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Mollon, P. (1986). A Note on Kohut and Klein Idealisation, Splitting and Projective Identification. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(2):162-164.

(1986). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(2):162-164

A Note on Kohut and Klein Idealisation, Splitting and Projective Identification

Phil Mollon

Idealisation was considered by Kohut to be an important component of narcissism. In Britain the notion of idealisation is associated most strongly with the theories of Melanie Klein. The following is a brief discussion of possible points of contact as well as major areas of difference between the two approaches.

Melanie Klein (1946) described idealisation, not in the context of narcissism, but as part of an early defensive splitting and idealisation in which, in an effort to deal with overwhelming instinctual forces of life and death, good and bad aspects and experiences of the object are in phantasy kept apart. An idealised object is sought to protect against a persecutory one. Kohut does not explicitly distinguish narcissistic idealisation from idealisation that is a function of splitting of good and bad perceptions of the object. It seems unlikely that what he describes is entirely unrelated to the idealisations described by Klein. One clue is provided by Gedo (1981) who, drawing on Kohut, distinguishes true idealisation from pseudo-idealisation - the latter seeming more obtrusive, insistent or ‘noisy’, perhaps being a response to the breakdown of true idealisation, as in the case of Mr B. What Kohut seems to envisage is an initial quiet idealisation, which in healthy development is optimally disrupted. Gedo remarks:

… typically the omnipotent other is a symbiotic object whose availability and perfection are therefore taken for granted. This is why an idealising transference tends to be silent: insofar as it becomes explicit, it will have an impersonal quality.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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