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Mahler, M.S. (1960). Symposium on Psychotic Object Relationships—Iii. Perceptual De-Differentiation and Psychotic 'Object Relationship'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:548-553.
    

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:548-553

Symposium on Psychotic Object Relationships—Iii. Perceptual De-Differentiation and Psychotic 'Object Relationship'

Margaret Schoenberger Mahler

When we speak of 'Object Relationship in Psychotics' or of 'Psychotic Object Relationships' we must re-define and vastly broaden the concept of 'object-relationship' as the term was originally used in psycho-analysis. In the original, Freudian sense, object relationship meant a person's endowing another human being with object libido. In this sense object relationship is the most reliable single factor by which we determine mental health on the one hand and therapeutic potential on the other. In contradistinction to object relationship, we used to speak of relationships of a narcissistic nature.

Object relationship develops on the basis of differentiation from the normal mother-infant dual unity, which may be designated as the phase of symbiosis (22), (34).

The phases of the development of object relationship were described by a number of psycho-analytic authors. To mention only a few: by Anna Freud (6), who distinguishes the earlier phase of the 'need-satisfying object' from the later phase, in which object-libidinal cathexis of the mother—as a whole person—becomes independent of satisfaction of instinctual needs; when it becomes highly specific, and attains mutuality and consolidation, and by Hartmann (16), who speaks of object constancy.

Development of object relationship is paralleled by differentiation of an object as well as a self (19). Differentiation of the body-image, in particular, conveys to the child a sense of separateness and individual identity (24), (14).

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