You are on page 1of 21

Published in the San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal, Vol.15, No.1, pp.

17-38,
1995

From the Conferences

The Child: Development, Archetype, and Analytic Practice.

A paper first presented at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Kent,
England on November 19th, 1994.

Christopher Hauke

Since the early days of psychoanalysis, the importance of the child and early
experience in the understanding and treatment of adult psychopathology has been
emphasised in different ways. This emphasis has led to the current position, where
some conception of the child the patient once was is seen as central to analytic
treatment. In Britain especially, psychoanalysis - object relations in particular - and
the developmental school of Jungian analysis, tend to privilege the child in their
heirarchy of the psyche, so much so that analysing the "child in the adult" has become
the royal road to the unconscious. Indeed, there is a danger that the unconscious itself
will be seen, even in Jungian circles, as comprising nothing more than the repressed
and repudiated contents of childhood experience. This view of our field may seem
exagerrated and, of course, most professional analysts, whatever their training, do pay
attention to much more than the child when working with their patients. Nevertheless,
there is an undeniable tendency in depth psychology to ape the weltanschauung that
pervades modern culture when we seek to explain human behaviour as the result of
childhood experience. This crude reductionism is only partly attributable to the
attitudes and discoveries of Freud; it has other cultural sources I will go into later, but
the point to note here is that depth psychology is not immune from its pull.

Freud's theory of ego development and functioning required the assumption of an


original, primitive and unsophisticated psychic state that gradually becomes shaped or
adjusted to more or less successful human functioning through the influence of
parenting and cultural forces. Following a Darwinian emphasis on the linear evolution
of the species, the model proposed an instinctual, animal-like nature within all human

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 1


beings (with priority given to the sexual instinct), and it was this instinctive animal
base that had to be accomodated or repressed for civilised human life to come about.

The human infant quickly came to be regarded as the model for the postulated
original instinctual state of the psyche.The infant qualified well. The baby and young
child, significantly without speech in a system where language defined what was
human and what was animal, showed behaviour apparently dominated by instinctual
drives, and these were quite distant, and distinct, from the adult norm. I have used the
word "model" to describe this use of the child, but perhaps I should have said
"example" or "metaphor" for the original state of the psyche. To say "model" already
begs the crucial question of whether we are dealing with the empirically true
beginnings of a human psyche, or whether this is simply the best model we have been
able to find for imagining an eternally present aspect of the psyche, an aspect that is
just one among the psyche's infinite facets.

Jung, of course, split with Freud over the nodal importance of infantile sexuality, and
he differentiated his position further by not exploring the field of early development
systematically, quite in contrast to his detailed psychological study of individuation in
the second half of life. For this neglect of childhood he has been viewed as throwing
the baby out with the hydraulics, and a significant post-Jungian development has been
the efforts of Michael Fordham and others at the Society of Analytical Psychology to
develop a model of the psyche, and of treatment, that once again situates early
experience within the process of individuation. I see two limitations to this project.
One is the prevalence, still, of a view of the "child as primitive". Although object
relations theory sought to address the scientistic, overmechanical style of Freud's
original views, instinct and infant are still somehow identified in contemporary
theory, to the extent of being defined by each other. In Kleinian thought especially, it
is still infantile instinctual drives that are the motor of the object relating that is going
on. The second limitation is, I believe, how Jung's theory of the archetypes already
accounts for the instincts in a more satisfactorily psychological way, not so dependent
on chronology and diachrony, thus reducing the need for emphasis on the child as the
locus of our instinctual nature and its struggles.

From this point of view there still seems to be a very real tension between post-
Freudian/Kleinian models on the one hand, and developmental post-Jungian models

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 2


on the other, despite the attempts to synthesise them. This skew in theory is in
addition to an acknowledged gap between post-Freudian and classical Jungian
models. I believe we have yet to achieve a successful restoration of the child in
Jungian psychology.

In working towards this goal we need to consider further how and why the child
image retains its importance, and ask, in the teleological fashion emphasised in
Jungian psychology, what is its purpose? To fully assess the phenomenom of the
inner child, we need to address practically some specific historical and socio-political
issues around contemporary human reproduction. By practical, I mean to look at the
actual role of the family, child-rearing, and the reproduction of culture as it proceeds
in the West in present and recent times. I do not believe that depth psychology, and
least of all its emphasis on the child, can be discussed without addressing its social
and historical context. For instance, the "child", in the present imagining of analysis
and the psyche, is specifically the young infant. This results in a model of the analytic
endeavour structured around the metaphor of a mother-baby relationship, with
implications for an unquestioned linkage between women and infants. I will look at
the qualitative effect of this matrilineal approach later, but to begin with I would like
to delineate some of the more obvious assumptions involved in maintaining the child
in depth psychology. I have isolated three of these to discuss as the, so to speak,
"areas of fixation" that ensure the gravitational pull of the child image. They are: i)
The influence of biological theories in establishing stages of early development. ii)
The role of early experience, and iii) The special case of early "trauma". I will follow
these with my own view of the child archetype, and of the social and political
contributions to the collective that reveal and structure the child motif in present day
culture. I will illustrate points relevant to analytic thinking by using observational
material and, finally, I will address the current concept of analytic treatment, its
claims and limitations, in the light of my discussion.

"Areas of fixation":

(i) Biology, evolution and the stages of ego development.

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 3


Freud's account of the libidinal and ego development of human infants - the oral,
anal and genital stages or phases - formed part of his effort to place psychoanalysis
on a solid scientific base that was recognisable in the terms of his day. In trying to
base a science of the mind upon established biological, therefore "scientific"
principles, Freud called upon two contemporary theories. One was the Darwinian
model of the evolution of species, which depicted stages of development within a
linear progression. Another was the theory of biogenetics of Haeckel and Bolsche,
who were, like Freud, part of the late nineteenth century's "materialist" effort to
extend the application of evolutionary theory to human moral faculties and cultural
institutions. Biogenetics, for instance, advanced the idea that ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny, meaning that in "man", the development from fetus to adulthood -
ontogeny - provides a brief recapitulation of the entire history of the race -
phylogeny. Freud's emphasis is clear in 1916 when he says of the courses of ego and
libidinal development: "both of them are at bottom heritages, abbreviated
recapitulations, of the development which all mankind has passed through from its
primaeval days over long periods of time" (S.Freud. Introductory Lectures on
Psycho-Analysis. Standard Edition, Vol. 16. London, Hogarth Press, p.354).
Freud's initial groundbreaking model of the child's pregenital psychosexual
development had from the beginning clearly less to do with observed phenomena in
real human infants, than with placing instinctual development within an established
phylogenetic frame.

This overarching project becomes even clearer when we discover that the oral, anal,
genital sequence itself derives from Haeckel's notion of the primeval gastraea.
Haeckel had noted that in the earliest stages of embryological development,
multicellular animal organisms follow a common pattern. As Sulloway says in Freud,
Biologist of the Mind, 'specifically (Haeckel) maintained that the fertilised zygote
invaginates to create a primitive stomach, a mouth, and, later, an anal orifice", (Frank
J. Sulloway, Freud, Biologist of the Mind. London, Fontana, 1980, p261). Bolsche,
with his particular interest in the evolution of sexuality, seized upon Haeckel's idea to
depict sexual sensitivity as having been "gradually dispersed from the original 'skin"
of the preinvaginated gastraea to the later-evolved....organs of sexuality" (Sulloway,

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 4


p262), thus completing the phylogenetic sequence: oral dominance, followed by anal,
and the later development of the genital. True sexual reproduction was originally "a
sort of higher eating" in Bolsche's characterisation, a view which perhaps influenced
Freud's observation of the suckling infant enough to make him equate the baby's facial
expression during feeding to the look of sexual enjoyment and satiation in the adult
(in Sulloway, p259, footnote).

In constructing a theory of ego and libidinal development which claimed that adult
psychopathology arose from the clash between instinctual urges and repressive social
norms, Freud was employing materialist biological ideas to grasp the unobservable
psyche. For example, the gill-slits on the embryos of a range of animals, including
humans, are a physical and observable phylogenetic recapitulation. Freud postulated a
parallel in the theoretical "oral phase", which is an unobservable phenomenon, only
indirectly inferrable from the behaviour of infants, one which fits however with
theories of phylogenetic recapitulation. It was out of this theoretical exigency that the
child was originally prioritised in the psychoanalytic canon. This view of the child as
the carrier of development differs from the child-in-relationship-with-its-environment
that is the emphasis today, but the contemporary twist should not obscure the
phylogenetic, evolutionistic origins of the theory. For instance, current depth
psychological theory prioritises "oral" behaviour when in the development of the real
infant a range of skills and "priorities" are proceeding simultaneously, such as
grasping, recognition, memory, imitation and so on. Daniel Stern's The Interpersonal
World of the Infant (New York, Basic Books, 1985) provides important evidence and
discussion of this issue, while Andrew Samuels, writing on object relations theory,
summarizes how "The professionals have become fascinated, even hypnotized, by the
very images that their professional skills uncovered. The numinosity of sex has been
replaced by the numinosity of feeding." (A. Samuels, The Political Psyche. London
and New York, Routledge, 1993, p.274). It is clear how the influence of the early
Freud persists in prioritising the "instinctual" and its course in early infant
development.

It was Freud's excessive emphasis on the instinctual, and particularly the sexual, that
led C.G. Jung to break away and develop his own theories. Later, Abraham
developed Freud's instinct theory with what became the classical notion of oral, anal

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 5


and genital stages as potential fixation points identifiable through the adult pathology
encountered in the consulting room. Later still, this model came to be viewed by
psychoanalysts as too mechanistic, and by the 1930s Melanie Klein, who had been
analysed by Abraham, was developing ideas that would eventually form one basis for
object relations theory.

In reviewing the cultural roots of the dominance of the child motif in depth
psychology, we have perhaps come upon the point in the development of
psychoanalysis when these hypothetical stages of ego development became more
firmly established by being linked to flesh and blood infants, mothers and breasts, and
eventually to the specific historical mother and the infant the adult once was. I will
say more about this when I come to discuss what we can claim for depth psychology
as a treatment, and also when I discuss, separately, the influence of the social on how
childhood is viewed and how this affects the emphases within European, and
especially British, psychoanalysis and analytical psychology.

(ii) The aetiological significance of "early experience".

But now I wish to specify a second "area of fixation" that I have identified, that of the
significance of early experience for later, adult pathology. The significance of early
experience, the weight given to the influence of a child's early environmental
conditions upon later development, ability and personality, is a widely held belief, one
that extends beyond the theories of depth psychology and can be detected historically
as far back as Plato (428-348 BC), in Locke(1632-1704; 17th century) and James Mill
(1816; early 19th century). The 20th century, partly influenced by psychoanalysis,
has witnessed an acceleration in the establishment of this belief within much of the
thinking that governs educational, psychiatric, medical, and even criminal justice
policy, so much so that it is now very difficult to think outside this super-
environmentalist paradigm. In this paradigm a direct correlation is proposed between
adult behaviour and personality, and the adult's earliest experiences in relationship to
his or her primary care-givers. The critical period being the first six years (for Freud),
or first two (for Bloom), or first few months (for Klein and Fordham). Common to all
the views, whether from learning theory, ethology, or psychoanalysis, is how the

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 6


environment is emphasised as the major variable in determining future outcomes. In
the extreme version of these theories, such as those stemming from the study of
children in institutions, the environmental influence is said to be irreversible,
suggesting critical periods in development not subject to the influence of later,
improved, environmental conditions. Bowlby's original views on attachment theory
( eg Bowlby, Maternal Care and Mental Health, Geneva, World Health Organisation,
1951) were derived from ethological studies and sought to prioritise the "attachment
instinct" over prevailing Freudian ideas which had prioritised the instincts for food
and sex. Bowlby's extremely influential views led to the proposition that significant
harm would arise if the infant was deprived of its mother's full-time care. The notion
of attachment versus loss had important social and political relevance which I will
expand upon later, but meanwhile I wish to examine the use of this belief - in the
essential harmfulness of maternal deprivation - within depth psychology and its
treatment of adult pathology.

Here is a brief "case illustration" which helps to pinpoint some problems. A pair of
non-identical twin boys are born two minutes apart. They are born by Caesarean
section, a month before term due to concern that one of them, as detected and
measured by the ultra-sound scan, has been growing inadequately. This is quite a
common intervention. Within thirty minutes of delivery, Twin A, the first to be
removed from the womb, is seen to have breathing difficulties and he is removed
from his mother's bedside and placed in an incubator in the Special Care Baby Unit
where he is heavily sedated, intubated, monitored and treated for poor development to
the lining of the lungs (a consequence of his being removed from the womb before
term). Twin B is perfectly well and begins to feed from his mother's breast. After a
week the mother recovers and is ready to leave hospital, but Twin A is only making
slow progress in the Special Care unit and is in fact destined to remain there for a
further three weeks. It is the policy of the hospital not to allow the parents of twins to
take only one baby home in these circumstances, a precaution against greater
attachment occurring with one over the other, and so Twin B, who is perfectly well, is
cared for in the nursery of eight cots, where he is fed mother's milk, which she
expresses at home, by nursing staff, or he feeds from mother's breast herself on her
two or three times-daily visits. After four weeks of this, Twin A is well enough to go
home, and so both babies are released from hospital.

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 7


Twin A has spent the first four weeks of his life with no holding, no feeding except by
nasal-gastric tube, the only touching by (or sight of) his mother or other carers being
what has been possible through a six inch diameter hole in the incubator. Twin B,
although kept in a nursery, has received frequent attention, holding, breast and bottle
feeding, looks and smiles from his mother and father as well as nursing staff for the
same period.

Following up these children at the age of two years and three years, a marked
difference is observed in their behaviour with mother and father and in their
personalities. One is more extraverted, independent, and volatile, possessed of a
temperament that leads him to protest with loud screams when thwarted. The other
twin shows a marked lack of independence with a tendency to copy his brother,
almost never initiating games or utterances. At three years he is happy to play being
Robin to his brother's Batman. He likes to play the "baby" with mother and father and
is more compliant when getting dressed. He tends to lag behind the group and can get
himself involved in solitary play more frequently. He displays a greater degree of
neediness, turning inward to his parents for comfort or crying with distress more often
than his brother's preferred strategy of screaming his protest. Although all these
behaviours are within a healthy normal range of what we might expect from children
of this age, there is a marked difference between the two infants. I would like now to
quiz the reader. I wonder if you can judge for yourselves which twin turned out which
way. Was the incubated twin A the independent extravert or the needy one? Was the
nursery twin B the copying twin or the independent one? How are you assessing the
questions? What criteria and reasoning are you using to correlate the early experience
with the later behavioural differences? Put another way, how are you relating the
apparent "evidence" of early experience and environmental conditions to the later
'symptoms"?

Perhaps this little excercise will help you to see how an analyst's thinking can be led.
It is quite likely that if an analyst had a patient with these details of early history
available, a great deal of attention and imagining would be paid by the analyst to the
early experience. In addition to making links between present adult pathology and the
early history, all sorts of transference and countertransference phenomena would tend
to be accounted for in this way. Such early events, especially when dramatically

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 8


contrasted as in the case of these twin boys, can seem to have great salience and
emotional impact. Andrew Samuels has repeatedly mentioned the way in which the
numinous quality of images of early infancy and the relationship with mother
interferes with analytical evaluation of such material (Andrew Samuels, The Plural
Psyche, London and New York, Routledge,1989). I would add that the attention to
early experience is indeed out of proportion with what is known, or what can be
claimed, for the effects of the early environment.

Early experience can obviously have a crucial effect on development, but this effect is
not at all consistent across the wide variety of possible experiences and possible
results. Some experiences may be catastrophic and irreversible - the deprivation of
oxygen resulting in brain damage, for example; other experiences such as nutritional
deficits may be more easily corrected. With certain psychological and motor
developments, however, the studies of children formally locked away in isolation
from all but minimal human contact suggest unequivocally that there are critical
periods of language aquisition and motor-coordination which, once passed, prevent
these skills from ever being properly established. However, these studies also show
that there are many aspects of development that are not sensitive to any critical
periods (in Ann M. Clarke & A.D.B.Clarke, Early Experience, Myth and Evidence,
Somerset, Open Books, 1976).

In the field of emotional and mental health, these studies of extreme deprivation
reveal surprisingly few long-lasting effects relative to the extreme environmental
factors in early life, once the children are placed in proper care and, in the study of
development of personality and the establishment of mental health, we know even
less than in other fields which combinations of environment and apparent effect are
important, which are impossible to reverse and which are trivial to development. This
lack of specific is complicated by poor knowledge of constitutional differences and
their effects. Some individuals survive well despite apparently gross failures in the
early environment while others suffer terribly from seemingly trivial disturbances.
Vaillant's longitudinal study of Harvard University students over 30 years led him to
conclude that "successful careers and satisfying marriages were relatively independent
of unhappy childhoods" (G. Vaillant, Adaptation to Life, Boston, Little Brown, 1977,
p.300) Petrushka Clarkson, in her critique of reductive emphases in psychotherapy (P.

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 9


Clarkson, The Therapeutic Relationship, London, Whurr, 1995, pp.139-145) quotes
Cornell's summary: "....reconstructed, retrospective explanations are fraught with
distortions;...adaptive (defensive) patterns change both in childhood and adulthood;
psychological evolution is often discontinuous; those judged initially to have the
"worst" childhoods did not always have the "worst" adult lives; and significant, close
adult relationships (spouse, friends, psychotherapist) had major influences on
improved quality of life. Thus the Harvard Grant Study offers further evidence of the
remarkable resilience, plasticity, and unprdictability of the human psyche. (W.F.
Cornell, "Life script theory: a critical review from a developmental perspective,"
Transactional Analysis Journal, 18, 4, 1988, p.272).

It is when we have the adult "pathology" in front of us that we "look back" to see
what might account for this. This immediately prioritises the infant or child and their
experience over other possible factors in life that may also need to be examined and
treated. As the psychoanalyst Charles Rycroft describes, "concepts which have been
arrived at by backward extrapolation from adults tend to be formulated in terms of the
forward development of a theoretical construct, "the infant" or "the child" who looms
so large in the analytic literature." (C. Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of
Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth, Penguin,1972, p.xxiii) It is this distortion which I
think has become urgent in our analytic work and I will expand on the alternatives
later, but to conclude this section I wish to mention a third "area of fixation" - the
concept of "trauma", and its significance for depth psychology and the focus on the
child.

(iii) The concept of "trauma"

For psychoanalysis the concept of trauma, and later "cumulative trauma", has been
central to the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Masud Khan (M.Khan, "The
concept of cumulative trauma" in G. Kohon, Ed., The British School of
Psychoanalysis - The Independent Tradition, New Haven and London, Yale
University Press,1986, pp 117-135) pointed out that in the first phase of Freud's
thinking, trauma was seen as arising out of an environmental factor that intruded upon
the ego and which the ego could not deal with, and also as a stage of restricted
libidinal energy which the ego could not discharge. As Kahn put it, "The paradigm of
this traumatic situation is sexual seduction" (Kahn, p117). Given that this view stems

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 10


from the beginnings of psychoanalysis and has been subject to much revision since, it
is surprising how it reappears in contemporary psychotherapy.

False Memory Syndrome is often the consequence of a psychotherapeutic style that


places prime importance on a reductive, reconstructive approach to the psyche, then
literalises material apparently linked to sexual trauma - not only as if it were historical
fact, but also as the "cause" of the patient's present distress. Recent discussions of this
phenomenon reveal the potential for distortion that arises from maintaining a
theoretical view which places prime emphasis on early childhood experiences, and the
trauma-inducing power of the early environment. There appears to be an anxiety to
find an answer to, or explanation for, troubling symptoms on the part of both the
patient, where this is understandable, but also the therapist, who should know better
than to claim more than can be verified, or than to simplify the basis for adult
suffering. A wide range of factors contribute to the complex, messy and mysterious
aetiology and meaning that lies behind most psychic pain. With the availability of a
model of early childhood trauma, there seems to be a tendency to neglect later events
and developments in patients" lives. Also relatively ignored is the power of fantasy to
create "history". Analytic treatment should be paying attention to this action itself, as
much as to any "history" apparently recalled. As Andrew Samuels points out, " The
past is constructed by the present, in fact, not the present is constructed by the past,
(personal communication).

This may seem an extreme and unusual example that I have described, but a more
widespread, and accepted emphasis on the primacy of the early environment persists
in the concept of cumulative trauma. Masud Khan sums this up using Anna Freud's
words, "subtle harm is being inflicted on this child, and...the consequences of it will
become manifest at some future date" (Anna Freud, 1958, quoted in Khan, 1986,
p135). Here the emphasis is on the long-term subtle effects of the environment on the
developing ego, usually meaning the mother's conscious and unconscious attitude and
behaviour towards the baby. This is either inferred from observation of the mother-
infant pair or deduced from later "evidence", for, as Khan describes from the work of
Kris, "even though an infant was observed by a team of highly skilled professionals, it
was only in retrospect that the effects of such breakdown of maternal care began to be
visible." (Khan, 1986, p135).

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 11


Clearly, trauma is not easy to grasp for its aetiological significance. If it appears
clearer via the introduction of an analytical retrospective, the therapeutic effect of the
reconstruction logically indicates that it is the retrospective stance that is giving value
to what was not noticed before. This shift in weighting is quite valid so long as what
is detected is relativised against all other meaningful phenomena the patient-analyst
relationship brings. The contribution to meaning that the investigation of biographical
material can bring is true, so long as this is not confused with a route to the causes of
pathology.

Jung, instincts and archetypes.

As is well known, C.G.Jung broke from Freud and psychoanalysis over the issue of
the prioritisation of drives and specifically the sexual instinct, which was viewed by
Freud as fundamental to the economy of the psyche. Jung certainly did not ignore the
importance of biology and biogenetics and much of his writing draws upon biological
phenomena and the same ontogeny-phylogeny model, but he did not have the same
need as Freud to establish psychoanalysis within the mainstream of contemporary
thought in an effort to get it accepted. Apart from his different personality, Jung was
also nineteen years younger and from a different country and intellectual background,
all of which factors, I believe, helped him to imagine the problem of the psyche more
freely, and less materially. If Freud is viewed as seeking to ground the pysche by
using a materialistic biology, Jung may be seen as using biology as a metaphor to
describe the contours of a psyche which is, by definition, non-material.

Jung's theory of the archetypes is a way of modelling instinct in a purely


psychological form. The archetypes are knowable only by their images in the mind,
including dreams and cultural products and customs, and their effect on behaviour.
Thus they serve as the organising principles around which the humanness of
individuals revolves. It is this human emphasis that extends the Freudian position on
instinct. For Freud and the patients he saw, a major issue was the fate of a narrow
range of very basic, even animal, instincts in an individual when that individual
confronted the limitations and strictures of civilised social life. As I indicated earlier,
it can be seen how attractive the child is as a metaphor for this sort of problem. Put

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 12


this way, who is more available as an example of the unsophisticated, impulsive,
apparently instinctually driven and in need of social training than a little infant?
When Jung broadened his thinking on instinct through the theory of the archetypes,
driven by a need to explain all the psychic phenomena he encountered from a wide
range of sources and not a narrow range of local patients, the use of the child image,
as metaphor or as literal phenomena, became less important - though it resurfaced for
him as an image of the enourmous potentiality of the psyche. Fully accepting the
organic complexity of the mind, Jung could not be satisfied by reductive approaches
that attempted to explain psyche from past experience. For similar reasons Jung
emphasised the ongoing seeking nature of mind, producing itself, and its symptoms,
in the life-long process he called individuation.

However, the developmental school of analytical psychology has seen the child as the
locus of the first, and most fundamental individuation, and paid greatest attention to
the archetypes as organisers and structurers of experience in the very earliest months
and years of human life. In this effort, members of this school are influenced by other
theories of innate structures, primarily those of Klein (unconscious phantasy), and
Bion (preconceptions), which come as much from a Platonic as a Freudian tradition.
Their project is further shaped by a technique of investigation derived from the social
sciences and used by developmental psychologists - the observation of very young
infants and their carers, where behavioural phenomena are noted and brought back for
discussion and analysis in the "Infant Observation Group". This infant and child-
weighted information then feeds back into work with adult patients, fostering a
tendency to reductive approaches and the privileging of the effect of the early
environment when it comes to treating adult patients.

There is an irony in this development of Jungian practice that needs attention. If,
according to archetypal theory, the psyche actively structures experience - the results
of this process being image, fantasy, and associated behaviours - a powerful
constitutional element is introduced that weakens the importance of "actual"
experience. Secondly, because archetypal activity organises experience and memory,
and will continue to do so throughout growing-up, the possiblity of diagnosing, or
even less ambitiously understanding the adult from information about early childhood
remains logically questionable.

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 13


The archetypal shaping and structuring, distorting and enhancing of experience in an
active, if unconscious, fashion is not fully accounted for in a paradigm where the
infant is seen, for the most part, as a passive recipient of adult care. Although this
notion of passivity may include the idea that the infant indicates its needs to its carers
and so guides and 'structures" the caring it receives, even this picture of development
is not the same as the archetypal model where archaic internal patternings filter and
structure the growing human's inner world and personality, as they interact with
environmental events. As a general concept the archetypes can help us with the
problem created by the post-Freudian emphasis on the environment, notably the
mother, which has tended to impede research into the the lesser known or accessible
constitutional qualities of the infant. To put this in its simplest form, where the
historical parent meets the infant, there we also have the parental imago, the
crystalization of the archetype of the parent the child carries. It is this that the adult
patient brings into the consulting room. Viewed in this way, the idea of an imago as an
archetype evoked by earliest experience bridges and adds a dimension to the treating
of early experience either as metaphor or historically causative.

Furthermore, as the structuring and interacting between archetype and environment is


a continuing process that proceeds throughout the life-span, producing a multilayered
and faceted inner world where, indeed, recent experiences can also structure previous
ones, how, from a psychological point of view, can we ever propose to be working
with the "child" in the adult? Are we not rather falling into the trap of collecting all
sorts of psychic phenomena within the numinous image of the child, itself an imago,
which, like diagnosis in psychiatry, can be misused to provide patient and practitioner
with a spurious security in imagining they have a grip on the perplexing phenomena
presented. Archetypal theory presents us with the utter relativity of knowledge of the
patient's actual early experience, and consequently questions the prioritising of such
information in the treatment of patients.

Of all the archetypes, the child motif is especially linked with analysis and therapy
because of its identity with the process of individuation. As Jung writes ".. the
clearest and most significant manifestation of the child motif in the therapy of
neuroses is in the maturation process of personality induced by the analysis of the
unconscious, which I have termed the process of individuation." (C.G.Jung, 'The

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 14


Psychology of the Child Archetype' in Collected Works 9i. London, Routledge, 1959,
para 270).

Jung follows this with several other points that indicate the special connection of the
child motif with analytic treatment. When he notes that "In psychological reality... the
empirical idea 'child' is only the means (and not the only one) by which to express a
psychic fact that cannot be formulated more exactly" (Jung, 'Child Archetype',
footnote. p161), he brings to mind the anxiety for clarity and 'answers' so often found
in treatment. The tendency that arises from this is to prioritise the image, when it is in
fact just an image and, indeed, "not the only one" but one of many.

A third point is the link between the child motif and an over-conscious attitude or state
of mind that is often typical of patients when they enter treatment. Jung makes this
connection thus: "The child motif represents something that not only existed in the
distant past but also something that exists now; that is to say, it is not just a vestige but
a system functioning in the present whose purpose is to compensate or correct, in a
meaningful manner, the inevitable one-sidednesses and extravagances of the
conscious mind." (Jung, 'Child Archetype', para 276). This follows his point that the
child motif speaks to us not only of a personal beginning or origin, but collectively of
the psyche's origins and original state which are "unconscious and instinctive" . This
seems closer to the Freudian linkage of the child and instinct but, importantly, here the
link is emphasised as a property of the collective unconscious.

Again in the context of the anxious and baffling task that is analytic treatment, the
'child' tends to appear as the transcendent, irrational 'third' - a symbolic version of the
irresolvable conflict of opposites, whatever these may be from time to time. The
conflict between unconscious and conscious comes to mind and the projection of this
onto the patient-analyst pair. The child symbol may emerge magically in dreams or
more mundanely in the wish for a baby, often signalling a synthesis of the self that is
arising out of the therapy. However the motif emerges we should be wary of
literalising it into the concrete 'historical' (yet of course still imaginary in the present)
child the patient grew from. There is such a temptation towards this as Jung describes:
"Because the symbol of the 'child' fascinates and grips the conscious mind, its
redemptive effect passes over into consciousness and brings about that separation
from the conflict-situation which the conscious mind by itself was unable to achieve"

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 15


(Jung, 'Child Archetype', para287). My concern is that depth psychology's emphasis
on the child and early experience arises too often out of this fascination and a desire to
bridge opposing forces in the psyche, including those of 'understanding' and 'no
understanding', which interpretations based on the theoretical child can achieve. I
realise that psychotherapists defend the idea of the child as metaphor, but, as Andrew
Samuels has pointed out, the raw material of the metaphor cannot be discounted, and
secondly, if the child was metaphor, we would not take regression in analysis so
literally as regression to childhood (Samuels, 1994, personal communication). Just
because the child motif is the nearest tool to hand does not mean that referring to
childhood is going to do the work of understanding the psyche. As Jung warns us:
"Psychology, as one of the many expressions of psychic life, operates with ideas
which in their turn are derived from archetypal structures and thus generate a
somewhat more abstract kind of myth" (Jung, 'Child Archetype', para 302).
Psychology's modern mythologem, including that of the developing, traumatised
child, in fact constitutes one element of the larger myth known as 'science'.

What I am saying is , of course, not new, but its familiarity should not mask the
particular emphases I am seeking to reestablish. I now wish to expand my earlier
discussion of the child archetype to consider its collective expression in the twentieth
century. My aim is to analyse reasons for the dominance of the child motif as an
explanatory tool in modern depth psychology, and so we need to move on from what
Jung said. When considering an archetypal patterning or effect, we need to discover
what contributes to its structuring as we find it in each individual or, in this case, each
epoch. This idea will be familiar to those who suspect that the unconscious is not only
structured by very ancient things, but also daily and presently by the social collective.

Social and political aspects of the child motif

The attention paid to the child and to child development during the 20th century
reflects not so much a deepening of scietific knowledge about infants and their
issues, but more a new valuation of the child and its needs. Such valuing,
furthermore, has been variable with regard to the child but consistent in its linkage
with beliefs about women's social roles and their prime destiny as mothers. It is

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 16


noticeable that the attention given to the child tracks changing socio-political
expediencies which required women to fill other roles, and then later to abstain from
these roles when circumstances changed.

For example, during World War ll women were required to join the labour force in
roles previously thought exclusive to men. At the same time children were being
evacuated to the countryside to live with families and parents that were not their own.
After the war, Britain and America especially sought to build a new society based on
stability and cohesion, where the roles of 'mother' and 'father' in the nuclear family
could be reliably prescribed. Although day nurseries, nursery schools and the concept
of carers other than the mother were in operation, having been necessary to support
women workers during the war years, the need to move women back into the home
and so ensure job spaces for men and the returning army was supported by child-
focussed research that came to conclusions which served the political purpose. In
England we had the emergence of Bowlby's theories on attachment in the same year
as a World Health Organisation Expert Committee which regarded the use of day
nurseries and creches as leading to: "permanent damage to the emotional health of a
future generation". (orig.1951, in Ann M. Clarke & A.D.B.Clarke, Early Experience,
Myth and Evidence, Shepton Mallet, Open Books, 1976, p23). In America there was
the work of Spitz and Mahler. The International Labour Review of 1954 carried an
article by Baers entitled "Women workers and their responsibilities" where he claimed
the child's normal development is dependent on the mother's full-time role in child-
rearing, and that: "anything that hinders women in the fulfillment of this mission
must be regarded as contrary to human progress" (in Clarke and Clarke, 1976, p23).

The research that establishes the value of nursery classes in contributing towards
healthy development has always been available, but not always suited to the times. Its
recent revival within the debate around methods to reduce juvenile crime has seen it
connected again with gender roles via the accusatory link between single mothers and
juvenile crime, but it is the political paradigm of monetarism that devalues its
importance these days on grounds of cost.

I cite this example to convey how sensitive are beliefs about the child to the
prevailing social, political and economic milieu. The linkage with women and gender
roles throughout this century also makes me wonder about the function, on this broad

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 17


social scale, of the compulsive attention paid to the child. Could it be that in this era
of struggle between the socially created "opposites" of men and women, the child
motif emerges as a psychological response in the role of the irrational, transcendent
"third" - carrying the potential for resolution that consciousness seeks?

But there is even more behind the turn to the child than the need to reconcile gender
divisions. Modernity has tried to heed much of the Enlightenment's call for conscious
human control and responsibility, and this has brought with it a compensatory
Romantic yearning for lost roots and connection to the neglected unconscious parts of
ourselves. At such times, more than any other, perhaps the child motif is compelling
as a compensatory image, arising in the form of a reductive, "backward looking"
emphasis. Perhaps beliefs about childhood are more a yearning for neglected parts of
the psyche and of Western culture that have little place in an epoch dominated by the
over-valuing of conscious instrumental rationality. It has been said that innocence,
rather than being a property of childhood, is something adults have to achieve to
create the world fit for children to grow up in. This leads me to conjecture that much
of what characterises "childhood" may be the result of adults' projections of truly
adult qualities that have little chance to thrive in this era. This would mean that such
human qualities as imagination, play, and spontaneity that are attributed to and split
off into the concept of the "child" (and in many families lived only in relation to the
children) are in fact the very human qualities that are neglected by modernity. This
view not only reflects the incomplete nature of the modern soul, but also locates the
child, not as other to the adult, but as part of the person they both comprise. This
cultural meaning to the rise of the idea of the child has nothing to do with the
determinism of a developmental view of human growth.

The image of the child at work in culture today is shown most clearly, I think, when it
is projected onto secular forms and modernity. Then we see how the transcendent
qualities of the child motif can bridge conflict and signal growth. Examples abound,
but particularly salient is the photograph of a young boy and a British soldier that
appeared on the front of every British newspaper when the IRA ceased hostilities. In
that picture, not only is the child confronting the symbol of open conflict, the soldier,
but he is also surreally taller than the soldier and seems to be influencing him in a
priest-like manner, (see illustration). Similarly, in Britain, the Commission for Racial

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 18


Equality uses children in its publicity to counter racism. One street poster of this
campaign, which emphasises that racism is learnt, states "There are lots of places in
Britain where racism doesn't exist" abovea photograph of six babies, each with the
word "Here" on their foreheads. The emotional weight of the argument for
multiculturalism is carried by the image of the child present once again where
oppositional conflict is seeking resolution.

Such social forms suggest that the child as we conceive it is more than a concrete
presence in modern times, it is an image fraught with meaning. It should not surprise
us that it has been projected with such force onto the still mysterious energies that
manifest as depth psychology.

Abandoning the child to find the person; the implications for treatment

In my concluding remarks, I wish to emphasise that in seeking to understand the


peculiar dominance of the child motif in depth psychology, I am not suggesting that
such a focus is entirely inappropriate, or that the conditions and treatment that
children experience are irrelevant to their health and happiness. For many years I
have worked with families and children in contexts outside my analytic practice, and
I am well aware of how insecurity, inconsistent parenting, and the absence of love
contribute in real ways to children's unhappiness and to the manifestation of this in
troubled behaviour. Plainly, as for an individual at whatever age, some
environmental conditions can be enhancing and others can limit or distort
development. But when I am speaking with frustrated parents and teachers in an effort
to offer some therapy for the situation, and I liken a six year old's challenging
behaviour to that of a three year old, am I doing anything more than asking for a more
tolerant and less condemning attitude towards the child? I do not think I am saying
that some "growing" still needs to be achieved, or that a "stage" still needs to be
passed, as the linear model of early development frames it.

I want to be honest about how the knowledge, or the fantasy, of the child and its early
experience is used. Is it to uncover the roots of symptoms, suggesting an image of the
adult personality as constructed from building blocks in a sequence of past
experiences? Or is it, rather, as I believe, that we take excursions into biographical

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 19


history to amplify the present , to bring meaning so that, as the British psychoanalyst
Charles Rycroft says, "healing can occur and connections with previously repressed,
split off and lost aspects of the self can be re-established" (C.Rycroft, Psychoanalysis
and Beyond, London, Chatto, 1985, p.123).

It is not that we should or shouldn"t pay attention to the child and early experience,
but more a question of how we pay attention to this aspect of the psyche and
treatment,

Daring to refer this problem to the early experience of our field, I believe the tangle
over the "child", "causes" and "meaning" may lie in an unresolved issue stemming
from Freud's earliest conception of the psychoanalytic project.

Two main concerns seem to characterise depth psychology from its very inception.
The first is the search for what is fundamental to the psychology of the individual,
and the second is the search for a method to treat the individual. The question is: do
these neccessarily coincide? If early experience and the stuff of early relationships is
fundamental and has to coincide with the method of treatment, the result, too often,
is the "analyst-parent", offering some form of corrective emotional experience no
matter how strenuously this may be denied within a profession which recognises the
arrogance of this strategy in the face of long-standing suffering. It seems unlikely that
a two to four hours a week therapy in adult life can somehow "undo" the powerful
results of environmental impact on the infant, and moreover, that this can be achieved
through the analyst's greater agape, concern, devotion and love. It is more likely, as
Rycroft says, that analysts' "capacity to help patients derives from their ability to
understand them, and that this ability depends on their knowledge of the
unconscious....The claim to possess professional expertise does not contain a
concealed claim to moral superiority over the laity" (Rycroft, Psychoanalysis and
Beyond, p.47).

But if that is so, what is to become of the attachment to the child as maintained
through developmental ideas, and honoured, ritually, through the practice of infant
observation? Again, this is not to denigrate valuable and valid areas of investigation,
but rather to uncover an unconscious symbolic function served by a research
emphasis, among analysts, on the child. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that such

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 20


practices of research cannot be as easily linked with the method of treatment of
patients as has been assumed. The fault lies not with the child as a field of
investigation into what is fundamental to human psychology, but more with the
linking of this to the method of depth psychological treatment.

This way of framing the issue reveals a religious use of the child motif. It is as if the
child could save the treatment - an essentially religious idea. Were we to abandon our
need to put the child in this role, perhaps we could restore it as the multifaceted image
and aspect of the individuating psyche that it has been all along. Then, instead of
imposing the gravity of literalism, the child could really energize our field.
Acknowledgements I would like to thank Andrew Samuels, John Beebe and Martin
Stanton for their generous help and encouragement in the writing of this paper.

'The Child'. San Francisco version. 21