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Newton, K. Redfearn, J. (1977). The Real Mother, Ego: Self Relations and Personal Identity. J. Anal. Psychol., 22(4):295-315.

(1977). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22(4):295-315

The Real Mother, Ego: Self Relations and Personal Identity

K. Newton and J. Redfearn, M.A., M.D.


In Speaking of the baby or the deeply regressed patient, it is almost impossible to make meaningful statements which are not paradoxical. When we speak of the primal relationship between mother and child, we are not referring to two distinct individuals each with an awareness of an ‘I’ and a ‘thou’, but to an infant who has not yet established stable mental representations of boundaries and a mother who may be not only highly reliable and maternal, but also participating sensitively, even telepathically—boundarylessly in this sense, in the emotional states of her baby. Our clinical work leads us to the conclusion that the infant is also very sensitive to the moods and feelings of the mother which tend to set the pattern of subsequent I-thou relationships and hence the prevailing nature and feeling tone of the subsequent relationship between ego and self (DAVIDSON 2). We know this not only from our study of the way the patient relates to the unconscious, but from his behaviour and from our countertransference feelings in the analytical relationship, especially when this has reached a mutually deep level.

Apart from such clinical data from adults and children, we have three other principal sources of knowledge about the primal relationship and the emergence of the individual. Firstly, we have the myths, works of art and other anthropological data collated and interpreted for our own particular purposes. Secondly, we have the accumulating data from the observation of mothers with their infants over extended periods of time. And thirdly, we have the psychologist's observations of human and non-human mothers and infants, and the findings of the ethologists. Although we may not be able to keep up-to-date in assimilating all these sources of material, we are profoundly affected and influenced as the findings eventually percolate through to us.

In this paper we hope to concentrate our attention on the two-fold nature of the self, as body-self on the one hand, with its relation to instinctual and zonal experiences, and as thou-mother on the other hand, one hopes containing, confirming, and humanly inter-acting with the infant in his body-self experiences.

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