“The Elusive Good Object”
Lynne Zeavin, Psy.D.
Friday Night Papers
There are two distinct ways in which Melanie Klein writes about idealization. Insofar as she maintains that “The whole of [the infant’s] instinctual desires and his unconscious phantasies imbue the breast with qualities going far beyond the actual nourishment it affords,” and her increasingly stressed conviction that the libidinally invested breast, when introjected, forms ‘the core of the ego’, Klein is suggesting that the original good object must be experienced as ideal. Nothing less than this would adequately address ‘the whole of [the infant’s] instinctual desires.’ In this view, the infant projects his entire loving capacity, as well as his capacity for pleasure, onto the object and this is then introjected, together with the object’s actual goodness, to become his very core.
At other moments, though, idealization is different, for Klein also asserted that much of what the infant experiences as positive is in fact due to idealization as a psychological defense: In this view idealization is seen as the result of a defensive exaggeration of the object’s goodness: “Idealization is bound up with the splitting of the object, for the good aspects of the breast are exaggerated as a safeguard against the fear of the persecuting breast”; that is, a defense against persecutory anxieties stemming from the infant’s projection of hateful impulses and hate-filled parts of the self into the (bad) breast/mother.
Case material will be used to describe idealization as it permeates and governs the analytic relationship. The analyst’s eventual capacity to discern the workings of idealization, in the second sense in which Klein means it, brought about significant change for the patient.
Lynne Zeavin, Psy.D.:
Dr. Lynne Zeavin is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in full-time private practice in New York City. She is on the faculty of IPTAR and on the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute where she teaches Melanie Klein and the Contemporary Kleinians. She is also a training and supervising analyst at NYPSI. Dr. Zeavin has published widely on various subjects but she has a particular interest in Kleinian theory and the nature of the object in psychical experience. In addition, with three colleagues, she has founded Green Gang, a group devoted to the study of psychoanalysis and our human relationship with the natural world. Chair of the Fellowship Program of the American Psychoanalytic Association, she also serves on the editorial boards of JAPA, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, and Division/Review.
- Explain the Kleinian notion of the good object and how it is foundational to the health of the ego and object relationships.
- Identify the differences between paranoid schizoid and depressive functioning in Kleinian theory, the oscillations between them and the role idealization plays in helping to keep more primitive fantasies and anxieties at bay.
- Discern the workings of idealization in the transference/countertransference relationship.
Teaching Method: Lecture and Discussion.
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