Both separateness and attachment develop our self identity. Mahlerian separation theories did not distinguish the development of the individual from development and maintenance of relationships, where, through internalization [a specious distinction between inside and outside], object constancy is eventually established allowing for more comfortable separateness. In contrast, attachment theories see the development of the individual as inherently interactive, with the self made up of past and present internal relationships. Relatedness, instead of the individual, is emphasized. Blass and Blatt speak of the dialectic between separation (development of ‘self’) and attachment (the development of ‘self with other’), reminding us that it is not a linear process, but two distinct lines of development, whose progress in one line is essential to the other, each being continually renegotiated and reintegrated throughout the life cycle. The two primary developmental tasks, then, are the establishment of a consolidated, positive sense of self and the capacity to maintain mutually satisfying relationships. Within these interpersonal relationships, one learns to accept the limitations of the other, accept separateness and ambivalence.
Osofsky, likewise, sees the self as developing, and existing, within relationships. She notes that internalization of relationship experiences (of self as good and competent, or, conversely, self as bad and incompetent) become the internal representations, Bowlby’s internal working models—based on real life events – [and, perhaps, Stern’s RIGS, representations of interactions that have been generalized]. Early affect sharing and communication in the developing relationship between mother and infant contribute to the infant’s differentiation of self from other, that is, the self develops within the caregiver system [Winnicott’s no such thing as a baby]. The quality of this affect sharing and mutual regulation, affecting the quality of attachment, influence the child’s developing sense of self and of others. An infant can only “be competent to the extent that there is a caregiving environment that is alert and responsive to the infant’s ‘signals’.” Meaning develops according to what the child means to the parent, and implicit rules of relating become the basis of the sense of self and the self with others. Later, “the analysand forms a relationship with the analyst that recreates and [hopefully] reworks old ‘working models’ of attachment figures.”
The self comes into being through interaction with important caregivers and through experiences of the self as separate. Blass and Blatt take Kohut’s ideas about the self as primarily a separate, self-contained entity, and grapple with the paradox of self as continually embedded in relationship with others, that is, as also attached in loving relationship to others. They note that Kohut failed to emphasize that object ties (attachment) “can be based on other motives in addition to narcissistic ones.” They also point out how empathy as an expression of attachment can conflict with the self’s need to experience oneself as differentiated within a relationship, the “wish to be incomprehensible, obscure, [Winnicott’s private self] and thus separate.” Kohut struggled with whether to consider the selfobject experience as intrapsychic or interpersonal. Loewald put it in neither realm, but ‘in an intermediate region.’ Kohut spoke to relationships in regard to their contribution to self cohesion (that is, the other as selfobject), and distinguished object love and narcissism on degree of: differentiation between self and other; drive satisfaction; and contribution to self cohesion. Paradoxically, object love is attachment with increased differentiation, whereas the narcissistic aim is separateness (and intimates self interest) despite decreased differentiation (experiencing other as part of self, perhaps through projective identification). In fact, write Blass and Blatt, “ongoing existence of others is experienced as an inherent and integral component of the individual’s cohesive sense of self separate and autonomous.” This paradox speaks to the speciousness of dichotomizing differentiation (separateness) and attachment for, as Blass and Blatt note, they are dialectically intertwined. Likewise, there is conflict and tension between the aims of attachment and autonomy. Thus, negotiation between autonomy (separateness) and relatedness (attachment), between self-sufficiency and dependency, is a universal human dilemma.
Blass, R.B., Blatt, S.J. (1992). Attachment and Separateness—A Theoretical Context for Integration of Object Relations Theory with Self Psychology. Psychoanal. St. Child, 47:189-203.
Osofsky, J.D. (1995). Perspectives on Attachment and Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12:347-362.