chapter  2
The Role of Others in Mental Development
Pages 8

THE CRUCIAL ROLE THAT PERSONS and things and their images or representationscalled "objects" in psychoanalysis-play in mental development has been widely acknowledged in psychoanalysis since its inception. Before elaborating our understanding of that role further, however, let us distinguish between a representation and an image. After developing the capacity to differentiate the self from others, a person's ego develops an "image" of the other-and a corresponding "image" of the self-whenever that person interacts with another. Embodied in these images are individuals' wishes, affects, and perceptions surrounding the objects, as well as their defenses against them; thus an individual can hold manifold and varied images of the same object at different times. By "representation," on the other hand, we mean a relatively permanent aggregate of such images of an object, a mosaic constructed by the ego from the individual's multiple real and fantasy experiences with that object. Such an aggregate of images, some of which are mostly conscious and some of which are mostly unconscious, comprises, for example, a child's "mother representation," which may or may not correspond to the child's actual mother in any given respect. A mental representation is, in a sense, analogous to a cast of characters in a theatrical production, only some of whom are on stage at any particular moment. Thus, when it is said that individuals transmit their traumatized "self-representation," it is not truly their representation that is being transmitted, but their traumatized image. We are aware that some massive traumas may affect the whole mosaic of images; nevertheless, for our purposes, image will be the more specific term, representation the global.