Is the lost object an imaginary friend, a phantom limb or a second skin?
It is common to think of the love object lost through either death or betrayal as preserved by mourning 'inside' the recollecting subject. This image appears in psychoanalysis (for instance the writings of Freud, Klein, Abraham and Torok) where the process of introjection and reality-testing show how successful mourning escapes the risk of melancholia or pathological mourning. It also appears in fictions such as the poetry of Hugo and Rilke, or the prose of Gide or Proust or the authors of 19c récits: in all of these the lost beloved is conserved ‘in’ the poet’s imagination, and may reappear only in a textual version that is, actually, a kind of re-interment. The first part of this paper examines these representations; the second, written as part of a longer project on the theory of psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu (Le moi-peau, 1985, 1995), explores three ways in which we might theorise the survival of the lost object 'outside' the mourner. As an imaginary friend, it might appear to walk beside or hover over us, protecting or gratifying us, but liable to disappear if we exceed the decorum of its magical existence. As a phantom limb it perpetuates sensation in a part-object, apparently lost but still capable of ‘hurting’ us – and also of making us less real to ourselves than the phantom that haunts us. Or, finally, the lost object might be something we carry with us, on us, as a second skin: the other of whom we are a kind of replacement child, simultaneously inside and outside and making us into the garment of the other.An unpublished paper by Professor Naomi Segal.
Segal, Naomi (2006) Is the lost object an imaginary friend, a phantom limb or a second skin? [Discussion or Working paper]
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