Glossary of Psychoanalytic Terms

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter is new for March 2011.



Contents

  1. Psychodynamic
  2. Maternal ‘Reverie’ or ‘Preoccupation’
  3. Containment
  4. Projection
  5. Projective Identification
  6. Transference
  7. Counter Transference
  8. Splitting
  9. Omnipotence
  10. Defence Mechanisms


1. Psychodynamic

In this context based on psychoanalytic ideas, that there is a lively relationship between different aspects of the personality, formed through past and present relationships, and thereafter consciously and unconsciously, influencing relationships with the ‘internal world’ of the mind and the external world of other people and the environment


2. Maternal ‘Reverie’ or ‘Preoccupation'

The relationship between the mother and the baby, when the mother is able to take in what the baby communicates to her, whether good or bad. Thus in normal development, the baby projects onto the mother its bad feelings, where they are modified and made bearable, and she acts as a container for the sometimes nameless dreads conveyed to her by the baby. The mother makes the baby feel it is receiving its frightened personality back, but in a form that can be managed at its stage of development. If the mother function as a container is good enough, the baby is able to begin to build its own internal container for its own feelings.


3. Containment

With continuity of care the baby develops its own internal container or ‘space in the mind’ to be able to deal with its own frightening feelings and frustrations. But when this does not take place or is seriously disrupted, emotional development is impaired. On a symbolic level a therapeutic environment attempts to replicate the mother’s containment of the infant’s primitive fears, by responding to the child in a way which takes into account the feelings which underly their words and behaviour, a response which is helpful and has meaning for the child.


4. Projection

Ascribing to someone else a state of mind in ourselves that we want to disown. This is done almost always unconsciously because the feeling that has to be got rid of is too painful to be dealt with on a conscious level.


5. Projective Identification

When the recipient of the projection begins to experience the feelings that are being projected into them. When working with troubled children their feelings of hopelessness and despair can be unconsciously projected into the worker, and when recognised as such can be used as a means of understanding the child’s inner world.


6. Transference

When feelings and impulses experienced earlier on in past relationships are repeated towards someone else in the present, and are not seen as belonging to the past but as applying to the person at the present moment.


7. Counter Transference

The response of the recipient of the feelings transferred onto them, which can be a means of understanding the child’s state of mind. Sometimes these feelings can be disturbing, particularly if they resurrect painful issues that the recipient has not worked through themselves.


8. Splitting

Describes the way young children in particular divide the world and individuals into wholly good or wholly bad. As they develop, children are more able to recognise that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ can exist together.

9. Omnipotence

A state of mind in which the child fears that its thoughts and fantasies can alter the external world. Children in this state can feel especially guilty if their destructive thoughts and fantasies are mirrored in what actually happens in their external life.


10. Defence Mechanisms

We all depend on our defence mechanisms to protect us from experiences which are too threatening or painful. Children in care have often built up a system of defences in order to survive their life experiences and to protect themselves from experiencing them again. The mental energy it requires to operate them can inhibit their emotional growth and all-round development.