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Meisel, F. (1986). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XXXVII, 1982: Mothers Have To Be There To Be Left. Erna Furman. Pp. 15-28.. Psychoanal Q., 55:366.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XXXVII, 1982: Mothers Have To Be There To Be Left. Erna Furman. Pp. 15-28.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:366

Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XXXVII, 1982: Mothers Have To Be There To Be Left. Erna Furman. Pp. 15-28.

Frederick Meisel

Starting with Anna Freud's statement, "A mother's job is to be there to be left," Furman explores the mother's feelings and this inevitable aspect of the mother-child relationship, i.e., leaving and being left. For the child to master the developmental step of leaving (to go to nursery school), the mother must be able to miss the child, feel unneeded, and still be available when the child returns to her. Also, for the children to develop concern for the mother, they must be able to leave her and return without guilt or fear. If the mother is unable to tolerate being there to be left, and withdraws, the child will be neglectful of the mother's concerns, act out his or her anger (actively or passively), or conversely become increasingly dependent and demanding. In adolescence, these children exhibit a pseudoemancipation that overlies their anger and unmet needs. But if the mother's intolerance is expressed in her own clinging or in reproaches that make the child feel guilty, the child will have trouble cathecting the outside world and will remain unable to grow away. Weaning is an example of this separation, and the difficulty in weaning has more to do with the mother's narcissistic injury at the child's turning from her breast than with the child's depression at the loss of the breast. In fact, Furman feels the child "weans" the mother, rather than vice versa. She places weaning among the other "aggressive abandonments" and turnings away that the mother must bear in order for the child to experience the pleasure of a growing independence.


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Article Citation

Meisel, F. (1986). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. XXXVII, 1982. Psychoanal. Q., 55:366

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WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the subscriber to PEP Web and is copyright to the Journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.