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(1987). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 56:742-743.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:742-743

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York


Dr. Kernberg discussed aspects of the development of self-awareness, its relationship to mother-child interactions, and its correlates involving the mirror. She presented the case of a five-year-old autistic-like boy. During the first month of therapy, he would lie on the floor and never make eye contact with her. At first Dr. Kernberg did exactly what he did. If he looked at her, she would promptly return his gaze. Once he acknowledged her presence and looked at her with interest and eye contact, she moved from strictly parallel, mirror-like feedback to more sequential, reciprocal exchange. As his responses became more complex, his reaction to his actual mirror image also changed. This change followed a course parallel to that of his reaction to Dr. Kernberg as a real person. His initial blank look into the mirror gave way to avoidance-like behavior and then to symbolic play. With increasing pleasure, he transferred to the mirror her mirroring of him. In the fourth year of treatment, he would look at himself, smile, and arrange his hair. At times he would he would comment on her reflection. This child's mirror behavior between five and nine years of age, according to Dr. Kernberg, was a recapitulation of what would normally be observed in children between six and thirty-six months of age. The first experience of oneself may be linked to the recognition of the way one is perceived and integrated by another human being who looks and behaves as much as possible like oneself.

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