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Rector, L.J. (2000). Chapter 14 Developmental Aspects of the Twinship Selfobject Need and Religious Experience. Progress in Self Psychology, 16:257-275.

(2000). Progress in Self Psychology, 16:257-275

Chapter 14 Developmental Aspects of the Twinship Selfobject Need and Religious Experience

Lallene J. Rector, Ph.D.

“If thou sorrow, he will weep; if thou wake, he cannot sleep; thus of every grief in heart he with thee doth bear a part.

(Shakespeare, Passionate Pilgrim)

Many clinicians have difficulty in determining how to deal with the religiosity of some patients (Goldberg, 1996). In the history of psychoanalytic endeavor, the experience of belief in and relation to a sacred Other, often called “God,” has been variously understood, and contradictory views have emerged on a spectrum of two extremes (Freud, 1927, 1930; Winnicott, 1971; Meissner, 1984). At one end, religious experience is seen as a pathological expression of intrapsychic conflict or psychosis; at the other, religion is viewed as a necessity for mental health. More moderate views understand religious belief as serving psychological functions, either to the benefit and/or to the detriment of an individual's sense of well-being. The psychology of the self represents such a position in its interpretation of religion and suggests, in contrast to the previous extremes, that religious experience, belief, and practice may be understood as an expression of the state of the self and the life-long need for self-esteem—enhancing selfobjects. Kohut recognized that religion could serve any of the selfobject functions he had described (1971, 1984).

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