DIBS Essay

This essay has a total of 2497 words and 10 pages.


"Sometimes he sat mute and unmoving all morning or crawled about the schoolroom floor
oblivious to the other children or to his teacher." The book Dibs is a testimony of a
child who seemed to be mentally retarded because he has created his own world inside of
him. In her book, Virginia Axline proves that the therapy by the play is a way of curing
people such as Dibs. During her book, she gives lecture to the reader of a recording taken
from the sessions with the little child. During this expose, we will develop Dib's
relation with adults in particular his teachers, parents and grand mother. Then we will
analyze another relation: the one with his therapist. In the second part the phenomena of
rejection will be analyzed in both sides: in the mother and the father side but also with
Dibs itself. Later, we will try to understand which role play therapy had occurred on Dibs

When the books starts, Dibs is in the school since two years. At the beginning he refused
to talk. Sometimes he could stay dumb and still during an entire morning. Other times, he
could have violent bout of anger when it was time to go back home, which provoked towards
teachers and director of the school a big anxiety. Was he mentally retarded? Was he
suffering of a mental illness since his birth? Did his brain have received a shock? No one
knew, even his parents who always refused to talk about their son's attitude. But as the
author, Virginia Axline, said "there was something about Dibs behavior that defied the
teachers to categorize him, glibly and routinely, and send him on his way. His behavior
was so uneven. At one time, he seemed to be extremely retarded mentally. Another time he
would quickly and quietly do something that indicated he might even have superior
intelligence" (Axline, Virginia Dibs in search of Self, 15). The staff meeting of class
finally decide to help Dibs and to do something for him. It is at this point that the
Doctor Virginia Axline, "specialized in working with children and parents" is called.

Dibs relationship with his teachers was non existent. His reaction was the one of an
assisted person. When it was going-home time, the child used to stay in the class without
a gesture waiting for the teachers to put his coat on while saying "No go home! No go
home! No go home!" (Dibs in search of Self, 14). For the child his house was the synonym
of a place where he was rejected where he felt he did not have his place.

Concerning the relationship that the child entertain with his parents the best example we
have is a passage very significant of this incomprehension between the child and his
father. This section occurred while Dibs is in the process of recovery. At the end of a
play therapy session, his father went to pick him up. It is the first time that the Doctor
Axline is presented to his father. Her is a the passage of this brief interview between
the three characters:

- "Papa" glanced at me. "How do you do", he said, stiffly. He seemed very ill at ease.
- " How do you do," I replied
- "I say, Papa," Dibs said. "Do you know today is not Independence Day?"
- "Come Dibs I am in a hurry," "Papa" said
- "Independence Day comes on Thursday,"
- "Papa" was shoving Dibs out the door. "Can't you stop that senseless jabber?" he said, between clenched teeth.
This short passage is the typical example of the humiliated child in front of someone
else. Most of the time, when you hear the word "bad treatment", you associate it with
violence and physical suffering but less with bad treatment morally speaking. Most of the
time a child who had received bad treatment moral is more traumatized than the one who had
received violence suffering. In an article written by a professor at the Universita degli
stradi of Bologna in the Department of Psychology, it is said that "bad physical treatment
and humiliation are closely associated as Freud has previously observed" (ENFANCE, Tome
47, n? 1 p. 21- 26). For the professor Marco W. Battachi, what is clear is that
"humiliation causes traumatized effects very destructive for a child." Based on an
analysis done by two psychologist Battachi and Codispoti in 1992 there is four principals
forms of humiliation. The first one is when someone refuses to give attention to a child
who asked for it. A typical case is when the child asks a specific question and does not
get any response back. The second form consists of a refusal when the child asks for an
approval from his parents. The child feels a disappointment when his efforts are not
encouraged. This is Dibs case. Each time he says something to his parents, he is waiting
for a response and a good response not disinterestedness. The third form is a lack of
respect. This form takes place when the child has a secret that is violated by his
parents. The last form of humiliation consists of the refusal of knowing the truth. This
last form is sometimes expressed when the child wants to know more about subject such as
sexuality. He desires to know "adults secrets" and might be faced to mockery and scorn.

The last person with whom Dibs seem to have "a normal relation" is his grand mother. His
grand mother is the only person in the family with whom Dibs seems to have a good
relation. The first time Dibs talks about her he said: "I am a boy," he said slowly. "I
have a father, a mother, a sister. But I do have a grandmother and she loves me.
Grandmother has always loves me. But not Papa. Papa has not always loves me." This
difference between his grandmother and his father is very significant with the
humiliation. His grandmother always accepts him as he is whereas his parents feel a shame
to have a child like Dibs. With his grandmother he has a normal conversation and is not
afraid of her because she listens to him and responds to his question. This brings us
again to the question of humiliation. With his grandmother, there is no humiliation
because they are equal.

The first contact Virginia Axline has with the little boy is just after the rest period.
She asks him if he would like to come with her in the playroom, and after a moment of
hesitation he takes the doctor's hand. This surprised me a lot because it shows that Dibs
is nor shy neither unsociable with people he doesn't know which is very strange. When they
enter in the room, she just said : "We'll spend an hour together here in the playroom. You
can see the toys and the materials we have. You decide what you would like to do." As
Virginia Axline remarks in her book Play Therapy, "the therapist is not a supervisor or a
teacher, and not a parent-substitute." Again as she said, "the therapist respects the
child and treats him with sincerity and honesty." This relation, Dibs is not aware of it
because except with his grandmother, he doesn't know this kind of experience. But what is
very important it is that "she never laughs at him - with him, sometimes, but never at
him." Once again there is no humiliation in this relation, therefore the child is in total
security. This climate that the therapist provokes "encourages him to share his inner
world with her." Once again she said that "the child is extremely sensitive to the
sincerity of the adult" consequently a relation based upon sincerity and truth is the
foundation of a good therapy. "A good therapist is in many ways like the favorite

Another therapist who basically used the same therapy is D.W Winnicott, who qualified the
work of Virginia Axline in his book Playing and Reality to be "a good example" and also
that "her work on psychotherapy is a great importance to us." In his book, he explains
that "the area of playing is not inner psychic reality but outside the individual." For
him one of the most important feature of playing is "that in playing, and perhaps only in
playing, the child or adult is free to be creative."

In Dibs's story, the phenomena of rejection play an important role in both sides. We'll
start this study of rejection by the parents who had a decisive role in Dibs's problem.
The first appointment that the therapist have with the mother is very clear on this
subject. The first thing that the mother says is that her and her husband "do not expect
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