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Case Reports
, 67 (1), 50-64

Fragmented Attachments: The Paranoid-Schizoid Experience of Loss and Persecution

Case Reports

Fragmented Attachments: The Paranoid-Schizoid Experience of Loss and Persecution

Robert Waska. Bull Menninger Clin.


The author discusses paranoid-schizoid patients who have yet to deal with whole-object depressive fears of harming one's object. Their paranoid-schizoid anxiety is more a combination of dread, paranoia, and fear of destroying one's object with neediness, envy, and other oral desires. In this part-self and part-object world, destruction is absolute. Ego functions and object relational capacities such as guilt and grief are not yet fully consolidated. The part-object is not only destroyed but is also equally capable of magically resurrecting itself to seek revenge. Fear of annihilation of the self and object, as well as desperate attempts at keeping each other alive, are the primary focus of this early anxiety state. These infantile fears are at the root of certain difficult treatment situations. Within the transition from paranoid-schizoid to depressive, the ego struggles with highly exaggerated and distorted fantasies of persecution, loss, and primitive guilt by resorting to crude and often self-destructive mechanisms. These include splitting, projective identification, and idealization. During the course of analytic treatment, three overlapping phases are distinguishable. Acting out is the main theme of early treatment. As this externalization of internal conflict is analyzed and contained, a second phase of intrapsychic struggle emerges. The patient exhibits a paralyzing battle between certain ego-object ties and the striving of a defensive death instinct. If the analytic relationship is able to withstand passage through these difficult phases, the patient begins to work through more core issues of persecutory loss and annihilation. Case material is used for illustration.

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