Children   (Child Psychology)

I must make is perfectly clear that I in no way support those (sic - Freudian) views which maintain that the relation of the child to the parents, or to his brother, sisters, comrades, is to be explained simply as the immature beginnings of the sexual function.  Those views, surely not unknown to you, are in my opinion premature and one-sided generalizations which have already given rise to the most absurd misinterpretations.  When pathological phenomena are present to a degree which would justify a psychological explanation along sexual lines, it is not the child’s own psychology that is fundamentally responsible, but the sexually disturbed psychology of the parents.  The mind of the child is extremely susceptible and dependent, and is steeped for a long time in the atmosphere of his parental psychology, only freeing itself from this influence relatively late, if at all.  TDoP 50

   I will now try to give you some idea of the fundamental viewpoints of analytical psychology which are useful in considering the mind of the child, especially at school age.  You must not think that I am in a position to offer you a list of hints for immediate application.  All I can do is to provide a deeper insight into the general laws which underlie the psychic development of the child.  But I shall be content if, from what I am able to give you, you carry away a sense of the mysterious evolution of the highest human faculties.  The great responsibility which devolves upon you as educators of the next generation will prevent you from forming hasty conclusions; for there are certain view-points which need to germinate, often for a long time, before they can profitably be put into practice.  The deepened psychological knowledge of the teacher should not, as unfortunately sometimes happens, be unloaded directly on the child; rather it should help the teacher to adopt an understanding attitude towards the child’s psychic life.  This knowledge is definitely for adults, not for children.  What they are given must always be something elementary, and suited to the immature mind.   TDoP 51

   Whenever a young child exhibits the symptoms of a neurosis one should not waste too much time examining his unconscious.  One should begin one’s investigations elsewhere, starting with the mother; for almost invariably the parents are either the direct cause of the child’s neurosis or at least the most important element in it.   TDoP 68

   To analyse children is a most difficult and delicate task.  The conditions under which we have to work are altogether different from those governing the analysis of grown-ups.  The child has a special psychology.  Just as its body during the embryonic period is part of the mother’s body, so its mind is for many years part of the parents’ mental atmosphere.  That explains why so many neuroses of children are more symptoms of the mental condition of the parents than a genuine illness of the child.  Only a very little of the child’s psychic life is its own; for the most part it is still dependent on that of the parents.  Such dependence is normal, and to disturb it is injurious to the natural growth of the child’s mind.  It is therefore understandable that premature and indelicate enlightenment on the facts of sex can have a disastrous effect on his relations with his parents, and such an effect is almost inevitable if you base your analysis on the dogma that the relations between parents and children are necessarily sexual.  TDoP 75

   It is no less unjustifiable to give the so-called Oedipus complex the status of a prime cause.  The Oedipus complex is a symptom.  Just as any strong attachment to a person or a thing may be described as a “marriage,” and just as the primitive mind can express almost anything by using a sexual metaphor, so the regressive tendency of a child may be described in sexual terms as an “incestuous longing for the mother.”  But it is no more than a figurative way of speaking.  The word “incest” has a definite meaning, and designates a definite thing, and as a general rule can only be applied to an adult who is psychologically incapable of linking his sexuality to its proper object.  To apply the same term to the difficulties in the development of a child’s consciousness is highly misleading.  TDoP 75

The child is so much a part of the psychological atmosphere of the parents that secret and unsolved problems between them can influence its health profoundly.  The participation mystique, or primitive identity, causes the child to feel the conflicts of the parents and to suffer from them as if they were its own.  It is hardly ever the open conflict or the manifest difficulty that has such a poisonous effect, but almost always parental problems that have been kept hidden or allowed to become unconscious.  The author of these neurotic disturbances is, without exception, the unconscious.  Things that hang in the air and are vaguely felt by the child, the oppressive atmosphere of apprehension and foreboding, these slowly seep into the child’s soul like a poisonous vapour.  TDoP 125

   About education in general and school education in particular the doctor has little to say from the standpoint of his science, as that is hardly his business.  But on the education of difficult or otherwise exceptional children he has an important word to add.  He knows only too well from his practical experience what a vital role parental influences and the effects of schooling play even in the life of the adult.  He is therefore inclined, when dealing with children’s neuroses, to seek the root cause less in the child itself than in its adult surroundings, and more particularly in the parents.  Parents have the strongest effect upon the child not only through its inherited constitution, but also through the tremendous psychic influence they themselves exert.  That being so, the uneducatedness and unconsciousness of the adult works far more powerfully than any amount of good advice, commands, punishments, and good intentions.  But when, as is unfortunately all too often the case, parents and teachers expect the child to make a better job of what they themselves do badly, the effect is positively devastating.  Again and again we see parents thrusting their unfulfilled illusions and ambitions on to the child, and forcing it into a role for which it is in no circumstances fitted.  TDoP 132

… children do feel their inferiority in certain ways, and they begin to compensate by assuming a false superiority.  This is only another inferiority, but a moral one; no genuine satisfaction results, and so a vicious circle is begun.  The more a real inferiority is compensated by a false superiority, the less the initial inferiority is remedied, and the more it is intensified by the feeling of moral inferiority.  This necessarily leads to more false superiority, and so on at an ever increasing rate.  TDoP 130

If even the alledgedly mature man is afraid of the unknown, why shouldn’t the child hesitate also?  The horror novi is one of the most striking qualities of primitive man.  This is a natural enough obstacle, as obstacles go; but excessive attachment to the parents is unnatural and pathological, because a too great fear of the unknown is itself pathological.  Hence one should avoid the one-sided conclusion that hesitation in advancing is necessarily due to sexual dependence on the parents.  Often it may be simply a reculer pour mieux sauter.  Even in cases where children do exhibit sexual symptoms – where, in other words, the incestuous tendency is perfectly obvious – I should recommend a careful examination of the parent’s psyche.  One finds astonishing things, such as a father unconsciously in love with his own daughter, a mother who is unconsciously flirting with her son, imputing under the cover of unconsciousness their own adult emotions to their children, who, again unconsciously, act the parts allotted to them.  Children will not of course play these strange and unnatural roles unless unconsciously forced into them by their parents’ attitude.   TDoP 76

In his early years the child lives in a state of participation mystique with his parents.  Time and again it can be seen how he reacts immediately to any important developments in the parental psyche.  Needless to say both the parents and the child are unconscious of what is going on.  The infectious nature of the parent’s complexes can be seen from the effect their mannerisms have on their children.  Even when they make completely successful efforts to control themselves, so that no adult could detect the least trace of a complex, the children will get wind of it somehow.  TDoP 55