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Barrows, K. (1999). Ghosts in the Swamp: Some Aspects of Splitting and their Relationship to Parental Losses. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(3):549-561.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(3):549-561

Ghosts in the Swamp: Some Aspects of Splitting and their Relationship to Parental Losses

Kate Barrows

The author describes some aspects of the analysis of a woman who was suffering from bulimia and extreme withdrawal from life. It emerged that she was frightened of her parents' internal objects, which she experienced as vengeful ghosts who were preventing her from developing her life or personality. She was identified with these ghosts to the extent of feeling that she was not supposed to survive. The author argues that fear of her parents' internal ghosts had contributed to a split in the patient not only between idealised and persecutory objects but also between material and psychic modes of functioning. It is suggested that the patient came to understand some of these fears in relation to the analyst's internal objects in the transference. Reasons for the patient's vulnerability to parental internal objects and projections are suggested, including her jealousy of her own siblings, which seems paralleled by her hypersensitivity to her parents' internal siblings. The fear of these objects is seen to be partly a function of her own projections and partly the result of unmourned losses in her parents' childhoods.

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