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Mitchell, S.A. (1981). The Origin and Nature of the "Object" in the Theories of Klein and Fairbairn. Contemp. Psychoanal., 17:374-398.

(1981). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 17:374-398

The Origin and Nature of the "Object" in the Theories of Klein and Fairbairn

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

But of late I have been increasingly able to catch, if I listen attentively, the sound of the sobs which I had the strength to control in my father's presence, and which broke out only when I found myself alone with Mamma. Actually, their echo has never ceased: it is only because life is now growing more and more quiet round about me that I hear them afresh, like those convent bells which are so effectively drowned during the day by the noises of the streets that one would suppose them to have been stopped for ever, until they sound out again through the silent evening air.
Swann's Way, M. Proust

OBJECT RELATIONS THEORY HAS BECOME one of the ubiquitous phrases within contemporary psychoanalytic literature. It is used variously to refer to: theorists who have departed from the classical tradition, like Klein and Fairbairn; theorists who have remained within the tradition yet stretched its boundaries like Mahler, Jacobson and Kernberg; as well as to all those who acknowledge the importance that other people play in personality development. Within this spread of meaning and amid the controversies among dedicated proponents and denigrating detractors, the term "object relations theory" loses much of its significance. In fact, with its current wave of popularity, object relations theory threatens to degenerate into a tired psychoanalytic cliche, becoming for psychoanalysis what existentialism was for philosophy during the 1950's and 1960's—an innovative and powerful theoretical framework which became, in its ever widening application, thinned to simplistic truisms.

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