A close association between two or more organisms (usually of different species). There are four types of symbiosis: amensalism, commensalism, mutualism, and parasitism.

Two or more organisms living together where one is harmed by the relationship without harming or benefiting the other.

Two or more organisms living together where one is harmed by the relationship and the other benefits.

Two or more organisms living together where one is unaffected by the relationship and the other benefits from it.

Two or more organisms living together where both benefit from the relationship. In obligative mutualism, the benefit is critical and irreplaceable: the two organisms are interdependent and cannot survive without one another. In facultative mutualism, the two organisms derive a less critical benefit and could survive without one another.


In Psychoanalysis (with a capital P) , the relationship between a mother and her dependent infant is referred to as symbiosis. It is, apparently, a stage between autism (in the “dictionary” sense of utter self-absorption rather than the medical sense of having the developmental condition of that name) and individuation. It is a stage of gradual separation in which the physical unity of a pregnant woman gradually evolves into two separate individual human beings with two separate identities.


What kind of symbiosis?
What can a child give to rescue its all-consuming need from the charge: parasite.

A mother clenches inside with the need for her child.
A mother cries out – bring me my baby!
A mother rocks, empty.

A child can fill that need. Like a rare magic.

A mother smiles gently as she caresses the softness of her tiny beloved.
She catches herself at heights.
She dreams.


A mother can go to the ends of the earth, the ends of existence.
A mother can die for that child.
Even a mother who cannot kill, can die.


A mother watches the well-meaning relatives, the neighbours, the friends, and she burns with waiting, longing to be alone. And “alone” doesn’t mean “alone” any more, yet she is barely even conscious that a child has entered into the meaning of “alone”.


The child of such a mother is no parasite.


And then – the symbiosis ends, and independence takes over. This takes a long time – which is good because the shock of separation is a shock that can break a person.

The loss of mutual dependence is as much a cause for grief as the discovery of autonomy is a source of joy. Each little milestone is a sign of gradual birth; but also a sign of gradual death. The birth of autonomy, the death of mother-love.

Except mother-love does not die. It potters on, not needed, but still hanging about the place, like a wardrobe in the garage that is too big for the new house – but it might come in handy someday, right?


Baby (Leboyer)

I am warm.
I am warm.
A noise!
A safe place. Warm.
I am the world.

I am born.
Pain, light, noise, change.
Pain inside me.
The world is going wrong. What happened to the world? My world?
Where am I now? Where is my world, my warm, warm me?

I am warm.
This dulls the pain, muffles the noise, darkens the light, softens the change.
This milk is me.
I am not the world any more, but this milk is me, and I am it.
And it is warm.

Baby (Leboyer)

This world is not so scary.
The lights are pretty, the noise is funny.
And as for the pain – this milk is my protection.

Where is my milk?
It is me!
Where am I!

Here it is.

Sometimes this milk that is me isn’t here.
Sometimes this milk that is me doesn’t seem to be me.
Is this milk me, when it goes away sometimes?

Here it is.

Yet I am not so sure that this milk is me.
And if it is not me, what am I to do when I need it?

Here it is.

But what if it were not?





Mother rabbit and bunny
Slowly, Ariel has grown.
Once she was a part of me. Like a limb.
Now she is not.
She has her own limbs.
I am her limb.
And one day I will be her appendix.
Or, a prologue.
Baby, I wish you joy.
Baby, don’t leave me yet.