Lack of object constancy in relationships

Object Constancy in BPD and NPD: Causes, Coping, Resources

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If the fear of losing someone overpowers your ability to bond with them, this may be an opportunity to work on object constancy.

Having people in your life that you love and trust is one of the greatest gifts in the world.

And it’s natural to be disappointed in these people every once in a while. It’s also OK to say goodbye if your lives go in different directions.

However, you may find that you’re falling out with these people more than usual. You may feel constantly disappointed by those around you for unclear reasons.

Maybe you tend to draw out fights or cut people off after they’ve hurt you. Perhaps you feel deep pain when you believe that someone you love isn’t showing up for you.

Sometimes a fear of abandonment gets in the way of having healthy relationships. You may worry that if you get too close to someone, they’re going to push you away.

If you find this fear gets in the way of your relationships, you’re not alone. Research about object constancy and coping mechanisms may help you feel more secure in your relationships.

Object constancy is the ability to retain a bond with another person — even if you find yourself upset, angry, or disappointed by their actions.

This particular cognitive skill develops around 2 or 3 years of age. As a child, object constancy sets the foundation for how you will feel about your loved ones when they’re not near you, such as how you feel when your mother leaves the room before your afternoon nap.

When a child develops object constancy, “they begin to understand that when their mother or caretaker leaves them, they are not being abandoned, and their caretaker will return,” explains Dr. Bryan Bruno, the medical director at Mid City TMS.

“Developing object constancy means a child can understand that objects and people retain the same traits even when they are not being actively watched.”

As a child, object constancy helps you deal with separation from your caretaker. As an adult, object constancy allows you to have healthy disagreements with your loved ones and remain close to friends — even if they don’t answer your call or reply to your text.

With object constancy, you understand that distance doesn’t mean abandonment and that you don’t need to see, touch, or sense someone to feel supported by them.

A difficulty with object constancy plays a role in borderline personality disorders (BPD). However, object constancy plays a central role in other personality disorders.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

“Patients with a borderline personality disorder often struggle with object constancy and find it hard to develop stable mental images of their loved ones,” explains Bruno.

“Consequently, someone with BPD may have a negative perception of the people they care about when they are no longer in their presence.”

For someone with BPD, distance may trigger a fear of abandonment, which may cause avoidance or anger in your relationships.

“People with BPD may not be able to fully understand that someone can have both good and bad aspects that make them whole, which could lead towards unreliable and unstable relationships,” says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Holly Schiff.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)

Someone who lives with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) may see things as black and white — all or nothing.

With a lack of object constancy, one may find it difficult to retain positive feelings about someone once they make mistakes or have disagreements within relationships.

“If you do something they don’t like or are unhappy with or they notice a flaw, you suddenly become all-bad, and they devalue you,” explains Schiff.

“They cannot see you as someone that they love and someone who has angered them at the same time.”

With NPD and without object constancy, you may only be able to see people as “high status and special or low status and worthless,” says Schiff.

This can also cause you to find yourself constantly going back and forth on how you feel about your loved ones.

Due to your guardians’ parenting styles or early traumatic experiences, a lack of object constancy typically stems from your childhood.

“If a child was raised in a negative environment with emotionally invalidating or neglectful parents, they don’t receive good instruction on human behavior and managing expectations of loved ones,” explains Bruno.

“As a result, they will often struggle to form stable mental portraits of their loved ones as adults.”

While the roots of a lack of object constancy lay in childhood, you can make steps as an adult to help your relationship with yourself and the people you love.

Working on object constancy as an adult may take time, but it’s certainly doable and recommended.

Over time, you may that it can get easier to build trust, heal from past trauma, and maintain healthy bonds in your adult relationships.

To begin that journey, you may consider several options:

  • building trust with a certified therapist
  • reading about various attachment styles
  • joining a support group with people with similar experiences
  • journaling
  • practicing mindfulness meditation

Moreover, a 2014 study demonstrated how essential it is for people who live with BPD or NPD to spend time with other people.

Social isolation may dramatically affect how you bond with other people, so be sure to continue to spend time around your friends and loved ones, even as you work on yourself.

Bonding and building healthy relationships with the people you love can bring joy into your life.

If you have a hard time retaining bonds or feeling stable about the people in your life, you’re not alone. You can’t choose your childhood.

Moreover, you should know that mental health professionals can offer you support in working on object constancy — whether you live with BPD, NPD, or neither of those disorders.

As you work with a mental health professional trained to help you cope with object constancy, BPD, or NPD diagnoses, do be sure to take care of yourself. Self-care can help you prevent burnout and show yourself love and patience, rather than judgment.

Even if progress is slow at first, you may work towards seeing people and their actions in their full colors, rather than just black and white.

What It Is & How It Affects Your Relationships

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Object permanence and object constancy are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they are quite different things in real life.

Object permanence is a child’s ability to remember and retain that an object is real when it is no longer visible. The concept of object permanence comes from the theory of cognitive development created by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.

Piaget’s theory suggests that babies between birth and three years old tend to understand the world through motor abilities like vision, touch, taste, and movement. This is called the sensorimotor stage of development.

During this period, babies are egocentric. They cannot understand that there is a larger world outside of their experience and point of view. If you’ve ever played peek-a-boo with a baby, you’re familiar with object permanence.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you develop a stronger object constancy. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp. com for quality care at its most convenient.

What is object constancy?

Object constancy is a term that relates to a person’s ability to function and feel safe in a relationship where there is distance, contention, or conflict.

Every relationship experiences hardships. It’s normal to have disagreements, setbacks, and conflicts. After all, the relationship partners are two different people with their own opinions and views on life. Conflict is bound to happen, and that’s okay. However, confronting and overcoming those conflicts to find mutual resolution helps to strengthen the relationship.

People with weak object constancy have difficulties with that. They may experience extreme anxiety in all their friendships and relationships because they fear abandonment.

Trust is the bedrock of a good relationship. Trusting the bedrock of the relationship defines one’s ability to enjoy it. A strong object constancy causes a person to know their loved one will not abandon them because of an argument or distance in the relationship.

Object constancy is formed in childhood by the relationships a person has with their parents, guardians, or caregivers. A person who could trust their adults as a child will have stronger relationships and more trust in their adult relationships. A person who couldn’t trust their adults for unconditional love and support will have a more difficult time with vulnerability and trust in their adult relationships.

A person’s lack of object constancy may also be caused by early childhood trauma that affects the person’s ability to form attachments.

A weaker object constancy will cause a person to fear ambiguity in a relationship. They will likely question what the relationship is and where it’s going. That isn’t a problem when it’s not extreme. In fact, it’s quite normal during the early stages of a relationship.

However, a relationship’s lack of concrete expectations will be extremely stressful and anxiety-inducing for the person with weak object constancy. This may cause the person to draw-out fights longer than needed or cut relationships off when troubled.

Both object constancy and permanency affect the perception of stability. Object constancy affects interpersonal relationships, while object permanency affects tangible things.

The Effects Of Poor Object Constancy

Many people did not receive the appropriate support, unconditional love, and emotional cues as a child. The consequences of this dysfunctional development can cause mental disorders and impaired functioning as an adult.

Some potential issues include:

1. Low self-esteem.

Many people with weak object constancy have difficulty maintaining relationships with others. That difficulty will likely affect all romantic, platonic, and family relationships.

A person who does not understand object constancy may see their inability to have relationships as a personal failure of not being good enough rather than the consequence of dysfunctional development. They may view themselves as broken or unlovable.

2. Difficulty being present.

A person with weak object constancy has difficulty staying grounded in the present. They may get lost in fantastical thinking about the potential for relationships, what should have been, and what could be.

They may also lose themselves in thoughts about “what if” scenarios. What if that relationship had worked out? What if I had done that thing differently? What if? What if? What if? It’s normal to wonder a little bit. However, it becomes a problem when it interferes with current relationships or one’s ability to conduct their life.

3. Attachment problems.

A child should be able to attach to the adult in their life. They will also attach to friends and romantic partners as they grow older.

A child’s first attachment is to that of a parent or guardian. Should that parent or guardian not provide a safe, stable, and consistent environment for the attachment, then the child may grow up unable to develop the trust of object constancy. They may lack the ability to trust others to stay in their life when the relationship isn’t going well.


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Personality disorders are challenging behaviors that are often shaped in childhood. A person with BPD may struggle with attachment problems, dysfunctional relationships, intense reactions to emotions, and difficulty regulating emotions. In addition, poor object constancy may be strongly related to Borderline Personality Disorder.

5. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder often sees things in the context of all or nothing. Their perceptions tend to be black and white with no shades of gray. A person with this personality disorder may find themselves unable to retain positive feelings about someone once that person shows that they aren’t perfect. That may be arguments, disagreements, or perspectives that disagree with the person with NPD.

The person with NPD can’t see others as flawed individuals with shades of gray. Instead, it’s either all good or all bad, black and white. This behavior may also cause the person with NPD to switch between loving and not loving friends and family members.

Weak Object Constancy In Children

Though weak object constancy may be easier to see in adults, it can present itself in children. A child with weak object constancy may have difficulty connecting with other children. They will exhibit “out of sight, out of mind” behaviors where they don’t think about their friends when they aren’t around.

The child may also never consider themselves to have a best friend because the emotional depth for that kind of friendship is lacking. They may also lack consistent friends. Instead, they move from person to person in a series of shallow, short-lived friendships.

Improving Object Constancy

The good news is that object constancy is a problem that can be improved and strengthened so you can have healthy, loving, secure relationships. However, the process will require the assistance of a certified therapist who can help guide you with proven therapeutic techniques through the long-term process.

There are additional ways that you can begin to start your journey.

Social connection is important in improving object constancy because the issue orbits around social relationships. That makes support groups or communities facing similar issues a good place to start. Being around other people facing similar struggles can reduce feelings of loneliness and provide an opportunity for social connection. Be sure to spend time with your friends and loved ones while you work on this issue. Social isolation can make the healing process much more difficult.

Start journaling and learn some mindfulness practices. People with object constancy issues may find themselves dwelling in the past or future, constantly looking at past failures or the potential for future problems. The problem is that the past is long gone, and we can’t predict the future. If you have anxiety related to these relationships, you may think that you are only planning ahead for all the eventualities. The problem is that you can’t plan for all of them. Most times, you can only adapt when the problems come.

Journaling and mindfulness practices will help root you in the present and address problems as they come up. You have to remember that you can troubleshoot and problem solve when they do come up. This kind of practice can be exceptionally helpful for people with BPD and NPD who need a little more help to exist in the present.

In closing…

You can’t choose your childhood. The choices and actions of the adults that were supposed to provide love and support are beyond your control. But what is within your control is how you respond to the problems you may be experiencing now.

Improving your object constancy will help you have healthier relationships, form stronger bonds, and let you see your loved ones in all of their complicated glory. Furthermore, the healing process can help you level off your own emotions and provide a greater sense of stability.

This is a long-term project, and you will need the guidance of a certified therapist to address this issue. Don’t get discouraged if it’s a slow, difficult process. It’s too complicated for a self-help project. Still, know that you are not alone, and many others are walking similar paths to success.

A good place to get professional help is the website – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service provide and the process of getting started.

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📖 Sub-phase of constancy of the libidinal object, STAGE OF DIVISION-INDIVIDUATION, Chapter 6.

DEVELOPMENT OF OBJECT RELATIONS, PART THREE. OBJECT RELATIONS. Psychoanalytic theories of development. Tyson R. L. Page 36. Read online to function to provide comfort and support in the absence of the mother, by allowing the child to be less dependent and to function separately from the mother, we may say that the child has achieved some degree of libidinal object constancy. To achieve this degree of internal security, the child must resolve conflicts between his desires and prohibitions on the part of the mother and be able to tolerate ambivalence. Then his loving and angry feelings about her become securely controlled by her total representation (McDevitt, 1975). Now he can better soften and endure disappointment and rage, as his frustrating experiences are neutralized by memories of a mother who brings satisfaction, love and support.

If this representation can be maintained even when the child is angry or frustrated, it begins to take on a new function. That is, the positive quality of the images evoked by the mother's mental representations takes on the function of soothing, and the child who identifies with the supportive mother is better able to soothe himself (Furer, 1967). The functioning of the ego is progressing because the child, instead of falling under the intensity of his affects, is now able to regulate himself, whether the mother appears immediately or not. This is because part of the mother's integrated image includes expectations about her behavior - such as her regulating and soothing responses to his disorder. With the internal availability of such a representation, the child is not so dependent on the physical presence of the mother and can stabilize his functioning (Pine, 1971). Mahler discovers the beginning of such an accomplishment in the third year of life, but emphasizes that it extends beyond this age; it will never be fully completed.

It is in this area that Kohut's idea of ​​self-objects applies: throughout our lives we trust other people in order to secure peace and love for ourselves and thus maintain an inner sense of well-being. We do not think that Mahler meant to suggest that achieving libidinal object permanence means that a person can comfortably live in complete isolation from other people. Rather, our relationships with the people who are important to us become more tolerant and mature. Indeed, Pine (1974) notes that people throughout their lives undergo a change in the ability to receive comfort from an internal memory or image of an object, replacing the need for contact with a real object for the sake of comfort and pleasure. Pine adds, however, that a given representation can reflect both desire and reality. Thus, the internal object can potentially be better than the real object and can therefore function as an important internal regulator of strong passions and rages, as well as self-esteem.

The evolutionary significance of the persistence of the libidinal object lies not only in the fact that the child will be able to integrate his loving and adoring judgments about his mother with his evil and hostile judgments about her; it also lies in the fact that the child regains confidence that their loving relationship will continue, despite brief separations or temporary outbursts of anger or resentment. In other words, the child can maintain a constant relationship with the mother despite the developmental vicissitudes of frustration and satisfaction (Burger and Edgaimbe, 1972). The child now moves from almost exclusively self-centered, demanding, clinging behavior to the ability to participate in more mature, ego-defined relationships characterized by attachment, trust, and some (though limited by cognitive immaturity) respect for the interests and feelings of others. .

The development of libidinal constancy of the object is usually accompanied by the achievement of some degree of constancy of one's own "I" - that is, the ability to maintain a unified representation of one's own "I", embracing all affectively colored ideas about one's own "I". This step is strengthened and strengthened by the growth of the ego's faculties to impulse control and self-reflection, which give the child a greater degree of self-control and enjoyment.

This step also usually elicits pride and reinforcement from the mother, reinforcing the child's sense of being loved.

ADHD and Personality Disorders - About Psychology Simply

One Tiktok user said that one of the biggest problems people with ADHD have is the lack of object permanence. This is expressed as follows: if some object or person is not nearby, hidden, then for him they seem to cease to exist.

Object permanence is a problematic topic for people with personality disorders.

How to distinguish what is a manifestation of ADHD and what is a disorder, I will not undertake.

And how the “cocktail” of both of them manifests itself, and what a pain it is, I will describe:

(all coincidences are random, the state “before therapy” is described)


🔥A person is only interested in what is new. What is learned, or constantly, stable, and without new components, becomes boring. This is to be avoided and impossible to endure. Leave the project, work, family, relationships, do not keep in touch with friends, change the direction of activity. Other benefits and stability do not matter.

💀When there are no reminders of people in front of his eyes - active contacts, he feels that he literally does not have them, and he has no one to call. There is no sense of connection with anyone. A feeling of nightmarish loneliness, especially after a person has completed one thing, gone into the void, the previous relationship has faded, and the new one has not yet become permanent.

🤷Today's conversation and feeling of attachment to someone tomorrow are replaced by complete indifference, a sharp change in relationships. If another process dominates tomorrow and other relationships that are interesting, then the previous ones seem to have no meaning. Only those that are interesting and constantly stimulate with something bright, strong, unusual are retained. Or find fault with them.

🦸 A large set of activities at the same time, and because of this - the inability to answer the question "Who are you?" Because today a person can be one specialist, and tomorrow feel his identity in another.

🙇Inability to remember your experience. A person forgets that he was once a great specialist, and after a short break in work or a failure in something, he seems to be starting from scratch. From a low position, a small salary. Past achievements are forgotten because of the shame of failure. It needs someone from the outside to help maintain its value.

🙍Difficulties with tolerating expectations, emptiness, isolation, while the feeling of isolation can be false, occur in the environment of people.

🕵️Permanent objects and connections arise only with a huge effort of will, or with great love and tolerance from loved ones.

Typical for ADHD:

🤦Distracted. If the head is thinking about objects, routes, things, then other things here and now constantly fall out of focus as soon as the gaze leaves them.

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