We are all object-related by our own nature, the self in relation to the other and the relationship between. The structure for achieving self-expression is extrinsically interrelated with that which strives for expression. The self is simultaneously the structure and energy inseparable and mutually inter-defining.
The psyche is seen to reduce tension at all times, with the indiscriminate and immediate discharge of energy towards the pleasure principle. The pleasure principle represents behaviour deterioration since libidinal need is object need, whereas tension implies some failure in object relationships. The self begins in a condition of wholeness, already capable and actively involved in self-expression and experience. A dynamic ego consists of energy (libido) and structure.
Diagram 1: whole intact ego in full relationship
The deepest motivation is contact with others, and this need overrides any physical gratification. The most basic anxiety is separation anxiety, the dread of losing the other on which our physical and psychological survival depends. When libidinal contact is blocked, aggression forms through frustration, and we become divided between ourselves and against ourselves (a schizoid position).
The body withdraws from wholehearted contact and establishes a conflict between motivation and compulsive drive to go against the basic urge. These early abandonments are intolerable, and the child finds a way to manage them, a need to relate with a need for protection. The only way is to separate the traumatic experiences and relocate them inside. The split-off part retreats from a relationship.
When blocked, the ideal object stays connected to the main part of the ego, the ” Central Ego.”
Diagram 2: Creation of ideal object
The central self is who we think we are; the ideal object is how we want the other to appear to us—the most comfortable relationship with no tension. The split-off part is divided into two endo psychic structures.
- Libidinal Ego – an intolerable exciting tantalising object connected to the intensely needy self.An inner bonding to the exciting object
- Anti-Libidinal Ego – an inner bond with the rejecting and frustrating object. Primitive anger is split off to avoid any hostility towards the idealised object . When triggered, one may experience the anger as chaotic rage or hatred, sometimes with persecutory guilt.
The intolerable bad aspects are subjected to repression, resulting in isolating inertia, unconscious and difficult to overcome. The two endopsychic selves, by their very own existence, limit the range and depth of the conscious functioning of the central ego. These aspects of the self choose to encapsulate and crystallise themself instead of losing the relationship with the object.
Any real relationship with a new external object is based on a closed system, where the object is treated as an object within the closed system of inner reality. The more profound the splits, the more extensive and deeper repressed, and the greater the pathological effects on the Central ego. The less the whole self is available to ongoing interaction with the world. Objects of the central self become idealised objects m rather than objects of external reality. Analysis and treatment aim to promote a synthesis of these structures from which they originally split from. The good object is never internalised, only seen as an idealised object of the central self.
Diagram 3: regression and endopsychic selves
The libidinal ego / exciting object may emerge from repression as intense dependency cravings and a painful yearning for an idealised object. We can still see the needed external object as good enough to continue trusting and relating to them. There is an outward sense of security at the price of unwanted anxiety, tension, and conflict. Relocating the badness is deemed a “moral defence ” to cope with inner persecution; we back up the repressed disavowed ego by internalising good experiences, consolidating the ideal object and offsetting the intolerable rejecting object.
Primary identification of infantile dependency, where the infant experiences the other as fused and unseparated. They are unaware of any differentiation, where the individual parts or roles must be accepted and made aware in the relationship. Here are some of the primitive characteristics. There is a need to take from the other; their pleasure is in the other. Taking from the other is a loving act, bringing two people together in unity of shared fulfilment.
- unconditional love
- Quality of need is absolute; if needs are unmet, they will die.
- Infants are not aware of any sense of option or choice of object. No experience of an alternative and failure in a relationship is tantamount to death.
Maturity is the gradual abandonment of these identifications, with progressive differentiation of the object and the self. Separateness does not imply isolation or disconnection but hinges on recognising the existence of the selfhood of the other. No way is the self diminished by the existence of the relationship between self and other. With recognition and acceptance, the individual can gain personal responsibility.
However, the child feels threatened and feels increasingly vulnerable and powerless, where repressed elements press into consciousness. Projecting these elements onto the external world eases the internal battle while appeasing the illusion that they may eliminate the difficulties.
They are filled with a sense of emptiness, deadness and futility. An abnormal way of being with a little personal relationship, any needs and aggression have been split off and repressed, leaving the central ego empty of these elements. A sense of futility arises from their impoverished relationships, where love and assertion are dangerous.
If love is destructive, life has no meaning or purpose.
The schizoid sees physical need and passion as gross, shunning dangerous emotions and preferring to occupy rational and intellectual spaces in the psyche. A move to the depressive position (Klein ) is where the child manages to contain and acknowledge their hate and anger. The child feels their assertion and aggression will drive or destroy yr person they love, which leaves the child in despair.
The schizoid will attempt to manipulate objects to ward off the intrusion, filled with relentless persecution, covering inner deadness. A phobic person will feel in terror of the person/object, caught between an obsessional conflict between separateness and identification, torn between holding onto the exciting object and escaping into the external world of the dangerous rejecting object. The conflict between a desire for a relationship and a fear of intimacy becomes exaggerated.
Pleasure-seeking is a poor substitute for person seeking
The hysterical person treats problems as physical rather than emotional and seeks external relief. The seeking of relief and gratification regardless of personal relationship, with complete abandonment of emotional contact. During the Oedipus complex, the child experiences both parents as frustrating, fulfilling, exciting and rejecting. May identify one parent as exciting and the other as rejecting. Sexual orientation is influenced by which parent they find exciting, with extreme exclusivity.
The therapist’s interpretations are an active ingredient and are a significant factor in assisting the client in becoming aware of hidden assumptions and impulses, helping them awaken and resolve issues. The client may show resistance to preserving loyalty with their internal objects. Change is dangerous as it threatens the primary need to safeguard the external relationship.
If we open a closed system, the client experiences an acute fear of falling into a vacuum of emptiness. They will be disorientated and humiliated in the resurgence of a real relationship with the therapist without a trusting relationship; the client will not abandon internal objects. The client needs to reclaim the split-off parts with renewed capacities for anger and the need to integrate aggression into the central ego. They will then relate to others with richness, with the external world less divided and conflictual. They can experience themself and others with more emotional depth.
Ronald Fairbairn (1925), The Dynamic struture of the Self
1. Ego Death and Stages of Ego Death: https://www.conjunctio.co.uk/ego-death-and-stages-of-ego-death/
2. Ego and Archetype: https://www.conjunctio.co.uk/ego-and-the-archetype/