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Blum, H.P. (1981). Object Inconstancy and Paranoid Conspiracy. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 29:789-813.

(1981). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 29:789-813

Object Inconstancy and Paranoid Conspiracy

Harold P. Blum, M.D.


The persecutory object relationship is a central aspect of paranoia

and will have features from all developmental phases. In the psychotic forms of paranoia, the object may be incompletely differentiated from the self or may be a fragmented object with condensation of fragments of self- and object representation. In the paranoid personality, where many areas of the personality remain intact, object relations are more cohesive and integrated, although still unstable and lacking in constancy in the persecutory relationship. The narcissistic system of megalomania and persecutory object relationship attempts to preserve the crucial relationship with the inconstant narcissistic object. The constant inconstancy of the persecutory object is a distortion replacing libidinal object constancy. Expectations or conviction of infidelity, betrayal, and conspiracy are common, with hate and rage directed at the inevitably disappointing, faithless objects or their disguised representations. There is always suspicion and distrust of the object, but a need to search for and be shadowed by the object, to be persecuted by and to persecute the betraying narcissistic object who inflicts injury. The "constant" persecution displays the hatred and may disguise narcissistic and masochistic gratification in the attachment and bondage to the persecutor. Because of instability of boundaries and the lack of object and self-constancy, the wish for autonomy is experienced as betrayal of the deserting object who wants to be separate, and the wish for narcissistic fusion may be defended against and experienced as a dangerous intrusion or invasion and a threat to identity. The "inconstant" object does not and cannot be allowed to have an independent existence, and the threat of betrayal is ever-present along with the need to maintain the relationship at all costs. The paranoid appears to flee but is always followed or follows his dyadic persecutory partner.

In paranoid regression, the manifest change from friend to enemy, love to hate, is the culmination of the paranoid predisposition to narcissistic injury and rage, narcissistic and sadomasochistic object relationship, and the splitting of self and object representations. Narcissistic, preoedipal issues and unresolved problems of separation-individuation may be discerned within

and behind oedipal conflict and distortions. Conflict and deficits are subsumed in a widened contemporary perspective of the development and structure of paranoia. In addition to the pervasive narcissism and use of projection, the ambivalent splitting in which hate overrides love, the failure of self-object constancy and malignant mistrust are interrelated and, in varying degree, consequent to developmental arrest, fixation, and regression.

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