To find oneself in another, in the same way that a child may find herself in the face of her mother or in the gestures of his father, offers an experience of essential alikeness. Thus, the participant may be afforded an experience of admiration for her own biological intelligence — the same intelligence that she reveres in the natural world.
I experience a feeling of being kindred with nature Hannah, 28 years old. Similar to the previous excerpt, the participant references an essential likeness between herself and the natural world.
She articulates an experience of feeling kindred with the natural world, which in other words, may be expressed as feeling that she is nature among nature. The notion of containment lies at the core of contemporary psychodynamic theory and practice, which refers in part, to the containment of the individual, that is, the process of providing a sense of safety as the person experiences emotional containment of their affective experiences, and also in the course of human development, where the parent, often the mother, provides a soothing environment for the child, and over time, the child is said to internalize this experience of containment Wolf, In the current study, the notion of the natural world being experienced as containing was identified through the following codes: experience of nature as containing; nature as grounding; nature as perspective-giving; presence with nature, and vulnerability or sense of fear in nature.
The overarching theme is evident in the following:. I think the feeling range… the spectrum of feelings that you get in nature, and nature acts as a container for experiencing all those things.
Almost like a therapeutic experience, it holds that space for you. The above excerpt illuminates the natural world as a containing space in which the participant feels that she can experience a range of feelings without fear of a disproportionate, inappropriate or invalidating human response. She describes the natural world as offering a therapeutic experience, and gives voice to the idea that her space in the natural world is hers alone.
There is no requirement for management of her own emotional experience, or the emotional experience of another human being, which is the aim of good psychotherapy. It is the role of the analyst to provide a containing space for the patient to express his or her experience, without fear of criticism or consequence. Though in the context of the natural world there may be consequences for carelessness, the natural world represents an emotionally safe space akin to the therapeutic environment.
In her writings about the intersection of human experience and the natural world, Kiewa suggested that one of the benefits of spending time in the natural world is the concrete and immediate feedback from nature. In the current research, participants described experiencing a sense of safety when walking through forests or swimming in the ocean, despite possessing awareness of the dangers that exist in these natural environments.
The following excerpt is illustrative:. I guess there is this feeling of safety and reliability I guess. These excerpts illuminate experiences of psychic safety or containment in the context of an otherwise unpredictable physical environment. Participants describe the natural world as a place of constant and reliable containment within which they experience themselves as held. Although the natural world may not offer the kind of conscious attainment that a mother may offer her child, there appears to be something about the reliability of the natural world that promotes a sense of containment.
The natural world was experienced by participants as being primarily sensory and emotional, which we refer to as embodied. This mode of being-in-the-world was identified through the following codes: experience of cellular connection; urban claustrophobia; sensory experience in nature, and nature as felt. The overarching theme is well articulated in the following:.
I love when I just go from seeing trees and grass, to really seeing the grass and trees. Once I just decided to smell the ground and [laughs] it smelled amazing. I remember now. I am from this, this is my home. It is like taking a beautiful, gentle breath and exhaling modern trappings. Sort of like cellular return.
It kind of feels like my cells are returned to themselves, reminded of their beautiful simplicity within the context of the complexity of the whole Hannah, 28 years old. The above excerpts are two of several, in which participants described sensory-emotional experiences with the natural world. Several participants gave voice to sensory experiences that were associated with feelings of familiarity, belonging, and of being known by the natural world.
Kohut wrote:. Contemporary philosopher and author de Botton writes about the significance of sensory experience during childhood. He writes of one of the characters:. His description captures the visceral nature of early sensory experience, particularly in terms of those that evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity. It is suggested that similar experiences of comfort and belonging occur in the natural world, particularly for individuals whose relationship with the natural world has significant psychic import.
The aim of this paper was to explicate the lived human experience of the natural world using a novel two-stage analytic process. Data gathered as part of a larger phenomenological analysis was subjected to interrogation from a contemporary psychoanalytic perspective, with interview excerpts used to illustrate psychoanalytic interpretations of the human—nature relationship. The application of psychoanalytic theory to further interrogate phenomenological descriptions illuminated aspects of the natural world as being of significance in the development and maintenance of a healthy and coherent sense of self, particularly for individuals who identify as having a meaningful and ongoing relationship with the natural world.
The study draws upon phenomenological methodological principles with a view to explicating the lived-experience of nature. Both phenomenology and psychoanalysis are based upon an epistemology which seeks to gain an understanding of human experience. Drawing upon psychodynamic understandings provided an additional perspective, which we viewed as enriching our understanding of the experience of nature. That is, the natural world may be understood in terms of a primary attachment relationship, involving what object-relationship analysts call a good self object, or significant other, both in terms of felt experience and psychic importance.
Participants consistently identified the natural world as a source of tranquility and comfort. The natural world was illuminated as a space in which a sense of belonging, cohesion, and containment was experienced. Collectively, participants described experiences of returning to self, homecoming, and familiarity with the natural world that restored psychic equilibrium.
Drawing upon both a phenomenological and psychoanalytic perspective provides both insights into the life-world of the participants, not accessible through either framework on its own, and also demonstrates the feasibility of an emerging methodology characterized by the emergence of psychoanalytic and phenomenological theory, which in turn, share a common approach to the exploration of the life-world of the participant, and privileges and idiographic approach as an initial step in scholarly understanding of human experience Wertz, Participants identified that being with the natural world healed feelings of unease and rehabilitated an eroded sense of self, much like the embrace of a significant other.
As Kohut , p. Conscious engagement with the natural world may be understood by drawing upon psychotherapy constructs drawn from both contemporary object relations theory, and self psychology. In other words, the natural world offers a similarly validating experience, as discussed in the psychotherapy literature, in that the natural world neither interferes with, nor gratifies, nor casts aspersions about lived experience. For example:. A tree is not going to talk to you or judge you Jen, 30 years old.
Whereas the fallibility of a human self object may lead to self object failure, the natural world simply is. To the extent that the natural world simply is, it cannot offer interpretations or actively participate in the promotion of psychic insight. Furthermore, there can be no interpretation or misinterpretation of the natural world as intending harm - it simply is. Arguably, a person may experience narcissistic injury in the form of failing to summit a peak, climb a tree, or navigate terrain.
For example, if a person regards herself as physically capable or competent at navigating hostile terrain, and she is not able to demonstrate these skills to herself, she may experience psychic discomfort.
However, in not having to account for the mind of the other as in interpersonal experiences, the task of making sense of this discomfort is simpler in the natural world. The natural world may be experienced as restoring psychic equilibrium. It does not aggravate narcissistic injury nor does it threaten sense of self. It is experienced as predictably changeable, egalitarian, and uninterested in criticism or judgement. Nature is associated with nostalgia as the relationship is imbued with childhood memories, learning, and shared experiences with loved ones.
It is a touchstone that we seek out to anchor ourselves and to restore our sense of self. We propose that the notions presented in this study, drawing upon both phenomenology and contemporary psychoanalysis are particularly significant in the context of an increasingly distressed and often alienated population. While the language of self psychology which has informed sections of the paper is sometimes clumsy, the paper has explored the ways in which relationship with nature may be experienced in terms of: primary attachment; as secure base; as twinship; as a containing environment; and as a sensory-emotional milieu.
In essence, we have argued for the possibility that the natural world may function similarly to a secure attachment relationship, particularly in terms of the ways in which the individual experiences his or her self in the natural world, which in turn raises the importance of nature contact from an early age. Participants describe notions, such as feeling tranquil, relaxed and emotional restoration captured by Biophilia, ART, SRT, topophilia and place theories.
However, the notions of topophilia and place as concepts are described in terms of nature out there and separate from humanity, places that we move to or through, places that facilitate emotional experiences. Equally, the notion of nature as something separate from humanity providing space to restore or realize emotional bonds has been effectively explored through Biophilia, ART and SRT. However, participants in this study indicate that, when focused on wellbeing, experiences of nature are beyond something out there and more than an emotional affiliation or a place to experience positive emotional or cognitive restoration.
Instead, nature as expressed by those who experience wellbeing through nature, is experienced as family or part of self and in some way inseparable from self. Experiences of nature are described as contributing to an integrated sense of self. Participants sense of nature is multi-sensory and seems to reflect a comfortable attunement to information within the human—nature relationship which is often contrasted to human-human relationship.
If an ongoing relationship with the natural world affords such a profound sense of belonging, comfort, and containment, there is even greater argument for immersive engagement with the natural world, particularly in the context of an increasingly nature-alienated global population. Several limitations are noted. Application of psychoanalytic constructs to phenomenological data is novel. Traditionally, phenomenology rejects the application of theory to phenomena.
Thus the task of harnessing both phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory toward explicating the lived experience of the natural world has required a two stage analytical process, during which lived experience has been identified, and the constructs, drawn from psychoanalytical constructs, have been utilized to make sense of the data. The intersection of phenomenology and psychology is complex. Firstly, the convergence between phenomenology in psychological research and practice, and psychoanalytic concepts affords rich understanding of human experience. We are in agreement with scholars who have argued that this approach makes the nuances of experience accessible in ways not possible, either by methodologies based upon other disciplines, or a single approach such as phenomenology alone Wertz, Secondly, this endeavor is inherently messy, intuitive rather than systematic, and thus replication can be difficult to achieve.
However, our aim is to get close to human experience and to make sense of those experiences by drawing upon appropriate theoretical constructs. We have argued that contemporary psychoanalytical constructs are suitable for this purpose. The current findings suggest that the relationship between human beings and the natural world is significant, particularly in terms of psychic experience. The exploration of the human—nature relationship is particularly salient in the shadow of an increasingly disconnected global population.
We argue for the need to continue to seek to understand the human experience of the natural world, and with this understanding, find ways to cultivate relationships between human beings and the rest of the natural world. It is not sufficient to know that nature contact is good for us - we already know this and yet the disconnect between contemporary sense of selfhood in urban environments and the natural world grows. Future research may benefit by focusing upon understanding the human—nature relationship, and use this insight to return to a fuller experience of our relationship with the natural world.
There is a need for integrative methodological approaches to further our understanding of human experience. While empirical methodologies may afford explanation of phenomena through postulation of abstract models and theories, phenomenology conceived as a human science lends itself to integrative models of enquiry. We have aimed to demonstrate that with alternative analytic procedures drawing upon phenomenological and psychoanalytic research, the vicissitudes of human experience may begin to be understood. This paper achieves two important objectives. First it demonstrates the utility of a novel methodology which draws upon both phenomenology as a rigorous descriptive science, and contemporary psychoanalytic theory and process to offer a rich and alternative perspective on a critically important relationship: our relationship with the natural world.
Secondly, the findings extend our understanding of human experience as going beyond the traditional domains of early human-human attachment, and additional interpersonal relationships, which is at the center of much psychoanalytic reasoning, but as incorporating the relationship between human-beings and nature as being a profound component of human existence The use of researcher reflexivity to make meaning of the human—nature relationship illuminated parallels between relational psychoanalytic concepts and experience with the natural world.
We argue further that the salience of the human—nature relationship, as articulated in this study may be of particular significance in the context of increasing mental health concerns and the rising incidence of chronic and stress-related disease. RS, HG, and EB were responsible for conceptualizing the study, were involved in the write up, and take responsibility for the final manuscript. RS provided training in the methodology and assisted with interviews. EB provided guidance to the field of environmental psychology. HG conducted the majority of the interviews, transcribed all interviews, and undertook the first analysis of all transcripts.
EB and RS checked coding and analysis. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Alvarez, A. The problem of neutrality. Child Psychother. Bion, W. Learning from Experience. London: Karnac. Google Scholar. Notes on memory and desire. Forum 2, — Bratman, G. The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health. Brown, D. Viewing nature scenes positively affects recovery of autonomic function following acute mental stress.
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Schroeder, H. Place experience, gestalt, and the human—nature relationship. Seamon, D. The phenomenological contribution to environmental psychology. Wapner, J. Demick, T. Rua dos Coelhos, Boa Vista. Recife, PE, Brasil. CEP: E-mail: marisasampaio hotmail. London, UK. In the ethnographic study developed in Brazil July - August , among other techniques used, Bick's observation rooted in psychoanalysis was introduced and adapted. Based on this study, a sandwich project was designed: to develop a deeper understanding of Bick's theoretical and practical approach, its relevance for research and broader applications; to promote a transdisciplinary dialogue between anthropological and psychoanalytic observation.
As a student at Tavistock UK I attended seminars and developed observations in another variation of the setting. Aware of the ethics of the method, Tavistock has been widening its' scope, not seeing it as a unique model, but a comprehensive way of thinking human uniqueness, facilitating the researcher's capacity for self-analysis and a diversity of applications.
Although my reflections are preliminary, the potential of Bick's to innovate research methods cannot be ignored. Key words: Ethnography, Psychoanalysis, Mother-child relations, Breast feeding, Comprehensive health care. Participant observation can vary considerably depending on the theoretical inspiration, nature and design of the research, and the relationship researcher-subjects. In the ethnographic doctorate study developed in Brazil between July and August , which was referenced on the hermeneutic-dialectics and psychoanalysis, among other techniques used observations, semi-structured interviews and documents relating to the daily practice and the context of the clinical situation , Bick's infant observation an observational method rooted in psychoanalysis was introduced and adapted into the ethnography.
It addressed the conscious and unconscious meanings and practices around breast feeding promotion and dyad interaction, developing a sense of the different realities in operation from the professionals and families , and a sense of the inner worlds observed in depth mother and baby , analysing possibilities in the construction of motherhood and feeding relationships. Based on this study, a sandwich project was designed involving ambitious objectives: to develop a deeper understanding of the theoretical and practical approach at Tavistock the institution where the Bick method was created in , in London , its relevance for research and broader applications; to promote a transdisciplinary dialogue between anthropological and psychoanalytic observation regarding intersubjective exchanges experienced in fieldwork.
Can these two perspectives, distinct ways of framing the study of persons and interactions, be productively combined, and what follows if one combines them, can they be used beneficially? There are common epistemological principles means of knowing for anthropology and psychoanalysis: both conceive reality as mediated by language, using close observation and accurate description to stress the process of interaction in fieldwork and the creation of meanings. Not so different from anthropology, Bick's method requires from the observer openness to the unexpected in fieldwork,.
The challenge to achieve a balance between subjectivity and intersubjectivity is a complex negotiation; hermeneutic-dialectics and psychoanalysis seek it through different means. There is never a full knowledge of oneself or of the other; in all cases interpretation is understood as contextualized and provisional, a version among the many possible. In the ethnographic encounter, the researcher opens his horizon, conscious of the different cultural contexts.
This dialogical relationship between observer and observed will not reproduce the model of the other, but will seek a 'dense description', a description of meanings. Considering hermeneutic-dialectics, understanding is produced from dialogue, with meanings being negotiated in the act of interpretation, not simply discovered. The interweaving of small facts and meanings will allow a "thick description" of daily interactions. Habermas 3,4 identifies two types of communication: a factual consensus achieved through daily communication, based on the ideas that exist and work behind us, and the discourse constructed through dialogue, by individuals positioned before a "validity of claims" which can be questioned, setting meanings and values as objects of discussion.
Thus, truths previously considered valid and unshaken can be questioned, the norms and values must be justified, and social relations considered as a result of a negotiation in which one seeks a provisional understanding. The conditions to dialogue result from the roles played by the subjects, an expression of the intertwining of language and power.
Freud showed how internally divided and non-transparent to ourselves we are, far from being a 'unified subject', and our dependence on our experience and on non-symmetrical relations to others. A deep and yet partial knowledge may be reached through close observation and an understanding of transferencial phenomena. Even though there are similarities in these approaches, anthropological studies oriented by hermeneutic-dialectics aim to achieve closeness to the subjective experience of the studied their subjective meanings constituting the social relationship to represent the social-cultural context of a particular reality.
Their 'object of observation' is different from that of psychoanalysis. It usually does not make reference to the researcher's subjectivity by means of unconscious aspects as an instrument of 'knowing', even though they legitimise the knowledge of intersubjectivity knowledge within experience. In psychoanalytical observation, the ontology is that of a field of conscious and unconscious interactions.
A lot of what is observed is pre- linguistic, because of transferential phenomena and the knowledge that on the baby's side, the capacity to use language develops from interactions outside or prior to language. This understanding takes place through unconscious communications from baby to mother and from mother to baby, most of them pre-verbal, involved with physical bodies and their sensations, out of which consciousness, subjectivity and intersubjectivity develop.
Although the reflections are still preliminary, one cannot ignore the potential of psychoanalysis and more specifically Bick's observation to stimulate and innovate research methods, generating new ideas in such discussions. Bick's infant observation. Acknowledged as "a remarkable invention", 7 Bick's infant observation has lead to various applications and singular discoveries about the interaction between the unconscious upon conscious activities. Although it might seem simple, it addresses a complex process; variations in the setting and dialogues with other disciplines need to be carefully considered, not to be unduly disregarded.
At this point it is important to give a brief description of this method as originally proposed. The aim is to create "a space in which the phenomena of the observations can register themselves in all their complexity in the mind before the attempt is made to encode them in theoretical terms" p. The written observations are subsequently discussed in a seminar group no more than eight members , meeting on a weekly basis, where one observation is read per day, exchanging impressions so that the observational material itself may be fully explored and digested, also learning about the infant and families observed by the colleagues.
A sandwich experience at Tavistock. This cooperative institutional work between the Instituto de Medicina Integral Prof. Fernando Figueira IMIP and Tavistock allowed the student to take advantage of a more comprehensive cross-fertilisation. The duration of the programme varies from four to twelve months, with the student's activities being supervised during this period.
Being a student at Tavistock for five months in meant initially witnessing different cultural and institutional applications of infant observation throughout the world, as part of the "6th International Conference for Teachers of Infant and Young Child Observation". Then I had the chance to attend six weekly seminars September - December : two on infant observation, two on young child observation, a seminar on work discussion and another one on eating disorders. This psychoanalytical observation proposed by Bick does not depend only on the family being observed and on the observer's striving to retain and understand in depth the emotional impact on interactions.
The crucial task of containing anxieties and refraining from action also involves a team. Having used Bick before in an adapted way and considering that my main motivations for studying at Tavistock was to further dialogues about the use of Bick within ethnography, some questions emerged. The excellence of Tavistock gained greater meaning when my personal tutor and seminar leader, Mrs. Lisa Miller, with nurturing and stimulating examples, and other seminar leaders supported me in this challenge. I had the privilege of observing a toddler at home and premature twins in a neonatal unit. Although short in time, not allowing the acknowledgement of long term patterns, the observations were intense and impactful.
I can only convey to a limited extent in this brief communication the use of the observations in the seminars and lessons from the programme. At a time of generally suspicious feelings and alleged security concerns among institutions, in order to develop observations at the neonatal unit I was helped by key people who stood close and negotiated the observations.
Maud led us to her room. I asked her if I could sit on one of the chairs and she said "yes", still shy. Again, we exchanged social smiles. At first I was like "Goldilocks" when I found myself wondering if the chair was strong enough to bear my body, Maria mother kneeled on the floor to help Maud take her clothes off, adding that she had recently learned to unbutton clothes. Maud was very excited about this unbuttoning thing, doing her best. She then showed me her pink Hello Kitty panties, to which I replied "nice!
I was glad I was a girl. But still, I tried not to stress this observational moment, giving mother and daughter some privacy at this intimate time. I looked around to notice other details in Maud's room. Maria was - like me - from another country, a speaker of a Latin language, trying to transmit her culture and language to Maud, but most of the time they spoke in English, her husband's native tongue. Although I was among three languages, when with the family I didn't think in my native tongue, feeling that those moments were somehow beyond language: perhaps part of a space between us.
Sometimes I felt as if I had forgotten my language and where I was, living the paradox of feeling 'in the air', yet having my feet on the ground. I noted that mother and daughter also didn't seem to realize when they went from one language to another, but I was able to observe the pattern that they used the mother's native language at very intimate moments. The closeness between the construction of scientific data and infant observation gained meaning: behaviour, gestures, words are loaded with a penumbra of implications, since observing, feeling and thinking are inseparable.
The Christmas holidays helped to close this brief and intense observation. Mother asked for and was able to wait for some feedback at the end; with this I was hopefully able to facilitate a 'thinking of' in order to provide a future 'thinking about'. As a concrete gesture, I gave Maud a gardening set, so she could plant something to think about in her beloved garden.
During the observation Maud kept herself busy with the season's parties, a variation of her usual wary way of not getting too close, perhaps an expression of her symbolic capacity to hold in mind the absent sustaining object, coping with the hardness of a reality full of goodbyes. Maria kept forgetting and yet she was regretful about the forthcoming end of the observations. On the last day important 'details' of why she had wanted the observation were then released in quite an emotionally charged way.
Father arrived at the very end, taking time to talk about himself as a distant and successful entity, yet surprisingly speaking some words in my language, perhaps not wanting to separate - he was the one who originally wanted the observation. For me it was impossible not to feel incomplete, confronted with the method's and my own limitations. Recalling the connection between absence, limits and thought, I can only hope this process was a spur to all our lives. My observations at the neonatal unit revealed the impact of this particular institution and several uncertainties, enabling me to glimpse a certain powerlessness among the adults the observer, hospital staff and parents towards the vulnerability of the twin babies.
Although they were not in a critical clinical state, at first it was exhausting to observe for longer than 30 minutes. I wondered if I would be able to convey into English the primitive feelings I had when with the babies. For some days I observed the twins alone, as mother and father were not able to be at the hospital. During the first observations silence took hold of me, but unlike with the observation with the toddler, an urge to use my native 'maternal' language emerged. The twins had their head turned to each other, but there was a blanket blocking their view.
I took the blanket off and approached each cot, saying in Portuguese, "good evening, boys", with a smile on my face. Although I felt I was watching over them, it was impossible not to feel the presence of the parent's absence, the impact of their empty space. Seated on the arm of the chair beside twin 2 , I recognized a song coming from the radio "Need you" and the lyrics seemed to 'wrap up' what I was feeling: where were the parents? Why was it so hard for them to be with the babies?
The song said: "and I wonder if I ever cross you mind For me it happens all the time.