According to Kernberg, the great argument for making the at­tempt at all, in the face of the many difficulties presented by nar­cissistic patients, is the devastating effect of narcissism on the sec­ond half of their lives—the certainty of the terrible suffering that lies in store. In a society that dreads old age and death, aging holds a special terror for those who fear dependence and whose self-esteem requires the admiration usually reserved for youth, beauty, celebrity, or charm. The usual defenses against the rav­ages of age—identification with ethical or artistic values beyond one’s immediate interests, intellectual curiosity, the consoling emotional warmth derived from happy relationships in the past— can do nothing for the narcissist. Unable to derive whatever com­fort comes from identification with historical continuity, he finds it impossible, on the contrary, “to accept the fact that a younger generation now possesses many of the previously cherished grati­fications of beauty, wealth, power and, particularly, creativity. To be able to enjoy life in a process involving a growing iden­tification with other people’s happiness and achievements is tragi­cally beyond the capacity of narcissistic personalities.”

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