Bizarre Object

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BIZARRE OBJECT

The term bizarre object was coined by Wilfred Bion (1957) to denote a distinctive kind of object existing in the world of the psychotic. By violent projection of unwanted psychic elements, the psychotic personality constructs its universe of bizarre objects. This world is different from the world of part objects containing projections that constitutes the normal world of the paranoid schizoid position as described by Melanie Klein (1946).

The psychotic personality uses a form of splitting and projective identification that is not merely excessive but different, in the aspects of the psyche, especially those ego and superego functions which lead to awareness of reality, are split off, fragmented, and violently expelled into the external world. In this way a hostile conglomerate is formed of aspects of objects with fragments of the psychic apparatus and internal objects. In "The Differentiation of the Psychotic from the Non-psychotic Personalities" (1957), Bion gives examples: "If the piece of personality is concerned with sight, the gramophone when played is felt to be watching the patient; if with hearing, then the gramophone when played is felt to be listening to the patient. The object, angered by being engulfed, swells up, so to speak, and suffuses and controls the piece of personality that engulfs it: to that extent the particle of personality has become a thing" (p. 51). And he concludes: "The consequences for the patient are now that he moves, not in a world of dreams, but in a world of objects which are ordinarily the furniture of dreams."

Edna O'shaughnessy

Bibliography

Bion, Wilfred. (1957). Differentiation of the psychotic from the non-psychotic. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 38, 206-275.

Klein Melanie. (1946). Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 27, 99-110. Republished in M. Klein, P. Heimann, S. Isaacs, and J. Riviere (eds.). (1952). Developments in psycho-analysis. Hogarth. Reprinted in The Writings of Melanie Klein, t. III, 1946-1963. (1975). London: Hogarth, pp. 1-24.