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Medium 9781855756441

7 Work with vulnerable families

Jonathan Bradley Karnac Books ePub

Fadumo Osman Ahmed

In this chapter I describe the work I do in a community centre, responding to the needs of refugees. Unusually, both staff and clients originate from the same country, most having come to this country within the past 10–12 years. For many, adapting to new circumstances has led to many emotional and exposing moments. It is a community that has experienced loss in a profound way: most of the clients are “single” mothers struggling to bring up 5 or 6 children on their own. It is a life made worse by not knowing what has happened to their husbands, homes, financial assets, and even other children who had become separated in the panicky flight from danger.1

There was a paradox in the way the community as a whole dealt with these shocking events: they produced traumatic reactions, but it was difficult for them to be fully acknowledged. I will describe my own attempts to understand quite complex feelings. I became aware that both staff and clients disregarded mental illness, and in fact it seemed to me that the staff deprived their clients of the mental health services they needed, perhaps because it was too painful to face up to these issues.

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Medium 9781782200604

1 - The Transition from Home to Nursery School

Simonetta MG Adamo Karnac Books ePub

Isca Wittenberg

This chapter was written as a talk for a group of nursery teachers in Naples at an opening conference of a new project of ongoing workshops for nursery staff. It presents a lucid and evocative account of the problems young children encounter in facing the first substantial separation from mother and home and provides a fitting introduction to a collection of papers arising from observations of young children at home and in nursery settings. It is a reminder of a natural link between child psychotherapists and those involved in education in the early years. The upsurge of commitment to and investment in preschool education in Great Britain and elsewhere provides a new opportunity for such fruitful encounters.

Embarking on something new—a course of study, marriage, having a baby, moving to a new house—all such events tend to arouse hope of increasing our knowledge, pleasure, and fulfilment. It is such hopeful expectations that lead us throughout life to continue to seek out new experiences. The young child beginning to go to nursery is also filled with hope, expecting to find interesting toys to play with, to learn to do things that the older children he admires are able to do, and to meet children who might become his friends. Unless previous experiences have been too deeply disappointing, we continue throughout life to hope that some new event might bring us nearer to the fulfilment of what we desire. We may invest it with hope and indeed idealize it, but at the same time we are also likely to harbour fears and dread about what this unknown new situation will bring with it. We may be afraid that the new place or person will be frightening, the new child be unmanageable, unlovable; that the new teacher will be harsh, punitive, too demanding. We may be afraid that we will not have the physical, mental, or emotional capacity to live up to the new challenge; we may feel lost in new surroundings, confused and disturbed by new ideas. We may fear to be judged by others, thought to be stupid, ignorant, lacking talent; we may be afraid that we will be made to feel inadequate, laughed at, disliked, thrown out. All these thoughts tend to arise when we are faced with a new situation.

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Medium 9781855752696

9. Making Out in America: The Mouse and His Child

Margaret Rustin Karnac Books ePub

The Mouse and His Child is something of an American epic novel scaled down for child readers. It provides a double point of identification for its reader, both through the fantasy of a toy come to life (a theme shared with many earlier stories such as Pinocchio and The Little Wooden Horse1) and through the toy mouse’s being characterized as a child, with a child’s primary preoccupations. The mouse child’s longing and hope is to reconstitute a home and a family, remembered from his earliest days of consciousness in the dolls’ house in the toy shop, where an elephant sang him a lullaby and where there was a seal whom he later chose to be his adopted sister:

‘Maybe we could look for the elephant and the seal and the dolls’ house that used to be in the store with us/ said the child. ‘Couldn’t we, Papa?’

‘What in the world for?’ said the father.

‘So we can have a family and be cosy/ answered the child.

This mouse-child’s longings have the power to remake the world of this story, bringing about the marriage of his father, the adoption of a sister and three uncles (Frog, the kingfisher and the bittern) and the redemption of their main enemy, the gangster king of the dump, Manny Rat, and his eventual adoption as the fourth uncle. The potency of the child’s longings and dreams is a powerful realization of a child’s view of the world, made universal through the story, by constant reference to the main characters not by names, which they seem to lack, but as ‘the father’ and ‘the child’. In the context of this story, the moving force of the child’s hopes for his family also carries a specific social meaning.

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Medium 9781780491066

11 Growing points and the role of observation

Maria Rhode Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Meg Harris Williams

The title of this chapter is taken from my mother’s last paper, published in 1982: “Growing points in psychoanalysis inspired by the work of Melanie Klein”. Here she reflects on the influence of Mrs Klein and selects what she considers to be genuine subsequent “growing points” in the history of psychoanalysis itself; Bion would call these points of “catastrophic change”.

What is a growing point? To pursue her botanical metaphor, a growing point is a place where all the essential genetic information for development is concentrated, ready to sprout or branch outward. It is a point at which different influences converge, meet, and create another shoot (a new idea or “baby”), and there is of course an implication of inevitable “growing pains”. She uses the term “inspired by”, which always implies a sense of responding to a life-force beyond any single person’s control – “the force that through the green fuse drives the fower” as Dylan Tomas expresses it (Fern Hill). The historical growing points since Klein that she lists in her paper are very few: firstly, Bion’s idea of the thinking breast that operates through normal projective identifcation; secondly, Mrs Bick’s of normal unintegration and integration; thirdly Meltzer’s distinction between three- and two-dimensionality. These are all concepts that enhance our capacity to observe the complexity of normal development, marking the seismic shift in psychoanalytic thinking from its earlier preoccupation with psychopathology and diagnosis.

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8 Made in Hampstead and exported throughout the world: Germany and Austria

Maria Rhode Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Ross A. Lazar

Leaving London and the Tavistock after studying and working there so intensively for more than seven years was not an easy thing for me to do. But having qualifed as a psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapist under the superb guidance and professional expertise of Mattie Harris as course organizer, mentor and “motherly friend”, it was finally time for me to move on. And because of my “previous life” as a student of the History of Art and German Language and Literature in Munich – not to mention the fact that it is my wife’s home – Munich was a logical place to look to in order to open the next chapter in our lives. This part of the decision was made easier by the worsening economic conditions in England at the end of the 1970s, the advent of Margaret Tatcher, and the fact that Germany was booming and greatly in need of well-trained child psychotherapists. Trough a great stroke of luck, I was offered a job at the Biederstein Zentrum, a newly opened outpatient clinic for child and adolescent psychotherapy which Professor Jochen Stork – a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst trained in Paris – had established the previous year in the medical faculty of the Technical University of Munich. But how to even think about leaving the relatively safe haven of the Tavi, of both orthodox Kleinian and the invigorating developments in “post-Kleinian” thinking and practice (as it was coming to be referred to back then), and go out into a strange world to attempt to practice psychoanalytic psychotherapy in a foreign language with children and adolescents whose backgrounds and life circumstances were so very different from my own? The idea both daunted and terrified me! But the decision had been made: we were going. In my insecurity and anxiety, I turned to Mattie to ask for advice, to gain support, and to assuage my fears that I was making a big mistake.

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