Idealized Parental Imago

views updated


The idealized parental imago is a narcissistic configuration that arises from the child's attribution of former, lost narcissistic perfection to an admired and omnipotent self-object. A precursor of the Freudian ego ideal, it can be the object of a fixation and not be integrated into the self in order to lead to ideals, but instead remain a concrete self-object.

This notion appeared in Heinz Kohut's article, "Forms and Transformations of Narcissism" (1966), and was formalized in his Analysis of the Self (1971). The idealized parental imago accounts for the need to merge with an all-powerful object and for religious and idealistic feelings of varying degrees of intensity. It gives rise to an idealizing transference in analysis.

In The Restoration of the Self (1977) Kohut conceived of it as a pole of the self, a possibility or potential for the self, which acquires its cohesion by responses of the self-objects that promote a sense of merging and calm. One pole can compensate for the other; idealization can compensate for deficient mirror responses. The self will be fragile only if both poles fail in their function.

These views of Kohut have been criticized on metapsychological grounds because they are based on the notion of an independent line of development for narcissism.

AgnÈs Oppenheimer

See also: Alter ego; Bipolar self; Idealizing transference; Narcissistic transference; Twinship transference/alter ego transference.


Kohut, Heinz. (1966). Forms and transformations of narcissism. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 14, 243-272.

. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York: International Universities Press.

. (1977). The restoration of the self. New York: International Universities Press.