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CHAPTER 7: Emotions and the primal brain

Sansone, Antonella Karnac Books ePub

There is no such thing as an infant…without maternal care there would be no infant. (Winnicott, 1960b, p. 39)

Neurobiological studies show that healthy brains depend on healthy bonding relationships with the primary caregivers and effcient connections of neurons in the brain. All these connections make the brain of a two-year-old four times heavier than the newborn's. Early events determine which circuits in the brain will be reinforced and maintained. It is the emotional environment in particular that reinforces this wiring system and determines the density and complexity of connections among the neurons. Neurobiologists show us that the wiring is related to the quality of the parent-infant relationship, the way the baby is cared for, and the quality of the baby's attachment to the parents and others.

Development is about incorporating experience into the developing brain, thus producing new connections and reinforcing them. The capacity of the brain to modify its own structure in response to the environment is called neuroplasticity. Perry, Pollard, Brakely, Baker, &Vigilante have stated (1995): “The single most signifcant distinguishing feature of all nervous tissue–of neurons–is that they are designed to change in response to external signals. Those molecular changes permit the storage of information by neurons and neural systems.”

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CHAPTER TWO: Myth and paedophilia

Cosimo Schinaia Karnac Books ePub

Myth and paedophilia

Clara Pitto and Cosimo Schinaia

What is this about? Whence come those offensive fables? From which continents, which distant journeys do such horrors arise? For everyone to be so excited and to say that all those tales are so shocking and embarrassing there must be a reason, a motive, or at least a pretext.

—Marcel Detienne

A child asks his father, “Daddy, what does myth mean?” and the father replies, “What a stupid child you are, what a stupid child not to know what myth means!”

—Cesare Musatti

In the strict sense of the term, a myth is commonly held to be a story which refers to a world order existing prior to the present order, whose aim is to explain not local and limited situations in detail but an organic law of the nature of things (Grimal, 1951). Myths may also be defined as prodigious stories which have been handed down over the centuries, replete with profound revelations on the human condition (Grant & Hazel, 1973). Myth is thus”something choral in which many take part: a race, a population, or even the whole of humanity. Hence, even though it is an imagined account, it appears to be an integral part of that race, that population, or humanity considered as a whole” (Musatti, 1987, p. 34). The narration of myths gave rise to mythology.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: The working group

Cosimo Schinaia Karnac Books ePub

The working group

Luisella Peretti and Cosimo Schinaia

Men are not ashamed to think something dirty, but they are ashamed when they imagine that others might believe them capable of these dirty thoughts.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

The working group whose ups and downs will be described in this chapter is made up of psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, and psychoanalytically trained psychologists, who use various modalities in relating with paedophile patients: psychoanalyti-cally oriented psychotherapy carried out privately or institutionally, psychiatric examinations in mental health centres or in prisons, and psychiatric examinations for assessment purposes. The drive to form a working group for paedophilia was generated by the desire to reflect upon the emotional difficulties encountered in the clinical relationship with paedophile patients, and to better understand the phenomenon of paedophilia, which has for some years been forcefully brought to the collective attention by news stories in the mass media, generally presented in witch-hunting tones. Our goal was to study paedophilia, looking at it from different angles and using the psychoanalytic perception as the main reading instrument (Speziale-Bagliacca, 1980), since it constitutes the most familiar way for the group participants to face and understand the clinical reality.

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CHAPTER ONE: Infant responses to parental contact

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

A baby’s toe is minuscule,
but the feeling of grounding from the mother’s touch
is enormous.

Parents’ sensory cues—movement, touch, smell, sounds, and body temperature—can have regulatory effects on their babies. This is well documented among non-human primates. Some babies who are born with more vulnerable physiological systems may need the physical contact with their parents in a more crucial way. For instance, there are data to suggest that babies can be born with a weaker respiratory system that might cease functioning during deep sleep (McKenna, 1990). On the basis of some interesting data, I conclude that there is an adaptive fit with parent-baby contact and their bodily cues (McKenna, 1986; Trevarthen, 2001b). The parents’ bodies, especially the mother’s, act as a regulator of the baby’s breathing, body temperature, and heart rate, particularly with premature and underweight babies.

The mother’s body is the first environment for the unborn and newborn baby. There are data to suggest that bodily contact between parent and baby may prevent rare conditions such as SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or cot death, terms for a sudden and unanticipated infant death for which no cause has been identified. In the USA, two in one thousand infants die annually of SIDS and it remains the leading cause of non-accidental death for infants between the ages of one month and one year (Hoffman, Damus, Hillman … Krongrad, 1988). Interestingly, in Japan, where SIDS is quite unknown, babies usually sleep in the parents’ room because of the small size of the houses. Obviously, this does not mean that all babies sleeping in a separate room are at risk of SIDS. Nor does it mean that all babies who have died of this syndrome lacked physical contact with their parents. Such generalizations are unlikely to be helpful. Instead, reflecting on possible links can help with prevention. Some SIDS researchers believe that the functional deficit involved may be quite subtle and that infants who die of SIDS develop differences from healthy infants during intra-uterine life.

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CHAPTER 4: Touch, movement, and integration of the psyche-soma

Sansone, Antonella Karnac Books ePub

Part and parcel of holding is whatWinnicott refers to as handling-the way the mother handles her infant in all the day-to-day details of maternal care. Here is included a mother's enjoyment of her baby, which is an expression of her love. (Abram, 1996, p. 187)

My primary focus here is on the early experiences of movement and touch, arising within the mother-infant relationship, described by Bick (1968) and Winnicott (1962b) as essential to the evolution of a sense of boundaries, a sense of skin, and a sense of bodyself.

The communication between mother and baby is triggered by a variety of channels: skin contact, smell, warmth, eye contact, interplay of facial expressions, vocalizing, movements-all sensual means, experienced by the infant as holding the parts of the personality together. All sensory experiences-sights, sounds, smells, etc .-have the potential to contribute to a sense of bodily aliveness, of feeling real (Winnicott, 1949). The sensory exchanges between mother and baby impinge on the infant's process of discovering her own being and boundaries. The mother's reproduction of the baby's facial expressions, sounds, and gestures encourages self-discovery even more than her stimulation and guidance (Sansone, 2004).

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