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(1989). Ways of Seeing: 4. Juliet Hopkins. J. Child Psychother., 15(2):33-39.

(1989). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 15(2):33-39

Ways of Seeing: 4. Juliet Hopkins


I have never liked psychoanalytic theories of infancy. They have done more to obscure our view of infancy than to facilitate it. Once formulated, they have tended to develop a life of their own and to be impervious to additional evidence. A good example is, of course, the central role for long ascribed or orality and the breast relationship in infancy.

One reason that theories become impervious to change is the need for certainty in a field of extreme uncertainty. Another is loyalty to and dependence on the progenitors of these theories and their followers. Tribal groups have developed with different languages which are used, it sometimes seems, as much to distinguish between in-group and out-group as to facilitate understanding.

But whatever we may feel about the disadvantages of theories, we cannot help making them. As Bruner (1977) deduced from his studies of infancy, there is a central tendency from birth to form and test hypotheses about what is occurring in the world, and these hypotheses are intimately connected with feelings. As for infants, so for us. Cognition and affect remain inextricably linked. The pursuit of objectivity is an illusion. As Brierley (1951) wrote about psycho-analytic theorizing, “When we try to think, we find that emotional attachment constantly impedes intellectual detachment: in other words, we discover the limitations imposd on us by the structure of our minds”.

The main attachment which prevents the development of new hypotheses is our attachment to the familiar and to our particular tribal group.

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