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Axelman, M. (2006). Making “Use” of Aggression in Child Psychotherapy. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 5(2):196-205.

(2006). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 5(2):196-205

Making “Use” of Aggression in Child Psychotherapy

Michael Axelman, Ph.D.

In this article, informed by Winnicott's seminal 1969 article, “The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications,” I aim to illuminate the transformational possibilities that emerge when adults view particular forms of aggression as expressions of hope. I examine the processes associated with taking a child from what Winnicott referred to as object relating to object usage, with particular focus placed on the links between theory and practice. I highlight the importance of one mobilizing the social environment toward the attention of the child through limit setting while concurrently tolerating the child's aggressive acts by not retaliating or retreating. This shared relational journey involves helping a child move from the omnipotent but very lonely, anxiety-filled, encapsulated world of their own projections to a coconstituted reality and involves the child engaging in destructive activity (aggression) and the significant adult surviving. It is hope that underpins this destructive enterprise. When the child finally comes to realize that the other is not under their omnipotent control, that is, when the child has tried to destroy, and the other has survived, the child can then, and only then, forge a mutual partnership with the other. Conceptual points are illuminated through the presentation of case material.

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