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Kavaler-Adler, S. (2007). Pivotal Moments of Surrender to Mourning the Internal Parental Object. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(5):763-789.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(5):763-789

Pivotal Moments of Surrender to Mourning the Internal Parental Object

Susan Kavaler-Adler, Ph.D., ABPP, NCPsyA

Object relations theory articulates clinical process as an emerging developmental process, in which pathological defenses and character formations are relinquished. I describe this as “developmental mourning” (Kavaler-Adler, 1992a, 1992b, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000a, 2000b, 2003a, 2003b, 2003c, 2004, 2005a, 2005b, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2006d, 2006e). “Developmental mourning” is a theory that relates to the essence of therapeutic action occurring through connection to the internal self states as they progress in a natural developmental process, reaching the core affects of the mourning process. This can be designated as a letting go or surrendering process. Such an organic vantage point on psychic change and developmental growth allows psychoanalytic clinicians to avoid the mechanistic approach of ego psychology's “compromise formations,” and the reductionism of equating human motivations with “drives,” as in classical Freudian theory. It also avoids the too-limited thinking related to self psychology's “selfobject functions,” which excludes dynamic self-objects as they appear in remarkably dramatic, personified forms in psychic fantasy. The evolution of conscious contact and connection with psychic fantasy is an integral part of the “developmental mourning process.”

As an overall theory, “developmental mourning” integrates key aspects of both British and American object relations theory. With its acute affect focus, this theory speaks both to critical self-differentiation processes from the theory of separation-individuation, and to critical integration processes from the Kleinian theory of integrating split-off self parts (self and object within the internal world).

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