Chapter 11

Psychoanalytic perspectives on learning impairment

Reason is emotion's slave, and exists to rationalise emotional experience.

Bion (1970)

The qualifications I have been expressing in the last chapter are not to suggest that I consider psychoanalytic knowledge to have little to contribute to the problems of the mentally impaired. On the contrary, the Workshop at the Willesden Centre for Psychological Treatment exists to introduce a psychoanalytic perspective into the work of psychologists working in the field of mental impairment. The Workshop for Development and Research in Psychoanalytic Applications to Learning Impairment was made possible by the support of a generous grant from the Maurice Laing Foundation. Its meetings are attended in the main by psychologists in the London area, but its approach has interested psychologists (and psychiatrists) from other parts of Britain and frotn abroad. Galloway, a member of the workshop, reports some encouraging results in the containment of violent behaviour at Kingsbury Hospital, where, in the special unit for Challenging Behaviour, psychoanalytic concepts inform the management regime (Galloway 1993, Cooray 1993).

The benefits of psychoanalytic understanding are not exclusive to the intelligent and sensitive, to that sector of society which, in America, was given the cynical acronym YAVIS (Young, Affluent, Verbal, Intelligent, and Sensitive). It is in our institutions, particularly in the case of the learning-impaired, that disturbed primitive behaviour is most in evidence and it is there that the understanding of unconscious impulses and behaviour are most needed and where inadequate understanding or misunderstanding can have significant implications, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. For example, the misattribution of meaning

-103-

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Frances Tustin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Preface ii
  • Title Page v
  • Quote viii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Growing Up in the Bosom of the Church 6
  • Chapter 2 - Professional Development 12
  • Chapter 3 - The Discovery of Autism and the Search to Understand It 20
  • Chapter 4 - Unnatural Children 28
  • Chapter 5 - Encapsulation and Entanglement 34
  • Chapter 6 - Mental Cataclysm and Black Holes 45
  • Chapter 7 - The Frontiers of Consciousness 55
  • Chapter 8 - Of Objects: Concrete, Sensory and Transitional 64
  • Chapter 9 - The Keeper of the Keys 73
  • Chapter 10 - Mental Handicap and Mental Illness 89
  • Chapter 11 - Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Learning Impairment 103
  • Chapter 12 - The Restoration of God 118
  • Glossary 130
  • Chronology 136
  • Publications by Frances Tustin 138
  • Bibliography 140
  • Index 149
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