Object relations perspectives on the nature of schizoid experience in the tradition of the British independent school

Angela Louise Mathews (1992)

This dissertation is an examination of schizoid experience. It attempts to provide clarity to the ambiguity that surrounds definitions of this experience and it addresses the conceptual differences which exist in theories of schizoid object relations. Object relations theory is selected as a theoretical framework for investigation as the study is an examination of the nature of the schizoid individual's relationship with his or her object world. The British Independent School, represented by Winnicott and Fairbairn, is chosen as a body of theory for examination as it has fostered extensive conceptual work pertaining to the object relations perspective of schizoid experience. The works of Freud and Klein are examined to provide an historical context to the works of Fairbairn and Winnicott. These theories are compared with respect to each theorist's view of the self, structure, object relations, dynamics and development. From these comparisons several main themes emerge, which include two different lines of thinking about the schizoid experience. One of these lines of thinking describes a schizoid self system which consists of a split ego and its respective part objects. The second line of thinking describes the schizoid self as being objectless and one in which the ego is subject to periodic disintegration. In addition, this second model of the schizoid self includes the concept of a true and false self. Within the thinking of Fairbairn and Winnicott, there seemed to be agreement that schizoid experience is associated with the following: a disruption of the infant's need for relatedness to, and recognition by, the mother; the tendency toward splitting or disintegration of the ego or self; and, confusion in objective and subjective perception of others. The major themes provide a context for the examination of the ideas of current analytic theorists (Guntrip, Bollas, Green, Grotstein, Ogden, Horner and Tustin). Additional ideas that are generated by these current theorists include the conceptualizations of alternative, or autistic, objects and space, and of prepsychotic states in schizoid experience. Suggestions are made for future theory development, research, and clinical practice.