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Separation and omnipotence

Complicating development is the fact that separation from the mother brings with it a catastrophic anxiety that she will not return. Mahler observed that the decline of symbiosis, or the increasing awareness of separation on the part of the infant, will be experienced as a loss of self. Merging, however, also brings the threat of a loss of self. Hence, there is no way out of this annihilating experience with a still fragile continuity of self.

The most difficult aspect of the transition to object usage is that the subject must place the object outside his omnipotent area of control. This means that in order to become an independently existing subject, the other must come to exist as an independent subject as well. For this to occur, the boy must accept dependence as a state of being. This demand comes at a time when mother and child are in an all-powerful symbiotic system, and the child must realize his smallness. Another important factor in relinquishing omnipotence is that otherness and omnipotence are always mutually constituting, meaning that awareness of omnipotence occurs only when the self recognizes a possible threat that can only be felt when one is a subject. In other words, the boy only feels threatened when he realizes his dependence.

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