Self creation and the limitless void of dissociation: the 'as if' personality.J Anal Psychol. 2004 Nov; 49(5):635-56.JA
The concept of the 'as if' personality has been used variously in analytic literature without having formed part of a clinically based theoretical development over time. The author discusses the bases of her notion of the 'as if' personality, as observed across a number of patients and supervised patients in intensive, long term analytic treatment. In this composite clinical picture, a grouping of elements that form a particular kind of defence of the self is identified in certain patients with an exceptional capacity for creative engagement in the world, surpassing expectations given their background. The picture includes the presence of physical breakdown and illness, as psychic suffering arising from early narcissistic wounding and from a physical, emotional and/or sexual abusive familial environment, was held for too long in bodily memory but not in mind. A distinction is made between the 'as if' personality, the persona and the false self. The 'as if' personality concerns the action of defensive dissociation deriving from very early experiences of internalizing the presence of an absent object, creating the sense of an internal void at the core of the self. At the same time, the self is capable of acts of self creation through a succession of identifications and internalizations with other sources of environmental nourishment, which substitute for, and are constructed around, the original sense of internal emptiness. Thus are restored, but only up to a point, the resources of the originally diminished self. Until these resources have been used up, the self is often able to excel in activities to an exceptional degree. The countertransference is shown to be the means of both useful but often perilously obtained clinical experience and information, supporting the work along the hazardous analytic journey.