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Davids, J. (1990). ‘I Don't Like Goodbyes’: The Analysis of a Young Traumatized Boy. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 13(1):3-23.

(1990). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 13(1):3-23

‘I Don't Like Goodbyes’: The Analysis of a Young Traumatized Boy

Jennifer Davids

This paper is an account of the analysis of a boy who suffered many impingements on his development in his early years and whose family life has continued to be characterized by much emotional upheaval and strain.

Referral and Presenting Problem

Ryan began analysis when he was four and a half. He is now 5 years 10 months. He was referred by the Anna Freud Nursery which he had attended since he was three.

The staff's concern began during Ryan's first year in his new daily environment, when they observed that he became whiny and miserable in his mother's presence but, once separated from her, could settle. A film made about the Nursery at that time showed Ryan, at 3 years 4 months, to be almost completely non-verbal, tending to leave out the consonants of simple words. He appeared markedly egocentric, protesting wildly at sharing equipment and toys with other children, and unable to take turns in games or even wait for his snack. At this stage his frustration tolerance was strikingly low. Ryan needed to be close to the adults, showed impatience if they did not immediately fulfil his needs and an extreme sensitivity to being corrected or limited. He cried or chucked things about wildly when he felt rebuked.

The Nursery staff described Ryan as an appealing boy of great depth and with much hidden under the exterior. Overall, he seemed rather like a toddler in the negativistic phase, saying ‘no’ to everything. His behaviour was not seen as provocative and it was questioned whether he did not feel enormous frustration over being unable to speak clearly.

Ryan's mother told the Nursery School teacher that his speech had been developing well until, at about 18 months, he contracted a severe case of measles followed by a virus which produced diarrhoea and vomiting. ‘Altogether in a bad state’, he stopped talking and walking, and regressed to crawling and being a lap-baby. She could not put him down without his crying.

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