Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox.
[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]
I often use object relations theory to help clients better interact with narcissistic people, especially their parents or bosses. It’s a complicated theory and I focus on one particular concept that fosters improved understanding of how others operate.
The theory describes the internalized view we have of others: do we see and treat them as if they have their own needs and wants that may be different from ours or do we perceive them as objects (a part of us) to be used for our own gratification. Stop a minute and think about people you know and how you feel around them. If you feel seen, heard and valued by someone, they probably have an internalized view of you as a unique, separate person from themselves (good object relations). However, if you feel unseen, unheard and devalued, they probably objectify you (poor object relations).
Here's an example. I had a client with a highly narcissistic mother who said the following to my client’s husband one winter day, “I’m cold. Put on a sweater.” That comment just about wraps up object relations in a nutshell. The mother did not see her son-in-law (or anyone) as a separate person having their own distinct thoughts, feelings and needs. He was an object to her and, in this case, must be like her. If she was cold, so was he and, therefore, he needed a sweater.
Of course, I knew my client’s mother’s history and understood completely why she had difficulty empathizing with others. She lost her father when she was six years old to pneumonia and her sweet but passive mother married a domineering, cold man who wanted his own child who then became the favorite in the family and my client’s mother’s needs were pushed aside. Her mother didn’t see her as a separate entity with needs and desires but as an extension of her own. So, to survive emotionally, my client’s mother grew up over-focused on herself which meant ignoring others’ needs.
Had my client’s grandmother viewed her daughter as having desires separate from her own, she would have taken better emotional care of her. The same is true of my client’s mother’s attitude toward my client. If your mother/father/sister/brother or friend/partner/spouse/colleague/boss shows little empathy toward you, you can pretty much bet that they were objectified as a child and not valued in their own right.
We can not undo our childhoods, but we can understand that now, even if we feel devalued, we are still valuable and even if we feel unloved, we are still lovable. The key is understanding that it was our parents’ poor object relations learned from their parents that made them misperceive our worth and lovability. That’s the best we can do.
This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.