taboo of Virginity:

Crawley, in terms that are hardly distinguishable from those employed by psychoanalysis, sets forth how each individual is separated from the others by a “taboo of personal isolation” and that it is precisely the little dissimilarities in persons who are otherwise alike that arouse feelings of strangeness and enmity between them. It would be tempting to follow up this idea and trace back to this “narcissism of small differences” the antagonism which in all human relations we see successfully combating feelings of fellowship and the commandment of love towards all men.

…so there’s that question answered. As Freud goes, this is positively lucid prose; for context, the very next sentence is: Psychoanalysis believes that, in pointing out the castration complex and its influence on the estimation in which women are held, it has discovered one of the chief factors underlying the narcissistic rejection of women by men that is so liberally mingled with disdain.

And then there are lots of other little gems in the same article, like this one:

We know, however, that the first act of intercourse is by no means always followed by this behaviour; very often the experience merely signifies a disappointment to the woman, who remains cold and unsatisfied; usually it takes some time and frequent repetition of the sexual act before satisfaction in it for her too sets in.

Freud justifiably gets a lot of credit for revolutionizing the study of the mind, but it’s worth remembering that he also did a lot of cocaine.