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Phillips, A. (1983). Victoria Hamilton: Narcissus and Oedipus. Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1982, £12.50 (hardback).. J. Child Psychother., 9(1):81-84.

(1983). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 9(1):81-84


Victoria Hamilton: Narcissus and Oedipus. Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1982, £12.50 (hardback).

Review by:
Adam Phillips

Incidental analogies, no less than models of the mind, become blue-prints for clinical work. When (Freud (1932) writes in the New Introductory Lectures, for example, that “we approach the id with analogies; we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations”, he is explicitly offering a tentative fiction; and like his description of instincts as “our mythology … mythological entities, magnificent in their indefiniteness” he is drawing attention to the status of these central concepts. Psychoanalytic theory has had to face the consequences of these fateful images, so there has always been a question about what makes certain kinds of explanations satisfying, or particular analogies compelling. Narcissus and Oedipus, with a good deal of often interesting evidence from various fields (psychology, ethology, cybernetics) takes seriously the formative power of Freud's metaphors for early development, tracing implications where there may have seemed to be facts, and showing how the conceptualisations of the infant's earliest states contain their own implied narratives of development. So as a book “about child development” it provides, among other things, a useful survey of how “the issue of the onset and extent of the infant's contribution … divides up conflicting schools of thought”.

Taking as one of its main paradigms for infant development from Tom Bower's concept of interactional synchrony, the expressed intention of the book, vis à vis psychoanalysis, is clear; “It is Freud's view of relationship as a secondary development that is challenged … the development of the child is not a function of the gradual and painstaking socialisation of an isolate.

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