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Scialli, J.V. (1982). Multiple Identity Processes and The Development of The Observing Ego. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 10(3):387-405.

(1982). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 10(3):387-405

Multiple Identity Processes and The Development of The Observing Ego

John V. K. Scialli, M.D.

This essay will discuss aspects of mental functioning termed multiple-identity processes (Searles, 1977), as illustrated by a case history of borderline personality organization. The cognitive and defensive aspects of these processes lead me to posit a specific role of multiple-identity phenomena in the development of the observing ego. The role of the latter ego function in the service of therapy has been stressed by several authors (e.g. Sterba, 1934; Loewald, 1960). A synthesis of the concept of multiple-identities and of the concept of the observing ego clarifies a part of the process of therapy in preoedipal conditions.

The reader is referred to Searles' (1977) original paper for a fuller discussion of dual- and multiple-identity processes. In brief, Searles feels that these processes “are among the fundamental features of borderline ego functioning.” Along with the other ego weaknesses of the borderline (Kernberg, 1975) there is the presence of a sense of identity diffusion. Specifically, the pathologically split and introjected part-objects undermine the patient's sense of identity (see, in this respect, Nadelson, 1977). During psychoanalysis or -therapy the borderline patient reveals his problems with identity. He cannot maintain the sense of a cohesive self and unconsciously views himself as having several “selves.” Clinical evidence of this appears variably such as in patients' monologues, which are actually dialogues between unconscious “selves,” according to Searles, and in the way a patient phrases or emphasizes certain remarks. Dr. Searles clarified this with case material. The present paper will present a less subtle example of a multiple-identity process, namely, multiple “personalities.”

There is more than a superficial resemblance of this process to what Horowitz (1977) terms the cognitive aspects of splitting.

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