Theory of Personality
The first pages go into what are contemporary object relational theories on love
According to object relations theorists, the nature of the earliest interaction between the child and the mother determines the quality of the child's subsequent love relationships. Bak (1973) states that falling in love is an attempt to undo the original separation from the mother, and Bergmann (1971) says, "Love revives, if not direct memories, then archaic ego states that were once active in the symbiotic phase" (p. 32). He cites Mahler (1967, p. 742) to the effect that symbiosis is to be understood as "hallucinatory or delusional, somatopsychic, omnipotent fusion with the representation of the mother." In other words, the state of being in love reactivates or reflects the state of object relations that prevailed before the distinction between the self and the object developed. During the symbiotic phase, fusion with the mother is supposedly experienced as unalloyed bliss, while separation is tantamount to annihilation and death.
Fundamentally, it is the effect of unconscious fantasy wishes, connected with specific mental representations of objects, that colors, distorts, and affects the ultimate quality of interpersonal relations
It is not hard to understand how reality testing and the interpretation of sensory data, functions acquired with such effort, are easily and readily set aside in the compulsive wishful strivings of dreams, fantasies, and neurotic symptoms, as well as under the influence of great passion or prejudice, and, of course, in love.
What is later organized and conceptualized as the needgratifying object originates out of the memories of repetitive sensory impressions accompanied by feelings of gratification. Object seeking is predominantly oriented by the need to try to achieve the identity of pleasurable perceptions remembered but not independently attainable by infants. The disparity between infants' wishes and their limited capacity to achieve them in reality is a fundamental fact of human development.
Similar to Adler's earliest recollections
From a psychological point of view the individual's concept of a person is a conglomerate of many earlier object representations. This coherent, organized concept may be dissolved regressively into its antecedent object representations.
It is in this sense that I can understand the theory of "splitting." It is not necessarily the re-emergence of an earlier structure, but rather the reactivation of memory traces of a bad object representation that is distinct from the good object representation as described above. Thus the splitting of the representation of a person does not necessarily occur only in cases of severe personality regression. When there is a painful interaction between two people, one can observe in the dreams and fantasies of the patient how the qualities of good and bad may become sharply dissociated in the mental representations of the object. The individual, in turn, may respond to the other person as if that person were the repetition of the earlier mental representation of the bad object. At the same time such an individual may be functioning at an advanced level of mental development. The ease with which the coherent concept of the object may regressively dissolve into earlier disparate mental representations is a measure of ego weakness.
When there is a painful interaction between two people, one can observe in the dreams and fantasies of the patient how the qualities of good and bad may become sharply dissociated in the mental representations of the object. The individual, in turn, may respond to the other person as if that person were the repetition of the earlier mental representation of the bad object. At the same time such an individual may be functioning at an advanced level of mental development. The ease with which the coherent concept of the object may regressively dissolve into earlier disparate mental representations is a measure of ego weakness.
When we have profound and memorable moments - is it between us - or fragments of archaic, polarizing memories?
When we have painful and uncomfortable moments - is it between us - or fragments of archaic, painful memories we want to expulse (in neurotic extremes, destroy?) Do we hold secret hope in the bad becoming good?
When we have pleasurable and blissful moments - is it between us - or fragments of archaic, pleasurable memories we want to keep (in neurotic extremes, merge?) Do we hold worries of the source of pleasure abandoning us?
The superego is not a unified agency. Closely observed, it can be seen to constitute an organization of contradictory trends based upon an attempt to integrate various impressions of experiences of judging and of having been judged, of reward and punishment from objects. This agency of the mind is built up for the most part by way of identification with objects in very specific contexts. The self-condemning, persecutory hallucinations observed in various forms of severe depression represent memories or fantasies, distorted, it is true, by the process of defense, but memories which have been regressively transformed into visual or auditory perceptions. Under such circumstances, the delusional material regressively recapitulates, by way of identification and repetition, the memories and fantasies of earlier object relations. The process reveals that the identifications in the superego represent discrete, historic episodes, selective identifications in terms of the individual's previous conflict.
Clinical experience underscores the fact that in every love relationship the individual acts out some form of complicated unconscious fantasy rooted in early vicissitudes of drive and object experience, a fantasy that ultimately determines, but only in part, the pattern of loving and the specific person or types of persons that will correspond to the object choice.
... the concept of a mature object relationship in love is something of an idealization and contrary to what one encounters in actual analytic practice.
The loving relationship is a bit of unreality set aside from the world of reality. Many aspects of the relationship between lovers clearly reflect infantile prototypes of behavior for instance, baby talk. Nor does it follow that an object choice based upon an infantile wish necessarily dooms the love to failure or even to instability. Unions based on an oedipal rescue fantasy may turn out quite successfully. And even preoedipal determinants need not spell catastrophe, if there is some element of congruence or complementarity in the mutual choice of objects.
These [love relation] needs may change in time for many reasons, altering the relationships between the partners, and this is what leads to instability or rupture of the relationship or to the search for a new love. In finding a new object, the individual may or may not repeat the old pattern. To a large extent what happens is determined by the nature of the unconscious conflict which the individual is trying to resolve at that particular time of life.
A classic example of this may be seen in Freud's (1917) Taboo of Virginity. There he describes certain women who experience defloration as castration. As a result, they hold a grudging, vengeful attachment to their first lovers, tied to them in a thralldom of hostility. If they marry the first lover, the marriage is usually doomed to failure. A second marriage, however, may turn out quite well.
... one must be cautious in trying to predict the nature of later object ties and patterns of loving on the basis of early experiences with the object
it is not just the experience with the object, but what is done with the experience, that is decisive for development. This has some bearing on the development of the capacity to love.
Later experiences in love relationships may modify the effect of earlier object ties (Beres and Obers, 1950).