IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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Freud’s metapsychology, nor does classical drive theory accord particular significance to developmental history further to the theory of libidinal stages. The problem of object-relations, however, is inherent in classical theory, insofar as “instincts are directed towards objects and objects can only be of significance if the individual has some drive to relate to them” (Rycroft 1995: 83-4). While object relations and drives are not necessarily intrinsic opposites in a formal sense, nonetheless the distinction can apply when it comes to practical evaluations and clinical discriminations, especially from the British Object Relations point of view. Consequently, historically, psychoanalytical perspectives have been often viewed as divisible into instinct theories and object-relations theories. Freud used the term object throughout his writings on many aspects of the development of his theory, including motivation, structure, development, psychopathology, etc. (Freud, 1905, 1914, 1915, 1917a, 1919, 1920, 1923, 1926). The Freudian object is always firmly and primarily linked to the drive, in developmental or pathological transformation alike (1905, 1938). In his writings Freud explored various complexities of the mechanisms of internalization and externalization, and identificatory and projective mechanisms, relevant to the later object relations theories. Examples are his work on Melancholia (Freud, 1917a) and the formation of the Superego, an heir to the Oedipal complex (1923, 1931, 1938). His paper on Narcissism (Freud, 1914), frequently considered, together with Mourning and Melancholia (Freud, 1917a) as containing roots of object relations theories, articulates the concept of object choice, distinguishing between developmentally early narcissistic type and later anaclitic type. When using the term object relations first in Mourning and Melancholia (Freud, 1917a) he speaks of identification as ‘a preliminary stage of object-choice’ : “… the first way in which the ego picks out an object, …the ego wants to incorporate this object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development at which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it” (pp. 249-250). What Freud seems later to have regarded as the most significant feature of this paper was precisely its account of the process by which in melancholia an object-cathexis is replaced by identification. A few years later, in Group Psychology (1921), where the subject of identification is taken up again, a change in the earlier view—or perhaps only a clarification of it—seems to emerge. Identification, there, is something that precedes object-cathexis and is distinct from it. In addition, returning to the topic of identification, in Group Psychology Freud used the word ‘introjection’ at several points. He writes: “First, identification is the original form of emotional tie with an object; secondly, in a regressive way it becomes a substitute for a libidinal object-tie, as it were by means of introjection of the object into the ego; and thirdly, it may arise with any new perception of a common quality shared with some other person who is not an object of the sexual instinct (Freud, 1921, pp.106-107). II. A. Roots in Freud – Building Blocks Perspective: Significance of Identification and Object Loss in Structure Formation


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