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Title: Separation, Loss, and Longing in the Infancy and Early Childhood of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
Subtitle: Attachment in Psychological and Spiritual Development
Author(s): GIUGLIANO, R.J.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 14    Date: 2004   
Pages: 225-254
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.14.0.505196

Abstract :
This paper examines the infancy and early childhood relationships of St. Thérèse of Lisieux from the psychological perspective of attachment theory. The first chapter of Story of a Soul and her mother Zélie’s letters quoted in other sources are examined in terms of the light they shed on Thérèse’s experiences of abandonment and loss that are the foundation for both psychological suffering endured later in childhood and adolescence as well as her spirituality of the little way of spiritual childhood. In the first chapter of her autobiography Thérèse reflects on her infancy and childhood through her own memories as well as citations from her mother’s letters. Thérèse and Zélie’s relationship was painfully ambivalent and insecure and could not sustain or metabolize the anger, distress, and grief Thérèse experienced when separated from her wet nurse Rose Taillé. Rose was Thérèse’s primary attachment figure from the age of two months to fifteen months and the source of primary experiences of loving and being loved. The suffering Thérèse endured during the first four and a half years of her life before her mother died of breast cancer was as intense and severe as any she was to suffer subsequent to her mother’s death with the exception of the physical and psychological suffering from the tuberculosis that caused her death.

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