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Brafman, A.H. (1986). Commentary by an Analyst of the Independent Group. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(1):79-85.

(1986). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(1):79-85

Commentary by an Analyst of the Independent Group Related Papers

A. H. Brafman

One isolated report of a Baby Observation is like a snapshot which creates a very different impression from that of a series of photographs or of a film. The one report captures images without revealing what preceded them so it is impossible to know if a particular event or sequence occurs for the first and only time or whether it is part of a recurring pattern. The reader can only fall back on his own preconceptions of what is described. This is indeed the premise guiding the present exercise, where several analysts give their interpretations of the report submitted. But our analyses will not influence the observer, let alone the members of the family observed.

The relationship between infant and parents follows quite a different model. The infant's movements and sounds can be perceived, but we cannot know the thoughts, feelings, perceptions, fantasies that accompany those overt manifestations of the infant's contact with the world around him. The parents are continuously interpreting the baby's actions and they do this on the basis of their preconceptions and of their capacity to perceive, interpret and respond to the baby's reaction to each of their interventions. As infant and parents continue their life together, we have a cycle of interactions, where each of them influences the other. If the infant cannot be influenced by the parents or if one or both parents cannot be influenced by the infant, we have a pathological situation. In the normal course of events each of the family members leads the other to repeated adaptations that eventually characterise them as individuals in that particular life context, and together as a family at that point in time of their development.

Setting out to observe the development of a baby in his family, we have to define the theoretical framework dictating our approach and governing the interpretation of our findings, since this will greatly influence the focus of the observations. ‘Baby observation’ as a discipline which is part of psychoanalytic training has traditionally taken the baby as the main focus, but the role of the parents in the life of the infant and child is subject to different conceptualisations. We can find examples of the two main models in the present report.

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