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Emde, R.N. (2004). The present moment in psychotherapy and everyday life by Daniel N. Stern New York: Norton. 2004. 283 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1530-1534.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1530-1534

The present moment in psychotherapy and everyday life by Daniel N. Stern New York: Norton. 2004. 283 pp.

Review by:
Robert N. Emde

Poets and philosophers sometimes reflect on the vital yet fleeting experience of the present, but psychoanalysts typically do not. Yet this is a fascinating topic. How do we think about the present moment? Stern brings it to us as a unit of process that cuts across domains. With an average duration of 3-4 seconds, but ranging from 1 to 10 seconds, it corresponds to a phrase of words. But it also corresponds to a phrase unit in music. And it corresponds to a phrase unit in dance, poetry and gesture. Present moments have a strong physiological background as well. To recite a line of poetry out loud, such as in the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare, corresponds to what one can do in a breath cycle. It also takes 2-3 seconds on average for two speakers engaged in dialogue to take a speaking turn. It seems that the temporal units for speech production, parsing meanings and dialogue have all evolved together. Thinking about this, the reader may be reminded of current research on working memory. But Stern intends the idea of the present moment, while consistent with knowledge about working memory, to go beyond it. The present moment is thought of as a subjective unit while working memory is thought of in objective terms. More importantly, the present moment is considered the fundamental chunking unit for meaningful subjective experience. Typically, as the reader will come to appreciate, a present moment also involves experiences that occur between people.

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