FROM OUR PSYCHOLOGICAL UNIVERSE
Psychology is a vast field of knowledge, with abundant research, theories and methods in its possession. On an everyday basis you know much psychology yourself, even without having studied it formally. If you had not possessed this often unconscious knowledge you would have felt it very hard to relate to any of your fellow citizens.
So I will not try to educate you more than you already are educated. I only want to point at some aspects of psychology that I think carries the future in it’s perspective of man.
Over we see a group of people (very american though),who seem to have a nice time and enjoy each other’s company. Another way of saying this is that the individuals in the picture look as if they relate to each other in a good way.
If that is true, they usually treat each other as equal subjects, instead of objects for each other unsatisfied needs. In modern family psychology this is called an intersubjective encounter between one or more participants, – here between different generations in a family.
The concept of “intersubjectivity” was first to be used by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Later psychologists Jessica Benjamin and Colwyn Trevarthen also used the term “intersubjectivity” in their research. Especially enlightening was the usage of the term intersubjectivity on the mother / child relationship. Here, it strikingly illustrated the infant’s early ability to enter into dialogue with their caregivers even before it could use language.
Modern infant research has revolutionized our understanding of the human child. It has also focused on how the child is seeking eye contact, responding to facial expressions, tone of voice, and parental communication patterns.
Research shows that the infant very early seeks contact and fellowship, and reacts if not the adults respond to this invitation to early dialogue. Often the child must adjust themselves to the “wavelength” of the adult, if the adult does not tune in to the child’s own “frequency”.
Edward Tronick. The Still Face Experiment video
Interestingly, this video-based research also put the spotlight on the difference between what parents say they do in communicating with their children, and what they actually demonstrably do on the recordings.
Colwyn Trevarthen calls intersubjectivity a common understanding, and he claims it to be the basis of all good communication, interaction and learning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4Pyu-61N2g
His research and especially Daniel Stern’s work with infants (see below), has given rise to a new variant of modern psychoanalysis, called relational psychoanalysis (Stephen A.Mitchell) Here the older Freudian theory of drives is rejected, also the “object focus” of traditonal “Egopsychology”.
Instead it seems clear from the above referred research that the child enjoys to act as a participant in the relation, and that it’s the interaction with responding others that is gratifying in itself.
Dialectical Relations Theory, which will be referred to below, has based much of its thinking and practice on later psychodynamic theory, and research on intersubjectivity.
Psychology, -a young science.
Psychology is a relatively young science. Yet it is fair to say that both philosophers, priests and a number of self-appointed coaches have acted as advisory psychologists for several thousand years.
Actually, as already mentioned, we all probably have some unskilled psychologist in us. That is, if we have grown up in a culture, learned the language and have managed considerably well. Put another way, – we have to some degree learned to read other people’s feelings and desires.
We have also gained a certain ability to analyze interpersonal situations and shared cultural heritage. All this in order to be able to navigate ourselves in the social field, through a myriad of different people and their survival strategies.
So-called scientific psychology on the other hand, were not established until 1879 in Leipzig, Germany. That year psychologist Wilhelm Wundt established the world’s first experimental laboratory. Here he started to study the human mind with scientific methods.
Most people have heard about Sigmund Freud, – the founder of psychoanalytic theory. His theory was launched and elaborated in a number of writings and papers from 1887 to 1938.
Freud’s psychoanalysis has not been perceived as scientifically verifiable though, but it has had a tremendous influence on our western heritage. Not to mention our conception of psychological mechanisms, and how human motives might express themselves in a complex mixture of overt and covert behavior.
In addition, Western art in general, i.e. film, literature, and painting, draws on a deep legacy of psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalysis, has also altered our conception of ourselves as totally rational.
The difference between unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious functioning, – and the psychological mechanisms of defense, stems mainly from this psychological tradition. Salvador Dali’s painting “The melting Watch”
In hospital psychiatry the psychoanalytic theory altered the treatment and understanding of mental illness as something other than physical illness. At a number of institutions treatment changed from scary shock-like methods, including lobotomy, to conversation.
These on-the-coach conversations were often focusing on dreams, forbidden thoughts and feelings, and on awareness of the patients own motives and drives. The face to face more typical treatment form today, is mostly based on what the patient himself brings up. Then its the therapist job to focus on the patients feelings, thoughts and actions in connection with these issues.
Often the therapist must invite the patient to remember. Remember how such topics, issues or problems were solved or not solved, in the patients family of origin. And then how this really felt for him or her at that time. The next question arises whether anyone could see the reaction it made on him or her when it happened. Was he glad or sad, or didn’t he feel anything? Did he just slam some doors or went to bed empty and numm?
It was after a visit with hypnosis doctor Hyppolite Bernheim in Nancy, France, that Freud really became aware of the existence of the unconscious. Here on a demonstration the patient was asked to open a window after he was awakened from hypnosis. Still in hypnosis, he was told that he would not remember why afterwards. When the patient woke up he went quite right straight over to the window to open it, and justified it all that it was too hot in the room.
Morpheus, the godess of sleep and hypnosis
In 1900 Freud published the book “The Interpretation of Dreams”. The work focuses on the subconscious world we carry with us beneath the surface. A world that most often is expressed more or less disguised in our dreams.
During the last century strong contradictions arose inside the field of psychology. A number of seemingly incompatible schools of thought, and view of man, were established. These included Behavioral Psychology, Social Psychology, Gestalt Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Humanistic Psychology and Developmental Psychology.
Fortunately, also a rapprochement took place between Freud’s descendants, such as Carl Jung, Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan and representatives of Humanistic psychology, such as Carl Rogers
Also the research-based developmental psychology I have referred above, contributed to a modern form of relational psychodynamic psychology. Such pioneers like Harry Harlow, Rene ‘Spitz, John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott, and infant researchers Colwyn Trevarthen, Daniel Stern and Edward Tronick have changed the way we view children nowadays.
John Bowlby (above)and his “Attachment Theory” discusses his research on children’s attachment to their parents.
Daniel Stern’s research and development theory has made important contributions to modern family psychology.
There is no longer focus only on the individual. It is always the individual in relation to his family or the others in the community, small or large. This is because everybody is more or less mutually dependent on each other in.Infants.
Neuroscience and brain research of the infant and mother relationship.
In the last twenty five years brain research methods have been more and more advanced and used in the exploration of the mother and infant relationship. High-resolution scanners have made it possible to keep track of what happens in the mother and child’s brain when they look at each other and are in contact, even before the child develops verbal language.
One of the key findings of this research is that the child’s brain interacts detectable with the mother’s brain. It has also been proven that in the beginning, the deeper layers of the right hemisphere of the child are stimulated and ripen first, followed gradually by layers located over these areas.
This happens according to psychologist and neuroscientist Alan Schore, during the first two years of the human child. This research also shows that a good and attentive, continuous presence is crucial the first two years of the child’s life. This is to ensure the infant and child’s mental and physical health.
The mother’s ability to using her brain to read the child’s condition at any given time, is also important. It gives the child the necessary help to regulate emotions and different body conditions, before the child can manage more of it alone.
After some two years of development the last part of the brain to be activated and matured is the cortex. When this happens, – the child more and more will be enabled to take emotional control and to regulate his or her personal behavior. (A. Shore, 2001 “Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, Affect regulation and infant mental health”)
Psychological Universe will look into this research as a separate item in the spring 2017. We will discuss how this knowledge may affect the question of when it is recommendable for a child to be admitted to the kindergarden in the care of others.
Recognition and Acceptance
Another well-known psychologist that have substantiated her later articles and books on this and similar neuropsychological research is Anne Lise Løvlie Schibbye. Her article on the importance and impact of face to face contact refers a great deal to these psycho-neuroligical studies.
Ph.D. Psychologist Anne-Lise Løvlie Schibbye is a Norwegian variant of the relational and intersubjective form of psychological theory and thinking that we refer to on this page. Her theories and treatment methods have been developed for both individual therapy and therapy with families, and are used all over Scandinavia.
The Dialectical Theory of Relations, emphasize the mutually contingent relations between members in a family. In it’s depth it is both a very complex and extremely interesting theoretical framework, But it is also a manageable and specific, down to earth practical effective therapeutical tool.
It mainly focuses on the intra family relations and the interdependencies that are as much unconscious, as they are consciously recognized by the participants awareness. These family or partnership relations affect each individual self on many levels.
If one member or part of the family relation changes, the whole family is affected. And what you do to the others in the relation, will always fall back or backfire on you, in some way. This is the main principle of dialectics in human relations, especially in family and couple relations. If you manage to change in your family, your whole family will in some way or another change as well!
To improve yourself in close relations, Løvlie-Schibbye emphasis the importance of being aware of yourself . That is to gain knowledge of your emotions, and experiences and your way of speaking With, and acting towards other people. With this knowledge your chance to communicate effectively, increase. You will also be able to anticipate reactions from the others more easily.
This awareness is difficult to achieve, if you have not learned to truly accept or recognize yourself as you are. Therefore The Dialectical Theory of Relations focus on the concept of recognition. The importance of recognizing the other is crucial in understanding how change can happen both in the Self and in the family as a whole.
The child’s basic need as a psychological being has to be recognized, acknowledged, and accepted by the other. This is so whether the acceptance comes from mom and dad, or other important people in the child’s network.
Recognition of the child’s own experiences, thoughts and intentions is thus assumed to have a major impact on the individual throughout the whole life cycle. It is also considered as a prerequisite for being able to develop a reasonably safe and independent self into adulthood. Which means, an individual who have achieved qualities like: – being able to enter mutually binding relationships with others. – Having the capacity to empathize both with own and others’ experiences and pain. And having the ability to give and receive love, and separate own needs from others. to name some.
This person is not; “an individual is an Island”- person. It is a person that know its limits and strength, and is aware of his or her interrelatedness to others. Recognition in this sense, is not superficial. Its goes to the core of what it means to be a human being, with all kinds of feelings and longings, even greed.
The caretaker or therapist accept and acknowledge that these emotions and urges exist, even greed, without yielding to it. If the small child so to say demands for the sun and moon, or cries out at the supermarket; “I want that toy”, there is no point in condemning the wish. Let the child accept his or her strong wishes by accepting it yourself.
One way to respond to this inquiry or request, is to say: – I know you would like to have that toy. It’s a fine toy. You cannot have it today, perhaps if you still want it for your birthday or Christmas, you’ll get it then. Even if the child screams out in protest, the attitude, is; – I know you’re sorry, but you can’t have it now. End of discussion.
In this small article I have in my opinion retrieved some of the most important contributions to our new Psychological Universe. The researchers I have referred to, have all in common a deep respect of man and human nature, and the importance of treating the human infant and child with empathy, dignity, positive accept and guidance.
How the world will develop as a multicultural habitat for human beings, depends on us grown ups. How these,- our children, are being treated by us as parents, caretakers, culture and country, will most likely determine our future!