Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To receive notifications about new content…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

Want to receive notifications about new content in PEP Web? For more information about this feature, click here

To sign up to PEP Web Alert for weekly emails with new content updates click click here.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Seiden, H.M. (1996). The Healing Presence: Part I: The Witness as Self-Object Function. Psychoanal. Rev., 83(5):685-693.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Review, 83(5):685-693

The Healing Presence: Part I: The Witness as Self-Object Function

Henry M. Seiden, Ph.D.

Among Heinz Kohut's important contributions to the psychoanalytic dialogue has been the concept of self-object: another person (originally, a parent) whose presence is sufficiently internalized that that presence is experienced as part of the self. A self-object completes, stabilizes, soothes and otherwise integrates the experience of self.

Kohut, of course, emphasized the self-object role played by the analyst in the transference. Kohut at first (1971, 1977) distinguished two, and then, later in his writings (1984), three primary self-object imagoes: the mirror, the ideal and the twin. Subsequently, students of his, focussing on self-object function rather than on imago have greatly extended his list of the ways in which experiencing another person or presence as part of the self stabilizes the self. For example, recently Stolorow and Trop (1990) have described the “self-delineating” self-object transferences and mentors and muses, spouses and children, clowns and even such value sustaining “presences” as memories and works of art can be seen to have self-object functions. (See, for example, Baker, 1990; Galatzer-Levy & Cohler, 1990; Kainer, 1990; Seiden, 1989.)

In what follows I hope to add to the list. I will deal with the witness as a self-object function.

The Function of the Witness

It seems safe to say that coherent experience — to perceive what is and to think straight about it —requires, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, the confirming presence of other people.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2020, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.