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Bergman, A. (2010). Commentary on Skye Haberman's “Multiple Meanings of Primitive Symbolic Play: Whose Poop Is It? Case Presentation of the Four Year Treatment of a Latency Age Girl”. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 9(4):128-132.

(2010). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 9(4):128-132

Commentary on Skye Haberman's “Multiple Meanings of Primitive Symbolic Play: Whose Poop Is It? Case Presentation of the Four Year Treatment of a Latency Age Girl”

Anni Bergman, Ph.D.


In reading this fascinating paper, I have had an unusual difficulty. The paper is about a mother and child: Susan is the mother; Lily is the child. In reading it and thinking about it, I have difficulty remembering who is the mother and who is the child. I can never seem to remember that Susan is the mother and Lily is the child. Susan gives the child the name of a flower, and I think this shows the hope she has, namely, that her child will be able to grow and develop even though she does not really know what a child might need. I think this is significant because it says something about my perception of Susan (who is the mother) as being so immature that I am constantly tempted to think of her as the child. In fact, by the time the paper is finished, it feels as if Lily (the child) has matured in a way that helps her influence her mother in a positive way, which may help her to really become more of a mother—to develop some understanding about what it means to be cared for and understood.

With the help of her devoted therapist, it looks as if Lily is doing well. She is able to use the therapy to express and to feel difficult conflicts. Maybe the most difficult of all being this: who in this family is the mother and who is the child? Or is there really a mother here who can take care of a child?

The therapist understands that she has to be the mother of both and that this is the only way she can help this mother-child pair. The therapist achieves a lot by having Susan develop some trust in her. It is not clear whether the mother has matured sufficiently in the course of the therapy and is able to take on a maternal role, but it does seem that she can now listen to Lily a little more and has gained some understanding that Lily has needs and that Susan is responsible for her. Because of the therapist's care and understanding, both Susan and Lily can make important changes. Susan eventually understands that Lily has needs and is dependant on her, but it seems that Lily also changes profoundly because she has a therapist-mother who truly cares, keeps her in mind, can really think about her, and who understands her play.

At the beginning of the therapy, Lily is an enraged baby. She steals and batters the therapist's baby and laughs.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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