chapter
24 Pages

Dynamic systems theories as a basic framework for psychoanalysis

Change processes in development and therapeutic action
WithSeligman Stephen

In the last chapter, I proposed that one of the most distinctive and ­appealing features of psychoanalysis is its focus on mental processes that defy categorization and linear explanation. Analysts tolerate uncertainty, find meaning in apparently disordered and even unruly communication, and embrace the unexpected twists and turns that emerge from intimate attention to the ordinary complexities of everyday life. Nonlinear dynamic systems theories and psychoanalysis share an interest in pattern, the waxing and waning of ambiguity and order, stability and instability over time, the natural value of uncertainty and generative chaos, and the like (Bak, 1996; Prigogine, 1996). Although nonlinear dynamic systems theory may appear esoteric and overly intricate, it can be approached in an intuitive, experience-near way so as to offer a language and imagery that captures many of the basic assumptions that underlie our everyday clinical thinking, interacting, and experiencing. Metaphors employed by systems theory can help us become more precise, spacious, and immediate about basic assumptions that we tend to take for granted, but leave implicit. (See, for example, Gladwell, 2000; Gleick, 1987; Kelso, 1995; Prigogine, 1996; Sardar and Abrams, 1998.)