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Harris, M. (2011). Chapter Eight: The Contribution of Observation of Mother-Infant Interaction and Development to the Equipment of a Psychoanalyst or Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist (1976). The Tavistock Model: Papers on Child Development and Psychoanalytic Training, 117-132.

Harris, M. (2011). Chapter Eight: The Contribution of Observation of Mother-Infant Interaction and Development to the Equipment of a Psychoanalyst or Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist (1976). The Tavistock Model: Papers on Child Development and Psychoanalytic Training, 117-132

Chapter Eight: The Contribution of Observation of Mother-Infant Interaction and Development to the Equipment of a Psychoanalyst or Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist (1976) Book Information Previous Up Next

Martha Harris

This paper develops the parallels indicated in Bick's 1964 paper between the infant observer and the psychoanalytic candidate, in terms of emotional turbulence and observational skills. Given that the analytic transference externalizes infantile relationships and desires, the earliest part-object relationships lie hidden in the patient's narratives; and being able to see the continuing internal infant provides the analyst with a metaphorical language for linking the patient with unconscious areas that are otherwise hard to verbalize. Infant observation teaches the analyst that the process of mother and baby “finding each other” cannot be artificially forced. The author considers problems of identifying with a thinking object, and its converse—the dangers of “societal debate” in producing two-dimensional analysts, and the potential constrictions in the analogous roles of supervisor and mother-in-law. Meltzer's “toilet-breast” is related to the decontaminatory function of the mother in thinking (Bion). The nature of transference and the “central truth” of waiting and tolerating pain without recourse to precipitate action is emphasized and the paper concludes with examples of fluctuating part- and whole-object orientation in an infant and an adult of equivalent “analytic age”.

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