The Infant’s Emotional World: Psychic Development, Feelings, and Subjectivity. A Hermeneutic Literature Review.

Hooper, Briohny Joanne
Torkington, Mariana
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Master of Psychotherapy
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Auckland University of Technology

This work pursues an interest in understanding something about the nature of an infant’s emotional world. This is realised through a hermeneutic literature review of the question: what does psychoanalytic literature say about psychic development in earliest infancy? A key finding of this research is that subjectivity begins in earliest infancy and intersubjective experiences within this period can support discovering a life based on being so that they may,

live the identity that they feel is essentially their own….feel more coherent, more whole, more secure….[seem] happier, more centred and at peace…profoundly relieved 
(Landsman, 2018, pp. 104-105)

As the approach to this research is hermeneutic, the writer’s subjectivity plays an important part in the meaning made of the topic. Throughout this study the researcher interpolates personal experience with psychoanalytic literature to maintain the hermeneutic impetus to ‘provoke thinking’. Traditional and contemporary psychoanalytic theory is engaged with in ‘seeking meaning’ of the infant’s experience.

The research concludes with a discussion of the research findings, which coalesce around ideas about the elaboration of felt experience and an infant’s developing subjectivity. The extended understanding emerging from this research about psychic development in earliest infancy comes from considering how qualities of the capacity to be alone and mutual recognition enhance the mother-infant dyad relationship based on relating on intersubjective terms. Following this, implications for psychotherapy research and practice are offered, which bring together intersubjectivity, support for not rushing to action, and knowing as an embodied experience. The dissertation concludes with considering the strengths and limitations of this research and the attempt to expand understanding of the infant’s emotional world by wondering about psychic development, feelings, and subjectivity in earliest life.

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