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Gunsberg, L. Tylim, I. (1995). Ownership of the Body and Mind: Developmental Considerations for Adult Psychoanalytic Treatment. Psychoanal. Rev., 82(2):257-266.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Review, 82(2):257-266

Ownership of the Body and Mind: Developmental Considerations for Adult Psychoanalytic Treatment

Linda Gunsberg and Isaac Tylim

Babies offer themselves to their parents unconditionally from birth, trusting that they will be cared for and loved. Love and other parental affects are communicated through touching of the baby's body, gestures, and verbalizations. The parent's fantasies about the child and his/her relationship with the baby are also communicated, often unconsciously. The mother can do to and for the child what she wishes. She can be gentle and loving, or she can be cruel. In some societies she can even kill her child if she wishes, with social approval of her act. The infant is hers, her product, her possession (Balint, 1939).

The mother's ability to experience her child as hers to physically and emotionally care for, is crucial to the well-being of the baby. However, what is equally crucial is her ability to see the separateness of her and her baby and take pride in her child's desire to move away from her and be on his own. Mahler, Pine, and Bergman (1975) highlight this in the separation-individuation process, but in actuality the beginnings occur earlier (Stern, 1985). The child, from very early on, is beginning to take responsibility for self-soothing and self-caretaking, often imitating and internalizing the mother's ministrations (Krystal, 1978; Tolpin, 1971). This is the beginning of the child's core identity, where the self is experienced both on a physical level and mental level. The mental level includes fantasies about the body and its relations with others, self-representations, and various internalizations, all facilitated by developing symbolization capacities.


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