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Sperber, M.A. (1971). The “As If” Personality and Anton Chekhov's “The Darling”. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(1):14-21.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(1):14-21

The “As If” Personality and Anton Chekhov's “The Darling”

Michael A. Sperber, M.D.

Helene Deutsch,4 in 1942, called attention to a form of emotional disturbance in which the “individual's whole relationship to life has something about it whìch is lacking in genuineness and yet outwardly runs along ‘as if’ it were complete.” Those with this condition were designated “as if” personalities. Since Deutsch's paper, the condition has been described by others,1,5-13 and Ross14 has reviewed the literature concerning the concept, and discussed certain of its theoretical implications.

These “as if” individuals exhibit a defective capacity for love. They develop pseudoaffective relationships through identification with others. Their adaptation to reality depends on the ability to mimic others without appreciation for their real emotions. The relationships of the “as if” personality are often precipitously broken off by the partner, who senses the emptiness and dullness of the interaction, and the lack of emotional commitment in the presence of seemingly appropriate behavioral response. When a rejection does take place, or a disruption of the relationship occurs, for whatever reason, “At the first opportunity the object is exchanged for a new one and the process is repeated…. Any object will do as a bridge for identification.”3

This type of behavior is considered a reflection of a defective ability to invest emotional interest in others due to deprivation during the period of most intense early dependency.

It is the intention of this paper to consider Olenka, the heroine of Chekhov's “The Darling,”2 in the light of Deutsch's conception of the “as if” personality.

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