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Hamilton, V. (1992). The Protective Shell in Children and Adults: By Frances Tustin. London: Karnac Books. 1990. Pp. 241.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 73:173-176.

(1992). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 73:173-176

The Protective Shell in Children and Adults: By Frances Tustin. London: Karnac Books. 1990. Pp. 241.

Review by:
V. Hamilton

Tustin's evocative conceptualizations of autistic states escort us to the outer reaches, and thereby to the foundations, of human experience. Far reaches, because she asks us to imagine what it is like to live in a world in which the ordinary foundations and signposts have gone missing. We would indeed feel 'up in the air', 'unrooted', 'spinning endlessly', 'floating weightlessly'; to feel human again, we must 'come down to earth'. But the return journey requires the attention of a skilled, imaginative and steadfast escort since we must encounter the same primeval terrors, dread and sickness of heart from which we fled upwards and outwards in the first place. As one recovering autistic child remarked, 'It's such a worry being a human being'. Tustin states grimly, 'In these children the human spirit has been well-nigh extinguished'. All the mundane steps of daily life are worrisome for the autistic individual because the dimensions of space and time which underpin our commonsense world are not, and have never become, 'second nature'. They have to be learned or found as the unordinary, solipsistic, self-generated—autistic—protections drop off like a dessicated skin or brittle shell.

Kant might have felt vindicated by Tustin's phenomenological account of what he described as the 'a priori principles of knowledge'—namely 'space and time'. Kant said 'although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience'.

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