This flow sheet illustrates the developmental pathway of internalized self and object representations.
The above diagram depicts the pathways, beginning from birth, of psychic structure transformation.
The process of psychological growth is sometimes conceived of as the formation of "psychic structure": enduring patterns of relatedness, or 'patterned forms of organization, memory, affect, & behavior'.
Such structure is achieved by the child's taking in, internalizing, i.e., internally representing affectively charged relational configurations, of caregivers, primarily and initially mother, then father, siblings, teachers, etc.
These embedded, internalized, representations of relational characterisitics of other people, i.e. object representations in relational configurations, then become the basis of whom one becomes, including what we expect, long for, and feel compelled to perpetuate, in our relationships. Mixed with one's own biological endowments and capacities, one internalizes the values, intentions, and other characteristic features of one's surrounding family, community, and culture.
Internal, emotionally-charged, relational narratives develop between such internalized configurations, which are deemed as separate from our "external" relationships with "real" people; but our patterned behaviors towards the external world are formed, guided, and generated by one's internally "populated", self-in-relation-to-other world.
Attachment theory describes such internalizations, or "internal working models" (Donald Stern), which serve as blueprints: According to Schore, "...attachment experiences are transformed into "internal" regulatory capacities..." (2012, p. 45), which would determine the degree of secure or insecure attachment.
Kohut described: "..."transmuting internalization", the developmental process by which selfobject function is internalized by the infant and psychological regulatory structures are formed...The formative experiences of the self are built out of internalized selfobject functions, which facilitate the emergence of more complex regulatory structures..." (Schore, A., 2012, p. 57). ( see 'glossary', tab # 31, for definitions of "selfobject")
Contemporary, intersubjectivist explanations eschew emphasis on "internal" and "external" boundaries and structure, but visualize experience as co-occurring in organized patterns of interrelatedness between interacting, mutually regulating subjectivites.
One gives meaning to experience, and behaves in ways that are grounded, from birth onward, in an embedded mosaic of intersubjective relatedness between mother, father, child, brother, sister, community, and culture.
Such internalized patterns, synonymous with internal working models, are thought to reside in the procedural, implicit realm of the mind, described variably as internalized relational schema, relational configurations, rigid patterns of relatedness (Hirsch, p. 44), internal working models, or organizing patterns or principles (see Stolorow; Fosshage, others).
Beginning from a state of self/mother merger, the infant grows towards states of gradual boundary formation, with increasing degrees of distinctness between self and other mental representations.
Mahler posits a process towards "object constancy", where the more independent child can maintain both self-esteem, and a positive value (object--esteem) for mother, even if she disappoints. This ability to integrate opposites, to accept both good and bad, in the same self or other, is a major developmental milestone.
Heinz Kohut, using a seminal concept of soothing "selfobject" functions, expressly differs here, quoted from Stolorow, et al.: "...Self psychology holds...that a move from dependence (symbiosis) to independence (autonomy)..." is not possible, or desirable:
The Self requires the nourishment of its selfobject experiences throughout life, not an independence from them (Stolorow, Brandchaft, Atwood, Psychoanalytic Treatment - An Intersubjective Approach, 1987, p 48).
Mitchell and Black also recognize (1995, p. 166) that: "...selfobject needs for affirmation...admiration...[and] connections with others [are]...fundamental to human experience...We do not outgrow them...".
It is now known that the "undifferentiated matrix" representing the infant's capacities at birth, is in fact, not undifferentiated:
Within the first 24 hours of life, infants can recognize both sound patterns heard from intrauterine exposure, as well as facial contours; humans are "pre-wired" for intersubjective inter-relatedness.