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Meltzer, D. (1997). The Evolution of Object Relations. Brit. J. Psychother., 14(1):60-66.

(1997). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 14(1):60-66

The Evolution of Object Relations

Donald Meltzer

First of all, that's [Parthenope Bion Talamo's paper] what I call a hard act to follow - the word from the castle making us all feel peasants down in the courtyard. What I want to speak about is first of all to tell you my thoughts on material from observation and clinical analysis. Then I want to talk about what - you might say pretentiously - I would call the sociology of genius, the situation which Bion himself has written about, and the position of the genius in the group, and with some ideas about the internal life of the genius as well.

To start with some material, just to give you something in the back of your mind that has to do with what has been called the origin of object relations - and is really the origin of confusion about objects. There are three bits of material. Two of them are from seminars in Venice.

The first was an observation of a child and her mother - an 18-month-old child who was living with a mother whose husband had deserted her. The two of them were in a rather bad state of absolute adhesiveness to one another that prevented both of them from eating and they were getting emaciated. A very, I think, talented social worker was called in who functioned simply as an observer, hardly saying a word but tolerating the clingingness of both child and mother, observing their interaction and trying to understand it. Over a period of six months the introduction of a third person into this adhesive relationship significantly altered things so that both child and mother began to manifest mental processes and not simply this adhesiveness that seemed to be devoid of phantasy and devoid of emotions.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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