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Sandler, J. (1990). On the Structure of Internal Objects and Internal Object Relationships. Psychoanal. Inq., 10(2):163-181.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 10(2):163-181

On the Structure of Internal Objects and Internal Object Relationships

Joseph Sandler, Ph.D. M.D., LL.D.

I in a previous paper, written jointly with Anne-Marie Sandler (Sandler & Sandler, 1978), a number of ideas relating to the development of object relationships were considered, with special reference to the role of feeling states in that development. We pointed out that the term object relationship has a variety of meanings, and that there is a need to face the task of integrating the theory of object relationships into the intrapsychic psychology of psychoanalysis. We were critical of the notion of an object relationship as the energic investment of an object, and pointed out that the relationship between two people involved very subtle and complicated cues. Each partner was regarded as having, at any one time, a particular role for the other, pressures being placed on the other in order to obtain a particular type of response.

Many different expectations, feelings, wishes, and thoughts are involved in such an interaction, and can be discerned in any ongoing relationship between two people. This holds for object relationships in fantasy as well as with “external” persons. While the interaction in fantasy may not be as satisfying, it does allow for greater control of the relationship in a wish-fulfilling way.

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