Geographical Narcissism

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Fors, M. (2018, May 28). Geographical Narcissism in Psychotherapy: Countermapping Urban Assumptions About Power, Space, and Time. Psychoanalytic Psychology. Advance online publication.

Open access

From time to time, I circulate articles to a wide network of individuals around the world who are involved or have an interest in rural health and rural practice. This article is the one that triggered the most responses with comments that it resonates with their own rural experience. The author, Malin Fors, a psychotherapist in Hammerfest, a small community in the far north of Norway is involved in teaching University of Tromso medical and nursing students based in Finnmark county. In the article, she relates her own experience to the rural geography and psychology literature, as well as psychoanalysis. Essentially, the message is that the cities see their rural communities as existing for the aggrandisement of the cities. This is geographical narcissism.

Comment from Professor Roger Strasser – Professor of rural health at the University of Waikato

Saul Steinberg’s March 29, 1976 “View of the World from Ninth Avenue” cover of The New Yorker – image credit:


In the field of psychotherapy there is a subtle, often unconscious, devaluation of rural knowledge, conventions, and subjectivity, and a belief that urban reality is definitive. Through metaphors from geography and cartography and via psychoanalytic theory on privilege, I formulate urbanity as a seldom-addressed privilege and consider implications of the misrepresentation or absence of the rural world on the “map” of psychotherapy. I countermap urban biases on power, space, and time and explore consequences of frame, self-disclosure, ethics, and interpretations as I investigate urban valuing of specialized expertise over wisdom, urban disconnection from weather and distance, urban colonizing behavior, the dumping of incompetent professionals into rural areas, and the urban sense of entitlement to anonymity.

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One thought on “Geographical Narcissism

  1. What a wonderful exploration of the bias that underpin urban oppression and (dis)regard for rural identity. I love the classification of urbanity as privilege, it helps us frame consequential narcissism as the failure of the geographic few to appreciate the reality of the geographic majority. I wonder however, what psychotherapy exists that can cure our urban narcissistic invulnerability.

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