Foundation of the Self

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To understand what is happening in the world today, one must try and get into the objective concrete. The narcissist’s rigid mind is a person /society that lives primarily in a world of cardboard cutouts, good and bad objects to be used and manipulated to garnish narcissistic supply and idealisation. The narcissistic has endured a relationship injury, an emotional and spiritual castration normally induced by their paternal mother or father, due to lack of attunement, mirroring, emotional availability and ability to nurture/nourish the developing self.

To avoid re-experiencing unsatisfactory attunement, abandonment and rejection, the child may regress and introject an idealised version of the mother (Kohut’s  (1984) idealised parental imago), a mental representation of the perfect, caring and nourishing mother who is always present and available (normally pre-oedipal phase). The introjected image allows the ego to take over the functions of the external object .once carried within, there is a reduction in any risks of hostility or rejection between self and the other, with a heightened sense of control. The false self has been split off from the struggles and conflicts in relationships whilst maintaining the ego capacities for thoughts, perception and feelings via the parental introject, however, at a diminished and infantile development level. 

The ego state is established through fixation and introjection (Erskine 1988 ), fixated at the Child’s ego state, and articulated as an archaic state of mind, full of illusions and delusions as one has not fully experienced adult reality. As the functions have been introjected, any external event or experience that may threaten the symbiosis will collapse as the child/client has not developed internal structures supplemented by the introjected image.

Hargaden and Sills (2002) locate the sense of self in A0, the amniotic sac, and suggests that it “grows out of the interplay” (p.18) between C0 and P0. This interplay is between the child’s potential and the parent’s selective responses. When there are enough experiences of attuned interplay between the self (C0) and the mother (P0) then there is a healthy development of A0, with developed internalised representations of the self and the mother (C0/P0) to help support the healthy development of the core self.

Diagram 1 -Cohesive self (Hargaden, H. and Sills, C. (2002). Transactional analysis: A relational perspective. Brunner-Routledge, p24

When a child has been held and continues to experience a “good enough” relationship, their desire for intimate contact is encouraged and supported through the Child’s ego state’s development. The child’s sense of self is solid, reliable, positive, and secure. This allows the child to develop an ok sense of self and a foundation to build upon when experiencing the outer world.

Unmet needs in  C0 yearnings will correlate to the extent of the child`s need for continued idealising, mirroring and twinship transferences between self and object, enacted and experienced based on the level of psychological separation and development within the primary relationship. When the child’s experiences are one of accumulative distress, withdrawal or rejection, the child has to split off the unintegrated experiences (the shadow ), with the A0 remaining incomplete walled off in C0 or walled off within a part of P1 (The superego, see diagram 2 ). The natural instincts, bodily sensations and somatic intelligence have been cut off, with C0 isolated from any interplay with the parent or environment in P0. Repressed experiences are revealed through bodily and attachment behaviour, expectations, feeling and thoughts voiced in the therapist’s presence. Observation and interpretation of bodily movements and emotions are the way to understand non-verbal transferential relationships and to attain a deeper understanding of the underlying patterns between C0 and P0.

For Berne (1961), “the Child is a warped ego state which has become fixated and has changed the direction of the whole subsequent portion of the continuum.” (p.39). The Parent is the introjected aspect of the other, defensively identified with the ego. Ogden (1994) suggests the splitting of the ego only occurs early in development and “the identification with the object is of a poorly differentiated nature.” (p.100)

Diagram 2. Underdeveloped self

Bonds of loyalty

The relationship may also involve a bond of loyalty (Fairbairn,1952). Changing would mean changing the internal bond, and there is an investment to stay the same. In the sense of betrayal, encapsulated is a fear that the perceived relationship between the Child that has found a way to cope and the idealised Parent will be destroyed. Loyalty to this Child-Parent Relational unit (Little, 2006) may be, in part, an attempt to avoid falling into the black hole (Grotstein, 1994) of “nothinglessness, meaninglessness and helplessness.” Seinfeld (1996) suggested this black whole is associated with “the loss of both self and object.” (p.40)

Diagram 3- Relational Unit (Little,2006 )

The Child/client will attempt to enter into symbiosis (repeat of the relational unit ) to meet the development needs of C0, seeking to introject (take a snapshot of) the other /therapist to avoid separation anxiety at the expense of their unconscious strivings for emotional health and autonomy. Addictions, acting out, and compulsions can all replace the functions of P0 if the child is experiencing overwhelmed or separation anxiety. The working alliance with a therapist offers the Child/client to experience a new evolving sense of self  (C0 +P0) by transferring psychological needs onto a new idealised P0+ or demanding P1-, with the therapist allowing the child to impact them and share the experience, unlike the original primary caretaker. The cohesive self (C1) becomes the foundation on which the rest of the egoic structures A1 and P1 are built.

Child Development

  1. Fowlie (2003) suggests, “Babies are born both wanting and needing to be in relationship with others. They have the instinct to attach to; to reach out and connect to the other.”       (p.1)
  2. This is motivated by three innate related needs:
    • Contact ensures the physical survival of the infant.
    • The relationship between the child and her/his mother profoundly influences and affects all areas of the child’s personal development.
    • We are social beings and can only maintain psychological health through involvement with others.
  1. Berne (1963) describes this need as being realised and met through a series of psychological hunger and suggests that “A striving for intimacy underlies the most intense and important operations.” (p.217)
  2.  Without “the other” to relate to, a child cannot secure a sense of well-being.
  3.  Bowlby (1979) identifies attachment needs that shape a child’s behaviour. Schore (1994) details the central role that the first relationship plays in the child’s affective and psychological development.
Diagram 4 – Development needs of the child

So, we can see different survival strategies and patterns of behaviour within the child.

  1. Feared relationship -Extreme ego defences to avoid any repeat of vulnerability, abandonment, injury or rejection, walled off negative feelings and experiences projected onto the outside world.
  2. Longed for a relationship -Excessive clinging, compliance and submission in search of an idealised caretaker who will relieve the separation anxiety and desire of longing for a symbiotic relationship, returning to the motherly womb.

The P1+ Child manifests as an adoring, idealising, clinging, and needy Child who “longs” for a “perfect” parent who will come to protect, love and understand them. The P1+ Child works hard to keep the C1 Child hidden by soothing and attending to some of his/her needs for contact through daydreams and fantasies about empathic contact with these manufactured “fantasy” parents. The A1+ in Child having adopted and reinforced these rules leads the C1 Child to believe that the mother will only stay positive, provided the child is strong, perfect, or pleasing others. The more you become like the A1 + Child, the more your mother will love you until you better stay hidden.

When the child’s needs are inadequately met, the child compensates by clinging to their positive image (A1+) and excluding the unmanaged, unaccepted feeling (C1) associated with it. A1+ and P1+ are created to avoid the negative experiences of C1 again. The child needs a continuous supply of people to project P1+ onto jobs that ensure adulation and others’ compliance and support. There becomes a fixated narcissistic loop between A1+ and P1+ or between A1- and P1 -, at the expense of C1`s natural growth and expression, sacrificing the child`s will and autonomy. Each time the child violates their emotional strivings (need for growth), they will experience intense anxiety, where the child believes there is something inherently wrong with them. This striving makes them bad, selfish and hurtful. Their development needs are defended against and become fixated in the child’s ego state, unintegrated, undifferentiated and infantile.

Berne (1961) described two possible responses of the child to this parental oppression:
  1. The “Adapted Child” is under the influence of the parent and the
  2. “Natural Child” is repressed and breaking free of the parent’s influence (p.69).

One aspect of therapy is to resolve this conflict and struggle with the therapist being available to connect with a new object, enabling the Child to emerge and free himself from the old bondage with the parent.

During analysis, the Child/client may attempt to fuse with the therapist if they feel the bonds of loyalty developed within the symbiosis with their mother are threatened. They will try to create a narcissistic “bubble “, with you entering into a concrete frame of mind, rigid thinking, working in a literal form instead of a symbolic and metaphorical one. One becomes entwined in a relationship based on affect, primitive cathexis and relationship demands. This generates a confined and conditional dynamic between the primitive self and other, where the therapist is re-enacting the primary caretaker functions and experience, with nowhere to move and function effectively. The therapist may fail to revive the responsiveness of the child`s early longings, trying to locate the instinctual self, which can support emotional healing and recover the developmental process. During the initial idealisation phase, the therapist may need to perform the roles the child needs for inspiration and strength to maintain their anxiety when threatened by frustrations and negative feelings when searching for meaning.


We can see from the Masterton (2004) Diagram the narcissist ends up fusing with the omnipotent version of the parent/environment P1+ to maintain psychic equilibrium, and the child is constantly seeking idealisation from the P1+, Via the acquisition of power, status or wealth. As there is no foundation of self in Co, no integration of ego functions developed between the interplay between C0 and P0, the imaginary structure is fragile and open to collapse once the admiration is removed, leaving the child open to the harsh devaluing parent and the potential of emotional annihilation.

Diagram 5 – NPD structural development (Masterton, 2000)

The mother is normally emotionally infantile and incapable of bearing any separation, as this may mean re-experiencing her own parental abandonment and rejection. The threat of separation opens the mother up to being vulnerable, imperfect, and facing the emotional challenges and responsibilities of an emotionally healthy adult. The mother may interpret the child’s need for separation as losing control and co-dependency, which may play out as unconscious hate, envy and jealousy, which may play out behaviourally to force symbiosis. The child may experience the mother`s clinging and engulfment as persecutory, creating severe frustration during the rapprochement phase, leading to repression and the transformative internalisation of the external object being replaced by the fusion of the real self, ideal self and ideal object, forming the nuclear self. This reduces the child`s existence and experience to an infantile level, forever trying to reclaim the idealised dream and illusion of a permanent symbiosis and return to the maternal womb.

The narcissist is spared from any future transferential relationship by becoming obsessed with the false self, they are the object, and the object is them, where boundaries no longer exist. Everyone they meet is introjected, swallowed internally as a snapshot, and as an extension of themself with the same beliefs, ideas and perceptions which need to mirror and idealise them. Because of the pre-oedipal phase arrest, everyone is seen as a need-gratifying object, coerced or manipulated into submission, otherwise used as a dumping ground for the undesirable aspects they can’t contain. The symbiotic relatedness removes the need for aggression caused by frustration, envy or dependency as there is this complete sense of oneness with the mother, no difference, inequality or weakness.

This symbolic relationship /unit is held in implicit memory and is not readily accessible, only through symbolic imagery in dreams or meditation.  The grandiose self, protected by the internal mafia gang (Rosenfeld,1965), suggests one is better off on their own and will protect against the impaired self experiencing negative feelings and separation anxiety again.

Idealisation may change to a more separation via a twinship transference. The child may attempt to share similar hobbies and ideas with the therapist; I want to be like you without the threat of rejection or withdrawal.

Primary narcissism is usually tempered by a gradual disillusionment (optimal frustration ) of the idealised other, creating separation and the availability to internalise the object and substitute their values and ideas with your own, developing the structure to self-soothe,  strengthen Impulse control and frustration tolerance, heighten empathy and object constancy.

Failure in contact, concern and attunement between the infant and prime caretaker (mother) leads to a fundamental detachment and exclusion of the internalised mother (P1), blocking the mother’s experience. (Diagram 5)

Diagram 6. The Basic flaw (Lederer, 1996)

The child for psychic survival allows one part of the psyche to take control of the other.

Diagram 7. The split (Lederer,1996)

The Tough Kid (TK) assumes the executive, envelopes and encapsulates the other`s vulnerable part, starts the vigil to protect the Dependent Child (DC) from further abandonment, and cuts off all contact with the outside world. The dependent child harbours feelings of desolate emptiness, whereas the tough kid retains the emotional memories of early separation. At the child’s core is a deep-seated rage, suppressed and banished into the psyche but played out behaviourally. The need for revenge, righting a wrong, undoing the hurt, with an unrelenting pursuit of these means. The aggression and libidinal drives are undifferentiated and working in unison, creating a formidable alliance. Contact is made through hostility or excessive clinging with the mother to hold onto the object and attempt to get back at her, escalating the mother`s disapproval. A self-reinforcing loop of mutual punishments, withdrawal, rejections, and disgust continues. Hating may be all the child has to keep going in the emptiness for contact and becomes the feelings one Is comfortable with and seeks out in others or sees everywhere.

Diagram 8. Parental function (Lederer ,1996)

The tough kid is a master at ferreting out the weakness and vulnerability of others, hypersensitive and hypervigilant, and turning them into tormenting game payoffs (Berne,1964 ) by playing a variety of roles, attaining strokes (units of recognition) ) by playing stupid, confused, forgetful, distant or by righteous anger. The tough kid excludes the adult influence in intrapsychic and interpersonal matters but not in impersonal ones, so the individual can function well in jobs and experiences that are rigid, repetitive, compartmentalised and solitary. The tough kid dominates the adult via exclusion and exploitation and develops infantile tricks and ways to deal with the outside world, as he is not equipped with proper adult functioning and reality testing.

The tough kid uses the adult as a conduit through which his attachment behaviour flows (affect). The attachment behaviour provides the tough kid with a defence against grief feelings by giving it an illusion of contact, denying the reality of separation, and the exclusion of the mother makes mourning something detached impossible. As he is too young to mourn alone, the denial and refusal of proper support for his mourning are sometimes compensated via addictions, depression and acting out defences. Better to be anxious, phobic or compulsive than feel the pain of an unbearable loss. Attachment behaviour must be supported and continued as a substitute for the missing relationship.

Trying to decontaminate the Adult will only stimulate the tough kid to increase resistance. Infant disorders do not process aggression properly; their drives are undifferentiated and arrested at infantile levels, very primitive and perverse in nature.

Diagram 9. Adult function – Attachment behaviour 

The parental function of that defence must reside within the child’s ego state as a 2nd-order P1 (see diagram 9) and fulfil the child’s protective function in C1. The function is to save the C1 from consequences or being injured again by the frustrating mother. The impulse in A1 is transferred to the made-up P1 that has been split off in C1 and discharges impulse back onto C1, thereby sparing the mother. The ego defence is ego-syntonic with the child, outside adult awareness and parental influence. To absorb any act of aggression, the split-off vacuum cleaner sweeps up indiscriminately any spark of impulsivity or spontaneity discharged onto others through streams of humiliating and contemptuous put-downs. Without the libidinal object, the child will feel intolerable emptiness without self-attacks and distractions. The tough kid anaesthetizes the Dependent child with drugs, compulsive eating, sex, shopping etc. The transactional analysis aims to facilitate the expression of mourning but must work on the aggression underneath first. The Narcissistic defences resolve primarily and naturally during restructuring work.

Diagram 10. Narcissistic defence (Lederer,1996) 

Behind various harmless guises, the TK’s protective part (the substitute P1 part) is hard as a rock, resolute and resourceful in its defecting manoeuvres.

In therapy, you must reverse the processes that led to the infant’s detachment. The child needs to re-enter the pain, feeling sadness, aloneness, helplessness and hopelessness. The closure is achieved by verbally expressing these feelings and mourning the abandonment. The tough kid forbids the deprived child of any acts of open aggression to avoid abandonment or rejection or may forbid vulnerability and weakness and openly encourage aggression, depending on the emotions allowed in the parental dynamics. The child sacrifices their own ego growth for the maternal womb’s comfort and security and a life of fantasy with no responsibility. Infantile aggression may be expressed as undifferentiated hate and envy, which becomes harmful to the other, instead of a legitimate adult expression when differentiated. The homicidal rage expressed is a combination of depression and anger, generated from a pressurized visceral fury, encapsulated and imprisoned. During therapy, there will be an increase in depression and anger and will follow the following sequence.

  • Negative feelings are diffuse and persuasive.
  • Some ambivalence among negative feelings
  • Anger becomes directed at specific people, parents, siblings etc.
  • The child can combine positive/negative feelings for others realistically.

Panic feeds on the fear that we cannot express our anger over abandonment; we risk losing the other and remaining in a submissive dependent state by holding onto others.

Disorders of the Self triad

Shame is the strongest factor influencing abandonment depression, a facial expression that indicates disgust and rejection. Emotional dysregulation impairs the individual’s ability to differentiate between physical sensations and emotional states, enhancing the sense of chaos and instability. Fears of emotions, Fear of sadness, and grief also increase reactivity to emotions and amplify the resulting distress. The relational unit needs unlocking and integrating to be alive, the disassociated self entrenched and imprisoned in the tough kid.

Self-activation leads to separation anxiety and abandonment depression which leads to defence (Masterton (2000), p59)

Clinging to the old object may feel like the only way to stay alive psychically, as no idealised object replaces the old one. The child will attempt to regress to a more familiar way of relating, predicting and creating a new comfort zone. A state free of demands, responsibility and aggression, more submissive and complaint, even if they feel dread of re-traumatisation. They will try to maintain the old intrapsychic system and project the negative onto society as an old template to make sense of their regressive behaviour. Only with the therapist being impacted and even disturbed with empathic attunement will the repressed vulnerable self be stirred into life.

This may be the corrective experience needed to make meaning and understand the process, withstanding the hateful internal attacks resulting in retaliation. This allows the intrapsychic to develop an interpersonal space to access the repetitive patterns and the underlying need for relationships. The disassociation of love and goodness protects the good mother from contamination by overriding inner hate and badness. The child has learned to convert their destructive aggression/rage into people-pleasing, sublimation, societal success or sadism, where they can express rage without destroying the conditional relationship. The victim can remain in contact without expressing their personal needs and asking for them directly but is resentful and rageful if they are not reciprocated. Primitive defences include withdrawal, denial, omnipotent control, idealisation and devaluation. The child will tend to recycle events due to ego weakness and lack of integration, further splitting and identity confusion.

Borderline – low-level defences, identity diffusion, poorly integrated self and object, poor reality testing. Stuck between beginning to separate with the choice of engulfment or abandonment.

  • Dream analysis is ineffective.
  • The capacity to symbolise is deficient due to concrete thinking.
  • Acting out is violent and negative or passive.
  • Dependent on others to carry out ego functions without reciprocity
  • Can become addicted to analysis due to attention and the illusion of a loving relationship—a way to control hate and destructiveness in fantasy and magical thinking.

Unable to use their real self to react to reality as they have challenges with supportive self-assertion, rewarded for not being assertive via the mother’s approval and lack of withdrawal. They have no sense of unity, wholeness or continuity of self; they are fixed, rigid and unable to accommodate various environmental roles. Clinging to others as a form of motivation encompasses their beliefs, expectations and ideas and is important to please. Any self-activation or separation will lead to depression and then acting out behaviours to relieve it.

The narc has free access to the fused object’s aggression, which denies depression and devalues environmental traumas, where they can coerce others to resonate with their inflated grandiosity. Unable to be emotionally involved, with a total lack of concern or interest for discarded sources of supply. Repressed unresolved conflicts at the pre-oedipal stage, causing structural neurosis and defects. Manifests as an excited, hyper-idealistic adolescent devoid of any meaningful relationships. Childhood fantasies become transformed by an intense devotion to romanticised culture, religion or political aims. All-or-nothing thinking is vulnerable to faulty and disruptive empathy if they are not always mirrored. Paralysing over-stimulation when being creative, unable to curb and neutralise one`s imagination when activated. The son has no idealised Father; therefore, no internal idealising function to create their own ideas, beliefs and goals—an insufficient executive (Ego) structure, unable to devote himself to passionate goals and gain gratification.

Microstructural changes in classic transference neurosis
  1. Interpretation removes defences
  2. Archaic wishes intrude into the ego.
  3. Under the impact of repeated archaic strivings, a new structure is formed into the ego and can modulate and transform strivings.
  4. Hold onto tensions and anxiety through castration anxiety formed by incestuous libidinal and aggressive strivings.


Berne (1961) said that “the ultimate aim of transactional analysis is Structural readjustment and reintegration.” (p.246) and viewed this goal as requiring two phases of treatment:

The first is restructuring (decontamination and strengthening the Adult, more social control and personal autonomy). This reorganisation phase generally features the reclamation of the Child with the parent’s replacement.

Following this dynamic reorganisation phase, a secondary analytic phase attempts to deconfuse the Child and resolve underlying conflicts within. The deconfusion process is necessary not just for historical purposes but for the basis; they are fixated through trauma. If their needs are unmet, the child will be emotionally injured or confused, with unresolved traumatic experiences that become fixated behind psychological defences.

The narcissistic child, due to these emotional injuries, does not move beyond the undeveloped self-stage and creates an imaginary false self and inflated ego in A1+ to interplay with the idealised imago in P1+ to function within the toxic and dysfunctional family/society.

Script decisions (Berne,1964), underlying unconscious beliefs and life patterns about oneself, like “not being loved or loveable “, are developed on the C1 experiences and encapsulated within the affective and somatic states of C0, activated by nonverbal communication and relational transference.


When there is cumulative misattunement from the environment, the child must split off the undigested experiences (Klein, 1986) to avoid another experience of rejection, humiliation, abandonment, harm, neglect or withdrawal of affection. This can be understood as the schizoid process.

The greater the deficit in parenting, coupled with the inner related strength of the “painful emotional reaction” and “longing”, naturally influences the degree to which the strivings must be excluded and repressed. The child creates a separate P1+ and a P1- to stop the child from contacting the mother again. The P1- contained the anger the C1 could not express (painful emotional reactions) and had to expel to preserve the bond, and the P1+ was the love the child could not express and had to expel because parenting was so hostile the child feared it would be rejected in some way.

This P1– part uses threats, cynicism and suspicion to convince the C1 that it is in their best interests to stay hidden, with the A1– experiencing this rejection and hostility in the form of  Don’t be close, Don’t think, Don’t feel ….injunctions.

If people see how stupid, bad, disgusting, and needy you are, they will hate you, laugh at you, leave you and be overwhelmed by you. The split-off integrated experiences are walled inside a well-defined set of rules contained in C0 or form P1 along with the internalised representations of the other, known as Injunctions (Goulding and Goulding, 1979).


So how did the confusion manifest? (Stolorow, Brandchaft & Atwood, 1987) suggest in 2 different ways:

  • Acquiring a sense of cohesion and well-being in response to need fulfilment
  • The differentiation of self from others and the establishment of our own aspirations and ideals

What confuses the child is every time he/she has an emotional striving that violates the perceived requirement necessary to maintain the bond between parent and child. He/she experiences intense anxiety. The child interrupts this as something is wrong with them, and somehow these strivings contribute to their sense of being bad. The child takes responsibility for the failure and decides to foreclose on any associated or similar relational needs that he/she has.

Such intense feelings cannot be integrated because the child did not receive the required attuned responsiveness from their caregiver.

When a child has been held and continues to experience a “Good enough” (Winnicott, 1956) relationship, their desire for intimate contact is encouraged and supported through the Child’s Ego State development. The child’s sense of self is solid, reliable and remains secure.

The first step in deconfusing the Child’s ego state

This involves bonding through empathic transactions (Hargaden and Sills, 2002). Clients may eagerly seek or defend against the attachment bond with the therapist. The therapist’s consistent acceptance and communication of empathic understanding of the client’s affective states and needs usually enable them to work through these defences.

The therapist’s use of empathic transactions (Hargaden and Sills,2002) will establish an empathic bond, where the client feels secure enough to revive unmet needs and aborted development and access the early stages of development through direct and affective intense transactions. The client needs to experience these archaic levels of the Child’s ego state to work through this confusion.

Kohut (1984) defined empathy as “the capacity to think and feel oneself into the life of another person.” (p.82);

Therefore empathy is a combination of skill and technique and a reflection of who we are and how we are ourselves. Empathy becomes the container for the therapeutic relationship and the umbrella for the transferential dyad.

Re-organisation, as Berne (1961) described this phase of treatment, “generally features reclamation of the Child, with emendation or replacement of the Parent. Following this dynamic reorganisation phase, a secondary analytic phase attempts to deconfuse the Child.” (p.246)

The integration process begins as the client’s subjective experience, especially how he/she experiences the therapist, can be freely articulated with the therapist committed to understanding that experience forms the client’s viewpoint. The process helps revive the responsiveness for early longings by the therapist responding to the client’s painful reactions with a caring and non-judging perspective. They fear the therapist will reject or ignore the emerging parts as their caretakers did.

Step two. The Transferential relationship

The client attempts to communicate within the therapeutic relationship’s context unarticulated experiences of what they are unaware of, to reproduce unmet needs and early relationship patterns and experiences in relation to the therapist. Transference is defined by Stolorow, Brandchaft and Atwood (1987) as “transference is conceived …as the expression of a universal psychological striving to organise experiences and construct meanings.” (p.46).

Three types of transference

Introjective transference (C0 longings). The client seeks to enter a symbiosis (Schiff et al.,1975) with the therapist to meet development needs (C0). “Introjection is both a defence and a normal development process; a defence because it diminishes separation anxiety, a developmental process because it renders the subject increasingly autonomous.” (Rycroft 1995, p.87)

  1. Mirror transference. The therapist is experienced as the client’s grandiose self (C0 and P0) because the client seeks prolonged self-involvement with the therapist’s subjectivity as best being irrelevant or as worst an intrusive intervention to be heard without interruption. The other type is when the therapist is perceived as separate, and the client seeks constant approval and admiration. The client needs to be mirrored for something he/she recognises as authentic so he/she feels seen, met and understood.
  2. Idealising transference. This allows the client to occupy a state of illusion and therefore start to access a more functional reality. The therapist must let go of this idealising position when the client is ready; otherwise, the client is indefinitely infantilised and never learns to deal with the empowering experience of handling betrayal and disillusionment, leading to maturity.
  3. Twinship –a need for fellow feeling and a sense we are like others. “The child wants to do what mummy does”. He/she wants to participate in the big world, feel validated, and experience a sense of belonging and connectedness to develop their creative side. The transference relationship may repeat the frustrating and disappointing elements of the original caretaking relationship, with the therapist having to be experienced as someone new.

Projective identification

Projective transference (P1+/P1-). Defensive Transference. This is how the client keeps a cohesive sense of self while projecting the repressed internal conflicts onto the therapist.

The infant splits between “good” and “bad” in a mistuned environment. Splitting of both ego and object tends to be linked with denial and projection, the trio constituting a schizoid defence by which parts of the self (and internal objects) are disowned and attributed to objects in the environment. (Rycroft,1973)

“Countertransference refers to the totality of the therapist’s reactions” (Steiner, 1993, p.140)

Transformational transference (C1) projective identification. The client induces a state into the other that corresponds to a state that he/she cannot experience for themselves. The therapist is required to transform and experience by making the feeling containable and meaningful.

“Projective identification – The concept that addresses how feeling states correspond to the unconscious fantasies of one person (the projector) are engendered in and processed by another person (the recipient), that is, how one person makes use of another person to experience and contain an aspect of himself.” (Ogden, 1992, p.1)

In the countertransference, the therapist identifies with the Parent or the Child within the relational unit. The client’s ego states manifest in the therapeutic dyad instead of remaining an intrapsychic phenomenon. Concordant identification involves the therapist identifying with the Child’s ego state and complementary with the Parent’s ego state. This is the client’s attempt to communicate a previous experience unconsciously.

Bollas (1987) suggests that the therapist tries to understand the client by looking for the patient within himself/herself. Loyalty to a “bad object” may be experienced as resistance to “good work” in therapy. “However, the client is remaining loyal out of fear that there is little or no internal good object with which to replace the bad object.” (Seinfeld, 1996, p.123)

Example – I observe when Sharon feels threatened or unsafe within our relationship; she will project the frozen part of this relational unit onto me whilst experiencing the corresponding part herself. Sometimes via this projective identification (Ogden, 1982), I experience Sharon’s Child’s deep sense of sadness, loss and rejection whilst experiencing Sharon as a robust, dismissive and uncaring parent.  On the other hand, when her C1 shows confusion and anxiety, I experience the annoyance and impatience of her frozen Parent counterpart.

Resistance may consist of the Child clinging to the tie with the Parent’s ego because the Child wants the Parent to become the kind of person it wishes for the original caretaker to have been. Fairbairn (1952) described two forms of self-attachment to the bad object or Parent ego state.

  1. Craving self – attached to the tantalising object. Demonstrated in addictions.
  2. Wronged Self- a crusade to expose wrongdoing.


Another part of resistance may come from the Parent ego, which may resist being transformed into a good object because of the fear of annihilation. The Parent may fear the loss of control of the self of the Child’s ego state and, therefore, my become envious of the Child’s emerging freedom and may be reluctant to let go of the tie.

Resistance may also take the form of regression into an earlier development form of functioning to avoid being present within the therapeutic encounter with all its unpredictability. The client may retreat to a fused narcissistic bubble to avoid relating to the therapist as a separate person, with their own feelings and needs who the client has no control over.

“You can’t trust others, including the therapist, I am the only one to rely on. I won’t let you down.”

Like me, narcissists will resist theory to defend against aggression caused by frustration, envy, dependence on another, or being engulfed/enslaved by them. The Schizoid retreat. Emerging in the dyad also entails travelling into unmapped territory, causing anxiety and experiencing the existential terror of the unknown. Clients may also fear their vulnerabilities and be destabilised by their “craziness”. The fear of re-traumatisation suggests that the therapist is experienced as a dangerous object by the client at some level.

Discussing Ruptures or failures is a vital part of the treatment process. It allows the therapist to investigate the events that evoked a particular response from the client’s subjective worldview and how they were impacted. “Resistance (in the client) is always evoked by some quality or activity of the therapist for the patient’s heralds as an impending recurrence of traumatic development failure.” (Stolorow et al., 2000, p. 14)


Clark (1991) suggests, “In deconfusing the Child ego state, there is an unpredictable alternation between the emergence of the painful affect resulting in emotional injuries and the emergence of development strivings to complete arrested development. If the therapist stays attuned long enough, the client may gradually acquire the capacity to self-soothing, self-comforting and self-empathy and no longer be confused about the legitimacy and safeness of needs and emotional states.(p.97)

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