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Rhode, M. (1993). Commentary by a Kleinian Child Psychotherapist. Brit. J. Psychother., 9(4):483-485.

(1993). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 9(4):483-485

Commentary by a Kleinian Child Psychotherapist Related Papers

Maria Rhode

This observation is a convincing and moving example of the transformation that can be brought about in a family by the presence of a sensitive observer, even though this is obviously not the primary task. In this instance, the observer has to bear the pain throughout the visit of being the ‘wrong person’, the sight of whose face represents for the baby the fact of her mother's absence. Being repeatedly the cause of Joanne's crying is particularly distressing for the observer because Victor, the father, is unable to acknowledge that Joanne's unhappiness could have anything to do with his wife's being away at work. He tries everything to soothe Joanne, a bottle, rocking, walking about, a visit to her cot, all without success; guessing at all the possible causes for her crying, from hunger to a full nappy or fatigue. He apologises to the observer for Joanne's behaviour and says to Joanne that her visitor might be ‘disappointed to see her like this when she's usually so good’. The observer replies that ‘I was sorry to see that she was having a tough time today, but that it was a hectic time for everyone and I could see Joanne got fed up sometimes’. Then, after another unsuccessful attempt to explain Joanne's persistent crying by the idea that she might be tired, her father takes her downstairs and walks her around, talking to her for the first time as though she were a human being with feelings as well as ‘a baby’ with physical needs.

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