"...feelings of love and gratitude arise directly and spontaneously in the baby in response to the love and care of his mother. The power of love - which is the manifestation of the forces which tend to preserve life - is there in the baby as well as the destructive impulses, and finds its first fundamental expression in the baby's attachment to his mother's breast, which develops into love for her as a person. My psycho-analytic work has convinced me that when in the baby's mind the conflicts between love and hate arise, and the fears of losing the loved one become active, a very important step is made in development. These feelings of guilt and distress now enter as a new element into the emotion of love. They become an inherent part of love, and influence it profoundly both in quality and quantity." (from Love, Hate, and Reparation)


Object Relations Theory emerges wholly from the profound impact of the work of Melanie Klein (1882-1960). Klein sought to elaborate on and extend Freud's original theory through her observations and clinical work with children. Indeed, Klein's work as a whole is an extension of Freud's work, but also a transformation of Freud's original insights through her unique interpretive perspectives. Klein was also profoundly influenced by Sandor Ferenczi, her own psychoanalyst. Klein's insights were so transformative of Freud's work, in fact, that her theoretical work was rejected by many orthodox Freudians -- a clash best represented in the split between Klein's "London school" and the "Viennese school," most closely associated with the figure of Anna Freud. The initial class between Klein and Anna Freud, leading to this profound and lasting 'split,' involved differences in opinion regarding the treatment of children. Klein used play therapy and used interpretive techniques which were very similar to the techniques used with adults. Anna Freud, on the other hand, held that children's egos were not yet developed enough for classical analysis, and, instead, she advocated a more educative role for the analyst who works with children. The heated debates in WWII Britain -- within the British psychoanalytic society -- led to a profound schism in the psychoanalytic community which is still evident to this day. In fact, until recently, most American psychoanalysts, who were more closely aligned with Freudian ego psychology, held Klein and subsequent Object Relations Theory in contempt for this reason, and, vice versa, the Kleinian tradition generally demonized the ego psychology movement. Thankfully, today this schism is beginning to heal.

Working with children, Klein felt she had observed processes in pre-Oedipal children that were very similar to Oedipal conflicts in older children. Throughout her career, she attempted to theoretically justify these observations. In turn, Klein and her followers applied her practice and theory to work with psychotic adult patients. Klein generally saw similarities between young children's coping strategies in play and psychotic symptoms. In general, however, Klein imagined that all adults retain, at some level, such psychotic processes, involving a constant struggle to cope with paranoid anxiety and depressive anxiety. Klein was led, therefore, to apply her approach to adult neurotics, as well as psychotics and children. Klein's technique, in all cases, involved a method of using "deep" interpretations which she felt communicated directly to the unconscious of the client, thus by-passing ego defenses. In conclusion, Klein's theories, such as the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions, her conception of sexuality and envy, and her discovery of projective identification as a defense have all been highly influential contributions to the field which, regardless of Klein's intentions, opened up new possibilities for psychoanalysis which were quite different than Freud's classical psychoanalytic practice and theory. The term "object relations" ultimately derived from Klein, since she felt that the infant introjects the 'whole' other with the onset of the depressive position during the ontogenesis of the self.

SEE ALSO: Winnicott, Bion


"It is an essential part of the interpretive work that it should keep in step with fluctuations between love and hatred, between happiness and satisfaction on the one hand and persecutory anxiety and depression on the other." (from "The Psychoanalytic Play Technique: Its History and Significance," 1955)

"It was always part of my technique not to use educative or moral influence, but to keep to the psychoanalytic procedure only, which, to put it in a nutshell, consists in understanding the patient's mind and in conveying to him what goes on in it...." (from "The Psychoanalytic Play Technique: Its History and Signficance," 1955)

"One of the many interesting and surprising experiences of the beginner in child analysis is to find in even very young children a capacity for insight which is often far greater than that of adults." (from "The Psychoanalytic Play Technique: Its History and Significance," 1955)

" a wider concept than Freud's concepts of undoing in the obsessional neurosis and of reaction formation, for it includes the variety of processes by which the ego feels it undoes harm done in phantasy, restores, preserves, and revives objects. The importance of this tendency, bound up as it is with feelings of guilt, also lies in the major contribution it makes to all sublimations, and in this way to mental health." (From "The Psychoanalytic Play Technique: Its History and Significance," 1955)

"Mourning...involves the repetition of the emotional situation the infant experienced during the depressive position. For under the stress of fear of loss of the loved mother, the infant struggles with the task of establishing and integrating his inner world, of building up securely the good objects within himself." (from "Some Theoretical Conclusions Regarding the Emotional Life of the Infant," 1952)

"I believe that the ego is incapable of splitting the object--internal and external--without a corresponding splitting taking place within the ego." (from "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms," 1946)

"The main processes which come into play in idealization are also operative in hallucinatory gratification, namely, splitting of the object and denial of both frustration and of persecution. The frustrating and persecuting object is kept widely apart from the idealized object. However, the bad object is denied, as is the whole situation of frustration and the bad feelings (pain) to which frustration gives rise. This is bound up with denial of psychic reality. The denial of psychic reality becomes possible only through strong feelings of omnipotence--an essential characteristic of early mentality. Omnipotent denial of the existence of the bad object and of the painful situation is in the unconscious equal to annihilation by the destructive impulse. it is, however, not only a situation and an object that are denied and annihilated--it is an object relation which suffers this fate, and therefore a part of the ego, from which the feelings towards the object emanate, is denied and annihilated as well." (from "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms," 1946)

"The various ways of splitting the ego and internal objects result in the feeling that the ego is in bits. This feeling amounts to a state of disintegration." (from "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms," 1946)

"With the introjection of the complete object in about the second quarter of the first year marked steps in integration are made. This implies important changes in the relation to objects. The loved and hated aspects of the mother are no longer felt to be so widely separated, and the result is an increased fear of loss, states akin to mourning and a strong feeling of guilt, because the aggressive impulses are felt to be directed against the loved object. The depressive position has come to the fore." (from "Notes on Some Schizoid Mechanisms," 1946)


Introduction to Melanie Klein
Brief Intro to Melanie Klein
Lifschitz on Klein
Klein Bibliography
"The Paranoid-Schizoid and Depressive Positions in the Psychogenesis of the Self" by Brent Dean Robbins
"A Brief History of Psychoanalysis" by Brent Dean Robbins
"Psychotic Anxieties are Normal" by Robert M. Young
"Whatever Happened to Human Nature?" by Robert M. Young
"Being a Kleinian is Not Straight Forward" by Robert M. Young
"Mental Space" by Robert M. Young
"Descriptive vs Dynamic Concepts of Psychopathology" by Robert M. Young
"The Psychoanalysis of Sectarianism" by Robert M. Young
"Benign and Virulent Projective Identification in Groups and Institutions" by Robert M. Young
"Psychotic Anxieties and the Fading Hopes of the Left" by Robert M. Young
"Is 'Perversion' Obsolete?" by Robert M. Young
"The Poly Centric Self as Suggested by the Object Relations Theory of Klein..." by Marc V. Fonda
"...Bion's Basic Assumption Theory and Klein's Developmental Positions" by Laurence J. Gould
"Discussion of "'Someday...' and 'If only...'"0 by Salman Akhtar, M.D  by Donald L. Carveth
"The Future of an Illusion" by William Gillespie
"Where will Psychoanalysis Survive?" by Alan A. Stone
"The Jewish Mystical Tradition and Psychoanalysis" by Joseph H. Berke
"A Field Approach to Transference and its Particular Application to Children" by Hanna Colm
"Signals of Transcedence in Large Groups as Systems" by W. Gordon Lawrence
"Totalitarian States of Mind in Institutions" by W. Gordon Lawrence
"Systemic Creation of Organizational Anxiety:  An Empirical Study" by  Voyer, Gould, and Ford
"Alpha Function and Sleeping Disorders: A Psychoanalytic Study..." by Sueli Regina G. Rossini
"Against Descartes: The Subject of Signification" by Earl Jackson, Jr.
"The Case Against Depression" by Donald L. Nathanson
"Anxiety and the New Order" by James Krantz
"Religion and Religious States of Mind" by Deocleciano Bendocchi Alves
"Working with Problems of Narcissism in Entrepreneurial Organizations" by Richard Ruth
Psychoanalytic Aesthetics: The British School by Nicola Glover
A Psychophysical Theory of Everything: Consciousness Beyond Complementarity by Barron Burrow
The Object Relations Home Page
What is Play Therapy?
Mrs. Klein: The play


The Selected Melanie Klein
by Juliet Mitchell (Editor), Melanie Klein (Introduction)
The Psycho-Analysis of Children
by Melanie Klein
Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963
by Melanie Klein
Love, Hate and Reparation
by Melaine Klein, Joan Riviere
Narrative of a Child Analysis
by Melanie Klein, Elliott Jaques
The Klein-Lacan Dialogues
by Bernard Burgoyne (Editor), E. Mary Sullivan (Editor), Mary Sullivan (Editor), Paul Verhaeghe
A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought
by R. D. Hinshelwood
Introducing Melanie Klein
by Robert Hinshelwood, Susan Robinson, Oscar Zarate (Illustrator)
Clinical Lectures on Klein and Bion
by Robin Anderson (Editor)
The Contemporary Kleinians of London
by Roy Schafer (Editor)
Melanie Klein : Her World and Her Work
by Phyllis Grosskurth (Contributor), Melanie Klein
A Primer of Kleinian Therapy
by Irving Solomon
Reshaping the Psychoanalytic Domain : The Work of Melanie Klein, W.R.D. Fairbain, and D.W. Winnicott
by Judith M. Hughes
Envy - Special Issue of the Journal of Melanie Klein and Object Relations
by F.V. Vladescu, P.C Sandler (Editor), S Glouberman (Editor), Weininger (Editor)
Mothers of Psychoanalysis : Helen Deutsch, Karen Horney, Anna Freud, and Melanie Klein
by Janet Sayers


Copyright 1999, Brent Dean Robbins

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