Posted tagged ‘Bromberg’

Co-Created, Dissociation Enabled Enactments

February 7, 2020

I’ve been translating from psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice into this symbol system, the heart of which is captured in the observation: healing only occurs within the blur.

To the extent this is true, we want to prepare ourselves to take advantage of emotional activations, as they signal opportunities for spontaneous healing entering or erupting into the everyday space. In my Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold post I make the case getting triggered pulls us, in the here and now, into an altered and altering state. Our shared blur experience, enabled by our co-created, dissociative defenses, facilitates a re-enactment of a wounding. We want to wake up in this moment together, and see if we can identify the elements of the self/other original experiential state scenes which are behind us getting triggered. Recall as long as they remain split off from and not fully inventoried by consciousness, these highly charged episodic memory based scenes are not diminished by time and space. These wounds of overwhelm experiences inform our invariant organizing principles and are stored in psyche’s black box so to speak, in their image and affect formats.

From the Bromberg/Bucci teachings, we want to begin to identify our ways of being. It seems the essential try on here is to be on the look out for enactments: emotional states and actions which, when examined, can be seen as manifestations of the subsymbolic mode of being. The critical point of this detail is what is stored in our bodies, split off from consciousness with the help of encapsulation defenses, can only find it’s way back into consciousness via unconscious, compulsive, emotionally laden actions. Such actions, however habitual and familiar to both parties, reflect, in the words of Alice Miller, our bodies presenting their bill: “The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Out intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our bodies tricked with medication. But some day the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.” Note this is a different sound bite on Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score offering.

Enactments are typically organized at the level of body experience and make their presence known affectively. These are actions which are not entirely conscious at best; when observed and noted over time, one can see the core emotional patterns. For me, these are the experiential state complexes driving our co-created, dissociation enabled blur experiences. My image for this sphere of engagement is:

Co-created Tangle of Complexes: Yours and Mine

I believe Bomberg is clear about our need to engage with the subsymbolic mode, as the way to help bring it’s teachings, needs, into the symbolic mode, enabling conscious connection and reflection; finding words together for those experiences for which we had no words.

The concept of blur states recognizes our natural tendencies to want to put our best foot forward. It’s just that something gets triggered, putting us on a slippery slope, and we’re left with figuring out what just happened, is happening.

Jung used the concept of participation mystique to describe those experiences in a relationship experience reflecting a mutual level of unconsciousness.

For more on what psyche may be hoping to accomplish through blur enactments, see Observation: Healing Only Occurs within the Blur.

Source Quote: Fonagy's Mentalization Overview

January 11, 2019

Having just referenced Fonagy’s work, via Bromberg, I wanted to pull up a discussion on mentalization. This lengthy source quote seemed very helpful.

Attachment Theory Expanded: Mentalization

Recently, attachment theory has been expanded and further developed by Peter Fonagy and Anthony Bateman.  These researchers coined the term “mentalization.” Mentalization refers to the ability to reflect upon, and to understand one’s state of mind; to have insight into what one is feeling, and why.  Mentalization is assumed to be an important coping skill that is necessary for effective emotional regulation.  Difficulties with emotional regulation are one of the four primary characteristics of all personality disorders.

This ability to mentalize is intimately linked up with attachment style. Fonagy and Bateman propose that caregivers’ insightful understanding of children’s’ experience, coupled with feedback to children about that experience, provides  a useful model for children.  It helps children learn how to pay attention to, and to understand what they are experiencing.  This modeling ultimately culminates in children learning to reflect upon, and understand their own states of mind. Importantly, this progression from assisted, to independent, observation of self depends on a healthy and consistent emotional interaction between children and caregivers. Such healthy interactions can only occur when secure attachment is present.

When early caregivers are unable to reflect on children’s state of mind, children do not receive the instruction they require, via caregiver modeling, to develop this important capacity. In other words, when this feedback to children is either completely missing or inaccurate, children are unable to fully develop the capacity to mentalize.  Therefore, they do not learn how to understand their own thoughts, feelings, and motivations; nor the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others.

The ability to mentalize enables children to develop a sense of identity (or stable self-concept). This enhances their understanding of both their own feelings and motivations; and those of others. This understanding results in increased social and situational awareness. This in turn, helps children to learn how to flexibly adapt to different situations so as to best achieve their objectives across those situations.  Defined in this way, mentalization becomes a precondition of social skill, self-soothing, empathy, and other facets of emotional intelligence and social-emotional maturity. You will recall the central feature of a healthy personality is an accurate understanding of self and others, coupled with a flexible approach that is responsive to differing circumstances. This importance of flexibility is discussed more fully in the introduction of this article. It is believed that this capacity to mentalize is compromised in people with personality disorders.

Fonagy and Bateman argue that people with Borderline Personality Disorder are limited in their capacity to mentalize. Lacking this capacity, they cannot accurately recognize their own feelings and those of other people. The end result is  their interpersonal relationships are negatively impacted.  The capacity to mentalize is seen as an important and necessary skill one must master in order to successfully cope with intense emotions.  For instance, my ability to understand exactly what I feel and why I feel it, provides me the information I need to better regulate, or simply tolerate, intense feelings.  Similarly, if I have an understanding of what I want to do, and why I want to do it (i.e., my motivation), I will be better able to slow the progression of an impulsive urge to do something that is contrary to my ultimate goal.  In addition, having this understanding of my feelings and motivations provides the basis for a more complete and internally consistent sense of self.  Thus, the limited ability to mentalize would account for several difficulties experienced by people with Borderline Personality Disorder including: 1) impulsivity, 2) a sense of identity that is fragmented and inconsistent, and 3) poor regulation of intense emotions.

Fonagy and Bateman have developed Mentalization-Based Therapy as a means of helping people with Borderline Personality Disorder to develop their capacity for mentalization.”