In comparing theories of intersubjectivity on Sunday, March 21, 2010, at the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc. (TBPS), Ringstrom continued his critique of Worlds of Experience (2002). Noting common ground between these authors and relational theorists, Ringstrom says both groups share the common epistemology of perspectival realism and of agency. He contrasts how the former is used: While Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange remind us that the therapist’s perspective is just one of many, but not truth, it remains in the background. Relational writers, on the other hand, bring it to the foreground as they take up mutual recognition and negation.
In Chapter 5, Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange criticize Cartesian trends in psychoanalysis which hold forth the isolated mind. They recommend a highly context sensitive and context dependent approach that renders dichotomies irrelevant and seamless, and claim that relational language is Cartesian, and shames, blames, and re-traumatizes the patient. They further state that relational therapists make experience explanatory (causal) ignoring the system of the intersubjective field. While agreeing that all is contextual and mutual, relationalists counter asking how, then, does either figure out who contributes what to a particular sequence, claiming that sometimes a disproportionate contribution comes from one or the other.
Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange note that intersubjectivity is general and inclusive of every experience, allowing us to experience at all. Benjamin sees intersubjectivity as a developmental achievement which allows for mutual recognition, replacing seeing the other as controlling (paranoia) or controlled (narcissism), and is always in tension with negation. The two different definitions are like apples and oranges, says Ringstrom, though mutual recognition, while precarious, is an experience, and thereby a subset of all experience. But Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange claim that mutual recognition falls prey to the ‘god’s eye view’ (who gets to define it, and does the patient have to adopt therapist’s view to get well?) and interferes with the seamlessness, risking separation and alienation. [One attendee noted the irony of this anti-intersubjective view.] They claim that mutual recognition impedes inchoate growth and may produce shame in otherness.
Relationalists take the antipodal view, seeing benefit to owning the subjectivity of the analyst. They note that mutual recognition can only be understood in the dialectical tension with its opposite: negation. The two are balanced precariously like a see-saw, and both are essential to every relationship, including the therapeutic dyad. Evident in assertion of the self, self assertion ruptures seeing the subjectivity of the other and forces repair to mutual recognition.
Relationalists claim that intersubjectivists ignore negation. Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange retort that relationalists impose their demands on their patients. Relationalists say that all relationships, even those with the intersubjectivist therapist, always include hidden demands of one on the other, and it is making these differences explicit and understood, that both work their way out of enactments and impasses. In fact, enactments, they say, fill the space of that not given discourse.
Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange see the Cartesian and non Cartesian as so incommensurable that one is forced to choose between Freud/DesCartes and the post Cartesian theories. Relationalists are more inclined to hold these in tension, noting that to choose one leads to loss of the other's potential, at any particular moment, usefulness.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Posted by Lycia Alexander-Guerra, M.D. at 12:27 PM