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The 'black hole' in the inner universe

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Summary The metaphor of the 'black hole' has been borrowed from astronomy in order to describe certain phenomena occurring in work with autistic and psychotic children. This metaphor is different from Tustin's concept of the 'black hole'. I shall attempt to describe another phenomenon: not that of the hole in the self, resulting from premature separation, but the hole in the object that the autistic or psychotic child is relating to - or, rather, turning away from.

I describe an autistic boy's need to protect himself against the catastrophic experience of relating to an object with such a hole in its mind. That is a particular kind of a depressed object which emits deadness, instead of the lively, responsive affect that the child should get in communication. It is not an intrusive object, but it sucks in and drowns energy.

If the experience of relating to the 'black hole' in the object happens early and in such a powerful way that the child's energy feels insufficient to defend against it in any way, then the fear of annihilation becomes so strong that it may lead to the wiping out of the whole internal universe in order to escape its deadly gravitational pull. Only when a different kind of relationship gets internalized, through therapy, with an object that contains and returns life and energy, can the mind grow enough to be able to communicate the other, darker side of the relationship from which it has closed itself away.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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