Medium 9781855752009

The Interpersonal World of the Infant

Views: 1327
Ratings: (0)

The ground-breaking book which attempts to bridge the gap between the psychoanalytic and cognitive psychological theories of child development.

List price: $28.99

Your Price: $23.19

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

11 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Chapter 1. Exploring the Infant’s Subjective Experience: A Central Role for the Sense of Self

ePub

ANYONE CONCERNED with human nature is drawn by curiosity to wonder about the subjective life of young infants. How do infants experience themselves and others? Is there a self to begin with, or an other, or some amalgam of both? How do they bring together separate sounds, movements, touches, sights, and feelings to form a whole person? Or is the whole grasped immediately? How do infants experience the social events of “being with” an other? How is “being with” someone remembered, or forgotten, or represented mentally? What might the experience of relatedness be like as development proceeds? In sum, what kind of interpersonal world or worlds does the infant create?

Posing these questions is something like wondering what the universe might have been like the first few hours after the big bang. The universe was created only once, way out there, while interpersonal worlds arc created, in here, every day in each new infant’s mind. Yet both events, at almost opposite frontiers, remain remote and inaccessible to our direct experience.

 

Chapter 2. Perspectives and Approaches to Infancy

ePub

THE PICTURE of infant experience suggested in this book has both differences from and similarities to the pictures currently drawn by psychoanalysis and developmental psychology. Since the approach I have adopted borrows methods and findings from developmental psychology and insights from clinical practice, it is important to discuss in greater detail the assumptions of each discipline and the problems of using both approaches together.

The Observed Infant and the Clinical Infant

Developmental psychology can inquire about the infant only as the infant is observed. To relate observed behavior to subjective experience, one must make inferential leaps. Clearly, the inferences will be more accurate if the data base from which one is leaping is extensive and well established. The study of intrapsychic experience must be informed by the findings of direct observation, as the source of most new information about infants continues to be naturalistic and experimental observations. But at best, the observations of an infant’s available capacities can only help to define the limits of subjective experience. To render a full account of that experience, we require insights from clinical life, and a second approach is needed for this task.

 

Chapter 3. The Sense of an Emergent Self

ePub

THE AGE of two months is almost as clear a boundary as birth itself. At about eight weeks, infants undergo a qualitative change: they begin to make direct eye-to-eye contact. Shortly thereafter they begin to smile more frequently, but also responsively and infectiously. They begin to coo. In fact, much more goes on during this developmental shift than what is reflected by increased overt social behaviors. Most learning is faster and more inclusive. Strategies for paying attention to the world shift in terms of altered visual scanning patterns. Motor patterns mature. Sensorimotor intelligence reaches a higher level, as Piaget has described. Electroencephalograms reveal major changes. Diurnal hormonal milieu stabilizes, along with sleep and activity cycles. Almost everything changes. And all observers of infants, including parents, agree on this (Piaget 1952; Sander 1962; Spitz 1965; Emde et al. 1976; Brazelton et al. 1979; Haith 1980; Greenspan and Lourie 1981; Bronson 1982).

Until this developmental shift occurs, the infant is generally thought to occupy some kind of presocial, precognitive, preorganized life phase that stretches from birth to two months. The central questions of this chapter are, how might the infant experience the social world during this initial period? And what might be the infant’s sense of self during this time? I conclude that during the first two months the infant is actively forming a sense of an emergent self. It is a sense of organization in the process of formation, and it is a sense of self that will remain active for the rest of life. An overarching sense of self is not yet achieved in this period, but it is coming into being. To understand how this conclusion was reached, it is necessary to understand the likely nature of infant experience at this age.

 

Chapter 4. The Sense of a Core Self: I. Self versus Other

ePub

AT THE AGE of two to three months, infants begin to give the impression of being quite different persons. When engaged in social interaction, they appear to be more wholly integrated. It is as if their actions, plans, affects, perceptions, and cognitions can now all be brought into play and focused, for a while, on an interpersonal situation. They are not simply more social, or more regulated, or more attentive, or smarter. They seem to approach interpersonal relatedness with an organizing perspective that makes it feel as if there is now an integrated sense of themselves as distinct and coherent bodies, with control over their own actions, ownership of their own affectivity, a sense of continuity, and a sense of other people as distinct and separate interactants. And the world now begins to treat them as if they are complete persons and do possess an integrated sense of themselves.

In spite of this very distinctive impression, the prevailing views of clinical developmental theory do not reflect the image of an infant with an integrated sense of self. Instead, it is widely held that infants go through an extended period of self/other undifferentiation and that only very slowly, sometime towards the end of the first year of life, do they differentiate a sense of self and other. Some psychoanalytic developmental theories, of which Mahler provides the most influential example, propose that during the undifferentiated phase infants experience a state of fusion or “dual-unity” with mother. This is the phase of “normal symbiosis,” lasting roughly from the second to the seventh or ninth month. This state of dual-unity is proposed as the background from which the infant gradually separates and individuates to arrive at a sense of self and of other. Academic theories have not differed basically from the psychoanalytic theories in the sense that both propose a slow emergence of self after a long period of undifferentiation.

 

Chapter 5. The Sense of a Core Self: II. Self with Other

ePub

SOMETHING of importance is missing from the last chapter. We have discussed the infant’s sense of self versus other, but not the sense of self with other. There are many ways that being with an other can be experienced, including some of the most widely used clinical concepts, such as merging, fusion, a haven of safety, a security base, the holding environment, symbiotic states, self-objects, transitional phenomena, and cathected objects.

The sense of being with an other with whom we are interacting can be one of the most forceful experiences of social life. Moreover, the sense of being with someone who is not actually present can be equally forceful. Absent persons can be felt as potent and almost palpable presences or as silent abstractions, known only by trace evidence. In the mourning process, as Freud (1917) pointed out, the one who has died almost rematerializes as a presence in many different felt forms. Falling in love provides a different normal example. Lovers are not simply preoccupied with one another. The loved other is often experienced as an almost continual presence, even an aura, that can change almost everything one does—heighten one’s perceptions of the world or reshape and refine one’s very movements. How can experiences such as these be accounted for in the present framework? How can the ultimately social nature of the infant’s and the adult’s experience be captured?

 

Chapter 6. The Sense of a Subjective Self: I. Overview

ePub

THE NEXT QUANTUM LEAP in the sense of self occurs when the infant discovers that he or she has a mind and that other people have minds as well. Between the seventh and ninth month of life, infants gradually come upon the momentous realization that inner subjective experiences, the “subject matter” of the mind, are potentially shareable with someone else. The subject matter at this point in development can be as simple and important as an intention to act (“I want that cookie”), a feeling state (“This is exciting”), or a focus of attention (“Look at that toy”). This discovery amounts to the acquisition of a “theory” of separate minds. Only when infants can sense that others distinct from themselves can hold or entertain a mental state that is similar to one they sense themselves to be holding is the sharing of subjective experience or intersubjectivity possible (Trevarthan and Hubley 1978). The infant must arrive at a theory not only of separate minds but of “interfaceable separate minds” (Bretherton and Bates 1979; Bretherton et al. 1981). It is not, of course, a full-blown theory. It is rather a working notion that says something like, what is going on in my mind may be similar enough to what is going on in your mind that we can somehow communicate this (without words) and thereby experience intersubjcctivity. For such an experience to occur, there must be some shared framework of meaning and means of communication such as gesture, posture, or facial expression.

 

Chapter 7. The Sense of a Subjective Self: II. Affect Attunement

ePub

The Problem of Sharing Affective States

The sharing of affective states is the most pervasive and clinically germaine feature of intersubjective relatedness. This is especially true when the infant first enters this domain. Interaffectivity is mainly what is meant when clinicians speak of parental “mirroring” and “empathic responsiveness.” Despite the importance of these events, it is not at all clear how they work. What are the acts and processes that let other people know that you are feeling something very like what they are feeling? How can you get “inside of” other people’s subjective experience and then let them know that you have arrived there, without using words? After all, the infants we are talking about are only between nine and fifteen months old.

Imitation immediately comes to mind as a possible way one might show this. The mother might imitate the infant’s facial expressions and gestures, and the baby would see her doing this. The problem with this solution is that the infant could only tell from the mother’s imitation that mother got what the infant did; she would have reproduced the same overt behaviors, but she need not have had any similar inner experience. There is no reason why the infant should make the further assumption that mother also experienced the same feeling state that gave rise to the overt behavior.

 

Chapter 8. The Sense of a Verbal Self

ePub

DURING THE SECOND YEAR of the infant’s life language emerges, and in the process the senses of self and other acquire new attributes. Now the self and the other have different and distinct personal world knowledge as well as a new medium of exchange with which to create shared meanings. A new organizing subjective perspective emerges and opens a new domain of relatedness. The possible ways of “being with” another increase enormously. At first glance, language appears to be a straightforward advantage for the augmentation of interpersonal experience. It makes parts of our known experience more shareable with others. In addition, it permits two people to create mutual experiences of meaning that had been unknown before and could never have existed until fashioned by words. It also finally permits the child to begin to construct a narrative of his own life. But in fact language is a double-edged sword. It also makes some parts of our experience less shareable with ourselves and with others. It drives a wedge between two simultaneous forms of interpersonal experience: as it is lived and as it is verbally represented. Experience in the domains of emergent, core- and intersubjective relatedness, which continue irrespective of language, can be embraced only very partially in the domain of verbal relatedness. And to the extent that events in the domain of verbal relatedness are held to be what has really happened, experiences in these other domains suffer an alienation. (They can become the nether domains of experience.) Language, then, causes a split in the experience of the self. It also moves relatedness onto the impersonal, abstract level intrinsic to language and away from the personal, immediate level intrinsic to the other domains of relatedness.

 

Chapter 9. The “Observed Infant” as Seen with a Clinical Eye

ePub

BY SHIFTING the focus from different clinical developmental tasks, such as trust and autonomy, to different senses of the self as explanations of the major changes in the social organization of the infant, we have made it possible to examine different kinds of sensitive periods in early development. Since the major developmental shifts now involve the emergence of new senses of the self, the formative period for each sense of self can be considered sensitive. How critical these formative periods for each sense of the self will ultimately prove to be remains an open empirical issue. The weight of evidence from the neurological and ethological viewpoints, however, argues that the initial period of formation will prove relatively more sensitive than subsequent periods for later functioning (Hofer 1980).

In this chapter we will identify some of the patterns that are seen during the emergence of each sense of self, and we will speculate on how the initial form in which they are established may be critical for later functioning. First, however, several caveats are required.

 

Chapter 10. Some Implications for the Theories Behind Therapeutic Reconstructions

ePub

THE CONCERN in this chapter is with the theories about development that operate in the therapist’s mind and that therefore influence the creation of the reconstructed “clinical infant.” These theories will be examined in the light of new knowledge about the “observed infant” and the development of the different domains of sense of self.

It is important to recall that an assessment of clinical theory from the perspective of direct infant observation says nothing about the validity of clinical theories as therapeutic constructs. Nor can it say much about the same theories as they apply to children past infancy, when symbolic functions are more in place. (We have suggested before that psychoanalytic developmental theory may make a better fit with direct observations during childhood than with observations during infancy.) What such an assessment can do is to measure and describe the distance between the two views, so that the tension between the two, when clarified can operate as a corrective to both.

 

Chapter 11. Implications for the Therapeutic Process of Reconstructing a Developmental Past

ePub

HOW MIGHT the developmental views presented here affect clinical practice? In particular, how might a therapist and a patient reconstruct a therapeutically effective narrative about the past? Two major features of this viewpoint have broad clinical implications. First, the traditional clinical-developmental issues such as orality, dependence, autonomy, and trust, have been disengaged from any one specific point or phase of origin in developmental time. These issues are seen here as developmental lines—that is, issues for life, not phases of life. They do not undergo a sensitive period, a presumed phase of ascendancy and predominance when relatively irreversible “fixations” could occur. It therefore can not be known in advance, on theoretical grounds, at what point in life a particular traditional clinical-developmental issue will receive its pathogenic origin.

Traditional theories assigned an age-specific sensitive phase of life for the initial impress of these issues. There was thus an actual moment in time toward which theory dictated we should direct our reconstructive inquiry. In fact, some understanding of the initial pathogenic events during the sensitive phase was not only practically desirable but theoretically essential for the fullest understanding of the pathology. From the point of view taken here, this situation no longer prevails. The actual point of origin for any of these traditional clinical-developmental issues could be anywhere along their continuous developmental line. No longer prescribed by theory, it poses a mystery and a challenge, and the therapist is freer to roam with the patient across the ages and through the domains of senses of the self, to discover where the reconstructive action will be most intense, unimpeded by too limiting theoretical prescriptions. This freedom permits the therapist to listen more evenly (much as Freud originally suggested) and to make the task of reconstruction more of a true adventure for both patient and therapist. There are fewer theoretical constraints on where they will arrive—in other words, fewer preconceptions about what the reconstructed clinical infant will look like.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000020809
Isbn
9781781811344
File size
932 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata