Splintered Reflections: Images of the Body in Trauma

By Jean Goodwin; Reina Attias | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Challenged Bodies,
Wounded Body Images
Richard III and Hephaestus

Valerie Sinason

This chaptetr examines the emotional impact that noticeable signs of brain injury or chromosomal disorder have on physically challenged or learningdisabled children and adults.

All children and adolescents have conscious and unconscious fantasies about their bodies. Klein ( 1932) theorizes that the child's early fears about the dangerousness of the mother's body and the child's own body often develop from fantasies about mutual attacks. In adolescence in particular, girls and boys often look in the mirror wondering how this outside picture might match their inner picture of themselves. Worries about sexuality and the development of sexual characteristics are often displaced to the face-to the nose, that sticks out, to spots, to strands of hair that are felt to destroy the whole sense of self. It can be a painful time when "face" values can overtake more integrated ideas about the worth of what is behind a face, inside a person.

It is much harder to deal with these issues when there is something permanent that shows on the face or in the speech, when there is some physical sign that marks the individual as noticeably different. At the most primitive level, such difference can be experienced as due to sexual damage. The connection between noticeable physical and mental differences and sexuality is a painful one. At the root there is unresolved anger and fear that some flaw or wrongness in the sexual and procreative connection between a man and a woman could lead to damaged offspring. In the same way that the illegiti-

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