chapter  Chapter 2
13 Pages

Discovery of the replacement child condition

WithKristina E. Schellinski

The replacement child syndrome was discovered after the Second World War in studies with children who had survived the Holocaust. Cain and Cain published their sentinel article “On Replacing a Child” in 1964. Millions of replacement children have been conceived in the wake of war, disease and accidents, and new categories come into view with medical advances. In this book, a replacement child is defined as a living child who comes to take the place or role of another child or person. In the author’s view, this condition is not a pathology per se: it may condition life for long stretches but as a health condition it can also improve. Healing requires recognizing, diagnosing and understanding. To assess whether one is suffering from elements of this condition, the reader can ask whether early bonding, identity formation and self-esteem, grief or survivor’s guilt are affecting them, their parents or grandchildren as the condition can also affect the lineage. Many famous replacement children found a “way out” through creativity – some artists became famous and were thus seen for who they are, unmistakeably: from Ludwig Beethoven to Maria Callas, from Vincent van Gogh and Salvador Dali to Camille Claudel. The individuation process offers a “way out” of the dilemma for all adult replacement children who discover true self in a dialogue with contents of their unconscious. The myth of the “Tunic of Nessus” illustrates the danger faced by Hercules who donned the garment of dying Nessus to his demise.