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17 Revisiting some lessons learned from Martha Harris

Maria Rhode Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Dina Vallino

Imet Martha in the mid-1970s when, invited by Lina Generali Clements, she used to visit the Centro Milanese di Psicoanalisi. I had the great fortune of having both the supervision of Martha Harris (assisted by Donald Meltzer) for an infant observation, and of attending seminars led by her. Martha’s supervision of Luca alternated on a monthly basis with that of Lina Generali Clements. During this same period, Mattie also supported me through her supervision of a number of severe cases that I had in psychoanalysis at that time. When she was unable to stop over in Milan, I used to go to the airport where, between fights, she would give me her supervision over a cup of tea. She always offered me, unfailingly, all the understanding and help that a young analyst might hope for when starting out. Profound and firm in her ideas, Martha was also kind and approachable, and I feel an enormous sense of gratitude towards her.

In 1989 I published, in issue 18 of Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile – which was devoted entirely to Martha Harris – several supervisions which she gave me on the case of a girl called Lucia. Lucia was ten years old and affected by severe epileptic seizures, and had started intensive analysis with me (four sessions a week) at the age of five. The session and supervision from 1981 of which I here provide the transcript was recorded by some friends who were also present; and transcribed by Maria Pagliarani, Adele Pavia and Iolanda Galli. In my view it is highly representative of Mattie’s style of working. I have also added a few comments on how I developed as an analyst and on the significance, to me, of Martha Harris’s teaching.

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27 Personal recollections of learning from Mattie Harris

Maria Rhode Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Pamela Sorensen

Certain memories carry more than personal narrative because they illustrate shifts in awareness that open new kinds of emotional learning. I would like to share certain moments and observations that remain vivid in my mind because they illustrate the impact that contact with Mattie Harris had on my development as a child psychotherapist and as a teacher. I think Mattie’s ideas about growth and development permeated the culture of the child psychotherapy training at the Tavistock in ways that I took for granted, so that I did not understand what I was learning from her while I was learning it. Looking back I realize how profound an influence her ideas and her character had on my thinking.

When I applied to the Tavistock training at 25, I had already investigated the three other child psychotherapy trainings in London at that time (the early 1970s). I will describe these encounters in some detail because my experience of them provides the context for my first meeting with Mattie. Other people will, of course, have had quite diferent impressions of these institutions and the personalities that inhabited them.

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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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7. Chekhov: the pain of intimate relationships

Margaret Rustin Karnac Books ePub

Chekhov was a doctor, in what we would now call general practice,1 before he became a playwright, and he is like a good doctor, even a psychoanalyst, in his almost unvarying refusal to blame or judge his subjects.2 Instead, his interest is in understanding his characters as they are. He wishes us to recognize their suffering, to understand that its origins lie outside themselves, but also to see the cruel way in which they cannot help but pass on their mental pain to others—including, most often, those whom they most love. The characters in his great plays are linked by and trapped within these.circuits of suffering. Chekhov provides an anatomy of the different ways there are of coping or not coping with such pain, including the extremes of killing and suicide, of self-distancing by abandonment, and of narcissistic complacency—and also, at the opposite pole, in representations of a capacity for “depressive pain” suffered on behalf of loved others, of the highest order. It is the representation of such willingly shared suffering, for example at the end of Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya, that often moves their audiences to tears of sympathy.

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Appendix: Portrait of Mattie

Maria Rhode Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Donald Meltzer

She was tall and strongly built, even slightly masculine, if you didn’t look at those arresting eyes. Heavy-lidded and deep-set, almost sleepy and yet penetratingly attentive, with a soft blue grey, “the hills in my eyes” she would say. The strong facial bone structure of her father rather overshadowed the aspects of delicate beauty from her mother (“What wonderful big hats she wore”, Mattie would say longingly). Her gait in latter years was a bit stif in the lower back which emphasized the fine, broad thorax. She looked particularly splendid in royal blue and purple and would have worn floral gowns for ever. Fine materials were a passion, and she could rapidly run up a dress, though never with the skill and patience of her mother. She always had too many irons in the fire, so that meals, lectures, the garden, sewing and reading tended to go on simultaneously in some mysterious economy. For days before giving a party for the students at the Old Rectory at Mersea, the shopping and cooking would go on in the interstices of the day and night. And on the day, amazing amounts in amazing varieties of meats and salads and sweets would emerge as if from nowhere.

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