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CHAPTER FIVE: Voice and body image

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

We teach love with our gestures, more than with our words.
We love through touch and breathing;
the child feels whether the hands are loving
or whether they are careless, or rejecting.
Muscles obey our intentions and feelings.
Words can lie; muscles and gestures cannot.
Hands can be distracted, as can our brain.

Colwyn Trevarthen (1999) has made rich use of micro-descriptions of mothers and infants in “proto-conversation” to explore the dynamics of the infant’s first relationship. His study of communicative and co-operative exchanges between infants and adults brought about radical change, undermining the reductive cognitive perspective and the classical psychoanalytic models. Since the late 1970s, he has conducted research that reviews the very young baby’s emotional, communicative, and relational capacities. In contrast with the idea of babies as unskilled, Trevarthen sheds light on the baby’s innate musical intelligence, narrative awareness, and capacity to engage in relationships.

The sounds a mother makes, including “motherese” or baby talk, vocalizations, and rhythmic songs and rhymes, are an important element of bonding. From the moment that she first responds to sound around seven months’ gestation, the infant has been hearing her mother’s voice. Her body moves in rhythm with her mother’s speech patterns, and the high-pitched tone her mother uses when talking to her is particularly reassuring.

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: The father’s receptiveness

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

A mother gets more of the sensual joy that a new baby
brings:
skin contact with the breast,
a feeling of being wanted, needed, and loved;
the passionate interest and intense bonding
that resembles the early days of a great love affair.
Indeed, a mother has her beautiful new lover—the baby-
whose needs are the priority.
By massaging and bathing the baby
a father can share the mother’s sensual experience with her
baby,
gaining a sense of fulfilment and providing the
invaluable benefits of a complementary triad.

The “other” from the mother

Men are often described as aggressive, unsupportive, reticent, insensitive, and so on, in cultural terms. There is contradictory evidence from my observational study and others (Park, Power, Tinsley … Hymel, 1979; Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, 1996) and it seems that they need to overcome certain cultural barriers to display the authentic part of their identity. For instance, to get a man to admit that he is suffering from post-natal depression has been, until recently, virtually unthinkable. Sadness and post-natal depression are perceived as “women’s stuff”, characterized by hormonal changes. Men are capable of love, support, respect, emotional expression, and creativity.

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CHAPTER 10: Conclusions

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

In this book, I have explored the philosophical framework of dualism and its formative infuence on the development of psychoanalytic psychosomatics. I have highlighted Winnicott’ s work on the psyche-soma as a break from the dualistic tradition that, unlike the work of existential analysts, resides within an object-relations perspective. I have built on Winnicott’ s work, on Pines’ thinking about a woman's unconscious use of her body, and on Kleinian and post-Kleinian visions, to highlight the benefts of baby massage classes as what I believe should be an integral part of psychotherapeutic work with parents and infants.

My exploration of certain philosophical and theoretical issues within psychoanalysis has been in the service of “building a home” for clinical work with parents and infants and for infant observation settings. Such a home should be built upon the three following principles:

1. It should combine a phenomenological perspective based on a vision of a unifed psyche-soma, with an object relations perspective, in order to draw connections between individual infant and individual adult experiences.

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CHAPTER 8: The effectiveness of early support

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

My work with parents and infants is usually short term in nature. It is brief because the infant-parent relationship itself is very young and diffculties can usually be quickly rectifed. The earlier the psychotherapeutic work, the more effective it is. This means that the best outcomes will appear very quickly and last longer when the psychotherapeutic work is carried out very early.

The relationship between mother and baby cannot wait for the resolution of past conficts in the mother or the father through long-term psychoanalytic work, as Stella Acquarone explains in her book Infant-Parent Psychotherapy (Acquarone, 2004). A baby develops relatively quickly in the course of active interactions with the mother and father, so a baby cannot be understood outside of these interactions. Neither can the parents be understood without taking these interactions into account.

Psychotherapeutic work with parents and infants requires an integrated and creative use of ideas from child development research, neuropsychological research, infant observations, psychoanalytic literature, theories of infant evolution, psychology, and the arts (for instance, baby massage is the oldest and the most natural of all the healing arts). In my work, I also integrate an Eastern approach to the healing relationship. However, any theoretical background should be continuously fltered by the therapist's creative personality, as this is what enables him or her to truly connect with the parents” and baby's feelings and thus understand them. This makes this kind of work with parents and infants both an art and a science.

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CHAPTER FOUR: Body image

Antonella Sansone Karnac Books ePub

While musical notes of a universal sweetness
were coming from mothers and babies of an African tribe
to spread over monuments of differing beauty and history,
I thought that we are all indeed so close to one another,
and that there are situations and languages more able than
others
to make us close.
We just need to perceive them.

All the sensory information (tactile, proprioceptive, visual, auditory, olfactory, vestibular) from the peripheral body is synthesized in the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain), producing a body image. This information plays an important role in organizing posture and motor activity, both involuntary and programmed. Muscular activity is regulated by reflex pathways (involuntary) and volitional patterns located in the cerebral cortex.

The process of synthesizing the sensory information and all bodily activities begins in the primary stage of life. An attentive observer will notice how a mother during massage or any physical contact with the baby modulates her sensory channels through her voice, touch, eye contact, skin contact, facial expressions, and posture. This impinges on the infant’s whole body experience and her representation of the body’s boundaries and activities. Primary relationships modulate the infant’s physiological activities such as breathing, heart rate, muscle tone, body temperature, postural attitudes, and motor activities, providing the baby with the formation and representation of a primary skin. In other terms, they act as regulators, in the same way that cerebral centres do. This complex process begins in the womb, as the mother’s interactions with her baby, and more indirectly those with the surrounding environment, shape the foetus’s overall development.

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