Separation: Anxiety and Anger - Vol. II

Separation: Anxiety and Anger - Vol. II

Separation: Anxiety and Anger - Vol. II

Separation: Anxiety and Anger - Vol. II

Synopsis

The experience of separation and the ensuing susceptibility to anxiety, anger, and fear constitute the flip side of the attachment phenomenon. In an authoritative new foreword to Bowlby's classic study, Stephen Mitchell (who gives resonant voice to the relational perspective in psychoanalysis) bridges the distance between attachment theory and the psychoanalytic tradition.

Excerpt

In the preface to the first volume of this work I describe the circumstances in which it was begun. Clinical experience of disturbed children, research into their family backgrounds, and an opportunity, in 1950, to read the literature and to discuss problems of mental health with colleagues in several countries led me, in a report commissioned by the World Health Organization, to formulate a principle: 'What is believed to be essential for mental health is that the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother-substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment' (Bowlby 1951). To support this conclusion evidence was presented for believing that many forms of psychoneurosis and character disorder are to be attributed either to deprivation of maternal care or to discontinuities in a child's relationship with his mother figure.

Though the contents of the report proved controversial at the time, most of the conclusions are now accepted. What has plainly been missing, however, is an account of the processes through which the many and varied ill effects attributed to maternal deprivation or to discontinuities in the mother-child bond are brought into being. It is this gap that my colleagues and I have since striven to fill. In doing so we have adopted a research strategy that we believe is still too little exploited in the field of psychopathology.

In their day-to-day work, whether with disturbed children, disturbed adults, or disturbed families, clinicians have of necessity to view causal processes backwards, from the disturbance of today back to the events and conditions of yesterday. Though this method has yielded many valuable insights into possible pathogenic events and into the kinds of pathological process to which they appear to give rise, as a research method it has grave limitations. To complement it, a method regularly adopted in other branches of medical research is, having identified a possible pathogen, to study its effects prospectively. If the pathogen has been correctly identified and the studies of its effects in the short and long term are skilfully executed, it then becomes possible to describe the processes set in train by the pathogenic agent and also the ways by which they lead to . . .

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