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Cohen, Y. (1995). Addressing The Psychic Reality Of The Borderline Child. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:35-38.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:35-38

Addressing The Psychic Reality Of The Borderline Child

Yecheskiel Cohen

I wish to begin my presentation with a very ordinary event that was described earlier in a paper by Fonagy et al. on ‘Aggression and the psychological self’ (1993). A 14-month-old child picks up his cup and begins hammering with it on a French-polished table. His grandfather tells him to stop destroying the table and takes the cup away. Deprived of his hammer, the child ‘hits the table twice then cries angrily’ (p. 474). The child's mother comes to comfort him, but he in return strikes her hard. Disregarding this reaction, she hands him his drum and stick. The boy's face lights up and he starts making a loud rhythmic noise, looking around and vocalising.

The authors’ explanation of this vividlyreported episode is that the grandfather's concern was for the table while the mother recognised the legitimate intention of her child—to make a noise—and thus helped him ‘to reflect upon himself as an effective agent’ (p. 474). To this we may add that the mother addressed her child's realities while disregarding her own (ignoring being hit by the child, for example), whereas the grandfather showed no concern for the child's psychic reality, thus leaving him in a rage which could lead to a state of helplessness.

This short event illustrates the different results that could be obtained when the psychic reality of a child is or is not attended to. Yet, it is my conviction that whenever one relates to a child there is some reference to the child's psychic reality.

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