Unlocking the Unconscious: Object Relations Theory and the Development of the Ego

Our unconscious beliefs about ourselves can have a profound impact on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. One psychological theory that sheds light on the formation of these unconscious assumptions is the Object Relations Theory. By understanding the development of the ego through the lens of Object Relations Theory, we can gain insight into the false beliefs we unconsciously adopt and work towards replacing them with healthier, more accurate perspectives.

Object Relations Theory: A Brief Overview

Object Relations Theory is a psychoanalytic approach that emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships in the development of the self. The theory posits that our early experiences with primary caregivers, particularly our mother, form the basis of our internalized mental representations, or “objects.” These objects shape our understanding of the self, others, and the world around us.

Development of the Ego

The ego, according to Object Relations Theory, is a complex structure that develops from early relationships with primary caregivers. As we mature, we internalize the patterns of our interactions with caregivers and create a set of assumptions about ourselves, our worth, and our place in the world.

These assumptions can be either positive or negative, depending on the nature of the early caregiving experiences. For example, if a child experiences consistent love and care, they are likely to develop a positive self-concept and healthy relationships with others. Conversely, if a child experiences neglect or abuse, they may internalize negative beliefs about themselves and struggle with relationships throughout their life.

The Impact of False Assumptions

False assumptions about ourselves, which stem from our early experiences, can significantly impact our mental and emotional well-being. These assumptions often manifest as self-defeating thoughts, feelings of inadequacy, and maladaptive behaviors. Some common false assumptions include:

  1. “I am unworthy of love and care.”
  2. “I must be perfect to be accepted.”
  3. “I am responsible for others’ happiness.”
  4. “I am fundamentally flawed and unlovable.”

These false assumptions can be deeply ingrained in our unconscious and may not be immediately apparent. However, they can contribute to self-sabotage, anxiety, depression, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

Overcoming False Assumptions

To challenge and replace false assumptions, it is crucial to first become aware of them. This can be achieved through introspection, mindfulness, or psychotherapy. Some steps to overcoming false assumptions include:

  1. Identifying the false assumption: Recognize the negative belief and its origin in early experiences.
  2. Questioning the validity: Evaluate the evidence supporting the assumption and consider alternative explanations.
  3. Replacing with healthier beliefs: Develop new, more accurate beliefs about yourself and your worth.
  4. Practicing self-compassion: Acknowledge your imperfections and treat yourself with kindness and understanding.
  5. Seeking professional help: Work with a therapist trained in Object Relations Theory or other psychoanalytic approaches to explore and challenge false assumptions.


Understanding the Object Relations Theory and the development of the ego can provide valuable insights into the unconscious assumptions we hold about ourselves. By identifying and challenging these false assumptions, we can work towards replacing them with healthier, more accurate beliefs, ultimately improving our emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships.