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Life of the mind

In pursuit of neutrality

By Anna Blundy   September 2013

The Baby Observation is a key part of psychotherapeutic training. It is exactly what it says it is. Once a week you go and observe a newborn baby for an hour. That’s it. You sit, neutrally (in an ideal world) and you watch. The idea is that you learn about early development and begin to adopt the psychoanalytic stance—watching and listening “without memory or desire,” as Wilfred Bion, one of the major post-Freudian psychoanalysts, put it.

This “negative capability,” the therapist’s attempt at a kind of absorbent neutrality, is fraught with difficulty. Female trainees quite often get pregnant in the…

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