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Hart, C. (2019). Welcoming Siblings to Self Psychology: Exploring Vertical and Lateral Selfobjects. Psychoanal. Self. Cxt., 14(2):178-194.

(2019). Psychoanalysis, Self, and Context, 14(2):178-194

Welcoming Siblings to Self Psychology: Exploring Vertical and Lateral Selfobjects

Claire Hart, M.A.

The early selfobject experiences for many individuals may include both parents and siblings. While parents’ responses to selfobject needs are well documented in clinical case studies, cases in which siblings also provide selfobject experiences seem to be relatively unexplored in self psychology. The selfobject needs of idealizing, twinship, and mirroring have been conceptualized predominately as fulfilled by parents or by siblings replacing or compensating for deficient parental functions. An exploration of a clinical case study is presented in which both a parent and siblings provided selfobject experiences. Based on the developmental history, selfobject transferences, and psychotherapeutic process of this case study, several hypotheses regarding siblings and parents fulfilling selfobject needs are proposed. It would seem that a family milieu that contains siblings can provide opportunities for more diverse selfobject experiences. While this introduces more developmental complexity as parents and siblings may respond to selfobject needs differently, the occasional frustration of selfobject needs are also developmentally necessary for the development of a cohesive self. Future research and theoretical exploration on the potential functions of siblings in self development would be valuable, as many questions regarding the fulfillment of selfobject needs by siblings remain unanswered.

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