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Theoretical Concepts from Self Psychology Applied to Animal Hoarding1

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Self psychology provides a theoretical framework for understanding the psychology of the animal hoarder. The following ideas from self psychology can be applied to animal hoarders and their animals to gain insight into the nature of the bond between them: 1) animals can serve a crucial selfobject function, such as cohesion, for hoarders, regardless of the actual, objective reality of the state of the animals; 2) the concept of archaic vs. mature selfobject functioning elucidates how hoarders are stuck in self-centered, archaic forms of relating with little empathic capacity; 3) the merger selfobject relationship allows hoarders to see animals as being one with them; and 4) disavowal and the vertical split explain how hoarders can live with animal suffering and be apparently oblivious to it. Similarities between self psychology and attachment theory are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Paoletta Counseling Services Inc. Mercer, Pennsylvania, Email:


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