The new-born looks into its mother’s face, and in a matter of hours registers her every facial expression, initiating a rhythymic interaction by which mama and infant affect each other’s internal state. This unique human space Melanie described as the work-shop of The Good Breast. (An infant relates to its mother as a part-object.)
We don’t become human by sucking a magical potion out of our thumb. We become human through interacting with other humans, beginning with the mother. When Melanie first described projective identification in 1946, she established the fact that human beings need to be “taken in,” in ways never realized. We arrive on the planet in bits and pieces, as it were, and we can only get put together within the insides of emotionally indispensable others.
The 170,000 Romanian orphans, without a mother, given zero parenting, never joined the human family. Listen to observers, shuffling through the giant warehouses,
“The childrens’ empty motions, or ‘stereotypies,’ are like the pacing of a tiger or elephant in a zoo.”
Humans push their needs, their griefs, their anxieties, their love into others. This capability is precisely what Melanie recognized as the basis for human growth and development. The capacity to take in another’s suffering and confusions is the chief requirement for The Good Breast to do its civilizing work. It’s anything but easy, requiring the patience of a Job and the unwavering attention of a guard at Buckingham Palace. Wilfred compared the difficult work of the mother to life on a battlefield, quoting a famous general, “You don’t have to be very intelligent to be a general, but you must be able to use such brains as you have while being bombed and shot at.” (Bion served in the British Mobile Forces. Of the 38 members in his tank outfit, 37 were killed, many incinerated alive in their armored vehicles.)
The infant is endlessly overwhelmed by terrifying thoughts. He cannot ‘think” them. What to do with The Terrible!
– There. There.
Inside the mother’s mind the infant develops his own. Melanie stressed our original home is the mother’s body, and the containing and detoxifying function of The Good Breast the origin of the human mind.
In 1994, Antonio Demasio demonstrated, with neurologically damaged patients, that Rene Descarte’s assertion, “I think, therefore I am,” is profoundly wrong. “That I think,” Descartes maintained, “makes me who I am.”
Wrong! Unless Emotion brings Reason to the Great Dance, Reason’s unreasonable behavior will soon enough bring the Security Guards running. Damasio, a neurologist, learned from the history of Phineas Gage and his own patients, when we suffer damage to emotional centers in the cerebral cortex, we lose the faculty of judgment, changing from law-abiding citizens to sociopaths,
A great poet gets the picture,
Nothing in this world is single,
All things by a law divine,
In one another’s being mingle….
The Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse – riding! riding! – driving man to madness:
10,000 years of Omnipotence thru Faith – turning to silent , invisible gods, not the limitless powers of his own mind;
10,000 years of males exploiting their physical dimorphism, terrified and envious of the woman’s superior emotional powers as experienced in his need of her from the very beginning, subjecting her to a litany of abuse and violence and control. Like closing every Planned Parenthood Clinic.
The Fifth Rider of the Apocalypse – riding! riding! – driving the Pro-Lifers to the madness of Willful Ignorance.