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Compton, A. Goldberg, D.A. (1985). A Reexamination of the Concept "Object" in Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 33:167-185.

(1985). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33:167-185

A Reexamination of the Concept "Object" in Psychoanalysis

Allan Compton, M.D. and Daniel A. Goldberg, M.D.

Allan Compton noted that the purpose of the panel was to explore the basic idea of the concept "object" as it is used and useful in psychoanalysis. When analysts speak of an object, are there different meanings? Are the differences incompatible or insignificant? Though the term "object" pervades psychoanalytic discourse as a basic and essential concept, he could find no careful, considered, extended effort to review the concept in the psychoanalytic literature.

As one example of the confusion this neglect has engendered, Compton said for most analysts "object" seems to mean something outside of an organism designated as a subject; for others, however, "object" refers to a diametric opposite—something mental and only mental, not to any material thing. If we allow that "object" has at least something to do with our idea of how the mind functions, the problem is how does the environment interact with what we study as mental, both developmentally and currently? A number of controversial concepts reflect attempts to address similar issues: "Internalization," "structure formation," "representation," and, more recently, "mentalization." All depend on the theorist's object concept.

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