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Good Object, Bad Object


Disciplines > Psychoanalysis > Concepts > Good Object, Bad Object

Description | Discussion | See also



Objects that are experienced at the same time as emotions are causally associated with the emotions and loved or hated accordingly (the unsubtle infant deals more in emotional extremes than moderated variations).

Thus a 'good' breast that provides milk is associated with satiation and is loved, whilst a 'bad' breast that does not provide milk when wanted is associated with frustration and is hated.

This emotion is extended from part-objects to whole objects. Thus the infant rejects or wants the mother as wells the breast.

As the rage at the bad object subsides, it can turn to fear of recrimination or rejection from the object or part-object (the infant may imbue the breast with intelligence).

This pattern repeats onwards as we categorize people and things as good and bad and desire or attack them accordingly.


Klein describes good and bad objects where the child seeks to join itself to the good object and eject bad objects, in particular keeping good objects safe from the unpleasant influence of bad objects. This is perhaps is reaching to the Lacanian neonatal phase where the connected one-ness is achieved. Against this, separation of pushing away is an isolating act, where the distressing loss of the wholeness is emphasized.

The child will seek to expel bad objects, either because they form a threat or because the bad object which is a part of the self is in danger of attack from other aspects of the self.

The notion of a 'conversation with the breast' by an infant may seem strange, but these ideas are based on long study.

In changing minds, being or bringing forth the good and bad objects of the other person have deep effects on them, powerfully attracting or repulsing them.

See also

Klein, Object Relations Theory, Object, Projection and Introjection, The paranoid-schizoid position


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