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Santostefano, S. (2008). The Sense of Self Inside and Environments Outside: How the Two Grow Together and Become One in Healthy Psychological Development. Psychoanal. Dial., 18(4):513-535.

(2008). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 18(4):513-535

The Sense of Self Inside and Environments Outside: How the Two Grow Together and Become One in Healthy Psychological Development

Sebastiano Santostefano, Ph.D., ABPP

In contrast to ecopsychology, which segregates a person and environments and assumes that nature automatically provides stimulation which promotes a sense of well-being, I advocate my elaboration of the position of relational psychoanalysis which holds that a person's self and environments, both human and nonhuman, form a dialectical, holistic organization. Based upon research and clinical cases my model proposes that, from the first years of life, a child's experiences with human and nonhuman environments result in the development of embodied metaphors that represent these experiences, give meaning to current environments, and prescribe actions, emotions, and what the person should search for and expect. If these embodied metaphors were constructed during interactions with persons with whom the child had formed attachments that were relatively free of major developmental interferences, this child has the widest range of environments with which to continue negotiating his or her development in future years. I describe a treatment case to illustrate how developmental interferences could result in embodied metaphors which prescribe that the person avoid what human and nonhuman environments have to offer.

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