Dracula: An Object Relations Approach
Dr Gene Lubow.
This paper will explore the vampire myth in view of object relations theory, particularly the schizoid individual and the alienation confronting our cultural experience today. Like other myths, the vampire represents a cultural projective identification; society can be seen to project bad aspects of itself onto the external world which then become identified with the projected parts. Victorian England, with its sharp distinctions between proper reserve and wanton behavior, was itself like a split object world needing to project a greedy, devouring self into the culture.
Psychoanalytically, Dracula can be seen as a schizoid personality (‘the self in cold storage’) who strives to incorporate the ‘good object.’ The vampire’s psychological conflict arises in the early oral phase. For Dracula, as for the schizoid, love destroys the object. This is the tragedy of the schizoid personality described by Fairbairn; he is unable to love without the fear of destruction and persecutory retaliation. He cannot establish relationships with external objects– all libido is directed toward internalized part objects frozen in infantile incorporative need, not in aggression or in displaced sexuality.
From a Kleinian point of view the vampire exhibits certain ritualistic behaviors, similar to the obsessional mechanisms which are used to bind infantile paranoid anxiety. Dracula’s victims can be understood to be part-objects which represent his primitive and desperate need for sustenance; the vampire seeks life but what he needs he also destroys, and this is the core conflict of schizoid object relations– the fear of destroying with love..
Dr Gene Lubow (United States)
Currently a candidate in psychoanalytic training at New York University. Adjunct professor at Yeshiva University. In private practice in New York City.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)