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Quasi-Independence/Transitional Stage


In Fairbairn's revision of classical developmental theory, based in object-relationships rather than libido theory and underlying his theories of psychopathology, quasi-independence, or transitional stage, occurs between the stages of infantile dependence and mature dependency, and is characterized by dichotomy and exteriorization of the incorporated object.

Fairbairn's view of the ego as inherently object-seeking rather than pleasure-seeking, and invested with its own energy, facilitated his move away from instinct/libido theory and psycho-sexual development as delineated by Freud and later Abraham, and allowed him a revised theory of development based on object-relations. He proposed an early stage of infantile dependence, or primary identification, the object, while still part of the relationship, not yet being differentiated, and the aim (libido) being incorporative, "taking."

Fairbairn described the gradual transformation of quasi-independence into an object-relationship in which the subject and object are fully differentiated, and the aim is "giving," the stage of mature dependency. In the transition between these stages the object has split into the accepting (loved) and the rejecting (hated) object, attached to the libidinal and antilibidinal egos respectively, and increasing differentiation results in attempts to "exteriorize" these objects, modelled on the known physiological experiences of defecation and urination.

The characteristic conflict of the transitional/quasi-independent stage is between the developmental urge towards mature dependence and the regressive reluctance to relinquish infantile dependence, and Fairbairn described four transitional stages, or rejective techniques, the paranoid, obsessional, hysterical, and phobic, each consisting of different internal relationships and mechanisms, and each underlying specific psychopathologies.

Based neither on the sequence of erotogenic zones, nor on "positions," Fairbairn's developmental theory is a more psychological and object-related theory than that of either Freud or Klein, and allows considerable flexibility of theoretical and clinical approach. These ideas have been particularly useful to British Independent analysts, and those interested in self-psychology and intersubjective analysis.

Jennifer Johns

See also: Fairbairn, William Ronald Dodds; Object relations theory.


Fairbairn, Ronald. (1952). A revised psychopathology of the psychoses and psychoneuroses. In Psychoanalytic studies of the personality (pp. 28-58). London: Tavistock with Routledge, Kegan Paul. (Reprinted from International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 22 (1941), 250-279.)

Greenberg, Stephen, and Mitchell, Jay (1983). Object relations in psychoanalytic theory. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press.

Grotstein, James, and Rinsley, Donald (Eds.). (1994). Fairbairn and the origins of object relations. London: Free Association Books.

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