Fairbairn's Theory Of Object Relationships

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A fundamental principle of psychodynamic theory is that dynamic unconscious forces shape how an individual interacts with and perceives the world. Freud posited that people do not perceive others and objects directly; rather, they relate to the outside world on the basis of internal mental representations, which are cathected (i.e., invested with emotions) with aggressive or libidinal energy (i.e., drives). These representations are comprised of various thoughts, memories and fantasies of important objects from one’s development (e.g., caregiver), and form the unconscious basis for all conscious actions. Because drives are essentially formless, psychic energies, one cannot experience the drive itself, just its representation or ideas in the…show more content…
According to Fairbairn, early object relationships with satisfying objects leads to ego integration. The satisfying object becomes internalized as the “accepting object”, and stays within the ego becoming what he called the central ego. Conversely, if one grows up with unsatisfying, bad object relationships, such as those with abusive or unresponsive caregivers, a pathological eversion from external reality takes place (Summers, 1994). Rita was raised by an abusive, alcoholic father; therefore, one could conclude that her early object relationships were unsatisfying. Fairbairn assumed that one of the early ways that the child attempts to stay attached to the rejecting objects is to internalize them because containing them internally gives him access to the objects when they are unavailable in reality (Summers, 1994; Summers, 2005). Since Rita could not access the unresponsive aspects of her father (i.e., the bad object) in reality, she used fantasy to internalize features of him as now being inside of him or her. Per Fairbairn, children hold on to an abusive relationship because the bond to the caregiver trumps any pleasure (Summers, 2005). Despite his abusive nature, Rita still desired to maintain a connection with her father. So, she internalized him as a bad object, and in doing so, he became part of her internal…show more content…
According to Fairbairn, one could posit that she is dominated by her libidinal ego, which incessantly pursues the exciting object. Despite the fact that her internal bad object (father) was abusive and neglecting, her actions indicated that she still hold onto the hope that the exciting object (Summer, 1994). All painful or traumatic memories of her father are repressed when the hopeful self (libidinal ego) represses the abused self (anti-libidinal ego). Rita consciously believes that the exciting object (the only object her libidinal ego is consciously aware of) will eventually love and nurture her someday (Summer, 1994; Summers, 2005) Fairbairn believed that internalized bad objects are stubborn, thus difficult to relinquish. Internalized bad objects shape one’s relationships according to early, internalized pattern from which they are derived. So the reason Rita continues to seek out similar dysfunctional relationships throughout her life because they are familiar and elicit predictable, “comfortable” patterns of relating. Furthermore, since the bad object becomes an ego structure, getting rid of it creates a void in the psyche – the sense of self is disrupted (Summers,
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