The Theory of Object Relations Essay

4038 Words Sep 23rd, 2012 17 Pages

Kernberg generally defines object relations theory as the psychoanalytic study of intrapersonal relations and how intrapsychic structures grow from internalized past relationships with others.
Broadly, object relations theory could refer to a general theory of the structures of the mind influenced by interpersonal experiences.
More narrowly, object relations theory is a more circumspect approach within psychoanalysis, stressing the construction of structures from internal objects – that is, self-representations linked with object-representations.


An Object is a mental image of a person, a mental image colored with feelings. Kernberg’s work examines the
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If frustration or aggression is present in the interaction, the introject(self-mother-bad feeling) is taken in as a bad internal object.
The intensity and kind of feeling during the process of introjections influences the fusion of the self-images and object-images as well as the later organization of personality structures. Introjects of positive/negative feelings are kept apart at this level of development because they can happen separately and because the ego is too immature to integrate feelings that are dissimilar. Splitting or keeping apart dissimilar affective experiences helps modify the intensity of feelings and anxiety. Later, the maturing ego uses this mechanism of splitting more actively for defensive purposes.
Introjection plays a key role in when and how the ego is formed. Kernberg believes that some ego functions (perception & memory) exist from the beginning of life. Because the child can see and remember, the child can introject object relations, which serve as early psychic structures.

Identification is a second level and higher form of internalization than introjection. It appears only when the child has matured enough perceptually and cognitively to recognize the role aspects in interactions with people. For example, when a mother helps a child get dressed, she is both initiating and actualizing the role of parent to help, to teach, and so

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