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Object Relations Therapy: The Primacy of Relationships Argosy University(USE AS GUIDE ONLY)
Object Relations Therapy
Running Head: Object Relations Therapy
Object Relations Therapy: The Primacy of Relationships
Object Relations Therapy 2
Socrates implored us to “know thyself.” Whether it be through the examination of one’s
status with the gods in ancient Greece, or through communion with the personal god of the
Middle Ages and Renaissance, or by understanding the underlying biological urges as portrayed
by Freud or more recently via the search for and building upon of ego strength, mankind has for
millennia sought to answer Socrates’s statement with an affirmative. Object Relations Theory is
but one of the more recent systematic attempts to understand the human psyche, to plumb the
depths of human pathological development and try to offer a means to reorient the self upon a
more fulfilling path. However, as most theories scoured from the back of psychoanalysis, Object
Relations Theory has many faces. Kohut places primacy in the self, noting the process of
internalizing external selfobjects (Cashdan, 1988). Mahler embarked on a thorough rewriting of
Freud by postulating a process of “separation-individuation.” Klein got lost in detailing the
internal fantasy worlds of the child as manifestations of the struggle between life and death.
Moreover, Fairbairn was caught up in the infant’s ability to split the internalized relationships
with the primary caregiver, usually the mother. Each therapist/theorist and others not mentioned,
offered their version of the inner-workings of the infant psyche and while there are obvious
differences between the offered postulates one over-riding point can be taken: that the
development of selfhood is tied to the first object relationship.
Relationships, to state an obvious point, do not exist in a vacuum of experience. Each
connection formed by the human person is molded, shaped, and given context not only through
the initial attachment formed with the primary caregiver (Siegel, 1999). The early attachment is
given context itself by the human organism, the body that is used in a symbiotic fashion with the
mind to interact with the so-called “external” world of experience (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999).
These interactions form the basis of the essential metaphorical mappings used by the brain to
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