The analysis aims not to remove defences solely but to understand them and gradually help the patient recognise new possibilities and potentials. Coming out of psychic retreats (defences) allows the patient to see the object more realistically and confront unwanted forces previously hidden. The patients will have to deal with envy, jealousy, frustration, rage, guilt and remorse as they enter the depressive position. Attacks on the good object are unavoidable, which gives rise to anxiety and guilt, as the good object has been lost.

The patient learns new capacities to suffer, endure and recover from the loss and new experiences.

Damaging aspects of the good object create guilt, while good elements provoke envy and are denied by attempts to undo the separateness and return to the protection of the psychic retreat. Separation means being exposed and being seen. With the collapse of narcissistic admiration, pride is replaced by embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and demands to be dealt with. The patient may be exposed to persecutory states where pathological splitting and paranoia predominate. Imagined attacks are perceived as intentional to weaken and demoralise the patient to feel destroyed and alienated. The worst suffering of “Soul Murder” is a person’s deepest humiliation, destroying their sense of worth and any essence of identity. Intense feelings demand urgent relief and may prevent the patient from facing deeper problems, such as guilt, which must be tolerated if the depression period is to proceed.

A child finds it difficult to be excluded from their parent’s relationship, and they prefer male individual links with each one. One parent is excluded and may be experienced in the position of the superego, who observes and judges. When the observer is excluded, they may become persecutory and feel threatened and humiliated. Embarrassment begins to emerge, and a touching loss of freedom develops as the child emerges from paradise. Without embarrassment, the child may grow up to be shameless or inhibited. If too persecutory, they interfere with the working through the primary ambivalence towards the good object and arrest emotional development. The child may feel resentful and may resort to narcissistic identification in an attempt to reverse humiliation. A father threatens castration, which may lead to underlying resentment and plots for revenge.

The projection of responsibility and guilt moulded by progressive disorganisation as a defensive split gives rise to the self’s fragmentation, leading to a chaotic struggle for survival and a highly delusional state. Looking for a container for their distress, the child is obliged to seek out a replay of projections of badness onto the object, a brief rest bite in destructive paranoia. Their omnipotence will protect them from pain any exposure might inflict, a psychic retreat, a hiding place out of contact with reality.

The child has to face his regret, remorse and despair to work through the depressive position. If they can tolerate the initial sense of humiliation, the child can develop a new struture based on earned respect and courage. The child has to believe the process is worth enduring, face his slights and indignation, and be helped to recognise narcissistic self-aggrandisement. Resolution of conflicts depends on o the child’s ability to tolerate loss.

Giving up omnipotence always mean loss and going through bereavement.

Self-consciousness becomes acute when asked to endure separation, as one is exposed to vulnerability and humiliation. Narcissistic defences are deployed to prevent any separation between subject and object; introjection of the good object and its attributes prevent any anxiety and distress due to separation. If the child feels trapped or looked down upon, they will attempt to reverse it by acquiring superiority and projecting inferiority. Unconsciously fuelling their narcissism by entering, seducing or stealing from the primary object, as the child cannot face the resulting guilt and loss experienced by separation.

Melancholia can be seen as a failed mourning; the loss of the object and loss of omnipotence is too much to bear. The obstacle to change lies in identifying a damaged, dead object that needs to be relinquished and mourned. The child`s depression is based on when the child recognises that love and hate are directed at the same object. Hatred based on frustration, envy, jealousy, and greed means attacks cannot be prevented against the good object (mother). This leads to fantasies and images of a damaged, dying dead object as a defence against guilt ad loss. Identification with a damaged or diseased internal object is experienced in body terms or hypochondriacal symptoms.

Integration of love and hate means the child can care about his objects and become aware of their inability to protect and preserve them from their destructiveness. If the pain and despair that result can be tolerated, the feeling of guilt can be a powerful motivating force for regret and remorse, a wish to make operations and store the damaged objects. A shift from depression needs a shift from a concern with the primary objective to a preoccupation with a critical observing object—a shift from concern and guilt towards preoccupation with shame and humiliation.


The analyst finds themself in an observing position and no longer the primary object; love and hate are directed onto an excluded figure, who may avoid the transference and male judgemental interpretations. The patient does not remember anything they have forgotten or repressed; they act it out, which they repeat defiantly towards the analyst—a form of protection and resistance which gives important information regarding the patient`s relational history and defensive processes. An object has murdered a portion of the external world and, instead, by identification, introjected into the ego. The new physical agency continues to carry out the functions previously performed by the abandoning object.

The analyst becomes the recipient of this discarded part, leading to projections and identification, difficult to untangle and understand. The child represses his love for their mother. He identifies with her and takes his own person as a model whose likeness he chooses new objects to love. This observing transference is difficult for the analyst to tolerate and becomes conducive to enactments, with enormous pressure to take sides with conflicting objects and ask to comment and judge. Confrontation with reality is often confused with a confrontation with a father who has been excluded and displaced within the oedipal conflict. The child is dominant in the fantasy, leading to triumph over the father with the magical blessing of the mother. The child soon recognises he has destroyed both parties, and feelings turn to despair and guilt. If an analyst can enable the child to tolerate their guilt, it can be used to initiate remorse and reparation.

Such unopposed destructiveness is terrifying to the child; restorative forces are mobilised to protect both objects and the self from the devastating effects of the child’s aggression. Wishes for revenge are denied and repressed and expressed as grievances. Any thoughts of revenge may endanger equilibrium and are played out in destructive fantasies. The oedipal conflict shatters the illusion of exclusivity between the child and mother, where the child is subjected to new forces of power and control. If the child identifies with the tyrannical power of his parents, he will treat other objects accordingly. If the father is stronger, the child submits with resentment; if the father is overthrown, the child is persecuted by guilt, and the internalised father controls the subject from within as the superego. When the child can find enough courage to rebel against parental authority without resulting in identification, they must face the anxiety connected with their awareness of their smallness, vulnerability and exclusion from the adult. He gains contact with reality, a painful development, as one must recognise his hatred and wish for revenge against both parents.

The mother becomes an individual in her own rights as a primary source of goodness and frustration.

The child’s pain is often linked to a sense of betrayal as the child starts to see the mother’s collusion and role in the fantasy of incestuous wishes. The hatred directed toward the tyrannical father shifts towards both parents, enacted as a justified grievance. A destructive force wanting revenge becomes neutralised and can lead to remorse and reparation—the coexistence of loving and murderous impulses leads to the loss of idealised loved objects. The child becomes aware that he needs and values his good objects and realises his own capacity to protect and preserve them.

Helplessness and Exercise of Power

To be needy and helpless is an intolerable ad dreadful experience, as we wish for someone to come and hear us, see us, understand and respond to our cries; otherwise, we fear the anxiety of abandonment and persecution. When containment fails, powerful defences are formed and mounted; neediness is denied ad replaced by narcissistic object relations. The needy, helpless and deprived part is projected and disowned. The child identifies with a powerful object which is expected to provide rather than receive help. When the omnipotent object fails, the child often feels resentful, frustrated and furious. Where narcissistic grandiosity is thwarted, and the child feels humiliated, there is a need to reinflate and reestablish narcissistic superiority with aggression. The narcissistic child can`t tolerate seeing themself as weak, small, immature and disorganised, which would indicate helplessness.

Revenge and Resentment

Addictive quality and perverse gratification often add to the held grievance in the personality, where giving up their grievance would lead to collapse and catastrophe. When a child feels injured and rejected, a deep injustice is felt that gives rise to revenge accompanied by destructive hatred—a dangerous need and desire for vengeance in directed action, expressed in hidden behaviours. One striking characteristic is the sense of a right to justice, a sense of duty and devotion to a cause accompanied by vengeance. Feeling enraged, they are full of guilt, which justifies their hatred and obligation for revenge. The child perceives the good object as seeking revenge, where the child must restore and preserve the idealised object.

Many patients believe the demand to love up their grievances means submitting, becoming compliant and conform.

If the analyst does not support the grievance, they are identified with the bad object and never forgiven, and they can’t be left off the hook and will be forced to confess to the injury caused. The oedipal child feels he has to defend the mother against the persecution of bad objects, a delusional possession of the mother, where omnipotence, fantasy and security lie. The child will eventually need to acknowledge and realise the depth of these fantasies to emerge into the truth and reality of his needs and wishes, and desire to individuate. The child has to face the depressive position, confront the loss of loved objects, reconstruct a new reality, and seek forgiveness. To give up omnipotence and psychic retreats, embrace uncertainty and the unknown as one enters the mourning process and grief.

With the identification of the object, the patient believes losing the object will also mean dying in the process. If the mourner is to survive, the loss has to be denied. The capacity to acknowledge the loss allows for differentiation between the self from the object and face the inability to possess, protect and preserve the object. The object must be allowed to die with its subsequent dissolution, despair and guilt.

Steiner, J.(2010) Seeing and Being Seen (New Library of Psychoanalysis), Routledge; 1st edition