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Likierman, M. (1988). Maternal Love and Positive Projecttve Identification. J. Child Psychother., 14(2):29-46.

(1988). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 14(2):29-46

Maternal Love and Positive Projecttve Identification

Meira Likierman

The subject of this paper is an aspect of maternal love which has not been emphasised in psycho-analytical theory, and which represents the mother's projections of her own loving emotions rather than her ability to receive her infant's projected feelings.

Our current view of the mother/infant relationship is rather one-sided, with a great emphasis on the responsive behaviour of the mother. The picture of the “good enough” mother (Winnicott, 1960) currently takes into account mostly her abilities to receive, “hold”, and contain infantile projections, all of which are receptive processes. Whatever the “good enough” mother does transmit to her infant is mainly felt to consist of the “digested” content of his own projections, fed back in a modified, manageable form.

However, the normal need for individual self-expression within relationships is not adequately fulfilled through merely responsive behaviour, even when the maternal feedback is communicated with love. What this leaves out is the mother's narcissistic need to display and express the good loving parts of herself, and have their value confirmed and appreciated. We would not doubt that both partners in an adult relationship have the need for mutual self-expression, but it has been more difficult to see what the mother's self-expressive needs contribute to infantile development.

Perhaps this difficulty is rooted in the psycho-analytic awareness of the detrimental effects of maternal emotional withdrawal on the infantile psyche.

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