Workshop is led by Dr. David P. Celani
Date: Sunday, June 27, 2021, 9:30am – 5pm
Location: Virtual participation only!
Virtual participation is conducted via audio/video or audio mode only
(with minimal technical requirements)
To Register for this workshop, please complete the Registration form
Continuing Education Information: up to 9.25 CEs  See details here


One of the most difficult relationship patterns in which the clinician is asked to intervene is the battering couple who are referred for treatment. Couples with long histories of battering often resist intervention until the victim is in desperate emotional or physical danger. Even when the victim volunteers for treatment after a few events of battering, the therapist will discover that the abusive partner is working against progress by promising the victim that he/she will reform, and that therapy is unnecessary. In many instances the abuser will be successful in wooing his victim back into the abusive relationship and away from treatment. The victim may return to treatment after another incident (or series of incidents) of abuse, but she/he will continue to remain vulnerable to the abuser’s promises.

This workshop is designed to introduce psychotherapists, educators, mediators, as well as the representatives of other helping professions and the general public interested to understand the relational dynamics between the battered person and her/his abuser. This workshop will offer insights into the inner world of the victims, which are described in Dr. David Celani’s book The Illusion of Love: Why the Battered Woman Returns to Her Abuser, and will touch upon Lenore Walker’s observations regarding ‘the cycle theory of violence’ (as discussed in her book The Battered Woman). In his book, The Illusion of Love, Dr. Celani applies the analytic concept of ‘attachment to bad objects’ to the resistance encountered by the helping professional when he/she attempts to aid the victim in leaving the abusing partner. This resistance often is based on the victims’ early experiences in their family of origin. The most obvious source of resistance is the victim’s belief that the abuser has ‘reformed’ and has sworn never to batter again. This often makes them overly optimistic regarding the promises voiced by their battering partners. Other sources of resistance will also be discussed.

Registered participants will receive the workshop handout prepared by Dr. Celani, entitled “Fairbairn’s Metaphor of the Human Mind and the Trauma Bond,” as well as his 1996 book (in PDF) The Illusion of Love: Why the Battered Woman Returns to Her Abuser. Other suggested readings will be available to registered participants upon request.

Read more about the concepts used in this workshop:

The relationship between the batterer and his/her victim is a near perfect demonstration of Fairbairn’s concept of “attachment to bad objects,” which is the foundational concept of his psychoanalytic theory.

Fairbairn recognized that the child was absolutely  dependent on his parents for the satisfaction of all of his physical and emotional needs. This fundamental imbalance in power makes the infant and child extremely vulnerable to early psychological and developmental damage if they are living in a neglectful family. Parental failures, including indifference, humiliation or actual abuse, are intolerable for the child to acknowledge, because if she/he would accept this reality into their consciousness, they would then face abandonment and terror. The child’s only defense against knowing the truth about how badly he/she is being treated is to use the dissociative defense to banish the memories of these traumatic relational events into his/her unconscious.

In Fairbairn’s model, the human unconscious is populated by dissociated, and then repressed memories of traumatic interpersonal events experienced by the child during his developmental years. These buried relational  patterns are unknown to his conscious ego, and are re-enacted, out of conscious awareness, with new partners in adulthood.

The intolerable memories of neglect and abuse are grouped and condensed into an internal view of the rejecting parent (called the rejecting object) who is in a hostile and ungiving relationship to the frightened, disappointed and  angry child, called the antilibidinal ego. These two inner ego structures continue to interact in the unconscious, and the relational patterns that have already occurred in childhood are replayed in adult relationships.

Fairbairn, who worked in an Edinburgh orphanage, also observed a reciprocal psychological reaction to  punishing and rejecting family events that the children had experienced. These abandoned and abused orphans, who lived in an environment devoid of love and support, created elaborate fantasies that were powered by their severe need for love, support and safety. 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 also contains an image of the child’s self (called the libidinal ego) in a positively emotionally charged relationship to a loving and supportive parent (called the exciting object).

The combination of the two dissociated part-ego structures, the first containing dissociated memories of abuse and neglect, and the second unconscious structure, based on a hope-filled fantasy that very same parents who neglected him have the potential to love and  welcome him home, create a fundamental split  in the individual’s ego structure which now contains two separate and opposite views of the parents.

The splitting defense leaves the  individual with two separate centers of agency (sub-egos or sub selves) that have completely opposite views of the world, and that alternate in dominance. Thus, the individual may view the parents as violent abusers at one moment and then switch to seeing them as filled with the potential for love and goodness just moments later. These two sub-selves  are unknown to each other, and are not under the control of the individual’s conscious central ego. Additionally these mostly unconscious part ego structures influence the central ego’s perceptions, and distort the individual’s  interpersonal relationships. Because of the influence of  the two sub-egos, the adult will seek out new partners who both enrage them,  and yet at other times, offer them the illusion of love. This is the unconscious psychological basis of the two alternating views of the abuser clearly articulated by the victim of abuse.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

9:30am – 10:45am
The Development of Pathological Ego Structures, Their Relationship to Each Other, and Their Impact On Reality
This first section will consist of a careful review of Fairbairn’s writings on the infant’s and child’s absolute dependency on his parents, and the consequences of parental failures on the child’s psychological development. Frequent early rejections turn the child away from the harsh reality of his family and to his inner world for substitute satisfactions. The child also develops excuses for his parent’s failure to love him and frequently uses the “Moral Defense Against Bad Objects.”

11:00am – 12:30pm
Fairbairn’s Structural Model, and The Clinical Skills Needed to Respond to the Split Off Selves When they Emerge in the Clinical Interview
Fairbairn recognized that abused and neglected children utilized the powerful defense mechanism of dissociation to avoid remembering how harshly they were being treated, which allows them to continue their unfinished dependency relationship on the parents. The dissociated material creates part-self and part-object structures in the child’s unconscious. The first part-self is an internal representation of the child in relationship to a rejecting, frightening or indifferent parent. A second set of part-self and part object are developed out of the child’s extreme needs and hope for love in the future. This pair of part-self and part-object keeps the child’s dependency relationship with his parents intact.

12:30pm – 1:15pm

1:15pm – 2:30pm
Fairbairn’s Structural Model as Applied to Battering, and to Lenore Walker’s “The Cycle Theory Of Violence”
Fairbairn’s structural model will be applied to Lenore Walker’s “Cycle Theory Of Violence,” from her book The Battered Woman. Each of the three steps in the cycle of violence can be understood in terms of Fairbairn’s internal structures as the victim shifts from illusory hope, to enraged despair.

2:45pm – 4:15pm
Specific Treatment Strategies
This section will describe a therapeutic strategy based on Fairbairn’s model, which focuses on creating a therapeutic narrative targeted on the three fundamental sources of resistance, as well as the dissociated material held in the patient’s unconscious structures.

4:15pm – 5:00pm
Q & A


At the end of this educational activity, its participants will be able to:

  • Learn of and discuss the extreme importance of early maternal care, and to the psychological consequence of empathic failures on the infant and child’s developing personality structure as described in Fairbairn’s Object Relations Theory.
  • Discuss and analyze how the early splitting defense is a consequence of intolerable traumatic memories of parental abandonments and empathic failures that are rejected by the child’s conscious “central ego.”
  • Discuss and analyze how these early traumatic memories are forced into the unconscious via the defense of dissociation, and then coalesce into memories of the child in relation to his (intolerably) rejecting parent(s).
  • Learn to interpret the patients antilibidinal vision of the battering partner as a replay of the original traumatic history in their family of origin.
  • Learn to interpret this antilibidinal vision gradually, without unnecessarily creating resistance.
  • Apply Fairbairn’s structural model to the patient’s libidinal ego view of the batterer when she/he is dominated by  this ego state.
  • Interpret the patient’s libidinal view of the abuser as an exciting object by exploring the actual moments of tenderness in the patient’s history, and the relative number of these events in relation to antilibidinal memories of events.
  • Confront the patient’s central ego by interpreting both idealization or depreciating transferences to the therapist during the treatment process.
  • Apply the above strategy while working toward integrating the two disparate and unintegrated  views of the therapist as a bridge to integrating  the exciting/rejecting aspects of the batterer into  an integrated  view that is tolerated by the central ego.
  • Learn to respond to the separate ego and object structures that emerge during the clinical narrative, and respond to each in a way that is acceptable to the central ego..
  • Create a “therapeutic narrative” designed to explore another primary source of resistance (after the idealizing and depreciating transferences) which form a powerful barrier against change. The narrative is designed to highlight parental failures, which gradually expose  the contents of the unconscious, most importantly the memories of neglect, abuse or indifference that are collected in the antilibidinal ego structure to the central ego. Caution must be used in this process because the central ego is only capable of accepting a small amount of information at the outset of treatment.
  • Explore the final source of resistance, which is the intense motivation contained in the self and object pairs. Nothing is more important to the antilibidinal ego than to reform the rejecting object. Similarly, nothing is more important to her libidinal ego than to find the hidden love that it assumes exists in the original objects. Interpret how these ancient motives are re-played in the relationship with the batterer.
  • Interpret the battering scenario that the patient has experienced by applying Fairbairn’s structural model to the three phase “Cycle Theory of Violence” described by Lenore Walker. Note the shifts in ego state that move the interaction from one phase to the next.


  • Armstrong-Perlman, E.M. (1991). The allure of the bad object. Free Association, 2, 343-356.
  • Diaz, J. (2017, November 20). Waiting for Spider-Man. The New Yorker, 17.
  • Du Plessix-Gray, F. (1995). Starving children. The New Yorker, 51.
  • Celani, D.P. (1996). The illusion of love: Why the battered woman returns to her abuser. Columbia University Press.
  • Celani, D. P. (2007). A structural analysis of the obsessional character: A Fairbairnian perspective. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 67(2), 119-140.
  • Celani, D. P. (2010). Fairbairn’s object relations theory in the clinical setting. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Celani, D. P. (2014a). A Fairbairnian structural analysis of the narcissistic personality disorder. Psychoanalytic Review, 101, 385-409.
  • Celani, D. P. (2014b). Revising Fairbairn’s structural theory. In G. Clarke & D. Scharff, (Eds.), Fairbairn and the object relations tradition (pp. 397-409). London: Karnac.
  • Celani, D.P. (2016). Fairbairn’s theory of change. Psychoanalytic Review, 103(3), 341-370.
  • Celani, D.P. (2020). Applying Fairbairn’s Object Relations theory to the psychological development of Anders Breivik. Psychoanalytic Review, 107(4), 337-365.
  • Fairbairn, W.R.D. (1952). Psychoanalytic studies of the personality.  London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Fairbairn, W.R.D. (1958). On the nature and aims of psycho-analytical treatment. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39, 374-385.
  • Goodwin, D.K. (1994). No ordinary time. Touchstone, New York, NY.
  • Greenson, R.R. (1971). A dream while drowning. In: Explorations in Psychoanalysis, (pp. 415-423), 1978. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.
  • Harrison, K. (1997). The kiss. New York: Random House.
  • Kopp, S. (1978). An end to innocence: Facing life without illusions. New York: Bantam books.
  • McLaughlin, J.T. (1998). Power, authority, and influence in the analytic dyad. In O. Renkck, O. Ed, Northvale Knowledge and Authority in the Psychoanalytic Relationship (pp.189-222). NJ: Jason Aronson.
  • Mitchell, S.A. (2000). Relationality: From attachment to intersubjectivity. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.
  • Odgen, T.H. (1990). The Matrix of the Mind: Object Relations and the Psychoanalytic Dialogue. Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson.
  • Odgen, T.H. (2010) Why Read Fairbairn. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 91, 101-108.
  • Ogden, T. H. (2019). Why read Fairbairn? International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 91, 101-118.
  • Porter, K.A. (1948). The necessary enemy. In The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter (pp.182-186). Houghton Mifflin, 1970.
  • Schafer, R. (1998). Authority, evidence, and knowledge in the psychoanalytic relationship, In O. Renick (Ed.),  Knowledge and Authority in the Psychoanalytic Relationship (pp.227-244). Jason Aronson, 1998.
  • Seinfeld, J. (1990). The bad object. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.
  • Skolnick, N. J. (2006). What’s a good object to do? Psychoanalytic Dialogues16(1), 1-27.
  • Skolnick, N.J. (2014). The analyst as a good object: A Fairbairnian perspective. In G.S. Clarke & D.E. Scharff, Fairbairn and the Object Relations tradition (Chapter 19). Routledge.


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 SettingThe 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 9.25 CEs for NYS Social Workers, NYS Psychologists, and 9.25 APA based CEs for  Psychologists, MFTs, MHCs, Addiction Professionals (Check your states below).

Accreditation Statement

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.

Psychologists (APA) Credit Designation
Amedco LLC designates this activity for a maximum of 9.25 Psychologist contact hours.

The following state boards accept courses from APA providers for Counselors: AK, AL, 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, WA, WI, WY
MI: No CE requirements
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, WI, WY
MI: No CE requirement
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 (outstate held)*, OK, OR, SC, UT, WA, WI, WY
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 Social Workers: AK, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, ME, MN, MO, NE, NH, NM, OR, PA, VT, WI, WY

 * If the activity is held live in the state of NY, then direct addictions board is required, ie: NAADAC. If the activity is held outside NY, is virtual, enduring or remote, it is considered “outstate” and this reciprocity applies.

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. 9.25 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. 9.25 hours.


New York Board for Mental Health Practitioners (NY Licensed Psychoanalysts, LP)
National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP) is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an Approved Provider of continuing education for licensed psychoanalysts. #P-0019. 7 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.


Early Bird registration (before June 14th, 2021)
$60 regular/ $35 grad students & candidates/ $15 undergrad students. If CEs are requested – there is an additional fee of $25 (can be paid on the day of the conference or in advance)

Regular registration (June 14th – June 25th, 2021)
$70 regular/ $45 grad students & candidates/ $20 undergrad students. If CEs are requested – there is an additional fee of $25 (can be paid on the day of the conference or in advance)

Registration ‘at the door’ (on June 26th & June 27th, 2021)
$80 regular/ $55 grad students & candidates/ $25 undergrad students. If CEs are requested – there is an additional fee of $25 (can be paid on the day of the conference or in advance)

Special scholarships for undergraduate/graduate students, retired practitioners, as well as for group registration, are available. Inquire by email to or at 646-522-1056.

Refund in full is offered for cancellations made before June 27th, 2021. No refunds for cancellations made on or after June 27th, 2021 (but credit can be applied for any of the educational events offered at the ORI in 2021 or further on).