CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND CREATION OF A MASS MURDERER THROUGH THE LENS OF FAIRBAIRN’S OBJECT RELATIONS THEORY
Seminar is led by Dr. David P. Celani Date: October 8, 2023, 10:00am – 3:30pm EDT Location: Virtual participation only! Virtual participation is conducted via audio/video or audio mode only (with minimal technical requirements) To Register for this seminar, please complete the Registration form Continuing Education Information: 7.0 CE hrsSee details here
This seminar will examine the critical importance of childhood trauma related to the catastrophic consequences to the child of failures of the mother-child attachment process and the early maternal empathic failures.
We will look into the parental failures that led Anders Breivik to become one of the most horrific murderers in recent history, as in 2011, he killed 77 of his countrymen in Norway. Breivik is an extremely good candidate for a careful psychohistory as his childhood trauma is well documented because the Oslo Social Service agency tried twice to remove him from his mother’s care.
The model that will be used to understand Breivik’s psychological development is Ronald Fairbairn’s Object Relations theory. Fairbairn developed a model of psychological development based on the earlier work of Ian Suttie, a fellow Scottish psychiatrist, who published a short text “The Origins of Love and Hate” in 1935. Fairbairn elaborated on Suttie’s fundamental premises that included the observation that the infant was unconditionally dependent on the mother from the outset and that the mother’s lack of empathy culminated the infant’s anger and frustration, which was designed to call attention to and alter the mother’s response to the child’s unmet need. He also described the infant’s need to keep the mother untainted by memories of her failures via the fantasy of a good mother. Fairbairn took these ideas and elaborated on them and published a series of papers spanning the years 1940-1958.
The seminar will begin with a description of Fairbairn’s model, then the model will be applied to the psychological development of Anders Breivik. Finally, the last section will describe therapeutic strategies that can help the mental health professional with the treatment of individuals with similar developmental histories to Breivik.
Fairbairn focused on the critical early years of the child’s development, noting that the infant and child were absolutely dependent on his/her mother’s continuing nurturance. The absence of dependable, empathic care is catastrophic because the infant or child’s must, by necessity, dissociate memories of events in which they were treated with indifference or neglected. If the child became conscious of all his/her memories of being neglected or treated indifferently, it would shatter his/her essential unambivalent attachment to their needed object.
Once the traumatic memories are dissociated, they are then held in the unconscious via repression. Over time, with many similar empathic failures, the memories of the child’s self in relation to his/her object begin to coalesce into internal templates that are based on the actual external objects. In children where deprivation and neglect was frequent or continuous, the child’s ability to develop a strong and confident central sense of self (the central ego) based on his/ her relationship with the healthy, nurturing aspects of the parent’s personality is severely compromised. The consequences to the child of an unconscious suffused with hurt, rejection and humiliation, which blocks the individual from understanding the source of his resentment, coupled with a conscious self that is under formed, lacking in confidence, and hyper-sensitive to rejection, results in an individual who wants revenge on the external world, and is easily misled by resentment based politics.
Readings for this course will be sent to all registered by email.
Part One: The Case of Breivik: Psychological Consequence of Childhood Trauma
At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:
Discuss the importance of early maternal care, and to the psychological consequence of empathic failures and emotional trauma that are dissociated on the infant and child’s developing personality structure
Discuss and analyze the early splitting defense which is a consequence of intolerable traumatic memories of parental abandonments and empathic failures – that, if remembered, would disrupt the child’s essential attachment to his parents and disrupt his feeling of living in a safe environment.These traumatic memories are forced into the unconscious via the defense of dissociation, and create the contents within each individual’s unconscious.
Discuss and analyze the dynamic relationship between the trauma based internal image or memory of the rejecting or indifferent parent in relationship to the frightened and humiliated memories of the child’s self.The rejecting object is in an ongoing dialogue in the inner world of the child’s sense of self which was called the antilibidinal ego. This relationship can color the patient’s central ego and produce a powerful transference. That is, the internal rejecting object is powerful enough to be projected onto external objects, and the individual will act as if the external object is as hostile as are the internalized memories of the rejecting object.Fairbairn, who worked in an Edinburgh orphanage, also observed a puzzling reaction in the abused and neglected orphans. These abandoned and abused orphans, who lived in an environment devoid of love and support, created elaborate fantasies that were motivated by their severe need for love and support. These children convinced themselves that their families were actually loving and welcoming. Fairbairn recognized that these unshakable fantasies created a second, mostly unconscious ego structure that offered the child the comforting and self-protective illusion that his parents would love him in the future. This ego structure contains an image of the child’s self (called the libidinal ego) in positively emotionally charged relationship to a loving and supportive parent (called the exciting object).This relationship plays an key role in Breivik’s developmental history. The reciprocal relationship between these mostly unconscious structures and the conscious, but weakened, Central ego will also be described. The two pairs of unconscious structures are unknown to each other, and result in the patient seeing others in the world in extremely different ways, based on which structure is ascendant
Discuss and analyze the positive, conscious aspect of Fairbairn’s structural model.The conscious aspect of Fairbairn’s model consists of the central ego which develops in relation to the parent: when they were empathic and nurturing, and this parental object was called the ideal object. This ego structure varies greatly depending upon the amount of time the parent spends with the child. Those parents that are deeply invested and loving develop children that have large and powerful memories of themselves (the central ego) in a loving relationship to their supportive parents (the ideal objects). In contrast, children raised in hostile environments have smaller, undeveloped central egos, and large emotionally charged antilibidinal ego/rejecting object structures. They need equally powerful libidinal ego/exciting object fantasy based structures to keep them attached to their (in reality) neglectful parents. The libidinal ego/exciting object structures are mostly unconscious, completely unknown to the rejecting object/antilibidinal structures, and both serve to protect the conscious central ego from “knowing” about the negative emotional events that the individual experienced. This forced disintegration (called the splitting defense) protects the child from an awareness that he lives in a dangerous environment.
Discuss and analyze the actual events of Anders Breivik’s life while applying Fairbairn’s model, to illustrate how his resentful antilibidinal ego was developed over time during his childhood.Breivik’s developmental history accounts for the extremity of his resentments, as well as too his intense dependency on him mother, thus blocking (via splitting) any awareness of the source of these very resentments. Breivik’s response to the world was a complete acting out of his enraged antilibidinal ego which targeted the influx of Muslim immigrants as the rejecting objects to which he became dedicated to destroying.
Discuss how the relationships between the structures themselves provide life-meaning and motivation in all the individual’s activities in life.
Apply the understanding of how the relationships between the intra-psychic ego structures provide the motivation to one’s actions – to one’s clinical case or personal/professional life situation.For instance, Breivik’s antilibidinal gave his life purpose as he attempted to publicize (and then eliminate) the dangers that he thought were leading Norway to destruction. His parents were so lacking in behavior that he could use as an exciting object that promised love, that he was forced to use a fantasy image of himself as the exciting object which urged and supported his libidinal self to engage in mass murder. Thus, his self created exciting object was a key player in his destruction of others.
Part Two: Applying Fairbairn’s Model in the Clinical Setting
At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:
Identify and compare the four different unconscious structures when they emerge in the treatment session.
Discuss how to respond in clinical situation to four different unconscious structures effectively.
Apply the understanding of Fairbairnian model to working with transference and projections in analytic/ clinical situation.
Discuss how utilizing Fairbairnian model of the inner world can support the therapist in navigating through complicated patient-and-family and patient-and-the-world dynamics.The therapist must be able to understand, identify, and respond to powerful patient transferences that result from the projection of any of the four unconscious structures ( the rejecting or exciting object, or the antilibidinal or libidinal ego) onto the therapist. These structures frequently dominate the patient’s consciousness in the clinical interview and sweep away the patient’s central ego. Each structure requires a different response that indicates to the patient’s weakened central ego that the therapist understands what is going on in the session. Fairbairn’s model of the inner world allows the clinician to understand patient dynamics, which aids in protecting him/her from becoming entangled in patient’s projections.
Discuss development of a specific type of clinical narrative that is designed to make the patient’s unconscious structures gradually known to their conscious central ego, while simultaneously strengthening the central ego via the nurturing relationship to the therapist.
Celani, D.P. (2014). A Fairbairnian structural analysis of the narcissistic personality disorder. Psychoanalytic Review, 101(3), 385-409.
Celani, D.P. (2020). Fairbairn’s metaphor of the human mind and the trauma bond (Conference handout).
Celani, D. P. (2020). Applying Fairbairn’s Object Relations theory to the psychological development of Anders Breivik. Psychoanalytic Review, 107(4), 337-365.
The above readings will be sent out to registered participants by email.
SHORT BIO OF THE SEMINAR LEADER:
David P. Celani, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who practiced for more than twenty-five years in Burlington, Vermont. In treatment, he focused on his patients’ “attachment to bad objects”, which manifested through their inability to separate from parents, friends, or marital partners who demeaned, criticized, or abused them. Celani now presents workshops throughout the United States on Object Relations theory. His books with Columbia University Press include Fairbairn’s Object Relations Theory in the Clinical Setting, The Illusion of Love: Why the Battered Woman Returns to Her Abuser, and Leaving Home: How to Separate From Your Difficult Family.
This educational activity is accredited by Amedco to provide 7 CEs for NYS Social Workers, NYS Psychologists, and 7 APA based CEs for Psychologists, SWs, MFTs, MHCs, Addiction Professionals (Check your states below).
In support of improving patient care, this activity has been planned and implemented by Amedco LLC and Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis (ORIPP). Amedco LLC is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.
Amedco Joint Accreditation #4008163.
Psychologists (APA) Credit Designation
This course is co-sponsored by Amedco and Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis. Amedco is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Amedco maintains responsibility for this program and its content. 7 (of 23.0)CE hours.
The following state boards accept courses from APA providers for Counselors: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MD, ME, MO, NC, ND, NH, NE, NJ, NM, NV, OK*, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WY
MI: No CE requirements. *OK: Accepts APA credit for live, in-person activities but not for ethics and/or online courses. The following state boards accept courses from APA providers for MFTs: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IN, KS, MD, ME, MO, NE, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, OK*, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WDC, WI, WY AL MFTs: Credits authorized by NBCC or any other state licensing agency will be accepted.
MA MFTs: Participants can self-submit courses not approved by the MAMFT board for review.
The following state boards accept courses from APA providers for Addictions Professionals: AK, AR, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, IA, IN, KS, LA, MD, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NY (held outside NY ONLY), OK*, OR, SC, UT, WA, WI, WY The following state boards accept courses from APA providers for Social Workers: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, ME, MN, MO, NE, NH, NM, OR, PA, VT, WI, WY
New York Board for Social Workers (NY SW) Amedco SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0115. 7 (of 23.0)CE hours.
New York Board for Psychology (NY PSY) Amedco is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Psychology as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed psychologists #PSY-0031. 7 (of 23.0)CE hours.
To receive CE certificates for the actual hours attended – please request them at the time of registration or any time prior to beginning of the conference. CE certificate fee: $25 (in addition to the registration fees). No fees charged for PD (Professional Development) certificates from ORI.
REGISTRATION AND FEES:
Early Bird registration(before September 1st, 2023) $60 regular/ $45 grad students & candidates/ $20 undergrad students. If CEs are requested — please use the “regular” registration (not a “student”) option. There is an additional fee of $25 (can be paid prior or on the day of the conference).
Regular registration (from September 1st – to October 7th, 2023 – before 6pm EDT) $75 regular/ $55 grad students & candidates/ $25 undergrad students. If CEs are requested — please use the “regular” registration (not a “student”) option. There is an additional fee of $25 (can be paid prior or on the day of the conference).
Registration ‘at the door’ (after 6pm EDT/NYC time on October 7th, 2023) $90 regular/ $65 grad students & candidates/ $30 undergrad students.
Please Note: If CEs are requested — there is an additional fee of $25 for CE certificate processing (can be paid on the day of the conference or in advance).
SPECIAL SCHOLARSHIPS are available for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as for retired or disabled practitioners, or need-based or/and those who live outside of the USA.
CANCELLATION POLICY: Full refund before the date of the event. No refund from the day of the event, but full paid tuition will be applied to any further ORI events.
Form successfully restored
The form has been restored from your last edit. If wish to start over, please click the button
We have received your request
Server Side Error
We faced problems while connecting to the server or receiving data from the server. Please wait for a few seconds and try again.
If the problem persists, then check your internet connectivity. If all other sites open fine, then please contact the administrator of this website with the following information.