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The Portable Psychoanalytic Frame: Evenly Suspended Attention, Bick’s Method of Infant Observation and Its [Unexpected] Application by an Observer in a Day Care
The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child  (IF0.089),  Pub Date : 2020-01-01, DOI: 10.1080/00797308.2020.1690905
Talia Hatzor

ABSTRACT This paper uses Freud’s idea of evenly suspended attention, as applied through Bick’s method of infant observation, to demonstrate a technique crucial to the work of the parent-infant clinician. Cultivating an evenly suspended state of attention is shown to be an indispensable technique for the clinician’s mind at work, especially for the parent infant clinician, whose external setting is unpredictable and challenging. Without a fixed external setting, a portable frame is required: the internal setting established by combining psychoanalytic theory with this specific kind of free-floating attention. This claim will be illustrated by an observer’s use of attentiveness in a daycare setting. The observer gathered the experience of a four-month-old infant in psychic peril. Lacking his caregiver’s attention, the infant was object-absent. The observer’s sensitive, absorbing stance was pivotal: not only to finding meaning and containing the primitive anxieties of an infant in trouble, but also – critically – to enabling the development of the infant’s sense of self by building a mental bridge to an unavailable caregiver, who could be reached and ultimately found a place in her mind for him.