IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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Pathological organisation ↨ PS position ↔ Depressive position

A pathological organisation is seen as forming a defensive structure under conditions of severe environmental failure and/or an excess of envy and destructiveness in the personality. The ordinary integration of good and bad objects has not properly occurred, because rather than ordinary binary splitting into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ self and object in the paranoid schizoid position, excessive fragmentation and confusion of good and bad has occurred, leading potentially to an unbearable psychotic or near- psychotic state where the inner world is full of persecuting and confusing fragmented objects. The pathological organisation enables patients to avoid overwhelming persecutory and depressive anxieties by avoiding emotional contact with others and with internal and external reality. It functions by gathering the fragmented and confused part objects into a perverse, hatred-suffused structure. One form of this is the ‘gang’, or ‘mafia’ described by Rosenfeld (1971). Such an organisation of the personality often eventually shows itself in analysis in dreams or associations about criminal gangs which control and intimidate the ‘sane’ or healthy parts of the personality, promising shelter and relief from persecutory or depressive anxiety. The apparently healthy parts of these complex structures are however likely to be involved in collusive and perverse relationships within the pathological structure. (See also entry CONTAINMENT: CONTAINER-CONTAINED) Steiner’s later (1993) work on ‘psychic retreats’ broadens and develops the idea of pathological organisations. He shows how such retreats are ubiquitous and can take many forms, but always exist to maintain psychic equilibrium in the face of unmanageable anxieties.

IV. B. Developments in the Independent Tradition

IV. Ba. Bollas: Transformational Object Christopher Bollas (1987, p. 14) introduced the term “transformational object” in the wake on Winnicott’s notion of the ‘environment’ mother, suggesting that in the early infant- mother interaction “the mother is less significant and identifiable as an object than as a process.” Before the mother is “personalized for the infant as a whole object.” Bollas (1987, p. 28) argues, “she has functioned as a region or source of transformation.” Thus, while “not yet fully identifiable as an other, the mother is experienced as a process of transformation, and this feature of early existence lives on in certain forms of object-seeking in adult life, when the object is sought for its function as a signifier of transformation.” (1987, p. 14) Bollas expands the psychoanalytic understanding of object-relations, particularly with respect to what he calls “the integrity of the object.” “I have found it rather surprising”, writes Bollas (1992, p. 4; emphasis in the original), “that in object relations theory little thought is given to the distinct structure of the object, which is usually seen as a container of the


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