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Messer, J.C. (2020). The Wish to Never End: Grappling with the Termination of an Infant Observation and its Relevance to Clinical Work. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(2):262-274.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(2):262-274

Parents and Infants

The Wish to Never End: Grappling with the Termination of an Infant Observation and its Relevance to Clinical Work

Jan C. Messer, M.A., MFT

This paper uses a psychoanalytic infant observation to highlight the significance of grappling with endings. It describes the termination of a two-year relationship with a child and his mother, who were observed weekly by the author. The content of the ending process is extrapolated to apply to infant observations in general, with implications for termination of psychoanalytic psychotherapy treatments with patients of any age as well as personal relationships. Transference and countertransference reactions and enactments evoked during the prelude to termination are considered. Vignettes from the infant observations illuminate important crossroads during the termination process. The paper also illustrates the resilient capacity that a child (and by extension the child part of an adult) can have to experience, process and bear the ending of a relationship, as well as to continue to hold that relationship internally. This glimpse into one child's, one mother's and one observer's experience of separating from each other demonstrates the ways primitive aspects of the psyche may be activated during a termination. Finally, Donald Meltzer's concept of three-dimensional interior space and Bion's idea of open-ended reality are applied, indicating how relationships that have ended may be contained within one's psyche, enduring beyond their ending.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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