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Pines, D. (1980). Skin Communication: Early Skin Disorders and their Effect on Transference and Countertransference. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 61:315-323.

(1980). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 61:315-323

Skin Communication: Early Skin Disorders and their Effect on Transference and Countertransference

Dinora Pines


In this paper I shall describe and discuss the psychic predicament of female patients who have suffered from infantile eczema during the first year of life. After drawing on direct observations from my previous experience as a consultant dermatologist in a women's hospital I shall discuss the analysis of a patient with a history of this disease. I will concentrate on transference-countertransference problems since in my view they highlight a basic disturbance in the earliest mother–infant relationship. This disturbance is renewed with every transitional phase of the life cycle, and exerts a subtle influence upon it.


I am focusing on the fundamental importance of the skin as a means of communication between mother and infant while she provides the holding environment, in which primary identification of the self is founded. In Leboyer's (1974) film of the process of birth, we observe the immediate soothing effect of skin-to-skin contact between neonate and mother after the infant has abruptly emerged from the mother's warm body into a cold and non-containing world.

Skin contact re-establishes the mother's intimate feelings for her baby, as if they were once again merged, like they were in pregnancy, when the mother's skin contained them both. The skin becomes a medium for physical contact, for the comfort of holding and of being held, and also for the transmission of smell, touch, taste and warmth, sensations which can be a source of pleasure and intimacy to mother and infant alike.

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