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Trop, J.L. Burke, M.L. (2004). A Dynamic Systems Viewpoint: A Discussion of Fosshage and Munschauer's Clinical Case. Progress in Self Psychology, 20:55-62.

(2004). Progress in Self Psychology, 20:55-62

A Dynamic Systems Viewpoint: A Discussion of Fosshage and Munschauer's Clinical Case Related Papers

Jeffrey L. Trop, M.D. and Melanie L. Burke, L.C.S.W., Psy.D.

Our intent in this discussion is to describe how we use the concept of nonlinear open systems theory as a frame for understanding the psychoanalytic process, as patient and therapist in context constitute a dynamic system.

Nonlinear system principles were originally employed in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Developmental biologists Thelen and Smith (1994) apply these principles to human development in an attempt to elucidate the environmental factors in complex systems that stimulate change. It is our intent to offer our viewpoint on the application of these ideas to approaches in facilitating change by using the case history described by Dr. Fosshage and Dr. Munschauer.

Thelen and Smith (1994) summarize the logic of dynamic systems as follows:

Although behavior and development appear structured, there are no structures. Although behavior and development appear rule-driven, there are no rules. There is complexity. There is a multiple, parallel, and continuously dynamic interplay of perception and action, and a system that seeks certain stable solutions. These solutions emerge from relation, not from design [p. xix].


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