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Alexander, R.P. (1988). Autistic Objects. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 69:297-298.

(1988). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 69:297-298

Autistic Objects

Richard P. Alexander, M.D.


I would like to respond to the paper by Dr James Innes-Smith, appearing in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 68: 405–413, 1987. This paper, 'Pre-oedipal identification and the cathexis of autistic objects in the aetiology of adult psychopathology' is useful in its attempt to throw further light on 'the patient who is difficult to categorize' and to treat, and is capable of stimulating unpleasant 'countertransference' reactions in the analyst. Moreover, his clinical material is instructive and well drawn in describing such an analysis. However, I think it is important to point out that his premise that 'the origins of such pathology being in his [the patient's] experience of the mother as a "sensation-object" in the phase of normal primary autism', is not an idea which is consistent with recent infant research.

One example of recent research and discovery that I feel invalidates his premise is the work of D. N. Stern, (The Interpersonal World of the Infant, New York: Basic Books, 1985) who points out that 'The infant from the moment of birth is [a] deeply social [being]' and that 'selective lack of interest in or avoidance of human stimuli', characteristic of autistic pathology, 'is never the case with normal infants'.

Of further interest are the works of M. M. Haith, (Rules that Babies Look By, Hillsdale, 1980, and Eye Contact and Face Scanning in Early Infancy, Science, 1977). For example, Haith draws attention to the biological preparedness of the newborn to respond visually to objects, and that at two months of age they evidence anticipatory eye movement patterns which operate independent from any external reinforcement.

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