Margaret Mahler's Understanding of Separation, Individuation and Rapprochement - Essay Sample

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Movie review
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The movie presents the case of Antwone Fisher a young man in us navy experiencing anger related problems. The problems are provided to be as a result of abuse to the man during his earlier years as he was adopted by a different family where he spent twelve years. Antwone's father died long before his death and his mother gave birth to him while in jail. Fisher was placed in an orphanage after delivery for two years but his mother a teenage did not claim him so after that he was taken to a foster home belonging to the Tate family. Here Antwone is mistreated and significantly suffered from both physical and mental abuse.

At the age of 14, he escaped and went to live in the streets. After living on the streets for a couple of years, Fisher decided to join the US army and make his life purposeful. However, our man is distraught on the inside and gets no one to treat him well. In the ship, he is temperamental and breaks to fights with fellow sailors. It is through these challenges that Fisher is demoted and ordered to seek psychiatric treatment. With Davenport support, fisher can open up and discuss his problems an approach that assists significantly in his positive development. In Fishers case everything has broken down, and he has been left all alone with his life. His best friend is killed in an attempted armed robbery, and this makes Fisher resents why his companion Jesse left him behind. This he described as a form of abandonment. With Davenport support, Antwone Fisher develops feelings for his fellow sailor, Cheryl which results in a relationship and thus develops positive feelings. Through his story, we understand the various problems fisher experienced as a young man. Sexual abuse, mental and physical mistreatment made his life traumatic.

According to Margret Mahler, fisher childhood lacked some essential requirements for adequate growth. The developmental goal within the first three years of life required in Fishers case, and hence the characteristics of separation and individuation did not hold. The aspects of mothers care I this situation needed, and the case of abandonment meant that Fishers development was based on his perspectives of life. Emulation of behavior and characteristics of people around him caused challenges since no one would offer same experiences like those provided by an individual's mother.

At a young age, children will always explore the world with the mothers' influence and reactions crucial. Offering support to these individuals in their experiences helps in the development of independence. In Fisher development, exploration and rapprochement were based on non-desirable characteristics presented by his caretakers. As harsh the condition was, Fisher developed under physical challenges and emotions due to the lack of a dedicated parent. With no one to emulate the successful completion of object constancy is not applicable, and thus self-confidence and concepts are based on the crisis, and the aspects of helplessness and temper are high. In this period solution forming is usually by his formed individuality.

Donald Winnicott false self, authentic self and treatment approach

Comparing fisher case to Donald Winnicott's ego development, it's evident that Fisher lacked some very critical care aspects which are adopted from the mother. In this case, mothers care lacked and thus impacting on the continuity of being which translates to an excellent personal existence. Therefore fisher lacked inherited continuity from the parent who would assist in the development and in dealing with life experiences. In this scenario deprived continuity of presents a basis for the formation of personality by the reaction to environmental impingements. Thus the limits of aggression are not set on adopted or copied personal characteristics this shows a problem in the development process. According to Winnicott, without proper maternal care, infants lack continuity of being and instead personality is based on environmental factors. These factors may not be very favorable and hence results in repression at later stages in life.

In the earlier stages, parental care is crucial and helps in containing the child's aggression and maintaining an excellent camaraderie to assist juveniles in overcoming hard situations. On the contrary, environment poses destructive obstacles which have to be survived by hostility. This means that the child has to adopt attributes that show masculinity. In this scenario, Fisher characteristics of self-belief are embedded. This means that Fisher interaction with the environment at a tender age resulted in more developmental challenges due to lack of right person to emulate. With mistreatments, the experience becomes worse since instead of getting assistance the environment becomes more pressing and thus the child develops a need for constant retaliation in every single encounter. These learned aspects are carried out through an individual's life as in Fisher cases and results to poor personal relations. The maintenance of self-esteem in these conditions is robust and thus with the lack of proper control fisher is unable to escape vulnerability. In this case a feeling of emptiness sets in also emanating from abandonment and for Fishers case it's no longer a description of conditions that can occur, but it is a reality that he has to tackle.

In his condition which is described as a false self, Fisher experiences problems of connection and formation of successful relationships. This feeling is evident in fisher, and he consents to join US navy and make something out of life. This condition caused him feel not worth living after all he had more trouble in the world a situation confirmed by his resentment after Jesse's death. Fisher is characterized by problems of self-identification due to the missed development aspects as a young individual. This created a problem of lost identity a situation that has not been easy to deal with. Life experiences as provided by Winnicott have significantly contributed to this creation of false self. These experiences emanate from, lack of nurturing as a child, poor relations, and mistreatments.

According to the treatment approach employed, appreciation of oneself is the beginning of positive change. In the movie, davenport assists Antwone greatly as pertains specific characteristics. Davenport understands that the treatment approach has to be exhaustive and patients should be open about the situation. The needs are described by the uniqueness of each position, and that presents a dire knowledge of the personal situation. A multimodal approach as provided was applied in the Fisher case since challenges emanated from varied life experiences and thus Davenport total dedication to his case proved successful in the end.

Concept of holding and utilizing the boy code and four Injunctions

Antwone Fishers trouble presents a clear reflection of the boy code characteristics and challenges in the behavioral development. Firstly, our character lacked proper mentorship, and thus his life experiences are too hard on him. This implies that the Fisher has to develop on his own and the societal expectations are in resonance with the boy code set of rules and expectations; His emotions and needs are not in any way kept in check, mistreatments are common, environmental conditions are unfavorable, lacks personal connection et cetera. In this situation, Fisher separates at a young age from Tate's family and develops a robust personality at a tender age. This kind of independence is a kind of achievement according to boy code but it is not beneficial and in many times results to brokenness, sadness, and fragile self-esteem. Our characters earlier life is pushed to this stoic requirement due to life challenges and made him appear daring and attracted to violence.

Fisher though not through his liking develops to sturdy oak since he has no one to turn to for help and has to face each situation head-on. This characteristic is evident in a situation when he utterly refuses to open up about his challenges and has to be demoted and send for assistance. In another case, he suffers a jail term since he believes in risks rather than offer a clear explanation. The suffering has therefore impacted on him, and he sees no single assistance that he can obtain in explaining his situation. Fisher suffers from the effects of Boy Code, he never seems afraid, caring and has severe conduct problems. Antwone is depressed by the fact that his mother left him at tender age and regrets.

Through Davenport unwavering support, Fisher is assisted emotionally to overcome challenges that he encountered at a young age. This set in a new life where he relates with people and even gets to a relationship with Cheryl. The effects of the boy code are evident as adopted by Fisher through poor nurturing and having to depend on himself emulating his immediate environment. Later on, it can be argued that Antwone breaks the boy code rules and embarks on a mission to live an authentic life. He looks for his mother and his adoptive family, and they can come to terms. This healing helps Fisher adopt a new life, with new friends.


Eckler-Hart, A. H. (1987). True and false self in the development of the psychotherapist.Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 24(4), 683.

Kimmel, M., Shapiro, H. S., & Purpal, D. E. (2005). What about the boys. Critical social issuesin American education: Democracy and meaning in a globalizing world, 219-227.

Mahler, M. S., Pine, F., & Bergman, A. (2000). The psychological birth of the human infantsymbiosis and individuation. Basic Books.Mahler, M. S. (1963). Thoughts about development and individuation. The psychoanalytic studyof the child, 18(1), 307-324.

Winnicott, D. W. (1965). The maturational process and the facilitating environment.Risner, D. (2007). Rehearsing masculinity: Challenging the boy codein dance education.Research in Dance Education, 8(2), 139-153.

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