How we communicate or what behaviors we carry out with them or in their presence, among other aspects, greatly affects the type of relationship we have with others.

Bearing in mind that interpersonal relationships are an element of great importance in our development and that the human being is a gregarious being by nature, being able to bond affectively in a correct way and that allows normative and relatively continuous contact is fundamental.

In fact, being able to establish a bond is important from birth, given that after birth the baby is completely dependent on the adults in his or her care. That is why the study of the mechanisms used to relate to our fellow human beings has been the subject of much research and has generated various theories.

Among them we can find the theory of the Pichon-Riviere bond , one of the first psychodynamics to pass from intrapsychic psychology to interpersonal psychology in the field of psychoanalysis.

The link according to Pichon-Riviere

The term “bond” is conceptualized by Pichon-Riviere as the way in which a person relates to others , establishing a relational structure between both communicants that will be unique between them.

This structure marks the way in which one will interact, establishing which communicative guidelines and which behaviors are acceptable and adaptive in the context of the bonding.

The link does not only refer to an emotional component but incorporates both the emotional sphere and the cognitive and behavioural spheres , and all these aspects are modified through interaction.The resulting structure is dynamic and fluid, varying and being affected by the feedback that the behaviour of one produces in the other.

The link is a fundamental element for survival and adaptation to both the social and natural environment, since it allows one to influence the environment while being influenced by it.The existence of links is mainly due to the ability to communicate, through which we establish contact with others and learn from the consequences of our behaviour on them.


According to the bond theory, the bond is bicorporal, given that on the physical level there are two elements in contact (the subject and the other(s)). However, despite the fact that two beings interact in every link or relationship, there are at least three components that must be taken into account , the emitting self, the object (considering itself as the person or thing with which the linkage is produced) and the third, which is understood as the ideal or fantasy built by the self on the object and which indicates how we are going to relate to it.

When establishing a relationship with an object, the subject maintains two links at the same time, one external to the object itself and one internal to the unconscious fantasy that will be projected onto the object and that will mark the existence and type of communication.

In a healthy bond, according to Pichon-Riviere, the structure that will arise from the interaction will be of a spiral type , being the behavior and communication of the subject with a reaction on the part of the object that will give a feedback to the first one so that it can vary its behavior.

Likewise, the object will also modify its behavior based on the subject’s actions, the link being a two-way relationship in which both elements in communication influence each other in a dynamic way and motivated by psychological needs.

The three D’s

For the author of the bond theory, the role or role assumed in the bond interaction is of great importance . When assuming a role, the role that each of the components of the link must have and the fact that they agree on the role given to each one must be taken into account.

In a linkage we can mainly find the figure of the depositor, who is the one who issues the information or conduct, the depository or recipient of it and the deposited, the transmitted content or the action taken.

Communicating on the link

As we have mentioned, one of the fundamental requirements for the establishment of a link is the presence of a fluid communication between subject and object. As far as the communicative act is concerned, Pichon-Riviere starts from the belief that all communication is based on five fundamental principles.

Firstly, it is important to emphasize that the social affects and structures us from within, forming part of our being . We want and need to link up, being affected and affecting the environment at the same time.

A second principle refers to the fact that the behaviours we carry out are determined by the most internal . Our unconscious drives us to act communicatively in order to express our needs, drives and desires.

The third of the principles implies that every act or even the absence of it is communicative , and there cannot be an act that does not transmit anything. Every action and interaction carried out contains a deep meaning that may be hidden.

Another principle refers to the need for dynamism, openness and mutual adaptation between people who are linked, making it clear that the absence of fluidity and the presence of constant perseverance and repetition is synonymous with pathology.

Finally, it indicates that all individuals try at all times to communicate, with all mental activity being directed towards establishing communication.

Extracting learning: ECRO

Through communication we extract a learning that allows us a more adaptive link. The data extracted from the interaction allows us to generate a scheme with which to organize the concepts so that we can adapt to the changes in reality.

This scheme works with concepts acquired throughout our lives to work in the context of interaction and produce changes that modify the world. Thus, we will use the schemes formed in order to influence the environment and make the links more functional and adaptive .

The three areas

In the process of interaction between the components of a link, the subject must establish a relationship between his mind, his body and external reality.

These three areas coexist at all times, although there may be a predominance over one or another as we carry out certain behaviors. According to Pichon-Riviere, q ue predominates or is inhibited will mark the personality of the individual , which in turn will greatly affect the capacity for bonding and may even generate pathological bonds.

The psychological field

When it comes to establishing a link, the interaction between the linked elements takes place in a specific context where the exchange takes place, a context that is called the psychological field. This is the context in which the subject communicates with the environment.

The author proposes that from this psychological field, different data can be extracted from observation that allow working with groups at a clinical level. Mainly, the most relevant information in this respect is the subject’s own behaviour, the bodily changes that allow to analyse the emotions and attitudes of the subject , preverbal communication, the facts or experiences and the outline or set of elements that are in permanent interaction.

  • Related article: “Emotional psychology: main theories of emotion”

A healthy bond

A healthy relationship is one in which the “I” is capable of using strategies to manage the bad and to preserve the good in the relationship, maintaining efficient two-way communication that can be adaptive. For this to be so, it is necessary that there be a permanent, sincere and direct communication in which the needs of subject and object are taken into account, in addition to the fact that this communication produces a learning process that allows for the feedback of one’s own behaviour.

Thus, the key components for the existence of a good link are the presence of correct, efficient and feedback-oriented two-way communication and the fact that such communication allows for the acquisition of learning.

  • You may be interested in: “Active listening: the key to communicating with others”

Pathological links

Not every kind of bond is healthy. Although, as we have said, the link generally involves a spiral structure in which feedback is given to the relationship, on occasions this structure is hindered and paralysed by fear , which causes the third party to act as a barrier and the link ends up becoming something static that prevents it from adapting adequately to the communicational reality.

Thus, for the author of the theory of the link, there are different ways of relating that constitute a pathological link because learning does not take place or because communication dysfunctions are found that do not make the communication completely bidirectional and do not produce a correct mutual modification. Communication would cease to be totally permanent, sincere, direct or dialectic.

Some of the main pathological links are the following :

1. Paranoid link

In this type of bond, aggressive and distrustful behaviours may appear, claiming something from each other.

2. Depressive bond

The bond established generates or is generated by the presence of guilt or need for atonement .

3. Manic bonding

Relationship established due to emotional expansiveness . It is based on impulsivity and frenetic activity.

4.Schizophrenic link

This link is characterized by a high presence of isolation from reality, considering that autism as a relational absence is a characteristic of this psychopathological link. According to Pichon-Riviere, it is typical of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in which the self is disconnected from reality . Clusters of other types of links may appear.

5. Obsessive bonding

The relationship characteristic of an obsessive bond implies that at least one of the individuals linked tries to maintain control and order in the relationship . The aim is to control and monitor the other due to the anxiety produced by distrust.

6. Hypochondriacal bond

The way to relate to the environment becomes the complaint about the state of health or concern for the body.

7. Hysterical link

This type of link is based on representation, wanting the psyche of one of the components of the link to want to express something through action or symptomatology. Thus, there is a great dramatism and plasticity . The type of expression may range from physical symptoms (convulsions, screams, etc.) typical of a conversion hysteria or through fears derived from distrust.

8. Night bonding

Typical of subjects with states of altered consciousness, in this type of bonding a subject tries to establish a relationship with an object but is hindered by sleep . If he manages to establish this, he usually has delusions.

9. Homosexual bonding

Pichon-Riviere started from a traditional conception of psychoanalysis that saw homosexual relations as a perversion . For the author, the homosexual bond had the objective of establishing a relationship with an object that at some point is considered harmful or persecuting, trying to conquer this object through strategies of control and appeasement.

Today the idea that homosexuality belongs to the realm of mental disorders is totally refuted.

10. Epileptic link

The links of this type, which according to this approach are particularly localizable in epileptic patients, imply the presence of tenacity, viscosity in the relationship and a certain component of destructiveness .

11. Regressive link

The regressive link arises at the moment when selfhood, the attainment of the complete self or the totality of being, is denied or clouded . For this author, this type of bond is a type of psychotic episode, and one in which there is a depersonalization.

Importance of this theory

Beyond its impact in studying and analyzing the importance of bonds and their deformation in pathological processes, the importance of the bond theory is such that it would set a precedent in the emergence of social psychology.

It must be taken into account that at the time this theory emerged, psychoanalytic psychology was mainly focused on the internal conflicts of each person, making little reference to environmental factors and to the relational mechanisms between people.

With this theory Pichon-Riviere would open the door to the systematized study of human relations and their organization from psychoanalysis, serving his studies to improve the situation of multiple patients through the treatment of their communications, in a field previously little worked on.

Bibliographic references:

  • Pichon-Riviere, E (1980). Bond theory. Selection and Revision by Fernando Taragano. Contemporary Psychology Collection. New Editions: Buenos Aires