Psychology and Biblical Studies


SBL Annual Meeting Papers, November 2010

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The Bible as Transformational Object:
The psychoanalytic theories of Christopher Bollas
and their relevance for religious educators

Elizabeth Berne deGear
Union Theological Seminary

For the psychoanalysts who are object-relations theorists, an ‘object’ is anything in the external world that can be related to by a person, and that can be internalized into one’s inner psychic world.  Thus people, experiences, and things are all ‘objects’. As one such object-relations theorist, Christopher Bollas looks at our world, discerns a world of objects, and sees in them our potential transformation. In his words: “the objects of our world are potential forms of transformation” (Bollas 1992, 4). When I heard the theme of this section (“The Bible in transformation and healing”), I thought of Bollas and wondered – as I had before – “What do the theories of this object-relations theorist have to teach us about the Bible as a potential form of transformation?  How might an understanding of his theories help religious educators1 working with people and the Bible?”

This bridge between Bollas’ theories and religious education is not one to be found in Bollas’s writing; rather it is one I attempt to construct here.  The bridge relies on the fact that from both perspectives, the Bible can be viewed as a Transformational Object; though what this means is different in the two domains.  Traveling this bridge between object-relations theory and religious education thus requires that we think of the Bible as an object of two different kinds, simultaneously.  From a religious perspective, we think of the Bible as a transformational object in its capacity as a religious object.  When used by religious educators and pastors, the Bible is used in a religious capacity, and serves religious functions. Religious educators and pastors believe that the Bible’s capacity to effect transformation is linked with its qualities as Holy Scripture; transformation happens in the relationship between human and divine.2 When Bollas uses the term “transformational object”3, he is speaking psychologically. As a psychological object, an object’s power to transform rests in the ways we relate to it and use it as a means of our own experience and development.  Along with psychoanalysts (particularly ‘object relations’ theorists such as Melanie Klein, DW Winnicott, and Christopher Bollas), can we recognize that the people encountering the Bible in the pews, in Sunday school, and at home are experiencing it as a psychological objectas well as a religious object?4There is a complex relationship between each person and their bible, and this relationship is inevitably experienced through each person’s psyche.5

This paper seeks to raise interest and raise questions about the Bible in its simultaneous function as a religious and psychological object.  I start with two of Bollas’s concepts – the human idiom and the destiny drive.  I discuss Bollas’ use of these concepts in a psychoanalytic context. Then I explore a few possible implications for the application of these concepts in religious education.  The scope of this paper only allows for a brief introduction to a small selection of Bollas’s theories, but those who are intrigued by the introduction are encouraged to go straight to his work.6

Idiom and The Destiny Drive

In Forces of Destiny: Psychoanalysis and Human Idiom, Christopher Bollas explores the ways humans grow into the fullness of their lives and personalities.  In so doing, he coins several terms, including ‘idiom’ and ‘destiny drive.’  Each person’s idiom is their unique set of “person possibilities” (Bollas 1989, 9) as well as their unique manner of shaping the contents of life (Bollas 1992, 71).  ‘Human idiom’ is Bollas’s term for a phenomenon with which we are all likely already familiar.  For instance, one often hears the parents of a newly arrived second child commenting on how different they are from the first child, and musing on the surprising ways the differences manifest themselves – from how they eat, to how they like to be held, to what catches their attention.  These differences are aspects of our individual being.

Right along with this notion that each person has their own idiom, Bollas offers the notion that we each have the ability to appropriate objects as the means of living out our  idiom. 

Thesis: Human idiom is that peculiarity of person(ality) that finds its own being through the particular selection and use of the object.  In this restricted sense, to be and to appropriate are one.  (1989, vii )

Furthermore, this ability to appropriate objects constitutes an unconscious drive, says Bollas.  We have innate skills for selecting the right objects and using them in the right ways, so that our idiom will be released into its realization.  This inherent urge and ability to choose and then use chosen objects for the purposes of self-realization, Bollas terms the destiny drive:

[T]he destiny drive [is] the very particular urge to develop the form of one’s private idiom through the articulating and elaborating experiences of object usage. (Bollas 1992, 71)


Idiom, the Destiny Drive, and healthy human development

Because some objects are a better fit than others in helping a particular person release her idiom into lived experience, this has implications for the role and impact of a person’s earliest environment and care-givers.  Regarding a young child’s idiom, we may ask, “What are the elements of her object world?  Who and what surround her? Do they offer what the child needs to discover and express her idiom, and realize the fullness of her personality?”

Does the object world, in other words, provide the right conditions for the child to evolve his idiom, to establish his personality in such a way as to feel both personally real and alive, and to articulate the many elements of his true self7?” (1989, 34)

Bollas argues that if the objects do offer this opportunity, the child’s experience will be one of coming into contact with her destiny, because she will be able to progressively articulate her idiom through these many objects (1989, 35).

Regarding a young child’s destiny drive we may ask, “Is a caregiver functioning to offer objects in a way that will best help a child live into the fullness of her personality?” If so, a caregiver is thus contributing to the activation of that child’s destiny drive, so that the child truly comes alive.

If the mother knows her infant, if she senses his figural intentions, his gestures expressive of need and desire, she will provide objects (including herself) to serve as experiential elaborators of his personality potential.  In this way she assists the struggle to establish self. (Bollas 1989, 10).

            The child, with her idiom and destiny drive thus in tact, will grow into a lively, creative relationship with the world and the people around her.  She will feel internally motivated towards her future:

“[I]f all goes well, a child will develop passionate interests in objects, many of which project the child into the future.  The destiny drive then, makes use of unconscious projections of idiom potential into objects which are organized by the child and set up for true self experiencing.” (1989, 35)

This activation of the destiny drive and self-propulsion toward the future require a certain amount of aggression available for this purpose.

“People who have a sense of destiny also invest psychically in the future.  This involves a certain necessary ruthlessness and creative destructiveness, of the past and the present, in order to seek conditions necessary for [the future].” (1989, 41)

Thus Bollas concludes that “One can fulfil [sic] one’s destiny if one is fortunate8, if one is determined, if one is aggressive enough” (1989, 31).  If, as an infant, one is blessed to be surrounded by objects suited to her idiom, and by caregiver(s) who facilitate her idiomatic use of these objects; if, as a child, she has access to her aggression and her destiny drive, she will move towards her future and learn how to creatively surround herself with a whole field of personally-chosen objects that help her live into her idiom, moving toward her destiny.

[As healthy adults,] we create a field of objects which serve to express our idiom and are its signature.  Each of us establishes a private culture, and personal effects are those cultural objects we generate. (Bollas 1989, 49)

Destiny vs. Fate

And what if neither the elements of a child’s object world nor a child’s caregivers are such a match for her idiom?  What if a child’s destiny drive is not activated by the people and environment that surround her in the early years?  Bollas postulates that in the space between a person’s idiom (which exists internally) and the object world (which exists externally) there lies either the realm of ‘destiny’ – as just described – or the realm of ‘fate’.  If a young child’s experience in the world is one of progressive articulation of her idiom through the use of objects made available for that purpose, her experience of life will be one of living out her destiny and forcefully moving into her future; but if she does not have the early opportunity to discover and grow into her personal idiom, she will from that time onward feel fated in all her object relations (i.e. in all her relationships and experiences).

To create a destiny, says Bollas, one needs a match between an infant’s idiom and a mother’s care. The mother, in the way she offers herself and the world for her infant’s creative use, gives an important piece of the puzzle.  Other pieces of the puzzle are the infant’s own destiny drive, and access to her own aggression.  Armed with these, “the infant, the child, and then the adult will carry an internal sense of creating one’s own life.” (1989, 34)

But, if the mother, instead of offering objects for an infant’s creative use, is – for example -- neglectful or controlling in the way she presents objects, an infant’s first experience of objects will be that object-use is pre-ordained, unsatisfying, confusing, deadening or even impossible.  One learns to relate (or to not-relate) to objects in the specific ways that one is taught, and relies on those internalized lessons for future object relations. 

A person who is fated, who is fundamentally interred in an internal world of self and object representations that endlessly repeat the same scenarios, has very little sense of a future that is at all different from the internal environment they carry around with them.  The sense of fate is a feeling of despair to influence the course of one’s life.  (Bollas 1989, 35)

For the fated person, aggression is not channeled into a force for living, and life seems too heavy to bear.

The effect of Psychoanalysis on Fate and Destiny

As a psychoanalyst, Bollas has distinguished these realms of fate and destiny in his encounters with patients, and he sees psychoanalysis as a setting in which a person, stuck in a realm of fate, might reconnect with her destiny drive and slowly learn to appropriate objects as a means of living out her idiom, thus giving her a sense of creative power in her life.

It may be an essential part of analytic work to help a patient transform fatedness into destiny and to gain futures. (1989, 44)

Interestingly, Bollas calls our attention to two different processes that occur in psychoanalysis – interpretation and transference – and says that it is in this latter function that the potential for this kind of transformation lies. Bollas sees interpretation as a deconstructive process; the analyst breaks down the manifest content in the patient’s dream-narratives, associations, and observations, in order to analyze their unconscious content (1989, 24).  Transference, according to Bollas, is an elaborative process, because it is in the transference (‘transference’ being the patient’s experience of the relationship between her and the analyst) that the patient “cumulatively constructs [her] object world through the person of the analyst.” (1989, 24) Analysts find themselves in multiple roles, participating in multiple processes. When the analyst deconstructs, via interpretation, she is an analytic subject.  As a transference figure, via the relationship that slowly emerges between herself and her patient, she allows herself be used as an object, and her mental state is receptive rather than analytic (1989, 24).  Whereas interpretation oftentimes satisfies the patient’s ‘need to know’, it is in the transference that a patient’s ‘force to become’ is unleashed.

The need to know and the force to become are not [mutually] exclusive, but the latter element of the analytic process has received less attention than it deserves and is my focus now.” (1989, 25)

In other words, the analyst offers herself as an object to be used by the patient in the unique ways that the patient will use her. This use will be determined by a mix of that patient’s innate drive to articulate her idiom through the use of objects, and the way she has learned to relate with objects based on her earliest relationships (usually with her parents).  For someone whose legacy from their early relationship with their parents is a continuing feeling of ‘being fated’, the transference relationship will at first be dominated by this fatedness; but the transference relationship itself offers the possibility of healing and change.  A good analyst, says Bollas, will allow the patient to use her in a way that they were never able to use their parents (i.e. as transformational objects), and as the analysis develops, the patient can discover new ways of using the analyst:

If the [patient] can employ the analyst to multiple effect then an analysis is destiny, as the patient uses the analyst and the analytic process to articulate the terms of their personality. (p. 40)

            Of course, if the patient is not used to appropriating objects for the articulation of her idiom (ie if she is someone who feels fated) she will have to grow into this new way of relating with the analyst.  This evolution in the transference requires time and aggression on the part of the patient.  And it requires patience, empathy and a willingness to be ‘destroyed’ on the part of the analyst.

[The] patient destroys the analyst through that particular object usage we call the transference… 

[E]ach transference use of the analyst is in some respects a destruction of the analyst’s true personality, and this ruthless employment of the analyst is essential to the patient’s…elaboration of his true self through experience….

[T]he ‘to be-destroyed’ analyst has a different function – indeed is a different object – from that analyst who deconstructs the material [via interpretation]. (1989, 35)9

Implications for work with the Bible

What are the implications for Bollas’ theories, as we work with people and the Bible?  Here I will address three areas of consideration.

Appropriating the Bible

In the first area of consideration, I ask this question: What happens if we consider Bollas’ notion of the Destiny Drive as we think about how we teach the Bible to children?

To remind the reader: the destiny drive is “the urge to find objects through which to come into one’s shape…and to fashion the object world at the same time” (Bollas 1992, 71).  Awareness of the destiny drive may serve as a significant illumination for those of us in religious education.  According to this theory, children have an innate drive to use the objects we offer them.  The Bible is not only a religious object, it is a psychological object.  If a child’s idiom finds expression through her particular choices of objects, and through her particular uses of those objects, might we begin to think about the ways a child appropriates the Bible as key to her ability to live into her unique religious idiom10?

This calls for different kinds of training for religious educators – where emphasis is placed not only on ‘what’ is being taught (e.g. “If you’re going to teach the Bible you better know the Bible”), but how it is being offered (e.g. “If you are going to empower a child to appropriate the Bible, you’d better learn how to offer the Bible in such a way that it can be appropriated by unique individuals in the ways that are most suited to them.”)  And, of course, it also calls for new methods and approaches in the curriculum itself.

Below is an example of a potential curriculum for a bible study with older children, who are already familiar with a variety of bible stories.

Instead of reading and interpreting one bible story with the whole class on a given Sunday, the teacher offers a dozen stories to choose from.  Each participant then chooses the one they want to work with over the next several weeks.  This alone might access the destiny drive, as it would offer the opportunity for each child’s innate wisdom to dictate which story (if any!) might offer the possibility of functioning as an object to help elaborate that child’s idiom.  Then the teacher offers a variety of ways each child can work with that chosen story.  Again, each child chooses the project that appeals most to her.  Thus another aspect of the destiny drive would be enlisted: the child’s urge to ‘fashion the object world’ and creatively interact with one’s environment in a process of meaning-making.  Examples of suggestions the teacher could offer as the means of interacting with the chosen stories:

*Think and write about what this story means to you.  What is your history with this story? What does it mean to you now at this particular time in your life?

*Set this story to music.

*What don’t you like about this story?  How would you rewrite it?

*Research the ways this story is used (in your church/synagogue, as well as in other contexts).

*Find this story in many different bibles.  What are some of the differences in the different versions.  What are the similarities?  (In the case of some stories – such as the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the birth of Jesus, versions these stories can be found in other scriptures as well, namely the Quran)

*”Fill in the blanks”.  Pick one character in the story who is not a main focus in the narrative.  Imagine their perspective, and write a story from their point of view.

Letting children choose the content and the means of interacting with that content  is one of many possible ways ‘bible study’ can be an opportunity for children to access their idiom and their unconscious skills to realize their idiom.  Because we are talking about religious education, it is important to note that such a bible-study helps children discover and live into their religious idiom.  If a variety of objects can help a person discover who she is and live into her destiny, religious objects are those objects that help her discover who she is in relationship with the divine.  In theological terms, we often speak of one’s religious idiom as one’s ‘faith life’; likewise, the theological notion of ‘vocation’ may be viewed, through this use of Bollas’s theories, as the destiny to be lived out by someone in their unique relationship to the divine.

This, then, is a tenet of this aspect of religious education: By offering religious objects with psychological awareness, we allow for the possibility that these objects will serve as experiential elaborators of a child’s faith life.  We seek to bring the text to the child, rather than seeking to bring the child to the text.11  And we do so with as much faith in the child as we have in the Bible.  By seeking to be in tune with the child’s unique preferences and abilities regarding object-use, and by offering the Bible to the child in this context, we allow the Bible to function as a transformational object, both psychologically and religiously.  We never need to teach a child, “The Bible is important!  The Bible speaks the truth!” If each child is given the opportunity to use the Bible (and/or other religious objects suitable to her) in ways that access her own creative participation in her destiny, in ways that ignite her religious idiom, she will have chosen the Bible and found its unique uses in her unique journey of faith.  Thus she will discover its importance and truth in a deep and personal way.

Transference onto Religious Objects

As a second area of consideration, I ask, “What happens if we consider Bollas’s distinctions between the work of interpretation and the potential inherent in the transference, as relevant to our work with religious objects?”

To remind the reader: Bollas distinguishes between interpretation, which may satisfy a patient’s ‘need to know, and the transference – aspects of the relationship between patient and analyst – where something else is possible: ‘the force to become’.  In her use of the analyst as an object, the patient has the opportunity to elaborate her idiom.  The patient is unconsciously transferring her earliest relationships (those between her and her mother and/or father) onto this new relationship (that between her and her analyst); the psychoanalyst does not simply repeat the old reality but responds to the patient in ways that access the patient’s force to become.  The analyst thus offers herself as an object to be used as an experiential elaborator of the patient’s personality potential.

Bibles, liturgies, pastors, and religious educators, all serve as objects offering knowledge of and interpretation of the divine.  They also serve another function: they are the objects onto whom a person’s relationship with the divine is transferred. 

How does an awareness of this transference relationship affect the way we teach the bible? Liturgy, bible study, Sunday school, and the people who offer them are all potential receptors for a person to elaborate their most personal and unique relationship to the divine.  But they are not one-size-fits-all solutions.  Each person is transferring a unique relationship with the divine onto these texts, and services, and ministers, and educators.  Thinking back to Bollas’s description of a mother’s role with her son, which he believes also describes a good therapist working with an adult: “if she senses his figural intentions, his gestures expressive of need and desire, she will provide objects (including herself) to serve as experiential elaborators of his…potential.”  We realize the great responsibility we hold when we present religious objects to a variety of congregants and students.  Are we sensing their intentions, needs and desires first, and then offering appropriate religious objects as a response?  How do we do this in a way mindful of each individual, while still offering communal worship and support? What does it mean for us as religious educators and pastors that people’s relationship with God is being played out in their relationship with us? 

The answers to these questions cannot be found in Bollas’s theories, or in any text.  They must be discovered in the transference relationship. A guiding question that can help us navigate the terrain as we continue to work with people and the Bible is this:    “As I offer the Bible in this way to this person, am I offering a bible that unleashes a person’s destiny in their life-long relationship to God and faith, or am I offering the Bible and myself in a way that corroborates the person’s feeling of being fated by life, condemned in their relationship with God?” 

One example of the ways fatedness might come into play in the transference relationship between a person and the Bible stems from the fact, noted by feminist critics, that the Bible is saturated in patriarchal language and history.  Just as an infant’s destiny can shrink to a feeling of fatedness if there is a poor fit between her and her object world, and she is forced to use certain objects in certain ways, so a young girl’s relationship with God and with herself can be squelched if the religious objects presented to her (and the ways they are offered) reinforce patriarchy and sexism.  Thus, in this example, the choices we make in terms of what biblical passages to use with young girls, and the way we use them, are of great importance.  And the potential for our work with adults is also there.  Just as the psychoanalytic relationship holds the potential for healing and transformation of the patient’s psyche, without being able to give the patient new parents, so do liturgies and bible studies hold the potential for healing and transformation of people’s relationship with God, even if their history with religion and the Bible has been damaging.  It is in the relationship between a person and her religious objects  -- her relationships with bible, liturgy, pastor, religious educator to name a few – that her ‘force to become’ a person of faith, in unique relationship with God,  can be healed and transformed.

Destruction and aggression: Keys to our religious futures

As a third and final area of consideration, I will take a brief look at some implications regarding Bollas’s theories on destruction and aggression.  We have seen that certain forms of aggression are necessary in healthy object relations.  Ruthlessness and creative destructiveness enable an infant, child and then adult to passionately use objects and actively create a meaningful future.  What are the implications for our work with the Bible as a transformational object?  We realize that it is crucial that the educator allows for the students’ aggression towards the Bible.

First, this is important for the personal development of the students, be they children or adults. Questioning and criticizing are legitimate uses of religious objects because these objects are also psychological objects.  It is only through an authentic attempt to destroy them, that these objects will become psychically real for a person.   It is only in trying many, and rejecting some, that a person will find the particular religious objects (and unique ways of using them!) that will activate that person’s faith, and allow them to elaborate their religious idiom. It is in this way that a person can become truly passionate about their religious objects. As educators, if we have our own concerns about the ability of the Bible to survive our students’ aggression, we must take this as a sign to explore our own untapped aggression towards the Bible, and have hope that in this untapped aggression lies the fuel to activate a more authentic relationship with a Bible that is realer and more alive to us.  Applying Bollas’s insight on the psychoanalytic situation to our own: one function of the Bible is as a “to-be-destroyed” Bible!

Second, allowing for students’ aggression towards the Bible is important on a larger scale as well. Bollas’s discussion of the destiny drive reminds us that “people who have a sense of destiny also invest psychically in the future.  This involves a certain necessary ruthlessness and creative destructiveness, of the past and the present, in order to seek conditions necessary” for the future (1989, 41).  When religious educators work with respect for each child’s religious idiom, and help them appropriate the Bible for their unique uses, they can expect to see a certain amount of necessary ruthlessness and creative destructiveness as they struggle to establish their selves in relationship to God. And this creative destructiveness is clearing the way for our collective religious future. With such a healthy relationship to religious objects, these children will discard what is false and no longer alive for them in our religious tradition, clearing their path of religious objects that are no longer useful for them, and in so doing clearing the way for new possibilities.  As they use the Bible and other religious objects in the ways dictated by their own destiny drives, they will be intuitively seeking the conditions necessary for the future.  Their aggression, channeled into their passionate relationship with the Bible and other religious objects, will be the force that fuels the evolution of our collective religious future.

Concluding Thoughts

The psychoanalytic theories we have briefly examined here all give a view of the human psyche that emphasizes our human capacity to be generative.  Bollas give us a view of our innate drives and relational tendencies that, rather than emphasizing the pathological, reminds us of our creative potential.  When we approach the Bible and religious education with a mind towards our generative capacity, the possibilities are intriguing.

Viewing the Bible as both a religious and a psychological object helps us to unlock the Bible’s capacity for healing and transformation.  If, ala Christopher Bollas, a variety of objects can be appropriated by a person as a means for unlocking his unique personality; then religious objects – such as the Bible – can be appropriated in our quest to discover who we are in our relationship with the divine.  By offering religious objects with such psychological awareness, religious professionals allow for the possibility that these objects will serve as experiential elaborators of a person’s faith life, of their religious idiom. 

And what does it look like when we have experiential elaborators for our religious idiom? With such a healthy, generative relationship to our religious objects, our relationship to the divine has a space in which to come alive; our religious life is dynamic, as we creatively surround ourselves with personally-chosen objects that help us live into our religious idiom.  Each object, and our use of it, becomes a channel of relationship with the divine. The traditions of our chosen religion become to us like treasure houses, where we can hunt around for just the right potential objects.  The centuries of dogmas, prayer practices, biographies, artistic expressions, are all alive with the potential for our new discovery of them, and the possibility that God may then use them in communication with us. 

Such an attitude toward religion stretches the open-mindedness of parents and religious educators.  Bollas’s theories about idiom and destiny, when applied to religion, raise questions about the fit between the religion one is born into and one’s unique religious idiom. Can we allow for the possibility that the religious idiom of some children and adults may need objects and uses that take them beyond their religion’s walls?  In recognizing the potential for the Bible to act as a transformation object, we also realize that it is not everyone’s transformational object.

Paradoxically, though, it is such open-mindedness on the part of religious educators and parents that leaves more room for children to use us as religious objects with which to elaborate their religious idiom, whatever it may be.  The one who offers themselves and their scriptures, receptive to another’s elaborative use of them, allows for transformation and healing.



Bollas, C., Being  a Character:Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, New York:Routlage, 1992.

_______, Forces of Destiny: Psychoanalysis and Human Idiom, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc, 1989.

_______, The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.

Brown, S. Text and Psyche: Experiencing Scripture Today, Continuum: 1998.

Rollins, W.G., Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psycyhological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.

Schneiders, S.M. The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture,San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Winnicott, D. W. On ‘The Use of an Object‘.”  Pages 217-246  in Psychoanalytic Explorations.  Edited by C. Winnicott, R. Shepherd, M. Davis.  Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1989.

_______,  “Communicating and not Communicating Leading to a Study of Certain Opposites” In The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development,(New York: International Universities Press, 1965.


1 Originally I hoped to examine the implications of Bollas’ theories for pastors and scholars as well. Due to the need to limit the scope of this paper, I have limited my focus here mostly to the religious educator.  The implications for pastors and scholars are, I believe, interesting and worthwhile. I look forward to exploring those in future work.

2 For more on the bible as a religious object, see Schneiders, S.M. The Revelatory Text: Interpreting the New Testament as Sacred Scripture,San Francisco:HarperSanFrancisco, 1991, 27-93.

3 Though all object-relations theorists speak of ‘objects’, Bollas alone has coined the term ‘tranformational object.’  For a full discussion on his understanding of the term, see the first chapter of The Shadow of the Object, “The transformational object”, 13-29.

4 Much work has already been done in Psychological Biblical Criticism, that crosses this bridge between the Bible as religious object and psychological object. For an example of biblical interpretation that treats the text as religious and psychological object simultaneously, see Brown, S. Text and Psyche: Experiencing Scripture Today, Continuum: 1998.

5 For more on the bible as a psychological object, see  Rollins, W.G., Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psycyhological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999. “The Text and its Effect on the Reader in Psychological Perspective” 146-156.

6 For further reading, see The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987. Forces of Destiny: Psychoanalysis and Human Idiom, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc, 1989. Being  a Character:Psychoanalysis and Self Experience, New York:Routlage, 1992.

7 The use of the word “self” and the phrase  “true self” in psychological literature can be confusing in that different theorists understand it differently.  Bollas uses “true self” and “idiom” interchangeably (Bollas 1992, 64) For a full discussion of Bollas’s use of these terms see “A Theory for the True Self” in Forces of Destiny, 7-22.  For an attempt to define the term ‘self’ within the context of psychological biblical criticism, see Rollins, W.G., Soul and Psyche: The Bible in Psycyhological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999 “Toward a Psychological Model of the Soul/Psyche/Self” 105-111.

8 Bollas does not dwell on the socio-economic factors that impact a person’s object world.  It is beyond the scope of this paper to do so here, but those with social-justice awareness realize that there are various cultural factors that can impede or enhance a child’s appropriation of objects, and stymie or encourage her destiny drive.

9 Bollas’s notions of healthy destructiveness, and ruthless use of an object, are grounded in the work of DW Winnicott.  For those interested in Winnicott’s discussion of aggression and object use, see  DW Winnicott, “On ‘The Use of an Object‘.”Pages 217-246  in Psychoanalytic Explorations.  Edited by C. Winnicott, R. Shepherd, M. Davis.  Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1989; and D.W. Winnicott, “Communicating and not Communicating Leading to a Study of Certain Opposites” In The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development,( New York: International Universities Press, 1965).

10 See below for my definition of this term.

11 I hope to consult our colleagues at SBL who work with theories of religious education, to learn something about how this has been framed in the context of pedagogical theory.  One colleague of mine at Union Theological Seminary, Laurel Koepf, works with a ‘childist hermeneutic’ in biblical studies. I believe she has described it as “learning about the Bible from children, rather than teaching it to them.”  Such a hermeneutic would be very much in keeping with the notion of ‘appropriating the Bible’ that I discuss here.