Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality Paperback – 1 Sep 1994
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`I liked this collection of papers very much and welcome the opportunity to become better acquainted with Fairbairn's work.' - Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
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When the baby is in the womb, he is in a state of oceanic oneness with his mother. He is her and she is him. At some point after birth the child splits his impression of his mother as either frustrating/withdrawing/'bad' or rewarding/satisfying/'good.' Since the young child needs to maintain a good relationship with his mother in order to meet his basic needs, he swallows or takes in, or internalizes an image of his mother that is 'bad' into his psyche. Since "libido is object seeking," the child continues to have an ongoing relationship with his "mother in his mind." The person goes through life from the reference point of having this 'bad' part-object in his mind. The degree to which this 'bad object' allures and rejects him, counsels him on how to interact and view others in the external environment. As I understand it, this can lead to two patterns of interpersonal relating. The term object relations means interpersonal relations while keeping intra-psychic relations in mind.
If the person's image of himself is fused with his 'bad-part' object, he will have a hard time loving others in the environment because his libido/love has already found his love - inside, hence the story of Narcissus admiring himself in the mirror. Those with the narcissistic pattern are bound or loyal to "themselves" due to this inner fusion-like state. Those with this pattern feel that they are superior to others because after all, from an infant's point of view, mother is god and they are mother.
Those with the co-dependent pattern are a little less identified with the bad-part object but are still heavily influenced by it. The voice of the 'bad' mother part object keeps telling him that he is bad and that goodness is outside of him. He then lives with this hidden guilt and feels that he needs to always make others good. Those with this pattern try to heal others in order to make them good so that they can feel safe.
"... the child would rather be bad himself than have bad objects; and accordingly we have some justification for surmising that one of his motives in becoming bad is to make his objects 'good.' In becoming bad he is really taking upon himself the burden of badness which appears to reside in his objects. By this means he seeks to purge them of their badness; and, in proportion as he succeeds in doing so, he is rewarded by that sense of security which an environment of good objects so characteristically confers." pg 65
In adult love relationships, these two dysfunctional patterns often find each other. For some sense of outer security, the one with the co-dependent pattern will marry the person with narcissistic pattern in effect saying, "You are good and I am no good. We are a match." Those with narcissistic pattern in effect are saying, "Hey, if you want to idolize me, then giving you the opportunity to do so will be my gift to you." The vast majority of self help books are purchased by those with the co-dependent pattern, who also often refer to themselves as hopeless romantics, while those with the narcissistic pattern rarely seek therapeutic help because of their charm and pseudo independence.
A small percentage of those who have the co-dependent pattern falsely believe that being treated badly is a sign of being loved, thus employing the "masochistic technique." A small percentage of those with the narcissistic pattern collude and go along with this unconscious situation by treating their co-dependent-patterned partners in a cruel way (including micro aggression) as a sign of loyalty to their "mothers in their minds," thus employing the "sadistic technique." In both cases, "pleasure" comes from the connection with the mother-part object within.
"At this point it is worth considering whence bad objects derive their power over the individual. If the child's objects are bad, how does he ever come to internalize them? Why does he not simply reject them as he might reject 'bad' cornflour pudding or 'bad' castor oil? As a matter of fact, the child usually experiences considerable difficulty in rejecting castor oil, as some of us may know from personal experience. He would reject it if he could; but he is allowed no opportunity to do so. The same applies to his bad objects. However much he may want to reject them, he cannot get away from them. They force themselves upon him. He is accordingly compelled to internalize them in an effort to control them. But, in attempting to control them in this way, he is internalizing objects which have wielded power over him in the external world; and these objects retain their prestige for power over him in the inner world. In a word, he is 'possessed' by them, as if by evil spirits. This is not all, however. The child not only internalizes his bad objects because they force themselves upon him and he seeks to control them, but also, and above all, because he needs them. If a child's parents are bad objects, he cannot reject them, even if they do not force themselves upon him; for he cannot do without them. Even if they neglect him, he cannot reject them; for, if they neglect him, his need for them is increased. pg 67
The solution, as often noted, is some combination of self awareness, grief work, self re-parenting, dialogue and feeling one's way in the world. I think Fairbairn's work is a remarkable achievement in linking how we relate to ourselves in our inner worlds/psyches with how we relate to others in the outer world. This book could very well be The Father of All Self Help Books.
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