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Houzel, D. (1989). Precipitation Anxiety and the Dawn of Aesthetic Feelings. J. Child Psychother., 15(2):103-114.

(1989). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 15(2):103-114

Precipitation Anxiety and the Dawn of Aesthetic Feelings

Didier Houzel, M.D.

“Le monde est beau donc je pense.

Le savoir ne peut se passer de la beauté.

Je cherche une science belle”.

Michel Serres, Les cinq sens

“Get out into the sun! Glory! The

fields are bathed in light. Moonlight!

Don't stay snoozing in bed”

W.R. Bion, The Dawn of Oblivion


This paper seeks to bring clinical material from psychoanalytical sessions with two autistic children. The clinical material to be presented illustrates what I have come to call “precipitation anxiety”. It will be suggested that this type of anxiety arises from the fact that, as newborn babies, the transition from intrauterine to extra-uterine life had been unduly sharp and precipitate. This is not necessarily associated with a difficult birth, but seems to be associated with the quality of the relationship between mother and baby.

Let me give you a vignette of the type of material which suggested the notion of a precipitate birth to me: Tristan, as I shall call him, entered the therapy room, and coming to the low table provided for him, turned his box of pencils upside down, saying “crash” as he did so. The material of the session suggested to me that Tristan was describing a hard arrival on the earth, a catapulting birth, so quick and harsh that it had been traumatic. This incident led me to think about the dawn of aesthetic feelings as described by Donald Meltzer (1987). Let me discuss this.

The Dawn of Aesthetic Feelings

In the Dawn of Oblivion (1979) W.R. Bion suggests that the foetus has a protomental life prior to being born. Following Dr. Bion's suggestions Donald Meltzer has put forward the hypothesis that, at the end of pregnancy, the foetus feels cramped in the womb and seems to be yearning to be born, both to escape from the uterine confinement, and also to make full use of his sense organs which, in the womb, only got a muffled echo of the outside world.

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