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Object Constancy, Part I

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."1

"What on earth is object constancy?" I can hear readers asking.

It's something that we needed to have from earliest childhood and maintain throughout life. With it we have a much better chance of living life to the full. Without it we will "limp along in the shadows of life" eking out a meager existence with a sense that something is missingólike having a feeling of emptiness. In a vain attempt to fill this void we may use food and become a foodaholic, or become a workaholic keeping busy, busy, busy to avoid facing the pain of this inner emptiness. Or we may become an alcoholic or use drugs to deaden the pain, or keep looking for love in all the wrong places.

Object constancy. We need it for survival. So what is it?

When a child is first born, as long as it is wanted and loved, it will be bonded and attached to mother in a healthy way. Here it feels safe and secure. As the child grows it not only needs to be weaned from mother's breast but also, little by little, from mother's presence so it can begin to find its own identity. During this process, as long as it has a deep inner sense of being loved, mother can leave the room and baby feels fine. And as long as mother's love is constant and baby is an object of mother's love, the baby has object constancy. That is, it constantly feels loved.

However, if the baby doesn't have this deep sense of love and security, it may panic when mother leaves the room. Or even when mother is there, without a sense of constant love, baby will feel very insecure, and cry. But if and when it cries repeatedly and mother isn't there or doesn't come to comfort it, it will eventually stop crying and turn its pain inward. It has a lack of object constancy.

When a person grows up into adulthood without a deep sense of object constancy, he or she is headed for constant loneliness and relational difficulties. This person may look to the opposite sex, use sex to get what they mistake for love, and/or marry the wrong person in an unconscious attempt to fill that empty mother-void (and father-void if father's love wasn't constant either). Sex, romantic love, and/or marriage can never fill this void or heal this pain because the problem is that the lack of object constancy is a childhood issue. Romance and marriage is for adults.

Furthermore, where a person lacks object constancy, he or she can have a very difficult time feeling God's love too.

And where we lack object constancy how do we find healing?

To be continued ...

1. Suggested prayer for parents: "Dear God, please help me to be the loving parent I need to be so that all of my children will feel secure in my love for them and always sense Your love flowing through me to them. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."

2. Suggested prayer for those who lack object constancy: "Dear God, about my loneliness and the empty void in my life, please help me to face the depth of this loss and stop running from the pain, and lead me to the help I need to find healing and recovery. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."

1. John 13:34 (NIV).

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All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.