Preview, historical perspective, and the plan of the book

Preview of main contributions to theory

In this book we present a new synthesis of motivation, development, nonlinear emotional influences, and relational aspects of the psychoanalytic process: concepts central to an understanding of human experience. We draw on the research, observations, and theories of others, but believe the integration we arrive at, especially about the influence of an underlying affect tone on a person’s disposition, choices, and expectations, provides a fresh approach to how a doer doing experiences his or her relationship; his or her interests, skills, learning, work, and ability to play and enjoy; and living in his or her body. Broadly speaking, our integration provides a new view of aspects of clinical experience and especially the role of working through on the ambiance that develops between analyst and analysand. We also delineate the distinction between disappointment and disillusion as a response to failure.

This book is a continuation of our exploration of motivation, development, identity, and the clinical application of our conceptions. Beginning in 1982 in Psychoanalysis and Motivation, we have presented a concept of motivational systems. Each system is a group of affects, intentions, and goals that dominate what an individual is experiencing at any and every given moment. Each of the seven motivational systems (attachment, caregiving, affiliation, regulation of physiological requirements, sensuality and sexuality, exploration and assertion of preferences, and aversive antagonism and withdrawal) self-organizes in infancy and continues to develop throughout each phase of life (Lichtenberg, Lachmann, and Fosshage, 1992, 1996, 2011). In this book we move from concepts of psychic structures to an emphasis on human experience as it is lived. By lived experience we refer to an individual’s implicit and explicit feelings, sensations, intentions, goals, and sense of self that emerge from any external or internal event or change. Rather than instinctual drives, we suggest that experience indicates seeking is the fundamental motivational spark for the human capacity at all ages to be a doer doing, initiating and responding, activating and taking in. To seek is the basic spark that activates each pursuit of an affect, intention, and goal of a doer doing.

We identify three pathways for development: the pathway for human relatedness and intimacy; the pathway for mastering of the environment; and the pathway for a healthy body, physiological regulation, and a good mind-body connection. To this traditional “bottoms up” infant-to-adult view, we add a “top down” perspective giving development a circular pathway. We propose that, in early infancy, experience is largely holistic, combining affect, sensorimotor activity, cognition, and memory. From these early intersubjective experiences an affective tone develops that underlies what the infant is seeking at any time. The underlying tone ideally consists of diffuse generalized feelings reflective of affection and sensual pleasure; a sense of competence, power, and confidence; and a sense of having a regulated, functioning body and physical well-being. Later experience exerts a top-down influence that confirms, augments, or alters the affective tone. When seeking leads to intimacy, competence, and good health, or when treatment leads to understanding and adaptive change, a negative underlying affective hum may become more positive. In situations of chronic or acute stress or trauma, the underlying affect tone will tilt toward feelings of being unloved, inadequate, or sick or sickly. The breadth of the underlying affect tone and its role in the core sense of self and early memory is a major factor in each individual’s disposition and general modes of presenting his or her self - his smile, her greeting, his posture, her serious concentration, the music in her voice, his contagious laugh or his slumping posture, her eye avoidance, his irritability, or her touchiness.

Neonates begin life seeking to discover what they want: a physiological necessity, a relationship, stimuli that arouse their interest. Via sensorimotor activity, they then seek how to get what they want. If obstacles exist, they seek the means to overcome them. Through reflection, older infants and children increasingly seek to discover the meaning of their desire by forming a nonverbal or verbal narrative that speaks to the purpose of their seeking, its link to their core sense of self, and the three broad pathways for development. Each development pathway utilizes aspects derived from the affects, intentions, and goals of seven motivational systems. The patterns of seeking that spark activation in each pathway are affected by changes in age, skills, and environmental and social contexts.

Older infants and children begin to explore the edges, ranges, and potential of existing patterns of seeking. Shifts in existing patterns may result in the expansion or restriction of what a doer doing is apt to initiate or take in, activate, or respond to. The trend to explore the unknown, mysterious, or presumed dangerous intensifies greatly in adolescence.

A significant feature of the first year of life is the categorizing of the infant’s experience into motivational systems of intentions and goals in which the affects are specific. We postulate that as a result of adaptive seeking, in addition to specific affects, the infant forms a deep underlying memory in the core sense of self that captures three generalized affective states. These states are like an underlying theme, an atmosphere, a hum, a matrix of affect tonality that sensitizes the doer doing to his or her particular affect rhythm of being and seeking. In adaptive development, the first deep emotional state is based on the emergence of a generalized state of affection, of positive interpersonal experience. The second builds toward a deep sense of the degree to which the infant has experienced the power to seek and accomplish learning skills, a mastery of tasks, and a spirit of inquiry and play - a broad general sense of “can do.” The third reflects the infant’s capacity to live in and with her body - a core sense of body self drawn from the activity of the autonomic system, the sensory apparatus, and sensorimotor activity including mirror neurons. The underlying sense of basic affection, power, and bodily well-being and the positive sensibilities that derive from it have a profound impact on identity, disposition, expectations, and the reciprocal interplay of any intersubjective experience. When present, a deep conviction of “I can love and be loved, and I have confidence in my agency, my ‘I can do,’ and my body’s functioning, strength, and health and appearance” provides a gyroscopic stabilizer at times of stress and failure. When poorly formed or altered by more severe trauma, the effect on identity and seeking constitute central areas requiring therapeutic focus.

The psychoanalytic method is comprised of different components, each contributing to amelioration of emotional illness. Central is the associa-tive/interpretive process leading to insight and meaning. The success of the exploratory approach is made possible by the relationship of an analy-sand being with a reliable, trustworthy, caring analyst skilled in empathic listening. Along with professionalism, the analyst must reveal herself to be involved personally in the give-and-take of transference/countertransfer-ence. To these two generally cited components of insight and an explicit relationship, we add the nonverbal, presymbolic ambiance between analyst and analysand that forms and alters over time. This unique aspect of analysis extended over time - this “working through” of generalized implicit feeling-tone experience - will impact and alter the underlying affect tone, leading to improvement in disposition and sensibilities. The analysand’s underlying affect tone and the analysand-analyst ambiance are similar in that both are nonsymbolic affect tonal states, pervasive atmospheres, that reflect generalized experiences of relatedness, mastery and a sense of power, and bodily well-being.

The success of carrying forward an intention and goal by a doer doing leads to positive expectations and a positive propulsion, while failure may activate disappointment and a seeking of alternative opportunities to achieve one’s intention - what we refer to as “resilience.” However, if the emotional response is disillusion rather than disappointment, a collapse of intention rather than seeking results. In Chapter 4 we will present many clinical examples of disillusion.

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