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Concepts Of Object Relations Theory
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Object Relations Theory


Object. An object is that to which a subject relates. Michael St. Clair writes, "For example, I love my children, I fear snakes, I am angry with my neighbor." Drives like those for sex, hunger, and affection have objects. In object-relations theory, objects are usually persons, parts of persons, or symbols of one of these.

Representation refers to the way the person has or possesses an object. Object representation is the mental representation of an object.

An external object is an actual person, place or thing that a person has invested with emotional energy.

An internal object is one person's representation of another, such as a reflection of the child's way of relating to the mother. A memory, idiea, or fantasy about a person, place, or thing..(Some writers, like Melanie Klein, use the term "object" without always stating whether it refers to a person or an inner representation.

Self. An internal image. Conscious and unconscious mental representations of oneself.

Self-representation. A person's inner representation of himself or herself as experienced in relation to significant others.

Self-object. A loss f boundaries, where what is self and object get blurred and the distinction between self and external object is not clear. (This condition is called "confluence" in Gestalt therapy.)

Part object. This is an object that is part of a person, such as a hand or breast. The other is not recognzed as a "whole object."

Whole object. Another person whom is recognized as having rights, feelings, needs, hopes, strengths, weaknesses, and insecurities like one's own, just as oneself has. .

Object constancy. Maintaining a lasting relationship with a specific object, or rejecting any substitute for such an object. Example of the latter: rejecting mothering from anyone except one's own mother. Mahler: object constancy is "the capacity to recognize and tolerate loving and hostile feelings toward the same object; the capacity to keep feelings centered on a specific object; and the capacity to falue an object for attributes other than its function of satisfying needs."

Splitting. This occurs when a person (especially a child) can't keep two contradictory thoughts or feelings in mind at the same time, and therefore keeps the conflicting feelings apart and focuses on just one of them.

Self-psychology. The big issue is the nature and kind of emotional investment in the self. Narcissism plays a central role in the thinking of self-psychology. That is, the person deals with objects as if they were part of the self, or in terms of the object performing an essential function for the self. Such a distorted relationship requires a different form of treatment from that of neurotics.