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4. Interactional synchrony and mutuality

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Donald Winnicott

Donald Winnicott has been a pivotal figure in the development of child and family psychiatry and child psychoanalysis in Britain since the 1920s when he first started his career in paediatrics. As a member of the Middle-Group of psychoanalysts, neither wholly Freudian nor Kleinian, Winnicott’s viewpoint is close to that of Balint and Bowlby in that he stresses the primacy of the mother-infant tie from the point of view of both mother and baby. Like Balint and Bowlby, he has made his psychoanalytic perspective accessible to the general public through his capacity to communicate with non-professionals as well as professionals who are not analysts, such as parents, nurses, midwives, social workers, general practitioners, paediatricians and teachers - that is, anyone who has entered the world of children. Like the above two authors, his written work has been addressed to both specialists and to the general public. His three small volumes (The Child and the Family (1957a), The Child and the Outside World (1957b), The Family and Individual Development (1965a)) are practical enough to have been broadcast and read by thousands, while his four volumes of collected papers (1958b, 1965b, 1971a, 1971b) form a major contribution to the specialised field of child psychoanalysis.

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5. Narcissus: an ‘average’ history

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Let us now turn to the myth and read of the birth of the hero, Narcissus, and the unfolding relationship between him and his mother, Leiriope. In the words Freud used to describe his reconstruction of the Oedipus legend (Freud, 1939), the following account is presented as an ‘average’ story of Narcissus’ short life. We are told that Leiriope gave birth to ‘a child with whom one could have fallen in love even in his cradle, and she called him Narcissus’ (Ovid, 1955, p. 83). Through the naming of her child, Leiriope already announces some of her expectations. Graves tells us that the narcissus was also called ‘leirion’ (Graves, 1955, p. 288). The leirion was a three-petalled blue fleur-de-lys or iris which was sacred to the Triple-Goddess and worn as a chaplet when the Three Solemn Ones, or Erinnyes, were being placated. It flowers in the late autumn, shortly before the ‘poef s narcissus’, which, Graves says, is perhaps why Leiriope has been described as Narcissus’ mother. Leiriope means literally the face of (-ope) the leirion. It appears, therefore, that the narcissus flower either had another name, the leirion, or it closely superseded the flowering of the leirion. We may infer from Leiriope’s choice of a name that a child represented a strong wish for closeness and even for the birth of a version of herself.

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3. Primary object-love and primary affectional bonds

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Michael Balint

Michael Balint, who was born in Budapest in 1896 and was analysed by one of Freud’s earliest followers and colleagues, Sandor Ferenczi, was one of the foremost pioneers of the object-relations school. Together with the Scottish psychoanalyst, W. R. D. Fairbairn, he might be regarded as the forerunner of the British ‘Middle Group’ of analysts - a group which continues to play an important role in the integration and clarification of Freudian and Kleinian theory. In 1939, Balint came to England, where he made important contributions both to the developing theory of psychoanalysis and to general psychiatry and medicine. He is particularly well-known for his innovative groups for general practitioners; through these groups, which were attended by doctors from all over Britain, Balint was able to bring psychiatric and psychoanalytic insights into the lives of the general public (Balint, 1957). Balint’s relational concept of ‘primary love’ brought an entirely new perspective to the theory of infancy and a focus on relationships which was quite different to that of Anna Freud and Melanie Klein. Ferenczi had made a particular study of mother-child relations and his interest in the strength of the mother-infant relationship continued to inspire the Hungarian school of psychoanalysts centred in Budapest. Ferenczi introduced the phrase ‘passive object-love’ to describe the infant’s self-centred, but absolutely dependent, love for the mother. In the 1930s, Michael Balint, his wife, Alice, and colleague, I. Hermann, published a series of papers in which they emphasised the importance of the infant’s primary instinct to cling. Hermann observed clinging and grasping movements in the early weeks of the life of infant apes and human babies. He did not postulate that these behaviours were evidence of a primary object-relationship, but Alice and Michael Balint combined his observations with Ferenczi’s concept of passive object-love to form their new concept of ‘primary object-love’. Primary object-love acknowledges the active role played by the infant, illustrated by his clinging tie to the mother. Primary love is thus descriptive of an active love of the mother. The Balints’ view of a primary object-relationship is similar to that of Melanie Klein in that the infant is active and his love is egocentric. However, although unaware of his mother’s interests, the infant’s relationship is neither destructive nor dominated by orality.

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11. The riddle of life

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

‘What being, with only one voice, has sometimes two feet, sometimes three, sometimes four, and is weakest when it has the most?’

‘Man, because he crawls on all fours as an infant, stands firmly on his two feet in his youth, and leans upon a staff in his old age.

I have linked the Oedipal phase with the age of enquiry and exploration which begins when the child is able to crawl and which is well underway when the child takes his first steps. This stage progresses with the child’s pronouncement of the T and the concomitant development of language, and his use of identity as a secure base for exploration. It culminates with the comprehension of the ‘reality principle’, which I associate with the capacity to relate to an order of things outside the area of subjective control and wishes. Transitional schemas assist in the differentiation of the personal from the consensual. In my interpretation, the riddle offers an invitation to leave behind the world of concrete action (characterised by analogical communication) and to enter a new domain of information and knowledge (characterised by paradoxical and digital communication). The riddle is a word-puzzle. In Sophocles’ play, we are told that Oedipus’ downfall is brought about by ‘blind deeds’. Actions are taken because of a lack of understanding. The acquisition of language allows the child to participate in an interpersonal world of ideas. The child and his parents are freed from communication through action. The relationship becomes less intense and immediate. Words may wound or soothe but they do not physically strike or stroke.1

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2. Primary internal object-relationships

Hamilton, Victoria Karnac Books ePub

Melanie Klein

In the early years of psychoanalysis, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein pioneered the field of child psychoanalysis in Europe. Both sought to portray the inner life of the child from infancy to adolescence. Through the medium of play and the tools provided by Freud for adult analysis, they tried to understand the ways in which the child constructed external reality to form a ‘psychic reality’ or ‘phantasy’ world. Anna Freud’ came over to England with her father from Vienna in 1938. Melanie Klein was born in Vienna but had trained and undergone personal analysis in Budapest and Berlin with two eminent psychoanalysts, Sandor Ferenczi and Karl Abraham. In 1926, she arrived in England at the invitation of a Welshman, prominent in the British Society of Psycho-Analysis, Ernest Jones. As Freud had shocked the intellectual world with his revelation of the sexual life of ‘innocent’ young children of only 3-4 years of age, so Klein exposed this world to the ruthless, innately destructive desires of infants’ wishes, which, moreover, were directed specifically towards their principal love-object, the mother. Whereas Anna Freud adapted her father’s technique to the developmental levels of children of different ages, Klein pursued the rigorous, analytic technique employed in adult analysis. She believed that children could form a transference on to the analyst and that the analysis should be confined to interpretative interventions. Unlike Freud and Anna Freud, she believed that the young infant was a moral creature. (This belief is reflected in the dating of the development of the ‘super-ego’.) Maturity was marked by a modulation of this persecutory, archaic morality, a development which usually took place after about four months of age.

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