Week 8, on first relationships, has been much more enjoyable than week 7, which was a huge relief. I was particularly struck by Klein’s object-relations theory from the realm of psychoanalytic theory and the conclusions she draws. The idea that a very young baby doesn’t experience whole objects, but instead regards them as part-objects is fascinating. Klein argues that the same object is experienced as a number of part-objects, some of which are ‘good’ (a nipple that gives milk) and some of which are ‘bad’ (a nipple that doesn’t give milk.) She contends that it is only later in the baby’s development (around 4 months of age) that they are able to put ‘wholly good’ part objects together with ‘wholly bad’ ones and realise that they are, in fact, the same object. It is this internal conflict/recognition which causes the baby to experience a ‘sense of loss’ for the first time – the ‘depressive position’. This experience forms the foundation for good relationships later on because we are able to deal with the idea that people are a mixture of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
It’s fairly easy to criticise this on the basis of ‘where is the empirical evidence to support that this is what is really happening’ and others working in the psychoanalytic tradition (Stern) also criticises some of her assertions, for example, arguing that the ‘splitting’ of objects into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parts is too complex a process for a very young infant to achieve.
After the dry tedium of chapter 6, this has been much more fun to think about.
This is the final week on book 1 (so only 3 more to go, plus the methods book and focus II and Safari and videos and audio …!) Next is TMA2, which I’ve started to make some notes on already. And, joy of joys, it’s not an essay question!