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Fonseca, V.R. Bussab, V.S. (2005). Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting: The Search for Selfhood in Autistic Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Approach. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53(4):1293-1295.
   
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting: The Search for Selfhood in Autistic Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Approach

(2005). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 53(4):1293-1295

Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting: The Search for Selfhood in Autistic Disorders: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Vera Regina J.R.M. Fonseca and Vera Silvia R. BussabAuthor Information

The aim of this study is to submit psychoanalytic data from children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) to a further detailed analysis, using not only a psychoanalytic framework but concepts and methods from other fields, such as dialogism and developmental psychology.

Method

This study analyzes the psychoanalytic material of a group of three children with PDD (consisting of video-recorded, audio-recorded, and transcribed sessions, as well as drawings) using the qualitative method proposed by Miller and Crabtree (1998), in which, after a period of “immersion” in the clinical data and analyzing them several times, one tries to extract the most salient categories or “themes.”

Findings

Among the most relevant themes revealed by the qualitative analysis of the clinical material from the three children is the deficit in their sense of a subjective self, specifically their non-use of first-person pronouns and their referring to themselves always in the third person; they appeared to have only a faint mental representation of themselves and of others. The three children also presented another peculiar feature: for a considerable period of their early life they consistently used a character from cartoons, movies, or stories to represent themselves. We use some brief vignettes to illustrate the way they used the characters and/or toys as a means of getting to know themselves.

Discussion

To understand such deficits, we use a hypothetical model based on concepts and perspectives regarding the normal development

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of a sense of self and other. From developmental psychology, we know that infants are born with some conception of self and other—the emergent sense of self (Stern 1985), the virtual other of Braten (1998), the ecological self of Neisser (1993), the primary intersubjectivity of Trevarthen (1993)—but these concepts, like Bion's preconception (1962) and other types of innate tendencies, are necessary but insuff icient conditions for the full development of such a sense: for that to happen, an environmental counterpart must be present.

From the perspective of dialogism, Holquist (1990) states that the self consists in a relation between self and other, and the very concept of self would make sense only if taken from the relation with the other, both defining themselves mutually around spatiotemporal categories, since the relation occurs between two bodies occupying simultaneous but different locations in space.

We propose to call this space, inside which self and other define themselves mutually, dialogic space.

Building on Beebe, Lachmann, and Jaffe's concept of interaction structure (1997), in which presymbolic representation of self, object, and their interrelation is registered as early as the fifth month of life, we propose that the interaction structure develops inside the dialogic space, being closely intertwined with it.

Both dialogic space and the interaction structure contained by it would be registered as implicit relational knowledge (Stern et al. 1998) and would allow a web of potential meanings to expand from them. Such a web would have an important role in internalization processes.

If such a space or structure does not develop properly, self and other will be hindered in their role of mutual def inition. The web of meanings will not expand, damaging the processes of internalization. The def inition of self, out of the relational web, will take devious paths, having to rely on experiences and identifications with concrete and/or nonhuman objects.

Our model implies that the sense of self is acquired simultaneously with the sense of other, self and other being in a dialogic relationship. We raise the hypothesis that the lack of such experience could be responsible for how the children described above explore and search for selfhood out of their own body.

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References

BEEBE, B., LACHMANN, F.M., & JAFFE, J. (1997). Mother-infant interaction structures and presymbolic self and object representations. Psychoanal. Dial. 7: 133-182. [→]

BION, W.R. (1962). Learning from Experience. London: Karnac Books, 1984. [→]

BRATEN, S. (1998). Infant learning by altercentric participation: The reverse of egocentric observation in autism. In Intersubjective Communication and Emotion in Early Ontogeny, ed. S. Braten. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

HOLQUIST, M. (1990). Dialogism: Bakhtin and his World. London: Routledge.

MILLER, W.L., & CRABTREE, B.F. (1998). Clinical research In: Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, ed. N.K Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln. London: Sage Publications, pp. 292-314.

NEISSER, U. (1993). The self perceived. In The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self-Knowledge. ed. U. Neisser, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

STERN, D. (1985). The Interpersonal World of the Infant. New York: Basic Books. [→]

STERN, D. SANDER, L.W., NAHUM, J.P., HARRISON, A.M., LYONS-RUTH, K., MORGAN, A.C., BRUSCHWEILER-STERN, N., & TRONICK, E.Z. (1998). Non-interpretive mechanisms in psychoanalytic therapy: The ‘something more’ than intrepretation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 79: 903-921.

TREVARTHEN, C. (1993). The self born in intersubjectivity: The psychology of an infant communicating. In The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self-Knowledge, ed. U. Neisser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This study was supported by grant CNPq Brasil, awarded to the authors, and by a consultation grant awarded Vera Regina Fonseca by the RAB-IPA in 2002.

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Article Citation

Fonseca, V.R. and Bussab, V.S. (2005). Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53(4):1293-1295

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