IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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The abovementioned variability can be classificied according to the breadth of the definitions: 1. In the broadest terms, psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory refers to the psychoanalytic study of the nature of interpersonal relations, and of the development of intrapsychic structures deriving from internalized relations with others in the context of present interpersonal relations and overall personality organization and functioning. In this widest context, psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory would include all the vicissitudes of the relationship between the intrapsychic and the interpersonal fields. From this vantage point, psychoanalysis as a general theory is in fact an Object Relations Theory. Thus broadly defined, psychoanalytic Object Relations Theory has been referred to as an intermediate ground - a “middle” language between the metapsychological and clinical “languages” (Mayman1963; Rapaport and Gill, 1959). In North America, this wide conceptualization was used and integrated with Ego Psychology by Schafer (1968) and Modell (1968). 2. In a more restricted ‘middle’ definition, Object Relations Theory refers to the gradual construction of “dyadic or bipolar intrapsychic representations (self- and object- images) as reflections of the original infant-mother relationship and its later development into dyadic, triangular, and multiple internal and external interpersonal relationships” (Kernberg, 1977, p 57). The core commonality among many variations is the essentially dyadic bipolar nature of the internalization within each unit of self- and object image established in a particular affective context. This approach draws historically on the British school of Melanie Klein (1934, 1940, 1946), Fairbairn (1952), Winnicott (1955, 1958, 1960a,b, 1963), Bowlby (1969); the Ego psychological approaches of Erikson (1956), Jacobson (1964), and Mahler (1968; Mahler, Pine, Bergman, 1975); and in different ways also the Cultural, Interpersonal schools (Sullivan, 1953). Today, this definition also includes various widely defined Relational psychoanalytic approaches (S. Mitchell, 2000; Greenberg and Mitchell, 1983; Harris, 2011). Thus understood, Object Relations Theory, in its metapsychological, clinical and sociological implications, has variable overlap, although on admittedly different premises, with many ideas of Loewald (1978,1988), Lichtenstein (1970), Green (1985, 2002), Rosenfeld, (1983), Segal, (1991), Volkan (2006), and the ‘Third Model” of some French and French Canadian psychoanalysts. This definition provides a “major integrative framework which can link the psychosocial approachto … the subjective and experiential nature of human life…with the intrapsychic structures…in general metapsychology…” (Kernberg, 1977, p 58). This quality of ‘integrative framework’ within a historical perspective has also been emphasized by S. Mitchell, when, in his tribute to John Bowlby, he states (1998): “major relational authors have contributed to our clinical understanding of different facets and implications of human relationality and attachment. Fairbairn explored the psychodynamics of attachments to physically or emotionally absent parenting figures. Winnicott illuminated the subtle ways in which secure attachment facilitates the development of a personal sense of self and the ways in which the absence of such parental functions adaptively forecloses such development. Loewald's innovative theorizing suggests that the apparent separation between the subject who attaches and the object of attachment overlays a primary process level of organization in which


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