chapter  1
14 Pages

Are Selfobjects the Only Objects? Implications for Psychoanalytic Technique

Are there objects other than selfobjects? Since the word "object" in psychoanalysis is not only a vestige of the biologically disproven instinct theory advanced by Freud (see Basch 1975, 1984) but has also been equated with "person," the question must be modified. When we use the term selfobject, we are referring to a hypothesis about normal development made by Heinz Kohut, an extrapolation back to infancy from observations made by him in the analyses of adults. Kohut (1971) noted that in the analysis of Miss F, and later in that of other patients, he was treated, not as an individual in his own right, but dealt with as if he were no more than an extension of the patient; the patient expected him to understand, anticipate, and meet her needs, and then to disappear until his services were again required. When Kohut taught himself to accept the patient's demands as not being evasions and focused on understanding the meaning of what she was trying to tell him rather than insisting that she meet his preconceived expectations of what should happen in an analysis Miss F was able to mature. Using this and similar patient experiences Kohut drew the following conclusions: The vulnerable infant frequently requires the help of caregivers to meet his physical and psycholosical needs Through the caregiver's intercession the infant eventually learns to perform for himself the functions that previouslv he could not carry out-this process Kohut called transmuting internalization Transmuting internalization leads to the formation of psychic structure and to the expansion and strengthening of the

Copyrighted Material

1. Implications for Psychoanalytic Technique 5

age she was able to accomplish some successful hand-to-mouth movements. Particularly notable were her lengthy awake states, as she lay calmly and intently surveying her surroundings. She seemed to be able to experience a cause-effect relationship between her eye movements and her visual sensations. This seemed to be a pleasurable experience, one which she prolonged and repeated on other occasions [p. 116].