The Infant-Parent Dyad with Björn Salomonsson, MD

We’ve been fascinated this weekend at IPI by Dr. Björn Salomonsson’s account of his psychoanalytic treatment of infants with their parents. To develop an effective theory and technique for helping infants in distress we need to look beyond attachment research and developmental theory to include analytic theory and technique in our approach. It’s easy to believe that the analyst’s words communicate understanding to the parent. But Dr. Salomonsson believes that he can communicate directly with the baby. Many argue that you can’t analyze a baby because analysis is a talking therapy and babies can’t understand words. Others have argued that they do. But here it is important to distinguish between the lexical and the linguistic. True, babies do not understand the words but they respond to the patterns of the language, words, the rhythm of the speech, the affective tone, the authenticity and integrity of the analyst’s interest and reach the baby and give meaning to the experience. The analyst recognizes the baby’s distress, offers calm interest and concern, and conveys hope that the unmanageable distress can be understood and coped with through a process of co-thinking between baby and analyst and between baby and parent. The analyst recognizes the competence and responsibility of the baby to become a partner in the process of recovery.

– Jill Savege Scharff, M.D.

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Caroline Garland on Grievance

Caroline Garland presented a psychoanalytic view of grievance, a hatred directed at that which came between the child and the gratifying, ideal maternal object. This obstacle may be the individual Oedipal rival or the parental couple, engaged in intercourse from which the child is excluded.  This hatred for the parental couple is then displaced onto the analytic couple because it is not the gratifying couple of fantasy based on longing to engage in the primal scene.  The hatred may be directed at the patient and the analyst in the form of a masochistic attack on the patient’s capacity to benefit from analysis and a sadistic attack on the analyst’s capacity to be effective. Revenge for Oedipal betrayal may lead to loss of hope and a suicidal act that attacks the patient’s  capacity to benefit and the analyst’s capacity to be effective, and fills the analyst with shockingly intense grief.  Annihilation of the self can be preferred over life in the name of revenge.

—Jill Savege Scharff