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Modell, A.H. (1985). Chapter 6: Object Relations Theory. Models of the Mind: Their Relationships to Clinical Work, 85-100.

Modell, A.H. (1985). Chapter 6: Object Relations Theory. Models of the Mind: Their Relationships to Clinical Work , 85-100

Chapter 6: Object Relations Theory Book Information Previous Up Next

Arnold H. Modell, M.D.

We are asked to illustrate the schema or model that influences how we actually work as clinicians. It may be a bit pretentious to refer to this schema as a model for I doubt that it is so fully fleshed out or articulated. It is rather a question of our basic assumptions and the traditions that claim our loyalty. All of this is, of course, filtered through our own personalities, so that I do not feel that I can represent the “school” of object relations theory whatever that may be, but I can describe what has influenced me, what the underlying assumptions of object relations theory are, and how they may differ from other parallel traditions.

I have been most influenced by the work of Winnicott and to a lesser extent by the contributions of Fairbairn and Balint. Fairbairn (1952) has suggested that libido is essentially object seeking; I have modified this aphorism to state that affects are essentially object seeking (Modell, 1975). This brings into view an area of clinical experience that is not ordinarily encompassed by classical instinct theory—the problem of relatedness. If affects are object seeking then true relatedness (in contrast to compliance) is characterized by the communication of genuine affects; or to state it in the obverse, nonrelatedness is characterized by the noncommunication of affects or the communication of false or misleading affects. Balint has taught us the importance of dependency, that psychoanalytic therapy “is essentially an object relationship; [that] all the events which lead

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