Applied Psychoanalysis > Education

Child Counseling and Psychoanalysis

What we should take into consideration when we confront
the difficulties in children's behavior.

By J Jones

One of the applications of psychoanalysis is in the field of children's education. This field could be divided in several categories: psychoanalysis of the child up to five years, psychoanalysis of the puberty and the one of the teen-age. Each of these stages, as we could expect, presents their own peculiarities and difficulties. We wouldn't insist upon each of them, but we'll try to sketch the trends in approaching child's problems.

The development of psychoanalysis during the first decades of the last centuries, the increase of the number of the adherents to its techniques led to a sort of excessive appreciation of its virtues. Soon, psychoanalysis was thought to understand everything, and especially to interfere in every sphere of human life with an absolute authority. The alarm signals of the specialists who were not psychoanalysts and were severely criticizing the superficiality of the psychoanalysts, who were approaching fields that exceeded the proper therapy in a one-sided and even nonscientific manner, didn't come to any echo for a long time. Psychoanalysis claimed for a prominent position, if not even the main position in the study of mythology, religion, sociology, anthropology, work of art, etc.

Also in the field of education and pedagogic the involvement of psychoanalysis generated specific works. For example: Stekel's book, one of the first disciples of the Freudian psychoanalysis: Psychoanalytical Recommendations for Mothers. The work abounds in suggestions and guidelines addressed to mothers, things that seem to be consecrated by experience and which are above any doubts.

When we read such books, we could think that psychoanalysts finally worked out the toilsome matter of child's education.

The same happens with the works of A. Adler, who later on deviated from the Freudian movement, but didn't gave up that attitude of omniscient sufficiency concerning the education problem. Everyone who reads Adler's books and has some acquaintance with psychoanalysis is stricken by the many and grievous errors made by the author when he approaches children problems. Adler's mistakes also result from his ardent wish to see that his working assumptions are confirmed rather than to have a natural scientific relationship with the studied phenomena, as a cautious observer.

The enthusiasm manifested by the psychoanalysts when they hasten to annex the field of child's education, which was justified when psychoanalysis was spreading due to the originality of the new discoveries, is not justified in reality. I mean that leaving out the indications and suggestions that come from the common sense experience (such as: it's not right to beat the child because he revolts and, moreover, this is a cruel and blameworthy method, etc.), those which could be derived from the psychoanalytical theories could hardly be taken into consideration seriously. I don't mean to say that Freud's sexual theory that also embraces infantile sexuality is improper. The infant child really has a curiosity concerning the anatomy and activity of his/her sexual organs, curiosity that could become unhealthy when repressed. However, this curiosity is not, in most cases, anything else but curiosity or, as it was also called epistemophily. Psychoanalysts did not profoundly approach the exploring curiosity. Or it was here and there connected or derived from the interests of sexual nature...

In other words, I want to say that the psychoanalytical works dedicated to the education of the child are not by far so complete as they seem to be. The classical works were written under the momentary impulse of the first psychoanalytical discoveries and are characterized rather by a prepossessed spirit than by a scientifical one. They are more useful to the promotion of psychoanalysis to the great public than to the psychoanalytical knowledge itself. Consequently, they couldn't be taken into consideration.

The later works also bear the consequences of the same error: the dogmatical application of the psychoanalytical theory. The well-known work of Françoise Dolto is also included to this category!

The conclusion called for is that we could not expect these works to give us some collections of counsels in readiness, which are generally valid and applicable to the sphere of child's education. Those parents who wish to rise to the emergency of their difficult task wouldn't find inside these books a complete lesson that could be learned by heart. Child's education is a living and direct process, which requires our total, physical and spiritual participation and calls for an opening toward its problems, which is free from any preconceived ideas, even psychoanalytical. This opening that reminds, in fact, of the attitude of the psychoanalyst – reserve/caution, suspended/poised attention – imposed by Freud himself, is useful for exploring the significance of the infantile behavior.  Of course that our experience with our own unconscious protects us against the counter-transference, namely the temptation to project upon our child our own childhood experiences, our expectations, which were those of our parents, etc., but this experience results from our own analysis rather than from the analysis of someone else (even children). Consequently, it's obvious that a parent who wants to help his/her child should, first of all, know and be able to analyze himself/herself.

Nota bene:
- Self-analysis also brings up our memories from our childhood. Meditating on them, with the mind of the nowadays adult, we could better understand the significance of the psychological mechanisms that operate in the first years of life and are expressed by drams, delusions, and various symptoms. The self-analysis is by this way the starting point in the extremely difficult process of child's education.

- In the second place, we should give up by any means to the dogmatical ideas concerning education. All the automatic goads such as: "you should do this or that", must be filtered by the faculty of reasoning: why do we have to do this thing or that thing? The collective experience also collected a lot of worthless stuff, which has to be eliminated if we want to have a sound relationship with our child.

- In the third place, last but not least, we need genuine love for the child. Love gets to know in other ways. It has something magical and saving when it's exercised freely, without any dogmatical constraints. Love is the most reliable path to know the needs of your fellows. If there is no love or compassion, our mind will try to fill this void of relationship with well-known things, which are often, as we tried to show here, totally erroneous.

Experience proves that child's education shouldn't be established on a priori ground. The knowledge in this delicate field is extremely flexible. Therefore, when we deal with works concerning this field, even reference works, we should act extremely cautiously.

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Translation by Ochea Corina

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