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New Directions. Geoff Goodman, Ph.D. I. Do Development and Psychopathology Share Psychic Processes? (Fonagy & Target). Psychosis is not reactivation of infantile modes of functioning later development alters mechanism and function of early structures

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new directions

New Directions

Geoff Goodman, Ph.D.

i do development and psychopathology share psychic processes fonagy target
I. Do Development and Psychopathology Share Psychic Processes? (Fonagy & Target)
  • Psychosis is not reactivation of infantile modes of functioning
    • later development alters mechanism and function of early structures
    • severe psychopathology-- different functions in an adult mind from the functions they served in childhood

B. Etiology of psychopathology not linked to developmental phase

  • trauma can result in abandonment of mature forms of functioning
  • concepts need to pertain to later childhood, adolescent, and adult development
  • Klein’s theory of positions applies to the lifespan
  • Bowlby’s theory of attachment patterns applies to the lifespan
ii integration of genetics into psychoanalytic accounts of development and psychopathology
II. Integration of Genetics into Psychoanalytic Accounts of Development and Psychopathology
  • Genetically inherited personality traits can provoke negative parental responses
  • Shared environments experienced different by two children (e.g., favoritism)
  • Increase in prevalence of childhood mental disorders over past 50 years

D. Mediating environmental effects of genetically provoked abuse (i.e., destruction of trust)

E. Intrapsychic representational processes moderate environmental and genetic effects

iii unconscious processes
III. Unconscious Processes
  • Motivational Processes
    • human behavior motivated by multiple goals
    • excessive demands on working memory
    • organizational processes must be outside consciousness
    • independence of neural circuitry
    • processing units on periphery become marginalized
    • conflicts between output of central and peripheral processing units reflecting varying levels of maturity inevitable and unconscious

B. Affective processes

  • neural mechanisms between conscious and unconscious affective processing are distinct
  • conflicts among affective processing units from different developmental stages
iv early childhood experience
IV. Early Childhood Experience
  • Early childhood experiences make persons vulnerable to later traumatic experiences

B. Later experiences are influential in the development of psychopathology

C. Persons with early trauma histories place themselves in traumatic situations later in development


D. Early childhood experiences produce neuroendocrine abnormalities

1. rat studies

a. early separation form mother

b. unlicked pups

2. infant studies

  • D attachment --> increased cortisol
  • extended separation from primary caregiver

3. irreversible effects of prolonged early and severe deprivation

v mental representations and object relationships
V. Mental Representations and Object Relationships
  • Representations distorted by defensive processes and impulses
  • Representations indicate genetic predisposition or prior environmental experience
  • Challenge to studies aiming to find direct relationships between psychosocial adversity and psychopathology
vi strengths of object relations models
VI. Strengths of Object Relations Models
  • Generativity

1. inspiration for many theories of psychopathology

2. richest set of ideas as elements for describing mental functioning

B. Unifying explanations, similar symptoms

    • diverse symptoms and behavior can reflect a single hidden problem
    • diverse explanations can be used for similar symptoms (see M.T. Greenberg article)

C. Psychodynamic approach

  • development viewed as a series of compromise formations
  • depth, texture, and complexity in line with neuroscience and developmental psychopathology

D. Mind as an instrument

  • psychoanalytic listening and processing make sense of disturbing interactions
  • consequently, deeper, more comprehensive understanding than other “omnibus” theories of human behavior
vii future tasks of object relations theories
VII. Future Tasks of Object Relations Theories
  • Use alternative data- gathering methods from social and biological sciences
  • Define psychoanalytic constructs and techniques more tightly
    • operational definitions
    • specification of predictions

a. proximal variables

b. distal variables

c. interaction effects (moderating variables)

d. indirect effects (mediational model)


C. Comparative psychoanalytic studies

  • within psychoanalysis
  • outside psychoanalysis

D. Sophistication of genetic-- environmental interactions and processes of risk and trauma

E. Social and cultural context within which object relations develop

F. Relevance of object relations theory and treatment to the community at large


G. Focus on essential components of psychological propositions

H. Shift from self-report to narrative data (e.g., AAI)

I. Focus on narrative process rather than narrative content

J. Technique and theory loosely related

viii object relations theories as reifications of consumerism cushman
VIII. Object Relations Theories as Reifications of Consumerism (Cushman)
  • The Self of Winnicott and Kohut
    • dependent on development
    • independent of history
    • independent of culture

B. Features of self

    • masterful and bounded (autonomous)
    • emotionally expressive
    • attention-seeking
    • entitled
    • self-centered

C. Deficit model of self

  • developmental arrest
  • incomplete internalization
  • empty self

D. Empty self targeted to be filled up or fulfilled by appealing to special, unique qualities (true self)

  • consuming equated with becoming full
  • unleashing of unactualized potential

E. Object relations theories support prevailing social and economic trends

  • reification of bourgeois, Western values
  • perpetuation of status quo
  • introjection and projection are symbolic of consumption and disposal
  • universality of the development of the self implies the Western self is ahistorical, acultural, and normative
  • deficits in self are created by parental failures, not consequences of political and economic structures
  • commodification of self structures-- consumption of empathic self object to fill up the emptiness

F. Flaws with Cushman’s argument

  • Object relations theories are depicting symptoms of an empty culture, not prescribing them
  • Individual differences exist in spite of having a consumer culture in common