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Mother-Infant Attachment and Psychoanalysis

The issue of shame has become a central topic for many writers and therapists in recent years. This text argues that shame can develop during the first six months of life through an unreflected look in the mother's eyes, and that this shame is then internalized by the infant and reverberates through its later life. Mary Ayers further expands on this concept of the look through a powerful and extensive study of the concept of the "evil eye", an enduring universal belief that eyes have the power to inflict injury. Finally, she presents ways of healing shame within a clinical setting and provides an analysis of the role of eye-contact in the therapeutic encounter. This book brings together a blend of theoretical interpretations of shame with clinical studies and integrates major concepts from psychoanalysis, Jungian analysis, developmental psychology and anthropology. The result is a broad understanding of shame and why it may underlie a wide range of clinical disorders.
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Table of Contents

Part I: The Eyes of Shame. Shame Defined. A Phenomenological Description of Shame. The Individual's Experience. Shame and Society. An Analysis of the Development of the Origins of Shame. Part II: Mother's Eyes. The Eye as Face. A Note about Blind Infants. Infant Research. Eye-to-Eye Contact. Gaze Aversion. Part III: Mother's Eyes as False Mirrors. The Eye as Mirror. The Eye as False Mirror. The Evil Eye and the Great Mother. Part IV: The Eyes of the Terrible Mother. The Eye of Death. The Eye of the Terrible Mother in Ancient Egypt. The Petrifying Face of Medusa. The Fiery Eyes of the Baba Yaga. Part V: The Look. A Countertransference Psychosis: The Stone Womb. A Psychotic Transference: The Petrifying Eyes. The Words to Say It. Psychotic Anxieties. Part VI: The Eyes of Love. Symbols of Transformation.The Eyes of Love. Archetypal Symbols that Serve as Containers for Shame's Transformation. The Role of Eye-to-Eye Contact in Psychotherapy. Part VII: Epilogue: Clinical Implications for the Field of Depth Psychology.

About the Author

Dr. Ayers is a Graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and received her PhD in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. She currently divides her time between being a mother to her four children, and a private practice in the suburbs of Washington DC where she specialises in analytic work with children and adults.


This is an incredibly rich book, with much to mention in so little space. It touched this reviewer very much and I am in support of her theory. I feel readers would agree that Ayers does justice to the beginning of a more thorough examination of shame. - Mary Powell, Journal of Religion and Health, Winter 2004

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