Pioneers in Object Relations Clinical Thinking:
Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

On May 6th, we celebrate birthday of the founder of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud. Despite the fact that British Object Relations school of psychoanalysis had many disagreements with Freud’s visions of human psychic structure, Freud was indeed the first one who envisioned object relations as a concept, when he said, “Thus the shadow of the object fell upon the ego” (Mourning and Melancholia, 1917).

It is well worth notice that, although mourning involves grave departures from the normal attitude to life, it never occurs to us to regard it as a pathological condition and refer to it medical treatment. We rely on it being overcome after a certain lapse of time, and we look upon any interference with it as useless or even harmful. The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful sense of dejection, a cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of capacity to love, inhibition of all activity…a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree
 that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.

Sigmund Freud

[Melancholias] show us the ego divided, fallen apart into two pieces, one which rages against the second. This second piece is the one which has been altered by introjection and which contains the lost object. But the piece that behaves so cruelly is not unknown to us either. It comprises the conscience, a critical agency within the ego, which even in normal times takes up a critical attitude towards the ego, though never so relentlessly and so unjustifiably.

Sigmund Freud

We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love, never so forlornly unhappy as when we have lost our love object or its love.