Undifferentiated units with inborn perceptive and behavioural patterns must evolve into internalised object relations or constellations of affect memory with compulsive and affective attributes. An object relation unit is a memory container of the following.

  • Image of the object
  • Image of self in interaction with the object
  • Affecting the capacity of both object/self-image under the influence of drives

Introjection is the building block of object relations with a process and a structure. Internalises and encodes the image interaction in memory traces, an affective component has a valance- a charge binary in nature, pleasure /good or unpleasant/bad. A primitive valance of libidinal instinctual gratification via a loving child connection and contact and a negative valance with an aggression drive fused with the bad object. Normally, they are kept apart for the ego to integrate them later.

  1. Autism – 2 months
  2. 6-8 MThs: symbiosis begins with a cluster of 2 relational units with a separate libidinal and aggressive valance. The self is still fused with the object
  3. 18-38 months: good libidinal is differentiated into a good self and object. As with the aggressive splitting, it protects the ideal good relationship with the good mother.
  4. 36 months: integration and definition into a self-system. The ego, superego and id are created as intrapsychic structures, consolidated with drive derivatives neutralised. The liberating energy can be utilised for regression (blocked from consciousness). Repressed parts deposited into the drive affects give rise to drives organised into motivation systems and give rise to instincts organised as aims.

The child’s ego perceives and generates conscious and unconscious meaning. The ego mediates between the Id and the environment for self-preservation. Aggression results from frustrations and basic anxiety due to fear of separation and loss of the object (mother).

  • Child- archaic aspect /fixation at inadequate attunement point in childhood.
  • Parent -introjection aspect of the other.
  • Parent and child are linked as units, internalisation of the self and object relationships bonded together by aspects of implicit memory—the preverbal and pre-symbolic level of relating. The unsatisfactory experience has been introjected to diminish separation anxiety. Good experiences are assimilated with non-structuring internalisation and are autonomous in the present.
  • The fixated child ego is the false self to avoid painful feelings at the loss of mastering reality. Concrete thinking before symbolic thinking developed. Locked away, unfulfilled aspects of the individual.

Possible responses adapted under parental influences can lead to repression and a bond to the bad object via a bond of loyalty. Certain feelings mean betraying the mother and breaking free, which may destroy the idealised parent imago. The child tries to avoid falling into the “black hole” of nothingness and meaninglessness. The “Void” represents the loss of both self and object with an absence of bonding accelerating the descent into the void. Introjection becomes defensive when the ego takes over, which should be the function of the external object (parent).

By internalising the object, the child risks less hostility and provides a sense of control, at the cost of denying the bad object in their conscious awareness.


A development disturbance during the 3rd stage with a non-metabolised Ego state with severe fluctuations from one unintegrated self to another. Excessive aggression due to unmet frustration needs with too much energy invested in the bad self and the splitting of the ego prevents the integration of opposite valances. It prevents the release of the neutralised energy. The borderline will feel anxiety if there are any positive introjects. There is no energy for regression due to a weak ego. With no regression, there is no ego, superego or id development. The narcissist develops extreme self-involvement with a lack of interest or empathy for others, endlessly seeking perfection, wealth, power, and people who will mirror his grandiosity and uniqueness. A feeling of emptiness and rage lies underneath with intense envy, unable to love others, only mirrored by those who reflect their image. Seduce with sex, the intelligence of influence. Narcissists only seeks treatment when their fragile, illusory self-esteem collapses under deep despair and anxiety. Healthy self-esteem can recognise limitations, apologise for mistakes, repent, and change one’s mind.

Unresolved narcissist injuries will continue as struggles and expressions of rage at the unjust universe, society and people. He is the centre of the universe and can’t see reality objectively. Unable to develop a transference relationship with a therapist due to a primal fear of contact.  A conflict between separation and dependence on others will avoid pain and anxiety by withdrawing from others or living life through others in a fantasy land. Lives with a continuous pull to re-establish a fused symbiotic way of relating where five traits of “delusional transference.

  1. Dream analysis does not work.
  2. Can’t symbolise as it has no concrete thinking
  3. Acting out is violent or persisting negative patterns of behaviour
  4. Utilises someone else to carry out ego functions
  5. They have an insatiable need for love and attraction to magically control their limitless haste and destructiveness.

When one’s mother is infantile and incapable of bearing separation or fusion with the child, the child feels real persecution, creating a paranoid-schizoid position to avoid a depressive position. This removes the need for aggression and envy. Love and hate as the fusion remove the anxiety of separation. If I am separate, I am dependent and have no control over others. Interpersonal relationships represent a manifestation of intrapsychic conflicts. When a therapist works with defences and offers the availability to be impacted, they transform via push/pull engagement, getting to know the self and the other, and accessing and activating the child-parent relational unit. The client hopes the feelings will be contained, understood and transformed by the therapist instead of witnessing the previous disappointment and rejection they experienced. Working with the disassociation of the split-off regressed aspects by mirroring aggressive elements, empathy is developed, and a deeper understanding is established. New union dynamics are played out interpersonally in the working alliance as new boundaries and beliefs are being fought in therapy. The therapist may become the longed-for other and start to be idealised by the client, and the therapist must be able to accept the idealisation. The client’s attempts to cling or merge will avoid the separation. As the client begins separating, they will start to feel varying aspects of shame and guilt, where they fall apart in the face of parental judgment and hostility, learning to tolerate and contain the body’s energy, excitement, and desire. The client often obscures authentic feelings being expressed and immobilised during individuation, activating primary psychological/interpersonal defence patterns.

Shame feels like the loss of self where a painfully diminished self is exposed to self and anyone else present.  A sense of impotence invoked with no way to relive it and no way to restore homeostasis balance. The shame breaks the interpersonal bridge, creating an Intrapsychic conflict between ego and ego ideal, resulting in

  • Loss of impairment of drives, desire, aggression and libido
  • Anxiety due to loss of structure (internal and external)
  • Loss of self and impairment of identity and cohesion (shame)
  • Depression – loss of the other and impairment of object constancy

The child will turn against himself to manipulate preconscious consciences to avoid pain and anxiety. They learn to gain power by being stubborn, rigid with minute control and hypervigilance obsessed by their rejection. Due to the Parent’s unresolved shame, they turn towards the child, blaming and scorning the child to ward off any sense of their childhood shame to avoid self-exposure and reinjury. The child lives with a feeling of not being seen due to a lack of attunement or mirroring from the parent unless they meet the parental narcissist’s needs and expectations. Through a learned survival mechanism, the self is maintained through privacy and the intense interest of others with no reciprocation or desire for such. The child can’t distinguish between responsibility and experience of choice. The child must identify patterns of blame (self or other) and the controlling behaviours and attributes and suffer personal choice and autonomy to recover. Corrective decontamination is evidence of individuation and ownership of behaviour as the client starts to live at ease outside of family events, beliefs and structures.

If the self and ego do not differentiate, they will substitute and fuse one’s self-esteem with one’s Self-work attained via performance and external validation with no internal experience of self.

The simplest move to autonomy or any sense of adversary behaviours is met with parental anger and humiliation, denying the child any chance for self-expression, negotiation or problem-solving. In therapy, they must confront avoidance and appeasement while supporting anger, self-expression and conflict resolution, creating healthy closeness and dependence versus fusion and isolation. An empathic bond is needed to deconfusion the child’s ego state. The client can experience archaic levels of the child’s experiences to work through and integrate archaic events and experiences. The aim is for structural readjustment and reintegration with a reorganisation.

  • Restructuring – the predominance of adult ego with increased self-awareness and self-control with greater adult control of the personality
  • TA proper- game analysis, rackets and script analysis
  • Develop social control – strengthen the adult ego by raising awareness of the affect (emotion ), and the behavioural abnormalities creating an underlying disturbance in the self-cohesion, continuity and harmony of self.
  • Reorganisation -reclamation of the child and the replacement of the parent via deconfsuion

The fixated child ego interferes with the adult ego state functioning, as the child needs to acquire a sense of cohesion and well-being in response to need fulfilment. When he can differentiate the self from the other, he can establish his aspirations and goals without fearing parental rejection and hostility. The child learned at an early age that any emotional strivings that violate the parental requirements create intense anxiety where they feel something is inherently wrong with them, which can’t be integrated because of no attuned parental responsiveness. This is defended against and becomes fixated in the child’s ego state as any revival of these early longings and lack of parental responsiveness triggers painful emotions, feelings and injuries. The client/child needs someone to look up to, to idealise, to maintain stability when they feel threatened, neglected, frustrated or in search of meaning, creating the ability to self-soothe and regulate intense emotional affect, no longer confused about the legitimacy and safeness of needs and emotional states.

The parent ego state is the collection of introjections where they have well-established unconscious identifications with the beliefs, feelings, motivation, behaviour and defences of their own parents or culture. The child whose needs and contact were not met, creating defences to protect against ensuing discomfort, internalises the parent who did not meet their needs, locked together in a relational unit.

Relational unit

The early experience between the self and the other, embraced in the relational unit, constantly influences each other and bonds together by affect and a bond of loyalty. Healthy parental attunement and contact help strengthen the adult ego, which can then assimilate contact in the adult ego, looking for help and support from the other safely. Without contact, no assimilation creates a parent/child pathology. If the need is unmet, the child intensifies, confusion grows, and the child keeps trying repeatedly to get a response. Unwelcome feelings damage the image of the caretaker and are walled off and become a lifelong inner conflict, with increased vulnerability to traumatic states. The child assumes responsibility for the failure, forecloses relational needs, and retreats from contact. The child adopts a behaviour that makes them more acceptable to the parent to maximise strokes (units of recognition) with the earliest forms of drives created with a false sense of ok`ness, whereby I am ok if I am perfect, strong and pleasing (narcissistic process).

The child splits the internalised parental image into two opposing aspects, described as P1- and P1+, to stop attempting contact and reaching out to the parent. The P1- (negative image) is the attacking, vicious, angry part of the self (parent) who uses threats, cynicism and suspicion to convince the C1 to stay hidden for their best interests. The child creates a rule to follow this, known as an “injunction”, as the parent is too immature or impaired to look after the child. The parent has their own desire to protect their fragile self and lashes out at the C1 if the child comes near/close or creates frustrations that may trigger a sense of failure within them.

The P1+ manifests as the adoring, idealising, perfect parent who will be loving and understanding (the fantasy parent ), who the child idealises and clings to the P1+ works to keep the child hidden by soothing, smothering and attending to the needs by maintaining contact, with the child creating daydreams and fantasies to survive. The A1 develops the approach and strategy needed to keep P1 happy; for instance, if you stay a child, the parent will love you if you stay hidden. The child Splits off parts of the parent that hurt and frustrate from the good soothing part to minimise the threat and appearance of any separation embedded within the child, not the parent.

The child learns any show of self-assertion or invalidated feelings threaten others’ survival, well-being and emotional health. Three further defensive functions may materialise.

  1. May look to gain an ally for protection of P1, to control and frighten the C1and keep the child hidden
  2. The child learns by projecting their weakness onto another; the child feels superior over the weak, having the power to hurt and humiliate themselves, just like the parent.
  3. The child decides the other deserves to be devalued with a means to justify without damaging the self, the expression of the stored-up rage.

When threatened, repressed feelings in the child’s ego quickly shift upwards to the parent’s ego, where they can be expelled to ward off any perceived imminent threat to the bond with the caregiver.

The client needs to create a space where the intrapsychic can become interpersonal. The therapist’s dyad can become aware of reflected enactments and get a deeper understanding of the opposing and split off parts of the self.

The child/client can project one part and keep the other in the transference matrix and get the other handed back when they can contain it. For example, the therapist feels the fragmented C1 part, with the child enacting the dismissive and unresponsive parent part or the therapist being annoyed and impatient, whilst the client (child) is confused and anxious.

The child fears annihilation if they lose control of the self or the Child’s ego state. If they become a good object, the parent may resist as they then might feel envious of the child’s emerging freedom and be reluctant to let go as it may reignite childhood issues for them. The therapist needs to be impacted and stirred by the client’s relating, who can find the old object and work through the process, making new meaning and understanding. The craving self leads to fantasy about objects and addictions, whilst the wronged self exposes wrongdoers. A victim keeps memories out of awareness and sees the abuser as an exciting object. They hope they can change the abuser by bringing out the person’s love by changing themselves. With the help of transference in a therapeutic alliance, the parts of the self are externalising into consciousness from previously fused structures. Types of transference

  • Concordant– transference with the Child’s ego state.
  • Complementary – transference with the parent ego state.
  • The idea is to create a new ego homeostasis, maintaining the unpredictability of self and the other, which may activate fear and anxiety. Resistance may come in the form of staying loyal to the old relational unit via signs of intrapsychic conflict and interpersonal phenomena.
Little, R. (2006). Ego state relational units and resistance to change. Transactional Analysis Journal, 36, 7–19.