‘This thoroughly innovative work beautifully weaves together existential and psychoanalytic perspectives - both theoretically and as part of data analysis - so that they enhance each other. Zoi Simopoulou explores the existential in the everyday (nursery) lives of five young children, shorn of historical, family or social context and using her own subjectivity in a sensitive, open-ended, theoretically informed and detailed way. Five children come alive in their deep existential thereness, through her, based on the sort of everyday encounter and play in which most researchers would find nothing.’ - Wendy Hollway, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Open University, UK This book is a psychoanalytic observation of five children’s existential encounters in their ordinary life at the nursery. It is among the first within psychosocial literature to go beyond adult experiences and explore the existential in young children’s lives as it plays out in their everydayness in symbolic and sensory articulations and in relationship with others; including with the author as someone who arrived looking for it. The author offers analysis in the form of a writing inquiry into meaning, by means of an on-going movement between the self and the other, the interior and the exterior, and psychoanalytic and existential-phenomenological ideas. This is illustrated through a kaleidoscopic account of May, Nadia, Edward, Baba and Eilidhs’ encounters with nothingness, strangeness, ontological insecurity, death and selfhood as these emerged in the time they spent with the author embodying different forms – from concrete objects to dreams – exemplifying an attunement to existential ubiquity. With its relational ground, this work suggests the potential for adults – including researchers, therapists, trainees, educators and parents – to attune to their own existential encounters as a path to understanding those of children. Zoi Simopoulou is a practicing Art Therapist and Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She trained in therapeutic work with children and young people with a focus on psychoanalytic observation and reflexive practice at Human Development Scotland.
Part 1 -- 1.In search of a space -- 2. Children’s existential encounters in literature -- 3. The self-in-reverie: thinking psychoanalytic observation with relational psychoanalysis and feminist writings on meaning -- Part 2: Reading, dreaming, writing, asking, playing, thinking with; reliving the observations kaleidoscopically -- The children -- The nursery -- 4.Nothingness; May and Gaston Bachelard -- 5.Strangeness; Nadia and Albert Camus -- 6.Ontological insecurity; Edward and Ronald Laing -- 7.Death: loss and growth; Baba -- 8.Selfhood; Eilidh and Fernando Pessoa -- Part 3 -- 9.Theoretical, interpersonal and unconscious liminality in psychoanalytic observation as a space for young children’s existential encounters