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Object Relations

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Object Relations

Both the Rejecting Object Relation and the Libidinal Frustrating Object Relation are Usually Regressed or Split Off

Today we are going to discuss in some detail this basic object relation, this basic way of relating that remains a big resistance against actualizing the true life of the human being. We have talked about and worked on two object relations so far: the rejecting object relation and the frustrating object relation. The rejecting object relation fixes you in a place of feeling afraid in the world. This fear makes it difficult for you to function as a mature human being. The frustrating object relation puts you in a position of being a hungry and desirous little kid who wants something he can’t have but always seeks. So you’re either paranoid or a seeker. We’ve talked about how these object relations interfere with dealing with yourself and your life in a mature way because in these two object relations you’re functioning with an infant identity. The rejecting and frustrating object relations have something else in common. You always experience them as bad. They’re negative object relations. One involves enormous fear and hatred, and the other involves lots of frustrated longing and need and desire. When we experience either of these object relations, we always have a sense that something has gone terribly wrong. Both the rejecting object relation and the libidinal, frustrating object relation are usually repressed or split off—parts of the ego that are hidden and need to be seen, understood, and integrated.

Building Blocks of the Infant's Psychic Structure

Because any experience, whether pleasurable or not, leaves its memory trace as a certain impression of oneself, a certain impression of the other person or object, and an affect between the two, Kernberg’s triad of the self-representation, the object-representation and the affect become the building blocks of the infant's psychic structure. So as the infant grows and receives impressions, many units of such triads form, these being units of object relations. In time, the various object representations fuse to make an overall object-image and the various self-representations also fuse to make a total and cohesive self-image. This happens in the fourth and last stage of the separation-individuation process.

The Void, pg. 12

Central (Fulfilling) Object Relation

So the central object relation integrates all of the good experiences you've had. You feel supported, loved, nourished, and wanted. It is the most basic object relation, the one you've engaged all of your life. We would be psychotic if we didn't have those feelings of support and love. Things would be too painful, chaotic, and scary without that feeling of good and secure connection that nourishes and fulfills us, that makes life tolerable.

Ego Structures All Have a Defensive Function

If object relations theory includes the concept of Being, it will end up acknowledging the defensive nature of these identifications at the deepest level. In all our experience, with hundreds of students, identification systems always turn out to have a defensive function... This implies that the ego structure, including the sense of self, of separateness, and of individuality, all have a defensive function by their very nature.

Interaction of Object Relations

A positive object relation can be used, for example, as a defense against another object relation that is considered negative. The first one is positive in that it defends against greater negativity, even if it is somewhat negative. The other case is that an object relation which is positive, for example a loving interaction with mother, can be used in a defensive way if there is a need to defend against a loss of an aspect of Being, such as Will.

Internalized Object Relations are rarely True representations of Actual Events or relationships

These fantasies, beliefs and misinformation actually accompany almost all internalized object relations to some extent. Internalized object relations are rarely true representations of actual events or relationships. One’s memory traces include all kinds of ideas, fantasies and images that never had an objective reality. Another source of extraneous material comes from the psychic processes of organization and integration themselves. These processes modify the original object relations as more impressions are internalized. This is necessary for the integration of object relations units of various affect and content. This extra material, whether it is attached to actual memories of object relations or consists of pure fabrications, cannot be absorbed into Being. This is an important difference between the mind and Being. The mind can absorb and identify with any psychic material it believes to be true. It does not have the capacity, on its own, to discern what is objective truth and what is not. In other words, the mind can be deceived, even by itself. Being, on the other hand, is pure reality. It is the actual stuff and consciousness of truth, and cannot be deceived. It does not try not to be deceived; it is simply truth by its nature, a self-conscious medium made of pure sensitivity.

Mental Representation of the Relation Between Self and Object

According to object relations theory, the development of ego structure through the process of separation-individuation happens primarily by means of the internalization of object relations through the formation of inner images of self and other. The "object" is generally the human love object, and an object relation is simply the relation between self and object, usually an emotional relation. "Object relations" then generally refer to the mental representation of this relation, which consists of three parts: a self-image, usually called a "self-representation"; an object-image, usually called an "object-representation"; and the emotional relation or affect between the two, such as love, anger, fear or desire.

Parts of an Object Relation

According to Kernberg an object relation consists of three parts: a self-representation, an object-representation, and an affect (a certain emotional content) linking the two. A representation of self or object means an image, partial or total, of the self or object. This image is not necessarily always the visual or mental. It can be emotional, tactile, or auditory. It is really an impression of the self or object.

The Void, pg. 11

Rejecting and Frustrating Object Relations

We have talked about and worked on two object relations so far: the rejecting object relation and the frustrating object relation. The rejecting object relation fixes you in a place of feeling afraid in the world. This fear makes it difficult for you to function as a mature human being. The frustrating object relation puts you in a position of being a hungry and desirous little kid who wants something it can't have but always seeks. So you’re either paranoid or a seeker. We've talked about how these object relations interfere with dealing with yourself and your life in a mature way because in these two object relations you’re functioning with an infant identity.

Resolution of the Soul’s Object Relation with Divine Being

Inquiry into these intense feelings reveals their origins in the oral stage; this clarifies the oral nature of the soul’s need in this ego structure. One may then move to dealing with the absence of adequate holding in early childhood, the fear and terror of disintegration and annihilation, and how distrust developed. The process leads to deep hurt and abandonment and the understanding of the origins of the Beast, or hatred of the good, in the early oral frustrations and deprivations. One of the steps in this process of working through is the recognition of how this issue depends partly on the reification of universal or divine Being. Being is personified; the soul’s relationship to it assumes the form of an object relation between a separate individual soul and a separate powerful entity one may call God. The resolution is the integration of the black aspect of power in a diamond dimension, and the wisdom of how true nature does not operate like an individual entity. This deepens one’s understanding and appreciation of the boundlessness, omnipresence, and omnipotence of true nature, and its divine and loving features. One sees that true nature is an ocean of love, that is always present regardless of the
experience of the soul, and that there are universal principles through which it operates, different from the functioning of separate entities.

Secondary Autonomy Reduces the Defensive Functions of Ego

The ego begins as a differentiated structure with a defensive purpose out of necessity, and it is out of necessity that it retains some of its defensive nature. Defense is even seen as appropriate, especially in early childhood, for adaptive purposes. It is not envisioned that a human being could ever be beyond the need for psychological defense. As we have noted, however, secondary autonomy does reduce the defensive function of ego, making it more harmonious within, more sensitive to external reality, more emotionally objective and more open to profound states.

Source of the Central (Fulfilling) Object Relation

The good relationship that you had with your parents also constitutes an object relation. Each of us had moments of relating with both parents and, at the deepest level, with the breast that were not so conflicted. Without this fulfilling object relation, you wouldn't be here. You wouldn't have survived physically and emotionally. And, of course, this central positive object relation is hardest to see, although it is there and you are enacting it all of the time. Usually we can’t see or pinpoint the central object relation for what it is until we deal, to some extent, with the other more painful object relations. The central object relation is typically not painful. In fact, we usually experience it as normal and non-conflicted, or even as good and fulfilling.

The Central Ego and the Ideal Object

So let's further explore this central object relation. The central object relation is a relationship between the central ego, the core, or the central part of the soul to what is called the ideal object or the ideal other. The object here is ideal in the sense that the object, the parent or the teacher or the teaching or the school or the breast, whatever it may be, is comforting, satisfying, fulfilling, nourishing, supporting, and giving. The ideal object is not absolutely idealized. We need not think the ideal object is perfect. The ideal object is simply good, in a normal, everyday kind of way.

When Something Disrupts the Central Object Relation You Resort to the Rejecting or Frustrating Object Relations

The central object relation is basic in the sense that it dominates our experience of the world. When something disrupts the central object relation, you resort to the rejecting or frustrating object relations. When things are fine, you come back to the central object relation, which is the basic condition of humanity. There is nothing unusual about the central object relation, nothing pathological about it. It’s what we call normal. It is normal. Normal and average and ordinary, but ultimately not real. If you want realization, you have to understand the central object relation. You develop the central object relation in relation to your parents and enact it with every ideal object, whatever you feel is a source of connection, support, nourishment, love, truth, understanding, security, and comfort. Whatever you relate to as an ideal object, you don’t see as it is. If you’re relating to your teacher that way, you’re not seeing your teacher as he is. If you’re relating to the work that way, you’re not seeing the work as it is. If you’re relating to God that way, you’re not seeing God as God is. Anything you relate to in that way, you see as your object, actually as nothing but the good breast. Ultimately, at the core of the idealization is a satisfying relationship with the breast, the good mother, the good parent, the good provide

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