chapter  6
18 Pages

Development of individuality within a systems world


The paradigm shift from intrapsychic to intersubjective or relational field theory and, more recently, to complexity or nonlinear dynamic systems theory has been nothing short of revolutionary in psychoanalysis. Its increased explanatory power of development and analytic interaction is contributing substantially to making psychoanalysis a growth-enhancing, effective treatment modality. Nonlinear dynamic systems theory is illuminating the intricate formative impact of experience that occurs within a context of multiple systems-individual, familial, ancestral, peer, community, cultural, national, and world systems (e.g., Coburn, 2002; Ghent, 2002; Lichtenberg, 2002; Shane, Shane, & Gales, 1998; Stolorow, 1997). Within this theoretical context of a systems world the issue of how we understand and account for the origins of individuality, the topic of this book, becomes especially salient.*

Each person develops within ongoing relational systems. With the current advances in cognitive science, neuroscience, infant, and dream research, our observations and understanding of developmental processes are achieving much greater specificity with regard to the interplay of constitutional and environmental elements. While it is commonly accepted that genetic and environmental factors participate in individual development, psychoanalytic relational field or systems-based models, in my view, tend not to recognize sufficiently constitutional factors (Fosshage, 2003). Our consideration of these factors and their impact-for example, self-regulatory capacities, temperamental dispositions, strength of motives, and physical and cognitive capacities-facilitates our recognition and appreciation of the uniqueness of the individual. Within the psychoanalytic arena, we, in turn, are better able to foster the development of the individual.