INTERNAL OBJECT

The concept of an internal object is a core concept in psychoanalytic theory, first proposed by Sigmund Freud in 1910. Freud proposed that the internal object has a psychological function, in that it serves as a mental representation of an important person in the individual’s life. This internal object serves as a template for understanding relationships and emotions. Internal objects can be thought of as the inner representation of individuals with whom we have had particularly meaningful experiences, such as parents, siblings, or significant others.

Recent research has found that the internal object is a dynamic concept, with the potential to be shaped by both intrapsychic and interpersonal influences. Specifically, the internal object is malleable and can be modified according to the developmental needs of the individual, as well as by the interpersonal relationships in which they are involved. Therefore, the internal object can be understood as a psychological construct that is both internally and externally influenced (Fonagy & Target, 2013).

The concept of the internal object is important for a variety of psychological theories, including self psychology, attachment theory, and object relations theory. In each of these theories, the internal object is seen as a psychological representation of a significant other, and understanding the internal object is essential for understanding the individual’s psychological functioning. For example, in self psychology, the internal object is seen as a representation of the self, and understanding the individual’s internal object allows for greater insight into their self-concepts and self-esteem. Similarly, in attachment theory, the internal object is seen as a representation of the individual’s attachment figures, and understanding the internal object allows for a greater understanding of the individual’s attachment style and the quality of their relationships (Fonagy & Target, 2013).

Finally, the concept of the internal object is important for psychotherapeutic interventions, as understanding the internal object can be used to help the individual process, explore, and manage their emotions. By understanding the internal object, the therapist can help the individual to identify and explore their feelings, as well as to develop insight into their interpersonal relationships (Fonagy & Target, 2013).

In conclusion, the internal object is a core concept in psychoanalytic theory, and is important in a variety of psychological theories, including self psychology, attachment theory, and object relations theory. The internal object is a dynamic concept, and is influenced by both intrapsychic and interpersonal influences. Understanding the internal object is essential for understanding the individual’s psychological functioning, and can be used to help the individual process, explore, and manage their emotions.

References

Fonagy, P., & Target, M. (2013). Understanding the internal world: A primer in psychoanalytic therapy. London: Taylor & Francis.

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