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DEVELOPMENTAL SYSTEMS SELF PSYCHOLOGY
ESTELLE SHANE, PH.D. Estelle Shane, Ph.D. is a Founding Member, board member, and Faculty Member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. She is also Secretary and on the Board of Directors at the International Society for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology In this paper I present a model for psychoanalysis that builds on the development systems self psychology I developed in 1997 with Morton Shane and Mary Gales. That model incorporated aspects of self psychology, attachment theory is discussed not only on its own merits, but also in the context of its shared sensibility with other relational self psychologies, intersubjective systems theory, and ideas drawn from the relational perspective.Six features of Kohut’s self psychology are addressed and described both in the way I know consider each of them and as they compare and contrast with aspects of the other theoretical perspectives I have referred to. Specific addition to some conceptual reformulations, including the concepts of “positive new experience” and transference. While it is commonly understood that the field of psychoanalysis today is strongly influenced by pluralistic tendencies, nevertheless, from my own readings in the literature, I see that walls between ideas are still more frequently built than are bridges, and the urgent work of understanding the other is too often neglected or even abandoned. If we are to advance our understanding of the complexities of our field, we must seek to create more moments of connection among ourselves.
What follows is a modification of the psychoanalytic perspective that appeared in Intimate Attachments: Toward a New Self Psychology (Shane, Shane, and Gales, 1997). Since then, my own ideas have both changed and expanded. While I largely retain thrust of the model of developmental systems self psychology elaborated by us at the time, I have revisited several of our conceptualizations, including our notions of transference and our concept of “positive new experience”. In addition, I have expanded on the nonlinear dynamic systems sensibility, which, even then, had strongly organized our thinking, and, as well, I elaborate on the attachment theory. All this represent instances of my own ongoing “moments of connection” with research in other fields and with other models of psychoanalysis, including intersubjective systems theory, contemporary self psychology, and in particular, relational theory itself. Thus, as I write about my revised perspective, I at times compare it to my understanding of particular expressions of relational theory and to other self psychology models. Before I discuss and elaborate on the six features that characterize self psychology, which were first cited in Intimate Attachments, I think it worthwhile to make a brief statement about my own organizing perspective (I paraphrase closely what we wrote in 1997).
I believe that human beings who are loved and responded to by caring others acquire a consolidated self experience over the course of their development and a capacity for pleasurable intimacy with others. Trauma, in the form of environmental failure of the child or constitutional difficulty within the child, disrupts this intersubjective process of self and self with other consolidation. As a result, a vital sense of the self coming into being and being in connection is impeded. Psychoanalytic treatment such as provided in the model addressed here, encompassing a relational self psychology perspective integrated with attachment theory and organized by a nonlinear systems sensibility, carries with it the potential to provide new experiences for a person who suffered trauma to the self in this way, through environmental failure or constitutional inadequacy, so that a consolidated sense of self and self with other may be attained. FEATURS CHARACTERIZING SELF PSYCHOLOGYThe features characterizing self psychology are, first, that she self is a central focus of theoretical and clinical concern. Rather than viewing the infant as a divided self, Kohut’s (1977) baby enters the world as a whole being, in a consolidated state, and is capable of receiving and organizing the ministrations of the caretaking surround. It is only in pathology that a person’s coherent self – structure fragments into-the drivelike, dysphoric expressions of rage and sexuality established as baseline in classical theory (Fosshage, 2003). In our 1997 model, we retained the clinical and theoretical focus on the self, although the way the self was conceptualized by us differed from many other self psychologies. But as to Kohut’s idea that the infant enters the world as a whole being, in a coherent state, it is interesting to note that findings of cognitive developmental research (e.g., Bucci, 1998, 2001: Lyons-Ruth, 1999) converging with findings of the neurosciences (e.g., Edelman, 1987, 1989, 1992: Damasio, 1994, 1999), taken together, present a potentially conflicting idea about the self and raise questions in my own mind about a bout how best to think about this construct.
These cognitive and neuroscience researchers posit a mind that, in normal development, is naturally fragmented, with meaning systems often unintegrated with one another and with mental processing occurring at several levels in parallel. Further, there researches found that implicit relational knowing(Tronick and Weinberg, 1997: Stern, 1998), the only domain available to the infant and remaining important throughout life, is particularly vulnerable to fractionation and lack of integration when there are insufficient empathic relationships within which to integrate relational understanding and ways of being with on other. Does this developmental research support Mitchell’s (2000) argument for multiple selves as an inevitable, inherent feature of normal development, the aggressive self serving as one example of such separate selves? Or does the mind’s vulnerability to fractionation in the absence of empathic collaborative relationships support Kohut’s (1984) ideas about coherence being the natural property of the infant within an average-expectable empathic surround? These questions are of clinical interest.
A second feature of self psychology is Kohut’s (1959, 1981a, b) introduction of a mode of listening and understanding in the psychoanalytic situation. He termed this mode the empathic, introspective mode and designated it as the fundamental listening perspective in psychoanalysis, honoring as it does the patient’s subjective experience as the principal data source defining the field. For Kohut empathy and its role in psychoanalysis was singularly important, a concept he had described first in 1959, even before he invented self psychology, and then again in two posthumously published papers (1981a’ b) yet, he said in a speech that preceded his death only by several days, he was never really understood (1981b). Kohut defined empathy as the way of knowing in psychoanalysis: it is not sympathy or intuition or kindness, he said. Rather, it is the very essence of the skilled analyst’s ability to comprehend the patient by means of entering into, through vicarious introspection, the patient’s point of view, and understanding the patient’s perspective from that vantage point.
The empathic introspective mode of listening remains central in my model, with the caveat, of course, that such perception is always influenced by and mediated through the analyst’s own subjectivity. As Fosshage (2003) has written, such acknowledgment supports the concept of constructivism: that the narrative evoked in the analytic dyad is a creation of both parties. This inevitable cocreation of narrative, so central in the relational perspective and in much of contemporary self psychology, is vital in my current model, in which I conceptualize the analytic relationship as being defined by fluid, mutual, and bidirectional interaction.To address the importance of expanding the listening perspective beyond the empathic introspective mode, Fosshage (2002, 2003) has offered the concept of other centered listening, that is, listening and responding from the position of the other in the dyad, and, more recently, the concept of analyst centered listening – listening and responding from the position of the of the analyst.
In the different way, my coauthors and I had also conceptualized modes of listening and responding that extend the concept of the empathic introspective mode. In our concept of dimensions of intimacy, we attempted to address the dual nature of the patient’s subjective perception of the analyst and the uses to which the analyst is put, as understood, constructed, and mediated by the analyst himself. Thus, the dimensions of intimacy concept addresses our view that it is how the analyst perceives the patient and, in turn, how patient and analyst connect in the intersubjectives system they form together. The two dimensions we identify are Self with Self Transforming Other and self with interpersonal Sharing Other.
Depending on which dimension is perceived by the analyst to be present, the analyst responds, listens, and intervenes accordingly. In the Self Transforming Other dimension, the analyst is experienced by the patient self experience, including self regulation, self affirmation, self delineation, self cohesion, self sustenance, affect integration, self-reflection, and self state stabilization. All there functions are in the service of the patient’s self coming into being as evoked in the relationship with the analyst. This dimension is similar both to Kohut’s (1977, 1984) self object experience and to Stern’s (1985) self regulating, other and self resonating other experiences. Specific attributes, however, distinguish the Self-Transforming Other from Kohunt’s and Stern’s concepts. These distinguishing attributes are, first, that the nature of the relatedness is essentially positive. Thus, even when the patient is experiencing dysphoric affects about herself, the analyst, or their interaction, the analyst attempts to provide an ambience is apprehended or appreciate by the patient in the moment. This attribute is distinguished from Kohut’s concept of optimal frustration of the patient’s perceived needs that most effectively promotes structure building in the patient. The second feature differentiating the Self-Transforming Other dimension of our model from Kohut’s selfobject experience lies in the ever present bidirectionality of interaction between patient and analyst, as well as the ongoing self and interactive regulation in the dyadic system, as delineated by Beebe and Lachmann (2002). The communication in the Self-Transforming Other dimension (and in the interpersonal Sharing Other dimension, as well) is, as Lichienberg (2001) delineates, both verbal and beyond verbal, occurring through action and interaction, consistent with systems models wherein communication is viewed as process (Beebe and Lachmann, 2002), a continuous, moment-to moment, interactive sequence. It also correlates with the relational conviction that interpretation is action and that analytic speech does things and can be used in a variety of ways to enact rather than to convey insight (Benjamin, 2001). Moreover, much is conveyed in communication without intention, through the analyst’s 9and the patient’s) unavoidable, nonverbal, affectful feeling states evoked and communicated in the moment.
The third distinction from Kohut’s concept of the selfobject experience is that the patient’s awareness of the other, even the Self Transforming Other, is always present. The use to which the analyst’s presence is put in the Self-Transforming Other dimension, however, excludes the importance of the analyst’s own subjectivity, motives, intentions, and emotions, except insofar as they are experienced by the patient as being organized around the patient’s well-being. This lack of interest in the other for the other’s own sake is what most distinguishes the Self-Transforming Other dimension of relatedness from the interpersonal sharing other dimension.
Within the interpersonal sharing other dimension, the analyst is experienced in the two person, bidirectional, mutual influence system as an other whose self, motives, intentions, and emotions are appreciated for their own sake and not just for the patient’s needs. Here the patient’s sense of intimacy with the analyst is based on interpersonal sharing, including subjective, intersubjective, and procedural sharing, and implicit relational knowing, as well as other, non subjective experiences of self coming into connection with the other. It also includes other kinds of connectedness and communication, both known and unknown, in which mutually shared meaning-finding in verbal form has a significant place.
Encompassing an appreciation for the analyst as having a self of her own, it offers the patient a positive new experience of shared humanity, mutuality, affection, liking, and even love, not always in equal measure and never without conscious awareness of the patients engage in efforts to regulate their analyst’s affect states through empathic interactions as an integral part of their efforts to cocreate a milieu suitable for attainment of developmental needs. And, I would add, such conditions of self and mutual regulation, interpersonal intimacy sharing, and mutual recognition in the dyad promote developmental aims not just for the patient, but for the analyst as well. The interpersonal sharing other dimension of intimacy obviously connects to the relational concept of mutual recognition.
The third fundamental feature of self psychology theory is that dependence on, rather than independence from, others is conceptualized as a person’s lifelong requirement. This postulate is the basis of Kohut’s (1977, 1984) theory of self object function in the self selfobject matrix, both in the dyad of parent-child and in the dyad of analyst-patient. The self object provides soothing, calming, delineating, affirming, or recognition experiences (or all of them) toward the development, sustenance, and repair of the self, the selfobject is not experienced or perceived as a person in his or her own right. As I indicated previously, Kohut’s one person, self psychology concept is retained in our two person model as the Self-Transforming other dimension of intimacy, modified to include experiences of the other as present, but functioning only to serve self needs, dependence, independence, and interdependence are all conceptualized as possible experiences of the patient in this dimension of intimacy.
Fourth’ in self psychology defenses that emerge in the analytic situation are conceptualized primarily as self protective and self preservative, not as the patient’s efforts, either to disturb the therapeutic process or to thwart the analyst’s efforts as defenses are seen as the best the child could do at the time, in the particular context in which he or she lived in the world. Clinically this has meant that the patient’s defenses are appreciated as necessary to self state stability and are to be approached with respect and caution, often left intact. The self psychological hypothesis is that defenses will fall of their own weight once the patient experiences a sense of safety and security in the analytic setting. From my own perspective, too, this approach is often maintained, but clearly there are times, with some patients or in some dyads, where interpreting the self protective strategies of the patient becomes not only possible, or desirable, but even essential for the patient’s further psychoanalytic development.
Fifth, aggression, in self psychology, although conceptualized as inborn potential, is nevertheless views primarily as an emergent reaction to frustration and deprivation, not as drive expression. Thus the clinical focus is more on the context in which aggression is evoked or experienced, and less on the aggressive self state. The clinician’s goal is to strengthen the self through exploration and understanding of the conditions and threats to the self that motivated the aggressive response.
Ultimately, by strengthening self experience, aggression is mitigated. Such a focus stands in contrast to Mitchell’s (1998) assertion that the aggressive self is a separate self, one of multiple self organization, and, as such, is a self with its own history, worldview, values, and interests. In Mitchell’s model, the clinician’s strategy would be to allow the aggressive self full expression in the transference so that the patient might claim his aggressive states of mind as valuable variants of himself, not as attempts to reconstitute a single self rendered vulnerable by an unempathic surround, As such, Mitchell said the patient’s aggression should be confronted, clarified, interpreted, and accepted as an inextricable version of his self, the i1im acing a resolution in which aggression becomes an enlivening and inevitable self-experience, I appreciate the clarification on aggression and the expansion of clinical possibilities available to clinicians on the treatment of aggression encompassed in Mitchell’s discussion.
As with everything else that emerges in the therapeutic situation, the treatment of aggression, from my perspective, must always be individualized as well as contextualized. I do see regretful, destructive aggression as a self- state shift often evoked by reactions to experiences of frustration or deprivation. Frequently my own therapeutic intent and effort would be directed toward helping the patient manage the intensity of his aggressive response by coming to understand his experience in context and reducing~ any accompanying shame and humiliation in the process. But I also recognize that such a listening stance is not always possible, or even desirable, especially with patients who manifest eT1.lptive aggression (Lachmann, 1997).
Enactments emergent in the analytic relationship with such patients may not .only be unavoidable, they may also prove to be the most helpful or therapeutic engagements, Further, offering one’s own perspective to patient about the interaction between them can be far more useful in the clinic process Than is the perennial maintenance of an empathic introspective stance (e.g. Ehrenberg, 1992a, b, 1995; Davies 1994; renik, 1998a, b), I am convinced that always and perennially maintaining any one stance is not helpful learning from Mitchel (1998). I believe there are times when looking at the aggressive content, and not just the context, may be the most menorative path. The important determination for me would be in those moments when I appear to have a choice, to attempt to offer to that patient in that moment of our relationship, in accord with Bacal and Herzog’s (2003) specificity theory, what seems the most facilitative, most optimal response available to me.
The sixth and final point in self is that the psychoanalytic process is seen to carry with it. along with insight and understanding. a significant developmental power and thrust. In my current work, I understand development in psychoanalysis in accord with a systems sensibility. Therefore, developmental attainment is emergent phenomenon arising from within the patient self organizing nonlinear, bidirectional, and unpredictable. This view of development as a bidirectional system supports the contention, central to our 1997 Developmental Systems Self Psychology model, that psychoanalysis is development enhancing for the analyst as well as for the patient, but with emphasis on the patient’s development, of course.
In our 1997 model, the six (now somewhat modified) self, psychological percepts I just reviewed are integrated with vital ideas and empirical findings drawn from attachment theory. Particularly important to that perspective was the strong connection elaborated in attachment research between the establishment of secure attachment in early childhood and the development in that context of the experience of a healthy, integrated sense of self, with healthy capacities for intimacy with others. Current writings in attachment theory elaborate these ideas, focusing attention more particularly on just how a secure attachment can be seen to emerge in the parent- child relationship, with implications for psychoanalytic process as well. For example, Lyons-Ruth (1999) describes attachment research as demonstrating that the development of a cohesive and secure attachment bond is tied to participation in coherent forms of parent- child dialogue; it is only through coherent dialogue occurring between two persons. then, that a secure attachment can emerge. Such an attachment relationship is characterizd by goodness of fit Lyons-Ruth defines coherent dialogue as truthful, clear and collaborative and such a definition, she asserts “may serve as…a….model for capturing essential attributes of dialogue in the contemporary two person clinical situation “she adds.
Coherent, collaborative dialogue is about getting to know another’s mind and taking it into account in constructing and regulating interactions. Such regulation is requited to create intersubjective recognition, because without recognizing of one person’s initiatives or communications by another an intersubjective, self and interactive regulation is not possible (p.589).
This model of collaborative dialogue, then, speaks to the question of how a secure attachment system may be effected in the analytic setting.It seems to me that Lyons Ruth’s view of coherent dialogue addresses the importance of the relational concept of mutual recognition in the analytic dyad. Benjamin (2001) writes of the importance of being recognized by another mind, of the child’s recognition of mother’s subjectivity, a clinical emphasis supported by the attachment research I just citied. To my way of thinking, the concept of mutual recognition as an important developmental attainment during childhood is quite convincing, even in the analytic relationship, the patient’s ability to see the analyst as separate person in his or her own right may be conceptualized as a developmental attainment, perhaps newly evolved in the analytic relationship.
As I have mentioned, in our 1997 model of treatment we conceptualized two dimensions of intimacy, two ways for the patient to be with and to experience the analyst. One, the analyst may be experienced by the patient as existing in the intimate 1 it between them in order to serve self-transforming (selfobject) functions; and, two, the analyst may be experienced by the patient as one with whom intimacy may be shared in an interpersonal sharing other dimension.The patient recognizes the analyst as having motives and intentions of her own that the patient is curious about and wishes to explore, understand, and share, an idea similar, I believe I to Benjamin’s (2001) concept of mutual recognition” In the 1997 model, we wrote that ideally, both forms of intimacy would be experienced in analytic work.
Again, I can support the notion of mutual recognition as an important developmental attainment in childhood and even as an important analytic attainment, but I would not want to view the Self Transforming Other dimension of intimacy, in which only developmental selfobject needs are prioritized, in a pejorative way; nor would I want to view the Interpersonal Sharing Other of intimacy, which features mutual recognition of the others mind and person, as on a higher, more respectable plane, to tilt the experience in one direction or the other might put the patient at risk of subordinating her own needs in order to conform to ideals about optimal development from the analyst’s perspective. I do have the sense, though, that this is not at all what Benjamin means by her emphasis on mutual recognition as an analytic attainment.
Also in our 1997 model we conceptualized that it is the experience of trauma broadly defined and taking the form in early life of parental failure, as in, for example, Fonagy and his colleague’s (2003) unmarked, or marked but not contingent, mirroring. More grossly, trauma may take the form of neglect or of more active abuse. Trauma may also derive from accidents or adverse environmental circumstance or from constitutional vulnerabilities in the child that make him harder for caregivers to comfort or soothe, Any of these lived experiences in the child’s life may disrupt, more or less severely, the development of a healthy, integrated sense of self, with healthy capacities for intimacy with others, capacities I consider essential for optimal development A sense of being insecurely attached may then emerge in which vital experiences of self, coming-in to-being and self being-in-connection at impeded. From my perspective, psychoanalysis, carrying the potential: to meliorate such trauma, facilitates the emergence of a secure attachment tie to the analyst in the intersubjective system formed in the dyad. Through this attachment, both the fragile sense of self and the uncertain tie to the other can be experienced as strengthened an consolidated. Our approach, then, emphasizes the importance and value of such an experience of intimate connection with the analyst.
With more contemporary attachment research, it is possible to approach the question of just how these meaning systems inherent in attachment categories and comprising the domain of implicit relation: knowing can develop and change in the psychoanalytic dyad, ho new forms of being with can be scaffolded, how affective barriers ca be removed through mutually constructed dialogue, but also how new implicit procedures for being with others in safety and security ca occur at enactive as well as at symbolic levels. The increasil1 participation of the analyst in the analytic dyad so emphasized in relational theory is predicated partly, I imagine, on the sense that gain more access to implicit relational, or procedural, or enacted knowledge, the analyst’s as well as the patient’s, in a more participatory framework. Relational theory’s acceptance of the inevitability (enactments in the therapeutic situation, and its appreciation for the significant role of dissociative structures in the interaction on the pa of both patient and analyst-with the likelihood that such dissociations may only take communicative form in interaction between them- substantiated, I believe, by the findings of attachment research. I al convinced of the value of these important relational concepts, whic support my own framework and belief system.
To return to the 1997 model, as I have already noted, my coauthors and I, influenced by a systems sensibility, applied it to our understanding of the concepts of self experience. In ourapproach, body, brain, and mind are viewed as elements in a nonlinear system, an embodied mind. Our construct of self is a composite term, then, mind/brain/body, which illustrates the complex interdigitation of brain with body (see Edelman, 1992; Damasio, 1994), as well as the interconnections of brain/body with the concomitant abstraction of thought, ordinarily designated as mind.
A mind/brain/body concept of self facilitates on an explanatory level an understanding of multiple self-states, a concept essential to working with traumatized patients who express nonconscious, nonsubjective phenomena through the body. When self is conceptualized as mind/brain/body, processes can be understood as conscious, unconscious, or nonconscious; and aspects of the nonlinear self-system can be understood as reflective (symbolic, language based), prereflective (out of awareness consequent to being denied a place by the surround), or nonreflective (incapable of achieving self-reflection, which can never be experienced directly as such, but which may nevertheless vitally affect self-experience and self-experience in relation to the other),The following clinical example demonstrates what is intended by expanding the concept of self from a phenomenological, subjective experience to an experience that encompasses, on an explanatory level, the totality of mind/brain/body as a nonlinear dynamic system: that the self system includes subjective, nonsubjective, and nonconscious experience, and that communication within this expanded view’ of the self in an intersubjective system is significantly affected by bodily based and procedural expression. Specifically, this clinical example illustrates that an involuntary, nonreflective aspect of my own bodily movement affected the relationship between my patient and me. Neither of us was aware of what turned out to be a significant, nondeliberate, nonconscious communication between us, a communication without intention or intended meaning on the part of the sender.
The patient is a neurosurgeon highly knowledgeable about and sensitive to gait and movement disturbance. One day, as we were attempting to explore yet again his mistrust of me, which began early on in our connection and persisted unabated throughout our relationship, the patient suddenly and quite spontaneously interrupted our dialogue with what seemed to me to be an extraneous comment: He declared suspiciously, “Do you know that you are unsteady on your feet?” When I inquired about his meaning, he noted more dispassionately that he had made this observation on a number of occasions when he had seen me cross the room but had never mentioned it before because it had always seemed to, be just an inconsequential observation. Right now, though, he added, it seemed t to comment on it. My patient’s observation came as a total to me. I had not been aware of my own unsteadiness and could not recognize it subjectively, even when it was brought to my attention in this way.
Exploring together the meanings to the patient of his perception me, subtle physical defect opened a floodgate of connections the most salient being that being unsteady meant being unsafe and unreliable. More, my being wobbly on my feet conveyed to him a sense that I was erratic, even treacherous, to be regarded with caution, and certainly not to be trusted. Taking my uncertain, slightly shaky movement as a true communication of my unreliable, undependable, untrustworthy nature, he viewed me with doubt and suspicion, g some light on the pervasive problem of his mistrust born of a lifetime of experience in his caretaking world.
In self psychology there is primary clinical focus on the development, stabilization, and maintenance of the self, that is, the consolidation of a cohesive self-experience. In my own version of self psychology self cohesion is best understood on a phenomenological level as a subjective experience of wholeness and integration, a sense -being. My use of the term, conceptualized as it is, on a phonological level, is different from Kohut’s use of self-cohesion as an explanatory concept.. This subjective sense of cohesion seems kin to what Bromberg (in press) means when he writes that self-cohesion is the ability to be “like one self while being many”(p. 420). From my perspective, there exist in a person’s experience multiple states of self-organization, states that include their own motives, histories, moods, and affects. These states feel more or less stable, are more or less reachable, and are more or less coexistent and conversant within themselves, depending on the degree to which dissociated aspects are maintained as accessible or inaccessible to one another. In Margaret Black’s (accepted) words,
Within a more normal development, a person withdraws from self state, and shifts into another while still maintaining a e of the past experience that enriches the new focus, or one that simply lingers in the background, providing an awareness of personal dimensionality.
Dissociative structured selves, by way of ,contrast, operate as competing realities, each with its own distinct constellation of imagery of self and otherand predominant affect state.
My own view of the healthy self, then, is having the ability to experience a sense of wholeness, and, at the same time, being capable of manifesting multiple self-states more or less accessible to the person or more or less dissociated. This view is consistent, as I understand it, with relational theory in general, and with Bromberg’s (1996), Black’s (accepted), and Stem’s (1997, 2002) articulations in particular. Arid, as I mentioned earlier, the concept of the experience of multiple, dissociated self-states is important to my understanding of trauma, as well as to my understanding of the dynamics of change in the clinical situation.
I conceptualize a self-state, after Barbara Fajardo (2000), in systems term~, as a stable, recurring pattern of action and experience, perceived either subjectively or intersubjectively, and as being evoked and taking form both as nonverbal behavior and as spoken narrative. A self-state contains a coherent organization of observable subsystems, coherence here referring to the degree to which all these subsystems fit together in a recurrent, stable, recognizable pattern. Change occurs when this coherence in self-state is disrupted by increasing variability among subsystems, or by a new opportunity or a new response from the environment. A self-state is always coconstructed, although coconstructed asymmetrically, in the patient-analyst intersubjective system, the analyst having an identifiable role in the coconstituted, patterned state, commonly referred to as transference or cotransference, that emerges in the patient-analyst system.
Change in analysis frequently appears to depend on a state shift in the patient provoked by an unanticipated incident, spontaneous action, or experience of surprise, as these moments are seen to emerge unexpectedly in the complex dyadic system constitutive of the psychoanalytic situation (Galatzer,Levy, 1995). Emergence itself is a concept drawn from systems thinking that can reshape the way analysts think about therapeutic change. Emergence describes how new, unexpected, and qualitatively distinct configurations suddenly appearin complex systems, in this case the analytic dyad; and it addresses the sense of surprise human beings experience in these difficult-to- anticipate developments. That is, a phenomenon may emerge in the dyad that cannot be explained only in terms of the sum of its parts, the sum of preceding events; the bringing together of those parts results in something that could not or should not happen. Something novel and surprising appears in an ordinary situation, a situation that in itself is not new.
A clinical instance is my patient’s discovery about himself and me; his sense of my unreliability emerged at least in part from the nonconscious, unintentional communication that he “read” in my unstable gait-a small thing that had larger-than-predictable consequences for him. That was an instance of the “somethi1)g more” we all know must lie beneath, behind, or beyond the surface of things and is generated surprisingly in an analytic system. It is an important clinical question whether a particular experience in the dyad is conceptualized as the appearance into consciousness of previously unconscious material, or whether it is seen to mark the appearance of emergent material, that is, new, coconstructed material, material distinct and important in and of itself. This last is consistent, I think, with Stem’s (1997) concept of unformulated experience as it emerges in the dyad.
And, if what is seen is conceptualized as the emergence of a novel configuration, some newly formulated experience, rather than the appearance into consciousness of conflict-laden, repressed experience, then the Freudian (1923) idea of the dynamic unconscious is challenged-that is, the idea, so important to psychoanalytic theory, that all mentation is continuous, that apparent discontinuities in thought only disguise latent, connected aspects, self-protectively kept by the patient out of his own and his analyst’s awareness (Galatzer- Levy, 1995). This concept would be untenable in the context of a theory of emergence of something new, surprising, and unanticipated. Galatzer-Levy (1995), in his discussion of nonlinear dynamic systems thinking, makes the point that a therapist who is able to maintain in his or her clinical armamentarium both of these independent routes to understanding the surprise that occurs in the dyad-the route of coming into awareness of unconscious material and the route of the emergence of unformulated experience-is theoretically and clinically enriched.Moreover, and very important to my way of thinking, the abrupt, large-scale changes and reorganizations that are seen to take place in therapy may he just that: real change, not to be regarded skeptically. Lyons-Ruth (1999), however, reminds us that what may still require mote emphasis in conceptualizing how such apparently sudden change happens is the extended period of intersubjective encounters between patient and analyst that serve to destabilize old implicit relational procedures and to slowly create new ones; it is these interactions, after all, Lyons-Ruth contends, that underlie what is perceived as quick change. Thus, either/or thinking about the two potential routes to consciousness and the two potential routes to change short changes the clinician, who is better served by keeping in mind the two alternatives in both pairs.A nonlinear dynamic systems sensibility also influences how I conceptualize analytic boundaries. There is no baseline stance, no analytic frame, in my model, from which the analyst can be seen to deviate. Boundary exists only as a function of the particular pair; it emerges from within the particular dyad and is shaped by it, often changing over time in keeping with the changing developmental needs of either of/the persons who constitute the system. Mindful of the totality of the treatment situation and of the individuals who make up the pair, we must consider questions about boundaries contextually.
As in any nonlinear model, however, there are aspects of the analytic system that have the appearance of linearity because they are distinguished by a conviction about their cause-and-effect connection, that is, a conviction that a particular action invariably causes a particular, deleterious consequence. Such boundaries are preset, predictable, and more or less unvarying in nature. They are most often determined, or at least supported, by legal constraints, predicated on the assumption that a given action should be prohibited because of the injurious effects it would have on both the patient and the therapeutic process. The most obvious example is the occurrence of sexual contact in the analytic dyad, which event, constituting as it does a betrayal of the patient’s trust and a violation of the agreement to analyze the patient in an atmosphere of safety, would harm the patient and impede the treatment. Sexual contact with a patient carries with it a cause-and-effect connection requiring the establishment of an apparently linear, that is, preset, predictable, and more or less unvarying boundary.
In contrast, nonlinear aspects of the boundary are neither preset nor based on predictable cause-and-effect connections or on unvarying standards. Rather, they are based on personal and interpersonal considerations, as well as on any constraints arising individually and interpersonally between patient and analyst. What is available in the l, or what is imposed, may change in response to where the patient developmentally and where the analyst is developmentally in the intersubjective system established between them in the moment. Community and scientific standards, as well as theoretical ideas and Ideas, do play a role in the nonlinear boundary that is established in individual dyad, but the role they play is often influenced by how flexible or inflexible one or both in the pair may be. The idiosyncratic, ideographic flexibility of a nonlinear boundary is established to help, extend, the therapeutic process of the particular analytic pair.
TRANSFERENCE1 am convinced by the writings of Stolorow (1994) and his colleagues (Stolorow and Atwood, 1992; Orange, Stolorow, and Atwood, 1997) that it is most useful to describe transference as the organization of experience. This organization appears as two alternating dimensions within the intersubjective system that emerges between patient and analyst as foreground and background. That is, either the developmental dimension will appear in the foreground, with the repetitive conflictual dimension in the background, or vice versa.Whereas in general Stolorow and his colleagues’ notion of transference is most convincing to me, I have modified their dimensions to suit my own perspective. First, I find it useful to retain. within the repetitive conflictual dimension the idea, taken from our 1997 model, of a particularly fixed and inflexible experience of transference that is seen to emerge from severe trauma. In that model isolated, rigidly held, affectively overwhelming self, states, organized dissociated, sequestered patterns of self-with, other organized by patient’s painful, disturbing past relationships, become activated the current connection with the analyst. In essence, this circumscribed area of transference is the experience of a self stuck in e, with the analyst being caught in that same time chunk.
My coauthors and I termed this experience in the transference a relational configuration of old, traumatized self with old, traumatic other. We described in this way the influence of the traumatic past on patient’s organization of present’ day lived experience and the struggle to overcome in analysis the pernicious influence of these old, constricting patterns that keep the patient locked in her harrowing, painful history. We, deeming this the singular expression of transference in our theory, separated it out heuristically from all other relational experiences of the past. But, to repeat, I now feel that transference is most usefully understood more broadly, as Stolorow and his colleagues have defined it: that is, transference as “the organizing activity of both patient and analyst within the analytic experience, making) up the intersubjective .field of the analysis” (Orange et al.. 1997, p. 8). Nevertheless, it also seems useful to me to maintain the relational configuration of dissociated traumatic experience as a special manifestation within the repetitive conflictual dimension.
In addition, we labeled as “positive new experience” those significant moments in the analytic relationship in which the patient expresses with considerable feeling that something has happened to him in the relationship that has never happened before-a sense of wholeness and well-being, or a moment of comfortable and safe connection with the analyst as an intimate other. We termed this relational configuration new self in relation to new other, in an effort to depict an experience in connection virtually without precedent in the patient’s life. We conceptualized such positive new experience as essential to the patient’s development. to coming into being and being in connection for the first time. By labeling these incidents new, we were referring to the patient’s subjective sense of novelty. We were aware, of course, of the cognitive-developmental position that all cognition is essentially re-cognition in that the new in experience automatically reorganizes the old, or as Stern (2004) writes, that experiences in the present moment inform and can reorganize experiences of the past, just as the past informs the present, in a nonlinear, reciprocal fashion.
What my colleagues and I meant to suggest by the term new, then, was the patient’s sense of freshness and uniqueness in the moment. The concept itself was based on key incidents occurring in many analyses in which the patient expresses such feelings of newness strongly, and apparently sincerely. In that state incidents that can be described as increased relational knowing, as heightened affective moments, or as shifted self-states arise from within the patient-analyst intersubjective system, and seem to announce a change. As 1 say. many of my patients have come to such a moment in time, and the moment lf seems it hold significance beyond the ordinary,. I can refer to one recent example.
A patient whom I had been seeing in twice-a-week psychotherapy for many years had suffered in his childhood severe emotional and physical trauma and had experienced in his marriage extraordinary incidents of betrayal, strongly confirming his sense that there was no safety or security in connection with another available to him in this world. He spoke to me with considerable emotion one day about a new feeling, of being with me in my office, a feeling that he had found a home with me. He added tearfully, “I feel that I have found something with you I had never known I’d needed. It’s like going home you needed but didn’t know you needed until you found it. I found home with you. I found what I needed but didn’t know that I needed it.” He then said, quoting from Rilke’s (1984) Letters to a Young Poet, “Thirst is the surest proof of water.” He meant, apparently, that his thirst proved to him, before he had actually discovered its reality, that water really existed, and that on his discovering water, his thirst finally made sense to him. This is an example of positive new experience, a sense evoked in my patient that safe connection is possible, a sense I consider essential to this man’s movement in treatment.
When we conceptualized positive new experience, my coauthors and I did not view the concept as transference, simply because such moments seemed to arise de novo from the analytic situation. With my own theoretical change, I now feel that such moments, still theoretically important to me in conceptualizing the change process, can be understood most usefully as residing within the developmental dimension of the transference. They are instances of Ballas’s (1996) unthought known, longings felt and known non verbally but that remained unreflected on until they were realized in connection with me-thirst being, as my patient said, the surest proof of water. And finally, the positive new experience embodies in my perspective the true realization of E. M. Forster’s (1924) admonition. only connect. REFERENCESBacal. H. & Herzog, B. (2003), Specificity Theory and Optimal Responsiveness: An Outline. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.Beebe, B. & Lachmann, F. M. 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New York: Guilford Press, pp. 54-81. 1800 Fairburn Avenue, Suite 20 ILos Angeles, CA firstname.lastname@example.org