Article: Progress in Self Psychology

V. 4: Learning from Kohut

The relationship in question is between a self at a lesser order of organization and a self object that aids in its higher order structuralization by providing information or symbolic interchange, that is, through the reception into the organization of the self of specific information. The process alters the self-experience and enables metamorphosis to higher levels of organization and development.

“Information,” taken literally, means giving form, and it is defined here as any sensory datum that induces order. The self’s immediate experience is based in the relationship with a selfobject that functions by providing ordering information aligned with the order-seeking needs of the self. The data received provide….”

By selfobject Kohut (1971, 1984) means the experience of another – more precisely, the experience of impersonal functions provided by another – as part of the self.

Selfobject transference, therefore, is the patient’s experience of the analyst as an extension or continuation of the self, that is, as fulfilling certain vital functions that had been insufficiently available in childhood to be adequately transformed into reliable self structure.

He came to discover that within the empathic treatment milieu unmet infantile needs for recognition, idealization, and twinship reemerge in the form of mirroring, idealizing, and twinship selfobject transferences.

Quotes below from
Self Psychology Review

Self psychology is based on a theory of normal, not pathological, development. Treatment depends upon upon a corrective therapeutic experience that allows healthy structure to be belatedly formed in a relationship with an empathic therapist. It is believed that the infant is equipped at birth with adaptive patterns for relating to adults.14 The child is born strong, not helpless, and has innate, hardwired ability to relate in natural empathic self object milieu and able to fit harmoniously into his or her surrounding of birth.9 It is the relationship with other people that advances the development of a healthy sense of self with the use of “self objects.”9 Self object is the term used to describe objects that a child (or adult) experiences as part of her or his self. There are two types of self objects: mirroring self objects are those which confirm a child’s (and adult’s) sense of greatness, perfection, and vigor; and idealized parent imago (image) are those who the child idealizes or looks up to as infallible, omnipotent, and calm. Through the relationship with self objects we develop the core constituents of our personality — the self. The self results as an effect from the interplay between people in the environment whom the child experiences as self objects. Therefore, the relationship that ensues between the infant and child with his or her parents contributes toward the development of a sense