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International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 4:1730, 2009

Copyright The International Association for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology


ISSN: 1555-1024 print / 1940-9141 online
DOI: 10.1080/15551020902958577

A Different Baby: Marian


Tolpins Contributions
to the Theory of Self
Development
Anna Ornstein, M.D.

Using Heinz Kohuts description of the selfobject transferences, Marian


Tolpin set herself the task of reformulating some of the traditional conceptu-
alizations of developmental processes in psychoanalysis. This article focuses
only on two of these processes: the acquisition of the ability for self-soothing
and the acquisition of the capacity to regulate tension and anxiety. By
reconceptualizing Winnicotts and Mahlers formulations regarding these
two fundamental mental functions, Tolpin demonstrated that the formation
of psychological structures can best be understood when their internalization
is conceptualized as occurring through a way-station via a temporary
mental structure. Through a gradual (transmuting) internalization, any ob-
ject (most often a soft blanket) or the mother can serve as a temporary men-
tal structure. The article indicates those areas where modern infant re-
search, using primarily attachment theory to explain its findings, came to the
same conclusions as did Tolpin using the language of self psychology. The ar-
ticle also describes the clinical utility of the self psychological theory of de-
velopment in diagnosing and treatment planning of symptomatic children
and their dysfunctional caretakers.

Keywords: transmission; trauma; values; ideals; generations

Dr. Ornstein is Professor Emerita of Child Psychiatry and a Supervising Analyst at the
Boston Psychoanalytic Institute.

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18 Anna Ornstein

Among Marian Tolpins prodigious writings, one can recognize three


relatively distinct groups: (a) discussions of classic texts (1969, 1974,
1991), (2) articles related to the theory of the development of the self
(1971, 1978, 1986), and (c) contributions to the clinical theory of self psy-
chology (1970, 1979, 1987, 1997, 2002). Because her clinicaltheoretical
articles have been published in recent years, it is easy to lose sight of the sig-
nificance of her earlier contributions on development. In reviewing some of
the major, more recent contributions to the psychoanalytic literature on de-
velopment, with very few exceptions (Stern, 1985; Lachmann and B.
Beebe, 1994, 1996), none of Marians works are referenced in these articles.
Modern infant research gathered its data from video-based observations of
motherinfant interactions and interpreted its findings primarily in keeping
with attachment theory (Bowlby, Ainsworth, Main, Lyons-Ruth). Despite
the theoretical differences between attachment theory and self psychology,
the findings of these researchers correspond in many respects to Marians
formulations.
I consider Marians articles on development to have special signifi-
cance for the evolution of self psychology as a psychoanalytic theory.
They represent the transition from Kohuts formulations of his new ideas
in the language of traditional psychoanalysis as he did in his first book,
The Analysis of the Self (1971), to his more definite self psychological for-
mulations in The Restoration of the Self (1978) and in How Does Analysis
Cure? (1984). Marians articles more clearly articulate aspects of self de-
velopment and the sources of its disorders that were not yet explicit in
Kohuts early work.
Kohut, similar to Freud, built his theory based on insights gained from
his observations regarding the nature of the transferences his patients de-
veloped in the course of their analyses. The recognition of selfobject
transferences opened the door to the analyses of patients whose difficulties
could not be traced to unresolved conflicts related to the sexual and aggres-
sive drives. Rather, these were patients whose psychopathology revealed
defects1 and deficits in the organization of the self. These clinical findings

1Lachmann and Beebe (1992), along with other psychoanalytic developmentalists, ques-

tioned the usefulness of the concept of deficit and correctly stated that, On the basis of a
perspective drawn from the empirical infant research, we believe that (deficit) is better
thought of as an organization in and of itself They gave the example of situations when the
expectation of interactive regulation is being violated and maintained that nonresponse or
nonmutuality (also) constitutes structure (pp. 138139).
Theory of Self Development 19

represented a challenge to which Marian appears to have been eager to re-


spond. The question that needed to be answered was this: How do psychic
structures develop once their origins in the vicissitudes of the drives are
given up? Her first article on this subject was published in 1971, the same
year as was Kohuts The Analysis of the Self. Today, we recognize Marians
contributions to constitute the cornerstones of the self psychological theory
of personality development. It is my tribute to Marians scholarship that I
highlight those aspects of her ideas that I consider enduring.
In the 1960s and 1970s, ego psychology was deeply anchored in the
minds of American psychoanalysts. To introduce his new paradigm, Kohut
made an effort to differentiate and to delineate self psychology from classical,
traditional psychoanalysis. Marian took a similar approach. In her first arti-
cle, On the Beginning of a Cohesive Self (1971), she re-conceptualized the
developmental significance of the use of a transitional object by toddlers, as
this was first interpreted by Winnicott (1953). She did the same regarding
stranger anxiety, the developmental significance of which was originally in-
terpreted by Spitz (1950) and Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975). Re-
turning to Winnicotts and Mahler et al.s observations and reconceptuali-
zing the intrapsychic meaning of everyday, readily observable behaviors of
toddlers, she succeeded to illuminate one of Kohuts central ideas regarding
structure formation, as this occurs via transmuting internalization. After
Kohut introduced the selfobject concept (he began to use the concept regu-
larly, sometime in the 1980s), Marian refined her original ideas in subse-
quent publications. In the article titled The Self and Its Selfobjects (1986),
she emphasized the infants inborn capacity to right itself and the influence
the baby can exert on the behavior of its selfobjects. A new image of the
newborn was now emerging: In place of the passive, autistic, and helpless
baby of traditional psychoanalytic theory, self psychology offered the view
of a vigorous, self-assertive baby born with the capacity to elicit develop-
mentally needed responses from its emotional environment. This was a
different babya baby whom Marian aptly called Kohuts baby (Tolpin,
1986).
We no longer question the crucial role that an empathically respon-
sive environment has for personality development. However, in the 1970s
and 1980s, these reconceptualizations were revolutionary. The develop-
mental significance that the theory attributed to the environment was
understood by many as the abandonment of one of the central tenets of psy-
choanalytic theorynamely, that it is a psychology of intrapsychic con-
flicts.
20 Anna Ornstein

A developmental theory based on reconstructions of transferences


has to be validated by observations made on non-symptomatic infants and
children. The assumption that the reconstructed infant is identical to the
observed infant did not serve traditional psychoanalysis well. The recon-
structed infant of classical psychoanalytic theory was an undifferentiated,
sadistic baby conflicted between its id wishes and the demands of a socializ-
ing environment. The picture that emerged from the reconstruction of
these transferences was that of an already troubled infant rather thanas it
was assumedthat of a healthy one.
The reconstructed baby of the selfobject transferences was a baby
who either suffered the consequences of an emotional environment that
failed to respond to its legitimate developmental needs or from the conse-
quences of humiliation and active physical or emotional abuse. This meant
that an infants relatively healthy development can only be assured when
the environment responds in an age-appropriate manner to the infants and
childs developmental needs; the childs emotional environment was recog-
nized as not only facilitating an internally, drive-determined development
but one that actively participates in the building up of psychic structures.2
Modern infant research conducted with non-symptomatic infants
and young children and their caretakers (Stern, 1985; Beebe and Lach-
mann, 1988, 1994; Lachmann and B. Beebe, 1992; Lyons-Ruth, 1999,
2006; Fonagy and Target, 2002) did not confirm the image of the recon-
structed infant of traditional psychoanalytic theory: This baby did not re-
semble, in any way, the infants they had observed. With technology not
available to earlier baby watchers, modern infant research found that
rather than his instincts having to be tamed, neutralized, and sublimated,
the human infant is born with perceptual, social, and cognitive capacities
to elicit responses from its emotional environment. This was in keeping
with the image of the Kohut babya vigorous, self-assertive infant from
the very beginning of life. In other words, the observed infant of modern
infant research confirmed Kohuts ideas that selfobject transferences (the

2Structures are differentiated from ad hoc functioning: When a particular form of dis-

charge becomes regular and habitual, a structure has been formed which regulates the dis-
charge of what was at first either primary- or secondary-process discharge. Once a structure
has been formed it constitutes a fixed organization, so neither the structure nor the function
it regulates undergoes any change (Gill, 1963, p. 113). A simpler definition, and not in the
language of traditional metapsychology, is to state that psychological structures are essen-
tially abiding psychological functions.
Theory of Self Development 21

need for recognition and validation and the need to be merged with an ide-
alized other) expose psychopathology that develops secondary to the
childs environments failure to respond to its developmental needs. The
close correspondence between the findings of modern infant researchers
and Kohuts baby provides self psychology with considerable explanatory
power.

On the Beginning of the Cohesive Self;


the Transitional Object and the
Infantile Origins of Signal Anxiety
The toddler, with his increasing ability to leave the safety of the caretaker, is
the perfect subject to answer a question of greatest importance to psycho-
analysts of all ideological persuasions: What makes the babys increasing
sense of independence possible? What are the psychological processes that
correspond intrapsychically to the babys ability to leave the safety of his
caretaker? Aware of the multiple psychological functions that toddlers ac-
quire during this phase of development, Marian focused on the acquisition
of only two: the capacity to sooth ones self and the acquisition of the ca-
pacity to regulate tension and anxiety.
With exquisite attention to details, Marian explicated the psychoana-
lytic meaning of the babys relationship to its transitional object andin dis-
agreement with Winnicottshe successfully argued that, over time, the
soothing function of the blanket becomes the babys own capacity to sooth
and comfort himself. Let us take the steps Marian took to reach this conclu-
sion. When the baby first takes possession of the blanket and he quiets, the
blankets capacity to sooth becomes obvious even to the casual observer:
The blanket provides the baby with a transitional form of mental struc-
ture.3 The babys creativity resides in his ability to transfer the
mothers soothing function to an inanimate object that he can then con-
trol. The transitional quality of the blankets soothing function is indicated
by two factors: (a) At first, the blanket only functions as a soother in the
mothers presence, and (b) the baby reaches for the blanket only when it is
needed, when under stress and to ease the transition from wakefulness to
sleep. The difference between Winnicotts and Marians interpretation of

3When describing the motherinfant mutual regulation as this interacts with the infants

self-regulatory capacities, Lachmann and Beebe (1992) referred to the same phenomenon as
interaction structures (p. 146).
22 Anna Ornstein

the meaning of the use of the blanket becomes most obvious in relation to
the fate of the blanket, when the following question has to be answered:
What are the mental processes that correspond intrapsychically to the re-
linquishment of the blanket? Winnicott (1953) maintained that, ordinarily,
the blanket does not go inside; it loses its meaning because the transi-
tional phenomena have become diffuse over the whole territory be-
tween inner reality and the external world as perceived by two people in
common, that is over the whole cultural field (p. 233). Marian (1971), on
the other hand, proposed that the soothing function of the transitional ob-
ject does, in fact, go inside as permanent mental structure, precisely because
this treasured possession is neither missed, mourned, repressed, nor forgotten, it is
no longer needed [italics added] (p. 321). This is not a one time eventthe
blanket is repeatedly lost and found again when it is needed; the transmut-
ing internalization of needed mental functions occurs over time, gradually.
This is a simple but convincing argument for Kohuts theory of structure
formation as a process that takes place through optimal frustration:
When a tolerable, phase-appropriate loss of some discreet function that
the object carried out for the child is experienced, the psyche does not re-
sign itself to the loss; instead it preserves the function (italics mine) of the
object by internalization (Tolpin, 1971, p. 317).
With the next example, Marian illuminates the acquisition of one of
the most fundamental of mental functions: the capacity to regulate tension
and anxiety. Using the model of the infant on his mothers knee when the
baby is experiencing signal degrees of anxiety, we note that the babys re-
sponse to a stranger depends entirely on the mothers structure-mediating
response to his distress signals (Tolpin, 1971, p. 336). Here we have an ex-
ample of the developmental significance of parental empathy: For the care-
taker to function as a transitional form of mental structure, her response
has to dovetail with the subtle increase in the babys level of anxiety. As
the mother senses an increase in the babys level of anxiety, she automati-
cally increases her availability as a source of safety. The capacity to regulate
tension is fundamental to the proper functioning of the psyche under ordi-
nary, as well as under stressful, conditions. When the mother fails in this
function, infants resort to a variety of pathogenic mechanisms. Repeated
empathic failures that expose the infant to intolerable degrees of anxiety
are responsible for the development of defensive psychological structures
that constitute the foundations of various forms of psychopathology.
The publication of Tolpins The Self and its Selfobjects in 1986 intro-
duced new ideas related to the development of the self. Marians descrip-
tion of motherinfant interactions makes it clear that only evolutionary biol-
Theory of Self Development 23

ogy could explain this level of interdigitation between the human infant
and its human environment. As an example, she brings our attention to the
distance at which caretakers hold an infant: the optimally dovetailing rela-
tionship between givens and the experience of parental selfobject func-
tions, we might consider how the babys maturing visual capabilities are
complemented by the tendency of parents, siblings, friends and relatives to
position themselves precisely where the baby can best focus on them
(p. 116). This interdigitation between the self and its selfobjects explains
why it is not possible to define the self independent of its interaction with its
selfobjects:

The healthy baby is born with complexly functioning, design-in


equipment that makes for being a separate psychic entity, an inde-
pendent center of initiative, impressions and experience. Put differ-
ently, normal inborn equipment constitutes a differentiated (self) or-
ganization that exists in a phase-appropriate form from birth on.
Naturally, in order to work right, the inborn equipment that consti-
tutes an organized self requires expectable parental care [Tolpin,
1989, p. 309].

Today, developmentalists speak of asymmetrical collaboration in which


caretaker reliably respond to cues of the infant following the baby into
his focus of attention as well as taking the lead in repairing ruptures and
scaffolding the interaction toward a more coherent and inclusive form
(Lyons-Ruth, 2003, p. 905).
Newly emerging perceptual, intellectual, and emotional potentials
activate phase-appropriate selfobject responses creating new levels of
self-consolidation. This cannot be thought of as a one-time event: In the
ongoing interaction between the self and its selfobjects, the self is continu-
ally reshaped and repeatedly affectsand challengesits selfobjects. Ob-
servation of these ongoing interactions reveals that increasingly more com-
plex psychological structures develop when experiences of optimal
frustration are embedded in ongoing optimal responsiveness. An up-
dated image of progressive development was now emerging: the image of a
spiraling cogwheel, a process that remains open for change throughout the
life cycle; a self always in transition, always changing. Lachmann and Beebe
(1992) described this process as a transformational model of develop-
ment because experiences at each stage of development are continually
reorganized (p. 135). The transformational model is used widely by baby
watchers but has not been properly appreciated by clinicians who tend to
24 Anna Ornstein

return to the infants earliest experiences as determining the development


of later psychopathology.
A beautiful example of the capacity of the human infant to affect the
ongoing relationship with its emotional (selfobject) milieu is that of a
three-week-old infant who is taken aback when the caretaker fails to re-
spond to his overtures. He backs away reflexively, albeit minutely, and gives
his mother a something is wrong; whats wrong with you? look. Infants
persevere in setting right their selfobjects. Marian (1986) maintained that
self pathology takes root only when phase-appropriate functions really
fail to complement the givens of the early self, including the anger and im-
periousness that are, at this stage of life, integral to self assertion and con-
tinuing initiative (p. 118).
The nature of changes over time is unpredictable because it is not
possible to know how the environment may be responding to the develop-
ing childs newly emerging potentials. However, as children grow older, they
are not at the mercy of their primary caretakers, they are able to extract
age-appropriate responses from a number of adults in their environment:
The human psyche is not a closed but rather an open system. This may ex-
plain the frequently made clinical observation that a childs history of de-
privation and abuse does not necessarily correspond to the development of
their personality; compensatory psychological structures may develop
throughout the life cycle unless defensive structures block and seriously in-
terfere with progressive development.4
At the time self psychology was introduced to the psychoanalytic com-
munity, the following questions were frequently asked: Since self psychol-
ogy does not consider the drives as motivating development, what, in its
view, motivates progress in psychological development? What moves devel-
opment forward? Considering what has been said so far, the answer to this
question is that progress in development is motivated toward the acquisition
of psychic structures that provide the self with its cohesion and its vitality.

4Kohut (1971) distinguished between primary, compensatory, and defensive psychic

structure. Primary structures develop in relation to optimal caretaking responsiveness; com-


pensatory structures, although functionally indistinguishable from primary ones, develop
when a child, after disappointment in the primary caretaker, turns to the next available per-
son for selfobject responsiveness. In the clinical situation, we are primarily interested in the
defensive structures that constitute the essential aspects of the psychopathology. These are
structures that have developed in response to traumatic disappointment or active
traumatization early in life and had prevented the archaic narcissistic structures (omnipo-
tence and archaic exhibitionism) to be transformed into relatively mature aspects of the self
such as resilience, vigor, vitality, and a stable self-esteem regulatory system.
Theory of Self Development 25

The Disorders of the Self and


Implications for Treatment

Every psychoanalytic theory constitutes a system which means that all as-
pects of the theory have to be interrelated: The theory of psychopathology
determines the theory of treatment. For example, in relation to the theory of
psychopathology, the question would be as follows: Are the symptoms as-
sumed to be based on drive-related conflicts or are they based on the inade-
quate consolidation of the structures of the self? As mentioned earlier, the
theory of psychopathology affects the theory of development. Here, the ques-
tion would be as follows: Is the environment assumed to only facilitate an in-
ternally, drive-determined development or are the environmental responses
assumed to have structure building properties? These assumptions determine
the theory of treatment: What are the methods (techniques) that are most
likely to reverse the pathological processes formulated on the bases of these
assumptions? Every psychoanalytic theory has its own conceptualization as
to what constitutes therapeutic action. For example, using the tripartite and
the topographic models of the mind as guides in organizing clinical material,
the therapeutic aim is contained in expressions such as making the uncon-
scious conscious and where id was ego shall be. With the ascendency of self
psychology and relational and intersubjective theories, analysts also tracked
changes in keeping with their respective assumptions: changes in the nature
of the therapistpatient relationship or changes in self-cohesion.
With the assumption that psychopathologyin addition to constitu-
tional and temperamental givenshas its roots in early developmental ex-
periences, the theory of development has special significance for all psycho-
analytic theories. With the recognition of the developmental significance
of caretaker responsiveness, deviations from the norm during the formative
years are not only sought in the infant but in the fit between a particular
baby (with his or her peculiarities) and the caretakers ability to respond to
this particular baby at this particular time; every child creates his or her
own mother and father. Self psychology is in agreement with Stern (1985)
when he said that deviations from normal development are related to the
nature of the relationships with the caregivers and not the infant alone
(p. 186). However, parental selfobject responsiveness remains crucial to
children through their formative years (Ornstein and Ornstein, 1985). Be-
cause these functions (the need to be validated [the gleam in the mothers
eye] and the childs need to be merged with the idealized caretaker) are si-
lent, subtle, and mostly unconscious, the childs difficulties cannot be
traced to obvious or potentially traumatic events. The chronic absence of
26 Anna Ornstein

these needed selfobject responses constitute traumas by omission. Even


without recognizable, overt, traumatic experiences, the absence of needed
responses may be responsible for many forms of childhood psycho-
pathology: listlessness, separation anxiety, compulsive behavior, phobias,
childhood depressionefforts either to avoid disintegration anxiety or to
create a sense of aliveness in ones self (Ornstein, 1981).
Parenting requires an adult form of empathy. When caretakers have
not achieved the level of self-development at which they are able to
decenter from their own needs and are emotionally available to their chil-
dren, the roles become reversed and the child is being used to meet the
caretakers selfobject needs. The caretakers self disorder may occur on the
level of self-cohesion or be related to his or her self-esteem. In need of care-
taker approval and love, children perform selfobject functions either to
maintain their caretakers vitality and self-cohesion, or they make futile at-
tempts to shore up their shaky self-esteem. These children are caught in a
bind: Needed parental love is made dependent on the childs ability to ful-
fill the caretakers needs without regard to their own goals and aspirations.
One of the most destructive consequences of repeated failures in pa-
rental responsiveness occurs when it is coupled with active physical or emo-
tional abuse. These children suffer a double trauma: trauma by omission
and trauma by commission. When their repeated attempts to gain parental
approval meets with indifference, the children resign themselves to their
fate; they become depressed, withdraw into self-pity, and quietly nurture
their not fully conscious narcissistic rage, which then may become the nu-
cleus of some of the most severe forms of personality disorders. Symptom-
atic behavior originating in disavowed narcissistic rage may become mani-
fest later in life or during childhood. Attaining self-cohesion with the help
of defensive, rather than primary and compensatory psychological, struc-
tures initiates a negative spiral of interactions: Caretakers respond with
hostility and rejection to the symptomatic child. In diagnosing and in treat-
ment planning, child psychotherapists find it extremely helpful to utilize
Kohuts and Tolpins original formulations regarding the centrality of care-
taker selfobject functions. This makes it mandatory to actively involve the
caretakers in the treatment of symptomatic children (Ornstein, 2009).

Summary

This article highlights Marian Tolpins most significant contributions to the


development of the self. The article focuses on Marians reconceptuali-
Theory of Self Development 27

zation of two major functions of the self as these were originally formulated
by Winnicott, Mahler, and Spitz: the ability for self-soothing and the ability
to regulate levels of anxiety. With these reconceptualizations, Tolpin of-
fered a theoretical explanation of the process of structure formation via
transmuting internalization. This sophisticated theory of the development
of the self made a contribution to self psychology as a powerful explanatory
psychoanalytic theory. In addition, her articles on development facilitate a
better understanding of the nature of childhood psychopathology and offer
a conceptual frame for the treatment of children and their caretakers.

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Anna Ornstein, M.D.


60 Longwood Ave.
Brookline, MA 02446
617-738-2928
a2727b@aol.com

Translations of Abstract
A partir de la descripcin que hizo Kohut sobre las transferencias de selfobject, Marian
Tolpin se propuso reformular algunas de las concepciones psicoanalticas tradicionales sobre
los procesos de desarrollo. Este artculo se centrar en slo dos de estos procesos: la
adquisicin de la habilidad para auto-calmarse, y la adquisicin de la capacidad para regular
Theory of Self Development 29
la tensin y la ansiedad. Al reconceptualizar las formulaciones de Winnicott y Mahler sobre
estas dos funciones mentales tan fundamentales, Tolpin demostr que la formacin de
estructuras psicolgicas puede ser mejor entendida cuando su internalizacin se
conceptualiza como transcurriendo a travs de una estacin de paso, a travs de una
estructura mental temporal. A travs de una internalizacin gradual (transmutadora),
cualquier objeto (a menudo un trapo suave) o la madre pueden servir como estructura
mental temporal. Este artculo indica aquellas reas en las que la investigacin en primera
infancia, a travs de la teora del apego, llega a las mismas conclusiones a las que lleg Tolpin
con el lenguaje de la psicologa del self. Este artculo tambin describe la utilidad clnica de la
teora del desarrollo en la psicologa del self para diagnosticar y planificar el tratamiento de
nios con sntomas y sus padres disfuncionales.

En utilisant la description par Kohut des transferts objetsoi, Marian Tolpin sest charge de la
tche de reformuler quelques-unes des conceptualisations traditionnelles des processus de
dveloppement en psychanalyse. Ce prsent article met laccent sur seulement deux de ces
processus: lacquisition de lhabilet dauto-apaisement et lacquisition de la capacit de
rgulation de la tension et de lanxit. En modifiant les formulations de Winnicott et de
Mahler concernant ces deux fonctions mentales fondamentales, Tolpin a dmontr que la
formation de structures psychologiques peut tre mieux comprise lorsque leur internali-
sation est conceptualise comme procdant par tape en passant par une structure mentale
temporaire. A travers une internalisation (de transmutation) graduelle, tout objet (le plus
souvent une couverture moelleuse) ou la mre peut servir de structure mentale
temporaire. Cet article indique les domaines de recherches modernes sur le dveloppement
infantile dont les rsultats sont expliqus par la thorie de lattachement et qui en sont ven-
ues aux mmes conclusions que celles de Tolpin dans le langage de la psychologie du soi. Cet
article dcrit aussi lutilit clinique de la thorie du dveloppement en psychologie du soi
pour le diagnostic et la planification du traitement des enfants symptomatiques et de leurs
soignants dysfonctionnels.

Marian Tolpin setzt sich zum Ziel, einige der traditionellen Konzepte des Entwick-
lungsprozesses in der Psychoanalyse neu zu formulieren, indem sie Heinz Kohuts
Beschreibung der Selbstobjektbertragungen verwendet. Diese Arbeit beleuchtet nur zwei
dieser Prozesse: den Erwerb der Fhigkeit zur Selbstberuhigung und den Erwerb der Fhigkeit
Angst und Spannung zu regulieren. Indem sie Winnicotts und Mahlers Formulierungen in
Bezug auf diese beiden grundlegenden psychischen Funktionen berdenkt, zeigt Tolpin, dass
die Bildung psychischer Struktur am besten verstanden werden kann, wenn deren
Internalisierung als way-station, mithilfe einer vorlufigen psychischen Struktur konzipiert
wird. ber den Wege einer schrittweisen (umwandelnden) Verinnerlichung kann jedes
Objekt (oft ist es ein weiches Tuch)oder eben auch die Mutter als vorlufige psychische
Struktur fungieren. Die Arbeit zeigt jene Bereiche auf, in denen die moderne
Suglingsforschung, die vor allem die Bindungstheorie bentzt, um ihre Ergebnisse zu
erklren, zu denselben Schlussfolgerungen kommt wie Tolpin, die die Sprache der
Selbstpsychologie verwendet. Die Arbeit beschreibt auch den klinischen Nutzen der
selbstpsychologischen Entwicklungstheorie fr die Diagnose und die Therapieplanung bei
aufflligen Kindern und deren dysfunktionalen Bezugspersonen.
30 Anna Ornstein
Usando la descrizione di Kohut dei transfert doggetto-s, Marian Tolpin stessa si dette il
compito di riformulare alcune concettualizzazioni tradizionali dei processi evolutivi in
psicoanalisi. Questo articolo si concentra solo su due di questi processi: lacquisizione della
capacit di auto-consolarsi e lacquisizione della capacit di regolare la tensione e langoscia.
Riconcettualizzando le formulazioni di Winnicott e della Mahler riguardo questi due
fondamentali funzioni mentali, la Tolpin ha dimostrato che la formazione di strutture
psicologiche pu essere meglio capita nel momento in cui la loro interiorizzazione venga
concettualizzata come qualcosa che avviene attraverso una stazione di passaggio tramite
una struttura mentale temporanea. Attraverso una graduale interiorizzazione (tras-
mutante) qualsiasi oggetto (il pi delle volte una copertina soffice) o la madre pu servire
come struttura mentale temporanea. Larticolo indica quelle aree in cui la ricerca
sullinfanzia moderna, usando principalmente la teoria dellattaccamento per spiegare
queste scoperte, sia arrivata alle stesse conclusioni alle quali giunse la Tolpin usando il
linguaggio della psicologia del s. Larticolo descrive anche lutilit clinica della teoria dello
sviluppo orentato dalla psicologia del s nella diagnosi e nel pianificare il trattamento di
bambini sintomatici e dei loro agenti delle cure disfunzionali.