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CE/CME Courses

Working with Fairbairn's Structural Model in the Clinical Interview

David Celani, PhD, presents an overview of Fairbairn's model with an emphasis on three aspects of his model. First, he describes Fairbairn's sensitive and nuanced understanding of the emotional vulnerability of children to rejection of their needs by his/her caregiver. The child's dependency is so intense that any lived experiences of indifference or rejection are intolerable for his/ her sense of security, and are dissociated and held in the unconscious.
The second aspect of the model emphasized is the fate of the dissociated material, which collates into memories of the child's self in relation to its objects. There are two pairs of (mostly) unconscious structures, that relate only to each other and engage in a dialogue with each other in the unconscious. They are the antilibidinal ego, which is the child's self in relation to the rejecting parent. This self is suffused with memories of self hate, object hate, a sense of worthlessness and a strong desire for retaliation toward the rejecting object. The rejecting object is simply and internalization (and exaggeration) of memories of the parent when he/she behaved indifferently or in a hostile manner toward the child. The second pair of dissociated selves is called the libidinal ego and it is the child's storehouse of hope for love in the future. It relates to the exciting object part-parent which the child's fantasy that the exciting object part parent actually contains the love for which the child desperately longs. These two pairs of structures are the source of Fairbairn's most significant construct which is called "the attachment to bad objects". Splitting the parental object prevents integration of good and bad part objects (and stifles differentation), and allows the child to hate the rejecting object with a fury and love the exciting object with all their heart.
The final part of the presentation describes how the four sub-ego structures present in the clinical interview, and how the therapist can most effectively respond to them, with the goal of introducing the split off material to the patient's conscious central ego.