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Roth, P. (1994). Being True to a False Object: A View of Identification. Psychoanal. Inq., 14(3):393-405.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 14(3):393-405

Being True to a False Object: A View of Identification

Priscilla Roth

The clinical situation i wish to discuss concerns a group of patients who in some respects resemble Helene Deutsch's (1942) “As-If” personalities. These are patients who are often highly intelligent and can be high achievers in their professional field, but whose emotional life appears to lack depth and, indeed, often rings false. The patients I am discussing do not appear to be cold; in fact a kind of overblown emotionality is part of the picture, but it does not feel genuine and has a kind of inappropriate effusiveness: there is a saccharine overcompliance, and little believable warmth. In this sense what feels particularly disturbing to the analyst (and usually to other people in such a patient's life) is the way the most valuable and precious human emotions seem to be parodied and made tawdry: these patients talk a great deal about “loving feelings” or “meaningful experiences” or, at other times, “angry feelings,” but the analyst finds it impossible to empathize or indeed believe in such experiences. This is painful for the analyst; I discuss this further at a later point in the paper.

Following Deutsch, Riesenberg Malcolm (1990) has described the “As-If” quality of these patients' response to the analytic situation and believes that such patients develop a false structure that she says is “based on a falsely idealized object. It is doubly false, not only because excessive idealization falsifies, but also because of the object's own pathology” (p.

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