Melanie Klein


Photo Credit: Melanie Klein and her grandson, The Wellcome Library


Photo Credit: Melanie Klein’s Toys for Children, The Wellcome Library


Melanie Klein (1882-1960)

The Melanie Klein Trust

Child Analysis

Melanie Klein by Alain de Botton

David L, “Object Relations Theory (Melanie Klein),” in Learning Theories, December 4, 2015

Understanding Projective Identification in Psychotherapy

Melanie Klein, Themes for Psychoanalysis

By Pamela Whitaker

Why aren’t you there for me?

I can’t get enough!

I can’t live without you!

I need you more than I can say!

You are my everything!

Terms Associated with Melanie Klein and Object Relations: Nourishment, Narcissism, Deprivation, Reparation, Mediation, Demanding Attention, Guilt, Abandonment, Hate, Ambivalence, Seeking Satisfaction, Rejection, Objectification, Frustration, Agitation, Passive/Aggressive Impulses, Silent Rage, Anxiety, Aggression, Revenge, Instant Gratification, Conflict, Distress, Seeking Unification, Fantasy, Jealousy, Fear, Loss, Anxiety, Vengeful

Melanie Klein investigates not only a child’s quest for care and nourishment, but an adults quest for completion in gratification through objects and relationships. In the case of relationships, this could also be considered as the way we objectify people in terms of what they can give us. This is also the anxiety of not having enough, or not being good enough, or being incomplete when we are not “fed” by someone else. A Kleinian therapeutic goal is finding a middle ground of self-care and perspective, and an identity that is lived without the fear of being abandoned. This is also considered resilience and a robust sense of identity built upon a firm foundation of connections with oneself and others that nourish self compassion, self efficacy, self esteem and also tolerance. The capacity to self-soothe and self-manage emotions and to seek reparation are also therapeutic outcomes sought within object relations. We are also able to seek reparation after we project our unmet needs on to others, in this sense we are aware of the effects of our unmet needs, and how our demands for fulfilment cannot be met by others in an absolute way. We are always left lacking, and this is our insight and realisation, and yet in art therapy we make as an opportunity to restore our sense of integration (the artwork mediates what is sought and what is found in the making of a new situation, or the making of new possibilities).

Inspired by a Klein, we develop an inquisitive curiosity regarding our emotional reactions and also investigate how others may trigger our responses of not being worthy enough or not having enough. Unexamined reactions can inflict pain on others when they are transferred (projected) in a raw form of pain and suffering. We may wish to evacuate the unbearable discomfort of  jealousy, envy, hate and emptiness on to someone else with our anger and demands to be attended to and nourished by others. These unconscious projections can be slowly integrated into conscious awareness within the therapeutic relationship. The transference within the therapeutic relationship is one way for the art therapy client to come to terms with parts of themselves they disown or their experiences of deprivation. An art therapist’s attunement to a client making amends within themselves, also inspires an appreciation of ambivalence (a goal of Kleinian psychoanalysis). Ambivalence mediates extremes, it is an acceptance of conflicting feelings, inconclusiveness and the fluctuation of different emotions as they appear in relation to a spectrum of life situations.

Our mindfulness session with Anne Costello was an exploration of how skills of self-care can focus attention and awareness in the here and now to reduce anxiety. The article that we read by Patricia Rose Williams “ONEBird: Integrating Mindfulness, Self-Compassion and Art Therapy”

discusses how mindfulness and compassion must be understood together to reduce stress, anxiety and depressions. Compassions is an empathetic and respectful relationship towards oneself and others and contributes to a sense of inner security and relational security within the world-at-large. Kristen Neff, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology, University of Texas.

What are These Object Relations You Keep Talking About?

believes that we must understand the human condition of suffering in order to generate a perspective and kindness towards our own challenges and difficulties. Her approach addresses shame, failure, self-criticism and the disappointments we all experience in life through addressing the significance of stability, self acceptance and non-judgmental awareness.  Mindfulness and self compassion can be incorporated within art therapy through a variety of art making techniques and Patricia Rose Williams includes a chart in her article with examples of art making at home that can be restorative. We adapted one of her examples in our assembling of a centrepiece at home for centring awareness and focus through creating a relationship to objects that have meaning and the potential to be an antidote to stress, hyper-arousal and anxiety.

By Pamela Whitaker



Laubender (2016) Melanie Klein’s Toys. London: Wellcome Library

Melanie Klein Quotations 

Klein, M. (1988) Love, Guilt and Reparation. London: Virago Press.

“The immediate and primary means by which relief is afforded to a baby from these painful states of hunger, hate, tension, and fear is the satisfaction of his [her] desires by his mother. The temporary feeling of security, which is gained by receiving gratification greatly enhances the gratification itself; and thus a feeling of security  becomes an important component of the satisfaction whenever a person receives love” (p. 307).

“In conclusion, a good relation to ourselves is a conditional for love, tolerance and wisdom towards others. This good relation to ourselves has, as I have endeavoured to show, developed in part from a friendly, loving and understanding attitude towards other people namely those who meant much to us in the past, and our relationship to whom has become part of our minds and personalities. If we have been able, deep in our unconscious minds, to clear out feelings to some extend towards our parents of grievances, and have forgiven them for the frustrations we had to bear, then we can be a peace with ourselves and are able to love others in the true sense of the word” (p. 343)

Lost and found: The fear and thrill of loss