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The Object-Oriented Question

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The Object-Oriented Question
The Object-Oriented Question: A Contribution to Treatment Technique
B. D. Margolis, Ph.D.
Introductory Observations
The object-oriented question is a technical device favored in the treatment of the preoedipal patient (Spotnitz, 1969, 1976). It is, to all appearances, relatively uncomplicated, and seems to play a largely protective role in safeguarding the patient 's fragile ego from experiencing more tension that it can tolerate. If, in the process, it helps resolve resistance and fosters the development of the narcissistic transferences, these appear at first glance to be serendipitous spinoffs of the analyst 's ego-sheltering approach. It is the purpose of this paper, however, to demonstrate the contrary, namely, that the object-oriented question occupies a central position and exerts an influence disproportionate to its apparent simplicity on every aspect of the treatment process.
What is an object-oriented question? It is a question calculated to direct the patient 's attention away from his own ego and toward objects or events external to himself. What is the man 's name? What was the movie about? Would I behave like that? The analyst asks this type of question because of the emotional state of the narcissistic patient. The latter is arrested in the narcissistic phase of development where self and object are not as yet completely separated and the one is often confused with the other. The ego of such a person is unstable, shifting in outline, unsure of its functions, and insecure in relation to the external world. Consequently, questions about himself or, as we say, ego-orinted questions, are bound to be experienced
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by such an individual as confusing or even assaultive. We therefore use object-oriented questions, with which he will feel comfortable, since they deal with external matters.
Before proceeding, let us review the reasons for asking questions of any kind. The preoedipal patient is unable, because of his narcissistic defensive



References: Ferenczi, S. (1919), On the technique of psychoanalysis. In Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psychoanalysis. London: Hogarth Press, 1950. Kalin, E.B. (1978), A study of the relative effectiveness of two types of interventions at the beginning of psychoanalytic treatment with adolescent drug abusers. PhD dissertation. Lefkowitz, S. (1980), Pathological verbalizations of process and reactive schizophrenics as a function of object- and ego-oriented questions and interviewer 's style. PhD dissertation. Margolis, B.D. (1978), Narcissistic countertransference: emotional availability and case management. Mod. Psychoanal., 3: 133-151. [→] Margolis, B.D Margolis, B.D. (1981), Narcissistic transference: further considerations, Mod. Psychoanal., 6: 171-182. [→] Margolis, B.D Meadow, P.W. (1974), Research method for investigating the effectiveness of psychoanalytic technique. Psychoanal. Rev., 61: 79-94 [→] Spotnitz, H Spotnitz, H. (1976), Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions. New York: Jason Aronson.

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