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Celani, D.P. (2007). A Structural Analysis of the Obsessional Character: A Fairbairnian Perspective. Am. J. Psychoanal., 67(2):119-140.

(2007). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 67(2):119-140

A Structural Analysis of the Obsessional Character: A Fairbairnian Perspective

David P. Celani, Ph.D.

This paper reviews the object relations model of W.R.D. Fairbairn and applies it to the understanding of the obsessional personality. Fairbairn's model sees attachment to good objects as the immutable component of normal development. Parental failures are seen as intolerable to the child and trigger the splitting defense that isolates (via repression) the frustrating aspects of the object along with the part of the child's ego that relates only to that part-object. This fundamental defense protects the child from the knowledge that he is dependent on indifferent objects and preserves his attachment. The split-off part-self and part-object structures are too disruptive to remain conscious, yet despite being repressed make themselves known through repetition compulsions and transference. The specific characteristics of families that produce obsessional children impact the child's developing ego structures in similar ways. This style of developmental history creates predictable self and object configurations in the inner world, which then translate via repetition compulsion into obsessional behavior in adulthood.

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