PSYCHOLOGY: The Image of God in Objects relations theory

in steemstem •  last year  (edited)

“There is no perception of a person without her relationship with others "

Attempts to explain the idea of divinity, God, extraterrestrial life have always accompanied people. For me, the explanation did not seem to be the most important, but rather the variety of proposed solutions, which seemingly different from each other, however, form a rather coherent whole. When it comes to the image of God in the human psyche, as in many other cases, I tried to find a way to explain this issue in line with my personal preferences for translating psychological and spiritual phenomena. Intrapsychic events captured in interpersonal categories and interpersonal events captured in intrapsychic categories. It seems to me that such a way of looking at interactions in the world allows us not to get involved in the argument about the cause of human activity. We do not have to answer the question of habit or conflict here. Such a view makes it possible to understand the world in terms of a uniform process acting on itself on the principles of positive feedback.

Parent - matrix

Numerous psychological studies have shown that an important factor in shaping the God's idea is the image of the child's parents. Research and psychological observations clearly show that the beginning of the Divine idea in children can be noticed already at the age of two or three years. Religious symbolism, initially incomprehensible to the child, presents God as a being similar to people. In this situation, we can speak of an anthropomorphic image of a god. Along with childhood development, God gradually loses these qualities in kid’s eyes. In order to answer the question of how a child is described in the picture described above, it should be emphasized that the traits that the child notices in his parents are transferred to God. In this phenomenon, several processes can be distinguished, including two basic ones: the shaping of a divine image according to the image of God possessed by parents and according to the parents' pattern. Most probably both of these processes are equally important (author's opinion, not confirmed by research, purely theoretical reflection).

Creation of Adam- anthropomorphic representation of god
(Wikimedia Commons)

In order to describe the image of shaping the idea of God in a man in the light of the theory of relationship with an object, one should certainly refer to one of the basic concepts of this. The intention of the author of this work is not to bring the idea of the theory of relation to the object closer but only to how the image of God is shaped in its light. The author will not develop them in this work, only stressing their role in shaping the image of God in man. The most important processes were considered imitation, identification, generalization and projection.

In psychoanalysis, introjection (German: Introjektion) generally is regarded as the process where the subject replicates in himself behaviors, attributes or other fragments of the surrounding world, especially of other subjects. Cognate concepts are identification, incorporation, and internalization

Initially, repeated and imitated gestures are not yet understood. They start to be so at the beginning of the development of a child's specific thinking and continue in a primitive form until the development of abstract thinking, where one can already speak about the meaning of religious gestures and link them directly or indirectly with spirituality.
Identification in the context of the creation of the seed of the divine idea has a similar meaning as in the development of child attachment, or the integration of diad self-object with simultaneous differentiation. The child identifies with parents who exhibit specific behaviors related to religion and spirituality. The identification process may also take place in a different direction. Child, referring to a more and more complete relationship with his father, experiences a period when he adores him, as if he was a god - thus identifying the concept of father with the concept of God (Nelson, Jones, 1957; Strunk , 1959; Vergote, 1966).

(MBTI Database

Process and outcome

The child identifies the partial objects of the father and mother with the object of God. The anthropomorphism understood in this way means that the image of God depends on the characteristics that parents have, which the child can identify as God's characteristics and then confront them with reality, observing the consequences of objects' behavior and drawing conclusions about divine achievements. They are known to the child from the stories of their parents or other important objects.
The proper development of subsequent phases is also important (eg according to Margaret Mahler). The positive transition of subsequent development phases and the simultaneous feeling of having satisfied needs certainly translates into the very image of God as well as the process of its creation. Generalization in the process of shaping the image of God consists in transferring the manner of behavior learned in a given situation into similar situations. The atmosphere of family life and the climate of religious communication (giving information about God) during childhood has a fundamental impact on the child's later attitude to the world and to God.
The whole development of the idea of God in man can certainly be compared to the formation of relations with the object. The processes involved in shaping the image of God are the same processes that influence the image of parents. In addition, the development of this image proceeds in accordance with Piaget's idea of human development and in accordance with the next stages of development of human thinking. At the same time, it should be emphasized that this development is continuous throughout life, which affects the change of the divine face in the feeling of the individual.


Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles in young adults: A test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226-244.
Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1990). Love and work: An attachment-theoretical perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,59, 270-280.
Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1999). Attachment and religious representations and behaviour. In J. Cassidy & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (pp. 803-822). New York: Guilford Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (1988). Triangulating love. In R.J. Sternberg & M.L. Barnes (Eds.), The psychology of love (pp. 119-138). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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