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O'Shaughnessy, E. (1989). Ways of Seeing: 3. Seeing with Meaning and Emotion. J. Child Psychother., 15(2):27-31.

(1989). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 15(2):27-31

Ways of Seeing: 3. Seeing with Meaning and Emotion

Edna O'Shaughnessy

Everyone will have watched Lynn Barnett's film with a succession of intense feelings. I shall begin, not with something controversial, but by exploring something which is fundamental and, I imagine, accepted by everyone here — that emotions are not accidental but intrinsic to the observation of elemental relations between a mother and a baby. I call the psychological events we have just watched elemental because they are the elements of human development, the elements out of which all experience that follows will, in various and complex ways, be built.

At once we have a question. If elemental human relations must be seen with emotion, are we not at the outset throwing away the possibility of science? Shall we not be trapped in the subjectivity of individually variable, unconscious and sometimes irrationally motivated views with no possibility of deciding between different ways of seeing? Not so, I think — if understanding the diverse ways in which emotions enter into seeing is made a part of our science. Emotions enable and are essential to seeing but, oppositely, they may also impede seeing. This would mean a new paradigm for science, which traditionally has seen observers as dispassionate (a large subject in itself). It also means that the emotional seeing and its many problems are areas of investigation, relevant to understanding and settling our different ways of seeing.

I shall pursue the theme of emotional seeing by asking, in relation to the film, what do mother and baby see? I think Mother sees the baby with several feelings, with tenderness and persecution, to name two, and, as time goes on, it seemed to me, with less feeling and less capacity to perceive her baby.

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