Beginning lecture for the world wide Agenda Key
Institutions Meeting of CHILDWATCH
International Research Network, 25-27 June 2005,
Hurdalsjöen Conference
Centre, Norway

Other-centred infants: Showing proto-care, even
altruism, by virtue of altercentric perception
subserved by mirror neurons


Dept of Sociology and Human Geography, University
of Oslo

Infants reciprocating caregiving and toddlers affording helping and altruistic behaviours invite the question about the foundations of such early prosocial behaviours. In terms of the revealed capacity for other-centered participation two different replies are offered, the first about nature, the second about nurture: (i) the altercentric capacity enables the childs' empathic identification with the patient's distress, evoking concern and attempts to relieve the patient of his distress; (ii) when the child is the subject of caregiving, altercentricity enables the child to learn to afford care from virtually participating in the caregiver's activity, and which invites circular re-enactment towards others felt to be in need. Such kind of cultural learning, however, may also apply in some cases of abuse, evoking vicious circles of re-enactment later in life. In spite of a gruesome background, however, episodic evidence of altruism afforded to one another by 3-year-old orphans rescued from Nazi concentration camp, as reported by Anna Freud, attests to an innate basis for altruism deeper than that of cultural learning.

I thank the CWI organizing committee for the invitation to give this lecture to the participants of this Agenda Key Institutions Meeting of Childwatch International Research Network. In view of your research on childhood and children oriented towards to improving their conditions around the globe, it is an honour and a privilege to have been asked set the tone for the meeting' by reporting from my own research on preverbal intersubjectivity and new findings pertinent to early childhood research. My topic concerns proto-care and circular re-enactment by infants, moving with the (mouth) movements of others by virtue of what I have identified as of infant psychology and neurosociology (Braten 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004). I shall touch upon the foundations of the most prominent in the intersection of brain research and infant research: Colwyn Trevarthen (1979, 1998). I shall refer to a new introduction to the seminal work on by Daniel Stern (2000/2003), who is the most prominent in the intersection of infant research and clinical psychology, and has just published a new book in that intersection. And I shall tell you about the startling discovery of so-called (eds.) 2002; Gallese & Ferrari in press) which afford the likely neurosocial support of what I have defined as radical conception that runs counter to notions of egocentricity in traditional theories of child development and is endorsed by the infant and brain researchers named above.  They are all members of the Theory Forum network on the foundations of (pre)verbal intersubjectivity. We convened with other members in a Theory Forum symposium on new pertinent findings in the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters last autumn (3-5 October 2004), and which followed up another symposium in the Academy ten years previously, resulting in the proceedings on Intersubjective Communication and Emotion in Early Ontogeny that I edited for Cambridge University Press (1998). That volume, in addition to another volume in preparation with the title On Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy (Braten (ed.) in prep.), is the most imost important reference work for what I am about to tell you.

Neonatal imitation

Let me begin by introducing you to a video recording of neonatal imitation which another colleage of mine in the Theory Forum network, Giannis Kugiumutzakis, did at Crete in 1985. When before that, in 1977, Meltzoff and Moore published their paper on neonatal imitation this came as a chock to many of those who had been socialized in the traditional Piagetian and object-relations theories to view infants as asocial or egocentric. What is reported in this now classical Science paper is how each of the newborns, when exposed to the lightened face of Andrew Meltzoff exhibiting tongue protrusion, or lip protrusion, or wide mouth opening, took after his gesture in a manner that could not be explained away as  a reflex act or a coincidence. These newbornswere rather old, however, -- actually between 12 and 22 days old. What Kugiumutzakis did a few years later was to invite such imitations from much younger ones -- between 20 and 45 minutes old --  whom you are now about to see.

   [Presentation of video records of newborns, less than 60 minutes old, imitating mouth and eyebrow movements, such as tongue protrusion or wide mouth opening (Recorded at Crete 1985 and described by Kugiumutzakis (1998:63-88), as well as in others of his publications)]

And you can see from the newborns' intense scrutiny of his whole face, not just of the mouth or eyebrow used in the movement, and the time they need and the effort it takes to come up with a semblant gesture, that this is no reflex action. Take for example the girl, twenty minutes old, gazing intensely at his face as he does a wide mouth-opening and then, after a while, coming up with a semblant mouth movement with an obvious effort.

In one way, the newborn may be seen intuitively to try to reach for the centre of the other's mind; in another way by a deliberate effort to come up with a gestural match (cf. Kuguimutzakis 1998:80-81). Meltzoff & Moore (1998:58) suggest that infants have a code for interpreting that the other is 'Like You and Liking You' -- in the double sense of showing to (be) like the other. In phylogenetic terms of survival: they are making a case for being picked up because of their being like (and liking) the potential caretaker. Being unable to physically cling, they have to connect by clinging'. This is suggested by the fact that it is easer to elicit neonatal imitation in the first hour after birth, when survival would have been at stake in the wilderness, than later on.

When infants feed a companion and spectators are dedicated to the performer's success

We shall return to this video presentation. But let me first show you instances of pro-sociality or proto-care exhibited by infants from various cultures, who before the first year's birthday feed or spoon-feed their companion.

   [Overhead presentaiton of photos of a Norwegian boy (11 3/4 months), spoonfeeding his elder sister (Braten 1996), of a Yanomomi girl of abou the same age, feeding her elder sister (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1979); and of an Italian boy at a daycare centre feeding his girl friend (photo by Carolyn Pope Edwards)]

Here, for example, is a Norwegian boy, 11 3/4 months, reciprocating his big sister's spoonfeeding (Braten 1996), an Amazonas girl of about the same age offering a morsel to her big sister (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1979) and then, here you see a  boy, almost a year older, who feeds a cake to his girl companion in an Italian daycare centre (Carolyn Pope Edwards brought this snapshot back from Italy when returning to to my research group in the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) in Oslo 1996-97). They all afford instances of early pro-sociality and proto-care. But what else do you see in these pictures? Look closely..

Moving with the mouth movement of the other being fed

Regard the mouth of the infant feeders; notice how they are opening their own mouth as their companions open the mouth to receive the food offered, and notice how the Yanomami girl tightens her lips as her big sister's mouth closes on the morsel. What you see revealed here, like what you yourself may unwittingly exhibit when feeding a child or a patient, is taking a virtual part in the patient's intake of the food, as if participating in the other's eating from the other's stance, or virtually helping the other to grasp by mouth the food offered. These are instances of what I have identified and termed (Braten 1997, 1998). As the very reverse of perception of facing other subjects from an ego-centric perspective, other-centered participation entails the empathic capacity to identify with the other in a virtual participant manner that evokes co-enactment or shared experience as if being in the other's bodily centre:

   "Altercentric participation: ego's virtual participation in Alter's act as if ego were a co-author of the act or being hand-guided from Alter's stance. This is sometimes unwittingly manifested overtly, for example, when lifting one's leg when watching a high jumper, or when opening one's own mouth when putting a morsel into another's mouth (and differs from perspective-taking mediated by conceptual representations of others)" (Bråten, 2000:297-298).

In the glossary of his book on The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, Daniel Stern offers this definition:

   "Altero-centered participation (Braten 1998b) is the innate capacity to experience, usually out of awareness, what another is experiencing [...] as if your center of orientation and perspective were centered in the other" (Stern 2004:241-242).

Stern sees such other-centred participation as "the basic intersubjective capacity that makes imitation, sympathy, emotional contagion, and identification possible" (p.242). And what is more, when you are not just watching the other about to perform something, but wishing for the other to succeed in whatever he or she is doing, you will tend to show by your own accompanying muscle movements your virtual participation in the other's effort as if you were a co-author of the other's doing. Actually, some of you have just demonstrated this a few moments ago.....

What some of lecture audiences do when watching a video of neonal imitation

When you were the watching the newborn girl, 20 minutes old, preparing for coming up with a wide mouth opening movement resembling what Kuguiumutzakis was doing with his mouth, some of you in the audience opened your own mouth -- not as imitation, but slightly in advance of the little girl -- as if to help her to achieve this tremendous feat. I took some photos of you, and here is a snapshot of another lecture audience exposed to the same video. As you can see, while some of the spectators are smiling, others open their own mouth with a sincere expression as if unwittingly trying to come to virtual aid of what the newborn girl is trying to do. And this is not imitation. Being acutely aware of what the little girl is trying to prepare for; they open their mouth before she manages to do so.

Adam Smith (1759) had noticed how spectators watching a French line dancer would sometimes wriggle and otherways move their own bodies as if helping the dancer to keep the balance as he walked on the slack line. He saw this as a manifestation of what he termed term when considering the Greek roots of suffering). About a hundred years later, Darwin (XXXX.), in his work on expression of emotions in animal and in man, mentions that he has heard of sport event spectators of high jumping who move their own legs when watching the high jumper take off, but he doubted that girls would do such a thing. Darwin was wrong. I have a video (which I shall later show you) illustrating how our Norwegian princess, Märtha Louise, in the spectator box at the summer Olympics 2000 in Sidney, jumps high in the air as her horse, ridden by an Englishman, is about to cross the last high obstacle.

So, what she was doing when watching what the horse and rider was trying to do, and what some of you were doing when watching what the little girl was trying to do, or what the feeder often unwittingly does when the patient prepares to mouth grasp the afforded food, is to show by your muscle activation and semblant part movements or co-movements (termed Mit-Bewegungen by Eibl-Eibeslfeldt 1997:???) that you take a virtual part in what the other is trying to do, as if sharing the bodily centre of the other's muscular activity. This is other-centred partipation entailing altercentricity -- the very reverse of egocentricity.

Mirror neurons system are the likely neurosocial support of altercentric participation

When introducing and illustrating altercentricity in a CAS lecture in The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (March 1997), I made the prediction that the neurosocial support of this capacity would come to be discovered:

   "Now, if by way of experimental procedures, the neural basis supporting egocentric perception and the neural basis sensitized to support allocentric perception [subserved by so-called animals to retrieve stored food independent of own body position] are uncovered in humans, then I would expect that neural systems, perhaps even neurons, sensitized to realize altercentric perception will be uncovered in experiments designed to test and disconfirm this expectation." (reprinted in Braten 1998:122-123).

When making the above prediction I did not know about the discovery of so-called in decentred adapted form afford the likely support of such other-centred participation (cf. Braten 2004). In the autumn of 1997, however, when completing my editing the volume on Intersubjective Communication and Emotion in Early Ontogeny, I learnt to my delight of the original macaque experiment conducted by Rizzolatti and co-workers, reported by Di Pellegrino et al. (1992), and managed in time to include in that volume (Braten (ed.) 1998:120-122) a portrayal of that experiment. In this experiment the macaque monkey, allowing for electronic recording of degrees of disharge of pre-motor nerve cells in the monkey's parietal lobe, is watching the experimenter grasp a morsel from a board, and then given the opportunity to grasp such a morsel from the board. In both cases there is a significant premotor cell activation and discharge of what later came to be termed for the fact that they fire both when the macaque is doing the grasping and when the macaque is watching another's grasping.

There is even a differential discharge that varies with the intent, recently revealed in macaque monkey experiments: When the experimenter grasp a morsel with the intent til eat it, there will be a strong discharge in the watcher, while if it is grasped in order to be thrown in a bucket, the mirror neurons discharge in the watching macaque is weaker. Fogassi et al. (2005:662-667 ) have reported this in an April issue of Science this year. So, there is link between resonating to a specific act, and which varies according to the action in which that act is embedded, i.e. a link between mirror resonance of the act and the intention: there is stronger mirror resonance elicited by watching grasping in order to eat that which is grasped than by watching grasping in order to throw away that which is grasped.

Already in 1998, Rizzolatti and Arbib in their Trends in Neuroscience article on Language within our grasp, indicate the location of mirror neurons in the chimpanzze brain and of a mirror neurons system in the prefrontal cortex of the human brain. They suggested that such a system not just subserves action understanding, but may have played a role in the phylogeny of language, supporting intention understanding in the first primitive dialogues. This we have followed up two years later in a conference on mirror neurons and the evolution of brain and language, organized by Maxim Stamenov and one of Rizzolatti's co-discoverers, Vittorio Gallese (cf. Stamenov & Gallese 2002). Here, and in a commentary to the anthropologist Dean Falk's (2004) article last autumn on Prelinguistic evolution in early hominins, I have proposed that the efficient speech perception that may be observed in early ontogeny may have been subserved by a phylogenetically afforded and adapted resonant mirror system, decentred in phylogeny to subserve (m)other-centred participation by hominin infants. Such an evolved decentred capacity for learning by altercentric perception to cope and take care would have overcome and compensated (at least before the (Homo Erectus ?) invention of baby slings) for the loss of the instructive and protective advantage enjoyed by back-clinging offsprings of other primates (Braten 2002:289-290; 2004:508-509).

Perceptual mirror reversal found to be difficult in autism

Such a phylogenetic adaptation of the mirror neurons system entails that when the infant is watching and imitating the performing other face-to-face, a perceptual mirror reversal is occurring.

While ordinary children in virtue of altercentric perception can do what the other is doing when seen face-to-face, children with autism who understand and comply with the invitation example, when the model is raising his arms, the subject with autism may compare the inside of the model's hands with own hands and, then, raise his own hands with the palms inwards (cf. Fig. 5.4 in Braten's chapter and the chapter by Whiten & Brown in Braten (ed.) 1998: 260-282).

Circular re-enactment from learning by other-centred participation

As the very reverse of perception of facing subjects from an ego-centric perspective, other- centered participation entails the empathic capacity to identify with the other in a virtual participant manner that evokes co-enactment or shared experience as if being in the other's bodily centre. You can understand how this may invite in children a general proclivity towards prosocial and even altruistic behaviour. Here is the proposition:

(i)  By virtue of the innate capacity for other-centered participation in the patient's distress or felt need as if experiencing that from the patient's center, there is a natural proclivity in the child to feel concern and sometimes attempt to help the patient, perhaps even at own expence, if situational and motoric resources permit.

If helping occurs at own expence, then this would per definition entail altruism. Does this apply to the previous examples of infants feeding other? Not quite, and only if those infants would have preferred to reserve the food afforded for themselves. In the case of the Norwegian boy, that certainly did not apply. True, he reciprocated his sister's spoonfeeding, but only until the sweet desert; that he kept to himself; no more sharing then...

Circular re-enactment of caregiving from e-motional memory

From previously being spoon-fed by his caregivers, however, he had learnt to (take delight) in spoon-feeding others in return, and to do so before his first birthday.  Such an impressive early feat of cultural learning entails that nature has been at play: an innate capacity for imitative learning even of care-giving, and which now permits specifications in terms of other-centred participation:

(ii)  Caregiving situations, which may appear to be unilateral activities, should be re-defined to be seen at the reciprocal activities entailed in virtue of the infant's taking a virtual part in what the caregiver does, and thereby learns from alter-centric participation in that very caregiving.

I shall now take a step further and offer an account of how the altercentric capacity invites in the child as a subject of care or abuse a mode of imitative learning which creates virtuous and vicious circles of re-enactment. But first some definitions of pertinent terms are needed:

Felt immediacy: the mode of directly perceiving own or others' body movements and orientation in presentational immediacy, in contradistinction to experience in conceptual and re-presentational mediacy.

Vitality Contour: term introduced by Daniel Stern for the temporal contour of feeling flow patterns with a characteristic intensity time-course of vitality affects reflecting the manner in which an activity has been enacted and the feeling that directs the enactment.

Learning by altercentric participation: imitational learning by Ego's virtual participation in Alter's act in felt immediacy which

(1)  evokes sensori-motor engagement in Alter's movements in a participatory sense involving virtual co-enactment of Alter's movements as if Ego were hand-guided and a co-author of Alter's act,

(2)  giving rise to shared temporal vitality (affects) contours, reflecting the manner in which the enactment is felt to be virtually co-enacted and the feeling that directs the co-enactment,

(3)  enabling circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such virtual co-enactments,

(4)  which in face-to-face situation entails mirror reversal of Alter's enactment -- from being other-centred perceived to being self-centred executed as circular re-enactment.

Such learning entail a kind of procedural memory or, as I would specify it, an e-motional memory. By "e-motional memory" I mean here the affective remembrance -- which is not conceptual and may not be conscious -- of virtually moving with Alter's movements leaving Ego with a characteristic vitality contour and procedural memory of the virtual co-enactment which may be evoked for re-enactment in similar situations. The composite term "e-motional" combines the folk sense of being and the root sense

In an environment affording care, the infant gets recurrent opportunities to not just be subjected to care but to feel to be virtually co-enacting such caregiving, inviting circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such caregiving if and when others in need or distress reactivate in the child feelings semblant of the form of bodily self-feelings evoked in situations in which the infant has experienced caregiving, and hence activating circular re-enactment of care.

Then others in need or distress may invite caring efforts resembling the caring afforded by others earlier in infancy from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in that caregiving. We may also, in line with Fogel (2004), use the term participative memory.

(iii)  The kind of caretaking frequently experienced by the infant in virtue of alter-centric participation provides a basis for circular re-enactment of that kind of caretaking towards other children in need or distress.

This fits with studies revealing how the quality of the caregiving background appears to play a role in children's reaction towards others in need: Those from a nurturant and caring background are most likely to help and offer comfort to other children in need or distress (Berk 1994; Zahn-Waxler et al. 1979). Thus, altercentric participation is at play in a twofold way here: first, by the part it plays in learning from caregivers who have left the child with an e-motional or participatory memory of caregiving; second, by the way in which altercentric participation may be elicited by others in need or distress, and thereby activating circular re-enactment of caregiving offered to them.

Thus, sensitive caretaking frequently experienced by the infant in the reciprocal mode of felt immediacy may come to provide a basis for circular re-enactment of semblant kinds of caretaking towards other children in need or distress.

Child abuse inviting circular re-enactment of abuse

But caretaking experiences need of course not only be experiences of caring, comfort and holding (in Winnicott's sense). Parents, caretakers and others may be guilty of various forms of abuse. And if the above applies, then we should also expect that experiences of abuse and rejection in caretaking may come to invite vicious circles of re-enactment. That is implied by proposition (iii).
In the way that sensitive caregiving invites circular re-enactment then we should also expect that experiences of abuse may come to invite circles of re-enactment:

(iv)  Circular re-enactment of abuse somehow entails that the child victim has been compelled not just to suffer the victim part, but to feel to participate in the abusive movements, sharing the vitality contours reflecting the manner of abuse and the feelings that direct the abuse. In virtue of such altercentric participation the victim may come to experience engagement in the bodily motions and feelings of the abuser, not just own suffering. That leaves the victim with a compelling bodily and emotional remembrance that increases the likelihood of circular re-enactment of abuse in peer relations or towards younger children later in ontogeny from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in actual alter's abuse, while suffered by the victim's bodily ego. (END NOTE)

However, if the victim is incapable of altercentric participation in the abuser's activity, or defence mechanisms prevent any sharing of vitality contours with the abuser, reflecting the manner of abuse and the feelings that direct the abuse, then we should not expect the victim to be able to reverse positions and become an abuser in relations to others. Defence mechanisms or biological impairments may prevent altercentric participation in the abuser's activity from the abuser's stance. If not, there is the risk of circular re-enactment of abuse towards others in the course of ontogeny.

Classical theories of learning cannot be used to account for this; only how to learn to become and remain a victim from being abused. In his article in Forum der Psychoanalyse,  Dornes (2002:303-331) points to links between my account of circular re-enactment of abuse and the psychoanalytic notions of the introject". He stresses, however, that my account implies a sort of "identification" at a subsymbolic and body-near level entailing no symbolic representations:

   "[Braten's] theory follows the intuition of Freud (1920) that compulsive repetition ("Wiederholungszwang") is a biologically founded phenomenon, albeit here not anchored in the death instinct, but in a form of resonance theory" (Dornes 2002:319n).

Thus, this means virtual participation in a more narrow sense, participation in the sense of felt immediacy in the abuser's movements as if being a co-author, and leaving the victim with a bodily, not conceptual, remembrance that call upon circular re-enactment. And, as Dornes makes clear, I account for the re-enactment of abuse in terms of the very same life-giving mechanism operating in children's proto-care and in their re-enacting the caregiving they have experienced.

Empirical support: abused toddlers are more likely to become abusive than other toddlers

Thus, prior to defence mechanisms setting in, the abused child is not just a victim of the abuse, but virtually takes a part in the abusive and hurtful event as a co-enactor of the abuse, inviting as one of several paths an increased likelihood of circular re-enactment of abusive behaviour towards other potential victims.

The above implies that children who have experienced caretaking or parenting in a harsh, punitive, neglecting or abusive manner should be more likely to respond with fear, anger, or even attack peers or younger children in distress, as compared to responses by children with a different experiential background. Empirical studies point in this direction. For example, observing abused toddlers abusing other infants George and Main (1985) indicate a vicious circle in the early impact of the quality of the caretaking background. Severely abused toddlers have been observed at a day-care centre to react fearfully or aggressive towards other children in distress, and by the second year of their life to re-enact the abusive behaviour of their parents. Some of the toddlers found to having been abused were never observed to express obvious concern for another child in distress. Sometimes, they even tormented the other child until it began crying and then, while smiling, mechanically patted or attempted to quiet the crying child (Harris 1989; George and Main 1985).

There is thus a double vicious circle in the tragedy of child victims of abuse. Not only are they deprived of full emotional holding quality in their own life. By virtue of circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of abuse, some of them may even later in ontogeny be driven to deprive others of that same quality of life (END NOTE).

Again, as in the case of circular re-enactment of care, no conceptual or verbal "memory" need be involved for experiences of abuse in felt immediacy to give rise to re-enactment. Were a conceptual or verbal memory to be at play, the likelihood of circular re-enactment from e-motiional memory of abuse could be expected to be reduced. Indeed, men and women who have been subjected to incest and abuse in their infancy or early childhood may first come to realize that they may have been victims when a crisis breaks out in adult years. But while the experience of abuse is not re-presented in virtue of any conceptual memory, the child is certainly affected in the most profound way. That is why the composite term e-motional "memory" is useful to denote the affective experience and remembrance of moving with the other's motions that afford the infant the feeling of participating in the movement and accompanying emotions. Different from higher-order conceptual memory, this kind of "e-motional memory" will be ineffaceably affected by abusive motions felt to be co-enacted, and increase the likelihood of circular re-enactment later in ontogeny of the previously felt co-enacted movements.

When orphan victims, 3 years old, exibit altruism in relation to one another (NOTE)

Both human nature and social nurture have been shown to be at play in the above domains.

If altruism and protocare in young children were to be the product of cultural learning only, then we should expect that three-year old children, rescued from Nazi concentration camps and whose parents were killed in the gas chambers, would be incapable to afford care and show concern for others. But that is clearly not the case as reported by Anna Freud and Sophie Dann (1951). They studied six German-Jewish orphans, three boy victims and three girl victims, rescued in 1945 from the the concentration camp in Terezin, where three of them had been since they were about 6 months, and the others since they were 12 months old or younger. Their parents were deported and killed soon after their birth, and they arrived in the concentration camp when they were 6 months old and some approachiing 12 months. All of them were deprived from the beginning of any outside a camp or big institution (p.167). Here they were looked after by the inmates of the ward for motherless children, feeding them as well as possible but unable to attend to any of their other needs, and certainly not playing with them (p.167-168n). On October 1945 they arrived, via a Czech Castle where they given special care and lavishly fed, in Bulldogs Bank in UK.

As could have been expected, upon arrival in Bulldogs Bank the children were extremely hostile towards the adults and the environment afforded them. They destroyed all toys (had never been engaged in playing with toys) and damaged much of the interior environment. Towards the staff they behaved with active hostility, hitting, biting, spitting, shouting and screaming, and at other times with cool indifference except when they had to turn to an adult to satisfy some need; when satisfied the adult was again treated as beeing non-existent (p.168).

Upon arrival on October 1945 the two youngest of them, Miriam and Peter, were about 3 years old, the oldest, John, 3 years and 10 months, and in between these three others who were three and a half year old, Ruth, Paul and Leah, who was delayed for six weeks due to a ringworm infection. When she arrived, the five other children had accommodated themselves to a certain extent to the new surroundings, picked up some English terms which they sometimes could use in contact with the staff.

   When, however, Leah arrived, with no special qualities inviting a special status, except for her being a newcomer, all the five others behaved once more as if they were all newcomers like her, reverting to German, "shouted and screamed, and were again out of control." (Freud (with Dann) 1973:173))

This is indicative of how one of the children could be in the center of the others' empathic identification, manifested by their altered behaviour. As Anna Freud points out, they identified with Leah, and as I would put it, by reverting to the behaviour and language of Leah, the other orphans appear to manifest their other-centred participation in her doings. And as Leah became more adjusted to the new environment, so did the others accommodate, returning now to their previous slightly adapted behaviour, including their recent adoption of English terms.

And all the time, the orphans showed themselves to be extremely considerate of one another's feelings, showed concern for one another and affording care, often at own expence. Upon arrival in Bulldogs Bank, they did not know how to play with toys, but when learning, they silently assisted one another or admired one another's productions when for example building something.

Perhaps most impressive, in view of their gruesome and depriving backgrounds, was they way they behaved towards one another at mealtimes: handing food to the companion was more important than having food oneself (p.174). Here are two telling examples, occurring respectively in November and December after their arrival in October:

     "John [3 years 11 months] cries when there is no cake left for a second helping for him. Ruth [3 years 7 months] and Miriam [3 years 3 months] offer him what is left of their portions. While John eats their pieces of cake, they pet him and comment contently on what they have given him."

   "Paul [3 years and 7 month] has a plate full of cake crumbs. When he begins to eat them, the other children want them too. Paul give the biggest crumbs to Miriam, the three middle-sized one to the other children, and eats the smallest one for himself" (Freud (with Dann) 1973:175)

Even though Paul in the latter episode has an ambivalent attitude towards food (p.201), both of these episodes may be seen to demonstrate altruistic behaviour. In the first episode, the two girls act in an altruistic manner, giving John their piece of cake at their own expence. Their content and commenting behaviour suggests their taking delight in his eating. Their empathic identification is indicative of othercentered participation which probably underlies and gives rise their altruistic act.

Thus, here we see telling examples of the way in which the apparent innate capacity for othercentered participation, and which plays a part in altruism, may break through and make itself felt even against the most gruesome and depriving backgrounds. When Paul, about to eat, shares his plate full of cake crumbs with the other children, keeping the smallest crumb for himself", and when Ruth and Miriam give crying John their own pieces of cake, petting him and commenting contently as he helps himself, these are beautiful examples of altruism in its bright light against the dark and depriving background of these orphans.

End Note

It need not come to circular re-enactment of abuse, however; several other paths are open to the victim. One such alternative path is to disengage from the body subjected to abuse, or to divorce the bodily ego from the virtual alter, each running their separate course. Circular re-enactment of abuse may be also be prevented if the previous victim's capacity for altercentric participation is not "turned off" in relation to other potential victims, unless pain-seeking has become a motivating force.


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