What is it about the concept of the self that gives it so much significance? This is a good question with which we can begin to consider normative understandings of the individual as they appear in psychology. A further question can be: Why is it when we speak of the self that we always conceptualize it as singular? Why is it conceptualized as "monocentric" and deemed pathological if it is thought to be composed of several aspects or faces?0 I find this an intriguing question, and it is one which I intend to explore here in terms of object relations theory.

Object relations theory is a form of psychanalysis that was brought to England by Melanie Klein prior to and during the second world war. Although object relations was not the only form of psychoanalysis available in England, it could be said to have been the most innovative variation of Freud's thought at that time and place. Melanie Klein's thought was picked up and expanded by several other analysts, such as D.W. Winnicott and W.D.R. Fairbairn. All three--Klein, Winnicott and Fairbairn--have been influential in the development of an understanding of the psyche which de-emphasized Freud's drive-theory. In contradistinction, object relations emphasizes the role of the instinctual objects and the psyche's means of relating to these objects. That is, the interest had shifted from the instinct to its object and the way that one relates to it.

Objects relations theory is an interesting advancement in the process of investigations into the psyche and it is one that merits our attention. It is not, of course, an infallible evolution. There has been several years of further advancement in object relations theory. Still the three theorists mentioned above may be considered to be the primary sources of this stream of thought. What I intend to do in this paper is look at Klein, Faribairn and Winnicott's reflections to seek an understanding of their view of the structure of the psyche as many faceted.1 That is, my agenda is to develop an appropriation of object relations theory that is contusive to a "polycentric" understanding of the psyche.

The structure of this paper is as follows: First I will summarize the positions of each of the three individuals under consideration, while bringing out aspects of their thought which is pertinent to my interests. Then I will amplify my understanding of these thoughts as they relate to a polycentric organization of the psyche. Finally, I will approach the question of an object relations understanding of the polycentric self. In doing so I will borrow thoughts from each Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott to develop my own understanding of how the infant relates its self to the world in a diversified manner.



In summarizing Melanie Klein's theory a point to stress is the innovation of Freud's thought that was introduced by the notion of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. These positions are considered to be two vitally different types of morality which develop successively in the individual.2 This understanding of successive developments of morality is dependent upon a further innovation of Freudian theory which claimed that the individual has a functioning super-ego within the first few months of life.3 Here, we already have found some far reaching divergences from Freud's thoughts. First, we have a radically different understanding of the structure of the psyche and its relations to external and internal stimuli at birth. Second, we have an understanding of the new-born's psyche which attributes to it an moral agency--the super-ego--something which Freud refused to grant the individual until after the oedipal conflict had been resolved in the third to fifth years.4

The notions of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions and the early development of the super-ego follow hand in hand in Melanie Klein's thought. The paranoid-schizoid position is said to be the original way which the new-born relates to his or her internalized and external world. It is considered to be current during the first quarter year the infant's life. As the first means of experiencing anxiety it provides the patterns for all later reactions to anxiety provoking situations as well as effect relations to primary objects.

Since there is, in Klein's view, always interactions between the libidinal and aggressive impulses, any situation which causes an increase of aggressive tendencies (deprivations from the external world for example) results with a desire to 'punish' the offending object. This is quickly followed with a fear of a corresponding retaliation to the aggressive act.5 This fear of retaillation is said to cause the onset of idealization. Idealization is a defensive mechanism operating in the attempt to preserve the ego and its internalized objects by separating the object's good and bad aspects. For Klein, the good part of the object is then idealized and further internalized while the bad is projected outwards or repressed altogether. Here the good object plays a vital role in the strengthening of the ego and its capacity for integration. The good object is understood to be a source of reassurance against anxiety and fortifies trust and love but it is only capable of doing this so long as it is perceived to be in an undamaged, internalized and loving state.6

In the first three months of life certain characteristic features of the paranoid-schizoid position appear. These characteristics include: an interaction between the processes of introjection and projection (in terms of the good object this allows for the development of a secure ego and the experience of a loving or 'good' relationship); the relation to the good and the bad breast (object) functions as the infant's first object relationship; destructive impulses and persecutory anxiety are at their height; there is a desire for unlimited gratification, i.e., from the ideal breast; the split of the object into its good and bad aspects is keenly felt; the good and bad aspects of the object together make up the super-ego of the paranoid-schizoid stage; and, defenses such as splitting, denial and the phenomenon of omnipotence and the ego's subsequent control of internal and external objects are dominant.7 What all this implies is that during the infant's first three months, it learns that there is frustration to life and that it must find a means of dealing with such frustrations. We find in Klein's thought that the primary defense is splitting. It is by the internalization of the good object that the infant secures his or her ego and experiences good relationships. For this reason, at this point in life the infant tends to relate to objects only partially i.e., to only one or another aspect at a time.

Although the bad object has so far been neglected in the discussion, it is nonetheless present in the individual. It is through the internalization of the bad object that the infant finds itself in a position to deal with it--i.e., by being internalized it is easily manipulated. It is through projective identification, on the other hand, that the child projects parts of the self on or into other persons and thus relieves himself or herself from the anxiety surrounding the bad object.8

With the onset of the second quarter of life the infant is said to enter the depressive position. This is the position in which the child begins to recognize that what is split into good and bad are actually one and the same thing. Furthermore, there is a tendency to integration. That is, the infant is now able to relate to the object as a whole instead of merely a part and the baby synthesizes the two separate aspects of the object. This synthesis brings the conflict between love and hate to full force. Ambivalence is experienced for the first time. That is, the child must reconcile her or his aggressive tendencies to an object that it recognizes to be both good and bad. The result is infantile depression. From this point of view, the depressive position can be said to be a guilty reaction caused by aggressive tendencies directed against a 'complete' object. Such guilt is said to arise as a result of any attempt to destroy the bad object as this also leads to the destruction of the good object. The result is an desire to preserve the whole, internalized object. For Klein, anxiety which brings about this desire the preservation of the object is called depressive.9

The desire to preserve the good, whole object is called reparation. To Klein, reparation is the attempt to alleviate the anxiety and guilt caused by aggression. Aggression and its subsequent guilt allows the full implementation of the drive towards reparation. Reparation is said to represent a growing adaption to external reality and operates by assisting the lessening of the guilt surrounding aggressive tendencies. As a means of restoring a disrupted inner world,10 reparation may be said to be attempts towards integration. That is, the integrated psyche has become disintegrated due to splitting (a result of aggression) and depression arising from a fear of the failure of attempts at reparation.11

Integration, to Klein, is concurrent with splitting. It is the unintegrated ego which is liable to split itself. Hence it seems obvious that the tendency to integration is a main feature of mental life. As Klein writes:

One of the main factors underlying the need for integration is the individual's feeling that integration implies being alive, loving, and being loved by the internal and external good object; that is to say, there exists a close link between integration and object relations. Conversely, the feeling of chaos, of disintegration, of lacking emotions as a result of splitting, I take to be closely related to the fear of death.12

Disintegration, then, is the situation in which the depressive is full of anxiety and guilt for the object caused by aggressive desires directed towards it. The depressive would reunite the object. For the paranoid-schizoid, however, the disintegrated object is seen to be a multitude of persecutors, which are thought to be dangerous fragments of the self.13 A means of distinguishing these two positions is one that sees the depressive's internalization of something bad as a risk of damaging the good external objects. For the paranoid-schizoid, in contrast, the internalization of something bad is said to be seen as a risk of damaging the good internal objects.14

Conversely, if the child is capable of introjecting a good object, this internalized object will prove to be the most beneficial influence throughout his or her life.15 It will act

as something within the personality having the nature of kindness and wisdom; this leads to confidence and trust in oneself and helps to combat and overcome the feelings of fear of having bad figures within one and of being governed by one's uncontrollable hatred; and furthermore, this leads to trust in the outside world beyond the family circle.16

It is through both introjection and projection, Klein believes, that we develop those 'good' and 'bad' objects which make up or integrate our inner world. These inner objects are placed within a structure and organized and hence later become discernable as the super-ego. Klein notes that

this inner world [of the super-ego] consists of innumerable objects taken into the ego, corresponding partly to the multitude of varying aspects, good and bad, in which the parents (and other people) appeared to the child's unconscious mind throughout various stages of his development. Further they represent all the real people who are continually becoming internalized in a variety of situations provided by the multitude of ever-changing external experiences as well as phantasized ones. In addition, all these objects are in the inner world in an infinitely complex relation both with each other and with the self.17

In other words, everything that we have lived though makes parts of ourselves and goes on to build up our personalities. Each part has fundamentally influenced our relationships to ourselves. Therefore, the super-ego and our introjected parental figures interact in the ways that we relate to ourselves.18 Moreover, the interchangeable child-parent relationship with which we manifest our attitude towards people is also "experienced within ourselves...[as] these helpful, guiding figures whom we keep in our minds."19 They unconsciously form part of our inner world as loving objects and return this love and feel like parents to us. However, if these figures are predominately harsh, we can never be at peace with ourselves.20 Nonetheless, because there is a tendency to introjection, each internalized object contains both a good and bad side of the self which represent those same aspects in the guise of external objects.

Of course the internalization of the initial objects relates to the Oedipal Drama. Klein follows Freud in the notion that the mother's breast and father's penis are the (symbolized) objects which are internalized.21 She, however, has the opinion that the Oedipal complex begins and is completed at a much earlier age than Freud anticipated--three-and-a-half years versus five years.22 I will not enter into a detailed description of Klein's Oedipal drama as it has little to do directly with my thesis. It is worth noting, however, that Klein suggests that it is due to frustration of the desire for gratification that the child turns to another object. Also, in both cases (the mother and father), there is an accompanying polarity between gratification and the tendency to devour, i.e., aggression. This polarity operates in the same way as the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions--through aggression, through a fear of retaliation and through guilt. Thus the mother (or her breast) and the father (or his 'penis') are initially split into good and bad objects and then internalized or projected outwards. While splitting is the primary defensive mechanism in the paranoid-schizoid position, in the depressive position bad objects tend to be defended against by means of repression.23

Following Freud, Klein notes that it is through the internalized mother and father images that the infant's super-ego developed. However, she suggests that the super-ego does not coincide with the picture presented by real parents. Rather, it is created out of the imaginary pictures which it has internalized. Furthermore, the child's real object and its anxiety are based upon a fear of both the unrealistic super-ego and the objects which are real in themselves but viewed under a phantastic light. Thus the sense of guilt develops from the child's belief that he or she has attacked the mother's or the father's body. When the super-ego lessens in intensity, however, its visitations of imaginary attacks upon the ego, which induce feelings of guilt and cause the tendency to reparation, are said to diminish.24

What Klein describes in her version of the Oedipal drama and the subsequent development of the super-ego is the equivalent of the internalization of the primary objects described above. To briefly summarize my understanding of Klein's thought of the self I note the following points: there is at the very beginning of life a rudimentary super-ego or moral agency in operation; alongside this 'primitive' structure is the ego and the id; the ego is initially in the paranoid-schizoid position; the original means with which the ego defends itself against frustration is through aggression directed against the object; this results with a fear of retaliation; such aggression involves the reaction of splitting the object into its good and bad aspects; splitting is later replaced by repression when the child in the second quarter of life enters the depressive position; in the depressive position the child realizes that the split objects are one and the same thing, this results with guilt being felt over the aggressive wishes directed against the good-bad object; and, finally, the child attempts to effect an alleviation of guilt through reparation.

The preceding discussion has been an obvious simplification of Klein's thought but I think it is one that is suggestive of a polycentric concept of the self. For instance, Klein begins with Freud's three-fold typology of the self--the ego, id and super-ego.25 To this I think we may add the primary objects--the child's image of his or her mother and father. This seems to be an obvious inclusion when we consider that to Klein these are the objects which help to construct the super-ego. For this reason, I think we can say that insofar as they help to make up the super-ego the mother and father images are structural components of the psyche. For this reason, I think that Klein's concept of the self, and indeed Freud's, is implicitly polycentric. She offers us a self that consists of an id--the instinctual, 'animal' side of our natures, the ego--the side of ourselves that we most often recognize as "me," the controlling, alert, social side of ourselves, and the super-ego--our supramoral, external and internal representative of 'society.' Continuing from my point of the role of the internalized objects, I think we can speak of the super-ego in at least two ways--the sides of ourselves which represent the mother and the father respectively. Furthermore, both of these selves, for I think the mother and father each represent an internalized aspect of every individual and thus makes up a part of their personality, can be spoken of in two distinct yet interconnected senses. That is, each internalized 'object' has both a good and a bad side which is experienced by and available to every individual. The way these sides of the objects are experienced is, in my opinion, discernable in terms of the types of relating in any given situation whether it is anxiety provoking or not. So in Klein we find a conception of the self that includes at least four different aspects.


Fairbairn's thoughts of the development of the personality in many ways mirrors those of Melanie Klein. This, however, is not always the case. One of the most glaring disagreements that Fairbairn has with Klein's thoughts is the notion that the depressive position is 'superior' to the schizoid.26 In Fairbairn's opinion the ego by nature is split and thus conforms to the schizoid position.27 That is, he thinks that everybody possesses, to some degree, schizoid characteristics. He comes to this conclusion because he thinks that there is some measure of splitting at the deepest levels of every person.28 Fairbairn considers dreams to be primary evidence of this viewpoint. That is, the dreamer usually represents himself or herself as two or more individuals in any dream. All figures in a dream are said to represent [1] some part of the dreamer's personality, and [2] an object with whom some part of one's personality has a relationship, commonly on a basis of identity, to his or her inner reality. "At the level of the dreaming consciousness," Fairbairn writes, "the ego of the dreamer is split. The dream thus represents a universal schizoid phenomenon."29

Furthermore, Fairbairn does not necessarily think that the split ego is 'healthy.' Ego development, to Fairbairn, includes adaptive, integrative and discriminative functions which are impaired by splitting. Conversely, he notes that splitting also functions to encourage the ego's development. This is an interesting oxymoron. It is one, however, that leads Fairbairn to conclude that there is a scale between the poles of arresting development and encouraging development. This is a scale that ranges from schizophrenia proper to schizoid states--the phenomenon of depersonalization and\or dissociation, etc.30

Fairbairn's conclusion that everybody is inherently in the schizoid position is the basis of his theory of ego development. His theory is characterized by the description of a process whereby an original state of infantile dependence is abandoned in favour of a state of mature or adult dependence. That is, the child moves from a state of absolute dependence based on the identification with objects to a state of relative dependence in which the individual differentiates objects from the self. Fairbairn describes this process as consisting of three stages: infantile dependence, a transitional stage and adult dependence.31

It is in the state of infantile dependence that Fairbairn locates the aetiology of psychopathological states such as schizophrenia and depression. Schizophrenia is said to do with problems in sucking (loving) and depression with problems of biting (hating) in object relationships. However, it is in the transitional stage that obsessional, paranoic, hysteric and phobic symptoms receive their aetiological significance. These "pathological" states are said to operate as defensive mechanisms used to deal with difficulties arising from object relationships in the transitional stage. They are considered to ultimately operate as defenses against the schizoid and depressive tendencies which arose during the first stage of ego development. It is at this point that contrasting types of people develop. Here is where we find the distinction between the schizoid (introvert) and the depressive (extravert) types to which Klein refers.32 Fairbairn notes, moreover, that there are also 'mixed types' in which, due to an infantile fixations, a deeper schizoid tendency underlies a superimposed depressive tendency.33

The notion of the psyche's 'classic defenses' (obsessions, paranoia, hysteria and obsessions) are what led Fairbarin to reformulate Freud's concept of repression. Fairbairn concludes that "what are primarily repressed are neither intolerably guilty impulses nor intolerably unpleasant memories, but intolerably bad internalized objects."34 He continues by stating that the child would rather be bad than have bad objects. The infant attempts to internalize the objects, repress and thus gain control over them. This defense operates, however, at the price of internal security.35 That is, it is only when repression fails and internalized bad objects threaten the ego that these four defenses come into operation.36 Following this initial defensive mechanism, a later adaption of a moral defense appears. This is marked by the establishment of the super-ego. Here guilty feelings defend against the object by providing a distinction of conditional (morally) and unconditional (libidinal) badness. Internalized objects are considered unconditionally bad--identified as internal persecutors. They then cause the internalization of good objects which alters the situation and provides the child with conditionally bad and conditionally good objects. That is, one object becomes conditionally dependent upon the other object.37

Nonetheless, there are still bad objects which have been repressed. It is here that Fairbairn looks to the origins of psychopathology. Fairbairn makes a further move away from Freud's thoughts when he postulates that libido is primarily object seeking as opposed to pleasure seeking. Hence he finds the libido seeking repressed objects.38 From this point Fairbairn makes further departures from Freud's theory of repression to ultimately reformulate the psychoanalytic conception of the psyche's dynamic structure. This is the point in which Fairbairn's thoughts come into play in terms of a notion of polycentric self. Fairbairn sees repression as a problem between objects relationships and the personality--which is made up of "the relationships of various parts of the ego to internalized objects and to one another as objects."39 Fairbairn thinks that 'impulses' cannot be considered apart from the endopsychic relationships which they help to establish.40 Hence he believes that repression operates not only against internalized objects (which are endopsychic--albeit not ego--structures) but also against parts of the ego which seeks relationships with these internal objects.41

Fairbairn takes this stance for the simple reason that he thinks repressed impulses are inseparable from the ego structure. "In order to account for repression," he writes, "we thus appear to be driven to the necessity of assuming a certain multiplicity of egos."42 Fairbairn points to Freud's recognition that repression can operate against a structure and questions "whether the repressed is not invariably and inherently structural."43 He answers this by considering this evident because he thinks repression operates against internalized objects which are treated as bad, and that all internalized objects are to be regarded as endopsychic structures.44 Fairbairn returns to dreams to support his argument. He notes that figures in dreams represent either parts of the ego structures or object structures. To this end, he proposes a universal classification of the ego splits as follows: (1) a central ego, (2) a libidinal ego, and (3) an aggressive, persecutory ego (the internal saboteur).45 Each of these egos are said to lend themselves to pairings with specific objects. The central ego relates itself closely to an object of importance in outer reality and to its internalized representative. The libidinal ego relates itself to an internal object closely connected to it and, the internal saboteur is considered to be closely bound to with its object by a strong libidinal attachment.46 The libidinal ego is associated to a satisfying object and the internal saboteur to a frustrating object.

Each of these egos and their objects are interrelated and interact in their functions. The central egos is said to be comprised of the conscious, preconscious and unconscious, while the subsidiary egos are said to be essentially unconscious.47 Hence Fairbairn implies that both the internal saboteur and the libidinal ego are rejected or repressed by the central ego. This notion is confirmed by fact that the volume of libido and aggression which has ceased to be at disposal of the central ego is now in the 'hands' of the subsidiary egos. "Obviously," he writes, "the dynamic of repression cannot be libido.... Aggression must accordingly be regarded as the characteristic determinant of the attitude of the central ego towards the subsidiary egos."48 That is, Fairbairn thinks that it is solely aggression that is responsible for repression.

These three egos may be roughly understood as being parallel to Freud's dynamic typology of the psyche. The Central ego is similar to Freud's ego. The libidinal ego is roughly the same as the id--except that it is a derivative of the central ego and not the a priori source of the impulses and, hence, is a dynamic structure itself. The internal saboteur is roughly similar to the super-ego. It is, however, also different. This is so because the internal saboteur is not conceived of as an internal object. Rather it is wholly structural and is devoid of all moral significance--i.e., it does not cause guilt. Finally, the super-ego is considered to still exist in the psyche at a higher level of complexity and mental organization than the internal saboteur.49

As a result of this formulation of the psyche's structure, Fairbairn concludes that the most inherent nature of the ego is that it is split--i.e, that it conforms to the schizoid position. This splitting, as we already know, is a result of a response to a certain degree of aggression which remains at the disposal of the central ego. Hence the subsidiary egos are repressed by the central ego and this repression is said to be secondary to the repression of internalized objects. It is the experience of frustration in childhood that calls forth aggression and gives rise to ambivalence. The object is seen as ambivalent and is, therefore, split into two. Because the child is forced to control external objects it must internalize them. Since internalization is considered an act of coercion,50 it is only the bad objects that are internalized and coerced. Hence difficulties develop only after internalization--if the object remains unsatisfying. Thus, Fairbairn claims all objects have two faces: one that frustrates and one that tempts--i.e., these objects both whet and frustrate the need. As a result the child deals with the frustrating object by splitting it again into (a) the need or exciting object and (b) the frustrating or rejecting object. The central ego then represses the two subsidiary egos through aggression, splits off them off and represses the two egos which remain attached to their objects by libidinal ties51--the frustrating object is attached to the internal saboteur and the satisfying object to the libidinal ego. As a result, the central ego rejects both the objects and the subsidiary egos and their objects.

In terms of the Oedipal drama Fairbairn theory suggests that what is repressed is no longer incestuous impulses but rather is a means of reducing the expression of both libido and aggression experienced by the infant in relation to the mother. To Fairbairn it is question of infantile dependence. That is, as outer reality comes into the picture there is the development of two distinct parental pictures. The relationship with the father is said to follow the same vicissitudes as those that affected the relationship with the mother. This results with a second round of splitting. Fairbairn, however, refreshingly avoids any discussion of penises and breasts. He does so by noting that the child's need for nourishment is more primary than and underlies the genital needs. Here the Oedipal situation is conceived of as an internal one--one that has to do with internalized objects and is built up upon the relation between the satisfying and frustrating mother and eventually father. The result is that the child is forced to deal with two pairs of objects. He or she is said to do so by compressing the two into one. The child then associates one parent with the satisfying object (the mother) and the other with the frustrating object (the father).52 "By so doing," Fairbairn states, "the child constitutes the Oedipus situation for himself [or herself]."53

As we can see, Fairbairn has conceptualized a psyche which has five aspects or faces: the central ego, the libidinal ego, the internal saboteur and the satisfying and frustrating objects. Fairbairn's theory allows for the explanation of psychopathology but it also permits the explication of characterological phenomenon in terms of patterns assumed by a complex of relationships between a variety of structures.54 Thus, the goal of Fairbairn's therapy is to integrate the split ego to itself and to its objects, to reduce aggression of the central ego or the internal saboteur to the other egos and their objects and, finally, to bring each of the egos in association to their objects.55

In Fairbairn, I think, we find a much more explicit assumption of a polycentric concept of the self. He not only speaks of the super-ego but also of three egos and two objects--all of which are considered to be structural components of the psyche. In relation to my earlier conclusions of Klein's thoughts I think we can say that Fairbairn's thoughts agree that each object manifests a good and bad aspect. That such objects are structural and thus can represent sides of ourselves. Fairbairn, however, allows a further amplification upon the theme of polycentrism. He provides us with several egos, as opposed to Klein and Freud's one. These egos each have their own objects--good and bad, mother and father--and the both the egos and their objects are interconnected and interrelate. This notion of the central and subsidiary egos suggests to me that Fairbairn thinks there are a variety of means of relating available to the individual. In Fairbairn's language such relating would occur in terms of reactions to the object or situation in either a neutral, a need or a frustrating course of action that is parallel to the central ego, the libidinal ego and the internal saboteur.


In terms of investigations into conceptions of the polycentric self, D.W. Winnicott's thoughts are likely the most problematic of the three theorists considered here. Although Winnicott spent some time studying under Melanie Klein, he never has been considered a Kleinian. Winnicott's strongest critique of Klein's object relations is that

she paid lip-service to [the] environmental provision, but would never fully acknowledge that along with the dependence of early infancy is truly a period in which it is not possible to describe an infant without describing the mother whom the infant has not yet become able to separate from a self.56

He follows with the conclusion: "it is my opinion that she was temperamentally incapable of this."57 It is from this point of view (i.e., the environmental provision) that Winnicott's style of objects relations evolved. He shows deep concern for such issues as the quality of mothering given to a child, the movement from infantile dependence to independence, integration and the "transitional object."

A good place to being an investigation into Winnicott's thoughts is his notions of the infant's movement from dependence to independence. This is reminiscent of Fairbairn's theory of the maturational process. The types of dependence Winnicott speaks of are as follows: (i) absolute dependence: where the infant is completely dependent upon the mother; (ii) relative dependence: where there is a growing awareness of dependence and an ability to relate objects to personal impulses; and, (iii) 'towards independence:' where there is a development of a means of living without being dependent upon external care.58 Winnicott also speaks of degrees of dependence and the result of environmental failure for each grade. These are as follows: (1) extreme dependence: a state which requires 'good-enough mothering' as the infant has not yet developed the sense of a separate self (here environmental failure is said to result with mental defects, childhood schizophrenia, a liability to disorders leading to institutionalization, etc.); (2) dependence: here poor conditions cause trauma but in this case there is already a distinct self to be traumatized (environmentally there is a liability to affective disorders and\or an antisocial tendency, etc.); (3) dependence-independence: here the child makes experiments in independence, but needs to be able to re-experience dependence (environmental failure results in a pathological dependence); (4) independence-dependence: this is the same as above but the emphasis is now upon independence (environmental failure is characterized by defiance, outbreaks of violence, etc.); (5) independence: this is characterized by an ability to look after oneself which implies the development of an internal environment (environmental failure here is not necessarily harmful); and, (6) the social sense: here the individual identifies with adults and social groups without too great a loss of personal impulse and originality nor too severe a loss of the aggressive and destructive impulses.59

Referring to the above, we can look at Winnicott's understanding of the process of maturation. Winnicott divides this operation into three categories. The first is the absolute dependence of the infant. In this situation and at all times it is both the psychical and the physical environment which make possible steady progress towards maturation or at best enables the realization of one's potentials. Since the ego's needs are multifarious and are a part of the ontology of the child, anything that gets in the way or impinges upon the gratification of these needs results in a serious interference in the natural tendency of the infant to become an 'integrated unit.'60 Thus, maternal adaption plays an important role in terms of meeting the child's instinctual and ego needs. It is important to note, however, that Winnicott thinks that the absolutely dependent child is unaware of any maternal provision.61 This is so because the child is considered to have not yet made the distinction between what is "ME" and what is "NOT-ME." In other words, the infant can not yet distinguish between the subject and the object.

Next is relative dependence. Here, the child is aware of the dependent relationship. This is a stage which is characterized by adaption to the environment and is accompanied by a gradual failure of the adaption. In this state the child is said to begin to make identifications. The tendency to identification is said to commence during ego integration. Identification is considered to be a characteristic of imagination, which in turn is indicative of a certain degree of integration. In other words, the child begins to see himself or herself as a unit, as "a whole person, with an inside and an outside, a person living in the body, and more or less bounded by the skin."62 The distinction between the "ME" and the "NOT-ME," the subject and the object has been made.63

The third and final state described is 'towards independence.' This state is dependent upon the establishment of the previous two. Once they are initiated, the child, through interaction with the external environment, is gradually enabled to meet the world and all its complexities.64 However, Winnicott notes that "independence is never absolute. The healthy individual does not become isolated, but becomes related to the environment in such a way that the individual and the environment can be said to be interdependent."65

What has been alluded to several time is the course of this discussion is the environmental provision or what Winnicott refers to as 'good-enough mothering.' It is adequate early care of the infant (good-enough mothering) which permits the appropriate unfolding of the child's potentialities. Good enough mothering is necessary for the development of a belief in a benign environment.66 That is, through the repetition of the satisfaction of instinctual needs, the child comes to see the world as benevolent, develops good object relations and remains healthy. Thus, we could say that good-enough mothering is sufficient ego support. Ego support which does not put the child in a situation where it must adapt itself to the external world too early in life. It is the mother's ability to meet the infant's needs, during the stage of absolute dependence, which allows for a brief period of omnipotence. This period of omnipotence keeps the child, who is all the time on the brink of unimaginable anxiety, upon the path to integration, personalization, and the capacity to relate to objects.67

All failures of mothering which could bring about too early a reaction or adaption to the external world is said to result with a disruption of the maturational process. If this occurs persistently it may set "going a pattern of fragmentation of being"68 or "unintegration."69 One result of 'not good-enough mothering' is the fabrication of the "false self" opposed to the "true self." Winnicott defines the true and false selves along the lines of Freud's division of the psyche as the part powered by the instincts and the part which is conscious70--i.e., those parts which are inwardly and outwardly based, the subjective and the objective.

These selves develop as a result of the quality of the mothering a child receives. On the first hand, the good-enough mother, who understands and responds to the child's 'spontaneous gesture' (nonverbal, primal communication), gives the infant's weak ego the strength necessary to retain the expression of the true self. While, on the second hand, the not good-enough mother, who cannot understand and react to such expressions, subjects the child to her own needs. A result is that the child is required to comply to the mother's needs and not the mother to the child's. Winnicott calls this compliance an expression of the false self. Thus, the child is placed in a situation which blocks its ability to form symbols. The consequence is that "the infant remains isolated. But in practice the infant lives, but lives falsely."71 It is through the false self that the infant builds up a false set of relationships. A positive aspect of the false self is that it hides the true self's compliance with environmental demands. Thus compliance and not spontaneity becomes the central feature in the infant's living experiences. Therefore, the false self can be seen as a defense against the exploitation of the true self which is said to result in its annihilation.72

Winnicott classifies the false self into several categories. At one extreme the false self has set itself up as real and is recognized as such. But, in this situation, the false self begins to fail in life. As a result the development of a less severe false self is required. Here the false self still functions to protect and isolate the true self from the world but recognizes its potential and allows it a secrete life. Closer to health we find the false self in a situation in which its main concern is to set up conditions in which the real self can come into its own. Still closer to health the false self is built upon identifications with external objects. Finally, in health, the false self is replaced by the whole organization of the polite and mannered social attitude.

Winnicott follows this with the warning that patients with a false personalities are so "trustworthy" that they are not to be recommended to analysts in training programs.73 This suggests two things to me. First, those with a false self can function with apparent success and normalcy in the world (something which Winnicott himself notes) and, second, the false self is always present to some degree. This makes sense to me because if the false self functions to keep the instinctual, interior self hidden, it functions as a psychical adaption to the demands of society. For, by psychoanalytic standards, the unbridled expression of sexuality and 'instinctuality' would be absolutely chaotic and a threatening to "civilization." Winnicott, in fact, insinuates this when he writes

I suggest that in health there is a core if the personality that corresponds to the true self of the split personality; I suggest that this core never communicates with the world of perceived objects, and that the individual person knows that it must never be communicated with or be influenced by external reality.... Although healthy persons communicate and enjoy communicating, the other fact is equally true, that each individual is an isolate, permanently non-communicating, permanently unknown, in fact unsound.74

To Winnicott this isolation and non-communication acts as a defense which attempts to preserve the individual. He argues that such preservation is a part of the search for identity and a means of communication which does not violate or jeopardise the true self.75

The notions of the true and false selves must not necessarily be confused with character disorders although they are obviously interrelated. Character (hence "character disorder") implies a whole person--i.e., a certain degree of integration. To Winnicott, character disorders may be divided into the success or the failure on the part of the individual to hide the illness. Success results in an impoverishment of the personality but it is characterized by a socialization of the disorder to allow for 'secondary gains' or to facilitate its propriety to social customs. Failure also implies an impoverishment of the personality. This also includes the failure in the attempt to relate the personality to society on the whole. The cause of character disorders are said to be found in problems in the maturational process. Hence, extreme ego distortion results in (1) psychoneurotic disorders (conflicts in the personal unconscious) and (2) psychosis (splitting, dissociation, depersonalization, repression, etc.--i.e., hidden illnesses in the ego structure).76 To Winnicott, however, the goal of the maturational process is integration. In fact he notes that the characteristic of maturation process is the drive towards integration and the characteristic of the facilitating environment is adaption.77

Integration is related to the ability to relate to objects. This assumption is reminiscent of Kleinian thought in that when the child can objectively distinguish the mother as another, NOT-ME, person, the ability to reconcile the aggressive and the erotic impulses develop. This is followed by the child's reparative gestures which, if the mother is capable of accepting this consequence of guilt, sets up further integration and a development of the capacity for concern.78 Here is where Winnicott's notion of a transitional object comes into play.

Winnicott not only speaks of transitional objects, he also refers to the transitional or potential space. This is the intermediate area which is parallel to the phenomenon theologians call transubstantiation. It is the space between the subject and what is objectively perceived.79 It is, as Winnicott puts it, that intermediate area between the thumb and the teddy bear.80 This intermediate area is that which is allowed to the infant between primary creativity and objective perception which is based upon reality testing. It relates to the sense of omnipotence that good-enough mothering permits the child to experience.81

The transitional object, on the other hand, operates as a "neutral zone of experience" which is unchallenged--i.e., the question whether it came from within or without is not asked by the child. Unlike Kleinian objects, however, the transitional object can neither be properly called internal nor external. That is, it is neither strictly a mental concept nor is it a possession. It may stand for the external, but indirectly stands for the internal, breast.82 "The transitional object is never under [the] magical control [of omnipotence] like the internal object, nor is it outside control as the real mother is."83 [my emphasis]

Transitional objects, then, are said to function in the maturational process of the movement from absolute dependence to independence. They are the variety of objects that an individual uses during the process of maturation--from the breast to the thumb to teddy bear, etc., or from absolute dependence to relative dependence to independence. It is through a four fold process, Winnicott says, that these objects function in the maturation process. First, the subject relates to the object. Then the object is in a procedure in which it is found rather than placed in the external world. Following this the subject destroys the object in order to place it outside of the self (projection?). Finally, if the object does not retaliate and survives the destructive impulses, it acquires constancy and it can be used as an object.

However, the maturational process is dependent upon the quality of mothering provided to the child. It is through the mother's special capacity of making adaptions to her child's needs that the child is permitted this sense of omnipotence discussed above. This permits the child the illusion that what it creates really exists. Thus, the intermediate area of experience is allowed to persist throughout life in experiences such as religion, art, imaginative living and creative work of all sorts. It is through such aspects of 'play' that the individual finds her or his self. That is, Winnicott thinks that it is only in play that the individual is able to be creative and use the whole personality and thus discover the self.84 Paradoxically Winnicott notes that creativity the opposite of integration.... It is only here, in this unintegrated state of the personality [the intermediate space], that that which we describe as creative can appear. This is reflected back, but only if reflected back, becomes apart of the organized individual personality, and eventually this in summation makes the individual to be, to be found; and eventually enables himself or herself to postulate the existence of the self.85

To Winnicott then, transitional object is the first "NOT-ME" object which symbolizes the union of the mother and child "at the point in time and space of the initiation of their state of separateness."86 In other words, a personal psychic reality is constructed and it is here that the child is most vulnerable to that unthinkable anxiety which leads to the formation of the false self. That is, if the mothering is still not good-enough at this stage, there is a potential for the disintegration of the ego.87

A good example of the false self can be found in what Winnicott calls the 'other sex element.' This curiously Jungian conception (i.e., the anima\animus dichotomy)88 rests upon another Jung-like notion. That is, the notion of the false self cannot help but remind me of Jung's persona.89 Winnicott's description of the other sex element is, in fact, very similar to Jung's description of the anima\animus. He notes that there is usually a degree of dissociation between the individual and the aspect of the personality that has the opposite sex. The male element is seen to represent separation and the female represents being. It also is said to represent the innate predisposition to bisexuality. Hence, this dissociation operates as a defense against the necessity to accept that bisexuality is a quality of the self. The result is that this part of the self is split off from consciousness and projected outwards. In fact, the dissociation may be such that the otherwise integrated individual cannot make any link to it. Winnicott notes that the dissociative defenses may be multifarious--i.e., mixed with other, later dissociations in "cross identifications." It is in the "pure sex elements" that we find the notion of identification or introjection of the object as Klein and Fairbairn depict it. Thus, as the subjective object, the other sex element becomes the first "NOT-ME" object (by virtue of separateness of the male element). What such objects provide the individual is an idea of self and that feeling of the real which springs from having an identity. The female element as representing being, notes Winnicott, requires little mental organization as this is the situation into which one is born. The male element representing separation, however, requires considerable mental organization as it is what enables the objectification of the object. Hence, the female element has nothing to do with drive or instinct rather this is characteristic of the male element.90

The question that comes to my mind is: In what way does the Winnicott's notion of the transitional object contribute to my understanding of the polycentric self? This is a fairy problematic question. After all, transitional objects are neither internalized nor external. They are, however, in my opinion a transitional representative of the first object--the breast or the mother. Not only do these objects represent the mother, I think it is logical to assume that they represent certain aspects of the internalized mother.91 If, as Winnicott notes, each successive object is used as a defense against anxiety,92 then it could be said that each object associates itself or refers back to an aspect of the internalized mother93 which is the most suited for relieving anxiety which is prevalent at any given time.94"Winnicott suggests just this when he writes that the usage of such objects sets in motion a particular pattern of relating and that "a need for a specific object or a behaviour pattern that started at a very early date may reappear at a later age when [the anxiety from] deprivation threatens.95" When such threats disappear, the specific object is said to become diffuse and dissolve into the cultural field. That is, it becomes decathected--not repressed, mourned or forgotten--and looses its efficacy.96 From this point of view, I think it seems evident that the transitional object never disappears completely; can return in times of regression and anxiety; and, represents the first internalized object. Therefore, I would conclude that the transitional object can represent our transitional selves. That is, just as the mother is a side of the self (as I have pointed out in relation to Klein and Fairbairn) the transitional objects which represent the an aspect of the mother also represents various sides of the self.97

At this point I would like to bring the exposition of Winnicott to an end with some statements relating to the polycentric self. Winnicott, as I mentioned earlier, is far more problematic than Klein or Fairbairn in this respect. To begin, Winnicott remains within the psychoanalytic tradition and for this reason he has by default assumed Freud's division of the self into ego, id and superego. Therefore, Winnicott, like Klein and Fairbairn, implicitly includes Freud's division of the self--i.e., he implicitly sees the self as containing at least two sides.98 If, however, we include Winnicott's explicit notions of the true and false selves, we can double the implied Freudian minimum complement of the sides of the self. This is a notion that must be taken into consideration since Winnicott implies, as I have pointed out, that each individual has both a true and a false self--only some false selves are healthier than others. A third consideration is the idea of the 'other sex element.' This, as I have pointed out, tends to be a dissociated or split off side of every individual's self. Considering the above, I think we can find in Winnicott a notion of a diverse self which includes the following: the ego-- the controlling, "ME" aspect; the superego--the moral conscience, the internalized parents, etc.; the true self--the hidden instinctual side of each individual (congruent to Freud's id?); the false self--the side of the self that complies to the demands of the external world and presents a false set of relations to it (Jung's persona); and, the other sex element--the split off, dissociated aspect which represents humanity's innate bisexuality (Freud's polymorphous perverse and Jung's anima\animus). Finally, there is the role of the transitional object in representing sides of the internalized selves. That is, each transitional object, in my opinion, represents a particular side of the self--relating to a specific side of the primary object--which is the most effective in relieving anxiety at any one time.


Why, you may ask, a polycentric self? Of what benefit is such an understanding to psychology and to life in general? In this I take my lead from James Hillman. Although Hillman is of the Jungian discipline, I think his reasons for a polycentric (or, in his words, a polytheistic) self transcend schools of thought. If the work of analysis is to understand and help the individual psyche, then it must be sensitive to as much of the self as is possible. To Hillman the self is made up of a multiplicity of partial conscious aspects of the individual. He would give each part its due, to accept the multiplicity of voices and to focus on the different rather than the one and the same. He would provide no preferred position for which the psyche could be viewed and, rather, offer several different ways of looking at any one psychic condition. This notion of the polytheistic self also rules out the monotheistic bias--the view that perpetuates psychic unity and tends to call psychic diversity pathological.99

As noted above, the reasons for viewing the self as diverse or polycentric transcend any psychological school. But the presence of such conceptions of diversity also transcend different psychologies. For instance, Freud's structure of the psyche is implicitly diverse--i.e., the id, ego and super-ego. This is something which has been and will be assumed by anyone who 'buys into' the Freudian system. Indeed, as I have noted previously, this is the case in terms of Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott. At this point in the investigation I would turn to these implicit assumptions and indicate similarities amongst the thinkers under scrutiny followed by an attempt at developing an object relations understanding of the polycentric self.


One of the more glaring similarities of Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott include the psyche's defenses. Splitting, for instance, is considered by Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott to be the primary defense against anxiety felt by the child. This defense is said to be replaced later by more evolved defenses such as the four "classical" pathologies (obsessions, hysteria, phobias and paranoia) or more 'advanced' defenses (repression, etc). The role of such defenses, both splitting and repression, is to eliminate from the psyche anxiety caused by aggressive tendencies due to frustrated desires for gratification. The purpose of these two defenses are not dissimilar. That is, splitting breaks the frustrating object into the good and bad and then either projects or internalizes either aspect. Repression operates also to rid the psyche of the object but it does so by "forgetting" it. Splitting, for each Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott, involves this dichotomization of the object into good and bad. In each the good sides of the object is understood to become eventualy internalized and thus make up part of the internalized world of the individual. That is, it becomes part of the individuals moral conscience and their means of relating to the world. In terms of the bad object there is less agreement. Klein claims that the bad objects are also internalized, then projected outwards and finally reconciled with the whole object. Fairbairn thinks that the bad object is repressed along side a part of the ego to which it attaches itself. Winnicott, however, spends little time discussing the bad object and instead refers to bad environmental conditions. That is, the primary object (the mother) frustrates the child's needs (does not provide good-enough mothering) and this causes the child to react and set up the false self.

A second point that I would like to bring out is the notion that the maturational process consists of a movement from dependence to relative independence. There is some contention in language between Fairbairn and Winnicott, but it is not something that is irreconcilable. If we recall, Fairbairn speaks of a three fold process in which the movement is from absolute, infantile dependence to a transitional stage and finally to mature dependence. Winnicott, in distinction, also refers to a three fold process. But his terms are of absolute dependence, to relative dependence and finally to 'towards independence.' I submit that these two schemes are not all that dissimilar. In fact, it seems obvious that the first two 'stages' in both systems are analogous. It is the third stage which appears to be contentious. At first glance Fairbairn's relative or mature dependence suggests something other than Winnicott's 'toward independence.' After reflection, however, it soon becomes evident that this is a dissimilarity appears mainly in the language used. After all, as I have pointed out earlier, Winnicott does not think that independence is ever absolute, rather that the individual is always related to the environment in an interdependent and interactive manner. Thus the both agree in the function of the final stage of the maturation process--the ability to see objects as externalized and to be able to interact with them.

A third point that I would like to bring to light is the notion of integration. This is a concept that appears constantly in all three of the theorists under reflection. In each, it could be said, integration functions within therapy as the attempt to bring the split-off, repressed, dissociated or 'unreal' aspects of the self into consciousness. For Klein, integration of the good object functions to reassure the ego against the anxiety felt by aggressive impulses, ushers in the depressive position and brings about the tendency towards reparation. The disintegrated self, however, is seen by Klein as one which regresses to the paranoid-schizoid position and then sees the split-off bad aspect as an internal persecutor. Fairbairn has a similar notion in terms of bad objects. For Fairbairn, however, the self is predominantly schizoid or split and the depressive position plays a much more subordinate role than for Klein. In Fairbairn's thought, the disintegrated self is a result of the frustrating object associating itself to the subsidiary egos and that both are subsequently repressed by the central ego (i.e., the internal saboteur and the libidinal ego). For Winnicott, integration is an important aspect of the maturational process. It deals with the reparative gesture, as in Klein's thoughts, is dependent upon 'good-enough' mothering the keep that 'unthinkable anxiety' at bay and ultimately relates to the recognition of the "ME" and the "NOT-ME" objects. In all three cases the infant, during the process of integration, learns to distinguish between the subject and what is objectively perceived (to use Winnicott's language) and that the object must be seen in its entirety--i.e., the notion of the whole object.

This leaves me with a final point. Here I refer to the notion that all objects which have become internalized represent sides or aspects of the self. This is something I have endeavoured to point out in the concluding remarks of each section in the first part of this paper. With Klein, I stated that I think that we can see two aspects of each of the two internalized objects as being part of the self. With Fairbairn I attempted to point out that each of the subsidiary egos (the internal persecutor and the libidinal ego) and their associated objects (the frustrating and the tempting) also represent sides of every individual's self. With Winnicott I inferred that each transitional object represents aspects of the initial internalized object and also represents parts of the self--those parts which are best suited with dealing with anxiety at any given time. In all three, Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott, I implicitly understand these parts of the self represented by the internalized objects as functioning in terms of setting up patterns of relating to the situations presented by individuals and society--i.e., behaviour patterns in which the past interrelates with the present and where both the past and present will interact in and with the future.


In presenting my understanding of an appropriation of object relations in terms of a polycentric self I will be borrowing ideas from Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott. This is not to say that there are not any pertinent ideas concerning this issue in other object relations writers, on the contrary I understand that there is quite a bit. My purpose, however, is to work out some of the ideas of a polycentric self that occurred to me while reading Klein, Fairbairn and Winnicott. Thus, the consideration other person's writings upon this issue would only serve to obstruct my 'vision.'

An object relations understanding of a polycentric self must necessarily revolve around the internalized object. It is the internalized primary objects that are the hallmark of objects relations. In each case considered above, the primary object is directly involved. It is in relation to the object that one suffers anxiety; it is in relation to the object that one strives toward integration or regresses to disintegration; and, it is relation to the object the each individual moves from dependence to independence. From this point of view I think it is important to consider the possibility that internalized objects not only are important in how and why an individual relates at any given time but also, because they are internalized, that they are parts of the self. This notion finds explicit agreement in Klein and Fairbairn when they write that the objects form or help to form elements of the psyche's structure. Although Winnicott does not explicitly state this, his acceptance of the Freudian system, and hence the assumption of Freud's psychical structure, implies it. Furthermore, his notion of the transitional object suggests that the internalized object to which each transitional object refers is structural--for if it were not, how could it influence the choice, use of and need for such objects?

If the internalized object is a part of the psyche's structure, if it influences the ways in which an individual relates to others, etc, and if there are at least two aspects to each object, then we can say each object at least represents two ways of relating and that the individual self is polycentric. The specifics of how one relates is dependent upon two variables as I now see it. One variable is whether the aspect of the object that is in process is good or bad (or neutral by Fairbairn's inclusion) and whether the object that is dictating any given style of relating represents the mother or father. The second variable is dependent upon the specific object relations thinker to which one refers. Hence, the object relations polycentric self will be see from a specific position if one speaks from Klein's corner, another from Fairbairn's nook, a third from Winnicott's niche and still others from any other individual writer.

However, the most contentious issue is whether it is to be assumed that the infant is born with an integrated, unitary psyche. This is an assumption that seems to be normative of classical psychology. It is a view that relates to psychology's ancestry in the monocentric bias of positivistic science and the monotheistic religious Weltanschauung in which it developed.100 It is a view point which one can not empirically argue against. What I mean is there is no real way of knowing, in the strict sense of the word, whether or not the child is born a unitary whole. There are suggestions in Klein, for instance, that it cannot be the case that the child is born as such. I refer to her comment where she believes that there is a rudimentary superego in a child shortly after birth.101 If the child is indeed born with both and ego and some form of a superego, then we can say that it has at least two distinguishable aspects to its self. I understand that there are several other theorists, both objects relations and otherwise, who hold the opinion that the infant is not a unitary whole even when in the womb. There are, in contradistinction, people who hold the opposite view--C.G. Jung for instance. I am unfortunately not in a position to argue empirically for either position as I have never had the opportunity and pleasure of sharing an infant's development. Thus, I can only argue from the point of view of an informed, and very likely biased, opinion.

I think it is insensitive to make any claim about the psyche which may be exclusive and which may marginalize certain aspects of the self. It seems logical to me that any individual is not made up of a mere ego and nothing else. That is, I think that it is true, and hence important to consider, that the self is diverse and always has been. But because my lack of experience in child rearing and indeed the intrinsic difficulty of an adult to truly understand an infant's mental structure, I think I can make only one (unsatisfactory) conclusion at this point. This is: that we can say the child is born with a predisposition to diversity as much as it is born with a predisposition to integration and unity. I find this conclusion unsatisfactory because I think that the notion of psychical unity may be a more theologically than psychologically based conception. It is, in my opinion, much too simple, neat and reductionistic to assume that the psyche is whole at birth, becomes fragmented by association with the world and then must be "individuated" or made whole again.

Thus, my understanding of an object relations polycentric self begins with the notion of a predisposition to diversity. This is followed by the internalization of the mother-object. Because of not good-enough mothering (i.e., frustrations due to the environment) the child begins to be able to distinguish between the good and the bad or the "ME" and the 'NOT-ME.' At this time, the child's inherent diversity begins to be realized. That is, the child learns to distinguish between desire and frustration, for instance, and by doing so learns to distinguish between differing aspects of the self which relate to or are associated with the external object or parent and the internal object or parental image. These differing aspects may be then dealt with in several ways depending upon their nature. If the object\aspect is frustrating it may be repressed, projected, hated, etc. If the object\aspect is desirable--i.e., good--it may be idealized, identified with, loved, etc.

Whether the object\aspect suffers from pathological splitting is something which I think is dependent upon degree. That is, if, on the one hand, the environmental situation is such that drastic defenses are necessary to deal sufficiently with the anxiety, there will be radical splitting. If, on the other hand, the situation is not so drastic then there will be no such splitting. Rather, I think there will merely be a recognition of a difference of one's relations and reactions to the object and the environment. From here, the child's manners of relating, learned by the failure of the environmental situation, take a precedence in all later means of relating and are involved in the maturation process, on the path from dependence to interdependence. That is, the sides of the self that learned expression in infancy will remain in some capacity or another throughout life. Because these early aspects of the self contain the energy to remain in one's psychic life, they also retain the ability to effect one's relationships both internally and externally. What was learned and experienced in infancy is relearned and re-experienced in maturity. This is not to say that such means of relating are always appropriate later in life, this cannot consistently be true. But what is important to note, for me, is the fact that they do exist, they do show themselves and they therefore suggest a polycentric self. This incredibly simplistic summation of childhood development concludes by stating that the individual self starts off inherently diverse, develops as such and remains diversified.


In the previous pages I have summarized the thoughts of three important figures in object relations theory. Each of the three individuals have similar yet diverging opinions as to the status development and relations of the infant to the external and internal world. Each of these thinkers have provided 'food for thought' in terms of understanding the psyche as polycentric--an understanding which is not considered to be indicative of classical Western psychological thought. Nonetheless, it is an understanding of the self that must be considered in a diverse world that contains diverse people with diverse interests. It is no longer--if it ever has been--acceptable to see individuals in one and only one rubric. It is insensitive and brutal to consign each individual a self that is the same, that is singular and that is unitary. This is a understanding of the world that is, in my opinion, rapidly becoming obsolete. It has developed from an inadequate model of the self that comes from a scientifically and hence theologically biased system of thought. What is required is more sensitivity, more careful investigation, more accurate observation and more acceptance of the diversity inherent in the world, its individuals and their 'selves.'


1 What I am proposing to do is an investigation into something which is not explicit in objects relations theory. Rather it is something which I feel is implicit in the thoughts of each of the individuals mentioned above.

2 Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works. (Edited by M. Masud R. Khan. London: Hogarth Press, 1975) p. x.

3 Ibid. I would like to point out here that klein thinks that the child's earliest super-ego, containing his own paranoid-schizoid construction, operates as an archaic internal god with an archaic morality (eye for an eye). This is not considered to be ego syntonic and thus a major goal of analysis is to weaken it. It is at four months, however, that the depressive position supersedes the paranoid-schizoid and ushers in the possibility of a different and far more ego syntonic morality based upon depressive guilt, as opposed to a paranoid delusion. (p. xi)

4 Ibid., p. 197.

5 Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude. (London: The Hogarth Press, 1975), pp. 61-63.

6 Ibid., pp. 63-67.

7 Ibid., p. 70.

8 Ibid., p. 143.

9 Ibid,. pp. 71-75.

10 Ibid., pp. 75-82.

11 For instance, Klein in Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works. (Edited by M. Masud R. Khan. London: Hogarth Press, 1975) writes the following: "The attempts to save the loved object, to repair and restore it, attempts which in the state of depression are coupled with despair, since the ego doubts its capacity to achieve this restoration, are determining factors for all sublimations and the whole of ego development." (270) The implications of this statement are profound. There is a suggestion that because the ego doubts its ability to restore objects it will have to exist in a world consisting of split objects and will have to adjust itself accordingly. This is a point that bears upon fixations--resulting from deprivations during the paranoid-schizoid or depressive positions--obsessions, phobias and other similar pathological phenomena. The question that I would bring to bear is whether splitting necessarily represents pathology. Klein is of the opinion that splitting is a necessary and normal element in human development (Envy and Gratitude., p. 22). This is something with which I tend to agree.

12 Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude. (London: the Hogarth Press, 1975), p. 144.

13 Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation. (Edited by Masud R. Khan. London: the Hogarth Press, 1975), p. 273.

14 ibid., p. 273.

15 This object being, of course, the mother who is first apprehended as a part object--the breast--and later as a whole object.

16 Ibid., p. 295.

17 Ibid., p. 363.

18 Ibid., p. 338.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid., p. 340.

21 I put the word symbolize in parentheses here to indicate that I have difficulty with the objects in question. As far as the breast is concerned in Klein's thought, frustration resulting from unsatisfied gratification is acceptable. After all do not some infants breast-feed? But the turning to the fathers penis is a bit hard to swallow, so to speak. I question whether it is necessarily the case that the frustrated child resorts to the father's penis. Maybe I have missed something in the sheltering world of academia but I hardly think that there ever has been a practice of feeding a child via the penis. Thus, I can only accept this notion as a symbol of the father figure in general. That is, if the mother has frustrated the infant's wish for gratification, it is neither unusual nor abnormal to find the child turning to another immediate, adult figure--which in 'normal' circumstances is the father.

22 Ibid., p. 348.

23 Ibid., pp. 407-418.

24 ibid., pp. 254-255.

25 Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude. (London: The Hogarth Press, 1975), p. 236. It should be noted however that Fairbairn considers Freud's structure of the psyche to be only a double structure. That is, the ego and the super-ego are all that can properly be spoken of as structural and that the id, as a source of free floating energy, can not be deemed to be structural. Fairbairn, in essence, asks: how can energy be considered a structure? (Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality. London: Tavistock Publications Ltd [Routledge & Kegan Paul], 1966; p. 131).

26 D.W. Fairbairn, Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality. (London: Tavistock Publication Ltd. [Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd.], 1966) p. 169.

27 Ibid., p. 107.

28 Fairbairn, in fact, explicitly holds this position as we can see when he writes "the basic position in the psyche is invariably a schizoid position." [my emphasis]. (Ibid., p. 8.)

29 Ibid., p. 9.

30 Ibid., pp. 7-9.

31 Ibid., pp. 162.

32 Ibid., pp. 162ff.

33 Ibid., p. 58.

34 Ibid., p. 62.

35 Ibid., p. 66.

36 Ibid., p. 65.

37 Ibid., p. 66.

38 Ibid., pp. 72-81.

39 Ibid., p. 85.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid., p. 89.

42 Ibid.,p 90.

43 Ibid., p. 95.

44 Ibid., pp. 99-101. Here, we find in Fairbairn a notion which I introduced in the discussion of Klein's thoughts. That is, that internalized objects can be considered to be part of the structure of the self.

45 Ibid., p. 101.

46 Ibid., p. 102.

47 Ibid., p. 104.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid., p. 106.

50 Ibid., p. 111.

51 Ibid., pp. 109-111.

52 It must be noted, however, that there are internalized objects prior to splitting. These are said to be preambivalent. They are said to be internalized at a very early stage as they are recognized by the child in some measure to be both satisfying and unsatisfying. Following the initial frustration, these objects are split, as described above, not into two objects but into three. That is, there is the nucleus, the frustrating and satisfying objects. The nucleus is shorn of its over-frustrating and over-satisfying elements and then assumes the status of a desexualized and idealized objects which is cathected to and retained by the central ego. (Ibid., pp. 178f).

53 Ibid., pp. 119-124.

54 Ibid., p 129.

55 Ibid., p. 130.

56 DW Winnicott "A Personal View if the Kleinian Contribution." (1962; in: The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the theory of Emotional Development. London: the Hogarth Press, 1965) p. 176.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid., p. 46.

59 Ibid., pp. 66-67.

60 That is, the ability to have a self with a past, present, and future." (Ibid., p. 86).

61 Ibid., pp. 85-87.

62 Ibid., p. 91.

63 Ibid., pp. 90-91.

64 Ibid., p. 91.

65 Ibid., p. 84.

66 Ibid., p. 32.

67 Ibid., pp. 56-60. Such 'unthinkable anxiety' has several varieties: (1) going to pieces; (2) having no relationship with the body (dissociation); (3) having no orientation (which leads to schizoid characteristics and its defense.

68 Ibid., p. 60.

69 Winnicott prefers the usage of unintegration over disintegration for the reason that disintegration is a term used to describe a sophisticated defense, a defense that is an active production of chaos in defense against unintegration in the absence of maternal ego-support, that is, against the unthinkable or archaic anxiety that results from failure of holding in the stage of absolute dependence. (Ibid., p. 61).

70 Ibid., p. 140.

71 Ibid., p. 146.

72 Ibid., pp. 145-148.

73 Ibid., pp. 142-143.

74 Ibid., p. 187.

75 Winnicott discloses his thoughts of what the true self is when he writes that it "is the the non-communicating central [true] self, forever immune from the reality principle, and forever silent. Here communication is non-verbal; it is like the music of the spheres, absolutely personal. It belongs to being alive. And in health, it s out of this that communication naturally arises." (Ibid., p. 192).

76 Ibid., pp. 203-207.

77 Ibid., p. 239.

78 Ibid., pp. 22-26.

79 DW Winnicott, Playing and Reality. (New York: Basic Books, 1971), pp. 1-3.

80 ibid., p. 1.

81 Ibid., p. 11.

82 Ibid., p. 9.

83 Ibid., p. 10.

84 Ibid., p. 54.

85 Ibid., p. 64.

86 Ibid., p. 97.

87 In the healthy environment, however, the developing child becomes autonomous and takes responsibility for himself or herself independent of the mother's ego support. When the child has reached this stage, Winnicott indicates, a new capacity for object-relating has now been developed, namely, one that is based in an interchange between external reality and samples from the personal psychic reality. (Ibid., p. 130).

88 CG Jung "The Syzygy: Anima and Animus." (Aion. Translated by RFC Hull. Collected Works 9.II. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), pp. 11-22.

89 CG Jung "The Persona as a Segment of the Collective Psyche." (Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Translated by RFC Hull. Collected Works vol. 7. New York: Pantheon Books, 1953), pp. 275-278.

90 ibid., pp. 172ff.

91 In fact Winnicott notes that there is no transitional object other than the mother herself. (Ibid., p. 8).

92 Ibid., p. 4.

93 Ibid., p. 3ff.

94 This notion is suggested by Winnicott's own description of the types of transitional objects that the individual may employ. these are as follows: 1) 'comforters,' 2) 'soothers,' 3) 'friend', 4) 'protector,' 5) 'reassurer,' 6) 'giver of satisfaction,' and 7) the 'sorter.' Each is considered to represent a specific strategy for dispensing with anxiety. (Ibid., pp. 7-8).

95 Ibid.

96 Ibid., p. 5.

97 An interesting implication of this is the relationship of the transitional object to the true and false selves. I suggest that if each transitional object functions to help in the efficient dispersement of anxiety, then they can be paralleled with the false self to some degree. That is, just as the false self works in adaptive measures to the external world, so is part of the activity of transitional objects also directed.

98 See foonote 26.

99 James Hillman "Psychology: monotheistic or Polytheistic?" (Spring Journal 1971; New York: Spring Publications, 1971), pp. 193-208; and A Blue Fire. (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), pp. 36-45.

100 For an in depth discussion of this issue see James Hillman's Suicide and the Soul. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964.); Re-Visioning Psychology. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975.); and, The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology. (New York: Harper & Row, 1978.).

101 Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works. (1921-1945. Edited by M. Masud R. Khan. London: the Hogarth Press, 1975), p. xi.


Fairbairn, W. Ronald Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality. London: Tavistock Publication Ltd. (Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd.), 1966.

Freud, Sigmund "The Ego and the Id." Translated by James Strachey. The Standard Edition of the Collected Works of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 19.) London: Hogarth Press, 1961.

"The Instincts and their Vicissitudes." Translated by James Strachey. The Standard Edition of the Collected Works of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 14.) London: The Hogarth Press, 1963.

"Repression." Translated by James Strachey. The Standard Edition of the Collected Works of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 14.) London: The Hogarth Press, 1963.

Three Essays on Sexuality. Translated by James Strachey. The Standard Edition of the Collected Works of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 7.) London: the Hogarth Press, 1953.

"The Unconscious." Translated by James Strachey. The Standard Edition of the Collected Works of Sigmund Freud. (Vol. 14.) London: The Hogarth Press, 1963.

Hillman, James Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account. Dallas: Spring Pubs., 1983.

Healing Fiction. Barrytown, N.Y.: Station Hill Press, 1983.

Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.

Suicide and the Soul. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Jung, C.G. "The Persona as a Segment of the Collective Psyche." In: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Translated by RFC Hull. Collected Works vol. 7. New York: Pantheon Books, 1953

"The Syzygy: Anima and Animus." In: Aion. Translated by R.F.C.Hull. Collected Works vol. 9.2. New York: Princeton University Press, 1959.

Klein, Melanie Envy and Gratitude. London: The Hogarth Press, 1975.

Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works. (1921-1945) Edited by M. Masud R. Khan. London: the Hogarth Press, 1975.

Winnicott, D. W. The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the theory of Emotional Development. London: the Hogarth Press, 1965.

Playing and Reality. New York: Basic Books, 1971. See James Hillman's Suicide and the Soul. (New York: Harper & Row, 1964.) for an interesting look at the "monocentric" biases of science, medicine, theology, etc. in terms of the soul.

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