L. (3 years and a half) has become very defensive of his territory, especially in his dealings with his older sister. He started by demanding her not to touch him or the toys he was using. Later he began to enforce a kind of “exclusion zone”: he doesn’t want his sister to get too close to him, especially when he’s playing by himself (with his toy cars, etc.). Of course, this doesn’t happen all the time; they often play together and get along well. But sometimes he does get very territorial and shouts or cries asking her to leave (in his jargon: “¡ite!”), and if she doesn’t obey he tries to recruit parental help.
Lately, in what I see as an increase in this kind of territoriality, he seems to be concerned about “intellectual property”: whenever he says something and is echoed by his older sister (or other people) saying something identical or very similar to what he just said, he tells her not to copy him (“¡No me copies!”). He’s enforcing intangible boundaries that protect his identity; he’s drawing an assertive circle around him and he’s self-confident enough to try to deter his older sister from crossing this limit.
At about 3 years of age, I tell L. that he will be having a haircut later. I ask him, “Do you know where we’ll take you for the haircut?”. And he replies: “Yes, to the doctor”. This makes sense, I think: both the doctor and the barber do something intrusive with your body.
A month later he is scratching persistently a mosquito bite and I tell him to stop so that he doesn’t hurt himself. He says: “Take me to the doctor”. “Why?”, I ask. His response is: “He’ll ask me to behave” (“me va a decir portate bien“).
A couple of weeks after that he sees me trying to repair my car. He tells me: “call the doctor”. I ask him: “What for?” And his response is: “He’ll ask the car to behave” (Para que le diga portate bien).
So not only behavior problems (or disobedience) are assimilated to physical body problems. In a twist to child animism, the car body is like a human body, and a car can be taken to the doctor to get disciplined, or at least to be scolded and instructed on how to behave.
I’ve just finished reading Watkins (2006). Some interesting points:
- Even though the author says he’s discussing cognitive-behavioral approaches, his approach at times resembles systemic therapy. For instance, he asks himself about the meaning and function of depressive symptoms in specific contexts. Moreover, therapeutic efforts do not address thought content; rather, they aim at changing thinking styles and patterns.
- Some other comments remind me of psychoanalysis. For example, the author treats rumination as an avoidance strategy. This would be the case of a patient that, in order to avoid getting into a fit of anger, uses rumination as a way to divert his attention and energy. The author even claims that “rumination is often tied up with avoidance of an unwanted or feared self.” This seems to me a good example of what psychoanalists would call a “defense mechanism”.
WATKINS E. 2006. Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy for Depressive Rumination. Mood
Disorders Centre, School of Psychology, University of Exeter.
Another interesting paper on this topic:
Abbott, M. J., & Rapee, R. M. (2004). Post-event rumination and negative self-appraisal in social phobia before and after treatment. Journal of abnormal psychology, 113(1), 136–144. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.113.1.136