Finding The Unfound
This was the title of our very provocative conference in San Francisco last Saturday that focused on the psychodynamic treatment of children and young adults suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. We repeatedly heard from the presenters about the complex reactions of both the patients and their families when they failed to find a way to connect to each other.
In introducing the panel, Katharine Gould, psychoanalyst and Clinical Director of A Home Within’s Chicago chapter, reminded the audience that foster children are among those that suffer most from being unfound. Many of them wait for weeks or months or years in the hope that someone will care enough to find them.
Do you remember playing hide-and-seek and how the excitement of waiting to be found was tinged with the anxiety of not being found? Being found too quickly made the game boring; waiting too long meant that anxiety overtook excitement.
For foster children, there is little excitement in waiting to be found—waiting for someone who will want to get to know them. Sometimes they emerge from hiding too quickly, attaching themselves to anyone who appears in their world, unable to take the time to get to know the person or form a real relationship. Sometimes they won’t come out of hiding at all, afraid to believe that there might be someone who really does want to know them. It takes courage to believe that someone will take the time to find out who they really are, hidden behind the barriers they have created to protect themselves.
For children suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, the barriers to relationships have their beginnings in neurophysiology. For foster children the barriers to relationships have their beginnings in loss. Sometimes it’s not clear how these groups of unfound children experience their lack of relationships; for those working to find them, the pain can be almost palpable.
By Toni Heineman