Thursday, July 23, 2015

Making Meaning Dyadically

Edward Tronick in his talk “The Dyadic Expansion of Consciousness Model of Psychoanalytic Change” noted that there are many “something more”(s) going on between two people in a dyad and that the state between the two contains more information than either has for one’s self. This information can be apprehended by either and used to make meaning. Tronick further noted that one needs to feel secure [At the body level this refers to wholeness, safety,  boundedness] if one is to be flexible, creative, and able to engage in relationship with others.  Conversely, insecurity impairs meaning making, self regulation, and can lead to rigidity, dissociation, defensiveness, etc. as the patient holds on to the organizing patterns he already has.

Information may come at the bodily level, for example, through synchrony of respiratory sinus rhythms by parasympathetic regulation, particularly when each has protracted experience of the other, through ‘matching’ of tone, prosody, etc, as well as emotional matching and shared meaning at the symbolic (linguistic) level. Meaning making occurs bodily, emotionally, and symbolically and one system can bring to light (and help regulate)another.

His comments reminded me of a patient who complained that his “true self” was being “crushed” by the phoniness displayed by friends and family members and induced in him a likewise inauthenticity. I inquired where he felt this sensation of ‘being crushed’ in his body for as he reiterated his complaint I had the image of a baby’s face smashed into its mother’s breast while nursing. He replied that it was his face, like a mask smothering him. When I shared my image aloud, he though it “weird” but was willing, when invited, to consider (or play) with the image I introduced. He came up with a heretofore unrecalled memory of his father musing aloud when the patient cried that “Indians” blew into the face of their crying infants to get them to stop crying, by way of “suffocating” them. [The patient had oft complained of not being able to breathe, not catch his breath fully, since childhood, and of having no one, not even the family doctor, understand his complaint.]

This vignette came to mind as Tronick spoke because it illustrated to me to one particular moment where my patient and I had access to information between us that neither of us might have had access to alone. It was in exploration of the bodily component that the memory was activated and put into words.