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Thursday 8 December 2011

Autism and the psychoanalyst

A distressing film.  I found this because of a brilliant blog.  Two paragraphs I have to quote in full in case you don't have time to read the whole article:

The psychoanalysts in the film quote Bruno Bettelheim (a proponent of the "refrigerator mother" theory of autism), Sigmund Freud (father of the Oedipus complex and penis envy), and Jacques Lacan when discussing the causes and treatment of autism. In the 1960s, Lacan described psychotic and autistic children as victims of the alienation of a psychogenic mother who is unable to separate from a child who is a substitute for the penis she was born without.

 In the first interview shown, a psychoanalyst explains that when treating a child with autism, toy crocodiles with their large mouth full of sharp teeth represent mothers wanting to eat their young, and that a phallus symbol representing the father (in this case a pen) needs to block the mother's mouth to keep her from devouring her child.



  1. If the management of autism in children in France were not so tragic, I would laugh at this psychoanalytic approach, because it is so nonsensical.

    Apparently Freud, Bettelheim and Lacan were moral and well-meaning folk, who really wanted to do good. Freud's ideas are frankly laughable. Bettelheim drew his conclusions from observing very traumatised children who had been imprisoned in concentration camps and assumed autistic children must have experienced similar trauma because of some of their behaviours.

    BTW, Hilde Bruch did not believe Kanner when he suggested that autism is neurological. What a surprise. Not.

  2. I am told that this is worth listening to although I haven't had time to do so yet

  3. Or try this link since the other one doesn't work!

  4. People LIKE believing what they believe - especially if they have spent time being congratulated on those ideas. Talking people out of a fixed idea that has become part of someone's identity is no small task.

  5. But abject cruelty to the mentally ill is never acceptable. I know you feel the same way, Laura.