The selfobject is a central concept in Heinz Kohut’s self psychology. The selfobject, a person or object ‘internal’ to consciousness, is experienced as part of the self and functions for the self. This use of the concept, object, differs in significant ways from common understandings. For Freud the object is foremost the target of libidinal cathexis. For Kohut, the selfobject is invested with narcissistic energy and acts in the service of the self. In this way the term also denotes a process or movement from experiencing objects as external to the internalization of the perceived qualities of the other. Selfobjects, through empathic attunement (i.e. through mirroring and idealization), function to achieve a cohesive sense of self and throughout development remain crucial to the formation and maintenance of what Kohut calls ‘healthy narcissism’. If the selfobject relationship is felt as soothing, it is likely that one will have a developed internal capacity for soothing. If this fails, some (i.e. mirror hungry) may seek and crave recognition. Others, ideal hungry, may seek the perfect parent. The alter-ego hungry may seek the perfect friend. And the merger hungry may seek selfobjects for need fulfilment.
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