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Mahon, E. (1985). Some Aspects of Separation and Loss in Therapy with Disturbed Children. Am. J. Psychoanal., 45(1):35-44.

(1985). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 45(1):35-44

Some Aspects of Separation and Loss in Therapy with Disturbed Children

Eugene Mahon, M.D.

At the risk of bringing coals to Newcastle, I would like to begin with a quotation from the Adolescent Diaries of Karen Homey. The entry is dated and entitled February 1903, “I Myself. 17 years old.”

I really should not read anything-1 mean no books, but only myself. For only one half of my being lives, the other observes, criticizes, is given to irony…. In the winter before my confirmation I made my last attempt to pray. And I remember how only the same 4 words passed my lips: “Lord, give me truth.” Now I know that no one can give that to me, but only through my own work will I get a clear view, or perhaps not get it. I asked this morning whether I might join a class in animal dissection, and I was turned down with a miserable “Don't bother me again with that.” So probably nothing will come of animal dissection. Et voila a substitute: I shall take myself to pieces. That will probably be more difficult, but also more interesting. What shall I begin with? (pp. 57-58)

Let us begin with a little dissection also, a dissection of words. Attachment comes from an Old English word that has the root “tache” in it, which means a nail or a tack and thereby conveys the meaning of the human infant's first developmental task: to nail down a sense of identity and attachment, to hammer into the tabula rasa of the infant brain permanent images of himself and the object relationships that sustain and nourish him. Separation comes from two Latin words sed and parare and means to divide, to take apart, to be without nails so to speak. It conveys the meaning of a later developmental task of the young human: to stand on his own two feet beyond the shadow of his caretakers and enjoy the experience, relishing his independence.


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