Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Light and Color in a Void: The Analysis of a Special Needs Child

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Light and Color in a Void: The Analysis of a Special Needs Child

Article excerpt

We are conceived and we are born. Looked at in this simple way each of us begins life twice. But mankind has always held, with ceremonial ritual, that a third and later birth is the one which really counts. One is then, we say today, born psychologically.

(Nini Herman, 1985)

Melanie Klein's early work with children has been of fundamental importance to the development of her theory because that work provided her with definitive insight into the primitive mind's workings. Within the limits of an incipient and basically corporeal ego, she bestowed on babies a creative emotional autonomy by establishing the initial phases for the Oedipus complex, and for the super-ego's formation. She did this by pointing out the complex mechanisms that initially form symbols. These mechanisms begin with partial objects and eventually incorporate total objects.

These early achievements are fundamental to the formation of thought. Thus Klein formalized the relational mind in which, from the beginning of life, the internal and the external as well as subject and object are in constant interaction. Hanna Segal (2007) defended child analysis as an important exercise within psychoanalytic institutes and affirmed that this practice requires special devotion, both on the part of its practitioners as well as among those who teach it. For me, Segal is not referring to devotion to a set of beliefs, rather to tenacity and perseverance.

Privileging the mind is an analysis's principle statute - whether it be adult or child analysis. Since intelligence and emotional experience do not always go hand in hand, it is the mens psicanalitica that matters because it is independent of the rational and logical mind. And it will always be played out in the same molds, i.e. in primitive relations.

In an analytic process it is possible, through transference, that certain mental states that are unresolved within the vicissitudes of primitive relations can be developed, even when the cognitive processing mind is limited in its intellectual capacities. Klein (1955) affirms that child (and adult) analysis should conform to three conditions: the free association principle, the exploration of the unconscious and the analysis of both negative and positive transferences.

She used toys, the child's natural means of expression, and developed play technique, in which to play is to associate. And, within the transference, this is what child analysts refer to when they base their interpretations on what the child's play demonstrates and reveals.

In child's play the war of identifications, its splittings and conflicts, emerges with intensity, and child analysis demands that analysts work on the verge between acting out and understanding.

Child analysis is not the random activity, the lesser procedure, as many claim it to be. In child analysis one must maintain the technical rigor, the theoretical knowledge, the number of sessions. And child analysts must be aware of their countertransference. Many children are gravely sick and misdirected and could greatly benefit from a well-managed analysis. It is one of those children I shall now discuss.

First contacts

In the child psychiatric department of a public hospital, a colleague interviewed Ricardo and his parents and then sent them to me. When I met them at my office, my colleague had already told me that there might be something organically wrong with Ricardo.

Beginning with our early meetings, I observed and was told by Ricardo's parents that the child evinced alienation concerning interpersonal relations - without being a total recluse. He was totally incapable of formal learning, mainly in the cognitive and pedagogical areas. In addition, he did not clean himself adequately after elimination, nor was he able to judge when he should get out of the shower. He was not sufficiently autonomous even to play on the sidewalk in front of his house. Nearing age 10, he had not managed to learn to read, to write, or to do elementary arithmetic. …

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