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Flink, P. (2001). On Norman's ‘The psychoanalyst and the baby: a new look at work with infants’. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 82(4):805-807.

(2001). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 82(4):805-807

On Norman's ‘The psychoanalyst and the baby: a new look at work with infants’ Related Papers

Per-Olof Flink

Dear Sir,

I found this an extremely interesting paper, which raises some highly thought-provoking and controversial questions and is well worthy of a thorough discussion.

Research is about crossing boundaries—into new areas of knowledge or new theories that supersede prevailing ones. Dr Norman wishes to demonstrate that he has crossed boundaries by announcing a kind of psychoanalytical transcendentalism; he wants to show that by adopting psychoanalytic technique and theory in work with infants it is possible to transcend the limits of an infant's language acquisition. I would like to express some serious doubts about this.

His hypothesis is:

that the interaction between the infant and the analyst may be able to activate and retrieve those parts of the infant's inner world that have been excluded from containment and be conducive to a vitalisation of the emotional disturbance that can then become worked through in the mother–infant relationship (2001, p. 83).

This means that, first and foremost, the interaction with the infant leads to changes in the infant's inner world and second that this has beneficial repercussions on the infant–mother relationship. In his paper and the reported setting and clinical vignettes, he tells us that the infants' mothers are present during the sessions, although they are not at all the focus of his attention or interest. But taking the mother's presence into account must bring still another hypothesis into the discussion. This one is about the importance Norman's attitude and talking to the infant has on her mind, quite independently of what it means to the infant.

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